Thursday, October 27, 2016

Putting a bow on a disappointment

Topps' flagship set this year was my biggest card disappointment. I won't say that it was a major disappointment because I really didn't want to try to complete another flagship set after putting my all into 2015. But 2016 Topps was not even close to my style and the disappointing part is that this set probably indicates the direction in which Topps is headed.

So I bought very little Series 1 from this year's set and even less Series 2. I thought about ignoring Update altogether because:

1) I don't want to keep seeing those smokey photos.
2) I know half of the cards will show players in the pukey retro Padres All-Star uniforms.

But, in the end, I had to get at least one hanger box to see if I could find some Dodgers and a couple other items that I could salvage from the burning wreckage of the 2016 Topps collecting season.

I'm showing these cards approximately two weeks after Update arrived. Today was the first day I even looked for it. It appeared that nobody had touched any Update product at my Target, so maybe it had just been stocked, or maybe nobody cares.

After all, I'm still missing like seven Dodgers from Series 2. You'd think enough people would have wanted to get rid of their Carl Crawfords and Brett Andersons that I would have 10 of each card by now. That's probably an indication of the popularity of this set.

But let's get to the cards inside the box. I promise you there is something I liked within.

#US273 - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks, All-Star

First card features those stealth uniforms that have invaded national sports. They remind me of the kids who didn't have rain slickers so their moms cut holes in garbage bags and sent them to school.

 #US83 - Bud Norris, Dodgers

Woo! First Dodger who is probably not even a Dodger anymore!

This card reminds me of something.

 Can't really put my finger on it.

#US223 - Jose Fernandez, Marlins, All-Star

What can you say except "RIP".

#US33 - Aledmys Diaz, Cardinals, All-Star

#US190 - Trayce Thompson, Dodgers

It's a little disturbing how quickly Thompson disappeared into the ether after he was injured. He went from a Dodgers sensation in the late spring to a nonentity. Not even the Dodger Twitter people who discuss every fourth-stringer in depth mentioned him anymore. Gives you an idea of how fleeting the MLB life can be.

#US68 - Adam Duvall, Padr ... er, I mean, Reds, HR Derby

Here is a look at those retro Padres HR Derby uniforms. You're going to be seeing these a lot.

Also, let's get a close up of the HR Derby logo:

Don't forget that it's the "T-Mobile Home Run Derby". It's even referred by that on the back of the HR Derby cards. There is no way that would happen if Topps wasn't the sole card licensee of MLB. Yup, MLB has made Topps its bitch.

#US102 - Aaron Hicks, Yankees

I know a Yankee fan that rips this guy constantly.

#US201 - Mookie Betts, Red Sox, All-Star

#US168 - Robbie Grossman, Twins

#US4 - Jake Arrieta, Cubs, All-Star

The day Jake Arrieta got traded to the Padres. Also, a nice advertisement for one of Wrigley Field's rooftop seating operations.

#US117 - Tyler Naquin, Indians

I feel obligated to show all World Series participants.

#US232 - Clayton Kershaw, DODGERS, All-Star

You're looking at the worst card of the year. I knew this card was coming. You'll notice that Topps picked and chose which All-Stars would be featured in their own uniforms and which would appear in Padres pregame get-ups. Lucky me, I get Kershaw in mustard-and-dog-crap. This is some Padre fan's wet dream. Enjoy it, San Diego, when you're being no-hit by him next year.

#US182 - Hyun-Soo Kim, Orioles

#US144 - Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, HR Derby

#US245 - Howie Kendrick, Dodgers

Fourth Dodger so far. There will be more. I thought Kendrick should have played in the postseason more.

#US88 - Tyrell Jenkins, Braves
#US32 - Juan Uribe, Indians
#US146 - Alex Hanson, Pirates

#US223 - Jose Fernandez, Marlins, All-Star, gold parallel

I don't even want to know the price people are putting on this card.

#12 - Tony Gwynn, Padres, 3000 Hits Club insert

Weird-looking insert. I'm sure it will go to one of the 15 card bloggers who collect Gwynn.

#FP-6 - Aubrey Plaza, First-Pitch insert

Weeeeee!!! The best non-baseball player card in the entire set! I wanted this card from the moment it appeared in the checklist. I've already professed my appreciation for Parks & Rec. April Ludgate was one of the best characters in the show. Also, Plaza grew up playing softball, which is so cool I can't stand it.

#12 - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks, 500 Futures Club insert

The Goldschmidt hot box continues. This set is where Topps assumes a bunch of youngsters are going to hit 500 home runs, so we can all laugh at the cards 20 years from now.

#US86 - Stephen Vogt, A's, All-Star

The horizontal portion of the box has arrived.

#US52 - Wil Myers, Padres, All-Star

Finally, someone who belongs in this uniform. Here, Myers and Adam Duvall say goodbye before the smoke robs them of precious oxygen.

#US218 - Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, T-MOBILE Home Run Derby

#US221 - Yankees Keystoners

The two players are referred to on the back only as Gregorius and Castro. I realize I am bothered by this more than I should be, but it's my career background speaking. The players have full names (Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro), you have the room, use them.

