Tuesday, December 27, 2022

There's Always Last Year in Baseball Cards

Well hello there, and Happy Holidays!

I was able to spend some Holiday time with my baseball cards, and I used that time to winnow all of the 2021 baseball cards I purchased, down to the "keepers." Although I had thought to next write up a look at 2022 Opening Day as I usually do, nothing in that set was really grabbing my attention anyway. And an always useful characteristic of baseball cards is their timelessness.

As I sorted and sorted all those 2021 baseball cards, I continually set aside the memorable ones for a Year in Review post, just in time for 2022 to draw to a close. Ahh well. So grease up the scroll wheel or your track pad or your phone fingertip, cuz I have plenty of baseball cards to show off. Too many?

Most Why Do I Own This? Card

Seth Romero got 8 outs (2.2 IP) for the Nationals in the 2020 season and has not yet returned to MLB.
But I own his autograph.

Favorite Fielding Card

Normally the fielding First Basemen cards that stick with me are the ones where the incoming baseball is part of the image. Here, I am just entranced by the concentration evident as Max Muncy plays the game of baseball. The capture of live game action is excellent. The diametrically opposed lines on the card help it's memorability, too.

Although I really just do not care for the 2021 Topps Baseball design with that main extraneous parallelogram jutting in to every image, this photo (as many cards in the set do) exploits the basic set-up just exactly perfectly. It has been said that all Topps designs can tend to grow on you as you are around them for a longer time. I do not think that will be true for me with this one except in one certain way: the best baseball photographs, placed on this design, are able to make me forget the design. Which isn't really how graphic design is supposed to work, but, hey, I did get at least some pleasant baseball cards in the set.

I also like that Muncy seems to be wearing the official Los Angeles Dodgers socks, although this card doesn't show much in the way of a team element there.

Best Fielding Card

There aren't too many Pop-Up action shots on baseball cards, but this one is outstanding.

Best Lurking Umpire Card

Umpire Cards are on the upswing a little, seems like.

Best Replay Card

Just like they see it in New York, but on cardboard!

Most There Was No Play At The Plate Card

Favorite Base Running Card

Best Lead-Off Card

This was a favorite from very early in the 2021 card season.
As with the Muncy and Moldanado cards, the capture of player focus during live play is excellent.

Best Tatooine Card

Best (only) Bat Flip Card

I like watching the Dug-Out watching it fly, too.

I should note here that I did not complete any of the sets in this post, nor do I plan to.

Best Pirate Shoulder Patch

Not the best year for this exact category, but I always keep looking...

Best A's Shoulder Patch

 Best New Shoulder Patch

I think these first appeared in the 2019 season. I only discovered them a couple days ago.
Thus, I will be paying a little more attention to the final filing of the 2020 Marlins cards, yet another baseball card task still to finish. I would think I would have noticed such a sweet patch before now, but then in 2020 it was so durn hard to ever buy very many baseball cards.

Best Rays Shoulder Patch

This is often a favorite card for me, and almost won this year...

Best Shoulder Patch Card

Heritage is usually best for these.

Best Socks

I think every team in MLB -might- have a set of these, but am not sure. I will be assembling the best example from each team. Also, I have a feeling we might see this card again on the blog some day.

Best Flair: Kolten Wong

The uniform add-on there tells me this is likely from a special day of some sort at the ball park in Milwaukee. The only thing that comes to mind is a VFW Poppy connection, as on the day when VFW does a fund-raising drive every year, but I'm not sure. Even with digital zoom I can't read the text inscription on the flower. Kolten, though, is ready to play with style every day, I think.

Best Return of the Powder Blues Card

Even the shoes!
Another Twins card features a Powder Blue shin guard. They are All In with this.

Best Racing Stripe Card (tie)

This coulda been a contender for Best Phillies patch, but too much sunlight.

Best Home Alternate Throwback Uniform Card

This really is a Home uni, worn on Saturdays only.

Best Road Alternate Uniform Card

I'm beginning to think the solid color Road Alternate Uniforms are one of the best for the creation of baseball cards. However not all teams have these, and they are maybe worn once per road series at the most, dunno how that works. Although back in the 2010s, Topps seemed to be deliberately using as many Alternate Uniform images as possible in the Topps Baseball set, use of them seems to have declined some now. The colorful Alternate Uniforms most easily make you forget all about the card design.

