2017 TSR: The First Official Pack

“If I could produce my own card set, what would it be like?”

That’s the question I ask myself every year when I create my virtual TSR set (…which is called ‘TSR’ because I used the initialism of “The Shlabotnik Report” as a placeholder name and then couldn’t think of anything better).

The succinct answer to that question is that my ideal card set would include managers, bench players and relievers… it would have a few inserts but still be about the base set… and most importantly, would have an original design which would look like something produced in the 1960’s, 1970’s or 1980’s.

Furthermore, such a set would be issued in four 198-card series and work as a ongoing document of the season in progress… Something which falls between the static “This is where a couple of hundred players were in early January” and the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time (or money) For This” beast that is Topps Now.

This is what I generally strive for, and was what I was striving for in the previous five TSR sets.

Last week I featured some “promo cards” from my custom set because I was ill-prepared for the “official release” – such as it is.  Thanks to a poopstorm at work, I’m still not completely ready, but…

Anyway, Let’s get to the wax pack, which is a true wax pack wrapped in wax paper, oh, yessirree Bob, you’d better believe it!

After all, there are no relics, autographs or 1/1’s in this set, so there’s no need for high-tech tamper-resistant stuff.

First card…

One of the things I noticed with last week’s “promo cards” was that the drop shadows which looked cool and seemed to make the lettering “pop” on my laptop sometimes just served to make the lettering look blurry when viewed at smaller size, like on a phone. Certain color combos look worse than others, so I might end up taking a cue from 1968 Topps and tweaking the design for the second series.

Here’s the first subset of the year, a Highlights card featuring the Braves new ballpark. I feel like Topps Now has supplanted proper “Highlights” cards to some degree, but it’s interesting that there wasn’t a Topps Now card for a new home field. Granted, a new ballpark is not a once-in-a-generation event that it used to be, but still…

From what I’ve seen SunTrust Park has opened to positive reviews, which I view as something of a disappointment because the Braves and their “Screw the fans, we’ll go where the money takes us” attitude is little too NFL for me.

I don’t believe that Jerry Blevins has appeared on cardboard since 2014, which means he hasn’t been shown in a Mets uniform yet… despite making 73 appearances last year with a 2.79 ERA and 11.1 K’s per 9 innings.

…But he’s a reliever with only 2 saves, so clearly nobody cares about him.

Rick Renteria puts me in a rooting bind. I’d like to see him do well because he was let go by the Cubs solely for the reason that Joe Maddon became available.

…but I really don’t like the White Sox and generally enjoy seeing them suffer. Sorry, White Sox fans… it’s not you, it’s Jerry Reinsdorf.

Wrapping up with Eric Thames, who played with the Blue Jays and Mariners before going to Korea for 3 seasons where he hit 124 homers and became Korea’s first 40-40 guy.

The Brewers signed Thames to a 3-year contract and cut Chris Carter loose to make room for Thames. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. So far he’s panning out pretty well with 5 homers and 10 RBI in 10 games.

That’s the end of this week’s pack.  We’ll see what innovations and design tweaks come in next week’s pack!

“Promo Cards” For My 2017 TSR Custom Set

As I’ve done every April since 2012 (yikes!), I would like to unveil my 2017 TSR custom baseball card set by opening a virtual pack!

Emphasis on “would like to”… while I would like to, I’m unfortunately not able to… not this week, anyway.  I’m already a week past my Opening Day target date, and all I have ready is a vertical base card design which is set up for 8 teams.

Under better circumstances (i.e. had I not waffled between two potential designs for all of February and part of March) I would’ve presented a virtual pack for us to go through…. but that would require a design for a wrapper.  I’d also include at least one or two inserts, possibly a horizontal card… all of which exist only in my head.

What I do have is a handful of customs I created as a “dress rehearsal” to make sure that the design works for different color combinations I had in mind, that it worked for player and team names of varying lengths (i.e. CUBS, DIAMONDBACKS).

I don’t have anything else to post today… so I’ll call these “promo cards” and work towards having a more fulfilling experience next week.

I’m always willing to suck up to my readership, so if there’s a particular player or team you’d like to see on a TSR card, leave a comment and I will do my best to get something in the first official pack.

