2017 TSR: What Happened

If Hillary Clinton can ask that, so can I.  One can safely assume that my version will make significantly less money.

In my case, “What Happened?” refers to my 2017 TSR custom set.

I’ll be the first to tell you that 2017 was not a great year for my original-design TSR custom card set. I worked hard on the design, but because I was also working on customs for the World Baseball Classic, I ended up rushing the design phase a bit, and I later came to realize that there’s a bit too much going on… The end result is a set I like but don’t love, and given the crickets in response to most of the posts, I’m thinking that the lack of love was pretty universal.

I’ve also come to understand that the underlying theme of a virtual card set representing my pack-busting desires has gone from inspiration to hindrance. Because of where the hobby is now, some of the subsets became largely pointless. Why make a 2017 Highlights “Indians Set Winning Streak Record” custom when Topps Now had already featured the streak 10 times?  (By my count, anyway)

…But I DO enjoy coming up with original card designs, I DO enjoy making customs and sharing them with all y’all, and I DO want to carry on in 2018.

In preparation for next year, I’m working on a 1960’s-inspired design and sorting out a “mission statement”. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to put some ideas to the test, but rather than saying “My 2017 design wasn’t great – here it is a bunch more times!” I’m going to whet your appetite for next year with a 1960’s favorite: 1960-62 Bazooka.

I always enjoy customs of players who changed teams, and at the moment nothing seems quite as odd as the sight of Justin Verlander in an Astros uniform.  I actually had to make this custom twice because –  no joke – I automatically typed DETROIT TIGERS before I saved the image.

Naturally, I like to feature Mets and Orioles as well, especially guys who are new to the team.  For a guy who’s been traded and lost on waivers since the season began, Norichika Aoki has been doing quite nicely in the Mets lineup every day since they got him.  In 19 games he’s batting .321 with 12 runs, 8 RBI, 7 doubles and a triple.

…And he’s using “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. as his walk-up music.  How can I not love this guy?  Watching Mets games now, I find myself in an odd position regarding the Mets outfield.  I like Aoki, I like the Gold Glove-winning Juan Lagares, who’s getting regular playing time again.  I like Brandon Nimmo and his .385 OBP.  Despite his injury-prone label, I like Yoenis Cespedes.  I really like the injured Michael Conforto, who looks like he could be a star in the making.  I wouldn’t mind a return of Jay Bruce when he hits free-agency.  And because I’m a Mets fan, I fear that the team will ignore Bruce, let Aoki leave as a free agent, trade several young outfielders for an inning-eating pitcher and then sign some past-his-prime big name outfielder, both of whom will suck.

Moving right along…

Night Owl indirectly inspired an idea I had for next year’s set.  Over at Topps, where they think that QA stands for “Questions and Answers”, the All-Star Rookie Cup was left off of the cards of each winner who appeared in Series 2.  That gave me the idea of having my own Rookie Star subset using a different method of picking the players, and in doing a test run using 2016 rookies, I came to realize that the 2016 A.L. Rookie Of The Year was not a Topps All-Star Rookie.

Nope, Fulmer got passed by for Kenta Maeda as the rookie RHP, even though their numbers were similar and Maeda was a 28-year-old rookie (having first become a star in Japan).  Will one of the 2017 Rookies of the Year get left off the Topps All-Star Rookie team?  HA!  Like Topps isn’t going to continue to hype the holy hell out of Bellinger and Judge.

Another idea I had for an occasional theme is “Players I like I on teams I don’t like”.  My disdain for the Marlins, who have had a steady succession of disagreeable ownership, have outpaced the Phillies and Braves in terms of “Most disliked division opponent of the Mets” and, on the right day, the Fish will give the Nats a fight for this ignominious honor.

Figuring out my favorite Marlin is easy… Ichiro, of course!

Ichiro is so talented, he can hit BP while simultaneously covering all logos, just for the benefit of Panini and other companies who are licensed only by the MLBPA!

