Rethinking The Backs Of Baseball Cards

If you asked me a year ago what I thought about the backs of cards, I probably would’ve said I don’t care that much about them.  Sure, some cards like 1965 Topps Baseball have gorgeous backs that cannot be ignored, but I honestly thought I had little opinion on the backs.

…Until I started to listen to myself muttering under my breath.  “The card number is way too small!”, “They should put a note on the back of variations and parallels!”, “Why would anyone want to revive the boring 1980’s Donruss back?”  and so on.

That got me thinking of what I would like to see on the back of a card, and then when I had enough ideas gathered together, I created a back for one of my custom 2016 TSR cards.

2016-tsr-back-264-dj-lemahieu

Horizontal card backs allow for more information, but I find that vertical backs are more natural to read while holding in your hand.

Before I get into the other elements, I’d like to point out the card number. Large, black on white, and at a 45 degree angle so it’s easily read whether the card is held vertically or horizontally.  Why is it that vintage cards, which were aimed almost entirely at kids, had these big friendly card numbers, but current cards, which are often purchased by middle-aged curmudgeons like myself, have these tiny numbers that sometimes require magnifying assistance to read?  And don’t get me started on blue or dark purple numbers against a black background.  You’re killing me, Smalls!

I always liked backs that listed the player’s full name, and can always recite a few from over the years. George Thomas Seaver.  Michael Jack Schmidt.  Larry Wayne Jones.

A pronunciation guide would be very helpful, especially when I think of all the names I mangled as a kid because I didn’t know how to pronounce them.  Segui was “Sedge-wee”.  Didier was “Dih-DYE-er”.  I’m sure you’ve all got similar stories.

One of the more common bits of information I want to know about a player is how he was acquired.  I might pull a card of so-and-so and wonder “How did the Padres get him?”

I cannot stress the following enough:  I WANT THE YEAR AND NAME OF THE SET ON THE BACK!  And if it’s an insert or parallel or variation, I WANT THAT CLEARLY NOTATED!!!  I’ve got a small box of inserts and such I got from dime boxes and before I can properly log them in my database, I need to figure out what the heck they are… and that often involves going out to COMC or eBay and doing some searching.  Totally unnecessary if the card companies would only give us basic info about the set.

I have to admit; these days, I rarely look at the stats on the back. That’s what the internet is for. I’ll admit it’s cool to see someone with a long list of seasons with the same club, something that’s become cultural shorthand for longevity with one team… but that long list of stats also takes away any writeup on the player or – heavens forbid – leaves no room for a cartoon (I’m looking at you, 1965 Topps Yogi Berra!)

If there are stats on the back, I’d like the league-leading stats in bold and/or another color.

Borrowing a page (so to speak) the Bullpen pages on Baseball-reference.com, a bullet-pointed list of achievements wouldn’t be bad, when applicable.  8-time All-Star, NL MVP in 1999, 2-time Silver Slugger, etc. etc.

As someone who’s sorted through hundreds of monster boxes in my lifetime, I very much appreciate sets where you can seek out a team by color.  In the example above, I can thumb through a stack of cards and easily find the Rockies cards because they have that purple stripe down either side.  I would have that stripe change by team…  Orange and blue for the Mets, blue and red for the Cubs, navy and red for the Indians, maybe get into some other combos (blue and yellow, green and blue) for the countless teams which have blue/navy and red for their colors.  I also want to point out that the stripe is along the left *and* right margins so that both lefties and righties can tell at a quick glance which team the player is with.

You’ll notice that I don’t have a cartoon on the back… I’ll admit, that’s mainly because I didn’t have any ideas or time to draw one myself. I would like to include cartoons, but only if it’s something like this…
1970 Topps Bobby Floyd Cartoon
…individual bits of artwork based on some fun facts about the players, and not just clip art accompanied by something trite like “Brandon hits lefties well”.  I don’t see why this is so hard or expensive;  I find it hard to believe that these companies’ graphic arts departments don’t already have somebody with decent cartooning skills.

(By the way, the above cartoon comes from the 1970 Topps Bobby Floyd card.)

So that runs down my thoughts on card backs. What would you like to see? I’d love to know! And who knows, maybe someone from a card company will be taking notes…


Time is running out!  Don’t forget to vote on the design I’ll use for next Spring’s World Baseball Classic custom set!

If you haven’t voted yet, the choices are laid out below with the voting at the bottom. Thanks again!

2017-wbc-candidates

A Clearer Perspective On the Mets And Orioles

I’ll admit that, coming down the stretch, I didn’t have high expectations of the Mets or the Orioles.  Both teams had obvious issues, neither team exactly strolled into a postseason slot.  Even so, it was still disappointing that they both lost in the Wild Card game.

