Looking back at things that didn’t suck about the Mets in 2012
Well, the Mets didn’t win the World Series last year. Or make the playoffs. Or finish with a winning record. They didn’t finish in last place, but that’s more because of the Marlins than anything the Mets did. The year started off with the Mets in contention, but the second half crash and burn was in full effect in 2012. What a miserable year.
Except for a few bright spots. After just over 50 years, the Mets got their first no-hitter, courtesy of Johan Santana and a questionable foul ball call on Carlos Beltran. After more than 20 years, the Mets had a 20-game winner in R.A. Dickey, who then went on to become the first knuckleball pitcher to win the Cy Young Award (before being traded to the Blue Jays). Matt Harvey made an impressive debut and Zack Wheeler worked his way up to be in position to do the same in 2013. And of course David Wright was back in MVP form and signed a contract that should keep him in a Mets uniform until the end of his playing days.
In the errata category, the Mets brought back Banner Day and will have it back again this year. They also finally announced that Citi Field will host the 2013 All-Star game. And that pesky black drop shadow has finally been banished from the uniforms. The black uniforms themselves refuse to die, but a pair of new blue alternates should keep their use to a minimum. And how about those $20 clearance blue Dickey jerseys that everyone except me was able to get? I am still accepting Christmas presents if anyone has an extra road version in XL.
As for baseball cards, 2012 had a few bright spots. While Mets representation in some products (Topps Heritage) was very poor, there was still a good supply of new game-used and autograph cards, plus plenty of official Rookie Cards and actual first cards. Here’s a few of the best (and worst) cards that 2012 had to offer.
Best Manufactured Material
2012 Topps Series 1 Golden Greats Coin Tom Seaver
Topps had some interesting manufactured material inserts this year, but none could come close to their coin relic cards. These huge double-sided medallions are absolutely stunning in person. Topps Update introduced the runner-up, the Hall of Fame Plaque manufactured material relic. It’s hard to beat a heavy chunk of metal.
Best Parallel Insert Set
2012 Topps Archives Gold Foil Parallel
Topps introduced even more types of parallel cards this year with the various colors of Ice and Wave Refractor parallels in addition to the usual colored borders, sparkles, refractors, xfractors, atomic refractors, superfractors, etc. None of them were even close to being a match for the gold foil parallels in Topps Archives. These look great in person and get even better when scanned (unlike most chrome/refractor cards).
Best Sticker Autograph
2012 Topps Archives Fan Favorites Autograph Gary Carter
Sure, he’s not shown as a Met, but there isn’t a Mets sticker autograph that can come close to this. Not only is this an autograph from the late Gary Carter on a 1975-style card, but this is the first-ever sticker autograph to appear in a Topps Archives product.
Best On-Card Autograph
2012 Topps Five Star Silver Ink Gold Signature R.A. Dickey
Alternatives to the usual blue (and occasional black or red) autographs have been in short supply in recent years, but Topps released some nice specimens in silver, gold, and white marker in several of its premium products. The best of the bunch has to be R.A. Dickey’s gold signature in Topps Five Star. Between the strokes of the signature and the picture chosen to accompany it, there’s really nothing more you could want from this card (well, other than less chipping). The card itself has three color variants (all numbered to 10 or 5), but I like the look of the purple version.
One problem with the silver and gold markers Topps used this year is that they don’t always write evenly, leaving many signatures looking weak and washed out. That wasn’t a problem for the white ink parallels in Topps Tier One though. Combine the strength of the ink with David Wright’s signature and you have a clear winner (or runner-up in this case). These were released as redemptions (boo!), but they were fulfilled fairly quickly (woo!).
2012 Panini Signature Series MLBPA Logo Autograph Jordany Valdespin
This card had a lot going against it before it even got to the autograph. First, without a license from MLB Properties, Panini couldn’t use proper team names or logos, instead settling for “New York Baseball Club” in place of Mets and cropping out all logos. Next, their style of patch isn’t terribly exciting, essentially being just some embroidery on the fabric. And the use of the MLBPA logo, while something to brag about because it is the one license they do have, just isn’t all that interesting (and the detail doesn’t really come through all that well). Add in the two other manufactured material autograph sets with the same checklist (one with the iconic Rated Rookie logo and one on simulated baseballs), and this card looks like a dud.
