Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Came for Bunt, left with Stadium Club

Nick and I had a pretty similar experience at Target in recent weeks. The famed author of Dime Boxes and I both had an urge to check the shelves for a recent Topps release, but neither of us found exactly what we were looking for. He was on the lookout for Archives, and I was for Bunt. Neither had been stocked yet, but we both managed to pick up discounted blasters of 2016 Stadium Club for just $13.

2016 Stadium Club Gold #25 Chris Archer
2016 Stadium Club isn't that big of a set at 300 cards, so we did pull a few of the same ones. This card of Rays pitcher Chris Archer has a spot in Nick's frankenset, but I did manage to find the gold parallel. Archer, clearly enjoying life in this photo, has a 4-4 record so far in 2017, and even helped take home the WBC trophy for Team USA prior to the regular season. He had a whopping 19 losses last year on just 9 wins (of course as a member of my Fantasy team), but he's turning things around.

2016 Stadium Club #156 Randal Grichuk
This is my second blaster of the product, and it's as great as ever. In fact, true to its name, there is a great supply of stadium-centric photos like this peppered throughout the set. Grichuk looks like he's rounding the bases after a home run against the Marlins, with the iconic Gateway Arch in the background. If you look closely, you can even spot an American flag on top of the green building, just in front of the Arch itself.

I had been seeing the Cardinals during their annual visit to Denver for most of the past six or seven years, but I missed them in late May. I had been going with a Cardinals fan friend, but he and his wife moved to Tennessee a few months ago, marking the end of a tradition. But even if I wanted to see Grichuk, it might be tough for a while, as the Cardinals sent him all the way down to Single-A following that series.

2016 Stadium Club #184 Byron Buxton
I can't say I really know that much about Byron Buxton, but our first of several horizontal cards gives us a great look at Target Field, home of the Twins. I can't quite tell who they're playing here, possibly the Royals. But the horizontal orientation is perfect for showing off a stadium. Just check the back of 1992 Topps. Of course, print quality has improved by leaps and bounds since then, not to mention that only a small handful of stadiums (stadia, I know... but no one says that) found in the 1992 set are still in use. The Metrodome is not one of them, allowing this majestic shot to exist.

2016 Stadium Club #272A Michael Conforto
The Mets have a new stadium too, as Shea Stadium is no more. They did carve out a spot in center field for the Home Run Apple in Citi Field, though it's almost twice the diameter of the original. And the stadium itself isn't quite as blue as Shea was.

Conforto is quite young. He's only 24, but is in his third Major League season already. He was born in March 1993, just about a month before the Rockies played their first-ever game in Shea Stadium. Yes, even in their inaugural season, they didn't have the luxury of beginning their season at home. Their memorable home opener at Mile High Stadium, and first-ever win, which people all over the Denver area will tell you they attended (about 80,000 of whom actually did), didn't occur until after a short two-game set in Shea Stadium.

2016 Stadium Club #249 Yasmany Tomas
Not much to see here, just a quick illustration that even the beauty of Stadium Club can't make the Diamondbacks' hideous dark gray uniforms look decent.

2016 Stadium Club #268 Jordan Zimmermann
Sometimes you're not trying to show off the stadium or capture as much of a play as possible with a horizontal card. Sometimes you need to do it just to fit the guy's name on it. Ex-national Jordan Zimmermann (not to be confused with his former teammate Ryan Zimmerman), has a great pitching motion, and an unusual Tigers uniform and cap that I'm not familiar with. I do spot a tiny bit of a Spring Training patch on his right sleeve, which makes sense, as Zimmermann didn't begin his career as a Tiger until 2016, so Topps didn't have much time to obtain a photograph before going to print.

2016 Stadium Club #107 Jake Arrieta
Jake Arrieta and the Cubs will forever be known for finally winning it all in 2016, but their 2015 season, which this photo is from, was pretty successful as well. While honoring the late Ernie Banks with that #14 patch, they beat the Pirates in an exciting wild card game, and their other NL Central rival, the Cardinals, in the NLDS. They were stopped in their tracks by the Mets, but not before Arrieta and his buddies got a chance to celebrate with lots of spilled liquids. The photographer did a nice job grabbing this shot without getting water droplets all over the lens.

2016 Stadium Club #259 Aroldis Chapman
Of course, Aroldis Chapman was an important part of the Cubs' championship in 2016, joining them in a late-July trade. That was clearly too late a transaction to make the print deadline, but fortunately for the accuracy of this card, Chapman re-signed with the Yankees for the 2017 season and beyond. He's been on the disabled list (and guess whose Fantasy team he's on), but should be rejoining the bullpen within a week or so.

He has that same spring training patch on his sleeve that Zimmermann does, offering us yet another look at some Grapefruit League uniforms.

