Category Archives: Baseball

Topps Preview Compilation

While I would love to provide all of you the most complete, extensive, and up to date information, circumstances prevent me from doing so.  Therefore I’m happy to send you over to Cardboard Connection for previews of:

2013 Topps Triple Threads

and

2013 Topps Finest (including some pretty sweet throwback inserts)

 

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Spring Fever

I live in Tucson.  As such I do not suffer from an affliction called spring fever.  I never wish an end to the winter, because an end to the winter means triple digit temperatures and a literal hell on earth.  I guess I suffer from the inverse, fall fever, where around November I wonder why it is still 90 degrees outside.  I do, however, look forward to spring, much like all baseball fans, because it means baseball season is starting.  Living in Arizona I usually intently follow spring training, reading team previews and going to at least a few games.  This year, however, I am pretty busy with work and I’m not able to keep up with the festivities like I have been in the past (a resurgent Arizona Wildcats basketball team is also competing for my time).  This is probably the first spring in a few years that baseball is not the dominant force for me.  I’m hoping that by the time mid-March rolls around I will be able to devote some time to baseball, if for no other reason to keep me cometitive in my fantasy league.  In the meantime Topps has reminded me that Spring Training has begun through their Spring Fever redemption program.

Topps inserted one Spring Fever redemption card in each hobby box.  The card is good for one pack of special Spring Fever cards redeemable at your local hobby shop (this is my local hobby shop).  The cards are only redeemable from February 20 – February 28, so get to your shop soon.  The packs contain five cards and autographs are randomly inserted.  Check out the checklist here.

Since I only bought one box of Topps, I only get one pack.  Here were my pulls.

2013 Topps Spring Fever Ken Griffey Jr.

2013 Topps Spring Fever Tommy Hanson

2013 Topps Spring Fever Dustin Pedroia

2013 Topps Spring Fever Anthony Rizzo

2013 Topps Spring Fever A.J. Ellis

As you can see no autograph and my only decent pull was the Griffey.  I won’t complain, though, because it is a free pack.  The design is highly stylized and shiny.  As far as shiny cards go these aren’t so bad.  They are more high gloss, with some foil, than they are chrome.  The spring training theme is evident with the palm tree design.  I do like the team color coordination.  Given the limited availability I anticipate they will have some decent ebay returns.

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Topps is at it again…

Topps is offering another on-line exclusive product, this time around it is Topps Turkey Red Baseball.  Details can be found on the Beckett blog and at the Topps Shop.  Topps is selling boxes of 11 cards for $20 a piece and each box includes an autograph.  Topps is also including parallels and printing plates.  The auto checklist is not necessarily a who’s who but there are some big names like Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera.  You can begin pre-ordering tomorrow and orders ship on the 18th.  I’ll pick up and few boxes, given the price point, and provide my impressions when it arrives.  I will say now that if I end up with four or five Drew Storen autographs I will be sending my cards back for a full refund, especially because they are sticker autos (cmon Topps, step it up).

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That New Newness

I recently realized, though I’m sure others have long before me, that Topps releases at least one baseball product a month over the whole year. While market saturation is not to the levels of the 90’s, it doesn’t bode well for future value when so many products are released in one year. Think about it, how many different Bryce Harper autos were released last year? Without looking it up I’m guessing that most of the Topps releases contained some form of a Bryce Harper auto, meaning that there are probably a lot of Harper rookie autos. I’m probably the millionth person to bring this up, so rather than bore you with economics I will talk about Topps January release, 2013 Topps Baseball Series 1 or “that new newness.”

2013 Topps Bryce Harper2013 Topps Derek Jeter2013 Topps Jurickson Profar

First, I must commend Topps on a solid base design and a solid “base” design.  (See what I did there? The cards have a stylized home plate on them, so…yeah).  Topps went simple this year: a white border, team accent colors, a team logo, and a stylized baseball diamond.  The baseball diamond/home plate is reminiscent of old Upper Deck designs that  utlized base paths on different edges of the cards, but is done with a little more flair and in a little bit less of a literal way.  The cards really shine, though, because of the focus on photography.  Topps is giving us nice, large action shots, often with interesting poses or catching the players in mid jump or throw.

