Custom Set Preview: 2013/14 TSR Hot Stove

Those of you who were with me last off-season are familiar with the “Hot Stove” custom set which I used to feature offseason trades, signings, uniform changes, manager hirings and the like.  It also gives me an opportunity to play around with my graphics software and see how well I can “photoshop” players into their new uniforms.  Here’s one of last year’s cards:

2012-13 Hot Stove #7 - Zack Greinke

That design was based on the 1960-62 Bazooka set, a simple, yet appealing set which I’ve grown fond of over the past few years.  …And yet, I still don’t have any.  Those little suckers are hard to find!  OK, to be fair, it’s ones that are selling for a price I’m willing and able to pay that are hard to find.

For the upcoming Hot Stove design I wanted to replicate a different vintage oddball set, and I considered a number of designs, most notably 1970 Kellogg’s (even though I wouldn’t be able to replicate the “3-D” part).  I ultimately decided to go with 1959 Bazooka… another Bazooka set I don’t have any cards from, and one that is considerably more budget-busting than the 1960-62 cards.

THE ORIGINAL 1959 Bazooka SET

1959 Bazooka is an unnumbered, blank-backed 23 card set with 14 short prints;  Nine cards were originally issued, with 14 more being added later.  Here’s an image I borrowed from another website:

1959 Bazooka Cepeda Snider

Each card made up the entire back of a 25-count box of Bazooka gum, and they’re fairly large cards, measuring just under 3” X 5”.  Since buying a box of 25 pieces of Bazooka was a a significant up-front investment for a kid, these cards were relatively scarce to begin with, and that scarcity naturally hasn’t improved over time.  Just as a quick example, the cheapest one I could find in the “Sold” listings of eBay was a non-short-printed Jim Davenport which went for $14.  Another example of their relative scarcity:  There isn’t a single 1959 Bazooka baseball card listed for sale on COMC.

Late in 1959, an 18 card football set with the same design was issued.  Those cards are similarly hard to come by.

THE CUSTOM SET

Here’s the first “Promo card” for 2013/14 Hot Stove:

2013-14 Hot Stove Promo #1 Matt Garza

By the way, this custom is not so much a prediction as it is a theoretical possibility which nicely illustrates some of the points of this post.  As they say when odds and point spreads are involved, this is “for entertainment purposes only”.  Matt Garza will be a free agent after the season, but I’m not aware of any interest or disinterest on the part of the Diamondbacks.

Of course, if Garza does sign with the D-backs, you heard it here first!

Fair warning

The rest of this post goes into details about what I was trying to do and how I went about doing it.  This may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I wanted to write it anyway.  I will not take personal offense from anyone skipping the rest of this post…

…but if you do skip the rest of the text, at least scroll down a bit to look at the other “promo card”.

Also, if you have any suggestions, constructive criticism or the like, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

REPLICATING THE CARD DESIGN

The original cards are considerably taller than my custom… but those dimensions are hard to work with in terms of cropping photos to fit properly, so I made the dimensions more conventional.  Like last year’s Hot Stove set, these customs are slightly taller and slightly narrower than standard size.

I naturally tried to match the fonts, colors, and such as much as possible.

One thing I noticed about 1959 Bazooka is that the two lines of text are justified so that they begin and end at roughly the same spot on the card… but the way it’s done is different on the two lines.

When adjusting for longer and shorter player names, in addition to making the font slightly wider or narrower, they adjusted the space between the letters.  If you look at the originals above, you’ll notice that “DUKE SNIDER” has slightly more space between letters than “ORLANDO CEPEDA” does.

However, the second line with the team name and player’s position was handled differently… On that line, there is some very minor adjustment to the spacing between letters, but they did most of their ‘adjusting’ by adding or removing space between the position and team.

To allow for space, Topps would sometimes abbreviate the city in somewhat odd ways… “DET. TIGERS”, “SAN FRAN. GIANTS”, “PHILA. PHILLIES”.  Topps did this in other sets at the time, and I really like that little detail, so I’m going to try to work those in to the customs.

