Category Archives: History

2014 Mets Card Spring Preview

What’s in the cardboard for the 2014 Mets

Another offseason is coming to an end, so it’s time to take a look at what it all means for card collecting. 2014 was supposed to be the year Sandy Alderson’s plan came together, but significant gaps and questions put that in jeopardy even before Matt Harvey was lost for the season. In terms of cards, the lack of notable veterans has left most sets a mix of David Wright and various prospects and young stars. Are there enough new veterans and rising stars to give the Mets respectable representation in this year’s products? Or, like the master plan, will it take another year for everything to fall into place?

Farewells

Alderson’s big trade of 2013 sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh for infielder Dilson Herrera and MLB-ready reliever Vic Black. Byrd and Buck went on to the postseason and, as expected, didn’t return to the Mets. Buck was no longer necessary with the arrival of Travis d’Arnaud, but Byrd was the Mets’ top outfielder offensively.

As I predicted, the 2013 Topps Series 2 Mets team set is a “Where are they now?” article waiting to happen…

The non-tender deadline gave us another batch of departures. Jordany Valdespin, Omar Quintanilla, and Scott Atchison were cut as expected, with Justin Turner and the injured Jeremy Hefner joining them unexpectedly. Hefner and Quintanilla were re-signed, Jordany Valdespin gave in to destiny and signed with the Marlins, Scott Atchison signed with the Indians, and Justin Turner joined teammate Mike Baxter with the Dodgers.

On top of that, oft-injured pitchers Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum also landed elsewhere, Santana with the Orioles and Marcum with the Indians. Santana missed all of 2013 after his second shoulder surgery and Marcum saw his season end early after a shoulder surgery of his own.

Hails

As mentioned before, the Mets bolstered the ranks of their top 20 prospects with the acquisition of Dilson Herrera and Vic Black from the Pirates in August. Black should get a good amount of work as a late-inning reliever this year while Herrera is still a few years out. Not a bad return for a few weeks of a couple of players who wouldn’t be back this year anyway.

And here are the big offseason acquisitions. If nothing else, these guys bring a veteran presence in cardboard dating back to the late ’90s. More on that later.

Autographs

The last few months have given us plenty of new autographs. Bowman Sterling closed out 2013 with the first autographs from L.J. Mazzilli. Panini Elite Extra Edition started 2014 with the first autographs from Jared King and Akeel Morris, plus the first live autographs from Rainy Lara. Last month’s 2014 Donruss was largely a bust but did give us Andrew Brown’s first autographs. Notably absent is Juan Lagares, who should be in line for a lot of attention after his performance in 2013.

Autographs are also plentiful further up in the system. Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero should get called up sometime in 2014 and will hopefully get some more autographs along the way. Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores are the first of the top Mets prospects with autographs in 2014 products.

Notable autographs in upcoming products include the first from Dallas Green and Frank Lary in 2014 Topps Heritage (though not as Mets) and the first from Jeremy Hefner in 2014 Topps Gypsy Queen. More will hopefully follow in 2014 Bowman and 2014 Topps Archives, though the lack of Mets autographs in Heritage is troubling.

Game-Used

One of the big surpises so far this year was the pair of Rookie pinstripe jersey cards in 2013 Panini America’s Pastime. These (along with camo patch variants) are the first memorabilia cards from Juan Lagares and Scott Rice and mark the first time that multiple current Mets have had Mets pinstripe jersey cards in the same year since 2009. Travis d’Arnaud was the first 2014 Rookie with his first MLB-worn material in 2014 Topps Series 1 and 2014 Topps Tribute. It’s a good start after some pretty rough years, but there’s still more ground to cover.

2014 Donruss has given us the first oddity of the year in the form of pinstripe jersey cards from Ike Davis, Dillon Gee, and Jon Niese. Their Game Gear cards all contain a type of pinstripe only seen at the MLB level back in the ’90s. This would mean that they could only be from the 1993 throwback home jersey worn on the road in Colorado on April 16, 2013.

Autographed Game-Used

Leaf had a couple surprises of its own in 2013 Leaf Trinity. In addition to autographs from Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Dominic Smith, and Domingo Tapia, Leaf released autographed cards with memorabilia from Smith and Tapia. These all included piping or patches, a rarity for minor league players.

At the big league level, Travis d’Arnaud had his first autographed patch cards in the Strata insert set in 2014 Topps Series 1. Numbered to just 25 (and released as redemptions), these are not easy to get a hold of. Hopefully we’ll see more from him later in the year.

Playing Pepper 2014: New York Mets

Like last year, Daniel Shoptaw from C70 At the Bat polled the Mets blog community to get a picture of where the team stands as of spring training. Also like last year, I offered up my unique insight that may or may not be particularly insightful.

You can read all of the responses here: Playing Pepper 2014: New York Mets.

1) How would you grade the offseason?

It’s hard to go much higher than a B considering that the team still has some big holes and big questions, but the moves the team made should be at least enough for a B, so… It’s another year in a holding pattern, so a B it is. The outfield needed an overhaul, which it got in the form of Curtis Granderson and, to a lesser extent, the other Chris Young. The rotation needed a veteran and some Mejia insurance, which Bartolo Colon, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and John Lannan should provide. The bullpen has a few cheap new options, which is probably the best that could be expected. First base is still unresolved and shortstop… No shortstop solution equals a B.

