Donruss Wasteland! It’s Only Donruss Wasteland…

Donruss Wasteland

Truth be told, I kinda like 2015 Donruss and wouldn’t say the money I spent on a jumbo pack was “wasted”, but after writing the subject line I just slipped into “Weird Al” mode.

The origins of this post came out of the weeks it took before I saw any Donruss in the local retail stores. Every time I came up empty, I walked out of the store singing to myself “…Donruss wasteland… it’s only Donruss wasteland…”

That’s why I’m writing this post long after everyone else has moved past Donruss;  because I wanted to voice my mild appreciation for this set… and share a few thoughts on what Panini could do to make it more than a mild appreciation.

So this was the first card I saw out of my jumbo pack – because Jumbo is all I can find on the shelves – and my immediate reaction was that it looks better in person than in scans.
2015 Donruss Chris Tillman
I think part of the problem was that I was so fixated the fact that they reused the 2014/1987 Donruss design element (the colored stripe with the baseballs in it) that I didn’t let the wholeness of the design stand on it’s own. And this design, derivative as it is, has its own appeal. Not a classic, but it’s far from sucking.

But one of the issues I have with Panini baseball products is that the photos are all either cropped very wide or cropped very tight.  Sort of like Grover on Sesame Street.  “This is near… THIS IS FAAAAAARRRRRRRRR!”
2015 Donruss David Wright
The backs are kind of odd.  I can sort of appreciate the background effect they were going for, but the background and the font combine to make it hard to read.
2015 Donruss David Wright back
Panini really needs to learn a lesson or two about contrast.

Another problem I have with this set – other than the obvious lack of logos and such – is the repetitiveness of the images.
2015 Donruss Five Consecutive Cards
This isn’t just five cards chosen to prove a point… These are five consecutive cards in the pack I got. Panini did a fine job of illustrating the issue all by itself.

I would imagine that Rule #1 in selecting photos is “How hard is it to remove all of the logos?”, and just from that rule we end up with batters swinging, pitchers in their windup and catchers in full protective gear.

But on the whole, it’s a decent set.  It’s a set that reminds me of some kids I went to school with, the ones who were smart but unmotivated, the ones who could just kind of coast through the classes without trying, yet still get decent results… But if they’d only put forth a little effort

The Diamond Kings are done pretty well… I won’t say I like the design, but I appreciate the way that the Diamond King logo covers up where the cap or helmet logo would normally go, so that it’s not so obvious that it’s missing.
2015 Donruss Jose Reyes DK

I didn’t bother scanning the inserts I got (The Rookies, Elite, Preferred, Studio).  They are all pretty much just “there”.  Studio would work so well as an unlicensed set if they’d just put a smidge of effort into it.

So if you put me in charge of Donruss, what would I change?  First off, Panini needs to just let go of any team identification.  That ship has sailed, dudes.  Don’t even bother with the “LOS ANGELES BASEBALL CLUB” crap, this ain’t MLS.  This is a set licensed by the Players Association, make it 100% about the players.  Don’t give us “David Wright of the New York Baseball Club”, give us “DAVID WRIGHT!!!”  Let us see what each player looks like.  Show us some of each player’s personality.

Have some variety in the photos.  See if you can’t pull some strings with the union and get a few players on the field to make those cheesy-yet-endearing poses that just happens to cover up most of the team logo… something like this:
1988 Grand Slam Columbia Mets Rocky Elli

And you know what I’d be tempted to do? Don’t just wipe out the logos, replace them with something that MLB can’t complain about. If there’s a little bit of Padres script peeking out from behind a glove, don’t just remove it, replace it with something else that isn’t licensed, but just fills in the gaps. I keep thinking back to the backgrounds on the 2012 Triple Play cards, the repeated logos that formed a subtle association with the team name or city without coming out and saying “CUBS!”
2012 Triple Play Starlin Castro Puzzle Piece

Criticism aside, I think this set is a pretty good improvement over 2014 Donruss.  Would I collect the set?  Nah.  Might I buy packs here and there?  Yeah, sure, here and there… if I can find something smaller than the jumbo packs.  Will I take full advantage of singles from the base set, especially guys who aren’t in Topps products like Matt Wieters and Ichiro?  Hell, yeah!

…And speaking of Wieters and Ichiro, where is the leveraging of these players who are effectively exclusives?  Honestly, do you even put any thought into these sets?

…Don’t answer that…

If you were put in charge of Panini America, what would you do to make their baseball cards more appealing and less obviously unlicensed?


One thought on “Donruss Wasteland! It’s Only Donruss Wasteland…

  1. Panini has issues with their card design across most of their sets. What I feel sets them apart from Topps, in a bad way, is the lack of color in the cards. They’re just too bland. If they had thin but full color borders or more vibrant photos that go all the way to the edge of the card, ala Stadium Club, it would help draw attention away from there not being a logo on the player’s hat. Where Panini blows Topps out of the water is the inserts. Panini seems to put a lot more thought into their insert designs and subjects than Topps.

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