Sunday, August 25, 2019

Two Rack Packs & A Blaster of 2019 Topps Archives

As the blogosphere's resident putter-of-modern-players-in-older-designs, this was inevitable.

I kinda think it's wild that Archives has been going on for 8 years, 9 if you count Lineage, which was a more homogenous trial run at this sort of set. And the fact that they've gotten to the point where they've done versions of 1981, 1977 and now 1975 Topps, some of my favorites, proves that the set's longevity was good for a few things.

Also interesting- the insanely 90s-centric theme the set is going for, down to the wrappers, the inserts, and the Expos-centric theme going through the set. I am all for this, and it's the kind of tonal risk I wish flagship would take.

I nabbed 2 rack packs and a blaster, so for dramatic effect the rackers go first:

Pack 1- These are what the 1958 Topps ones look like. As someone who collected a few packs of 2007 Heritage back in the day, I'm only slightly impressed. I feel like 07 Heritage washed out the photos more, to give more of an old-timey feel to it. These look...very produced, like they would be for a Turn Back the Clock thing on Topps dot com. I find it even weirder that Yadi actually had a card in 2007 Heritage. I thought they'd try to avoid that.

Other signs of the times- a needed-RC of the mighty Vlad Jr., who's DAD was in 07 Heritage, and a final sendoff for the great Ichiro in the 75 design.

Let's talk about the 75s for a second. First of all, that awful habit of saying 'outfieldER' or '3rd BaseMAN' is done.The position balls look the same as they did in 75. Now, the team font is definitely a bit more processed, and generally blockier, than in 75. I'm also a bit too broad of a collector to notice color combinations that weren't there in 75, but...some, like Rosario's, look slightly off.

Onto the pack inserts. a base card variation, seeded 1 in 92 packs. It's a photo variation, because his usual photo is shown on the box copy. So...I got a photo variation of one of the single best players TO GET in modern products...on my first try. And if you like that luck, wait til we hit the blaster.
The Altuve is one of the Topps Magazine inserts. I really like these. They're the glossiest cards in the set, and they're pretty cool.

 And here are the 93s. Of the designs, I have the least to say about them, but I like the card-stock being awful similar to the early eras of Topps in the 90s. Also, the legends cards in this set are better than ever. A 60s-era Sutton photo? A really cool Steve Carlton photo? Plus, a lot of these are new for Topps, unlike the first few years of Archives, where photo selection felt like an afterthought

Pack 2-
Pretty simple 58s here. I love the Brooklyn Dodgers love, even if that Jackie photo is pretty prevalent. And the Carew is pretty nice, too.

 75s. What you'll notice is the Padres posed shots are very flagrant, as they're all just against a boring background in a studio. Kinda thought we were trying to get away from those. At least Blackmon's is cool.

 Inserts. This ScottyJetpax insert is cooler now that I know he's doing better, though that background block effect can be easily replicated in Photoshop. And that Griffey is awesome.

 And our 93s. Sorry if this rack-pack wasn't as interesting as the other one. The blaster will make up for that...

 Each blaster comes with 2 exclusive coins. They're usually pretty cool...

And while these are cool, I would have appreciated them to come from teams I enjoy slightly more.

 Pack 1- Some obvious highlights. I'm glad this set isn't like other Topps set, where the stars and legends are very attainable, and the only SPs are pullable-inserts.
 75s. Two second-year heroes, and one guy who cursed out a beloved member of my family, for which I will never forgive him.
...Say, isn't it funny that the Red Sock is the one I don't hate the most here? Hell, Devers is pretty cool. So's Ohtani.

...and now for the OMG moment:

This...made my jaw drop.

I don't have good hit luck in retail. Usually I pull either a Cardinal, or some second-year flameout, or someone I've never heard of. I almost NEVER pull autos out of Archives, because they're seeded so rarely in Archives. This year, they're 1:87, and since I already pulled a 1:92 photo variation that doesn't seem so bad, but...I'd only pulled one auto out of Archives before, and it was a very cool John Mayberry.

So this, an auto of someone who played for my team...that I've heard of, and was also very good for said team...out of Archives? I beat so many odds of pulling, like Jose Oquendo or Deion or someone I despite in order to get Mr. Pepitone here, a hero for the Yankees in multiple All-Star Games, and eventually a hero for the Cubs. This was unbelievable, and one of my personal favorite autographs I've ever pulled.

 And we finish off with two more cool 93s- a McNeil rookie and a genuinely awesome Yaz photo. Kinda surprised his grandkid's not here with him.

