2014 Topps Series 2 Baseball Preview

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s Topps Archives preview comes our second visit of the year to Topps’ flagship product with Series 2 Baseball!

I always see Series 2 as the weaker of the three flagship releases, with just a smattering of new rookies and everything else coming across as a re-hash/extension of what we found in Series 1. And to be honest that’s pretty much what we’re getting here… However there are a couple of factors that may well make Series 2 an even hotter commodity than it’s Series 1 counterpart. Here’s a link to the sell-sheet for further details…

2014 Topps Series 2 Baseball Sell Sheet

Now, where was I? Oh yes… Those two factors that I mentioned are none other than the crazy-hot rookie cards of Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu!! Now if they aren’t enough of a draw I don’t know what will be?

When I first saw the first previews for Series 1 I have to admit that I wasn’t overly impressed. 2013 Topps flagship pressed all the right buttons for me, from the inserts all the way down to the all-important design of the base cards. 2014 Baseball didn’t have anywhere the same impact for me, although when I finally got my hands on a few of the cards I had to admit that my initial thoughts might have been on somewhat hasty side.

To be honest the design of the base card wasn’t as bad as I first feared although I was still a bit non-plussed by the inserts on offer.

So with Series 2 less than two weeks away from hitting the shelves you pretty much know what to expect! Pretty much the same as before… just with added Tanaka!!

And The Winner Is…

Some folks may well remember that I started a little competition a couple of weeks ago – a caption competition based on the following image from an advertisement shoot for ‘Booster Juice’ with none other than your favourite Blue Jays outfielder and mine, Mr José Bautista.

I asked you good folk to come up with a comical caption for the following photo and thanks to everyone who took part…

josegolf

Well, I’ve decided upon a winner, one that made me giggle the most, and up until the end I thought we had a clear winner with this from Sports Card Collectors (@SportsCardCollec) with –

“They call me Joey Bats in baseball, they will soon call me Joey Strokes in golf. Wait… I think I should change that, it doesnt sound quite right… Joey Swings it is!”

‘Joey Strokes’ indeed 🙂

Now that one would have won if not for a last minute entry from fellow Brit and Rays fan, Mr Lee Phillimore (@PlayoffRays) who went with –

“Where am I, who is this man and why are my hands tied behind my back? I swear, this is the last time I go out drinking with Melky Cabrera…” 

I hadn’t spotted the “hands tied behind back” scenario, the thought of which made me giggle for a fair while, then add in the prospect of a night on the town with my man Melky and you have all the ingredients for the winning entry!

So congrats Lee! You get first choice on whichever Harper card you’d like, and the remaining card goes to my good friend over at Sports Card Collectors.

harper

Well done both and hope you like the cards!

Why The F*%£ Can’t Topps Sort Out Their RC’s?

OK… OK… Sometimes I really despair over the tiniest, most insignificant things in life. I often worry that I might be missing something bigger by sweating the small stuff all the time, but occasionally there are those moments of sheer frustration born out of something which, on the surface, is pretty mundane and banal!

Collecting baseball cards shouldn’t be something to stress over. It should be about the fun; the community; the Hobby!

But every once in awhile maybe it doesn’t hurt to let off a little steam, you know? Shout from the rooftops even if there is no-one around to listen, or even care!

After my brief time away from the Hobby I’ve spent the last few days reacquainting myself with everything card-related that’s been occurring since the Red Sox somehow used their proliferance of facial hair to convince my Cardinals that they no longer knew how to hit or score runs (still not bitter)! This reacquaintance is still an ongoing process but I have had the chance to check out some of the products that I’ve missed.

And one such product was 2013 Topps Five Star Baseball!

Now, I know that the 2012 set had its fair share of issues – the epic QA fail that was the chipping and that ill-judged 5-Star Club thingy were a couple that I remember standing out – but from the early previews of the 2013 set I remember really liking what I saw! 2013 Five Star Baseball is last year’s news already (literally as well as figuratively) but I’ve only just come across it and can’t help marvelling at the sheer beauty of what Topps has produced here. Still waaaaayyyy out of my price range, but a lovely set all the same!

However one thing about it really bugs me on initial viewing, and that’s Topps’ inability to sort out their problem with the RC logo conventions. Check these two cards out –

5starmachadobase

5starmachadorc

On the top we have a Manny Machado base card #’d/75 while underneath we have an autographed card #’d/353.

“So what’s the big issue here Andy, you cantankerous English bastard?”, I hear you all cry!!

The issue for me is that the RC logo is on the wrong bloody card!!

