"I hate this year's Topps base set... I hate the airbrushing. I hate the design. I hate the mirror cards. I hate the 'Generation Now' idiocy. I hate the Mickey Mantle 'hero worship' cards. I hate that Topps repeatedly recycles the 1952 baseball design everywhere ... I really hate the red letter variations. I hate the fake short-print variations. ... I wish they would keep their base set sacrosanct. Put in autographed cards as chase cards. Maybe do one or two small (10-card) insert sets. But that's it! ... Don't ruin the stinkin' base set!"
So as a service to Upper Deck, Michael Eisner, Bazooka Joe, the infamous, deplorable, Keith Olbermann, or whomever winds up running Topps, may I make a couple of suggestions for the 2008 Topps Baseball set.
- Expand the base set.
- Addition by subtraction.
- Please, step away from the airbrush.
- Cut back on the number of parallels and manufactured variations.
- Ditch the "Mirrors."
- Streamline the other inserts.
- We "get" pack-specific inserts, but this is a little ridiculous.
Call it "The 792 Mystique." Topps Baseball and the number 792 go together like peanut butter and jelly. But Topps hasn't made a base set that large since 1994 -- even though the number of MLB teams (and the number of MLB players) have expanded.
660 cards is just too small. Then again, 792 isn't big enough anymore either. Topps should expand their base set from 660 cards to (at least) 880. 880 cards is more than enough to include each team's entire 25-man roster, all 30 managers, 30 team cards, a handful of multi-player cards, and a couple dozen "Rookies."
The Updates and Highlights set -- which, since it's gone to its current format, I consider to be a third series -- is fine at 330 cards. The structure of traded players, "Rookies," All-Stars, league leaders, et al should remain unchanged.
With the PA's decision to cut the number of 2008 card releases by three, Topps series one and two should be combined into a single series, to be released in late-March. Updates and Highlights would remain in it's current late-October/early-November slot.
Did we really have to have a card of Alfonso Soriano as a Chicago Cub, before he's even played a game for them? What exactly was the point of doing that? And doesn't airbrushing undermine the purpose of a second series or update set? If you absolutely, have to use the airbrush, save it for the Update set.
And while I'm on the subject of airbrushing, if the MLBPA can mandate to the trading card manufacturers who can appear in a set (i.e. the "Rookie Card" rules), they should decree that licensees should refrain from airbrushing until after the September 1 "call-up" date.
Personally, I could never understand the attraction of parallels. But many collectors like them, so I'm not advocating they be totally eliminated. But five different parallel sets? (Not to mention the contrived variations?) Golds, one-of-ones, Press Plates, and HTA-only Coppers are more than enough. Get rid of the Red Letter "stealth" parallels and the variations.
The "mirror" insert is one of the dumbest concepts The Hobby's seen in the post-Pinnacle Brands era. It's right up there with Fractal Matrix, "Dare-to-Tear," and cards packaged in soup cans on the stupidity meter. The whole concept is an insult to the intelligence of baseball card collectors everywhere. Besides, its not like anybody's actually collecting any of these things.
For 2008, Topps should finish up the Bonds, Mantle, and A-Rod mirrors, and put this gimmick to bed. Permanently.
OK, so Topps paid a shit-pot of money to get Mickey Mantle. But does that justify a new "hero-worship" insert of him, every year? Here's a suggestion, with all the other card companies ripping off Topps' designs and ideas, how about ripping-off an idea from the competition?
I don't know about you, but I loved the "Baseball Heroes" anthology inserts Upper Deck had in the early-90s. Why not try the same idea in Topps? Put out a new ten-card hero-worship set for a different player, in each series. Start with Mantle and Bonds sets for 2008, but continue the series in '09 with different players.
I'd keep the other inserts: Own the Game, Hobby Masters, and Topps Stars in the combined "regular" set; Trading Places and Rookie Debuts in Updates and Highlights. I'd also throw in a "historical figures" insert along the lines of the Distinguished Service and The Constitution Signers.
As collector's, we're used to the idea of separate inserts for Hobby packs, retail packs, HTA jumbos, and racks. But inserts exclusively for K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and Target? That's a little excessive, wouldn't you say?
So those are my ideas for '08 Topps. What to you all think? Care to make any suggestions?