Monday, October 31, 2016

The Frankenset Bracket: The Elite Eight (Pt. 2)

The first half of the Final Four is set!

#3 (Page 3) -- 1972 Topps #19 Billy Cowan (20 votes)


#13 (Page 5) -- 1996 Score #38 Bip Roberts (10 votes)

#2 (Page 63) -- 1976 Topps #564 Kurt Bevacqua (20 votes)


#4 (Page 34) -- 1973 Topps #302 Terry Crowley (10 votes)

With the defeat of Sombrero Bip, an all-vintage Final Four is a certainty now. Frankenset legends Cowan and Bevacqua both won with comfortable 20-to-10 victories over their competitors, and I've personally voted for them every step of the way.

Choosing between them is going to be nearly impossible come Final Four time.


But first things first, we still have to vote on the second half of our Elite Eight contestants.

Let's see who has a chance to join Cowan and Bevacqua in the Frankenset Final Four.

#1 (Page 70) -- 1973 Topps #627 Luis Alvarado


#2 (Page 53) -- 1971 Topps #476 Dal Maxvill

#9 (Page 47) -- 1973 Topps #420 Tommie Agee


#15 (Page 28) -- 1970 Topps #252 Lowell Palmer

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Top 16 from '16 Update

For the first time I can remember, Flagship has fallen by the wayside with me this year.

Aside from the Jose Bautista bat flip, there hasn't really been a single memorable card in either the Series 1 or 2 checklists. From what I can tell, Topps has put almost no effort into photo selection for (what is supposed to be) their premier brand. Flagship, to me, had fallen stillborn from the presses here in 2016.

But then came Update. I've bought a hobby box of this set nearly every year since I broke back into the baseball card market about a decade ago. It's my little way of partaking in a end-of-year celebration, a party which got underway upon the arrival of my box in the mail last Saturday.

The usual Update excitement swept over me since I've always had something of an unabashed attachment to this brand, though I must admit I wasn't expecting much given how mundane Flagship had been this year.

For starters, my box did something I thought was darn near impossible: it got me semi-excited over a jersey card.

Though I obviously have to root against him in this year's Fall Classic, Andrew Miller is one of my favorite current ballplayers. As luck would have it, Miller's "event-worn" (Topps' words) All-Star Game workout jersey card fell out of a pack about halfway through the box.

The fact that I own part of a mustard-yellow jersey is both neat and horrifying at the same time.

Unlike the blessed box of Update I opened last year, I didn't have a whole lot of luck with the parallels in 2016.

Though I can't complain too much with Kershaw and Stanton here, these two rainbow foils turned out to be the only parallels I needed out of the entirety of the 36 packs I opened.

Guess there's always 2017 Update.

Update's inserts line up with most of what Flagship has been this year: boring.

The all-Ichiro, all-the-time "Chasing 3K" set is a carryover from Series 2. I'm all for more Ichiro cards, but devoting an entire 30-card insert series to a single player (even Ichiro) is incredibly redundant.

I don't have much to say about the "Franklin" set except that I really hope sponsored baseball cards don't start becoming a thing in this hobby.

I'm not sure what Topps' obsession is with 3,000-hit milestone this year, but the "3,000 Hits Club" insert set is yet another uninspired effort.

The "Fire" series, on the other hand, is overinspired (is that a word?) and looks like something I produced in the Web Design class I almost failed my senior year of high school.

The popular "First Pitch" checklist remains the only notable insert series in Update.

These are all welcome additions to the binders -- and the story of young card collector Brady Kahle warmed my heart -- but the best of this bunch has to be Aubrey Plaza, an actress best known for portraying April Ludgate(!) on Parks & Recreation.

Admittedly, I didn't get into Parks & Rec until a few months ago thanks to a recommendation from a friend, but April quickly became my favorite character could she not?


As is the often case with this low-end collector, however, the base cards are why I keep returning to Update.

For whatever reason, Topps chose to trim Update's checklist down to just 300 cards, as opposed to 350 for both Series 1 and 2. The silver lining there is that I managed to pull every single base card I needed from my box without having to resort to the secondary market for stragglers.