2013 Topps Brandon Inge2013 Topps Daniel Descalso2013 Topps Mike Trout

Topps provided quite a few cards featuring players wearing throwback uniforms, adding a little variety to the set and also featuring some cool uniforms from the past.

2013 Topps J.J. Putz2013 Topps Cameron Maybin2013 Topps Jose Altuve

For the first time in a long time Topps has provided me a base design with little to nothing to complain about.  Kudos Topps.

Topps, keeping up their habit from the last few years, gave this set a theme: The Chase.  Each cards contains a little blurb about a record that each player is chasing, even if that record does not make sense.

2013 Topps Dylan Bundy

This makes the theme a bit contrived in the base issue, however Topps uses it a little more successfully in the insert sets and for this years on-line game which is called The Million Dollar Chase. (The Million Dollar Chase seems to be Topps take on the MLB.com’s Beat the Streak where you pick a player to get a hit each day in hopes of getting a 57 game hit streak.)

In regards to the inserts, I must again tip my hat to Topps this year for showing restraint.  Topps limited the inserts, sans paralells, to only a handful of sets.  The most appealing set, to me, is this years mini edition.  Topps chose the 1972 design, which is a solid design.

2013 Topps 1972 Mini Cal Ripken2013 Topps 1972 Mini Roberto Clemente2013 Topps 1972 Mini Buster Posey

A close second to the minis are The Greats, a thick cardstock set of all-time great players.  Topps utilized an understated design and inserted them infrequently enough to make them chase cards.

2013 Topps The Greats Cal Ripken2013 Topps The Greats Tom Glavine

I also enjoyed, much to my own surprise, the Chasing The Dream inserts.  This set features young up and coming players on some sort of futuristic looking background.  While I don’t love the design as a whole, I do love the silver, pixelated text used for the names.  The hit from my box was actually a Chasing the Dream Tom Milone jersey card, which means that Topps has failed me yet again in their base product when it comes to hits.  You better hope Tom Milone wins a Cy Young, Topps, otherwise this is on you for including a Tom Milone hit in my box.  Jerks.

2013 Topps Chasing the Dream Mike Trout2013 Topps Chasing the Dream Tom Milone Jersey

Also of mention is the Calling Cards set, featuring players in signature poses, the infinitely boring Chasing History set, which is interchangeable with Golden Moments or whatever set featuring old players that Topps did two years ago, and the mega-hideous die-cut set with the punny title “Cut to the Chase.”

2013 Topps Calling Cards Albert Pujols2013 Topps Chasing History Willie Mays2013 Topps Cut to the Chase Tony Gwynn

I would like to comment on the autographs, but I can’t because I didn’t get one.  An autograph hit should be standard in all base products.  I can accept a relic as a bonus hit, but autographs are where its at and Topps should guarantee one in all base boxes.  A Tom Milone autograph, as infuriating as that seems to write, would be much less disappointing than a Tom Milone jersey.  Fortunately, Series 1 is selling at around $60 a box, so the pain of a relic hit is tempered by a decent price point.

Finally, Topps would not be Topps without parallels.  This year Topps is bringing back gold and black and hitting us with a green sparkly parallel that drops at a few a box.  Target and Wal-Mart have their store specific red and blue parallels.  There are also camo and pink parallels floating out there, but they are pretty rare apparently so you can figure that I didn’t see one.  There may be other parallels but I’m too lazy to go look, so you do it.  While parallels are not particulary exciting to me, I do appreciate the value they add to a box with blacks going for between $5 and $10 for commons on eBay.

