Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Too Good to Hate?


The Boston Red Sox have the best record in the AL right now. And yet I'm not exactly quivering.

As a Yankee fan, I've been trained to actively dislike these omnipresent Sox teams because of infuriating figures like David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Cody Ross, even Nate Eovaldi a little. But this current Red Sox team...honestly doesn't have a lot of people that are worthy of scorn from me.

Like, let's look at Alex Verdugo, the outfield contact bat pilfered from LA in exchange for Mookie Betts. Verdugo has been a worthy successor for Betts on a number of levels, and currently has the fifth-highest WAR on the team, with 32 RBIs and 9 home runs. He's also 25, and acts like every chuckleheaded kid-at-heart guy on the ballfield. They had him mic'd a few weeks ago and he's a lot of fun, like he's a jokester and barely-serious even when he's in the outfield. Kind of a joy to have around.

And the Sox have a lot of guys like that. I feel like Rafael Devers is also kind of a goofy guy at heart, cause he's only 24 and he's still technically a veteran. Hunter Renfroe might fall into that category as well, and it's a nice change of pace to see him hitting somewhat for average. And obviously Kiké Hernandez must be fun as well. So really, there's not a lot of people I hate because they all seem like they're really in with each other and enjoyable to watch. Yes, you can argue that Cody Ross was like that as well, but none of these guys have punchable faces like Ross did.

The rotation is similar. Yes, some of these guys, like Eduardo Rodriguez and Nick Pivetta, have gone down a few pegs since the last time I wrote about this team, but you just kinda have to respect Eovaldi at this point. He's been thrown into an ace position for the second straight year, and he's still making it work. Yes, it'd be nice if Chris Sale came back this year, but even if not, Eovaldi, Martin Perez and Garrett Richards, along with Pivetta's better numbers, are good enough to tide people over.

The Sox have a moderately difficult stretch ahead, having to play the A's and Angels as well as the Royals and Phillies [which are easier wins]. They are still the favorite in the AL East, but with what Toronto and Tampa are doing on the trade front, it may be tricky for them to hang on. But even if they do...I might not hate them as much as the other competitors in the division. There, I said it.

Coming Tomorrow- That hard-hitting Mets outfielder that's stayed healthy even when the rest of his team hasn't. 

Plight of the Phoenix


In 2020, Caleb Smith was traded from the Miami Marlins, where he was a trusted 2nd or 3rd starter, to the Arizona Diamondbacks, in exchange for Starling Marte. Marte is currently having a great season for a weaker Marlins team. Smith had already been traded from the Yankees to the Marlins in the deal that gave Garrett Cooper to the Marlins and Michael King to the Yankees, and both are having crucial years with those teams. 

And hey, it's not like Smith has been completely out of luck in this period. He had a really nice start in 2018 before being sidelined with an injury, had 168 Ks in 2019, and had 1 solid start before more injuries and a demotion sidelined him and made him a trade piece. But...he was handed to the Marlins, then handed to the Diamondbacks. So for some reason, Caleb Smith allows himself to get handed further and further downward.

Case in point- right now Caleb Smith is a starting gun for the worst team in the league. The Diamondbacks just won a road game for the first time since MadBum's no-no recently. That exhausting stat.

Thanks to injuries, the D-Backs really only have Smith and Zac Gallen that they can really rely upon in the rotation. A lot of guys like Riley Smith and Matt Peacock who aren't really fully tested yet and are still sort of struggling. We're also working without a closer thanks to the demotion of Stefan Crichton, and without a very strong bullpen. Plus, this team just lost two of its biggest pieces, Carson Kelly and Ketel Marte, to injuries. And, to add insult to...well...injury, Eduardo Escobar is probably on his way to Chicago if those promising trade talks hold any water. 

So, what direction is left for this team to go? It's looking like a last place season for them, and it's looking like Escobar, Peralta, and potentially even year-long pickups like Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Reddick, might be on the way out. Hopefully the new guys can eventually inherit this team, because if more seasons are gonna be like this, it's not gonna be very bearable for fans to watch...and for me to write about this team every 2 weeks.

