Topps Baseball Set Reviews, 2020-
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2020 Topps/Topps Update
Set Size: 700/300
Players With Dual Cards: Rich Hill, Joe Jimenez, Luis Severino, Tyler White, Stevie Wilkerson
Card #1: Mike Trout
Subsets: League Leaders (10) Checklists (20) All-Stars (36) Home Run Derby (16) Rookie Debuts (8) Combos (10) Active Leaders (30)
The Best Cards: #U-98 Jose Iglesias
Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #27 Brewers Team (longest win streak should be seven) #242 Alex Young (redundant RC logo) #259 Jaylin Davis (was Player of the Month, not Week) #U-216 Sean Murphy RD (Matt Chapman pictured)
My Thoughts On The Set: 2020 Topps was nearly not purchased by me. The feeling was at age 40, it was time for me to move on from collecting. But here we are. I don't know if I'll continue beyond this year, but I don't know a lot of things, do I?
The base set was deep and well-balanced except for one Ranger in Series 1 #166 Nick Solak; here's more on that). My Giants weren't represented as well as they could have been (No Tony Watson or Pablo Sandoval).
Speaking of the Rangers, all of their Series 2 and Update cards feature a special stamp acknowledging the debut of new Globe Life Park. So basically, every Ranger except Solak.
I wasn't big on the vertical name/team layout at first. Even though I got past that initial aversion, Topps did a poor job differentiating commons from subsets. Blink and you miss the Active Leaders or Rookie Debuts or All-Stars in the Update set. I long for the days of subsets receiving a separate design from regular commons...
In 2017-18 Topps, only a few lines of stats were listed on reverses. In 2019 Topps, full stats returned except for Albert Pujols and CC Sabathia, who saw their first two seasons (2001-02) omitted. This year all of Pujols' stats are printed (Sabathia was denied a sunset card). But the header still omits the word "Complete" from "Major League Batting/Pitching Record" on all commons.
Ian Kinsler received a sunset card. Sabathia, Curtis Granderson, Ben Zobrist and Brian McCann did not.
Also not receiving cards: suspended players Odubel Herrera, Domingo German and Felipe Vazquez, all of whom were very naughty in 2019. German was mentioned on the Yankees team card, however.
What endeared this set to me was the long-awaited Update Set, which was not released until the first week of November. My hopes of commons totally replacing the absent 2020 All-Stars were dashed, but it was kind of cool seeing past Stars in the current design, I must admit.
Despite a handful of redundant (players from Base re-appearing in Update in the same uniform) cards, there were loads of dudes not included in the base set. Plenty of relievers, plenty of rookies, even a Terrence Gore sighting!
Furthermore, the absence of an early 2020 season meant the return of posed front images for dudes with new teams! Who cared if they were doctored and/or obviously Photoshopped on their background? I sure didn't.
I've never been a fan of Active Leaders subsets because they fall out of date too quickly, and this year's no different (2012 Topps had one, as well). Topps ended up with about 5-6 Miguel Cabrera cards in the set...and no Pablo Sandoval.
For some reason, Topps discontinued the Update set US numbering, switching to U and a dash.
Historically, you always flip a Topps card bottom-left up to view the reverse. In the Update set, that is no longer true for many cards. In fact, some horizontally-oriented fronts have upside-down reverses...wonky.
2020 Topps falls in love with the terminology "spike curve" and "home run percentage", just so you know. Also, multiple cards make references to unnamed coaches, reminiscent of Score and their various "observers".
All in all, a fine set that I definitely do not regret investing in.
2021 Topps/Topps Update
Set Size: 660/330
Players With Dual Cards: Adam Frazier
Card #1: Fernando Tatis, Jr.
Subsets: League Leaders (12) Postseason Highlights (4) Checklists (26) Rookie Debuts (35) Combos (10) Rookie Combos (4)
The Best Cards: #413 Alex Kirilloff, #383 Miguel Sano, #586 Brett Phillips, #66 Ryan Brasier, #330 Juan Soto, #71 Randy Dobnak
Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #US48 Combos (Teoscar Hernandez is identified as Marcus Semien) #US122 Cesar Hernandez (misspelled Hernadnez on reverse) #US142 David Hale (misnumbered as #US285)
My Thoughts On The Set: After debating whether or not to add 2020 Topps to my collection for most of that year, I finally caved and made the purchase—a VERY good decision in hindsight.
But I was seriously planning to bypass 2021 Topps. Its poor design and reduced set size left me without much desire to add it to the collection. I. Really. Was. Not. Going. To. Buy. This. Set.
Next thing I knew, it was June, and the base set was on my shelf.
Obviously, the player names are printed FAR too small on the front. This was a rather easy fix that should never have made it past the first wave of quality checkers, but did. Sometimes, the tight lettering made position abbreviations look like initials, such as C. Buster Posey and P. Rich Hill. And I don't know what all the distracting rhombuses (rhombi?) are supposed to be, but stamps of random shapes on a card is NOT a design.
Though I must admit 2021 Topps carried its own unique feel, and does manage to evoke memories of the cardboard-cutout 2020 season, the card front design (reinstated borders and all) was flagrantly bad—easily the worst since 2006.
Player inclusion was pretty solid. I actually wrote to the company asking RP's Oliver Perez and Nick Vincent to be included in the set. They indulged me with Perez—fortuitous, since he was cut by the Indians shortly before Series 2 was released and is probably through in MLB. Nationals RP Will Harris returned in the Update set after a lengthy Topps absence. Still no Madison Bumgarner; what the hell happened between him and the company?
With no minor league season in 2020, I figured (expected) rookies would all receive conventional reverses. I was wrong; in most cases Topps simply printed MLB stats where their MiLB stats would be and continued using the dreaded asterisk to indicate said rookie's 2020 team. BAH...
I wasn't sure how the company would handle players who opted out of the 2020 season, but sure enough, most of them found their way into the set. Buster Posey, Ryan Zimmerman, David Price and more appear with the text "DID NOT PLAY - OPTED OUT" printed on their 2020 stat line.
Breaking from the norm, quite a few veterans such as Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, Jedd Gyorko and a handful more received sunset cards. Even Alex Gordon, whose retirement had been previously announced, shows up in 2021 Topps.
The most notable exclusions from the set? Arguably A's SP Mike Fiers, Giants SP Tyler Anderson (who threw their only CG of 2020) and Rays CL Diego Castillo, highly visible during October 2020. For some reason, Phillies SP Zack Wheeler—a 2020 Cy Young contender and one of MLB's highest-paid pitchers—was not included in the base set. He turned up in Update, though he had not changed teams. Maybe Topps pulled a 2009 Ryan Dempster and simply forgot to include him in the base set?
For the first time, an Update set was devoid of any All-Star cards whatsoever—a problem for me, since I'd never anticipated, been more interested in, or appreciated an All-Star Game like the 2021 Classic. The company didn't make the BEST use of the extra 65 or so cards, blowing half of them on an expanded Rookie Debut subset. At least Combos remained at the familiar 10 count.
SP's Spencer Turnbull of Detroit and Carlos Rodon of the White Sox each received highlight cards for their 2021 no-hitters...but no commons. That's happened infrequently since RP Jesse Orosco "paved the way" by receiving a 2000 Topps Highlight card while being denied a common.
Overall, a quality set if you have either 20-20 vision or a magnifying glass. I'll (try to) never judge a set based solely on appearance again.