Thursday, December 30, 2010

The best cards of 2010

How was your 2010? Was it better than 2009? For me, it was. It wasn't the greatest year in the world, but it was a whole lot better than what I went through in '09.

As for cards, I think most of us will agree that the opposite was true. The year 2009 was a pretty good one for cards. But 2010 was mediocre.

In separating the best cards of 2010, I found a lot of mediocrity. Much of that is due to the disappearance of Upper Deck early in the year. Looking at Topps card after Topps card gets tedious. I'm sure my eyes glazed over and I missed a cool card or two.

I don't find these cards as inspiring as 2009. My favorite card of 2009, the Topps David Murphy card shown here, is tremendous. But, I'll continue with a 2010 countdown anyway. It's the end of the year and I love my end-of-the-year wrap-up shows. Let's see what I thought was the best of what I pulled/acquired in 2010.

As mentioned before, hits and parallels are eliminated from competition because they're too unusual and can't be compared with your average card. So you won't see any Strasburg purple refractor here.

Like last year, the first few cards are representative of a card innovation that I found cool this year. It's a tribute to the theme or angle, rather than the actual card itself.

Count 'em down, Casey:

20. Upper Deck Ballparks subset: I don't know why it took a card company so long to feature ballparks in a set. I know it's been done here or there, but I don't recall every single ballpark being displayed in a base set before, excluding last year's OPC. Some of the photos are questionable in this set, and the inability of Upper Deck to display the nicknames is a definite drawback. But it is, by far, the highlight of a disappointing "final" set for UD.

19. Topps Series 2 2020 insert set: Anything that reminds me of the Kellogg's 3-D cards of the '70s is awesome. Topps needs to play with its cards a little more like this. Perhaps it's not what people who always want their minds blown had hoped for, but I thought the cards were great.

18. Bowman 1992 Throwback insert set: I didn't collect Bowman in 1992, so seeing these cards of current players on an 18-year-old design made me appreciate just how nice the set was back in '92. The lack of a team name is irksome, but otherwise a very nice-looking insert set.

17. Bowman Topps 100 insert set: Bowman done good with its insert sets in 2010. The best part of this set is that all of the best prospects are right here in a tidy 100 cards. I don't know about you, but I don't have time to collect Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects & Players You'll Never Hear About Again & Oh, By the Way, Here Are Some USA Players That You'll Never Hear About Either. I don't need 200-300 cards that I'll look back on in five years and say, "who the hell was that?" This is much more manageable, and much more fun.

16. Topps Chrome rack pack orange refractors: My collecting tastes are very simple. I keep reading about how Chrome was a bust and that orange refractors and some wrapper redemption thing proves that Topps dropped the ball on Chrome, blah, blah, blah. I don't have the time nor the interest to get into the political workings and business machinations of card companies. What I do know is that Topps put orange refractors in every relatively affordable rack pack of Chrome and I bought a bunch of it even though I had no money. So to me, the orange refractors aren't a sign of desperation or the dilution of the orange refractor. They are a sign that Topps found a way to get me to buy some cards that I wouldn't ordinarily buy.

15. Topps Tales of the Game insert set: My favorite insert set of the year. Baseball is nothing without the stories that make up its history. Good for Topps for creating an insert set with all of baseball's greatest moments. By the way, I still need #2, #5, #17 from Series 1 (there was a mix-up in the Night Owl factory). And I'll also take any Topps Update Tales of the Game cards you want to throw my way.

14. Zach Duke, Topps National Chicle: OK, we're onto the portion of the countdown where I highlight individual cards. Chicle is probably my favorite set from 2010, even though I was very conflicted by it when it came out. Since then, I have seen what the cards look like together in binder form and they are tremendous. Sure, there are several cards that don't capture a player's likeness too well, but that's both an "eye of the beholder" thing and a "painting vs. photo" thing. This is an art gallery card set. You walk into an art gallery and one person's going to hate a painting that someone else loves. I think it's very cool that a card set captures that phenomenon even if it makes the set wildly inconsistent.

Oh, by the way, I love this card.

13. Yadier Molina, Topps National Chicle: Same as above. If I don't stop posting these cards I'm going to end up trying to complete the set, and I don't want to do that.

12. Kevin Youkilis, Topps: I love "face in the crowd" shots. Topps, with it's photo manipulations, has me suspicious that this crowd was photoshopped behind Youkilis. But unless I see proof, it remains one of the best cards of the year.

