My 2nd to last 2016 Topps post is the inserts. I think Topps has done a pretty good job with the inserts the past 2-3 years. I thought 2012 was something of a rock bottom – the Gold theme just seemed lazy and uninspired. Since then, they’ve had solid ideas. Those ideas, while not perfect and probably not executed as well as a creative as I think they could be, are good nonetheless. I always like to go in the order of “least favorite” to “most favorite”.
You know how I said they had some solid ideas? Well there’s one set that doesn’t meet that criteria. Berger’s Best is just unnecessary. Topps has done reprints time after time again. By my count this is at least the 5th time they’ve done a multiplayer insert set containing approximately 1 card per year of Topps existence. In 2001 they did a reprint insert set in honor of the company’s 50th anniversary. The “Cards Your Mom Threw Out” set from 2010. “Topps 60” for the 60th anniversary in 2011. “Reprints” (very clever) in 2012 Topps Archives. And now Berger’s Best in 2016. That doesn’t even count other reprint sets like the full-card runs of various Hall of Famers from 1996-2000, or Archive rookie reprints from the early 2000’s, Rookie Cup reprints, Future Stars reprints, etc. I’m not against doing sets like this per se, but it gets kind of ridiculous when I have 4 different reprints of Hank Aaron’s 1965 Topps card. A better way to go in my opinion would be to focus on something different. Maybe only do subsets. If there was one subset card from every year with a write-up on the back about that subset, I’d enjoy collecting it much more. It would be fun to see the 1959 Ford Frick commissioner card sandwiched in between the 1958 team card of the Washington Senators and the 1960 combo card of Bill Rigney & Willie Mays.
Also, this set doesn’t even have a foil stamp or something on the front to designate it. I scanned the 10 cards I got in my HTA jumbo box, and realized that it just looks like I got 6 recent rookie cards and put them on the scanner. So I’ll scan the backs here.
After that, I like all the other inserts. The Back to Back cards are a great idea. The way the players are digitally crumbling into dust or combining into each other is a bit odd, but maybe odd in a good way. And putting great back to back combinations together is a cool thing. This is where I wish Topps had the Mantle estate back on the payroll. Mantle and Maris would obviously fit this insert set.
I go after every Topps insert each year, but with the exception of the Berger insert above, I think I’d be interested in collecting every single one of these sets. Maybe not the Back to Back cards, which I think are a cool theme but could use a better design. But the next set is the First Pitch insert set. I love the idea even more, and I’m perfectly happy for Topps to continue this every year. First pitches have become like the Star Spangled Banner, the 7th inning stretch or mascots. They are a part of baseball now, and I’m glad to see it included as an insert. The only reason I don’t like it as much as some of the other insert sets is that it uses the same design as the base set. I’d rather have a different design that stays the same year over year. Also, by keeping the same design in 2016, Topps seemed to stay with the same flaw of cropping the image too close. If you’re going to do an insert about the first pitch at a ballpark, I’d like the zoom to come back a bunch and see some of that ballpark. This is missing part of the story.
Third to last is probably the favorite for a lot of collectors. “Perspectives” is a card with little design elements. Just full bleed photos with the player name and the set name snuck somewhere into the very cool photos. Very cool, very fun cards. The only reason they are 3rd on this list is that I like the themes of the next two sets better.
My 2nd favorite insert set is the Wrigley Field 100 years set. I’ve complained about one particular feature about this set a few times. Wrigley Field has been around for 102 years, not 100. The Cubs have been in Wrigley for a century, so that’s where the 100 years comes from. But the set is not named “Wrigley celebrates 100 years of the Cubs as their tenant”. The set says “Wrigley celebrates 100 years”. Which isn’t correct.
But that’s minor. This set is freaking cool. There’s a reason why going to Wrigley and Fenway is such a great experience. And it’s why I wish the Yankees hadn’t torn down their palace. Yes, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber made some cool memories last year. But if you go to a game at Fenway, you can see Mookie Betts patrolling the same space that Tris Speaker did (though odds are he’s playing a little deeper than the Grey Eagle did). Or you can see Kris Bryant batting in the same spot where Babe Ruth called his shot in the 1932 World Series. And this set reminds me of that, which makes it great.
My favorite insert set is “Pressed into Service”. This covers position players who ended up pitching. Again, this gets at some of the cool things about baseball. Some of the traditions or uniqueness that separates it from the other 3 sports. Mario Lemieux will never suit up for a period in the goal. Peyton Manning didn’t come in to spell the Broncos’ secondary when the Kansas City game got out of hand. But Ichiro can come in to pitch on the last game of the season, or David Ross can spell his bullpen in a blowout loss. The only complaint I have is that it’s not a bigger set!
That’s a lot of intriguing themes, which is why I like the insert sets so much this year. I also got a Wacky Packages card, but that’s more of a promo for a new product Topps is coming out with. There’s also a set called Walk-Off Wins that I’ve seen. These don’t come in the jumbo packs for some reason. I’m not sure if they’re retail only, or in both retail and hobby packs (but obviously not the jumbos). I don’t have those, but I do have 3 hits to post about tomorrow.