I like to support the (relatively speaking) low-end sets that card companies put out… partly because I’m cheap but also because there should be some options for collectors with limited budgets.
Big League has gotten my support over the past few years, even though the first set in 2018 had a uninteresting/unappealing design… and OK, I didn’t buy a lot of 2021 Big League partly because it came out a year late and I don’t see the point of buying new cards that were out of date as soon as they came out.
So here comes 2023 Topps Big League which, if you haven’t heard, has a base set that is tiered… The first 200 cards in the base set are “common”, the next 50 are “Uncommon foil” (one-per-pack foilboard cards that are shiny in the same way that the “Stars of MLB” inserts from 2023 Topps are shiny) then there are 25 rare blue foil cards (shortprints), 25 “super rare red foil” cards (super-shortprints) and 10 “legendary gold foil cards” which are super-super-shortprinted but also feature retired HOFers to which I say “Feh!” (Easy for me to say, of course, since I’m weary of retired players in current sets)
This approach is not sitting well with many collectors I know. Over a third of the ‘base set’ is shortprinted to varying degrees, the odds are daunting (1 in 90 packs for the Super Rare Red) and it takes a sort of Pokemon-ish approach to the set, even though the goals of collecting Collectible Card Game cards isn’t really the same as baseball cards are… or at least traditionally had been.
There’s also a matter of certain teams being absolutely slaughtered in terms of the ability to collect the team set. Fans of the White Sox get off easy – a team set consists of 7 commons and 4 Uncommons. No big. Marlins are similarly easy to complete. The Tigers, though, have just one common, 2 uncommons and 2 super rare cards. Ouch. My Mets get pretty well shafted as well, with 5 of the 12 cards being in Rare or Super Rate tiers… and of course, the biggest names (Scherzer, Verlander, Lindor) are in those tiers.
(Side note: The Mets got screwed even more than I had realized when I wrote the above paragraph… more on that towards the end of the post)
One more strike against Big League… When you look at it on a per card basis, it’s actually more expensive than Series 1.
At any rate, I was still trying to sort out how I feel about this set when I ran across some blasters in my local Target. My pack opening is still far behind where it had been in pre-pandemic seasons, so I grabbed one… “For science”, as they say.
The first thing I noticed is that the box is shiny… It’s shiny, fluorescent foilboard and it does make the blaster stand out. It looks very much like something that would fit right in to a Five Below store, if you find that description helpful. I tried to take a photo of it to share here, but me being a crappy photographer I couldn’t get a picture I liked so you’ll have to take my word for it.
Oh, and unlike some prior Big League blasters, there’s no bonus card on the side of the blaster. That’s a no-fun strike against this set.
OK, with that I’ll run you through the first pack I opened, and then get into some details about the rest of the blaster.
First card… Michael Massey. I’ll admit, I didn’t know him.
The design is good, functional, nothing special. It’s not exactly Bowman-esque, but it would work as your typical nondescript Bowman design.
I like that there’s a “DID YOU KNOW?” on the back. Not much else to say about the back other than the usual “Middle aged guy asks why the card numbers can’t be bigger” complaint.
Bryson Stott… It’s interesting that “Topps” is not found anywhere on the card front, just the “BL” Big League logo.
Joc Pederson… As an amateur custom card maker, I will tell you that the face guards on 21st century batting helmets can making picking an image difficult.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 8 Bit Ballers insert
OF COURSE the first insert I pull is one that was included in the preview images. I’ll share another 8-Bit insert a little later in this post.
Joe Musgrove – Uncommon Foil. You can’t tell from the scan, but these are shiny.
My first surprise of the blaster, even if it’s a mild one… I didn’t realize there would be horizontal cards.
I suspect that if one does the math then the odds of completing a “Uncommon” subset is not much different from the “Common” subset… Fewer in the packs, but fewer cards to obtain.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Super Rare Red (spoiler alert – my best pull of the blaster)
I also suspect that the photography is more interesting as you go up in tiers, but none of what I see blew me away… but that’s generally not a strength of sets like Big League anyway.
…and that’s the first pack. From what I pulled in the blaster, it seems that this pack would be a typical pack If you swapped out another common for the Super Rare card. The 8 card packs generally go like this: common, common, common, insert, uncommon, common, common, common
Target blasters have Electric Orange parallels which are in addition to the other cards, so those five packs with parallels had 9 cards in them instead of 8.
