Saturday, February 6, 2016

Moving on to cards that I like

Not every 2016 Topps card is brutal -- I just discovered a couple of night shots in the Perspectives insert set that I simply must have -- but I'm pretty much done sampling it. Just the Dodgers for me, thanks.

Plus, when the current set comes out and you don't like it, it's a blessing. Because you can focus on cards that you really like.

I've already been doing that -- you'll see some of what I picked up soon -- but I also need to show off Night Owl-collection-centric cards sent to me by fellow collectors. Today, you will see a bunch of goodies from Tim B., of I Love the Smell of Cardboard in the Morning. Coincidentally, his blog is where I saw the Perspectives night cards. So I must repay him with a post.

Speaking of smelling cardboard, Tim really sniffed out my want list for these cards.

 Let's see what he found extra stinky:

Zach Greinke, doing a little traitor-foreshadowing by appearing framed in Diamondback red. This brings my 2013 Dodger Target red parallel completion quest down to a single card. You'll be seeing Target red Matt Kemp on the Nebulous 9 pretty soon.

The best way to show cards of Bowman prospects that did next to nothing for the Dodgers is to group them together and try not to admit you need cards like this. And already I've said too much.

Here's a Bowman Chrome card of a guy you've heard of -- but that's not why people buy Bowman Chrome. Sorry, Adrian, Bowman Chrome fans don't care you're in the set. But I do.

1996 Bowman foil parallels. A scanner's mortal enemy.

Tim is another brave collector who is not afraid to send me cards of a set I dislike. It's on the want list for a reason, right? And that reason is to wonder why on earth Don Sutton's uniform is blue.

1999 Flair was a bizarre set with bizarre classifying and bizarre cards that looked nothing like each other. These were the best-looking cards of the group.

More want list needs from the 2003 Fleer Tradition Update set. Where do collectors find this stuff?

I'm officially Stepping Up! This is the last Stepping Up Dodger card that I needed. That's a big deal because there are approximately 400 Dodgers in this set. Apparently Mariners and Twins don't step up.

There aren't enough Branch Rickey cards. I don't know what Branch is doing here. Signaling an usher for cotton candy?

This is a card of Dodgers manager Chuck Dressen from the 1979 TCMA Dodgers of the '50s set. This is a set that needs more of my dedication. For starters, you can see what's in the background.

So that was some real want list melting from Tim, but he didn't stop there. He also sent me stuff that wasn't on my want lists.

A bunch of 2003 T206 minis. There were mini variations in this set, which probably seemed fun at the time but now just seems shoulder-shruggy.

Clayton Kershaw minis that weren't on my want list. What's wrong with me?

The Yasiel Puig mini is just my second from 2015 A&G. I dropped the ball on that set. The Dan Haren black beauty is numbered as all get-out.

I still don't know what to do with these patch things. And I can't give anyone a reasonable answer to why Dee Gordon is paired up with something that says "1941 Brooklyn Dodgers."

OK, let's see some parallels shall we?

Present-day foil parallel.

Soooo 2010 xrefractor parallel.

Pretty pink Chrome parallels.

And a hard-to-find Toys R Us purple parallel.

Really, really, really great stuff, Tim. You sure did your homework.

Meanwhile, I don't expect this post to get a lot of hits or comments. Everyone loves a good rant and a venting and that's what I've done the last couple of posts.

But when you say you like cards, sometimes nobody cares.

That's too bad. But I get it.

I just can't trash everything because here's the thing:

I like cards. A lot.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Even year bull$#!&

Before I get to more 2016 Topps cards, I have a little story for you guys out there. You ladies may pick up a pointer, too, but really this is for the guys.

Last week, before the new cards came out, I was in Target with a little extra money to spend. I shopped for some necessities -- I really don't remember what they were now -- and threw in a blaster of Stadium Club and pack of Update.

I got to the register and was the second customer in line. The checkout person was a woman, maybe in her mid-20s, kind of attractive if you're into that sort of thing. Checking out in front of me was an old couple. As they left, one of them knocked a couple of Target promo flyers off the checkout counter and onto the floor.

I put my purchases on the counter and as she began to ring them up, I bent down to pick up the flyers on the floor.

It was then that I heard her say, "I can't wait for spring training. I can watch only so much football."

I paused for a second, wondering if I heard what I thought I heard coming out of the mouth of the person in front of me.

I popped up and the checkout gal had a big smile on her face: "I can't really watch hockey either. I miss baseball," she said.

I quickly glanced at my wedding ring. And then I said, "pitchers and catchers report in a month!"