I don't know whether it's the rose-colored glasses I wear when it comes to Update or not, but this year's brand certainly seems like a grand departure from what we saw in Series 1 and 2: 2016 Update is inspired.

It's so well-rounded that it took many trials and tribulations to make a Top 16 list in honor of the best of 2016 Update (though I did cheat a little along the way).

Honorable mention -- 2016 Topps Update #US-223 Jose Fernandez AS


#16 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-266 Willson Contreras RC

Here's my first card of a guy who is quickly becoming one of my new favorite Cubs.

I was really hoping Topps would go with the rare C/OF designation due to Contreras's anachronistic versatility in the field, but it's still a fine card of the young star.

Also, it was only a few days ago that I noticed he spells his first name with two L's.

#15 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-138 Kyle Schwarber RD

Here's another fantastic card of a young Cubs backstop, though the inclusion of it in 2016 Update is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Schwarber's debut came in mid-June of 2015, so I'm not exactly sure why he's getting a spot in the Rookie Debut subset here in 2016 over a year after the fact. Confusion aside, however, I love the catcher/ump combo shot, which you don't see too often these days.

I'm rooting for Schwarber more than any other Cub on this year's World Series roster for the sheer fact that I can't even believe he's out there in the first place.

#14 -- All-Star Game awards

Hoisting the hardware always makes for fun baseball cards.

#13 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-15 Wilson Ramos AS

The impenetrable barrier between player and fan.

#12 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-238 Alejandro De Aza

A play at the plate and special "42" jerseys?

I must be in heaven.

#11 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-42 Andrew Miller

Year in and year out, I come back to Update for the (often) first cards of players in their new uniforms.

Here's the first we're seeing of the aforementioned Andrew Miller in his new Cleveland garb on cardboard.

#10 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-145 Aroldis Chapman

The Update factor is especially sweet when it comes to new hometown guys.

I still have mixed feelings about seeing Aroldis Chapman in Cubs pinstripes, but the fact of the matter is that the Cubs did need bullpen help for the stretch and Chapman certainly provided that at the deadline this year.

And he's darn fun to watch pitch what with those 103-MPH fastballs and all.

#9 -- Dugouts!

Dugouts are an often ignored space when it comes to cardboard, which is a shame because they can provide a candid look at the game you won't often see on other baseball cards.

Whoever was in charge of selecting the photos for 2016 Update seemed to recognize that.

#8 -- Memorable moments

Update, to me, is a final flourish for the baseball season.

It hits the shelves right around the time the postseason is in full swing, and is really the last big set of each calendar year. Update's Highlights subset always hits the mark on some of the more memorable moments of the season.

Glad to see Bartolo's dinger made the cut.

#7 -- Cameos

Before last year, Update's All-Star cards had been a tad stale: the guys depicted on the cards looked like any average Joe on the street.

I noticed in 2015 that Topps began to include more cameo-laden All-Star shots in Update, which I absolutely loved (though I seemed to be in the minority there). The trend has continued here in 2016, and I couldn't be happier.

Because how often do you get to show Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, and Salvador Perez on a single baseball card?

#6 -- All-Star jersey presentations

Here's another carryover trend I noticed beginning with last year's Update.

I think these jersey presentation shots add a fun new angle to the All-Star subset (even if the jerseys themselves were God-awful). It's also a great way to give guys who didn't end up playing in the Midsummer Classic (like Steven Wright) proper All-Star cards.

Like the cameos, I hope these make a return in 2017 Update.

#5 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-225 Tim Lincecum

I said it when I tracked down his Heritage High Numbers issue and I'll say it again: Tim Lincecum looks just plain wrong in an Angels jersey.

Which, of course, made this card one I needed to have.

#4 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-196 Mark Trumbo

My exact thought upon first sight: Now THIS is a baseball card.

#3 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-285 Kenta Maeda RD

Here's a rare card that commemorates a pitcher's feat at the plate.

I can't imagine many hurlers have hit a home run in their big-league debut, but Kenta Maeda did exactly that on April 6th of this year.

Put the curtain call together with the exuberance of the Dodger fans in the background and you have one memorable baseball card.