2013 Topps Black Addison Reed2013 Topps Gold Jose Contreras2013 Topps Emerald Alex Rodriguez

I thoroughly enjoyed breaking a box of 2013 Topps.  The cards are refreshingly simple with great photography.  I was not overwhelmed by inserts and actually found myself liking them, more or less.  The parallels are helping me recoup some of the box cost, though that cost is reasonable.  As mentioned above, better hits would appreciated but maybe tough hits are a good thing in the long run.  Overall, I am looking forward to spending a year with this design and maybe I’ll even run into an autograph or two on the way.  4/5.

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Whats’is: 2013 Bowman Inception Baseball

Say it ain’t so Bowman, say it ain’t so.  While I accept your Chrome cards, your Platinum effort, and the always hideous Sterling as a price to be paid for a solid base product, I can’t get behind this new thing you’re doing.  Inception?  Why?  Why do we need another ultra high end product?  I’m getting very tired of single pack boxes (if there is only one pack, it is called a PACK!) that sell for exorbitant sums.  We have enough of this with Topps Tier 1, Triple Threads, Museum Collection, etc.  It is unnecessary to expand this idea to the Bowman line.  I don’t want to drop $150 (or whatever it may cost) on the opportunity to get a couple high end cards of prospects who may or may not pan out.  It is one thing to give me the opportunity to get a Pujols or Mays autograph or a Ruth relic, but the chance to get a 1/1 Dylan Bundy is not selling me on the high end product.  The point of prospect collecting, at least in my eyes, is to invest a  reasonable amount now for a potential profit later, if I’m investing a lot now I want immediate returns.

Not to mention this awful design.  What’s with the clouds?  Is it raining prospects?  Are they supposed to be angels?  Bowman, you’ve abandoned all trappings of good design.  You need to rethink this.

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Interesting Article

Here is an interesting piece on case breaking ROI (return on investment).  It seems like good information to have if you intend on investing in new products.  Remember, though, past returns are no guarantee of future performance.

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2012: Best Of.

I love lists.  That may be an admission of sloth or my simple nature, but I love lists.  They are so easy to digest and they save me from reading a lot of “words.”  Therefore, without further ado (adieu?), here are a few Pack a Week year end lists for your enjoyment.

Pack a Week Hits of the Year (aka my best pack pulls):

1.  2012-13 Panini Threads Anthony Davis Autograph

2012-13 Panini Threads Anthony Davis Autograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  2012 Topps Archives Yu Darvish Autograph

2012 Topps Archive Yu Darvish Autograph

3.  2012 Topps Target Exclusive Red No-Name Error Mickey Mantle

2012 Topps Target Exclusive Red Mickey Mantle No-name Error

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  2012 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects Black Michael Wacha Autograph

Bowman Black.

5.  2012 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects Aflac All-American Michael Zunino Autograph

Aflac.

Honorable Mention (not a pack pull but I love it):

1997 Bowman Derek Jeter Autograph

The best player. The best company.  The best autograph.  Definitive.

As you can see, my year was back loaded with hits.  Other than the Mickey Mantle error, all of my best pulls came in the last two months of the year.  That is not to say that I didn’t have fun the rest of the year, but the last two months reaffirmed my love of busting boxes.

Tops 5 Products of the Year:

1.  2012 Topps Mini Baseball

2012 Topps Mini Bryce Harper

Mini baseball, from a design perspective, is no different than the Topps base set this year other than the fact that they are about 1/3 smaller.  While I thought that the Topps base was fine this year, the design is not the reason that I give Mini the product of the year honors, it is the restraint, value, and fun that give it the top spot.  This product, reviewed here, contained a limited number of inserts and the parallels had very limited print runs, meaning that when you pulled an insert or a paralell it felt special, which is something that many products lack: a feeling that you pulled something special.  The product was also limited to, apparently, a few thousand boxes, making everything more valuable on the secondary market.  The limited print run also made pulling printing plates, numbered 1/1, a much easier task.  Boxes were available only through the Topps on-line store and cost, a reasonable, $50.  Mini seemed like a reward to the fans and the collectors and it was fun; I appreciate Topps for doing it.

