Monthly Archives: November 2012

Game Recap: 27 September 2012, Pirates at Mets

Everything’s coming up Dickey

Yeah, this is a month two months late, but do you have any more pressing Mets news to read in late October November?

September 27 at Citi Field was a day of contradictions.  The Mets were nearing the end of another losing season, but fans showed up in droves to cheer on a winner.  No, not Keith Hernandez’s mustache, it was R.A. Dickey who put butts in seats after the previous games in the series failed to draw a crowd.  In search of his 20th win, Dickey rescheduled his start to land on the final game at Citi Field in 2012.  But before we get to that, something about this sounds familiar.  A Mets star going for a milestone in New York against the Pirates?  I’ve seen that one before in the only other home Mets game I ever attended, though the outcome was not a pleasant one.

The year was 1988 and the Mets were headed to their second division championship in three years.  On a summer evening, I was headed to Shea Stadium with my brother’s Boy Scout troop to see my first home Mets game and what would be my only game at Shea Stadium.  One of the conditions of my attendance was wearing some form of troop clothing, which in this case was a green hat.  I was not thrilled with this arrangement, but I had no choice but to comply.

As the LaGuardia air traffic thundered overhead, seemingly only just beyond arm’s reach from the upper deck, Gary Carter was trying for his 300th home run.  A Roger Rabbit themed fan sign implored Carter to hit #300 (I told you this was 1988…).  He did not.  Things quickly fell apart and the Pirates had a lead that was too much to hope for the Mets to come back from.  We were forced to leave in the 8th inning so we could beat the traffic.  We did not.

Citi Field has been a place that I’ve wanted to visit since it opened in 2010, but it’s just too far away for a casual visit and I’m not all that familiar with New York City despite living in its local television viewing area for my entire childhood.  Going to a game would be nice, but there was no reason to make it a priority, especially with the last few dismal seasons of Mets baseball.  I kept hearing about things to see there, but I didn’t know if I would ever get to see them.  The Jackie Robinson Rotunda.  The Mets Hall of Fame and Museum.  The old Shea Stadium Home Run Apple.  The team store and all of the Mets merchandise that isn’t available on the team’s web site.  Shake Shack.  Would I ever get to experience any of this?

As the 2012 season drew closer to its end (and another Mets 4th place finish), it looked like another year would go by without a Citi Field visit.  When I saw that a certain polarizing t-shirt magnate was organizing a group trip to the final home game, I was intrigued, but I wasn’t sure I could make a trip like that happen.  Sure, I haven’t been back to visit my parents in a while and I could just take the train down from there, but there was always a chance of something coming up at the last minute to derail any plans.  With nothing firmly scheduled, tickets for the game were running out.  I could always just get a seat somewhere else, but then I could have done that at any point this year.  If I didn’t get in on the group purchase, it would undermine my procrastination and throw my world into chaos.  So I bought a ticket and hoped for the best.

The world didn’t end and nothing conspired against me to make my plan go awry.  With 24 hours before game time, I was just a four hour drive and a two hour train ride away from Citi Field.

And there it was.  Stepping down from the subway platform revealed the stadium in all its glory.  The old home run apple was front and center with a barber’s chair (and pole) up on a stage in preparation for Keith Hernandez’s mustache shaving.  As exciting as that sounded, it seemed to be well-covered enough to skip and catch up on later.  I took my first opportunity to enter the stadium and, a bag check and a pat down later (they have some real hands on staff in this place), I was in the famed Jackie Robinson Rotunda.  After taking in the underwhelming sight and hitting the team store, it was off to the field in search of autographs.

Unfortunately, there was no formal batting practice that day and only a few pitchers who would not be in the game were warming up.  Josh Edgin and Collin McHugh worked their way down the crowd that had gathered at the front of the field level seats.  While these were two of the players I was most interested in getting autographs from (neither has any certified autograph cards), it was a little disappointing to see only two players out signing.  From there it was back to the team store and a few of the other shops and then my seat.  And then Shake Shack to see what all the fuss was about.