#US157 - Jameson Taillon, Pirates, rookie debut

I like this card.

#US71 - Kelly Johnson, Mets

I like this card, too.

#US174 - Starlin Castro, Yankees

#US7 - Blaine Boyer, Brewers

Throwing the Brewers fans a bone.

#US110 - Bryan Shaw, Indians

#US187 - Justin Wilson, Tigers
#US124 - Junior Guerra, Brewers
#US184 - Yovanni Gallardo, Orioles
#US106 - Ji-Man Choi, Angels

#US156 - Geovany Soto, Angels

#US249 - Tony Wolters, Rockies
#US58 - Jameson Taillon, Pirates
#US28 - Alfredo Simon, Reds

#US43 - Michael Conforto, Mets, rookie debut

#US129 - Peter Bourjos, Phillies

That is one modern scoreboard behind Bourjos. Pretty cool.

#US23 - Ian Desmond, Rangers, All-Star
#US75 - Alex Colome, Rays

#US208 - Pedro Strop, Cubs

#US289 - Cesar Vargas, Padres
#US143 - Drew Stubbs, Rangers
#US29 - Jon Moscot, Reds

#US178 - Albert Almora, Cubs

#US165 - Drew Butera, Royals

#US74 - Brandon Nimmo, Mets

#US77 - Wade Miley, Orioles
#US141 - Buster Posey, Giants, All-Star
#US197 - Brad Brach, Orioles
#US198 - Carlos Gonzales, Rockies, All-Star

#US267 - Michael Saunders, Blue Jays, All-Star

#US149 - Matt Bowman, Cardinals

#US155 - Nolan Reimold, Orioles

Awfully foggy there. I don't know how you catch a ball in that.

#US38 - Cole Hamels, Rangers, foil

Scanner won't tell you it's a foil parallel, but it is.

#TF-12 - Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, Franklin insert

These are weird. It appears to be a blatant advertisement for Franklin sporting goods with a bunch of Franklin references on the back. Can't wait for the Cialis insert set.

#TAR-16 - Peter O'Brien, Diamondbacks, Target Rookie insert set

These are those inserts that are suspiciously similar to the "Birth Years" cards that White Sox Cards has been doing for as long as I've had a blog. I've already promised this card to the Cardboard Curmudgeon, who is collecting these. I don't know if I could collect them. I get depressed when I'm reminded that people born in 1993 are in the majors.

#US142 - Andrelton Simmons, Angels
#US217 - Monsters of Motown (J.D. Martinez/Miguel Cabrera), Tigers

#US285 - Kenta Maeda, Dodgers, rookie debut

If you're keeping track (and I am), this is the sixth Dodger card, including Plaza. This was expert hanger box selecting.

#US1 - Manny Machado, Orioles, All-Star

I love the socks. I might get branded old-school a lot of the time, but anything players want to do with the socks is OK with me. I love any shoe statements, too. Go nuts.

#US163 - Matt Wieters, Orioles, All-Star

I know I've pulled many Dodgers, but this is overwhelmingly an Orioles hot box. (P.S.: I'm told that's not Matt Wieters in the photo. I guess that's what happens when you spend half your career on nonlicensed cards).

#US246 - Jay Bruce, Reds, All-Star

Scratch that. It's overwhelmingly a Padres hot box. There is no sign of Reds on this card.

#US260 - Ichiro Suzuki, Marlins, checklist

#US179 - Ezequiel Carrera, Blue Jays

#US22 - Neil Walker, Mets

#US8 - Pedro Alvarez, Orioles

Eighth Oriole.

#US261 - Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Tigers
#US121 - Ender Inciarte, Braves

And that's it.

While those won't be the last 2016 Topps Update cards you'll see here (or the last 2016 Topps cards you'll see here), it will be the last Topps flagship cards I will buy from 2016 -- unless I"m forced to pick up Dodgers singles online.

With only a few pockets of happiness (the first-pitch cards, some of the photos), this set has convinced me to focus on other areas of my collection more seriously. I've always been a "flagship first" kind of collector because that was what was around when I was a kid. But it causes me to go nuts with things I don't really need, like accumulating a bunch of 2013 cards while having no intention of completing the set.

I think 2016 Topps has convinced me not to do that anymore. Unless I really like the set -- and it doesn't look like that will happen until 2018 at least -- I'll just buy a few packs and be done with it. It's kind of what I did in 2012 and 2014, but I'm going to crack down even more.

If I look at it that way, then the 2016 set hasn't been that much of a disappointment because it's taught me to move on with my collecting life.

Hopefully, I can kick the non-vintage flagship habit for good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Uncustomary cards

This is one of my favorite custom cards in my collection. It achieves the three things that I look for in a custom card. But I'll get to that in a minute.

This card was devised for me by Big D of the long defunct card blog, Hey That's Mine. He hasn't posted since 2012 and that just goes to show you how long custom cards have been around the card blog scene. Remember Goose Joak? That blog was probably the first that I saw that regular cranked out custom cards. I believe that's all he did in terms of his blog.

