Wednesday, September 16, 2015

2015 Spirit Home Grown

With all the player movement this season, I thought a good insert concept would be to focus on some guys who have risen all the way to the majors with the same team that drafted and developed them. Some people refer to them as "home grown" so that's the name I picked. 50 cards here featuring such players that have at least 5 MLB seasons in the ledger.

Playing off the "grown" part of the title, the design features a grassy background image fading into a subtle paper texture. The title is in an ornate typeface that looks similar to an immaculately tended hedge garden. There are also some green-ish vine-line flourishes adorning the edges of the card. A player cutout overlaps all the elements before softly fading to make room for the the text at the bottom. The cardboard here is uncoated in keeping with the earthy, organic feel of the concept. It also makes a great contrast for the foil-stamped player name and Spirit logo.

The motif carries over to the backs with the grass fade reversed to top-to-bottom. A small player portrait rest in the middle along the top, flanked by the "Home Grown" text and the team logo below. A brief write-up closes things out.

With the checklist here numbering 50, you'd get some of the less-marquee names like Perkins and Gardner here along with heavy hitters like McCutchen and Kershaw and Trout, so something for everyone.

Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 Gint-a-cuffs (Part 3 of 3)

Heading into the final 8 packs, I'm sitting at a whopping 100 points. Let's put this thing down.

#36 - Anthony Ranaudo
#45 - Chris Owings
#90 - Darren Rovell
#147 - Yoenis Cespedes
#167 - Julie Foudy
#322 - Mark Melancon
SP-69 Chase Utley (Starting Points) +2
MINI BP-10 Tyto Alba (Birds of Prey) +2


I feel like the Birds of Prey set is a pretty blatant appeal by Topps to a certain card blogger.

#14 - LaTroy Hawkins
#33 - Michael Wacha
#106 - Yunel Escobar
#178 - Travis d’Arnaud
#213 - Elvis Andrus
#275 - Billy Hamilton
SP-15 Jon Lester (Starting Points) +2
MINI 112 - Buck 65


Even without the lens of non-scoring Gint-a-cuffs cards, this is a pretty unremarkable pack. 

#59 - Hector Rondon
#89 - Jonathan Papelbon
#157 - Jose Reyes
#288 - Robinson Cano
GS-10 Dolly the Sheep (Great Scott!) +2
FSRB-JVO Joey Votto Full-Sized Relic (FPx1.7) +10.2
MINI 112 - Buck 65 (A&G Back) +2


One the heels of the most boring pack of the box, we've come to the final hit of the box, a full-size gray relic. Luckily, Mr. Votto is on the Favorite Player list so he bumps up the point value a bit. Still, it was right around this point I started to accept that I'm not winning this year. Let's soldier through th rest of box.

#31 - Frank Caliendo
#54 - Javier Baez
#158 - Kurt Suzuki
#276 - Alex Rodriguez (YANKEES) -1
#281 - Cory Spangenberg
#314 - Ian Desmond
AA-18 Dory Spear (Ancient Armory) +2
MINI 264 - Matt Kemp (Black-Bordered) +3


The A-Rod card is a lot less palatable at this point of the break.

#6 - Lucas Duda
#168 - Clay Buchholz
#171 - Anthony Rendon
#193 - Aramis Ramirez
#256 - Sonny Gray
#301 - Justin Morneau
SP-49 Joe Mauer (Starting Points) +2
MINI 276 - Alex Rodriguez (A&G Back / YANKEES) +1


Okay, seriously. What is with all of these A-Rod cards??

#101 - Stephen Strasburg
#217 - Wade Miley
#229 - Ivan Drago -1
#237 - Hyun-Jin Ryu
#246 - Andrew Cashner
#321 - Ben Zobrits
SP-29 Victor Martinez (Starting Points) +2
MINI 123 - Micah Johnson (A&G Flag Back) +8


The A&G Flag Back mini was a nice little surprise. Granted, I couldn't tell you a single fact about Micah Johnson so it could've been a little nicer surprise.

#84 - Josh Harrison
#257 - Pablo Sandoval
#268 - Jimbo Fisher -1
#284 - Jay Bruce
#300 - Bryce Brentz
#306 - Stephen Drew (YANKEES) -1
SP-80 Fernando Rodney (Starting Points) +2
MINI 309 - Gabe Kapler (SP) +3


Alright, things are getting a little gross here. I'm ready for the end.

