Thursday, August 30, 2012

No license? No problem.

This post comes thanks to a suggestion by way of Kyle from Juuust A Bit Outside. He challenged me to put together a design tackling the same restrictions as Panini and Upper Deck face regarding baseball cards. Without a license from MLBA, they're not allowed to have any depictions of MLB logos on their cards. Even with a licensing agreement with MLBPA, the players themselves can be featured without any problems, but any type of MLB franchise logo has to go. That means either some less-than-exciting airbrushing or some less-than-exciting wardrobe choices.

Rather than go to the trouble of making the unnatural seem natural, I thought the best method to work around this restriction is to use photos of the players before/during/after the actual games where they happen to not be wearing a hat or helmet bearing a team logo. The most frequent setting for such a photo is the dugout. In between at-bats or after climbing off the pitcher's mound, you'll find a lot of players letting their hair down so to speak.

So that's how the Dugout line was birthed. With these on-field or 'in-the-dugout' portraits, you still feel some attachment to the diamond and these guys a players. It's not too far off from the bat-on-shoulder portraits we see from 40-50 years ago. If anything, they're more candid.

As for the design, we've got the team color boxes to the left and below the photo. The one on the left has a wood/bat texture with the player's last name branded into it. Below is the full player name in a baseball-y script with position and team underneath. It kinda sucks you have to go with the team city instead of team name but oh well.

For one of the first times on this blog, I'm actually offering a parallel. Instead of just changing the border color, I'm removing the border altogether! It helps to put the player into the baseball environment with just a little bit more photo showing. Another feature here are the little designation tabs just above the name box. For Adam Jones above, he gets an all-star tab while Harper gets that along with his rookie tag. 
The back side is packed with information like a base card should be. The team color boxes are here again along the top and left edges. There's plenty of white space to keep things nice and readable.

Just above the stat block, we get an additional player portrait. Though small, this location helps keep them de-logo-fied. And below the stat box is plenty of room for a brief writeup about the card subject. Things are pretty clear and orderly. The front and back really match up for a cohesive design.

Though this started out as a set to get around the logo restrictions, I think it would actually be a good concept if Topps were to grab onto it and add some logos. As thrilling as it can be to see some outstanding on-field photography of players doing amazingly athletic things, a set like this that focused on catching players in those candid moments would be refreshing. The more connected a collector feels to the players depicted on these cardboard creations, the better for baseball.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It just goes 'round and 'round

I was already working on this design when Mr. Beltre hit for the cycle last night. I figured it was probably a sign for me to finish and post it. As you can probably guess, this is an insert set featuring those active MLB players who have hit for the cycle. I checked the list and found that there are quite a few more than I remember. There are plenty of stars like Carlos Gonzalez, Jose Reyes and Pablo Sandoval, but there are also lots of guys like Kelly Johnson here or Aaron Hill, who has managed to accomplish the feat already twice this season.

The biggest design feature here is obviously the die-cut. In trying to differentiate it from the Moonshots die-cut I did a while back, I decided to change the orientation to horizontal. But since I have to go with a circle—I mean, it's for hitting the cycle—I thought adding some little slivers between the 'stages' of the cycle (single, double, triple homerun) would distinguish it a little more.

There's also lots of shininess here with the inside of the circle all shimmering along with silver foil on the names and Spirit logo.

On the back side, things get a little wonky with the non-uniform die-cut shapes. I think I figured out why they don't make a lot of non-uniform die-cuts now. But with a brief write-up of each player's cycle exploits, they should be interesting to read.

Monday, August 20, 2012

REVIEW: 2012 Bowman Platinum

I know it's been out for like 2 months already, but better late than never...

Starting off with the base design, with a note that these look less blue in real life (sad scanner I guess.) They kept the super shiny refractor-y foil board for another year. I like it well enough, though it doesn't have the same impact as last year's did. I'm sure the returns will diminish if they go the same route next year. The design itself is rather futuristic and minimalistic. No team logo (name only), no player position. The Bowman Platinum logo only shows up as a monogram. I think it works for this as a way to differentiate it from the regular Bowman set. The feel is pretty similar but this comes across a little more 'upscale' I suppose.

On the back, we get the same glossy-techy elements as the front but with a little more information. I don't necessarily advocate for full-career stats on the back of every base card, but surely someone should have noticed how squirrely it is to have Verlander's 2011 season stats on their twice.

There are green, gold, and ruby parallels again this year with the golds being, once again, the hardest to differentiate from the regular base cards. I'm a little partial to green, but damn if they don't stand out the best.

