Sunday, February 23, 2020

The New Frankenset: Page #5

It's been a while since I last updated the frankenset series with another post, so I thought that highlighting page #5 would be the perfect way to transition back into a somewhat regular schedule for the blog after being gone for most of the week.

The scope of this page, which features cards #37-45, is more limited than it's been in the past. The 1980s-2010s are represented, but there's only 1 card from the 80s, and it's from '89.

This page might not be one of my favorites, but there's still a fair amount to address; now, let's get started.

#37 2015 Bowman Prospects Archie Bradley
I don't remember exactly when I made this frankenset, but I wish I had chosen something a little more interesting than a 2015 Bowman base card.

Both the set design and the photo aren't all that interesting, and the foil text that makes up the player's name on the side of the card is notoriously hard to read. Fortunately, the subsequent cards on page #5 are at least a little more appealing.

#38 2003 Topps Finest
Thankfully, Frank Thomas' 2003 Topps Finest card is much more interesting, so it looks like this page is heading in a positive direction. People have often referred to this design as somewhat of a "beehive" thanks to the hexagons scattered throughout the background.

Furthermore, I usually prefer to see home uniforms on cards as opposed to the road, but there's something about the grey jersey that compliments the design better, in my eyes, than white would have.

#39 1997 Fleer Million Dollar Moments Ron Blomberg
In 1997 and '98, Fleer placed redemption cards in their products of all different sports which could, ultimately, result in a lucky collector winning $1 million. While I'm not sure if anyone was actually victorious, at least the design is pretty neat.

Blomberg is an interesting choice for the checklist considering he's a lesser-known player compared to guys like Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken Jr, but it's also highlighting the moment which was the introduction of the designated hitter.

#40 2003 Topps Stadium Club Orlando Cabrera
I don't know if any of you have seen the set design for the 2020 Topps Stadium Club set, but I must admit that I'm super excited to get a sampling of it upon the release in June. The lowercase letters and small, colorful banners make for an extremely modern design.

All Stadium Club sets, for that matter, use stellar photography to create an incredibly modern end product, and the 2003 set is no exception. The only way I could improve this card is by choosing a photo of Cabrera with a powder blue Expos jersey.

#41 2015 Bowman Matt Shoemaker
There's nothing else I want to say about the 2015 Bowman design, so I'll instead talk about Matt Shoemaker, the subject of the card who was en route to an All-Star season with the Blue Jays last year before getting injured.

Hopefully, he can return in 2020 and stay healthy, maybe even take home the AL Comeback Player of the Year award while he's at it.

#42 1994 Ted William Card Company Ralph Garr
1994 was the 2nd and final year of the Ted Williams Card Company, and while the set was only produced for a brief amount of time, they succeeded in highlighting underrepresented players from the game's extensive history.

Guys like Ralph Garr, Thurmon Munson, and Sal Bando, among others, were featured in the checklist over the product's 2-year history. I've completed both of the base sets and even opened hobby boxes from '93 and '94.

#43 2006 Topps Laynce Nix
As far as the 2000s Topps Flagship sets go, 2006 falls roughly in the middle. It's not catastrophic, but there's nothing all that special about the design. It does feature colors that line up with that of the respective team, but that's about it.

If they removed the foil text that spells out the team/player name as well as the position, I'd be slightly more fond of this design. Hopefully, by now, card companies have learned that we don't like foil text on cards whatsoever.

#44 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter Freddy Sanchez
The card above might very well be my favorite of the entire page, though, to no one's fault but my own, there wasn't a whole lot of competition.

Both the photograph and the design are different from what we typically see out of Allen & Ginter, and the Pirates uniform, which they no longer wear, brings back vivid memories of late-2000s Baseball.

#45 1989 Score Willie Randolph
Aside from the obvious, damaged corner in the top righthand corner, the rest of this 1989 Score Willie Randolph card is in reasonable shape. By this point in his career, on the other hand, Randolph was past his prime.

Granted, he went on to be an All-Star for the 6th and final time in '89, this time with the Dodgers, but he wouldn't match the numbers he put up for the 1977 and 1978 World Champion New York Yankees ever again.

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Series 1 Highlights

With Topps Heritage set to come out a week from this Wednesday, the 3 blasters I purchased of 2020 Topps Series 1 will likely be my only sampling of the product unless it's the only thing available at Target a few months from now when I have the itch to open packs.

Last year's Series 1 had virtually no big-name rookies and contained fewer inserts per pack, so I'm pleased with the adjustments that Topps has made to the set.

The addition of the Turkey Red inserts as well as including Alvarez, Bichette, and Lux, among other rookies, in the checklist only gives it a greater appeal.

