Thursday, September 20, 2018

2002 Topps 206 Box; Lots of Portrait Cards

I have to say, I'm starting to warm up a bit more to the Topps 206 cards the more I open them and really look closely at them.

Yes, some of the art, particularly the faces, aren't polished as much as they could be, but the product is overall fairly fun to break. By not guaranteeing any hits, the price of this hobby box was able to be less than half of what a box of, say, 2018 Topps Allen & Ginter would be. 

The Team 206 inserts are a nice addition, and I'm hoping for some more interesting mini back variations. But so far, it's a pretty solid product.

As I write this post, the Red Sox are a few hours away from the 3rd game of the series against the Yankees. This is not only the 3rd game in a row against New York but the 3rd game in a row in which they've had the chance to clinch the division. So, either they get swept by the Yankees, or they close everything out tonight. There is no in between. 

While I anticipate the start of the game, I might as well go over the 7th and 8th packs out of my hobby box of the 2002 Topps 206 set.

Pack #7

#91 Albert Pujols
While the front of the card is shown at the top of this post, the back of Pujols' 2nd-year card brings up a pretty interesting fact. He was the 4th rookie ever to hit .300 with 30 homers, 100 RBI, and 100 runs. It certainly leads me to wonder if any other rookies have done that since Pujols did in '01.

#80 Richard Hidalgo
Through its sheer simplicity in the background and with the portrait of the player, Richard Hidalgo's card quickly became one of my favorites of the entire box as soon as I pulled it from the pack.

#54 Andres Galarraga 
I believe the Giants were the last team Andres Galarraga ever played for. Before coming to San Francisco, he spent the majority of his career with the Expos and Rockies.

#84 Ken Griffey Jr.
The 3rd portrait card in a row is definitely one of the best names you could get in the entire set. In almost every single way, this Ken Griffey Jr. card is perfect, from the colors chosen in the background to the clear attention to detail used on his face and cap.

#139 Nick Neugebauer

#104 Roy Oswalt

#73 Adam Dunn Mini Polar Bear Back
I sincerely hope I'm not the only one who misses the Reds uniforms from the 2000s, especially the ones with the red sleeves and skinny red stripes that Ken Griffey Jr. made so popular. The black sleeved ones aren't to bad either. They kind of remind me of what the Diamondbacks and the Marlins used to wear around the same time frame.

#T206-19 Ichiro Team 206
Closing out pack #7 is another Future Hall of Famer who was 1 year removed from his rookie season back in 2002. Of all the Team 206 inserts I've pulled so far, the style of art which is quite different from the base card art seems to work better for Ichiro than it did for any other player. 

Pack #8

#3 Garret Anderson

#57 Tsuyoshi Shinjo
This was one of the few names that I had absolutely no recollection of, so I took a quick minute to look Tsuyoshi Shinjo up online. Turns out he was the very first Japan-born player to play in the World Series when he was on the Giants in 2002. Although his MLB career lasted just 3 seasons, he played successfully in Japan before and after playing in the MLB.

Fun fact; he also took home $10 million dollars in the Japanese version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. 

#20 Todd Helton
I've been starting to wonder how much longer Helton will be Mr. Rockie for. If Nolan Arenado stays in Colorado long enough, say for most of his career, will he eclipse Helton for the title? Or will Helton's legacy as the first Rockie great be enough to maintain his legacy?

#14 Kerry Wood
Another example of how absolutely amazing these blurred colored backgrounds look, especially when they have the same blue and red that Wood is wearing on his Chicago Cubs jersey.

#164 Kirby Puckett

#147 Brian Rogers

#85 Joe Kennedy Mini Polar Bear Back
Even being a mini card, the various shades and colors used on this card seem to work better than nearly any other card I've seen in this box so far.

#T206-8 Derek Jeter Team 206
It seems like these Team 206 cards are always a really good way to cap off a post. Not only do they almost always feature good names, but the art on these cards is some of my favorite that I've seen so far, even if it is a bit out of the ordinary. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My Next Card From NOW

For just the second time ever, I forked over $10 in order to get only 1 baseball card. Topps is probably smiling right now as the count the money made by me and other Red Sox fans from what they made off this card, but I really don't care.

In a season that's been historic, a word I don't use lightly, the Boston Red Sox have had a lion's share of memorable moments. From 6 grand slams in April, a 4-game series sweep of the Yankees, Bogaerts' hitting a walk-off grand slam, and merely the names J.D. Martinez, Chris Sale, and Mookie Betts.

So when they were going into the 3rd game of the Braves series a couple weeks ago having already won the first 2, it seemed like they weren't going to have any of these moments. After all, Alex Cora rested nearly every star player and put some of the September call-ups to work.

One of those players was Brandon Phillips, a former perennial All-Star and Gold Glove award winner with the Cincinnati Reds.