The Mets had a number of key players who weren’t around by the end of the season – Matt Harvey, David Wright, Neil Walker, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz – while Lucas Duda missed significant time to injury.

Jay Bruce was acquired at the trade deadline and struggled for most of his time with the Mets.  He did seem to be coming out of his funk towards the end of the season, we’ll hope that this is a promising sign for next year.

In the middle of August the Mets were under .500 and in 3rd place.  I wasn’t the only Mets fan who was less than optimistic at this point.

But the Mets got production from some unexpected players, including pitcher Robert Gsellman, who bailed out an ineffective Jon Niese in his first game, and then as a starter went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA.
2016-tsr-382-robert-gsellman

Seth Lugo, who went 5-1 as a starter from August 19th on, got wins against the Cardinals, Marlins and Nationals.
2016-tsr-383-seth-lugo

Considering everything the Mets were up against, I think they did very well to make the postseason at all.

…And perhaps as importantly, to finish with a better record (and a slightly longer season) than the Yankees (84-78) and last year’s World Champion Royals (81-81).

As for the Orioles, I think this one fact says a lot about the O’s season:  Out of 8 pitchers with 10 or more starts, on a team that went 89-73, there were only two pitchers (Chris Tillman & Kevin Gausman) who had a winning record and only 3 (Tillman, Gausman and Bundy) who had an ERA of 4.02 or lower.

The offense was fine as long as they kept hitting home runs.  This team isn’t tremendously well-constructed and it was just a matter of time before it would catch up with them.

In fact, if it were not for the efforts of skip Satsuki Fujisawa, they would not have even gotten a Silver in the women’s world championship…
2016-tsr-curling-2-satsuki-fujisawa
…Oh, wait, this is the wrong post for that.  (Damn Quality Control department.)

The team did get an impressive season from Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo and Zach Britton…
2016-tsr-355-zach-britton-all-star

…as well as some promising Major League time from young guys like Joey Rickard and Trey Mancini.
2016-tsr-384-trey-mancini

The Mets should be back, unless deGrom, Harvey and Matz don’t come back healthy.  Yoenis Cespedes may opt out of his contract, and I’m not sure that Jay Bruce is the guy to replace him, but we’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, the Orioles have several free agents including Matt Wieters and MLB home run king Mark Trumbo.  I think Wieters will be elsewhere next year, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing… The money can probably be spent better elsewhere.  Trumbo, I’m not sure what will happen with him.  Playing in Baltimore was clearly a good thing for him, you’d like to think the O’s and Trumbo’s agent could work something out.

OK, let’s close out the post and the season with two more Joe Shlabotnik inserts.

2016-tsr-joe-shlabotnik-3

2016-tsr-joe-shlabotnik-8

This may or may not wrap up the 2016 TSR set. I’ll be back next Sunday with more customs, but at this point I honestly don’t know what form they’ll take. I do have a couple of more Shlabotnik inserts…

2016 TSR: Two Inserts And A WBC Prototype

Sorry, boys and girls… No virtual wax pack this week. Production issues have gotten in the way, so you’ll have to be satisfied with two inserts from a virtual dime box.

The first one is a goofy “Photo Day” image I’ve been sitting on for 6 months…

2016-tsr-ss-2-ian-kennedy-luke-hochevar

…And the second is a 4th Series Joe Shlabotnik insert… And what was this doing in a dime box?  This baby should be in the dollar bin, at the very least.

2016-tsr-joe-shlabotnik-4
The production issues should be sorted out next week, as we hear down the regular season and get ready for the off-season “Hot Stove” set, as well as next spring’s World Baseball Classic custom set.

Speaking of which…


2017 World Baseball Classic Custom Set, Prototype #1:

I’ve been thinking that it would be fun to devote a small set of customs to upcoming WBC, and to leave the design of the set open to nominations.

In my initial call for suggestions, Hackenbush over at “Can’t Have Too Many Cards” suggested using the 1966-67 Topps Hockey design (which is also the 1966 Topps Football design).  I have to admit, this set wasn’t quite what I had in mind…

…But you know what? It turned out quite a bit nicer than I thought it might:
2017-world-baseball-classic-prototype-1966-topps-hockey-ike-davis

Secrets of the Custom Card Makers:  The wood grain is actually a photo of the top of my dining room table.

Great suggestion, Hackenbush!  This will definitely factor into the voting, once I have enough prototypes to have some voting.

If there’s another vintage, semi-vintage or not-really-vintage-at-all card design you’d like to see made into my custom WBC set, leave a comment.

As before, I’m going to make three suggestions:

1 – Oddball sets are most definitely welcome.

2 – It doesn’t have to be a baseball design, so long as it works as a baseball set (i.e. no goalposts, hockey sticks or basketballs incorporated into the design).

