Monday, June 10, 2019
Worst of the worst
I'm not sure if it's a weird quirk in my personality or maybe the simple curmudgeon in me (perhaps both), but I tend to bond better with people over common dislikes more than likes.
I enjoy asking people about the worst movies they've ever seen, the worst books they've ever read. I'll initially get a confused stare, but it's usually followed by lengthy, genuine thought. In a world brimming with "Best Of" lists, I don't think people ever really stop and consider the worst of the worst. But I find the topic fun.
And I'm as guilty as anyone else of focusing on greatness rather than the obscure: I've said that 1965 Topps is my favorite Topps set ever about a million times on this blog, but when have I ever discussed the worst of the Topps canon?
When I did my Topps countdown a few years ago, 1999 Topps brought up the rear.
I've reconsidered that as of this writing: '99 Topps is pretty darn bad, but I'm now of the opinion that 2000 Topps is even worse -- the worst ever, in fact. At least '99 had a couple nice cards. I can honestly say there's nothing memorable about 2000 Topps. Not the photos, not the borders (I'm not even sure what you'd call that color), and certainly not the foil-crazy failure of a design.
Like Miguel Tejada's admirable efforts here, it's just one big fat miss.
It seems as though Topps and Upper Deck teamed up to present a miserable year to us collectors in 2000, because that year's UD design is also my least favorite in their catalog (an opinion which hasn't changed in the year or two since I did my UD countdown).
I suppose it's not so much that I hate the looks of these cards, it's just that I feel absolutely nothing when I see them.
Sadly, my birth year wasn't exactly a goldmine for cardboard -- 1992 Fleer is far and away my least favorite of their offerings.
I almost audibly groan when I see these cards. Something about the sidelong nameplates and the closing elevator door I can't help but notice in the design plays with my sense of what is good and right about a proper baseball card. I can at least applaud the effort of an off-kilter green border, but that doesn't quite work for me either.
It's like claustrophobia manifested itself into a card design.
My birth year once again makes an appearance on this list -- 1992 brings up the rear in Score's decade-long stint in the card market.
All things considered, though, Score probably has the best of the worst (if that makes any sense). I don't really think there is a bad Score design -- a good amount of decent, some mediocre, and occasional greatness, yes -- but I certainly don't hate anything they produced. I think 1992 wound up being my least favorite because, like '92 Fleer, it just kinda makes everything feel squeezed in.
As I've written this post I've realized that I can live with wacky LSD colors and strange font tweaks, but the one thing I won't stand for is a design being intrusive -- thus, my feelings about '92 Fleer & Score.
Easy call here: 1996 Donruss is the worst Donruss (I'm not counting the Panini Donruss revival of recent years).
Even otherwise nice cards are rendered dull by those awful nameplates, which are tough to read in-hand and downright poisonous to scanners -- not to mention they make it seem like every guy in this set is about to collide with an ill-placed chunk of foil.
And so here it is, the worst of the worst of the worst: 1989 Bowman, which might well be my least favorite set ever made.
A lot of this probably has to do with my affinity for binder storage -- both literally and figuratively, '89 Bowmans stick out like sore thumbs (and I'm not about to buy eight-pocket pages just to appease this dumpster fire of a set). But aside from the look-how-retro-we-are attempt by Topps to revive the olden days of Bowman, this design is just, well...nothing. It's barely a baseball card to me. I'll just say this: 1989 Bowman managed to make Tony Gwynn look bad, which I always thought was impossible.
If that doesn't make it the worst of the worst, I don't know what will.