Now, remember that bit about being assigned group outing clothing?  Man, that sucked.  Oh, right, this ticket came with a t-shirt…  At least it’s blue.  When the shirts were made, the starting pitcher wasn’t known, but it would almost certainly not be R.A. Dickey.  Until he rearranged his schedule to give the New York fans a chance to see his 20th win.  With Dickey pitching, I couldn’t pass up a chance to wear my Dickey 2012 All-Star jersey, so the t-shirt would have to settle for being an undershirt.  Surprisingly, almost everyone in the section was wearing the shirt (and at least two also had the Dickey jersey).  There was that one guy in a Pirates jersey, but that’s all I’ll say about that desperate cry for attention.  With several empty seats on either side of me, I settled in for what was sure to be an exciting game, especially once the beer vendor got to this section…

With defense like this, you’re gonna need a lot of strikeouts…

Dickey emerged from the bullpen to a standing ovation, his first of many at this game.  He was dealing strikeouts from the start, with fans cheering every strike.  This was actually quite helpful with the main scoreboards behind me and the information displayed on the secondary boards along the upper level difficult to decipher at a glance – cheer for strike, silence for ball.  It was very much a playoff game atmosphere, even if there were only about 30,000 fans in the park.  Unfortunately, a no-hitter was quickly off the table with a leadoff double in the second, as was a shutout after the inning’s second double.  With three strikeouts and four hits in the second inning alone, the Pirates were making solid contact when they weren’t striking out and the balls kept finding their way past the Mets’ defenders.  Things were not looking good.

The Mets were going to need some runs if they were going to get Dickey his 20th win.  Ike got things started with a home run in the bottom of the second and Mike Baxter almost added a second in the inning with a ball that was clearly headed over the wall.  Until Travis Snyder made an Endy-style leaping catch to grab it.  Watching it happen from behind the wall and seeing a glove appear out of nowhere is an interesting experience, but nobody there was all that thrilled to see a spectacular play that took a home run away from the home team.

The Pirates added a run in the 4th on a home run by former Met Rod Barajas, but I wasn’t paying attention because everyone in the section was busy checking in with Kevin.  The Mets answered back with a run on three hits in the bottom of the inning and Dickey breezed through the Pirates in the top of the 5th with three Ks and a walk to get the Mets back up to bat.  After Andres Torres walked to start off the bottom of the 5th, Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy singled to tie the game at three apiece.  David Wright, not to be shown up by Murphy, cleared the bases with a three-run home run.  Ex-Met Hisanori Takahashi finished off the inning, leaving the Mets with just a three-run lead.  That would usually be plenty for Dickey, but the trouble in the 2nd combined with all of the pitches that come with a lot of strikeouts were wearing him down.  The prospect of the bullpen taking over tempered the excitement of watching Dickey settle in and pitch like an ace.

After six innings, Dickey was nearing the end of his day.  He was in line for the win if the bullpen could hold on, but he looked like he still had one inning left in him after a 1-2-3 6th.  As interesting as things were in the outfield seats, the action was just too far away for clear shots.  And so I left to find a better angle for the remainder of the game.  The first base side of the concourse was far too crowded to get a view of the field, so I continued around to the third base side where I found one small gap to work with.  Dickey made it through the 7th without incident, but his pitch count was high enough to guarantee that he wouldn’t be back for the 8th.  And then he walked up to the plate to lead off in bottom of the inning.

All bets were off now that it was clear that Dickey would come out for the 8th, pitch count be damned.  Not only that, but he clearly had plans with the bat, swinging for a hit in his final at bat of the day.  He was then forced out at second on a fielder’s choice and walked off to another ovation.  The Mets failed to pad their lead in the inning, only getting a runner past first when Daniel Murphy stole second before David Wright grounded out to end the inning.

DICKKKKKKKKKKKKKEY!