Since I call these promo cards, I feel like they should be accompanied by some sort of sales pitch, so…

ATTENTION: VIRTUAL RETAILERS!
Contact your TSR sales representative to find out how TSR cards can:

  • Drive traffic to your stores!
  • Increase profit margins!
  • Improve customer loyalty and employee morale!
  • Give your store a distinctive fresh aroma and…
  • Qualify your business for tax-exempt status!

The Last Muni (And Other Customs)

I’m scrambling to finalize my 2017 TSR design this year, and also scrambling to do a number of “real life” things, so this week we have an assortment of TSRchives and WBC customs.

Next Sunday – God willin’ and the creek don’t rise – we should have a pack of my TSR customs to virtually rip open.  I hope.

Earlier this past week, the Cubs cut fan favorite Munenori Kawasaki;  They were hoping to sign him to a minor league contract, but wanted to give him the opportunity to hook on with another team if there was interest.

Unfortunately for those of us in North America, there was interest from another team… Muni flew back to Japan and signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. When I read the news, I went “Awwwwww!” in dismay… out loud. Fortunately, I was alone in the room at the time.

According to the Hawks’ English-language roster page, some of Muni’s new teammates with the Hawks include Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tsuyoshi Wada, former Oriole Dennis Sarfate, and Cuban Alfredo Despaigne, who batted .474 with 3 homers in 6 games during the World Baseball Classic.

Cuba made it to the second round of the WBC, but have had too many players defect (and not participate) to be as competitive as they used to be.

More than a few websites picked up on how emotional Brock Stassi got after being told that that he would be making the Phillies’ opening day roster.

Not that you can blame him for getting verklempt. He was the 1,021st pick in the 2011 draft, worked through 6 seasons in the minors before impressing in camp this spring… And he’s got a cool name.

FYI, Brock’s younger brother Max is a prospect in the Astros organization.

41-year-old Eric Gagne pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in the WBC and he’s said to be in talks with several teams, including the Dodgers, on a minor league contract.

Gagne won the Cy Young in 2003 and last pitched in the majors in a season-long stint with the Brewers 9 years ago.  Good luck, Eric!

No story behind this Adam Jones custom, I just like the way it turned out.

The Final* Pack Of 2017 World Baseball Classic Customs

Well, another World Baseball Classic has come and gone, and even though I didn’t get to watch any of the games, I did follow it all the way through and it’s a bit of an adjustment to go back to laid-back Spring Training games. When does the regular season start? Another WEEK? Geeeeeez….

OK, well let’s rip into the final* pack of custom WBC cards, and I’ll explain the asterisk in a bit.

Martin Prado splilt time between third and left for Venezuela, and while he didn’t appear in every game, this shot of him after going into the stands guaranteed his spot in this virtual set.

Buster Posey split time with Jonathan Lucroy, but Buster still tied for the team lead with 2 homers (Adam Jones also hit two).

Kenley Jansen didn’t join the team until the championship rounds, and only pitched one inning, but he did strike out two batters…

…And he’s Kenley Jansen, so I felt the need to get him in here.

Francisco Lindor batted .370 with 7 runs and 4 RBI.

…And he was very excited throughout the whole tournament. Pretty much every picture had him looking like this.

Korea surprisingly didn’t get out of the first round, so we didn’t get to see a whole lot of the Cardinals’ Seung-Hwan Oh.

He did get make two appearances, and over 3.1 scoreless innings he struck out 6 and was the only Korean pitcher to get a win.

Norichika Aoki batted .379 and had 3 doubles.

When it comes to international competition, I don’t take it all that seriously in terms of proving that my country (the United States) is superior to all others. While I was rooting for the USA and was happy they won, I also was kind of bummed that Japan and some other countries didn’t. No, it doesn’t completely make sense, but I am a complex human being… or something like that.

Canada is another country I was rooting for. I was disappointed that they didn’t get out of the first round, but they just weren’t as good as other teams.

Justin Morneau had a rough series, going 0-for-11, but he makes for a nice custom.

There were other Dominican players who deserved a custom more than Jose Reyes, but I like Jose and it’s my set. Nyah.

I’ll remind you that there’s also that asterisk that’s been hanging over this post…

If there were an award for “Player who helped his own cause the most by playing in the WBC”, Josh Zeid might have walked away with it. He was unemployed going into the WBC, but is now a non-roster guy with the Cardinals.

