2018 Opening Day Base Cards With Different Photos, Part 1

I’m not a huge fan of parallels… which means that I’m usually not a huge fan of Topps Opening Day base cards, which are usually pseudo-parallels of their Series 1 & 2 equivalents.

But when a set like Opening Day or Topps Chrome uses different photos than were used in the flagship Topps set… Well that catches my attention.  They’re like non-short-printed variations (with the corresponding non-short-print price).

It does seem like this year’s Opening Day set has more cards with different photos than it has in the past… or the recent past, anyway.

As soon as the Opening Day checklist was released, one of the first things I did was to bump it up against the Series 1 checklist to see which players are depicted with different teams (guaranteeing, at the very least, photoshopping into a new uniform).

This is that list:
33 Zack Cozart (LAA)
60 Giancarlo Stanton (NYY – confirmed this is the same photo)
163 Ian Kinsler (LAA)
184 Yangervis Solarte (TOR)
195 Marcell Ozuna (STL)

This was a somewhat disappointing start because it seems like there were more updated cards in the past… but this *was* an odd offseason so I won’t get all judgemental.  As I would find out, things would be better than I’d feared.

The “Future Star” cards from Series 1 don’t have that graphic in Opening Day… I mention this in case that type of variation floats your boat (variations such as this leave my boat in dry dock).

I bought two jumbo packs of Opening Day last week, and in that post I pointedly featured only one base card.  However, when I started putting the Opening Day cards into my “Current Rosters” binders, I was surprised to find that a bunch of the Opening Day cards used different photos… and that’s just the cards I happen to have.

I then found out, from the Twitter account of internationally-famous collector and all-around swell guy Mark Hoyle, that Jackie Bradley Jr. (Card #116) has a different base card, and Rafael Devers (#2) has the same photo but Opening Day is cropped looser and is horizontally-oriented.

Yesterday I found out from Once A Cub and his brand new 2018 Topps Opening Day Blog that Jose Quintana (#199) and Nomar Mazara (#104) also have different photos.  From what I’ve seen so far, I’m happy to pimp this blog.  Once A Cub digs deep into the set one card at a time, comparing the photos to Series 1, team sets, and also going out and finding the original photo plus info about the photo… Lots of great information, I recommend it.

Conversely, at this point i have confirmed 14 cards to use the same photo as Series 1.  I currently believe there are 62 cards which are “previews” of Series 2, plus the Shohei Ohtani…

…which I can’t believe won’t feature a different photo in Series 2.

So what follows are the Opening Day cards from my collection which, at this point, I’ve confirmed as having a different photo…:

Elvis Andrus (Opening Day Card #101)

Ryan McMahon (OD #115)

Nick Williams (OD #120)

Clint Frazier (OD #117)

Clayton Kershaw (OD #1)

Brian Anderson (OD #131)

Almost missed this one as it seems very much like the same play.

Daniel Murphy (OD #111)

I also found out about Willie Calhoun (OD #118) having a different photo, but I don’t yet have the Series 1 card (which has a similar photo but is a vertical card).

I’ll have additional parts of this at some point, once I’ve got enough cards scanned to make it worthwhile.



(Far Too Many) Thoughts On Topps “Living Set”

Last week Topps announced “The Living Set”, an open-ended online-only set featuring artwork instead of photos and done in the 1953 Topps design.

Had Topps lead with a written description like that, my reaction would’ve been “meh”.  I still haven’t bought a single Topps Now or #TBT card, why would I be interested in another relatively-expensive online set?

Topps, however, astutely teased us with a Tweeted image featuring artwork by Mayumi Seto, and I said “OH, MYYYYYYYYY!!”.

They would later unveil the Living Set web page including a video and pricing information.

I started to write a few comments as an addendum to last Friday’s post, but the more I wrote about it, the more additional thoughts came to me and I had to cut bait on that and start over again with a new, longer – possibly too long – post.

One of the more intriguing aspects to this set is the promise that once a player is featured, he won’t be featured again unless he’s moved to a new team… This way it won’t become the “Judge And Bellinger Show, with special guest Shohei Ohtani!” like the other online sets have become.

If/when they include retired players (which seems pretty likely), it’ll be nice to know there’ll only be one Derek Jeter card to deal with.

