Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Want to Like This, But...

So here we have 2014 Topps Archives, a set that is way, way, WAY too overpriced (nearly 100 bucks for a hobby box?!), but is much too fun to ignore.  With over 60 years worth of unique and sometimes-beloved card designs at their beckon call, and a bountiful variety of today's stars and retired heroes to choose from, this should be a foolproof product, right?

Erm... not really.

There are lots of things to love and look forward to with this year's issue, but, conversely, way too much to be pessimistic about.  Because that's how Topps rolls.  Nobody's looking for perfection, but the 'only game in town' ought to be a bit more dedicated to not screwing up their own products, am I right?

I was especially anxious for this year's release since the base checklist was 1/4 comprised of the '89 Topps design -- my all-time favorite, as stated countless times on this blog previously.

I was also excited to see the early 200-card checklist, noticing some new names and more variety from both retired and active players.  Sure, you've got your usual Mickeys and Teddy Ballgames, but also a Bruce Sutter and a Larry Doby to spice things up.  And that's a good thing!

But just when you think Topps has submitted an A+ project...  Well, where should we start?

Oh, before we begin, I'll just mention that all the images you'll see were lifted from various places around the 'net.  I haven't had a chance to grab any of the stuff for myself.  Hell, for all I know, it hasn't hit the shelves yet in my neck of the woods.  Anyhow...

It's like deja vu all over again, as the best brains at Topps HQ decided to revisit the 2012 Archives set and use the 1980 design for a quarter of their base checklist.  Have I mentioned recently that Topps has 60+ years of card designs to muse over?   How can this be?!

Didn't we just leave this party?

This is beyond just a gaffe of quality control; it's Topps flying a stadium tarp-sized flag of indifference towards the consumer.  At least towards the little guy, like me--and maybe you.  They know that the big-time case crackers and dealers will eat the stuff up regardless, so why bother to show any sort of care towards the insignificant base cards.  Nobody collects sets anymore, do they?

Okay, so we have to suffer through more 1980 base design in this year's set.  Not that I hate the '80 design, but I'm liking it less today than I did yesterday thanks to such saturation.  But, let's get back to the actual checklist and the dirty two-letter abbreviation: SP.

With the previous two years, in addition to the 200 base cards, Archives has had a 40-some card SP checklist that consisted only of retired players, aka "fan favorites."  And that was okay with me, since I could choose to ignore the SPs without sacrificing a base set that lacks a big-name current star or rookie.

A rare Tiger, indeed.

But, you guessed it, the short-print virus has officially and fatally spread to Archives this year.  Fifty cards of short-print absurdity, now including present-day players mixed in with the retired guys.  Stud young players such a Puig, Wheeler, Tanaka, and Juan Abreu along with established stars like Trout, Kershaw, Verlander, and Tulowitzki have been filtered into the hell we collector's know as the SP list.

You better hope you get your Tanaka or Abreu rookie in a pack, otherwise you'll be gouged to kingdom come by faceless eBay sellers and pudgy-fingered venders at card shows.  Because, y'know, those are the only guys who truly deserve to get highly-sought after rookies nowadays.

Another thing that burns me--and this might be a nit-picky one, but it's my favorite set--is how they've fudged up the font centering on the '89 base cards.

If only his last name was Carewski...

Again, my apologies for lifting another kitchen table image.  But can we focus on all the empty space inside the banner to the right of Carew's name?  What the bloody hell?  Did somebody tilt the card to the left, making all the letters tumble accordingly?  That's kooky!

Compare that to this.  An actual 1989 card featuring a player with an even shorter name than Carew:


Ah, centered!  Like it's supposed to be.  Can anyone honestly look at these two and not see how one is centered perfection and the other is flagrant laziness?  From the images I've seen so far, there are more cards suffering the unbalanced fate of Mr. Carew than otherwise.  Pretty deflating, even if we're just talking about something so trivial.