The 8th inning would have to be his last, right?  Dickey started the inning off with a pair of strikeouts and the stadium got louder and louder with every strike.  The crowd was roaring when he got to two strikes on Travis Snyder, but ball 4 put an end to that.  Once again, Snyder had silenced the crowd.  Dickey then handed over the ball and returned to the dugout to another ovation, tipping his cap to the crowd as Josh Thole traded in his glove for something that less resembled a gaping maw of doom.

Jon Rauch came in to face Rod Barajas and quickly gave up a fly ball to deep left field.  The ball was barely off the bat before someone in front of me shouted “You Suck!”  That ball was caught, but the scene repeated itself in the 9th with a different result.  Rauch had a good season, but he tended to give up the kind of big hits that people remember.  Alex Presley got this day’s big hit off of Rauch with one out in the 9th, a two-run home run that ended Rauch’s day and came close to ending Dickey’s chances at a win.  With the lead cut to one run, Bobby Parnell was brought in to get the final two outs.  A fly ball to right looked like it could drop, but Mike Baxter got there in time to make the final out.  He didn’t even have to crash into a wall for this one.

Who but Mike Baxter?

After more than 20 years, the Mets had a 20-game winner.  Dickey once more took the field for high fives and Baxter handed him the ball that clinched it.  The crowd cheered and nobody was quick to leave as Dickey stayed behind for an on-field interview.  When it was time to leave, a good chunk of the crowd headed for the team store.  I spent some time in the adjoining museum (which had no line to get in) and then began the long trip back.  R.A. Dickey had just added a 13-K exclamation point to his Cy Young case, but the world would have to wait until November 14 for the results.  On that day, a knuckleballer was awarded the Cy Young award for the first time in baseball history.

Mets Game-Used History: The Fall of Upper Deck

Milestones and the end of the road

Remember when I started this blog with the first entry in this series?  Probably not, that was almost a year ago…  I’m going out of sequence with the second part because the second part chronologically (1998-1999) is pretty boring.  Instead, I’m going straight to 2010 with a card from an insert set that started in 1999 featuring a player whose first game-used cards appeared in 1998.  So yeah, we’re still kinda in 1998-1999 for this piece.

Gary Sheffield has been a personal favorite of mine (as much as I was ever able to have favorites before R.A. Dickey came along) for a long time now, dating back to the day I pulled his error rookie card out of a pack of 1989 Upper Deck.  It is fitting then that Sheffield is also the player that I associate with 2010 Upper Deck Series 1, the final major baseball card product from what was once the most innovative sports card manufacturer on the planet.  I was thrilled when Sheff was picked up by the Mets in 2009 after being released by the Tigers, not because he was a superstar player (his best days were long behind him), but because of the wealth of game-used cards he had amassed over his career.  Between countless teams and several All-Star games, Sheffield had been one of the most prolific game-used subjects over the previous decade.  It didn’t hurt that he was Dwight Gooden’s nephew either.

Oh, right, he was also on the verge of hitting his 500th home run.  No Met had ever hit a 500th home run, so that would be a first.  The baseball card connection here is Upper Deck’s A Piece of History 500 Club game-used bat insert set, the longest-running game-used insert set in history.  Started in 1999 with cards spread out over several products over the next few years until the present club was complete, with new cards showing up as new players hit the 500 home run milestone, the 500 Club bat card set would finish in 2010 with Sheffield as the final member to be recognized.  As you can see, he appeared in a Mets uniform, the only member of the club so attired.  And that’s kind of the problem.

You see, MLB Properties has a soft spot for monopolies and thought it would be swell to have just one officially licensed baseball card manufacturer starting in 2010.  With two manufacturers still licensed by the MLB Players Association in 2009, the finalists were the old standard Topps and the brash 20 year old upstart Upper Deck.  MLB Properties went with Topps and forced Upper Deck into the unlicensed card market formerly occupied by Donruss.  The loss of the MLB license meant that Upper Deck would no longer be able to use MLB team logos and names.  Most companies in this position take extreme measures to airbrush/photoshop out anything and everything that could be considered a logo or property of MLB Properties.  As you can see above, Upper Deck went with angles and cropping that obscures the logos but doesn’t hide them completely.  While that’s pushing the limits of legality, they should still be safe, right?  Well, only if MLB doesn’t look on the back of the card.