BTW, while I don’t think Don Matttingly deserves it, part of me hopes that the new Marlins ownership will fire the manager… Just because the optics of Derek F’ing Jeter firing Donnie Baseball will make the Yankee fandom implode.

…or not.  More likely then not, they’ll say “Whatever” and then “All rise!”

I always enjoy watching Major Leaguers who I first saw in the minors, and the Orioles’ Austin Hays is the latest entrant into that category.  Hays was a 3rd round pick in 2016, was impressive in A and AA this season, was named the O’s Minor League Player Of The Year and earned himself a September callup.

Despite this impressive catch in last night’s game, the O’s lost, were mathematically eliminated from the postseason and are guaranteed a losing record.  Yay.


More 1975 Customs: Mets Scattered On The Four Winds

Once again, I’m doing some 1975 customs as a “proof of concept” for a project I’ve got going on this winter. This time around, I’m featuring players who started the season with the Mets but are now elsewhere.

Before we get into the customs, here’s a bit of trivia I picked up watching a nationally-televised Mets game (FS1, I think… maybe ESPN):
How many players from this year’s opening day starting lineup are currently on the Mets active roster?

While you think about that, here are the customs along with the transactions in chronological order:

July 27th; Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays for Drew Smith.

July 31st; Addison Reed to the Boston Red Sox for Jamie Callahan (who just got called up) and two minor leaguers

August 9th; Jay Bruce to the Cleveland Indians for a minor leaguer

August 12th; Neil Walker to the Milwaukee Brewers for a player to be named later

August 19th; Curtis Granderson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a PTBNL (which a day later became Jacob Rhame, also a September call-up)

August 19th; Rene Rivera claimed on waivers by the Chicago Cubs

Answer to the trivia: Two of the nine Mets from the opening day starting lineup are currently active and with the Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes.

Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard are on the DL and the other five players are shown above (with the exception of reliever Addison Reed, of course).

Hank Aaron Heritage Weekend ==> 1975 Customs

Last weekend the Atlanta Braves observed “Hank Aaron Heritage Weekend” and wore throwbacks to 1974, the year when Aaron set the record for career homers.  As it so happened, I’ve been messing with a 1975 Topps template for an upcoming project which you’ll likely see this Winter (hint, hint).

And so, with almost no text save for the last one, here are the resulting customs…

This custom is for Fuji (and because Kurt Suzuki was kind enough to hit a 2-run homer, which meant that I was able to find images of him hitting said homer).

I actually made this custom twice; the first one had a blue & green border, but then I ran across the 1975 Topps card for Mike Lum who, like Suzuki, hails from Hawaii. At that point, I knew I had to make the Suzuki custom using the same colors as the original Mike Lum.

I’ve got another batch of these customs coming… not involving throwback uniforms or the Braves, but I just wanted to take my messing around with the 1975 design to the next phase.  You’ll probably see those before too long.

Throwback Uniforms On Throwback Customs: 1978 & 1984

This weekend there have been two different throwback games in the Majors, both throwing back to my weak spot – the mid-70’s to the mid-80’s. What could I do? The temptation was too great… I had to make customs for both games.

On Friday night the Phillies and Padres threw back to 1983 when the Phils were N.L. Champions. Both sets of uniforms had their issues, but looked pretty good overall. I really like the 1984 Fleer design and photos from 1983 would normally go on 1984 cards, so it seemed like a natural to me (and I wasn’t even going to attempt to find TWO throwback photos of a player to use the 1983 Topps design). Unfortunately, neither the Phils nor Pads are stacked with superstars, so I was a bit limited on who I could find pictures of. Even so, I’m happy with what came out of it.

Meanwhile the Rangers and Angels threw back to 1977… I would presume solely because it was 40 years ago. I wouldn’t think the Rangers were commemorating finishing 8 games behind the Royals in ’77 (although they did go 94-68, there was just no catching the 102-60 Royals).

