Friday, April 1, 2016

It Should Be a Holiday

Opening Day should be a national holiday.  It means ballparks, hot dogs, summer nights, and new hope.  For a Cubs fan like me, it always offers new hope.  This year, however, I don't plan on packing that hope away at the end of May.  So in honor of Opening Day, let's crack open a box of Topps Opening Day.

Full disclosure: My choice to break Opening Day wasn't influenced solely by the calendar.  Finances definitely played a part.  A funny thing happens when a new baby joins the family: budgets suddenly shrink, as if by magic.  And that is what happening to us right now.  Unfortunately, my card budget really has to be the first casualty, and that is a reality I accept.  As a result, 2016 baseball has been on the shelves for awhile now, and I have yet to buy anything.  I still wanted to put together a set for this year, but it was looking bleak.  Then I was checking out some cheapo deals at Dave and Adam's and found a box of Topps Opening Day for $25.  Based off of the number of cards in the box, I thought there was a good chance I would be able to complete this set with its abbreviated checklist.  So I pulled the trigger, and sure, enough, my set was complete, along with some inserts and trade bait--all at a price I can afford and the fun of ripping packs instead buying a hand-collated set on eBay.

This year's flagship has been slammed at length by card bloggers for its hazy borders and way-too-up-close shots.  I won't add too much critique, except for this card.

What is up with the pixelated photo?  That is the most egregious transgression with the set's design, in my opinion.  While it's not the best flagship I've seen, I certainly don't find it as agonizingly ugly as some of my fellow hobbyists.  In fact, some of the action shots are remarkable.  For example:

So for about 25 bucks I completed the base set.  Here is my Cubs team set (with one blue Opening Day parallel).  It includes my first Kyle Schwarber!  Here's hoping the Wrigley Kids can build on last year's success.

The inserts came exactly according to the odds. 

 The Superstar Celebrations set is kind of fun, but not spectacular.  Then again, none of the insert sets is spectacular.  I do like the Baltimore pie in the face, in memory of the banned celebratory practice.  I don't plan on putting this set together, so all are available except the Arrieta.

I like the idea of the Striking Distance set.  It's like a milestone set, but preemptive.  I can't decide if I would consider these cards more valuable at a future date if A)the player ends up reaching the milestone this year, or B)the player completely fails to accomplish it...ever.  The good part of me roots for all of these players to do well.  The slightly sadistic side wants a card of a milestone that never was.  All of these are available but the Pujols and the Ichiro.

These are probably the best-looking inserts, but again, they aren't spectacular.  Plus, these alternate uniforms are used so often that they don't seem out of the ordinary at all, making the whole concept rather blase.  The top row is not for trade.  Any of the rest are.

This is the insert set I've decided to chase.  It's not my favorite design.  In fact, it's barely interesting.  But I'm totally budget-collecting this, and I just happened to have pulled the guys that will probably be the most expensive.  With Trout, Harper, and Miggy out of the way, I can get those other eight and save a little dough in the process. 

The design on the Opening Day Stars is pretty good, actually.  But I was shocked at how thin the cardstock was.  I mean at 1:24 odds, I thought there would be much more to it than this.  Then I realized: these are stickers.  It makes a lot more sense now.  Both of these are up for trade.

Here are the blue Opening Day Parallels.  The honeycomb design has taken a lot of flak in the flagship, but I think these bright blue cards fare a bit better.  It's hard to see in the scan, but the date "April 4, 2016" is stamped in foil above the Opening Day logo.  These cards have a supposed print run of 2016, but there is no serial number stamped on them.  I read that Opening Day did the same thing last year.  From what I've read, the black "1/1" parallels have no serial number stamped, either.  Can anybody confirm this?  All of these are up for trade.

Bubble Trouble inserts fall one per box.  This is the "hit" of the box.  I get that this product is targeted toward kids (it will be the set I start my boys on next year), so I won't be too critical.  It does nothing for me, though.  Anybody want this one?

And last, but not least, Opening Day's iconic Mascot set.  I haven't decided what to do with these yet.  I don't especially want to hunt them all down, but my kids love mascots.  I think I'll just divvy these out to my boys and call it good.  Why don't these teams name their mascots, by the way?  I'm surprised that 4 of the 7 have no name other than "Mascot."

With 252 cards in the box, I completed the set and pulled 45 inserts and parallels. That leaves me with 7 duplicates.  They're available to whoever wants them.
For as inexpensive as this box was, I'm not complaining.  Sure, the inserts were cheap, but not much less than flagship's insert sets.  At least there are fewer superfluous sets to deal with.  I managed to complete a (smaller) set on the cheap.  My biggest beef is with the selection for the checklist.  Some major names were omitted.  Joe at the Shlabotnik Report points out:

"Here are some of the players who were left out in order to make room for Dellin Betances, Hanley Ramirez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Pineda, Rick Porcello and four Yankees rookies:  Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, MLB Home Run leader Chris Davis, Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, Nolan Arenado, Eric Hosmer, Brian Dozier, Chris Archer, Evan Longoria, Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier."

I understand that not everybody can be included.  But how does the reigning Cy Young Winner not make the grade?

Aside from the obvious imbalance in the checklist, this was a fun box with some impressive photography.  Well worth my time and money.

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