(Because I’m at least as qualified as the rest of these idiots.)
As the players start their first days of Spring Training (well, at least the ones who had the nerve to only show up “on time,” whatever that means), the discussion naturally turns to who will or will not be on the team next year. Huh? Can’t we even get to the first game before the trade rumors start flying? Come on, so-called media, at least let a few more players get their season-ending injuries out of the way before you roll out the doom and gloom cloud of the possible (some would say inevitable) departure of David Wright.
How did we get here? Well, it all started when Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals third baseman and friend of Wright, got a massive contract extension. Speculation ran wild about what this would mean for the price to keep Wright when his contract runs out, but Wright quickly dismissed such nonsense. This led to talk of trading Wright, with a unnamed source claiming that it would take an overwhelming package on the order of four Zack Wheelers to get the front office to consider moving Wright. Since the Mets currently have the only Zack Wheeler known to be any good at baseball, this would make a trade a near impossibility. The media then proclaimed that it was a near certainty that Wright would be traded. See how that works?
So why do I care about any of this? I know, trade rumors aren’t exactly my thing, but I have my reasons. Wright is currently the longest-tenured current Met with a game-used patch card (see how that ties everything back together?). Why is that piece of trivia important? All will be revealed in time, but let’s just say that I like to have the Mets patch card spot filled by a star player who has never played for another team. If Wright were to go elsewhere, that would leave me with, um, Ike Davis? No offense to Ike (and that gold Topps Marquee Acclaimed Impressions dual patch auto is a beauty), but I’d rather see Wright finish out his career with the Mets.
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Topps remembers Tom Seaver and tries to photoshop out the memory of Jose Reyes
With the [trademarked term for a significant football game] just around the corner at the end of January, one thing was on everyone’s mind – baseball cards! Topps Series 1 dropped on January 31 with a huge media event that looked like someone put Keith Olbermann and a camera crew in my living room circa 2001. Anticipation had been building for weeks, filling the 40-day gap since the last Topps product release. So did the product live up to the hype?
The big news in the lead-up to Topps Series 1 was the inclusion of several short-printed variant cards. The big ones were photoshopped cards of fan-favorite Jose Reyes and some guy named Al in their new teams’ uniforms (I guess Prince Fielder waited too long to sign). These were announced as very limited short prints, just to make sure nobody sold them cheap on launch day. Other SPs included humorous cards showing mascots, Gatorade, and Skip Schumaker’s foot (more on this later).
The theme for the bulk of the insert sets this year is gold. Golden Moments, Golden Greats, Gold Standard, Gold Futures, gold-colored coins, Gold Rush wrapper redemption cards, and even 1/1 solid gold cards (via redemption of course) filled out the base product. The Golden Moments insert set filled the annual role of “set spread across all mainline Topps products with relic and autograph variants.” Manufactured material also got a boost, expanding into metal objects like pins, coins, and rings in addition to the usual cloth offerings (this year’s theme: retired numbers).
With the stage set, launch day held a few surprises. First, the first-ever card featuring Jose Reyes in a (fake) Marlins uniform was overshadowed by a squirrel. The Skip Schumaker SP featuring the Cardinals “rally squirrel” was the hot ticket, with one of the first pulled selling for over $600. After a few ending in the $300+ range, prices quickly settled down to the $100-200 level. These should bottom out somewhere in the $20-$50 range, which is still absurd. The Reyes card meanwhile is settling in at about $50-$100, not that it matters. This is supposed to be about the Mets after all.
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November 1986 (or maybe December). The Mets had just won the World Series. I was waiting in line with a few dozen other people freezing their butts off outside Groo’s Shoes in Vails Gate, NY. We were suffering for a chance to meet one of our heroes. No, not Keith or Gary or Dwight or Darryl. Not even Mookie or MVP Ray. We were there for relative newcomer and backup infielder Howard Johnson.
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In the wake of his death, countless words have been written about Gary Carter and all that he did in his life. I’m not going to try to duplicate any of that. I didn’t know Carter, I never met him, and I only saw him play in person twice, both from high stadium seats (once in 1986 and once in 1988). All I have of Carter is in cardboard and ink, so that will have to do.
The start of Gary Carter’s tenure with the Mets just happens to coincide with the start of my time as a Met fan. As with any fan of the Mets in that era, I saw Carter as part of the team’s foundation and, essentially, the face of the franchise in the late ’80s. This was perhaps shown best when it came to boxes of wax packs. While Keith Hernandez (1985 Topps), Dwight Gooden (1986 Fleer), and Darryl Strawberry (1990 Score) would all have their cards featured on a wax box, Carter’s smiling face took up most of the space on the top of the boxes and sets of 1989 Fleer. He was such a dominant baseball figure in that day and continued to have a strong presence in the baseball card hobby right up to his death and hopefully well beyond.
Alpha to Omega: Carter’s rookie card and the final card released in his lifetime
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I got the last of the cards I needed for a Mets-biased review of 2012 Topps Series 1 in the mail today, so the actual review will be up this week. Here’s some Dickey in the meantime:
The dream Mets starting rotation (one extra as an injury replacement of course)
It’s common to see someone identify as a “lifelong Mets fan,” but what does that really mean? Were you born wearing orange and blue face paint? Were your first words “Let’s go Mets?” Did you learn to walk just so you could participate in a “kids run the bases” event at Shea? I could see this being true in Boston, where indoctrination begins in the womb, but New York has too many sports options for that to be practical. My blessing and my curse is being able to remember what and how I thought as a child, which means I can never call myself a “lifelong” anything (genetics aside). When it comes to the Mets, I can remember a time before I had developed an opinion. I can remember when I chose to be a Mets fan. And I can remember the first team I chose to be a fan of – the New York Yankees.
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