Friday, January 19, 2018

A rookie set that made sense

Tired of being swamped by the latest rookies in your baseball card product?

OK, maybe it's just me.

You wouldn't hear a peep out of me if Topps never made another card of Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger or Andrew Benintendi. Like an overplayed song, I'm ready for cards of those guys to cycle out of my rotation.

Even if you don't collect modern sets, it's difficult to avoid the drum-beat of rookieness. The only thing that Topps has shown for its 2018 flagship product so far is rookies or recent rookies. It recently released an '18 flagship checklist -- of just rookies. Rookies overflow its Topps Now product. Topps releases special online exclusives that are either all rookies or focus mostly on rookies. Rookies are over-represented in insert sets and in almost all of Topps' spin-off sets, like Chrome, Allen and Ginter, you name it.

All of this is while Topps has its own brand dedicated to rookies and prospects called Bowman.

I've never seen overkill quite like it in all my life.

It's just the way of the modern-card world, and really it started quite awhile ago, back in the 1980s when rookie cards became desirable among a wide assortment of collectors. I see plenty of blog posts dedicated to a collector's enthusiasm for rookie cards and most of that is born out of that '80s explosion.

You can't blame Topps for shoving them down our throats. They've made good money off the continuing rookie phenomenon and 2017 certainly didn't convince anyone that this was the wrong path to take. Collectors like rookies. I'll never understand it fully, but it's an indisputable fact and the card industry is built upon it.

Because of the money to be made off of rookie buzz, a lot of cards that are connected to "rookieness" don't make a lot of sense.

For example, the last couple of years rookies started appearing on an extra card in Topps Update. Regardless of whether they were featured in the main flagship set (as Michael Conforto was), Topps squeezed in an extra card with a rookie logo under the guise that it was  "rookie debut" card, noting the player's first game. (Never mind that Conforto's debut was in 2015 and this was a product that came out in the fall of 2016).

I do like the idea behind cards like this, but randomly adding an extra card just because you want as many rookie cards of buzz-worthy players in the set as possible is meaningless to me.

There is always an exception. If you can find a photo of a noted achievement in the player's rookie debut (minus all the smoke), then you have something that, to me, is collectible.

I think the most recent trend of adding an extra card of a rookie player by noting his rookie debut began with 2013 Update. That was the year we all needed as many Yasiel Puig cards as possible. Puig didn't appear in the flagship set, so Topps made up for that by issuing three Puig cards in Update (and then those short-prints, of course). One of them noted his rookie debut.

Both Wil Myers and Anthony Rendon feature rookie debut cards in 2013 Update -- plus a regular old Update card. It was very confusing then. It barely makes sense now.

The desperation grows even more apparent in retrospect when someone like Shelby Miller suddenly appears in Update even though he was in flagship that same year. Very few people are excited to pull a Shelby Miller card in 2018.

So, all of this seems forced. It's pandering, if you will.

And those of you who bathe in a tub of rookie cards every night are probably wondering when I'm going to get to the rookie set that made sense as I mentioned in the title.

Here you go:

This is when plastering "Rookie Debut" on a card carries some logic.

In 2006, in what was called Topps Updates & Highlights at the time, Topps put out a 45-card insert set noting 45 rookie debuts in 2006. This was a fine idea (and nicely divisible by 9).

It was my first year back collecting modern cards and I tried to complete everything that Topps put out that year. But I began to lose my enthusiasm when the U&H set came out. I did complete the main set, but the inserts are SOL, I'm afraid.

I do have 23 of the 45 cards from this set. It's great to look back at it, as you can note the golden boys (Kinsler), the flameouts (Milledge) and the never weres.

Maybe it's not the most well-designed, vibrant set, but creating a theme like this for an insert set is what makes an insert set collectible. Instead of randomly throwing in an extra card of a rookie just because they're "hot" into an Update set, why not create something with a little bit of an impact, something with meaning.

I also can read the debut date. It stands out right at the top. Because the date is the reason the card is being made, not the buzz, not the rookie card logo.

It's interesting that none of these insert cards feature a rookie card logo even though that logo debuted in 2006. If this was a set released in 2018 you can bet that the rookie card logo would be on all of these cards.

The logo has become that much of a cash cow for Topps and for others who sell cards.

Which is why you will see all kinds of ridiculous excuses to get that logo into sets for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It's snowing again

Precipitation seems to be a big deal around other parts of the country. I read about droughts and fires and water rationing. And in the last week or two, I've received full reports on snow in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas.