Without getting into shipping costs – and there apparently is a way to get free shipping within the USA – the cards are $8 each or each week’s three-card batch for $15.  This is kind of pricey, but potentially not quite as expensive as Topps Now.

For example, I’m somewhat intrigued by the Joe Panik card as he’s the subject of one of my lower-tier player collections (I saw him in the minors a couple of times).

I don’t collect Panik to the point where I’m spending $8 on his cards, but something occurred to me (and to fill in the dramatic pause on this, I’ll feature the nicely-done back of the Panik card)…

It occurred to me that it’s actually cheaper to buy three cards ($15)  than it is to buy 2 cards individually ($8 x 2 = $16).  This makes for some interesting decisions for buyers.

Obviously, if there are two cards I want in a given week, it’s a no-brainer.

But if I really wanted the Panik card, could I effectively reduce the cost of the card by selling the Judge and the Castellanos cards for, say $6 each?

I’m sure there are already tiny little “group breaks” being set up so people can buy each week’s batch and divvy up the cards.

The pricing structure might also have an interesting effect on the aftermarket of certain cards. Let’s say there’s a week where the three cards are a Yankee, a HOFer and (not to pick on anybody, but) someone from the Twins. There may be a fair number of individuals and dealers who want the Yank and the HOFer but not the Twin, but it’s cheaper to get all three.  Will the Twins cards get dumped on the market to the point where supply exceeds demand?

Or maybe it’ll be a boon to trading…

I’ll have to give this a lot more thought before they start to feature cards which fall in my team or first-level player collections.  It’s still much more than I would normally spend on a new card, but… I can’t rule it out, not yet.

I’m not even sure I’d do team collections on this. A given team will have, on average, about 5 cards in a calendar year. Would a five-card team set be worth $25 to me? One could make the “Four cards = a retail blaster” argument in favor of the Living Set cards… but I’m thinking more along the lines of “Four cards = 10-20 commons from an early 1970’s baseball set”.

Some other stream-of-consciousness thoughts on this set…

I appreciate the fact that (unlike 2016 Topps Archives), they seem to be properly using the “Black for NL teams, red for AL teams” motif.

I would hope they’re retiring 1953 Topps from use in the Topps Archives set.

If this is successful enough, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the introduction of “The Other Living Set” based on photography and using a different vintage design (perhaps 1957).

Even at just three cards per week, the Living Set will be larger than the 1953 set in just under two years.

Will it cause confusion down the road when cards from the same set have “PAST YR.” stats which are actually from different years?

…Not to mention cards from the same set which have different copyright years…

Topps really should print “Topps Living Set” on these somewhere, but it doesn’t appear that they’re doing that.

With several big-name players hitting free-agency after this season, the smart money is on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and others of that free agency class making an appearance in the set this year so that – surprise, surprise – they can show up again next year if/when they’re on different teams.

…The same also goes for guys like Jonathan Lucroy who signed one-year contracts in this winter’s very strange free agent market.

Whether I buy these would also depend on the ongoing quality of the artwork. In theory, I would spend $5 on a Francisco Lindor card… but if Seto falls behind and they hire someone less talented to do Lindor’s card, I’m not sure I’m on board for that.

One thing which occurs to me… Mayumi Seto was the artist for last year’s Gallery set. Does Living Set replace Gallery? Maybe it’s a way to leverage the artwork without having all the inserts, autos, relics associated with a retail set. Maybe Walmart decided they weren’t interested in repeating it as an exclusive… I can’t think that 2017 Gallery resulted in much store traffic, the cards pretty much disappeared from the shelves within a week.  Speaking for myself, I made something like 10 trips to Walmart, but on each trip I walked to the card aisle, shook my head and walked back out because I don’t like shopping at Walmart.

The fact that the set doesn’t start over each year but goes on and on is pitched as a unique idea, but if you want to get picky about it there’s another commercially available card set where the design doesn’t change (much) and the card numbers keep on going…

The Sports Illustrated For Kids set, which is included in each magazine, has card numbering that’s gotten up into the 700’s.

It is, in fact, a card set that doesn’t end…

OK, so that’s more than enough rumination on The Living Set.

What do you think about this set? Are you excited? Intrigued? Don’t give a crap?

