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Midseason pack war

We are quickly approaching the mid-point of the baseball season. Within the next week every team will have played half of their games already.

This season has gone by faster than any I can remember, mostly because I have barely paid attention. My total baseball viewing since Opening Day has probably amounted to a week of the season. I can remember sitting down to watch a ballgame maybe five times so far.

I need to stop slacking and actually view some games and I'm hoping the second half will be more productive than the first half. I'm looking forward to catching up on everything I've missed. I'm sure there are a whole bunch of players running around out there that I have no idea who they are.

To get a head start on the second half, I grabbed a rack pack of Topps Series 2 and a rack pack of Big League. I bought the Series 2 because it's new and the Big League because I still find it interesting.

Each pack was $4.99, which I found interesting because Series 2 contains four more cards in a rack pack than Big League. Half of what I read about Big League is that it is targeting kids and the budget-conscious with a fun, affordable set. Well, that's not accurate in a few ways. First, Big League is more expensive than flagship. Second, there is really nothing in Big League that says "it's for kids," unless you mean that adult collectors can't enjoy interesting designs and photos and fun factoids on the back. Are adults supposed to be sour-puss autograph collectors only?

Anyway, I wanted to pair up the two packs for a comparison, mostly because I thought Big League would blow away the Series 2 pack. That wasn't the case, as you'll see, probably because Series 2 is completely filled with cards I've never seen before.

But let's go through the exercise anyway, starting with the Big League pack. As usual, I'll assign random points to each card based on anything that I like and I'll subtract likewise.


#254 - Yu Darvish, Cubs

Minus 5 points for Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. That will never go away. Cubs fans keep hoping he'll turn things around and I just shake my head and say "Game 7."

#314 - Kendrys Morales, Blue Jays

Plus 5 points for the '70s/'80s throwback but minus 3 points for his current Yankees status.

Overall Total: Plus-2

#376 - Yadier Molina, Cardinals, Award Winners

Plus 10 points for catcher action, plus 3 points for a card for the Roberto Clemente Award, minus 5 points for me not liking the guy regardless and minus 10 points for the neck tattoo. That's a grand total of minus 2 points.

Overall Total: 0

#259 - Sean Newcombe, Braves

Plus 1 point for horizontal action. Plus 1 point for the navy softball tops, which I don't mind. (I'm not scanning all these cards, I barely has time to watch a baseball game on my TV).

Overall Total: Plus-2

#390 - Albert Pujols, Angels, Highlights

Minus-1 point for being an Angel, Minus-1 point for a celebration gesture that makes him look goofy on his card, Plus-1 point for probably not caring he looks goofy on his card, Plus-2 points for a highlight card of Pujols 3,000th hit and 600th home run.

Overall total: Plus-3

#112 - Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals

Minus-10 for the neon green compression sleeve. Visually there is nothing else to see when it comes to Marcell Ozuna. It's what makes him stand out, which I guess works for him. But he chose the color because Yoenis Cespedes wore something similar and I didn't like that one either. Wear something that matches!

Overall total: Minus 7

#359 - Stat Kings, AL Batting Average Leaders

Plus-5 for making the leaders cards look at least a little more interesting than all those leader cards from flagship. But Minus-5 for the backs, which simply list the top three again. Where is the top 10? Why not go the extra mile and put the Top 20 on there? Why is Topps slacking so much on card backs these days?

Overall total: Minus 7

#132 - Yairo Munoz, Cardinals (Minus 2 points because I don't know who he is. I probably should know but I don't).

#51 - Ronald Guzman, Rangers (Minus 2 points. See above).

#345 - Stat Kings, AL Home Run leaders (Minus 1 point simply because I seem to pull 6 of these out of every pack of Big League).

#205 - Matt Boyd, Tigers (Plus 1 point because I know who he is and it's a card I need).

#377 - Edwin Diaz, Mariners (Minus 1 point because it's a dupe).

Overall total: Minus 12.

Here is the parallels-and-inserts portion of the pack.

Minus-8 points for four of these being dupes and minus-5 points for a parallel of Dodgers-fan hater Josh Reddick. Plus-2 points for the Nickname card (Jose Berrios) being something here that I need.

Overall total: Minus-23.

#26 - Kenley Jansen, Dodgers, numbered foil parallel


Plus-25 points for pulling a numbered card of a Dodger in a retail pack (that seldom happens).

Plus 10 points for beating the odds!

Overall total: Plus-12 (This Jansen card is saving this Big League pack's ass).

#188 - Ben Gamel, Brewers (Plus-1 point for a card I need and plus-1 point for Gamel's hair and beard).

#332 - Ian Kinsler, Padres (Plus-1 point for a card I need)

#201 - Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Rangers (Plus-1 point for a card I need, plus-1 point for a George Wright reference on the back)

Overall total: Plus-17

#282 - Justin Turner, Dodgers

Plus-10 points for being a Dodger card I need, minus 2 points for it being a card I don't really need because I think someone sent it to me (the incoming card packages are a bit of a muddle in my brain).