What the hell is it doing on the autograph card when there’s a perfectly good (and much rarer) base card without a RC logo on it? Shouldn’t the base card in any set be the one that’s designated the RC, where applicable? What’s the deal with Topps and their never ending quest to create autographed RCs seemingly out of everything these days??

I don’t know!! Maybe it’s just me that still gets bothered about stuff like this? I know that there are plenty of you out there that still DO care about the status of the venerable old RC, even though its existence these days seems to be becoming more and more irrelevant to Topps and to certain sections of the Hobby.

At the end of the day should this be something to even care about?

Does it really matter where a RC logo appears, or more importantly doesn’t appear?? In the age of the Prospect card does the RC even have that much significance to the average collector anymore? or has it become something of an anachronism – a remnant of an older and more simpler era of collecting?

I’d love to hear all your thoughts on this one!!

Mike Karamanian and the Great Clint Frazier Blog Challenge

OK then, just for tonight I’ve emerged from my self-imposed retirement to help one of my collecting buddies from over in Canada, one Mr Mike Karamanian!

You see Mike’s been busy making a new friend in the form of top Indians OF prospect, Clint Frazier, and he’s set himself the task that if he gets 2000 hits this month on his blog then young Mr Frazier has agreed to do a Q&A with him!

Now despite it being February (nice one Mike) I’m pretty sure that this is an achievable target, but it will be a lot easier with the help of you good folks out there in card-collecting land. So go and do Mike (and yourselves) a favour and head on over to his blog by clicking on the link below –

Cardzcollector

And while you’re there why not check out some of his other posts showcasing some of the awesome rookie and prospect autos he’s been picking up over the last few years!

You know you want to!

Thanks for your time and I hope to see you again soon. Oh, and Happy New Year by the way 🙂

Henderson Alvarez Throws… a Maddux?!?!

Yesterday saw the last few games of the 2013 regular 162-game MLB season! My Cardinals achieved the joint best record in Baseball with the Red Sox, while the Reds and Pirates, along with the Rangers and Rays, will duke it out to see who will make it through to the post-season wild card spot!

Oh yeah, and Henderson Alvarez threw the strangest complete game no-hitter in MLB history. According to STATS and based on the 282 recorded no-hitters, this particular game was the first and only to ever end on a wild pitch, enabling Giancarlo “He’ll always be Mike to me” Stanton to score the winning run.

The Marlins beat the Tigers 1-0 and Alvarez entered the history books!

HendersonAlvarez

And while this feat has been much publicised in the sports pages over the last 24 hours most sports journos have failed to pick up on one important fact, that during his quest to inscribe himself into the annals of Baseball history, Henderson Alvarez also threw one of Baseball’s greatest of unofficial pitching stats – The Maddux!

‘The Maddux’ is a new stat created by fellow blogger Jason Lukehart and you can read all about how it came into being by clicking on the following link –

The Maddux

I can’t urge you enough to give it a read! Jason’s put together a great piece around a statistic that more than deserves it’s place alongside the more well-established of achievements like a ‘Perfect Game’ or ‘Hitting for the Cycle’!!

In a nutshell, to throw a ‘Maddux’ (and I’m using Jason’s words here) “The pitcher must toss a complete game shutout, and throw no more than 99 total pitches”. And that’s it!

He named it after his favourite all-time pitcher who threw 13 throughout his career, six more than his nearest rival!

So let’s all be upstanding for Henderson Alvarez, for carving his own little niche in Baseball history and for being the latest pitcher to achieve that most under-appreciated and little-known of all pitching achievements – The Maddux!

And while you’re at it don’t forget to write to your local MP or lobby Congress, and let’s get The Maddux the recognition it truly deserves!!

Over The Rainbow

A few days ago I wrote a piece lambasting the latest Topps Chrome Baseball release over its worrying and unreasonable amount of redemptions! You can read those particular thoughts here!

Now, while I’m not going to budge on the issue of redemptions in this particular product I do feel that I gave the set a bit of a short shrift, because when you look past the redemptions there is actually a pretty cool set bubbling away under the surface!! In fact, when I previewed the 2013 Topps Baseball base set I even wrote the words “I can’t help but think that these cards will look wicked with a Chrome finish”!

And damn was I right?!?! Along with a selection of some of the best base cards from the main set, Topps Chrome has one of THE best rookie card checklists I’ve seen in absolutely ages, coupled with an outstanding selection of rookie autographs!