 Pack 2- This juxtaposition makes me laugh. Two of the GREATEST CATCHERS OF ALL TIME...and Alex Avila. I like Avila, but this is too funny.

75s. Two TIGER LEGENDS in the same pack, next to each other. I kinda love that. I also love that guys like George Kell can end up in this set. Just classy enough, Topps.
 3 93s close out. I love Fergie, and how commonplace that one feels among other 93s. Urias' is a shorter-printed card, making up one of the subsets that give us the last 30 cards of the set. Again, at least I have a chance to pull these.

 Pack 3- Rookies.
Again, loving the 75s here. Bryant's is a short-printed subset, the Highlights one, which...I'm glad they brought that one back. And I'm glad they kept the ASG star, but...the BaseMAN thing is in that one. Perhaps the designer forgot.

I kinda love all 3 93s in this pack. Story and Anderson remind me of the infancy of both teams in that set, even with Anderson's teal. And Davis' just fits with that set, even if he's forgotten how to hit.

Pack 4- Three legends...actually, make that four. Trout belongs with these three. Trout's is a 58 All Star insert, the third of the three subsets. This one's cool too.

Rest of the pack. Martinez' is pretty cool, and I like how low-key Senzel's rookie season ended up being.

Pack 5- Pujols is the only hitter here, and he looks great. Iglesias deserves to be in a set like this, however fringe-y he's become. I also love Catfish's Yankee-ness here, as it was an element his original 75T issue lacked.

This pack also came with a silver parallel, which I usually have nice luck with in Archives. This one, of all-star and home run hero Jose Abreu, is numbered to 99 copies. Not bad.

93s. Kinda standard, but I love that Monte Irvin wound up in this set. Even NY Giants-era Irvin. That's even cooler.

Pack 6- Standard base/common stuff here.

 Solid legends. A lot of people are of the opinion that Andy Pettitte shouldn't be in modern sets, and I don't...disagree, but it's nice to see him every once in a while.
Gwynn, however, BELONGS in legends-friendly releases.

Kyle Wright is our SP. And he's between two of the best defenders in the game's history. Kinda cool that Smith actually has a 93T card, and the picture here is a little cooler than the other one.

Pack 7- Better player selection, and that Tatis is a nice card, too. Also nice to pull a deGrom, as he'll probably Bill-James himself into another Cy Young this year.

 This is part of the Ichiro retrospective insert set. I remember finding this card in my old friend's factory set. Remind me to write about my exposure to 2005 Topps one of these days.

And we end on some highlights- a Nomar, a rookie card of La Tortuga looking awesome, and a rookie card of Polar Bear Pete smacking one out.

So...not only was that a great rip, but this is a solid product. Not seeing that many problems with this year's set, and though I wished I'd pulled an Expospective (ha) card, I loved everything I got here. Might try to build the set, like I have pretty much every year.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Notes on a Yankees-Dodgers Series

So this is one of those cool matchups that only happens once in a while, and it sort of came out of nowhere for me. The Yankees just dropped a few games to the A's, and I looked at the schedule and went 'hope someone easier's up next', and who's up next but...of course, the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Yanks can't catch a break, man

This has been a very interesting series so far, especially considering it's against the backdrop of Players' Weekend, with black/white uniforms that...I'm not sure what I think about. Every elder-statesman type hates them, but while I prefer the usual colored-but-stylized uniforms, these don't infuriate me too much. I wish everybody did what the Cubs and Pirates did for the Little League Classic and just had stylized, cute-ish variations on their regular uniforms.

So far, the Yanks have taken one in an offensive blowout, and the Dodgers have taken one in a defensive stalemate. It's not going the way I'd have expected, as Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up all those runs yesterday and Tony Gonsolin was solid today. It's also interesting that James Paxton held the best team in baseball to 2 runs in 7 innings, with 11 strikeouts- the guy's been very Jekyll/Hyde this season, and will only show his 2018 dominance in spurts. I still think he's a worthy arm, but...more starts like this one would help a lot.

Overall, though, I'm not seeing a ton of fundamental errors in either team. The Dodgers' bullpen held the force for the most part, with only Casey Sadler letting multiple runs go by. The Yankees' starters are also the ones giving up the only runs, but in both cases it's been only 2. Both of these teams look like they could take playoff action, even amidst the Yankees' starting pitching woes. And seeing these two square off is one of the reasons why I'm glad we still have interleague play.

Is it a World Series preview? I have no idea. But it's definitely entertaining.

Coming Tomorrow- Just when you thought the Braves were out of surprises, they start pulling them out of other rosters.

