Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Shallow Fakes

The genesis may have come from a photo shoot in the dramatic Spring Training of the dramatic year of 20, 20.

Cards from photographs taken in the Spring sometimes appear later that season, first in Archives -

I like how Allen is standing in front of a shaded part of a "baseball field" but he is in bright sunshine.

They also might appear in Heritage High Numbers:

I think this one might actually be from an image roster in MLB: The Show

Now to be a tiny bit fair to Topps, cards in 2021 releases had to be made from photographs "supposedly" taken during the peak of the virus impacts, which pro sports had to take quite seriously.

How that might have worked in Spring Training, 2021, I can no longer remember.

The results for the Cleveland ball club that arrived with 2021 Heritage High Numbers
however, are quite memorable when held altogether, and, simultaneously not memorable at all:

That guy is pretty good, by the way.
And that's his Rookie Card. $.

Good luck with the next two:

The next year, Plesac has so much Mojo, he brought the cool clouds back with him, too. But you probably already forgot you just saw a Plesac card:

Hey guys, that looks epic back there, can I come over to visit?

My friend Max isn't really into reporting in Port St. Lucie this year, Brad says:

The cool thing about this baseball Mecca of the Cleveland back fields in AZ is all the other visitors.
Time Travelers, even.

all kinds of decades, too

the Sun maybe shined brighter back in '78?

I figure writing the new team names in the 78 script was soooo much work down in the Topps baseball card mines, the miners were given a break after a while.

But look man, except for Max up there, none of those cats are going to the Hall of Fame,
So, what?

(you'd be surprised how few cards of that guy stay in inventory lately)

Yeah, yeah, Nobody cares about Hall of Fame cards after retirement, anyway.
Who cares what those look like?

We want Rookie Cards!
That's what everyone remembers for every player.

yeah, yeah, base cards are dumb and boring, we all know that

we want those rare cards, limited editions, inserts!

Anyone else wanna make a rule that the Rays can't have any more players named "Lowe" ?


Nobody collects any of those 'rooks.

They are just in the packs so all 9 players can be on the field for when The Natural comes up to bat, the guy who's cards put $20 bills in my packs of baseball cards. Those are the important ones:

You may want to run my writings lately through the new Chatbot Detector app that is blowing up right now. It seems that Humanity has grown tired of composing the written word, so it has put Artificial Intelligence to use to now write long (and short) essays that no one reads any more anyway. So just the other day a coder put together his own AI based program to detect the output of the AI Chatbot. Might keep human writing on the up and up for another year or two, I guess.

But I don't think anyone will ever put together an App to find baseball cards like these. For me, these were just low-hanging fruit here. I even cheated and just downloaded the images I didn't have (most of them) in my own collection from Trading Card Database (thanks, peeps!) which I otherwise never do when composing a blog entry, about my own authentically owned baseball cards. But seemed like the authentic way to go here, while looking at anything but authentic baseball cards.

I find that run of cards basically disturbing, and insulting. Even though that with certain cards - to borrow one more I don't have from TCDB -
- software is already heavily involved in their creation.

And that's fine. Some great cards arrive using tech tools. Moving up to the top on my gonna-collect-em list are some mid-90s Pacific Prisms - you wanna talk about Oooohhhh, Shiny — whoa. 

I also look forward to owning a few Cosmic Chrome cards, maybe, though I would in no way choose to prioritize my money on a whole box of the stuff ($250 to start and now climbing over $400, I believe - for 80 cards), nor even have any chance to even buy a sample pack, either. The bottomless well of baseball cards today is a topic I will come back to sometime soon when I check out another blaster pile I have sitting on my card desk.

Overall for the basic idea of "Baseball Picture Cards" I don't know what the cards shown above might portend. On one hand, going forward in Heritage, there will, by the basic concept of the product, be a lot more live game action images on the cards, as mid & late 70s sets freely mixed action, posed, and candid images. So in theory these pitiful shenanigans seen here shouldn't be an option on as many cards, at least, as when Topps re-enacts sets that were 95% or more posed images, before the 1973 set, and that -should- help. I will actually have some good news on that idea here soon when I get back to just enjoying brand new Topps baseball cards.

But on the other hand, you can't fake a photograph from a real-live game of Major League Baseball, can you? I think the answer now is, yes, you probably can - thus the title of this post; I hope you all know what "Deep Fakes" are. If you don't, I do think it is an important concept for basically all humans to understand as Moore's Law continues to operate in the 2020s and if you haven't heard either set of 2 capitalized words in this paragraph put together before, well then you know what to do. 

Before the "AI Chatbot" started littering the Internet with fake prose many weeks ago now, "AI Art" was the fun toy of the moment on everyone's screens. I expect that will return soon enough as no one wants to waste their time reading words any more when another funny video just arrived in your "feed." And thus logically the coming Internet sensation will be "AI's Funniest Cat Videos."

This (theoretical) stuff will start out crude, on cards, and at first we will be able to laugh at it. As with the above baseball cards, which show some weird construction of a baseball field in the background but with lines that never seem to add up right with weird shadows and odd grass colors and mental registration confusion and crazy angled lines all over the place until the whole thing looks like a sorta close, AI coder, so not-all-that-close approximation of a baseball field and more like what a baseball field would look like in a 30 year old video game instead. Possibly somewhere in the Topps (digital) Vault there is a base image shot at a Spring Training complex somewhere, the day before Pitchers and Catchers reported. Or, many such images. My dwindling baseball card money remains on Cleveland's place in Goodyear, AZ. Though that could be totally wrong and there is no real base image at all and it is just that small market Cleveland cards were selected for some test runs of this "creative" process. 

It seems to me that over time, AI imagery will continue to evolve until all "Topps" will have to do every Spring is have the players walk through some sort of 3D modeling recording device as used in movies today and the AI will be able to spit out a whole new season's worth of baseball cards of every type - including ones showing "action" inside a Major League Baseball stadium.

The possibilities are as endless as the insatiable demand for more baseball cards, man, make us more baseball cards, we gotta have more baseball cards. OK, Fanatics has your back, valuable card collector, and we can do that for ya. That Hall of Famer with very few existing photographs? We gave his great-great-great-grandson a little pile of money and whaddya know, here we have that famous image from that one newspaper for you re-created in 4K Ultra HD vivid full color detail printed up for you on a baseball card, here yas go. Oh, wait, we only printed 539 copies, so that will be $29.95 please. But since he is your All-Time favorite player cuz your great-grandfather told you stories about him when you were real little, you will just have to have it. And Rookies? Man, wait till you see how many Rookie Cards you can buy, this year. Collect 'em all!

So when your great-grandson some day asks why baseball cards were just so clumsy, back in those archaic early 20s, well, I just don't know what you should tell him. I'm at a loss, all of a sudden, in my lifetime of collecting beloved baseball picture cards. Baseball cards should speak for themselves, and the ones shown above do that, fairly loudly, in my opinion.

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