Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Finally, a Donruss set that matters (sort of)

I've lost track of the number of times I've insulted Panini's revived version of Donruss on this blog.

Donruss has brought up the rear on my Sets of the Year countdowns for, well...as long as it's been around. If memory serves, I've never devoted an entire post to Donruss, because I've never had anywhere near enough words to fill a whole write-up about what had been a sorry excuse for a brand.

Since its rebirth a few years back, Panini's Donruss has been a) repetitive, b) unlike anything related to the original version of Donruss, and c) horrible.

But not this year.

Or at least not as much.

Based on what I'd been seeing around the blogs for the past week or so, I took the leisurely stroll down to Target and picked up a couple rack packs of 2017 Donruss, the first time I'd bought any retail of this stuff in at least a couple years.

By now, you generally know what to expect from Donruss: generally well-known players featured on generic action photos without logos.

This year is certainly no exception to that rule.

But you might notice something familiar with 2017 Donruss: it's an obvious rehashing of the original brand's 1990 design.

Thought I'm not a fan of 1990 Donruss (is anybody?), this, I think, is what Panini should do if they ever want to make this set distinct. The designs they'd been trotting out in the past didn't look like anything related to the good ol' days of Donruss...they didn't look like much of anything at all, for that matter.

Donruss had a long history, and I always thought part of the job of Panini's revival should've been to honor that past. Between the cursive player name and dotted borders, this year's Donruss does that, albeit without the distinct red borders of 1990 Donruss.

I'm not saying I love 2017 Donruss by any means -- 1990 Donruss is still yucky and the photos are still woefully uninspired. I'm not saying I'll be rushing out to the store and stocking my cart full of rack packs of the stuff. No.

All I'm saying is that Donruss, for the first time in its history, has taken a step in the right direction.

Before, you had to go to the inserts to find any kind of tribute to Original Donruss.

Last year featured an insert set that honored the ball-and-bat '82 design, so it makes sense that 2017 would include a nod to the bat-and-glove '83 template. Better yet, these come five per rack pack, so you certainly get your fill with even the smallest purchase.

Here's hoping 2018 Donruss has an '84 tribute, because that's far and away my favorite design in the long history of the brand.

I'll close things out with an insert of La Potencia whose beauty transcends all bounds, Donruss haters and fans alike.

I certainly never wanted Panini's Donruss to continue to crash and burn every year. I like that Panini revived it, because outside of Topps and Upper Deck, I'd say Donruss is the most impactful brand ever. It didn't deserve to go out the way it did. But Panini wasn't doing it any favors with the forgettable, plain designs they'd been churning out.

It took a few years, but I'm glad to be able to say that, for the first time, Panini has finally -- finally -- produced a Donruss set that matters.


Mike said...

Those ball/bat/glove inserts are great!

buckstorecards said...

I just wish they'd done what they did with football and basketball (moreso with the former) and had the borders done up in team colours all while keeping the script and dots elements.

Chris said...

Panini did a pretty good job with this set; I dont buy packs of unlicensed stuff (though I do feel a bit guilty about that) but I just might bust a couple packs of these. I got some 2017 Donruss Red Sox in a trade, and I thought they look like peppermint sticks or something.

The Cespedes insert is very cool. Are they still doing Diamond Kings?

Jon said...

1989-91 was my peak collecting time. I can't look at 1990 Donruss objectively because it's so nostalgic. I don't absolutely hate the 2017 design...

Jeremya1um said...

I really like what Donruss has done the past 2 years. Last year I enjoyed the inserts and parallels, and this year the base sets as well as inserts. '17 Donruss was the first ever pack of cards that mg wife and I got my son a week ago.

Matt Prigge said...

Am I the only one who loves the 90 Donruss look??

Fuji said...

If I ever find any boxes of this stuff at my local wholesaler, I'd probably buy them... assuming they were dirt cheap. Otherwise, I'll save my money for dime box singles and/or eBay pickups.

Bob Gibson Fan said...

The angled stripes on the sides seem to recall '91 Donruss. Interesting that they would reference two of their most disliked designs.
An '84 style insert would be great!

Anonymous said...

The side-by-side comparison is interesting, because I hadn't realized that the 2017 card has less real estate for the photo than the 1990 card did. I like these, but I still like the football version of this design better.

The Cespedes insert is nice, but it's also interesting because the sunglasses fill in the "logo void", and that helps the card tremendously. As a result, the card just subtly mentions that it's unlicensed instead of screaming it.

Matthew Scott said...

It is a step in the right direction. The inserts were always the lone bright spot for Donruss. At least now the base set made a step in the right direction. I like buying Panini products because the price point is better and the checklists are more diverse.

Big Tone said...

I never thought the Panini Donruss brands were horrible.They weren't great ,but I liked them.I viewed Donruss's comeback as a kickstarter of sorts. I figured that buying their product early on would promote growth and improvement In future releases.I didn't mind doing Donruss a favor even If they weren't doing us any.I feel like I at least owed It to them for all the wonderful childhood memories.

Tony Lehman said...

This year's Donruss is better than the first couple of efforts, definitely.

That said, I still don't like it enough to seek it out. Two reasons:

1. Lack of licensing means that everyone's uniform colors have to be altered nearly beyond recognition to avoid getting sued.
2. The photos are the SAME DAMN PHOTO OVER AND OVER. I can't say this enough.

What Panini should do is take a page out of late 1960s Topps's book: go to real photos of players that aren't recolored beyond recognition. Do it by getting head shots and posed photos without caps. Get the MLBPA people to get their stars to pose for their money for 10 minutes in spring training rather than being lazy and rehashing the Getty photos.

Another plus would be to expand beyond the same players all the time. If Topps won't give us cards of Jhan Marinez on the Brewers, maybe Panini should do it instead. Give us Panini's "Opening Day Lineups" product with the 25-man rosters and DLs for each team.

Oh well. I'm just an angry middle aged man playing with cardboard...

Shane C. SportsManiaCard said...

I just cant get excited about a product with no license.

Brian said...

As Tony already said, I could live with no logos if the photos were interesting. All batters are the same, all pitchers are the same. No portraits, rarely do we see anyone in the field besides the catcher.
They have no license, but the photos also are devoid of the individual personality of the player, or any context of the event taking place. I imagine that is also in part because of the licensing issue, but could it hurt to be a little more creative?
I do agree that the border design is the best it has been for Donruss in a long time.