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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Waking up to a nightmare

I was sleeping on the couch with the puppy at about 2:30am. I awoke not knowing what time it was nor where Kim was. The only thing I knew is that the puppy, at some point in time, snuggled up underneath me to join me in my nap. I took her out to the bathroom in the dead of the night picking her up and carrying her out over the water. It had rained. She did her business and I brought her back in the same way I took her out. I went and got a soda and sat down to the Internet and checked the scores. The Yankees had won and the Red Sox lost so it was a good night. Checked my fantasy stats and saw I was up 6-1-3 and Thome hit 2HRs. I was feeling real proud of myself for taking him off the bench and starting him.

Then I checked the blogs.

I first saw this headline from Gellman and didn't think anything of it:
Topps Exclusive Is Bad For Business

Then I saw this one and hit the panic button:
Breaking News: Topps gets exclusive rights to MLB cards

This has to be some sort of baseball card nightmare. While I enjoy Topps products this year, I've always found their offerings campy at best. With the exception of Heritage and Allen & Ginter (which is wearing out its welcome apparently), their products have left some things to be desired.

I do have to admit though, Topps Chrome is growing on me. I bought a box of 2008 Chrome and enjoyed busting it way more than any box I've busted this year. And I've considered collecting the 2008 Topps base set now that I have Topps 2009 base set. I'm also working on the 2009 Heritage set and 2009 Allen & Ginter (with Kim....sorta).

All that aside, that doesn't mean I've turned my back on Upper Deck. I still enjoy their products. I'm working on the 2009 UD set and the 2009 O-Pee-Chee set. I'm sure in a couple of months I will be buying packs or a box of Goodwin cards. And I'm still collecting the ultimate Yankee fan set the Yankee Stadium Legacy (1256 and counting).

My point is that I enjoy the offerings from both companies and I don't really pay much attention to Donini because of their lack of license. I liked 2008 Threads but since then I haven't payed any attention to anything they've released lately. Part of that is the lack of a license and the other part is the unappealing design. But to be honest, the lack of license is a really big part of the turnoff. I can't fathom Upper Deck not having a license next year. I can't stand seeing that New York (AL) on the card and glaring bright flashes over the logo or magically photoshopped jerseys and helmets that have no logos.

I read the New York Times article on this and all I could think is what a crock. "Confusion" on what products are out there? Most of what I've seen at Walmart and Target are Topps and Upper Deck base, Heritage and Allent & Ginter. Too many products? Too confusing for kids? And the article talks about the last 30 years when other products entered the market and confused people. Which makes me think of the cards from the 50's, 60's and 70's when the game was great. It was America's game. But much like the game itself today, baseball cards aren't what they used to be. Our game is riddled with PED and 20million dollar a year players. Our game is modern and so should our card collecting.

Giving Topps and exclusive contract will utlimately hurt the hobby. Many collectors, and by collectors I mean grown ups, will leave the hobby or turn to older cards. I know they want to bring kids back to the hobby but I just don't see that happening. Baseball cards reached their pinnacle during the golden age of baseball. Baseball isn't that same game anymore. And if you look at the products that come out, the hobby is geared toward the people who collected back then. Think about it. Goudey, Heritage, O-Pee-Chee and other retro-styled sets flood the market. Even players depicted on cards are from that golden era of baseball. They could gear sets toward adults with kids so they adults could try and get their kids involved. But to be perfectly honest, if I was a kid in this day and age and my dad wasn't into baseball or card collecting, I wouldn't spend a dime on baseball cards.

Then there's the concept of competition. If you think about products in the world that exist almost completely uncontested the you realize how they charge whatever they want. Your choice is whether to buy or not to buy rather than just picking an alternative. My world revolves around computers so when I think of competition I think of AMD vs Intel and nVidia vs ATI/AMD. When one company has large technological gains over another, prices get high and they stay there. The minute the other company picks up the slack and closes the gap, then both companies have competitive prices. How threatened did Upper Deck and Topps seem when Donruss reared its head again? I didn't see anyone running for the hills.

The bottom line is Topps can produce whatever trash they want. They have the exclusive license. They can create Triple Threads, CoSigners, Sterling and whatever else they want. While we won't have UDX anymore, we'll never see Masterpieces again unless Topps creates a cheap knockoff. And remember that MLB wants to get kids back into collecting. So 99 cent packs will be the norm which means cheap cardboard and unappealing designs. You might as well take a picture of the player and slap their name on the front in white font and call it a day. More worthless jersey and auto cards of players who you never heard of will be the "hits" in boxes.

Like most people, I don't know where that'll leave my card collecting for next year. Even when I was a kid, I always leaned toward non-Topps products. Donruss, Pinnacle, Score, Fleer, Upper Deck were usually my first choices over Topps. I still can't believe they're all gone and only Topps is left.

Thankfully as a player collector I can focus on Don Mattingly cards and YSL even more. And I won't have a lot of Phil Hughes cards to collect because there will only be one company producing cards. The only set Topps will produce with Mattingly in it is Sterling and that's pure garbage. It's essentially the same card over and over again in different configurations for an extreme amount of money. That product makes me dread the future with Topps.

I expect every collector (except Topps fanboys) to be livid about this news. The hobby will not be the same until that multi-year Topps license is up and more competition is allowed to enter the playing field. But what can we do? Petition MLB to stop this and allow Upper Deck and other companies to enter the field of competition? They'll never listen, they've never listened to the fans before so why would they listen to collectors now?

Really, did anyone ever listen to the collectors?

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