I'd like to go on, but I'll save that til I open a few packs and have more ammo.  Plus I'm sick of lifting images.

Don't mistake me, I'm still going to buy this stuff and be a good little soldier, forking over money to Topps that I should be spending on other annoying things like food, electricity and diapers.  To be fair, I think there will be a lot of neat things to discover in this set.  From the looks of it, there are some pretty great inserts and a host of outrageously fabulous Fan Favorite autographs (Lenny Harris as a Met!!!!!!!).

But, what fun is it throwing rose petals at the feet of Big Business?  Gotta try to keep these guys honest somehow.

Though, by the early looks of it, it seems that our many varied attempts previously have gone unnoticed.


Monday, May 26, 2014

I Finally Got My Willie!

Happy Memorial Day, folks!  I'm spending the day with the family, just relaxing and getting caught up on some Zistle scanning, etc.  Earlier, we attended a special outdoor Memorial Day mass at one of our Catholic diocese's main cemeteries.  It was a great way to honor the memories of all our nation's true heroes and also enjoy the beautiful day that God made for us.  A real win-win!

On Sunday, our local fire house had its monthly sports card show.  It was a somewhat weak showing in terms of number of vendors, but what can you expect from a show being held on a Sunday during a major holiday weekend?

Nonetheless I was able to pick up a few great additions for the All-Time Mets Project, including a long-coveted Willie Mays card.  I totally forgot about the 2002 American Pie product and I certainly didn't know it featured a card of the great Mays in a Mets uni.  For the price of a single quarter, I was thrilled to uncover it.

A great little blurb on the back about how Willie persevered beyond some rookie jitters.  Kind of strange, therefore, that the front photo depicts the Hall of Famer at the tail end of his career.  Hey, I'm not complaining, as this eliminates a pretty important ATMP need.

Elsewhere, from the same quarter box...

2004 Topps Retired Signature base

2003 Donruss Diamond Kings Bronze Foil

2009 Topps Walmart Black

2005 Upper Deck Origins

1996 Score Dugout Collection

Just a small sampling of some Mets odds and ends from this most recent card show experience.  Like I said, it wasn't the greatest show I've been to, but I could spend a couple hours at even at a below-average show.  It just allowed me to be more thorough at each table rather than doing a rush job at each.

Anyhow, thanks for checking in.  I hope everyone has a great holiday!


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cup Crazy!

We here in the Kaz household are going Cup Crazy these days because the New York Rangers are in the NHL's Eastern Conference Finals.  It's the 20th anniversary of New York's last Stanley Cup victory, and a good way to celebrate that would be to bring the Cup back to Gotham.  But, let's not get ahead of ourselves...

Anyhow, keeping with the hockey theme, an envelope full of goodies arrived from Ontario recently.  Of course, it was from our good friend Douglas at Buckstore Cards.  And, naturally, the hockey nut he is, Douglas hooked me up with a pair of real gems for the Gabriel collection.

I didn't know Gabriel Landeskog from Peter Gabriel before Douglas sent me one is his cards a few months back, but now he's clearly my favorite non-Ranger NHLers.  He's not only the captain of the Avs, but he was a prominent member of Sweden's silver medal-winning team in Sochi.  And the slick GU card you see above is now a real treasured piece to my collection.

Then you've got this card, which is about as thick as a deck of playing cards (almost).  I guess it has to be to house such a brilliant jersey swatch.  And the card is even numbered to 50, making it that much sweeter of a package.

Have you gotten your hockey quota for the day?  You're usually accustomed to seeing baseball cards on here, so let's do that!

Douglas also found a trio of needed Gabe Kapler cards for my newest collecting niche.

How about a random Gabe Kapler stat?  After swatting 49 homers for the Rangers in a three year period from 1999 to 2001, Kapler managed just 33 long balls over his next eight seasons.

Are you feeling fulfilled?  No?

