Monday, March 15, 2021

Is that 2021 Baseball Cards there on that shelf?

It was, it was!

Hello again everybody, I have sure missed you. Each year from around the time that Topps reveals the design of the next year's main Topps Baseball baseball card, I pretty much stop reading the baseball card blogs, and begin being very careful about everything "baseball card" I do elsewhere online. As each year I still want to enjoy one of my life's simplest pleasures: opening a pack of brand new baseball cards without knowing what they will look like in advance. Which is becoming a fairly not so simple pleasure any more as our lives become increasingly digital.

Nevertheless I persist in my old-timey ways where I can, and mostly avoided seeing the new Topps Baseball design until I was finally able to pick up some cards recently. I would prefer to buy a single loose pack, but that is not always simple and was basically impossible during our ongoing baseball card mania. So I considered myself lucky to find one blaster of 2021 Series One just laying on a shelf in my local Big Box store, with nary a price sticker in sight (weird). Of course that gave me a delightful 100-ish brand new baseball cards to absorb, but I will just post the whole of the first "pack" from inside the blaster. Let's go to the tape:

Whoop there it is! The big 7-0 I guess.

And this is why I buy Topps Baseball cards basically most every chance I get. Here I find a card of a player for a division rival to my favorite team, that I have never heard of before ripping this pack. Which probably traces to the absurdly extreme difficulties I had last summer in procuring any 2020 Series Two, where Danny Mendick's Rookie Card appeared, unbeknownst to me after procuring only maybe 100 of the 2020 S2 cards.

Another year, another brand new Topps Baseball design. I think I will rate this one "so close," Topps, so close. I quite like diagonal design elements to a baseball card; they frequently contribute to the flow of captured motion in the photograph. This will vary considerably from card to card with this design, as we shall see.

The obvious glaring problem here though is the teeny tiny player name, which is a rather large (small) mistake, in my opinion. That is then compounded by the font choice, which doesn't work well in the ALL CAPS version, and I suspect it is also ITALICS but I just don't have the energy, or the eyesight, to really figure that out. The player's name is just too darn hard to read, period.

I am also not a fan of the way life in 2021 America is so Pastel. I use that word in reference to the tint or brightness of a color. Most bright colors are frowned upon in our society any more; our country is supposedly the land of the free, where individuality reigns supreme. Of course we can all choose a bright color for a piece of clothing or any object we own, but few people do. One place you don't see toned down pastel colors is in Major League Baseball, where bright primary colors seem to largely hold on, somehow. But here on this brand new Topps Baseball card, we have that odd bit of pale pink appended on to the main graphic element, but in such a small amount that it does almost nothing.

Ahh well, there are good things about this design too, like the return of a full border to the Topps Baseball set after many years in the full bleed jungle. Though here again I like the concept, but not the execution. Whoever OK'd the full border refused to just stop there though. This border has so many different little things going on I'm not sure I could count them all. I'm not a professionally trained Graphic Designer, I just play one on my little baseball card blog. But I do know the design probably violates the Prime Directive of Design: Keep it simple, stupid. I did not pull any color border parallels in this first blaster purchase, but I have seen some, and that is where all the random things going on all around every edge of the image really start popping out at you and cluttering everything up. Why, Topps why?

The final piece of most Topps Baseball designs is the bit where Topps let's you know who made this baseball card: Topps. I do quite like the foil 70 Topps logo with more diagonal goodness and also it's tactile feel from being embossed on each card.

Overall, I know this design will grow on me over time, as all Topps Baseball designs do. But I also suspect I won't really want to look at 74 binder pages of nothing but this design, either. It coulda been a contender for being full set binder worthy with just a few small tweaks to the basic concepts, but 1 Whitehall St. never rings me up for approval in advance with these things.

OK then, let's check the back:
More grey again this year, but most importantly - full stats. Many, but not all, of the random things happening around the border of the image on the front of the card return for a still somewhat overly busy look. The player name is again hard to read and the team name is even more illegible, though that isn't all that needed since we will always have a nice professionally designed team logo with standard primary colors to tell us the team name quickly and easily anyway. The player position though - it's on the back of the card, but so tiny as to be an after-thought, really. 

Now I did cheat on y'all just a little bit and bought a few more of these brand new Topps Baseball cards, where I pulled another Blue Jays card:

I scanned this card back for a couple reasons - check out the pink design element on this Santiago Espinal card vs the purple look to the same element on the Shoemaker card. This tells me that production will vary on these cards quite a bit; not a surprise in a year with a big production increase and probably an extra layer of challenge for the printers, in this year of the virus.

The back of the Espinal card is notable for something else, as it has that coveted Rookie Card logo on the front. The stats on the back, though, are finally the stats from Espinal's first games in the Majors last year. Though most people know that Mike Trout only hit .220 during his first appearances in MLB in 2011 and well understand that "cup of coffee" type stats don't really mean all that much (unless, perhaps, they are very, very good), I would still rather read these MLB stats than a useless compilation of an RC logo card player's stats in the minor league's the previous year. Since there were no minor league games last year, Topps had little choice in this. But I hope this trend of using MLB stats even on an RC logo card, when MLB stats do exist for a player, will continue in future sets.