In my previous post, I touched on a few specific aspects of the product (RC medallions, inserts, etc), I saved my best pulls for this post, one that'll include rookies as well as variations.

As far as the base checklist is concerned, I usually chase cards for my player collections as well as the major rookies, and there were a lot of them in 2020 Series 1.

Jesus Luzardo and Gavin Lux, although unbelievably talented, are players I know very little about. Brendan McKay and Bo Bichette, on the other hand, have been on my radar for a little longer thanks to the Bowman mega boxes as well as Bowman's Best.

The main draw to this year's Series 1, however, is Yordan Alvarez, the Astros' power-hitting phenom with both an RC logo and an All-Star rookie cup on his 2020 Topps Flagship card.

In the first 2 blasters that I opened, both of which were purchased at Target, I landed 2 Alvarez base rookies, as well as the '85, insert at the top of this post.

Whereas I usually don't start collecting a player's cards until their second full season, I think I'll make an exception for Alvarez who hit 27 homers in 313 at-bats last year.

The Juan Soto image variation above breaks the pattern of featuring only rookie cards in this post, but it's just such an interesting pull that I couldn't help but show it off.

Following his World Series victory, Soto's stock is, arguably, higher than it's ever been before. I'm not sure how I feel about Washington Nationals players wearing Montreal Expos jerseys, but I will say that it's a cool thing for Topps to have captured on cardboard.

Plus, the angle complements the jersey and helmet very well, as weird as it may be to see the Nationals' team logo so close to that of the Expos.

The Soto SP may be the most interesting card of the break, but this Aristides Aquino SP, another image variation, carries the most value. Anything with an RC logo can attract some interest, so I might end up selling it on eBay.

Regardless, Aquino is yet another highly-desired rookie from this year's class featured in Series 1. I actually prefer his base rookie with the throwback uniform, but the image variation is definitely my best pull from the 3 blasters.

Aquino hit 19 homers in just 205 at-bats last season, so, like Alvarez, he's a young, power hitter to watch in 2020. If I hold onto this card, I'll definitely watch him a bit more closely. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

A 3-Blaster Series 1 Recap Part #1

There appears to be a general consensus that 2020 Topps Series 1, as a whole, offers a lot more substance and variety than previous Flagship releases, and I must say that I definitely agree with that.

From the packs that I've opened, there's been something new/interesting each time, and while the coalition remains a problem, the release, in general, is a step-up from what we've seen in the past. 

That said, I've finally put together a post regarding Series 1 that goes beyond a general overview of the set design, checklist, and a couple insert cards. Now that I've opened my 3rd and likely final blaster box of the product, I felt it was the perfect time to go much more in-depth.

Because Series 1 is a base-heavy set with, I believe, the largest checklist out of any Topps release (you get 99 cards per blaster), I had to find a way to condense nearly 300 cards into 1 post in which I highlighted my best pulls as well as my overall thoughts on the entire set.

I also realized that I haven't gotten into detail surrounding my thoughts on the set design, so I figured that I'd address that first, even if I'm a little late to the party, all things considered.

I wasn't too crazy about the set design when it was first debuted by Topps in late July of 2019, and while my feelings haven't changed too much, I will say that it looks better than I originally expected.

Personally, the sideways text for the player/team name and position doesn't bug me all that much. It's just that the design, like 2018, doesn't have a whole lot to it. Love or hate 2019 Topps Flagship, it had a lot more character/identity than what we're seeing now.

Plus, as I'm sure many of you have seen, the design does not do parallels justice, though the odds for something as a gold parallel (#/2020) have become so tough that I didn't end up with that many of them.

With production rates increasing every year, Topps wisely chose to bring back the Turkey Red cards as a retail-exclusive insert with cards falling at 1 per pack. The 100-card set proves that Topps doesn't really plan to shy away from unnecessarily large insert checklists, but at least the cards look absolutely beautiful.

I can imagine that it would be hard not to get repetitive with an insert set like Turkey Red, but from what I saw from my 3 blaster boxes, Topps did a very nice job featuring different backgrounds, uniforms, and poses.

I chose to feature Bo Bichette and Adam Jones as exemplars of how, even though they fall under the same insert, these 2 cards really are quite different.

There are also chrome parallels of the Turkey Red cards, including serial numbered refractors and base versions, like the Eloy Jimenez car shown above.

I don't even collect Eloy, but I definitely consider this card one of the highlights from my Series 1 break. The chrome cardstock does a phenomenal job of drawing attention towards the picture of Jimenez as well as his bat.

Not to mention, the concept itself was a fabulous way of adding even more variety to this release.