In a different light though, this offseason earned an A for filling some of the Mets’ most glaring holes: All-Star memorabilia. Since All-Star workout jerseys started getting sold into tiny cardboard prisons in 2000, the Mets have had a representative from each AL All-Star team no later than the following spring each year. Sometimes it was a former player stepping up with a new team (Jason Isringhausen ’00, Melvin Mora ’05, Ty Wigginton ’10), other times it was a big-name offseason acquisition (Johan Santana ’07, Francisco Rodriguez ’08, Jason Bay ’09). This ended with the start of the Alderson regime. With no big free agent signings and an emphasis on building the farm system, there were no former or future Mets to be found on the AL All-Star Roster. It looked like 2013 would turn things around with both Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey in Toronto, but that didn’t quite work out.

That all changed with this past offseason. In the span of a few days, Sandy Alderson checked off the 2011 (Curtis Granderson), 2012 (also CG), and 2013 (Bartolo Colon) AL All-Star teams and threw in the first Met from the 2005 Futures Game USA team (Chris Young) for good measure. Later, the signing of Jose Valverde to a minor league deal added a possible second 2011 AL All-Star. A bounceback season from Reyes and/or Dickey could put us back on track to have a Met on every AL All-Star team.

2) Can Zack Wheeler step up and fill the gap left by Matt Harvey’s surgery?

Yeah, about that… Over the years (well, two of them at least), I have identified two predictors of doom that can be found in cardboard. From 2010 to 2013, only one player each year appeared with the Mets and had a Mets pinstripe jersey card released in the same year. None of the first three played a game with the Mets in the following year. The fourth is Zack Wheeler. In 2013, I noticed that a lot of Mets pitchers who signed a lot of autographs that year suffered from arm injuries. Zack Wheeler was one of the few who has, so far, remained injury free. Does this mean Zack Wheeler is now cursed and has no chance of throwing a pitch in 2014? Of course not. But with the run of injuries Mets pitchers suffered in 2013, nothing is certain.

Seriously though, you can’t really look at it is having a gap to be filled. With or without Harvey, the rotation needs five pitchers to start with and some depth to fill in as needed. The Colon signing added a much-needed veteran and 200 innings from Wheeler would certainly help, as would strong seasons from Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. That just leaves the #5 spot, which has some decent (and cheap) options that could also provide depth later in the season. Add in possible appearances by Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and/or Jacob deGrom in the second half and the Mets might just have a legitimate group of starting pitchers to work with while Harvey rehabs.

3) Which roster battle will be the most intriguing during spring training?

I’m not really intrigued by it, but the one everyone seems to be interested in is who will be batting leadoff. “Leadoff Hitter” isn’t really a position, but you wouldn’t know that from the reporting these days. Eric Young Jr., the reigning NL stolen base champ, is the favorite for the job, but he’s a 4th outfielder at best. Do the Mets demote Juan Lagares to give EY a starting job to put him (and his mediocre OBP) at the top of the order? Or do they keep EY as a potent weapon off the bench and pick a leadoff hitter from the remaining options? This is the classic case of logic (EY’s value is highest as a bench player) vs. emotion (stolen bases!).

4) What rookie, if any, will make the most impact on the team in 2014?

That would be Travis d’Arnaud. Wilmer Flores will probably start the season in AAA and there’s little chance of seeing any of the big pitching prospects until late June or July. That puts d’Arnaud in the rare position of spending a full season with Rookie eligibility. He has already shown that he is ready behind the plate, but he didn’t impress much with the bat in his brief stint in the majors last year. If his bat comes around (and if he can put injury questions to rest), he could provide significant value at a position that hasn’t produced much for the Mets in recent years.

5) What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?

I’ll go out on a limb and go with 80-82, 3rd place in the NL East.  As with last year, this will depend more on how the other teams in the division perform than how the Mets perform.  Will the Phillies continue to falter?  Is the Marlins’ emergence still another year away?  Did the Braves and Nationals make the right moves to stay at the top of the NL East?  If everything breaks right, the Mets could stay relevant past the All-Star break.  If not, well, pick any recent year to see the result.  I’m not quite sold on 90 wins, but 80 is still in play.  Of course, so is 70.

6) Which player from your team do you most enjoy watching?

Sigh. Will Matt Harvey’s rehab be televised?

Best Mets Cards of 2013

Pitching dominates this year’s awards

It’s 2014, which means I’m running a bit behind on my 2013 wrap-up articles. The last few posts have covered most of the interesting cards from the last year, so now it’s time to narrow things down to just the best of the best so you don’t have to dig through 5,000 words for just the few things you’re interested in. Only 1,800 words…

Best Manufactured Material

2013 Topps Series 2 Tom Seaver Proven Mettle Coin

Not much has improved in this category since last year, so this award goes to a Seaver coin again. At least there was more player diversity this year and it wasn’t just all Seaver all the time.

Worst Manufactured Material

2013 Topps Pro Debut Travis d’Arnaud Hat Logo Patch

So many things are going on here, all of them wrong. Wrong team, wrong logo, wrong, wrong, wrong. I don’t know what Topps was going for with this one, but it sure wasn’t anything that made sense.

