For two weeks now, you've been reading about the greatness of Stadium Club. The cards are beautiful, striking and breath-taking. Why the heck can't flagship do this? Let's declare this the set of the year right now. And, on and on and on.
And everyone is right. Some of the photos are amazing, mesmerizing and captivating. It's annually one of my favorite products because I know I'm going to see an astonishing card.
But despite all the accolades it's not a perfect set. There are small things, gnawing little things that explain why I have grown less and less interested in Stadium Club every year. This is not to say SC isn't a terrific set. I'm just saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, fan boys, do I have to be the only one that points out some obvious semi-negatives in this year's set? Am I the only one that sees it? Will I be accused of being a buzz kill? Screw it, I don't care. I waited two weeks for this set to come to my backyard and it's not everything that everyone has said it is and I'm going to explain why.
First of all, let's see a card from each of the previous three years of Stadium Club:
In 2015, 2016 and 2017, nobody had any problem reading the name of the player on the card. Sure, Stadium Club insists on using foil (it kind of wouldn't be SC if there was no foil), but the first three years made damn sure you could read it by making that foil, big, bold and bad. Kevin KIERMAIER. Nobody's going to miss that. And I appreciated it.
This is what we have this year. Large-ass position designation (perhaps the largest one to ever appear on a baseball card). Large-ass team name. And somewhere in that mess is the name "Don Mattingly". If I stare at it for awhile, I can make out all the letters. Then I have to close my eyes for a couple minutes.
Sure, some of the muddling of the name is due to the scanner image. You can spot the name a little easier when the card is in your hand ... sometimes. It's one of those tilting things. Tilt it this way and you can see the name no problem. Tilt it that way and you can catch maybe 50 percent of the letters.
The design is an issue. We've gone through innumerable foil-readability issues since the early 1990s and somehow card design still hasn't perfected it. I thought Stadium Club had gotten the hang of it with 2015 through 2017, but I guess not.
The second sign that maybe everything is not unicorns and puppy dogs in Stadium Club world is the feeling in my gut that I'm actually getting tired of some of the sameness of SC.
I know that sound weird what with all the marvelous images. But trust me, there is some sameness.
The above Dexter Fowler card (this a copy of an online image) is quite similar to a Stadium Club Cardinals card from two years ago.
Yes, the Fowler card emphasizes the scoreboard and shows the third base coach, but really, the majesty of the photo is the same. The iconic Gateway Arch and the familiar Coca-Cola sign is in both photos. And so is a guy rounding third.
When I saw the Randal Grichuk card for the first time, it was one of the greatest pieces of new cardboard. But now with the Fowler card, I don't get that feeling. I've kind of seen it before.
And, so it is with several cards in 2018 Stadium Club. They look a lot like something I saw earlier.
And, yes, there are only so many images and poses that a photographer can take. I get that. I work with photographers daily in my job. I understand. But it's only natural to grow a bit immune to those pictures when you see them repeatedly. I can't hit reset every year. I can't act like something is amazing when I just saw it last year.
Fortunately Stadium Club has enough unique shots (I'm thinking of the Zac Godley plunge into the pool) that it's worth buying. And if you're not going for the entire set and just hand-selecting cool photos, than, yeah, Stadium Club is amazing each year. I think my slight disappointment might be because I take a set as a whole while others are looking at individual cards.
I happened to get a dud blaster in terms of the photo images. Almost none of the key ones that everyone has shown. No Ted Williams. No Mariano Rivera.
Here are some of the notables:
And here are the Dodgers that I pulled because I must show those (they're in first place you know):
That last one is pretty good.
A number of years ago, there was this one blogger who didn't last very long. He used to get on the comments once in awhile and hassle me because I dared have a contrary thought. Why couldn't I be relentlessly positive all the time?
Well, it's the same reason why the Topps Twitter account stopped following me years ago but follows a bunch of other collectors who don't churn out 5-6 blog posts a week.
I say what I like and I say what I don't like.
I will never be a relentless cheerleader. I will never be a perpetual wet blanket.
The glass is both half full and half empty ... for everything.
That includes you Stadium Club.
You're still really good. But if I'm being honest, you've been better.