2016 Topps Series 1 – base cards

9 02 2016

As mentioned, I got a box of Topps series 1 HTA jumbo packs this past week.  I did get the full set of 350 cards – which is one of the benefits of buying a jumbo box instead of a hobby box.  I had a couple of posts where I talked about the design and pictures.  So enough with the opinions, this post will have scans of the more notable base cards.

First up, here’s my favorite card in the entire set.  The Jose Bautista bat flip.  This caused a lot of uproar when it happened – not just from old-school fans but from Sam Dyson, the pitcher who gave up the home run.

2016 Topps Jose Bautista

Since I already scanned it in yesterday’s post, here’s the card that you saw on all the promotional material Topps released.  I really like this card as well.

2016 Topps Buster Posey

This was the other card that was shown on the sell sheets was this card of Mike Trout.

2016 Topps Mike Trout

I’ve shown some of these already, but Topps put all of the National League award winners in series 1:

2016 Topps Harper

2016 Topps Arrieta

2016 Topps Kris Bryant

AL MVP Josh Donaldson is also in series 1.  Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel will be making their appearance in series 2.

2016 Topps Josh Donaldson

And since I scanned them already in previous posts, here are cards of Anthony Rizzo and Andrew McCutchen.

2016 Topps Andrew McCutchen

2016 Topps Rizzo

Here’s a dozen of my favorite photos from the set.  These are all of the vertical variety.

2016 Topps best photos

2016 Topps best photos 2

While I like this set overall, I tend to agree with detractors on some of the points.  Namely, I think the cloud smoke is not good and I’d prefer fewer up-close cropping.  I’ve read thoughts that some of the design offenses of this set are lessened in impact by the horizontal cards, and I think that’s probably true.  Here’s a dozen of my favorite photos with horizontal cards.

2016 Topps best photos horizontal

2016 Topps best photos horizontal 2

Speaking of horizontal cards, here are the league leader subset cards.  I wish Topps would go with some of the floating head stuff – or something different in general.  I think the rise of inserts in the 1990’s basically created the need to have subsets look more like the rest of the base set.  Also, kind of weird, they went with WHIP instead of strikeouts.  I’m a big proponent of sabermetrics.  But not on my league leader cards – and strikeouts is probably the most accepted of the 6 triple crown stats by the disciples of Bill James!

2016 Topps league leaders pitchers

They did go with the traditional triple crown stats for the hitters.  Nobody made all 3 cards in either league.

2016 Topps league leaders hitters

Here’s a few more of the subsets.  There is a World Series subset.  I forget about this every year, but Topps has only been including a card for the 4 games in which the winning team was victorious.  That’s games 1, 2, 4 and 5 for the 2015 Royals.

2016 Topps World Series Highlights

There are 5 checklists with combo cards on the front a bit different from previous years, where a season highlight was shown.  Kind of cool cards, though I assumed that the “Papi and the Prince” card featured Prince Fielder until I got a closer look after scanning these cards!

2016 Topps Checklists

Here’s the All-Star Rookies that made into series 1.  That’s 6 of your 12 players.  Yes, the Topps ASR team has expanded to 12 guys.  In addition to the standard 10 that had always existed, there is now a slot for DH, which got a very deserving Miguel Sano into the mix.

2016 Topps s1 ASR Team

If you haven’t noticed, some of the cards above have the Future Stars designation.  But some don’t.  I figured out the pattern.  Basically, if it’s got the rookie card designation, which is true for guys like Schwarber, Conforto and Sano who were called up in July.  That means that guys like this…

2016 Topps Corey Seager RC

Or this…

2016 Topps Piscotty Bird RC

…aren’t in the future stars subset.  That’s just weird to me.  I’m used to my future stars being guys who barely got a cup of coffee the year before.  In this year’s subset are JD Martinez who has 500 Major League games under his belt, or Kole Calhoun who qualified for the batting title… in 2014.  Or Carlos Carrasco who made his MLB debut in 2009.  Or Jung Ho Kang, whose first professional season was in 2006.  Or Yasmani Grandal or Joc Pederson, who both made the All-Star team in his 4th season with his 2nd team.

