I've never been made fun of for collecting baseball cards, but I've received many a raised eyebrow.
Much of my adult life has been spent underneath the outside perception that hoarding baseball cards is a "kid's hobby." Not in practice, of course - we know that adults outnumber kids about 100-to-1 at card shows - but I've always gotten the feeling that people on the outside don't see collecting cards as something adults do, or should be doing. Pretty much all of my teens and early-20s consisted of people giving me blank stares when I told them I collected baseball cards, and after I while I just kept it to myself.
Now, in 2022, I'm getting the sense that cards are being seen as a more and more "legitimate" hobby for those same blank-stared people I encountered ten years ago. I'd be willing to bet that at least a couple of the "cool kids" I knew in high school are the ones currently salivating over PSA slabs and Wander Franco's RC logo. Baseball cards, it seems, are everywhere, and people from all over are talking about them. For a long time, that's what I thought I wanted.
But at the risk of sounding like a gatekeeper, I have to admit that I kinda liked it better before - before people were fighting each other in the card aisles, back when I could feel like the hobby was something that was mine and only mine.
All of this, mind you, is just a roundabout way of saying I FOUND 2022 TOPPS!
I've always said the dawn of a new card year is a crazy and exciting time, which explains why I walked into a packed Walmart on a Sunday evening after work in search of our newest cards. I would do that for nothing else besides baseball cards. Luckily, persistence paid off, because there in a card aisle was a only partially-ransacked display of 2022 Topps, and I managed to grab a handful of hanger packs.
Breaking news: I pulled the holy Wander Franco, and please forgive me for being the 835th person who's shown it by now. I feel like I've seen that card at least 10 times more than everything else in 2022 Topps combined - which pretty much sums up where the hobby is in the hands of the "cool kids" these days.
But there's a lot of other star power in 2022 Topps, and while I think the Franco is a good, solid baseball card (but of course people aren't talking about how it looks), a lot of other stars in this set were rewarded with even better cards that blow Sir Franco out of the water.
Contrary to popular belief, there are 329 other cards in the this year's base set besides Wander Franco, and on the whole I think 2022 Topps is a massive upgrade over what we've seen the past couple years.
I'm not saying this set ranks anywhere near the top of the Topps canon, but it's certainly more enjoyable than 2020 & 2021. It's a fine design with readable player names (looking at you, 2021), as well as just plain better photos - not a ton of those ghastly zoomed-in face shots that have plagued the last half-decade or so of Topps.
Thankfully, Topps included a lot of late-season deals that they, ahem, forgot to put in 2021 Update - even digging into the rubble of Jake Arrieta's miserable four-game stint with the Padres!
Obligatory insert dump - I feel like a baby in a high-chair with Topps spoon-feeding us the '87 design over and over and over again while we cry for no more, no more!
Topps collation is equally drab this year - I once again received doubles and triples of many cards from my hanger packs - but 2022 is the first time I've seen equally horrendous collation with inserts (anyone need one of these?).
Back to the base cards, and some wonderful horizontal shots - Bichette is an addition to my not-quite-mini-collection of the Blue Jays' red Canada Day uniforms.
I was wondering how many of these City Connect jerseys would pop up in 2022 sets - Marlins aside, I don't like any of these very much, but they're fun little easter eggs to look for in this year's set.
(The Marlins should really consider making that their regular look.)
More cards I enjoyed for whatever reason - that Archie Bradley is a masterpiece and a photo that probably would've been eschewed for a close game-face shot five years ago.
I am convinced we have a budding cardboard legend on our hands with Kikè Hernandez - much like Frankenset MVP Kirt Manwaring, he's a decent player who somehow keeps getting star-level baseball cards.
And all things considered, the trend continued in 2022 with what might well be his best card yet - features the same mess of motion and flying limbs we saw in 2019 & 2020 & 2021. In a perfect world, this would be the card we'd be seeing over and over again in praise of the hobby, not the otherwise marginal Wander Franco I've seen enough for three lifetimes already, but one that the "cool kids" keep showing in hopes of a future payout from the cardboard slot machine.
I don't know what the future holds, but I hope we'll one day get back to the nuts and bolts of what a new card season means, showing and comparing our favorite cards, and just generally digging into that wonderful excitement of possibility only a new card year can bring.