#13 - Koji Uehara
#115 - Dustin Pedroia
#175 - DJ LeMahieu
#204 - Chase Headley (YANKEES) -1
#231 - Henderson Alvarez
#320 - Dallas Keuchel
WAS-6 Brontosaurus (What Once Was Believed) +2
MINI HBF-6 Benjamin Hornigold (Hoist the Black Flag) +2



That happy little brontosaurus is the saving grace of the last few packs. I somehow managed to score 60 fewer points than last year's box. Can't win them all I suppose. It was still fun and I'm anxious to see how/if I rebound in 2016.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

2015 Gint-a-cuffs (Part 2 of 3)

A third of the way through my Gint-a-cuffs box, I'm sitting at 51 points and 2 hits remaining. Let's jump right into part 2.

#25 - Mark Trumbo
#131 - Josh Reddick
#162 - Anthony Rizzo (FP) +2
#245 - Ryan Howard (FP) +2
#263 - Pedro Alvarez
#340 - Neftali Perez
SP-37 Salvador Perez (Starting Points) +2
MINI 236 - Julio Teheran


Thanks to a couple of guys on the Favorite Players list, this is actually a pretty decent pack.

#103 - Salvador Perez
#179 - Manny Machado
#266 - Drew Storen
#339 - Clayton Kershaw
SP-8 Adam Jones (Starting Points) +2
Mini A&G Buyback - Nick Swisher +4
MINI FIRST-4 Dolley Madison (First Ladies) +2


These 10th Anniversary Buybacks are weird. I guess they're "added value" even though this framed mini version meant one less card in the pack for me. I can't imagine there being too many opportunities for me to get rid of this random Nick Swisher quasi-hit with artificial scarcity, unless Chris Olds stumbles across this particular post. Oh well.

#65 - David Ortiz (FP) +2
#85 - Kris Bryant
#203 - David Wright +2
#206 - Erick Aybar
#328 - Val Kilmer
SP-58 Brian McCann (Starting Points) +2
Full-Size A&G Buyback - Alex Rodriguez +2
MINI 95 - Kole Calhoun (A&G Back) +2


Now this 10th Anniversary Buyback is definitely more intriguing. I've kind of come out the other side with A-Rod. I think it's hilarious that he's doing well again this season after he was such a magnet for hate the last few years. I'm not really a fan of his per se but I definitely welcome the baseball gods trolling everybody. If only there wasn't the Yankee penalty attached to this card. Add in the Favorite Players and the A&G back and this is probably the best pack of the box so far. Not to mention that the Kris Bryant rookie card doesn't even score any points.

#53 - Brandon Crawford (FT) +1
#78 - Carlos Gonzalez
#99 - Yan Gomes
#138 - Michael Pineda (YANKEES) -1
#189 - Kennys Vargas
#224 - Edinson Volquez
WAS-3 Ether (What Once Was Believed) +2
MINI 143 - Mike Zunino (A&G Back) +2


I wish I could have put money on Brandon Crawford winning a Silver Slugger before a Gold Glove. The odds would probably have been like 110:1 or something. I could have made a fortune at the end of this season.

#2 - Nick Markakis
#15 - Justin Verlander
#70 - Kyle Seager
#241 - CC Sabathia (YANKEES) -1
#274 - Mookie Betts
#330 - Jason Heyward
WAS-9 California Island (What Once Was Believed) +2
MINI 292 - Grant Balfour (Black-Bordered) +3


I don't get why the black-bordered minis are so non-black-bordered. The little intricate ornamentation they added is unique to these parallels, so it's not like they were just following suit with their base design. They'd really look nice if they stood out a little bit more.

#239 - Zach Britton
#242 - James McCann
#252 - Mike Trout (FP) +2
#295 - Joe Nathan
MM-13 Cyclops (Menagerie of the Mind) +2
FMR-MH Matt Holliday (Framed Mini Relic) +8
MINI 85 - Kris Bryant


Hit #2 of the box. Whaddaya know, it's one of my least-liked players from one of my least-liked teams. I'm pretty sure Cardinals fans aren't even all that crazy about Matt Holliday. And again, the best card of the pack just happens to earn me zero points.