Most Confusing Card

Here we have probably a Road Grey uniform with the only team-indicative graphic in the photo being the easy-to-miss "TB" on the batting helmet. Meanwhile "Rays" about disappears into the matching team color graphic base.

But that's not why I picked this card as the Most Confusing Card of 2021. That's because this Mejia guy has played for Tampa, Cleveland, AND San Diego, three teams that seemingly wheel and deal every player contract they ever sign, amongst the 3 of them in particular. But all of MLB seems to be players that were prospects in one of those 3 systems at some point. And every other Ray, Guardian, or Padre, seems to appear on a card for one of the 3 clubs when I am thinking they are still on one of the other 2 teams.

There is no chance I will ever accurately remember where Francisco Mejia played, when. 

That card was also runner-up in the next category...

Best Empty Seats Card, Hitters

I knew there would be a lot of these in 2021 sets. It's not often that I find one of a Hitter busy hitting that includes it's own little constellation of blurry seats behind him. Usually, the Pitchers get those...

Best Empty Seats Card, Pitchers

I love these. They are like my very own Shimmer Wave Refractor Mojo Prism parallel. 
That I don't have to pay extra for.

Happiest Baseball Cards, runners-up

There aren't many of these in the all action, all the time Topps Baseball set. When Topps does select a Smiling Player game photo from an MLB stadium, they usually use it as a Photo Variation card that I will never own.

Happiest Baseball Card

Of course with cards made using images from Photo Day at the beginning of Spring Training, players have the opportunity to smile for the camera. Few take up the idea, and when they do, more often than not, the authenticity, as it were, is obviously lacking.

Not on this Julio Teheran card, which is nice, but has a sad epitaph. Teheran did not re-sign with the Angels and was moving on to Detroit when this card hit the shelves; for the Tigers he would pitch only one scintillating what-might-have-been game before injury has prevented any further appearance in Major League Baseball. Baseball card checklists are the poorer for this as he has some other cards that lighten the mood, like this one. At press time word is he has a current "minor league deal" so perhaps he will make it back to The Show.

Best Submariner Card

Since Brad Ziegler retired, someone needs to hold down this award annually and Cimber is stepping up, or down, or to the side, or something, once again.

Also obviously the Best Canadian Card

Best Christmas Card

Another favorite from early in the season; as the card season moves along, Series One becomes more and more of an afterthought product sometimes, beneath the blizzard of new releases that follows it.

But this one has plenty of Red & Green, a fantastic glove, a big helping of baseball tradition, and even a bit of shiny. Already back in March of 2021 I was thinking "Christmas" about this one, and, for once, it feels appropriate to dress it up like a real Christmas card...

Another thing makes me happy about selecting this one - in 2022, I finally conquered my desire to buy a box of Topps Holiday, "just to see it." These cards seem fun at the time, but 6 months later in the middle of the actual Baseball season, gazing upon them is way too much of a Why Do I Own This? However in 2021 I had not yet definitively decided that Baseball just has exactly nothing to do with Winter, so I just had to look, one last time...

Best Steelers Offensive Lineman Card

Almost as glorious as the baseball chaos in 2020 Update; it is clear to me now that bizarre Rookie Card shenanigans are a feature, not a bug.

Best Playoffs Card


Miles better than a Winning Team Celebrates card where you mostly look at player's backsides.

Most 15 Minutes Card

Sometimes, a baseball player becomes known for just a single game. This is one of those times. In the Topps Baseball set, only the team winning the World Series gets cards for that; seems reasonable enough and the Dodgers do have a quite nice set of four cards in 2021 Series One. But Topps still managed to extend the love to the Rays in the set by issuing this card - & several other cards across products all from basically the same moment. (Heritage includes a card for each WS game, as per '72). 

Most Memorable Rookie Card Name 10 Years Later

Or, would be, if Topps could be bothered to print out an authentic sized example card on basic card stock from any office supply store on an inkjet printer right in their own offices three months before the product is printed, rather than just looking at a blown-up mock-up on their nifty full size computer monitor. All so we could garner basic information from our baseball cards, like, the player's name.