For whatever reason – maybe because powder blue is oh-so-very-seventies – the Rangers wore 1977 Road uniforms last night.

The Angels, being the visiting team, also wore road uniforms, only theirs were grey.

From the clips I’ve seen, it wasn’t bad… unlike the Father’s Day weekend game I attended in Baltimore (you don’t want to get me started on both teams wearing blue when neither one should wear blue), I don’t think there was any problems telling the teams apart. It’s just a bit odd for those of us who lived through the 1970’s (“You are wearing powder blue and yet you are the home team? Illogical. Illogical. Norman, coordinate!”)

Trying To Break A Custom Funk With A “Super Value Fun Pack”!

You may have noticed that I’ve been kind of quiet with the customs lately.  It’s mainly from lack of time, but underlying that was a simple case of “writer’s block”.  I didn’t really have anything I wanted to “say”, so nothing came out.

I started to come out of the funk a little bit when I poked a bit of fun at the Topps online exclusive Throwback Thursday sets (#TSR_TBT), but then I also decided to stop focusing on my 2017 TSR set and let my muse take me wherever I might go.

I ultimately ended up with an odd assortment of customs and I was trying to think of how to present them… And that’s when I remembered a predecesor of the 21st century repack.  Back in the day, companies used to take whatever they had left over – cards, comic books, etc. – package them together at a low price and tried to make them sound appealing by throwing about words like “Value” and “Fun”.

So I came up with the idea of a “Super Value Fun Pack” and went about creating a “wrapper”:

Now that I’m done with the explanations, let’s see what’s in the Super Value Fun Pack, shall we?

Leading up to the recent NHL Expansion Draft to stock the roster of the Vegas Golden Knights, I made a decision that if any players showed up in person and put on a VGK jersey (Sorry, Canadians, I just can’t call it a “sweater”), I would make a custom out of it.

Well, a number of players did make an appearance, and I decided to use the 1970-71 Topps Hockey design because a)  It allowed me to remove the uninteresting background and b) I’d already come up with a template to use.

Deciding which player to feature wasn’t hard, because the one and only drafted player I’d even heard of before the draft was one of the guys who showed up.

While researching this card, I stumbled across a hockey oddball from the same year, and the custom which resulted will be in the next Super Value Fun Pack (ideally next week).

The one bit of momentum I’ve been able to maintain with my 2017 TSR custom set is making customs of Mets and Orioles for players who haven’t appeared on a real card in 2017. For this week’s Orioles entry in the “Dude Needs A Card” theme, we have a pitcher who appeared in 3 games before being Designated For Assignment, and who is already gone from the O’s organization. I’m talking about journeyman pitcher Edwin Jackson!

The Orioles were the 12th team Jackson has pitched for. When the O’s DFA’ed him, he declared free agency and signed a minor league contract with the Nationals… But if he makes it back to the Majors with the Nats, it won’t up his totals, because he pitched for the Nationals in 2012.

For the record his 12 teams (in order): Dodgers, Devil Rays/Rays (they transitioned while he was on the roster), Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Marlins, Padres, Orioles

Fernando Salas has already appeared in 36 games for the Mets and yet remains cardboard-free. I’m sure that’s nothing to do with his 6.00 ERA or 1.697 WHIP.

I would’ve created a custom for my TSR set, but I already had one made for my TSRchives set.

The final custom comes from a desire to have a design I could use for just about any purpose. I ultimately decided to revive my short-lived “TSR Fauxback” set from 2015. The design I came up with for 2017 is similar to my 2015 design in that it’s intentionally derivative as hell, but I can’t help shaking the feeling that I’ve subconsciously stolen it from somewhere.

Call it derivative, call it homage, call it plagiarism… Call it whatever, this is the 2017 TSR Fauxback design:

Rest in peace, Adam West.

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.

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”.
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).
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:

Or would you rather have a manager who is in the Hall Of Fame:

…Or a former MVP and 6-time all-star?

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?
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.
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…
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.