I've been scouting out the first cards of the year for the blog going on nine years now. And before the blog, I mounted a quest each year for the first cards for close to 30 years.
So I know the when and where of finding the first cards. I know that the previous year means nothing. In years past, it's taken weeks for new product to arrive where I live. Other times, I've found it before the release date. So when it's opening week for Topps flagship, you'd better be prepared to hit your big box store or hobby shop every damn day until you find what you need.
My first attempt came after work last night. I got stuck in a conversation with a co-worker, so I didn't get to Walmart until 3 in the morning. When I arrived at the card aisle, there was no 2017 Topps. I drove in the snow for nothing.
But that didn't deter me. With the day off today, I marked down "Target visit" into my schedule and got to my neighborhood red store around 2:30 in the afternoon. As I passed the card aisle, there was a blonde woman, clearly not part of Target staff (no red top) doing things with the card shelves. I thought of checking out the aisle right then, but feared that the new cards wouldn't be out of the boxes yet and then I'd have to badger this woman into talking about cards when she clearly just wanted to talk about where her next glass of wine was coming from (just a hunch). I didn't want to be all nerdy, so I left to shop elsewhere until she was done.
When I came back this is what I saw:
I was a little disappointed that there were no loose packs, because that is how I try to start every card season. Loose packs is how I was weened on this hobby. Loose packs is what I love.
It turns out I had merely missed them.
The women apparently didn't have room to hang up the gravity box, so she just set it on a shelf.
I was all set.
I nabbed one loose pack, one rack pack and one hanger box (I skipped the blasters because I have no plan to try to complete this, I don't need a bunch of extra cards).
So now it's time for the painfully long blow-by-blow on what I received. I will show every card out of the loose pack, because -- duh -- it's the first pack of the season. After that, I will just show what I deem necessary. Trust me, it will be plenty.
First pack of the 2017 card season. Right here.
#63 - Mike Moustakas, Royals
First card of the year is a decent one, despite Moustakas' abbreviated 2016. Let's turn the card over so I can feature the star of the show.
Here are the polarizing backs.
The part that bothers some collectors is that Topps has ditched complete stats, for like the first time in flagship since 1971. I agree with those who think that is uncool. Although I'm not militant about it, Topps should stick with some traditional aspects of its history. Sure, there's no real reason for complete stats on the back of a baseball card when you can find them with a couple clicks on your phone. But if you're going to get rid of something that once was the reason why you could taunt Donruss every year (only 5 years of stats???? HAH!), then there had better be a good reason.
I don't see a good reason here. People are claiming that reason is the player's Twitter/Instagram handle. But you could run that without killing all of your stats. The clear space-waster is the massive name and team line. And that Topps logo is HUGE. That lends nothing.
The good part of the card backs -- really one of the best parts of the set -- are the colorful backs. They are so colorful I want to load my 2017 Topps cards into pages with the backs facing out. More salivating over card backs later.
#85 - Brandon Finnegan, Reds
#74 - Brett Lawrie, White Sox
#8 - Jose Berrios, Twins (yay, night card!)
#171 - Seth Smith, Mariners
Time to dissect the design.
The design is clearly better than that disaster from 2016. It's not a huge step up and I still miss my borders, but it's better than slashing out half the team logo and covering the photo in fog.
The criss-cross, three-dimensional graphic is more borrowing from TV that looks OK, until you bring the horizontal cards into it (coming soon). The part that makes me scrunchy is the grayed-out section below the graphic. This is what gets filled in with the gold parallels (or other colored parallels). But when it's not a parallel, the card looks incomplete to me. I don't like gray on my cards, it often looks cheap, like it's a Toppstown card from 2011. It's the No. 1 factor in why I don't want to complete this set.
Clearly if you want to do parallels, you need borders. Hopefully Topps figures this out at some point soon.
#222 - Cesar Hernandez, Phillies
Here is the first horizontal card. For me, the graphic element takes up way too much space for the horizontal cards. The letters for the name and the team are also larger than they are on the vertical cards (and wider), so there's no consistency of design between vertical and horizontal. I'm not even a graphic designer and that seems like a big issue to me.
Depending on the photo of the card, the horizontal design really kills the picture. It's fine with this one (and several others), but isn't with others.
#87-69 - Kenta Maeda, Dodgers, '87 design insert
First Dodger! Woooooo! Pulling Dodger inserts on the first day of the card season is super sweet. I couldn't be more bored with another 1987 design tribute ('87 is quickly catching up to the '52 design in terms of Topps overkill), but the card stock for these is nicely meaty so I can see people collecting them.
#180 - Jake McGee, Rockies
#189 - Angels team card
Here is a horizontal card where the vertical slash cuts into the image. It feels like three-fourths of a card (you could make an argument that all of the cards in this set feel like three-fourths of a card).
#182 - Keon Broxton, Brewers
#45 - Joakim Soria, Royals (2)
I have a suspicion I pulled more White Sox and Rays than any other team, so I'm starting a count.
#136 - Matt Reynolds, Mets
And that is my first pack of the year. Here is another look at the backs all pretty-like.
