Saturday, February 25, 2017


I'm always a little late to the party when it comes to new releases. But yes, I have obtained a pack of 2017 Topps Series 1 at my local Target by now, and there's plenty to discuss.

2017 Topps #290 Shin-Soo Choo
I've played quite a bit more than my share of Diablo and SimCity, so this isometric set (my official suggestion for what to call this set) doesn't look that odd to me. The team logos are a bit oddly squished, but it's a whole lot closer to a full-bleed design than last year's smoke design. That team logo is a bit distorted, but at least it's not getting chopped off like last year's.

The photos are as sharp as ever, so much so that we get a fairly good look at the tattoo on Shin-Soo Choo's right forearm, and excellent color reproduction of those red batting gloves and blue batting helmet.

2017 Topps #7 Gary Sanchez
Last year's runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year award looks like he's in the post-swing phase of one of his many home runs. Or at least a long fly ball. He has a tattoo as well, and what seem like pretty thick pinstripes. And even though he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, he did get selected for the catcher's position on the 2017 Topps All-Rookie Team, so Topps slotted that trophy logo on the right.

2017 Topps #7 Gary Sanchez (Reverse)
Lest we forget that Topps is the only licensed card manufacturer out there, Topps also includes the team logo on this heavily color-coded back, in smaller but non-distorted format.

Much has been said about the card backs, primarily the shift to a very Donruss-like five lines of statistics. Sanchez is young enough that we still get his full MLB record, but that format does chop off his early Minor League experience. For a player like Choo, we're missing over half his career. Of course, many of us shifted long ago to checking, a treasure trove of statistics that just recently got a refreshed design.

A further illustration of society's shift to digital is the display of each player's social media handles, if they happen to have one. Choo doesn't, so Topps just put the #TOPPSBASEBALL hashtag on there. But this card helpfully informs me of the @elgarysanchez account on Instagram.

My favorite so far is Mike Moustakas' Instagram handle, @MooseTacos8.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice another change this year, as this is the first time since Mickey Mantle's uniform number was "retired" from Topps sets that a current player got a card #7. Mantle himself had a few card #7s since his death, but Topps decided to unretire it for 2017. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Mickey Mantle is synonymous with postwar baseball card collecting, and his death at just 63 led Topps to honor his memory via their set numbering, if only for a couple decades.

But if they're going to start using Card #7 again, at least it's still of a Yankee.

2017 Topps #265A Charlie Blackmon
Charlie Blackmon was the lone Rockie I pulled in this 12-card pack, but a few others have already started to make their way to me via trade. It's great to see a Coors Field card so early into the 2017 baseball card cycle, and it looks like this one was against the San Diego Padres. That's more empty seats than I like to see at Coors Field, but maybe he's leading off the 1st inning and everyone is still obtaining their nachos and beers. Personally, I hate missing the first pitch, but the sections at Coors Field take a couple innings or so to really fill up.

The back of this card is very purple, which pretty closely approximates the new shade of purple the Rockies are rolling out for 2017. Topps may have just guessed correctly, but I wonder if they had advance notice of this change when designing this year's set.

2017 Topps First Pitch #FP-5 Deshauna Barber
The First Pitch insert set is back, which still pretty closely approximates the main set's design. This was one of two insert cards in the pack, showing Miss USA winner Deshauna Barber tossing out the first pitch for the Nationals last summer. Other celebrities to be found in this set include Stephen Colbert, John Goodman, Joan Jett, and William Shatner.

A lot of bloggers and collectors have criticized the sharp angular elements that make up the bottom portion of the card, saying that some of the photo is getting cut off. And yes, it does have the potential to get in the way of an action shot like a slide, double play, ground ball, bunt, etc..., but for the types of photos Topps has selected for this set, it works pretty well. At least it's nothing like the 2008 set, where the Topps logo bump intruded into the headroom of most photos. Having a design element like that on the bottom mostly just obscures pant legs, knee-high socks, and shin guards.

Although when Miss USA is the subject of the card, that is a bit of a disappointment.

2017 Topps MLB Awards #MVP-1 Mike Trout
Most Valuable Player Mike Trout showed up as the second insert card, part of the MLB Awards insert set. The numbering is a little confusing, as Trout has card #MVP-1. Cards with the other award winners, like Manager of the Year have an "MOY-" prefix, even though they share the same design and are considered part of the same set. Trout has finished at least 2nd in MVP voting every year since 2012, and 2017 looks to be no different. But with the 11th pick in my upcoming Fantasy Baseball draft, there's no way I'll end up with him.

I'm not especially wild about the design. The background is a fairly boring light gray, and the large colored banners are sort of the Hulk version of the diagonal stripe that contained the logo in last year's main set.

2017 Topps Now #NNO Mike Trout
This Topps Now card wasn't included in the pack, but rather sent to me via snail mail from Topps. Mike Trout just can't be avoided when you're talking about baseball these days, so who better to use to preview the 2017 Topps Now design? An upward slant design on the lower portion of the card is similar to the Topps base set, but this has a little bit of a shallower angle and is partially transparent.

I'll go ahead and assume that all Topps Now customers from 2016 got a copy of this, likely the same group of collectors that received the 2016 year-in-review card. It's a preview of what's to come on a daily basis throughout the 2017 season, but it's also a coupon for 25% off a Topps Now Opening Day team set. I'll probably be hanging on to my $50 (or rather, $37.50), but the coupon code is SPRING25, if you're so inclined to add to your collection.

2017 Topps #72 Chicago Cubs
But even bigger than Mike Trout's MVP performance last year, the biggest story came from the Chicago Cubs, who finally ended their 108-year championship drought. Their team card of course mentions that, and pictures some of their players returning to the dugout after one of their 103 wins. One of the fans is happy to Fly The W, and they're probably singing that infectious Go Cubs Go song. There are certainly no shortage of Cubs fans in this photo, except for the one woman in front sporting a Padres shirt.

The Padres only visited Wrigley once in 2016, and the Padres took two out of three. I was going to date this card to May 10th, 2016, until I realized that Aroldis Champan, who appears on this card, wasn't a Cub yet. So I don't know when this is from.

But I do know that Spring Training is finally underway, and the Cubs are on the MLB Network as I write this. It's been a long winter, but exhibition games are happening, the World Baseball Classic is coming up in early March, and Opening Day isn't far behind.

Baseball's back.


  1. i always downsize my cable package after the WS. It's time for the upgrade. Spring Training games are better than no games at all!

  2. I called to downsize my cable and ended up with more channels. Comcast is stupid.

    1. Fighting your cable provider is becoming the new American pastime.