And right there are the Mets sleeve and helmet logos in plain view, with no attempt made to get rid of them.  To its credit, UD did include the statement “NOT authorized by Major League Baseball or its Member Teams,” but I don’t think a capital NOT is going to pass legal muster.  For a second opinion, let’s consult with Johan Santana.

It’s almost like they were trying to put as much of the logos on the card as possible without being overt about it.  Between the two cards, we’ve also got the complete Citi Field Inaugural Season sleeve and hat logos in full view, which probably isn’t helping matters any.  That’s just asking to get your pants sued off, which is precisely what MLB Properties did.  As is the norm these days, they agreed on a settlement in lieu of an actual trial.  The terms included some cash (which UD was late paying) and an agreement that Upper Deck would not use any MLB Properties logos in the future (which they shouldn’t have been doing anyway) and would not use photographs that had been altered to remove or obscure any MLB Properties logos (which they clearly had no interest or ability in doing in the first place).  In exchange, Upper Deck wouldn’t have to recall any infringing products that had already been shipped.  Everybody wins!

This all but spelled the end of Upper Deck as a baseball card manufacturer.  Losing the MLB Properties license was a big blow, but other companies like Playoff/Donruss, Panini/Donruss, and Razor/Leaf have gone on without licenses.  In the event that MLB Properties reconsiders granting an exclusive license, there would be a chance of being reinstated.  Well, except for the whole snubbing their nose at MLB Properties and the law and napalming that bridge.  There’s no coming back from that kind of mess.

But at least we have this snazzy un-photoshopped Gary Sheffield bat card.

Straight to the Nuts: The $63 Question

In which I once more impersonate a journalist but fail to dumb things down enough

As soon as the regular season wrapped up for the Mets (sometime back in July), all anyone could look forward to was Opening Day 2013 (and Dickey’s 20th win and subsequent Cy Young award, but those don’t fit the narrative).  It was another lost season and the fans were left without a reason to cheer on their favorite team at Citi Field (other than the whole “favorite team” thing).  It would take some major moves by the Wilpons to convince the fans to turn out in 2013 (like, um, cough-selltheteam-cough).  With the team disappointing and no relief in sight, attendance projections were looking bleak.

And then the Mets released pricing information for Opening Day.

Few will forget where they were when they saw that the “cheap” seats were going for $63.  $63!  That’s like dinner for two at Bertucci’s!  Movie tickets and concessions for a family of four!  That $63 only gets you in the door, it doesn’t cover transportation/parking, food, souvenirs, or the 15 beers it takes some people to survive the Mets experience.  The horror.

You know, I can kind of see why people would be upset.  $63 for nosebleed seats for a game against the Padres when a good chunk of the lineup hasn’t been set and could be filled with prospects who aren’t ready or cheap free agents who would be better off retiring isn’t exactly a bargain.  Move up to better seats and things look even worse.  I remember a time when the team was good and upper deck seats were $5, so $63 sounds insane.  But we’re talking about Opening Day.

Opening Day is like a playoff game that every team gets to host.  It’s not just a game, it’s an event.  Growing up well outside the NYC metro area (but still inside the NYC media area), seeing an Opening Day game in person seemed about as likely as winning the lottery without buying a ticket.  The fact that we never even considered trying to go to an Opening Day game (or really any game) might have something to do with that.  Opening Day seemed to be the realm of the rich and famous, celebrities, trust fund kids, trophy wives/girlfriends, etc.  The upper deck is reserved for hedge fund interns, stock traders, classical musicians, and retired sports mascots.  Us normal folks have to settle for watching on television.  Or these days some stupid app on our smartphones.

