Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 Mets Baseball Card Year in Review

At long last, I have Dickey pants

If you were looking for Mets pinstripe jersey cards this year, your only options for the bulk of the season were pieces from Gary Carter and Dwight Gooden.  In fact, the last few years have been pretty barren for Mets pinstripes from active players, with just Carlos Beltran in 2011 and Johan Santana in 2010.  No pieces from the pinstripe jerseys worn in 2010 (cream) or 2011 (ivory) have been released in cards.  On that second point, nothing changed in 2012.  The good news is that R.A. Dickey is here to save the hobby.

Not content to merely conquer mountains, books, movies, and that whole pitching thing, Dickey provided Topps with the material to produce the first pinstriped memorabilia card of an active Mets player since Santana in 2010.  And this wasn’t just any old memorabilia, it was his pants from his second consecutive no-hitter, complete with distinctive dirt stains.  On top of that, he also signed a couple thousand autograph stickers to be put on these and future cards.  This is why everyone loves Dickey.

The Mets Have the Blues

Perhaps the biggest news in Port St. Lucie this spring wasn’t related to the players but instead what they were wearing.  The Mets had tried to get an alternate blue jersey added for 2012 but failed to get the design approved in time.  As a consolation, MLB waived its usual requirement that all batting practice jerseys must be some sort of two-tone abomination and let the Mets use an all-blue version of the new style batting practice jersey (first seen at the 2011 All-Star event).  Jordany Valdespin became the first Met to have one of these jerseys released one piece at a time in Topps Finest.

While Valdespin was alone with this year’s batting practice jersey, several other players had pieces of blue recessed mesh material from previous years’ batting practice jerseys or Los Mets jerseys released in 2012 products.  Jose Reyes and Dillon Gee made their blue debuts in Topps Museum Collection, Angel Pagan debuted in Topps Allen & Ginter’s, and Ruben Tejada and Josh Thole rounded out the group in Topps Triple Threads.

And the Black Came Back

2012 was a landmark year in black removal for the Mets with the banishment of drop shadows, hybrid blue/black hats, and black socks and undershirts.  One area they fell short in though was the elimination of the black alternate jersey.  This jersey made one appearance in 2012 as part of a tribute to John Franco, whose Mets tenure, it should be pointed out, long predates the sad day when someone thought that black would good on the Mets.  The black uniform just won’t die though (it has been confirmed to be in the mix for 2013) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis made his jersey debut with pieces from a black jersey which, if Topps is being honest, must be from the Franco game.  I feel the urge to burn these cards, but I’m not ready to part with some of the dozens of Nieuwenhuis autograph cards I got this year.  Tip for Kirk: learn to sign with your right hand.  At this rate, Topps will burn you out before the Mets get a chance to.

And a Touch of Gray

While this year’s gray road jerseys looked sharp, I doubt the pieces embedded in cards will be any more exciting than the usual boring gray swatches we’ve been seeing for years.  Like the blue and black before them, three players appeared in Mets gray for the first time: Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda, and Daniel Murphy.  Duda’s was his first-ever game-used, Murphy’s was his first-ever jersey (likely pants though), and Tejada’s was, along with his blue jerseys, his first MLB-worn material (his previous game-used pieces are from a WBC jersey), though I only ever saw one card with a gray swatch (possible Topps mix-up?).

Patches

Rounding out this year’s game-used newcomers (nobody had their first bat cards this year) are Jordany Valdespin, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Ruben Tejada, and Lucas Duda with their first Mets patch cards and Daniel Murphy with his first piping cards.

Back in April, I picked Ruben Tejada, R.A. Dickey, Lucas Duda, Chris Schwinden, Bobby Parnell, Mike Baxter, and Daniel Murphy to get some new memorabilia cards this year.  Tejada (jersey/patch), Dickey (pants), Duda (jersey/patch), and Murphy (jersey/piping) all delivered, Parnell and Baxter could be in the mix for next year, and Schwinden is probably off the radar after his waiver claim whirlwind tour of AAA that ended back where it began.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jordany Valdespin exceeded expectations with jersey and patch cards released in their rookie years.  I have to give Topps credit, they turned out material from these guys much faster than I thought they would.