The World Premier Of My 2018 TSR Custom Card Set

For those of you who may be relatively new to The Shlabotnik Report… I enjoy designing and creating virtual (or “custom”) baseball cards, and what you’re about to see is my seventh published custom card set. For me it’s a fun outlet for my creative juices, and also kind of therapeutic in an “adult coloring book” sort of way.

As someone who wishes there was an original yet “old school” option among the current cards, I strive to make this set of mine exactly what I’d love to find at my local big box retailer.  I often try to pay homage to cards from a particular decade…  This time around, the design was largely inspired by sets from the 1960’s… but the inspiration comes from beyond 1960’s Topps baseball.

So I’ve got a virtual wax pack ready to go… I’d like to make a quick disclaimer that I put significantly less effort than usual into the wrapper design this year.  I’ll sure you’ll pick up the shattered pieces of your life and move on…

OK, let’s rip this sucker open!

First card… and since I’m calling the shots, it’s naturally of my favorite team the Mets.

Jay Bruce was traded to Cleveland at the deadline last year, but went back to the Mets during the winter. Topps and Topps Heritage both show him with the Indians.  It’s a shame he isn’t in the Topps Opening Day checklist, otherwise they could’ve fallen back on a slightly older photo (like I did).

Here’s something which would be a “TSR Exclusive” if these were commercially available – Managers!

I very much miss having cards of managers, so each virtual pack of TSR will include a manager or perhaps a coach… there are a number of current coaches I wouldn’t mind having cards of.  By the end of the season I should have featured most, if not all, of the managers.

I was going to say that Dave Roberts hasn’t been on an actual baseball card as a manager yet, but then I discovered two cards which went against this.  He had a “Manager Of The Year” card in a 2017 Topps insert set, and was part of a super-short-printed mini “Skippers” insert in 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter;  I’m actually pissed off to discover this A&G insert… It’s one thing to have no managers, but to have managers super-short-printed (1:288 odds) just comes across as a sort of insult.

Yesterday I was reading that the Reds signed 3rd baseman Eugenio Suarez to a seven-year contract extension, and that made me feel chagrined because I like to think I know all of the better players in MLB, but if this guy I know little about is being given $66M by the Reds, I’ve obviously missed the boat.  I decided that my penance would be to make a custom of him.

Suarez plays third, but he’s a converted shortstop who’s adapted well to the change of position. He’s a triple-threat as a positive clubhouse influence, a good fielder (he lead the NL in fielding percentage) and is improving as a hitter, hitting career highs with 26 home runs and 82 RBI’s in 2017.

Unless you follow uniform changes (like me) or are a Tigers fan (unlike me), you may not know that the Tigers made uniform changes that are controversial in certain circles yet will slip past most fans.

For most people’s lifetimes, the Old English “D” on the Detroit Tigers’ caps was not the same as the Old English “D” on their jerseys.  Over the winter the Tigers dropped what had been the “Jersey D”, and what had been the “Cap D” is now the universal “D”.  I’m OK with ditching one of the D’s, but I think I would’ve kept the the “Jersey D”.

Oh, and the cap logo is bigger than it has been before; now it’s of a comparable size to other teams’ logos.

Miles Mikolas had some unimpressive stints with the Padres and Rangers earlier this decade, but established himself as a pitcher during three years in Japan.  He decided to come back to the States for 2018 and the Cardinals signed him to a two-year contract.

Mikolas got off to a rough start in Spring Training, but has been better of late.

Brad Brach looks to be the Orioles closer this season… at least until Zach Britton is back.

It’s hard to know what to expect from the Orioles this year (although it’s probably not good).  I would’ve thought that the way the slow free agent market played out would’ve played right into GM Dan Duquette’s bargain shopping strategy, but that has not been the case.  It seems like the Twins got all of the bargains the Orioles should’ve gotten.  I wonder if the team should’ve thought “Hey, this player’s unexpectedly in our price range!” but instead went with “Gosh, this player’s really in a bind, we can low-ball him even more than we normally would!”

Finally, we come to this pack’s insert card.  Four years ago, I made a throw-away joke on a virtual wrapper of 2014 TSR: “Look for special ‘gum-stained’ parallels!”  Well, what had been a throw-away joke became a real-life Heritage parallel and it’s just gotten worse (‘Flip stock’?  Really?) so I got to wondering what other sort of dumb-ass parallels and variations could I come up with?

