Thursday, January 31, 2019

2019 Topps Series One

There's something very satisfying about the Topps flagship release every year. The frigid temperatures seem to melt away, as thoughts of spring warm the mind. Spring training is mere weeks away and the doldrums of winter fear the thaw.

This year's design reminds me of Upper Deck and Fleer designs, but not in a bad way. The striping along two sides are reminiscent of the 1982 Topps design. Just a hint, without being too bold. Nice crisp pictures accentuate the front of the card. There is a fading feature that Topps has displayed in the last few years, but now it hearkens back to the ending of Avengers: Infinity War.

I like this year's design, but I'm sure I will be sick of it by the All-Star break. It's inevitable. It happens almost every year. I collect so much because I'm so excited when series one comes out, then I'm drowning in the design by the time series two is issued. I'm almost completely over it by the time the update series rolls around. It's nothing against the sets. It's 100% my fault for my glutenous attack.

The White Sox have nine cards in the set.

46 - Jose Abreu
49 - Michael Kopech
80 - Tim Anderson
111 - Reynaldo Lopez
137 - Carlos Rodon
188 - Matt Davidson
196 - Adam Engel
264 - Avisail Garcia
308 - Yolmer Sanchez

I'm a bit impressed with the lineup in series one. Kopech finally gets a rookie card. As of this writing, I only count two players that have past the White Sox. Avi is with the Rays and Matt Davidson is awaiting offers.

There are three short prints and one super short print in series one. Info on that can be found here. Another solid effort from Topps.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Verified 2019 Topps Short Print Variations

46 - Jose Abreu (SP)

46 - Frank Thomas (SSP)

49 - Michael Kopech (SP)

137 - Carlos Rodon (SP)

That's what has been found so far. There may be other variations that pop up in the next few days.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Manrique Effect

As much as I throw Fred Manrique under the bus, or make fun of him (in a loving way, of course), I have a confession, I like Fred Manrique.

How could you not? Look at that smile. It's infectious. As bad as it sounds, Fred is the perfect example of what it was to be a late 1980s White Sox player. He was likable enough, but there was no way you would want to field a whole team of Manriques. He would have to be the luckiest player in the MLB if he was the reason the White Sox were a success.

The most notable comparison to another major league player would be an age comparison to Billy Martin, age 27. Billy Martin is most remembered for being a manager and being a television spokesperson, rather than his playing career. In fact, if Billy wasn't a Yankee, it might be doubtful if he makes his All-Star appearance or makes it to any World Series.

It's nothing against Billy or Fred, they just aren't players that you build teams around. The same goes for the late 80s White Sox teams. Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines are people you build around, but you don't stand much success if you build that with Fred Manrique, Dan Pasqua and Dave LaPoint. Again, there's nothing against those players. I love the Cory Snyders and the Shawn Abners. The Juan Agostos and the Tim Huletts.The Damaso Martes and the Willie Harrises.

Some teams have enough talent to utilize these players properly and they become the folk heroes. Some teams only have a few standout players and these Manrique type players are exposed. They are great teammates and great people, but were not built to shoulder the responsibility for carrying the team on a regular basis.

I've been saying for many years that my ideal card set would include everybody that played for every team in a given year. Multiple cards for players that played for multiple teams. Even the cup of coffee players would get cards. The closest I came to that reality would be early 90s Score and Donruss, 2000s Upper Deck and mid 2000s Topps Total. Even they missed players though. Most of those sets also featured players that never sniffed the majors.

I root for every player that even made a major league roster. My dreams of playing for the White Sox or the Expos (or any MLB team really) were crushed in 1991. I had a neighbor, who was slightly older, and a real jerk. Nearly every time I would practice in the backyard, I heard nothing but negativity from him and his friends. Eventually, I just stopped practicing in the backyard. In hindsight, it was a pretty silly reason to stop, but at that age, it was devastating.

Those childish insults didn't crush my passion for the game itself. I just devoted my high school existence to other pursuits, such as art, cartooning, writing, creating music and appreciating cinematic efforts of any variety.

Even if I didn't like the way Fred Manrique was penciled in for DH on a rare occasion, he achieved the dream. I will always respect that. Only the criminally insane would build a team around Fred Manrique, but I will take those career-high six triples that he smacked in 1988. I was probably at one of the three games where he hit a triple at old Comiskey Park that year. If I wasn't, I certainly watched all six on television. As always, watching the dream, if I couldn't live it.

Monday, January 28, 2019

2018 - Topps Living Set

I mostly think that, with a few exceptions (Heritage), the whole reusing past designs on current product phase has been played out. I enjoy the older designs. They are classics for a reason. The more I see them being mined, especially the same few designs, the more the concept seems tired and old hat.

What do I think is exciting? Finding more obscure sets to borrow designs from or if you have to use a tried and true classic design, have a great concept around it. That is one of the reasons why I don't mind the Topps Heritage sets. One year. One design. One clear purpose. I've softened of Topps Archives over the years, but it still drives me a bit batty.

Spawning as a hybrid of Topps Now and Topps Heritage is the Topps Living Set. It should be everything I dislike, but against all odds, it has made a favorable impression on me.

I shouldn't like the use of the 1953 design, but it seems like an inspired choice for a set like this. It's classic and recognizable, but not used to death. The style of the 1953 set almost seems tailor made for this venture.

I shouldn't like the limited/on demand nature of the release structure, but it works for this type of set. I appreciate that only three cards are released each week. I also like that the cards appear frequently on the secondary market shortly after the window of availability. If I missed a card that I want, it's not going to be a huge hassle acquiring it. The cards still retain their limited numbers because of the on demand nature of release. It's simplistically brilliant.

The last point may be broken down the road, but I hope Topps resists the temptation to do so. At my perusal, I have not discovered any player that repeats. That is refreshing! I am sick of seeing multiple cards of superstar players in the same set. I get why companies do that, but that simple act diminishes the joy of pulling a star player. The Alex Rodriguez Road To 500 set comes to mind. (2007 me: Hey, I pulled Alex Rodriguez! Hey, I pulled him out of that pack too. Wow. He's here too. So, let's see. 12 A-Rod cards, 10 Mickey Mantle cards, 5 Ryan Howard, 4 Nick Swisher and 3 David Wright cards out of 14 packs. Hey look! 14 cards from the actual set I'm trying to collect!) Sometimes I wonder if a card company will come out with packs of just insert cards. No actual set. Just inserts.

The White Sox have so far in this ongoing set...

26 - Yoan Moncada
78 - Avisail Garcia
113 - Daniel Palka

133 - Frank Thomas
159 - Jose Abreu
167 - Eloy Jimenez
213 - Tim Anderson
218 - Harold Baines

This set is designed to infuriate me, but ends up impressing the hell out of me. As a White Sox collector, it's not too bad on the pocketbook. Although, that may change in the next season or two with all the changes and call-ups. I look forward to seeing this set move forward. Hopefully Topps resists all of it's usual tendencies and maintains the status quo.
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