After going down 7-1 to Atlanta in the 5th and taking that lead with them into the 8th, it looked certain that Boston wouldn't pull off a sweep. But if there's one thing this team has taught me, it's that you never say never.

They tied the game in the top of the 8th but lost the lead again in the bottom of the 8th inning due to a Freddie Freeman home run. 

With 2 outs in the top of the 9th and a man on first base, Brandon Phillips stepped to the plate. If you haven't seen what happened next, take a look right here.

In his very first game as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Brandon Phillips, #0, made history and won the game for Boston by a final score of 9-8. The more you look at the video, the more you realize how powerful this swing was. He appears to almost fall back as he slams the ball well over 400 feet off of Braves closer A.J. Minter who has posed a threat all season with his 65 strikeouts in 57 innings pitched.

Better yet, this was Phillip's first game of 2018. The Red Sox picked him up in June. He spent time in Triple-A Pawtucket and even with the Single-A Lowell Spinners. He reportedly had multiple opportunities to opt-out, but he chose not to. He stayed with a team knowing full well he could never play in the majors for, and he was fine with that. 

His patience proved to be a strong attribute as Phillips was able to add his name to the long list of players who have made a difference for the Sox this season. While other players spent all year accomplishing this, Phillips was able to do it in one swing. When you think about it, it's truly remarkable.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

2002 Topps 206 Box; The Finer Details

At this point in the box, I'm really looking more and more for cards to stand out and surprise me. 4 packs or 1/5 of the way into my 2002 Topps 206 hobby box and I must say that even though there has certainly been some fabulous art so far, it's starting to get a little repetitive. 

In the case of a set like Topps Gallery, the cards never fail to impress and excite me, even if I've already opened multiple packs and seen a lot of those cards. It's mainly because of how innovative of a set Gallery is. Thus far, I'm still trying to figure out if Topps 206 has that same level of innovation that is possessed by Gallery.

It also doesn't really help that you know exactly what you're getting in each pack. 6 base cards, 1 mini, and 1 Team 206 card, but that's not the end of the world. After all, there's still that hope of getting a hit whether it be an autograph, relic card, or even a T206 original.

I guess it's time to pick up where I left off. Time for the 5th and 6th packs of the box to get underway. Don't worry, I'm going to be pausing the break for a day tomorrow and resuming the pack breaks on Thursday, just in case any of you wanted a quick break from non-stop packs of the same product.

Pack #5

#39 Nomar Garciaparra

I'm a bit mixed whenever I pull a card of Nomar Garciaparra (shown at the top of the post). On one hand, I can definitely appreciate what he's done as a Red Sox player. However, as well liked as he was by the fans, he was definitely not incredibly popular as a teammate.

#70 Paul O'Neill
With the first card being a Red Sox player and the next being a Yankee, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the vital game taking place later today. Moved from 1:00 to 7:00 due to rain, tonight's Red Sox vs Yankees game is a big one. If the Red Sox win, they will take home the AL East title for the 3rd year in a row.

#58 Barry Zito
I can't say having identical backgrounds for the first 3 cards of the pack makes me all that excited for what's to come. Granted, I'm sure this streak won't be continuing and it's just a coincidence, but the standard light blue backgrounds don't do much for me in a set like this which is designed to be full of color. 

#112 Jason Giambi

#174 Johnny Evers
In the 2nd pack of the break, I pulled Frank Chance's card, one of the 3 members of the historic Tinker-Evers-Chance infield for the World Champion Chicago Cubs in 1907 and 1908. I stated back then that I would love to pull a base card of each of the 3 members of the Hall of Fame trio. Now that I've pulled the card of Frank Chance, only Joe Tinker remains.

#148 Michael Hill

#145 Chris Tritle Mini Polar Bear Back

#T206-16 Cristian Guzman Team 206
A respectable player for the Twins and Nationals over the course of his 11-year career, Guzman made for some excellent cards, especially while in Minnesota. Even though the level of realism isn't where I want it for a set like this, the thought behind the details and colors cannot be denied.

Pack #6

#86 Joel Pinero
Even though I'm not fond of solid color backgrounds in this set, I must say I appreciate the gold color background used on a couple of the cards I've pulled so far. The combination of that and the navy blue Mariners jersey is one that works very well, much better than any light blue background could work in any other color combo.

#26 Tino Martinez

#41 Scott Rolen
As is evident with the various backgrounds, the 2002 Topps 206 set alternates from realism to abstract art quite often. You constantly see the set switching from solid color backgrounds to more natural backgrounds showing sky, a ballpark fence, and even smaller realistic details such as trees in the background.

#99 Mike Sweeney
I have to say, in a set like this with all sorts of different backgrounds depending on the card, my favorite of the group would have to be the blurred colors background that I've seen on a couple cards, most notably on Mike Sweeney's card shown above.

