Saturday, February 7, 2009

Paydirt

I have to say Friday was the highlight of the week for me. I received two autographed cards in the mail from my favorite player as a child, and I finally tracked down some 2009 Topps.

A week after I first saw these things on other blogs, I knew exactly what to look for when I stepped into Target this evening. From 60 feet away I could spot that baby blue background behind you-know-who's head (apparently the qualification for being featured on a pack of 2009 cards this year was not getting into the playoffs). I reached into the double-wide feeders and came up with air. But fortunately, there were '09 packs scattered all around the '08 boxes still there.

All of them were probably manhandled, but I didn't mind. I grabbed six and brought them home to daddy.

And after opening them, I have to say what I suspected: Topps is a clear winner over Upper Deck this year. I have a natural preference for Topps, so I am a little bit biased, but when I compare everything as objectively as I can, I have to say I don't know what people are talking about when they say that UD blew away Topps again this year. You're going to have to explain that to me, because I don't see it.

Let's break it down:

Design: Topps made an effort to come up with a creative design with colors that complement the teams. The team logo on home plate is a nice touch. This design has to be the best going back to the 1990s, maybe even earlier. Like I said, it reminds me a bit of 1991. Meanwhile, Upper Deck's design looks like an afterthought. As usual, they didn't do enough to differentiate this year's set from the previous year. UD looks the same from year to year. The logo in the corner is nice, and the see-through color background is nice, but the colors don't always complement the team. And I quite dislike the brown bar.

Photos: Pretty equal. After the disaster that was 2008 Topps, I don't see a lot of difference between UD and Topps this year. In the cards I got Friday, anyway, there is very little of the standing around that plagued last year's Topps cards. And if Upper Deck can't win the photo war, then it doesn't have much, because ...

Backs: Topps kicked UD's ass on the backs this year. UD's back is pretty standard: 11 stat columns (for hitters), a head shot that is usually a repeat of the card front, basic bio info and write-up, a team logo, and that awful brown-gold color on every card. Topps goes with 14 stat columns, basic bio info and write-up, pleasing color that complements the team colors, and best of all, great statistical facts that curve over the top of the dome design (which is a good look) that houses the type.

Now, I don't know who wins in factors like: collation, most rookies (which I don't care one wit about), best inserts, fewer gimmicks, etc. But I'm talking about the card itself. In terms of what the individual card itself has to offer: Topps wins.

Now that I've made Topps' big-wigs feel all warm and fuzzy inside (don't get too comfortable, honchos) let's see what I pulled.

PACK ONE

1. #284 - Luis Ayala, Mets. The first card, coincidentally, is a night card! Topps had to work a little to get Ayala in a Mets uniform, since he was traded from the Nationals in late August. Usually, that's when you get night cards, after late-season trades.

2. #150 - Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs. No better time to feature the back than with a card of Mr. Overkill. I love "The Six Degrees of Mantle" that's featured on some of the cards. Here it says: "Kosuke Fukudome plays with Daryle Ward who played with Joe Slusarski who played with Goose Gossage who played with Deron Johnson who played with Mickey Mantle."

Then in the write-up it mentions Brooklyn Dodger Gino Cimoli. Anytime you can mention Joe Slusarski and Gino Cimoli on the same card back, you are doing a fine, fine job.

3. #288 - Guillermo Quiroz, Orioles

4. #26 - Jason Giambi, Yankees, featuring the '80s mustache. On the back you find out that Giambi has just worn out Darren Oliver and Kenny Rogers (1.612 and 1.592 OPS, respectively).

5. #83 - Ryan Garko, Indians. The horizontal cards work well this year, quite a bit better than last year.

6. #LLG12 - Mel Ott, Legends of the Game insert. Cool.

7. #TTT3 - Toppstown ad, Grady Sizemore, Indians
(Topps Attax ad)
8. #22 - Combo card that features: you know 'em, you love 'em, you'll see 'em 554 times this year, Evan Longoria and David Price, Rays. With the checklist on the back. Awesome.
9. #23 - Gerald Laird, Rangers

10. #287 - Greg Maddux, Dodgers. Well, well, my first Topps Dodger is Maddux's last card. This is the highlight of the six packs as far as I'm concerned.

