If people from sunnier climes have been wondering how cold it's been in the Midwest this week, I'll just say this: cold enough to postpone my very favorite day on the cardboard calendar -- the first release of the new year!
I'm usually off to Target at the first peep of Topps being on the shelves -- I can't remember ever doing otherwise. Current cards may not be everyone's bag, but if nothing else, there's little denying it's the most symbolic day of the year. Baseball coming, warm weather, and all that. It's a time to remember things.
And with -60 wind chills outside my window, I sure needed those memories triggered, whether by springtime symbolism or not.
So I deemed yesterday the day where I'd brave the bitter cold and scope me out some 2019 Topps -- temps were only in the single-digit negatives as opposed to the negative teens and twenties earlier in the week.
And yes, there it was, shining like a summer day in the card aisle: a freshly stocked display of 2019 Topps!
I quickly grabbed a blaster, a hanger box, and a mix of rack packs and single packs, and in the wave of excitement I failed to notice a semi-major change this year before I opened a single wrapper.
Turns out the days of $1.99 Topps packs are over: like Gypsy Queen, Heritage, and the other "high-end" retail sets, Flagship packs are now $2.99 a pop -- though they're now stuffed with 16 cards per as opposed to the 12 (I think?) of years past. (As far as I can remember, the price points of blasters, rack packs, etc. are still the same.)
I'm not necessarily fond of the price hike, but aside from that, my opinions on 2019 Topps can pretty much be summarized in three words: I dig 'em.
The fronts are spiffy and continue a recent Flagship upswing after the horrendous 2016-17 designs, but just as importantly, the backs are notably better this year for the sheer reason that career stats are represented for the first time in longer than I care to remember.
Finally, we get a true feel for the lengthy and/or well-traveled careers of guys like Rich Hill once again.
There's not much to note on the parallel front -- the golds are very discotheque-ish (as is the design in general, but it's way more apparent on the golds), and the 150th Anniversary stamped parallels are subtle enough to miss (or at least I did).
The inserts actually feel somewhat more inspired this year -- still not anything I'm jumping for joy over, but enough to catch my attention at least.
More inserts, including a Ty Cobb Turkey Red reprint I'm particularly enthralled with.
I enjoy reprints, and cards like that Cobb of a century prior are the types of cards I think should be reprinted -- not another godforsaken '84 Topps Mattingly for the 472nd time.
And speaking of '84 Topps, that's the theme for Topps's yearly insert homage here in 2019.
I've never been overly fond of the '84 design -- it's just a watered-down version of '83 Topps to me -- but I'll still probably ending up hoarding quite a few of these because current dudes on old designs rarely fails to woo me.
These are a nice change of pace: team cards have been transformed into panoramic ballpark shots in 2019 Topps, and wow are they beautiful.
Objectively, Topps didn't have to include either of these guys in Series 1: David Bote was mostly a backup last year and Michael Kopech probably won't pitch at all in 2019 after Tommy John.
But subjectively, these were a couple of my favorite pulls since I've become a big fan of both of these hometown guys -- so thank you, Topps!
Got to add the first 2019 cards to my mini-collection spreadsheet, which made me glad I started a mini-collection spreadsheet.
Maybe it's a bit of release day rose-colored glasses talking here, but the photography in 2019 Topps seems like the best it's been in years.
I pulled more stop-and-look cards than I can remember getting out of Flagship in a while, including Trout at the wall and an unexpected moment of levity from last year's Wild Card game.
My parents still talk of a Chicago day more than 30 years ago where temps dropped to scary lows, and maybe, 30 years from now, I'll remember what happened just this week, how those just-as-frigid temps kept me home on what should've been my favorite day of the card year.
For that reason, little more than pure happenstance, I suppose this set might be forever embedded in my memory, but that's really selling the excellence of 2019 Topps short: the cards are more than memorable enough on their own.