Saturday, October 25, 2008

Video Box Break and Review: 2008 Topps Updates & Highlights Hobby

One Hobby box of 2008 Topps Updates & Highlights (paid $49)
36 packs per box, 10 cards per pack.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

The Pulls

Base Set: 308 of 330 (93.33%)

1 Chrome Refractor Rookie (55 cards, one-per-box): M. Macri
18 Gold Foils (1:2)
7 Gold (1:5, numbered to 2008 copies): S. Casey, R. Brignac (RC), C. Izturis, G, Sherrill, J. de la Rosa, B. Zobrist, D. Uggla All-Star

2 Mickey Mantle Story (10 cards, 1:18)
5 2009 World Baseball Classic (25 cards, 1:9) A. Gonzalez, Pujols, K-Rod, Chin-Lung Hu, KosFu
6 Year in Review (58 cards, 1:6) M. Teixeira, Glavine, C. Buchholz, B. Phillips, J. Thome, D. Wells
2 1986 Mets Ring of (Dis)Honor (10 cards, 1:18) R. Darling, D. Gooden
2 Ring of Honor (11 cards, 1:18) L. Aparicio, D. Snider
6 First Couples (41 cards, 1:6) Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton
1 Take Me Out to the Ballgame (one card, 1:72)

1 All-Star Stitches (64 cards, 1:44*) D. Navarro

*Overall odds of finding any autograph or gamer: 1:36/packs.

And Now A Special Comment.

There. I did it.

For the first time in nearly five months, I've purchased a Topps product.

Please do not construe my actions as some sort of endorsement of Topps' recent actions -- especially regarding their flagship baseball brand. It's just that some gimmicks are (to sound a bit Orwellian) a little more equal than others.

Beauty queen politicians and manufactured fake-error cards? Those I can live with -- provided they do not screw with the integrity of the rest of product, especially the base set. If you are able to ignore the gimmicks, you can pull actual rookie cards of Evan Longoria, Jay Bruce, KosFu, et al, out of a pack of 2008 Topps Updates & Highlights. (In fact, I pulled all three from this particular waxbox.)

What I have zero-tolerance for is bullshit.

Poley Walnuts, Kazuo Uzuki, and Johan Santana's "no-hitter" were all bullshit and everyone knew it. But what puzzles this collector/fake journalist are these three little letters. Why?

Why is Topps doing this?

Seriously, Topps: What the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks are you thinking? (Or are you even thinking at all?)

But the lack of respect Topps has shown hobbyists with these gimmicks in this foul Year of our Lord Two-Thousand and Eight, is not what bothers me.

Really, it doesn't. There have been other trading card companies that failed to take The Hobby seriously, and in the end they got what they deserved (i.e. Pinnacle).

What bothers me is the lack of respect Topps has shown to itself and to the legacy of the Topps flagship.

57 years of history may not mean much to the current "Powers That Be" at Topps; but they mean something to this collector/fake journalist.

Topps Baseball is a slice of Americana (and not the Donruss kind) that dates back to 1952. It's an American institution that appeals to everyone from the hardcore collector, to the casual hobbyist, to the new father whose only cardboard-related purchase of the entire year is a Topps factory set he bought at the Wal-Mart so he can pass it down to his newborn son someday.

Topps Baseball is a product that needs no gimmicks. It's history IS it's gimmick. It's "Heritage," if you will.

But sadly, The Powers That Be at Topps feel that that no longer matters. Hence, the fake cards of fake players, and politicians Photoshopped into the Yankee Stadium grandstands.

But believe it or not, I could live with all of this. After all, I have a very high tolerance for BS. But what really sent this collector over-the-edge, was Topps' handling of the Kosuke Fukudome "Rookie" in Topps Series Two. If Topps wanted to pull KosFu's RC from Topps 2 at the last minute and save it for TU&H, fine. Nor did I have an issue with Topps replacing it with a short-printed non-rookie KosFu. What really pissed me off was the fact that Topps did these things WITHOUT bothering to tell anyone until well after the product had been released.

