Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Topps Update sucks

I wish to god the title of this post was nothing more than clickbait, a scathing-yet-empty lead designed for the sheer purpose of getting you to look at this blog.

But unfortunately it's no joke, and there's really no way around it: 2017 Topps Update just kinda sucks. This is very painful for me to say -- and worse yet, mean -- because I've been a staunch supporter of Update for as long as I've been collecting baseball cards.

As usual, I had high hopes going into this year. Unfortunately, things got off on the wrong foot: I somewhat bungled what is supposed to be my favorite time of the cardboard year -- which may have been an omen of things to come.

I've bought a box of Update almost every year in the past decade to celebrate its release. This time, in an effort to save a few bucks, I bought from a relatively new Ebay seller...only to discover that he's shipping the box via media mail, which means that it'll take a while to get here. Shame on me for not doing my research. (But to make a bad situation worse, I discovered that the box was just shipped today despite the fact that I ordered it weeks ago.)

So I was left in that fuzzy middle ground of itching to get my hands on Update with a box already on the way, albeit slowly.

And that's how I ended up going to two Targets and a Wal-Mart (sigh) in search of Update this weekend, only to have it finally materialize at the second of the two Targets.

In the hype, I bought two hanger boxes, a rack pack, and three loose packs of the stuff -- the rack pack and three loose packs were the last in stock, in fact, because someone apparently had already pillaged most of the Update before I got there.

When I opened the packs, however, something just didn't seem quite right -- Update didn't feel like Update anymore.

Sure, the All-Stars are still there, although the photos are collectively much more boring than the ones we've seen the last couple years.

There's the standard-if-not-repetitive Rookie Debut subset, which I kind of like because of its throwback to the Topps Debut box sets of the early '90s.

Only problem is that most of this year's Rookie Debuts feature guys who actually broke into the bigs in late 2016, which led to discrepancies like Yoan Moncada appearing with two different teams in this year's Update.

Maybe it's just me, but guys that debuted in 2016 have no business being in 2017 Topps Update.

Sure, you'll find a few fun cards spread out throughout the checklist, like these two.

But most troubling is the fact that 2017 Update doesn't feel like it's actually updating anything.

The reason I've loved Update so much in the past is because it's often our first glimpses of guys involved in Trade Deadline deals in their new duds. Almost none of those are found in this year's set: nothing of Jay Bruce as an Indian, no cards of Todd Frazier and/or Sonny Gray as Yankees, no Jonathan Lucroy as a Rockie, etc., etc.

Perhaps even more scary is that one of the few deadline blockbusters to actually appear in Update is Yu Darvish as a Dodger...which the braintrust at Topps decided to relegate to being one of the ten million short-prints in this year's set (more on those later).

So let me get this straight, Topps: you're treating a guy in an updated uniform -- in a set called Topps Update, mind you -- as some kind of outside-the-norm novelty designed to be coveted and chased at a premium price? All while Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge have SEVEN different base cards in this year's checklist alone (four Bellingers, three Judges)?

What the hell is wrong with you?!

Oh sure, I had little trinkets of fun opening my packs, because there are still minor pleasures to be found in Update.

I've kind of cooled on my quest to complete this year's MLB Network insert set, but I'll certainly take this one...for obvious reasons.

The '87s and Salute inserts return in Update, and I'm at least glad to see that -- if for no other reason than I seem to be the only person who actually likes the Salutes.

Not much to say about any of these.

Parades and baseball cards don't often clash, which is why I'm a big fan of these retail-only Postseason Celebrations inserts, a set I'll probably try to build as time goes on.

I can't much complain about the parallels I pulled, either: Happ (rainbow foil) and Bellinger (gold) are among the most coveted rookies in this year's Update.

But this year's Update just has me feeling empty and malnourished, like a dinner of crackers and cheese sticks.

This emptiness comes from the fact that Topps has made the brand into something almost completely and utterly pointless. And maybe you think Update crossed into this pointless territory long ago. But not for me, if for nothing else than the sheer fact that Update still actually updated collectors in past years, allowed us new rookies and first glimpses of the big Trade Deadline deals in their new wardrobes.

Instead, this year's big hulabaloo is the fact that the photo-variation SPs are much easier to pull -- my loose packs listed them as 1:4, and a whopping five of them fell out of my retail packs alone.

And even though I've long been a begrudging fan of photo SPs, it seems like Topps put a whole lot of effort into something that didn't need fixing in the first place.

Even worse is that they did this while ignoring (and even omitting) many of the cornerstones that make the release of Update such a premier date on the calendar each passing year. Was pulling a Bellinger SP kinda fun? Sure. Are cards of guys signing autographs cool? Definitely.

Are legend SPs brilliant? Of course.

And is this one of the best baseball cards I've ever seen? You bet. (Though, for full disclosure, I didn't pull this one: I actually bought it off Ebay a few days prior.)

But none of these newfangled bells and whistles are necessary, especially when they push aside so many of the nooks and crannies that have made Update exciting for me in the past. I don't need Eddie Murray SPs -- but if you're going to call your set Topps Update, I sure as hell am gonna need my first cards of Pat Neshek with the Rockies.

I'm not even sure I can call it laziness, because it certainly seems like Topps put a good deal of effort and brainpower into certain parts of the set...simply the wrong ones. Update's new look feels like a conscious decision on Topps' part and not one born out of simple obliviousness -- that's what makes it all the more scary to me, to think that the Update I've come to know and love is being willfully yanked out from under my feet.

