Thursday, January 29, 2015
We'll do it again
Next week is a big one for card collectors. The first Topps baseball cards of the season are scheduled to arrive, and no matter how hardened and cynical you have become, this news will always produce a thrill in your cold, unfeeling bones.
I already know that I will not be attempting to complete the set for a fifth straight year. But that won't stop me from taking more trips next week to Walmart and Target than I would normally make in an entire year. Every year, it's the same. I have to get my hands on the first few packs of the season. I'll do it again next week, or whenever the hell the cards finally arrive in this frozen tundra. But, regardless, I'm sure I'll do it again. And you'll do it again, too. We'll all do it again.
This has been ritual for me for 40 years. With only a few exceptions in the late '90s and early 2000s, I've sought out packs at the start of the year, getting those first glimpses of cardboard goodness.
To prepare myself for next week, I thought I would review the last six instances of my first pack purchases of the year. I've broadcast my first pack rips since 2009 on this here blog and it's been an event each time.
First card: Luis Ayala, Mets, #284
How I rate that first card (1-10): A 7. It's a night card. It's a happy player. This was a harbinger of good things to come for a set that I liked a lot and still enjoy.
When did this set debut on NOC?: Feb. 7, 2009
Did I complete this set?: Yes
Number of references to this set on the blog: 48
Other comments: I have mild nostalgia for this set just because it's the first set I tried to complete while writing a blog. There was an extra bit of excitement, and it helped that the cards were vastly better than the previous set in 2008. Looking back, these cards aren't as fantastic as I thought then (the foil is annoying, the card numbers are too small and some of the photos in Series 2 are plagued by shadows). But it's still one of my favorite base sets issued since I started blogging.
First card: Luke Scott, Orioles, #231
How I rate this first card (1-10): 5. I'm normally not a fan of back-to-the-camera photos and the less said about Luke Scott the better. But the card does show that Topps was trying, and the O's look pretty good in this set.
When did this set debut on NOC?: Jan. 26, 2010
Did I complete this set?: Yes.
Number of references to this set on this blog: 52
Other comments: Not as nice of a set as 2009. Topps was obsessed with being the logo king in 2010 and it's a little much when you see the set together in a binder. There is a weird look to a lot of the photos and I get the sense that Topps was trying a little too hard. But it is one of the more colorful Topps base sets in recent history and that is always a bonus around here.
First card: Russell Branyan, Mariners, #116
How I rate this first card (1-10): 4. I will never be excited by pulling a Mariners card and less so pulling a journeyman player who landed with the Mariners.
When did this set debut on NOC?: Feb. 4, 2011
Did I complete this set?: No.
Number of references to this set on this blog: 37.
Other comments: The honeymoon was over in 2011. Although 2011 is a nice design -- even classic -- I realized I wanted to do other things with my card money than chase Topps base every year. I still wound up with a good amount of cards just because I liked the look (especially the photos), but you can see the number of references to the set on this blog hasn't even hit 40.
First card: Blake Beavan, Mariners, #168
How I rate this first card (1-10): 2. Mariners in back-to-back years. I didn't know who Blake Beavan was then, I don't know who he is now. This also was a harbinger. I spent the entire year not wanting to have anything to do with this set.
When did this set debut on NOC?: Feb. 3, 2012
Did I complete this set?: Hell no.
Number of references to this set on this blog: 29.
Other comments: I still don't like the look of this set. The worst since the century turned. While I waffled in 2011 on whether it was a good decision not to complete the set, I never felt more justified in not completing something than when I saw 2012. I think a garage sale is needed to help me get rid of the remaining 2012 cards I have.
First card: Joe Nathan, Rangers, #236
How I rate this first card (1-10): 4. I'd appreciate no more AL West players as my first card. I want to be excited when I open my first packs, not sleepy.
When did this set debut on NOC?: Jan. 30, 2013.
Did I complete this set?: No.
Number of references to this set on this blog: 36.
Other comments: This is my favorite set among the Topps base sets released since I've had this blog. It's both original and traditional, quirky and colorful. I've often thought I should finish the set -- I have enough of the cards -- but I don't have enough space for sets I like even more, so I probably never will.
First card: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, #150
How I rate this first card (1-10): 8. By far the best first player I've pulled since 2009,
When did this set debut on NOC?: Jan. 31, 2014
Did I complete this set?: No.
Number of references on this blog: 19.
Other comments: Never a fan of the look of this set, I knew I wouldn't do much with it immediately. I have fewer cards from this set than any Topps base set since 2004, and I wasn't even collecting modern cards in 2004. McCutchen is also the only one of these "first cards" that I don't have anymore. I was so unimpressed that I traded away my "first card".
So that's what 2015 is facing.
My early thoughts on 2015 is that it's going to be very familiar and completely different. Whether 2015 Topps has any staying power will be determined by how many cards I buy and how often I reference it on the blog. But I think, at least in the early going, it will play out the same:
I'll be really excited, then kind of excited, then pretty cynical, then fairly bored, then checking out what Heritage looks like this year.
Before we know it, it will be 2016.
And we'll do it again.