Coming Tonight: Just a big ol' kid in a Red Sox outfielder's body.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Gallo Grave


Well, the Rangers got what they were looking for after last season, that being more home run hitters and a working closer. And they're still in last. 

Like the Pirates, the Rangers have some definite league standouts this year despite being generally a bad team. Kyle Gibson's still pitching beautifully and has yet to lose a game, Isiah Kiner-Falefa has become a killer infield everyman type, and Joey Gallo and Adolis Garcia's home run hitting has been very helpful in the past few weeks.

But also like the Pirates, the Rangers also have a lot of mehness holding them back. Jordan Lyles and Mike Foltynewicz have had decent starts but still have 5 ERAs. The bullpen has a lot of guys over 5 ERA as well, despite the presence of Ian Kennedy in the ninth [doing well!]. Jose Trevino and Eli White are currently wasting space despite starting roles. With Willie Calhoun and David Dahl injured, there's mobility by way of shrugging and sort of throwing people places. There's also the factor that Joey Gallo might be on his way out.

And look, even though Joey Gallo was an insanely one-sided hitter for a while, he's made a niche for himself as a home run hitter with average abilities. And despite his 136 homers, he's only had one season to date with an average higher than .250. This season he's hitting .225, and even if he has 16 homers so far, he's still...doing his usual one-dimensional thing. And I don't know if it's something that's specific to him or specific to Texas. Like, will trading him to New York or whatever help him? Do teams need another one-sided hitter? 

At least Adolis Garcis hits for average, and least you can see him leading a team without compromising his ability to contact hit. At least you can see Isiah Kiner Falefa and Nate Lowe carrying this team and maybe carrying others. But...Gallo hasn't convinced me that he can lift a contender without just doing his usual low-average schtick.

Even if Gallo leaves, it doesn't exactly bring the best of tidings for the Rangers, though. This team does possibly have a future,'s not certain what it'll take to bring this team back to prominence. 

Coming Tomorrow- Pitcher for a team that took a month and a half to get a win on the road.

Hayes Code


In 2009, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the midst of one hell of a drought. They hadn't even finished a season over .500 since 1992, also admittedly the last time they were in the playoffs, they'd been in 5th or last every year since 2004, they hadn't had a player with a WAR over 6 since 2000 [Brian Giles], and they were getting restless. 

2009 was also the year they brought up a piece that would turn the team around entirely, named Andrew McCutchen. Thanks to the Bucs building the team around Cutch, they'd be a contender in the mid-2010s, and have their renaissance...before, you know...falling into the hole that we reach them at now.

So, could Ke'Bryan Hayes be the Cutch of the new era? Well...things are slightly different now than they were in 2009. While this is a last place team, this is a last place team that has some substantial pieces, like Adam Frazier, Bryan Reynolds, Richard Rodriguez and Jacob Stallings, who have enough appeal outside of Pittsburgh. Granted, a few of these pieces may be traded this July, but there is still a foundation in play. It's not like 2009, where Cutch was pretty much alone in bringing the team to the next generation.

Also, Ke'Bryan Hayes is a very different player. He is similarly contact-friendly, but primarily he's known for his power, and has 14 RBIs in 23 games. Cutch was a bit more of a contact guy than Hayes, even if Hayes is still starting out. But Hayes does have that young sort of pop about him at 24, and has jumped to the top of the WAR leaderboard despite missing a month or so due to injury. He's already an integral part of the Pirates, and is already forming the ideas of the next generation of Bucs teams.

A few interesting things about this team- there's a very minimal bench. Only a backup catcher, two backup infielders, and a backup outfielder. That's it. Everyone else was released or demoted. And considering that Todd Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Ildemaro Vargas, Troy Stokes, Anthony Alford, Wilmer Difo and Baez-fooled Will Craig have all been released or traded by this team, the Pirates definitely know what they want. 

And yet they just demoted Max Kranick right as he pitches 5 perfect innings for them in his MLB debut. I understand that they're trying to keep a 6-man rotation going without taking up space, but Chase De Jong has yet to really impress in his 5 starts, and Wil Crowe has a lopsided W/L ratio. The answer seems clear, and Kranick seems ready, but they want to explore all their options. Why hear out the struggling guys, though? This is a last place team, and they didn't do that for the lineup. Why indulge? And why indulge Gregory Polanco, who's still barely hitting .200? 