#123 Pat Burrell

#151 Bill Hall
Bill Hall's base card signifies the return of the gold background, making its 2nd appearance of the pack. While I think the color is intriguing and a very good choice, I really hope that Topps didn't end up overdoing it and putting gold backgrounds on too many cards in the set.

#25 Shawn Green Mini Polar Bear Back

#T206-14 Randy Johnson Team 206
For the 6th pack and 3rd post in a row, the Team 206 insert card of the pack was able to end everything on a bang. With well-chosen colors and an interesting yet simple border, the insert cards have impressed me once again.

Monday, September 17, 2018

2002 Topps 206 Box; All Sorts of Art

Although I'm just 2 packs into the box, the best and worst parts of the 2002 Topps 206 box so far has been the artwork.

In some cases, the art has been incredibly detailed and really blown my mind, especially since these cards are from way back in 2002. Other times, the facial features are so lackluster that it doesn't' make the overall art look polished. Truth be told, some of the actual players on the cards look a little choppy because these small details aren't super well-executed.

That being said, it wouldn't be fair to access the whole box on the first 2 packs. This box was purchased with the intentions of being a fun break with some well-designed cards as well as the chance to hit something special. 

I've decided to stay true to what I originally decided and break this box 2 packs at a time, posting them on the blog as I open them. Yesterday, you saw me open up the first couple packs of the box. Now, it's time to turn my attention to the 3rd and 4th packs out of the 20-pack box. 

#36 Carlos Lee
Here's the first look at the card backs, though there are a couple different versions. The one used for Carlos Lee's card is the most standard card back with the majority of the cards in each pack having this design on the back of the card. It's so well-done that even the copyright information looks like a natural part of the card. 

#11 Joe Randa
Unfortunately, Joe Randa's card is a clear example of some of the less than extraordinary art in the set. Even with an undetailed background, the poor attention to detail regarding the facial features is what I have an issue with. 

#67 Mike Mussina
I can't seem to stop going back and forth with this set. Even though Randa's card was one of my least favorites, it was directly followed by one of the best cards of the box so far. I know not everyone's a fan, but I really do like the blurred backgrounds and the colors within them.

#6 John Smoltz
I still don't know what I should do with all these cards. Given that I've opened a box of Series 2 and am currently breaking a Series 1 box, should I try to piece together this set? Or should I just concentrate on what I'm already pursuing?

#96 Jose Canseco
After I've been following baseball for as long as I've lived and learned more about players and cards every single day, I discovered today, September 17th, 2018, that Jose Canseco actually played for the Chicago White Sox. The power of baseball cards truly is extraordinary. 

#142 Justin Backsmeyer

#27 Bret Boone Mini Black Tolstoi Back
Bret Boone's mini is my very first variation mini pulled in the box so far. The back design isn't too exciting though. It's very similar to Polar Bear, just with a different name and a fancier font. I wish they were a bit more exciting like the 2003 Topps 205 variation minis.

#T206-13 Albert Pujols Team 206
Even though I don't yet know what I should do with these cards, I do know one thing. Whether I try to piece together the set or I separate cards for player collections, this card of a very young Albert Pujols will look fabulous no matter where it ends up.

Pack #3 pretty much kept up what the previous 2 packs had done. Some cards featured some fantastic art while others didn't. Now, it's time to see what pack #4 entails.

#45 Bud Smith
No matter how long I stared at this card for, I couldn't get the idea of Christmas out of my head. I personally blame the overwhelming amount of green and red on this card with nothing much else to contrast it.

#97 Ben Sheets

#65 Larry Walker
The primarily black jersey combined with the gold background almost makes Larry Walker look like a member of the Colorado Rockies on this card. Regardless, it's another well-executed piece of art in my opinion. Definitely another plus for the box.

#71 Sean Casey

#101 Ivan Rodriguez
So far, it seems like blue-on-blue is a big part of the set. In every card with a player wearing a blue jersey, there's even bluer added on in the background. In this case, that is far from a bad thing as the sheer amount of blue produced my favorite card of the pack, and maybe even of the box so far.

#165 Frank Robinson
I must say, I'm far more used to seeing Frank Robinson as an Oriole rather than a member of the Cincinnati Reds. However, I wouldn't have this card any other way as Topps proved they have the capability to execute cards of retired players just as well as active players in this set.

#133 Brandon Inge Mini Polar Bear Back

#T206-12 Roger Clemens Team 206
I can't say I'm in love with this Team 206 card. Not only is is a bit miscut, but, as mentioned before, the lack of attention to the facial details is really a major setback for this set.

After the first 4 packs, I'm really digging this set. Sure, it has things that I would like to change, but so does nearly every other set. Most of the artwork is stunning, and I'm starting to slowly await the possibility of pulling a hit.