2015 Topps series 2 HTA jumbo – inserts

7 07 2015

A couple of you have messaged me for trades.  I haven’t fully updated the want list yet – hopefully tomorrow!

Next up on the posting side, however, are the inserts!  There were 5 more regular insert cards in this box than my series 1 jumbo box.  Basically, the Stepping Up insert came in every pack – whereas the Free Agent 40 set from the first series came 1 every other pack.  Either way, there’s still about 2-3 more insert sets in series 2 than I would prefer.

As is the usual, I’ll go in the order of “least favorite” to “most favorite”.

Speaking of the set called Stepping Up – this is probably my least favorite insert from series 2.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad – it does seem like a good idea with a targeted theme.  It covers guys who have shined the brightest in the clutch.  Guys like Koufax, Reggie, Rivera – all players who make sense here.  Madison Bumgarner?  Definitely makes sense.  Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto?  Great first baseman – but I’m not so sure they’re in the same category.  The write-up on the back discusses their clutch hitting, but that’s not the same as being nicknamed “Mr. October”, or striking out 15 batters in a World Series game.  

I think this highlights a problem I tend to have with modern sets.  Including historic greats makes the current players tend to pale in comparison.  Not always – Mad Bum definitely fits the bill here.  But I can’t help but look at Jacob DeGrom and wondering “why not Christy Mathewson or Bob Gibson”.

2015 Topps s2 Stepping Up

The next set is called Eclipsing History.  Now this set had some potential.  It features 2 players, with one player who passed another player in some statistical category.  The background is a space design – i.e., and eclipse.  They have some cards with the moon look for this, others with the “sunny side”.  I do appreciate that.  But the execution is where this gets lost a bit.  And it comes down to bad use of the retired / current player concept.  Some of the cards are great – Hank Aaron passing Stan Musial for the NL hits record.  That’s a mark worth celebrating to me.

On the other side though is Mike Trout and Rod Carew.  Topps is “celebrating” when Trout reached the 2,000 plate appearance barrier.  He then passed Rod Carew on the ALL-TIME ANGELS ON-BASE PERCENTAGE LIST!!!!!!  No offense to Carew or Trout – but this has holes all over the place.  Let me count the ways.  First, 2,000 at bats is completely arbitrary.  I think the MLB minimum for stats like this is 5,000 at bats anyways.  Second, it’s not only a record that Trout might not hold on to – I fully expect him not to.  Third, it’s Mike Trout.  Every time I look up at MLB Network or ESPN – I’m seeing some stat where he’s got the most homers by age 23 or something like that.  There are just much better and more historical statistical comparisons Topps could have used.

2015 Topps s2 Eclipsing History

The next one is a continuation from series 1 of a set called Highlight of the Year.  This set picks a date of a notable accomplishment.  The design isn’t bad – I like the old beat up baseball in the back.  I like how each series is numbered in chronological order – though they restart at card #31 for series 2.  There are some pretty good accomplishments here – and Topps has picked some photos you don’t see all the time.  The biggest gripe I have – I’d have picked the last game of the 1941 season for the Splendid Splinter over 1942.

2015 Topps s2 Highlight of the Year 2015 Topps s2 Highlight of the Year_0001

This insert set – ‘Til it’s Over – takes a phrase from the great Yogi Berra. It highlights great comebacks.  Unlike the Stepping Up insert set, I think this one really works. The retired players don’t overshadow the current players.  The weakest comeback below might be Nolan Ryan.  Yes the Mets had an “Amazing” comeback in 1969 – but young Nolan Ryan was far from the poster child for it.  Perez helping the Royals comeback in the Wild Card game, Cain helping come back from a 2-0 series deficit against my Reds?  Those were epic moments that catapulted their team to impressive playoff runs.

2015 Topps s2 Til its over

Heart of the Order is another cool set.  I like the design, and the write-ups on the back are interesting.  They’ll tell you things like what Yasiel Puig has a career OPS of 1.021 when he hits clean-up.  Thought it’s karma (for my fantasy baseball team) that I’m posting this on a day he got bumped to 6th in the order.

