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Road trip with 2015 Topps

I think I need someone at Topps to call me up and ask me what day I would like the first cards of the year to be delivered to a store near me, because clearly this isn't working out.

I tried searching for 2015 Topps earlier in the week a couple of times and came up with nothing. Then, on Wednesday it snowed like a bastard and I couldn't go out. Yesterday, I had one of those ever-living work days lined up: 150 miles of driving and 12 hours of laboring. How in the hell was I going to be able stop at a store to find some cards?

Well, I'm a resourceful addict. I carved out some time before entering job hell and hit the drag strip to Target. And there they were.

I had intended to pick up a hanger box like I've done most recent years. But I think seeing Puig on the front got to me. I first decided to claim the loose pack that was the first one on the left of a freshly opened box. This would be a fortunate decision.

Then I saw the blaster with Over $10 in Coupons Inside! and I snagged that, too. What the hey, the product looks good, let's get a big fat sampling and some cash off of stuff I might not buy.

Then I jumped in the car, pack and blaster in the seat next to me, and drove 75 miles.

There were a lot of boring moments during that drive. It was all-rural traveling and in weaker periods I have opened cards in the car. But either I'm stronger now or there simply was NO TIME, because I didn't open them on the way there, didn't open them when I found the place I needed to be after getting lost twice, didn't open them out of frustration after leaving the place, didn't open them after reaching the next place after getting lost 3 MORE TIMES and being incredibly late, didn't open them out of frustration after leaving THAT place, didn't open them on the 75 miles back even though there was some person driving on a 55-mile an hour road exactly 37 mph for a looooooong time and there was no way to pass because snow and dark, didn't open them during my brief break at home to get some kind of food, didn't open them in the car on the way back into the office or in the parking lot there.

No, I finally opened them at 2 a.m. like a good night owl.

So my new cards took a 150-mile trip with me. But they were probably used to it, no telling how many miles they traveled in the truck that delivered the cards to Target.

But enough bibble-babble. The contents now.

Pack first:

#156 - Santiago Casilla, Giants

Yes, the first card of 2015 is a Giant. Normally this would distress me quite a bit, but I have the Dodgers in a group break and I know I'll get plenty so no Giant card is going to faze me.

However, I did notice an extraordinary number of Giants in the cards that I bought, as well as Diamondbacks (whuuuut?). So I'm going to be counting those. Dodgers, as usual, were in short supply. But again, that's OK, because I got a Clayton Kershaw relic in my group break!

#322 - Phil Hughes, Twins
#22 - Tyler Flowers, White Sox

#317 - Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, checklist

There's the man himself. Isn't that a grand card?

#43 - Starlin Castro, Cubs
#316 - R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays

#39 - Salvador Perez, Royals, variation

You are correct. That is a photo variation out of a loosey! Everyone knows nothing good comes out of looseys! What is going on?

You know me and photo variations: you have to hit me over the head before I realize what I'm holding. But I pretty much knew this time. "Wow, that is too sweet for it to be his base card," I thought. And it is. Perez's base card is of him at the plate swinging. I'm not sure why photos like this can't be in the base set, but maybe the fact that I'm still a little giddy over this explains why.

#7B - Hank Aaron, 1970, Baseball History

I pulled a Aaron card on his 81st birthday! I like the concept of these historical inserts. The design is questionable.

#101 - Scooter Gennett, Brewers
#291 - Mark Reynolds, Brewers

#336 - Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

I can't even look at this guy anymore, so let's view the back. There's not much for me to say about this that hasn't been said. I still enjoy the continuity from front to back. Topps didn't do that kind of thing until the '90s and it was long overdue. The large card numbers appear to be somebody at Topps listening to the blogs.

#248 - Addison Reed, Diamondbacks (1)

That was the pack. A Kershaw and a short-print. I selected good.

Let's check out the blaster:

Pack One

#201 - Tommy LaStella, Braves

Design analysis time.