$63 is still a lot of money for a baseball game, so I would probably pass even if I could walk to the stadium.  But I can’t walk to the stadium.  In fact, it costs me somewhere upwards of $100 just to get to the point where they scan your ticket, search your bag, and give you a pat-down just to be friendly.  Add $63 (or more) to that, plus concessions, and we’re talking Cirque du Soleil money.  (Note to self: work in more Las Vegas references next year.)  Now factor in travel time (8 hours by car and 4 by train if I go with the option that doesn’t cost me anything for lodging) and time taken off from work and we’re getting up there in cost.  At that point, it feels like the team owes me money for taking the trouble to get there.  So yeah, $63 ain’t happening.

But this isn’t about me.  Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t going to make money paying me to go to games (nice work if you can get it…) and I’m not the kind of customer they’re catering to, even if I do spend a ton of money in the team store on the rare (one) occasion that I’m there (mostly because they don’t bother putting pins up for sale on the web site, damn stingy corporate idiots).  The Mets need to put butts in seats, not just on Opening Day but on 80 other days as well.  They’re banking on people seeing the insane single-game ticket prices and opting to go with a multi-game package of some sort, which will inevitably result in the other tickets going unused because of poor planning or disinterest on the part of the customer (the only sure bet in the world of sales and marketing).  If the “Hey, it’s a much better deal if you buy tickets to a whole bunch of other games too!” approach doesn’t work, they’ll discount the remaining tickets at some point down the road, advertising incredibly discounted prices that are probably still higher than 2012′s prices (not that anyone can remember what they paid for something a few months ago).  If the plan works and they do sell a bunch of packages, then they’ve boosted attendance numbers for other games without really cutting prices.  Genius!

Except there’s a downside to this approach.  If you’re not interested in getting a ticket plan or package and just want to get a ticket to Opening Day without spending a fortune, your only option is to wait until March and hope for some discounts.  Now how many people will bother to check back in four months after the team essentially says “Sorry, but we aren’t interested in your business” to them?  By March, people will have moved on to something else and won’t be buying tickets to Opening Day or any other day.  The Mets may have a solid plan financially, but it fails on psychology.  You use the event atmosphere to get people’s attention and then sell them on making the games a regular part of their entertainment habits.  To do this, the cost and risk barriers need to be sufficiently low, otherwise something else will take priority and most of them will not give you a second look.  Multi-game packages are too much risk and $63 for nosebleed seats is too much cost.  You may drive people to check out some Cyclones games instead with this approach, but that’s not going to put butts in seats at Citi (unless they do something like Futures at Fenway there, which they really should if they aren’t because Futures at Fenway is awesome, especially when all the New York teams win).

As for me, I’m sure as hell not paying $63 for a ticket to any regular season game and I can’t justify buying a multi-game package, so that just leaves the group rate from a certain controversial t-shirt magnate, with pricing yet to be announced. Even if that price turns out to be reasonable, it’s a tossup as to whether I go and there’s not really anything the Mets can do to change that. [Update: Pricing was revealed to be $95 for outfield seats with a t-shirt included. 900 tickets sold out in 24 hours. Looks like there's a market for higher prices if additional value is provided.]

Well look at this, I just got an e-mail from the New Hampshire Fisher Cats advertising a special with 10 ticket vouchers and a $25 gift card for $75.  Not only are the Fisher Cats local to me, but they also play the Binghamton Mets three times in 2013, all on weekends.  What was that about Opening Day tickets again?  Oh well, couldn’t have been that important, maybe next year.

Product Spotlight: 2012 Topps Museum Collection

Pretty and loaded, but not very deep

If the name Museum Collection sounds familiar, you might be remembering last years amazing framed autograph cards from 2011 Topps Marquee.  This year, Museum Collection is the name of the product, with more framed autos and a few interesting changes.  This time around, multi-player cards and booklets are plentiful, as are 1/1s and Jumbo Lumber bat cards (in addition to the occasional bat card in the regular jumbo relic set).  The cards look better than ever, which may not mean much in a product with only one prior release, but it is still worth noting.  Marquee looked good, Museum Collection looks great.

Base Set

Wait, there’s a base set?  Oh, right, here’s something an eBay seller threw in as a freebie with one of the Primary Pieces Four Player Relics:

Nice try, but wrong team.  Oh well.  I’m sure if I take long enough to get this review out I’ll get a hold of a proper Met to use here.

