A blog about baseball cards... and the Padres

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Best Card I Picked Up This Year

I hope that everyone who reads this blog enjoyed the multitude of Top 10 lists of card that came out this year.  I always enjoy a chance to make a good list.  Or even a mediocre list.

Anyways, when I was thinking of all of the awesome cards I've picked up this year, most the overwhelming majority of my favorites weren't from this year.  There was a bunch of vintage out there that I loved (completed Padres team sets from '69, '71, and '73), cool oddballs (Mother's Cookies from the '50s and '90s), and cards for all my Player Collections (Gwynn, McGriff, Finley, etc.).

However, when it comes down to it, this would have to be my favorite card that I picked up this year…

2011 Topps Chris Denorfia, Hope Diamond Parallel #/60
This is the ninth version of Chris Denorfia's 2011 Topps card that I've been able to get.  A whole page! If I was at home, I'd show all nine versions, but I'm still on vacation, and I didn't get a chance to take that photo before we left town.  However, In addition to this one, I also have:
  • Base card
  • Blue parallel (Wal-Mart)
  • Red parallel (Target)
  • Gold parallel
  • Cognac parallel
  • Diamond parallel
  • Black parallel  #/60
  • Hope Diamond parallel #/60
  • Printing Plate (magenta) 1/1
This was my favorite card from one of the sets that got me back into collecting.  Chris Denorfia is my favorite current player, and with the sweet throwback uniform and the solid design, this is a card that I really really like.  Even though the Hope Diamond parallel is only numbered to 60 (not a particularly low number), it's been hard to come across this one.  I think this is only the second one I've seen in the last year and a half.  Got it for a great price, a little over six bucks - or a little less than half what the other one I saw went for.

Anyways, yeah, of all the great trades and pickups, this one was my favorite.  Go Deno.  Go Padres.  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Top 10 Cards of 2013, Pt. 4

Here is the fourth and final "Top 10" list of the Backstop Cards End Of The Year Countdown Extravaganza.  Of the four lists, this one was my favorite to put together, as it features my favorite Padres cards of the year.  No "hits", no "other teams", just the good stuff (for me).  A few base cards, a few parallels, even a short print.  All great cards.

Honorable Mention: Hunter Renfroe, Bowman Chrome "Blue Wave"
Renfroe was the Padres first pick of the 2013 draft, and he looks to have a bright future.  As all first round draft picks do.  No chance of this backfiring, right?  Anyways, this blue wave refractor is very sweet looking, even with the obviously photoshopped photo.  Only makes it as an "Honorable Mention" because he hasn't played a game with the Padres, so I wouldn't consider him a Padre yet.

#10 - Chase Headley, Topps Opening Day "Superstar Celebrations"
I've always winced a little whenever I see the explosion of celebration that happens during a walk off win.  Not because I'm "old school" and think that it's juvenile (a "walk off win" celebration is a lot different than a "I'm a closer and I got the last three outs in a game I was already winning, and now I'm acting like I just defeated Goliath" celebration), but because Jake Peavy once cracked his ribs celebrating going to the playoffs, and then pitched horribly in the playoffs due to said cracked ribs.  Anyways, I like this card.

#9 - Carlos Quentin, Topps Opening Day
While technically this is basically the exact same card that's in the flagship set, it makes the list because it's also in the Opening Day set.  This is one of the more awesome shots that I've ever seen on a baseball card, let alone a Padres card.

#8 - Chase Headley, Topps Museum Collection
Right off the bat, the card seems a little underwhelming.  Taking a deeper look, however, and there's a lot to like.  Obviously, the 80's retro jerseys (worn in the same game as card #9) look sweet, and it features Chase making an across-the-body throw over to first.  The framing looks very centered, and we even have Chase's arm popping out of it.  Then there's the ball that he's throwing, which is found not the top border, right smack dab in the middle of the word "League".  Good job, Topps.

#7 - Chris Denorfia, Topps "Sapphire" (#13/25)
While not my favorite card in the base set, the sapphire parallels are some sweet pieces of cardboard.  This is my only sapphire parallel of any Padre cards, and since it's of my favorite current Padre, it makes it onto the countdown.  Numbered out of 25!  Fancy!

