Thursday, May 8, 2014

Product Review: 2014 Bowman

Now that the hot-pack euphoria has worn off, and I've opened all four of the Bowman boxes, in the level-headed view of day, how do I feel about the 2014 Bowman product?  As with most card sets these days, there are things I like and there are things I don't like.  Let's just go bulletpoints with illustrations here.

I'd say to imagine that you are at a seminar with a PowerPoint presentation going on, but none of you would read past this sentence.  And, let's be honest -- the people who give presentations with PowerPoints that look like blog posts have lost you at the first slide for one huge reason: TOO MUCH READING. If you've got that much content on a PowerPoint slide, you're not presenting any more.

Anyway, I'll stop being "The Off Hiatus Guide to Effective Public Speaking" and go back now to being the baseball card blog.

So, let's start with What I Like about Bowman 2014:

  • Excellent Hits
First and foremost, this set emphasizes many modern collectors' desire to buy a box and sell a quarter or half of the cards on eBay, trade most of the rest, and keep their team/player/investment property.  While that sounds like a criticism, it is not meant to be.  The focus on having attractive inserts makes opening a pack exciting.  

For example, the on-card autographs are superior to the sticker-graphs, definitely (though I will admit that whiting out the part where the autograph is on the card is not optimum in my opinion):

Gabriel Encinas, SN 5/150.  And, as the card tells us, he "Enjoys carne asada."

Lewis Thorpe, no Serial Number, but one of his skills is that he is an "Upbeat teammate."

Daniel McGrath, no SN.  An Aussie like Thorpe, but he is a "fan of frozen strawberries and British independent films"
  • Yes, the captions point out another positive, in my opinion -- the fun facts that are shared on the back. Sure, they are just fluff from some media guide or interview sheet, but it humanizes the player.
I mean, I selected a base card off the top of the stack of those at random, and suddenly I now have a reason not to like Josh Donaldson of the Oakland Athletics:

Being an Auburn football fan is not a good thing.

While I might have married an Auburn graduate and huge Auburn football fan, she also knows that the week leading up to the Georgia v. Auburn game is not a week during which she should be looking for reasons to have deep "discussions."  And, after this past year's game, that extended to the week after too.  In case you've forgotten:

It's too bad that Georgia had Afroman as our safety on the play.  If you don't know, just check out this story about #25, Josh Harvey-Clemons, and his no longer being a Georgia Bulldog.

Anyway, still bitter.

Back to Bowman.
  • Another positive: usually two Chrome prospects in every pack.  While that may not seem like a lot, it makes it possible for me with four boxes that I might have a complete set of those -- I haven't sorted them out yet to see.  Same goes for both the base major leaguer cards and the base prospect cards.
It also means that I got two of each one of these:
Ignore those white pixels -- it's the scanning that put those on there from the background

  • The 1989 Parallels

I really like these things, for some reason, and I'm glad they are cut down to the regular size rather than being the same size as the 1989 set was. I wish I had pulled the Paul Molitor card of this one.
  • Final thing I like: the photography is pretty good generally.  I don't mind the blurred backgrounds that much, either.
Now, we've patted Bowman on the back quite a bit, so what didn't I like?
  • Too many damn variations
That is demonstrated ably by this page at The Cardboard Connection. I'm not going to list all of them or what I got of each because that would bore me just to type it up.  I mean, there are 16 variations of the paper cards for the main set, 12 variations on the prospects paper set, 16 variations on the chrome prospect cards/refractors, 4 variations on the paper autographs (which are retail only), and 14 variations on the chrome prospect autographs.  Throw in 10 variations on 16 cards of the Chrome Rookies of cards from the base set.  Mix with 9 variations on the 150 cards in the Chrome Refractor MINI set and another 5 variations on Chrome Refractor Mini Autographs.  Then, add in the 1989 inserts...and 10 of those have an autographed variation....and the 1989 buyback cards, the AFLAC/Perfect Game/Under Armour autographs set, the autographed Ice cards -- again with 3 variations....I mean, I'm not even 2/3 of the way done with all the variations and inserts.

It's a positive to have nice inserts.  It's a complete negative when there are so many damn variations that even a player collector will throw up their hands and say, "aw f*ck it, it's not worth it."
  • Damaged cards 
The Chrome prospect cards will sometimes come straight out of the pack with vertical scratches on the card -- they don't come through very well on scans due to the scanning process causing other faults, but I have tried to highlight the issue with the arrow below.

It looks a bit worse in person, honestly.  There were not a ton of these, but it got to the point of where I was concerned that I was causing it by how I opened the pack, etc.  Again, I didn't see a lot of these, but there were a few, and seeing a few was annoying.


So, overall, I like this set and I don't.  I'd rather have the set be one thing and not two or three.  If it wants to be a nostalgia gig, do more than the 25 "ice" throwback cards.  If it wants to be a rookies and prospects set, then do that and leave guys like Ryan Zimmerman out.  Of course, like many collectors, all the parallels frustrate me.  I opened four damn boxes of cards and didn't get even one parallel of a base-set Brewer.  I felt privileged to find the one prospect parallel I did get.

Topps needs to follow the immortal advice handed out by Everclear in a song from 1997: 

The key lyrics:

You do what you do 
You say what you say
You try to be everything to everyone
You know all the right people
You play all the right games
You always try to be everything to everyone

Topps needs to stop trying to have every set be everything to everyone.  But, if you pushed me for an answer under oath, I'd tell you that I'd buy four more boxes tomorrow if someone gave me a good price on them.


  1. That Thorpe may be worth keeping around as the southpaw's currently one of Minnesota's promising young arms down in the minors. He's still young (18 or 19 I think) and won't be in Target Field for a while but if/when he does make he just might be part of the exciting wave of young talent Minnesota's going to have along with Buxton, Meyer and May.
    That Urias base (although damaged) is pretty neat too since Urias is still only 17 years old and the potential for him if/when he makes it to Dodger Stadium is huge.

    1. No comment about Carne Asada Encinas? ;-)

    2. Lol, I'm actually waiting to see if I get a TTM return back from Encinas before pulling the trigger on one of his certified autos.

  2. I like the breakdown. Back in the mid 2000s Bowman was on my bust rotation but I grew tired of it. I still cherry pick many of the Pirate autos, but I haven't talked myself into getting back into it.