Friday, July 13, 2018

Buzz kill

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.


  1. That Buehler card is disappointing.

  2. "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?"

    I got into a mini-exchange on Twitter yesterday that seemed (to me) to boil down to this same thought (though it was over Topps Big League, not Stadium Club). I admit I perhaps cut Topps a bit more slack than you and some others, but I'll never harbor ill will toward anyone who questions what they see/collect and the general status quo of the hobby. That's part of what makes collecting fun over the long haul. (I should note that bloggers as a whole seem to generally have more plain fun than any collectors I've come across.)

    Still think Stadium Club's the set to beat this year, though I wouldn't be surprised if Archives (or perhaps the dark horse in Big League, if I ever get my hands on any) knocks it off its perch.

  3. I bought a pack yesterday. My first impression was EXACTLY the same as yours....”I can’t read his name!” There are some perfectly fine sets, great ones even, that don’t have the name on the front at all but if you’re gonna put it there don’t make me turn or tilt the damn thing every which way to read it.

  4. I hadn't seen the Zack Granite card. That's another nice one.
    You're correct about the photo selection and how there are only so many shots to take. Hopefully someone at Topps is keeping track of Stadium Club and saying, "Oh we used this pose in 2015 and this one in 2016 for Player X. Last year we found a candid shot for him. We don't want to repeat ourselves so let's go with this one for 2018."

  5. Geez those names are hard to read. I like Stadium Club but I usually can find the singles I want pretty cheap.

  6. I think the design would have been better if they swapped the team name and player name. And that ridiculously large position really detracts from the card design...that's what card backs are for.

  7. I’m sure I’m in the minority here because I absolutely love the design. But I haven’t had a lot of positive things to say about Topps lately. As you said, this is pretty much the company slogan — 2018 Topps: They look a lot like something I saw earlier.

  8. I always look forward to SC. My first response was Where's the players name? Still love the cards, but disappointed with the foil lettering. Of course, I only put a Royals team set together and pick up a few miscellaneous other cards. I seldom see more than 20-30 different cards. I'd love to have a Bo Jackson SP. Nice to see a different pose/picture of Bo. I actually saw him break a bat back in 1989 or 1990. Sitting in the second row right behind the On-Deck circle. Bo struck out and broke his bat over his leg about 10-15 feet away from me. I was amazed.

  9. Every collector has their own opinion and I can respect that as long as they're keeping it real. The biggest downside to this year's design is the giant player's position. I think if they left that out and centered the player's name and team name on the card, the design would have been much nicer.

  10. Hmm. I actually kinda wish Topps SC would leave the player name, position and team entirely OFF the front of the card. Let the pictures do the talking. I prefer this year's unreadable names, etc. because the last two years look too much like previous Fleer (2016) or Upper Deck (2017) products. Also, more dugout shots, please. I liked Big League because A) I could afford to build the set and B) I like borders (also C) return of League Leader cards). But every single shot is an action shot from roughly the same camera distance/perspective. So, no, it can't topple SC this year. Heritage is TOO posed (and I, personally, like posed) and you don't get the variety of poses you'd get with vintage Topps. I don't know why Topps can't get a good mix of posed, candid, action with any of their sets. I know they don't have to, since they've got the exclusive...but it'd be nice if they would try.

  11. Since Flagship stopped having borders it's hard to know what the USP of Stadium Club is.

  12. Stadium Club has never been my cup of tea. They seem a little over priced for my budget, I always thought the design was a copy off of old Fleer or another company’s designs (this year seems like a play off of ‘06 Upper Deck) and they don’t have many Rays or Tigers in them since they’ve come back in ‘14 or whenever.
    I was wondering if the names were difficult to read. Thanks for letting us know. I may happen to pick up some singles if they pop up at a card show in the future and catch my eye, but I’d rather save money I would waste buying packs on perhaps getting some of the Big League set, or just save it for Update.

  13. Here, here, Mr. Owl! I believe that Stadium Club has unfortunately adopted the worst aspects of Upper Deck back in the day: unreadable foil and a "heck, we don't need a design, we'll let the photo do the talking" attitude. You know why I like the flagship better this year? Because at least it has a design that's a fresh idea. Stadium Club barely has one and it "borrowed" it from 2006 Upper Deck (Mr. Dime Box first pointed this out.)

  14. The problem with repeats of the really cool vantage points probably traces in part back to the stadiums, I think - the photogs are required to shoot from the same position, every year. This is seen in S1/S2 as well.

    The solution would be more ‘candid’ shots; I have been searching for the right term for that. Thanks, commenters.

    Or, more of a mix of the possibilities- the reason I am really looking forward to 2020/1971 Heritage.

    Stadium Club is far too expensive to collect another set of largely the same style of images as S1/S2 though. A page of 18 (or 2 of 36) of the choice cards picked up cheap from COMC looks wonderful though.