I need to use that as my laptop wallpaper. Quite calming.
Let's move on to the rack pack!
I don't know what the Ultimate Card Giveaway is. I haven't had time to read about it. I briefly saw something about "buybacks" and then lost interest. I'll let you know if it's anything good.
#339 - Daniel Norris, Tigers
You may have noticed that the photos are not as cropped in on the players as in the last four or five years. I welcome this wholeheartedly. We don't need to see every last pimple. This is close enough.
#63 - Mike Moustakas, Royals
#85 - Brandon Finnegan, Reds
#74 - Brett Lawrie, White Sox
Uh-oh. The first sign that collation is as bad as it's been the last number of years. I have three doubles 15 cards into the new season. That is not cool. And not the last example in this post.
#93 - Matt Joyce, Pirates
Remarkably I made a comment about Matt Joyce mere hours before pulling this card.
Here it is:
One day, you will all understand.
#9 - Chris Sale, White Sox (2)
Sale going to the Red Sox is so derivative and really boring. I would have preferred just about any other team choice (outside of the Yankees or Giants).
#12 - Jerad Eichkhoff, Phillies (2)
Sort of a cool photo if that is Eickhoff on the scoreboard.
#286 - Drew Pomeranz, Red Sox
#296 - Tyler Clippard, Yankees
#139 - JaCoby JoNes - Tigers (not the way he actually spells his last name, just me being cute) (2)
#119 - Francisco Lindor, Indians
#77 - Austin Jackson, White Sox (3)
#264 - Cory Spangenberg, Padres
#242 - Mooke Betts, Red Sox, League Leaders (2)
#110 - Joey Votto, Reds, League Leaders (2)
#162 - Jon Lester, Cubs, League Leaders
A couple of things about these league leaders cards:
This is a long overdue change from the pattern of league leaders for flagship for at least a dozen-or-more years. No longer is Topps jamming three action shots of the top 3 in each category onto one card. Instead, I believe, each player in the top three gets their own card as all three of the players shown above finished in the top 3,but did not lead the league.
This would seem to indicate a ton of individual league leader cards. But perhaps Topps isn't featuring as many statistical categories as in the past.
Maybe you would like to know what the statistical categories are, since they are not on the front of the card! Shame, shame. You have to turn the cards over to the back. From left, these cards represent batting average (AL), batting average (NL) and wins (NL).
#S-51 - Mookie Betts, Red Sox, Father's Day insert (3)
More Mookie! This insert recognizes MLB's Father's Day prostate cancer awareness, with the blue-themed uniforms worn that day. The design is pretty drab, I would prefer more of, oh, a blue theme, perhaps.
#Bowman-16 - Justin Verlander, Tigers, Bowman Then & Now insert (3)
Lengthy card "number" aside, this is a good-looking insert, featuring the player's first Bowman card.
#CBP2 - Jose Fernandez, Marlins (RIP), Awards Card insert
Pretty depressing card.
#18 - Jake Arrieta, Cubs, World Series Highlights (Game 2) (3)
Yay, World Series cards!
#249 - Yankees team card (2)
#328 - Adam Lind, Mariners (2)
I don't know what Lind is doing with his helmet. Taking a foul shot?
#11 - Jake Smolinski, Athletics
#22- Ryan Braun, Brewers (2)
#272 - Pat Neshek, Astros
Again, image totally cut off.
#225 - Wade Davis, Royals (3)
#225 - Sean Rodriguez, Pirates (2)
Some of these team logos are much bigger than others. That P looks monstrous.
#326 - Chris Archer, Rays
#44 - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
#154 - Kevin Kiermaier, Rays (2)
#53 - Ryon Healy, Athletics (2)
#69 - Henry Owens, Red Sox (4)
#317 - Mitch Moreland, Rangers
#168 - Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
#80 - Ivan Nova, Pirates (3)
#104 - Dioner Navarro, Blue Jays
I don't know about you, but I'm getting bored with these already. It'd help if there were a few DODGERS.
Time for the hanger box (Sick of Bryant yet?)
#303 - Pedro Strop, Cubs (3)
#281 - Coco Crisp, Indians (2)
#288 - Joey Votto, Reds (3)
#302 - David Freese, Pirates (4)
#209 - Jon Gray, Rockies (2)
#273 - A.J. Reed, Astros (2)
#329 - Josh Reddick, Dodgers (2)
Gods be praised, it's finally a base Dodger card! Or base ex-Dodger card. Us peons will take what we can get.
#111 - Edinson Volquez (4)
#224 - Hector Rondon, Cubs (4)
#97 - Marcus Semien, Athletics (3)
#30 - Josh Bell, Pirates (5)
Perhaps I pulled the most Pirates
#267 - Clay Buchholz, Red Sox (5)
#54 - Dellin Betances, Yankees (3)
#335 - Jeff Hoffman, Rockies (3)
#95 - Chris Davis, Orioles
#236 - Lucas Duda, Mets (2)
#120 - Reynaldo Lopez, Nationals (2)
#215 - Johnny Giavotella, Angels (2)
I admit, that when the photo and cropping is good enough, I forget about the gray nothingness in the corner.