2015 Topps s2 Heart of the Order 2015 Topps s2 Heart of the Order_0001

First Pitch was my favorite insert from series 1, and I was looking forward to it this series.  It’s still a cool set, and it’s still one I really like.  In fact, I think the subjects in series 2 are an improvement from series 1.  The Grateful Dead guys are great additions, Kelsey Grammer is in the set.  But overall, I think Topps could have done a little bit better here.  Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago teams make up over half of the full set.  A Reds first pitch card would have been nice.  The good thing is – this is an idea that doesn’t have to die with 2015!  I hope Topps keeps churning these out in the future.

2015 Topps s2 First Pitch

Baseball Royalty is next on my list.  These cards are very thick, and thus very nice.  In my world, the thicker the card (within reason), the better.  Topps usually does these thicker, rarer sets nicely, and this is no exception.  In fact, it’s a little better than some of the ones from last year.  The write-up on the back of the Mays card is great.  It describes how his number was 24, he made 24 All-Star games, the Giants now play their games at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, and every May 24th they celebrate Willie Mays Day.  Fits the bill here.

2015 Topps s2 Baseball royalty

So that’s my favorite insert set from series 2.  Next up are the hits.  I’ll break the tension now – unfortunately there was nothing too exciting in this particular box.

2015 Topps series 2 HTA jumbo – parallels

5 07 2015

I had a large look at all the parallels Topps did for 2015 back when I opened my series 1 box.  For series 2, I’ll just show off the parallels I got in my box.

I got two variations.  No clue what the odds are on these, but I got one photo variation and a sparkle variation.  I think this is the first time I’ve pulled a sparkle variation from a pack.  Or, at least the first time I’ve done so and realized it.  I’m lucky I even noticed it for this card.  Somehow I realized the code on the back was different – because I couldn’t even tell what the variation from the front.  I filed it away, then looked it up later – which is when I realized the type of variation.

2015 Topps s2 photo sparkle variaton Ian Desmond

Needless to say, that’s not my favorite type of variation.  You should be able to tell pretty easily in my opinion.  The “chase” for baseball card inserts should be the rarity of finding one in the packs – not that combined with “do you even realize what you’re holding”.

The other variation I got was a Yan Gomes card with a picture variation.  Gomes is getting his catching gear on – which is the same type of photo I pulled in series 1 (of Salvador Perez).

2015 Topps s2 photo variation Yan Gomes

I also pulled 2 buyback cards.  The John Ellis is tagged for Night Owl after his recent post on the subject.  One more card toward his impossible dream…

2015 Topps s2 buybacks

Here’s the real parallels.

1) Rainbow Foil

2015 Topps s2 Rainbow Foil

You get 1 “red foil” parallel card every other pack out of the HTA jumbo box – just like series 1.  So I got 5 of these.  These are decent cards in person, but do feel a little like filler.  I liked the emerald/gold/ruby/diamond cards from the past few years better.

2) Topps Gold (#/2015)

2015 Topps s2 Gold

Topps Gold (here in different forms since 1992) was a little more plentiful in series 2.  The odds say 1 every other pack, but I pulled a Gold card in all but 1 pack, for a total of 9.  That means Topps probably produced less of series 2 – which is a safe assumption.  That guy in the lower right corner is a pretty good player – he hit a grand slam yesterday!  I love how in baseball you can find the most random factoids.  Bryant was the first Cub to hit a granny on Independence Day in over 100 years!  Now that’s completely arbitrary – but it’s one of the things I love about baseball.

I think this Gold border works better with this design than it did in past years.  This year, it’s got a different kind of shine to it and the Gold cards actually look like a step up from the base cards.

3) Black (#/64)

2015 Topps s2 black Jordan Schafer

Topps has had these for as long as I’ve been back in the collecting world (2010).  Topps messed up the numbering on these.  They are numbered out of 64.  In 2013 they were numbered to 63.  Last year to 64.  And this year… 64 again.  So you could subtract 1,950 from the year.  The only thing I’m wondering – they may have decided to go with 64 since this was the 64th year of a full Topps set if you start with the iconic 1952.