2016 Topps Future Stars

Of course there are quite a few guys who make sense as I understand the traditional definition.  Here’s the other 15 Future Stars in series 1.  21 is a lot for 1 series.

2016 Topps Future Stars 2

2016 Topps Future Stars 3

And, last up, here are some of baseball’s best that didn’t get into my scans above through some other fashion.

2016 Topps best pitchers

2016 Topps best hitters 2

Topps isn’t blurring out the backgrounds

7 02 2016

I’ve read a lot of complaints about 2016 Topps.  A few people don’t like that the borders are gone and the cards are now full bleed.  A few more (including myself), don’t like the smoke / cloud effect in the corners.  A bunch more (I’m definitely in this crows) don’t like how close the photos are cropped.

But that not the major complaint I’ve read.  The major complaint is the blurred effect of the background.  In just about every, if not every, write-up I’ve read about the set, the assumption has been made that these photographs have been photo-shopped out the wazoo.  I was fully on board with making that same assumption until yesterday afternoon.

That’s when two things dawned on me.

First, I remembered something. For my first 4 or 5 years out of college, I was on a quest to go to every park in the majors.  I would usually end up structuring a vacation around it every year.  My girlfriend and I went to Texas one year, and hit up Arlington at the start and Houston at the end (with Galveston for 4 days in the middle) so I could knock off 2 ballparks.  Luckily, that same girlfriend put up with my idiosyncrasies and is now my wife.  When I did that, I used to take A LOT of photos.  This was before your cell phone doubled as a good camera, so I usually had a $300-plus camera on me.  I probably had about 3 different cameras like this.  And what I remember happening with the last one was that it could focus on specific objects better that the previous two.  But when I would focus in on a single player, sometimes the background would blur.  Not always, but I think to make a specific subject focus more, part of the deal is blurring out the background.

That didn’t matter all that much, though.  I went back and looked at some old photos, and the effect actually didn’t happen as much as I remember.  It’s the 2nd thing I thought of that was more relevant.

I remembered that I can look up the original photos myself.  Topps buys almost every photograph for their products from Getty Images these days.  And if you have enough clues from the photo itself, or if you’re patient enough, you can find the photographs online for the card you hold in your hand!

I did this and I can “report” with pretty good certainty that Topps isn’t photo-shopping anything.  The photos on your 2016 Topps are exact replicas of those from the Getty Images site, except for cropping (some of which is necessary to fit the dimensions of a 2-½” by 3-½” card).  I didn’t look this up for all 350 cards, because that would take forever.  But I checked quite a few, and I’ll show some of them below.  The Topps card is first, then the Getty Image is next.

Ryan Howard

2016 Topps Ryan Howard

Howard Getty 2016 April

Buster Posey – this was the first image Topps released to showcase the 2016 design

2016 Topps Buster Posey

Posey Getty 2016 April

Andrew McCutchen

2016 Topps Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen Getty 2016 April

Nick Hundley

2016 Topps Nick Hundley

Hundley Getty 2016 April

As you can see, the blurriness is in the photos Topps clearly purchased from Getty Images.  So Topps didn’t take them and then photo-shop the pictures.

Now that’s not to say the pictures aren’t photo-shopped.  They very well may have been by the Getty photographers.  I’m not sure.  I tend to think some of them are, but I also think it may be the way the photos were originally (as I mentioned, you can increase focus on a specific subject by decreasing focus on the background in today’s cameras).  I also think the smoke in the corners of the cards enhances the blurriness.

Most importantly, that doesn’t mean you have to like it.  To me, Topps could pick photos where the background isn’t blurred.  As I looked for these pictures on the Getty site, I noticed plenty without backgrounds blurred as much.  They tended to be pictures that had more of the ballpark in the background.  That’s how I like my cards.