Best Rookie Card Name, runner-up

Also, of course, Most Unfortunate Baseball Player Name. For once the 2021 design helps a player out.

Scrubb had a more memorable appearance in 2021 Topps Baseball, where his card answers the question you have always wondered: who are all those players you don't recognize on the Team Cards?

Best Rookie Card Name

This is another contestant in the Why Do I Own This? category.

And, I just keep waiting for Rooker to knock the head-off the Snow man, but he never does.

And, this card infernally makes me want a whole 'nother card: a far more reasonable Powder Blue swatch card. I have never wanted a swatch card, ever before. But now, I do. Well done, Topps. Sorta.

Worst Parallel

This is the "Orange," I think. Might also be the "Sepia." Who knows?

Right up there with 100% useless Stadium Club parallels are useless Gallery parallels.

Most Triumphant Retro Team Color Match

I posted this card before, in my look at the single Archives blaster I purchased. I pulled 3 other 91s, from sadly only 20 on the checklist (fortunately there are a couple forgettable RC cards that can be easily forgotten about when a nice double card binder page of this effort is assembled, some day). It appears that they ALL have this glorious feature. Could you imagine a whole set produced like this? 

I can.

Most Useless Retro Issue

2021 Archives was an odd product. One set per decade was summoned to the checklist. 1973 is a cool set and all, but coming along just 3 months later, was this 2022 card:

Best Warm Fuzzy Vintage Card Memory Card, Almost

Who doesn't like a little flashback to their beloved PSA 2.5 battered and rounded George Brett Rookie Card with the nifty vanishing line perspective that just makes for a good photograph? But why, Almost?

This is why.

Which one is a middling 3B and which one is a middling SS? How am I supposed to know, when I get so many same-same cards out of a pack of Heritage? This card is probably an even better Marlins Shoulder Patch card than the Marte card though. Maybe if I keep them in separate binders, my usually suppressed, inner OCD nut will be mollified. Maybe.

Also, that Rojas card is the Most Evil Eye Baseball Card this year. DO NOT look at it blown up in size on your computer screen. I'm warning you.

Best New Trend

Topps may have cut a new deal to use Negro League players on their cards, not sure. Or at least with some of the key family rights holders; I found a few more in 2022.

Worst Worsening Trend

Did Topps watch too many Game of Thrones re-reruns with the Faceless Men cult in them? Sometimes, a live game action shot is so good that it can be marginally OK to issue a baseball card that doesn't accurately show a player's face. A player in the simple act of hitting is not one of those times. I could post several more of these, but this next one...
On a superstar card? Lame.

Laziest Insert Card

This card is perfectly acceptable, as-is. A modest design, a nice full-color, full-baseball player shot with a hulking lurking 1970s TV camera as a bonus. It is absurdly lazy, however, because of this card:

From the very same set, essentially.

Most Useless Baseball Picture Card Card

Way to go. A card that is simultaneously too big, AND too small. Genius! These things are way bigger than all the other baseball cards - I almost never like that, though sometimes 'box topper' cards are nice to have. But then, the actual image here, a repeat from DeGrom's base card in Stadium Club, is tinier than the actual baseball card. How useless is that? An Over-Sized Mini. The worst thing about this "card" is I own 2 of them, receiving one each in the 2 Stadium Club blasters I purchased. Yay, me. This is yet another contestant (an All Timer?) in the Why Do I Own This? category, which is growing far, far too large. Look out, here comes another one...

Most Useless Topps Product Acquired

That's a "Candy Lid." What am I going to do with this thing? It took me thirty some years to throw out my little pile of Topps Coins from the early 80s - they were starting to rust, so I had to do it. They never did find an acceptable storage spot amongst my too many possessions. I am still a little traumatized by having to do that to a usually automatically beloved Topps Chewing Gum Co. Inc. product. Speaking of which...

Why can't I have some bubble gum with my baseball cards any more?

Oh, yeah, because Topps owns the rights to the concept, but refuses to ever use it again.

I hate the "Candy Lids."

Worst Baseball Card

Sigh. I quite like non-sensical baseball cards. Like a budding superstar, randomly knocking a ball somewhere in his warm-up duds, while standing in the outfield corner (?), but with fans already around. And what gives with the Foul Line break there?