Best Parallel Insert Set

2013 Topps Archives Orange Parallel

Last year, I went with the Archives gold parallel here. This year, Topps changed the formula and the gold parallel just didn’t look that good. The orange parallel on the other hand was something unique among the multitudes of parallels released in 2013. Available only one per pack in 25 cent Archives packs at participating hobby shops, these cards fluoresce in UV light. Unfortunately, I didn’t pull a single Met out of more than 100 packs and had to go to eBay for these…

Best Base Insert

2013 Bowman Inception Jose Reyes Sapphire Reprint

With parallels, autographs, game-used, and manufactured material accounting for most of the inserts out there, it can be hard to find contenders for this category. I found three: the Jose Reyes sapphire rookie reprint from Bowman Inception, the Tom Seaver Cut to the Chase die-cut chrome insert from Topps Series 2, and the Matt Harvey Prodigies die-cut refractor from Topps Finest. I’ll give Reyes the edge here, though it should be noted that a David Wright version could be found in Bowman Sterling (the Reyes looks better).

Best Rookie Card

2013 Panini Prizm Scott Rice

Five Mets had Rookie Cards in 2013: Jeurys Familia, Collin McHugh, Zack Wheeler, Scott Rice, and Juan Lagares. All of them had at least a Rookie Card (and all of the standard parallels) in base Topps except for Scott Rice. After 14 years in professional baseball, Rice made his MLB debut with the Mets in 2013 and received Rookie Cards in just 2013 Panini Prizm.

Best Sticker Autograph

2013 Topps Opening Day Mr. Met Mascot Autograph

An autograph from the best sports mascot ever? Nothing else even comes close.

Best On-Card Autograph

2011 Bowman Platinum Matt Harvey

How does a card from 2011 Bowman Platinum qualify for the 2013 awards? Well, when it takes two full years for the cards to just be signed, you can’t really call these 2011 autograph cards. Harvey autographs were some of the hottest cards released this year and none were dated 2013. It’s been a strange year.

If you insist on having autographs from the actual 2013 product year in this category, here are a few worth noting.  Shown here are the first Mets autographs from Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, the last Mets autograph from R.A. Dickey, and an autograph on a thick slab of clear plastic.

Worst Autograph

2013 Topps Series 2 Collin Cowgill Chasing History Autograph

Sticker autograph, photoshopped black jersey, player who was traded shortly after the card was released. And then Topps made a second attempt in Topps Update that at least fixed the jersey issue. This card has no reason to exist.

Best Uniform Memorabilia Card

2013 Topps Tier One Matt Harvey
2013 Topps Triple Threads Jeurys Familia
2013 Topps Five Star David Wright Jumbo Jersey (blue jersey variant)

Technically, this should probably go to the 2013 Topps Triple Threads Harvey/Wright/Wheeler triple jersey card, but that was out of my price range. Instead, have a bunch of blue jerseys. Except for the Wright, which I haven’t been able to get yet…

Best Patch Card

2012 Panini National Treasures Matt Harvey

Depending on the variant, this one could qualify for best jersey or patch. Either way, this is one of those cards that was a must-have regardless of the price before Harvey’s card prices went through the roof. Because now you sure can’t afford it.

Best Bat Card

2013 Topps Triple Threads R.A. Dickey

Bat cards just aren’t very common anymore. This year, the only Mets bat card worthy of this award isn’t a Mets bat card at all. R.A. Dickey’s first bat cards came after all of his cards had been changed over to the Blue Jays, but I’ll let that slide.

Worst Memorabilia Card

2013 Topps Triple Threads Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Poor Kirk Nieuwenhuis. After being all over 2012′s autograph and memorabilia cards, he found himself with very little MLB playing time in 2013 and far too many cards. He got September off after the AAA season ended and then had loads of memorabilia cards in Triple Threads. After already having triple jersey autograph cards in last year’s Triple Threads. As if the unnecessary Future Phenoms card weren’t enough, Nieuwenhuis had three single jersey autograph cards. The green jersey cards I can see, but everything else is just filler. I suppose it isn’t really fair to single out Kirk when so much of Triple Threads was unnecessary filler, but the award has to go to someone.

Best Hobby Shop Promotion

Panini Black Friday

Every year, card companies try to find ways to get people to visit their local hobby shops. 2013 was filled with various promotions, from the Topps Series 1 Spring Fever redemption packs to Panini’s Boxing Day packs. Topps Archives had the most with vintage card redemptions, 25 cent packs, and ’80s card redemption packs with Topps Series 2 base, blue sparkle, and silver slate parallels. The best of the bunch, as usual, was Panini’s Black Friday promotion that combines discounts on Panini products with bonus packs containing cards featuring some of the hottest players in four sports with parallels, autographs, and unique memorabilia. Matt Harvey was the lone Met featured in this promotion.

Best New Product

2013 Bowman Inception

Coming into 2013, I thought the last thing the hobby needed was another Bowman product. With five Bowman products on the market already, what more was there to cover? Bowman Inception brought premium thick autograph cards and no filler. All on-card autographs, no chipping problems, no base cards, and no chrome. In other words, something different. Travis d’Arnaud and Jeurys Familia are the only two Mets in the base autograph sets, about average for the 62 total cards between the rookie and prospect autographs. As an added bonus, Jose Reyes was also among the sapphire reprints in this product.