Stars Past, Present, and Future

The All-Star event is always a good source of new memorabilia and this year’s didn’t disappoint.  David Wright and R.A. Dickey were the only Mets on the NL All-Star team, with Beltran joining them as an ex-Met.  For the second year in a row, no former or (as of yet) future Mets were on the AL All-Star team.  Unlike last year, secondary colors were not mixed in with the primary color swatches (except in a couple of three-player cards), so we only got three blue jersey cards.  And a few outstanding jumbo patches.  With “few” meaning 6 of each player.  Sadly, this put them out of my price range (the authentic jerseys cost far less and have all of the patches, though not event-worn).  I miss the days of All-Star patch cards numbered to 100…

Over in Futures land, the Mets sent a pair of players to make their second appearance at the event.  Wilmer Flores (2009 World Team) and Zack Wheeler (2010 USA Team) went back for a second time as their days in the minors wind down.  Patch cards here were somewhat more plentiful, though Wheeler’s haven’t hit the secondary market in quantity yet (I’ve only seen two put up for sale out of the 35 total made).  As with the All-Star jersey cards, secondary colors have yet to appear.

Well, for the 2012 Futures Game at least.  2012 Topps Pro Debut featured cards with primary and secondary color swatches from 2011 Futures Game jerseys (Matt Harvey and Jefry Marte).  A few patch cards also appeared in a couple of products.  2011 All-Star jersey patch cards from David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran were released in 2012 Topps Series 1 and 2012 Topps Triple Threads, though all were numbered to 9 or 1.

Elsewhere in MLB

Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes suited up with new teams this year and both had new memorabilia from their post-Mets days released in 2012.  Beltran started the year with jumbo jersey cards from a Giants uniform in Topps Museum Collection and finished it with jersey and patch pieces from a Cardinals jersey in Topps Triple Threads.  Reyes’s Marlins spring training jersey made its way into Topps Triple Threads with black, black mesh, and orange mesh jersey pieces and a few patch cards.

Oh, and there was a massive scandal involving the sale of fake game-used memorabilia to all three major card manufacturers.  The manufacturers have been silent on this issue.

Heavy Metal

Let’s face it, game-used material in baseball cards is getting boring.  Other sports have things like lacing or material other than fabric and wood, but the best MLB can do is patches, tags, bat knobs, and bat name plates.  It doesn’t help that most of the jerseys in MLB are white, gray, or black; say what you will about Oakland’s yellow jerseys, but they’re certainly not boring.

With game-used material failing to excite the masses, Topps has turned to manufactured material to add some variety to its relic offerings.  Past offerings have brought us patches, hat logos, and poorly-received glove leather, but Topps went in a different direction in 2012.  This year, Topps introduced four types of metal manufactured material cards, all in its mainline product.  The pins and rings are missing the parts that would make them pins and rings (pointy bits and, um, rings, respectively), but the coins are complete double-sided medallions.  The Hall of Fame plaques turned out to be some of the best metal cards produced, even though they don’t look much like the actual plaques.  Tom Seaver is the Mets’ lone representative in most of these sets, with a Darryl Strawberry pin card being the only exception.

Topps brought logo patches to the minors in this year’s Pro Debut and Heritage Minor League.  The Mets had representatives from their four highest-level minor league teams, though the two from Heritage Minor League came as redemptions that didn’t get sent out until late December.  I guess it’s better than that 2011 Bowman Platinum Matt Harvey Autograph I’m still waiting for…

Speaking of autographs, Panini isn’t going to be left out of this.  2012 Panini Signature included three different manufactured material autographs from three Mets.  It’s not quite Sweet Spot, but it’s a promising start.

Partying Like It’s 1969

The return of Topps Archives was one of the high points of 2012 and it came with an outstanding autograph set.  In fact, a set of retired player on-card autographs like this hasn’t been seen since Archives last appeared in 2005.  While the 2012 product can’t rival 2005′s list of Mets, it still featured seven Mets and several more former Mets shown in other uniforms (most notably Jose Oquendo on nine different cards, one for each position he played in a single game).  Among those are 1969 Mets Bud Harrelson, Cleon Jones, and Ed Kranepool, back after an absence of several years.  Kranepool later appeared on more on-card autograph cards in Topps Tier One and sticker autograph cards in Topps Update.

Justin Turner Auto Time

Also appearing on a sticker autograph in Topps Update is Justin Turner.  Turner, best known for being the guy who pies people after walkoff wins, received his first game-used jersey card at the very end of 2011 in Bowman Sterling.  He follows that up in 2012 with his first certified autograph card.