There are still a lot of problems that even Ke'Bryan Hayes can't fix. But damn if there aren't a lot of plus sides to this Pirates team. I dunno how many of them will still be here in a month, but it's worth noting.

Coming Tonight: Some Rangers dude who hits a lot of home runs.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Tell a Schoop

 Through some absolute miracle, the Detroit Tigers have found themselves in third place in the AL Central right now. The Royals dropped some games to New York, the Twins are still drowning, and the Tigers just won consecutive series' against the Cardinals and Astros. So from that alone, my respect for them just went up several points.

What's happened, which really anybody could have predicted, is that once they brought up their three stellar pitching prospects [Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning], and once all three of them acclimated fully to the majors, they'd honestly have a really good shot for 3 out of the 5 rotation days. Yes, starting pitching is only a small faction of a team's worth, but Mize is having an incredible season, with 5 wins and a 3.46 ERA and less of an emphasis on strikeouts than most of the league, Skubal has improved mightily in his last few starts and leads the team in Ks with 94, and Matt Manning has been great in his first two MLB starts with a 3.38 ERA. A few of these we might need to wait to even out due to the sub-.500-ness of it all, but those three are in a nice position, even if the next-best option right now is Jose Urena. Hopefully, when Turnbull and Boyd return, they'll make an awesome 5-man rotation that'll be a nice preview of a potential competitive Tigers team in the future.

The other surprising detail is that the lineup is actually kind of beginning to come together. Firstly, Jonathan Schoop has gained ground, with a team-leading 15 homers, 77 hits and 41 RBIs. For all of his veteran power trail-offs, I always forget that he's only 29, and he's still a veteran presence on this team, along with Robbie Grossman and...that DH guy who hit another homer tonight. Candelario is also having a decent year, Jake Rogers and Erik Haase have created a strong platoon at catcher, and Daz Cameron and Zach Short have had great moments off the bench. This lineup may be starting to come around.

I do have my worries about the back half of the bullpen and rotation, but for a team that was never expected to get to third, this is cool. My goal is for them to end up above .500, but the Royals may make this kinda difficult. And hopefully in a few years we'll point to this little flicker as the point where the dynasty began for them. I just hope it's not too far away now.

Coming Tomorrow- He hit a homer in Game 1, he was injured by Game 2. Now he's back, recovering from rookie mistakes and playing beautiful baseball. 

Jesus Rakes


As I write this, Jesus Aguilar has 12 home runs and 50 RBIs on the season. Coincidentally, this was the same amount of power numbers he was pulling in 2019 by the time he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. The difference is that then he was hitting .213, and it was late July, and he's already amassed those numbers by June this year and is hitting .260. So he's learned a little bit, and he's a bit closer to average than he was in 2019, but he's the same old power hitter.

Which, for a purely power-based team like the Marlins, works just fine.

Aguilar, along with Adam Duvall and Garrett Cooper, are providing a great net of power for this last-place Marlins team, fitting right in with the contact-hitting front line of Jazz Chisholm, Starling Marte and Miguel Rojas. Yes, the team is without Brian Anderson and Corey Dickerson right now, but pretty much everybody is hitting between .250 and .300, Aguilar and Duvall have over 50 RBIs, and Lewis Brinson is down in the minors. Everybody wins.

Heck, even the rotation is in pretty good shape. Trevor Rogers, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Cody Poteet and Zach Thompson are all having great seasons with ERA below 5 [only Poteet's is higher than 3], and WHIP lower than 1.038 [again, Poteet is the outlier]. The bullpen is also still pretty sharp, with Yimi Garcia, Adam Cimber, John Curtiss and Anthony Bender all having great years.

So...if all of those elements are working, why the hell is this team in last place?

Well, right now the Marlins just aren't as good as the top of the division, even if teams like the Phillies and Braves are struggling mightily. The Marlins also have the sixth-most strikeouts in the league, and have scored the sixth-least amount of runs in the league. So even for all their flashiness, they still need to get the rest of this lineup going and get everybody else up to speed. Because this isn't necessarily bad baseball, and this team has a lot of performers befitting of a .500 squad. I don't know if it'll happen, but it honestly should be. 