Not many of those custom cards actually became real cards if I recall correctly (although I do have a fine Alissa Milano custom created by Goose Joak). And that's why I have trouble paying attention to custom cards most of the time. I like my cards to be real, things I can actually hold in my hand. It's why I have so much trouble with digital "cards". They don't exist in reality. Custom cards that you can create online through photoshop, or wherever, are cool and beyond anything I can do, but you look at it, and that's it. There's very little to savor.

And that brings me to the three things I look for in custom cards:

1. They are actual cards. You can hold them in your hands like real cards. They have fronts and backs. There is thickness and weight and semi-sharp corners.

2. They are well-made. I admit, I'm a little stuffy when it comes to this. But if a custom card is going to share a page with actual manufactured cards, it has to look like those other cards. That's tough to do, I know. But that's what I like.

3. They show creativity and thought. This is the big one that makes custom cards so interesting. Well-thought-out cards can be baseball cards of players who didn't get featured in a particular set or players who were never featured with a particular team. Or they can go even more out of the box and include subjects that aren't even sports-related. As long as it is produced with thought and I'm interested in the topic, I'm totally on board. (The Big D Gorman Thomas custom falls into this category because it contains two great men from my childhood, meshing the '70s and '80s perfectly).

Custom cards have great popularity in the blog world these days. It seems like it's the only thing generating excitement among card blogs lately. (Not a great commentary on what card companies are producing in 2016). And the one blogger who devotes the most energy to them and basically hits all three of my criteria on the head is Gavin from Baseball Card Breakdown.

I've received several custom cards from him over the years. I have appreciated them all. In fact, I enjoyed them so much that I asked him to whip up a couple customs custom-made just for me!

So he sent me a package recently and just about all of the cards were customs, ones I asked for and ones I didn't.

But let's start with two cards that are traditional cards.

It's official, I'm a Tom Murphy supercollector. I think this might be the first color-bordered Archives card in my collection.

OK, enough of the Rockies. Let's get to the custom cards.

A couple of them are variations of cards that Gavin sent me once before.

This is the "corrected" version of a Clayton Kershaw 1975 Hostess card that he sent earlier. I was thrilled with the original version of the card. What's not to love? My favorite player, one of my favorite food issues from my favorite card decade. But Gavin noticed something he didn't like with the original.

The name wasn't all caps in the original. The names in the '75 Hostess set are all caps. And that shows you the determination that Gavin takes into creating his customs. They're going to be faithful to the capital letter.

The other variation he sent is a "cleaned up" version of a Vin Scully tobacco card.

He sent me this one earlier. Pretty fantastic.

And this the version as if you pulled it straight from a pack of smokes. I don't know how he does that artificial aging stuff.

Here is another Vin Scully custom you may have seen here or there. It's pretty cool:

That's Vin on a 1989 Upper Deck-style card, something UD would never do then because they hated the Dodgers back in the day.

Here's the back:

That image makes me so jealous of Scully. What a view, what a set-up! Every day of the baseball season! You can see that the card is updated to include information on Scully's retirement.

Enjoy your time, Vin!

I'm sure that card bowled the most people over, but I didn't even ask for that card! Here are the two that I requested:

You probably remembered an Allen & Ginter-style mini set on Baseball Card Breakdown called "Pretty Girls". It featured nine beauties. I loved the idea, like any guy would. But although it contained favorites of mine like Lea Thompson and Christina Hendricks, it was lacking my top celebrity crush, Emma Stone.

I'm not a big movie-goer and know very little about current young movie stars, but Emma Stone shatters my disinterest. She picks great movies and roles, is shockingly talented and smart, and I appreciate her down-to-earth personality and sense of humor. Plus, her looks are devastating. P.S.: I love my wife immensely.

I badgered this card out of Gavin, and I'm so glad I did. No one else has an Emma Stone mini card that I know of, and that's how it should be. It's already stored in one of those cute, little tobacco-card-sized top loaders.

All right, here is the other card I requested:

Gavin created a quick version of this card immediately after Madison Bumgarner's bizarre exclamation while making a play at first base on the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig during a game in late September. Bumgarner's "Don't look at me" statement might be the single strangest thing I've seen from a pitcher on the field since Roger Clemens threw that broken bat. You can see Bumgarner's teammate Brandon Belt staring at him in a "what the hell are you doing" way.

When Gavin devised the card, he didn't have the #DontLookAtMe hashtag on it, he went with "Rowdy Rivals" which is in keeping with the old Fleer SuperStar Specials.

But to me, the #DontLookAtMe is the heart of the whole scene. It's what makes the situation, what makes this card. This card will make me smile for a long time.

That's the Fleer-esque write-up on the back.

I have a couple of special pages devoted to the custom cards I've received over the years. I'm sure it will expand into a full binder at the rate that Gavin is creating them.

Customs are a matter of taste -- I'm not much of a fan of '90s-themed customs or sci-fi stuff, but I know a lot of other bloggers are -- but that's what's great about custom cards. You don't have to merely accept what the card companies produce for you. It can be a card that's very narrowly defined and just for you.

If you do them right, like Gavin, they are just as good, if not better, than any mass-produced card.