Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Hobby Box of 2018 Topps Gold Label

Little more high-end than you'd expect from me, eh?

I went into a D&A run knowing I needed to get Chronicles, but I had a little extra paycheck to cover this. So I saw that Gold Label was on sale, realized that I kinda enjoyed the older Gold Label sets Topps put out in the 2000s, and...went with it. Like, what's the worst that could happen? I get some base cards and a shit hit?

That was...inevitably what happened, but...I still don't think I did badly here.

7 packs per box, 5 cards per pack. Three types of base cards, and one guaranteed framed autograph per box. Here we go:

 Pack 1- These three are all Class 1 base cards, and they all look pretty cool. It is very...Modern Topps, to say the least, in its emasculation and modernizing of a classic set, but it's not bad. It's definitely Gold Label. It's just a bit too rudimental in design. Plus, all three classes have the same format, as you'll soon see.

Wil Myers' card is a black parallel, which aren't numbered, but are seeded 1:2 packs. The black stripe isn't shiny or anything, but it's subtle enough to not undermine the card.

These two Madduxes illuminate the main issue of the Classes not having too many differences. The one on the left is a Class 2, and the one on the right is a Class 1. Just different pictures. Old Gold Label would just have variations of design, steps up, etc. This is...too slight.

 Pack 2- Fun base choices here. Aaron Judge is another black parallel.

We reach the hit early...and....


Look, if Luis Castillo had some better numbers (other than strikeouts) I'd feel a little bit better about this. But...he's a third-starter for a team that's had notorious rotation issues. He's had a lot of potential, but has yet to have a winning season. His best year, 2018, was a 10-12 season with a 4.30 ERA and 165 strikeouts. He's...a very meh hit. And thankfully I do have a trusted place to send this to.

 Pack 3-
New York heroes in Class 1s. Sevvy does look cool in a set like this. And I dig the Conforto alt-uni.

 Our Class 2 is Nolan Arenado here. I don't know how different this is from the Class 1 photo, but...we'll find out a few packs later.

And these are our Class 3s, the rarest of the three. I don't know...what in each photo would indicate that it's the rarest of the three. I mean, if I'm set designer, I'd do something like 'Class 1 is home uni, Class 2 is away uni, Class 3 is throwback/alt uni'. So there'd be a clear evolution.
Verlander's, which does at least have an alt-uni, is a black parallel. Class 3 is apparently pretty rare. Not bad.

 Pack 4-
I don't really see why Mark McGwire needs to be in modern Topps sets, but fine. The Stanton makes up for him.

Your class 2s. You saw the Class 1 Koufax a few packs ago...and I kinda like this one better. And the Sale, the black parallel...reminds me why it was a cool idea to bring Gold Label back. Though concept > execution here.

 Pack 5-
Again, I prefer Verlander's C3 one, but it's nice to get three of the best pitchers in baseball in the same pack.

Mancini is a Class 3, Conforto is a Class 2.

 Pack 6- All these guys are Class 1s. Interesting to note how big everyone thought Ian Happ would be in 2018. Good Cubs presence here.

And a solid Class 2 of Luis Severino, complete with an awesome choice of photo.

 Pack 7-
Buxton has the best main photo of the three, yet has the least amount of reason to be in this set. Still, solid enough base.

Hosmer's is a Class 2, and Ernie Banks' is a Class 3. Even if it's a little odd, having a legend like Ernie Banks in this set is...kind of cool? I dunno, I think so at least.

This is an odd set. Not a complete hit for me, especially considering how it blandifies the original versions. But there are good moments, they're just...fleeting. Topps could have done a bit better here, though the rip could have been a ton worse.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Triangle of 2017 Panini Chronicles Blasters

It's been a while since we've had a box break on here, so how about some Panini tomfoolery?

2018 Panini Chronicles was a pleasant surprise, giving me some frankenset flashbacks to 2008 UD Timeline, and making itself known as an interesting, if fundamentally flawed, set. So, when Dave an Adams had themselves a sale on THREE blasters of the 2017 version of the product, for a very low price, I jumped at it. I know, it's Panini...poor, logoless Panini, but they can put out good stuff if given the right ideas.

So...we have three 4-pack blasters...or, essentially, a 12-pack mega-blaster. Woo.

Let's get to the packs:

 Pack 1-
So right away, you can see the difference between the 2017 and 2018 versions of Chronicles. In 2017, there was a definite, tangible base set. It looks like this. It's inspired, but slightly wordy. Like Flair meets Fleer Emotion, multiplied by a calculus textbook. Not that the paragraphs are out of place, just...I don't see why they couldn't have gone on the backs. Design-wise, the base set is cool enough, though.
Also, even if this is a one-year-old product, nobody in this pack is still on their listed team.

Don't think the Frankenset-esque quality is completely lost in 2017 Chronicles. No sir. There are still inserts worth of them. Granted, they're not seeded as well as in 2018, but...there's still a good number of them, like this here Rated Rookie of former Oakland, and now Baltimore, farmhand Franklin Barreto.

 Pack 2-
All Red teams. Or just...3 Reds and a Phillie. Good to see Pete Rose in this set. Topps doesn't like him.
This Absolute insert, which looks very awesome and very 2004, is of Ian Happ, who does look good on this one.

 Pack 3- More base. I do like how the left corner triangle changes color with teams. Jones' is a gold parallel, which is #'d to 999. Nice subject for one, too.

 This Prizm insert, which does look kinda cool but a bit too 2000s Finest, is of Adrian Beltre, so I'm glad we got that one in pre-retirement.

 Pack 4- Yankees on left, Yankee killers on right.

A rookie pick that hasn't aged especially well, but this design is cool enough.

 Pack 5- The second box begins with three fairly unspectacular base cards. Don't worry, this pack gets much better.