Inked

Several other Mets had certified autograph cards for the first time in 2012.  Chris Schwinden started things off in 2011 Panini Donruss Elite Extra Edition alongside several 2011 draft picks.  Jordany Valdespin became the first Met with a 2012 Bowman autograph with a sticker autograph in Bowman retail packs (sadly, no Mets were featured in the chrome on-card autographs in Bowman and Bowman Chrome).  2012 draft picks Gavin Cecchini and Kevin Plawecki rounded out the meager Mets offerings in Bowman with chrome autographs in Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects and Bowman Sterling.

Topps Heritage, as usual, added autographs from several Mets from the 1960s: Craig Anderson, Chico Fernandez, Ed Bauta, and Hobie Landrith.

Topps Breaks the Ice with a New Wave of Refractors

I am so sorry for that.  With such a limited selection of parallels between the various colored borders, colored border refractors, atomic refractors, xfractors, and superfractors, Topps was in dire need of something new.  Enter the ice parallels (base Bowman) and wave refractors (Bowman Chrome), both with serial numbered color variants of their own.  Topps leads the way in making the same card as many times as possible.

Bonus!

Everybody loves free packs, so I was glad to see that all three major manufacturers found ways to deliver added value through extra packs (though only two of them featured baseball cards).

Upper Deck had the only true “free” offering with its National Hockey Card Day packs, now available south of the (Canadian) border.  It seems like not many people knew about it in the US, because I was the first person to ask about it in one shop and the second shop gave me four packs because of the amount they had left at the end of the day.  With a 15-card set, 5 5-card packs should have been enough to get close to completing the set.  If not for another colossal Upper Deck collation screw-up.  The 5 packs only had 8 different cards, with the same two cards on the top in each pack.  Upper Deck has acknowledged the problem and claims that it will be corrected when they bring the promotion back in 2013, which may happen before the 2012-2013 NHL season starts.

Panini continues to endear itself to collectors through frequent promotional giveaways, though none of them applied to baseball until their Black Friday promotion, which featured players from all four sports.  With a free pack of two Black Friday cards for every $10 spent on boxes of Panini products, it didn’t take much to get quite a haul.  The packs featured the biggest rookies and stars in each sport and mixed in cracked ice parallels, autographs, and memorabilia cards.  It was hard not to like what came out of these packs, even if you don’t follow the other sports.  I traded away my biggest pull, an Anthony Davis serial numbered rookie card, for a couple of Mike Trout rookies; my packs had no baseball cards but were loaded with basketball, so I traded with a basketball collector who opened his packs in the shop at the same time.  I can’t wait to see what Panini has in store for 2013, they made collecting fun again in 2012.

And then there’s Topps.  Topps had various promotions in 2012, but no real giveaways; everything was an exchange, either in-store card exchanges or wrapper redemptions.  Four products featured mail-in wrapper redemptions: Topps Series 1, Topps Series 2, Bowman, and Bowman Chrome.  For the Topps line, the redemptions were for packs of Gold Rush cards, which also included autographed (sticker) versions numbered to 100.  For Bowman, the redemptions were for packs of blue wave refractors, with autographed versions numbered to 50 and red wave parallels numbered to 50.  I skipped Topps Series 1 but sent in for the others, with mixed results.  The Topps Series 2 Gold Rush packs were a total bust, with only 6 different cards between two 5-card packs (the duplicates were even in the same order, indicating a fixed pack-out sequence and an offset of just one position between the two packs).  Bowman was the big winner, with four boxes bringing back four 5-card packs loaded with prospects, with one red wave refractor and one autograph.  Bowman Chrome had half the return with four boxes only bringing back two packs with a low value autograph being the only big card.  Overall, that’s a pretty good bonus, but I could do without the Gold Rush packs (should have just sold the packs…).

Farewells

Now the hard part.  Several Mets have turned in their pinstripes in 2012, though I expect it will take a few months for the cards to catch up.

After suffering a season-ending injury at the start of the 2012 season, Mike Pelfrey was non-tendered and signed with the Twins in the offseason.  Pelfrey hasn’t been relevant in cards for several years, but he was still a reliable starter and will be missed.

The same can’t be said for Jason Bay, who was released on a largely deferred buyout after his third disappointing season with the Mets.  He didn’t have any premium cards in 2012, but he was still inexplicably featured as a short print in Topps Heritage and one of only three Mets in the Topps Opening Day set.  He signed with the Mariners and we wish him the best.

