Grand Cards: The Grand Scheme Calls Me Shirley

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Grand Scheme Calls Me Shirley

I have been completely out of commission since Saturday courtesy of some rather nasty flu-like symptoms, but appear to be over the hump at this point. This is my attempt to piece some thoughts together before my self imposed 9 o'clock bedtime tonight.

Surely, you can't be serious Over the last few days, quite the commotion has erupted over Topps National Chicle--the all painted set that Beckett previewed on Friday-- The bloggers that seemed to spearhead the hubbub/bring it to the forefront are some of my favorites, and can be found here, here and here.

First of all, I'm not going to re-post that awful Babe Ruth card because you've probably seen it already and it is linked four times thus far. I can't believe that card was a) ever created and b) looks like it does. However, I will comment on the reaction of the poor starving artists that slaved over these works day and night. From Beckett's follow-up article "The Artists React"

From the "Widely Acclaimed" Monty Sheldon who did a number of cards for the set (note: "quote" were to use Beckett's appropriate description, not an attempt to belittle the artist":
“It really sucks to hear all of the negative things being said when I know all too well the time spent in creating the art pieces,” Sheldon said via email. “I think some people just think and speak from a dark place all of the time and have no clue as to how they sound to the majority of folks.”

I do not care how much time the artists put into these cards. That is not my problem. Do my clients complain when I put hours and hours into a project only to have it come out crummy? Of course they do. That's because they're paying for the product, not the process. You should take however long it takes you to get it right.

Adding fuel to the fire is fellow artist Jeff Zachowski:
“Ultimately, these artists are doing a tremendous amount of work in a short amount of time [on a budget], so results will vary,” Zachowski said. “Trust me, the fans aren’t the only ones looking at these products with a critical eye. I hope collectors support these painted sets.

Again, I don't care about your deadlines or your budget. Nobody is forcing you to do this. I categorically reject a "results will vary" response due to these mitigating factors. Last year's Masterpieces showed Roy Halladay as a decaying troll, remember?

I don't recall anyone throwing a fit then.

That's because, prior to this article being written, I hadn't heard one person complain about the artists in this set, but rather the execution of a few cards. The Ruth, namely, and the odd Frank Thomas/Gordon Beckham thing as the other prime culprit. Yet the artists truly enlighten us in a few choice sentences.

From Paul Lempa, creator of "The Ruth" card:
“As for the painting in question, the Babe Ruth in a modern-day Braves uniform was requested specifically from Topps"

And from 27 Chicle-card painter Dave Hobrecht:
“A few cards just got ripped. What they didn’t know was the artist was asked to do those,” he said. “It was part of the commission. I did a Walter Johnson in a Nationals uni and a Christy Mathewson in a Giants uni.”

Bingo. I think it is important to clear something up. I don't think that people are really all that upset about the quality of the painting. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't. I think that the problem that people have is with the concept and that is squarely on Topps. Topps tried to get cutesy with an otherwise normal vintage set and their collective Brains spit out a couple of ideas that seemed ok, but turned to crap in their execution. This is par for the course in the card world. Ask Upper Deck how "Documentary" turned out. Sometimes an interesting idea just doesn't work, and that certainly seems to be the case here.


All is not lost Based on the images I saw, I'm actually excited for National Chicle. I mean, sure, there's the real beaut of the bunch:

But lest we forget this blog's explicit call to action?
Topps, Upper Deck or whoever--get me some 2010 baseball cards with these throwbacks. Or even better *PRODUCT IDEA ALERT* 2010 Allen & Ginter should be the current players ALL pictured in throwbacks, preferably in some sort of "posed action shot." That would be killer.

I was satiated, briefly, by some Topps Unique cards that really weren't nearly as interesting as I thought they were once I got over the blissful shock of seeing Granderson c. 1909. But these Chicles are the real deal.

That's a double-painted, double-throwback, double-auto of two rising stars. I find it to be awesome. I still think that they could pull of an all-throwback set--and a painted set like Chicle would be the one to do it with--but given the great divide between concept and execution in card company land, it is probably too much to ask.

Finally, I like the Ichiro-as-Seattle Pilot card. I don't care that the Pilots became the Brewers and that is a fundamentally different franchise than the Mariners. I mean, I do a little, but not really. The fact is, Baseball has a historical timeline that can be traced through cities and fan-bases. My guess is that the (few) Pilots fans became Mariners fans, simply because they lived in Seattle. For me, throwbacks and historical remembrances are well within the realm of what is acceptable in baseball cards. We can always remember and celebrate the past. What we CAN'T do is take someone from the past and project them into the future. That is weird and unsettling and nobody likes it. Legends are legends because they are permanently fixed in their era yet are able to transcend time through certain enduring images and stories. Don't mess with the dead, but I can live with current players dressing up like it's the olden days.

/my two cents rant

You can't spell obsequious without I.O.U The whole "bedridden" thing has made it rather difficult for me to send out the cards from my contest. Nevertheless, they are all picked out, sorted, packed and ready to go and I think I can swing by the post office tomorrow. So, for Night Owl, Smitty and Thoughts and Sox, your cards are on your way.

On another note, the Collective Troll has been opening packs of old cards for as long as I remember now, which reminded me that I need to send him his four cards, as promised. That may take another day or two to find, pack and send those, but now that I've remembered, it is on the list, so never fear.

Surely, you can't be... Oh, geez. On the Tigers side of things, word on the street is that the Tigers might plop down $12-14 Million to sign closer Jose Valverde for two years--and be forced to give up their 1st round draft pick in the process. Excuse me while I think happy thoughts before asking to be relieved from my present day hell.

I'm sure that the 30 year old Valverde is a fine closer, who by objective measurements would be worth that kind of money. Not the point. The point is this. The Tigers tore out the collective insides of the fan base under the guise of getting younger and cheaper. This move would not only make the Tigers 1) Older and 2) More Expensive (more expensive than keeping Fernando Rodney, even, who signed for 2 years and $11M!) but it would directly undermine the long term goal by giving up a first round draft pick.

No No No No No. There is no plan. I can't see how there could be.

Misc. I've been putting together 2009 galleries for Topps Unique and Topps Triple Threads, and let me tell you that they are the most painful sets that I've ever gone through. Some of the cards are actually quite nice, but it is just a whole different ballgame and just brutal to try and categorize into "team set" form. You'll see my best shot with Unique in the next day or two. I think I did alright. Scott Podsednik signed with the Royals. Thank God--keep him out of Detroit. Meet Michigan's most famous baseball alum: GEORGE SISLER! WOO! That's cool. If a man hits 583 Home Runs on steroids, does it make a sound? Nothing to see here, people. With the Lions continuing to not make the playoffs, we get to play everyone's favorite game: which team has the most Michigan players to root for? Stevie Breaston v. Charles Woodson made things tricky last week. Oh, right. The Gummies! Full breakout and reactions. Congratulations to all the winners. Oops! 9:01 by my computer clock. Time for bed. See you in hell, flu.