Next Saturday, August 11th, will be the third annual Topps National Baseball Card Day, when you can get free packs of baseball cards if you jump through a few hoops… like finding a participating hobby shop and making a qualifying purchase. It might help boost sales for certain retailers, but it’s not doing a thing to bring new collectors into the hobby or promote baseball.
The cool part of the promotion is starting earlier — each Major League Baseball team will distribute packs of baseball cards as a stadium giveaway for one of their home games in August. The Mets are doing this today. And this is the part of the promotion that I like because it’s getting baseball cards into the hands of folks that like baseball, but who aren’t necessarily card collectors. And maybe a few of them will decide that baseball cards are something fun and they’ll ask for (or buy) a few packs the next time they’re in Target or WalMart.
I’m not at the Mets’ game today, but I did go last year and got my pack of four cards (from a nine-card stadium giveaway set.) I also got the tenth card from the hobby shop promotion. The player selection made me feel a bit nostalgic when I got them – David Wright is one of the greatest players in team history, but we’ll probably never see him on the field again. It’s even more so now.
I hope everyone had a good Easter (or Passover… or just a nice weekend.) It sure feels like yesterday’s 60 degree spring-like weather was the April Fool’s Day joke, because we woke up to snow (again) this morning.
The Yankees’ home opener has already been postponed, and who knows if the Mets can clear the snow from Citi Field’s seats in time to play tonight’s game.
So today’s a good day to look at the Topps Opening Day baseball cards I got for Easter. While Opening Day is overlooked by most collectors, I enjoy it because it’s about the closest I can get to reliving the experience of opening baseball cards when I was a kid.
Opening Day packs are cheap, usually a dollar. They have a decent number of cards in them (by 21st Century standards, anyway.) And given the unlikelihood of pulling any autographs or memorabilia cards, if you’re opening Opening Day, you’ve got to actually want the base cards or the fun “regular” insert sets.
There are two reasons that Opening Day isn’t perfect. Number one: except for a few Series 2 previews and PhotoShop uniform swaps, Opening Day cards are rehash of the Topps Series 1 cards that came out in February.
Number two: Opening Day has a limited checklist – just 200 cards. The positive to that point is that you’re much more likely to have at least one star player in every pack.
I’m kinda happy Topps used a press conference photo for this card – I love getting to see them on cardboard because they represent that time of optimism where your team’s new star player can do no wrong. There will be plenty of time for game action photos later. (I can’t wait to see what the card designers at Topps and Panini decide to do about including hitting and pitching stats on Ohtani’s cards next year.)
While Ohtani’s rookie card is the draw for Opening Day this year, usually the inserts are the big thing. Card collectors who like mascots have to go for Opening Day. This year’s set also includes Team Traditions & Celebrations inserts, as well as an Opening Day subset and a Before Opening Day insert set.
I love the mascots and I think the Team Traditions & Celebrations set is a fun new idea. The other two leave me a bit flat.
The Opening Day cards have cool photos, but the backs are focused on how the teams did on Opening Day 2017…and that leaves them feeling a bit dated. If I were writing the copy for the card backs, I’d go with a more general focus. Maybe a particular team is unusually successful on Opening Day, or they have an active Opening Day winning streak. Maybe there’s a star player who does particularly well on Opening Day. Something…
The Before Opening Day insert set is worse, because the photos aren’t even that interesting. I’m pretty sure I don’t care which players had good springs in 2018. I know I don’t care about 2017 spring training performances. Hopefully this insert theme gets retired.
Gabe Kapler has been a hot mess in his first weekend as the Philadelphia Phillies manager. The “highlight” was when he brought in a reliever who wasn’t even warming up on Saturday. Under the new pace of play rules, Phillie reliever Hoby Milner wasn’t entitled to the full warmup time he was given by umpire Jerry Layne. Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker was upset and ultimately ejected, but Kapler didn’t receive any consequences beyond a formal warning letter from Major League Baseball. (Rob Manfred might want to think about giving his pace of play rules teeth or scrapping them.) We’ll get to see if Kapler is done with Unlimited Bullpen Works or not, since the Phillies are due to open a three game series with the Mets tonight.
In less than a week, pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training…and there are still around 100 free agents who are looking for a team. Eric Hosmer, Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas — some of the biggest names to hit the market this winter — are among the players still unsigned. The union is actually going to run a spring training camp for all of the players who are still looking for jobs.
I don’t think we’re looking at collusion, but we are looking at 30 front offices who are tired of getting burned by free agent contracts that make them look bad. Thirty front offices that are increasingly obsessed with young, controllable players to the point where they manipulate player service time to delay free agency and arbitration eligibility. A select group of owners who do not care about winning, at least in the short term.
Now Martinez should not expect to earn $30 million when he is 37, but Jacob deGrom should be able to expect more than the $7.4 million he will earn this year. And even though he’s one of the most marketable players in baseball, the Yankees could get away with paying Aaron Judge the major league minimum salary.
Brandon Moss is right that players gave away too much in recent bargaining sessions with owners. Here’s hoping that the MLBPA and MLB owners figure out a way to get more of the game’s profits to the game’s younger players without totally turning off fans in the process. Because the current system is broken and is not good for players, fans or even owners in the long run.
Todd Frazier signs with the Mets
The New York Mets continued their bargain shopping this week, signing third baseman Todd Frazier to a two-year, $17 million contract. I think that Frazier strikes out too much and doesn’t get on base enough, but he’s a definite upgrade over Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes at the plate and a much better defender. So it’s definitely a win – this hasn’t been a bad offseason for Sandy Alderson’s crew at all.
If they could find a way to add a starting pitcher, I’d feel pretty good about the Mets’ chances to compete for a Wild Card spot. And if they could somehow land Yu Darvish, I’d start dreaming about them challenging the Washington Nationals for a division title.
I bought my first pack of 2018 Topps Series 1 baseball cards this week. Fittingly, a member of the World Series Champion Houston Astros was the top card in the pack. Michael Conforto was my first Met (yay!) while Aaron Judge was my first Yankee (boo!)
I like this year’s design, but I think I will try to avoid buying more packs and just pick up a Mets team set from eBay.
Thirty years ago this June, my favorite Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America made its theatrical debut. The Fresno Grizzlies will celebrate its anniversary by playing as the Zamunda Lions for one night.
It’s snowing again as I write this morning, but we’re less than a month away from the start of spring training. (Yoenis Cespedes, Amed Rosario, Wilmer Flores, and Juan Lagares are already in Florida.)
So I thought I’d share some recent baseball card purchases, my first of 2018. I’m particularly happy with the T.J. Rivera and Josh Smoker cards since they’ve been Mets long enough to appreciate them.
Baseball Reference tells me that Jamie Callahan and Tomas Nido played for the Mets last year, but I don’t remember them at all. Luis Guillorme made an amazing catch in the dugout last spring, but he’s still waiting for his shot in the big leagues. The A.J. Ramos card is a placeholder until I can get one that shows him as a Met. I think I already had a Matt Reynolds autograph, but he’s sporting the snazzy Mr. Met spring training cap and it was only a dollar… so why not?
Last year, a fellow Mets fan surprised me with a bunch of the Topps Now cards released during the team’s Wild Card-winning season.
For those unfamiliar with Topps Now, just about every day during the baseball season, Topps produces one or more baseball cards focusing on a highlight from the previous days’ games. Those cards are available for 24 hours, and Topps prints however many people buy.
The holiday season always seems to be the time for some baseball players to catch up with their fan mail. (As someone who was still sending out Christmas cards this week, that never fails to amaze me.)