#12 Nelson Cruz
#29 Nick Swisher
#42 Max Scherzer
#181 Drew Hutchison
#208 Jose Fernandez
#289 Wil Myers
SP-57 Jacoby Ellsbury (Starting Points) +2
MINI 156 - Brian Dozier


Silver lining to this dud of a pack is the lack of Yankees, even though Ellsbury is, in fact, a Yankee.

#74 - Casey McGehee (FT) +1
#116 - Freddie Freeman
#143 - Mike Zunino
#145 - Santiago Casilla (FT) +1
#271 - Dexter Fowler
#350 - Masahiro Tanaka (YANKEES) -1
WOULD-1 Flying Car (What Once Would Be) +2
MINI 196 - Ian Kinsler



I know Topps has to make checklists and produce the cards waaaay in advance of release but this is a really great example of the flaw in the current system. Here we have a set that doesn't hit shelves until late July. Casey McGehee was designated for assignment May 24. His replacement, Matt Duffy, has since been one of the best thirdbasemen in the National League and is a serious contender for Rookie of the Year. Duffy, who was part of the Giants' postseason roster last year, has yet to have an MLB card produced. Meanwhile, Topps did manage to make room on the checklist for Gary Brown, who used to be considered one of the Giants' top prospects. Brown's inclusion in this year's Allen & Ginter set is even more egregious, considering he was DFA'd by the Giants before the season even began. To make matters worse, he's been picked up and DFA'd by two other teams since then.

So here I am as a Giants fan with cards of 2 players who essentially made zero contribution to the Giants' 2015 season. Meanwhile, our all-star caliber rookie thirdbaseman will be surfacing for the first time in Topps' Update series, which is just a minor step above Opening Day when it comes to enthusiasm in the hobby. Again, I know why this all happened but am just pointing out that in no way should this happen.

And as that rant ends, so does Part 2 of my Gint-a-cuffs box. I'm sitting at an even 100, on pace for 150 points with one hit remaining. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

2015 Gint-a-cuffs (Part 1 of 3)

August has thankfully arrived and given me some content to post via the annual Gint-a-cuffs contest. This is my fourth consecutive year to compete; I have a pretty good winning percentage in the danged thing that surely isn't sustainable (foreshadowing...)

This is part 1 of 3 of my box of 2015 Topps Allen & Ginter

Jose Abreu Oversize Boxloader +8


I've gotten a lot of Abreu cards this year, though of course it's a year too late. I still don't understand why Topps has two different versions of these oversized boxtoppers. There's the standard base design just blown-up and then this completely different design. Like a lot of choices they make, it just seems pointless to me.

#48 - Coco Crisp
#68 - Matt Barnes
#111 - Dellin Betances (YANKEES) -1
#135 - Mark Teixeira (YANKEES) -1
#331 - Alcides Escobar
SP-56 Ryan Braun (Starting Points) +2
Full-Size A&G Buyback - Louis Braille +3
MINI BODY-8 Barbell Lifts (A Healthy Body) +4


The 'Starting Points' insert is this year's super-expansive filler. It's pretty ugly. It looks like one of the runner-up designs for the base card that just didn't get used. Having to cram the insert title in there really crowds everything. If the photos were cutout like the basecards instead of just feathered on the edges, that would alleviate some of the claustrophobia. But really, it's all kind of uninspired. You could plug any number of concepts into this design and they'd fit just as well as the 'starting point' concept.

#166 - Carlos Gomez
#207 - Derek Norris
#216 - Jake Lamb
#248 - Jose Bautista (FP) +2
#297 - Magna Carta +1
#335 - Collin Cowgill
MM-4 Phoenix (Menagerie of the Mind) +2
MINI 117 - Corey Kluber (A&G Back) +2


I actually like the base design this year. The asymmetry is nice without throwing things off balance. The Allen & Ginter logo is a little big but it looks nice still. I'm not crazy about the shifting border colors, though it's feasible they have something to do with the Ginter Code so I'll let it slide. The players are cropped a lot tighter this year. Not sure if it's better or worse but I appreciate that it's a break from the norm. It'll help differentiate 2015 from other sets years from now I imagine.