11. #325 - Dustin McGowan, Blue Jays
12. #322 - John Buck, Royals

PACK TWO

1. #254 - Cito Gaston, Blue Jays manager

2. #24 - Frank Thomas, A's

3. #107 - Pedro Feliz, Phillies (I received a lot of Phillies in these packs. You'll see in a second).

4. #77 - Jed Lowrie, Red Sox
5. #319 - Brian Fuentes, Rockies
6. #50 - David Ortiz, Red Sox (same photo as in '08 Stadium Club. Boo!)

7. Chase Utley, Turkey Red insert. (TR 14). I was late to the Turkey Red party, and after seeing the set a couple years ago, I couldn't understand what the fuss was about. Everything was so dark. It looked like everyone was playing on the moon. These are much, much better.

8. #292 - Francisco Cervelli, Yankees - RC
9. #TTT4 - Toppstown ad, Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks
10. #141 - Mark Teahen, Royals
11. #44 - BARACK OBAMA

Just kidding! It's No. 44 Geoff Jenkins, Phillies. No stealth variation of the president here.

12. #3 - Andy Marte, Indians

PACK THREE



1. #110 - Hideki Matsui, Yankees

2. #38 - Eric Wedge, Indians manager. Topps connects the managers with Mantle through Six Degrees, too. The players in this one are Roger Clemens, Cito Gaston, Nate Colbert and Stan Bahnsen.

3. #275 - Alex Rios, Blue Jays


4. #314 - Matt Treanor, Marlins. Nice photo.

5. #192 - Collin Balester, Nationals. Gold card. Wish it was one of someone I've heard of.

6. #TTT10 - Toppstown ad (gold), Jake Peavy, Padres
7. #282 - Chris Lambert, Tigers - RC
8. #10 - Dan Uggla, Marlins


9. #214 - Scott Elbert, Dodgers-RC. A nice prospect for the Dodgers. Isotopes fans this year will probably see him some.


10. #172 - Yadier Molina, Cardinals
11. #30 - Ken Griffey Jr., White Sox. (I'd show it, but his card has been all over the place lately)
12. #183 - Jason Michaels, Pirates

David Wright still wants you to get good grades. For heaven's sake, do it! He's driving me wacky.


PACK FOUR

1. #8 - Terry Francona, Red Sox manager (I should've scanned this card because he has something in his hands and there's dust or dirt or something flying up out of his hands. Not sure what he's doing).
2. #53 - Jonathan Sanchez, Giants


3. #130 - Vladimir Guerrero, Angels. Vladdy's happy.

4. #79 - David Eckstein, Diamondbacks. Here's another photo Topps had to work to get. The Diamondbacks acquired Eckstein on Aug. 31 and he played in only 18 games with Arizona to end the season. This could be from a game played the very next day. On Sept. 1, the Diamondbacks played the Cardinals in Arizona. Eckstein was playing second base that day. Ryan Ludwick was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning and the next batter, Albert Pujols, grounded into a double play. This appears to be the play.

5. #114 - Chris Dickerson, Reds
6. #162 - Mike Cameron, Brewers

7. #LLG1 - Ted Williams, Legends of the Game. Sweet! I like the timeline on the back, too.

8. #TTT5 - Toppstown ad, Evan Longoria, Rays
9. #175 - Jeff "I-Should-Really-Learn-How-To-Pronounce-Your-Name" Samardzija, Cubs


10. #293 - Brian Bixler, Pirates. The "Six Degrees" makes me think that Topps has been looking at Baseball Reference.com. It says "Brian Bixler got his first hit off Mike Lincoln who's only hit was off Frank Rodriguez who played with Otis Nixon who played with Bobby Murcer who played with Mickey Mantle." I'm too lazy to fact check, but I hope that's right.


11. #232 - Gabe Kapler, Brewers. For someone who has A Kapler Problem.


12. #32 - Daric Barton, A's


PACK FIVE

1. #311 - Kelly Shoppach, Indians
2. #228 - Scott Rolen, Blue Jays
3. #47 - Jose Valverde, Astros (going in the Astros pile, Cliff!)


4. #239 - Brandon League, Blue Jays. I can't show that hair. Instead I'll show the back in which Jerry Royster's name is misspelled as "Rosyter"

5. #81 - NL HR Leaders (Howard, Dunn, Delgado)
6. #43 - AL Avg. Leaders (Mauer, Pedroia, Bradley)
7. #TTT6 - Toppstown ad, Johan Santana, Mets

8. #299 - Cole Hamels, Phillies, Postseason Highlights.