#6 - Andrew Cashner, Topps Heritage
While I'm a big fan of this years' Heritage set, the I'll admit that the photos themselves often left a lot to be desired.  Here, however, we have the Padres ace looking tough, showing the grip he uses to blow the ball past opposing batters.  I need to eventually get around to my "Padres 2013 Season Retrospective" post, but when I do, I'll probably mention that Cashner's numbers from August and September looked like this: 9 starts, 63.2 innings, 1.71 ERA, 50 K's v. 11 walks.  Five of the nine starts were also away from Petco Park.  Yeah, I'm excited to watch him pitch again next year.

#5 - Chase Headley, Topps Chrome "Sepia" (#66/75)
Like the Quentin above, this is the exact same card used for Chase Headley's card in Topps' flagship set.  Nothing changes for Topps Chrome, just the shine.  Well, more than the shine in the set, I really dig the sepia parallels.  They're serial numbered to 75, which is cool, but they also just look cool.  I've got 3/4 of the Padres in this year's set.  An affordable Gyorko card still eludes me.

#4 - Cameron Maybin, Topps "Out Of Bounds"
I was really surprised to learn that Cameron Maybin was included in this year's gimmicky short prints.  He doesn't play for a popular team, and he hasn't been particularly good… well, ever.  The talk on Maybin has always been that he's got a lot of potential, and will maybe actually realize it… one day.  Still, can't complain about this sharp looking card of Cameron climbing the wall.

#3 - Chase Headley, Topps Heritage Mini (#88/100)
I haven't finished the post yet, but I've been working on the Chase Headley parallel rainbow from this year's Heritage set.  This is probably my favorite card from the group, just because it's the most different (size) and it's hand numbered.  Pretty cool, right?  No?

#2 - Jesus Guzman, Topps "Camo" (#
Here's another card that I pretty much glossed over when I first saw the base set.  However, once I remembered that there was something called a "camo" parallel, I thought, hmmm… this is one card that would look pretty awesome.  I cannot imagine another card that has more camouflage it.  Congratulations, Jesus.  Now go play for the Astros.

#1 - Cameron Maybin, Topps Heritage
Man, for a guy that only played fourteen games this season, Cameron Maybin sure had some pretty good baseball cards.  Like the Headley and Quentin cards before him, this shot was taken from the August 3rd game of last year, in which the Padres were wearing their throwbacks against the Mets.  I think that if there's a set that needs to feature teams in throwback uniforms, it should be the Heritage set.    The word "PADRES" is written in orange at the top of the card, yet this is the only card that shows a Padre with orange on his uniform.  Anyways, yeah, this card was in my first pack of Heritage, so it has been my favorite card pretty much the whole year.

Alright!  I think that having a four part "Top 10" was probably a little over the top, but I had fun with it.  I'll have a whole year to decide if it is worth doing again.  Go Padres!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Still In San Diego

Alright, I'm still in San Diego, and have been busy doing San Diegan things with my San Diegan family.  I've got the last two posts of the year all wrapped up, but I still wanted to get a few loose ends taken care of before then.  Here are some quick bullet points, along with pictures.

A few Fridays ago, my first grade class and I had our class Christmas party.  It was a fun, extremely hectic day.  One thing that I wasted time doing was creating these little "sleds", made out of baseball card packs and candy canes.  

It wasn't all for naught, as this was by far the best year for gifts that I've had as a teacher.  The chihuahua with maracas was the class' favorite, but my favorite would easily have to be the Padres tie that one of my students got me.  I actually wore it to church on Christmas Sunday, but I haven't taken any pictures of it yet.  Anyways, the party was super hectic because I decided that making gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and candy would be a good idea.  While the kids did have fun, I forgot a few things and ended up having to be bailed out by the teacher across the hall, and had a couple of great parents help me figure everything out.

Here's the pictures with Santa that my kids got before we left Texas.  One of them was very excited about seeing Santa.  One was not.

