Tuesday, July 24, 2018

That's Big League

You ever open up a pack of baseball cards and almost literally feel the thrill of opening that pack oozing out of you?

That's how I felt about 2018 Topps Big League.

I admit my longing for Big League devolved into something like a wild goose chase last week, and I ate up a lot of time and gas money in the process of trying to find it.

I went to three different Targets and two different Walmarts in search of the stuff, with only a few rack packs to show for my effort (all from that second Walmart). Those rack packs gave me an itch for more and confirmed what I already suspected from what I'd seen online: this was a set for me. So I went ahead and ordered a Big League hobby box later that same day -- which, thanks to its affordable price point, set me back just a hair under $40(!).

But that should all just speak to how much pure, visceral enjoyment I got out of this set: for my money, it's the most intriguing one I've seen in a long time. I've heard others say it's what Flagship should be and I generally agree with that. The borders are a good start -- non-bordered Flagship is no longer edgy and Big League made me remember how great a basic bordered set could be.

And while I won't lie to myself and say that kids are actually buying it (though I love when case breakers on Twitter unironically try to argue to the contrary), Big League does seem to me to be a good entry-level product for people just entering (or re-entering) the hobby.

And can we just take a minute to talk about the backs?

This, to me, is what a card back should be. Color-coded, nice write-ups, and fun facts that are actually fun -- even Nolan Arenado knows The Office wasn't the same without Michael. My only complaint is that the stat lines are exact replicas of the ones seen in Flagship (don't you have any other fonts, Topps?).

I've often lamented the demise of card backs in recent years, but Topps did good with these.

Big League's inserts are cool, even if they feel a bit like afterthoughts amidst my love for the base set.

Parallels are alive and well in Big League (the blues are exclusive to retail blasters), and while I'd kinda rather have an extra base card per pack instead, I still enjoy these.

Even though I'd found those Walmart rack packs and ordered my box, that still wasn't enough for me: I wanted blasters!

Why? Because you get to cut cards out of the box! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!  It's like Topps knew about my odd-yet-unabashed love for box bottom-esque oddballs. The only other set (of my lifetime, at least) that I can remember having cards embedded inside the box itself was 2009 Upper Deck OPC (which reminds me a lot of Big League, now that I think of it).

My dad secured a couple blasters for me, and I later managed to find one at a local Target a couple days ago (you better believe I specifically scoped out the one with an Ohtani on the back!) -- though my cutting skills definitely need work.

These Players' Weekend cards certainly look like inserts, but they're actually variations within the base checklist.

It's a godsend for me since I was a big fan of the promotion, so much so that I've somewhat started a mini-collection of cardboard featuring Players' Weekend uniforms. (I hesitate to call it a full-blown project since I don't even know if MLB will bring them back again, which let's hope they do.)

I wish Topps used more photos that show the actual nicknames on the backs of the jerseys -- "Chuck Nazty" was the only one I pulled that did -- but nevertheless, it's still a novel idea for a subset.

These "Ballpark Landmarks" are another subset within the base checklist, and they're also a hit with me.

Statues on baseball cards always rule.

Not much deviation from the norm in the legends Topps picked for Big League, but at least they used photos of said legends I'd never seen before.

Card for card, Big League might not wow you in a way that Stadium Club or Archives does.

But don't let that fool you. There might not be any dudes with mascots, nods to old Topps designs, or anything like that here, but Big League is still a just plain solid set, one that I feel Topps did their best to make it as accessible as possible. Only a handful of people might love it as much as I do, but I think that pretty much everyone could find something they like, even if they're only opening a pack or two.

Beauty comes in many forms, and with Big League I think it's a different kind of beauty, a more subdued beauty.

Nothing subdued about the greatness of these, though.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, Big League goes ahead and produces something like this (between Big League and Stadium Club, Ichiro has my two favorite cards of the year so far).

I guess the best thing I can say about Topps Big League is this: I had just as much (if not more) fun going through the cards I pulled after the fact than actually opening the packs themselves. I can't say that about many other sets. A lot of times I'll rip a few packs of something and say: well, okay, I've had my fill of that. And even though I've opened a box, three blasters, and four rack packs of Big League, that thrill isn't gone. I still find myself wanting more Big League.

While there's a lot to be said for the consistent, yearly security of Stadium Club, Heritage and the like, having a brand new set, one full of possibilities -- like Topps Big League -- is just as important to me.


TSHenson said...

I really like the Big League Baseball set. In a way, I wish Topps had put complete career stats on the backs of the cards. I am only collecting the Indians out of the set, but like the Players Weekend cards too.

Jeremya1um said...

I didn’t know about the box bottoms. That is another thing that Topps needs to bring back to Flagship.
The Rays touch tank card is cool. Maybe I’ll get lucky at my local card show on Saturday and find it.

Mike said...

You better like em...i went all over town looking for those boxes,haha!

P-town Tom said...

There is a card with a "dude with mascot"... check out Ketel Marte's card, #281.
Great review. I think it's a wonderful release for a set builder.

The Shlabotnik Report said...

You're making me feel guilty that the set doesn't grab me... especially after finding out about the blaster box cards. I feel like this is everything I've been asking for... well, *almost* everything... and I feel bad that it leaves me cold. I suppose I should give it another shot.

night owl said...

I know I shouldn't cling to the past, but one mention of 2009 OPC and all I can think of is that 2009 OPC whips this set every hour of the day.

Fuji said...

Feel the thrill? Okay. Maybe I'll give one of these blasters a shot. I do like a few of the photographs I've seen. In this particular post, the bubblegum Sanchez stood out.