Mostly, I just wanted to shed a little light on this, as I had an “ah-ha!” moment.  Also, I wanted to show a few Nolan Ryan cards from the latter half of his career.  The background has been blurred before, it maybe just wasn’t as noticeable then.

1982 Topps best card Nolan Ryan

1990 Topps Nolan Ryan

85 Topps Nolan Ryan

2016 Topps Series 1 – HTA box

5 02 2016

Unlike last year, I decided to be right on top of the release 2016 Topps.  Last year, this first series 1 post came in the middle of March.  I stopped by the local card shop (Baseball Card King) yesterday and picked up a hobby jumbo box.  I like getting the jumbo; there are 3 guaranteed hits, with one autograph guaranteed.  It feels like it’s worth the extra.

Here was my first card – #327, the best player on the odds-on World Series favorite in 2016.  Much more exciting than Matt Joyce from last year!

2016 Topps Rizzo

The last couple of years, I got retirement-based cards in my first few packs.  I don’t know of anyone along the lines of Mariano Rivera, Todd Helton, Derek Jeter or Paul Konerko this year.  Tim Hudson and Torii Hunter were the biggest names calling it a career at the end of 2015.

2016 Topps Harper

I don’t see a card of them in the checklist (or on eBay), nor do I see a base card of Barry Zito or Aramis Ramirez.  But I did get the 2 National League award winners in the first pack.

2016 Topps Arrieta

Here are my thoughts after opening 3 packs:

  • Design.  Topps really has changed it up the past 2 years!  After what seemed like an eternity of white borders, 2015 brought a colorful new look – I think it was the 3rd time where the border color would differ from card to card (1975 & 1990).  I loved the 2015 design.  2016 is an even bigger departure.  These are the first full bleed cards in the history of the flagship Topps set.  It kind of reminds me of the change Upper Deck made from 1993 to 1994 (I liked both of those designs as well).  These cards look pretty futuristic.  There is a team logo in one of the lower corners that’s “peeping” out from underneath the picture.  Then there’s a name plate, and Topps did include the position on the front.  This will probably be called the “cloud set” or the “dream set” because of the fading white in the corners.  Personally, I really like the change.  I hated the endless string of white borders, so I would feel hypocritical to criticize when they finally went with 2 straight years of something different.  I like 2015 better, but I still like this set.
  • Photography.  The photos are cropped extremely closely, which can be good or bad depending on the player and the particular shot.  The backgrounds are blurred to put the focus on the player.  I don’t particularly like this.  For basketball cards, that’s the right approach.  I think hockey cards would be the same way.  But for baseball, some of the charm is what’s going on around the player, not just the player himself.  Still, it is something different and I don’t completely hate it.  But I don’t feel like there will be as many memorable photos as there were in 2011, 2012 or 2013.  Typing this out has made me wonder – it’s probably pretty difficult to get a bunch of amazing photos and an amazing design to work well together.
  • Parallels.  2011 – 8 full parallels (ignoring anything 1/1).  2012 – down to 6.  2013 – ramped up to 11.  2014 – a whopping 13.  2015 was down to 8, which was more reasonable but still a bit high to me.  The Gold, Black and Pink cards are back, numbered to 2016, 65, and 50, respectively.  The cloud portion in the corners is replaced with a gold or black honeycomb effect.  I was expecting these to be tougher to tell apart than the border colors in previous years, but you can definitely tell the difference.  The rarer clear and framed parallels are back as well, but there are two new parallels.  The negative cards have the appearance of a negative photo and look really cool.  And there are cards with vintage card stock.  Gone are the snow camo parallels.
  • Inserts.  I really like the inserts from what I’ve seen so far.  100 years of Wrigley Field is great, even though it’s off by 2 years in my opinion**.  The first pitch insert is back.  I love the concept, though I wish it wasn’t so similar to the base set.  I’d actually recommend having its own design and keeping it the same across the years.  So your 2016 set would feel like a continuation of the 2015 set.  The “Pressed into Service” set highlights position players who ended up on the mound – another great insert idea!  “Berger’s Best” is the requisite reprint set, with one from each year of Topps history.  And then there’s a “Perspectives” insert set that is probably my least favorite, but is actually a pretty nice set.  So overall, I think Topps did well here.
  • Other.  There are again cards with a “future stars” designation, though the font is exactly the same as last year; I like when they change it year to year.  Team cards, Highlight cards with checklist backs, and 3-player league leaders cards are back as well.