She then proceeded to tell me that her favorite team was the Texas Rangers, which caused me to do another double-take. There are no Texas Rangers fans here, I'm pretty sure most of the population here doesn't know the Texas Rangers are a baseball team. She also said that Yu Darvish is her favorite player. And I know her and I are now the only two people in this area who know who Yu Darvish is.

I held back the instinct to ask for her schedule so I could show up every time she worked and talk baseball with her.

So now you know why I've gone to Target every day this week. It's not to look for 2016 Topps, it's to see if the baseball-loving checkout girl is working today!

Unfortunately -- or fortunately, because of the whole married thing, you know -- I haven't seen her. It was probably some Target hologram ploy to get me to keep coming to the store. This woman probably doesn't even exist.

But if she is there the next time I'm in Target, I'm going to tell her that the new cards this year are a disappointment and she probably should just get any new Yu Darvish cards online.

I'm going to tell her my feelings about the cards aren't any different than they were when I wrote this post.

But I'll try to come up with some new thoughts as I open this 72-card hanger box that I bought last night along with the loose pack. Join me now as I vent.

#269 - Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins

A couple things to get out of the way early.

1) The torso shots are back. So many torso shots. This is a good way to make half your cards irrelevant.
2) I don't mind the full bleed. Sure, it will make Stadium Club a little more difficult to pull off, but full-bleed isn't what's wrong with this set. Or at least it's only a small contributor.

#77 - Clay Buchholz, Red Sox

I wrote a post a long time ago about how I don't like the way he looks. Still applies.

#158 - Henry Urrutia, Orioles

Time to address another design element I find off-putting: the smoke effect.

Not only does it contribute to the "superhero" look of these cards that I already mentioned that I hate, but some of the cards seem so misty I feel like there's something wrong with my eyes.

#15 - Ryan Howard, Phillies

Blurred out faces in the background. There is so much fiddling with the background with these cards that the entire photo doesn't seem real.

#206 - Alex Gordon, Royals

Speaking of "Gordon," Superhero Alex Gordon has spotted Commissioner Gordon's bat signal in the sky! Someone's in trouble! They need rescuing from a baseball player!

#3 - Richie Shaffer, Rays

I don't know who this guy is and the photo barely looks real. Shaffer might as well be a mannequin in the window.

#135 - Colby Rasmus, Astros

#285 - Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox

So much blurriness in the back.

#22 - John Hicks, Mariners
#200 - Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
#26 - AL Home Run League Leaders

#289 - Nick Hundley, Rockies

The horizontal shots are much better than the vertical. The smoke effect doesn't seem as dominant. This is probably the set that should have been all horizontal.

#126 - David Ortiz/Albert Pujols checklist

At least you can tell this happened in a ballpark.

#181 - Twins team card

Nice shot. I promise you the bubblegum isn't photoshopped into this, although I don't blame you for thinking that. Note that last year's team record, which was on last year's cards, is omitted from the front. Smart move.

#185 - AL ERA Leaders
#315 - Padres team card
#108 - Ben Paulsen, Rockies

#218 - Andrew Miller, Yankees, gold

These are the gold cards this year. Not only is the smoke covered in golden netting, but the team logo and name line are shiny/foily. This is so not my style. Zippy Zappy wanted the base Andrew Miller. He's getting this one, too.

#BB-22 - Joe Morgan, Berger's Best

Topps is adding more reprints long after everyone grew sick of them. I can understand wanting to pay tribute to Sy Berger after his death, but trotting out the same thing that's been used over and over doesn't seem like a tribute.

By the way, this is the first of many Reds you'll see listed here. But possibly the only one you've heard of.

#B2B-2 - Anthony Rizzo/Kris Bryant, Back To Back insert

With as many Cubs that are in this product, this was one of the few that I pulled.

#FP-17 - Carrie Brownstein, First Pitch insert

Card-look aside, this was a very enjoyable hanger box to open. When I saw the First Pitch checklist this year, I zeroed right in on Carrie Brownstein as the one I needed to get (Don Cherry a distant second). Now I don't have to go through the nonsense of pulling any others because I got the one I want.

#P-2 - Adrian Gonzalez, Perspectives insert

I like these. Probably the most attractive cards in the entire set. Very pleased Adrian Gonzalez is the one I pulled.

#MLD-5 - Robinson Cano, MLB Debut insert

Rookies, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

AM-06 - Hank Aaron, Amazing Milestones insert

I don't know anything about this insert, but it's pretty cool I pulled it on the eve of his 82nd birthday.

WOW-8 - Allen Craig, Walk Off Wins insert.

