2018 Topps is here! Yay, I think.

Let’s jump right in. Here is the first card of the 2018 season, for me, anyway…

Thumbs up to you too, Matt, though I’m not sure if you’re giving me the thumbs up because you did something in this game, because you got traded away from the Barves, because you figure there’s a good chance you’re gonna get paid a ton of money to sit on your ass, or because you just wanted a cool baseball card. Either way, this may be my favorite Matt Kemp card of all time (though it didn’t have a ton of competition).

Here are the card backs, for those curious…

They got me used to partial stats fairly quickly, in part because my vision’s taken a serious hit in the past year or so, but also because it sorta reminds me of Donruss. The fronts do, too. The designs are different, but something about the use of color and the full-bleed on the front reminds me of late-period pre-Panini Donruss, figure ’03-’05.

I am with all of you who think there was a better use of that dead space to the right of the social media and the factoids, but I don’t know if a QR code would’ve worked at that size, and there’d probably be some debate as to what site it’d go to, or what function it’d serve. Stats at mlb.com or Baseball Reference? If it gets you a Bunt card of the physical one, do they just give you white base, or is there some element of chance there? Speaking of, I don’t think the flagship design lends itself to the “10 parallels of the same base card” dynamic on Bunt, so we’ll probably see another season of divergent physical and digital flagship cards, bah. But yeah, if they’re taking away full stats, dead space is a bad idea. Even, from a graphic design perspective, if they’d widened the facts, and centered the social media box, I think it would have been better, but this reeks of “we were going to put something in that space, probably a QR code, and had to nuke it at the last minute”. Moving onto some more cards…

Springer was a lot of fun to watch in the Series. Not as much fun for me as Alex Bregman (who I think is gonna be an unbelievable player), but still a lot of fun.

Mookie looks like he’s simultaneously pulling a Carlton Fisk and dancing here. Mookie don’t care, though, because he won his arbitration case!

Well, I won’t have to worry about these being super-overpriced when it comes time to finish this set. Frazier’s got an RC logo on his card when he was first in Bowman in, what, 1994?

I won’t have to worry about these, either. Would you believe I got these back-to-back in my hanger box?

Here’s some ’18 base of other players I collect (I mostly limit my current players to my fantasy team, hence the Mookie above, but I have been buying Greinke’s cards forever, it seems). I really love the Realmuto card. It’ll probably be his last Topps Marlins card, but it’s a gem.

The box promised 2 Jeter highlights cards, and now that his name is mud, they gave me three! I’ll hang onto them, though. He may have a plan in Miami that doesn’t just make him look like a big jerk forever (one of the sports stories of the next decade’s gonna be seeing how that all plays out), and I have some good memories of watching him play. Plus, I finally live in a part of the country where people will part with Jeter cards without asking for vital organs.

Anyone want these?

The Arenado sorta-gold’s 755/2018, if that makes a difference. Really disappointed that they didn’t go with actual card stock for the ’83s, like they did with the ’87s last year. And yeah, I’m basically good on any of these insert sets, not building them. Pretty flat inserts this year, and for this, I am RELIEVED.

I should also mention, though they won’t be pictured here, that I got 14, count ’em, 14 horizontal base cards in a row in this pack. The reason they won’t be pictured is that they were 14 pretty uninspiring horizontal base cards, of players I don’t have much of a vested interest in. Still, that’s what they went with in this pack, after the inserts were done. Weird collation.

How do I feel overall about the pack and this year’s flagship? It’s a mixed bag, but a step up from ’16 and ’17 on the base design. I’ll be building it (damn it), so send me your base doubles. The inserts are pretty lukewarm, especially the ’83s, so I’m gonna pass on those and trade whatever I get that isn’t a player I collect. Still, I don’t feel like I actually wasted my time and money buying these, like I have for 3 out of the past 4 seasons (’15 was awesome, but it was the only truly awesome flagship set of the past 5 years).

So, here’s my want list for Series 1 base:

2018 Topps (Have 63/350): 2-3, 5-6, 8, 10-13, 15, 17-21, 23-51, 53-74, 76-78, 81-82, 84-86, 88-93, 96-104, 106-107, 109-116, 119-121, 123-126, 128-137, 139, 141-143, 145, 148-154, 156-160, 162-167, 170-178, 180-182, 184-192, 194-197, 199-202, 204-211, 213-220, 222-224, 226-233, 235-240, 243-247, 249-251, 253-254, 256-258, 260-262, 264-266, 268, 271-274, 276-285, 288-289, 291-304, 306-310, 312-316, 318-322, 324-325, 327-329, 331-333, 336, 338-346, 348-350

How’d y’all do?

