I have been looking forward to 2015 Stadium Club ever since I saw the image of the Fernando Valenzuela card that Topps released months and months ago.
The news just got better as I learned that 2015 Stadium Club would be a retail product, for the first time since 2008. I also received an advance look at some of the photos going into the product because A Cardboard Problem blogger Sooz is working at Topps and she showed a few of them because her mission was to select photos for the set! Given her newspaper background (we know a little something about selecting pictures at newspapers), I knew this set was in good hands.
The only bit of information that concerned me was the release time -- June. This would conflict with the release of Topps' Series 2, which is also traditionally in June. And with Allen & Ginter following a month later, I knew I couldn't possibly collect all of those.
Well, here it is, the end of June, and the task is even more daunting. I actually like Topps flagship so much this year that I'm attempting to complete it -- something I thought would never happen when I first heard the Stadium Club news. And now, a week later, Stadium Club shows up.
There is no way I can collect both. And I have no idea what the people who also like Archives are going to do.
But today was the release day for Stadium Club and I was stupidly drooling over the photos that flashed across my Twitter screen. I felt the need to check out Target so I could be disappointed -- again -- that "release date" means nothing around here.
I ran an errand to pick up some lumber and Target is right next to Lowe's, which I'm sure is the case in 50 percent of the cities in the U.S. Fully expecting to grab some Series 2 instead of Stadium Club, it took only 45 seconds of scanning before I saw rack packs of SC. And then blasters of SC! I took the first one, strolled out of the store, and then couldn't BELIEVE how slow people were driving on the way home.
That's how interested in these cards I am.
But there are drawbacks to this set if you want to complete it.
It's 300 cards, which is great in many ways. But it's a 300-card set that is doled out in 5-card packs. Rack packs are $5.99 for 12 cards. Blasters are $19.99 for 40 cards. So you're paying 50 cents a card if you buy a rack pack or blaster.
Also, every fourth card in almost every blaster pack is an insert or parallel. So Topps is dumping on set-collectors again. Stadium Club parallels are among the most pointless ever made -- I've said that before. And although the inserts can be cool, I wish they weren't so frequent.
However, it's not enough for me to not enjoy the product. The photos themselves carry the cards past any shenanigans. Maybe it doesn't for the most militant of you. But it does for me.
So let's see more of those photos and less of these words:
#1 - Fernando Valenzuela, Dodgers
Topps likes me. It really, really likes me. If I had gone several months without obtaining this card, I'm sure it would have ruined my summer -- and you would have had to read all about it. We can now avoid all of that because I have what might be the card of the year.
#67 - Don Mattingly, Yankees
He doesn't look fireable at all there.
#3 - David Cone, Yankees
#100 - Alex Cobb, Rays, gold foil parallel
We could lose these and the set would shine just as brightly.
#209 - Mike Zunino, Mariners
#23 - Ozzie Smith, Cardinals
#198 - Cole Hamels, Phillies
#37 - Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
#TCA-AP - Albert Pujols, Angels, True Colors insert
Oooh, these are pretty. I wish I got someone else, but I like shiny, sturdy, colorful cards.
#10 - Zach Britton, Orioles
This set understands how much more interesting a photo can be with a scoreboard in the background (this is just one example in the set). I'll bet Sooz had a lot to do with this.
#11 - Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays
#237 - Mike Moustakas, Royals
Unless Moustakas has done this more than once, I think this is his catch over the dugout railing against the Orioles in last year's ALCS. Pretty cool -- and, no, I don't need to see his face here.
#227 - Jon Singleton, Astros
#50 - Ender Inciarte, Diamondbacks
#203 - Javier Baez, Cubs
The 300-card set giveth and the 300-card set taketh away. I can't think of a duller trio to finish a pack.
#132 - Jered Weaver, Angels
#246 - Adam Dunn, Athletics
#65 - Jackie Robinson, Dodgers
Look! It's a Robinson image that hasn't been used on a card before! Pretty exciting.
This card has already received a lot of reaction, and with good reason. It's a beautiful card.
The back, though, has a pretty familiar pose.
#T-2B - Jacob deGrom, Mets, Luminous Triumvirate insert
I never obtained one of these from last year's set, because it was an insert in a hobby-only set. It's a fancy, pretty card -- you know how I love my lights in the dark. But there's not a chance of me finding the other two pieces to this card.
387 - Christian Yelich, Marlins
#261 - Jake Odorizzi, Rays
Pulling Rays in Stadium Club is almost as boring as pulling Rays in any other product.
#113 - BUCK. FARMER, Tigers. There is a BUCK. FARMER. card in Stadium Club!
#79 - Bartolo Colon, Mets
This should have been Colon batting. Totally. Dropping the ball there, Stadium Club.
#38 - Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers, gold parallel
#135 - Mike Trout, Angels
Mike needs to grow some hair. Or keep his cap/helmet on.
#214 - Brandon Crawford, Giants
That's a little too much hair.
#112 - Paul Konerko, White Sox
Signs in the background, people. Signs in the background!
#127 - Alfredo Simon, Tigers
#280 - Rymer Liriano, Padres
#98 - Jim Rice, Red Sox
This card wants me to go back to the '70s right now.
#184 - David Ortiz, Red Sox
#150 - Jacob deGrom, Mets
#173 - Gary Brown, Giants
#LDC-05 - Ted Williams, Red Sox, legends diecut insert
I'm not feeling the diecuts in this set -- except for the luminous ones.
#146 - Mike Mussina, Yankees
Get Moose in an Orioles uniform once in awhile. He did spend 10 years with the team.
#162 - Craig Kimbrel, Braves
Ooof. This has to irk Braves fans.
#85 - Joey Votto, Reds
Jonathan Lucroy with a cameo. Oh, and Billy Hatcher ... wow.
#276 - Jonathan Schoop, Orioles
#52 - Jake Marisnick, Astros
#154 - J.D. Martinez, Tigers
And that completes the blaster.
To sum up:
-- The design, if you can call it that, is OK. It's unobtrusive, which is the most important thing in Stadium Club.
-- Spectacular pictures. This set does the Stadium Club brand name proud. My favorites are Valenzuela, Robinson, Britton, Ortiz, Smith, Rice and Konerko.
-- I received 35 cards toward the set for $19.99. Topps must be paying A LOT for these photos.
-- Five-card packs are awful.
-- Buck. Farmer.
Unfortunately, I'm sure I won't be attempting to complete this set. Too difficult, too costly, and other sets issued at this time are more helpful in that area.
I probably will hold on to most of the cards here, though, because I plan to pick up packs here and there -- and, you never know, I may find a box six months from now that's marked down. I can see myself still being interested then.
That's because I'm pretty certain that there is nothing that has come out so far this year or will come out later that is better than this set in terms of quality.
It's the set of the year.
And it's not just because Kershaw is on every wrapper.