With Bay gone, the Mets had an opening for a right-handed outfielder.  Their solution?  Trade Jefry Marte for Collin Cowgill.  Marte last played at the AA level as a third baseman, so he was expendable.  He signed a ball for me at a Binghamton Mets game, so I’m a little bit sad to see him go.

The Mets have been sorely lacking in offensive production at the catcher position, so changes needed to be made.  A late-season deal sent Rule 5 pickup Pedro Beato to the Red Sox for Kelly Shoppach.  Shoppach himself was then let go in free agency.  Mike Nickeas was lost and reacquired as a minor league free agent before being traded with Josh Thole to the Blue Jays for catchers John Buck and Travis d’Arnaud (among others).  Thole outperformed expectations with the Mets but lost all of his power after a collision at the plate left him with a concussion.  Mike Nickeas didn’t fare any better at the major league level but excelled in AAA.  You hate to see guys like this leave, but changes needed to be made.

Oh, right, the centerpiece of the above trade was none other than Mets ace and Cy Young knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.  Dickey started 2012 a fan favorite and ended it a folk hero, outshining Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin.  Unfortunately, his stellar performance and reasonable contract made him a prime trade chip, especially when the available pitching dried up and the Blue Jays needed an ace to have a chance at the suddenly wide-open AL East.  With the best catching prospect in baseball and an overpaid Marlins castoff among their ranks, they had what it took to make a Dickey deal inevitable.  And they also threw in a top pitching prospect and a young promising outfielder.  Losing Dickey is tough, but you can’t not make that deal.  Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.  I won’t be upset if Topps takes a few months to update Dickey’s team affiliation.

A few other faces from 2012 won’t be back in 2013, though it might take a while for the offseason to shake things out.  Andres Torres has moved on and Kelly Shoppach probably won’t be back.  Update: Looks like I left Omar Quintanilla out, but he’s now back with the Mets so that one’s moot.  I also forgot about Miguel Batista, but we all forgot about Miguel Batista (or at least we try to).

Hails

After losing 88 games, the Mets needed to make some serious changes.  As of the end of 2012 though, they’re really no better off going into 2013 than they were a year earlier.  Beyond that though, the farm system is looking better, so that’s something.  It’s going to be a long 2013.

Travis d’Arnaud was the centerpiece of the Toronto side of the Dickey trade, but his card history is nothing special, just a jersey card in 2011 Topps Heritage Minor League Edition and some autographs.  He was selected to appear in the 2012 Futures Game but did not attend due to injury, so there’s no memorabilia from that.

Noah Syndergaard adds yet another interesting pitcher to a single A level that is loaded with pitching.  Even though he’s still a few years out, he already has a couple of autograph cards.

John Buck was the big haul in the Dickey trade, from a card perspective at least.  Despite not having a superstar pedigree, he hits on pretty much every type of memorabilia: autograph, Futures Game (2002 USA Team), All-Star (2010 AL), colored jersey (blue Royals), pinstripe jersey (Astros), patch (Astros), bat, fielding glove, catcher’s equipment, etc.  Interestingly, much of his memorabilia is from the Astros even though he never appeared in an official Astros game (spring training?).  At a total value of 7.25 GU, Buck rates as the best acquisition since Gary Sheffield, who came in at more than double Buck’s mark.

Needing a big righty bat in the outfield, the Mets dealt surplus third base prospect Jefry Marte to Oakland for outfielder Collin Cowgill.  Don’t everyone get excited at once.  It’s an upgrade, but the outfield looked terrible beforehand.  Sadly, I pulled one of his autographs from 2012 Topps Chrome and sold it on eBay for $0.99.  Crap.  I really need to hang on to more of these worthless autographs.

In Memorium

Several former Mets passed on in 2012, but one has been a major fixture in the hobby for many years.  As I covered previously, Gary Carter has been one of the most prominent Mets in game-used and autograph cards since 1999.  He will undoubtedly be remembered in cards for many years to come.

2012 Biggest Pulls

And the hits don’t really come all that often

2012 was my first year back in the hobby opening current-year product in ten years and I didn’t fool around, going with multiple boxes of ten different products.  For my trouble, I pulled two cards that sold for more than $100 and enough in total to earn me top rated seller status on eBay.  So what does the return on a big purchase look like?  Stop reading now if you want to keep the illusion that every box of cards holds untold riches just waiting to be set free.