I have one such “Dumb-Ass Variation” here…

Here is a “Missing Player” variation of a well-known Yankees slugger.

There will be more “Dumb-Ass” parallels and variations coming in future packs (although I’m so happy with the way this one turned out that I’m wondering if I should quit while I’m ahead).

So that’s this week’s virtual pack.  There will be more subsets and “inserts” introduced as we go along, but I want to pace myself a bit on these.  I won’t spell out my plans, but I will say that I was looking through some of my older sets and thinking “Yeah, I need to do that again” as well as “This was great, why didn’t I do this last year?”

If anybody has any requests along the lines of “Can you do these types of cards again?” or “Can you do a better job on the wrapper?” or (to use a random player from the bbref.com homepage) “Can you make a custom of Carlos Ruiz?”… Just leave a comment and I will see what I can do.

Pack Animal: 2018 Topps Opening Day

Opening Day is an odd set… The base set is largely uninteresting for me, except for the cards with different photos than are found in Series 1 & 2. The inserts, however, are usually fun. Inserts are largely why I bought two 24-card hanger packs last night.

I recognize most of these guys on the wrapper, but who’s that Yankee?  I don’t remember seeing him before.

Gosh, did I miss something by spending the past 18 months in a medieval castle in Liechtenstein?

OK, joking aside… I would normally feature the first card, but it’s Topps Opening Day,  You’ve essentially seen these cards before…

…But there is one base card I feel like I should feature before we’re completely sick of pulling cards of this particular someone…

I’d have to think that the Series 2 Ohtani card would have a different photo… something less press-conference-y.

I’m generally risk-averse in most things, but I see these crazy dollar amounts being thrown at Ohtani cards and all I can think is “…And if he blows out his arm?  Or even just turns out to be the second coming of Daisuke Matsuzaka?”  Not that Daisuke had a bad career, but nobody’s spending hundreds of dollars on his cards.

OK, enough of my retirement planning advice.  Let’s get on to the inserts.

We’re starting off with a “Team Traditions & Celebrations” insert.  Thoughts of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at Wrigley makes me think of Harry Carey or one of his celebrity stand-ins.  What do we get?  A crowd shot taken between “ONE!” and “THREE!”… or perhaps a picture taken at a Wrigley Field peace rally.

“Opening Day Stars” used to be a 3-D insert… A year or two ago it was converted to a set of stickers recently, which is nowhere near as much fun for this kid who happens to be an AARP member.

“Before Opening Day” is just an Opening Day-ish way of saying “Spring Training”.

The back of the card, of course, talks about the regular season… but he’s wearing a pullover, so it’s clearly Spring Training! I’d have to see more of these inserts before I pass judgement, but I’m leaning towards “pointless” (or maybe “Before having a point”).

Mascots are always a favorite insert of OD, and I pulled one of Cubs’ mascot Clark!

Another Cubs-related insert… Good thing I’ve got a Cubs fan trading partner on speed dial.

…Boy, that phrase – “on speed dial” – has lost all meaning, hasn’t it?

Moving on to the second pack’s inserts…

I’m by no means a fan of the Nationals, but I’ve warmed up to the Racing Presidents… especially now that they don’t single out one particular “President” as a constant loser.

Christian Vazquez AGAIN?  This one is the Opening Day parallel, which is nice enough, but I’ve sworn off parallels for Lent (and the foreseeable future).  FYI, the date which appears above the player’s name is in silver foil, but  appears black in the scan.

Good thing I’ve got a Red Sox fan trading partner on speed dial!

Mr. Red seems like a Mr. Met knockoff, but I’ll admit I don’t know Mr. Red’s history… maybe Mr. Met is a Mr. Red knockoff.

I’d still go with Mr. Met…  or Mrs. Met for that matter.

Speaking of the Mets, I pulled this Mets insert – finally, one I don’t need a trading partner for – and it’s from the “Opening Day” insert set.

So just to be clear about this: “Opening Day” has an insert set called “Opening Day” and Series 1 has an insert set called “Opening Day”, but the Opening Day Opening Day insert is different from the Series 1 Opening Day insert.

