When the first cards of the season hit the shelves for the first time, there is a tendency to walk out of the store with bags in hand, heart skipping a beat and rose-colored glasses firmly in place.
"The cards look great!" "The photos are better than ever!" "They're so colorful!" "Love the backs!"
As the weeks progress and the cards aren't "new" anymore, we find out how true those first exclamations are.
From my point of view, with a couple days to think (snowstorms allow you time to think), I know which ones are true and which ones aren't already.
For me, here are the things about 2019 Topps that are the same as always ... or at least the same as in the last 10 years:
1. The same old mix of vertical and horizontal cards in packs. Horizontal cards are always bunched together.
2. Collation stinks. I should be able to buy nearly 120 cards as my first cards of the season and avoid doubles for the most part. But I can't. Because collation took a dive somewhere in the '90s and hasn't improved noticeably. I pulled 14 doubles for 12 percent of my cards. There are signs that collation is even worse this year.
3. The vast majority of photos are the same zoomed -in shots that avoid showing any kind of background. The zooming hasn't been as pronounced in the last couple of years -- thank goodness -- but it's still there and makes most of the cards relatively boring. There are a few standouts. But I haven't noticed an uptick.
4. The backs ARE colorful. But it's not anything different than the last few years. Ever since 2015 we've been in the era of colorful backs, which I quite enjoy. This is what 2018 and 2017 looked like:
The 2017 back in particular took away the misery of the front.
5. The photos have that processed/filtered look that some have complained about in recent years. I actually hadn't noticed it much until this year. But for some reason I can really see it with the 2019 cards.
"I thought you were going to be more positive with today's post."
Yes. All right, my rose-colored glasses are officially on. And here is what I like:
No surprise here. I've gushed over the design since it first went public months ago. It's a beauty and a throwback to the '80s, even the '70s somewhat.
My favorite part is the colored swoosh, creating a "half-border" on the card. I look at this as Topps' compromise with collectors who desperately want borders to return (myself included). Topps is still holding tight to its "background parallels" with the mosaic pattern on the left side of the photo. But it's subtle enough (unlike the horrible 2016 smoke set) that it doesn't bother me.
I love the logo in the corner and I love the big, fat font for the last name. It doesn't bother me in the least that the last name is listed above the first name. It looks a hell of a lot better that way than if the first name was above the last name. If I can get past 2005 Topps, I can get past this. I also don't mind the position/team name in tiny type. I'm at an age where my eyesight isn't what it once was. Still doesn't bother me.
All of it combined gives the card, and the set, character. That's what good design does. It doesn't get out of the way of the photo. It enhances the photo and lets the card sit in the collector's memory. There's a reason why I get all those full-bleed sets from the '90s confused. Shun design and risk being forgotten. Make something funky and be remembered forever.
Anyway, you want to see 2019 cards, right?
I got 'em.
I'll do the single pack first. As many have said, there are now 16 cards in a single pack and the price has gone up. I didn't notice the price change. Prices go up, that's a fact of life. Stamps go up, newspapers go up, cards go up. Life moves on.
#54 - Rick Porcello, Red Sox
#290 - Steven Souza Jr., Diamondbacks
#334 - Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks
#206 - Jaime Barra, Angels
OK, have those four cards memorized? Good. You'll see them again.
#245 - Toronto Blue Jays, Rogers Centre
This is one of the best things about 2019 flagship. This is a long overdue treatment for the team cards. Overhead stadium shots! For goodness sake, Triple Play was doing this in the early '90s! It's always a crowd-pleaser.
The best part of these cards is the backs aren't throwaways. It provides good info about the 2018 season. The fact-packed team cards of the '60s and early '70s were among the best. This resembles those.
#169 - Charlie Morton, Astros
This is your average back. The complete stats are back after a couple of wayward years. Thanks for listening, Topps! The type is a bit small, but I'll take that for the return of complete stats.
The stat backgrounds feature a light gray background instead of the usual white. And as been the habit for years, the design theme from the front continues to the back. I also dug up what I think are all the back colors:
The colors remind me of southwest adobe homes.