Boxes of Chance

Here’s what I ended up buying this year:

4 Boxes of Bowman
6 Boxes of Topps Archives
3 Jumbo Boxes of Topps Series 2
3 Boxes of Topps Pro Debut
4 Boxes of Panini Triple Play
3 Boxes of Topps Chrome
2 Boxes of Topps Heritage Minor League Edition
3 Jumbo Boxes of Topps Update
4 Boxes of Bowman Chrome
3 Boxes of Panini Cooperstown

And a bunch of retail packs.  That’s a lot of cards, so surely something good must have come from all of that, right?

Harsh Reality

1. 2012 Topps Archives Bryce Harper Fan Favorites Autograph Redemption
$317

The big one came early this year with one of Bryce Harper’s first official “rookie card” autographs.  These started out at about $500, but the price fell quickly over the first few days.  In the end, this card made back half of what I spent on boxes of Archives, but the rest of the product was a bust.  Without this card, Archives would have been an epic disaster for me.

2. 2012 Topps Update Buster Posey All-Star Jumbo Patch ASJP-BP 6/6
$213.50

2012 Topps Update started out on a sour note when my first “Two relics and one autograph in every box!” box only had one relic and a Mark Hamburger autograph.  The second box followed up with yet another Mark Hamburger autograph and three relics, one of which was this beauty from the eventual NL MVP.  Cash is nice, but I would have rather pulled the R.A. Dickey version.

3.  2012 Bowman Chrome Rookie Davis Blue Wave Refractor Autograph BCP43 37/50
$48.58

2012 Bowman was the product that got me back in, but the return just wasn’t there at first.  The cards were nice, but too many of the autographs were lucky to sell for $1.  Luckily, the wrapper redemption Blue Wave Refractor packs came through with my biggest Bowman autograph pull of the year.

4.  2012 Bowman Chrome Jorge Soler Autograph BCA-JSO
$47.66

5.  2012 Bowman Chrome Billy Hamilton Autograph BCA-BH
$38.03

Bowman Chrome promised one autograph in every box and two in every 3rd box; I pulled six in four boxes (plus another from retail and one more through wrapper redemptions).  Interestingly, my pulls included the base autographs of all three players plastered all over the promotional material for this product: Jorge Soler, Billy Hamilton, and Shawon Dunston, Jr.  Selling prices ranged from $1.79 to $47.66, so not everything was a winner.

Best of the Rest

And that’s basically everything good that I got out of more than 30 boxes of cards.  Next on the list would be a  2012 Topps Pro Debut Nolan Arenado SP Photo Variation card at $27.99, which comes in ahead of two 1/1s and countless autographs, game-used cards, and manufactured material relics.  Several of the autographs wouldn’t even sell for $0.99, including both of the Mark Hamburger autographs from Topps Update (the third autograph from that product was a Tom Milone that sold for a whopping $0.99).  Of the cards that I didn’t sell, only a 2012 Topps Archives John Olerud Fan Favorites Autograph would be likely to be in the running here, probably toward the back of the pack.  Out of 31+ boxes with potential big hits in them, these are the 17 best cards I managed to pull.  I think I’m starting to remember why I stopped doing this…

First Anniversary Reader Poll

Tell me what you want, what you oh hell no I’m not doing a Spice Girls reference

In case you missed it, my first Reader Poll revealed that I have a reader!  [Update: It's up to 4, woo!  And back to one after I replaced the polling system.]  Now, dear reader, you have a chance to shape the content over the next year, in so far as your opinions happen to match up with what I end up doing.  Hey, you get what you pay for and I’m the only one paying for this site.  I love free marketing data though, so please fill out this survey honestly (or at least humorously) and maybe your voice will be heard.  Unless nobody fills this out, in which case I’ll just interpret that as a vote of confidence in whatever I’m doing.  Interpreting data is fun.

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2012 State of the Site

Now with content!

If you were viewing this site a year ago, well, there wouldn’t have been much here.  More likely, the URL wouldn’t resolve and you wouldn’t have been viewing anything.  I guess it didn’t take much to improve over last year if last year didn’t exist.

