My relationship with Donruss has long been a fraught one.
Every time I look down and see a modern-day Donruss card in one of my binders, my first reaction is usually something along the lines of Good god, what is THIS thing doing in my collection? And I never have a good answer. For a long time, there's been very little to appreciate about the brand aside from the simple novelty of it being a weird alternative to Topps. I've mostly tried to devote as little brain space and cash to Donruss has humanly possible over the years.
I don't hold the lack of logos against Donruss - it's not Panini's fault they don't have a license - but their answer has been to throw the same dull designs at us with little effort to make them the slightest bit entertaining. At the very least, I'd appreciate an attempt to come up with something creative.
But a weird thing happened the other day: I went to Target, and after I took a puff on my inhaler at the shock of seeing a fully-stocked card display, I actually settled on a few rack packs of, you guessed it, Donruss.
And then a weirder thing happened: I went back to buy MORE Donruss the very next night.
This isn't because I'm proclaiming 2022 Donruss The Greatest Set Ever! or even one that makes me urge you to drop everything and buy some. The lack of logos is still obvious and the base cards are mostly redundant, which is par for the course with Panini. But there's a silliness to this year's Donruss design that I find endearing - I'm not quite sure why, but it reminds me of the opening credits of a game show. It's a mildly amusing set, which is way more than I can say about most of what we've gotten from Donruss over the years.
And hey, we kind of get our first cards of guys in new uniforms, like Javier Baez making his debut in my Detroit (AL) binder.
In the past, the thought of writing an entire post about Donruss would never cross my mind for the simple fact that I've never had much to say about it.
But there's a lot of stuff I wanted to show you from the Donruss hanger packs I opened, which doesn't usually happen - like these cool legends, including a Ryno double dip (with a Tony Gwynn cameo, no less!).
I have a theory that 1988 Donruss is the most overproduced set in the history of baseball cards - and yet somehow this subset seems fresh because Panini/Donruss doesn't shove the past down our throats the way Topps does (five more '87 Topps tributes were announced as I typed that sentence).
(Hark, a Madison Bumgarner baseball card sighting!)
Opening Donruss is fun because, unlike the stack of base cards and one mediocre insert you might get from a pack of Topps, there's a massive amount of sheer variety in the Donruss hanger packs I bought.
And while not every part of 2022 Donruss is a hit - I don't like those Diamond Kings cards at all - I can't help but appreciate the sheer wildness inside every pack (though I've never once heard Kyle Schwarber called "Waltham" before?).
Donruss preys on the souls of suckers like me who begrudgingly enjoy parallels, especially shiny ones.
Donruss inserts > Topps inserts, by a longshot - that Trout in particular is magnificent.
My reaction upon pulling this card from a pack: WHOA COOL!
It's not a thought that runs through my head opening modern packs very often. It's the kind of card that will definitely stand out in a binder page. Again, I'm not saying you should be buying Panini stuff over Topps. I don't think we're there yet. But here in 2022, I can say my usual vitriol for Donruss is gone, and there's actually some good stuff in here this year.
Which is why, in the end, what I'm about to say is probably the highest compliment I've ever given to Donruss: I don't hate it.