3 – I’m shying away from anything that has team logos, mainly because I’m not sure what I would substitute for those.

The other design nomination I got the first time around is 1986 Topps (suggested by KO Rob), and I will make up a prototype for that as soon as I download the appropriate font from someplace from where one downloads fonts.

2016 TSR: Yakety Yak! Custom Wax

The subject line popped in my head when I started this post… And who am I to argue with the random functioning of my brain?

…Go tell your hoodlum friends outside
You ain’t got time to take a ride
Yakety Yak!
Don’t talk back.

OK, let’s get on to the titular custom wax (hee hee… ‘titular’)

2016-tsr-wrapper-series-four

I’ve played fantasy baseball for at least a dozen years, and one of the things I enjoy about it is that, by the end of each season, there’s always a player for whom I gain a profound appreciation.  This year, that player is Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez.
2016-tsr-430-jose-ramirez
The main reason I picked him up was because he has eligibility at 2B, 3B, SS and OF and was putting up good numbers… But the longer I had him on my team, the more I appreciated the consistent numbers he puts up and the fact that I never know where he’s going to get plugged into my lineup, but he will be in my lineup.  Regular second baseman is day-to-day?  Move Jose to 2nd.  Outfielder is slumping?  Move Jose his spot.

Jose is 2nd in the Majors in doubles and top 10 in the American League in batting average, on-base percentage and stolen bases.  Another thing I really appreciate in this age of all-or-nothing batters, Jose is among the MLB leaders with a 9.0 AB/SO rate.

Here’s a new insert set for Series Four: “Shlabotnik Special”, which aims to be along the lines of Topps combo cards and the Fleer “Superstar Special” cards from the 1980’s.
2016-tsr-ss-1-albert-pujols-jose-altuve
I love this photo, and even though Albert Pujols is standing on a base, you get a good idea of how much bigger than Jose Altuve he is.

What the–?!?!
2016-tsrchives-72tfb-5-josh-caddy
Aw man… I spoke to Quality Control last week about letting other sports slip into these baseball packs. I’m going to have to have another word with them.

I’ve done a fair number of “Ceremonial First Pitch” cards this season, but John McEnroe is notable for an unusual reason (among these first pitches, anyway).
2016-tsr-cfp-17-john-mcenroe
Not only did McEnroe get it over the plate, the dude put some serious heat on the ball.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check it out on YouTube here.

This next one is a last-minute addition, the 2nd entry in the “Father & Son” TSRchives insert.
2016-tsrchives-76tfs-2-jeff-and-travis-shaw
Jeff Shaw was your average workaday swingman until the Reds converted him to a closer at the age of 30.  194 Saves, 2 All-Star Games and a Rolaids Relief Award later, it would appear that the Reds were on to something.

BTW, a couple of months ago I was talking about players making their first or last appearance in a uniform at an All-Star game… Well, Jeff Shaw was one of those guys,  making his Dodger debut in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Travis Shaw took the 3rd base position away from Pablo Sandoval in Spring Training, and has played a significant role in the postseason-bound Red Sox season. In the Shlabotnik household, Travis Shaw is shortened to “Travishaw!”, but his popular nickname is “The Mayor Of Ding Dong City”. I saw a couple of references to this being a compliment regarding his ability to hit “ding dongs” (home runs)…  which is better than my interpretation, based on my understanding of a ‘ding dong’ being a fool (in which case, one generally wouldn’t appreciate being named the Mayor of Ding Dong City).

Anyway…

Finally, here’s the Joe Shlabotnik insert for this pack.
2016-tsr-joe-shlabotnik-2
…Such an honor to get pie’d in the face by Adam Jones!

2016 TSR: The Mayhem Which Murphy Hath Wrought

Series Four is out on the shelves… A little past the release date, but you should be able to find them in fine virtual stores everywhere.
2016-tsr-wrapper-series-four

If you’re not a Mets or Nationals fan, you may not be aware of the severe damage that Daniel Murphy has done to his former team this season. I, for one, am glad that the schedule does not allow Murphy to inflict any more injury this year… unless the teams meet in the playoffs, anyway.
2016-tsr-425-daniel-murphy
The Mets and Nats played 19 games this season, and Murphy got a hit in every one of them. In those 19 games he batted .413, had a slugging percentage of .773, 6 doubles, 7 homers, 14 runs and 21 RBI.

This next thing I’m going to do is statistical B.S., but I think it helps put these numbers into an interesting context. If you extrapolate those numbers over a 162 game season, Murphy would have 264 hits, 51 doubles, 60 homers, 119 runs and 179 RBI.

