Upper Deck decided to start giving Mario at Wax Heaven free boxes to review, so to show my support for their brilliant decision I rushed out and bought a blaster of '08 Masterpieces. If UD would start giving ME free boxes, I might even buy a hobby pack of this stuff one of these days. Let's rip this sucka.
22 Kosuke Fukudome RC
43 Chin Lung-Hu RC
83 Ozzie Smith
55 Johan Santana
Yet another Kosuke rookie from Upper Deck and I haven't even sniffed one out of a Topps product yet. Fukudome is a big fat flopudome as far as I'm concerned so no big deal. This pack was the only one with any rookies at all oddly enough. The Santana card is one of the better looking in this set, but it doesn't hold a candle to a diving Wizard of Oz.
2 Justin Upton
79 Russell Martin
48 Ryan Braun
69 Chase Utley
This is apparently the Young Stars pack. Braun and Utley's cards suffer from Dark Background Syndrome, an affliction that plagues much of this set. Ryan's card is the first card I've noticed that was signed by the artist. Somebody named Gardner painted that portrait, and I wish UD would have noted the artist on the cards like they did for the Hockey Legends Masterpieces set. Gardner also painted the Patrick Roy card for the hockey set, but they didn't list his first name so I haven't been able to find him using the Google. It's fun to look these guys up and see what other paintings they've done! Upton's card has a good sliding action pose, but the art doesn't work for me. More weird dark orange background colors and there's not a lot of energy expressed in the painting. Justin looks like he's sitting on the ground for a picnic, not sliding into third. The Russell card is amazing though, one of the best I've seen so far. That's a good action painting.
85 Chris Carpenter
71 Ryan Howard
41 Vladimir Guerrero
27 Victor Martinez
Ryan Howard is rearing some really baggy pants. This pack gives me my first two doubles (Guerrero & Martinez) for Masterpieces. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since I've gotten lots of trade requests for last year's Masterpiece cards. The Vlad and V-Mart cards look good, which is more than I can say for the Carpenter card. Why in a painted set are there cards of players with their face almost completely obscured by shadows? It's a PAINTING. Make it look good. Maybe UD contracted one artist that just can't paint faces.
64 Joba Chamberlain
50 Joe Mauer
YSL3881 Thurman Munson
20 Carlos Zambrano
6 Mark Teixeira
Joe Mauer looks like he just won his 8th grade spelling bee on his card. Upper Deck did a smart thing in this set: they had the Yankee Stadium Tedium cards become a bonus card in each pack of Masterpieces instead if having them replace a base card. I don't mind the cards actually, especially when it's a card of a player I haven't gotten yet like Thurman. When it's my 7th Kevin Maas card, then I mind. I'm starting to pick up on certain painting styles. Joba was painted by the same guy as Victor Martinez as evident by the wispy pink and blue backgrounds on both. I think Zambrano was painted by the Hunter Pence guy, all darkness and shadows. I don't know who did Tex's painting. It looks good, but the faceless horrors in the crowd disturb me.
75 Tony Gwynn
47 Prince Fielder
60 Whitey Ford
39 Roy Oswalt
Now this is a good pack. The Oswalt card looks great. On the mound in mid-delivery. Prince's card is one of the funnier ones I've seen, he looks like an elephant running from a mouse. Two Hall of Famers fill out the pack. A young Tony Gwynn shows off his batting stance and old school Padres uni. The other legend is an extremely demented looking Whitey Ford. Something is just not right with this card. Look at the eyes. Those aren't Whitey's eyes, those are Pennywise the clown eyes. I'm sure he's happy about finding a pair of baseballs with the number 1 written on them, but there's no way he's that happy about it.
68 Rich Harden
105 Tom Seaver SP
67 Eric Chavez
Oddly enough all four cards n this pack are horizontally oriented. I finally got a short print of Tom Terrific. So far from what I've seen from other blaster breaks is that there is ONE freaking short print per blaster. SPs drop at one in every other pack in hobby packs. I guess Upper Deck listened when I complained that there was no value to hobby packs last year. The ichiro and Harden cards both have the dreaded dark background, but there's a big difference between the two. On Ichiro's card, he is painted in very bright colors, making the subject really pop out on the card. Harden's artist painted 90% of Rich in shadow. That's right, you've got a dark subject and a dark background and the whole picture just melts into a mush of dark bland paint. Unless Upper Deck rammed a photo through a Paint-O-Tron 5000™ and let 'er rip, there's no excuse for this. I've got both my '07 and '08 sets in the same binder and while flipping through them, I noticed that there's also a bunch of cards with dark backgrounds in the 2007 set. The difference is that they are painted like the Ichiro, with a bright, vibrant subject. Which is why that set looked so freaking awesome. I'm thinking UD just got a clunker artist here. Or one who was very, very depressed by painting baseball cards.
54 David Wright
40 Alex Gordon
YSL3906 Sparky Lyle
53 Carlos Beltran
88 Frank Thomas
Kind of a boring pack. David Wright is a good player, but once again his painting just doesn't pop off the card. Frank Thomas is in a Blue Jays uniform which to me is blasphemy. Beltran and Gordon? Meh. But check out Sparky Lyle with those gorgeous Chester A. Arthurs sprouting out of his cheeks!