For several years now, Topps has featured some sort of manufactured relic card as a blaster-box exclusive, and while I've never taken a strong liking to any of their concepts, I must admit that they did a fabulous job this time around.

The commemorative rookie card medallions recreate iconic rookie cards with a small, gold RC logo embedded into the card. Featuring both current and retired players, the concept isn't something foreign for Topps, but the way that they executed it is unique.

The first blaster featured Jose Canseco while the next 2 had Cody Bellinger rookie card medallions. While doubling up on 1 player isn't exactly ideal, I was pleased to see that the 2nd Bellinger card was a black parallel, numbered out of 199 copies on the back.

I know some people probably wouldn't be too thrilled that these RC manufactured relics have parallels, but the way I see it is that Topps is adding yet another interesting element to their set.

There's still a little more rookie card-related stuff, as well as 2 specific cards that I want to get to, so I've decided to save those cards for tomorrow's post.

That way, I won't cram too much into 1 post, and I'll still finish my 2020 Series 1 recap this weekend.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Series 1 + A Little Extra Card Show Recap #27

I realize that I've yet to share my highlights from the 2 blaster boxes of 2020 Topps Series 1 that I ripped last week aside from overviewing my first pack of the year.

Rest assured, I'll get to Series 1 as soon as I can, but I purchased my 3rd and likely final blaster box at the card show on Sunday, so I'm currently debating how I want to go about recapping the cards that I pulled.

Speaking of Sunday's show, I decided to attend for a variety of reasons, the first being to talk to dealers and other attendees about the Mookie Betts trade which, as of yesterday, was revised and completed.

I also wanted to check out what 2020 Topps Series 1 is like at a much larger scale which I was able to do by looking at all the different inserts and hits, though the vendor had already sold a reasonable number of his cards.

Lastly, as long as I was there, I figured that I'd pick up a few singles, some of which are from Series 1, others are not. This type of card show recap post lines up with how I've been collecting over the past few months: retail/some hobby boxes along with smaller purchases at the card show.

One of the most exciting things about the new card collecting season is that the big-name rookies from last year's products, most notably, for me anyway, being Fernando Tatis Jr, are now veterans, meaning their cards are less expensive.

Some dealers are still charging more for these guys' cards because of their All-Star rookie status, but that'll only continue on for so much longer. As soon as the new rookie class begins playing come March and April, the price point for Tatis Jr and other 2nd-year players' cards will be even fairer.

Finding cards for my Boston Red Sox PCs, particularly those of active players, has become a routine part of virtually all of my trips to the baseball card show, and last Sunday's was no exception. 

Even though I only picked out 2 cards, I believe it's crucial to continue adding cards, especially inserts and parallels, to the player collections of guys like Betts, Bogaerts, Devers, and Benintendi.

Both of the cards above are non-numbered base refractors, one from '19 Chrome and the other from '17 Best. Despite the heart-shattering trade that sent Mookie and Price to LA, I'll never stop buying Betts' cards, even if he doesn't come back to Boston this offseason.

From all the box breaks and recap posts from 2020 Series 1 that I've seen on YouTube and Twitter, the 1985 relics stood out to me as affordable yet, at the same time, spectacular cards. The dealer at the show had 2 of them left from his hobby case, one Kris Bryant base and a Manny Machado #/199.

The cards were the same price, but clearly, Bryant was the obvious choice for me. Even though I haven't had a problem or much to do with Machado since he left for San Diego, Bryant's still a member of the Chicago Cubs, my 2nd favorite team, though his future with the organization remains unclear.

The reason why I didn't grab both of the '85 Topps relics is that, for the same amount of money, I went for this Eduardo Rodriguez on-card autograph from 2013 Bowman Sterling instead.

While injuries plagued Chris Sale, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi throughout the 2019 season, E-Rod emerged as the ace of the Boston staff. The 26-year old finished 6th in the AL Cy Young Award voting with an ERA of 3.81 and 213 strikeouts.

So now, I have 3 blasters of 2020 Topps Series 1, all of which treated me well, to recap. I'll likely turn them into a 2-parter during which I overview my thoughts on the set and, of course, get to my top pulls.

After that, it's only a couple of weeks before Heritage is released, then Gypsy Queen, and before we know it, it'll be opening day for all 30 teams, and the Red Sox will take the field without Mookie Betts.

I don't know if I'm going to be okay when that happens. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

The Start of Something New

Before I get to anything else in this post, let me just say that no, I still haven't recovered and accepted the idea that the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts, and I'm praying that the rumors about the deal not falling through are true. I could turn that into a post of its own, but instead, I've opted to explore 2020 Topps Series 1.

