Topps Update releases this week, and when I first saw the checklist, I lapsed into a series of frustrations and concerns that basically funneled themselves into a single question - what the hell is Topps doing??
Longtime readers may know that I've been somewhat of a Topps Update fanboy over the years. I've been willing to overlook many of its glaring problems, still bought pack after pack after pack. But even I can't turn on the blinders anymore, because if you're anything like me and have seen the 2021 Update checklist, you might've noticed just how many things are painfully wrong this year. Sure, 2020 Update was weird and dull and just not great - but at least Topps had somewhat of a viable excuse with the pandemic and everything.
Topps was thrown a softball with Albert Pujols's early-season release and subsequent signing with the Dodgers, and he rightfully has a spot in this year's Update - though he's already had at least one other Dodger card in a (somewhat) mainstream set with Topps Fire.
Apart from that, however, almost no other 2021 transactions are documented in the madness that is 2021 Topps Update.
None of the deals from the Cubs trade-deadline fire sale are shown in this year's set (my first painful Rizzo Yankees card had to come from Topps 206, of all sets). No Max Scherzer, no Joey Gallo, no Jorge Soler. Nothing from any of the guys who switched teams and, you know, needed updating. This has been a problem for a couple years now, and for the life of me I can't understand it. My only guess is Topps has an early-season deadline to get these to the presses. And if that's the case...then just push the deadline back. I don't mind if Update comes out in November rather than October, and I don't think anyone else would, either.
I've said this before, and it seems obvious enough to not need repeating, but here goes - the set is called Topps Update! SO UPDATE US!
There's even a good amount of guys in 2021 Update who aren't even on the teams they're "updated" with in this year's set.
I had false hope that Jake Arrieta's return to the Cubs might actually work out, but he had a dumpster fire of a season and was DFA'ed in August. He caught on with the Padres, was somehow even worse for them, and was DFA'ed again. Yet there he is in the 2021 Update checklist as a Cub(?).
This kind of thing is fine for earlier-season sets like Gypsy Queen or whatever, but there's no excuse for it by the time Update comes around.
I can't help but fawn over the glory days when my high-school self was marveling over my first Brewers card of CC Sabathia in, you guessed it, Topps Update!
I don't know whether this is good or bad, but a trade doesn't really feel like a trade to me until I get a card of a player on a new team - some physical, nine-pocket evidence that Javier Baez played for the Mets, Kris Bryant for the Giants, etc., etc., and 2021 Update completely fails me in that regard.
But that's not all, because there aren't any All-Star cards in 2021 Update, either.
Listen, you and I both know that Update's All-Stars have been horribly bloated over the years, with an unnecessarily large fraction of the set being taken over by dudes who may or may not have even played in the Midsummer Classic. But to go completely the other way and get rid of the All-Star cards all together? NO! The All-Star game, like the trade deadline, is an important day of the season that deserves recognition in the final big set of the year. And if you believe 2021 Update, it didn't happen at all.
And oh by the way, Nick Madrigal has a "Rookie Debut" card in 2021 Update.
Problem there is he debuted in 2020, more than a year before this set ever existed. He even has a rookie card way back in Series 1, right there for the world and everybody to see. So not only is Topps refusing to update anything that happened in 2021, but they're still insisting on telling us about the 2020 baseball season.
This I really can't explain - an oversight at best, pure laziness at worst.
I used to buy a hobby box of Update every year for right around $60, a sum that usually fit nicely within my card budget.
Here in 2021, you can't touch a box for under $100, flaws and all. Why? ROOKIES, of course! What I'm fearing with Update (and I know I've been saying this a lot lately) is that Topps is siphoning all the personality of this set in favor of cramming as many rookies as possible into it. If rookie cards of Trout, Betts, Soto & Co. are any indication, Update is seen by a lot of people as an investment chip to hoard. And I wouldn't mind that if it didn't cause the quality of the product to suffer, while also pricing me out of the fun at the same time.
Will I buy any Update if a miracle happens and I actually see some at Target? Perhaps, more for novelty's sake than anything, and not out of the excitement I once had for this brand. It's stuff like this that steers the hobby into dangerous waters, while at the same time making me wonder if the impending Fanatics takeover might, just might, not be the worst thing in the world.
And so after all that, I...still don't have any answers, and the question remains - what the hell is Topps doing??