Friday, September 29, 2023

Leader of the pack

To my complete and utter surprise, I actually found a blaster of 2023 Allen & Ginter on the shelves of my (usually card-barren) local Target the other day.

I feel like I get a bit wistful every time A&G comes out now, and rue the plain fact that the brand is a shadow of what it once was. A&G was the set for a couple years there in the late-aughts, and a prime factor in helping me get back into baseball cards around 2006-07. I don't know that any set could ever continue to live up to such a treasured past over a decade later, but alas, A&G ain't what it used to be.

Still, I do still get that slight pang of anticipation whenever I hear A&G is out. As watered-down as it's become, I do still think it fills a niche in the hobby, which is more than I can say about the 238 other unnecessary sets that Topps seems to come out with each year.

So, in honor of A&G's 18th(!!!) year on the shelves - and in tribute to the sheer shock of actually finding a blaster of it - I thought I'd show you each and every card that fell out of my blaster, along with a "Leader of the Pack" for each of the eight packs in there.

Pack 1:

#207 Ari Chambers
#98 Byron Buxton
#84 Bobby Witt Jr.
#209 Casey Webb
#ROV-14 Ezequiel Tovar (Rookie Variation mini)
#TT-17 Condor, "TALON-ted"

Of course the first pack was pretty much a snoozer.

Not to sound like a broken record here, but the main downfall of A&G has been the complete lack of fun in the non-baseball subjects. Long gone are the days of Pluto and Revolving Doors - now we're forced to swallow any celebrities Topps could get a contract with (most of whom I've never heard of, including the two in this pack).

Now that we've got that out of my system, time to pick a Leader of the Pack here.

Personal favorite has to be uber-phenom Bobby Witt Jr., who's already earned my devoted fandom.

I suppose now is a good time to mention that I actually really like how A&G looks this time around - it's never been a set whose design needs to be deconstructed year-in and year-out, but it's a good, clean look here in 2023.

Pack 2:

#114 Yu Darvish
#150 Buster Posey
#37 Ronald Acuna Jr.
#400 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (SP)
#OI-21 Citizens Bank Park, "Only In..."
#SS-12 Francisco Rodriguez, "Spotless Spans"

That's more like it - a pack where ALL SIX cards are needs!

Another strike, however: Topps decided to screw with the checklist a la Big League where a bunch of guys have standard base cards AND higher-numbered SPs in the same base checklist. I still can't figure out why this is becoming a thing, but I've already used enough air time complaining about that, so we'll move on.

Again, on a good note, I needed all six cards in this pack, and although the coolest card here is probably that Phillies Liberty Bell insert... favorite is this K-Rod insert - a prime member of the fun Angels teams I followed as a kid, and a guy who hasn't had a card in a while.

Pack 3:

#257 Kodai Senga
#49 Manny Machado
#262 Zion Clark
#104 Derek Jeter
#138 Rickey Henderson (mini)
#FITS-6 Surfing, "Fun in the Sun"

Not as thrilling of a pack this time around, but I'm excited to get a new Kodai Senga card - a guy who's having a great season that no one's talking about thanks to the Mets being a nightmare.

But still can't beat a mini Rickey!

(Even with A&G's present shortcomings, I can honestly say that I've always loved the minis, and always will.)

Pack 4:

#199 Taj Bradley
#45 Kyle Stowers
#258 Julio Urias
#358 Justin Verlander (SP)
#236 John DiMaggio (A&G back mini)
#SS-25 Reggie Jackson, "Spotless Spans"

Bad: another "celebrity" I've never heard of, a couple rookies I barely know, and a despicable human being I hope never pitches in the majors ever again.

Good: in a few years time, I wonder if anyone'll remember Justin Verlander was on the Mets - it's already a prime Short Term Stop!

Best: "Spotless Spans" Reggie - looks to be the newest in the long line of big star-studded A&G insert sets. 

(Also, I tried a Reggie Bar for the first time a couple weeks ago - it was...kinda gross.)

Pack 5:

#118 Logan O'Hoppe
#85 Babe Ruth
#MFR-CK Clayton Kershaw, mini relic
#62 Oneil Cruz (Black mini)
#MTYE-10 Bodhran, "Music to Your Ears"

Given that I don't really care about memorabilia stuff, I just feel shorted whenever I pull a jersey card because it usually means I get one fewer card in said pack.

Still, even though it won't be staying with me at Dime Box HQ, it's hard to pick anything other than Kershaw as the best of this pack.