But it’s not that aspect of 2013 Topps Chrome that really stands out for me! No sir, for me it’s the huge array of coloured parallel refractors that are littered throughout the boxes! Check some of these babies out –

base

Base Refractor (not serially #’d) 

xfractor

X-Fractor (not serially #’d) 

orange

Orange Refractor (not serially #’d) 

purple

Purple Refractor (Retail Exclusive – not serially #’d) 

blue

Blue Refractor #’d/199 

black

Black Refractor #’d/100 

sepia

Sepia Refractor #’d/75

gold

Gold Refractor #’d/50 

red

Red Refractor #’d/25 

camo

Camo Refractor #’d/15

crackedice

Atomic Refractor #’d/10 

pink

Pink Refractor #’d/5

And last but certainly not least

super

Superfractor #’d 1/1

I know that the above images don’t really do these cards any justice, but personal favourites are the sepia and the blue refractors, especially now that they’ve toned down the blue to a much lighter shade!! Very attractive cards!!

One of the big thrills for a player collector is to try and put together a ‘rainbow’ of a particular player, meaning to get one of each of the coloured refractors available in a set. However, given the rarity of some of these cards (and the accompanying high cost) it’s a pretty big ask to take on such an audacious enterprise and an even bigger challenge to actually complete it!!

But what the hell? Where’s the fun in shying away from a challenge like that?

I’d be interested to know if any of you out there who are reading this have ever tried to put a ‘rainbow’ collection together, and how much success did you have with it?

Chrome Dead Redemption

Damn, life’s been a bit hectic recently. Between work, the house and the family there’s not been much time to write in these ‘hallowed’ pages 🙂 In fact the seven days between my last post and this one today has been the my longest absence since I started the blog!

However I couldn’t resist as 2013 Topps Chrome is now upon us – and so are some old friends!

In an effort to prepare for the oncoming storm Topps has already come clean about the number of redemptions that can be found in this year’s Topps Chrome Baseball! And let’s be honest – it’s quite a list!

Aside from an assortment of what appear to be autographed inserts, there are a number of key rookie cards that collectors won’t be finding in their freshly sealed packs, including the following names (many of whom I’d love to be getting my own hands on) –

  • Yasiel Puig
  • Gerritt Cole
  • Manny Machado
  • Jurikson Profar
  • Anthony Rendon
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu
  • Nolan Arenado
  • Nik Franklin
  • Jose Fernandez
  • Adam Eaton
  • Avisail Garcia
  • Paco Rodriguez
  • Tony Cingrani
  • Jedd Gyorko
  • Oswaldo Arcia
  • Tyler Skaggs
  • Shelby Miller
  • Manny Machado
  • Jackie Bradley Jr.
  • Kyle Gibson

Topps have advised that a number of these cards were received back shortly after the rest were sent to the packagers, so certain ‘lucky’ redemption recipients shouldn’t have too long to wait for their cards! And starting with 2013 Topps Chrome, Topps will be keeping their valued collectors up to date with their redemptions through Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr every Friday!

Gotta love the originality of THAT idea! Blazing a trail there Topps!!!! Couldn’t you have come up with another day other than the one that Panini does their redemption updates??

Now I have to confess that I like Topps Chrome! It always comes across as the distant cousin that no-one likes to talk about. Not quite there with the mass appeal of the base set and not quite there with the prestige of Bowman Chrome, Topps Chrome seems to sit uncomfortably between the two!

However this year’s superlative rookie class may well just elevate the product to near classic status, with a great base card design coupled with the allure of the Chrome finish!

Sadly the multitude of redemptions will certainly harm the long time value of this set, especially the appeal of sealed boxes once the redemption expiry date has passed! I mean, who’s going to want to buy a sealed box of ’13 Topps Chrome with a chance of pulling a ‘dead’ redemption card of Manny Machado or Yasiel Puig?

Not me for sure!! So my advice will be get the Chrome autos while you can of those that have already been redeemed, as I imagine that they’ll become pretty scarce in the long term!!

So, does Topps Chrome float your boat? or will you be getting your Chrome rookie fix with Bowman Chrome?

My special thanks to the guys over at Sports Collectors Daily for reporting on this story! Now I’m off to think of some more ‘Redemption’ related puns for blog post titles!!

The Admiral and The Worm

Since the start of August Topps has released previews for six of their 2014 Baseball card products. I spent a few minutes last night looking over the sell sheets and reviewing what I’d written about them, and all I got was an overwhelming feeling of “Meh”!!

Been there, done that!!

