Sunday, October 30, 2022

Card Of The Week October 30

The 2022 Nippon Series wrapped up today and the Orix Buffaloes defeated the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 5-4 to win the Series 4 games to 2.  It was the first title for the franchise since 1996 when they were called the BlueWave.

BBM used to issue a box set for the Nippon Series from 1991 until 2012 that included all the players who appeared in the Series as well as cards for the the Series MVP, the "Fighting Spirit" award winner (kind of a "MVP for the losing team" award) and the three "Outstanding Player" award winners.  Since BBM no longer publishes this set, I've been featuring those award winners in the first "Card Of The Week" post following the end of the Series since 2014 (since I didn't know they weren't going to do a set in 2013):

Series MVP Yutaro Sugimoto (2019 Calbee Series Two #C-07)

"Fighting Spirit" Jose Osuna (2021 BBM Swallows #S51)

"Outstanding Player" Sachiya Yamasaki (2022 BBM Buffaloes #MG1)

"Outstanding Player" Masataka Yoshida (2019 Orix Team Set #34)

"Outstanding Player" Yasutaka Shiomi (2022 Calbee "Clutch Hitter" #CL-01)

2022 Topps NPB Set

Sorry for the lapse in posts for the last week - I was away from home part of the time and recovering from being away the rest of the time.  I've got two more sets that I got a few weeks back to write about so let's knock one of those off now...

Topps' second NPB set was released in early September.  Like last year's set, this year's edition has a 216 card base set split evenly into 18 cards per team.  Again like last year, the design of the front of the card is similar to Topps' "flagship" MLB set - the big difference is that Topps moved their logo from the top of the photo on the MLB cards to the baseball on the bottom left of the card on the NPB cards (where the team logo appears on the MLB cards) and moved the team logo on the NPB cards to the bottom of the photo. 

The set itself is...OK.  I don't dislike it as much as I disliked last year's set (putting it on my top ten list of worst NPB sets) but I can't say I'm overly fond of it either.  I will say that I think these cards look better than last years - especially since the player names are much easier to read.  I had initially thought the photo selection was pretty good but after having the set in hand I'm not quite as sure.  While there are some good photos in the set and the variety of poses is probably better than either this year's Calbee or Epoch "flagship" sets (which isn't saying much), there still seem to be an awful lot of "batters batting, pitchers pitching and catchers catching" cards.  Topps does do a lot of horizontally oriented cards which I really missed from Calbee's offerings this year - I feel like those can really break up the monotony of repeated poses.

The player selection is a little odd.  Topps cut WAY back on the number of "rookies" in the set (in this case by "rookie" I mean 2021 draft picks) - there's only 34 instead of the 60 there were last year (of course last year had a pretty awesome rookie class).  There are no "new for 2022" foreign players in the set - in fact there's only 11 foreign players in all.  With the size of the set being smaller than BBM's 1st & 2nd Version sets it's no surprise that there's some significant players missing from it - off hand the biggest names are probably Ayumu Ishikawa, Go Matsumoto and Shota Imanaga.  Oddly enough though there's several players in Topps' set who aren't in BBM's "flagship" sets - the biggest names being Shintaro Fujinami, Kosuke Tanaka and Seiichi Uchikawa.  

One major addition to this year's set were cards for the managers of all twelve teams.  This is kind of odd considering how few cards are in the set to begin with and the fact that Topps hasn't included manager cards in their MLB "flagship" since 2010-ish.  I'd be willing to bet that they did it just to include this photo in the set:


Here's some example cards - you can tell I liked the cards with the horizontal format:








I'm amused that while BBM put a similar image to this on their "ultra secret version" photo variation for Roki Sasaki in this year's 2nd Version set but Topps is just using it as his regular card (not that I want Topps to start doing photo variations in the NPB set!):


There's some baffling decisions Topps made with this set.  Consider this card of Akira Neo:


That's a great photo of Neo.  There's just one issue - Neo isn't an outfielder anymore.  He switched to being a pitcher in June, almost three months before this set was released.  Topps could have been the first company to issue a "regular" card of Neo as a pitcher but they didn't - BBM's Fusion set will probably have that honor (although there's been at least one Epoch One card as well as a Calbee checklist card).

The card backs are the most inexplicable thing about this set though.  Like last year, Topps appears to have put very little effort into these:

#23 (Hayato Sakamoto)

Basic biographical information and one year's worth of stats along with a big team logo.  And the managers don't even get the biographical information.  I could understand this last year when Topps pushed a set out about two months after they signed their licensing deal but they had all year to come up with something in this case.  

I think Zippy Zappy had the best comment on this set when he tweeted out a while back  "This whole set reeks of 'we got the licensing deal done, let's just pump something out'. Like they already know the market already has established brands and options so they're just putting this out with only the bare minimum of effort and seeing what happens."  Both he and Sean have done posts on the set and both are more critical of it than I am - although I don't disagree with anything either of them has said.

