Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2014 Calbee Series Three

The last of the sets I got from Hiro a few weeks back was this year's Series Three from Calbee.  Like the previous two Series, there was 100 cards in the set - 84 player cards (7 per team), a 12 card "Clutch Hitter" subset/non-premium insert set (1 per team) and four checklist cards.

The thing that hits you about all Calbee sets is the photography and this one is no exception.  If anything, the photography in this set exceeds expectations.  Lots of interesting action shots and candids:








There's a bunch of cards showing players wearing some of the "special" uniforms from this season:





One minor disappointment with the set is that there's only one card that uses a horizontal format.

Nearly half (37) of the 84 players depicted in the set appeared in either the first or second Calbee Series this year as well.  In fact, there's five players who appear in all three of this year's Series - Hayato Sakamoto, Sho Aranami, Yoshio Itoi, Kenta Maeda and Takeshi Toritani,  If there was one thing that I'd like Calbee to change, it would be that I'd like less repetition of the players.

The "Clutch Hitters" subset is kind of uninspiring - all twelve players are depicted batting (as you might expect).  This is the only Calbee card for four of the players this year - Ryota Arai, John Bowker, Itaru Hashimoto and Anderson Hernandez.

The photos on the four checklist cards highlight some events in games from the first half of the season - Tiger pitcher Shintaro Fujinami homering against the Carp on April 15; Takahiro Suzuki of the Giants in a game the Giants beat the Fighters on May 26, the Eagles celebrating on the field after scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Tigers on June 3 and Takayuki Kishi celebrating his no-hitter against the Marines on May 2:

As always, all the cards can be seen at Jambalaya.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More New BBM Sets

BBM's webmaster is apparently working overtime - there's been six new baseball sets unveiled on their website in the last week (plus two non-baseball sets).  The two latest ones are two more OB team sets from the "ACHIEVEMENT" series that started with the Nankai Hawks and Hankyu Braves sets released last month.  These two are for the Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Taiyo Whales and there's not a whole lot more information available about them.  The Buffaloes set apparently will concentrate on the Pacific League pennant winners from 1979, 1980 and 1989.  The Whales set will feature players from the last few years that the team played in Kawasaki before moving to Yokohama in time for the 1978 season.  I guess I'm most interested in the Whales set since that's not an era that's been covered by any of BBM's OB team sets.  The sets will (I assume) feature the same kinds of facsimile and authentic autograph cards that the Hawks and Braves sets have.  They will both be out in mid-December.

2014 BBM 80th Anniversary Batters Edition Set

BBM followed up their 80th Anniversary Pitchers Edition set (issued in May) with a Batters Edition that they issued in August.  Like the earlier set, this one contains 99 cards - 90 player cards and 9 cards for "All Time Leaders".

BBM did a pretty good job selecting the batters appearing in the set.  Unlike most of their recent OB sets (and like the Pitchers Edition), there's a decent representation of players from before the 1970's including guys like Masaru Kageura, Shigeru Chiba, Kazuto Tsuruoka, Noburo Aota and Wally Yonamine who don't appear in BBM's OB sets very often.  There's a lot of the guys who you would expect in a set like this though - Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, Katsuya Nomura, Hiromitsu Kadota, Tetsuharu Kawakami, Isao Harimoto, Sachio Kinugasa, Koji Yamamoto, Koji Akiyama, Kazuhiro Kiyohara and Hideki Matsui to name a dozen or so.  There are a number of gaijin - Randy Bass, Tuffy Rhodes, Alex Ramirez, Ralph Bryant, Alex Cabrera, Leron Lee and Boomer Wells - and a number of active NPB players from 2014 - Kazuo Matsui, Wladimir Balentien, Seiichi Uchikawa, Shinnosuke Abe, Kosuke Fukudome, Takeya Nakamura, Atsunori Inaba, Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Michihiro Ogasawara, Norihiro Nakamura,Yoshinobu Takahashi, Motonobu Tanishige and Shohei Ohtani.  There's also one MLB player - Norichika Aoki.  There's a couple notable omissions - Hiromitsu Ochiai and Ichiro Suzuki - and I can think of a bunch of guys that there are arguments that can be made about why they should be in the set rather than some who are - Bobby Rose jumps to mind - but it's a pretty good representation of the best hitters over the years in NPB.