With that said, the state of the site is, well, incomplete.  While the various colors and styles of Mets uniforms are more or less covered, things never progressed beyond that.  There’s still 29 other teams (30 if you count the Nationals and Expos separately) plus All-Star, Futures Game, and WBC teams, among others.  And then there’s all of the non-uniform material: jackets, hats, shoes, fielding gloves, batting gloves, catching equipment, etc.

And bats!  Those should be up early in the coming year along with the last of the 2012 product reviews and the thrilling conclusion to Upper Deck: A Love Story.  There’s plenty more content to look forward to, whenever I get around to wrapping some of it up.

In case you’ve lost track of what content has gone up in the last year or so, I put together a Site Index to keep everything organized.  You can get to it from the tabs at the top of each page.  Speaking of the tabs, they’ve been updated to match the 2013 uniforms, sort of.  Black is gone and the road grays and home/road blues have taken over.

As for the rest of the site design, well, not much has changed there.  The sidebar is still a mess and I don’t think the comment boxes are quite right, but the lack of comments has hidden that problem.  The sidebar on the other hand, well, that needs work.  There are also more than a few other sites and blogs that I want to link to, but it’s going to look like a big mess if I can’t figure out how to present everything.

Content in general hasn’t quite gone as planned.  Current products took priority over older products and for some reason game recaps became a big part of this site.  What’s up with that?  I think the game recaps are here to stay (even if they aren’t strictly on topic), but there should be more coverage of older baseball card products as I get more scanning done.  I’m not sure what else we’ll see in the coming year, but I’m bad at predicting this sort of thing anyway.  I guess it’ll be a surprise to all of us!

I never did post a decoder ring for my game-used material codes, did I?  I should probably make that a priority before it gets too confusing.  Rest assured though, the jumble of lettering does make some sort of logical sense.  That should become apparent as more styles of material are added.

You do know that there’s an archive of game-used material in here, right?  Check the Uniforms tab up at the top.  I haven’t exactly been advertising it, so I’m guessing that it gets overlooked a lot.

Elsewhere, there’s been some good progress in establishing a place in the fan community.  The Collect the Mets Twitter account passed 100 followers a while back, though I’m pretty sure most of them don’t visit the site, so I’m not sure what to make of that.  Twitter has given me an avenue to interact with influential people and companies though.  To date, several prominent blogs/bloggers, card companies, and other individuals have taken notice of what I’ve been doing through following on Twitter, retweeting, linking to posts, etc.  It’s nothing all that big, but it’s gotten me into the discussion, which is all I’m really after.  After a wait of about 10 months, I also received membership in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  It’s not exactly the BBWAA, but then again it’s not the BBWAA.

So that’s where things are at.  Stuff happened, stuff will happen.  Wow, this is a pretty sorry state of affairs.  Everything has to start somewhere though and we’ll just have to move forward from here.  Thanks for your support over the past year and check back in a week for all of the year-end wrap-up posts I can get out the door by New Year’s!

Still reading?  Why not take the First Anniversary Reader Poll?

Curse of the Pinstripes

Was R.A. Dickey’s departure foretold in cardboard?

One of R.A. Dickey’s final Dickeyfaces as a Met at Citi Field

R.A. Dickey’s career has been quite the roller coaster ride so far, hasn’t it?  A lot of us have been along for the ride for the last three years, but the latest development has us in free fall.  Like half of the Marlins just a few weeks ago, Dickey is headed north to the Blue Jays.  In return, the Mets get a legitimate catching prospect, something the organization has been in dire need of for a while.  Josh Thole has done an admirable job, but the team needs to get better and this is a step toward doing that.  Dickey may no longer be a Met (once the deal becomes official anyway), but he has meant a lot to an organization that hasn’t had much to cheer for lately.  I’m glad to have been able to see him pitch at Citi Field in what turned out to be his last game there as a Met.  No matter what he does in Toronto, he’ll always have a special place with the Mets.

How did it come to this?  Why would the Mets, after doing almost nothing to improve the team in the offseason, trade away their best pitcher, a 20 game winner and Cy Young Award recipient?  Have things really gotten so bad that a New York team has to wring every last penny of value out of its assets just to remain viable?  Starting pitching is one of the team’s strengths, but depth is still a concern.  Will Santana be able to hold down a spot in the rotation for the whole season?  Will Wheeler be ready?  Can Mejia, Hefner, McHugh, or whoever else gets called on to fill in be effective enough?  In a twist of irony, Omar Minaya, the very man who signed Dickey, is also the one most responsible for depleting the farm system to the point that it was necessary to trade him for prospects.  Yet another Minaya victory has been negated by his failures.

