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Sunday, January 10, 2010

This is why, Beckett

Wherein dayf drops the first MF-bomb of the new decade in bold large red font... so be warned little children. Here there be Dragons.

Ok, so I'm a day late on the whole National Chicle brouhaha but I'm pretty much late on everything nowadays so no big deal. If this is the only baseball card blog you read (you should really check out some of those guys on the sidebar, but I digress) here's basically what happened over the past 48 hours. On Friday, Beckett posted a preview of 2010 Topps National Chicle. (Political junkies know that bad news is always released on a Friday but once again, I digress). Chris Harris took one look at it, choked down the vomit, and posted this scathing review on Stale Gum. (I rather like the Ichiro with the Pilots uniform, but I'm digressing yet again) All hell breaks loose on the card blogs and Chris Olds (who is secretly a follower of Stale Gum - argh digressing!) (apparently not, who knew?) looks around at the carnage and posts a followup where he basically says "whaaaaaaaaa?" in Jon Stewart's voice. So now all you normal people who only check the card blogs maybe once a week while relaxing on a Sunday morning are caught up. Now, before I discuss Chris Olds' "Why?", I'd first like to discuss the rest of the blogosphere (yes, I'm going to keep using that term, I don't care if everybody else hates it-ACK DIGRESSING AGAIN) *ahem* the rest of the blogosphere's question of "Why??".

As in "Why the hell does this product even exist??"

Beyond the obvious answers of "Retro always sells", "It sticks it to Upper Deck Who already did this set with 2007 Goudey and 2009 Philadelphia" and "Because they Can." here is one other reason why this particular design is being used in this particular set. I'm not talking about card design, I'm talking about art design. This set exists in this form because you all went batshit over Topps Sketch Cards. Here's a few sketch cards that made it out into the wild. Compare the art with some of the art from that preview. I'll bet a binder that this guy did some of the artwork in this set. National Chicle is not just a retro set, it's an ART set.

Topps has a whole stable of artists sketching up 1/1 insert cards for not only baseball, but all their non-sports products too. These sketch cards are WILDLY popular. There is a great history of artistic sets going back through card history: Upper Deck Masterpieces... Upper Deck Checklists... Dick Perez Diamond Kings... 1953 Topps... 1935 National Chicle... Topps has the artists working for them already, why not have them work on a set? Now, the thing with art, see, is that it is usually not exactly photorealistic. It is sort of... well, artsy, and some artyness is better than others. So in the same set you can have some fantastic art, and other art that is not so good. Since that's just the nature of art, I would advise my fellow bloggers not to abandon this set - or indeed the entire hobby itself - over a couple of clunkers in the sell sheet of an art set. Give it some time, let some more images come out, heck, Topps might even be reading all of this stuff and ordering their design team to work weekends for the next month to fix some of these problems, and just wait and see how the final product turns out. You might be pleasantly surprised. Just look at that Jackie Robinson card again and imagine an entire base set that looks like that.

Ok, now onto Chris Olds' question: "Why are people freaking out over these previews??"

The best way to address this is by dissecting the Stale Gum post which was strongly alluded to, if not directly linked, in the Beckett article. Chris Harris has issues with three of the cards in the preview. One, Ichiro in a Pilots uniform is mostly an anachronistic thing. Yeah, the Pilots were based in Seattle, but they eventually moved to Milwaukee, which is a completely different franchise than the Mariners. Ok, so the Pilots are technically not the Mariners, but it's the same city and it's no more odd than Greg Maddux wearing an Atlanta Black Crackers Negro League throwback which he did in real life. Of course, as a dedicated collector, Chris has every right to hate this card. I personally am still so angry with Topps over their Black Border blaster bait & switch that if I was strolling down the street and came upon Michael Eisner on fire, I not only would not piss on him, but I would roast marshmallows and sing campfire songs as he burned to death. Collectors are funny that way.

Now for card #2, the weird Beckham/Konerko/Maybe Even Thome 1990 Frank Thomas No-Name Variation Homage Card Thingy. This card is just so wrong on many different levels. First of all, a 1990 Topps card does not belong anywhere near a 1930's retro set. It just doesn't. Even the Thomas error or the President Bush '90 Topps card is simply not worthy of being in the same binder as any card from the 1930's. I mean, it's cute and all, Beckham was a 1st rounder, Big Hurt was a first rounder... this just isn't the time or place for it. And making it one of the first cards shown of the set just isn't a smart move. Especially when aesthetically speaking it's just a plain butt-ugly card. Even the White Sox fan hates it and that's saying something.

Ok, now for THE card. The card that has made many heads asplode this weekend. I'm talkin' 'bout this:
Hrm. A Chicle card of Chipper Jones. What's the big deal? I mean, the red jersey is ugly as sin, but that's the fault of the Braves' marketing department, not Topps so why are people what WHAT WHAAAAAT???

Babe Ruth? That's Babe Ruth?? Um, if you say so Topps...

Here's Babe Ruth:

And here's Chipper Jones:

And here's that card again:

And here's Babe Ruth in a Braves uniform:

He's the one on the right...