The Climb (ft. Wade Miley)

[ could I NOT go there?]

The benefit of pitching for the Astros, or perhaps the curse, is that you can have the best season of your career and not be too far into the spotlight. That's what happened with Charlie Morton last year, and now he's still an under-the-radar threat in Tampa. And it's what's happened with Wade Miley, the once-strong...then inconsistent Louisiana starter who spent a few years in limbo before making an impressive comeback with the Brewers last year, pitching into the postseason for the first (and not the last) time in his career.

And now that he's in Houston, behind Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke, Miley is pitching a 12-4 record, a career high W/L percentage, with a 3.18 ERA and 125 strikeouts. Compared to the big two, it doesn't look like much, but it's still a phenomenal run from Miley, who's having the best numbers of his career at 32, and is having a career renaissance years after people had written him off.

The one thing I can't tell with this season is whether it's the environment or the arm that's doing this. Miley's always been capable of good things, but are the less spectacular aspects of him not showing up because he's on a red-hot 1st place team? I mean, for a period, Gerrit Cole was giving up too many runs, but not he's got some amazing strikeout numbers and a better ERA, so they've all shut up. It'll be interesting to see if Miley pulls a Charlie Morton and takes this success to a smaller market with good results.

Meanwhile...the Astros are just gonna coast on til October. I'm not seeing many bad aspects of this team. Yes, Maldonado's slumping, but they have Robinson Chirinos so I'm not worried. Correa's injured again, but Myles Straw is fine. Sanchez is out for a while, but Brad Peacock is still a fine 5th starter. It's the Astros, for crying out loud! You want structural issues, go to San Diego!

I'm just glad that a journeyman veteran like Wade Miley gets to be in on the success.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Frazier Strain

I was not prepared for how many games the Pirates were going to lose this year.

Like, I knew they'd be disappointing and be a 4th-5th level talent that wouldn't come close to the big 3 in the NL Central, but...this is just humiliating for them. Even with some genuinely good pieces, an intact lineup, and some great arms...this Pirates team has lost 75 games.

I'll give the Pirates this: only one member of the team has more than 100 strikeouts, and it's Josh Bell, who's still having a star-making, 100-RBI/31-homer season that will get the rest of the league to pay attention to him. This is also the last season of Starling Marte's contract, and he's had a pretty good year, with 22 homers and a .288 average. Plus, Jose Osuna's been hot off the bench, the Reynolds/Newman combo has been wonderful in keeping the rookie class strong this year, And you still have guys like Adam Frazier and Colin Moran who can quietly get hits and RBIs without people saying much about them.

The pitching is...alright now. There have been some injuries, but Joe Musgrove, Steven Brault, Dario Agrazal and Trevor Williams are still pretty reliable. Felipe Vazquez has 22 saves and Francisco Liriano has a 3.64 ERA off the pen, so that's gotta count for something. No, the pitching's kinda tanking because it's too spotty, and there are too many holes left by injuries and inefficiency. They've been saving space for this kid Mitch Keller, who's yet to really prove why he's such a beloved prospect. There still seems to be a ton of problems that a year-end clean sweep might not even solve.

I don't think the Bucs are at the point where it'll be like the mid-2000s where they'll just be in 5th every year without trying. I honestly think they have a shot to try and compete if the bulk of this team returns, and if the rest is refurbished. There's a lot that could succeed with this team, and I just hope everything does in Pittsburgh.

Coming Tomorrow- I think we thought he'd be out of baseball by last June, but...after a comeback with Milwaukee and a HUGE return to form in Houston, he's here to stay.

Flying the Coop

More fun with the Marlins! Though...I feel as though it's a little less fun than it was before the deadline.

The once-ironclad rotation of youth has fallen apart since losing Trevor Richards and Zac Gallen to fellow 90s expansion teams. The only survivors are Caleb Smith, Jordan Yamamoto and Sandy Alcantara, and all three have seen their ERAs drop and their losses rise. Alcantara, even with his ASG nod, now has 11 losses. Nowhere near Richards' 12 losses with the Marlins, but still concerning.

And in the absence of those two and (still) Jose Urena and Pablo Lopez, the Marlins have worked in the relatively solid Elieser Hernandez and the...still inconsistent Hector Noesi. And now closing games for the Marlins is Adam Conley...I think. There haven't been many save opportunities.

