Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Celebrating Independence Day; Series 2 Style

Happy Independence Day everybody! I hope you're all having a nice day full of food, no work, friends, family, and of course, lots and lots of baseball games. This year, my Red Sox played in the nation's capital Washington D.C. on the 4th this year. The 11:00 am ball game is, to my knowledge, the only morning game of the year other than Patriot's Day in Boston which was rained out this year.

Additionally, I've noticed Topps' tendency to make Series 2 more of a patriotic set over the last few seasons. This includes the return of the Independence Day manufactured blaster-exclusive relics. The one I pulled ended up being Ryan Zimmerman, a guy I collect. Not too amazing but not too bad either. Topps Salute also had an Independence Day insert set last year. I'm wondering if that set has returned along with the manufactured relic cards.

Anyway, I decided to celebrate the 4th of July the right way while I spent a couple days out of town with the family. I went to the closest Walmart to the house we were staying at and I stumbled upon 1 final blaster of 2018 Topps Series 2.

101 cards later, here are the highlights of what I got. 

Clearly, most of what you get in a Topps Series 2 blaster is going to be base cards. One can expect anywhere from 1-3 insert cards per pack, but the rest is going to be base unless you get lucky and hit something like a relic or an autograph. Given how many rookies and 2nd-year players Topps includes in their flagship set now, I pulled less than 10 base cards of players I collect, and one of the players (Hanley) isn't even playing anymore. However, the various inserts I pulled more than made up for it.

First, I'll talk about a couple of parallels I pulled. The odds in Series 2 for rainbow foil are the same as the odds for gold parallels; 1:10 packs or 1 per blaster box. I was able to meet these odds for both cards as I ended up with a rainbow foil parallel of Brad Brach, an Orioles middle reliever who is rumored to be traded to a few different contenders by the trade deadline, including the Red Sox whose bullpen hasn't been too solid as of late.

The gold parallel was of Denard Span which isn't too exciting, but it is a card I feel I could sell. After all, Span is having a nice year defensively so far and has been hitting .290 ever since joining the Mariners in a trade that also sent his teammate Alex Colome to Seattle as well. 

For the inserts, I might as well start off with some returning inserts from 2018 Series 1. In particular, the retail-exclusive Legends in the Making cards. At first, I liked the design of the colors splashing together while the player is in a position to either throw the ball or swing the bat. However, I'm starting to get a little tired of the same players and the same teams being represented in this set. It was a cool concept at first, but now I'm just hoping we've seen the last of this set and that it doesn't return for Topps Chrome or Update.

I did end up with 1 blue parallel of a Legends in the Making insert. The one I ended up getting was of Christian Yelich, whose navy blue jersey on this card nearly blends perfectly with the blue parallel color above. Speaking of the blue parallel, the Series 2 version definitely appears to have way darker of a shade of blue compared to the Series 1 insert parallels. Series 1 had more of a light blue, almost sky blue as a matter of fact, but Series 2 has way darker of a shade.

Topps Salute is another set that has been included in Series 2 in addition to Series 1. Ever since its debut in 2017 Topps Series 1, I've typically associated throwback jerseys, rookies, and legends with the Topps Salute insert set. However, I've never seen Glove Work cards until now. I guess they can do a better job with them in 2018 than 2017 considering the elimination of borders gives the cards more space. Considering I don't collect Chris Taylor of Byron Buxton, I'll probably list these cards on Sportlots or trade them if anyone wants them.

On the other hand, the Aaron Judge Salute insert is one I will likely decide to hang onto due to Judge's popularity, and because it cannot really hurt to build up a nice Aaron Judge PC. My one issue with the Judge card that I don't have for the Taylor or the Buxton is the absence of an actual baseball on this Glove Work Salute card. This part of the Salute set is for sensational catches and glove work by outfielders. Well, where's the baseball on this card?

The Instant Impact inserts are another insert, along with Legends in the Making, that don't do too much for me. Both insert sets are based around relatively vague concepts; young talented players of LITM and high-impact players for the Instant Impact cards. I'll put the Al Kaline into his player collection, but the Tanaka insert is available along with the previously mentioned cards.

The 1983 insert cards are back for Series 2, and the 2 I pulled happen to commemorate various players' performances in All-Star games. For Verlander, it's his pitching performance in the '07 All-Star game while the Pujols card honors what he did in the Midsummer Classic 3 years ago in 2015. I'm not quite sure what the rest of the '83 insert set is like, or if it's all All-Star game performances. I do know that I'm a big fan of this particular concept and I love how they executed it in the style of the 1983 Topps All-Star cards.

Of course, while Cody Bellinger was the subject of the Target exclusive inserts, Aaron Judge was the man behind the Walmart exclusive cards. I for one am so sick and tired of the same 2 players being overrepresented in nearly every single card set. I'll get into my issues with that soon, but I do have to applaud the Yankee Stadium-style border at the bottom of the front of the cards which also appears at the top of the card backs. As much as I wouldn't choose Judge to get his own insert set, the card design is pretty exceptional. 

Back to my issues with Judge getting his own set. This year, Mike Trout was on the cover of Series 1 and Derek Jeter and Kris Bryant were the 2 exclusive insert set players. For Series 2, Bryce Harper is on the cover while Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge receive their own insert sets. Not only is it boring and somewhat redundant to give 1 player and entire insert set, but it's pretty annoying to over-hype the same players over and over again. What about doing this for some different players like Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor, not just the same players we continuously see in sets non-stop.

Despite the Judge inserts not being my favorite cards that I pulled from the blaster, I must say it was pretty cool to pull blue and black insert parallels. These will also most likely be listed on Sportlots due to them being somewhat rare cards of a very popular player. I get to sell these or possibly trade them to some Yankee collector while I get either baseball cards in return or money, which I will spend on cards. It's a win-win situation. 

Finally, the Future Star inserts from the last few years of Topps Chrome have now made their way to Topps flagship and I was able to get incredibly lucky with them. They're still pretty common inserts at 1:2 packs. Still, I was able to go for even more than that by pulling 7 inserts, 4 of them being of 2nd or 3rd-year players who are expected to cement their legacy very soon, including Andrew Benintendi, a player I collect who's having a breakout year for the Red Sox.

The next few Future Stars are rookie players from this year, so Topps is taking a bit more of a gamble by declaring these 2 Future Stars than the players who already have a year or two of experience. If you don't know Willie Calhoun, he was the main prospect in the Yu Darvish to the Dodgers trade last year. Luiz Gohara has barely played this year, but his 12 ER in 15 innings pitched has no shot at making him a future star unless he gets playing time and ups his game very soon.

Oh yeah, then there's Shohei Ohtani, the final of the 7 Future Stars cards I pulled. Despite only returning from the DL yesterday after missing quite a bit of time, Ohtani is still very much valued and an extremely collectible player. This card becomes the 3rd Shohei card in my collection, coming after his 2018 Topps Series 2 base card and his sought-after Topps Heritage action-image SP.

But I'd be lying if I said the Ohtani insert was the best card of the blaster. Sorry Shohei, but there was 1 card that usurped you.

Lo and behold, my very first image variation SP ever pulled from Topps flagship, and it's of the 3-time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer who appears to be on-pace to three-peat as the winner of the NL Cy Young award considering he's leading all of baseball currently with 174 strikeouts. Scherzer is one of the best players that I don't collect along with fellow Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. I believe that this card could be the perfect way to begin a Scherzer player collection along with the perfect way to end the blaster and celebrate the holiday.

1 comment:

  1. Trout, Altuve, Kershaw, Scherzer all deserve their own sets before Judge and Bellinger.
    Congrats on the sweet Scherzer pull