Bottom line – it’s the new Topps set, and opening it is a ton of fun.  This was a real break from prior years as far as the design goes.  This is Christmas for those of us who collect baseball cards.  I had my 2-3 packs on “Christmas Eve”; tomorrow I’ll finish up the rest of the box and post a bit more on the set.  But I’ll be damned if I’m leaving cookies or milk out tonight!

2015 All-Star Stitches #8: Albert Pujols (via the Card Chop)

4 02 2016

I recently finished a 2nd trade with Steven of the Card Chop.  The cards below were part of the trade, but the centerpiece of the trade was my All-Star Stitches collection from 2015 Topps Update.

Trade with Card Chop January 2016

Pujols is my my 8th card overall, and he’s my 4th starter for the game.  He’s also my second Home Run Derby Participant, which is cool because that event was the most fun I’ve had!

2015 Topps Update All-Star Stitch Pujols

Card number:  STIT-AP

Player:  Albert Pujols

How I got the card:  a trade with the Card Chop

Position:  First Base

How he made the roster:  Pujols was voted as the starting first baseman, which was something of a comeback.  Though he’s an all-time great, this was his first time making the All-Star team since he signed with the Angels.  In fact, it was his first All-Star game since 2010.  He kind of fizzled down the stretch, however – I’d say his 2014 season was actually better overall than 2015.

This was his 10th All-Star selection.

First half stat line:  .255/26/56, .323 OBP, .532 SLG

Home Run Derby:  Pujols was the 1-seed in the derby, as his 26 homers were the most at the break.  He knocked rookie Kris Bryan out in the first round, 10-9, then lost to Josh Donaldson, 12-11, in the semifinals.  His defeat to Donaldson was the only time a better seed was upset in the 7 face-offs.  This was interesting, because the better seed got to go 2nd, and it seemed like there was an advantage to seeing what your opponent had done.  I remember thinking Pujols was going to beat Donaldson with a minute or so left, but he just couldn’t get that last homer.  Regardless, it was really cool “the Machine” participated – he was the oldest player in the Derby by quite a bit.

All-Star game:  0-2, 1 BB, 1 R.  Pujols hit third for the AL.  He struck out in the 1st against Zach Greinke, then lined out to center against Gerrit Cole.  Clayton Kershaw walked him in the 5th inning, and he came around to score when Lorenzo Cain doubled.  Mark Teixeira replaced Pujols in the field in the 6th inning.