With the absence of baseball in my life (other than Hot Stove updates via Twitter), I've been paying the slightest attention to basketball.  Normally, I wait until the playoffs to see how the Spurs or Mavericks are doing and root for them like a real Texan, but since Portland is currently sporting the best record in the NBA (24-5), I'm hopping back onto the Blazer bandwagon.  I hopped off it a few decades ago after Clyde Drexler went to the Rockets and Portland went through it's "Jail Blazer" phase, but thanks to exciting players like Damian Lillard, I'm back to my roots (I was born in Portland).  Multnomah County represent!

Dude is clutch.  

Anyways, since we've been in San Diego, we've stopped by a few places of interest.  Here is my daughter with my little brother on a whale statue at La Jolla Shores.  She's only been to the beach a few times, but she loves it.  We didn't have her wear her bathing suit since we thought that we'd just be going down by the beach to look at the water, but she jumped right in, cold temperatures and all.  To see my son's reaction to the beach, see his face in the Santa picture above.

Christmas was great for our family.  Harper made out like a bandit, and Foster got mountains of blocks and cars (because nobody, including ourselves, knows what to get for a one-year old boy).  I got three shirts and some money.  Here are two of the shirts I got from my sister.  The Padres shirt is obviously awesome, but my favorite is the "Froman Sausage Co." shirt.  She found the design online and put it onto the shirt using freezer paper and paint.

If you don't know who Abe Froman is, I feel bad for you.

Alright, there's the catch up.  Tomorrow is the final installment of the Top 10 Cards of 2013, and then we'll be back to semi-regularly scheduled posting.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Back In San Diego!

Well, my string of "Best Cards of 2013" was interrupted on Friday.  My wife and I have been planning a Christmas trip to visit our families in San Diego, and the plan was to leave early Saturday morning.  However, early Friday morning, my wife told me that on the infant that she normally babysits during the day was sick, so if we wanted to, we could leave a little early.  I probably would've preferred a little extra rest, since I had been up late working on some last minute report card stuff, but anytime I can do something to make my lady happy, I do what I can.

So, after cleaning up the wreckage from our class party (I thought that gingerbread house building would be a good idea - I think I've learned my lesson), I hustled home and threw some stuff into the car, and we were off.

We spent the night in Las Cruces, NM, which is the halfway point between Copperas Cove and San Diego.  We finally cruised into San Diego around 6:00 PM and after hanging out with my family, went to bed at about 8:00.  My body is still recovering from our cramped car and trying to sleep in beds with our kids, but we're back among family and beautiful weather, so I suppose the 19 hour drive was worth it.

So anyways, I'll wrap up the "Best Cards of 2013" countdown sometime this week - for all of those sitting on pins and needles.  In the mean time, here is a pair of cards that were delivered to my mailbox the day before we left; both of the Padre cards from this year's High Number Heritage set.

I may have drafted the final installment out the "Best Of" countdown a little prematurely.  I'm a fan of Jedd Gyorko, I'm a fan of this year's Heritage set, I'm a fan of this card.  The Gyrk was undoubtedly the easiest choice to make the "updated" Heritage set, as he was somehow excluded from the original set.

Kyle Blanks makes it onto the second part of this double header.  While I would've gone with Chris Denorfia or Nick Vincent, Kyle's a good choice as well.  For some reason, there are a large number of players in the set without hats.  Now there is one more.

Well, that's it for now.  We went to bed at 8:00 last night, the kids woke up before 5:00.  I'm feeling a nap coming on.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 10 Cards of 2013, pt. 3

Ding ding ding!  It's time for round three of the Backstop Cards End Of The Year Countdown Special! Glad to see that you're back for thirds - don't worry, it's the holidays, the New Year is for those pesky resolutions - indulge!

With Part III today, we'll be looking exclusively at all of the Padres "hit" cards that I've accumulated this year.  Originally, I was going to have this be a precursor to Part IV and include it in the same post, but I was able to scrounge up a few more cards and make it a (decently) well rounded Top 10 list.

Keep in mind that these are the Padres, so expecting very much in terms of "hits" may not be the same for some of you other collectors.

