I know that people collect for all sorts of different reasons, and that’s cool with me. For me, collecting baseball cards grew out of my love for the game of baseball itself. I love reading about the history of the game. I love the intricacies and strategies that makeup the game. I love delving into box scores and statistics. I could spend hours at Baseball Reference. I love watching highlights on television and on my phone. I love watching games from Little League to the Bigs. It’s all great. Baseball the game (obviously, not the business) is perfect.
I especially love the 25 man team. If you are building a team to win, every position on the roster is important. I’m going to use my favorite team, the Braves, as an example. While it is true that during that streak of 14 straight division championships, it was guys like David Justice, Chipper Jones, Fred McGriff, Andruw Jones and Andres Galaraga getting most of the big hits. Still, every guy contributed. We can all remember starters like Mark Lemke, Ryan Klesko, Marquis Grissom, and Jeff Blauser getting big hits, but most of us can also remember Mike Mordecai, Mike Deveraux and Julio Franco knocking in big runs. Francisco Cabrera didn’t just win game 7 of the 1992 NLCS for the Braves, he hit a huge home run off of Rob Dibble of the Reds in August of 1991 keying a big comeback win to keep the Braves in the hunt against the Dodgers.
Operating on the theory that every man on the 25 man roster is important, I want every card of every player on every team. There was a time that you could reliably count on the base Topps set having a card for the majority of the players on each team. Unfortunately, over the years, the base set has been reduced and marginalized. Betting that set collectors would continue to buy the product anyway, Topps has begun loading the base set with rookies and gimmicks. A marginal rookie with little chance of a big league career is far more likely to get a card that a backup catcher, utility man or long reliever. (Reid Gorecki gets a card in 2010 Topps, but one of the best backup catchers in baseball, David Ross doesn’t? Are you shitting me Topps? And what about our All-Star utility man Omar Infante? Why isn’t he in the set? Stupid, stupid, stupid.) Plus, Topps is driving up the prices of base set boxes on the secondary market with stupid useless variations and gimmicks. Base Topps should be the definitive baseball card set each year for the set collector. It should be a true document of the baseball season and of every baseball team, but those days are long gone and they won’t be coming back soon. Still, Topps can rectify the situation.
A few years ago, Topps had the perfect set for the set collector, Topps Total. You could count on getting a number of cards in every pack, with a parallel being the only gimmick. There weren’t fake errors. There were no pictures of players with shaving cream smeared on their face. Abraham Lincoln failed to appear in every Topps Total set. No, Topps Total was about getting as many players as possible into a single set at a cheap price without short prints. Where are you Topps Total? You are missed.
Look, I’m not someone who believes that every product should appeal to every type of collector but it seems to me that the set collector is becoming increasingly marginalized in the hobby. This seems strange to me because most set collectors have been long time collectors. These are the guys who collect whether the hobby is in decline or not. I still believe they are the heart of the hobby. I don’t begrudge the collector that wants every Albert Pujols card ever printed. More power to them. I just want at least one comprehensive set every year that’s easy to collect and won’t bust my wallet, like Heritage. I want Topps Total back. Is that too much to ask?