Coming Tonight: Another team with the most strikeouts in the league, and an infielder responsible for several of them. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Mountcastle on a Hill


Hey guys, the Orioles finally got a road win the other day. So now they're good again, right?



Yeah. Business as usual for the Orioles. They don't have the worst record in baseball, but they're certainly not competing this year. They only have two guys with WAR higher than 1, and one of them, John Means, is currently injured. The other is Cedric Mullins, and he's probably gonna be an All-Star if the fates allow it to be so [read: if Kevin Cash remembers to include him]. 

The rest of this team, though, is scattershot. Today I learned that Maikel Franco has 38 RBIs, third most on the team, without even remotely attempting to have any other dimensions as a player. The second most is Ryan Mountcastle with 41, and him I can understand. Though he's struggled in any field work, he can still rake at the plate, has had a few recent hot spells, and is a decent DH. I do worry about his one-dimensionality in regard to the future of the team, which Mountcastle was supposed to be a very big piece of, but whatever. Adley Rutschman is a five-tool guy, and he'll be up in two years or so. 

And then you have Trey Mancini, who's hitting, and whose power numbers are helping this team, but who isn't the greatest first baseman and is also becoming more of a one-dimensional guy. How many of those does this team need? Now Freddy Galvis's defensive numbers are slipping as well. None of the rotation has an ERA lower than 5, at least healthy. It's becoming increasingly harder to find people who are competent and capable of doing their jobs in Baltimore. Hell, they brought up a NEW KNUCKLEBALLER, Mickey Jannis, had him in for 3 innings, and after he gave up 7 runs, they released him. Not even the knuckleballers can work with this damned team.

And because everyone's doing so poorly, I can't really tell who's gonna get dealt. What, Paul Fry? Maybe? Tanner Scott or Cole Sulser? Sure, I guess? It's hard to tell which pieces of this team are salvageable. It's not like the Diamondbacks where there are clearer outliers. With the exception of Mullins, everybody's kinda treading water right now. 

All you can do is hope for the wins against the other 3 AL East teams. Just so I can laugh.

Coming Tomorrow- Say what you will about his average or fielding or whatever, but no matter where you put him, in Florida or Milwaukee or wherever, this man cannot stop hitting. 

Where the Story Ends?


When Trevor Story had his incredible homer-heavy debut in 2016, bashing some records and everything, I scoffed at the friend of mine who drafted him very early in our fantasy baseball draft. He'll give you points in April but not in September. Which is what kinda happened. I just figured that Story would burn out and not have the career befitting of his insane first month in the bigs. 

Thankfully, I was wrong, and Story slowly transformed into a five-tool player with great contact abilities, a stolen-bases title in 2020, and a perennial MVP candidate for the Rockies. He was never the top performer, and for a while he was in Nolan Arenado's shadow, but he always stepped up and had big moments when he needed to.

Now, we're heading into the last season of Story's contract with the Rockies, and it's really just him and Charlie Blackmon left in the lineup from the competitive teams. And Story, on a weaker squad, without Arenado, just isn't as compelling. He's hitting .253, he only has 8 homers and 32 RBIs, and he's deferring to people like Ryan McMahon, Raimel Tapia and Josh Fuentes. The future of the team is running this lineup, and Story's kinda checked out at times.

I think he also knows that he's gonna be one of the big pieces on the board during the trade deadline push, and that teams like the A's and Dodgers could be looking for either an upgrade or a replacement at short. It could be the Rays, if they're not confident in Wander Franco. It could the Cardinals, which would really suck. It could be someone else entirely. But Story probably knows he's heading into his last month with the Rockies, and he's doing his best to stay confident and stay loyal. But it's tricky. 

The Rockies are not a last place team this year, but they're not great. The best news is that they finally have Chris Owings healthy again, but will he measure up to his initial breathtaking at-bats this year? Marquez and Gray are pitching well, but Freeland is struggling again and Chi Chi Gonzalez isn't a great fifth starter. Daniel Bard's still blowing saves, the bullpen's a mess, and sometimes they just have to hope the Coors Field magic only shines on them. 