STIT-AB A.J. Burnett – Pittsburgh Pirates
STIT-AC Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds
STIT-AE Alcides Escobar – Kansas City Royals
STIT-AGN Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles Dodgers
STIT-AJ Adam Jones – Baltimore Orioles
STIT-AM Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh Pirates
STIT-APO A.J. Pollock – Arizona Diamondbacks
STIT-APU Albert Pujols – Los Angeles Angels
STIT-AR Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs
STIT-BB Brad Boxberger – Tampa Bay Rays
STIT-BC Brandon Crawford – San Francisco Giants
STIT-BD Brian Dozier – Minnesota Twins
STIT-BG Brett Gardner – New York Yankees
STIT-BHA Bryce Harper – Washington Nationals
STIT-BHO Brock Holt – Boston Red Sox
STIT-BP Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants
STIT-CA Chris Archer – Tampa Bay Rays
STIT-CK Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
STIT-CM Carlos Martinez – St. Louis Cardinals
STIT-CS Chris Sale – Chicago White Sox
STIT-DB Dellin Betances – New York Yankees
STIT-DK Dallas Keuchel – Houston Astros
STIT-DL DJ LeMahieu – Colorado Rockies
STIT-DO Darren O’Day – Baltimore Orioles
STIT-DP David Price – Detroit Tigers
STIT-FH Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners
STIT-GC Gerrit Cole – Pittsburgh Pirates
STIT-GP Glen Perkins – Minnesota Twins
STIT-JA Jose Altuve – Houston Astros
STIT-JDE Jacob deGrom – New York Mets
STIT-JDO Josh Donaldson – Toronto Blue Jays
STIT-JK Jason Kipnis – Cleveland Indians
STIT-JM J.D. Martinez – Detroit Tigers
STIT-JPA Joe Panik – San Francisco Giants
STIT-JPD Joc Pederson – Los Angeles Dodgers
STIT-JPE Jhonny Peralta – St. Louis Cardinals
STIT-JU Justin Upton – San Diego Padres
STIT-KB Kris Bryant – Chicago Cubs
STIT-KH Kelvin Herrera – Kansas City Royals
STIT-LC Lorenzo Cain – Kansas City Royals
STIT-MB Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants
STIT-MMA Manny Machado – Baltimore Orioles
STIT-MME Mark Melancon – Pittsburgh Pirates
STIT-MTE Mark Teixeira – New York Yankees
STIT-MTR Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels
STIT-NA Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies
STIT-NC Nelson Cruz – Seattle Mariners
STIT-PF Prince Fielder – Texas Rangers
STIT-PG Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks
STIT-RM Russell Martin – Toronto Blue Jays
STIT-SM Shelby Miller – Atlanta Braves
STIT-SP Salvador Perez – Kansas City Royals
STIT-SV Stephen Vogt – Oakland Athletics
STIT-TF Todd Frazier – Cincinnati Reds
STIT-TT Troy Tulowitzki – Colorado Rockies
STIT-WD Wade Davis – Kansas City Royals
STIT-YG Yasmani Grandal – Los Angeles Dodgers
STIT-YM Yadier Molina – St. Louis Cardinals
STIT-ZB Zach Britton – Baltimore Orioles
STIT-ZG Zack Greinke – Los Angeles Dodgers

My Best Binder Page – all together

3 02 2016

This is the only time I’ll do this for these cards.  After this scan, they are going back to their respective homes – top loaders, snap cases, or binder pages.  But for one shining moment, the top 9 cards in my collection are all together in one binder page!

Best binder top 9 cards

A thing of Beauty.

My Best Binder Page #1 – 1962 Topps Whitey Ford

1 02 2016

1962 Topps Whitey Ford signed

This card is from 1962, which is pretty old.  But it’s not all that old.  I have 30-40 cards in my collection older than this one.

It’s plenty beat up.  The corners are rounded.  It isn’t perfect on the face – you can see there’s a scratch on Whitey’s cap.  It’s cut OK, but not great.  Heck, it’s even been defaced with some writing :).  There aren’t any creases, so I guess the card has that going for it.

On the flip side, it’s from 1962.  That’s my favorite set.  Which is a bit of the chicken or the egg thing.  I think the reason I love the 1962 Topps set, and by extension the 1987 set, in large part comes back to this card.

It’s condition gives it character.  It’s rounded corners make it feel like it meant something to somebody before I found it.  It probably got moved around a bit, which is why it has a few small scratches.  It’s cut pretty well for a card that old.  And the way Ford signed it across his arm is perfect for the design of the card!

The reason this card is #1 in my collection isn’t because of the value.  I did some quick eBay research, and I’d be shocked if I could 50 bucks for this card.  I love this card because of the history behind it.  I am a bit hazy on the specific details, but I know that its history with me began in the late 1980’s.  I found the card at an antique show with my mom.  She used to go “antiquing” on the weekends and my brother and I would tag along because sometimes we could find baseball cards.  And I found this card on one of those trips.

