Greetings from the final moments of 2016.
If I were one of the hundreds of people I read almost every day on the internet, I would now commence telling you what a horrible, no-good, rotten, beastly, very bad year 2016 was.
But I won't do that. First of all, I'm sick of the whining over what for most people has no impact on their daily lives. Secondly, I can't lie. My year was fine. When I look back on 2016, most of what I see are productive, good things. I got a lot done in 2016. Sure, there was some bad stuff (*cough, cough* -- work -- *cough, cough*), but, overall, it was your garden-variety year.
But before you brand me a monster, please know that I'm sad about many of the stars of my formative years who have died in the last year, it was a tough one. However, I'm sad about all those who died in previous years, too. Somewhere on this blog is an ode to Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, who died on the same day in June 2009. I don't remember the internet acting like the world was ending that day.
Enough of that, let's get to something that really was awful in 2016 ... baseball cards.
After a year that appears as if it was merely an oasis in the modern card cycle of endless, uninspiring issues, 2016 snapped me back to reality -- you can't go home and buy cards at the neighborhood store again. There's too much smoke in the way.
Yet, I remain relentlessly positive amid all the snark. There was some good in card collecting this year. Quite a bit, actually. So let's review it. All of it. Wear a surgical mask if you must. We're headed into the smoke and getting rid of 2016:
BEST SET I COMPLETED
Unlike last year, I completed a few of them. As usual, I'm showing them from semi-thrilling to call-your-mom-up-and-tell-her-the-great-news:
2015 Topps Update Pride & Perseverance insert set
2010 Topps Tales From The Game/More Tales From The Game insert
2015 Topps and Topps Update
2015 Stadium Club
Notice something those sets have in common? That's right! Nothing from 2016!
BEST SET I'LL COMPLETE IN 2017
I've intended to complete this set the following year for the last three years. This time is different. It's gonna happen. Barring a sinkhole opening up and swallowing my home, it's gonna happen.
WORST SET OF 2016
So, if you weren't confused enough about all of the various sets released by Topps in the last year, it released something called Topps Archives 65th Anniversary Edition late in the year. Never mind that IT ALREADY RELEASED A SET CALLED 'ARCHIVES' LAST SPRING this was a different set. It was a smaller set than the original Archives and featured reprints of past cards. The cards were packaged with an autograph in each box sold at Walmart.
That apparently gave them license to do this:
I pulled duplicates of the same card -- twice -- in one box of 16 cards.
I complained about it via email on Topps' pseudo customer service site. I never received a response. Topps just wants you to continue right on being confused and flustered. And never buying another box of this stuff again.
BEST SET OF 2016
The Marketside Pizza set issued in conjunction with Topps was the best set and the best card news of the entire year. At last, collectors had another oddball, food issue to complete.
The cards were pleasing and not that hard to find, and I was able to get cards with Marketside breadsticks because the humongous pizzas wouldn't fit in my freezer! Plus, I pulled a Kershaw card with my breadsticks. I haven't been so happy about food-issue cards since I stuck my arm in a cereal box in 1979.
Also, please note that the best and worst sets from 2016 both were Walmart only releases. That sums up Walmart.
BEST INDICATION OF HOW COLLECTING 2016 CARDS WAS GOING 1
I set a personal record by making seven different COMC purchases during the year. I'm not sure how many total cards that was, probably between 100-150. Total number of 2016 cards in those packages? Four.
BEST EXAMPLE OF 2016 CARDBOARD GENEROSITY 1
I was mailed a binder full of cards -- not once, but twice.
BEST CARD OF 2016
This is not my favorite 2016 card, which I already mentioned is the Archives Craig Biggio card. But it is one of my prized possessions from 2016 and a dandy specimen. There's no telling what I'd do to see this card in color.
WORST CARD OF 2016
If Topps, MLB, fans, rational-thinking people in general, can't see what's wrong with this card, all hope is lost. I'll be on the next manned space flight to start a human settlement on Mars. My first rule: ban brown-and-gold clothing.
WORST 2016 CARD DEVELOPMENT I
The most insidious aspect of the exclusive deal between Topps and MLB is garbage like this, placing chosen sponsors -- in this case T-Mobile -- on cards. Topps has already done this by determining which billboards are shown in the backgrounds of cards, but this is even more blatant.
