Monday, July 11, 2016

Break Time!

The All-Star Break is upon us.

It's billed as the halfway point of the season, but in reality it's about a week or so past that. The Rockies have predictably begun their July slide, winning only three of their last seven, though somehow they've managed to hold onto third place. They're an even .500 in the four games I've attended this year, and I witnessed them trade blowouts with the Phillies this weekend, stopping by Coors Field twice over a four-game set to enter the Break. Thursday's 11-2 win was plenty of fun to watch, with Trevor Story hitting two home runs, including one monster to deep left field, almost to the concourse.

Sunday's game was much more in the Phillies' favor. The Rox dropped the contest 10-3, despite Carlos Gonzalez crushing one to the third deck in right-center. I've seen him hit more than a few that direction this year, though none quite as far as that. I hope it bodes well for his appearance in tonight's Home Run Derby, where he's matched against the defending champion, Todd Frazier. Like Cincinnati last year, this year's home crowd in San Diego also has a hometown participant to root for in Wil Myers.

This year's field is heavily weighted toward the NL West, which is sending three participantsMyers, CarGo, and Corey Seager. The other five divisions have one representative each. Fortunately for the Derby, Petco Park is less of a pitcher's park than it used to be, which may not matter much anyway with batting practice pitches.

2016 Topps Archives #104 Evan Longoria
In addition to the Home Run Derby selection, the All-Star Final Vote has been completed. Evan Longoria finished fifth out of five in the American League final balloting. Personally, I gave my AL votes to Ian Kinsler, though he finished third to Michael Saunders. Of course, my NL votes went to Trevor Story, not only because he's a Rockie, but because he had quite a day on Thursday when Final Vote balloting was underway. Sadly, he finished third to Brandon Belt, but if his rookie season is any indication, he'll have plenty of other chances to play in the Midsummer Classic.

2016 Topps Archives #57 Charlie Blackmon
Charlie Blackmon appeared in 2014's All-Star Game, going 0-for-2. Arenado and CarGo are the lone Rockie representatives this year, but Blackmon's made enough of a name for himself (or has a good enough beard) to earn representation in 2016 Topps Archives.

Usually it doesn't take this long for me to start talking about the cards, but I've seen a lot of baseball in person this weekend, which is my idea of a great summer. Blackmon gets the 1953 Topps treatment, one of three classic designs found in 2016 Archives, along with the 1979 design used for Longoria's card, and another you'll see later.

Longoria, by the way, was one of the players the Rockies passed over in the 2006 Draft, along with Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and a few other now-obvious selections. The Rockies did draft Blackmon two years later, though this 1953-style card doesn't provide that level of detail.

2016 Topps Archives #130 Tom Seaver
I haven't bought much 2016 product yet, and when I took this trip to Target, I was on the hunt for the recently released Stadium Club set. There was none to be found, so I ended up with this pack of Topps Archives instead. It wasn't my first choice, but I consistently gravitate toward this set, and the distinctive matte finish on the cards still remains.

This card of Tom Seaver represents a common gripe about Topps Archives. From 1977 through 1982, Tom Terrific pitched for the Reds, yet he is shown as a Met on this 1979 design. There are lots of factors going on here, since he played for several teams throughout his career, and Topps only chose three set designs for the base set this year. He's probably most well-remembered as a Met, the team he played for when he won his only World Series championship in 1969.

I suppose we're a fickle bunch, us card collectors. But let's be honest here; Evan Longoria wasn't even born in 1979. And Charlie Blackmon certainly wasn't born in 1953. His parents might not even have been. But here we are, complaining about Tom Seaver appearing as a Met on the '79 design instead of as a Red. Which is fine with me. Isn't the whole point of this set to see players as they weren't pictured?

2016 Topps Archives #12 Robin Yount
I guess franchise players like Robin Yount take that debate out of the equation. He earned his way into the 3,000 hit club with one team, and though he never won a World Series, he was the face of the Brewers from almost their inception until 1993, a few years before they switched leagues.

Like Yount, quite a few players now in the Hall of Fame hung up the spikes in 1993, including Nolan Ryan, Carlton Fisk, and George Brett. Other than the inaugural ballot in 1936, 1999 marked the first time that at least three players were elected on their first ballot in the same year. Fisk needed a second ballot to get in, but Yount, Ryan, and Brett all got in during their first year of eligibility. That's becoming less rare, as both 2014 and 2015 each saw three first-ballot players enshrined in Cooperstown, primarily the Braves' 1990s rotation.