#10, #9, #8 - Carlos Quentin, Tony Gwynn, & Yonder Alonso, Gypsy Queen framed mini relic

Here are all three relic cards that I scored this year - all through trades, and all from the same set.  I'm not a huge fan of relic cards, but I think that these are good looking.  The "mini card with a relic encased in a plastic, black border" sounds like it should look a lot worse than it does, so I give props to Gypsy Queen here for pulling it off.  Would've been cooler if the swatches matched the uniform on the card, but beggars can't be choosers.

#7 - Andrew Cashner, Topps Tier One "On The Rise" autograph #142/399
Were it not for the undeniable awesomeness that is Chris Denorfia, Andrew Cashner would've been my favorite Padre this year.  The dude is a flat out gamer.  After being questionable at the beginning of the year due to a hunting accident where a buddy of his sliced his hand with a knife while dressing a deer, he rebounded and had a great season.  The hunting accident and the duck calls that are made by home fans when Straight Cash Homey is pitching make the camo uniform here a good choice.

#6 - Yonder Alonso, Gypsy Queen autograph
I'm not quite as high on Yonder Alonso as I was at the beginning of the season, but maybe I'm being unfair, since he was injured for a big chunk of time - getting hit by a pitch in the hand will do that to ya.  While Yonder wins no style points for his signature, it's a great shot of the young first baseman, and I love the camouflage.  While I generally dislike the design of Gypsy Queen, it works well for a fancy, autographed card like this one.

#5 - Jedd Gyorko, Topps Chrome autograph
Jedd Gyorko is another Padre who I became a big fan of this year.  While he did a great job manning second base for the Friars, what really got him some notoriety was his bat.  Even though this is a spring training shot (would've preferred something from the season, but whatever), it makes for a good card of the slugging second baseman.

#4 - Kyle Blanks - Topps Update Magenta Printing Plate
Man, there's nothing like a printing plate, is there?  If you don't have one, I'd recommend saving it as a search in eBay.  This is only my second one, but if you wait long enough (and you're not looking for some kind of superstar), you can occasionally find them for pretty cheap.  This one was less than $5, which is hard to find for a 1/1.  That it was already a good looking card of one of my favorite "off the bench" guys on the Padres is a big win in my book.

#3 - Wally Joyner, Allen & Ginter framed mini autograph
I am a huge Padre fan.  I constantly make references to baseball greats like Mike Piazza and Greg Maddux being "former Padres", even though when you think of those players, you would normally never associate them with the Padres.  This is all tongue in cheek.  However, as stoked as I was to see that Wally Joyner had an autographed card in this year's Allen & Ginter set as a Padre, I thought it seemed a little out of place.  I was a big fan of Joyner when he was in San Diego, but even when I think of him, I think of the Angels.  Whatever, one more win for the Padres, I guess.

#2 - Andrew Cashner, Topps Tier One "On The Rise" autograph #89/399
There is basically no difference between this card and the one at the #7 slot.  Both have the same players signature, both are numbered to 399, and heck, even both of them are even from the same set!  Still the main difference is that Cashner is rocking the 1998 throwback uniform, which, as much as I love the camo uniforms, is awesome.  Enough to almost claim the title of "Best Padre Hit of the Year". Sorry Andrew, horseshoes and hand grenades, you know the rest of it.

#1 - Benito Santiago, Archives "Fan Favorite" Autograph

There were so many players that I was excited to see on checklists this year.  One of them would easily have to be Benito Santiago.  He's not a Hall of Famer, and in his prime, he didn't play in a big market that that helped pad his image.  So, to see him included in a 2013 set was very cool.  The amount of brown and orange is awesome, and making a good looking card with the '88 design is easier said than done.  Love this one.

Anybody make it to the end?  Are you even reading the words, or just looking at the pictures?  It's fine, don't worry about it, I'm guilty of it too from time to time - I've got things to do, just show me pretty pictures of cards!