I was tempted to title this post "RIP Topps Update," but I thought better of it. Fact is, I refrain from a now-and-forever denouncement of Update because I'm hoping this is a one-time deal, a simple misstep. It happens. Hopefully Topps gets it together in time to get everything back on track for 2018. Hopefully Update doesn't become a brand that advertises excitement without actually providing any. Hopefully Update doesn't fade into just another half-assed set.

What I'm most afraid of is that this is what Topps Update will permanently become: a mere shell of its former self, a schizophrenic set that fails to deliver on the upfront promise of its own name.


Chris said...

I've heard some bad reviews about Update and I'm not going to bother buying it for a lot of the reasons you stated. But..that Koufax photo variation is awesome (even though I hate the whole concept of photo variations) and the inserts - specifically the Randy Johnson and Heidi Watney - are pretty sweet looking. For different reasons, of course.

TSHenson said...

Nick- I know I still owe you cards from the onez you previously sent me, but if you are looking at unloading some of the Update cards, I would be happy to take any Indians you pull out of the packs. I also love the look of that Randy Johnson card, and would be willing to trade for that card too. It would look great in a new collection that I am starting to work on.


P-town Tom said...

I'll pick up a Happ rookie and the Cubs inserts celebrating the World Series, and then I'll hope to find a dime box with the stuff so I can cherry pick the cooler stuff.
You make some pretty pointed arguments about Update... and I agree with all of them! Especially the one about Topps not really updating anything.

shoeboxlegends said...

I'm with you, they lost me at the point of omitting traded players in their new uniforms. Pretty much one of the primary purposes of the set, or at least it used to be. I do like those post-season celebration parade cards though!

Rosenort said...

I could not agree more, Update does suck this year. As a Rockies fan we get a David Dahl rookie debut, he debuted in July of 2016, no Pat Neshek and no Justin Lucroy. Add that to the design of 2017 flagship being horrible equals to no interest from me at all.

madding said...

Did they have a much tighter deadline this year or did they simply not give a damn? It was very recently that they went out of their way to include nearly every trade up to the non-waiver trade deadline.

Weston DeShon said...

Exactly the reason why I have not bought any packs or boxes in the past two years. I cannot get myself to support sets that hardly have any effort put into them. Like P-Town Tom said this stuff is only good for cherry picking the good stuff from. Great evaluation of the set and an excellent read!

gcrl said...

Agree. And I couldn't get that koufax in my hands quickly enough! Some rare right field pavilion love!

Mike said...

Love that Koufax!....but yeah,the big selling point is the UPDATED uniforms..duh!!

Brian said...

I saw the checklist and was very disappointed to see the Twins did not include Bartolo Colon, or rookies Zack Granite or Trevor Hildenberger - both of whom were major contributors to the Twins first post season appearance in 7 years.

Anonymous said...

This is really disheartening and just underlines the problems of exclusive licensing deals. I didn't really plan on buying more than a blaster, but after all the scathing reviews I'll probably leave these for dime boxes and repacks.

BobWalkthePlank said...

The Pirates didn't really add to the roster so I didn't notice they completely dropped the ball on the new acquisition cards. That is too bad considering that is the main reason for Update.

GCA said...

They should have called it Series 3. That would blend it in with the other two series where the primary emphasis is on overhyping certain rookies.

And I'll be labeling those inserts as "Untouch Ables", since they didn't include the hyphen, making it two separate words. Idiots.

But thanks for Heidi....

Anonymous said...

Wow - I didn't realize that this year's Update didn't include the trading deadline players in their new uniforms. I thought, as you mentioned, that was part of the premise of the Update set. That's why it came out at the end of the baseball season. I can do without the All Star cards being part of the Update set. I would rather that it be an insert set. To me, it's just fluff to build up the number count of cards with stars rather than including players missed in the first 2 series or players in their new uniforms.

Gotta agree, this lacks excitement!!

Jeremya1um said...

That Koufax is sweet!
I kind of wonder when the checklist is finalized for the set. Perhaps if it was done before July or August, those guys who debuted were left off of the Update set. It would be interesting to see the latest date of a ‘Rookie Debut’ card in previous years update sets.
As a collector and a custom card maker, I hate so see how players appear in airbrushed versions of their new teams in Series 1, and how Update has gone away from being a ‘rookie/traded’ set into what it is now. Just let Series 1 and 2 be cards showing players in the previous years’ teams and load the Update/Traded set with rookies and new uniforms.

Also have to say I kind of like the Update stuff I’ve got so far. I was at Derek Fisher’s MLB debut, and I got his debut card, so now I have a card with a photo and write up of a game I went to (which was also my son’s first MLB game).

Fuji said...

As an Oakland A's fan, the last thing I want to see is Sonny Gray in a Yankees uniform. However as a baseball card collector, I think Topps completely dropped the ball by not producing this card for Update.

Adam said...

Yeah, I'm not going out to get any of this anytime soon. I'll just cherry pick what cards I want at the card show this weekend. I'm also mad at the fact there wasn't a Bronson Arroyo card in the set but instead the Reds get Barrett Astin and Jake Buchanan along with the usual suspects? I'd already forgotten they played for the team this year. That being said, those Heroes of Autumn cards are a pretty neat looking insert but those would be about the highlight for me.