Like most others, I love the design, and I must address the foil first: THE ONLY FOIL IS THE TOPPS LOGO. THIS IS HUGE!!!!!! Foil has been going on for so long in the base set -- since 1994! -- I was beginning to think that Topps was contractually required to put every name or team in gold or silver foil. When I saw that the names were their pre-1994 selves I thought, "Can they do that?" Are there people somewhere that are going into rehab because of the lack of foil on cards?

As for the border, this is possibly even bigger than the limited foil. Topps has not used a colored border that changed depending on the team ever. Topps using design colors that reflect the team was only sporadic up through the 1980s. But even when it did change from Reds red to Dodger blue it was always some other element of the design -- the piping around the photo, the background behind the player name, the circles behind the team name, etc. In years with non-white borders -- 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, etc. -- the border was always consistently the same color.

The look of these cards doesn't remind me of any other Topps set. It has a mid-1990s feel to me, but not Topps. Score or Fleer maybe. The design background looks like stucco. I originally thought "marble" but after looking at the picture of Yasiel on the wrapper it looks like bricks and stucco.

The bottom part with the lines and swirls reminds me of ESPN graphics. I can almost hear the sound effects that go off when ESPN shows one of its graphics. It's very TV techy and the pulsing background behind the team name is something ESPN has done, too. The team aspect also looks like a fingerprint -- a thumb print more specifically -- and I think this is where the "Define the Design" name will originate. As much as like "The Stucco Set", I think more people are gravitating to the "Fingerprint Set."

Finally, I have to say something that no one else will say. The design makes the card look cozy. Yes, I said "cozy." The border looks like a house and the player is its inhabitant. Therefore, cozy. I like it.

Wow. I nerded out on that, didn't I?


#200 - Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
#227 - Madison Bumgarner, Giants, World Series Game 5 (2)

Bleah. The biggest drawback to this set is Giant infestation.

#277 - Cincinnati Reds

This is a nice way to address the team.

#35 - Brandon Moss, A's

#H-24 - Derek Jeter, Yankees, Highlight of the Year

I have a feeling you're going to need a box for all the Jeters in this set.

#JR-1 - Jackie Robinson Story, Two-Sport College Star

This is a slightly different treatment of Jackie Robinson's annual appearance in Topps sets. If they got by without using that posed shot of Robinson about to throw the ball, then this is a success.

As for whether I should put this in my Dodger collection ...

... of course!

#208 - Wilin Rosario, Rockies

#253 - Gregory Polanco, Pirates, Future Stars

The Future Stars get foil. Because they're future stars. Even though foil is now officially played out

#209 - Daniel Corcino, Reds

Pack Two

#112 - Daniel Nava, Red Sox
#149 - Daniel Murphy, Mets
#82 - Nick Terpesch, Rangers

#98 - AL RBI Leaders

As much as the design has changed, there are a  lot of elements that are the same and need to go. League leaders: good. This format since 2008: bad.

#18 - Cody Allen, Indians

#R-5 - Josh Hamilton, Angels, Robbed insert

I don't know why I keep showing inserts. They do nothing for me.

#FHR-33 - Freddie Freeman, Braves, First Home Run insert

I keep hearing how these look better in person. No they don't. It's one of those cards where if you tilt it just right you get to see the shiny. Then it goes back to being ugly again.

#260 - David Peralta, Diamondbacks (2)
#310 - Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks (3)

#78 - Yordano Ventura, Royals


Pack Three

#44 - Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

#83 - David Wright, Mets

I really like the color choices with these teams. This is more of what I was hoping for with the 2013 Topps set, bright, deep colors.

#33 - Oakland Athletics
#2 - A.L. Batting Leaders (Altuve, Victor Martinez, Brantley)

#81 - Chris Young, Mariners

Yes, the faces are back. Some more frightening than others.

#140 - Alex Avila, Tigers, foil parallel

This is one of those shiny for shiny's sake cards. More 1990s influence. These have no point.

