Monday, March 27, 2017

Forcing the action

A number of bloggers have observed that Topps has zoomed out a bit on their subjects in the 2017 flagship set, and isn't it about time?

After five years of viewing every bead of sweat on a batter and every nostril hair on a pitcher, we mercifully are starting to see almost all of a player's limbs again.

Here are a couple of examples of the difference between this year and last year:

That's not to say that it's a drastic change or even close to what I'd like to see, but it's progress.

How much progress there will be in the future in this area, I have my doubts.

You see, Major League Baseball is obsessed these days with action. They are trying to convince people -- people who barely watch the sport, I might add -- that baseball is nonstop action. And to force that action, it wants to artificially speed up the game by adding pitch clocks and other such nonsense.

Baseball, by its nature, is full of ebb and flow. That's what baseball is. If you turn it into a hyperactive version of itself, it's not baseball anymore. They're going to have to come up with another name for it.

But anyway, because of baseball's desperate need to appeal to the ADD crowd, it will promote itself as an action-packed sport as often as possible. And part of that advertisement will appear on baseball cards. Cards and Topps have been boasting about "getting you close to the action" for a long time now, and I expect that to continue if not more so. That means tight shots on action-filled plays.

It also means we won't see this in anything besides Heritage:

I really miss this. More and more by the day.

I'm not talking so much about the posed shot. I'm referring to the background. Look at the story the background tells. A couple dudes hanging loose on the bench. One -- is that Al Hrabosky? -- appears to be reading a book. That's baseball, my friends. Deny it if you like, but you can read a book at a baseball game if you want. That could be considered an insult to people who don't understand the game, or who can't sit still, but it's actually a good thing. There's nothing wrong with lazy and hazy if the promise of action is just around the corner. Have some patience and wait a second.

You probably won't see players hanging out by the batting cage anytime soon either (that's John Milner wearing No. 28). That's because Topps doesn't have its own photographers or shoots spring training anymore. It's all canned action shots purchased from Getty Images, which happens to be well-equipped for shooting action. But dudes standing around the batting cage really do still exist. It'd be nice to see them on cards again.

Batting cages and players in the distance tell me it's baseball. And just from a simple background, I can find the scoreboard and tell whether the photo was taken in Kansas City ...

... or in Chicago.

The background might even be able to tell you which team the player is about to play. In this case, Dewey is going to face the Oakland A's.

And because it was the 1970s, you could identify a player in the background even if you couldn't see his entire uniform number. I'd know Oscar Gamble's hairdo anywhere.

But if you wanted to identify the player by number, you could do that, too. Except it's spring training, and that guy in the distance may be wearing a 72 or a 74. The only Dodger I know wearing 74 is Kenley Jansen and he wasn't alive back then.

Backgrounds show you guys heading to work ...

... practicing their swings ...

... or just standing around.

You know, real baseball stuff.

Baseball is not action 24-7 and as in your face as possible.

If you want that, there are other sports. Or go to an amusement park. Or cliff-diving.

Baseball should be proud of what it is.

And not force the action.


  1. One of the guys that runs a pawn shop near my hometown worked with Mike Thompson back in the day. I bought him a copy of that card, and he was really happy to get it.

  2. This...x1000 I love players, grandstands, scoreboards in the background. I want to know what park the shot was taken in. The days of knowing that are largely gone.

  3. The absolute best year for Topps as far as zoomed out "action shots" goes was by far their 1973 series!!!! I still look at those cards in wonder and amazement. Sometimes, in wonder of who the card is actually of and amazement that the featured player is not even the prominent player in the photo. Still, by far, my favorite set as far as images. We HATED those 'fake pitching' and 'nearly asleep batting' poses that most cards had, so the action shot cards were worth much more to us kids.

  4. who could ever find baseball boring? where are these people? show them to me! you wrote it well N.O.!

  5. Thanks. Your post confirms that I have ADD. I'm one of those fans who prefer action shots over posed batting cage shot. With that being said, I'm pretty particular about which action shots I enjoy. Topps can keep their zoomed in crap. I wanna see the player's entire body. Give me hands, feet, and hair. And I want all of their gloves, bats, hats, and cleats in the shot too. Wait. What am I commenting about again?