That’s about all I have regarding Opening Day. I was also planning on sharing a few thoughts about this week’s “Living Set” unveiling, but “a few thoughts” became “many thoughts” and I decided it was worthy of its own post… so that’ll be coming on Monday.

The Guy Before The Guy: Trammell And Molitor

It’s been a while since I did a “Guy Before The Guy” post, so to recap the idea behind this topic… I do a little digging into retired uniform numbers and find out who the next-to-last guy to wear the number was …In other words, the guy before the guy for whom the number was retired.

This time around I thought I’d focus on two Hall-Of-Famers who share a 1978 rookie card, Alan Trammell and Paul Molitor.

Alan Trammell, Tigers, #3
Tito Fuentes wore #3 for the Tigers in 1977 but after the season his contract was sold to the Expos so Tito and his headband headed north of the border.

Side note for any musicians out there trying to find a good name for your band: You could do a lot worse than “Tito And The Headband”.

Meanwhile, Alan Trammell wore #42 during his September, 1977 callup – BOTH of his numbers are retired, ooooh — but took over #3 starting in 1978.

In one of those situations at which I scoff – SCOFF, I TELL YOU! – there had been two players who wore #3 *after* Trammell retired: Gary Sheffield and Ian Kinsler.  I suppose there could’ve been bad blood after Trammell’s managerial stint, but otherwise it doesn’t seem like his number should’ve been retired if they were willing to give it away twice.

OK, off the soapbox and on to the next number…

Paul Molitor, Brewers, #4

Mike Hegan played his second stint with the Brewers from 1974 to 1977; however, he wore #6 for most of that time.

When the Brewers signed three-time World Champion and four-time All-Star Sal Bando after the 1976 season, Hegan switched to #4 so that Bando could continue wearing #6. The Brewers released Mike Hegan in July, 1977 and nobody wore #4 until Molitor made his MLB debut on opening day of the 1978 season.

And now you know who was the guy before the guy.

I started this post back in December and the first draft included this scan of a 1976 Topps Terry Humphrey… Only I can’t remember why.

If anyone can establish a link between Trammell (or Molitor) and Humphrey… well… have at it.

Bat-Around (Or Is It?): My Various Projects

It’s all about flexibility.

That’s what I was thinking when I was reading last week’s Night Owl Cards post about the irons he currently has in the fire. Some of the commenters suggested the topic become a “Blog Bat-Around”, and I said “Challenge accepted!”… although I’m not sure that anybody else has actually done this. No matter, I shall forge ahead!

I always have multiple projects going on, mainly because have numerous interests when it comes to my collection.  I’ll also confess to having a short attention span.

But when it all comes down to it, the go-to excuse I use is “flexibility”.

Here’s an example…

The card shows nearest to my home in Shlabotsylvania involve a 2+ hour drive, so I only get to one or two a year.  Because of of the paucity of show opportunities, I feel I can’t and shouldn’t limit things to one goal.  However, the last time I went to a show I went in with a primary goal of chasing after 1977-78 Topps Hockey, a set I started as a kid and have been giving thought to completing.

Then I got to the show – a regional show with several hundred tables – and found very little 1970’s hockey. Vintage hockey? Sure. Current hockey? Multiple dealers. 1970’s hockey? Too bad, so sad.

As a result, what had been my primary goal of the day quickly resulted in me standing in a show aisle saying “Well, poo…” (In the manliest way possible, I assure you).

That same show is rolling around in early April and I want to be ready for several possible contingencies, so I thought this post topic would allow me to contemplate just what it is that’s floating my cardboard boat right now.

Opening Current Packs
I completely understand that buying packs of current sets is a non-cost-effective way of collecting, but I’ve done it all my life, I enjoy picking up packs whenever I go into Target (and still miss when drug stores and convenience stores sold them as well) and I’m not stopping now.

It’s not even about chasing sets, because I have no illusions of completing 2018 Topps or Heritage. It’s more about having fun, acquiring cards of new players and getting a head start on my various projects involving 2018 cards.

Unfortunately in Shlabotsylvania (and, I’m guessing, elsewhere), retail Heritage is already drying up just weeks after the release. Sometimes this hobby just tries my patience.