Well, one final cherry to put on top.  A fellow Mets backer, Douglas was able to spare a handful of '88 Leaf cards towards my Amazin's collection.

It's really tough to make these cards look sexy with such a gross border design, but I really quite like the Hernandez and Dykstra cards.  But, yeah, when all is said and done, you're still looking at some '88 Donruss.

Thanks so much for the thought, Douglas!  I owe ya one!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Little Mets Purple from the Land of Dodger Blue

In honor of the Dodgers invading Citi Field this week, I figured it was time to get off my lazy duff and tip my cap to a new friend of the Clubhouse blog.

I was contacted not too long ago by Alex--author of the quality blog known as Chavez Ravining--in regards to a Zack Greinke Heritage Chrome card I pulled from a pack.  I had a Greinke card I didn't want; he had a Matt Harvey card up for trade.  He's a Dodgers guy; I'm a Mets guy.  It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that a deal was there to be struck!

But, not only did I get this beautiful purple refractor of the brash and outspoken young ace, Alex also threw in a few other ultra-cool Mets goodies.

You just can't go wrong with The Franchise, Mr. Tom Seaver.  Ever.  And when it's in the form of a high-quality card like Triple Threads, all the better!  I don't even mind that Topps has used this same photo ad  nauseam. Sometimes you've gotta give the d'Evil his due.  And this, my friends, is one handsome card!

Oh, and then there were these most unexpected, but oh-so-wonderful odds and ends...

Custom minis!

Now, admittedly, I'm not a 'mini' guy and I don't really clamor after these oddly-sized things.  Frankly, they throw my OCD into overdrive.

BUT, I'd be a sad, soulless excuse for a human being if my heart didn't flutter over these two lovable guys. Harvey in a hoodie and twin thumbs-up from Mr. Met.  Perfection times two!

I already have a small cache of Mets minis from Ginter and GQ that other bloggers have gifted me over time and this spectacular duo will join its cousins.  I guess it's high time I got one of those special binder pages designed just for minis and fill 'er up.  Mets only, of course.

Anyhow, I really love these two customs and I'd truly like to know the story behind them.

And, finally...

The Mets' captain in Chipz form.  I'm cool with that!  Is Topps bringing these back for 2014?  This was a pretty decent stab at something different, but if they're going to go that route, I'd rather them just make the coins like they did in the '60s and '80s.

Alex, a great first trade, buddy.  Thanks for the awesome loot!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Meet the Mets: 2014 Topps Team Set

I finally tracked down one of those factory sealed team sets that Topps puts out in the form of a blister pack. Our family travels took us into central New Jersey last weekend and I was able to guide the family truckster to a quick pit stop at the same Modell's Sporting Goods at which I've been buying these things since 2010.

Each year I buy one of these and each year it's the same drill.  You've got 17 cards with a NYM prefix attached to each of the card numbers.  For the most part the same photos that you find in the flagship set are utilized. Once in awhile Topps will throw you a welcomed curveball by using a photo variation, but not often enough.

My common complaint is that the checklist for each team isn't big enough.  If you're gonna make a specialized set for each team, why not go crazy and expand the inclusion list a bit?  Go beyond what you're giving us in the flagship set.  I mean, we're paying $5.99 for this thing; why not give us a little added value?

Sure, the stadium card is swell and all, but how about a manager card?  Mascot?  Would giving us maybe 25 or 27 total cards kill ya?

Anyhow, I guess I should quit my whining since I'm the idiot that opens my wallet each May to buy these stinkin' things.

Onto the cards...

I can't say for sure if any of these photo choices are different from what we'll find in Series 2.  If anything, I guess the Colon, Granderson or Young cards might look different, since each is a Photoshop job.  [Ed. Note: Check out Young's socks and stirrups; something ain't right!]

My favorite photo of the lot?  The Daniel Murphy, of course!  Can't go wrong with a cameo from the Home Run Apple 2.0.  The Mets logo looks like a halo around Murph's head.