#2 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-199 Brandon Moss


The Arch. The Coca-Cola ad. The city skyline. The centerfield batter's eye. The bleacher crowd. The retired numbers of Cardinals greats. The framing of a random fan on the giant Busch Stadium scoreboard.

My God, what a card.

#1 -- 2016 Topps Update #US-254 David Ortiz AS

I don't know if I'm like a lot of other collectors, in that if I see a photogenic moment happen during a baseball game on TV -- like a close play at home or a diving catch -- my immediate first thought is: That should be a baseball card.

When I saw David Ortiz tip his cap to the roaring crowd in San Diego this year, I had the same thought. That NEEDS to be his All-Star card. Like the moment itself, it would've been a perfect tribute to one of this generation's all-time greats.

It's good to see that Topps was on the same page.

I think the fact that I was able to create this list at all is a testament to how great Update is this year, and how much it skies over the lackluster efforts we saw in Series 1 and 2.

Once again, Update is king of the postseason.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Not to rub it in or anything, but...

As you may have heard, the Cubs will be playing in their first World Series game since 1945 this evening.

Though it's impossible to put into words, I know what I felt when the Cubs turned that pennant-clinching double play in Game 6 of the NLCS was a once-in-a-lifetime feeling. And as luck would have it, I have some cards to show from perhaps the premier fan of the team the North Siders defeated on their way to the Fall Classic: Greg of the Dodger-crazed "Night Owl Cards."

I won't gloat, I won't be cocky, but I will admit: it was especially sweet to see the Dodgers get manhandled in those last couple games after the way they demolished the Cubs in the 2008 NLDS. (That's right, I haven't forgotten about that.)

But in getting to the cards, Greg kicked things off with this terrific Max Scherzer All-Star Game insert from last year's Update, which features a cameo from none other than Cubs icon Anthony Rizzo.

With the way Rizzo's been swinging the bat lately, I'm betting he'll have a lot more than a mere cameo in this year's Series.

I'm expecting the Cubs to win it all (of course), but I sure don't think the Indians will be a pushover.

A very, very small part of me is sad I can't pull for the Clevelanders anymore, since they were probably my favorite team in the AL this year and have fielded some of my all-time favorite ballplayers, like Andre Thornton here. This superb '79 Topps Comic from Greg was new to me.

Quick side story: I work at a bookstore in O'Hare airport, and none other than current Indians skipper Terry Francona came through the store back in February before the season started. He bought a six-dollar greeting card and I parted by telling him: "I'll be rooting for the Indians this year."

Sorry, Tito, but I just can't root for you anymore.

Greg stepped up and knocked out a chunk of my remaining insert needs from 2015.

Willie Mays is so cool that he even makes that awful "Archetypes" design look halfway decent.

A couple shinys here.

The Reddick is a prism refractor from last year's Chrome, and the Kimbrel is one of those special megabox-exclusive sparkles from 2015 Update.

I obviously didn't have much reason to root for the Dodgers in the NLCS, but a tiny part of me wanted to see Josh Reddick get a couple knocks here and there. He's one of my favorite current big leaguers (he and I share February 19th birthdays, as I've mentioned many times on this blog), and the Dodgers picked him up at the trade deadline this year.

Both of my wishes came true: Reddick hit .364 in the NLCS without having a huge impact on the series, and the Cubs won in six.

Here's a couple Matt Kemps, and another one of those fantastic megabox sparklers, to boot.

Seems like ages since he was a Dodger.

Greg kept the parallel train going with these two bordered beauties.

The Bell remains one of the best All-Star cards ever made, I think.

I do still miss Triple Play, but I'll be the first to admit that the Hosmer isn't one of the better efforts from that set.

I've recently decided to move Orel Hershiser into the upper tier of my player collections, and Greg helped me out there with a nifty Duracell oddball of the Bulldog himself. Because apparently they just packaged baseball cards with anything in the '90s.

Oh, those were the days...

As you might know, Greg is building the '56 Topps set, and he decided to gift me with what I'm guessing is a double he picked up along the way.