Most Improved Product

2013 Bowman Sterling

Elsewhere in the Bowman franchise, Sterling was in sorry shape in 2012. With some of the most boring and uninspired autograph cards on the market and little else going for it, Bowman Sterling was a product without a purpose. For 2013, Sterling kept much of the same structure as the previous year’s product with a few key changes. Autograph orientation switched from landscape to portrait, a minor change that greatly improved the design. Other design changes improved how the base cards scanned to the point that the signatures no longer blended into the background. The biggest change though was with the refractor parallels. 2012 Bowman Sterling had six refractor parallels and none between base refractors (numbered to 199) and gold refractors (numbered to 50). The 2013 edition reduced the numbering on base refractors (now numbered to 150) and added three tiers above gold: green (numbered to 125), ruby (numbered to 99), and orange (numbered to 75). Canary diamond print runs were also increased from 1 to 3 and 1/1 superfractors were added. On top of that, the autograph checklist was increased from 88 to 106 with the Mets representation including the first certified autographs from L.J. Mazzilli and the first Mets autographs from Noah Syndergaard. More players and more parallels with a better design made 2013 Bowman Sterling a welcome improvement over last year’s afterthought.

Most Disappointing Product

2013 Panini Hometown Heroes

I’m tempted here to go with 2013 Topps Finest, but at this point I have no expectations for a product with lots of history and no real direction. Panini Hometown Heroes on the other hand was a new product that promised a new take on the formula that brought us Topps Archives and Leaf Memories. What it delivered was a bland design filled with autographs that have been done better by Topps over the last two years. While it did bring a few new or hard-to-find autographs, the design deficiencies made it hard to get excited about any of them.

Autograph Product of the Year

2013 Topps Archives

No surprises here. With 15 former Mets in the Fan Favorites Autographs set, including 8 shown as Mets (and the first autographs from Keith Miller), nothing else comes close. What’s even more impressive is that Topps featured an entirely new group of autographs in the second year of the new incarnation of Archives, for a total of 32 former Mets (15 shown as Mets) over two years of Fan Favorites Autographs. That’s still well under ten percent of the former Mets with certified autograph cards, so there’s plenty of room for next year’s Archives to keep the streak going.

Honorable Mention

2013 Leaf Memories

Leaf is no slouch in the autograph department and Leaf Memories combines 1990-style autographs from their three prospects, Rafael Montero, Domingo Tapia, and Dominic Smith, with buyback autographs from players from the 1980s and early 1990s. Among the buyback autographs are the first from Kevin Elster and Rick Aguilera, plus countless favorites from some of the best Mets teams in recent memory. Well, relatively recent at least. The large number of redemption cards though keeps Leaf Memories from threatening to dethrone Archives.

Game-Used Product of the Year

2013 Topps Museum Collection

Now in its third year (though only its second under the Museum Collection brand), some of the shine is beginning to wear off Topps Museum Collection. It has all of the memorabilia variety we’ve come to expect: jumbo jersey and bat relics, autographed memorabilia cards, quad relics, four-player relics, etc. This year, the highlights were jumbo bat cards from Darryl Strawberry, autographed double and triple memorabilia cards from R.A. Dickey, and jumbo Matt Harvey jersey cards. Jumbo jerseys from Johan Santana and Ike Davis weren’t quite as exciting and the usual assortment from David Wright seemed like a repeat of last year. Still, this year’s cards sold better than last year’s counterparts, which may be why I wasn’t quite as interested in them this year.

Honorable Mention

2012 Panini National Treasures

As usual, nothing could match the quality and player/material diversity of Museum Collection. Panini made a good showing though with 2012 Panini National Treasures. With autographed jersey and patch cards from Dwight Gooden, David Wright, Matt Harvey, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, plus various booklets featuring Tom Seaver, Gary Carter, and David Wright and plenty of other former Mets like Duke Snider, Richie Ashburn, Keith Hernandez, and Jose Reyes featured in the other memorabilia sets, it should be obvious why National Treasures was a big hit.

The Essentials: 2013 Mets Autographs

Return of the Prospects

A lot of baseball cards have been released in 2013.  Between Topps (MLB and MLBPA licenses), Panini (MLBPA license), Leaf (no licenses), and Upper Deck (MLBPA license but strict MLB oversight), more than 40 baseball products have been released this year.  So which cards stand out from the rest?  To answer that question, we’ll break down the key Mets cards from 2013 in The Essentials.

2013 was filled with new Mets autographs from the first days of the year all the way to the last.  Add in a few current stars (well, as much as the current team has stars) and loads of former favorites and you’ve got a pretty decent bunch of cards for one year.  Best of all, 2012′s prospect drought didn’t carry over to 2013.  Instead, we were treated to a bountiful prospect crop, so let’s start there.

Prospects

Aside from a few 2011 draft picks in Elite Extra Edition and a couple of 2012 draft picks in Bowman Draft, the prospect autographs in 2012 were limited to, well, Chris Schwinden.  And maybe some Reese Havens, if he and/or SP Signature count.  Things started off much the same in 2013 with the first Panini-branded Elite Extra Edition.