As for player choice, pretty much all the essentials are there.  Though I'm pretty P.O.'ed that Eric Young Jr. did not make this set nor the flagship.  Doesn't make sense to me, since the guy played 119 games for the Mets last season and was essentially the everyday lead-off man after arriving from Colorado.  Would have also liked to see my boy Jenrry Mejia in this set, too.

Anyways, there they are.  Your 2014 Mets as seen in this year's Topps Team Set.

Let's Go Mets!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cards from Shane!

Boy, I've been lucky to be the recipient of some really amazin' trade packages over the past couple weeks.  The one I'll detail today comes from a true-blue friend of the blog, Shane D. of Shoebox Legends.

Before I get into that, may I share an unrelated anecdote with you?  My wife, Mrs. K, was running errands with Gabriel at Target earlier this week.  I received a text at work that read, "He needs a Bowman pack, right?"  She was referring, of course, to the quest I've undertaken to buy the little guy one pack each of every Topps baseball brand issued this year since it's his birth year.  Apparently, without any prompting from me, Mrs K made her way down the card aisle on a mission!  I was so proud.  And, yes, he did need a Bowman pack.  Sadly, she didn't pick one up for the old man.  But, that's okay, dad's got plenty of cards to keep him busy.

Which brings me back to the focus of this post: the cards sent to me by Shane.  Lots of neat stuff, just like the first trade we completed.  Along with a couple bundles of cards, he included another 1993 Pinnalce fat pack plus a few packs of OPC mini League Leaders from 1987.  But, I'll share those in a later post; today I want to focus on the loose cards.  Cos there are plenty of great ones!

Sometimes it takes a trade package from a blogger buddy to make you appreciate a card you've seen a thousand times before.  That's the case with the '89 Keith Hernandez above.  It's a clean, classic-looking card of a great player from my favorite all-time Topps set.  Perfection!

1990 Donruss, like 1991 Fleer, suffers from some God-awful border coloring and design.  Otherwise, each set features some pretty dandy photography.

Butch Huskey rookies are always welcome at the Clubhouse.  This is one of the better rookies of the big guy -- the last Mets player to wear No. 42.

Jeff Kent never really got a fair shake in New York.  Who knows what would have happened if the Mets opted to hold onto Kent instead of dealing him at the deadline in '96.  Though, that trade brought Carlos Baerga -- one of my all-time favorite players -- to Queens.

Since the Subway Series is presently occupying the New York baseball scene, now would be a good time to reminisce about Delgado's nine-RBI game against the Yanks back on June 27, 2008.  That's a Mets record, dontcha know!

This guy had some pretty big offensive days against the Bronx Bombers, too.  Before he was being used as dart board by Roger Clemens, Piazza owned the Rocket in their head-to-head Subway Series meetings.

Hey, this one fits into the Subway Series discussion perfectly, does it not?  The Mets took two out of three from the Yankees at Shea Stadium during the 2007 season.  Easley played in all three games and went 2-for-10 in the series with a solo home run.

Okay, how about some nifty horizontal cards?

Not only is this is a fantastic card, but it's from my favorite Stadium Club set: 1997.  That's quite a snow cone that Rey Sanchez is working on.

Man, baseball players sure do enjoy doing crazy stuff.  During the course of a 162-game season, I guess you have to find ways to amuse yourself, no?

All three of these cards have great potential for the Horizontal Heroes frankenset, but this Todd Greene '91 Traded card stands out above its peers.  I can't believe I forgot about this card; it's pretty freakin' great!

Since I collect Sammy Sosa cards and this is a Sosa card I didn't own, this one won't qualify for the frankenset.  This is a pretty intense photo!

Snow is also a guy I collect (weird, right?).  A brilliant card of the defensive wizard.  And it's on the under-appreciated 1996 Upper Deck platform.  What's not to like here?