Like the 1960-1962 Bazooka set, the 1959 set uses a variety of colors in the bottom of the card, and the colors have no relationship to the team pictured.  I’ve noticed that the football cards used some color combinations that weren’t used for baseball, and I’ll be using combos from both sets.

MODIFYING LOGOS OF MODERN TEAMS

The original cards have team logos, but at the time – I would presume because of the limitations of the printing process used – the logos were slightly simplified in both details and colors.  I gave brief thought to using logos from 1959, but then I’d be outta luck when I needed to create a custom for any of the teams which didn’t exist in 1959.

So what I did instead was take a current logos and tried to put myself in the shoes of a 1959 Topps artist by following these two rules:

  • Make it as if I were going to print these with 1959 technology
  • Make it as if I were going to sell these to kids.

When there were multiple current logos to work with, I went with the one which was most “kid friendly”.  For example, with the Red Sox I went with the “pair of socks” sleeve logo rather than the “B” cap logo.

I also took each logo and simplified it as much as I could.  If a color fell outside of the “Topps color pallet”, I changed it to something that was Topps-like.  I also eliminated shading, drop shadows and other 21st century detail.  Here’s an example of what I did with the Diamondbacks’ logo:
Hot Stove Diamondback Logo Comparison

If I felt the logo needed a box around it, I did so;  otherwise, I added a colored border around the logo to help it stand out against the colored background.

Here’s the second promo card:

2013-14 Hot Stove Promo #2 Bronson Arroyo

Again, this custom is here mainly to illustrate some points.  Unlike Garza, I have read of a very tenuous connection between Arroyo and the Mets, along the lines of “The Mets are one of several teams which may be interested in Arroyo”.

BTW, this attempt to change Arroyo’s Reds uniform into a Mets uniform is far from my best work, but I’m a bit out of practice and I didn’t want to spend too much time on an image that could very well look comical in 6 months’ time.

If you compare the names “MATT GARZA” and “BRONSON ARROYO” in the two promos, you get a good example of what I was talking about above.  Both cards are using the same font in the same size, but Garza’s name is spaced out more in order to make up space.

So that’s what you’ll be seeing over the winter…

If teams behave themselves and hold their major announcements until after the World Series, like they’re supposed to, you’ll be seeing these go live in late October or November.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.  I’m not 100% satisfied with what I’ve got, so there are at least a couple of minor changes I’m going to make.  I’d be more than willing to consider any constructive criticism you might have.

World Baseball Classic: Does It Matter To You?

2012-13 Hot Stove #17 - Jose MijaresThe initial games of the World Baseball Classic take place in Japan this weekend and I’m a bit curious as to how people view this event.

Do people watch it because they’re rooting for their country?  Because they like to see the non-MLB players from other countries?  Because they like to see familiar players in unfamiliar uniforms ?

Do people watch it at all?

I will probably watch a bit on Saturday morning, and tune in to games here and there throughout the tournament… but I wouldn’t watch an entire game and I don’t much care who wins.  I have to admit, I don’t find any particular inspiration in the whole “nation vs. nation” concept.  I don’t see it as much more interesting or meaningful than if they divided players by astrological signs (Here we go, Libra, here we go!)

For me, it’s all about getting a baseball fix when it’s the only competitive (or relatively so) baseball available.

If the WBC fell during the baseball season or after the World Series, I’d pretty much ignore it.

If I didn’t get MLB Network and couldn’t watch the WBC, I’d pretty much ignore it.

So I’m going to get all “Fuji” on you and ask…

How much will you watch the World Baseball Classic?   What do you like best about it?

Do you care about the outcome, or is it just relatively competitive baseball in March?

No Bourn? No Problem.