Since Topps has gone die-cut crazy this year, we have a die-cut insert in Bowman Platinum as well.
These are called Cutting Edge Stars. They look nice enough, keeping with the same design elements as the other cards in the set, except for that huge TV-looking shape in the middle. That paired with those movie ticket things cut out at the top make this insert look oddly kitschy. It's strange how off these look from the rest of the set even though they used the same basic elements.

Now onto Bowman's bread and butter—prospects. These were really frustrating to pull out of the pack. First off, the design is exactly the same as the regular base only the negative spaces on the left and right edges are white with dark stripes instead of dark with light gray stripes. The background seem to be feathered out even more on these, probably due to some of the less-than-flattering spring training settings of these photos. And to clarify, the cards in this scan are left-to-right an x-fractor, regular refractor and regular 'base' prospect. The x-fractors are the easiest to make out, but the differences between the refractor and the 'base' take some investigation. The refractors has this rectangular stone-like background, which would be easier to notice if it went to the edges. I say, if you're going to make the base look refractor-y then DO AWAY WITH A REFRACTOR PARALLEL. It's not like they don't have others to fall back on.

Like these blue and purple ones, and also gold. Why they can't just pick an additional color is beyond me.

The prospect version of the Cutting Edge Stars insert is called (drumroll please...) Top Prospects. These aren't die cut but still somehow have some cheesiness going on. I think it's the 'TOP PROSPECTS' text. Why they decided to include that but leave 'Cutting Edge Stars' off the front is puzzling.

And since I had some to scan, here are a couple of prospect autos. These actually look pretty good, due in large part to the team color bands along the bottom. I think that's what I'm missing from just about every other card in the release. They're throwing all these refractor patches and neutral grays and blacks on there and it kind of drains the life from the card.

Overall, I think these are nice cards that could be better but probably could be a lot worse. My main takeaway is that this looks like it was an option for the 2011 Bowman Platinum release that they just put in their back pocket for this year. In a way, that's pretty much every release from Topps these days I guess. Maybe it's a practical decision from a production standpoint, which I could understand. Then again, part of me thinks it's time to either evolve a bit or just completely blow things up and start anew.

Base cards: 4.5/5
Parallels: 3.25/5
Prospects: 3.25/5
Inserts: 3/5
OVERALL: 3.5/5

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to your regular scheduled programming

Okay, now that the Gint-A-Cuffs posts are over, I just thought I'd check in and let you know we'll be back to regular content posts very shortly. I never got around to reviewing Bowman Platinum and I have a couple new design ideas, so look forward to those. Also, I wanted to let everyone know that I've got a Twitter handle for the blog, so follow me if you want some more casual & frequent card discussion. It's definitely a lot easier getting myself to tweet than it is crafting a whole blog post. Click on this button to the right or just go here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gint-A-Cuffs IV: Packs 19-24

Alright, here's the conclusion. Carrying over +167 from the last post.

WIN54 Juan Pierre +2
Mini39 Brad Peacock A&G +2
57 Michael Pineda (NYY) -1
153 Robinson Cano (NYY) - 1

18 Kevin Youkilis
30 Carlos Zambrano
204 Adam Dunn
216 Corey Hart

MIWC Trudy Givens +3
Mini123 Adam Lind Black +3
340 Marty Hogan SP +2

49 Jeremy Hellickson
74 Johnny Cueto
79 Yoenis Cespedes
154 Bobby Hurley, Sr.
213 Joe Nathan

WIN31 Andrew McCutchen +2
CC1 Nutria +3

28 Dustin Ackley
102 Huston Street
168 Jason Kipnis
197 Ty Cobb
264 Brian McCann
295 Drew Pomeranz

Mmm, nutria. Also known as rat meat. I'm not very culinarily adventurous, but this gives me yet another good reason to never eat anything in New Orleans.

HTP19 Sputnik +3
181 Joe Dimaggio (NYY) -1
212 Ken Griffey, Jr. (FP) +2
217 Brian Wilson (Giants) +1
301 Adron Chambers SP +2

76 Michael Bourn
108 Martin Prado
Mini89 Edwin Jackson

WIN79 Mickey Mantle (NYY) -1
ABR-BK Bobby Knight Relic  +9
200 Matt Kemp (FP) +2

9 Yonder Alonso
147 Tsuyoshi Nishioka
222 Yovani Gallardo
Mini111 Wandy Rodriguez

Oh boy, what a vomit-enducing pack here. If the Yankee and Dodger weren't gross enough, my final hit comes in the form of a Bobby Knight relic. What a turd.