Procrastination has its rewards

Even though these are base cards, they are still as thick as everything else in this product.  Player selection is limited though; only David Wright and Nolan Ryan made the cut.  Tom Seaver would have made more sense, but he only shows up in the Canvas Collection art card set (which are his only individual cards in this entire product, all others are with three other players).

All base cards have a version with no serial number and four serial numbered variants with print runs of 299, 199, 99, and 1, while Canvas Collection cards also have parallel versions numbered to 10.  Not bad for what is essentially filler in this product.

Game-Used and Autographs

This is what people are really after in Museum Collection.  Last year, 2011 Topps Marquee set the bar pretty high, getting my award for 2011 Mets Game-Used Product of the Year.  So is 2012 Topps Museum Collection up to the challenge?  Yes and no.

Yes, the variety of Mets cards is much improved from last year’s product, which lacked any Mets triple relic cards and had several other Metsless variant sets.  Museum Collection has a Met in every major insert category except, sadly, Framed Autographs (Archival Autographs Dual and Cut Autographs are also without Mets, but those are fairly minor in comparison).  This year’s product features Mets with autographs, large jerseys and bats (both alone and in two-player booklets), autographed single, double, triple, and quad memorabilia cards, and quad relics (featuring one or four players).  And that’s just for David Wright.

No, the player selection is extremely limited, with David Wright representing the Mets in every game-used set and single Archival Autographs, Gary Carter and Dwight Gooden (plus Tom Seaver on the quad player relics and Nolan Ryan on his Archival Autographs cards) representing retired Mets, and Dillon Gee representing the young players.  Jose Reyes is also featured as a Met on a lot of cards, while Ike Davis makes his 2012 game-used debut on a dual Jumbo Lumber relic booklet card with Wright.  Nolan Ryan, Duke Snider, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltran, and Heath Bell round out the roster with former Mets shown in other uniforms (plus a Warren Spahn Cut Autograph 1/1).  It’s not a terrible list, but it is a bit light on players who are actually, you know, on the team.  This is likely a consequence of moving it from a fall release to a spring release, but that really only explains Reyes.  Is there nobody else on the Mets worth including?  For comparison, there are 14 Yankees in the Momentous Material Jumbo Relic set alone; even the Pirates have four in that set compared to three for the Mets and eight total players shown as Mets in all of Museum Collection.

Overall, it’s not a bad mix.  Between all of the different insert sets and parallels, it adds up to over 100 autographed and/or game-used cards of current or former Mets players.  David Wright accounts for all or part of 28 of those and Jose Reyes adds 14 more.  Once you remove the cards of players not shown as Mets, that leaves you with just 26 other Mets cards to split between Seaver, Ryan, Carter, Gooden, and Gee.  The field thins out very fast in this product.

On the positive side, the few players we do get bring a lot of new material.  Reyes, superfluous as he may be at this point, has his first blue jerseys in Museum Collection.  I’m hoping for some large orange jerseys in next year’s product; blue and orange (even if it is from the Marlins) would look great side-by-side.  Reyes’s quad jerseys also include swatches with orange or blue piping, another first (piping has become more common in recent years after apparently being stripped off prior to cutting in the early days of game-used).  Dillon Gee also has his first blue jersey cards, with patch and piping variants, and David Wright got in on the piping party with a few variants of his quad jersey cards.  Carter’s pinstripe jerseys are the first I’ve seen of the narrow variant of the printed zigzag stripe, calling into question everything I thought I knew about that stripe’s history, and Gooden has some great-looking dual pinstripe jersey cards.  Finally, Carlos Beltran’s large jerseys were all a very off-white, indicating that they are from his Giants uniform.  I would have preferred the orange swatches that some other Giants players got, but this is still good enough to call it a confirmed Giants colored jersey, the first in my collection.