To put another slant on it, in 107 career games against the Nationals, Murph had 19 doubles, 6 homers, 40 runs and 51 RBI.  This seasons’ numbers against the Mets, extrapolated over those same 107 games, would give him 34 doubles, 39 homers, 79 runs and 118 RBI. A bit of an uptick.

Thanks, Murph.

If I’m not mistaken, Matt Wieter’s very first retail Topps card will be out once Heritage High Numbers hits the shelves this week. Wieters had signed an exclusive trading card contract years ago, so he’d been missing from Topps products for his whole career (with the exception of “wall art” sold online, because those aren’t cards).
2016-tsr-422-matt-wieters
Wieters is a free agent this winter, so this upcoming Hi #’s card could end up being one of very few Topps cards which depicts him as an Oriole.

Thanks, Matt.

Back in May, Miss Washington 2016 Kelsey Schmidt threw out the first pitch before a Mariners game. I know some of you guys get restless if there’s not a pretty woman pictured every now and then.
2016-tsr-cfp-2-kelsey-schmidt
Kelsey has a B.A. in Biology and is a pre-doctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. For those who don’t know, Fred Hutchinson was a Tigers pitcher and manager of the Reds who lost his battle with lung cancer at the age of 45.

Show of hands… At the beginning of the season, who thought that Rick Porcello was going to be a 20-game winner?
2016-tsr-421-rick-porcello
Yeah, that’s what I thought. Porcello was 9-15 last season, but this year he’s 20-4 with a 3.12 ERA and leads the league with a 1.002 WHIP.

The Red Sox got Porcello in a trade with Detroit, and the key player given up was Yoenis Cespedes. The key piece the Tigers got from the Mets for Cespedes was breakout rookie pitcher Michael Fullmer, so I’m guessing Tiger fans aren’t completely upset with how those deals worked out.

Aw, crap… How did this get into this pack?
2016-tsrchives-72fb-4-nino-niederreiter
*SIGH*… I’m going to have to have another talk with Quality Control…

Well, as long as it’s here I’ll mention that the World Cup of Hockey is coming up, and I’m really curious as to how fired up players get about playing for “Team Europe”, which is made up of European players who aren’t from the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia or Sweden.  The uniforms are kinda interesting, anyway.

Finally, here’s the Joe Shlabotnik insert promised on the wrapper.
2016-tsr-joe-shlabotnik-1
Just like Alfred Hitchcock always made his way into each of his movies, I find my way into each of my sets.  You’ll be seeing a few more of these as the set wraps up.

2016 TSR: Olympians, Rookies, Trades And Such

Last week I was a little short on custom cards as I was not feeling well. This week I wanted to make up for it and I got a little crazy. Call it belated Olympic Fever.

I got Olympic fever!
I like to ‘Lympic down!
I got Olympic fever!
I hear it’s going around…

If you weren’t around in 1976, ignore the previous lyrics. If you were around, then I apologize.

Anyway…

We’ll start with Laurie Hernandez, who won Silver in the Women’s Beam and gold in the Women’s Team All-Around. She was at CitiField on Saturday, throwing out the first pitch in gymnast style.
2016 TSR CFP-15 Laurie Hernandez
She did a flip that one would call a somersault if she’d put her hands on the ground. I forget what this type of flip is called. How about “impressive”?

On the same day, Madison Kocian, who got Silver in the Women’s Uneven Bars and was on the same Gold-winning all-around team, threw out the first pitch at the Rangers game.
2016 TSR CFP-14 Madison Kocian

Aly Raisman, who won the team Gold and also silver in both Floor Exercise and Individual All-Around, threw out the first pitch at the Red Sox game back on August 26th.
2016 TSR CFP-16 Aly Raisman

Before throwing her first pitch to David Ortiz, she him to hold her medals.
2016 TSR CFP-16B Aly Raisman David Ortiz

…But she wasn’t the first to do that. Two days earlier, swimmer Katie Ledecky, who won 4 Gold and 1 Silver, threw out a first pitch at a Nationals game (I featured this one last week)…
2016 TSR CFP-13 Katie Ledecky

..and got Bryce Harper to watch her medals for her.
2016 TSR CFP-13B Katie Ledecky Bryce Harper

OK, that’s it for Olympic first pitches. Moving on to some actual baseball stuff…

Coco Crisp was traded to Cleveland just before the August 31st deadline, but he didn’t get into a game until yesterday. Coco went 3 for 5 and scored 3 runs as the Indians’ DH.
2016 TSR #331 - Coco Crisp traded

I was also going to make a custom for Carlos Ruiz, who got traded to the Dodgers… but I couldn’t find a photo I liked, so I went with A.J. Ellis instead, who went to the Phillies in the same trade.
2016 TSR #329 - AJ Ellis traded
Researching A.J. Ellis made me realize something; there are a lot of A.J.’s in the majors. Aside from Ellis, there’s Pierzynski, Pollock, Griffin, Ramos, Reed, Cole, Schugel, Achter and Morris… and then there’s Astros manager A.J. Hinch and former pitcher A.J. Burnett.