BH6 Frank Thomas +3
PB11 Adam & Eve +3
311 Bob Gibson SP +2

43 Josh Johnson
69 Kurt Suzuki
149 Wilson Ramos
157 Roger Federer
234 Carlos Lee

I guess this is a good palate cleanser. I think these Highlight Sketches are may favorite cards of the set. Other than Jesus, Adam & Eve are probably the big hitters of the Bible minis. Extra thankful Adam wasn't slapped with the non-baseball Yankee tag, though he probably should be.

So 207 is my final tally. From what I've seen of the other scores, that's nothing to be ashamed of. I had a lot of fun tallying all of these up. This was my first box of A&G and I really enjoyed it. Already looking forward to Gint-A-Cuffs V next year.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Gint-A-Cuffs IV: Packs 13-18

Following my last post, my running total starting out here is +125

WTB4 Willis Tower +3
305 Wilin Rosario SP +2

68 Rickie Weeks
138 Josh Willingham
155 Edinson Volquez
236 Scott Rolen
297 Justin Morneau
Mini261 Michael Taylor

WTB7 Chrysler Building +3
120 Mariano Rivera (NYY) -1
317 Jason Heyward SP +2

48 Jordan Walden
107 C.J. Wilson
186 Jemile Weeks
260 Alex Liddi
Mini148 Carlos Gonzalez

HTP7 Printing Press +3
ML20 Sun Tzu +3
328 Josh Hamilton SP (FP) +4

32 Ben Zobrist
53 Hisashi Iwakuma
64 Mat Latos
183 Darwin Barney
242 Alfonso Soriano

A new mini insert here, the World's Greatest Military Leaders. Not a lot to say about it.

WIN58 Rickey Henderson +2
AGR-AP Albert Pujols Relic +10

132 Daniel Hudson
159 Devin Mesoraco
257 Dan Uggla
284 Pedro Alvarez
Mini135 Michael Morse

Hit time! Even though he's not one of my personal favorites, I feel like Albert's a pretty good relic to pull if I'm just gonna be getting a regular old player relic. Too bad that doesn't net me any extra points.

BH11 Nolan Ryan +3
152 Ryan Vogelsong (Giants) +1
281 Matt Cain (Giants) +1
322 Sergio Santos SP +2

31 Jackie Robinson
60 Reggie Jackson
116 Brandon Beachy
55Mini Colin Montgomerie

Cool, pocket aces. Throw in the Nolan Ryan and that's a set. Again, I love the color those orange Giants jerseys bring to this set design.

WIN8 Cliff Lee +2
158 Melky Cabrera (Giants) +1
Mini288 Alex Rodriguez A&G (NYY) +1

14 Nick Markakis
88 Stan Musial
137 George Brett
139 Tim Hudson
263 Jason Motte

I hope I'm right on the scoring of the A-Rod A&G Back. +2 for A&G -1 NYY = +1???

Heading into the last stretch with one hit to come, I hope +167 is a respectable total. I guess we'll see....

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gint-A-Cuffs IV: Packs 7-12

As per my first Gint-A-Cuffs entry, we're starting these packs off with a running total of +82

WIN1 Joe DiMaggio (NYY) -1
110 Heath Bell (FP) +2

118 Carl Yastrzemski
146 Josh Beckett
189 Lance Berkman
194 J.J. Hardy
244 Brett Anderson
Mini258 Doug Fister

WIN15 Michael Pineda (NYY) -1
MBF10 Poodle +3
279 Brett Gardner (NYY) -1

56 Jordan Pacheco
90 Roy Halladay
94 Geovany Soto
140 Mike Trout
215 Dan Haren
TOTAL: +84

It seems fitting that the dog mini I get to go with these Yankees is a poodle. Poodles are the Yankees of the dog world. Or the Yankees are the poodles of MLB.


Mini350 Howie Kendrick SP Black +14
MIWC Willow Cove Trainyard +3
130 Madison Bumgarner (Giants) +1
306 Ryan Howard SP +2

128 Andrew McCutchen
156 Trevor Cahill
188 Tom Milone
300 Robeto Clemente
TOTAL: +104

After two consecutive +1 packs, this baby's a shot in the arm. I've read that some think the black border minis this year are a little lacking and I have to agree. I think they'd have been better off to fill the borders with black and have all the little intricate details of the frame be white. It's just a little too gray as it is now.

WTB9 Woolworth Building +3
Mini292 Greg Gumber Black (+3 black border / -1 Greg Gumballs) +2
117 Nick Swisher (NYY) -1
192 Brett Pill (Giants) +1
314 Michael Buffer SP +2

29 Hunter Pence
127 Erick Aybar
180 Tim Federowicz
TOTAL: +111

Well, if I have to get Gumbel'd at least it was a black border so I get a little something out of it. Another good pack for me. The World's Tallest Buildings insert fits in the A&G very well, especially considering the Art Deco feel of this year's design.