OK, ok, you there in the back, wake UP! Here are some more of them baseball cards you clicked over here to look at:
I pulled a Mike Clevenger card (or is it Mike Clevinger? if only my baseball card could show me) in my first pack last year, and the year before that, too. This one is much better than the 2020 all-grey-all-the-time card, but not as good as the definitively informational 2019 card.
One of the tangential losses to the virus in the 2020 season was fans never had their chance to boo the Astros. On this card, it looks like that might have been a hazardous choice by the fans in the stands, though they would have all that new netting to protect them. Is that a chip there on Bregman's shoulder? I dunno, but if so, it was well earned.
The "Future Stars" designation will continue, a not all that long running Topps tradition which is a bit of a sophomore selection for promising young players akin to the even longer Topps tradition of the Rookie Cup team logo. I always like these, mostly so I can set them aside and snicker at the selections five years later. And of course other times, this Topps anointment arrives for players like Bo Jackson, so - I likes it.
Has anyone ever tried to rank which MLB team is the most sartorially challenged across their years of existence? Is there any doubt that San Diego would "win" such a contest?
It appears we have a bit of a Pitcher Hot Pack going here on opening day of my 2021 baseball card season. Could be a long season. This card though, begins to illustrate a bit more of the what will probably be an infinite amount of nuance in the way the player photo is allowed to "frame break" the design elements. Thought since the design elements instead break out of the frame and into the image, I'm not sure that is the best term for this.
A bit of a relief, a classic positional player baseball card stance. I won't forget that I have a 2021 Topps Baseball card of Oakland Athletics player #20, though I'm not totally sure just exactly who that is. My mind now connects Oakland, and #20, and a batter, named "Mark" it appears. Maybe it's "Mike" though. And there is a C involved in his name too. I think.
Ahh, now I have another card that I was looking for without even knowing it before I ripped open this pack. I can more easily read Willie Calhoun's name here than the name on the previous card. I remember pulling various examples of Willie's Rookie Cards in 2018 but that is my last memory of him. So this new card allows me to figure out: what happened to Willie Calhoun? As it turns out, not much.

But this is something I will write about a little more in my next post sometime soon. It's not going to be a good year for my long running habit of Yeah, I Read the Backs.
Now we are into the most important part of a "pack" of baseball cards, for most collectors these days - the inserts, or in this case, a simple foil parallel. They look quite nice this year. However I have my doubts that I will ever accumulate even 9 of them for a nice binder page of shiny goodness. We'll see.
Now this 2nd insert I like very much. A nod to the very first Topps Baseball set on it's 70th Anniversary, it appears these will appear in each and every pack of 2021 Topps Baseball cards. These are printed on what is usually now called "vintage" stock with that nice cardboardy heft to them that always makes for a pleasing stack of cards to paw through to check on checklist completion status. 

This small checklist of 50 cards has two things going for it that somewhat differentiate it from other re-print/retro takes on previous Topps designs: there is no gloss on the front of the card, which gives them much more of a warm, analog feel to them, and the images used are live action baseball photos. The result is something quite different than actual 1952 Topps Baseball cards. Although I both like facsimile signatures on baseball cards and dislike the amount of white space used up to hold what are sometimes a decidedly tiny signature like this one, the sum total of live action + that kept simple 1952 design quite appeals to me. Binder worthy. I basically wish I could buy whole packs of these things, but alas, we must now return to 2021 Series One:
Sometimes, the image overruling the graphic and the whole diagonal flow of the whole thing just works. On this card, even the new Swoosh™ on the uniform, that I wish was not there at all, contributes.
More Diamondbacks. More pitching. More leaning. More flow. Where'd that weird oblong blue thing go? Oh, yeah, the image is more important. See how these cards start to sneak up on you?
I spy a Powder Blue uni....and even a wristband. Though I still don't care for superfluous purple pink whatever pastels, I give Powder Blue a pass on probably technically belonging to the snoozy world of pastels. That 2nd, long angled rectangle on the left side of the card though - Why, Topps, Why?

And I have yet to hear a good baseball card nickname for this opposite of a 'Tatooine' card.

The pitcher drives to the plate...I like this baseball card. It's the Seattle #7 card in my mind though.

So there you have it, my first pack of 2021 Topps Baseball cards. I figure I will mostly enjoy ripping open more packs of these things; the promise of a +1 for my nascent 1952 Topps collection in each pack will definitely be a nice thing about that.

I did buy a whole blaster full of these cards, and found some more goodies along the way, but we'll take a look at those here soon.



  1. I like this year's set overall but the microscopic names are a fail. Good post and I really like the photo on the Lindor insert.

  2. Nice to see a new post from you :)