I, as I do every year, got my hands on some Topps Series 1 around its release date, 2 blasters to be exact, and just like I've done for 3 years now, I'll be overviewing the 1st pack in its entirety to get a feel for what the product is like.

Each year, I have a little dilemma when it comes to Series 1. Obviously, I want to get my hands on some packs because its the first release of the year, but I know that it's only a matter of months before products that I, personally, find more interesting will hit the store shelves.

Thus, it's up to Topps to make the set appealing enough for me to buy more than just a couple of sample packs, and I felt like they did just that in 2020 Series 1.

That's because other than the '85 Topps reprints, there's no outrageously large insert set like Salute and 150 Years of previous Series 1 sets.

It's true that, no matter what you collect or what your budget is, Series 1 has something special to offer, and no matter how I feel about the design, it's always fun to sample a few packs and celebrate Topps 1st release of the year and, in this case, the decade.

Ok, 2020 Archives Signature Series did come out a week or 2 ago, but let's be real, Series 1 is far more popular and accessible and should be regarded as the first true release of 2020.

This year, blaster boxes come with 7 packs with 14 cards each, and I saved the first one exactly how I opened it for today's post. Without any further adieu, here's my first look at 2020 Topps Series 1, my first card purchase of 2020.

#230 Nolan Arenado
As you saw from the top of the post, Nolan Arenado was my first pull of 2020, and one quick look at his stats will tell you that this isn't a bad way to start the decade off.

Immediately when I saw the card backs, they reminded me of last year's National Baseball Card Day backs. I don't necessarily think a grey background with black text was the best choice in terms of legibility of the stats, though I will admit that they look clearer in-person.

#223 Aaron Civale
In the past, especially when it comes to Topps Series 1, I've kept track of how many rookie cards I pull and calculated the percentage of total cards pulled are rookies. I don't know if I'll do this with my Series 1 blasters, but it's just interesting that 2 cards in, we already have one to show.

#345 Justin Verlander

#324 Mike Soroka
I don't remember the exact details, but around a year ago, I had a Mike Soroka green parallel rookie auto from Topps Gallery listed on my eBay page, and someone offered around $25 for it. I declined, and upon hearing he was a top 100 prospect, pulled the card off eBay all together to keep for my collection.

1 year later, he's coming off a season with a 2.68 ERA in which he was an NL All-Star and the runner-up to Pete Alonso for Rookie of the Year.

#315 Adam Frazier

#44 Tommy Edman
Admittedly, I miss the rainbow text used on the Future Stars cards that Topps used back in 2019, though Tommy Edman's throwback Cardinals uniform provides more than enough color that, in this instance, the rainbow "Future Stars" isn't completely necessary.

#102 Josh Phegley

#208 Zack Collins

#113 Matt Carpenter
At first, I thought this card, as well as the Zack Collins rookie, was an image variation of sorts, but upon checking the code on the back, I realized it was just a base card with exceptional photography. Kudos to Topps for including some interesting shots here and there.

#177 Craig Kimbrel
I'd already landed 2 cards for my player collections (Arenado and Verlander), but landing this Craig Kimbrel card in my first pack of 2020 indicates to me that this could be a very good year, knock on wood, for card collecting.

Plus, the photograph is a classic choice for a Kimbrel card: his windup process that I've seen many a time on cards as well as in-person at Fenway Park. Needless to say, I miss when he was in Boston.

#HRC-19 Home Run Challenge Code Cards Fernando Tatis Jr
First Craig Kimbrel, now Fernando Tatis Jr: my first pack of Series 1 has delivered a card for each of the players whom I "super collect."

Although I've been inclined to sell my Home Run Challenge cards in the past, I think I'll press my luck with Tatis Jr to get an exclusive parallel if I guess a game that he'll hit a dinger correctly.

#TR-51 Turkey Red Christian Yelich
If you would've asked me to come up with an insert set for Series 1, Turkey Red reproductions likely would've never crossed my mind, but now that they're here, I couldn't be more pleased to see them.

It's a creative idea for sure, and I'm glad that Topps went with something like this instead of another set like 150 Years of Baseball which, as cool as it was, wasn't executed very well.

#92 Blake Treinen

#156 Nick Markakis

I got my hands on 2 blasters of Series 1, one of which I've already opened, so I'll definitely get to sharing the results over the weekend. Who knows, I might even be so inspired by the product's variety to purchase a little more. We'll have to wait and see.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The New Frankenset: Page #4

The new frankenset has been a regular occurrence on the blog for about a month now, and I've reached the 4th page with today's post. Though my overall number of posts per week has certainly declined, I'm pleased that, if nothing else, I've been consistently putting one of these out every 7 days.