9. #219 - Shin-Soo Choo, Indians
10. #181 - Jerry Manuel, Mets manager. Manuel is Rondell White's father-in-law. I didn't know that.
11. #87 - Brad Hawpe, Rockies
12. #152 - Cody Ransom, Yankees


PACK SIX

1. #35 - David Price, Rays -RC. Just one of about 148 cards planned for Price this year. No pressure, David. Noooo pressure.

2. #140 - Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks
3. #243 - Chase Headley, Padres.
4. #117 - Ron Gardenhire, Twins manager


5. #206 - NL ERA Leaders (Santana, Lincecum, Peavy). I think this one might win me something.


6. #221 - AL ERA Leaders (Lee, Halladay, Matsuzaka)


7. #12 - Andrew Carpenter, Phillies-RC, gold card. Again, I wish I knew more about him. I need to find my inner prospector.

8. #TTT14 - Toppstown ad, CC Sabathia, Brewers
9. #64 - Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
10. #158 - Ray Durham, Brewers

Big finish with two World Series participants:


11. #207 - Joe Blanton, Phillies

12. #40 - Carl Crawford, Rays

Oh, and another Work Hard lecture


There you go. That was quite a bit of fun to open, even if there were only two Dodgers. (Where's my Dodger magnet?). More fun than opening the Upper Deck. I don't know if I'll try to collect the Topps set. It probably depends on how frustrating Heritage is to collect this year. I know one thing: I'll be buying more packs and at least a blaster or two of this stuff this year.


Meanwhile, I've already started shipping off some of the UD I bought a couple of days ago. Others will enjoy it more than me.

10 comments:

  1. Glad to see you got some Topps. They are pretty sweet aren't they? I finally got a UD blaster and they look at lot better in person but I think I still like Topps better overall this year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. For some reason we haven't been motivated to buy any 2009 cards. Not sure what that means. But Topps looks nice. Are they full-gloss? Semi-gloss?

    ReplyDelete
  3. They're as glossy as they have been for the last few years (I think that's a pre-requisite for the modern card). I just think the cards are quite interesting. Not only are the photos better, but the card backs are nice, and good reading.

    I'm basing this all on 78 cards, but so far, so good.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I passed on a UD blaster at Wal-Mart last night. I told my wife I'd rather spend that money on old cards at a mall card show the weekend of the 13th. (That is if I get Valentine's reservations accomplished!)

    ReplyDelete
  5. '09 Topps blow the '08s out of the water! It's not even close. I don't think I will even bother with the '09 UD. It almost seems as if the people at Topps might have actually listened to some the comments we have been making and UD has done exactly the opposite. For all of these who can't make out Jeff's name it's pronounced Sza-mar-ja. If you still can't say it you can just send his cards my way.

    ReplyDelete
  6. And now, as of yesterday, Ayala is a Minnesota Twin.

    Congrats on finally finding some '09 Topps! I have still yet to find any '09 UD. Should I be bummed about it?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I STILL haven't found any in Sandusky ,OH. Topps or UD. There is a very ,very,very small card and coin show at Sandusky Mall this week-end .I stopped Friday night and bought some older packs , will post tonight.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I got two blasters of 2009 UD today at WalMart. I think they are better than last year's design but I think I like the Topps better. I'll post something on them next week.

    I got your Topps Dodgers.

    ReplyDelete
  9. i just bought a jumbo of '09 Topps today...in any case, I think I've found a collation issue, the pack I had had the Laird-Maddux-McGowan-Buck sequence in the top, and the Elbert-Molina-Griffey sequence in the bottom.

    And exactly what is wrong with Brandon League's hair? Without it, I would have no idea who the man is. (that goes for Scott Downs as well, speaking of longhaired Jays middle relievers)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I got a Chase Utley Game-Worn World Series card! Anyone know much this is worth? I got 79 out of 100 as per the back it was also worn in the World Series winning game. Pretty cool. I like this set. I am finding they have real runs of cards though, any Odalis Perez fans out there I have four of those. Todd Wellmeyer? Four of him too.

    ReplyDelete