11. Cody Ross, Topps: I wish I had my way-back machine. I could enter it and prevent the Marlins from dumping Ross and allowing the Giants to pick him up. I just don't get Florida.

10. Carlos Santana, Topps Chrome xrefractor: The regular chrome version of this card looks cool. But adding the tiny shiny squares gets the card on the countdown. That's an accomplishment considering I'm a Dodger fan and the Dodgers gave this guy up to pursue a World Series title that they're still chasing.

9. Juan Pierre, Topps: Pierre has a lot of great cards, as many of the "hustle" ballplayers do. I think this one is the best.

8. David Wright, Topps: Second player on the countdown who is sticking out his tongue.

7. Rickey Henderson, Franchise History, Topps: I really enjoyed the Franchise History subset in Topps this year. The best cards were the ones that featured retired players in the photos. This card and the Perez-Bench Reds card are the two best.

6. Matt Kemp, Topps: Best base set Dodger card of the year. That is a future post, by the way.

5. Jackie Robinson, Topps National Chicle: The only reason this card isn't higher is because it's a short-print. Normally I rule out those cards in a "best of" list like this because they're not as available as other cards. But I like this card too much to exclude it.

4. Revolving Door, Allen & Ginter: Settle yourselves. Yes, it's one of the best cards of the year. Cards like these is what makes Allen & Ginter so great. I smile every time I see this card. If you don't like the card then you probably shouldn't be collecting A&G.

3. Prince Fielder, Topps: The Brewers ended up with a lot of good cards in the Topps base set. The Aclides Escobar card just missed the countdown. I don't condone Prince Fielder's behavior here, and am disturbed by choreography sneaking into baseball, but it was truly a unique moment. Good for Topps to get it on a baseball card.

2. Lou Gehrig, Topps National Chicle: What Chicle could have been. An all black-and-white, illustrated set would be very powerful.

1. Jose Reyes, Topps: I always prefer action shots to posed shots when picking the best. That's because a good action shot is more difficult to get. This is the best action shot I've seen all year, so it gets my vote for best card of the year.

How about that -- a Yankee and  Met finish 1-2? I must be part of the New York bias.

Tomorrow, the year in review. And then we drop-kick 2010 to the curb.


  1. YES to #4! Revolving Door is one of the best cards in the A&G set, period.

  2. when you get that way back machine going, could I borrow it for a spell?
    if it's funding holding you back, maybe we could go halvers on it?

  3. #12 is a nice card, but there are too many fans on that card.

    There is a woman in a Red Sox cap and brown shirt [Youk's arm] that looks too much like Jason Bay.

  4. Thumbs up for #'s 1, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13. I wasn't a huge fan of the chicle.

  5. Great list! The Reyes is a sweet card.

    With regard to the action shots, in 2010 Topps have you noticed any differences between the regular and the Chrome in terms of the cropping? The CC from the regular set is a closer up action shot but the Chrome is from further back (like the Reyes). Same shot, MUCH different card. Just wondering if anything had caught your eye.

  6. I believe 1992 Topps had every stadium pictured on the back of each base card - I always thought that was awesome as a kid.

    As for Chicle, there's a fairly decent chance I'll pick up a box or two if I can find them cheap enough...the set grew on me too despite only buying two blasters.

    The revolving door is awesome. Any card that makes me smile the first time I see it out of a pack is a winner in my book too.

    Good list!

  7. I love #7 and didn't even know it existed. If you have an extra I'd love to pick one up!

  8. I never saw that Jackie Robinson short-print. I like that one a lot.

  9. The backs of 2008 Topps also featured small stadium shots. Not as nice as (most) of the images used in UD's final baseball set however. Great list BTW.

  10. Good choices. I really think that Prince Fielder card will be remembered a long time. It's going to be a lot of people's favorite of the era, not just 2010. (Okay, maybe I'm talking about me.)

    The Reyes card is good, but I really liked the Markakis card this year.

  11. CCC ~

    I'm vaguely aware of some different cropping on a couple of the Chrome cards. I'll have to take a closer look.

    FanofReds, Colbey,

    I'm aware of the '92 and '08 backs. Especially aware of '92:

  12. Great post, Owl. The Reyes card is mindblowing. First time I've seen it.

  13. That Robinson card is great, and Chicle was my favorite set of the year too, by far despite some poor likenesses.

  14. nice list - will be interesting to revisit next year at this time and compare w/ the best of 2011.