#49 - Hisashi Iwakuma
#50 - Francisco Rodriguez
#83 - Matt Harvey
#127 - Nick Castellanos
#191 - John Lackey
#313 -  Jhonny Peralta
WAS-1 Flat Earth (What Once Was Believed) +2
MINI MBT3 - James J. Hill (Magnates, Barons, Tycoons) +2


The full-size insert here is "What Once Was Believed" which features formerly accepted truths that have since been proven false. Don't confuse them with the "What Once Would Be" inserts, though. We'll take a look at those coming up... 

#51 - Matt Garza
#52 - Jake Marisnick
#121 - Wei-Yin Chen
#183 - Edwin Encarnacion
#198 - Albert Pujols
#305 - Chris Carter
SP-42 Hyun-Jin Ryu (Starting Points) +2
MINI 27 - Maikel Franco


Every time I pull a Dodger card, I get sad and start adding up the negative points until I realize that it's just the hated Yankees we're penalized for. But then I get sad again because now I'm stuck with another gross Dodgers card. 

#44 - Sal Vulcano
#72 - Joe Panik (FT-Giants) +1
#110 - Victor Martinez
#153 - Brandon Moss
#199 - Zack Greinke
#311 - Michael Brantley
SP-90 Prince Fielder (Starting Points) +2
MINI 69 - Christian Bethancourt


I'm slowly accumulating points here. Thank goodness there are a ton of Giants on the checklist. I'm glad I was able to accumulate some nice Joe Panik cards before he got called up and turned into such a solid player.

#102 - James “Clubber” Lang
#114 - Brian McCann (YANKEES) -1
#126 - Alexei Ramirez
#160 - Danny Santana
#243 - Jean Segura
#343 - Angel Pagan (FT) +1
GS-6 Deoxyribonucleic Acid (Great Scott!) +2
MINI 259 - Jonathan Schoop (Black-Bordered) +3


The "Great Scott!" cards feature scientific breakthroughs that have occurred through history. Some people have been clamoring for more DNA cards for a while so maybe this will appease them? This will not appease them.

#69 - Christian Bethancourt
#92 - Michelle Beadle
#190 - Michael Bourn
#230 - Keith Law
#254 - Alex Gordon
#338 - Mike Napoli
WOULD-7 Easy-Clean Furniture (What Once Would Be) +2
MINI 272 - Glen Perkins


And here is the "What Once Would Be" insert. These are all black & white drawings of stuff that was predicted to happen in the future but never came to be. I guess these are supposed to be sister inserts but I feel like they just get in the way and are needlessly confusing. And worse than that, the "What Once Would Be" cards are just boring to look at.

#17 - Yadier Molina (FP) +2
#112 - Buck 65
#172 - Matt Carpenter
#317 - Hunter Strickland (FT) +1
AA-9 Flail (Ancient Armory) +2
MINI HBF-10 Henry Every (Hoist the Black Flag) +2
FSRA-APA Aaron Paul (Full-Size Relic) +6


Here we have the first hit. It's a non-baseball one of some guy from some show I didn't watch. I mean, I guess Aaron Paul would be one of the better non-athlete hits to get. Perhaps if it was memorabilia from Bojack Horseman I'd be a little more excited. Overall, though, a very welcomed pack to end part 1. I'm currently on pace to come nowhere close to last year's wining score. Let's hope that changes... (spoiler alert, it won't...)

Monday, July 20, 2015

2015 Deluxe Duos

I've had all the base cards posted for each of the 4 Spirit releases but I was still lacking an insert design for the Deluxe set. I decided to resurrect the Deluxe Duos autograph cards after their absence in 2014. Turns out that when you design 900 individual cards in a summer, it cuts into your ability to create inserts for other releases.

Like previous Deluxe Duos designs, this one features a pair of teammates sharing the same card while featuring autographs of both players. This is the first time the orientation has been vertical. I left more room for player images than usual since sometimes they get squeezed into a corner with maybe just their faces peeking out. Since these would be "on-card" autographs, it's up to the players themselves to decide how much of their signature should overlap their pictures. Design elements from the Deluxe base cards are present, with the team color fades and the same fonts for player name, team and position.