#98 - Junior Guerra, Brewers (3)
#28 - Rick Porcello, Red Sox, League Leaders (AL wins) (6)
#119 - Francisco Lindor, Indians (dupe)
#77 - Austin Jackson, White Sox (dupe)
#264 - Cory Spangenberg, Padres (dupe)
#242 - Mookie Betts, Red Sox, leaders (dupe!)
#110 - Joey Votto, Reds, leaders (dupe!)
#162 - Jon Lester, Cubs, leaders (DUPE!)
Not cool, not cool. Good thing I didn't buy that blaster.
#84 - Daniel Murphy, Nationals, League Leaders (NL batting average) (3)
#322 - Albert Pujols, Angels, League Leaders (AL batting average) (3)
#291 - Khris Davis, Athletics, League Leaders (AL HRs) (4)
#165 - Corey Dickerson, Rays (3)
#10 - Steven Souza Jr., Rays (4)
#221 - Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
#S-6 - Jacob deGrom, Mets, Father's Day insert (3)
#292 - Fernando Rodney, Marlins, foil parallel (2)
These foil parallels are just rotting in my card boxes. Someone please collect these things.
#Bowman-19 - Corey Seager, Dodgers (3)
This is amusing. Topps chose to use the autographed version of Seager's Bowman rookie card. So now I have an autographed Corey Seager rookie card, right??? Someone surely is already trying to sell this card online for a couple thousand dollars.
#339 - Daniel Norris, Tigers, gold parallel (4)
Finally, I have been waiting for a gold parallel card. With the addition of the gold fill and the light beams, or whatever they are, this gives the entire design meaning. It makes sense. It's as if the design was created for the parallels, which just irks the heck out of me.
#CBP-1 - Mark Trumbo, Orioles, Awards card (2)
#MVP-2 - Kris Bryant, Cubs, Awards Card (5)
Really not crazy about these.
#167 - Lorenzo Cain, Royals (5)
#177 - Sonny Gray, Athletics (5)
#226 - Logan Morrison, Rays (5)
#299 - Yulienski Gurriel, Astros (3)
#279 - Leonys Martin, Mariners (3)
#222 - Cesar Hernandez, Phillies (dupe!)
#235 - Giants team card
#122 - Indians team card (3)
#18 - Jake Arrieta, Cubs, World Series (dupe!)
#249 - Yankees team card (dupe!)
#328 - Adam Lind, Mariners (dupe!)
#11 - Jake Smolinski, Athletics (dupe!)
#220 - Ryan Braun, Brewers (dupe!)
#128 - Adam Duvall, Reds (4)
#332 - Huston Street, Angels (4)
#33 - Carson Fulmer, White Sox (4)
#259 - Taijuan Walker, Mariners (4)
#67 - Teoscar Hernandez, Astros (4) (I don't know where they are pulling these Astros from, these aren't the Astros I saw on TV last year).
#92 - Derek Norris, Padres (2)
#269 - Jose DeLeon, Dodgers (4)
Also no longer a Dodger. As soon as Topps slaps that rookie card logo on a Dodger card, he gets traded.
#294 - Kole Calhoun, Angels (5)
#7 - Gary Sanchez, Yankees (4)
The first player other than Mickey Mantle to have card No. 7 in flagship since Trevor Hoffman in 1995 Topps I believe?
#134 - Chase Utley, Dodgers (5)
I'd love for Utley to sign with the Dodgers again, but I want him to sign with the Mets even more.
#176 - Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (2)
#23 - Marcell Ozuna, Marlins (3)
#247 - Hector Neris, Phillies (3)
#240 - Mike Aviles, Tigers (5)
#237 - Joey Gallo, Rangers (2)
#190 - Blake Snell, Rays (6)
#149 - Gregory Polanco, Pirates (6)
Polanco, if he plays for 15 years, might end up with the greatest cards of all-time. He's staggering to watch at times.
#5 - Corey Seager, Dodgers (6)
YOU CAN'T WITHHOLD THIS CARD FROM ME I HAS IT!!!!
#216 - Denard Span, Giants (2)
#183 - Wade Miley, Orioles (3)
#87-65 - John Smoltz, Braves, '87 insert
And you thought I'd never get to a Braves card.
That is everything I bought.
It turns out I didn't get the most White Sox, but I did get the most Rays (6), along with the most Red Sox, Pirates and Dodgers (Yay!), all with 6.
I actually scanned every card that I opened. So if you have an undying need to see the cards I didn't show, I can probably email an image or feature it on Twitter.
I was so pleased with myself being the first person to pick out the new cards at Target that I completely forgot to whip out my gift card that I brought along for expressly that purpose.
I guess that means I might have to buy a blaster now.
But then that's it. There's just too much moderness with modern sets for it to truly hold my interest. Please, for the love of cardboard, bring back borders (and cardboard!!!). And, good god, that collation SUUUUUUCKS.
Let's view some relaxing 2017 card backs to calm me down.