Here’s the full list of Mets-related items you can pull from boxes of 2012 Topps Museum Collection (each box contains one autograph, one autographed relic, one jumbo relic, and one quad relic):

Archival Autographs

Silver: Numbered to 25
Gold: Numbered to 5

Mets: David Wright, Nolan Ryan
Non-Mets: Willie Mays

These are the base autographs in this product but are all limited-production on-card autographs of star players.

Archival Autographs Dual

Numbered to 15

Non-Mets: Willie Mays (with Hank Aaron)

Talk about a holy grail.  This may be one of the best dual autographs since the Mickey Mantle / Ken Griffey Jr. card back in the ’90s.  Expect to pay just shy of $1,000 if you want to pick one up.

Framed Autographs

Gold: Numbered to 15
Silver: Numbered to 10
Black: Numbered to 5

Non-Mets: Willie Mays

This year’s Framed Autographs get a three-tier parallel that brings their total production run even with the lesser Archival Autographs.  I’ll assume that these look just as good as last year’s, but you really need to see them in person to fully appreciate them.

Cut Autographs

Numbered to 1

Non-Mets: Warren Spahn

Cut signature, 1/1, Hall of Famer not known for his time with the Mets.

Momentous Material Jumbo Relics

Silver: Numbered to 50
Gold: Numbered to 35
Silver Rainbow: Numbered to 10
Gold Rainbow: Numbered to 1

Mets: David Wright, Jose Reyes, Dwight Gooden
Non-Mets: Carlos Beltran, Duke Snider

I have to say, I really like the changes they made from last year’s Titanic Threads.  While the size of the material is down a bit, the big square piece has much better presence and allows for a big player photo next to it.  Pinstripe and colored swatches look great, too bad Wright is stuck with an old gray piece.  We don’t get enough large jerseys these days, so get these while you can.

Momentous Material Jumbo Patch Relics

Numbered to 5

Mets: David Wright, Jose Reyes

Only Wright and Reyes get the patch treatment, but they are some really outstanding patches.  At 5 apiece, don’t expect to have an easy time finding them.

Momentous Material Dual Jumbo Relics

Numbered to 5

Mets: David Wright (with Evan Longoria), Jose Reyes (with Jimmy Rollins)
Non-Mets: Duke Snider (with Matt Kemp)

I don’t mind the inclusion of Longoria because a. prior to his injury, he was one of the best players in the game and b. he plays in a completely different division.  The Reyes-Rollins booklet on the other hand features the shortstops of two NL East division rivals.  And Ruben Tejada isn’t given a single game-used card anywhere.  Otherwise, I love the idea of booklet cards as long as they don’t go nuts with it like Panini did with their infinie booklet cards.  Two is plenty.

Momentous Material Jumbo Autographed Relics

Numbered to 10

Mets: David Wright, Dillon Gee, Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden
Non-Mets: Nolan Ryan, Duke Snider, Gary Sheffield

These have to be some of the most beautiful cards in this product.  Not only is there an autograph and a nice big piece of patch (or, in some unfortunate cases, tag), but most patches are of the premium variety – round sleeve logos or, for Carter, the 25th Anniversary patch.

Momentous Material Jumbo Lumber Relics

Silver: Numbered to 30
Gold: Numbered to 20
Silver Rainbow: Numbered to 5
Gold Rainbow: Numbered to 1

Mets: David Wright
Non-Mets: Eddie Murray, Gary Sheffield

These are just like the regular Momentous Materials Jumbo Relics, only with a round piece of bat instead of a square piece of jersey or bat.  Large bat cards are even harder to find than large jersey cards, so these are a real treat.

Momentous Material Dual Jumbo Lumber Relics

Numbered to 5

Mets: David Wright and Ike Davis, David Wright (with Alex Rodriguez)
Non-Mets: Eddie Murray (with Harmon Killebrew)

If one is good, two must be better, right?  Wright is once more paired with a third baseman from the AL East (not a bad choice), but the real draw here is the Ike/Wright booklet – this is Ike Davis’s first game-used card in 2012 after a breakout 2011 with lots of jerseys and bats in Topps Marquee and Topps Triple Threads.  Injury and regression hit Davis hard on the field and in the hobby.  It’s still a great card though.