Overall total: Plus-25

#181 - Michael Conforto, Mets

Plus-3 points for being a night card (there are not a lot of night cards in flagship this year, by the way).

Overall total: Plus-28

#37 - Derek Dietrich, Reds (Plus-1 for being a card I need)

#111 - Joey Lucchesi, Padres (Plus-1 for being a card I need)

#299 - Roberto Osuna, Astros (Plus-1 for being a card I need, minus 1 for domestic nastiness).

#302 - Kyle Freeland, Rockies (Plus-1 for being a card I need)

#15 - Ryon Healy, Mariners (Plus-1 for being a card I need)

#101 - Travis Jankowski, Padres (Plus-1 for being a card I need).

Minus-5 points for the last 6 cards being the all-time most uninspiring final 6 cards out of a pack.

I'll throw in an extra 10 bonus points for this pack being very low on dupes, especially considering I've purchased at least three blasters of this stuff.

Grand, grand total: 39 points.

OK, moving on to the Series 2 pack. Obviously, since I haven't opened any Series 2, these will all be cards I need. But I'm not giving the pack any bonus points because the basic expectation of opening cards for the first time is they will all be cards if you need. If you're getting dupes in your first pack then it must be 1995 and you must be opening Upper Deck.


#417 - Noel Cuevas, Rockies
#660 - Dawel Lugo, Tigers
#510 - Patrick Corbin, Nationals

Minus-5 points for the first card out of Series 2 being a player I don't know. Minus-3 points for the second card out of Series 2 being a player I don't know except that he was starting in one of the 5 games I've sat down and watched this year so, yay for personal recognition. And minus-2 points for Patrick Corbin being a Central New York guy who plays only for teams I root against.

Overall total: Minus 10

#685 - Billy McKinney, Blue Jays

Plus-5 points for an interesting photo and plus-5 points for the glorious six years of minor league stats on the back of the card that covers nearly two inches.

Overall total: Zero

#466 - Yairo Munoz, Cardinals

Minus-5 points for this being the only player I pulled out of both rack packs and I still have no idea who he is. I probably should be subtracting points from me for this but we're not evaluating me here. Also, why does this guy not have a rookie card logo, his first year of playing any big league games was 2018 (never mind, I remembered how much Topps loves to feature players with no experience in its current product).

Overall total: Minus-5.

#488 - Dexter Fowler, Cardinals (both rack packs were Cardinals-heavy).

Plus-5 points for an interesting image. Plus-5 points for an interesting image ON THE BASE PATHS. MORE OF THIS.

Overall total: Plus-5

#671 - Alex Verdugo, Dodgers

Plus-10 for it being a Dodger card I need. Plus-15 for all of the 3-D action-flexing going on with this card. I love it!

Overall total: Plus-30

#699 - Felix Hernandez, Mariners (Plus-2 for it being Felix Hernandez. Plus-1 because I love the color scheme used on the back for the Mariners).

Overall total: Plus-33

#624 - Amed Rosario, Mets (Plus-15 for more 3-D action. They should have made the entire set like this).

Overall total: Plus-48

#446 - Francisco Mejia, Padres (Another Plus-15 for breaking through the design!)

Overall total: Plus-63

#609 - Kansas City Royals stadium card

Wow, this might be the busiest card ever created.

Minus-5 points for me not knowing where to look. Plus-5 points for showing something other than the familiar water display at Kauffman Stadium, as beautiful as it is. Plus-5 points for getting Royals history on this card. I know everyone will cite George Brett and Bo Jackson, but there's an image of DENNIS LEONARD on there (the starting pitcher in the first game I attended in person).

Overall total: Plus-68

#367 - Ohtani Gets Hot, Angels (checklist)

When I saw this card for the first time, I thought it was a short-print. But the handy fine-print code on the back says it's a regular base card. So Plus-5 points for getting creative in the base set. And I'll add another 5 points when Zippy Zappy tells me what the Japanese writing says.

Overall total: Plus-73 (plus-78 pending)

#521 - Arizona Diamondbacks stadium card (Plus 3 points for not showing the pool).

Overall total: Plus-76

#495 - Cleveland Indians stadium card (Plus-10 for "now that's a stadium-shot card!")

Overall total: Plus-86

#641 - Bryse Wilson, Braves (feeling nothing, zero points)

#FF-16 - Franchise feats, Milwaukee

Welcome to the "how are we going to use our legends license" inserts for Series 2. I appreciate the team focus, although I wonder immediately what the Padres one will say:

  • Spanked in two World Series
  • Tony Gwynn played for them!
  •  Did we mention Tony Gwynn played for them?
Plus-1 for the team connection. Minus-5 for it being a bit contrived

Overall total: Plus-82

#585 - Carlos Santana, Indians, 150th anniversary stamp

Again, I thought this was a short-print because the photo is such an outlier compared with all of the run-of-the-mill action. It's actually a base card but I wish more of the set looked like this. Plus-10 points for a cool image.