Speaking of J.T., here's his 1994 Fleer card.  This is a nice, clean set.  Hard to believe such a conservative design was succeeded by the wild and trippy experiment known as '95 Fleer.

And, last but not least, a pretty solid addition to my Gabriel collection...

I've always been partial to the Topps Stars brand from back in the day.  Such a cool design.  I have the Jose Reyes rookie from this set, which is one of my all-time favorite cards.  And I've always wanted the Pujols rookie.  I'm sure it can be had for a lot cheaper nowadays than, say, five or so years ago.

Anyhow, thanks again for hitting me up with some great cardboard, Shane!  I had ripping into those hockey packs, too.  Especially since my New York Rangers are heading to the Eastern Conference Finals!


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mucho Mets!

I've had the real pleasure recently of striking up a few cardboard exchanges with bloggers I've never traded with before.  I love my regular trading buddies, but it's also nice to expand one's horizons from time to time.

And, boy, did I strike gold in this particular instance.  Howard of Wanted: Baseball Cards mentioned something about wanting to trim down his collection, specifically cards from such sets as Leaf, Pinnacle and Pacific.  My fingers couldn't move fast enough to type in, "Mets, please!" since those are brands I didn't buy much of back in the day.  I was particularly intrigued by the idea of getting some more Pacific cards for my Mets collection.  Those things aren't easy to come by, after all.  At least I've found.

Anyhow, Howard delivered in a big-time way.  A flat-rate box stuffed full of cards.  Four big stacks, to be exact.  I'd estimate there were  200+ cards in there, and possibly as many as 300.  Whatever the count, it was way more than I had expected.  And, everything I had hoped or anticipated from the variety of cards was met to the fullest and beyond.

Keep in mind, what I'm about to share is just a fraction of the total picture.

The assortment from Howard wasn't limited to just the three brands named above.  There was a pretty good amount of Bowman cards from various years.

I like that Preston Wilson rookie in the top right corner.  That could be an All-Time Mets Project entry.  The horizontal Burnitz is pretty great, as well.

The box o' Mets also included some Upper Deck goodies.

A trio of snazzy Piazzas and a duo of Wrights highlight this particular grouping.

More from Upper Deck.  I've never heard of the two jamokes in the top row next to Bonilla, but I like their cards!

Okay, let's get down to business.  Here are a few pages of Leaf cards from various years.

And then there's Pinnacle.  Lots of great looking designs from this brand over the years.

Okay, and the best was saved for last -- Pacific!!  Oodles and oodles of Pacific cards that I didn't have and barely knew existed!!

At long last, a card of Alberto Castillo (bottom right corner of above page)!  He was the Mets opening day catcher in 1998 (Hundley hurt, Piazza still a Dodger), and a player I've been trying to hunt down for quite some time for the ATMP.

Another Alberto!  And even a Brent Mayne card (top right).  It's like a backup catcher reunion up in here!

Only my second card of Orel Hershiser as a Met (middle row).

Wow, just amazin' stuff!  And that's just a sampling of it all!

And here a few of my individual favorites of the lot.  These cards deserve their own image...

Woo!  Butch Huskey rookies always get a spotlight.

So do awesome horizontal cards of big Butch.  Is that a game face or what?

Maybe this was the best photo out of all the cards I received.  What an unusual choice of photos, no?  If I were Ryan Thompson, I don't know how I"d feel about this one.  But, since I'm not Ryan Thompson, I enjoy this one immensely.

Looks like Pinnacle just plucked Carl's jumbotron slide for this card.

A preview of Collector's Choice?  Okay, if you insist.  This also happens to be a great horizontal shot of B-Mac.

And, for the grand finale...

Yes, indeed!  A true Bowman rookie of the Mets captain!  This card has been eluding me for way too long.  What a fantastic surprise it was to find this one in the box!

Howard, thanks a million for all these tremendous Mets cards!  You've certainly made this collector's day/week/month/year!