I’ve got two “Notable Newbies” today, one at each end of the hype spectrum…

Dansby Swanson was the first overall draft pick in 2015 and was a key piece in the trade that sent Shelby Miller to Arizona. He made a quick rise through the minors this year, going from Hi-A to AA to the Majors.
2016 TSR #380 - Dansby Swanson
Swanson is one of the top shortstop prospects in the game, and given the talent at that position, that’s not a small honor.

Just because, I’ll “reprint” his draft pick custom from last year.
2015 TSR DP-1 Dansby Swanson

In looking for another rookie to feature, I started looking at the listings for the 2016 Rookies of the Month, and San Diego’s Ryan Schimpf, who won in July, jumped out at me… because I know very little about him.
2016 TSR #381 - Ryan Schimpf
The only cards of his I could find were one minor league card, a Topps Now card and two Topps Bunt cards. No Pro Debut, no Bowman, not even Elite Extra Enhanced Extraordinary Edition (or whatever that set is called)

Schimpf was a member of the 2009 College World Series-winning Louisiana State University team, a team that also included current major leaguers D.J. LaMahieu, Anthony Ranaudo and Mikie Mahtook. Schimpf was drafted by the Blue Jays and spent 7 years in the minors before becoming a free agent. The Padres signed him to a minor league deal and gave him a shot with the big club in June.

During July, Schimpf batted .269 / .387 / .705 with 9 homers (a Padres rookie record), 17 runs and 17 RBI. His numbers dropped off a shade in August, but are still impressive… but since he’s in San Diego on a last place team, he gets no attention.

To wrap up this post, I’ll share a goofy card that I had intended to include in last weeks post before I found a mistake in the card. No, I’m not going to tell you what the mistake was.
2016 TSR #269b - Ryan Raburn Double Bubble Swarm

I hope everybody’s enjoying their Labor Day weekend!

2016 TSR: A Bit Under The Weather

I felt a bit off when I woke up this morning, and it’s only gotten worse as the morning has gone along… So instead of following through on my plans to make another couple of customs and write more text, I’m going to keep this short and head back to bed for a while.

There are a pretty fair number of Major Leaguers currently in the game with fathers who also played in the Majors. While these pairings are generally not on the “Ken Griffey Sr. & Jr.” level of notoriety, I thought it’d be fun to do a number of “Father & Son” custom cards.

So far, however, I’ve only made one for Tom & Neil Walker. This card is based on the “Father & Son” subset from 1976 Topps.
2016 TSRchives 76TF&S-1 Tom & Neil Walker
Aside from the fact that Neil Walker is with my Mets, I did this one first because I already had a scan of a Tom Walker card. Before I make any more of these, I have to find and scan the appropriate cards in my collection. I should have at least one more by next Sunday.

It’s that time of year when Olympians have come home from Rio de Janeiro and are being honored with ceremonial first pitches. Swimmer Katie Ledecky came home with four gold medals and one silver, and was honored by the Washington Nationals.
2016 TSR CFP-13 Katie Ledecky
She also got Bryce Harper to hold her medals while she threw the first pitch, and I was going to make a custom of that as well… but, as I mentioned, I’m not feeling up to it. I’ll have something for next Sunday.

I had one more custom lined up, a “2016 Season Highlights” card… but at the last minute I realized that one word in the text was embarrassingly misspelled… So you’ll have to wait until next Sunday for that as well.

Before I go, I have a small announcement to make (and, thankfully, one which was written earlier in the week when I could easily form complete sentences)…


Make a nomination for the design of the 2017 TSR World Baseball Classic set!

The World Baseball Classic returns this coming March.  I’ve been thinking that it would be fun to devote a small set of customs to this international event.

I had started to think about which vintage, semi-vintage or not-terribly-vintage card design would work well for a set like this… but then I had an idea that it could be fun to open it up to nominations, and then once I’ve got a couple of prototypes in hand, set up some sort of vote.

If there’s a particular card design you’d like to see made into a custom WBC set, leave a comment below.

I’m going to make three suggestions:

1 – Oddball sets are most definitely welcome.

2 – It doesn’t necessarily have to be a baseball design, so long as it works for a baseball set.

3 – I’m shying away from anything that has team logos, because I’m not sure what I would substitute for those.  Flags?  Anyway, not ruling it out, just shying away (right now).

Leave a comment!  Make your case!  Maybe we can have some voting this fall where we can feel positive about the candidates!