#F40-1 - Albert Pujols, Angels, Free Agent 40

Ugh. I couldn't have picked Catfish Hunter or Joe Rudi or somebody from the '70s.

#301 - Zack Cozart, Reds
#110 - Tony Sipp, Astros
#66 - Vance Worley, Pirates

See? Not a single Dodger in this blaster so far and I'm not even complaining.

Pack Four

#65 - Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
#225 - Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees

#71 - Adrian Beltre, Rangers, checklist

#203 - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (4)
#105 - Jeff Baker, Marlins
#FHR-29 - Joe Mauer, Twins, First Home Run insert

#FP-10 - Graham Elliot, First Pitch insert

I like the First Pitch set. It was very smart of Topps to do this and it's generated lots of buzz as I knew it would. This is not my first choice or second choice or 10th choice of the First Pitch card I'd want. I'm pretty sick of celebrity chefs.

#339 - Austin Jackson, Mariners
#292 - Neil Walker, Pirates
#309 - Maikel Franco, Phillies

Pack Five

#182 - Devin Mesoraco, Reds

#183 - Craig Gentry, A's
#29 - Brandon Belt, Giants, checklist (3)
#160 - Washington Nationals
#30 - Tanner Roark, Nationals, Future Stars

#A-10 - Babe Ruth, Yankees, Archetypes insert.

I don't know what these are. Not interested enough to find out.

#327 - Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox, Future Stars

A Future Star AND a rookie cup! Is this the first time both have been grouped together? There is so much prospect mojo on this card it might explode in the wrong person's hands.

#91 - Corey Dickerson, Rockies
#218 - David Buchanan, Phillies
#240 - Anthony Ranaudo, Red Sox

If you didn't know who most of the people in that pack were, you have company.

Pack Six

#287 - Everth Cabrera, Padres
#241 - Dilson Herrera, Mets
#223 - Angels (ha, ha, Topps still refuses to call them by their dorky name, or ha, ha, Topps is required to just refer to them as "Angels", either way, ha, ha, Angels).

#280 - Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks (5)

So serious when you play the game the right way. Gee, I hope his new team, the Cubs, plays the game the right way.

#234 - Brandon Belt, Giants (4)

What an ugly pack.

#H-25 - Mark McGwire, Cardinals, Highlight of the Year insert
#FHR-13 - Javier Baez, Cubs, First Home Run insert

#86 - Tim Hudson, Giants (5)

#162 - Drew Pomeranz, A's

Pomeranz's expression is in reaction to the sheer stink of this pack.

#114 - Mike Zunino, Mariners

Pack Seven

#62 - Nolan Arenado, Rockies

For those who claim I don't show enough purple on this blog.

#77 - Edwin Escobar, Red Sox
#246 - Chris Carter, Astros

#85 - NL Wins Leaders
#349 - NL RBI Leaders

Wins and RBIs. Sabermatricians' two favorite statistics. But there are Dodgers fronting both.

#351 - Tom Koehler, Marlins

#I-13 - Craig Kimbrel/John Smoltz, Inspired Play insert

Pssst. They're not really standing together.

#JR-6 - Jackie Robinson story, Breaking the MLB Color Barrier

#100 - Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

This card is beautiful. So much gorgeous blue. So much action and intensity without it being weird. You even get the "K" on the back of his jersey. So much to love.

#274 - Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals

Pack Eight

#40 - Joakim Soria, Tigers
#79 - Starling Marte, Pirates

#87 - Eric Sogard, A's

A's have great cards again this year.

#326 - C.J. Wilson, Angels

#2A - Polio Vaccine Announced As Safe (Not sure if this is some insert that complements the Baseball History insert set).

Get your vaccines, people! Even Topps is telling you to do it.

#FHR-9 - Matt Carpenter, Cardinals, First Home Run insert

The card numbers on these are freakishly small and hard to read.

#133 - Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mets

Still churning out Dice-K cards.