2012-13 Hot Stove #13 - Michael BournAll-Star outfielder Michael Bourn was pursued by the Mets and other teams before signing a multi-year contract with the Indians. I don’t have a problem with the Mets missing on Bourn, but it took several attempts at writing why I’m OK with it without coming across as extremely pessimistic or bitter – I am a Mets fan, after all.

I agree that the Mets were wise to pursue Bourn if his price fell enough, but at $48 million over four years, I don’t think it fell enough, even if they successfully argued to keep their 1st round draft pick. Bourn may have made this team more palatable, but he wasn’t going to single-handedly make this team a contender and possibly not even competitive.  Also, at 30 years old the man is pretty much at his peak… which means that when the Mets do get competitive, he’ll be on the decline or be gone (although I hope that the Mets get competitive before Bourn’s contract is done).

At this stage in the rebuilding process, the Mets should instead be spending on organizational depth, their bullpen and their farm system. Yes, the outfield is a significant concern, but I’d rather see them pick up a couple of slightly-above-average outfielders from among the many guys who will become available as we get closer to opening day. With any luck, one of these March pickups will have a good first half and get traded at the deadline for a prospect or two.

Hopefully in a year or two the Mets will be in a position where it makes sense to pick up big names… but they’re not there yet.

OK, now that I’ve gotten that off  my chest, I have to confess that I thought the “photoshopping” of this custom would be easy… both teams have the same colors, so it’s just slapping an Indians logo over the Braves logo and BAM! Done.  Turned out to be a lot more tweaking and adjusting of Chief Wahoo than I expected, and I’m not 100% happy with it… But I wonder if I’m my own worst critic sometimes.

First Custom Of Brad Peacock As An Astro?

…Seems like a pretty good bet to me.

2012-13 Hot Stove #12 - Brad PeacockThis past Monday the Astros and Athletics made a trade – and I keep having to remind myself that it’s a intra-division trade – that sent Jed Lowrie to Oakland and sent Brad Peacock, one of the players I collect, over to Houston where he’ll at least get a better opportunity to pitch in the majors.

Why Brad Peacock?  I saw him pitch in the minors a couple of years ago, and he impressed me so much that he became one of my “guys”.

You may have seen the story, reported in several places, that Peacock was intending to make a good impression with the Athletics by reporting to camp early, so he started driving from his Florida home to the A’s camp in Arizona.  He was in Mississippi when he got the news that he had been traded, and since the Astros’ training camp is in Florida, he had to turn the car around and head back to Florida.

…and his birthday was this past Saturday!  It’s been an eventful week for Brad.

This is the second trade for Brad Peacock.  He was drafted by the Nationals and  traded to Oakland as part of the deal which brought Gio Gonzalez to D.C.

He went 12-9 for AAA Sacramento last year, but he also had a 6.01 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP.  Let’s concentrate more on the 2-0 record and 0.75 ERA he had during a September callup to Washington in 2011.

For those who haven’t seen this series of customs before, the design is borrowed from the 1960-1962 Bazooka sets, probably my favorite sets among all of those of which I don’t own a single card (but I’m working on it).

White Sox Throwbacks: Bringing Back 1983

Last year the Chisox celebrated the 40th anniversary of their 1972 team with these nice throwbacks…
Seventy Faux #5 Gordon Beckham

This year, they’ll celebrate the 30th anniversary of their division-winning 1983 team by wearing these at Sunday home games:
2012-13 Hot Stove #11 - Addison Reed
These are OK, but I like last year’s throwbacks better.

I’m not generally in favor of the White Sox doing throwbacks for the sole reason that the uniforms they’re wearing now are the best in their history. The White Sox wearing throwback uniforms is like someone being married to Anne Hathaway while hanging portraits of ex-wife Hillary Clinton in their house.

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Just a heads-up for those still working on their 2012 Topps set – my local Target didn’t have 2013 series 1, but they have (or had) loose packs of 2012 Series 2 on sale for $1 a pop.  I still need over 100 cards from Series 2, but someone had already scooped up all the packs.  Maybe you’ll have better luck.