Carlos Paula only played one full season in the big leagues (1955), but he sure got a fantastic card out of it. I'll take pretty much anything from '56 Topps people want to send me because it's such a gosh darn beautiful set, and bonus points if it features a defunct team like the Senators. Greg certainly hit the nail on the head with this one and everything else he included in this package.

Okay, I know you've probably been hearing stats like this all throughout the postseason, but here's another one: Walter Johnson was a 21-year-old pitching in his first full major league season the last time the Cubs won a World Series.

I think it's about time this team brought the Commissioner's Trophy back to the North Side of Chicago.

Go Cubs!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Frankenset Bracket: The Elite Eight (Pt. 1)

Let's see how the final part of the Sweet 16 played out.

#1 (Page 70) -- 1973 Topps #627 Luis Alvarado (29 votes)


#13 (Page 17) -- 1981 Fleer #148 Ellis Valentine (8 votes)

#2 (Page 53) -- 1971 Topps #476 Dal Maxvill (24 votes)


#6 (Page 65) -- 1988 Fleer #582 Tim Flannery (13 votes)

#9 (Page 47) -- 1973 Topps #420 Tommie Agee (25 votes)


#12 (Page 1) -- 1960 Topps #5 Wally Moon (11 votes)

#15 (Page 28) -- 1970 Topps #252 Lowell Palmer (21 votes)


#3 (Page 15) -- 1973 Topps #133 Dave Roberts (17 votes)

As I kind of expected, Alvarado, Maxvill, and Agee all advanced to the Elite Eight with commanding victories last week. Meanwhile, Lowell Palmer -- a #15 seed Cinderella story that has captured the hearts of the nation -- continued his improbable run with a slim win over the '73 Topps Dave Roberts, a set that has been tough to knock out in this tournament.

On to the Elite Eight we go.


Like the Sweet 16, I'll be splitting the Elite Eight voting into halves with two matchups this week and two next week.

The winners of this sure-to-be-exctiting round will move on to the Final Four.

#13 (Page 5) -- 1996 Score #38 Bip Roberts


#3 (Page 3) -- 1972 Topps #19 Billy Cowan

#4 (Page 34) -- 1973 Topps #302 Terry Crowley


#2 (Page 63) -- 1976 Topps #564 Kurt Bevacqua

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Frankenset Bracket: The Sweet 16 (Pt. 2)

The first half of the Sweet 16 is in the books.

#13 (Page 5) -- 1996 Score #38 Bip Roberts (19 votes)


#9 (Page 20) -- 2012 Topps #172 Reed Johnson (15 votes)

#3 (Page 3) -- 1972 Topps #19 Billy Cowan (21 votes)


#7 (Page 21) -- 1984 Fleer #182 Glenn Hubbard (13 votes)

#4 (Page 34) -- 1973 Topps #302 Terry Crowley (19 votes)


#1 (Page 51) -- 1991 Topps #455 Walt Weiss (15 votes)

#2 (Page 63) -- 1976 Topps #564 Kurt Bevacqua (20 votes)


#3 (Page 48) -- 1998 Fleer Tradition #424 Jermaine Allensworth (14 votes)

Last week's voting was chock full of story lines. Sombrero Bip -- a #13 seed, mind you -- continues his magical run into the Elite Eight with a victory over Reed Johnson and the birds. Also, Terry Crowley's defeat of Walt Weiss means that three of the four #1 seeds have been knocked out of this tourney.

It's already setting up to be a very vintage Elite Eight.


Will the vintage trend continue with the second and final round of Sweet 16 matchups?

Only one way to find out.

#1 (Page 70) -- 1973 Topps #627 Luis Alvarado


#13 (Page 17) -- 1981 Fleer #148 Ellis Valentine

#6 (Page 65) -- 1988 Fleer #582 Tim Flannery


#2 (Page 53) -- 1971 Topps #476 Dal Maxvill

#9 (Page 47) -- 1973 Topps #420 Tommie Agee


#12 (Page 1) -- 1960 Topps #5 Wally Moon

#3 (Page 15) -- 1973 Topps #133 Dave Roberts


#15 (Page 28) -- 1970 Topps #252 Lowell Palmer

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!