The pictures used in the set are very good.  It must be quite a challenge for BBM to find pictures that haven't already been used many times for some of the players who show up in OB sets frequently but BBM lived up to in several cases.  For example, I've never seen this shot of Nagashima before and I have over 180 cards of him.

On the other hand, the photo used for Sadaharu Oh is about as generic as they get:

Here's some other example cards:





The nine "All Time Leader" cards celebrate the guys who hold the records for highest batting average in a season (Randy Bass) and career (Leron Lee), home runs in a season (Wladimir Balentien) and career (Sadaharu Oh), career RBIs (Oh), stolen bases (Yutaka Fukumoto), games played (Katsuya Nomura) and hits (Isao Harimoto) and longest consecutive games played streak (Sachio Kinugasa).  (Nomura will probably be passed by Motonobu Tanishige next year - he's only 26 games behind him and he can write himself into the lineup).  Here's the card for Lee:

As always, you can see the cards at Jambalaya and check out Ryan's post on the set.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Last BBM Issues Of 2014 (Maybe)

After having very little new stuff on their website for a couple weeks, BBM has apparently decided to get caught up on everything they've got in the pipeline, at least for the next two weeks...

- the "Legend" set I mentioned the other day for the Lions will be released this Friday (the 21st).  The set will highlight the years from 1982 to 1994, when the Lions won 11 Pacific League pennants and 8 Nippon Series championships.  Like the Carp Legend set that's coming out in December, the base set will contain 81 cards - there's no indication that there's any sort of subset which would be a first for a "Legend" set.  There's a nine card insert set entitled "80's Best 9" (again like the Carp set) and a large number of autograph cards.

- BBM is releasing a box set for Kenta Maeda on November 27.  Entitled Red Samurai, it will contain 28 cards - a 27 card base set and one "special" card.  The base set will have 18 cards dedicated to "Milestones" and a nine card puzzle called "Amazing".  The special cards include home, away and home and away jersey cards, undershirt cards, ball cards, metallic cards (I think this is a mail-in redemption), and autograph cards.  Several of these also have parallel versions available.

I think these two issues are BBM's final two sets that will be labeled as 2014 issues.  The first set that is labeled as a 2015 issue (the annual "Historic Collection" set) is also being released on November 27.  It's not unheard of for BBM to issue a set labelled with a particular year after having already issued a set labelled with the following year, but everything I've seen so far that they are releasing in December is labelled 2015.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

2014 BBM All Star Game Memories 90's Set

As a repeat of last year, once again BBM did not do the annual All Star set they had done from 1991-2012 and instead did a nostalgic set about All Star games.  Last year it was a set dedicated to the All Star Game Memories of the 1980's - this year it's a set dedicated to the All Star Game Memories of the 1990's.

Like last year's set, this year's set has 90 cards in the base set - 81 "regular" player cards plus nine more cards split into two subsets.  It looks like all the cards were taken during the actual All Star games but it's difficult to tell.  Unlike last year when there were other players visible in the regular player cards that made it obvious that the pictures were taken at all All Star games, the photos on this year's cards pretty much don't show anyone other than the subject of the card.  On the other hand, the photos are all kind of grainy and appear to be mostly taken at night so they probably are all from the games:




I'm pretty sure that Kadota's card shows him running around the bases after hitting a pinch hit home run in Game 2 of the 1991 All Star series - his last All Star game home run in his last All Star game.