I didn’t get any of the rarer cards, so you’ll have to read my series 1 post to see internet scans of the retail parallels, pink, snow camo, silver frame, clear, or printing plates :)

2015 Topps Series 2 HTA jumbo box – base cards

4 07 2015

Happy Independence Day!  Here’s the rest of my base card scans from Topps series 2.  I love this set – it’s my favorite Topps set since I came back to collecting in 2010.  And I’m glad there’s still one more series to come out when Update hits the shelves in October.

I didn’t get the full series of 350 cards – usually you do with a jumbo box.  I was 15 cards short, with about 70 doubles – which is a bit frustrating!

The big card making noise here is card #616.  Kris Bryant is the hot new rookie who was called up early in the 2015 season (though there are other guys like Carlos Correa who fit that mold as well).

2015 Topps s2 base Kris Bryant

There were a few other rookies in series 2 – here’s the ones I noticed in my initial flip through the cards.  Brett Bochy was the first pitcher to play for his Dad in MLB history.

2015 Topps s2 base RCs

I posted the Future Stars & All-Star Rookie guys in the last post.  Another subset is the checklists.  I like that Topps is getting season highlights into the set, even if it’s via checklists.  I wish they did these with a write-up on the back, however.  The series 2 checklists honor 2 no-hitters (Jordan Zimmermann and Josh Beckett), a 3-HR game by Lonnie Chisenhall, Jimmy Rollins breaking Mike Schmidt’s career Phillies hit record, and a great play in game 7 of the World Series by Joe Panik.

2015 Topps s2 base Checklists

One of the other subsets was continuation of the team cards.  The Yankees – showing Derek Jeter’s walk-off hit in his last home game – and the Giants – Sandoval’s catch to end the 2014 World Series – were the ones that stick out in series 2.

2015 Topps s2 base team Yankees Giants

Award Winners is included in series 2.  I didn’t get the Kluber card at the bottom – it was one of the 15 I was missing.

2015 Topps s2 base Award Winners

2015 Topps s2 base Award Kluber

Of course, series 2 always contains some guys in their new digs.  Here’s a few of them.  As you can see, Rollins has a card with both the Phillies and Dodgers in this series.  I guess Sandoval fits the bill there two – the card above where he caught the last out of the season for the Giants, and his newest Red Sox card.

2015 Topps s2 base traded players

The bottom 3 guys in that scan have been abject disasters for their new teams.  Here’s some other notable names who haven’t done so well in 2015.  I worry the bottom 3 guys may be at the end of their careers – or at least well beyond their peak.

2015 Topps s2 base stars doing poorly

2015 Topps s2 base Verlander CC Ortiz

Of course there are some stars featured in series 2 who are having solid 2015 seasons.

2015 Topps s2 base stars doing well

And these 2 guys are shockingly turning back the clock.

2015 Topps s2 base Pujols A-Rod

Here’s the best photos, in my opinion, in the series.  The Schafer card is one I’m going to go after collecting the parallel cards.  Though I really like the Simmons and Bruce cards.  Heck, I like all of the cards below!

2015 Topps s2 base great photos fielding

Here’s a few more interesting cards.  Love the intense base-running on the top 2 cards, and I’m immaturely amused that there’s a guy for the Astros named “LJ Hoes”.

2015 Topps s2 base more good photos

Next post I’ll show those parallel cards I got from this box.

2015 Topps series 2 – All Star Rookies and Future Stars

1 07 2015

I got a HTA Jumbo box of Topps series 2 and opened it at a rate of about 2 packs per day since I’m in the process of settling in after a move.  In other words, the 10-pack jumbo box took me about 5-6 days to open, sift through and digest.  For anyone living in or familiar with Chicago – we moved to the ‘burbs.  That’s what happens when you have kid #2.