1957 Topps Orioles Team Set
Last year, CommishBob of the must-read Five Tool Collector filled me with delight and astonishment when he sent me a Brooks Robinson rookie card, this lovely example from 1957.

Once the state of shock wore off, I decided that it would be fun to go after the team set. At that point I only had a couple, but I put a dent in it the last time, and will pursue this further at the April card show.

1966 Topps Mets Team set
This one is a “just in case things fall into place” project.

I thought this would be a relatively easy team set to complete. The Mets loaded up on past-their-prime future HOFers in the early years. Young future HOFers would come starting with Tom Seaver in 1967 and Nolan Ryan in 1968. 1966 Topps falls in a sweet spot between the two. The big names in the team set are Tug McGraw, Ron Hunt, Ken Boyer and Ed Kranepool. Sounds like an achievable goal for a collector on a budget, right?

That’s when I found that there seems to be an… ahhh, let’s say *unusual* shortage of several of the high-numbered commons such as Lou Klimchock. For example, I can go out on COMC and get nice-enough copies of hi #’s like Dick Bertell, Andre Rogers or John Sullivan for under $8. Lou Klimchock? Not a single one out there… and it doesn’t seem like there are any bargains to be found on eBay.  I’m going to keep my eye out for the three cards I need, but I won’t get my hopes up.

1979 Topps
I’ll admit, the enthusiasm isn’t really there for this project… but I need fewer than 50 cards to finish off the 1979 Topps set, and all of them are minor stars and commons.

1979 Topps is my least-favorite set of the decade, so I have to admit this is not so much a passion project as it is an “I’m out of excuses” project.  Besides, when I finish this I’ll extend my run of complete Topps sets from 1973 to 1981.

1976 SSPC
This goal’s a little dicey because I rarely find a lot of SSPC at shows.

One thing working against me is that I have only a couple of Yankees and Phillies, and an argument can be made that I should just try and buy those team sets on eBay… but I can’t decided how I want to procede on those.

1961 Topps Sports Cars
I love this non-sport set, and giggle like a child when I pick up new cards, but because it’s a small set and the only non-sports I’m chasing to any degree,  if it’s not right in front of me it tends to get forgotten.

I’m just over halfway to completion, I should ramp this one up.

1970, 1971 and 1972 Topps
These are sets I’ve had a long-term non-goal of having fun with and accumulating as many as possible without actually committing to completing the sets.

I’ve made efforts to break the sets down into smaller goals, like chasing down all of the Expos from these three sets.

I’ve also tried sub-goals like trying to complete the lower series… For example, I’ve got all of the 1972 commons through the 5th series…  6th and 7th are a different matter.

1969 High #’ed Cards For The Expansion Teams
Why the expansion teams?  There’s something I love about players shown wearing what was, at the time, a brand spanking new uniform.

Why high numbers?  Because that love doesn’t spread to tightly-cropped photos of capless guys in California Angels jerseys.

Hot Stove Customs: The Post I Nearly Forgot To Do

For those of you who have been reading The Shlabotnik Report for less than 6 months or so, you may not be aware that each year I create a custom card set of my own design (although, I’ll freely admit, usually derivative of a particular era).

A few weeks ago I’d decided that the first virtual pack of this set will be opened next Sunday, March 18th.

Well, I got so caught up in trying to finalize some things with my new design and create a bunch of customs for the first week or two that I nearly forgot that I had one last “Hot Stove” post I’d intended to publish.

Today I’m going to feature three customs featuring notable players who switched teams recently. As with the last several posts, these are all done in the style of the 1963 Post baseball set.

I thought about giving a sneak preview of next week’s unveiling, but I decided against it because I wasn’t sure how much of a hint I wanted to give, and because I miss how it was when I was a kid – you didn’t know when the cards would be out until they were sitting there in boxes on a retailer’s shelf, and you had no idea of what the cards looked like until you ripped open that first wax pack.

What I will say is that I was shooting for a mid-1960’s feel for this set… only not necessarily mid-1960’s baseball.

For those of you on Twitter, starting tomorrow I will be doing a one-a-day countdown to the new set; each day I will be featuring a custom from each of my prior six custom sets. It’s hard to believe that this upcoming set will be my seventh!

Oh, I suppose you might want to know my Twitter handle, right? It’s @Shlabotnik_Rpt