I'll admit that, being the kind of collector that I am, this is probably the least exciting list that I made out of the four.  But don't worry, tomorrow I'm back with one more.  I had kind of planned to spread these lists out over the "Christmas Break" (for those of us who work in schools), but I think I'm emptying the clip of posts and leaving town without anything.  It might be quiet for a bit, but I'm sure I'll have time to toss up a short post on a card or two.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top 10 Cards of 2013, pt. 2

Welcome back to the Backstop Cards End Of The Year Countdown Special!  Last time, we took a look at the cards from the 2013 Topps flagship set.  In this edition, we're going to take a look at some of the cards from the other sets that were released this year.  While the card companies without a license really stepped up their game this year (props to 2013 Pinnacle, which was one of my favorite sets this year), all of the cards shown here are from Topps sets.  Sorry for the spoiler alert right off the bat.

Also, since it is difficult for me to be unbiased towards my Padres, I have decided that there will be a separate list for the Padre cards.  This one is for the those readers who unfortunately find themselves rooting for teams that actually have a snowball's chance of winning once in a while.

Anyways, we'll go ahead and start off with a trio of cards that just missed the cut...

Honorable Mentions - Travis Fryman, Hal Morris, & Tim Salmon, Archives SPs
While there is nothing spectacular about any of these cards individually, I loved that they used the 1993 Topps design, and that they made some cards of some of the minor stars of the early 90's.  This is a nostalgic set for me, since this is one of the first sets that I collected a lot of.  

#10 - Roberto Clemente, 1971 Topps Update Minis
I am pretty much a sucker for anything that has to do with the 1971 Topps design.  I'm working on completing the Update Mini set, and while none of the cards are going to blow you away individually, it's hard to find anything wrong with this card of Roberto Clemente.  While some may eventually get tired of the abundance of "retro" found in Topps sets (if they're not already), I think it'll take a lot more to make me sick of the '71 design.

#9 - A.J. Pierzynski, Allen & Ginter
There is nothing really that "edgy" about the Allen & Ginter set (well, I guess the same could be said for baseball cards in general - it's not like it's a late night roast on Comedy Central).  The splotches of paint in the background and the gilded borders are going for a classy, timeless look.  Here, however, we have AJ Pierzynski using his bat as a pretty intimidating prop, which makes it one of the more unique cards from the set, and one that definitely jumped out at me.

#8 - Scattered Disc, Allen & Ginter "One Little Corner"
Alright, so maybe it wasn't the most exciting year in baseball cards (once again, "exciting" is a relative term here).  A case you might make is that one of the "Top 10" cards is of a Scattered Disc.  I was able to accumulate an entire set of the "One Little Corner" inserts, which are really little pieces of art.  This is my favorite one.  Before I got it, I hadn't even heard of a scattered disc.  Now… crap, I'd better read the back again.

#7 - Mike Trout, Archives "All-Star"
The "All Star" cards from this year's Archives set were a little hit and miss with me.  Consider this card of Mike Trout a definite "hit".  I don't think I've ever seen a card of Mike Trout where Topps used the same image - there's always a new picture of "the future of baseball".  Conversely, I think Topps had three pictures of Chase Headley for the quadrillion cards they released of him this year.  Alright, I'll stop my rant and take a look at this soothing card of a guy who ESPN says might be worth $400 million.  As if the Angels haven't learned from the Hamilton/Pujols signings. 

#6 - Manny Machado/Dylan Bundy, Heritage "Rookie Stars"
I'm not normally one to get all hyped up on rookies - for every Mike Trout, there are a ton of Donovan Tate's.  Or, I guess you could say that for every Manny Machado (young All-Star) there are a bunch of Dylan Bundy's (young prospect who is injured).  Regardless of the status of both players (now they're both recovering from injury), this is a slick looking card, and one of the few on this countdown that I managed to pull out of a pack.  I had considered putting it up on eBay, but decided that it was one worth keeping in the collection for now.  I love the design of the rookie cards in the Heritage set.

#5 - Goose Gossage, Gypsy Queen mini
There are precious few cards that are non-Padres that go up on the old want list.  This was one of them.  I'm actually still looking for the base card of this one, since this is just the mini.  Still, I was way stoked to see that Goose was getting into some modern sets.  He there aren't many players that I get excited about who played primarily before my time, but even though Goose retired a couple of seasons after I started following baseball, he's a guy who I love to see on baseball cards.  This would've been a lot higher if he had been in a Padre uniform, but then it would've been on another countdown as well.