I get it. It doesn't snow there a lot.

Meanwhile, I'm reading this with it snowing right now and nearly two feet of snow sitting on the ground, most of which fell all within one 24-hour period last weekend, after 12 hours of raining buckets.

Lack of precipitation, or the wrong kind of precipitation, is not a problem here. Sometimes I wish it would "precip" (meteorologist word) a little less -- to make the basement headaches go away. But most of the time, it's not an issue at all. It's expected. Most of the time the reaction is: "it's snowing again" and then we go back to what we were doing.

Snow definitely does not look out of place here, like it does, for instance, on a Topps baseball card.

I nabbed a few Dodgers from the 2017 Topps Holiday set from Once A Cub, who busted a box of the stuff. There is no need for me to own any of these other than that I still subscribe to that "must obtain every Dodger card" rule. Dragging this Holiday/Snowflake concept out for more than a year seems pointless to me.


There it is, snowing in the ballpark, like always.

It turns out I had the three cards I just showed. When it comes to modern cards, I can't keep up with what I have and don't have anymore.

This one I needed. Here, Yasiel Puig swings a mighty blast in the bright sunshine ... oh, by the way, it's snowing.

This is my favorite. Full credit to Topps for using a different image of Cody Bellinger than in the Update set. But that's not why it's my favorite.

This photo is obviously from spring training. Not only is Bellinger wearing his old No. 61, but you've got fans in short sleeves in the background and palm trees. Except the SNOW is blocking out the palm tree.

When has that sentence been uttered ever before in humankind? The snow is blocking out the palm tree.

Here is the Getty image used for that card:

OK, so they're not palm trees. This is Camelback Ranch in Arizona. I don't think there are palm trees there. I guess. I don't know. I live where there's two feet of snow on the ground and no one is flipping out, remember? I just know it's some kind of non-northern tree.

But you can see from the image that there's no chance of snow in the forecast.

The Holiday cards are a bit odd. I'd rather they take the player out of the image and have him wrestling a bear or shooting out of a cannon (think Metal from the late '90s) than super-imposing things onto the photograph that would never happen in real life. But I freely admit I'm overthinking this.

Before I write too much about a set that doesn't deserve so many words (oops, too late!), here is a look at the Dodgers who are in Series 1 of 2018 Topps flagship:

Alex Verdugo
Alex Wood
Brandon McCarthy
Chase Utley
Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw (league leader)
Clayton Kershaw (league leader)
Cody Bellinger
Cody Bellinger (league leader)
Joc Pederson
Julio Urias
Justin Turner (league leader)
Logan Forsythe
Rich Hill
Walker Buehler
Yasiel Puig
Yasmani Grandal

Topps Salute: Corey Seager, Alex Wood, Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Walker Buehler
Superstar Sensations: Corey Seager, Yu Darvish, Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger
MLB Awards: Kenley Jansen, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager
1983 Topps Baseball: Alex Verdugo, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Yu Darvish, Justin Turner, Sandy Koufax, Kenta Maeda, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager
Legends in the Making: Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Yu Darvish
MLB Opening Day: Cody Bellinger
Topps Now Top 10: Cody Bellinger

You're on your own for relics and autographs. The checklist goes on for pages with all that stuff that I'll never pursue.

The checklist doesn't have numbers on it because Topps has to do its made-for-TV hoo-hah about which player shows up on the No. 1 card before releasing all the other numbers. Other than that, I'm trying to reserve opinions on the set until I get some cards. ... OK, just one opinion -- it pains me that Topps is ignoring the 30th anniversary of its '88 design to go back to 1983. No offense to '83, you all know I love it, but '88 desperately needs some attention.

We are two weeks away from the release of 2018 Topps and several more weeks away from the start of spring training.

But I'm ready for the sun to shine, both in real life and on my cards.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sometimes I'm a numbers guy who's also a forgetful guy

Thank goodness for things like birthdays and Twitter and players like Dave Stapleton.

They help remind me what I've forgotten.

My head is filled with nonsense about long-dismissed players like Stapleton, who turns 64 today and endured an incredible decline from his stunning rookie year in 1980 to his bitter final season in 1986. But that nonsense sometimes pushes other very valuable nonsense out of my brain.