Some nice portraits anchor the design on the back with the team logo making an appearance. I like the simplicity of the back here. Ditch the senseless writeup and stick with some nice photos and lots of empty space. It makes things a little more elegant, befitting a release called "Deluxe."

Friday, July 3, 2015

2015 Clubhouse All Out

After the clean and tidy Incumbents design, I decided to go 180° with this All Out insert. The checklist here features players that go "all out" on the field, whether with the glove on the basepaths. You could fairly call this the Clubhouse version of Topps' Opening Day Play Hard insert. Personally, I think "All Out" is a much better name. And design-wise, I think I have them beat as well.

After cutting out these great action photos, I added a little glowing fuzz to them so they'd look a little "otherworldly" or so. The background is kind of a grungy gray stone thing to help the team color splash/explosion things stand out a bit more. It was a lot fun adding all the color. The names are in gold foil to help differentiate them from the "All Out" logo.

The motif is applied to the back of the card minus the color splashes. They had to be sacrificed so you could read all the jibberish nice and easily. I also made space for the team logo in the bottom right corner.

Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 Pennant Incumbents

I felt like it was time to resurrect this insert after I failed to make any for the 2014 Pennant set. There's been a lot of turnover in the MLB rosters since 2013 so it won't be quite a complete rehash. Here's a look at the 2015 checklist versus 2013's:

ARI - Daniel Hudson (Miguel Montero)
ATL - Freddie Freeman (Tim Hudson)
BAL - Adam Jones (Nick Markakis)
BOS - David Ortiz
CHC - Starlin Castro (Alfonso Soriano)
CHW - John Danks (Paul Konerko)
CIN - Brandon Phillips
CLE - Michael Brantley (Asdrubal Cabrera)
COL - Troy Tulowitzki (Todd Helton)
DET - Justin Verlander
HOU - Jason Castro (Wesley Wright)
KCR - Alex Gordon
LAA - Jered Weaver
LAD - Andre Ethier
MIA - Giancarlo Stanton (Ricky Nolasco)
MIL - Ryan Braun
MIN - (Joe Mauer) Justin Morneau
NYM - David Wright
NYY - Alex Rodriguez (Derek Jeter)
OAK - Coco Crisp (Daric Barton)
PHI - Chase Utley (Jimmy Rollins)
PIT - Andrew McCutchen
SDP - Will Venable (Chase Headley)
SFG - Matt Cain
SEA - Felix Hernandez
STL - Yadier Molina
TBR - Evan Longoria (Ben Zobrist)
TEX - Elvis Andrus (Ian Kinsler)
TOR - Jose Bautista (Adam Lind)
WAS - Ryan Zimmerman

It's a lot stronger this time around with only maybe Daniel Hudson, John Danks and Will Venable as the real downers. 

Design-wise, it's very reminiscent of the inaugural version: posed player portrait cutouts, solid team-color backgrounds. This year, though, I've incorporated the 2015 Pennant base design a bit with the frame edge corners. I added pinstripes to the background for a little more interest as well as some starts to bring in a little of that "elected official" campaign look. Being a "retro" set, the colors are a little skewed and there's some grain added to the images.

The backs are pretty straight-forward. They're the standard black & white for Pennant cards with a little write-up and team logo. The cleaner, the better.

Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 Spirit Deluxe

The base set for the final Deluxe product of 2015 has arrived. We've done the flagship, the low-end and the retro releases. Here's a look a the "high-end" set, Deluxe.

I decided to go more with a simplistic design instead of the ornate, cluttered stuff that usually passes for "high-end." The cards are cut into 2 team-colored halves with a full-color player cutout jumping off from the background. Player names and team hat logos are in gold foil along the bottom along with a solid stripe making its way around the partial edge.

The back is split but not 50-50 like front, leaving a little room up top for a more intimate photo and space for the player write-up on top of a colorful background below. Also, being a high-end set, there are autographs to be had. There will be insert autos as well but I wanted to start out here with just the base parallel auto. The bottom color half fades to white a little more drastically to make room for the ink but that's the only design difference for the base autos.