The move also impacts how long I can make today’s post.  At the moment, I have time only to throw together a post about the All-Star Rookie and Future Star cards.

Six of the eleven All-Star Rookie players were in this series.  None of these guys were their respective league’s Rookie of the Year, as Topps put Jose Abreu in series one and Jacob DeGrom (who was also in series one) was not on the ASR team.  Nonetheless, this is a pretty good group of young players.

2015 Topps s2 base AS Rookie Team

In my hey-day at the age of 7, you just didn’t mix and match Future Stars with the All-Star Rookie team!  So to recap.  It’s great that Topps brought back Future Stars last year, but I don’t like that Topps has put the Future Stars designation on the All-Star Rookie cards!

I didn’t get Danny Santana, who was the 2nd baseman.  Aside from those guys, there are 13 other Future Stars in series 2.  I think I have all of them here, though it’s possible I am missing one as I didn’t quite complete the set with this box.  The top 3 pitchers aren’t exactly what I would call future stars – they have each had a full season – and a good full season at that.  Shoemaker was 16-4 last year and very easily could have knocked DeGrom or Tanaka out of that ASR spot for right-handed starter.  Meanwhile, Fernandez and Harvey finished 3rd and 4th in the NL Cy Young voting 2 years ago.

2015 Topps s2 base Future Stars_0001

2015 Topps s2 base Future Stars_0002

All told, that makes 19 Future Stars in series 2.  There were 16 in Topps series 1, so that makes 35 total in the set.

Tuesday Tunes: Diamond Ditty #5 – “Charlie-O-The-Mule” by Gene McKown

30 06 2015

Yesterday I wrote a post about “Charlie O” the Mule who was the mascot of the A’s during the end of their run in Kansas City and the beginning of their time in Oakland.  The idea and namesake of team owner Charlie O. Finley, Charlie O saw 3 World Series titles during his time as the A’s mascot.

Charlie O CD

Artist/Title/Album: “Charlie-O-The-Mule” by Gene McKown (1965?)

1965 KC A's yearbook Charlie O

Description:  As I mentioned in my post yesterday, Charlie O was a mascot for the A’s.  I’m guessing this song was commissioned by Charlie Finley in an effort to promote the mascot, but I’m not sure.  It’s got an old country / rockabilly vibe to it.

I couldn’t find much about Gene McKown, the credited artist.  The most I found was from this site.  Apparently he was a musician who lived in Kansas City, which makes sense.  He also did a song in the 1970’s about the Royals.  He had a song called Rockabilly Rhythm that seemed to be his best-known credit.

How it’s related to baseball:  Obviously it’s a tribute to the Kansas City / Oakland mascot!  And a very fun one at that!

Charlie O the Mule!
Charlie O the Mule!
He goes where the A’s go,
Just like me and you!

Monday Mascots #3: Charlie O The Mule

29 06 2015

Twitter is an interesting thing.  I have technically been on twitter for about 2 years, but I’ve just started to check it consistently in the last few months.  I follow a couple of guys who do things associated with sports logos (@sportslogosnet, @ToddRadom), and saw a tweet about a mule that took pitchers to the mound in 1965.  Now that seemed like a mascot I should learn something about!  Two days ago, the Oakland A’s did a promotional giveaway of this T-shirt:

Charlie O promo give away t-shirt

Mascot/Team:   “Charlie O” the Mule (Kansas City / Oakland Athletics, 1965-1976)

Charlie O Mule Charlie Finley

Background:   Prior to the 1961 American League season, Charlie O. Finley purchased the Kansas City Athletics franchise.  Finley would eventually be remembered for a number of his marketing efforts to promote the Athletics in both Kansas City (using the shortened “A’s” moniker) and after he moved the team to Oakland (incentivizing players to grown a handlebar mustache).

