Thursday, April 8, 2021

Is bad good?

We all know the concepts around the word "bad" and how that can actually mean "good." Though I often wonder how people learning English as a second language first start grasping this concept. Someone probably tells them "Samuel L. Jackson is a bad ________" and they get it, I usually suspect.

But that isn't quite the "bad" = "good" theme I have had in mind while pawing through my small stack of 2021 Series One cards. I just keep finding these new baseball cards that really are: bad. Sometimes though, that can be good. 

Anyone reading many baseball card blogs is probably familiar with some of the more well-known cards from the 1990s that depart from the photo norms of baseball cards - the card with the snake, the huge wireless telephone, the Budweiser umbrella, etc. Those aren't "bad" cards though, they are just playful photographs which would not really look all that out of place in one of those more recent galleries of short-print / photo variations full of cards we scroll past but know we will never own.

This year though, I am finding some just plain bad baseball cards, and this seems to be a higher # than usual. But some of them are so bad - that I like them. Let's take a look.

This card is not bad at all. What got me thinking about bad baseball cards, in connection to this card, was a card I found two cards later in the pack:
Bad = Good? Not really.

My first reaction to the 2nd deGrom card was a sinking feeling that 2020 and now 2021 had now pushed Topps to the ultimate no-good, very-bad thing that should never ever happen in a single pack of baseball cards: a duplicate card in a pack.

Upon further review that proved not to be the case of course, but the cards are so darn similar the lazy effort from Topps here just made me mad. And then after a while I noticed the baseball kinda disappearing into the card's graphics. Which is bad. But not memorably, endearingly bad.

Bad = Good? Yes. But I'm not all that sure I want to keep looking at this one for too long.

I can't recall seeing much Moob on a baseball card before. And someone be sure and keep Justin Timberlake away from this one cuz the last thing we need in 2021 Baseball is a wardrobe malfunction right here.

Bad = Good? Yes. 

I can hear 10 year old Me laughing at this one all the way through multiple decades. The hockey sticks will take you now, Nolan.

Bad = Good? Yup.

I still have no idea how the word "dab" got attached to anything Baseball. Or what Orlando Arcia and his 3rd Base Coach are doing here, even though the back of the card suggests this is some sort of pandemic-correct, socially distant celebration. But I just keep looking at all that green grass in the center of the card. Eureka! Dabs. Grass. I'm starting to get it. I think. Were there dabs involved during the creation of this baseball card? Hmmm.

Bad = Good? Most definitely.

I kind of wanted to end with this card because it is becoming one of my absolute favorites in '21 S1. That white spot in the red field is just so utterly hypnotizing. I couldn't end with it because then I couldn't ponder my memory of this card:
Did those outfield wall scoreboard indicators for balls and strikes, etc., creep into the new card? They would seem to be the wrong height, as per this 2020 Archives Benintendi card. But could be, could be, some other part of that system at Fenway. Now if I could only figure out the name of the player on that card I would be all set. But since I can't stop staring at the red & white light on there, that hardly matters, either.

Bad = Good? Nope.

I'm not going to let the printing of a player's name on a baseball card inadvertently make me enjoy an otherwise bad baseball card design. But at least on this card I won't forget which player it is.

Bad = Good? Yes.

These horizontal Pitcher torsos get boring, and quick. Except when they don't, sometimes. This isn't quite one of those times, but seeing how Topps feels about the importance of its anniversary vs the importance of photo composition is pretty clear. Since this is a Rookie Card card, I truly hope this player goes on to Hall of Fame Greatness. Whoever he is.

Bad = Good? I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be looking here, so I'll pick Yes.

I had to look this up to determine that is Sox Pitcher Dylan Cease trying to hypnotize the photographer, and us. All while in the midst of a fist bump with an off camera player. Fun Fact: As I write this blog entry, Dylan Cease has a career WAR of exactly 0.0 - which is not easy to do. But overall, I am just hypnotized, again. I'll probably keep this one with my small but growing collection of memorable Yoan Moncada cards.

Bad = Good? No way, no how. This is just a straight up bad baseball card.

I think regardless of how one felt about wearing a mask over the last year, everyone can agree that anyone not wearing it over their nose is just plain stupid. This card will soon leave my collection, permanently, via the round metal circular file next to my card desk. And I hope I never pull another copy. And for Mondesi's sake (I do recognize some players in my team's division), I hope he gets a new photo for his 2021 Topps Chrome card.

Bad = Good? No.

This is another basically acceptable baseball card, though it looks like Aquino (few collectors can forget a rookie anointed by Topps) just missed on a swinging strike, or dribbled a little roller back to the Pitcher. This card is just Topps being stubborn, doubling down on their hot RC designation for Aquino with a "Future Stars" tag that has seemingly very little to do with his on-field results in 2020. Maybe Topps will be proved right in the end. But I just think this is a bad call, here, Topps.

Overall, the best bad baseball cards are those oh so rare ones where we just have no idea what is happening:
Bad = Good? We have a winner.


  1. This is a set that should've been all vertical.

  2. I picked up the Brasier card recently - it really does just draw you in.

  3. I got the two deGrom cards in the first hanger box I opened, and they were also 2 cards apart there. Now, I'm a Mets fan, so if the box were just 67 very similar but not identical Jacob deGrom cards, I'm OK with that, but you'd think if they must have the cards always come in the same pattern they'd find a way to not have two such similar cards close together.