WIN16 Miguel Cabrera +2
Mini224 Adam Jones +3
169 Mark Teixeira (NYY) -1

27 Ricky Nolasco
37 James McDonald
114 Johan Santana
187 John Axford
248 Jed Lowrie
TOTAL: +115

MIWC Larry Mudlin +3
Mini177 Stephen Drew A&G +2
33 Chipper Jones (FP) +2
47 Buster Posey (Giants) +1
338 Prince Fielder SP +2

44 Brandon League
247 Hank Aaron
254 Rickey Henderson
TOTAL: +125

Ah, I love that Buster Posey card with all that beautiful orange. It really makes the awkwardness of the Chipper Jones stand out that much more. First off, these horizontal cards really don't look good next to the standard vertical A&G cards. I don't know if there's any rhyme or reason to who gets an action shot versus a nice portrait, but it seems like these have to be plan B cards. And with the aged effect going on, the action gets kind of hard to make out since the colors are pretty much zapped out. Also, it leads to silly stuff like half of Chipper's hat being bitten off into the ether.

Well, halfway done and I've got a pretty good total so far. Hopefully with my hits still to come, I can break the 200 mark.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gint-A-Cuffs IV: Packs 1-6

I was lucky enough to jump on this year's Gint-A-Cuffs train before it left the station. While I normally stick to design posts and steer clear of pulls/breaks/trades, I figured I could do a little Allen & Ginter review along the way to keep the blog on topic. So here's the first of 4 consecutive G-A-C posts.


I was really excited to start my box off with this beauty. I was expected just a run-of-the-mill N43 or something so I was damn shocked when I cracked the box open to see this huge cabinet card wrapper.
+ 20

WIN29  Nolan Ryan +2
Mini 322 Sergio Santos SP +3

36 Kirk Herbstreit
97 Max Scherzer
105 Arnold Palmer
126 Justin Masterson
145 Drew Storen
267 Neftali Feliz

This year's workhorse insert is What's In a Name?, where they show a guy's mini card along with their full given name. Not a whole lot different than the Hometown Heroes cards from last year, though the mini is a neat addition. It's pretty cool to see and read about a guy's full name. It used to be commonplace to know a player's middle name but since it's a bit rarer these days, I like the set.

HTP16 French Revolution +3
Mini124 Jered Weaver A&G +2
335 Alexei Ramirez SP +2
5 David Price (FP) +2

4 Yu Darvish
82 Giancarlo Stanton
206 Joey Votto
266 Carlos Ruiz

Another insert is the Historical Turning Points set. They do a good job of running all the way through history, even up to events like the Berlin Wall falling. The image quality of the events themselves don't seem to fit with the borders or the rest of the cards in the whole set.

Stephen Drew Framed Cloth Card +35
WIN5 Troy Tulowitzi +2

118 Carl Yastrzemski
146 Josh Beckett
189 Lance Berkman
244 Brett Anderson
Mini198 Phil Pfister

Wow, what a great pack for me! This is my first ever hobby box of A&G so I've never pulled anything like that boxtopper and now this Silk card. Stephen Drew isn't exactly the most sought-after player but I'm pretty happy. Plus the red lines on the border match the D-Backs pretty well. Look at that 01/10!

WIN73 Ryan Zimmerman +2

45 Ewa Mataya
72 Joakim Soria
123 Adam Lind
172 Chris Perez
231 Todd Helton
259 Wade Davis
Mini162 Jeff Francoeur

BH14 Mickey Mantle +2
Mini179 Cole Hamels A&G +2
320 Jonathan Papelbon SP +2

39 Brad Peacock
99 Sandy Koufax
124 Jered Weaver
179 Cole Hamles
219 Ian Kennedy

Even with 6 points, what a gross pack. I will say that the Baseball Highlight Sketches look a lot better this year. The borders seem to frame the images a little better. It kind of a has the feel of U.S. paper currency, so maybe my reasons for liking it are superficially subconscious. But as far as the guy I pulled in the pack, yuck.

WIN14 Chipper Jones +4
196 Lou Gehrig (NYY) -1

20 Miguel Montero
21 Matt Moore
52 Cameron Maybin
160 Shane Victorino
296 Mark Trumbo
Mini104 Ian Desmond

So a quarter of the way through, I've probably got half of points. I could be wrong but I think the Silks are an extra hit and I'll still be getting 2 relics or 1 relic & 1 auto. Stay tuned for the remaining 18 packs.