I wish this team could have a longer good luck stretch. But it may not happen with Trevor Story. 

Coming Tonight: 'Rookie' hitter for a last place team. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Box Break: 2021 Topps Stadium Club [Part Two]


Yesterday, I threw down the first 8 packs of my 2021 Stadium Club box. Some decent inserts, some awesome base cards, but none of our promised 2 hits yet. Typically I pull farmhands I've never heard of, or players for teams I don't like, but last year my luck began to change, with a Rhys Hoskins insert auto #'d to 10. So maybe these ones will be more like that.

Onto the last 8 packs:

Pack 9- A dupe, and a Rays reliever. 

Now we're back in business. Fairly basic shots, but a Frazier for my Yanks collection, and a Molina for my future HOFers binder. Lux and Gio aren't too shabby either.

And these two are the best shots in the pack. GOSH THAT CONTRERAS. That is MASTERFUL. Even the Jeffers looks dramatic. This is why I love these sets.

Pack 10- The Dalbec was our box topper, but these three horizontals aren't too bad either. Glasnow's is a Spring Training one, and I like McNeil's slide.

A bit more static, but the Gordon looks poignant. Also, Cutch. Yes for Cutch. We love Cutch.

DAMN that Reggie. That's an 80s A's Reggie, man. That's cool as hell. I love it.
Pack 11- Yes more rookies, but two awesome OF shots of them, along with a black parallel of an awesome OF shot of Laureano. No complaints here.

And some killer horizontals all around. That Albies is a classic SC wide shot, and I'm glad they've gotten back to it. The Martinez and the Mattingly seem to have the same theme. Fried's is a cool horizontal as well.

Pack 12- There is some really good stuff in this batch, including HOFers like Mike Piazza and Eddie Murray, and favorites like Ohtani and LeMahieu. They're just all kinda basic verticals.

And some more awesome verticals. The star power in this pack alone is insane. And yes, I am a fan of the Sixto card. I'm still waiting patiently for him to get activated. 

Pack 13- Mookie Betts, our presell sheet boy, Corey Kluber as a Yankee, and a beautiful Berrios. And we're just getting started.

Both of these two are awesome, and dramatic, even if McKay isn't deserving of a shot like this yet. Tatis definitely is. 

This Jeter is part of the reprint retrospective SC is doing this year. I have this card IRL, but sure, I'll take a reprint of it. You never see much 1997 SC anyway..

Oh yeah, and we got our first hit in this pack, too:

Yeah, honestly I think I did pretty well.

Barry Zito has become a legend prestige pick for Topps since his retirement, and has been in modern products quite a bit. He was an incredible pitcher in his prime, and I saw him pitch a gem in San Francisco a decade ago. So I am very much down with pulling an auto of him. No complaints here.
Pack 14- Kind of basic choices here. Rasmussen's already in TB.

I love both of these, happy static shots. 

Player collection corner. Yes, we've already seen the Cutch last post, but I'm still happy to pull his cards, along with Matsui.

My one-per-box Chrome parallel was of ROY Kyle Lewis, with a wonderfully posed shot. And I pulled a Virtual Reality insert, which I love the design of, of my main man Louis Linwood, LUKE VOIT. Good to see him heating up again as I write this. 

Pack 15- A dupe, a ARENADO CARDS CARD from his first Spring Training game as a Cardinal, and a Joey Gallo. 
I love both of these cards. That is a big bat for Babe, and Cronenworth needed the whole horizontal card for his action.

Another SC reprint of 1999 Rickey Henderson. I actually don't have the original version of this somehow, and will gladly take this.

And we got to our second hit:
Not as good as the Zito, but Tarik Skubal certainly isn't bad. He's struggling a bit so far this year for the Tigers, but he's primed to be a part of a Hydra-esque youth rotation formation with Mize and Manning, and so I have high hopes for him. Not a bad hit, and this could aid me if he gets really good.

Pack 16- Mismosh of stuff. Happy Dans. Great action shot of Clevinger. Bold rookie choice for Kaprielian. And a very nice dramatic shot of JaCoby Jones, who's since been released.