There's a lot of great players - both Hall Of Famers and near Hall Of Famers - in the set:  Koji Akiyama, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Tatsunori Hara, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Masumi Kuwata, Atsuya Furuta, Hiromitsu Kadota, Norihiro Komada, Hiroki Kokubo, Akira Etoh, Tomoaki Kanemoto, Tomonori Maeda, Hiromi Makihara, Yutaka Ohno, Kenjiro Nomura and Hideki Matsui (who hasn't met an OB set he didn't want to be in for a while now).  There are some gaijin players included like Tom O'Malley and Ralph Bryant and some Japanese players who played in MLB like Kazuhiro Sasaki, So Taguchi, Hideki Irabu, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Satoru Komiyama.  There's also a handful of guys who were still active players in 2014 - Masahiro Yamamoto, Kazuo Matsui, Koji Uehara, Takashi Saito, Kenshin Kawakami and Norihiro Nakamura.  

There's a bunch of cards that show guys holding up signs indicating that they won MVP awards for games.  This card of Atsuya Furuta shows him holding up the sign for winning for Game 1 of the 1991 Series - a game in which he threw out three base runners.  (Furuta also won the MVP for Game 2 in 1992 when he hit for the cycle.)

The set is missing a few major players, however, so a few major events of the All Star games in the 90's are not commemorated.  That game Kadota homered in in 1991 ended up going 12 innings and finished in a tie.  Koji Akiyama (then of the Lions) managed to ricochet a foul ball off one of his eyes in the 12th inning and had to leave the game.  Since the Pacific League was out of position players at this point, Hideo Nomo came into the game to finish Akiyama's at bat.  For defense in the bottom of the 12th, left fielder Takeshi Aikoh moved to center to replace Akiyama and Lions pitcher Kimiyasu Kudoh went in as the left fielder.  Nomo isn't in the set and both Akiyama and Kudoh are shown as Hawks so nothing from this incident made the set.  Daisuke Matsuzaka, who made his All Star game debut in the first game in 1999 by striking out five in three innings (and giving up two runs to take the loss) in also not in the set.  My favorite 90's All Star game event - Ichiro Suzuki's pitching appearance in Game 2 in 1996 is kind of included - Shingo Takatsu, the batter he faced (who was pinch hitting for Hideki Matsui), is shown batting and I assume that it's from this at bat:

In addition to Nomo, Matsuzaka and Ichiro being missing from the set, two other guys that you would expect to be in the set - Hiromitsu Ochiai and Takuro Ishii are also absent.

There are two subsets in the set.  The first is a three card subset called "Start To Stardom".  The three players included (Shinjio Hiyama, Hiroo Ishii and Hitoshi Taneda) are all shown receiving the MVP award for the Fresh All Star game (the minor league All Star game).

 Like last year's set, the final six cards in the set are combination cards that show multiple players.  They were my favorite cards in last year's set but I'm kind of "meh" about them this year.  For one thing there's a bright yellow overlay on the photos that acts as a border around what would otherwise be an attractive picture.  The other thing is that the pairing are just kind of uninspiring.  And this one of Makoto Sasaki and Koji Akiyama looks very similar to a card BBM issued back in 1996:

Probably my favorite of the combination cards (all labeled "2 Stars Meet" except the last one with Tsutomu Kameyama, Hideki Matsui and Tsuyoshi Shinjo - that one is of course "3 Stars Meet") is this one of Hiromi Makihara and Atsuya Furuta:

Jambalaya has all the cards available for viewing here and Ryan did a great post on the set back when it came out last August.

I would expect that BBM will go to the well again next year and do an All Star Game Memories 00's set.  I'd like to see them go earlier but the 00's set will probably be fun too.

Card Of The Week November 16

The big news of the weekend was Samurai Japan clinching the Japan All Star Series by having four pitchers combine to no-hit the MLB All Stars yesterday.  Takahiro Norimoto of the Eagles started and threw five perfect innings, striking out six.  Yuki Nishi of the Buffaloes (no stranger to no-hitters himself), followed with two no-hit innings, although he walked one and hit a batter (breaking the toe of Robinson Cano).  Kazuhisa Makita of the Lions and Yuji Nishino of the Marines finished up with a single inning apiece.