2016 TSR: Beltran, Vedder, And Thoughts On Top-Heavy Checklists

This is going to be something of a quickie post today… My custom-making feels like it’s winding down for the season, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop… Just that I will cut back on the ones I post. Fr’instance, I did a custom for Ichiro’s 3000th hit, but it wasn’t all that visually interesting so I didn’t post it.

As a semi-collector of Carlos Beltran, I was happy that he got traded away from the Bronx. It’s hard to root for anyone when they’re wearing those navy pinstripes.
2016 TSR #330 - Carlos Beltran traded
Texas may not have been my top choice, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Eddie Vedder recently threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game, and while I’m no fan of Pearl Jam, a recent motivational phrase I’ve latched on to is “Dare to pander”.
2016 TSR CFP-12 Eddie Vedder
Truth be told, Eddie Vedder doesn’t make me think of “Even Flow”, “Daughter” or “Better Man”… Eddie Vedder makes me think of the ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic song “My Baby’s In Love With Eddie Vedder”.

…But my girl can’t get enough of his sullen demeanor
Like he’s some big tortured genius and I’m some kind of wiener…

It does appear that Mr. Vedder is wearing a Seattle Raniers t-shirt, so he gets some bonus points for that.

Moving on….

Yesterday’s post from Off Hiatus Baseball got me thinking a little bit… Topps checklists are very much top-heavy and focus overly much on big names, hyped prospects and big cities… but making custom cards has given me a tiny little insight into some of the issues with photo availability.

Now back in the day, Topps would have their own photographers… or at least subcontractors that they hired… and if a photographer were going to a Braves game, they could say “Hey Frank… Get me some photos of Bruce Benedict and Biff Pocoroba!”

Now, however, Topps gets most, if not all, of their photos from services like Getty Images. Maybe Topps can still put in requests to get pictures of guys like Kevin Jepsen or Ramon Cabrera, but if they’re limited to what’s available through Getty, then that brings in a whole slew of issues if they want to get bigger checklists.

Now, guys like Ichiro… You could make a 750-card set out of the available Ichiro images, and I’m not being facetious on that. There must be a big demand for Ichiro pictures, because any time the Marlins play, there’s at least a couple of Ichiro photos taken, even if it’s just Ichiro sitting on the bench or Ichiro swinging a bat before the game or Ichiro trying to remember whether he locked his car when he got to the ballpark.

There also seems to be a significant difference between the number of photos generated from, let’s say, a Nationals/Dodgers game as opposed to an interleague Reds/Rays matchup.

After a while, you start to see that it’s the same 150-200 guys featured in the photos over and over again, and you just don’t see as much of the rest of the players.

And to make things worse, often when you see the players who aren’t in the top 20%, the photos are…

OK, before I get into this any further, I have to apologize in advance to Eric Campbell, Hansel Robles and Josh Edgin, but the following is being done to prove a point.

…For the other 80%, the photos are often taken to fill in the narrative of that day’s game, and not necessarily of those guys in particular.

As a result, you often get photos of guys reacting to striking out…
2016 TSRchives 90T-1 Eric Campbell

…or giving up a home run…
2016 TSRchives 90T-2 Hansel Robles

…Or being just barely visible in the photo.
2016 TSRchives 90T-3 Josh Edgin

So just to play “Topps Advocate” for a moment… Even if they wanted to do a set that represented a large percentage of Major Leaguers, their hands might be tied by the images available to them.

…MIGHT BE… I can’t emphasize enough that this is conjecture, for all I know Topps can do anything they want, but instead insist on inflicting us with countless cards of Clayton Kershaw and Bryce Harper, all while laughing manically and rolling around in big piles of cash.

OK, so that wasn’t as quickie as I thought, but I never know how much I have to say until I’ve said it.

Have a good Sunday, everybody! Get in your Olympics while you can…

2016 TSR: Alex Rodriguez In Carbonite

OK, so the first custom takes a little bit of explaining.

This past Friday, I was looking at a blogroll when I saw a post from The Lost Collector titled “Goodbye, Alex”, but my brain interpreted the accompanying thumbnail as a picture of Han Solo frozen in Carbonite (from The Empire Strikes Back, for those non-Star Wars people out there).

What on earth does A-Rod have to do with Han Solo in Carbonite?

As it turns out, the post was a very nice tribute to A-Rod, and the thumbnail was of a 2015 Topps “Etched In History” insert, a medallion-y card that has nothing to do with Han Solo or being frozen in Carbonite.  You can read the post and see the card here.

I was going to leave a comment on the post about my misconception, but I wasn’t sure it fit the tone of the post… So I figured I’d say something here.

Then I got wondering if there has ever been a Star Wars card set with a “Carbonite” insert.  Seems like a natural to me.