But what about the crackpot conspiracy theories?  What completely unrelated event could have somehow prevented Dickey from putting on a Mets uniform in 2013?  He wasn’t on any video game boxes, so what could it be?  Well, you’ve come to the right place, because I’ve got the answer you won’t find anywhere else.  Dickey’s pinstripe game-used memorabilia cards in 2012 ensured that he would not appear in a game as a Met in 2013.

Dickey’s pants from his second one-hitter of 2012 sure seemed lucky when Topps got a hold of them and chopped them up for 2012 Topps Triple Threads.  This was a big deal because it was the only time an active player’s pinstriped Mets uniform made it into cards in 2012 and was the first baseball card appearance of a uniform from the cream-ivory period (2010-present).  For a Mets game-used collector, these cards were a dream come true.  But dig a little deeper and a nightmare unfolds.

The only active player with a Mets pinstripe jersey card in 2011 was Carlos Beltran.  Beltran was traded during the 2011 season before this card was released.  The trade brought back Zack Wheeler, so it is seen as a big win for the Mets.  Still, Beltran signed with the Cardinals after the season and has been doing well while the Mets are in desperate need of some outfield help.  So was Beltran retroactively the curse’s first victim?

No, that honor goes to Johan Santana in the ill-fated 2010 Upper Deck Series 1.  Santana is known to prefer the white home uniforms because he believes that they hide the ball better, so pinstripes are unusual for him.  But wait, Santana is still with the Mets, so how could the curse apply?  As it turns out, Santana missed all of 2011 due to injury.  Is this the fate that would have been in store for Dickey had he not been traded?  We may never know.  What we do know is that, starting in 2010, any active Met with a Mets pinstripe memorabilia card has not appeared in a game as a Met the following year.  Is this curse a bit far-fetched?  Maybe, maybe not.  Only time and baseball cards will tell.

Product Spotlight: 2012 Topps Five Star

With great price comes great risk

If you’ve been worried that baseball card products weren’t expensive enough and have been envious of football card collectors with their super-duper-ultra-mega-premium products, Topps has heard your pleas and brought Five Star to baseball for 2012.  With a starting price of $500 per pack (which dropped to around $400 within a couple weeks of release), you were basically paying for a case of cards and only getting the case hits.  The stakes have never been this high, which means that an unprecedented level of disappointment was soon to follow.

So what does $500 get you these days?  Not a whole lot as it turns out.  Here’s the pack breakdown:

1 Active Player Autograph
1 Retired Player Autograph
1 Autographed Booklet or some other autograph
1 Autographed Relic
1 Relic

And, as a last-minute reveal, packs will also include a base card numbered to 80 or 10!  Yes, after they ditched the base cards in Tier 1, they added them in at the last minute for Five Star.  I have no idea what they’re doing over there, but I guess it’s a bonus.

Sounds good, right?  I mean, as long as you don’t pull a bunch of cards that sell in the $10-20 range, but how likely is that?  Almost certain as it turns out, but there’s still a real chance of pulling at least one card that will sell for $100.  So really, you might be able to get $200 out of a pack, which isn’t that bad.  Unless you paid $500 for it.  Oops.  But the big hits!  8 player autographs!  Booklets!  All autographs are on-card and all relics are game-used (just like everything was in 2001…)!  Imagine yourself selling a card for $1500!  Which probably won’t happen until you’ve gone through at least four packs, or possibly four cases…  But at least you have some nice stuff left over after selling off the hits.  Oh, right, there’s nothing else there, just the seconds of enjoyment from opening packs.  Five Star sells you on the concept and the experience, which may be all you walk away with after putting your money down.

I bailed out of the high-dollar pack market way back in the beginning with SP Game Bat and Pacific Private Stock in 2001.  $20 per pack was pushing it back then and it didn’t take more than a couple of worthless packs to sour me on the whole concept.  Buying singles on the secondary market was always a better deal and that remains true to this day.  I haven’t touched packs of any of this year’s other high-end products and I’m not taking any chances with Five Star.  But there are some nice must-have cards in this product that will cost you a lot less than $500 to pick up.  The cards are all 4mm thick, which is annoying because common toploader sizes go from 3.5mm to 5mm with nothing in between.  And they all have a massive problem with chipping and corner wear.