He did this by pitching 10 scoreless innings with 10 K’s across 4 appearances, going 1-0 with 2 saves and a 1.10 WHIP. Zeid pitched for the Astros in 2013 and 2014, and has pitched in the minors the past two seasons.

When I started this set, I intended to leverage the different types of 1980 Topps cards as much as I could, with the intent of making this different from just a sort of “Topps Archives” custom set. Late in the process, I realized there was one type of card in 80T that I hadn’t considered using… and I whipped up a quick version of it to use as the Champions card. Let’s see if you can figure out what this design was in a former life.

OK, so what’s with the asterisk? Well, I originally didn’t see much point in going on terribly long with WBC cards, but I have been happy with they way they’ve turned out, I did make a bunch more customs than I’ve posted, and there are a number of big-named players who haven’t appeared in custom form, so……….. While this is the last pack of WBC customs, it’s not the last you’ll see of them. At least one of these will show up in next Sunday’s post, and at this point I have no idea what next Sunday’s post will be. In an ideal world, I’ll finish my 2017 TSR design and we’ll be busting our first pack of that on Opening Day… but I will admit that I’m scrambling to get that done, and it may not “go live” until the following Sunday. Stay tuned!

Another Pack Of 2017 TSR World Baseball Classic Cards

Well, we’re heading into the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic. For those who missed it, the USA beat the Dominican Republic last night in a game which determined who goes on to the semis and who goes home. The Dominicans are the defending champions and played a great tournament, so it’s a shame that both teams couldn’t move on… but that’s why they play the games, right?

The finals play out starting tomorrow night in Dodger Stadium when the Netherlands face off against Puerto Rico in the first semi-final. Tuesday night it’s Japan vs. the USA, and Wednesday night the winners of those games play for the championship.

…and then, much to the relief of a lot of people, everybody heads back to their regular teams.

So let’s rip open our pack. This is the second of what I plan on being three packs, with the third coming next Sunday.

It’s been a busy week for me, and I didn’t get to see any of the games, but I certainly saw the highlight of Adam Jones robbing a homer from his teammate Manny Machado.

Here’s a video (Lo siento, the clip is en Español)

Nobuhiro Matsuda has had a good Classic so far; he’s batting .400 with a three-run homer against Cuba, 8 runs scored and 7 RBI.

After the Classic, he goes back to playing for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the Pacific League.

Felix Hernandez allowed just one earned run in 7.2 innings, but he went 0-1 in two starts.

Venezuela made it out of the first round on a controversial tiebreaker, and then went 0-3 in the second round.

Yadier Molina has played well for Puerto Rico, both offensively and in terms of handling the pitching staff.

…as if that’s a surprise.

Xander Bogaerts has played well, but hasn’t exactly been one of the stars for The Netherlands… but I liked the photo.

Goodness knows I make enough mistakes as it is, so I feel the need to point out that the custom is correct; Bogaerts is playing third base for the Netherlands, as Andrelton Simmons is playing short.

Insert time!

This is based on 1976 Hostess, and although it didn’t win the poll on which design to use for the WBC set, it finished 4th in tightly-contested voting.

I don’t normally get all gushy over star-spangled clothing or equipment, but I really like Jonathan Lucroy’s chest protector.

Robinson Cano hasn’t scored or driven in a lot, but he’s been getting on base an awful lot.

Canada didn’t make it out of the first round, and Freddie Freeman got only 2 hits in 3 games… but hey! Horizontal card!

This is where I would normally be saying that I’ll be sure to watch the semis and the finals, but as I mentioned last time… I don’t get MLB Network or ESPN Deportes, and I don’t have MLB.TV.

I’ll be watching a different international event this week, one that is carried by channels on my middle-tier cable package… The World Women’s Curling Championship, live from Beijing, China. Round-robin play goes through Thursday, with the medal games next weekend. Nina Roth’s team is representing the USA.

This custom is based on the 1976 Wonder Bread Football set, and I’ve decided that I’m going to use this and the Hostess design as an all-purpose custom throughout the year.

They’re Here: The First Virtual Pack of 2017 TSR World Baseball Classic

I have to say, the World Baseball Classic has been fun so far, and I haven’t even been able to watch it on TV (minor rant about this down below).  At the time I’m writing this, there have been several fiercely fought extra-inning games, two different comebacks from five-run deficits, and Israel is 4-0.  Israel!

