If you've read my blog at all you know that there is really only one criteria by which I judge a card--How it looks. Super-low numbering, a hundred thousand little bat pieces, autographs, these can be factors occasionally, but if the aesthetic is bad then the card is no good.
So then, the best and worst cards of the year are judged pretty simply: quality of design, quality of the picture and feel of the card are all of utmost importance. Secondary characteristics, such as rarity, desirability, rookie-ness and collectiblilty also play a bit role.
Base cards, Inserts and basic parallels (e.g. refractors vs. regular chrome) are included. Ridiculous parallels and "Hits" are not. There will be an best of/worst of post just for Autographs and relics later.
#5. 2010 Topps Opening Day #M9 Paws
You're kidding, right? No, I'm not kidding. The design of this year's Topps Set was colorful and bright and invited motion and joy. Unfortunately, not all cards were well suited to this orientation. But this one was. Cards like this are why Opening Day exist--why it should exist. Amazing what you can do when you're not worried about adding "hits" to a product. You can have a little fun. Great photo of the Tigers mascot, hands raised for a T-shirt toss. The "Opening Day" logo on the card is a bonus (I'm a sucker for event-based logos), and the complete absence of foil on the card seals the deal.
#4. 2010 Topps Heritage #425 Marcus Thames
Heritage was a good product, and there were a lot of cards that were this close to making the list. But the Thames card stands out as being the only candid shot that conveys something deeper. Thames, perhaps best known for his wide smile here is caught in thought and we are given a brief glimpse into the life of a bench player.
Does anyone else miss Marcus Thames?
#3. 2010 Topps #1b Hank Greenberg (SP)
This is what 2010 Topps should have looked like for the Tigers. A deep blue wave on the side of the card, the classic Old English D as the logo. Instead we get bright orange and that newfangled script logo. No thank you. Add in beautiful vintage shot of Hammerin' Hank in Tiger Stadium, in a short-printed first card of the set and you've got a winner.
#2. 2010 Topps T-206 #166 Austin Jackson RC
In a year in which he should have been the AL Rookie of the Year, can you really have a best-of list without Austin Jackson on there somewhere? Personally, his 2010 Topps Chrome card should really be on this list, but the abysmal quality control in that set has left the card warped beyond recognition. As you go through the rest of the year, he has some very nice cards--2010 Topps comes to mind. But there is something about this card. The off-center image of a hatless Jackson. A wry smile that, in this early season set seems to say "I'm going to dominate you. Watch."
This may be a little high on the list because of the T-206 effects that wash the photo out a touch, but I think it still stands on its own.
#1. 2010 Topps Opening Day #WBJ3 Miguel Cabrera
Another Opening Day card? Seriously? Are you allergic to fun? Don't you wish that every set had fun inserts, and cards that were full of color and life? Aren't you sick of looking at re-hashed designs or crappy cards slathered in reflective chrome board or any number of uninspired inserts like Peak Performance or Topps Attax or everything that has ever been produced under the Bowman label?
Well here you go. This card is freaking awesome. It is everything an insert is supposed to be. I mean, it's Miguel Cabrera on top of a freaking Where's Waldo?! Winner.
Honorable Mention: A handful of heritage cards, Maggs throwing his helmet, Papa Grande being himself, Austin Jackson's refractors (Chrome and Redemption), Boesch the once red-hot rookie, Ty Cobb if it were 1956 and The Bird, RIP.
The Worst You know, it's not often that I have a list of potential cards that weighs more heavily towards the "best" list than it does the worst. Maybe that's because more cards were unimpressive leaning towards good than they were bad outright. Well, except for these. These were just bad.
#5. Topps T-206 #88 Jeremy Bonderman
Should this be higher on the list? I mean, it is just so horrible looking. Jeremy Bonderman looks soused, like his blood vessels are in a race to see which one can exit his face soonest. And what's going on with his eyes? T-206 was full of train wrecks like this--in fact I was this close to putting Justin Verlander and his cardboard cut-out devil horns hair on this list--but looking at the Bonderman I just couldn't resist. This is a horrible looking card.
#4. 2010 Topps National Chicle #40 Johnny Damon
I hate this card with the fire of a thousand suns. If I had my way I would make this Number 1 on my list. What? Oh. Let me rephrase. If I didn't have to justify it based on the actual aesthetics of the card and not the personal insult that I feel every time I see the wrong "D" grotesquely contorted on his stupid hat, then it would be Number 1. As it is, it's at the end of the list. Oh, and don't think that this is just about the hat, the actual picture of Damon is pretty miserable too. Nice arm, popeye.
#3. 2010 Topps Heritage #448 Carlos Guillen
I'm pretty sure that Carlos Guillen takes the worst baseball card photos of anybody ever. I hereby make a new year's resolution to explore this in a future post. He is not photogenic. I had originally rated this picture higher because, well, look at it. He's just a little bit of makeup away from being an orc in Lord of the Rings, or some other brainless sci-fi creature*. The fact that there are two cards worse than this is sad commentary indeed.
#2. 2010 Topps National Chicle #71 Miguel Cabrera
This should be the worst card of the year. I put it there and then moved it down, then back, then down. The person who green-lighted the use of this painting has no taste. None. This is one of the worst baseball cards ever produced. Don't make me keep writing or I will but it back to Number 1.
#1. 2010 Topps Updates #US-24 Miguel Cabrera and Vladimir Guerrero
Poor Miguel, owner of the top two spots. Why is the Chicle abomonation not Number 1? Because this card just plain sucks. There is literally nothing good, interesting or enjoyable about it. It shows two completely unrelated players standing around watching the grass grow. It is not a close up of the two engaged in conversation. I can't see Vlad Guerrero's huge smile in response to something Miguel has said. No. Miguel Cabrera is literally standing around with his hands down his pants. Vlad Guerrero looks miserable. They both look miserable. AT THE ALL STAR GAME!
This card is the worst card of the year, because it is one of the most depressing things I have ever seen.
Honorable Mention: Just about all of National Chicle, Verlander's T-206 Card, Hank Greenberg's face., and a convoluted dreary image of the franchise's history.
*Please note, that this is not commentary on Carlos Guillen in general, who I like very much, or even on how Carlos Guillen looks normally. Just how he looks in this particular picture.