A Cardboard Problem pointed to a New York Times article that Topps has an exclusive deal with Major League Baseball. I honestly can't say that I'm surprised. A month ago Upper Deck announced a deal with the Major League Players Association. It raised some immediate red flags for me. Why announce one deal if another wasn't imminent? My guess is that Upper Deck knew a deal was unlikely so they made the move early to let everyone know they're still going to be churning out baseball cards, just without the logos.
It's early for me to condemn Topps, MLB or whoever else is involved. We're not going to see the ramifications of this for a while yet. Personally, I'd rather see a couple of companies making licensed cards. Competition drives creativity. With the exclusive license, Topps has a few years on their own.
One thing that I do find strange is that the Times article quotes Eisner as saying, "Topps has been making cards for 60 years, the last 30 in a nonexclusive world that has caused confusion to the kid who walks into a Wal-Mart or a hobby store. It’s also been difficult to promote cards as unique and original."
My gut is telling me that that kid walking into Wal-mart is going to be more confused when they see licensed cards sitting next to non-licensed cards that have the same players. In some ways, Upper Deck may have more freedom now because with the MLBPA license they have one body to abide to rather than two.
The next few days are going to be interesting as more facts come out and more opinions are formed. I doubt there'll be much complaining at a corporate level, at lease from Upper Deck as they have a similar deal in place for hockey. But let's also not kid ourselves. Baseball is a massive slice of the hobby pie compared to hockey.
Where this leads to, who knows. I just want good cards that are fun to collect, honest dealers who are able to make a living and a little innovation. 2010 is an open road for Topps. Here's hoping it works out.