IMG_1139IMG_1141

2.  2012 Topps Archives

1984

Archives is all about nostalgia and it delivered on nostalgia.  Topps split the base set into four separate, classic designs (the most pleasing, if you ask me, is the 1984), they brought back the fan-favorite autographs, including autos of super-hyped, super rookies Bryce Harper and Yu Darvish, and gave us box-toppers of Billy Zabka (sweep the leg!!!!!) and cut-autos of Vanna White.  What more do you want you greedy jerk?

2012 Topps Archives Oscar Gamble Fan Favorites Autograph2012 Topps Archives Carl Yastrmzeski

3.  2012-13 Panini Threads Basketball

2012-13 Panini Threads Blake Griffin

I’m a notorious Panini hater,  I usually think their designs are busy, the inserts are ridiculous and ugly, and the autos are sticker drops.  Threads fixed most of this.  The design was solid and harkened back to the classic Upper Deck designs of the mid-90’s and the autos were on-card (wood cards for that matter).  The inserts still suck (you can’t win them all).  The set also includes rookie cards from the last two draft classes due to the lock out, however all the rookie cards are autos and therefore super, ultra, mega chase cards (see Anthony Davis above).  While I haven’t had much of a return on these cards on the secondary market (sans Anthony Davis), I like these cards enough just to keep them.  Collecting for the sake of collectin, go figure.

2012-13 Panini Threads Bismack Biyombo Autograph2012-13 Panini Threads Kyrie Irving Floor Generals

4.  Left Field Cards

IMG_1361

Design-wise, this is my favorite product of the year.  These are hand made, letter-press printed baseball cards (though they double as postcards).  My review can be read here.  They can be ordered here.  Since it is my favorite design, you may be asking why they are fourth?  It is really only because they lack the chase aspect of normal cards because they are purchased in series and you know what you are getting ahead of time. (I’m a gambler at heart and love the thrill of the chase).  But don’t get me wrong, I’m still excited about these cards, especially to see what future series have in store.

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5.  2012 Bowman Baseball (+Draft Picks and Prospects)

2012 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects Bryce Harper

What can I say: prospects, prospects, prospects.  Bowman delivers with another solid design, good crop of autographs, and some good inserts and paralells.  Nothing sets this apart from years past, but the product continues to be one of my favorites every year.  Kudos.

IMG_0669  IMG_0674

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Christmas 2012: Just the hits please.

Another year, another Christmas box opened with my pop.  This is year 19 of our Christmas tradition and since we are a family of few traditions this is my favorite.  This years box: 2012 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects.  DP&P is always a must buy, while I don’t recognize a lot of the names the prospector in me knows how important this product will be down the line if any of these guys turn into Pujols, Trout, or Harper since these are the first cards and autographs for many young players.  DP&P is essentially Bowman’s version of Update, so the design is identical to this years Bowman base, which  I find appealing with it’s large pictures, team coordinated borders and simple, silver foil text.

2012 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects Bryce Harper

Valdespin, again.  If Valdespin becomes the next Jeter then I'm in the money with all Jordany RC's I've pulled this year.

Valdespin, again. If Valdespin becomes the next Jeter then I’m in the money with all the Jordany RC’s I’ve pulled this year.

Jeter's successor?  Probably not but a fella can hope.

Jeter’s successor? Probably not, but a fella can hope.

 

The Chrome cards, as is well known, are not my favorite but they are a good investment as they are generally worth 50% more than their non-metallic counterparts.  I’ve actually learned to love Chrome recently, as I’ve realized that reselling my Chrome pulls allows me to recoup some of my cost and keep my favorite players around in all their non-Chrome glory.

2012 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects Yoenis Cespedes

Jesmuel.  I can't say it, but I like it.

Jesmuel. I can’t say it, but I like it.

We can’t forget abou the ever-present parallels, which also help increase the value of the product.  No big parallel pulls this time around.  (Don’t worry, there were hits…boy were there hits).