#173 - Carlos Torres, Mets
#89 - Michael Choice, Rangers
#266 - Brandon Phillips, Reds

Pack Nine

#51 - Ryan Howard, Phillies

#315 - Javier Baez, Cubs.

For those with a stirrup fetish.

#123 - Ben Revere, Phillies

#146 - Tony Watson, Pirates
#154 - Brandon Finnegan, Royals

#55 - Trevor May, Twins, gold

These are the gold parallels this year. They're different. I have no idea who this guy is.

#H-19 - Mike Schmidt, Phillies, Highlight of the Year

There we go! Real history! '70s history!

If there was a card for every year of baseball, or even the last 50 years consecutively, I'd collect this. But there are only 30 cards, so that's not happening.

#321 - Josh Hamilton, Angels
#121 - Garrett Jones, Marlins
#131 - Edwards Mujica, Red Sox

Pack 10

#1 - Derek Jeter, Yankees

You knew I wouldn't be able to go through a whole box without pulling this. But this is just my second base Yankee.

#122 - Corey Kluber, Indians
#283 - Chris Johnson, Braves
#119 - Anibal Sanchez, Tigers
#A-20 - Greg Maddux, Braves, Archetypes insert
#R-13 - Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, Robbed insert
#FHR-28 - Don Mattingly, Yankees, First Home Run insert
#189 - Dustin Ackley, Mariners

#267 - Zack Greinke, Dodgers

#67 - Hunter Pence, Giants (6)

No I will not show him with his tongue hanging out. You've all seen a tongue. If the ball was bouncing off his head as he looked like that, then I'd show it.

So, the pack opening started with a Giant and ended with a Giant. But I'm still not upset because I'll be swimming in Dodgers soon.

And there's one more card to open.

Each blaster comes with a First Home Run commemorative coin type of thing.

#FHRM-TT - Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

OK, not the most exciting selection. I will say these are fancy and thick and if that's your kind of thing then you'll like these.

Final review?

If you're a set collector who focuses on the base set, you'll like these -- unless you don't like the design for some reason, and in that case you're just weird. The look of the cards is terrific, definitely the most pleasing and distinctive in at least a decade and maybe more (and you know how much I liked the look of 2013 Topps).

The inserts are as pointless as ever. First Pitch is semi-interesting. For all other inserts, see my last post. I won't be able to tell you which set they came from in five years.

I won't attempt to collect the base set because I think those days are over. How can I collect this set when I don't know who half the guys are? Topps loads up the first series with prospects and it's annoying pulling your first cards all excited and then failing to recognize the player.

But overall, this is a Turning Point set (have I mentioned limited foil?). If 2016 Topps is more in this vein then we've turned a corner and I think that's a good thing.

The fact that I was able to resist opening new cards for 12 hours might be a turning point, too.


Zippy Zappy said…
Upon my limited research, the Jackie Robinson story cards are inserts exclusive to Target. They're subbing for the red parallels this time.

And because I'm bored. Here are some sentences about the guys you said you didn't know, or hinted that you didn't know about.

Devin Mesoraco was a top prospect for the Cincinnati Reds and made it to the bigs in 2011. The Reds had some catching depth between him and Yasmani Grandal but they went with Mesoraco by opting to trade Grandal to the Padres in the Mat Latos trade. Mesoraco has since been the Reds' starting catcher and had an especially good year in 2014 when he posted a 4.8 bWAR season. He and the Reds agreed to a four year extension this offseason.

Craig Gentry really came into his own in 2012 when he had a wRC+ of 107. He became a solid big league outfielder for the Rangers who was then traded to the A's in the Michael Choice trade.

Brandon Belt was a top prospect for the Giants. He was all the rage back in 2011. He's since won two world series rings.

The Washington Nationals: Zombie Expos.

Tanner Roark is another former Rangers product who was traded to the Zombie Expos in the Cristian Guzman trade. In 2014 he had a huge season by pitching to a 3.47 FIP and 131 ERA+ in 198.2 innings pitched. Despite that he's the sixth starter for the Nationals due to the Scherzer signing and is a big reason why everybody is praising the Nationals for their starting rotation.

