Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Random Pack Breaks: 2010 Topps National Chicle Baseball

When Topps first announced 2010 Topps National Chicle Baseball, the discussion that ensued was intense. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact it was a rare new brand to baseball. Or maybe it was the questionable images that were released without any background info. But whatever the case, controversy followed the set more than Dallas Braden complaining about some sort of phantom baseball code.

A few months have passed, the set's out and all seems pretty quiet. I have to say, I'm still intrigued. I managed to track down a sample pack on my trip to the city on Friday to get a small taste of what the release offers.

102. Adam Wainwright
 This is probably my favorite card from the pack. I like the water tones a lot. It gives the card a distinct feel. Artist: Jeff Zachowski
157. Jimmy Rollins
 Meh. I can't say it's totally memorable. But not horrible either. It appears to be slightly impressionist inspired mixed with realism. Rollins' blank face is somewhat symbolic of my indifference to this card. Artist: Mike Kupka
192. J.D. Drew
 I'm familiar with Chris Henderson's work and like it a lot. In fact, a few years ago I ordered four custom sketch cards from him, which I plan on displaying really soon when I pay tribute to the subjects. Henderson shows he's excellent at getting a stylized realistic look.
15. Brad Hawpe
 Brad Hawpe says, "Brad Hawpe is tired. Brad Hawpe go to bench after this swing and take a nap. Wake Brad Hawpe up when it's time to go in the field." Artist: Ken Branch
306. Chipper Jones
 Honestly, when I first saw this card I was thinking someone busted into my pack and drew the glasses on Chipper like I used to on photos of people I wasn't too fond of in my yearbooks. Nope. It's part of the card. Between Chipper Ruth and this, National Chicle appears to be bullying Mr. Jones.
 Artist: Monty Sheldon
24. Kevin Kouzmanoff
 Not a lot for me to say, other than very nice clean rendition. Artist: Ken Branch
89. Chone Figgins
 Another card from Monty Sheldon, this one is something of a comeback compared to the above Chipper. It's cleanly painted, although the pose is a little bland.
109. Nelson Cruz
In case you've ever wondered what a reverse bobblehead looks like, here you go. Cruz reminds me of the shrunken head guy in Beetlejuice. Artist: Paul Lempa

Overall, I'd say I really like about half of the art shown in this pack. And even the stuff I don't like so much, it still makes for an interesting set. I also like that the artists are given significant prominence in the set with short bios on every card. But that said, I'd probably have preferred simply their name and website URL so I could check them out myself rather than reading the same bio over and over again.

For better or worse, I suspect there won't be the same amount of discussion from any of the reamining baseball sets this year. Topps is playing it pretty safe in 2010. I don't necessarily see that entirely as a negative as they're not rocking the boat with anything drastic other than the whole exclusive license thing.

I like that National Chicle presents something new, even if a good chunk of it isn't the greatest. It's a fresh concept that I think with a few manageable tweaks could really take off. That is if it's popular enough to warrant being given a chance for a follow-up in 2011.

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