 I still adore this Absolute Memorabilia design, even if Jorge Bonifacio isn't THE greatest subject for it.

Oh yeah, there was a hit in this pack. And it was not a bad one.

Miguel Sano, who had a FANTASTIC 2017 season...or at least a really good first half, is the subject of this jersey relic, which fortunately does have a navy pinstripe in it. This is definitely a cool enough relic, and it's #'d to 99, which is pretty cool as well.

...Surprisingly it'll get better than that in this break.

 Pack 6-
Generally standard base stuff here. Freeman's the only one still with that team. Reynolds' looks pretty cool, tbh. It's one of those that'd be better as a full vertical card.

 Toles gets the rated rookie here. I really wish he'd eventually end up playing a full season, cause he seems to be a pretty great bat.

 Pack 7-
Standard base here, though it was nice to see the poster boy, Anthony Rizzo, as well as fringe player Ben Gamel and legend Ryne Sandberg.

The Prism insert here was Josh Bell, an awfully nice subject for one of these.

 Pack 8- Two great base cards, one shit one, and a gold parallel of Todd Frazier...AS A YANKEE. Which is nice.

 And a Rated Rookie of Brock Stewart, one of the few RRs I've pulled that hasn't really made the majors for too long yet.

 Pack 9-
Rose and El Torito are dupes. Solarte and Harper aren't. Nice to see Harper, pre-inevitable contract.
As cool as this card does look, Magneuris Sierra would end up heading to get, like, no playing time.

 Pack 10- Carpenter is the only non-dupe here.

 Trey Mancini is our Absolute subject, and...gosh I love this one.

...and then...
...this hit happened.

I just happened upon a bat card of Mike Piazza, one of the best hitting catchers of all time. A BAT CARD. Numbered to 99.

Like...I don't have the kind of luck to pull something like this, even if it is out of a blaster from Dave and Adam's. This is just nice.

 Pack 11- Pujols and Altuve are new. Kraken is a dupe. Edwin is a gold, #'d to 999.

 Rated Rookie of Yandy Diaz, who'll be getting a lot more playing time this year.

 Pack 12- All of these are new for me, and I especially like the Mauer and Molina.

And one last Prism insert of Ryan Zimmerman, who...managed to outlast Bryce Harper on the Nats. Which I can't believe.

So...those were a bunch of 2017 Chronicles blasters. I still prefer the 2018 version, for its frankenset-ness, but...this version had some cool inserts, that AWESOME Absolute Memorabilia design, and two really nice hits. So I'd say that break was a net-win.

I did manage to get another box from D&A's...and it'll go up within the week. I did...sort of well on that one as well.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Anyone Can Pitch: The Rest of 2018

I did a bunch of these Anyone Can Pitch posts throughout the year, as this year ended up becoming, unofficially, the year of the pitching hitter. Since 2018 is over, I'll just unload the rest of them here. Besides, I've got another original custom series on the horizon, and I wanna get to those as soon as I can. I like posting consistently in January, and I'd love to keep it going.

Anyway, one of the more high-profile hitters to try the mound this year was Mark Reynolds, the journeyman home-run basher who mainly succeeded off the bench this year. Reynolds had a simple enough job- close out a loss against the Marlins. He faced one batter, and got him out. Not bad for his sole pitching appearance.

 Francisco Arcia had the starrier appearance, becoming the first player to pitch, catch, and hit a home run in the same game. Granted, said game was a loss to Oakland, and Arcia's pitching appearance consisted of two home runs and three earned runs over 2 innings. Perhaps he'll have better luck as a catching option next year for Anaheim.

 This year, Tommy La Stella had a rival for 'best bench player', and that was former Dodgers farmhand and current Braves specialist Charlie Culberson. Pitching an inning against Colorado, he also left with a 9.00 ERA, with two hits and one earned run, but at least he was a bit more useful at the plate.

 Meanwhile, Matt Davidson of Chicago became another example of a designated hitter who just had to wind up pitching, next to Kendrys Morales. Davidson, however, proved to be a reliable last-resort pitching option, averaging a 0 ERA in three appearances, giving up only one hit, and two strikeouts, over the course of 11 batters. One could even say that Davidson had a better average as a pitcher than he did as a hitter.

 Daniel Descalso was one of many Arizona position players to try pitching this year, including Jeff Mathis and Alex Avila. But Descalso, the veteran middle-infielder, was the only one with two appearances, though his season was a mixed bag, with 2 strikeouts and 3 earned runs across 15 batters.

 Mitch Garver had a nice come-up this year, stepping in for Jason Castro at catcher and making a name for himself as an option for 2019. Garver's pitching tenure, against Cleveland, wasn't much to write home about, but in an inning of work he only allowed one hit, and left with a 0 ERA. strikeouts or anything. So just as ho-hum as a lot of the rest of Minnesota's season.

 Brandon Guyer, the Indians' backup infielder of this era, had a similarly ho-hum pitching appearance himself, only pitching an inning, leaving with a 0 era, and leaving all the putouts to other defenders. At least he can get the job done.

 Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Scott Kingery, one of the more notable rookie misfires in Philly since...uh, take your pick, had an equally disastrous inning and a third against the Mets, leaving with a bloated 13.50 ERA, thanks to 4 earned runs including 2 home runs. I sincerely hope this guy can learn to hit at the major league level, as he does have the right idea.

...And then there's Anthony Rizzo. Beloved Chicago power-hitter and team-saver Anthony Rizzo. He pitched a little this year! I mean...he did only face one batter...and somebody else managed to get him out. But still, Cubs fans got to see this guy pitch...which has got to be kinda cool, right?

I'll probably bring this one back next year. I do, however, need to revamp the design of this AND Stars are Out. They're both a bit too 2015.