Add in the autograph and it’s a total bomb. J-stroke, dot, V-stroke, dot. Look, I know these kids have a lot of autographs to sign, and nobody writes anything by hand anymore, but has it really come to this? That’s not an autograph, those are initials. I’m not expecting calligraphy or anything, but is it too much to ask for these guys to at least come up with a symbol they can draw? I’ll even take a random scribble over something like this. The autograph market is in trouble if the future holds nothing but simple initials.
Best Uniform Memorabilia Card
2012 Topps Triple Threads Unity Autographed Relic R.A. Dickey
Did you even need to ask? They may not be big, but Dickey’s pants swatches are the only Mets pinstripe material from an active Mets player in 2012 and are the first Mets pinstripes from the last three seasons’ uniforms. And he also threw a one-hitter wearing them. There’s just no way to top that.
Best Patch Card
2012 Topps Update All-Star Jumbo Patch R.A. Dickey
Dickey’s jumbo All-Star Patches are a thing of beauty, but being numbered to 6 has kept them from my hands (and scanner). I’ve got the whole (non-Dickey-worn) jersey in my closet though, so I can make do without it.
Best Bat Card
2012 Topps Museum Collection Dual Jumbo Lumber Ike Davis David Wright
Bat cards aren’t that big of a draw anymore and in most cases are just variants of generic relic cards that may contain a piece of bat or jersey. Museum Collection offered one of the only bat-only memorabilia inserts in its Jumbo Lumber relics. Not only were these limited to bats specifically, but every piece was nice and big. The dual version paired David Wright, the Mets’ lone representative in the single Jumbo Lumber relics, with Ike Davis. For Ike, this was his first memorabilia card of the year.
Best Other Memorabilia Card
2011 Panini Limited Hard Hats Dwight Gooden
Panini was still stuck in 2011 in May of 2012 when they released Panini Limited, a product filled with interesting memorabilia cards like what Playoff/Donruss was known for. Dwight Gooden was well-represented with bat, jersey, hat, and fielding glove pieces in addition to the (no pun intended) crown jewel: a piece of game-used helmet. Helmet cards are extremely rare, somewhere between wristbands and catcher’s equipment. This is the first MLB-worn helmet card from a Mets player (previous examples are all from the 2000 Futures Game) and may have been from a Mets helmet. No pieces of the Helmet’s logo have surfaced, so we may never know for sure.
Worst Memorabilia Card
2012 Topps Triple Threads Relic Jose Reyes “Fresh Fish”
Really, Topps? These lame attempts to be hip and quirky are why I can’t get behind Triple Threads as a product. What’s next, referring to David Wright and his impending contract extension as “D-Money?” Oh, right. These stupid phrases are almost as idiotic as eBay sellers who think there are more than three pieces of memorabilia in them because of the windowing (hint: it’s called “Triple” Threads for a reason).
Autograph Product of the Year
The return of Topps Archives was one of the biggest card-related stories of the year and the product did not disappoint. Picking up where the 2005 product left off, 2012 Archives was loaded with autographs from big stars and minor favorites alike, packing in autographs from 20 former Mets (Nolan Ryan and Willie Mays are not shown, for obvious reasons), all on-card except for Carter (for obvious reasons).
Honorable Mention – 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition
Yeah, Panini has a different kind of calendar. This was one of the first new Panini baseball products and it got plenty of attention. While Topps put autographs from the Mets’ top two 2011 draft picks in 2011 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects and moved on, Panini went with the top four, plus Phillip Evans. Then they threw in Chris Schwinden for good measure. Most of the autographs are on stickers (some of the Nimmos and Fulmers are the only ones that are on-card), but the unique player selection, die-cut parallels, and interesting ink variants more than make up for that. Topps has shown no interest in autographs from “lesser” draft picks, so this would be a good niche for Panini to focus on.
Game-Used Product of the Year
Great card design, lots of material variety, decent player selection. I could go on, but what more is there to say?
Honorable Mention: 2012 Topps Triple Threads
I may not personally like the style and format of Triple Threads, but you can’t ignore the material. So many players and so much new material are in this product that it always rates as one of the most significant products of the year. But I’m still not giving it the top spot.