When Finley bought the team, they had only been in Kansas City for a few years.  He wanted to move away from the team’s historical Elephant mascot to something with a tie to Missouri.  And after reading an article in the Chicago Tribune, he was determined it needed to be a Missouri mule.  He ordered Jim Schaaf, head of the A’s promotional department, to find the finest Missouri mule he could.  They arranged to have newly elected governor Warren Hearnes donate the mule to the team, and on opening night 1965, Charlie O was unveiled to KC fans.  Finley rode him around the park prior to the game, causing a number of fans to question who was the bigger ass – the donkey or the owner who had tried to move the team to California one year earlier.

Finley brought Charlie O around the American League that year, and even offered Ken Harrelson 25 bucks to ride the mule in a game at Yankee Stadium.  It didn’t go so well when Roger Maris hit Charlie O with a baseball, causing him to buck wildly.  The “Hawk” tells the story here.

Charlie O Hawk Harrelson

When Finley moved the A’s to Oakland in 1968, he (somewhat controversially) took the Mule with the team.  Charlie O was still a fan favorite, however, even though the Missouri connection was gone.  He could perform tricks, like bowing to the fans, and he oversaw 3 straight World Series titles for the A’s from 1972-1974.

Charlie O bowing

Charlie O passed away in 1976 at the age of 30.  The team still used a mule as a mascot until 1981, when Finley sold the team to Walter Haas, Jr.

Outside of baseball:   In addition to parading before home games at Municipal Stadium and the Oakland Coliseum, Charlie O had engagements at hotels and hospitals.  I even read that Finley went to a barbershop to get Charlie O’s haircut.

Charlie O also had a song written about him, which I’ll post about tomorrow.

Baseball card connection:  Charlie O. hasn’t had any cards made yet.  He is getting 2 T-shirts, however.  The A’s had a giveaway 2 days ago as I noted above, and the Royals are doing a promotion where they remember the Kansas City A’s on July 6th where fans can get their picture taken at the ballpark with a Missouri mule wearing Charlie O’s original blanket.

My 2002 All-Star selections and Silver Slugger comparison

27 06 2015

My opinion of the best player at each position in each league.  For pitchers, I pick 3 starters and 1 reliever.  I do include a DH. Here’s the 2002 version:

My NL All-Stars: C – Mike Piazza, NYM (.280/33/98)

1B – Todd Helton, COL (.336/49/146, 132 R, .685 SLG)

2B – Jeff Kent, SFG (.298/37/108, .313)

2002 Topps Traded Scott Rolen3B – Scott Rolen, PHI/STL (.266/31/110)

SS – Edgar Renteria, STL (.305/11/83)

OF – Barry Bonds, OF, SFG (.370/46/110, 198 BB (MLB record),68 IBB (MLB record).582 OBP (MLB record),.799 SLG, 1.381 OPS (MLB record))

OF – Vladimir Guerrero, MON (.336/39/111, 206 H, 40 SB)

OF – Brian Giles, PIT (.298/38/103, 1.072 OPS)

SP – Randy Johnson, ARI (24-5/2.32/334, 260 IP, 8 CG, 4 SHO, Cy Young)

SP – Curt Schilling, ARI (23-7/3.23/316, 259.1 IP, 6 CG)

SP – Roy Oswalt, HOU (19-9/3.01/208, 233 IP)

RP – Eric Gagne, LAD (4-1/1.97/114, 52 SV)

The NL outfield was an extremely difficult choice; last year I had Shawn Green as my 4th outfielder, and he’s probably the first odd man out again.  In addition, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones (who played in left field in 2002) and Sammy Sosa all could have been chosen.  But you could swap Giles and Guerrero out for any one of those guys and have an argument.  The two of them had the highest OPS (except for Walker in Coors Field), while Vlad led the league in hits and nearly had a 40-40 season.  I actually thought about putting Pujols in as the 3rd baseman – he played 41 games there, but that’s a third of his time in the outfield, and Scott Rolen was nearly as good as Pujols in 2002 anyways.

First base was a little challenging – Ryan Klesko had very good numbers without the Coors Field benefit that Helton got.  But Helton was a much better defensive player, and that tips the scale for me.  It’s interesting – in addition to looking at the players’ traditional stats, I look at both WAR and Win Shares closely when trying to make determinations.  And so many of these NL decisions for 2002, Win Shares and WAR just didn’t line up.