This Year’s Fantasy Team

So, for the 19th season in a row (I’ve been in ever since Yahoo! bought a site called Sportasy.com, which I’d never even heard of until I did some reading on Wikipedia the other day, and made it Yahoo! Fantasy Sports), and the 16th in a row in this particular league that I created, I’m playing fantasy baseball.

The pictures above are of my 2017 roster. We run a dynasty league, which means we can keep as few or as many players from the previous year’s 25 man roster as we like. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep one player who I’d have really liked to keep, for reasons so much bigger than fantasy baseball or even the actual games, because Jose Fernandez is gone now. That sad event aside, I ended up keeping 22 out of my remaining 24 players this off-season (I won the league last year for the first time since ’09, so my guys were pretty OK), which gave me 3 picks in the draft.

My picks were Clint Frazier, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Yulieski Gurriel. The first two are still prospects. Very good ones, but they’re not making the big leagues right away (Frazier’s closer than Vlad Jr., but he’s still a little ways off). This gave me two extra active roster spots, since we have 2 NA spots in our league for minor leaguers, players on suspensions and such, so it was both forward-thinking and very, very sneaky!

Gurriel, I remember as far back as the first World Baseball Classic in 2006, when he played some very good baseball for the Cuban national team. There was also a guy named Yoandy, or Yoandi Garlobo (I’ve seen it spelled both ways) on that team who was an extraordinary hitter, but as far as I know, he’s still in Cuba, he appears to have retired 4 years ago, and as he turns 40 this year, he’s likely not ever playing in Major League Baseball even if he leaves now. Back to Yuli, he had a long road to America and the majors, but he’s here now, and while practically, he’s already at least 32 years old and third baseman #3 on my team (I’m still trying to lock down a great 3B, though I’ve got hope for Jose Ramirez and Ryon Healy), he’s insurance if one of those guys doesn’t work out, and a guy I like rooting for.

Now, I mentioned the 2 extra roster spots I gained by putting the prospects in the minors. I used them to pick up the best starting pitchers I felt I could get my hands on after the draft. They were Ivan Nova and Robert Gsellman. Gsellman’s more of a risk than Nova, because there’s a lot of competition for the Mets’ 5th rotation spot (knowing the Mets, they’ll make room for him in some snakebitten kinda way), but Nova’s a guy I had good results with in ’16 (but no room on my keeper roster, as he was guy #26, with Trevor Story ending the season on the DL), and someone who’s done good things in camp so far.

I had no luck getting closers in this draft, so I’m either going to punt Saves for this year, or bottom feed as closers falter throughout the season. Hopefully the rest of my team’s good enough to let Kenley Jansen balance an entire category on his shoulders.

Our draft was fun as usual. We had 2 more teams this year than last (some turnover last year, as life happens), including one of our long-timers returning, and Kerry from Cards on Cards (who I’ve traded bubble gum cards a bunch with over the years) joining us. Good turnout, lots of time to catch up (as the draft app auto-drafted our keepers), and there were no real hitches on the tech end.

So, if you’re wondering if there’s a tie-in between this league and my collecting hobbies, there’s a thing I’m considering doing more actively, related to all this fantasy ball stuff. As I’m getting to keep my teams intact from year to year, I’m considering both collecting most of the players on my team more seriously, and doing what I can to fill my fantasy team with players I’d want to collect. I think it’ll be an interesting experiment. I mean, I’ve always tried to keep guys like Mark Buehrle and Adam Dunn on my teams, often well beyond the point where it made for sound game strategy, but I want to see how much synergy I can get going between my fantasy game and my card collection.

Right now, the sticking points would be Albert Pujols (great player, has helped my fantasy teams in 5 different seasons, but not a guy I like to root for; too chummy with Tony LaRussa, who’s kind of awful), Carlos Martinez (terrific pitcher who’s been the workhorse of my staff since I traded for him 2 years ago, but he’s on the Cardinals and I really don’t like the Cardinals, sorry, Kerry, more cards for you at least!), and the amount of fairly hot rookies I’ve got on my roster (those get pricey, and are hard to get people to let go of in trades), but otherwise, I like most of my team, and I think it’ll be fun to trade for more of their cards. So, I may see what I can do about making that a pretty integral part of my game and my collection.