Monday, October 28, 2013
2013 Topps Update: The end is near (Pt. 1)
Someone once asked Rogers Hornsby what he did during the offseason.
"I stare out the window and wait for spring."
That's kind of how I am during the winter months when baseball is away. I have a passing interest in football and hockey, and basketball doesn't much register on my radar these days.
The day the World Series ends is the day I start looking forward to the next season. The light at the end of the tunnel, though, is the fact that I'll always have my baseball cards. This is a year-round hobby for me.
In a lot of ways, it helps me cope with the inevitable close of each season. I think that's why I'm such a big Topps Update fan.
I've bought a hobby box of Update each and every passing season since I started getting back into the baseball card game in 2007. It's a seven-year tradition that continued in 2013, as my box arrived early last week.
For the first time, though, this year's box of Update was the only one I broke all year. It's kind of the last big "hoorah" of the card season for me, something that definitely continued here in 2013.
As far as I'm concerned, there are three major draws to each year's Update checklist.
First, we have the All-Star cards. If it wasn't for "Mo", this year's Midsummer Classic would've been a downright snoozer. However, such a grand tribute to the game's greatest closer was easily one of the greatest things I've ever seen in baseball.
Other bloggers have said that his 2013 Update All-Star issue would be a cardboard goodbye for Rivera. I agree with that.
I'd still like to see him get a true "sunset" card in 2014, though.
Many other bloggers have said that Topps features way too many All-Star cards within their Update checklist.
Once again, I agree. However, I'm not sure that's entirely Topps's fault. I'd argue that there are simply too many All-Stars these days. With all these crazy new rules for what should be an exhibition game, a total of 79 players were chosen to participate in this year's Midsummer Classic.
Topps could cut down on the amount of those players they feature in Update's All-Star subset. At the same time, though, I get the fact that they want to showcase as many as possible.
That said, quite a few were to my liking. While not an official All-Star card, that "Mo" is a terrific shot of the game's MVP. Not to mention a nice add to my "Award Show" mini-collection.
Although Bartolo Colon didn't even pitch in this year's contest, he easily received my favorite All-Star issue of anyone not named Mariano Rivera.
Topps pulled no punches in noting that the surprising ace is indeed 40 years young.
Here, we have a great shot of this year's Home Run Derby champion, Yoenis Cespedes.
I'm not much for the Derby these days, but I do find it interesting that Cespedes won it in 2013.
After all, the guy wasn't even an All-Star.
For many, the second major feature of Topps Update is probably the most important.
Over the years, Update has always been a fantastic source for some of the game's greatest prospects. That trend continued in 2013.
I'm nearly the polar opposite of a "prospector", as you might guess by the title of this blog. That said, I do look forward to seeing many of the rookies in each passing Update checklist. In fact, I've been inducting more and more into my binders over the course of the past few years.
The lumberjack-like Evan Gattis received the binder nod earlier this year.
All things considered, he was the basis for my favorite rookie storyline from 2013.
These are another couple prospects I'll be adding to my binders.
Sonny Gray really impressed me with his couple starts in this year's ALDS. That, and the fact that his name comes right out of turn-of-the-century baseball, convinced me to add him to my player collection catalog. (The fact that I pulled the gold parallel of his card didn't hurt, either.)
I'm banking on Mike Zunino to have a breakout season in 2014. Because he plays for the small-market Mariners, I think he's been flying under the radar.
This year's Update provided me with my first card of the Seattle catcher.
For what it's worth, I'm rooting for the Red Sox in this year's World Series.
However, both of these young St. Louis hurlers have been nothing short of spectacular in 2013. Again, both will be added to my binders.
Plus, that's a pretty mean throwback on Shelby Miller there.
Yes, in case you were wondering, Puig-mania did hit my box of Update.
I pulled all three (three?!) of the cards he received in the checklist, a predictable form of overkill on the part of Topps.
His "true" rookie card, however, was actually a dupe for me. I'd pulled it a from a few retail packs a couple days prior.