Base Cards

Base: Numbered to 80
Rainbow: Numbered to 10

Mets: Johan Santana, Tom Seaver, David Wright

Added at the last minute, these are super-thick cards that look a lot like the base autographs.  David Wright is here as always, joined by Tom Seaver and Johan Santana.  If you were hoping for a deep field of Mets, you might as well stop reading now because Dave Kingman and R.A. Dickey are the only other Mets in the entire product (and people are complaining about there being too many lesser players in Five Star…).  As with everything else in Five Star, these are heavily color-coded: red for retired players and blue for active players, with the stone pattern from the cardbacks (rotated 180 degrees) as a border.  There’s a lot of design here and one big player picture, which looks to me like it’s trying too hard to look premium.  I’ve seen nicer designs on early ’90s products and those didn’t sell for $500 per pack.

Jumbo Jersey Relics

Silver: Numbered to 92
Gold: Numbered to 25
Rainbow: Numbered to 1

Mets: Johan Santana, David Wright

Jumbo relics are great in normal products, but they’re largely just junk in this one.  Santana and Wright both have white and gray swatches here, so there’s nothing to get excited about.  They’re cheap at least.  The 1/1s have a piece of patch, but the premium price that they’ll fetch (probably around 1/4 of the price of a pack) isn’t really worth it to buyers or sellers.

Five Star Autographs

Silver: Numbering Varies
Rainbow: Numbered to 25

Mets: Dave Kingman, Tom Seaver, David Wright

While these cards look a lot like the base cards, the designs are completely different, though mostly the same.  The border switches from the light stone in the base cards to a very dark wood grain here, which makes the chipping more visible.

Five Star Quotable Autographs

Numbered to 10

Mets: Tom Seaver, David Wright

How can you not like a David Wright autograph with a “Let’s Go Mets!” inscription?  These are way out of my price range unfortunately, but the hobby could use more of this kind of variety in autograph cards.

Five Star Silver Ink Autographs

Silver Ink: Numbered to 99
Gold Ink Gold Border: Numbered to 10 or less
Gold Ink Purple Border: Numbered to 10 or less
Gold Ink Red Border: Numbered to 10 or less

Mets: R.A. Dickey, Dave Kingman, David Wright

Notable here are the first on-card autographs from R.A. Dickey.  The gold ink parallels are the big hits (well, bigger, it’s hard to call a $50-100 card a “big hit” in a $500 pack), but even the silver ink base versions look great.  These are the real must-have autographs in Five Star, skip the rest if you’re just looking for one or two nice cards.  Shame about the chipping.

Five Star Booklet Triple Relic Autograph

Silver: #d/99 or less (49 for Wright)
Gold: Numbered to 10
Rainbow: Numbered to 1

Mets: David Wright

Oh boy, three small white pieces of fabric (some dirty) and an autograph on the other piece of the booklet when there’s still plenty of room on the relic side.  These just don’t interest me at all.

Multiplayer Cards

Numbered to 5

Mets: Johan Santana (2 and 4 Patch), David Wright (2, 3, 4, and 8 Patch)

The cards that got people drooling over 5 Star were the massive multiplayer cards with patches or autographs from up to 8 different players.  Numbered to only 5 each (10 for some of the autograph cards), the odds of pulling one are slim, but at least you stand a chance at getting your money back if you do.  David Wright and Johan Santana are the only Mets here, with both of the Santanas on cards that also feature Wright, for a total of four different cards.

Other Cool Stuff

Sorry, no Mets here.  5 Star has some nice extremely limited cards, but the Mets didn’t make the cut.

Bottom Line

Anything numbered to more than 10 in this product is junk.  That’s great for singles buyers, not so great for pack breakers.  Of the Mets cards numbered to more than 10, only the Wright, Dickey, and Seaver autographs and the Wright triple relic autograph will sell for more than $30, with most others regularly selling for less than $20.  That means you should be able to get all of the Mets cards numbered to more than 10 plus the base cards numbered to 10 for around $500, if you can find enough sellers willing to take a chance on the product and then sell the contents for fair market value.  That’s 20 cards, 10 of them autographed, for the price of one pack.  You’re guaranteed not to get any big hits this way, but at least you know what you’ll be getting.  That is, a bunch of really thick cards with fancy designs and widespread chipping.  Eh, maybe this isn’t a product to buy into that big.