#T84-25 - Nick Williams, Phillies
This year's retro anniversary insert goes with 1984 (thank goodness, I thought we'd see 1989 again). Although the stupid foil stamp ruins the feel, I like the '84 tribute. I think it gets ripped too much for being a sad imitation of '83. Taken on its own, it's very much an '80s set with a comic book look. I enjoy it quite a bit.
#SSB-9 - Eric Hosmer, Padres, Stars of the Game
These are foil. Too bad.
#145 - NL Nails (Gritty Players Share Second)
That stupid trademark. Bryce Harper is standing next to Scooter Gennett. Gennett is not identified on the back.
#55 - Yuli Gurriel, Astros
#312 - Mookie Betts, Red Sox, League Leaders (batting average)
#102 - Shin-Soo Choo, Rangers
#251 - Niko Goodrum, Tigers
#185 - Matt Duffy, Rays
#59 - Jorge Polanco, Twins
#232 - Kyle Seager, Mariners
OK, that was the full pack. Those 16-card packs go on for quite awhile, don't they? I was getting a little sleepy there.
I'm not showing every card for the fat pack or the hanger box I bought. Just the highlights. Here we go with the fat pack:
#235 - Luke Weaver, Cardinals
#281 - Jeff McNeil, Mets
#98 - Chance Adams, Yankees
#64 - Ramon Laureano, A's
#49 - Michael Kopech, White Sox
Went on a rookie run there. As usual, Topps packs its sets with rookies whether they play regularly or not, because it no longer really cares about accurately representing the season.
#74 - Chad Bettis, Rockies
#142 - Pedro Strop, Cubs
#228 - Rafael Devers, Red Sox
#233 - Dylan Bundy, Orioles
#113 - Willie Calhoun, Rangers
This is the first card I've pulled to show the other design element of 2019 Topps that I love: the image breaks through the design to create a 3-D effect. This stuff was done all the time in the '70s and '80s until somebody decided it was "cheesey" and then we couldn't enjoy it anymore. But I still enjoyed it. Thank goodness, we're back to it.
Also that rainbow effect on "future stars" 💙💚💛💜
#322 - Brian McCann, Astros
#170 - Manny Margot, Padres
#237 - Seth Lugo, Mets
#263 - Always Sonny (Sir Didi Shares His Expertise) checklist
#317 - Kevin Gausman, Braves
#293 - Andrew Miller, Indians
#195 - Brett Phillips, Royals
OK, now pay attention to THAT last group of cards.
#332 - Ryan O'Hearn, Royals
Here is a new thing this year: the 150th anniversary of baseball means pointless '90s-style foil-stamped parallels. Oh boy.
#T8r-14 - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks, 1984 retro insert
Oops. If Topps had pushed back its release date juuuuust a little bit.
#92 - Clayton Richard, Padres
#90 - Javier Baez, Cubs, League Leaders (RBIs)
#53 - Brandon Crawford, Giants
#346 - Chris Iannetta, Rockies
#316 - Adam Eaton, Nationals
#194 - Felipe Vazquez, Pirates
#166 - Matt Chapman, A's
#208 - Josh Bell, Pirates
#104 - Joe Musgrove, Pirates
#157 - Buster Posey, Giants
#313 - Robinson Cano, Mariners
No longer a Mariner, Topps
#132 - Miguel Andujar, Yankees (rookie cup!)
#25 - Chad Green, Yankees
#330 - Lorenzo Cain, Brewers
#11 - Mike Zunino, Mariners
On to the hanger box!
#204 - Zack Cozart, Angels
#286 - Taijuan Walker, Diamondbacks (breaking through the design! Weeee!)
#1 - Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
Card No. 1. I still wants card No. 1 to be a league leader card. It just doesn't seem right if it's an individual player.