26 Grady Sizemore
16 Jonathan Papelbon
90 Ryan Zimmerman
76 Greg Maddux
The last pack is a great one. All four cards have excellent pictures on them. Papelbon shows off this year's '07 A&G Torii Hunter pose with his World Series victory constipation howl. Invader Zim is yelling his head off too. According to the back he is celebrating a walk off homer against... the Braves?!? BOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Good looking card of a terrible tragedy. Grady's card is epic. That's one bad-ass mickey fickey ready to beat the hell out of some poor Tiger or Royal. My favorite, obviously, is Maddux. The ol' Master on the hill.
31/90 base cards (34%)
1/30 SP (3%)
2 acceptible '70s Yankee Nostalgias
Good box. Just over one third of the common set (awesome) only one measly short print (teh suck) and no inserts other than the Yankees (boring). Since this product is all about the set, getting a huge chunk of the non-short print base cards is nice. Upper Deck dropped the ball on the short print odds though. Hear me out on this as I go over the math:
Last year there was a 90 card set with no short prints. I bought three blasters, got about 70% of the set and filled it out with singles bought at the card shop. So my baseline for buying blasters of this stuff is 3.
This year I'm going after the set again and I plan to rip blasters to do it. So three more blasters, maybe even a fourth since trading partners love my doubles from this set. Ah, but now there are short prints! That's thirty extra cards to chase. Let's look at a few short print insert ratios to see how that would affect my buying extra blasters.
One short print in every pack: After 4 blasters, I'd have 32 short prints and probably about 15-20 out of the short print set with doubles. I'd risk buying a couple more blasters before I quit due to the huge pile of doubles on my desk. 1:1 ratio = 2 extra blasters.
One short print in every other pack: AKA hobby pack ratio. After 4 blasters, I'd have 16 short prints and probably 8-12 singles. The base set would be close to completion, and with 4 SP's per box you're looking at decent value there. I'd get at least two more to finish up my common set and then would be very temped to buy a couple more for the short prints. If you think it's stupid to buy a blaster just for short prints, I've already done it with A&G this year. 1:2 ratio = 4 extra blasters.
One short print in every fourth pack: After 4 blasters, I'd have 8 short prints. If I remember correctly, this was the ratio for '07 Turkey Red (or was that 1:6?). With good luck I'd have 8/30 short prints. With bad luck I might only have 4 or 5. I might get another blaster hoping to get lucky, but I could end up satisfied with a complete common set and a page of SPs. 1:4 ratio = 1 extra blaster.
One short print in every eighth pack: AKA the actual odds. After 4 blasters, I'd have 4 short prints and most of the set. If I buy a 5th blaster then I would have 5 short prints. One sixth of the short print set if I was lucky enough not to pull a dupe. To finish the SP set, I'd need to buy TWENTY-FIVE more blasters with perfect collation. No. Not gonna happen. Not worth buying any extra blasters either after the common set is complete either. So basically, if my 4 blasters gets me close to the base set, I can trade the dupes for the cards I need and spent that extra blaster money on a nice box of Topps Heritage Update. No more sales for UD even with short prints. 1:8 ratio = unsold blasters rotting on the shelf just like last year.
The point to all this is that there is a certain ratio of base cards to short prints that cause set builders to buy lots of extra boxes of cards and Upper Deck blew it with '08 Masterpieces. A 1:2 or even 1:3 ratio would have made the short prints obtainable enough to make me want to chase the full set. One per box, maybe? Nah. I'll put this year's 90 card set next to last year's 90 card set and treat the SP's as a non-essential insert. It's a shame too, because like the A&G set, I want to buy these cards. I like to rip these packs. but spending a bare minimum of $600 on blasters chasing those short prints is dumb and is not going to happen.
What is that? Just buy Hobby you say? Well the math for that isn't much better. $75 a box with 6 short prints per box adds up to $375 for 30 short prints. Ah, but you get a bunch of framed cards and an auto and gamer per box as well! Yeah, but I'm not collecting those, I'm collecting the set. One hobby box gets me less than half the base set for $75 and here's some actual proof courtesy of Chris Harris. 4 blasters gets me 120 base cards which should be enough to fill out most of the set. I might even get lucky and pull a jersey or something. So that's $80 in blasters for most of the set, 4 SPs and maybe an insert, versus $75 for half the set, 6 SPs (5 in Chris' case) a handful of framed parallels and two 'hits'. To even have a shot at completing the set through hobby wax I need to drop $75 on a second box. For what? For the hits? Let's say You spend $150 on two Hobby boxes of Masterpieces and I buy four blasters and spend the rest of my $150 picking up inserts on eBay. How many '08 UD Masterpieces parallels, relics and autos do think I could snag off of eBay for $70? A hell of a lot more than you'll pull out of those two Hobby boxes, I'll guarantee that. I might even be able to get an auto patch dirt cheap and blow your boxes completely out of the water.
So why not just buy a complete set off of eBay if that's all you want then, smarty maths? Well, 'cause it is actually fun to rip wax and build a set by hand. I'm just saying that once again, Upper Deck dropped the ball and undercut their hobby wax on this product, just like they did last year. Great looking set though, and I'll be buying more of it soon assuming the economy is not in a full blown depression by the next time I have to go to the store. Assuming the store is even open.