EEE gave us the first autographs from 2012 draft picks Branden Kaupe, Logan Taylor, Matt Koch, and Matt Reynolds (Reynolds was supposed to have his first autographs in 2012 Bowman Sterling, but redemptions were issued instead and the cards were released in 2013 Bowman Chrome).  Gavin Cecchini also made an appearance with Kevin Plawecki showing up as redemptions (that have yet to be fulfilled as of the end of 2013).

Coming into 2013, two dozen Mets prospects had been featured on Bowman Chrome autographs in Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Draft, from Bob Keppel in 2001 to Kevin Plawecki in 2012.  2013 Bowman had just Jeurys Familia RC autographs, but Bowman Chrome picked up the slack with Luis Mateo, Matt Reynolds (now signing with just his first initial instead of the full name) and Rafael Montero.  Bowman Draft added 2013 draft picks Dominic Smith and Andrew Church.  Mateo, Reynolds, and Smith had their first autographs in other products (2013 Bowman Platinum, 2012 Panini EEE, and 2013 Panini Perennial Draft Picks, respectively), but Bowman Chrome is king of the prospect autographs.

Not that Panini is going down without a fight.  They may not have a license from MLB Properties, but they’re still making a big push to get a piece of the baseball card market.  Traditionally, Panini wouldn’t put out autographs from draft picks until January’s EEE.  This year, Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks was positioned to challenge the prospect aspects of Bowman Chrome and Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects (hence the overly alliterative name).  Not only did Panini get top pick Dominic Smith, but they also landed autographs from third round pick Ivan Wilson and past picks Jayce Boyd and Cory Vaughn.  Rainy Lara and Amed Rosario were included as redemptions, but there’s no word on when those will be fulfilled (Panini’s got a lot of signing to do…).

Without licenses from either MLB Properties or the MLBPA, Leaf didn’t have much to work with except retired players and prospects.  They did an impressive job with that limitation, getting Dominic Smith and Rafael Montero to sign for them in multiple products alongside their one exclusive signer, Domingo Tapia.  All three had autographs in Leaf Metal, Leaf Memories, and Leaf Trinity, the latter of which featured thick plastic slabs, memorabilia, or inscriptions on all of its cards.  Though limited in its scope, Leaf’s offering in 2013 was quite noteworthy.  Hopefully the MLBPA is paying attention, too bad MLB Properties has hitched itself to Topps for the foreseeable future.

Not that Topps has been all that bad lately.  In addition to the players with Bowman Chrome autos, Topps also managed to get signatures from 2012 7th round pick Corey Oswalt (winner of the “Most random prospect to have an autograph card in 2013″ award that doesn’t exist) and 2013 4th round pick L.J. Mazzilli, son of former Met Lee Mazzilli.  On top of that, they also produced the first Mets autographs of top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.  That leaves most of the Mets’ top 20 or so prospects with autograph cards of some soft except for Jacob deGrom and Gabriel Ynoa.

Rookie Cards

When it comes to Rookie Card autographs in 2013, the big name was Jeurys Familia.  Seriously, he was in just about everything for the first 8 months of the year, at which point Zack Wheeler took over and finished off the year’s RC auto appearances.  The pair accounted for all of the Mets RC autos released by Topps in 2013.

But not all of the Mets RC autos in 2013.  Panini Pinnacle was perfectly positioned to provide the premier penmanship piece from recently departed Mets pitcher Collin McHugh.  Familia was in there too because, well, just because.

2012 Rookies

Last year’s default rookie signers Jordany Valdespin and Kirk Nieuwenhuis were back again in 2013, though JV1′s first autograph this year will probably also be his last as a Met.  Things aren’t looking too good for Nieuwenhuis, who wasn’t even called up in September.  He still had a bunch of autographs in Gypsy Queen, Tier One, and Triple Threads.

2013 All-Stars

Both of the Mets All-Stars from 2013 had autographs released in 2013, though all of Matt Harvey’s were dated either 2012 (all of his Panini autos) or 2011 (Bowman Platinum redemptions that finally made it out two years late).  Hopefully you got your fill of Harvey autos early because prices spiked in April and haven’t cooled off all that much since then.

New Old Mets

A few new faces we’ve already forgotten also managed to get some autographs out in 2013.  Collin Cowgill and Shaun Marcum were featured in Topps Series 2, then Cowgill came back in Topps Update to commemorate the one thing of significance he did in his very brief Mets career.  Marcum also had a few autographs in Topps Tier One alongside Kirk Nieuwenhuis and (of course) Jeurys Familia.

Dickey

R.A. Dickey continued to have Mets autographs into 2013, including these three on-card beauties.  The Gypsy Queen and Tribute Dickey autos were released as redemption cards and were sent out shortly after the Museum Collection card was released (Museum Collection also included several cards with Dickey sticker autos).

Fan Favorites

This year had another good haul of Mets autographs in Topps Archives.  Gregg Jefferies, Howard Johnson, Jesse Orosco, Kevin McReynolds, Keith Miller, Mookie Wilson, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez were all featured in the Fan Favorites Autographs set, though several of these were in card styles that were used in previous Fan Favorites Autographs sets.  This is Keith Miller’s first autograph card because, well, he’s Keith Miller.