2016 Stadium Club #32 Bob Feller
Trevor Bauer is having a rough go of it on the mound at Coors Field as I write this. The Rockies are up 2-0 in the bottom of the 4th, and Bauer very nearly walked four batters in the 3rd. They have two men on with no outs, partially thanks to another walk. If this keeps up, the Rockies are likely to sweep this two-game set (P.S. they did), the first of which I saw in person yesterday. Lots of home runs in that one, including two by Mark Reynolds.

I bet the Indians would love to have Bob Feller out there right now. He had arguably the best fastball of the prewar era, which was measured at over 98 mph, thanks to some fancy military equipment. The presence of retired stars in Stadium Club really makes it magical, though I'm sure Topps doesn't have an easy time finding fresh photographs. But I'd love to see a card showing him pitching through the measuring device as shown in this clip.

2016 Stadium Club #87 Lou Gehrig
Now that the Yankees retired Derek Jeter's uniform number 2, there are no single digits left in the Yankees' equipment room. Lou Gehrig forever has #4 to his name, thanks to six World Series titles and a hugely impressive streak of consecutive games, which set the record until Cal Ripken, Jr. came along. 2,130 games in a row, stopped only by the tragic onset of ALS. He removed himself from the lineup on May 2nd, 1939, ending his streak and also his playing career. How much longer that could have gone without his debilitating disease will forever remain an unknown.

Ripken's streak carried on for about 500 more games than Gehrig's, and there are a couple ways to look at that. It's impressive that Ripken managed to keep his streak alive despite the sport having changed so much. It would be a bit like a modern pitcher winning 35 games in a season. And let's not forget that the 1994 strike and the idea of replacement players nearly put an end to it just months early. But on the other hand, you have to wonder if Ripken's streak of 2,632 would have fallen short if Gehrig got the chance to play a few more seasons.

2016 Stadium Club #208 Edgar Martinez
Some retired stars in Stadium Club are recent enough to have existed in the color photography era. And also the overproduction era, come to think of it. Edgar, who is inching his way closer to being voted into the Hall of Fame, is a fan favorite in Seattle. He's their current hitting coach, lending his hitting expertise to a whole new crop of Mariners. And since they took three out of four games against the Rockies in late May, he must be doing something right.

The grip that he's demonstrating with his left pinky out feels really unnatural. But I am not a Hall-of-Fame candidate. Neither Edgar nor I are lefties, but I'm curious what tactic he's going for here.

2016 Stadium Club ISOmetrics #I-3 Kevin Kiermaier
I got a little unlucky in the inserts department, pulling just this one in the whole blaster. Nick has me beat there, pulling a die-cut of Tom Seaver. I've been hearing Kevin Kiermaier's name more and more lately. The front of this card shows solid and well-rounded stats, but what currently comes to mind is how he massively misjudged a fly ball in yesterday's game against the White Sox. Still, an insert is an insert, and this is definitely a Rays hot blaster.

2016 Stadium Club Black #36 Nomar Mazara
The black parallel I pulled in my first blaster was a gorgeous one of Babe Ruth. At the time, I wondered how a black parallel would look as a color card, and I got my answer from Nomar Mazara. I think it actually looks pretty good, but it does get lost a little bit against the dark background in the dugout. It's also an excellent State Farm ad, even better than the Coca-Cola ad on Grichuk's card. The only real issue is that the Stadium Club logo in the upper left is pretty illegible.

Without that, I might confuse this with 1997 Fleer.

</beating dead horse>

2016 Stadium Club #287 Blake Snell (RC)
I'll wrap this up with the same card that Nick led off with. Chris Archer gets a cameo on fellow pitcher Blake Snell's card, and we also get to see their handshake / high-five / seagull hand puppet. He started the year 0-4 but seems to be getting back on track in Triple-A Durham. He might be called back up soon where he can continue to practice handshakes with his fellow Rays, and ideally watch Kevin Kiermaier up his fielding percentage a little bit.

I have since found some Topps Bunt at Target, but I'm always happy to take the scenic route through a blaster of Stadium Club.


  1. 2016 TSC is a great set. I love finding these discounted packs and blasters lately...though I'm either unlucky or the collation has sucked because I'm still several cards short of completing the set!

    1. Somewhat unbelievably, I didn't get a single duplicate between two blasters.

  2. Glad you pulled the trigger on some discounted Stadium Club as well! I'd say you did pretty well. That Grichuk is an absolute beauty and was a no-brainer choice for inclusion in my inaugural frankenset.

  3. My Target hates to discount cards, absolutely hates it. ... All my discount blasters come from Walmart, and right now all they're discounting for baseball is 2016 flagship ... bleah.