Babe Ruth was an outfielder for the Red Sox, Yankees and Braves back in the first half of the 20th century. His home runs mystified thousands and the Yankees became the talk of the town. As a result the Giants suffered financially and were run out of town.

Xander Bogaerts was a top shortstop prospect for the Boston Red Sox and one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He's projected to be a superstar at short (the first the BoSox have had since Nomar Garciaparra) with above average defense (especially in the range category) who makes solid contact with sufficient power. Joe Buck mentioned that he was from Aruba nine trillion times during the 2013 World Series.

Corey Dickerson is a Rockie.

David Buchanan made his MLB debut against the Dodgers in a spot start in place of Cliff Lee and went five innings allowing two runs and striking out two batters in the Phillies 5-3 victory.

Anthony Ranaudo's career so far has been slowed by injuries and somewhere along the line he was overshadowed by better pitching prospects in his organization. He projects to be a solid major league pitcher and made it to the bigs in 2014 (on April Fools Day) against the Yankees. He was traded to the Rangers in the Robbie Ross trade.

Trevor May was a top prospect for the Philadelphia Phillies until he was traded to the Twins in the Ben Revere trade. With an above average fastball and solid secondary pitches he's (at best) a middle of the rotation starter and at worst a power reliever. May is one of the first players in the Twins' youth movement to make it to the majors and should be an important piece going forward as the Buxtons, Sanos and Stewarts make their way up.
night owl said…
Congratulations, you set the record for the longest comment left on my blog. And thanks for the tips on Ruth, Belt, Mesoraco and Gentry. I'm new to baseball.
Darin K. said…
I agree totally about your assessment of the set. I LOVE the design, and there are a couple of the inserts that I want (I'm not going to be satisfied until I own those Jermaine Jones and McKayla Maroney inserts), but honestly...I want the Royals cards, and I don't know or care about 95% of the other cards. I guess I'll just hit eBay for most of them, and buy the occasional pack. Jealous of your Perez pull. Have you seen the Greg Holland shortprint? MAN IT'S SO AWESOME.
Dave said…
Did you pull any coupons? I found three "50¢ off next purchase" cards and they're kind of freaking me out.
hiflew said…
I am probably the only one to really and truly appreciate the quick purple blast, but I still really and truly appreciate it. BTW, if the Tulo isn't spoken for, it's got a nice home here.
I got two of the Bridges first pitch cards today. :)
Stubby said…
I was calling it the fingerprint set when they released the previews. But the name got old. Cards in hand, and with all that other busy-ness also going on in the border, I've taken to calling it the Sleuth Set. Alliteration; it's what's for dinner. But, anyway, the lack of foil, team-centric color borders and the big readable numbers on the back make this easily the best Topps set in decades. As a Mets fan, the inclusion of middle reliever Carlos Torres is also a plus. I like the Jackie Robinson (Target) and Babe Ruth (Wal Mart) inserts--much better than a red or blue border (IMHO). Other than those, the inserts are pretty superfluous. And I wish they'd stop ruining the buyback cards with that foil stamp; it really takes all the excitement out of pulling a vintage card.
Matt said…
Love the Jeters! I am also quite jealous. I haven't busted any yet.
Adam Kaningher said…
I appreciate it too. And it's so weird to see Tulo in a #14 jersey. I noticed that on the non-coin version of that card.
Big Tone said…
Wow!Pujols looks like an old man In that card.These look awesome,and that's the first time I've seen a Rookie Cup /Future Stars hybrid.
Yankeejetsfan said…
I busted a case of Jumbo as part of a group break. I cannot wait until my Yankees are in my hands. I may go to Target tomorrow and bust a blaster just to get the rush of breaking 2015 Topps out of my system.
Ana Lu said…
Is that GREEN dust in Sogard's card!? Bloody hell Topps!

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