I got an Electric Orange parallel of this Uncommon Foil Salvatore Perez card… I don’t think there are Target parallels for the red, blue and gold tiers.
Before I get into the rest of my inserts, I’ll point out a few minor points of interest with the base cards.
First off, some but not all of the cards have the player’s bat, hands or glove going “in front of” the border… you might have noticed it on Bryson Stott’s card above, here are several other examples:
Also, these have been updated for offseason moves in the same way Opening Day would have been – through the magic of Photoshop!
This Joey Gallo card photoshops him in the new-for-2023 Twins uniforms, but I noticed that another Twins card I got showed the player in last year’s uniform.
I was pleased to get a card of Kodai Senga, so now I have something tangible to use in that particular pocket of my “current Mets roster” binder.
OK, let’s get into the inserts.
Here’s another 8-Bit Baller insert. I kinda like the idea, I’m left cold by the execution… not that I have any ideas of how to improve it.
“City Slickers” highlights teams which have City Connect alternate uniforms.
“Roll Call”… can’t think of much to say about this insert that doesn’t state the obvious.
I got one Mascot in my blaster, and of course it’s Billy The Marlin. (sigh). At least it’s not one of those “I’ve come to devour your soul” pictures of ol’ Billy.
Finally there’s the “Topps Kids”-like Big Leaguers insert. These are fun and probably got the most attention of any of the inserts. Given the chase-y nature of this set I thought these might be high-odds, but I got three in my blaster.
At least I got one from my wantlist.
I know some of you are still pondering how much interest you have in this set, so I figured I’d include some breakdowns to give some idea of the value I got.
Here’s a brief overview of the 86 cards in my blaster (one of my packs had an extra card, woo hoo!):
– 59 common
– 10 uncommon foil (1 per pack)
– 4 Target exclusive “Electric Orange” common parallels
– 1 Target exclusive “Electric Orange” uncommon foil parallel
– 3 “8 Bit Ballers”
– 3 “Big Leaguers”
– 2 “Roll Call”
– 2 “City Slickers”
– 1 Mascot
– 1 super rare red (1:90 packs)
– Nothing from the “rare blue” tier (1:18 packs)
– Nothing from the legendary gold tier (1:360 packs)
Beckett said that the four most common inserts come one per four packs, so I guess another way to look at it is that you probably get one of those four insert sets in most packs.
In terms of completing the base set – something I’d never attempt in this case – I’ve got 29.5% of the Commons, 20% of the Uncommon Foil, 0% of the Rare Blue, 4% of the Super Rare Red and 0% of the Legendary Gold
I also tried to come up with a way to quantify the “stardom level” of players in each tier of the set so I bumped the checklist against a list of last year’s All-Star rosters (including those who were named to the team but were not on the final rosters).
Before I get into this, though, I’ll share a discovery I made when writing this post: There are 10 superstars who are in the common tier and also in the shortprinted tiers: Fernando Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuña Jr., Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, Julio Rodriguez, Mookie Betts and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Anyway… here’s the All-Star breakdown:
Common tier: 26 All-Stars
Uncommon tier: 13
Rare tier: 9
Super Rare tier: 9
Common plus Rare: 1
Common plus Super Rare: 8
Fernando Tatis Jr. has both a common and a Super Rare card but was not an All-Star because he missed all of the 2022 season.
Fans of fifteen of the All-Stars are officially outta luck because they didn’t get a card in 2023 Big League. The most notable of these “too bad, so sad” All-Stars is…
(Y’all ready for this?)
I kid you not. There are inserts and autographs of Alonso, but no base card.
As long as I’m doing the legwork, the other 2022 All-Stars who did not get base cards are David Bednar, Framber Valdez, Garrett Cooper, Gregory Soto, Ian Happ, Joe Mantiply, Jordan Romano, Jorge López, Jose Trevino, Josh Hader, Martín Pérez, Paul Blackburn, Santiago Espinal and Clay Holmes.
So… would I buy another blaster of 2023 Big League?
It’s not quite the shortprinted hellhole I feared, but I’m also not dying to buy more. It depends on what’s on the shelf when I’m in a store and itching to rip some wax. If I can satisfy my pack-ripping urges in other ways then I’ll probably scarf up a bunch of Big League commons if/when I see them in a monster box at a card show or LCS.
If you’ve bought any 2023 Big League, I’d like to know how similar your experience was to mine.