Then my brain just went the rest of the way and I said “I should just do an Alex Rodriguez In Carbonite insert for the heck of it”.

So I did.
2016 TSR Carbonite #1 - Alex Rodriguez
The backstory I invented for this insert is that A-Rod’s agent had him frozen just in case the Marlins or some other team comes calling.

This next custom insert was not planned in advanced, but seems too good to pass up. It seems that William Shatner is in Boston this weekend for that city’s Comic Con, and while there he threw out the first pitch.
2016 TSR CFP-11 William Shatner
I would like to point out that Shatner is 85 years old, but threw the ball over the plate. Yes, he was standing in front of the mound, but… 85 years old!

I hope I still have a pulse at 85.

Among the other celebrity guests at Boston Comic Con (which ends today, so you’ve likely already missed them) are/were John Barrowman, Gillian Anderson, Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan and Elizabeth Henstridge.

Jumping back to Mr. Rodriguez, his departure contributed to a new wave of rookies in the Yankees lineup.  In yesterday’s game, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge both hit homers in their first MLB at-bats;  this is the first time this has happened in MLB history, and the homers came back-to-back, no less.
2016 TSR #267 - Aaron Judge
Judge is a big boy… 6’7″, 275 lbs. He’s also wearing #99, which I love. Hey if all the good numbers are retired, why settle for a number in the 40’s or 50’s? Go for the gusto and grab that #99!

I like Mark Melancon, so it saddens me to see him in a Nationals uniform.
2016 TSR #329 - Mark Melancon traded
The Nats don’t have the best track record with closers, at least not lately.  Last year they jettisoned Drew Storen for Jonathan Papelbon… but you could at least blame that on Matt Williams’ questionable handling of relievers.  This year, the Nats dumped Papelbon for Mark Melancon.  Who will Melancon get dumped for in 2017?

As I mentioned earlier this week, Jay Bruce came to the Mets at the expense of Shlabotnik-favorite prospect Dilson Herrera.  After two weeks, Jay Bruce has done very little to make me feel better about this trade.
2016 TSR #327 - Jay Bruce Traded
In 11 games with the Mets, Bruce…

G’day, Bruce!

…Bruce has batted .159 with 2 homers, 3 runs and 5 RBI, with no doubles or triples.  In  his defense, I can’t help but wonder if this team has brought him down rather than the intended objective of his bringing the team up.

Last week I’d mentioned that the Astros threw back to 1986, but I didn’t have time to make a custom. I couldn’t let those rainbow throwbacks go to waste, so…
2016 TSRchives 86T-8 Alex Bregman
Bregman wins bonus points for the stirrups.

The Rangers also wore mid-1980’s road uniforms… but honestly, those uniforms are so uninteresting that I couldn’t bring myself to make a custom of those.

As long as we’re talking about achievements in Major League debuts, I have a last-minute addition…
2016 TSR #268 - Gabriel Ynoa
Mets pitcher Gabriel Ynoa earned the win in his Major League debut last night by pitching a perfect 11th inning with two K’s before the Mets won in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 11th.

Ynoa was the first Mets pitcher to get a win in his MLB debut since Kenny Greer in 1993.

…And this Mets fan of 40+ years said “Who?”

I felt better after I looked up Mr. Greer.  His debut came on September 29th, two weeks after being acquired from the Yankees, and it was his only regular season appearance for the Mets.  Greer pitched a perfect 17th inning with two K’s – sound familiar? – as the Mets beat the Cardinals 1-0.

I found only one card of Mr. Greer in my collection.
1994 Fleer ProCards Kenny Greer
As far as I can tell, he never made it into any nationally-issued sets.  He’d pitch 8 games of relief for the Giants in 1995, and that was the end of his MLB career.

For Mets fans in 1993, there was good news and bad news about that game.

Good news:  That 1-0 win was the second game of a 6-game winning streak to end the season.

Bad news:  The Mets had already lost 103 games.

At any rate, I managed to find it in me to forgive myself for not remembering a pitcher who’s only Mets appearance came in the 17th inning of a late September game during a season where the Mets lost 103 games.


ShlabotNotes:

We’ve got a new Topps Now card with the biggest print run; Ichiro’s 3000th hit card sold 11,550 copies. While it’s a great accomplishment to have a card of, if it had been a a flagship insert which had a press run of 11,550 cards, how much would you pay for that? Naturally, you don’t know the print run before you buy a Topps Now card, but it just seems to underline that Topps has gotten themselves into something good.

There’s also a lowest print run on the books since the last time I checked (and it’s apparently been a while since I checked): Card 257, “Chase d’Arnaud breaks 0-0 tie with two out, walk-off single”. This highlight happened on 7/17 and the print run was just 180. Chase d’Arnaud fans are getting their money’s worth out of that one!