Hometown Heroes

Panini’s attempt at an Archives clone didn’t come out all that well but still managed to include autographs from several Mets favorites including Darryl Strawberry, Lee Mazzilli, Lenny Dykstra, Ron Darling, Mookie Wilson, Dave Kingman, and Tom Seaver.  Pat Tabler, not shown as a Met, has his first certified autographs here.

Memories

Leaf’s Archives clone on the other hand is starting to come into its own in its second year.  In addition to the previously mentioned prospects, Leaf Memories was loaded with buyback autographs from retired favorites like Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Sid Fernandez, Kevin Mitchell, Dave Magadan, Kevin Elster (his first certified autographs), and Barry Lyons.  Many others Mets were shown in other uniforms, including Rick Aguilera with his first certified autographs.  Unfortunately, many of the buybacks were issued as redemption cards, some of which couldn’t be entered into the online redemption system and had to be redeemed through Leaf customer service.  As of the end of 2013, only the Elster autos are known to have been fulfilled.

Chasing History

As usual, Topps threw a few sticker autographs from retired Mets in its main base autograph insert, Chasing History.  Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, and Howard Johnson are featured here in autographs from Series 1 (Carter and Gooden) and Update (Johnson).  Carter autographs are getting harder to find and his Chasing History Autograph insert was available at surprisingly low prices.

Heritage

After having only one Mets autograph last year, 2013 Heritage was loaded with Mets.  Al Moran, Amado Samuel, Jay Hook, Mike Joyce (never actually played for the Mets), Pumpsie Green, and Tim Harkness represented the biggest Mets contingent in Heritage history (though at this point the Mets have only existed for three years).  Ken MacKenzie has his first certified autographs in 2013 Heritage as a Giant.

New Ink Colors

In 2013, Topps expanded its use of various colored markers into more products than ever before.  While the use of different colors has been common in Tier One and Museum Collection Framed Autographs from their start, Topps Chrome and Topps Triple Threads have added metallic marker variants for the first time.  Tier One itself added a new color, copper rose, to replace the white that was easily confused with silver in the past.

And that will do it for this year’s installment of The Essentials.  The remainder of 2013′s wrap-up posts will go up later this week.  Happy New Year!

The Essentials: 2013 Black Jersey Photoshop Edition

Special edition for Mets Police

Even after the black drop shadows were removed from all Mets jerseys and new alternate jerseys and hats were introduced to replace their black counterparts, the black alternate Mets jersey has proven to be hard to kill.  Used just twice in 2012 and not at all in 2013, the black jersey is back as an official alternate in 2014.  It’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will see any use in the future, but if you’re looking for a black jersey fix, Topps has you covered.  Because they’ve been slow to get the memo about black being out of style.

2013 Bowman

It wasn’t a long wait to see the first Mets cards with photoshopped black jerseys.  2013 Bowman featured black jerseys on two of the Mets Cream of the Crop mini cards.  For Travis d’Arnaud, it makes sense that Topps wouldn’t have much to work with, considering that he became part of the Mets organization just five months before 2013 Bowman was released.  But Michael Fulmer?  He does not look amused.

2013 Bowman Platinum

Man, the Blue Jays sure must love black jerseys.  Noah Syndergaard’s first Mets cards (released in 2013 Bowman along with d’Arnaud) showed him in a decent attempt at a photoshopped gray Mets jersey.  For Bowman Platinum though, Topps made the rare decision to use different photographs for Syndergaard’s base and insert cards.  The insert used the gray version and the base cards got this snazzy black number.

2013 Bowman Chrome

Colored borders can’t even make this photo of Matt Reynolds look good.  Maybe a signature could spice things up.

Nope, that only makes the photo and its black jersey look worse.  Are there really so few pictures of these guys that this is the best they could come up with?

2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects

Oh, hello again Noah Syndergaard black jersey photo.  You know, Topps, if you needed some photos of Syndergaard in an easy-to-photoshop gray Binghamton Mets jersey, you could have just asked.  I would even have been willing to cut you a discount on the licensing fee.  The Syndergaard card looks even worse when you consider that three of the six Mets draft picks in this product are shown in blue jerseys.

And at least in the case of Andrew Church, it turns out that Topps can turn a black jersey blue.  Because there is apparently only one Andrew Church photo to work with.

2013 Bowman Sterling

Looks like I spoke too soon.  Topps found a different photo of Church for Bowman Sterling (but not for Syndergaard, who is back in the gray version) and turned it black.  But at least all of these black jerseys are only used on prospects.  Topps has its own photo shoots in spring training to make sure that it always has a couple of photos of each player on the team they start the season with.

And then they go and slap a cut-rate black jersey photoshop job on an old photo and call it a day.  Because the black jersey will not, can not die.

Mets Game-Used History: 1998 to 2000

The awkward early years in the growth of a new fad

After the first three jersey cards debuted in 1997 Upper Deck, this new type of insert took some time to develop into the hobby mainstay it has been ever since 2001.  The intermediate period of 1998 to 2000 brought several key developments that refined and expanded the game-used memorabilia offerings in baseball products.  At the start though, the Mets weren’t part of the story.