I hope to surprise one of my fellow Dodger bloggers with my extra Puig soon.
If they haven't all gotten a copy by then, that is.
All-Stars and rookies are great.
My favorite part of Update, however, is the fact that it's among the first time we get to see players in their new duds with each passing year.
For the most part, Topps has been on the ball when it comes to Trade Deadline deals and/or Series 1 and 2 no-shows with Update. While there's bound to be a few oversights, Topps has generally been good giving most guys their time in the spotlight.
This year's Update features the first card of Alfonso Soriano as a Yankee in almost a decade. He came up as a standout second baseman with the Bronx Bombers before famously being dealt to Texas in the A-Rod deal.
After a short stop with the Nationals and quite a few underwhelming years with the Cubs, he was dealt back to New York at this year's deadline.
I love that Topps gave Derek Jeter a cameo here, as both he and Soriano were Yankee teammates a decade ago.
It's almost like nothing has changed.
As evidenced by the Soriano and this one, a few of my cards had minor foil chipping on the nameplates.
Do I care?
Not in the slightest.
Besides, the nameplate is the last thing I see with this fantastic celebratory shot of Michael Young.
While both Eric Hinske and Jeff Francoeur are binder guys of mine, I was a little surprised to see them featured in 2013 Update.
Happy, but surprised.
Hinske's defining moment this year was being wrongly accused in this year's massive Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl, eventually getting his suspension cut down from five games to one.
Arizona released Hinske in July.
Jeff Francoeur received a similar fate, as he was also received his walking papers in July. However, the Giants quickly scooped up the former Royal. "Frenchy" only appeared in 22 games with San Francisco, though, hitting under .200 in the process.
I certainly wasn't counting on seeing him in 2013 Update.
But I'll take it.
I hope I'm wrong, but these may well be "sunset" cards by the time 2014 rolls around.
Even at 42, though, someone may be willing to give Jason Giambi a look next year. If not, there's no doubt in my mind that he has a future as a big league coach or manager.
If he doesn't come back in 2014, Roy Oswalt's tenure with the Rockies may be considered one of the all-time unfamiliar "sunsets". The 36 year-old racked up an 8.63 ERA in nine starts for the franchise.
I'm sure a lot of fans didn't even know he was still in the big leagues.
I was glad to see these guys honored in 2013 Update.
After a surprising appearance in this year's Heritage, Topps doubled the fun by including Pat Neshek in this year's Update checklist is well. The back tells of the hurler's collecting ties, noting that he's around 40 cards short of having a complete autographed 1985 Topps set.
That's an insanely big feat, considering that the '85 Topps checklist features 792 cards. The guy even has a website devoted to his project.
Tom Gorzelanny's local ties have been documented on this blog before. I was glad to see him included in this year's Update, as it's his first card as a Brewer.
That sweet throwback is just icing on the cake.
I still can't believe Scott Kazmir went from playing independent ball to the big leagues in less than a year.
But, alas, he did. Kazmir emerged as a serviceable starter for the Indians, just a couple years removed from a massive collapse with the Angels.
Thanks to such an amazing story, Kazmir's first card here in 2013 ranks up there among my favorites of the year.
Ending things tonight is this terrific "play at the plate" shot of Marlon Byrd, the man behind one of my biggest and longest-running player collections.
After a dismal 2012, the outfielder surprisingly made the Mets roster out of Spring Training. Even more surprising were the numbers he put up. At age 36, his 24 homers are a new career high. Byrd's success made me one happy camper.
In fact, this card's only major flaw is the fact that he isn't even a Met anymore. They dealt Byrd to the (then) pennant-contending Pirates in late August.
In a strange way, though, that makes this piece even better. After all, it'll probably go down in history as Byrd's only card as a Met.
Of course, there's a bit more to Topps Update. Inserts, parallels, and others are all something we'll be covering in the second part of my box review.
In the end, though, the base cards are what still make the set such a great tradition for me.
They're what get me through the winter.