At some point not so shortly thereafter, my dad took us to an autograph show where some baseball immortals were signing.  Eddie Mathews and Whitey Ford were the 2 autographs we picked up on.  Two guys from my dad’s childhood.  He told me the story over the holidays – he got a nickname Whitey when he was a kid because his hair was so light.  So he kind of liked Ford even though he despised the Yankees.  This card is from the year after the Yanks swept his (and now my) favorite team, the Reds, in the World Series.  So it’s quite possibly taken from that same season.  Anyway, we got Mathews to autograph a baseball. I still have that.  And we got Whitey to autograph this card.

This was my prize possession for a long time, but as time went by I found “cooler” cards like 1993 Upper Deck SP.  And then I didn’t collect cards for a while.  Long story short, I couldn’t find the damn thing for the longest time.  When this idea came up from Junior Junkie’s blog, I knew I couldn’t adequately put together a true top 9 if I didn’t know where this card was.  So when I went home for the holidays, I made it my mission to find the card.

That’s not easy to do.  If you’ve seen my parents’ 3rd floor, you’d understand.  That used to be my room in high school, but after the kids went to college, it became the “old hoarded stuff” room.  Among other things, the baseball cards that me, my brother, my mom, and even my little sister used to collect from 1993 to 1995.  And I can see now that we were ridiculous.  There’s more 1993 Leaf cards in that attic than there should be in any 10-mile radius.  And they’re not expertly organized.  I spent two pretty late nights trying to sift through those cards, and couldn’t find the card.  Just stuff I already knew was there.  At 2 AM on Saturday night / Sunday morning, I gave up.  I was dejected that I couldn’t find it and now I was depressed that I was going to have to drive back to Chicago with 2 young children in tow on far less sleep than I’d like.  Just before I was gonna go downstairs, I thought to look in the attic part of the 3rd floor.  There shouldn’t be any baseball cards in there, but it didn’t hurt to try.  What’s the difference of another half-hour when you’re already gonna get less than 5 hours of sleep?

Good move on my part.  There were 2 shoe boxes of cards, containing stuff from the late 80’s when I first started collecting.  From the time period when this card was obtained.  It didn’t take me long.  I found it, buried behind cards that were far less worthy.  But it was in a screw down case, which showed the prominence it was given at the time.

And now it’s back and truly in my collection!  I was so glad I found the card.  This card was one of my first card collection memories, and is also one of my first memories associated with baseball.  I got the card with my mom.  I got it signed with my dad.  They were both happy the next morning when I found it, so that all makes it pretty cool.  And the #1  card in my collection.

My Best Binder Page #2 – 1997 SP Buyback Autographs Ken Griffey Jr.

31 01 2016

1997 SP 96 Buyback Griffey Jr

It’s kind of amazing this isn’t the top card in my collection.  It’s close, but I think the story behind card #1 is pretty compelling.

This card is pretty amazing, too, however.

I’ve pulled a Jeter auto #’d to 5 out of 2008 Upper Deck Heroes, and a Prince Fielder SPX signed rookie card.  I’ve pulled a Hank Aaron autograph from 2012 Topps.  I’ve pulled a Nolan Ryan auto from 2001 Topps – and it made this top 9 countdown.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, beats pulling a rare card of your favorite player.  I found this card in 1997.  I had gone away from collecting for most of 1996 and 1997, however there was one exception.  I still collected Upper Deck SP.  I bought one box that year.  And I pulled this card.  Upper Deck had been inserting autographs into packs since 1990, but I had never pulled one.  And the buyback concept was very new.  It may have originated from this product, I’m not sure.  It was a good idea to me.  Unlike cards that were newly-made for the current product, buyback autographs seem more akin to getting an autograph at the ballpark.  If I could catch Griffey signing after batting practice – it would look something like this.

This card was from the year before – his ’96 SP card, and was #’d out of 312.  That was the highest print run of his buyback autos that year, but it is easily my favorite card I’ve ever pulled from a pack.


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