BEST 2016 EVIDENCE THAT CURRENT PLAYERS CAN'T SIGN THEIR NAMES
That doodle over the paragraph is Chris Sale's signature. I'm sure he's convinced some people that three ovals for your name is somehow awesome. To me it looks like a 3-year-old made a picture for daddy. I'm so irked about it, I want to cut up some White Sox jerseys.
BEST/WORST BLOG COMMENTER OF 2016
Fashion Shoes seems to have departed for that great shoebox in the sky. But she was always there when you thought no one was reading.
BEST 2016 CARD DEVELOPMENT
Topps made a simple, nice-looking set (with giant logos on the front!!!!!!!!!!) that was cheap and easy to collect. The intent of Topps Bunt, I believe, was to get collectors hooked on the Bunt app and collect card images. But collectors like me saw it for what they wanted to see: a throwback to sets from the '80s.
WORST DEVELOPMENT OF BEST 2016 CARD DEVELOPMENT
In an attempt to distinguish the online images that appear on Topps Bunt's online collecting game, Topps and other people started calling the Topps Bunt cards you could buy in card aisles "physical cards." Which is like distinguishing everything else you see online from the same thing you see in reality by putting the word "physical" in front of it. Let me pet my "physical dog" while I drink my "physical beer." On the good side, it got me to stop saying "digital cards." From 2017 forward, there are online images and cards that you can hold and touch.
BEST 2016 CARDBOARD SURPRISE
I can pull hits from retail product and do it regularly! An example of what I pulled this past year, all from your friendly big box stores:
That Kershaw pull might be my greatest pull of all-time.
WORST 2016 DISAPPOINTMENT
I received an email from one of the founders of TCMA, Mike Aronstein, in the spring, detailing what was up with him these days and offering to elaborate. I sent a return email and wrote about it on my blog, but never received another response. I'm starting to think he sent it to me by mistake.
BEST 2016 COLLECTING DEVELOPMENT
I went to a card show with a fellow card blogger (Angus, from Dawg Day Cards). It was my first time meeting a card blogger in person and it couldn't have gone better. Shop for cards and go to dinner and talk about cards the whole time you're doing it? How dare you say 2016 was the worst year ever!
BEST CUSTOM CARDS RECEIVED IN 2016
Dammit, everything that Baseball Card Breakdown sent me finished in a first-place tie.
BEST NON-CARD I RECEIVED FROM SOMEONE IN 2016
Well, there was this.
Then Padrographs sent me a volleyball signed by Duke Snider.
BEST INDICATION OF HOW COLLECTING 2016 CARDS WAS GOING 2
I started collecting sets in sections. For 2016 Archives, I was only interested in the 1979-style cards.
And I was much more interested in the inserts than the base cards. That is a huge departure for this traditional collector.
BEST NIGHT CARD DISCOVERED IN 2016
A 1967 Kabaya-Leaf card of Tatsumi Yamanaka. It doesn't get much cooler than that.
BEST 2016 INDICATION THAT THINGS ARE MOVING TOO QUICKLY FOR TOPPS 1
On the Cal Ripken card in the Berger's Best insert, the back makes reference to the card being a gold parallel, but the card contains no gold foil.
BEST CARDS PULLED IN 2016 THAT WEREN'T HITS
WORST RETRO TRIBUTE IN 2016
Topps combined Wacky Packages, known for its parodying of various corporate products, with current baseball teams, which have no humor at all when it comes to their product or self-promotion. The result was 2016 Topps MLB Wacky Packages, an unfunny, neutered version of the old '70s Wackies.
BEST 2016 LATE-TO-THE-PARTY DISCOVERY
In 2016 I received my first framed card:
And my first Desert Storm parallel card:
As always, better late than never.
BEST 2016 INDICATION THAT THINGS ARE MOVING TOO QUICKLY FOR TOPPS II
There are two Trea Turner A&G cards in a 350-card set. Don't try to explain this away. The more I write it, the more ridiculous it is.
BEST 2016 CONTRIBUTIONS TO CARD COLLECTING MANKIND
Nothing like getting Ultra Pro to make '75 mini-sized card sheets, but a little bit of research goes a long way.
I found out which team is the most represented in the First Pitch inserts (the Dodgers).
I figured out how many times each player was shown in Fan Favorites between 2003-05.
I put black-borders on 2016 Topps and showed you how we could have actually had a somewhat collectible set (OK, there's still that slashed-off logo).
BEST 2016 CARD SHOW SURPRISE
While wandering a mall in Vermont while on vacation, I stumbled across a card show.
And I got all these for 5 bucks.