So It’s Come To This…

2012-13 Hot Stove #10 - Omar QuintanillaI always keep a close watch on baseball transactions during the offseason, and over the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching more closely, looking for for an opportunity to make an appealing (to me, anyway) “Hot Stove” custom card.

When I came up with the idea of these customs, I was planning on making at least one each week. Unfortunately, in the weeks since the R.A. Dickey trade, neither of my teams have done anything of note, and none of the players I like have gone anywhere (with the exception of one or two being designated for assignment). Hell, I even gave some thought to attempting an Andruw Jones card after he signed with a Japanese team.

…So when the Mets signed Shlabotnik-favorite Omar Quintanilla to a minor league contract, I said “Eh, good enough”.

To be honest, this card wasn’t completely fulfilling since Omar started 2012 with the Mets; that meant I had a photo of him in a Mets uniform, and didn’t get a chance to hone my digital image manipulation skills.

…and now that I’ve made this custom, the Mets will sign Michael Bourn, Johnny Damon, Roy Oswalt, Grady Sizemore, Jamie Moyer and several other free agents, and all  of my favorite players will get traded for each other in a massive multi-team trade.

For those of you who are new to these customs, they’re based on the 1960-62 Bazooka design, and if you look at this blog’s heading you’ll see a link to my gallery of these cards.

R.Jay Dickey

2012-13 Hot Stove #8 - RA DickeyBeing a Mets fan is an odd mix of hope and resignation, of optimism and pessimism. I’d hoped the Mets would keep R.A. Dickey, who was by far the best – and very often only – reason to watch the Mets this past year. After things didn’t seem to be going well with a contract extension, I became more and more resigned to the idea that Dickey would be elsewhere in 2013, and I began to hope that at least Sandy Alderson meant what he said when he talked about wanting a big package for R.A. Dickey.

It is something of a surprise and a relief that the Mets did get as good a return as they did.  After all, Dickey could go (as Graig Nettles once said) “from Cy Young to sayonara”.   Not that I’ll be hoping for that, I like Dickey too much to wish him any ill will in Toronto.  In fact, if I weren’t an Orioles fan, I would be rooting for the Blue Jays this year.  They’ve got two former Mets who are players I collect in R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes.

I’m very excited about Travis d’Arnaud;  guy sounds like a stud, and I’m looking forward to watching him play.  My apologies for the inaccuracies in my photoshopping; While I’ve gotten pretty good at this, I don’t have the skills to add pinstripes or piping to a jersey… so Mr. d’Arnaud will have to make it to Spring Training with a bogus Mets jersey.

2012-13 Hot Stove #9 - Travis d'Arnaud

D’Arnaud has the distinction of being traded for two different Cy Young Award winners. Three years ago, he was part of the package going from the Phillies to the Blue Jays for Roy Halladay.

If d’Arnaud plays in AAA this year, he’ll have the distinction of playing consecutive years for the same minor league team while in different organizations;  the Las Vegas 51’s were the Jays’ top farm team last year, and their affiliation switches to the Mets starting in 2013.

I was surprised at the number of catchers going in both directions.  When was the last time 4 catchers were involved in the same trade?  I like Thole and Nickeas, but I don’t know how much I’ll miss them.  One way or the other, I guess either Travis d’Arnaud or John Buck will be starting for the Mets on Opening Day;  the only other catcher they’ve got is Anthony Recker, who the Mets picked up on waivers from the Cubs, and who has all of 22 games of Major League experience.

Final thought comes from a Blue Jays perspective:  They’d better do something this year, because they’ve done a number on their farm system.  This winter they’ve traded their #1, #2, #3, #5 and #8 prospects to the Mets and Marlins.

The Dodgers Are Working Hard To Make Me Hate Them Again

2012-13 Hot Stove #7 - Zack GreinkeI used to HATE the Dodgers.  In the 1970’s, they had a sort of “America’s Team” thing going that just rubbed me the wrong way.  I probably also picked up on the residual bitterness from the Brooklyn refugees who lived around me on Long Island.

