This post may be inaccurate and out-of-date when 2016 Topps comes out, which is a reason why I am reluctant to comment on internet images, but this is where I put card thoughts, so let's go.
Topps released the list of players that would appear in 2016 Topps the other day. They call it a checklist, but there are no card numbers or little boxes to check, so it's not a checklist. It's just a list of names (Topps apparently withheld the numbers because they're going to announce later which card was voted to be at No. 1 -- so actually it's all a marketing gimmick).
I scanned quickly for the Dodgers. I counted a whopping 22 of them, although some are wrapped up in league leaders cards so I'm not sure about the actual number.
Along with the checklist were some more images of 2016 Topps. My initial thoughts on the look are pretty much what you'd expect. It's a bold move going to full-bleed, but kind of steals from Stadium Club's game. The design itself I call the "TV graphics design." You can almost hear those Fox sound effects as the team logo slash locks into place and the name bar pulls out to another metallic sound effect. (With the name bar, my local TV news actually uses the exact same graphic design).
The look is interesting, and the photos sure seem bold, but it's not my favorite. Periodic pack buying is all I see in my future.
But the part that disturbs me about these cards is actually the background.
For not every image that I've seen, but for most of them, the background is blurred out, seemingly much more so than in recent Topps sets. If I wanted to read what was on the scoreboard behind Aaron Nola, I couldn't.
Here you can see the fans in the stands -- sort of -- but they're blurred out, and it's almost as if Schwarber and the fans in the background are separate photos. All of the backgrounds that I have seen have a watercolor effect -- like what is in the background doesn't matter.
Each image also features a cloud-like effect in the corners as if the player is emerging from smoke to blast a titanic home run.
I'm sure this is all part of the design, perhaps an attempt to make the player look three-dimensional. But I don't care for it.
It puts too much focus on the player -- which has been a trend in Topps cards over the last five or six years with the zoomed-in shots and strange facial expressions. And the more I look at them, it's almost as if there's an attempt to turn the players into superheroes, which is something that I detest in modern athletics. Yes, these players can do great things with a baseball. But, please, don't forget that they're human.
This, to me, is human. This is baseball. I can see the background. Tom Walker isn't a superhero unto himself. He is part of the baseball atmosphere. There is a batting cage in the background, and a scoreboard (and I can tell it's a Mets scoreboard), and other players standing around. He is not one man, he is part of of an entire operation -- an operation that I love -- called baseball. I don't follow baseball solely for the players. I follow baseball for everything that it offers -- the grass, the scoreboard, the vendors, the smells, everything.
Here, this is a more recent card if you think I'm getting too crotchety on you. I like this because I can see the on-deck batter doing his thing as Casey Blake takes his swing. I can see the field-level fans and the other fans in the stands pretty clearly. Oh, and grass, I can see grass.
This? Henry Owens might as well be pitching in a gymnasium somewhere. There is no perspective because there is no background.
Remember, I don't actually know if the cards are going to look like this when they come out of packs, but it doesn't look promising.
Topps has been touching up the photos for the last few years (really for decades if you want to count airbrushing, etc.), so it's nothing new. There was plenty of this kind of background blurring in 2015 Topps, a set I like a lot. But with the full-bleed design, it's much more apparent.
Sure, the Harper image is bright and impressive. I loathe using the word "pop" in this manner, but the colors "pop." Harper looks very good on this card. But I don't collect Harper. I collect baseball. All of it.
The images look nice. But they're better suited for a non-flagship set, something like Gold Label.
When it comes to flagship, I want the big picture. I want to see the glove on the field, the clubhouse guy in the corner, the kid in the front row looking the wrong way, the batting cage. I want to see it all because I collect baseball, not just pictures of men.
I'm not collecting to find superheroes. If I want that angle fed to me, I can watch ESPN or the MLB Network, or the NBA All-Star Game, where they do everything in their power to convince you that these human beings can actually fly.
But they can't. Because in baseball there are errors and missed signs and balks and bad calls and gum on the dugout floor.
And there is downtime. So much downtime. Which is why I like baseball.
I need to see downtime on baseball cards again. I need to see the smells. I need to see the humans that are just cogs in a great, big, shiny, dirty, wonderful machine called baseball.
I need to see the big picture. Backgrounds and all.