Signature Swatches Dual Autographed Relics

Silver: Numbering Varies
Gold: Numbered to 25
Gold Rainbow: Numbered to 5

Mets: David Wright, Dillon Gee, Gary Carter
Non-Mets: Duke Snider, Gary Sheffield

With these, you get an autograph (sticker of course) and either two swatches of jersey or bat or a jersey swatch and a piece of patch/piping/multicolor jersey.  The variants numbered to 5 include two pieces of patch (if applicable).  David Wright does not appear to have a silver version in this set.

Signature Swatches Triple Autographed Relics

Silver: Numbering Varies
Gold: Numbered to 25
Gold Rainbow: Numbered to 5

Mets: David Wright, Gary Carter
Non-Mets: Duke Snider

Same as the duals only with three swatches and an autograph.  As in the dual version, David Wright does not appear to have a silver version in this set.

Primary Pieces Quad Relics

Silver: Numbered to 99
Red: Numbered to 75
Gold: Numbered to 25
Gold Rainbow: Numbered to 5

Mets: David Wright, Jose Reyes

Sadly, this year’s quad relic cards are not an improvement over last year’s.  While having the jersey swatches split to the four corners of the card looks a bit better, there is very little variation between the silver, red, and gold versions.  Every card has three jersey swatches (blue for Reyes, gray or white for Wright) and one swatch with a piece of patch or piping.  As usual, the variants numbered to 5 are all patch swatches.  With a four-tier parallel and four swatches to work with, you would think there could be a bit more variety (some of last year’s went nuts with variations, including what appeared to be a piece of Phillies patch for Beltran, which makes no sense whatsoever).

Primary Pieces Quad Autographed Relics

Numbered to 10

Mets: David Wright, Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden
Non-Mets: Duke Snider

The quad relic cards left no room for autographs, so the autographed version is in booklet form.  These are hard to find and highly sought after, but that goes for most of the cards numbered to 10 or less.

Primary Pieces Four-Player Quad Relics

Silver: Numbered to 99
Red: Numbered to 75
Gold: Numbered to 25
Gold Rainbow: Numbered to 5

Mets: David Wright and Jose Reyes (with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez), Jose Reyes (with Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Elvis Andrus), Tom Seaver (with Nolan Ryan, Roy Halladay, and C.C. Sabathia)
Non-Mets: Heath Bell (with Brian Wilson, Craig Kimbrel, and Mariano Rivera), Nolan Ryan (listed above)

The four-player version of the Primary Pieces insert set includes some interesting player combinations.  Wright and Reyes appear together with their Yankees counterparts, Seaver makes his only game-used appearance with Nolan Ryan (Seaver’s material is from a Reds jersey while Ryan is shown as an Astros uniform), and Reyes appears again with his future (and now former) teammate Hanley Ramirez.  Heath Bell also has his only game-used cards in this insert set.

Primary Pieces Quad Relics Legends

Silver: Numbered to 25
Gold: Numbered to 5

Mets: Gary Carter
Non-Mets: Willie Mays

The final Primary Pieces insert set featured some of the game’s all-time greats on a slightly different card design.  Carter’s cards contained pieces from a pinstripe jersey (though many pieces did not have stripes) and Mays had a couple of quad bat cards.

And there you have it, the defending Mets Game-Used Product of the Year champion.  Once again, this is clearly the bastard child of 2005 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia Tools of the Trade and 2005 SP Legendary Cuts raised by Topps.  With a few more players, this could have been something truly special, instead it’s just pretty damn good.  As with most premium releases, value for the money is a bit of a crap shoot, with some cards selling for less than $10 and others selling for $1000 or more.  I’ll stick with singles on the secondary market over boxes/packs.  Compared to the premium products that followed it in 2012, Museum Collection looks pretty strong.  The variety of players and material is much better than the offerings in Tier One and Five Star and Triple Threads, despite having a better player selection, can’t compete with the quality and availability of the game-used in Museum Collection.  All have their strong points, but I think Museum Collection comes out on top.