Starting pitching was (again) a very clear top 2, and Oswalt was an easy choice for third.  Reliever was tough.  John Smoltz set a National League record with 55 saves, and while he was very good, a lot of that was a function of how good the Braves were.  Gagne was much better with nearly as many saves.  And, if anything – Octavio Dotel (1.85 ERA in set-up role) or Byung-Hyun Kim (36 saves) were his best competition.

My AL All-Stars: C – Jorge Posada, NYY (.268/20/99)

1B – Jim Thome, CLE (.304/52/118, 122 BB, .445 OBP, .677 SLG)

2002 Topps ASR Alfonso Soriano2B – Alfonso Soriano NYY (.300/39/102, 41 SB, 209 H, 128 R)

3B – Eric Chavez, OAK (.275/34/109)

SS – Alex Rodriguez, TEX (.300/57/142, 125 R)

OF – Manny Ramirez, BOX (.349/33/107, .450 OBP, 127 R, MVP)

OF – Magglio Ordonez, CHW (.320/38/125, 116 R, 47 2B)

OF – Bernie Williams, NYY (.333/19/102, 206 H)

DH – Jason Giambi, NYY (.314/41/122, .435 OBP)

SP – Barry Zito, OAK (23-5/2.75/182, Cy Young)

SP – Pedro Martinez, BOS (20-4/2.26/239, 4 SHO)

SP – Roy Halladay, TOR (19-7/2.93/168, 239.1 IP)

RP – Arthur Rhodes, SEA (10-4/2.33/91)

This has to have been the best season all-time for any league as far as shortstops go.  Alex Rodriguez was really the best player in the league.  Nomar Garciaparra led the league with 56 doubles.  Miguel Tejada won the MVP but was probably the third best 6-man in the league.  Derek Jeter was his usual self, while David Eckstein and Omar Vizquel had good offensive seasons paired with excellent defense.

Giambi actually played more games at first base, but did play 63 games at DH so I was able to get the 3rd best hitter in the AL in this lineup (if I only considered him a first baseman, Thome beats him out).  The other slot that was interesting was third base – Eric Hinske was the Rookie of the Year and deserved some serious consideration, as did Troy Glaus, who I picked in 2001 and who won the World Series MVP.

In the American League – pitching was a tough decision.  There was a clear top 5 – the 3 above, Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe – but I’ve chosen to pick the top 3.  Zito won the Cy Young, and I think was deserving of the top spot.  Pedro was the only guy out of those 5 with less than 200 innings, but he had 199, and he was the best pitcher when he did pitch.  From there, I thought Halladay’s total package – really good numbers over the most innings – gave him the third spot.  But honestly, any of the others could replace Doc or Pedro.  Also, with no exceptional AL closer in 2002, I thought Arthur Rhodes season was the best, as he had a minute 0.83 WHIP and a 10.6 K per 9 innings.


NL Silver Slugger: C – Mike Piazza, 1B – Helton, 2B – Kent, 3B – Rolen, SS – Renteria, OF – Bonds, Guerrero, Sammy Sosa (.288/49/108, 122 R), P – Hampton (.344/3/5)

Mike Hampton followed up his historical 2001 season (7 homers) with a .344 average.  As mentioned above, Sosa was someone I considered, but he just wasn’t that good defensively and even his excellent offensive numbers are aided by his home park in the Windy City.

AL Silver Sluggers: C – Posada, 1B – Giambi, 2B – Soriano, 3B – Chavez, SS – Rodriguez, OF – B. Williams, Ordonez, Garrett Anderson ANA (.306/29/123, 56 2B), DH – M. Ramirez

Interesting how the lack of a really good DH led the Silver Slugger voters to put in Manny, while it caused me to put in Thome.  This ends up with Garrett Anderson in their lineup instead of Jim Thome in mine.  Anderson had a great season and was a tough cut for me.


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