2016 Topps Archives '85 Father/Son #FS-GG Ken Griffey Jr. / Ken Griffey Sr.
Ken Griffey, Jr., along with Mike Piazza, are the newest members of the Hall of Fame. Junior outshined his dad in that department, but still got a nice 1985-themed Father/Son card in this seven-card insert set. Both Griffeys hail from Donora, Penn., which is worth keeping in mind for a later card in this post. This card is new enough to reference Ken Jr.'s induction to the Hall, while also serving as a checklist of sorts, providing the card number of each man's rookie card.

2016 Topps Archives #279 Josh Donaldson
After 1953 and 1979, the third set represented in Archives this year is 1991, one of the first sets I ever collected. They only made minor changes to the design, just slightly modifying the team logos in the lower right (never really noticed that chevron before), and changing the anniversary counter in the upper left from 40 to 65. The watermark logo on the back is changed in the same way, but they got the brick red color just about perfect.

Twenty-five years really zips by. Seeing a set you collected as a kid in an Archives set is the baseball card equivalent of hearing songs you listened to in high school on the Oldies station. Still, these 1991 cards might be my favorite ones yet to appear in any Archives set.

2016 Topps Archives #271 Ted Williams
Ted Williams, the last player to hit over .400, gets a card in the 1991 style as well. These are sort of like sunset cards, in that we get complete career statistics on the back. Williams played from 1939-1960, and that .406 mark appeared in only his third season. It is pretty cool to see a stat like that on such a recent card, especially since the industry hasn't ever had the opportunity to feature a current .400 season on the back of a post-war card.

In case you were wondering, Williams went 185-for-456 in 1941. Interestingly, he had exactly one more hit in the following season, but somehow worked in 66 more at-bats, good for a still-awesome .356. Those early-'40s years helped him on his way to a .344 lifetime average, which stands as sixth-best in baseball history.

I find it interesting that Topps chose the 1991 design for The Splendid Splinter, as Williams started up his own card company in 1993, though he was a bit late to the party, closing up shop during the strike of 1994 after just two sets.

2016 Topps Archives #282 Lou Brock
I pulled a couple other 1991 cards, and though you wouldn't know it so far, this turned out to be a bit of a Cardinals hot pack. Lou Brock joins a long list of Hall-of-Famers, and while I have few cards from his era, this photograph is new to me.

2016 Topps Archives Blue #61 Kolten Wong /199
This is the only parallel I pulled from the 18-card pack, and while I like Kolten Wong as much as the next guy, he hasn't made as much of a name for himself yet as most others in this pack. Granted, there are some real superstars here, but a blue-bordered parallel numbered to 199 is a hit no matter how you slice it.

2016 Topps Archives #141 Stan Musial
The Cardinals hits wrap up with this Stan Musial. It's just a base card, but it might be my favorite one in the whole pack. I absolutely love that Popeye expression he's wearing, as the legendary lefty is definitely staring something down. The old Topps logo appears, like it does on the rest of the '79s, and the back of the card even has a trivia question on it.

Your category is Baseball Dates. The question is, "What happened on June 2nd, 1925?"

Nothing in particular jumps out at me, but the upside-down answer gives almost any baseball fan more than enough information. That was the day "Lou Gehrig replaced Wally Pipp—and the rest is history."

Lou Gehrig appeared in last year's Archives set on a 1983 design, and he's in 2016's set on the same 1979 design as Musial. Not sure if there's a connection there in how Topps chose its trivia questions, but a reference to Gehrig's amazing streak of 2,130 consecutive games played on a card of the 1988 Donruss Puzzle guy from Donora, Penn. shows how awesome this set is. When you look closely at a pack like this, it's not even a disappointment that Target was out of Stadium Club.


  1. i kind of like the seaver card. he already has a card of him as red in the 1979 design, so this provides something different. it's similar in a way to the variations that leaf did in its rookies and stars set in the early 2000's. however, i understand the backlash as i would not have enjoyed seeing steve garvey's 1979 short print card in this year's archives release as much as i did if he had been shown as a padre.

    also, i received the cards you sent last week. thanks for the trade!

    1. I can definitely see how seeing your favorite player in another uniform (especially a rival's) might not be one's favorite thing. Tulo's Blue Jay cards do make me twitch a little bit.

      And thank you for the trade as well! I'll get a post up soon.