My deepest sympathies are with the unfortunate souls who were put in charge of piecing together Topps Update this year.
When I picture the process in my head, I see absolute insanity at Topps HQ: papers flying, people scrambling, voices screaming. Maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic, but I have to imagine it was a panic from the get-go. Making 2020 Update was, in many ways, an impossible task. How do you truly "update" a season that didn't start until late July? How can you make All-Star cards without an All-Star game? And if there's nothing to update, and no All-Star cards, how can you make Topps Update?
In short: how can you properly document the three-month insanity that we agreed to call a baseball season?
The solution, at least in part, isn't much of a stretch from a lot of what Topps does these days -- ruthlessly bloat the checklist.
As I've said before, Topps Update Release Day is always circled on my calendar, even if, admittedly, the set has isn't really what it once was. I still like Update, and even with all the craziness this year, I was still thrilled to open some late last week. Between a few spare packs Dad found for me, and a freshly-stocked display that somehow went untouched by the pack hoarders at my local Target, I got my fill of 2020 Update.
But while the packs were fun, as Update always is for me, I couldn't help wondering what the point of this set truly was. Update seems to go to press sometime around mid-summer...and there wasn't even a baseball season going on then in 2020. With nothing to update, Topps just seemed to shove as many cards as possible into this year's set without any thought as to whether they should exist or not.
Case in point: my packs yielded three of the four Mike Trout base cards in the 300-card checklist, and two of the FIVE(!) Albert Pujols cards -- why in god's name does Albert Pujols (or anyone) have five cards in the same set?!
I understand a lot of these weird decisions had to be made at the eleventh hour, and contrary to what I've heard from most other collectors, I actually think these "replacement" All-Star cards were a good idea in a pinch.
It's a bit jarring to see past greats on the 2020 base design, but I kinda like the concept of reflecting on past All-Star Games in the absence of a true Midsummer Classic this year -- granted, they feature the same crop of a dozen legends we see in every set these days (Jeter, Griffey, et al), but I'll never turn down a new Ichiro card!
But a lot of what made it into Topps Update this year is just...weird.
David Price and Billy Hamilton both have zero-year cards, and while I love them for that, I'll be the first to admit they probably shouldn't have been included in the first place. If Topps had time to make substitutes for the All-Star cards, then I have to imagine these could've been scrapped. David Price opted out of the 2020 season and never played for the Dodgers. Billy Hamilton, on the other hand, actually played for two other teams this year (Mets, Cubs), but is still featured with the Giants, who traded him before the season started.
Yasmany Tomas appeared in four games with the Diamondbacks in 2019, and exactly zero in 2020...yet here he is in Topps Update -- and the coup de grace of Update zaniness has to be that Bartolo Colon, the first card I've ever seen that lists a player as a free agent (not to mention that calling him "active" is a bit of a stretch).
There's only a handful of cards that genuinely feel like they belong in an Update set -- I'm talking guys like Jason Kipnis and Derek Holland who've changed teams since their last appearance in a Flagship checklist, and thus in need of updating.
In hindsight, I wouldn't have minded if Topps made this an online-only release and/or issued it as a smaller 100ish-card box set or something, similar to what they did in the late '80s/early '90s -- seems like a better option than making five Albert Pujols cards.
Despite the insanity, Topps did manage to sneak a few fine shots into 2020 Update, as evidenced here.
Topps was also forced to use a fair amount of posed shots here (gasp!), which I'm having trouble remembering the last time I saw those in a Flagship set.
It's never a good thing when the inserts are more exciting than the base cards in the packs I buy, but I guess that's bound to happen when Topps lets Mark Grace and Ron Santo make rare cameos in a modern set(!).
More miscellaneous inserts -- including a Luis Robert from Dad's packs I was sure happy to get, because I don't even wanna look at what his cards are going for right now (thanks, flippers!).
Dad managed to snag an Update blaster for me, and as luck would have it, he pulled probably the only one of these weird blaster-exclusive coin cards I'd actually care about owning with this Rizzo here.
I guess I expected 2020 Update was going to be a strange state of affairs, but I just didn't think it was gonna be this weird -- which, now that I think of it, is kinda how I'd describe 2020 as a whole.