Friday, November 21, 2014
This is a pack of baseball cards.
Say what you want about the state of baseball-card collecting today, and I have, but this pack possesses something that is lacking these days:
We go out of our way to eliminate mystery from our lives. Think about it. Those of you who are old enough probably remember when radio was the only option. If there was a song you really liked, you either saved up enough money to buy the record or you waited until you heard it on the radio. But you could wait a reeaaaallllly long time. Through a whole bunch of songs you didn't want to hear. And through commercials, too. But when the song finally arrived -- days later sometimes -- it was glorious.
There was mystery. You had no idea when you would hear it again.
Today, we simply download the song online or use whatever device we have to skip past everything we don't want in order to get to what we do want.
We do the same with cards. A lot of us are all about the singles and the guys in our collection. So we dispense with pack purchasing and box busting to buy exactly what we want for exactly the price we want.
It's very efficient. We are very, very efficient people these days. Much more efficient than 20, 30, 40 years ago.
But in the quest for efficiency sometimes we eliminate mystery.
I know, I know. "Mystery" is an antiquated notion to some people. It's romanticism. It's not very realistic or practical. You can't quantify "mystery" with a formula or rate it or turn it into a percentage.
Yet, there are people -- people like me -- who keep coming back ... to mystery.
That's why the baseball card shelves feature cards enclosed in packs or in boxes. Mystery, or in this case "enticement", is how they win the sale. And for those of us who still like a little mystery in our lives, we're suckers for a wrapped pack.
So I bought one of them today, to live out a little mystery.
Sure I know what 2014 Topps Update is all about. I've purchased it and seen it and written about the cards. But I haven't bought a pack of it in this form -- a loose pack. I haven't bought this pack before. It's new. It's unknown. It's mystery.
I'm going to open this pack, featuring the blood red clouds floating behind Masahiro Tanaka, right now while the mystery still exists. No time to digest the pack. No opening it and then running errands for four hours. I'll open it and give my immediate thoughts as each card unveils itself to me.
The pack of 12 cards:
#329 - Todd Frazier, Reds, All-Star
I'm showing the last card first because I accidentally spotted it as I was opening the pack and mystery is very key here.
Immediate thought: I don't like seeing people swing a bat when they aren't wearing a cap. I can't help it. I won't apologize for it. I don't like it.
#127 - David Phelps, Yankees
Immediate thought: Crap, a Yankee. It's going to be one of those packs.
#251 - Ike Davis, Pirates
Immediate thought: 4 does not go into 15.
#3 - Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners
Immediate thought: I cannot trade Mariners cards to anyone.
That has to be the record for the most "did not play"s to appear on a baseball card. Also, where is 2009?
#134 - Tony Cruz, Cardinals
Immediate thought: (*while scanning*) Ack! I spotted red on the back of the card! I hope it's not a Cardinal!
By the way, 1989-95 was a dark period in major league baseball -- not one Cruz was playing. Other than that period, since 1973 there has been at least one Cruz in the majors.
#168 - Austin Jackson, Mariners
Immediate thought: More Mariners.
#145 - A.J. Pierzynski, Cardinals
Immediate thought: I have this card already. No mystery here.
#160 - Delmon Young, Orioles, gold parallel
Immediate thought: Great, I just traded with an Orioles collector.
#230 - Kurt Suzuki, Twins
Immediate thought: The same thing I always think when I pull a horizontal card: I wish just one year Topps would make its entire flagship set horizontal. Sure it would irk some collectors. But they're going to be irked anyway. I mean look at that thing! I'd buy that set.
#229 - Sam Fuld, A's
Immediate thought: See? Come on, man, that's a cool shot! Horizontal the whole thing!
#239 - Jose Abreu, White Sox, all-star
Immediate thought: "The all-star cards are here, the pack is over."
But actually that's a decent card. Too bad the Ford logo is battling for prominence with Abreu's red White Sox cap.
#277 - Chris Sale, White Sox, all-star
Immediate thought: "Dear god, those caps."
And just like that, the mystery is over.
Mystery is fleeting. You hear the song, finally. And you replace mystery with discovery, knowledge, familiarity.
All good traits in their own right.
Until you need a little mystery in your life again.
And that's when those packs in the card aisle will start looking good to you.