Overall total: Plus-92

#ICR-60 - Jackie Robinson, Dodgers, Iconic Card Reprints insert

Plus-10 for being a Dodger card. Plus-5 for being a Jackie Robinson card. Minus-7 for another reprint series. Plus-2 for it at least not being another reprint of Robinson's 1952 or 1956 Topps cards.

Overall total: Plus-102

#365 - Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks (Minus-1 for being a Diamondback)

#549 - Red Sox World Series checklist card (Minus-13 for being an "ugh, I thought we got all of these cards out of the way in Series 1" card).

#574 - Jeff Samardzija, Giants (Minus-2 for being a Giant, Plus-1 for being a pretty lousy Giant).

#500 - Manny Machado, Padres

This is a photoshopped image of Machado in a Dodger uniform when they played the Mariners last Aug. 17. Kind of a cool shot. Wish I could have seen it on a card as a Dodger. (Plus-5 for the photo, minus-10 for fake Padre gear).

Overall total: Plus-82

#674 - Collin McHugh, Astros (Plus-1 for the orange tops)

#551 - Kolten Wong, Cardinals (Plus-5 for another basepaths shot)

#496 - Buck Farmer, Tigers (Plus-2 for being Buck Farmer)

#661 - Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks (Minus-1 for being a Diamondback, minus-2 for those uniforms, plus-15 for breaking through the design)

#676 - Travis Shaw, Brewers (Minus-1 for Brewer playoff things)

#483 - Alex Cobb, Orioles (Plus-1 just because I feel sorry for the Orioles)

#371 - Zach Wheeler, Mets (Plus-1 for the reference to "injury-related potholes" on the back, which I don't know is proper usage but I just like).

#693 - Ryan Brasier, Red Sox (Minus-1 for the Red Sox annoying me last year)

Overall total: Plus-102

Since Series 2 had four more cards in the pack than Big League, I excluded the final four cards for counting in the pack war. These are the final four:

Series 2 is so far it in front of Big League, no worries about excluding these four. Besides, Ryan Braun is worth about minus 30 points so Series 2 dodged a bullet there.

Series 2 crushed Big League 102-39, even with the foil Jansen in Big League's corner.

The thrill of Series 2 will disappear quickly, probably much more quickly than Big League. But I'm happy I was able to find some things I enjoy in the cards on retail hooks.

I hear Stadium Club is due out very soon, which means I'll probably ignore Series 2 even sooner than usual. So it's good that I got in a pack at the mid-season break.

Enjoy the second half of the season everyone!


Chris said…
I haven't been watching much baseball this year, either. I'm just not feeling it for some reason. Wasn't feeling either of these sets, but the photography of Flagship is starting to win me over. I agree that BL has been presented as a low-end product, so it should cost less than Flagship-which IMO is still the best value in the hobby. I dig that Franchise Feats Yount, and I would have said the same about San Diego.

I'm going to nit-pick your scoring, Yadi loses 10 points for his neck tattoo (okay, I'm not a big fan of ink either..) but Osuna only loses 1 for domestic violence? And doesn't King Felix have a neck tattoo too? :D
What?????There is baseball on t.v.? I haven't caught a single game yet this year. But I am going to one next month. An Interleague game, it'll be my first.
Zippy Zappy said…
"Are adults supposed to be sour-puss autograph collectors only?"


The Japanese term is 烈火 (leka). It basically means something is furiously burning. Though no one who's actually Japanese uses it in the context of baseball, I think Topps tried to make it some (scorching hot Angels offense) type of thing.
night owl said…
I need not justify my very subjective ranking system, but I'm sure I have not seen Osuna or King Felix nearly as much as Molina or his neck tattoo. Familiarity and contempt and all that.
madding said…
You'll be happy to know (I'm definitely happy) that Marcell ditched the neon compression sleeves after last season.

Interestingly enough, I've managed to pull more autos out of two years of Big League than I have from the last 14 years of flagship since I started collecting again.
Fuji said…
I saw that Ohtani on another blog and figured it was his name in Japanese. Thanks for the clarification.
BaseSetCalling said…
I hope you caught some of the Rookie Dodger heroics this weekend! Should, I dunno, make a good baseball card some day?

I think more “dugout” cards originate in Oakland than anywhere else.
Bulldog said…
Series2 pack really was great. The BoSox winning card, great Royals stadium photo, Yount, that Ohtani checklist card and other cool photos. I love Big League but this was a no brainer. Series 2 for the win.
Defenders50 said…
I think the Dietrich card needs more love after he just broke the record for getting plunked in a single series. And his beekeeper antics. And pretty much his entire season. I have to admit there's a part of me that hopes he hits a home run off of Bumgarner at some point this year, but as a RHP-mashing specialist that's unlikely.
P-town Tom said…
I enjoyed your take on Pack Wars. It was a fun read and your scoring system is pretty much right on with what I was thinking. Although, what's you take on high socks? I would have given Kolten Wong a couple of bonus points there.

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