#39 - Mark Trumbo, Mariners

More about the design. There are so many elements to it, too many in fact.

The team logo slash and the name bar, as I mentioned before, is very reminiscent of television graphics, particularly stuff you see on ESPN, Fox, etc. That's why this is the TV graphics set. In fact, the whole card reminds me of TV -- the attempt to make the players look larger than life, the "special effects." I saw someone say that this is the kind of set that ESPN would put out if it put out another card set. And it is. And I don't like it because of that.

Baseball is one of the most down-to-earth real sports that there is. Don't blow it up into something it's not. Don't take the human element out of it. Don't TV it up!

But too late, that's what 2016 Topps has done. Here are your superheroes. Come worship at their feet.

#106 - Jordan Walden, Cardinals

This is a dupe (yes, a single pack and a hanger box and I already have 4 dupes) so let's see the back.

Not much to say. Reminiscent of last year's back, except the card numbers, for whatever reason, are virtually unreadable gray.

#50 - Salvador Perez, Royals

#19 - Delino DeShields Jr., Rangers

#293 - Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers

Ryu didn't play at all last year, so this photo must be from 2014. I'd rather just see him in the dugout since that would be a better representation of his 2015.

#92 - Darren O'Day, Orioles

#27 - Alec Asher, Phillies
#330 - Edward Mujica, A's
#48 - J.J. Hoover, Reds
#54 - Jung Ho Kang, Pirates
#10 - Nelson Cruz, Mariners
#189 - Jake McGee, Rays
(Got the last 3 in that order in the single pack I bought)

#14 - Chris Davis, Orioles

Another thing about the smoke: doesn't it seem like the ballpark is on fire??? RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, CHRIS DAVIS, THE STADIUM IS ON FIRE!!!!

#30 - Yan Gomes, Indians

#197 - Neil Walker, Pirates

Hey! I almost can read the scoreboard.

#267 - Chris Heston, Giants

#298 - Ryan Braun, Brewrs

There is something very freaky about this card. It looks like a painting.

#230 - Ryan Vogelsong, Giants

#234 - David Robertson, White Sox

"Men, the dugout and the bullpen are burning to the ground, but at least I got that last out."

#327 - Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

#190 - Jeurys Familia, Mets
#328 - Anthony DeSclafani, Reds
#163 - Joaquin Benoit, Padres
#115 - Aaron Harang, Phillies

#276 - Francisco Cervelli, Pirates

#349 - Ben Revere, Blue Jays

Ben Revere is a definite candidate for Legends of Cardboard in the Making.

#58 - NL ERA Leaders

Get that Cub out of there.

#139 - Yasiel Puig, Dodgers

Fine card. Glad Topps could find Puig doing something positive last season.

#53 - George Springer, Astros

#221 - Ryan LaMarre, Reds
Rediscover Topps promo ad card

#333 - Kayvius Sampson, Reds

#334 - Brandon McCarthy, Dodgers

#303 - Steve Pearce, Orioles
#59 - John Lamb, Reds
#105 - Marcus Semien, A's
#292 - Todd Frazier, Reds

#263 - Joc Pederson, Dodgers

I like this photo. It's not an up-close shot. You have some sort of frame of reference. Need more of these cards.

#343 - Drew Hutchison, Blue Jays
#12 - Nolan Arenado, Rockies

#78 - Miguel Sano, Twins

#93 - Charlie Blackmon, Rockies
#322 - Kelby Tomlinson, Giants
#98 - Garrett Richards, Angels

#323 - Jacob deGrom, Mets

He has a lot of hair. Hope it doesn't catch on fire.

#157 - Darnell Sweeney, Phillies
#331 - Will Harris, Astros
#75 - Rusney Castillo, Red Sox

Hanger box over.

So, to sum up, checkout girl:

The 2016 Topps cards are a disappointment. The old cardboard has been gone for a couple decades, and now with all the filtering and photoshopping, do we even know what's real anymore? Do we know what we're collecting? It's been so tinkered with, what are these things now? This is quite a come down from 2015, a set I liked a lot.

As for the blog title: this is the third even year in a row that I have not liked Topps' flagship set. I'm not willing to put this set as low as 2012 and 2014, but it's in that group that also includes 2008 Topps. There hasn't been an even-year Topps set that I've really, really liked and kept liking since 1988, maybe. (2004 and 2010 were all right, although my enthusiasm faded on 2010).

So I think this is card collecting's version of "even year bullshit." Every even year we have to suffer through the Giants winning the World Series and a disappointing set from Topps.

I'm sorry checkout girl, it's true. Stay with me, I won't steer you wrong.

Let's talk baseball some more.