The lineup is...marginally better? I mean, they brought up Isan Diaz to try and rejuvenate the lineup, but he's hitting below the Mendoza line. The stars of this team are people like Garrett Cooper, Jon Berti and Harold Ramirez, journeyman minor league pieces who've finally managed to stay in the majors long enough to make impacts. Cooper is one of the power-hitting highlights of the team, though he only has 12 homers and 42 RBIs...but then again, Brian Anderson is leading the team in RBIs with 65, and in home runs with 20. So...the highs of this team won't necessarily match up to the highs of any other. This isn't the Rockies.

The Marlins will probably use the next few seasons to rebuild as well, because I don't see this particular youth movement rising up and saving the team. Two years ago, prospects like Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra and, yes, Isan Diaz were supposed to inherit this team. Now we're waiting for Sixto Sanchez to inherit this one.

Coming Tonight: One of the few offensive standouts left in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Crappy Team Round-Up: Orioles & Tigers

Not much left to talk about with these two teams, so here's some brief updates:

The Orioles just broke the all-time record for most home runs allowed. This either says a lot about how bad the O's are, OR it says a lot about how juiced today's baseballs are.

But it doesn't say great things about the Orioles' pitching, which even WITH a solid Dylan Bundy and AS-caliber John Means is still a mess, with Asher Wojciechowski, Gabriel Ynoa, Ty Blach and Aaron Brooks all doing torrid jobs in the rotation, and the bullpen filled with guys with ERAs over 4.50.

The lineup's only marginally better: Anthony Santander is having the come-up that could have been used during his rookie year last year. Hanser Alberto, Renato Nunez and Jonathan Villar are definitely fixtures. Trey Mancini is having a great year, but I wouldn't know because my source hasn't given me any good photos of him! Everyone else is disappointing.

Next year will probably be more of the same for Baltimore. Maybe slightly classier, but...this doesn't look like a team crying out for immediate improvement.

The Tigers...have somehow found a way to be worse than the Orioles.

There is...ZERO star power left on this team. Zilch. I mean, Miguel Cabrera is still playing, but people aren't going to games to see Miguel Cabrera play anymore. He's the DH. He doesn't dazzle.

Like, who's the defensive/offensive standout here? Niko Goodrum? He's hitting .250, and leads the team in strikeouts. Brandon Dixon has 14 homers, which is a team high, and...look, I barely even know who he is. Matt Boyd's the staff ace, and even HE has a 4.24 ERA. Thankfully he's only out momentarily on paternity leave, but...the team with him/without him isn't terribly different.

I mean, usually a failing team like this brings in a rookie or somebody late who brings a little hope. The Tigers didn't do that, but they brought up 35-year-old Edwin Jackson, and somehow HE'S brought a spark to the rotation. Oh yeah, and they brought up Travis Demerette and Jake Rogers, and at least the former has been giving some hope for future non-competitive Tigers rosters.

Not fun, and probably won't be fun for a while.

Coming Tomorrow- Former Yankee 1st base auditionee, current Marlins outfield bat.

For Those About to Beat the Rockies...

'Snakebitten' would be a good way to describe this Rockies team.

The two best pitchers in this roster, Scott Oberg and Jon Gray, are now out for the rest of the season. The best pitcher from 2018, Kyle Freeland, has a 3-11 record with a 6.98 ERA. The hot closer, Wade Davis, has a 7.43 ERA and 15 saves. The big rookie pitcher, Peter Lambert, has a 6.55 ERA with a 2-3 record. And even the staff ace, German Marquez, has a 4.71 ERA, even if his numbers are actually pretty great.

It's not 2018 anymore for the Rockies. There's no comeback, no chance to finish over .500, no chance to snatch their first ever 1st place title in the NL West (which, fun fact, I thought was happening last year). They're not the team they were, even with Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon doing their usual dominance, and even with Ryan McMahon having a great season at 2nd, and Tony Wolters FINALLY having his come-up and taking the starting catching position.

The Rox have to admit that they're just not as good as the other guys, even as they get remarkably close to lapping San Diego. The Giants have oddball-momentum, the D-Backs have a stronger lineup, and the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. It's just not happening this year, and I wish it wasn't this depressing, especially considering how hot they were in May.

Is there hope for the future? I mean...maybe? If Freeland and Gray get back to 100%, there's a chance? But the Rockies are banking on a farm system that isn't spitting out a ton of winners, and may float around the 4th-5th area for a little while. Which sucks for Arenado, as I know he wants to win a Championship with this team. That may not happen.

Wish there were happier things to talk about in Denver, but...not here.

Coming Tonight: A hard-hitting slugger from...the team that just broke the record for home runs allowed.