I dunno. There is so much Blur here, this card just shouldn't have made the cut.

Best (only) 75 Wrapper Homage

One of my favorite categories. A little thin this year.

The Broken Clock Card

On February 17, 2021, just as Series One was being released, Adam Duvall signed as a free agent in Miami. On July 30, 2021, Duvall was traded back to Atlanta just as this Series Two card was being released.

Best Advertising Card

Not the most well produced card, the print residue was there fresh from the pack.

Worst Advertising Card

Best Grey Hair Card

You don't see too much grey hair on baseball cards, which is as it should be to gaze upon the Boys of Summer. So when it appears, it is a bit striking (bring back the Manager cards!); this is one of those times.

Oliver Perez averaged 53 appearances per season across his 22, yes, 22 seasons in Major League Baseball. Topps only saw fit to issue a Topps Baseball set, including Update, card for him 11 times.

His last appearance in Topps Baseball was 5 years previously. This is not his "Sunset" card as he pitched in both 2021 and 2022; though it is highly likely to be his last Topps card. The true Faceless Men are the ones in the bullpen.

Best Sunset Card

Also Best Padres Shoulder Patch Card.

Best Alex Gordon Card

This still gets me every time. Especially this year with those teeny-tiny names.

It might still happen next year, too, but there won't be a new Alex Gordon card to confuse it with. Gordon retired after an illustrious career at the end of the 2020 season, and Topps came through with a true Sunset card for him in Series One. They actually produced a number of such cards in 2021; though it took me a while to understand why - the chaos of 2020 made it difficult to fill checklist spots with all those 2.2 IP Rookie Card cards everyone wants. So I think Topps quite sensibly fell back on some fond farewells for long-time players who did not appear on the field of play in 2021:

Cole Hamels also had a similar card which managed to elude my Series Two ripping.

And Topps gave another card like this to Ryan Braun, after printing a nice curtain call image card for him in 2020. You'll have to look up that one on your own time.

Most Oddly Poignant Final Card

From Leading the League in Home Runs (2018) to being out of Baseball after just 3 more seasons, I wonder if anyone understands just what happened to Khristopher Davis. Stadium Club Chrome became, I think, the final 2021 Topps Baseball Picture Card product issued in early 2022, which has a Chrome version of this card, making this kinda-technically his last baseball card.

Best Gift to the Topps Card Back Writer

Though of course Davis' career has long been long enough for Topps to just print the stats anyway. And though one would expect this is his final Topps baseball card issued promptly in Series One in 2021, Topps gonna Topps so they found fit to give Orioles fans one more Chris Davis Card in 2021 Heritage High Numbers.

Best 60s Photo

Best 70s Photo

Yess! The '74 Garvey effect, love it.

This then becomes the Best Warm Fuzzy Vintage Card Memory Card

Best 80s Photo

Ok, ok, so I'm a sucker for whatever digital image filter they used to make 2021 Gallery.

Most Baseball Card Baseball Card

He hits Home Runs, too, I'm pretty sure.

The Cubs get great Baseball Cards.

And now it's time for the Ding! Ding! Winner! Winner! Card Of The Year. Despite my best efforts pawing through stacks and stacks of 2021 Topps Baseball Cards, I never really found one that encapsulated some thought I had on the state of Baseball Cards in 2021. Perhaps the Satchell Paige card could be a candidate, or the Maldonado card to salute excellence in photography.

Instead I am going to go with a card that has already been on the blog, because I most enjoy gazing upon it. It might also be my most valuable "pull" in 2021, which would make it #1 automatically for many a "collector." It is also most definitely the 2021 Psychedelic Card of the Year, a category I hardly ever get around to reporting on here, which is as it should be for the mysterious world of Psychedelic objects, whatever those are.

2021 Baseball Card Of The Year

Oooooohhhhhhh, Shiny!

Well I hope you enjoyed a scroll through 2021 Baseball Cards. I might take a final final look at a few more when some of these actually get placed in to binder pages, we'll see. And I collected some 2022 Baseball Cards, too. We'll take a look at those, Next Year. Or, maybe, the year after that...