Monday, July 22, 2013

2013 Pennant Throwdown

Just like a most trends, I'm finally "down" with something just as it seems to be fizzling out. I'm talking, of course, about Puigmania. Even though we all knew his first month or so in the majors was pretty unsustainable for a whole season, the rest of the league does seem to be "figuring him out" of late. I'm sure he'll make the adjustments and stuff, but probably not late enough to help the Giants out. I imagine Topps' second half products will have no trouble selling.

With what would be the most highly sought-after card of 2013 up there, let's take a look at Pennant's next insert — Throwdown. These feature a pair of players on rival clubs. I know this is a lot like Topps' Legendary Lineage and Diamond Duos from a few years ago, but with only 15 subjects (all of which are actual rival teams), the connection is a lot less tenuous. Here's the checklist:

1. NYY v BOS: Rivera/Ortiz
2. NYY v NYM: Jeter/Wright
3. NYM v PHI: Harvey/Lee
4. STL v CHC: Beltran/Rizzo
5. SF v LAD: Cain/Kershaw
6. SF v OAK: Posey/Cespedes
7. LAD v LAA: Puig/Trout
8. TEX v HOU: Kinsler/Altuve
9. BAL v WAS: Machado/Harper
10. CLE v CIN: Jimenez/Votto
11. STL v KC: Wainwright/Butler
12. CHC v CHW: Castro/Sale
13. STL v CIN: Carpenter/Phillips
14. PIT v PHI: McCutchen/Howard

15. ATL v PHI: Hudson/Utley

A few teams have a couple of cards here but they're represented by different players. It would be nice to have all 30 squads featured but as you can tell from MLB's interleague scheduling, you can't force rivalries.

Design-wise, the front of the cards have a little vintage flavor to them like the rest of the Pennant cards but still look clean and modern. Embellishments like the rounded inset corners and the classic typography help add some age, along with the less-than-bright cardstock. The space is split down the middle with grainy team-color boxes housing single-color team logos behind player cut-outs. There's a faint white gradient billowing up over the photos to make room for the team name. It can also fade up a little farther to make room for the signatures on the autograph cards.

For the back, I kept it black & white while recreating similar design elements from the front. Black & white photos on the opposite edges leaves plenty of room in the middle for a brief history of the players' and teams' rivalry stories. The lines of stars can be removed for the authenticity statements on the auto versions.

I tend to shy away from horizontal cards due to format issues for the blog but I'm really pleased with these. They're bright but not too bright, retro but not too retro. It's always nice to feature more than one team on a card so you can have 2 fanbases chasing after them. And it helps take the sting out of pulling a Dodgers card if it features Matt Cain or Mike Trout. (Okay, I'll stop with the Dodgers jokes.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

2013 Spirit Team MVPs

Just like with Award Winners, every year will see a return of the Spirit Team MVP insert. To me, it's a no-brainer. A 30-card set with every team represented by their best player. Why Topps hasn't embraced this idea is beyond me. Maybe since it was Donruss' thing they want to keep their distance.

Let's start off with the checklist.

MVP1: Mike Trout (Angels)
MVP2: Jose Altuve (Astros)
MVP3: Yoennis Cespedes (A's)
MVP4: Jose Bautista (Blue Jays)
MVP5: Brian McCann (Braves)
MVP6: Ryan Braun (Brewers)
MVP7: Yadier Molina (Cardinals)
MVP8: Starlin Castro (Cubs)
MVP9: Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks)
MVP10: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
MVP11: Buster Posey (Giants)
MVP12: Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians)
MVP13: Felix Hernandex (Mariners)
MVP14: Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins)
MVP15: David Wright (Mets)
MVP16: Bryce Harper (Nationals)
MVP17: Chris Davis (Orioles)
MVP18: Chase Headley (Padres)
MVP19: Cliff Lee (Phillies)
MVP20: Andrew McCutchen (Pirates)
MVP21: Adrian Beltre (Rangers)
MVP22: Evan Longoria (Rays)
MVP23: David Ortiz (Red Sox)
MVP24: Joey Votto (Reds)
MVP25: Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies)
MVP26: Billy Butler (Royals)
MVP27: Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
MVP28: Joe Mauer (Twins)
MVP29: Chris Sale (White Sox)
MVP30: Derek Jeter (Yankees)

Some of these selections were tough. The Braves have a handful of guys that are good but none that really rise above the rest. I went with McCann because he's been there the longest. Castro has had a down year so Anthony Rizzo could possibly replace him. The Rays' pick could've been David Price or even Ben Zobrist. Carlos Gonzalez has a good case for the Rockies since Tulo is always hurt. The Royals guy could easily be Alex Gordon or James Shields. And since Jeter has been out all year, it would probably make sense to put Cano in there, too.

Anyway, onto the design.

Like last year, the biggest feature here is the MVP relic windows. I figured the easiest way to differentiate from 2012 would be to make them vertical instead of horizontal. So the M-V-P letters are stacked on the right side leaving a vertical window for a player photo. To add some depth, I had part of the guys overlap into the team color section. Below is a the secondary team color section to house the player name along with the cap logo. The square-ish space for the logo helps balance things along with keeping it from looking to symmetrical (which I have a habit of doing.) There's some silver foil along the relic windows and all the text, minus the "Spirit Certified Game-Used Relic" small print below the P.

The elements make a 90° turn for the back side while the secondary bar moves to the top. Below a horizontal player photo is a brief bit of text. To the left is a block of copy about the relic authentication along with a code to enter online for more info about this particular swatch. And I'm looking out for everyone with having the numbers in the upper right corner so they're easy to see when stored in a cardboard box.