2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Blue Abe Ruiz

Blue Refractor

Blue Refractor

Silver Ice

Silver Ice

There is also a solid insert pairing old and new top draft picks, cleverly enough it is called Top Picks.  The cards are nice, featuring consitent black borders with silver and gold accents and blurbs on the back detailing the players as a pair.  These fall 1 in 6, so they are not tough pulls by any means but they do feature some bigger names and could get a few dollars on the secondary market.

2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Top Picks Jeter & Almora2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Harper & Hamilton

The hits, you say? The hits:

Bowman Black.

Bowman Black.

It took the whole Bowman season, but I finally pulled a Bowman Black Autograph.  I’m not familiar with Michael Wacha, but I do know what /25 means, so Merry Christmas to me.  The card itself is very thick, about 4x thicker than a normal card and is as clean and simple as what you see above.  I really love the silver ink autograph and the simplicity of the card, but there is a pretty big drawback: the condition.  The card has quite a bit of chipping on the edges which I would attribute to the black border and extreme thickness of the card.  I would say this grades an 8 out of the pack, which is unacceptable.  If anyone else had this problem leave a comment, I’d like to know how widespread this issue is.

I would have been satisfied with a single Bowman Black hit, but this was a bonus box, giving me this surprise:

Aflac.

Aflac.

High School All-American autos are a bit of a holy grail for me, there is no auto before these for most of these players and you often get a super cheesy photo out of the deal.  This is actually a 2008 Aflac All-American card, so the design is obviously different than the base set.  As you can see this was serial numbered out of 225, so they are relatively rare.  Zunino had a solid first season, hitting over .300 with 15 homes in 63 games between rookie ball, single A, and double A.

I also pulled a few codes for the Bowman Prospect Challenge.  This is basically a fantasy baseball game where you collect codes which gives you the opportunity to select players who will then accumulate stats over the course of next season.  All the players are prospects and it appears that bonus points will be given, in addition to normal stats based points, when players are promoted.  I’m a fantasy player and a card collector, so this is right up my alley.  Prizes are detailed on the game site.

Based on hits alone, I give this a 5/5.  Factoring in the design, inserts, and new-fangled Bowman fantasy baseball it is a 4.5/5, a worthy purchase for any prospector or autograph hound.

 

 

 

 

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The Best: Kruk

I was a chubby kid and I loved sports, both watching and playing. Much as it stands today, I loved baseball and basketball. Early in my childhood I noticed one thing about my two favorite sports, not a lot of fat guys. This was especially true in basketball where I was limited to “idolizing” Oliver Miller as a fat kid. Baseball was also fairly short on fat “idols” but there were a few more stars who I could identify with. Baseball, due to a lesser emphasis on running, seemed more friendly to the overweight player, I would say it still is. Back then I could look at Cecil Fielder, David Wells, and Mo Vaughn as athletes with my body type, today you have Prince Fielder and CC Sabathia (I’m not saying these guys are out of shape, just “bigger”). I would never say any of these guys were my favorites, but it helped me believe that even if I never got my cardio in order I still had a chance to be a good player in something other than football. (I did get my cardio in order, somewhat later however, I can now run a few miles without keeling over but it has come long after my dreams of glory ended)

This all brings me to John Kruk. He is my favorite “fat” ball player (I will not refer to him as an athlete, as he does not refer to himself as an athlete). His gregarious personality and solid hitting made me a fan even if he didn’t play for my beloved Yankees. I also always loved this All-Star moment:

The man was just happy to live.

I also have to mention that mullet…look at the mullet.  Furthermore, I actually enjoy his ESPN shenanigans, which I can’t say for most former players. The man is a legend in his own time and he was also my most recent ebay pickup.

Krukograph

Krukograph

My fixation on Topps Archives continues and this was a must-have.  An autograph of one of my favorite non-star, non-Yankee players on a reprint of a set that I spent a lot of time collecting as a kid.  Truly classic, truly the best.

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Left Field Cards

Letterpress baseball cards, postcard-size.

Bad Wax

Musings of a Card Collector

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Analyzing reality TV, and the world, at the same time