#9 - Ben Zobrist, Cubs
#111 - Reynaldo Lopez, White Sox
#256 - Cody Allen, Indians
#107 - Scooter Gennett, Reds
#291 - Enyel De Los Santos, Phillies
#78 - Francisco Arcia, Angels
#151 - Pablo Lopez, Marlins (nice streak there of 3 players I've never heard of)
#284 - Joey Votto, Reds
This is a marvelous picture. It's such an easy concept, too. I don't know why Topps can't do more photos like this with their cards. I know Getty Images has photos like these. It'd be a lot more interesting than Pitcher Pitching and Hitter Hitting 486 times.
#196 - Adam Engel, White Sox
Now there's an action shot.
#54 - Rick Porcello, #290 - Seven Souza Jr., #334 - Jake Lamb, #206 - Jaime Barria, Angels.
Outstanding. I get one Dodger in 117 cards but I get to see these guys twice.
#264 - Avisail Garcia, White Sox
#343 - Sal Romano, Reds
#179 - Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox
#335 - Ervin Santana, Twins
#114 - Brandon Lowe, Rays
#159 - Houston Astros, Minute Maid Park
Love the EST addition.
#339 - Josh Harrison, Pirates
#134 - Sean Reid-Foley, Blue Jays
#126 - Oakland Athletics, Oakland Coliseum
Gee dupe whiz.
#150-135 - Hank Aaron, Braves, Greatest Seasons
OK, weird numbering aside, I am pronouncing this my favorite insert set of the year one full month into the year.
They look great, the photos are not the same old recycled pictures of legends and, yes, I am collecting these cards.
#71 - Atlanta Braves, SunTrust Park, foil parallel
Suddenly this has become a Braves hot box. Although you know me, I think foil parallels should have been banished to the '90s.
#GT23 and GT29 - Gleyber Torres Target exclusive insert
Whoops, spoke too soon, this is a Gleyber Torres hot box.
#T84-44 - Kris Bryant, Cubs, 1984 retro insert
#211 - Jeimer Candelario, Tigers
#145 - NL Nails checklist (DUPE!)
#202 - Sweet Life, Max and Cody Celebrate checklist
What? Is that a Dodger card? Am I allowed to have this card? Praise be.
#15 - J.P. Crawford, Phillies
#23 - J.D. Martinez, Red Sox, League Leaders (RBIs)
#7 - Gleyber Torres, Yankees
OK, if any Yankee fan ever tries to claim that Topps does not show them favoritism, call me up and I'll recount that one time when I bought a loose pack, fat pack and hanger box for 117 total cards and pulled one, single Dodger card and THREE cards of one individual Yankee.
Yeah, yeah, I know, that's why you don't shop retail. Just thought things would work out a little better.
#112 - Joey Gallo, Rangers
#203 - Will Smith, Giants
#21 - Jean Segura, Mariners
No longer a Mariner.
#83 - Lou Trivino, A's
#89 - Corey Dickerson, Pirates
#272 - Orlando Arcia, Brewers
#285 - Sonny Gray, Yankees
No longer a Yankee
#20 - Jose Urena, Marlins
#133 - Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
#57 - Justin Verlander, Astros
#62 - Elvis Andrus, Rangers
#217 - Joe Jimenez, Tigers
#123 - Jose Martinez, Cardinals
#154 - Johnny Cueto, Giants
#56 - Christian Villanueva, Padres
#325 - Dan Straily, Marlins
#215 - Didi Gregorius, Yankees
#163 - Aaron Nola, Phillies
#248 - Justin Bour, Phillies
#147 - Blake Treinen, A's
#161 - Eric Hosmer, Padres (2 cards of Eric Hosmer, 1 Dodger)
#141 - Ryon Healy, Mariners
This isn't the only card I pulled of a player wearing the ever-present helmet face guard, but it is the only one where I noticed it right away. That's reassuring. Last year watching baseball games it was about all I could see.
#229 - Shane Greene, Tigers
And that's everything.
I didn't pull any short-prints. Didn't pull any notable parallels besides that stupid foil thing. And obviously no hits or anything like that.
But you know, I don't care about that kind of stuff. I just want my Dodgers (is that so much to ask?). And I want my cards to look good.
Fortunately, in 2019, as far as cards looking good, that is something that is happening.