Here's Norimoto's first BBM card from the 2013 Rookie Edition set (#65):

I've been enjoying watching the games this week except that I've been watching the English broadcasts from MLB.  I almost wish I was listening to the Japanese broadcasts so that I wouldn't understand what they were saying.  The mis-pronunciations have been grating (Yomiuri has a long "o" sound and Kenta Maeda's surname is pronounced My-da, not May-eeda) and the factual errors have been pretty bad as well - the Tokyo Dome does not seat 70,000, it's more like 46,000.  MLB broadcaster Mark Derosa was bragging during the first game (the one at Koshien against the combined Tigers-Giants team) that he had done some research on Shuichi Murata and discovered that Murata had hit "20 home runs ten times in his 12 year career with the Giants".  Apparently Derosa's "research" didn't reveal that Murata had only played three years with the Giants - the other nine were with the Yokohama Baystars.  What would be nice is if they had someone in the booth like John Gibson or Jim Allen, someone who speaks English and is knowledgable about both NPB and MLB and could ensure they pronounced names correctly and didn't make egregious factual errors.

Of course, that would take the MLB broadcasters caring.  I've felt they've had a very condescending attitude towards the Japanese players, fully expecting the MLB Stars to beat them handily.  I've been hearing a steady stream of excuses and alibis all week - "they're not familiar with the ballpark", "you know it's been a long time since some of these guys have played any meaningful games", and "the MLB All Stars are doing a lot of tourist-y stuff and the baseball's kind of secondary on this trip".  During yesterday's game, Paul Severino actually tried to bring up jet lag as an excuse but Daryl Hamilton pretty much shot it down.  While I agree with the folks who say that this isn't a particularly star-studded MLB line up, I also think they've run into a much better Samurai Japan team than they were expecting.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Strange BBM Timing

I usually check Discount Niki's website to see what new sets are coming down the pike (or dori in this case I guess) but I don't usually post about a BBM set until they (BBM) have put something up on their own website.  Most of the time that works pretty well, but every so often for some reason BBM doesn't put up anything on their site for a particular set until after the set gets released.  That's what's happened with this year's edition of the Classic set - it got released on Thursday (the 13th) but BBM didn't have anything on their website about it until Friday (Japan time).

This is the second edition of BBM Classic.  It's BBM's version of Topps' Heritage and/or Archive sets where current players are featured using older card formats.  The base set has 108 cards - 72 (six per team) cards of current players using the 1992 BBM format and 36 (3 per team) OB players using another card format that I don't recognize.  I'm not positive that it's actually a "classic" format - it may be new for this set.  There's several insert sets - a 12 card "Best 9" set that isn't really a "Best 9" set as it's one player per team.  The set uses the 1997 Best 9 format.  There are three other 12 card insert sets that I think may all be limited - Run Producers (based on a 1998 Diamond Heroes format), Above Average and Pitcher Perfect (both base on 1999 Diamond Heroes formats).  The big draw is the autograph cards - BBM "bought back" cards and had players sign them as well as having autographed editions of the base cards from the set.  Since the set is already out you can see all the cards over at Jambalaya (base cards here, Best 9 inserts here, rarer cards here).

BBM also put something up on their website about a new set in their "Legend" series - Carp Legend.  What's odd here is that this set isn't going to be released until late December but BBM still doesn't have anything up on their website about the Lions Legend set that's coming out next week.  Very odd.

The Carp Legend set will contain 81 cards in its base set.  72 of these cards will highlight players who played on the six pennant winning Carp teams from 1975 through 1991 (hmm, this sounds familiar).  The other nine cards will feature "All Time Carp" - significant Carp players who did not play in that era - an excuse to get a card of Kenta Maeda in the set.  I'm kind of amused that the one subset has reddish borders and the other has greenish borders - seasonal colors with a set coming out around Christmas time.  The set will also have a nine card insert set entitled 80's Best Nine and a boatload of possible autograph cards.