I love all three of these. Kershaw finally gets his trophy. Rickey in 1980 stealing a base. JOHNNY BENCH WITH A TIE AND A BUNCH OF BALLOONS. Again, I love this set so much.

And we end on another Virtual Reality insert of the wonderful Fernando Tatis Jr. No complaints here either.

Yeah, a great box of this. I liked both my hits, there's a lot of great base and inserts in here, and there were only a few dupes. If this is the only taste of this set I get this year, which, knowing the market, is likely, I'm fine with it. 

The Kraken Can Wait

Okay. Back with the M's. This is funny, because my Mariners fan uncle is coming down this weekend, and my oh my he's had a rough stretch of it. So many joyous Aprils, so many depressing Mays. But at the very least, right now they are over .500, and have some impressive developments a-brewing.

For instance. Luis Torrens. What the heck happened here? Back in May, all of Seattle was going 'DEMOTE HIM. DFA HIM. RID US OF HIS PRESENCE', he sits in Tacoma for a month, comes back and suddenly starts hitting like crazy. He's had like 5 homers in the last 7 games. He's slowly taking the catching gig back from Tom Murphy, and adding another surefire to the slowly-building Mariners lineup.

You know who else finally showed up after years of ghosting the Ms? Jake Fraley. Yeah, remember him? Pundits pegged Fraley as the Opening Day starter in the outfield for the Mariners, then all of the sudden injuries and inefficiency happened and Jose Marmolejos got the gig. Fraley has struggled in any recent MLB call-up, which makes his recent success all the more sweeter. The guy's his 18 RBIs in 27 games, has 5 homers, and is beginning to beef his average past .250. It took a bit, but Jake Fraley might be what the Mariners needed after all [sorry, Jarred].

And the other surprise has been Jake Bauers, who was DFA'd by Cleveland after 3 seasons of refusing to hit for average, then picked up by the Mariners to cover for the injured Evan White. Bauers has been sharp in 14 games, with a .314 average and 6 RBIs. Considering how anemic he's been for the Tribe, I'm not sure where this came from, but I'm hoping it persists. 

Otherwise, the same tentpoles are carrying this team. J.P. Crawford is an All-Star, let's make that clear, and is having his best season to date. Kyle Seager, Ty France and Mitch Haniger are still valuable bats, even if the latter could feasibly be traded this year. Yusei Kikuchi and Chris Flexen are having great seasons on the mound, Kendall Graveman has become a great relief piece, this team is still capable of winning games, even against teams like the White Sox. 

This may not be a wholly competitive team, but they're certainly not a last place team. And I guess we'll take that.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the last bastions of the competitive era in Colorado, potentially in his last month of playing there.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Box Break: 2021 Topps Stadium Club [Part One]


You can see where my priorities lie. I haven't even found any Series 2, but Stadium Club is an opening day break for me.

I'm lucky in the fact that I've come to identify more with the Topps sets that the dudebro massive of 2020-on collectors don't always go for. I like Stadium Club, Big League and Archives. The chuckleheads who pull out firearms at Target could care less about that shit. Yes, it comes with 2 autos, but generally Stadium Club base cards sell for less than Topps flagship base cards [generally, I have to see what the Bryant RC is going for these days]. 

So...while Big League takes its sweet-ass time getting pushed because of random bullshit, I went and preordered a box of Stadium Club, it arrived on the day of its release, and I busted it. Was this box as good as last year's tremendous SC hobby box? No, no it wasn't. wasn't bad AT ALL.

You know the drill: 16 packs a box, 8 cards a pack, I'll do 8 packs per post. 2 Autos each, though that's not why I buy Stadium Club. 

On we go:

My box-topper was, sadly, a Boston Red Sox. Yes, this is a very good photo of a rookie Red Sox, but I'm not of the opinion that Bobby Dalbec's gonna have much legs as a Sox power bat. Maybe I'm wrong, but...I'm not seeing many dimensions here.