The card again:
Ok, that don't look like Babe Ruth. That looks like Chipper Jones in a red Braves Home Sunday alternate uniform. The nose and mouth especially are all wrong for Babe. Let's be all Mythbusters scientific about this. Here are Babe, Whoever that dude is and Chipper all side by side:

Still looks like Chipper. Wait, unknown dude has eyeblack. Here they are with eyeblack:

Forget for a moment that no ballplayer would be caught dead with eyeblack in 1935. I guess it kiiiinda sorta looks like Ruth if you squint- um, actually no it doesn't. it looks even more like Chipper there. It could be the uniform though. Chipper Jones is Mr. Brave, it's natural that when we look at a painting of a guy in a Braves uniform, that it would look like Chipper. Here's Mr. Generic wearing Yankee Pinstripes.

Now I'm frightened and sad because The Yankees just signed Chipper Jones. Alright, the face isn't really a good indicator, it's too subjective. It can look like who we want it to look. Here's a better test: the three guys' torsos:

Ok, if that card is supposed to be Babe Ruth, then I'M Chipper Jones. Look at how fat Babe is there and that's back when he was a Yankee. He was even fatter as a Brave. Some guy painted Chipper Jones with kind of an odd face and Topps decided they'd be slick and try to pass it off as Babe Ruth. Babe Ruth, probably the most recognizable baseball player that ever lived. Even though it doesn't look a damn thing like Babe Ruth and it's quite blatantly Chipper Jones to anyone who might look at it. Consider this: if you were an artist, and Topps commissioned you to paint a picture of Babe Ruth in a 2009 Braves uniform WOULD YOU PAINT THEM A PICTURE OF CHIPPER JONES? No, you wouldn't. That would be just plain stupid.

This is why everyone hates this card. Because Topps took what was obviously a painting of Chipper Jones and got cute and put Babe Ruth's name on the card just to fuck with us. "Oh, but Babe Ruth played for the Braves in 1935..." yeah, he sure did and that's STILL a painting of Chipper Jones and Topps STILL put Babe Ruth's name next to it. I don't care if it's supposed to be a 'fun' card, two plus two is not five, and Chipper Jones is not Babe Ruth, no matter what Topps says. Newsflash for Topps: collectors are sick and fucking tired of this shit. They are tired of John Smoltz and Tom Glavine's names being spelled Jon Smoltz and Thom Glavine. They are tired of Johan Santana's first Topps cards in a Mets uniform being unobtainable super short prints. They are tired of Rangers logos on Padres cards and photos being flipped both horizontally and vertically on purpose and the names of two marginal Giants outfielders being swapped on each other's cards and an extra unnumbered card of the hottest rookie of the year tacked onto the greatest set building brand Topps has in their entire product line for no other fucking reason than to shove another goddamn gimmick right up our asses in the vain hopes that it will trigger another '06 Alex Gordon feeding frenzy. WE ARE TIRED OF THE BULLSHIT, TOPPS, AND WE WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE IT TO STOP NOW THAT YOU HAVE AN EXCLUSIVE MOTHERFUCKING LICENSE. This, Beckett; this, Topps; this, Chris Olds; this is why people are so irritated by this silly little card that they are threatening to boycott the only licensed manufacturer of friggin' baseball cards over it.

I don't hate it though, I love it. I want this card very badly and I'll gladly take it off the hands of anyone who pulls it and hates it. That's because Chipper Jones is my favorite player and it's quite obviously a Chipper Jones card no matter whose name is on the thing. I will take this card and love it and scan it and post it to Zistle and put it in a top loader and put it with my other thousand Chipper Jones cards because it's a dadgum Chipper Jones card. That card is not why I'm infuriated with 2010 Topps National Chicle. THIS is the reason I'm infuriated with 2010 Topps National Chicle:
Tommy Hanson does NOT have a pedo-stashe!!! Who the hell painted this?? Why would they DO that??? WHY?????


night owl said...


I am thoroughly finished with "cute."

"Cute" wants to make me smack the smirk right off those smarmy Topps boys.

I hope they're reading this. If they are, I'm talking to you Mr. Smirky. Don't make me smack you.

TJ said...

I'm going to be pissed if I have to go to bed with that image of Chipper/Babe in my head. Tommy Hanson and his pedo-stash? That's a whole different ballgame. Good night.

Anthony K. said...

You sir, deserve a slow clap for that post.

I planned on thoroughly destroying Chicle as well....but you did a much better job then I would have.

So, instead, I plan on just linking to your post about how I feel.

Thanks for making it easy for me ;)

Steve Gierman said...

I didn't even want to touch the "Chipper Ruth" in my post. If I would have done that, I would have dropped the first M-F bomb on my blog.

Unknown said...

Very well said. I hope they read this. I really hope they read this.

Motherscratcher said...

Billy Idol gets it. Why doesn't Chris Olds?

the sewingmachineguy said...

I am a big fan of retro-themed sets. I like the cardboard feel of them. This looks like one I will be avoiding until Blasters are 50% off at Meijer.
Great post.

dayf said...