I maintained that animosity into the 1990’s (the Bums beating my Mets in the 1988 NLCS certainly didn’t help), but my hatred had faded to dislike and then to general indifference.

It seems as if the Dodgers’ new ownership is trying to rekindle some of that disdain, picking up bloated contracts and throwing money at free agents as if they had so many billions laying about that they could end the NHL lockout by tossing duffel bag full of cash at the owners and saying “This has gone on long enough. This should be sufficient to cover your… expenses.”

At any rate, the Dodgers haven’t quite achieved full-on hatred from me, but like any team that throws cash at all its problems, I will be rooting against them this year.

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A few assorted comments about this post…

Greinke isn’t a player I would normally invest photoshopping time on, but I’ve been under the weather the past few days, and sitting in front of a computer making customs seemed a more enjoyable use of my time than watching “Annoying Orange”.

If you need to “borrow” a cap logo from an image of someone looking to the left or right, photos of managers are a good place to start.

I didn’t know that Don Mattingly is assigned #88, but then again he’s one of those guys who wears a hoodie or jacket more than a jersey (which is why I said “is assigned” rather than “wears”).

I can’t tell you how many times I double-checked my spelling… “Zack, not Zach… E-I, not I-E…”

Radical Stuff: Cardinals Unveil Alternate Uniform

2012-13 Hot Stove #6 Trevor RosenthalThe Cardinals have a classic uniform, and they know not to mess with it too much. So, when I first heard about how they’d introduced new home alternates to be worn for Saturday home games, I was a bit apprehensive, hoping it wouldn’t be an awful bright red jersey like the ones used by the Braves and Red Sox.

I needn’t have worried.

The new jersey is cream colored (which is kind of hard to see in this image) and a sort of “Fauxback”. It’s based on a 1930’s Cardinals road jersey, but that was only used as inspiration… this jersey is not meant to duplicate that uniform.

I have to say, this is one of the nicer alts in the Majors. I would definitely buy one if I were a Cardinals fan. I think it might actually look a little better as a “off the rack” jersey; I’m not sure the number on the front doesn’t detract from it a tiny bit.

The one thing I will say is that this jersey makes it 16 teams – more than half – which have placket piping on at least one of their jerseys.

Other changes introduced by the Cardinals:

  • The navy blue cap is now an alternate, not a road cap.
  • The TV numbers on the front are slightly smaller than they used to be.
  • The chain-stitched “Birds On A Bat” logo is supposed to be more detailed, but I haven’t seen any images which illustrate that.

Jose Reyes On The Move

I may have donated my Jose Reyes t-shirt to Goodwill after he left the Mets, but I still like the guy. For his sake, I hope that the excitement he expressed about playing in Miami was just the happy talk of a guy who just signed a big ol’ contract.

In ten years time, we’ll probably be looking at Jose’s time in Miami much like we say “Oh, I forgot that Mike Piazza played for the Marlins”.

…or “I forgot that Iván Rodríguez played for the Marlins”…

or Andre Dawson… Darren Daulton… Paul LoDuca… Carlos Delgado… Charlie Hough… Walt Weiss…

Nerdy Custom Talk (Take Or Leave As You Will)

In an earlier post which featured my faux Bazooka cards, I said I’d point out when I used a color combination which hadn’t occurred in the wild… well, this is one. I thought I’d end up using several non-standard color combinations in my customs, but what sounded good in theory didn’t look good in practice. As a result, the purple and yellow you see here will be the lone new color combo added to the rotation.

I tried some different techniques when photoshopping the Reyes image, and I’m not unhappy with the way it turned out. The image I started with had Reyes in an orange Marlins alternate with black piping around the collar. I did a “Negative Image” on the piping to make it white and I colorized the jersey and then had to mess with the contrast and brightness to make it a deeper, less glowing blue. It still has a little bit of an unnatural look to it, so I’ll have to play with that in the future.