Since last fall I’ve been talking about doing a custom card set based on the WBC.  A reader poll voted 1980 Topps in as the design I’ll be using for this set.  I’ve taken this mandate seriously and tried to do what I can to make this set more interesting than a sort of “Topps Archives Lite”.  I even came up with a 1980-esque wrapper.

So let’s rip it open and see what we’ve got.

You’ve probably never heard of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo – I know I hadn’t – but he was named the MVP of Pool B after batting .364 with 2 homers in three games.

His “daytime” job is as an outfielder for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in Japan’s Central League.  Tsutsugo had quite a year in 2016, batting .322 and leading the league with 44 homers and 110 RBI.

The Angels’ Andrelton Simmons hasn’t been lighting the WBC on fire, but he did hit a double.

More importantly, a good photo of him was available. For this set, that will play a bigger role than you might think.

As I’d mentioned, Team Israel is doing a good job of surprising people. The MVP of Pool A, in which Israel ran the table, was Ryan Lavarnway.

Like many of his teammates, Lavarnway is not on a 40-man roster. He’d signed a minor league contract with Oakland and has an invitation to big league camp. With Israel moving on to the second round, I think it’s safe to say that Lavarnway’s missing more time from A’s camp than anyone there had guessed. Lavarnway went 5-for-9 in the first round, walked four times, homered and drove in three runs during those three first-round games. His slash line was .556/.692/.889.

Speaking of Israel – this pack is admittedly heavy on Israel, but they’ve been my favorite team so far –  here’s an insert based on one of the other card design candidates in last fall’s voting. This custom is in the style of the 1976 Wonder Bread Football set, and shows the Israel team’s unofficial mascot, “The Mensch On A Bench”.

The Mensch is a take on the creepy “Elf On A Shelf”, was featured on the TV show Shark Tank, and has become the team mascot. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “Mensch” is used to describe a good, honorable person, someone of integrity.

Going into the WBC, I didn’t really expect to make any customs for the Chinese team… but that was before I found out that Bruce Chen, former Orioles, Mets, Royals, Braves, Phillies, Red Sox, Rangers, Indians, Reds, Astros and Expos pitcher, was on the team! Bruce has been a favorite since his bad jokes were featured on the scoreboard during his time in Baltimore. Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes? A: No-eye deer. (This joke works better when said out loud)

Bruce gets the honor of being part of one of my “innovations” in this custom set; he ges a horizontal player card! Woooo!

It didn’t affect the play of the game to any great degree, but one of the interesting moments in a first-round game came when 6’8″ Israel batter Nate Freiman (who played for the A’s several years ago) faced off against 7’1″ Netherlands pitcher Loek van Mil (who’s played in AAA the past few seasons).

It’s believed to be the tallest face-off in professional baseball history. Despite Freiman’s large strike zone, he drew a base on balls.

Australia didn’t accomplish as much as they would’ve liked to this time around, but I had to create a custom to show their nice unis paired with the natural fit of the Oakland A’s colors from 1980.

Travis Blackley is a reliever who has pitched for the Giants, A’s, Rangers and Astros.

The Mariner’s Nelson Cruz has batted .333 with a homer thus far…

…but he’s here because of the aforementioned “good photo” rule.

Chris Archer pitched 4 shutout innings against Colombia on Friday, but did not get the win.

The US team is currently 1-1 and would greatly improve their chances of advancing by beating Canada tonight.

Former Oriole and current Mariner Yovani Gallardo gave up four runs in four innings, but I wanted to get a card of a familiar Mexican player.

Here’s another card new to the set. 1980 Topps didn’t have a postseason subset, so I had to create one.

This is loosely based on the League Leader cards from that set.

That’s all the cards in this pack… Let’s see what the offer is on the wax pack wrapper…

That looks pretty cool, but I don’t have the money… Maybe after I get my allowance.

OK, up at the top I promised a minor rant.

I’ve been looking forward to the WBC for a while now, although I didn’t plan on watching entire games. I figured I’d watch a few innings here and there, maybe check in when I heard about a game that seemed exciting. That’s pretty much what I did during the last WBC in 2013.

But I forgot about one thing… back in 2013 the MLB Network was part of my cable tier. That’s no longer the case; it got taken away from us, and we didn’t watch it enough to shell out the money for the higher tier of channels.