And so with that, I stopped.

It was this despicable act of bait-and-switch that led me to cease collecting any new Topps baseball products. That is until now.

Regardless of where you stand, I hope this is something all collector's can agree on: Card companies have the obligation to inform collectors of what exactly is in their products before they are released. Topps told us all via their website that there would be a rookie card of Kosuke Fukudome in the second series of 2008 Topps Baseball; but then the product went live, and there was no KosFu RC to be found. Topps lied to us all and didn't come clean until weeks later with a press release.

So Topps, if you are reading this (and judging from the list IP addresses tracked by my web host, I know you are), please, I beg of you; SHOW SOME FREAKING RESPECT FOR THE HOBBY, FOR COLLECTORS, AND FOR YOURSELVES! You're gimmicking away 57 years of history and tradition, and for what?

Please! Stop it with the gimmicks. Put some additional effort into your product -- especially your flagship. (Last year, I posted some suggestions on "How to Fix Topps Baseball." Go back and read it.) And tell us what's in your product, before you release it.

(Upper Deck, you might want to take this last point into advisement as well.)

I'm willing to let by-gones be by-gones (for now). But make no mistake Topps, you are still "On Notice."

And with that, I leave you with this. If the main drawing card (no pun intended) of a particular product (any product) is a gimmick, then what does that say about the rest of the product?

If The Powers That Be at Topps continue to feel that their annual flagship needs a gimmick, then what does that say about Topps Baseball?

The Review

TU&H is what it is, the third series of 2008 Topps baseball. The last few years, TU&H was released in late-November, but this year it's out in October; meaning that the postseason highlight cards that have been a staple of TU&H are the only thing missing from the base set, and is 100% varmint-free.

Inserts include a continuation of the 2007 Year in Review, a 25-card World Baseball Classic set, and a 41-card set of every President and his Missus. About the only thing good I have to say about that last one is, thankfully, we'll not have to put up with cards of politicians much longer.

The cornerstone of the insert program is "Ring of Honor;" a concept that debuted in Topps Football. Unfortunately, Topps chose to honor the '86 Mets, one of the most dishonorable World Series teams ever.

Oh yeah, you get an autograph or a game jersey card, and a Chrome Rookie Refractor in each waxbox.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, this is the start of Topps Baseball's long redemption. I got over 90% of a base set with no doubles, and I received an additional WBC insert (both the Pujols and KosFu WBC's were in the same pack).

The designated one-per-box game-used card was an "authentic event-worn piece of a 2008 MLB All-Star festivities" (read: batting practice) jersey card of Tampa Bay catcher Dioner Navarro. For the record, I ripped this box on the day of Game Three of the Phillies/Rays World Series. I hope this isn't bad karma.

By one-per-box Chrome Refractor Rookies was of Matt Macri, a 26 year-old third-baseman from the Twins. (Yay.)

Box Rating: 3 1/2 Gumsticks (out of five)
Product Rating: 3 Gumsticks

... and another thing.

My favorite card I pulled, and perhaps my favorite card I've pulled this year, is #UH6. Yamid Haad is a career minor-leaguer who played one game for the '99 Pirates and seventeen games for San Francisco in '05. The 30 year-old catcher started the 2008 season with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons and on June 12th, he got the call.

One week later Cleveland signed veteran backup catcher Sal Fasano and sent Yamid back to Buffalo without getting as much as an at-bat.

Even though Yamid Haad didn't play a single inning for the 2008 Indians, it didn't stop Topps from commemorating his seven days with the Tribe with his own Topps baseball card.

Laugh all you want, but Yamid cashed a Major League paycheck this year, and you didn't.


Gellman said...

This was a great post.

jv said...

Well said. Great post!

ernest of canada said...

respect for themselves? this is the company that is currently producing "back on topps".

Endangered said...

This was exactly how Olbermann would have said it and I think that was no accident. Well done! (I was imaging it with that little bit of spittle too.)