1998

Upper Deck was all about more in 1998.  Not only did the base Upper Deck product add a third series, but each series had a separate game-used memorabilia insert set.  Series 1 introduced game-used bat cards in addition to jersey cards.  Series 2 combined the two and introduced the first combo memorabilia cards with a piece of bat and a piece of jersey in every card.  Series 3 used the same style as the Series 2 set only without the bat chips.  No Mets were featured in any of those sets, so Gary Sheffield is shown as a stand-in with his bat and jersey cards from 1998 Upper Deck Series 1 and his bat/jersey card from 1998 Upper Deck Series 2.

The construction of these cards is worth noting.  Like the 1997 jersey cards, the 1998 jersey cards feature a swatch of cloth sandwiched between two thin pieces of cardboard.  The bat cards on the other hand use only a single piece of thin cardboard with the bat chip glued on top.  The bat/jersey combo cards use both methods, with the large jersey sections inserted between the pieces of cardboard and the bat chip glued onto the top piece, putting each piece of game-used material on a different layer.  This would be the last time that thin cardboard would be used in memorabilia cards.

1999

The other major development in 1998 was the trade that brought Mike Piazza to Queens.  With memorabilia cards still largely limited to major stars (and, apparently, Bubba Trammell), Piazza gave the Mets their best chance to break into some of the various sets released in 1999.  In addition to the 1999 Upper Deck Game Jersey card, Piazza also had the first Mets bat cards in UD MVP and UD Ovation.  And that was about it for the Mets in 1999.

So how about some ex-Mets?  Nolan Ryan and Eddie Murray were among the retired players with memorabilia cards in 1999.  Plain white swatches aren’t very exciting these days, but there wasn’t much more than that back then.  In fact, 1999 was the only year without a pinstripe jersey card from a current, future, or former Met.

But we did get a black jersey card from future forgotten Met Bubba Trammell.  And a Mo Vaughn bat card because, sure, why not?  Not all memorabilia cards in 1999 were this boring, thankfully.  New sources of material were starting to make their way into cards.

In 1997, we got the first jersey cards.  In 1998, we got the first bat cards.  And in 1999, memorabilia cards further expanded into hats and shoes.  Also new to memorabilia cards was Fleer with the first such cards to come from a manufacturer other than Upper Deck.  By now, it was clear what direction the hobby was headed in.

2000

There were plenty more firsts for Mets memorabilia in 2000.  The 2000 product year started with some big new Mike Piazza cards, including the first Mets patch card in 2000 Upper Deck Series 1 and a card in the first multi-level parallel memorabilia set in 2000 UD Black Diamond (single, double, and triple bat cards, single is shown above).  This year though, Piazza was not alone.

Robin Ventura joined Piazza in representing the Mets in 2000′s memorabilia inserts.  In addition to the now-usual bat and jersey cards, Ventura was featured on several autographed memorabilia cards.  In another first, Ventura also had the first Mets hat card in 2000 Skybox Dominion (not shown).

The final first from 2000 features a name that you might not remember.  Jorge Toca had an MLB career that spanned just 27 plate appearances over three seasons.  So it should come as no surprise that this piece of bat was from a minor league game.  Still, this is the first Mets minor league memorabilia card.

Outside of Mets cards, many familiar players were featured on game-used memorabilia cards in 2000, particularly in Upper Deck’s largest-ever Game Jersey set.  The memorabilia card was becoming so popular in fact that manufacturers were looking for more types of material to put into it.

And that brings us to the first memorabilia cards featuring items that aren’t linked to one specific player.  When it comes to common items used in baseball games, nothing is as prolific as the game’s namesake.  Dozens of baseballs are used in every MLB game for a total of more than 125,000 used every year.  Linking them to a specific player though can be a bit tricky.  The card above claims that the swatches are from balls that were used by Piazza and Ventura, respectively, but with an average lifespan of 6 pitches, does that even matter?  Even if the balls were used by these players, it may have been for only a few seconds.  This marked the start of memorabilia cards featuring all sorts of things used in games, from bases and on deck circles to walls and seats to dirt.  The memorabilia card’s evolution had only just begun.

The Essentials: 2013 Mets Game-Used

The year in tiny pieces of fabric

A lot of baseball cards have been released in 2013.  Between Topps (MLB and MLBPA licenses), Panini (MLBPA license), Leaf (no licenses), and Upper Deck (MLBPA license but strict MLB oversight), more than 40 baseball products have been released this year.  So which cards stand out from the rest?  To answer that question, we’ll break down the key Mets cards from 2013 in The Essentials.

Game-used memorabilia cards have been a popular mainstay in the hobby for over a decade, but the concept seems to have gotten stale in recent years.  Gone are the days when anything a player wore, touched, or even saw at a game could be found embedded in a cardboard slab.  Today, cards are mostly limited to swatches of fabric or wood with little to identify where they came from.  Luckily, you have this site to use as a reference for all your fabric identification needs.  Or at least you will whenever I finish scanning and cataloging all of this stuff.  Which is to say, likely never.  At the very least though, I can walk you through the new and notable material of 2013.

