Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2013 Panini Triple Play: Back in business

Yes, I know I'm a little late with this review.

Okay, I'm way late. This year's edition of Panini Triple Play hit the shelves about a month ago. And I don't have the whole "budget" excuse this time. Loose packs of these were only a buck a piece last year.

Nope, the blame here lies with my local Target. Although they've been fantastic with putting new product on the shelves lately, they've hit a bump recently. It looks as though my Target won't be carrying anything from the Panini brand in 2013.

Luckily, my dad once again came to the rescue. A few days back, he spotted some Triple Play rack packs available at a different Target store. He picked up one of the three-dollar, 28-card packs for me.

Last year's Triple Play release triggered quite the variety of emotions, to say the least. I went from hate, to acceptance, to love within about a two-week span. When I heard that Triple Play would be back in business this year, I couldn't wait to see what they had in store.

If this rack pack is any indication, Panini picked up right where they left off.

While last year's Triple Play design was perfectly acceptable, I'm liking the 2013 version a bit more.

The wood-grain borders look to be an homage to similarly-themed '62 and '87 Topps releases.

Plus, being the color fanatic I am, I was enthralled to see that Panini chose to color-coordinate the pennant flags to each respective team name. This Billy Butler piece is about as blue-themed as any Kansas City Royal card you'll find.

I wish more sets would take a page from Panini's book in that department.

Of course, the main draw of Triple Play are the cartoonish depictions of big-league ballplayers.

Out of all the unlicensed sets I've seen thus far, this one is easily the most creative. Panini's wacky cartoons serve as the perfect way around the whole "no logos" thing.

As you can probably see, they're back in full force for 2013. The pencil-necked Will Middlebrooks is one of the crazier cards in my collection as we speak.

While I think the cartoons are a slight step back from what they were last year, that's not a knock on the product.

They're still utterly fantastic.

Also back for 2013 are the city-themed backdrops.

While not every card as them, the ones that do certainly stand out. I've driven into downtown Chicago  and seen that exact skyline appear on the horizon on many occasions.

The Sears Tower and all the other skyscrapers are perfectly represented on the front of Mr. Soriano's Triple Play base card.

Sorry, I forgot. It's actually called the Willis Tower now.

But no one actually calls it that.

To me, the biggest change between Triple Play's 2012 and 2013 releases were the backs.

All in all, last year's were fairly drab. This year's, however, put a lot of mainstream card backs to shame.

Panini managed to cram a wide deal of information into each and every one while not making them feel claustrophobic in any way.

Even the baseball-diamond backs are color-coordinated to each respective team. Apparently, there's some sort of game that can be played with each card. (Although I doubt many will actually play it.)

The "Debut" feature near the top of each card is a fine touch. I don't think any of my other Prince Fielder cards note his June 13th, 2005, big-league debut.

Nice little bios accompany each individual piece as well. I especially like the little "Knowledge" nuggets just above the stat lines. This Fielder included one of my personal favorites.

"Fielder became a vegetarian -- for three months -- in 2008."

It's hard to believe anyone was large as fielder would ever embrace vegetarianism.

These sticker inserts made a grand return in 2013 Triple Play.

This year, however, both red and blue versions are included within the checklist. I pulled one of each from this rack pack.

From the looks of it, this year's Triple Play release places a heavy emphasis on color.

I couldn't be happier about that.

Last year's puzzle-piece subset is nowhere to be found in 2013.

While it was a nice concept, I'm okay with their retirement for this year's product.

Because each respective piece was technically different, I ended up having to place five or six basically similar cards of Jose Reyes and Orlando Hudson into my binders last year. The "OCD" in me wouldn't allow for just one of each.

A couple of new little subsets in the 2013 edition are the above "All-Star" and "Traditions" pieces. The All-Star one is pretty self-explanatory.

I'm excited to find more of the "Traditions" cards in the future. The eight-card series chronicles a few of many ballpark traditions in the game today.

The one I pulled happens to feature the dreaded "wave" craze that overtook ballparks in the '80s.

I'm starting to see it pop up in ballparks again, for better or worse.

But mostly worse.

If I had to compare the two, I'd say I prefer last year's inaugural Triple Play release over this one. I think part of that is the whole shock factor. Unlike last year, I knew what to expect from the product going in this time around.

Still, that's nothing against 2013 Triple Play. Between the cartoons, card backs, and "Traditions", there's still quite a bit to love about it.

As long as the insanely budget-friendly price tag is still intact, I'll forever be a fan of the product.

All in all, I'd say Panini hit another one out of the park with 2013 Triple Play.


P-town Tom said...

I like the type of art they used on the Yu Darvish card, but the Butler and Middlebrooks is definitely different. Whatever they did there just make the players look old and flabby.

It's a fun set, and I'm glad Panini made another go of it in 2013.

Hackenbush said...

I like the artwork more this year than last. It seems they've gone for more exaggerated depictions of the players (like pencil neck). Maybe not flattering to the individual players but more fun in my book.