BEST EXAMPLE OF CARDBOARD GENEROSITY 2
This card arrived from Cardboard Icons along with the final card I needed to complete the 2015 Stadium Club set. Happy 2016 to me!
BEST 2016 INDICATION THAT I'M A LUCKY BLOGGER
What? The Drysdale rookie wasn't enough for you? OK, howz this? Bob Walk The Plank started a Secret Santa project. I entered. The person who picked me? The one and only Wes, from Jaybarkerfan's Junk. I'm still digging out.
BEST 2016 INDICATION I'M AN UNLUCKY BLOGGER
My wife found a bunch of autographed cards for me. They were all Giants cards. She still gave them to me.
BEST 2016 UPDATE TO MY NIGHT CARD COLLECTION
This 1950 Bowman card of Mario Pieretti is now my oldest night card.
WORST 2016 EXECUTION OF A GOOD IDEA
Topps came up with ToppsNow, a way to issue cards of notable MLB events the very next day. Excellent idea. Topps decided to charge $9.99 for each card. Not so great of an idea. It explains why this is my only ToppsNow card.
BEST TIME TO NAME THE 2016 ALLEN & GINTER BABE OF THE YEAR
Yup, it's Maria Sharapova. Forget the drug scandal and the media-coached personality. Back in 2002, there was nobody more scintillating to male sports fans than Maria, the anti-Anna Kournikova. She could look great and win titles.
And if that card doesn't do it for you, maybe this one will:
WORST 2016 DEFINITION OF BASIC COLORS
This Archives insert is considered a "red back"
Well, the Tyson Ross card is definitely not blue, so, yeah, let's just randomly call it "red." Now let's go to kindergarten and screw with some kids' minds.
BEST 2016 COMPLETION OF SELF-CREATED CARD PROJECT
My homage to 1970s TV shows and movies!
I know people want me to expand this out to a full binder, but I don't think there are enough other shows I'm interested in to do that. We'll see how bored I get with baseball cards over the years.
BEST 2016 EXAMPLE OF MAKING LEMONADE OUT OF LEMONS
Topps apparently doesn't remember that it has issued reprints of Jackie Robinson's 1952 Topps card a few times. I thought this might be a good heads-up.
BEST 2016 EXAMPLE OF MAKING LEMONADE OUT OF LEMONS 2
So, you say nobody liked the smoke on the 2016 Topps flagship set. Well ... how about snowflakes! Everyone likes snowflakes, right? Pretty!!!!!!
BEST 2016 INDICATION THAT I'M WARMING UP TO PANINI
I bought two different 2016 Panini products that I didn't hate (Diamond Kings and Donruss football), thought Optic looked not all that bad, and committed to collecting the 2013 Hometown Heroes set.
Does this mean I'm a Panini fan?
No. The card backs are still an embarrassment and logos still rule all.
BEST CARDBOARD PREDICTION OF 2016 BASEBALL EVENT
BEST CARD OBTAINED IN 2016 AFTER 37-YEAR WAIT
Worth the wait? You bet.
BEST OTHER CARDS RECEIVED FROM OTHERS IN 2016
And many others not shown here.
There is a well-known quote by Elizabeth Gilbert about finally giving up on trying to repay people and simply committing to saying "thank you" forever and sincerely for as long as we have voices. I intend to do that. But don't worry: I'll still send out cards, too.
WORST GUESS FOR 2016 PERSON OF YEAR
Yeah, I know you want it to be Tom Murphy, that guy I can't seem to stop pulling. But, sorry, he'll have to settle for runner-up status. Maybe if he becomes a superstar, I'll go back to this post and update it.
WORST CARD FLUB OF 2016
Easily, it's the choice of design for 2016 Topps. I didn't have too much of a problem with the decision for a full-bleed set. But to ruin the image with smoke and haze and weird TV graphics all in an attempt to "market the brand," really turned me off. I might have more sour memories about 2016 Topps than any other flagship set that I've disliked over the years.
And, now, that brings me to the actual 2016 Person of the Year:
Congratulations, Justin Smoak. Topps designed a card set in your honor! There are reminders of your name on every card in flagship. Sure, it's not the same spelling. But that's not real smoke either. In fact, let's call it "smoak" as a tribute to you.
Thank you, once again, for reading. I'll do more of the same in 2017.
I'm sorry if 2016 wasn't that great of a year for many of you. That doesn't make me happy. But you know what they say in baseball:
Wait 'til next year.
However, if some of you same people start wishing next year that it's 2016 again, I will find you.