Pack 6:

#291 Seth Brown
#225 Adam Ray
#159 Austin Meadows
#368 Corbin Carroll (SP)
#334 Matt Holiday (mini SP)
#SS-33 Joey Votto, "Spotless Spans"

Very little to say about this pack...

...except that it's cool to get my first card of bigtime rookie Corbin Carroll.

Topps probably wants me to be excited over the fact that I actually pulled the SP version, but all I can think of is still needing the regular base card...

Pack 7:

#70 Joey Votto
#177 Starling Marte
#14 Cole Ragans
#227 Jon Berti
#MROD-1 20 Strikeout Game, "Rarest of the Diamond"
#TT-1 Osprey, "TALON-ted"

Not every non-sport A&G insert set is a winner for me - I don't care much about birding, and it seems like there's been an infinite number of animal inserts in the last few years of A&G.

Another pretty dull pack was saved by this nifty (and, from the looks of it, kinda tough) mini insert documenting some of the game's rarest occurrences.

(Also don't see umpire cards much these days!)

Pack 8:

#266 Nina O'Brien
#137 Zack Thompson
#53 Mike Trout
#378 David Ortiz (SP)
#7 Alex Rodriguez (A&G back mini)
#SS-28 Rickey Henderson, "Spotless Spans"

Final pack of the blaster provided a nice burst of star power (although why are we still putting Alex Rodriguez in modern sets?).

Was tempted to tap Rickey as a repeat "Leader of the Pack," but I'll go with smiling Big Papi here (even if it's another SP...). 

I probably didn't pick the most exciting blaster off the shelf, and it's by no means a perfect set this time around, but in the end I'll always treasure that A&G is just good plain fun.

I think the fact that it's still here 18 years later is a testament to that.


Chris said...

Ooooh a Kershaw relic!

I guess you're not familiar with Futurama?

night owl said...

Yes, nice Kershaw. I've had the privilege of pulling an A&G Kershaw relic myself about 5 or 6 years ago.

I do like the colorfulness of A&G this year, though it doesn't remind me of the original A&G (or the reboot in '06) at all. And the checklist ensures that I'll buy one blaster and that's it.

Shlabotnik Report said...

Any time I see or hear the phrase "Leader of the Pack", my brain fills in the motorcycle revving sound from the Shangri-Las song.

As for the cards, the "Only In..." set looks fun.


Mike said...

Wow, K-Rod over ya boy Vlad Jr. .. UPSET!

Elliptical Man said...

Acuna wins it. Trout settles for runner-up.

Brett Alan said...

Hey, a blaster with a Kershaw relic is never a bad outcome. And for me the Mets content would have been a big plus with this one, but I realize that doesn't apply to you. Verlander certainly is a prime short-term stop (and in the meantime Noah Syndergaard has made FOUR short-term stops in just 2 years!).

I do quite like this design, which is distinctive compared to other years. And you're quite right that the quality of the non-sport subjects has gone way downhill. So many historical figures who would be awesome to have a card of, but they'd rather include some two-bit comedian or reality star who will sign autos.

Mark Zentkovich said...


Johnnys Trading Spot said...

Lots of great cards in that blaster. The Kersh relic is sweet, as was all of those SP's and inserts too. I started pulling Krod's cards from my trade boxes last week. As for umpire cards, you're going to see a bunch here in the next week or two.

John Bateman said...

That Reggie bar was 40 years old

Nick Vossbrink said...

1. Definitely wish the non-baseball was more weird or educational rather than what feels like increasingly pay-to-play web celebrities.
2. Something about the design of this year's set feels decidedly holiday.
3. The Giants CL is so awful and features zero active players.

Fuji said...

Solid blaster... with Rickey leading the way. Congratulations on pulling a relic of a future hall of famer as a bonus. The one thing I still enjoy about A&G is looking up all of these (non-baseball) people I am unfamiliar with.

Matt said...

The only reason I know of John Dimaggio is because he's the voice of Bender from the Futurama cartoon!

GCA said...

I broke three boxes myself, so I'll be posting them soon. I was surprised I liked the base design a little better in hand.
I figured I'm just too old to know the non-players, but maybe not.
Inserts are always the highlight, but they're just OK this year. At least there aren't parallel inserts - that's what makes me feel like a wasted opportunity to get a card I want.
Worst part is I don't even know most of the player guys I got relics of...

Jon said...

The cards themselves don't do a lot for me, but I do usually like the wrapper design, and this year is no exception.

Jafronius said...

Thanks for showing off the cards, and congrats on the Kershaw relic! Bender and Man Vs Food guy too!