So, yesterday I took a little trip over to my LCS with the intention being only to find a couple of special binder pages for my unusually sized trading cards. I told myself that that was legitimately all I was allowed to buy. Predictably, that was not the case as I rebelled against myself (like everytime I go to the LCS); however, what I couldn't have predicted was what the purchase was:
I was completely unaware that the 2016 factory team sets were out on the shelves already. While I suppose they come out right about this time every year, I do not recall seeing anything about their release and, in searching the internet right now, I still can't find anything about the 2016 sets.
That's okay - I got mine anyway.
Anywho, I get irrationally excited about this little team bundles, even though they're mostly just foil-less versions of Flagship. Why is that? Oftentimes they include the very first Cubs cards of big off-season acquisitions.
This year's set is no exception - behold, Ben Zobrist's very first card as a Cub. I saw he made the Gypsy Queen checklist too; however, it appears the factory team set beat Gyspy to the shelves.
Of course, the image is Photoshopped because Spring Training isn't long enough to take pictures (I know, it's all about deadlines... grumble, grumble). They did a pretty decent job here, although the "Chicago" breast plate is a little high up on the chest.
No matter - Zobs is now officially "Cubgraded" in my CATRC binder.
By far my favorite card from the set.
I was able to make one more such "Cubgrade" thanks to this gem of a Jason Heyward card. However, it's not actually his first Cubs card - it's his third. Zobrist has to wait all the way until Gypsy Queen, despite signing at the sign time (a few days earlier even). I guess that speaks to the "J-Hey Kid's" collecting pull.
However, while it's not his first, it is his first readily available card:
I don't own either of these - I had to pull the scans off of Ebay because there weren't even any copies on COMC, which should speak to their availability.
I'm still not sure how the Spring Fever promotion works and if my LCS honors it, he sure doesn't make it clear. Something about redeeming ripped packs? Anyway, it's not something you can just pull from a normal pack.
Meanwhile, the Heritage Heyward technically is something you can just pull, it's just the odds are vastly against it; it's one of those much-maligned short-prints that only fall at crazy odds. That's a rant we've all heard though, so I'll spare you.
On the plus side, I now have Jason's first non-Photoshopped Cubbie card! It reminds me an awful lot of this card from last year:
Jon Lester also got the introductory press conference treatment on his 2016 team set appearance (and eventually Series 2). I wish with all of my heart that we could see more of these images for the new off-season acquisitions (when available) instead of obviously altered pictures.
As I said last year, I'd rather see a snapshot from an authentic event instead of altered history.
There was one other winter signee who made an appearance in the product too:
This isn't John Lackey's first Cubs card - he too shows up on the Heritage checklist and it's not even a stupid short-print:
I must admit, I prefer the Heritage card. If the image is, in fact, altered, Topps did a fantastic job; to the naked eye, it appears to be a typical early spring training, posed shot and nothing appears out of place. Thanks to Nick, this card already rests in my CATRC, so no further "Cubgrading" is happening here.
That said, it's definitely cool to have another Chicago-fied Lackey in my collection already.
Now, obviously, none of these above-featured cards appeared in Series One or Opening Day. The other thing about the factory team sets is that they always feature previews of cards due to appear in Series Two or Update. Sometimes, the images used change by then, but we do get a little glimpse of the future here:
Here we have a very cold Javy Baez in last year's playoffs. Perhaps that's not smoke in the corners of the card - maybe it's actually frost?
This is the first time I can remember seeing this look sported on a baseball card - please correct me if I'm wrong. In fact, this is a look that I don't EVER remember seeing on the baseball diamond in any capacity until Cuban import Jorge Soler made it somewhat of a punchline last April:
Darth Soler - image courtesy of NWI Times
Seeing as the weather in a Chicago April (it did snow the last couple of days) is quite different than that of Cuba. Meanwhile, Javy was born in Puerto Rico and lived most of his life in Florida. Thus, I guess they can be forgiven.
However, I don't understand how that can be comfortable to play baseball in; I don't even like wearing a face mask for winter running, and running requires a lot less movement of the head or hand/eye coordination.
The only other card that appeared that had yet to show in a Topps product was this fist-bumping image of Travis Wood. Of all the relievers to include, I found Travis a bit of an odd choice - why not a more high-leverage arm like Pedro Strop or Justin Grimm?
Not that Woody isn't a key cog, its just odd to see a long-reliever/lefty specialist get love from Topps. Perhaps this is a good sign? Either that or it's just because he used to be a big part of the starting rotation.
Meanwhile, the rest of the 2016 Factory Team Set were all carbon copies of cards found in Series One or Opening Day:
Nothing all that exciting, but new Cubs cards for my collection nonetheless. So, that's always a good thing.
Also, I gotta ask, has anyone else seen these pop up yet? I'm still curious as to how I completely missed their release, seeing as pretty much anything else produced by Topps comes into stores with a fair amount of promotion.
But there you have it, I went into that shop looking for a handful of binder pages and I left with 2 "Cubgrades," 2 cards not yet seen in 2016 and 17 new Cubs cards overall. Oh... and I did end up with those pages too. All in all, I'd say it was a pretty productive trip.
Productive as a factory assembly line, you might even say.