More designs to come for the Deluxe set as well as the other Spirit releases.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015 Spirit All-Rookie Team

Last year I decided to copy Topps and made my own all-rookie squad. So here I am pulling another page outta Topps' playbook and recycling the same idea again with just a new design. But really, though, I think it's a sound decision to have an insert devoted to the previous year's rookies. Keeping with the whole "team" format can prove to be difficult, though, as you'll see from the checklist below.

1B: Jose Abreu
2B: Kolten Wong
SS: Danny Santana
3B: Nick Castellanos
OF: Billy Hamilton
OF: George Springer
OF: Ender Inciarte
C: Travis d’Arnaud
LHP: Roenis Elias
RHP: Jacob deGrom
RP: Dellin Betances

M: Matt Williams

There a no-brainers like Abreu and Hamilton, but sometimes there just isn't a stand out in one particular position. OR you have the inverse with way too many guys competing for one spot. The left-handed and right-handed pitcher situation up there is a perfect example. Last year's best newcomers on the mound were almost all righties. That means a southpaw like Roenis Elias makes the checklist while guys like Masahiro Tanaka, Marcus Stroman and Matt Shoemaker don't. Maybe I'll rectify that next year. Anyway, let's look at the design.

We're going horizontal again. There seems to be more room for the action shots this year with a sliver of the background staying on the card instead of them being complete cutouts. There are big team logos again just a layer behind the players with a subtle stripe motif behind them. A big silver foil band stretches across the bottom with the 'ALL ROOKIE TEAM' "logo" revealing some of the stripes from below. Player names & positions are in black on the foil bar so hopefully they're readable in most light.

Oh yeah,  here's the autograph parallel version. Same design but with a white fade coming from beneath and the certification text below the bar.

The back mimics the front but with the bar moving to the top and turning white. The only issue with this choice would be finding photos with enough open space up top as to not have the 'ALL ROOKIE TEAM' thing overlap a guy's dome. I lucked out with Hamilton here.

Overall I think these fit in with the rest of the 2015 Spirit designs thus far. Colorful without being too ornate and utilizing negative space in some capacity. I'd like to say that's on purpose but it's probably just a happy accident.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2015 Spirit Team MVP

Time for the return of the Spirit Team MVP insert. This is the third iteration and just like the previous two, the basic design for these cards contain relic swatches.

The big 'MVP' letters runs across the bottom, cut out from a team-color bar to reveal the jersey swatch below. There are some gold foil embellishments with the player name and a frame around the edges. I managed to leave a lot more space for the player photos with this layout and having them stretch to the edges of the cards helps keep things from getting to claustrophobic. The team logos are also a bit more prominent than the previous design.

The backs are bright with team colors and white borders for each info compartment. I also included the relic codes where you could (hypothetically) enter the code online and see the actual jersey the featured swatch was pulled from.

Just for fun, lets look at the rest of the checklist:
MVP1: Mike Trout (Angels)
MVP2: Jose Altuve (Astros)
MVP3: Josh Reddick (A's)
MVP4: Jose Bautista (Blue Jays)
MVP5: Freddie Freeman (Braves)
MVP6: Carlos Gomez (Brewers)
MVP7: Yadier Molina (Cardinals)
MVP8: Anthony Rizzo (Cubs)
MVP9: Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks)
MVP10: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
MVP11: Madison Bumgarner (Giants)
MVP12: Corey Kluber (Indians)
MVP13: Felix Hernandex (Mariners)
MVP14: Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins)
MVP15: Matt Harvey (Mets)
MVP16: Jordan Zimmermann (Nationals)
MVP17: Chris Davis (Orioles)
MVP18: Andrew Cashner (Padres)
MVP19: Chase Utley (Phillies)
MVP20: Andrew McCutchen (Pirates)
MVP21: Adrian Beltre (Rangers)
MVP22: Evan Longoria (Rays)
MVP23: David Ortiz (Red Sox)
MVP24: Johnny Cueto (Reds)
MVP25: Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies)
MVP26: Eric Hosmer (Royals)
MVP27: Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
MVP28: Joe Mauer (Twins)
MVP29: Chris Sale (White Sox)
MVP30: Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees)

Boy, the A's slot was brutally hard to fill. Same with the Twins, though Mauer just keeps it by default on account of him still being around.