#4 - Gavin Floyd, Heritage
Just like the Pierzynski card near the top of this post, this Gavin Floyd card manages to be a breath of fresh air in a set that, while classically great looking, has a lot of boring head shots in the checklist.  I can't tell what I like more, the "show 'em the grip"-ness of the card, or the blank stare that Floyd is sporting here.  Just like a kid, I believed that since this card was so awesome, he must be a good pitcher, right?  His 4.48 career ERA and 70-70 record would suggest otherwise.

#3 - Goose Gossage, Archives "Day Glo"
Goose is the one and only "repeat achiever" on this portion of the countdown.  Like I said previously, if he was in a Padre uniform, this would be even higher, but it'd also be on another list.  This is the "hobby only" Day Glo version.  The orange-ness is easier to see if you look at any of the other three designs in the Archives set - you know, the ones with the white borders.  Seeing as how Goose got stuck with the tough-to-look-at multi-color design of the 1990 set, it's a little less obvious.  Still, it's Goose, and it's a little fancy.  I'm diggin' it.

#2 - Fred McGriff, Archives "Tall Boys"
Speaking of guys who I was stoked to see in the modern checklists, here's one of my favorite players as a kid: Fred McGriff.  He actually got three cards in the Archives set; this one, a short printed base card, and an autographed card.  Come to think of it, that SP card should be on this list as well, probably at #7.  Oh well, I'm too lazy to go back and change it.  Anyways, that autographed card will probably forever be on the want list in my head.  In the meantime, I can enjoy this card from Fred's Blue Jay days.

#1 - Teddy Wins First Presidential Mascot Race, Heritage
"Alright, an "end of the year best baseball card list" that features something from outer space and a person running around dressed as a former US President?  Was the year in cards that dull? "  I'll answer that question that is most certainly going through your minds with a resounding "NO!"  This card is just that awesome.  I am a big fan of mascots on baseball cards (remember, these were originally designed for kids to collect, and what kid wouldn't think this was cool?), and the fact that it's celebrating an actual "Memorable Moment" involving that mascot is as unique as it is awesome.  Congrats, Teddy.  You're a winner again.

Round two is over!  Have you had enough of this?  Is the comment section not big enough to express your outrage with the rankings?  Are you getting frustrated enough that you're getting ready to make your own lists? 

I can't wait to read 'em.

Don't worry, there are still two more posts that will be just as maddening as these ones.

Take care.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top 10 Cards of 2013, Pt. 1

Welcome to the Backstop Cards End Of The Year Countdown Special!  One thing that I really love about the end of the year is that there are always lots of lists floating around the internet.  Best Movies of 2013, Best Albums of 2013, Greatest Moments in 2013, you get the idea.  While I don't consider myself completely tuned out from pop culture, I do end up finding some hidden gems that I didn't previously know about while perusing these lists.

It's with that intention that I introduce the "Top 10 Cards of 2013" countdown.  This will actually be a four part series, showing my top 10 favorite cards from this year in a variety of categories.  We'll start simply today, by taking a look at my favorite cards from this year's Topps flagship set.  There were so many other sets released (and they'll get their chance in the countdown), but if you say, "I have that guy's rookie card," chances are, you're talking about the card from the flagship set.

Honorable Mention - David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (Boston Strong SP)
We're starting off with an "Honorable Mention", since this is actually a short printed card, and I don't consider it part of the "base set".  Still, it is one sweet looking card, and one that I pulled out of a pack at that!  Congrats again to the Red Sox on a great year and a great postseason.

#10 - Adam Greenberg, Miami Marlins (253)
This is a card that got a lot of people excited, as Adam Greenberg was signed to a one-day contract by the Marlins at the end of 2012.  He notched his second first career at bat, unfortunately having to face the eventual Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey.  He would strike out on three pitches, but having the chance to play in the majors again after getting hit in the head in his first at bat in 2005 was a special moment, and it's very cool that he was granted a space in the 2013 Topps set.