For the most part, page #4 spans 2 decades (the 2000s and the 2010s) with one card from the 1990s thrown in there. This seems to be somewhat of a regular pattern through the first hundred cards or so. After that, we get more decades mixed in.

Nonetheless, the variety of cards featured on this page is very strong, so let's get right into it with card #28.

#28 2010 Topps Vintage Legends Collection Ozzie Smith
Although the name of this insert set is unbelievably generic, the actual cards, specifically Ozzie Smith's above, are quite interesting. A prelude of sorts to what we'd see from Topps Archives just a couple of years later, the Vintage Legends Collection, in this instance, chose to feature Ozzie Smith in the 1970 Topps design. 

I'm ever so slightly burned out on the '70 Flagship set following a year of seeing it in Topps Heritage, but the phenomenal jersey and unique photography greatly enhance it. Now, if only they could've come up with a more memorable and creative name.

#29 2007 Topps Co-Signers Vernon Wells
The Toronto Blue Jays had a respectable lineup for a few seasons in the late 2000s, led by guys like Aaron Hill and Vernon Wells, the latter of whom captured 3 Gold Gloves and made 3 All-Star teams throughout his 15 seasons.

Wells currently ranks 2nd in Blue Jays' history when it comes to hits, RBI, and doubles. The Silver Slugger award winner trails just Carlos Delgado, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion in home runs as well.

#30 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces Matt Holliday
The biggest tie that I have to Matt Holliday is a flip stock card from 2018 Topps Heritage, limited to 5 copies, back when he was a member of the New York Yankees. The 7-time All-Star, however, is known more for his time with both the St. Louis Cardinals and, especially, the Colorado Rockies.

Holliday hit .340 with 36 homers and 137 RBI in 2007, finishing runner-up behind Jimmy Rollins for the NL MVP award. His 2,000+ career hits and 1,220 RBI will certainly garner a few HOF votes when he first appears on the ballot in 2023.

#31 1999 Upper Deck Ovation Mike Mussina
Speaking of the Baseball Hall of Fame, we have the 2nd appearance from a Hall of Fame player of the page. This time, it's 5-time All-Star Mike Mussina who finished just 30 wins away from joining the 300 club.

Mussina's career WAR and innings pitched prove that he gave it everything that he had for as long as possible, and his 2008 season with the New York Yankees was sensational given his age. Though a 3.68 ERA, in my eyes, is a little high for Cooperstown, his 3,500+ innings pitched explain why.

#32 2016 Leaf Babe Ruth Collection
The cards might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I actually like the 2016 Leaf Babe Ruth Collection set because of all the snapshots and details they share about the career and life of Baseball's greatest player.

This card, for example, highlights his final season as a member of the New York Yankees. While the checklist jumps around and isn't as organized as I'd like, I must say that Leaf did a pretty nice job and came up with something creative considering that they don't have the MLB license.

#33 2010 Topps National Chicle Evan Longoria
I've seen a different kind of "throwback" Tampa Bay Rays jersey, one that was powder blue and gold, but I'm not familiar with the one above. I'm not sure if it's modeled after something different, or if it was just created so that Tampa Bay could have a retro uniform of sorts.

Either way, Longoria's 2010 Topps National Chicle card conforms perfectly to the idea behind the set. The artwork, both in the foreground and the background, is creative and slightly abstract, and the artists used a wide variety of colors.

#34 2016 Panini Donruss Retro 1982 A.J. Pollock
The photo above from Pollock's 2016 Panini Donruss 1982 insert seems to be from Marlins Park which would explain the green wall serving as the background. As far as recreating the '82 Donruss design is concerned, Panini did a reasonable job, though it's weird to see the set reproduced without logos.

#35 2013 Topps Making Their Mark Aaron Hicks
Hicks may have first made his mark when he debuted with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, but it was his breakout performance in 2018 that established him as one of the Yankees' premier power hitters.

He's never been one to hit for average, but Hicks' 27 home runs in 2018 were essential to the success of his team. Injuries limited him to just over 200 at-bats last year, so it'll be interesting to see what 2020 brings for the 30-year old outfielder.

#36 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Adam Lind
If we ignore the damage done to the edges and surface in the top righthand corner, Adam Lind's 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen card, in a good way, fits perfectly with the rest of the set. 2012 is what I consider one of the prime years for the brand, a period that lasted from its inaugural 2011 season through 2014.

I'm actually very excited to see what 2020 Gypsy Queen will bring following a strong showing in 2019. I've already seen previews on Cardboard Connection, and the design looks great. Hopefully, following a few years of uncertainty, Topps has established an identity for Gypsy Queen, and the set will return to what it once was.