Haiku version:

Topps makes funny joke:
"Chipper Jones is now Babe Ruth"
collectors facepalm.

dayf said...

For extra added fun, go to the original Beckett preview of Chicle and compare the autograph subjects they have images for and compare it to the pre-sell autograph checklist.

Notice anything?

This is another reason we're all fed up with Topps, but that's another post.

Anonymous said...

"Collectors" might like sketch cards, but I never even liked the Perez' cards.

I hope to God that all the Twins players are depicted as Senators, so I won't be collecting them.

dayf said...

An in case it's not clear from my long insane rambling post, I am really looking forward to this set. While the Chipper and the Beckham card are ludicrous, they appear to be part of the high numbered subsets (which will probably be sport printed, which is another rant for another time) and not indicative of the actual base set.

If the Jackie Robinson card is what the rest of the base cards will look like this has the potential to be one of the nicest sets of the year. For now, like Thom Yorke, I shall choose to be Optimistic.

You can try the best you can, if you try the best you can... the best you can is good enough.

Motherscratcher said...

well...the big fish eat the little ones. Big fish eat the little ones.

Not my problem, get me some.

Matt P. said...

I can't wait to buy this and get another Brad Nelson Brewers card. OH! Maybe they will have a Bill Hall card with the Brewers too.

Piss off, Topps.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Chipper Ruth looks more like Magglio Ordonez to me. :d

Awesome post, btw.

Offy said...

Um, at least his tongue isn't sticking out...

I'm tired of all of the games as well. If Topps feels like they can't sell their sets without gimmicks then maybe they should pack up and call it a day. I thought they finally after the great 2009 set they sold on its own merits. The great HTA jumbo boxes were even better. Then they started the crap in Heritage and everything else. I don't get it.

JD's Daddy said...

nice work indeed! And Tommy Hanson with a porn stache? We must haves it, my precious! I am spending my 2010 completely on chicklets!

McCann Can Triple said...

April first would have been a good day for the preview.

Dinged Corners said...

Brilliant narrative.

Re the Babe Chipper, there's also the mystery of that cleft chin. Perhaps it came from the same place as Hanson's 'stache?

gritz76 said...

I think this set will be responsible for the best and worst looking cards of 2010. Either way it will give us plenty to write about. I'm still excited about 100% on card autos. At least that's a step in the right direction.

McCann Can Triple said...

My mom just saw the Chipper Ruth card.

"That's Chipper isn't it?"

mfw13 said...

I think that the reason most collectors are pissed off is that they are tired of all the lousy products at ridiculous prices.

On a per-card basis, most products today sell at roughly 5-10 times the price they did 20 years ago
(1989 Topps = .03/card, 2009 Topps = .20/card), despite the fact that inflation over that time period has only been about 70% and quality has only improved marginally.

Today, the hobby seems to be mostly about chasing artificially scarce autograph and relic cards, irrelevant parallels, and pointless inserts rather than collecting the cards themselves.

Start putting out well-designed products with good checklists and relevant inserts at a decent price, and people like me might start buying cards again.

RoofGod said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Once again you summed it up nicely.

By the way Chris Olds just called you out. I think he didn't like you talking bad about his beloved meal ticket...err Topps.


cynicalbuddha said...

wow now i'm all pumped up. And I still have an hour till the packer game. well said.

Olds said...

I didn't call anyone out. Calling him out for his opinion would be to use his name directly and try and tie it to something else unfounded. (You know, kind of like how my name got dropped in here.)

Plenty of people are having the same knee-jerk reactions which is one of the reasons it makes for a good blog item (or two... or three).

Olds said...

(You know, because I am a "secret follower" ... )

dayf said...

Wait... you don't follow Stale Gum? You should, it's a really good blog.

John Bateman said...

It is interesting that Babe Ruth and Chipper Jones have facial features associated with the Negroid Race. Both have upturn nostrils. Author Fred Lieb mentioned in book that Ty Cobb considered Ruth an African American (though he did not use that term back in the 1920s). Chipper Jones also has that multi cultural look.

Play at the Plate said...

Very nice...and some great comments too.

Anonymous said...

I bow before thee. That was awesome.

Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

Thank you. Well said. Bravo, Encore.

The Mojo Hand said...

Yes, and when Topps awarded these artist's the opportunity to create this set they were all very excited, and proud to be a part of it.

Some of them are even collectors ( imagine that).

They spent hours painting, and drawing on tiny pieces of cardboard a fraction of the size of what they are used to working with.

When it was all said and done they had put forth their best effort, and from the looks of it nobody liked it.

Which is strange to me because a majority of bloggers all seem to want to be creative in one way or another. Be it making their own cards, or drawing their own cards. We don't come right out and say they look like shit do we? No we keep those types of comments to ourselves, because we don't want to hurt anyones feelings

Im sure they read blogs like this one ( a very good one), and feel pretty crappy about themselves.

I can understand bashing the companies on certain issues, but don't shoot yourself in the foot. All your doing is stopping Topps from allowing local artist's from participating in future releases.

That my friend is very bad.