#9 - Will Venable, San Diego Padres (225)
Well, we didn't waste too much time featuring the first Padre in the countdown, did we?  Of course, I am more than a little biased towards my favorite team, but this is a great shot of the Padres team MVP.  If I had the base card, I'd show that one, but the emerald is the only one I've got.  In a year where Venable made a few flat out amazing catches (look it up, man!), it's fitting that he is shown making one here.

#8 - Craig Gentry, Texas Rangers (531)
Speaking of great catches, here is a perfectly timed leap that I thought looked awesome as well.  Craig Gentry is one of those gritty players that is a flat out hustler, and frankly, there are far too few "home run robbing" cards out there.  Difficult to time, impossible to plan.  This one looks stellar.

#7 - A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox (12)
SPOILER ALERT: Seven of the ten cards in the countdown (eight out of eleven if you count the Honorable Mention) are horizontal cards.  With the extra space, you are afforded much more room to show a variety of things.  The background of U.S. Cellular Field looks great while A.J. Pierzynski is taking some hacks in the on deck circle.  As of now, it is the only major league park outside of California that I have seen a game in.  Hoping to change that next year.

#6 - Brandon Inge, Oakland Athletics (76)
The horizontal viewpoint lends itself to some wacky shots like this.  What I love more than the staged fighting going on between teammates is the blank stares that they're getting from the guys on the bench.  This seems like a very "Upper Deck" thing to do, as most of Topps' gimmicky cards like this are short printed or not even present in the base set.

#5 - Welington Castillo, Chicago Cubs (551)
Alright, back to the action.  One thing that I like about doing the countdown is taking a look at cards of guys that I've never heard of.  Welington Castillo would be one of those guys.  While I may never know much about him, I do know that he has a great card in the 2013 Topps set, and will forever be immortalized on cardboard as tagging out David Ortiz at home (probably, I have no idea if he is actually out).

#4 - Alexi Amarista, San Diego Padres (US97)
Here's Padre number two!  I was bummed that Alexi Amarista didn't make it into the 2012 Topps set, his rookie season, and after Series I and II had passed this year, I was beginning to give up hope.  Not only did he get a card in the Update set, he got a great one.  Amarista, if you're not aware, is only 5'8", making him one of the few players who is shorter than me.  Showing his teammates jabbing him because of his height and putting it on a card is pretty funny to me, and makes for a great card.

#3 - Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates (US150)
Here's rookie card number two - this time a much bigger name than Adam Greenberg.  Gerrit Cole was hyped up to be "the next big thing," and it looks like he's going to be able to deliver on that promise, helping the Pirates to their first postseason appearance in twenty years.  Even though all of the teams are supposed to have colors on the borders that match their uniform/logo, I think that this example of the Pirates logo in the corner, with the yellow border and Cole's uniform looks sharp together.  Throw in the fact that it's a good action shot of a very promising rookie and you get a sweet looking card.

#2 - Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres (546)
Once again, if I had the base version of this card, I'd show it.  In what my now be an illegal play, Carlos Quentin is shown here right before he barrels into Mets catcher Josh Thole.  The photo used is from 80's throwback night, which adds to the awesomeness.  CQ was actually out by a pretty large margin, but as you can see, he was looking for contact, and was able to jar the ball loose from Thole's glove.  Very cool play, especially since there were no Ray Fosse-type injuries.  As a former catcher (only Little League & Pony League, I won't pretend like I'm Crash Davis), I think that everything about a collision at the plate is awesome, and I got hit so hard by a guy who played varsity football that I did a backwards somersault.

#1 - Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees (600)

As great as the CQ card is, no amount of bias could ever knock this card out of the #1 slot.  Mariano Rivera, the most dominant closer in baseball history, retired this year, and I can't think of a better cardboard tribute than to show him giving knuckles to his teammates after nailing down another Yankee victory.  Rivera was one of those rare closers who wouldn't act like he had just saved a bus full of orphans from driving off a bridge every time he got three outs at the end of a game that his team had been winning when he entered.  Class all the way.

Well, there you have it, the first installment of my "end of the year card review".  Lemme know if there's anything that you like/disagree with - I'm sure there'll be plenty of both.