2016 TSR: A “Traded” Subset And More Throwbacks

The MLB trading deadline was this past Monday, and this year’s didn’t disappoint with all the craziness surrounding it… Some of the craziness happened, some didn’t. For the trades that did happen, I wanted to give everybody a look at what some of the newly-relocated players look like in their new uniforms.

Being a child of the mid-1970’s, I’m rarely satisfied with just having an updated card… I want the card to clearly show that a trade took place, but I ain’t talkin’ ’bout no fool O-Pee-Chee line of black text.

I wanted something colorful and “Traded-y”, so after playing around with it for a while, the results are what you’ll see on a number of customs in today’s post.

Although it wasn’t a fire sale, the Yankees raised more than a few eyebrows by actually being sellers at the deadline. The first transaction made was sending Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for a reliever (Adam Warren) and a number of prospects.
2016 TSR #321 - Aroldis Chapman Traded
The Yankees traded prospects to get Chapman, they flipped him for some different prospects. A few years down the road, it’ll be interesting to see how the two sets of prospects compare.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had just shipped Adam Warren to the Cubs last December, and here they were getting him back again. In other similar re-acquisitions, the Mets got Jonathan Niese after half a season in Pittsburgh, the Orioles got Steve Pearce after half a season in Tampa Bay, the Pirates got Antonio Bastardo after half a season with the Mets, and the Mets tried to re-acquire Kelly Johnson from the Braves, only to find that they’d already done that earlier this season. (Insert rim shot here)

No one could’ve faulted the Yankees if they stopped after trading Chapman, but they also shipped Andrew Miller off to Cleveland. No more “No Run DMC” for the Yankees, but I’m sure the teams’ broadcasters will find something else to talk about.
2016 TSR #325 - Andrew Miller traded
The worst part of these trades (for me, anyway) is that the Yankees got some quality prospects in exchange.

After vetoing a trade to Cleveland (the Indians were part of his no-trade clause), Jonathan Lucroy found himself in Texas.
2016 TSR #326 - Jonathan Lucroy traded
The Rangers have certainly made it clear that they’re going for it.

Just a little bit lower in the AL West standings, the A’s made it clear that they’re not going for it. Josh Reddick found himself heading for the contending Dodgers, along with pitcher Rich Hill.
2016 TSR #322 - Josh Reddick traded
Perhaps the most notable aspect to Reddick’s acquisition is what it allowed to Dodgers to do, which is send Yasiel Puig to AAA. It’ll be interesting to see if Puig takes this as a challenge or an insult (or both, I suppose).

I seem to remember that a certain reader of this blog is a fan of Billy Burns, and while I wasn’t sure that this fandom would follow Burns to KC, I figured I’d do a custom anyway.
2016 TSR #324 - Billy Burns traded
If Billy Burns in Royal blue is too painful for certain people to handle, I promise I’ll make it up to you a little further down.

To the surprise of nobody, Matt Kemp also found himself on the move, except in his case he’s going from 4th place to 5th place.
2016 TSR #323 - Matt Kemp traded
To me, the most notable part of this trade can’t be shown on a traded card. The Padres got Cuban 3B/OF Hector Olivera, whom they promptly designated for assignment. What does it say when neither the Braves or Padres want a player?

I have some more “Traded” cards I plan on doing, once I find some better images than what I’ve already found.


Yesterday, the Athletics and Cubs threw back to 1981 and while the throwback uniforms are cool, it looks like it would’ve been more fun to see the game on TV than to watch it in person; Comcast SportsNet California had a throwback broadcast, including 1981 graphics and yellow network blazers for the broadcast team… there’s an article about it here.

In 1981 I was a teenager and collected all three sets that came out that year. When I realized I had an opportunity to do 1981-style customs, I didn’t hesitate in selecting the Fleer option for the job.
2016 TSRchives 81F-2 Coco Crisp
1981 Topps was fine, 1981 Topps was Topps, but 1981 Fleer was my favorite set that year. One of these days I’m going to write this “1981 Fleer Appreciation” post I’ve been tossing about in my head for a long time.

The Cubs were also dressed appropriately, wearing the sartorially questionable powder blue with white pinstripes road design.  This was a fun matchup of uniforms, even if it wasn’t one that would’ve happened at the time (well, outside of Spring Training, anyway).
2016 TSRchives 81F-1 Jake Arrieta

The A’s might have looked better, but the Cubs played better as they shut out the Athletics 4-0.

There was another throwback game yesterday as the Astros and Rangers threw back to 1986… but I ran out of time this morning so you’ll have to wait until next week for some Astro rainbow goodness.