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.