Pack 1- Okay, I like this base design a lot. Of the entirety of the new-SC run, this design might be the closest to the previous era of Stadium Club, and this design fits right in with the 2000 and 2003 designs. It's minimalistic, but not quite as minimalistic as a few earlier designs, and it's striking enough to really grab me. These are some pretty standard base cards, though seeing Khris Davis in a now-outdated Rangers uniform is a nice touch. Brandon Nimmo's is a red parallel, those are the most popular of the box.

Obviously this set's strength is in its horizontals. Aguilar's is the most normal here, but that Daulton Varsho diving catch one is excellent, and the amount of elements in Freeman's is very fun and impressive. I'm glad the photography in this set has remained as good as it was when we started.

And rest assured, there is still legends representation in this set. I am a bit puzzled by the colorization of Ted Williams' card, and think the bill's a bit orange for my tastes, but it's still a great card. And I'm never gonna say no to a Randy Johnson issue. 
Pack 2- Luis Patino, a very smart addition by Topps, is our red parallel. Bregman and Anderson have standard shots [Anderson previews the return by Topps to the field play shots that Night Owl was just talking about earlier], and Robles' is another winning diving catch.

More winning horizontals. Perez's is a great hero shot, Olivares' has a lot of depth, and Griffey's works because it's a solid early-era Griffey card.

Lord almighty I love this card. Might be my favorite in the set so far. 
Pack 3- We already have two doubles, and this pack also illuminates one of the main developments with this set- A SHITLOAD OF ROOKIES. Some, like Spencer Howard, Alex Kirlloff and William Contreras, seem appropriate, but a lot of these are making up for a 2020 season where a lot of the rookies used are already back in the minors. So a lot of these guys aren't great choices for base anymore.

Of course, I did get some much-needed faves content. Didi still looks great as a Phillie [even if he's still hurt], and I'm never gonna pass up a Lou Gehrig card. 

Pack 4- Some pretty standard base here, but I did really enjoy the photo for Donaldson's card.

This is more like it. Both those Mariners shots feel like classic Stadium Club. Conforto's gives enough field depth. I'm down with all 3 of these.

Oddly enough, Pack 4 came with a ninth card, and it was a decent ninth card to pull:

Yes, a Pete Alonso Triumvirate insert, the middle piece. I haven't pulled one of these in a few years. Alonso is a pretty cool choice, too [I always seem to pull Mets Triumvirates for some reason]. I will say that this is one of the duller Triumvirate designs that I've seen, but I'm not complaining. 

Pack 5- Here is where the rookies began to tick me off more and more. It's almost half the pack. And yes, pulling a Jazz Chisholm rookie is fine by me, as well as a very suggestively placed Jo Adell catch [that's quite a third, um, appendage he has there], but Adell's still in the minors, and Lewin Diaz isn't much of a factor either. 

These three are cool, though. Muncy looks ecstatic. Votto looks royal. 

These two dugout shots caught my eye the most. Ryu just looks dramatic there, but Buehler's came after a...HIT? THAT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE THE 2020 SEASON...

Pack 6- Another dupe, two moderately good rookies, and the AL MVP. 

GIO. Gio looks great here, as does the wide Franimal pic. Madrigal's is the coolest, most poignant card here, and I think they knew they needed to make a NickMad rookie card look good.

At long last, another insert. This was a staple of some of the 90s sets, a Superstar Duos card. The front is, of course, the legend, Mike Trout,

While the back is a fairly boring Shohei Ohtani static shot. I could have used a second action shot, like the old Superstar Duos cards
Pack 7- Two dupes and an Ian Happ red foil.

Again, this photography is just as good as ever. Miguel Rojas's is another one that'll satisfy Night Owl's need for plays in the field. Flaherty and Paddack's are just good mound shots

And these two are solid legends issues. I prefer the Larkin, just for that 90s grain feel to it.

Pack 8- MORE ROOKIES. Other than Singer, I wasn't really asking for any of these.

So, this pack was our trade off for the 9-card pack in Pack 4. Cause we only got 7 here. I checked for any variation codes or any misplaced mojo, but it was just a 7-card pack. The box giveth and the box taketh away. These three were decent base cards, though I still don't understand Topps' infatuation with Will the Thrill. 

Tomorrow night, you'll get to see the remaining 8 packs. Both hits are in there, as well as some more fun stuff.