For example, almost four years ago I wrote a post about how there is one card each year in Topps flagship in which the card number corresponds with the year it was issued. And I showed each card for each year between 1952-2013.

There was some mention about updating this post every year and I fully planned to do it. But the memory of that post disappeared out of my brain. There are lots of these updating posts that are waiting quietly for me to return to them but yet I still keep them waiting.

Enter Dave Stapleton. I was hunting around on my blog for a card image of him so I could let the Twitter world know about the guy (it's so ignorant about '80s players not named Canseco or Jackson sometimes). I found one on that almost four-year-old post about flagship card numbers and the current year.

I posted the card on Twitter and it got ignored but that didn't matter because I HAVE A POST TO WRITE TONIGHT! Even if it's merely regurgitating two-thirds of a four-year-old post.

Thank you Dave Stapleton.

So here is the updated post with years 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 added. I probably should have waited for the 2018 cards to come out, but that'll give me an excuse to update this later this year (yeah, right).

Once again, the cards with corresponding numbers next to the card are cards I own, just for record-keeping purposes.

1952 Topps - Don Mueller, #52

1953 Topps - Sherman Lollar, #53

1954 Topps - Vern Stephens, #54

1955 Topps - Rip Repulski, #55

1956 Topps - Dale Long, #56

1957 Topps - Jim Lemon, #57

1958 Topps - Art Schult, #58

1959 Topps - Irv Noren, #59

1960 Topps - Gus Triandos, #60

1961 Topps - Ron Piche, #61

1962 Topps - Steve Boros, #62

1963 Topps - Cincinnati Reds team, #63

1964 Topps - Ted Abernathy, #64

1965 Topps - Tony Kubek, #65

1966 Topps - Al Weis, #66

1967 Topps - Ken Berry, #67

1968 Topps - Ron Willis, #68

1969 Topps - Steve Hamilton, #69

1970 Topps -American League Pitching Leaders, #70

1971 Topps - American League Strikeout Leaders, #71

1972 Topps - Bruce Kison, #72

1973 Topps - Ed Herrmann, #73

1974 Topps - Minnesota Twins team, #74

1975 Topps - Ted Simmons, #75

1976 Topps - Willie Crawford, #76

1977 Topps - Dyar Miller, #77

1978 Topps - Pablo Torrealba, #78

1979 Topps - Ted Cox, #79

1980 Topps - Ron LeFlore, #80

1981 Topps - Dave Stapleton, #81

1982 Topps - Bob Welch, #82

1983 Topps - Ryne Sandberg, #83

1984 Topps - Lenny Faedo, #84

1985 Topps - Mike Marshall, #85

1986 Topps - Tom Waddell, #86

1987 Topps - Mark Salas, #87

1988 - Earnie Riles, #88

1989 Topps - Dave LaPoint, #89

1990 Topps - Jack Clark, #90

1991 Topps - Greg Colbrunn, #91

1992 Topps - Lenny Harris, #92

1993 Topps - Pedro Astacio, #93

1994 Topps - Garret Anderson, #94

1995 Topps - Mark Langston, #95

1996 Topps - Cal Ripken, #96

1997 Topps - Greg Myers, #97

1998 Topps - Kurt Abbott, #98

1999 Topps - Derek Bell, #99

2001 Topps - Cal Ripken, #1

2002 Topps - Mike Stanton, #2

2003 Topps - Jimmy Rollins, #3

2004 Topps - Edgardo Alfonzo, #4

2005 Topps - Johnny Damon, #5

2006 Topps - Armando Benitez, #6

2007 Topps - Mickey Mantle, #7

2008 Topps - Stephen Drew, #8

2009 Topps - Dallas McPherson, #9

2010 Topps - Clayton Kershaw, #10

2011 Topps - National League Wins Leaders, #11

2012 Topps - Wilson Ramos, #12

2013 Topps - Brett Lawrie, #13

2014 Topps - Yoenis Cespedes, #14

2015 Topps - Joey Votto, #15

2016 Topps - Rougned Odor, #16

2017 Topps - Daniel Descalso, #17

There it is updated.

As I mentioned the first time I did this, I skipped 2000 Topps because there is no "zero" card and "100" doesn't work.

Out of curiosity I added up the team totals and the Dodgers come out on top with matching the year six times! The Orioles are second with five. (Cal Ripken is the only player to show up twice).

So I've tied up loose ends for one post.

It probably won't happen again until I need to announce some other player's birthday on Twitter.