Mets Patches

Let’s start with the big stuff – patches.  Patch cards are somewhat hard to find these days, particularly ones with great big interesting patch pieces like this card:

I’m a sucker for sleeve patches, especially when so much of one is contained on one card.  Unfortunately, most of the Mets patches in circulation are tiny nondescript scraps from numbers or the team name.  Panini probably did it best this year with the patches in 2012 National Treasures.

Not only do these have nice big chunks of patch, but they also feature on-card autographs.  Since they’re dated 2012, they are also sort of rookie cards, though the jury’s still out on that one.  While not all of the 135 copies of each (99 + 25 + 10 + 1) have patch swatches, a significant number do, putting these at some of the most prolific patches of 2013.  And for Matt Harvey, some of the most valuable.

And then there’s Dickey.  Building on the pinstripe swatches first seen in last year’s Triple Threads, R.A. Dickey had Mets patches released in several products in 2013.  Above are pieces of the “NEW YORK” from the road gray jersey (left) and the “KID 8″ sleeve patch worn in honor of Gary Carter (right).  Dickey would also have a few pieces of Blue Jays patch (from a camouflage jersey) in 2013 Triple Threads.

Jeurys Familia and Zack Wheeler are the final Mets with their first Mets patches in 2013.  I’m still working on getting the Wheeler though…

Piping

One step down from a patch is a strip of piping.  For pants swatches (which are what the white Niuewenhuis swatches appear to be), this is about as exciting as things get.  R.A. Dickey, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Matt Harvey all had a few piping cards for the first time in 2013.  Nieuwenhuis’s are some of the largest strips I’ve seen in cards.

Multicolor Swatches

Matt Harvey’s jersey swatches in 2012 Panini National Treasures were from his 1989 throwback jersey, which means lots of multicolor swatches from the racing stripe on the sides and shoulders.  One more reason why National Treasures was such a big hit, shame about the smudged signature…

Stripes

Zack Wheeler is the latest test subject for the Curse of the Pinstripes.  Will he pitch in 2014?  Only time will tell.

The Blues

With the 2012 batting practice jersey now retired and a new version, similar to the 2013 AL All-Star workout jersey, due in 2014, we’ve gotten a few more swatches from these jerseys in 2013.  David Wright, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, and maybe Zack Wheeler joined Jordany Valdespin with this type of fabric.  Matt Harvey also had a few mesh variants in 2013 Topps Tier One.

Green

The big surprise in 2013 Topps Triple Threads was the first swatch of green fabric from a St. Patrick’s Day spring training jersey.  From Kirk Nieuwenhuis.  At least it’s from someone who’s still with the organization, I guess.

2013 World Baseball Classic

Interestingly, some of the most common patches in 2013 were from the 2013 World Baseball Classic.  Seven Mets were featured in the 2013 Topps Tribute WBC patch set: David Wright, R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, and Jae Seo.

2013 All-Star Game

As usual, Topps Update featured swatches from the workout jerseys from the 2013 All-Star Game held at Citi Field.  The Mets were represented by David Wright and Matt Harvey, with Carlos Beltran and Marco Scutaro also on the NL team (Bartolo Colon will be the Mets representative from the AL team when he gets his first start with the team in 2014).  The jerseys prominently feature Mets colors with orange front panels, orange mesh back panels, and blue mesh side panels.  Swatches from all three types of fabric were included in the All-Star Stitches inserts in Topps Update and Topps Chrome update.

2012 Futures Game

Last year, only the primary fabrics from the 2012 Futures Game jerseys worn by Wilmer Flores (World) and Zack Wheeler (USA) were featured in the various memorabilia cards commemorating the event.  The secondary fabrics, gray/gray mesh for the World team and white/white mesh for the USA team, made their way into circulation in several products in 2013.  Unfortunately, being so generic makes identifying the plain white and gray swatches a bit difficult, especially for Wheeler, who had fabric from several different jerseys released in 2013.

2013 Futures Game

The 2013 Futures Game featured two Mets pitchers (Noah Syndergaard for the USA team and Rafael Montero for the World team) as the starters, which was perfect for a game at the Mets’ home stadium.  Outfielder Brandon Nimmo was elected by the fans as the final member of the USA team (before injury replacements were made).  Only Nimmo and Montero were featured in the Futures Game jersey cards in 2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects, and with only the primary fabric.  The status of Syndergaard’s jersey is unknown.

Other MLB Fabric

On the more boring side of things, several Mets had their first jersey cards featuring plain swatches from white or gray MLB jerseys this year.  R.A. Dickey, Matt Harvey, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Zack Wheeler all had a variety of white and gray fabric released in 2013.

Other Stuff

Several (well, two at least) players who were new to the Mets in 2013 and are now gone had memorabilia cards released in 2013 showing them as Mets.  None of the material is from a Mets jersey; Marcum’s is probably from Brewers jerseys and Byrd’s is from a Cubs jersey.

Bats

Rounding out the year’s significant memorabilia cards are a bunch of bat cards.  R.A. Dickey had his first bat cards in Topps Triple Threads, shown in a Blue Jays uniform.  2013 15th-round draft pick Colton Plaia had a Team USA bat card in Panini USA Baseball Champions.  And that’s a nice Darryl Strawberry bat card, so let’s close out this year’s memorabilia on that.