There was nothing that really jumped out at me as new or innovative. Nothing that showcased Topps really ‘pushing the boat out’ in terms of new ideas or designs! With the exception of Heritage, each product looks pretty much the same as what we’ve been treated to these past two years, but with a bit of spit and polish and a couple of new inserts thrown in to ‘spice’ things up a bit! I exclude Heritage here because it’s the one product that you can rely on to change it’s base design with each release, although there aren’t often any huge surprises around its other content!

Maybe this is what Topps’ long-term plan is – to solidify their card product lines over the coming years by giving us pretty much the same thing year after year with a few add-ons around the edges to fool us into thinking that it’s different enough from the previous release that we’ll go out and buy it.

With the exception of whatever plans they have for their Football (Soccer) licenses, Topps really isn’t getting me that excited or invested in the future of their Baseball card lines. There are certain aspects of each new product that do stand out, that I do like the look of, but I find myself interested more and more in seeing what retro-themed release Panini has up its sleeve, like Panini Cooperstown or National Treasures.

So it’s at times like these that I get all retrospective, and start thinking back to the early days of my sports card obsession. As regular readers will know that started with Basketball cards in the very late 80’s and into most of the 90’s! This period in my life was brought home recently when I unearthed these two rookie cards – the last remnants of my old Basketball collecting days –

BK_Robinson BK_Rodman

It’s at times like these, while I’m wallowing under the general malaise and apathy brought on by my waning interest in the immediate future of Baseball card products, that I start to hanker back to those old Basketball card days.

I often think that I’d love to take another stab at building a collection from that era, especially with the resources that are available to us now that weren’t around back then – eBay, COMC, Collector Rev. To this day I still don’t know how I managed to build a 100+ collection of Jason Kidd cards, given how difficult it was to gain access to the cards over here in the UK in the first place!

There are a number of players from back then that I’d jump at the chance to build PCs of – Karl Malone, John Stockton, Dennis Rodman, Grant Hill, Eddie Jones, to name just a few – and now that a veritable ocean of these cards are available from the various online sources I mentioned above, the opportunity is even more enticing!

How does everyone else out there feel about the current state of Topps Baseball products? Does anyone else think that there’s a certain ‘staleness’ to what’s being released at the moment and what’s just around the corner? Or do you think that things are moving along nicely and all is good?

I can appreciate that there’s a tendency for us — ahem — older collectors to take these nostalgia trips every once in awhile, but if the future of collecting isn’t looking that exciting anymore, what other way is there to go?

The Mailman Cometh

Today saw a surprise package turn up on my doorstep from the US of A!

Well, I say surprise, because although I knew it would be arriving at some point I’d completely forgotten about it – which made it’s appearance all the more special!!

This particular package arrived from my Cardinal-loving friend and fellow collector James Ruffin, over in Alabama. James has been good enough to offer to be the middleman in a few of my US-based eBay purchases so that I can avoid paying those pesky high shipping charges that I go on about on what feels like a monthly basis.

I’ve got a few Cardinals autos and an A&G team set sitting here waiting to travel back the other way, so mental note taken to do just that sometime over the next few days!!!

So what did I get then?

Well, firstly there were some minis that James picked up for me that I can add to the Adam Wainwright and Stan Musial minis received in my recent Kidder Cards break –

IMAG0350

And then we have some extra additions to the Bob Gibson PC, including this which was also from James –

IMAG0351

He picked up this next one from a friend of his who had pulled it from a RIP card. And while I don’t usually partake in much profanity in the pages of this family-friendly blog, I just have to say that this is one of the most fucking badass images of Hoot that I’ve ever seen committed to a Baseball card!!

IMAG0352

Damn, I love that!!! Not an image I’ve seen a great deal of before but already one of the favourite cards from my fledgling collection! I don’t know what the odds are on these EXT cards, covering #351 to #400 of the A&G mini set, or how many are produced (5? 10? 15 maybe??) but I feel pretty damn lucky to have this in my possession and my eternal thanks to James for getting hold of it for me!!

And last but not least, this dual-relic is the first that I purchased off eBay and had sent directly to Alabama, costing me $2 in postage to a domestic US location rather than the $12 the seller was charging to ship internationally!

From 2008 UD Legendary Cuts, this is an awesome card as well, not just for the Gibby relic but also for the presence of the one-and-only Chris Carpenter! Take a look at that Gibson jersey piece!! Proper old and worn!!

IMAG0355

That’s a pretty nice lot of cards to keep me going for a while longer, so thanks to James for sending them!

After all, us Cardinals fans have gotta stick together!!!