I’d assumed that some of the games might be on another cable channel, but that’s not the case.  I found out that it’s also on ESPN Deportes, and I can deal with the announcers speaking Spanish…

…But nope, I don’t get ESPN Deportes either.

OK, then what about MLB.TV?  During the regular season they always have free low-demand games along the lines of Minnesota vs. Tampa Bay.  A first round game airing early on a weekday morning isn’t exactly “Must See TV”, they should have free games like that, right?

Nope, struck out again. Well, poo.

I honestly don’t get this. The organizers (i.e. MLB) have said that the World Baseball Classic doesn’t get the attention in the U.S. that they would like it to get, but the cheapest option to watch ANY of it is $25 for a month of MLB.TV.  No, thank you. I’ll stick with listening to the occasional game on satellite radio, and reading about the games afterwards.

End of rant.

By the way, I expect to have more virtual packs of WBC cards coming the next two Sundays.

Customs On The 8’s

So it all started last week, when I made a bunch of customs in the style of 1958 Topps. One of the first ’58 customs I made was for Phillies pitcher Clay Buchholz, and I had to go back and tweak it later when I realized I did it “wrong”.
2017-tsrchives-58t-2a-clay-buchholz-philadelphia-phillies
Buchholz was acquired from the Red Sox for a minor leaguer. The Phillies have added a few veterans into their young prospects, and could be an interesting team this year. …Or not. Nostradamus I ain’t.

Lucas Giolito is a prominent pitching prospect and, as I’ve mentioned here before, has an intriguing background as his parents are actors Lindsay Frost (The Ring, Collateral Damage and other credits) and Rick Giolito (As The World Turns, Twin Peaks).
2017-tsrchives-58t-8-lucas-giolito-chicago-white-sox
Giolito was one of three pitching prospects that the Nationals sent to the Chisox for Adam Eaton, and he should get a better chance with the rebuilding White Sox.  From my standpoint I don’t like either team, but at least the Sox have better uniforms.

Moving on to the next pair of customs, and moving ahead 10 years in terms of inspiration… In my two recent posts about this year’s Heritage set I bemoaned the absence of managers from the checklists, especially given how uninteresting the team cards are.  I was going to feature some manager customs in yesterday’s post, but decided that the post was plenty long enough as it was.

But to revisit the question… Would you rather have a card like this, one that’s reminiscent of the 1970’s Fleer football “Teams In Action” cards:
2017-topps-heritage-giants-team-card

Or would you rather have a manager who is in the Hall Of Fame:
2017-tsrchives-68t-2-paul-molitor-minnesota-twins

…Or a former MVP and 6-time all-star?
2017-tsrchives-68t-1-don-mattingly-miami-marlins

You know where I stand on this.  I don’t know, maybe it’s a financial decision on Topps’ part.  Perhaps they didn’t want to (or couldn’t) sign all of the managers to contracts.  Maybe Molitor and Mattingly drove the price up beyond what Topps was wiling to pay.  I don’t know, this is all just guesswork.  Maybe the management at Topps are just poopheads who increase the number of short prints to 100 and get rid of the managers.

So, anyway…

It was at this point that I looked at what I had for today’s post… I had customs inspired by 1958 and 1968… And I decided, what the heck, let’s extend the pattern and throw some 1978 in there as well.

Michael Conforto is battling for playing time in the Mets outfield and is off to a promising start in Spring Training.  I would like to see him starting in the CitiField outfield, but I’d also like to see Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce starting as well.  You see my dilemma here?
2017-tsrchives-78t-1-michael-conforto
Since I’m talking relatively famous moms, Tracy Ruiz-Conforto is a three-time Olympic medalist in Synchronized Swimming.

I don’t know about Brett Anderson’s mom, but his dad Frank Anderson is the University of Houston’s pitching coach.
2017-tsrchives-78t-2-brett-anderson-chicago-cubs
Anderson was with the Dodgers last year, signed with the Cubs as a free agent and is on this custom largely because he’s with a new team and that team is the Cubs, one of the few teams I can do with my work-in-progress 1978 template.

And just a reminder/tease…
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First round action of the World Baseball Classic starts tomorrow (early in the morning on the East Coast because it’s in Seoul, South Korea). I spent an hour or so this morning finalizing the template I’ll be using for the custom cards and you should see the first batch next Sunday.