You can take a look at all the cards in the set over at Jambalaya.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Card Of The Week October 23

Having another busy weekend and it'll continue into the first half of the week so I'm just going to show off a card of Kazuhiro Kiyohara that I picked up recently.  I'm not much of a fan of BBM's "high end" sets - Diamond Heroes, Touch The Game and Genesis - and in particular I never liked the 2000 Diamond Heroes set very much as I thought the "battery acid on a circuit board" background was kind of ugly.  But something about this card of Kiyohara (#153) appealed to me when I saw it on Ebay and I picked it up.  I guess it just looks like he's enjoying himself.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

2022 NPB Draft

NPB held its annual draft today and as usual I took a look to see who already had baseball cards.  There still haven't been any collegiate cards published in Japan that I know about since BBM's final set for the Tokyo big Six back in 2013 but Panini included autographed memorabilia cards of the 2018 and 2019 Japanese Collegiate National Team in their USA Baseball Stars & Stripes sets in 2019 and 2020 respectively (along with a non-memorabilia version of the cards in 2019) and this is now the fifth year that players from those teams have been drafted.  As always I'm using Deanna's draft post as a reference although I also used the Japanese wikipedia page for the draft since at the time I was writing this post, Deanna hadn't added the ikusei rounds of the draft yet.

There were three players from these sets drafted.  One of the players - Ryosuke Kodama - was actually a member of both the 2018 and 2019 teams.  He's the fifth and final player who appeared on both teams to be drafted (following Hiromi Itoh, Masato Morishita, Toshiya Sato and Takashi Umino).  The other two players were both on the 2019 team and were the last two players on that team still in college.  Here's all three players:

Ryosuke Kodama, Kyushu Sangyo University/Osaka Gas, Lions #6

Shota Morishita, Chuo University, Tigers #1

Mikiya Tanaka, Asia University, Dragons #6

If it's not clear, Kodama had attended Kyushu Sangyo University but played for Osaka Gas for a couple years after graduating.

There are now only ten players from the two sets - 7 from the 2019 set and 3 from the 2020 set - who have not been drafted.

I should mention that there's a fourth player who was drafted today who also already has baseball cards - Gosuke Katoh, who is currently in the Mets organization, was taken in the third round by the Fighters.  I haven't heard if he has any intentions of playing in NPB but you figure the Fighters probably know something that the rest of us don't.  Anyway, he's been playing in MLB organizations for about 10 years now so he has a bunch of baseball cards already (although no Japanese cards).

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

2022 Calbee Series Three

Calbee's third "set" of the year - Series Three - was released about six weeks ago now and I got my copy in the mail with the other sets I've been writing about lately about two weeks ago.  As you might guess from the name, this "set" is a continuation of Calbee's set for the year which was started in Series One in March and continued in Series Two in June. The base set for Series Three consists of 88 cards - 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 145 to 216), 12 "Exciting Scene" cards and four checklist cards (numbered C-09 to C-12).

If you've read my posts about the two previous Series this year then you'll know that I was pretty critical of Calbee's photo selection for their "regular" cards.  Unfortunately it really didn't improve a whole lot with Series Three - still way too many "batters batting, pitchers pitching and catcher catching" poses.  And there were no horizontally formatted cards either, meaning that none of the three Series this year had any.  Since the Series is just a third of the complete set it doesn't have all the NPB stars but it does have regular cards for Yuki Yangita, Daichi Ohsera, Koji Chikamoto, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Yutaro Sugimoto, Yuma Mune, Hotaka Yamakawa, Yasuhiro Ogawa, Shugo Maki and Kazuma Okamoto.  It also has the first card of Shogo Akiyama with the Carp, the team he signed with after he returned to Japan from the US in mid-season.  The set also includes a couple new foreign players - Gregory Polanco, Adam Walker, Jose Marmolejos and Arimendy Alcantara - and a couple rookies - Natsuo Takizawa, Shunsuke Sato, Koki Kitayama and Taisei (Ota).  It looks like there's only six players with "regular" cards in this set that also had "regular" cards in one of the two previous sets - that's a lot less than normal.  For example, last year there were 27 guys in Series Three who had appeared in either Series One or Two.

Here's some example cards - I used some of the better photos:

#164 (Shogo Akiyama)

#159 (Gregory Polanco)

#178 (Yasuaki Yamasaki)

#188 (Shogo Nakamura)

#145 (Jose Osuna)

#181 (Yuma Mune)

The "Exciting Scene" subset highlights 12 significant events (1 per team) from the first half of the season (roughly).  This includes events like Kazuma Okamoto's 150th home run, the no-hitter Yudai Ohno lost in the 10th inning and Takeya Nakamura moving into the top 15 career NPB home run leaders (he's actually in 14th place now) but my favorite cards in this subset are for the four no-hitters that were thrown before the end of June - Roki Sasaki's perfect game along with no-no's for Nao Higashihama, Shota Imanaga and Yoshinobu Yamamoto:

#ES-06, ES-07

#ES-08, ES-10

 The checklist cards as usual feature probably the best photos of the entire set.  The cards commemorate some more early season highlights including Akira Neo's pitching debut; Chusei Mannami's 10th inning home run on April 17th against the Marines which was the Fighter's only hit in Roki Sasaki's first game after his perfect game; Hiromu Ise's 21 consecutive scoreless inning streak and Tatsushi Matsuda's 150th save.  Here's the Neo card:


All the cards can be seen over at Jambalaya.

Monday, October 17, 2022

2022 BBM Roki Sasaki - Perfect Game

In late August BBM published a box set celebrating Roki Sasaki's perfect game from last April.  Entitled descriptively but unimaginably* "Roki Sasaki - Perfect Game", the box contained an 18 card base set along with a bonus card which could be an insert card, an autograph card or a memorabilia card.  I picked up an opened box containing just the base set and it was one of the sets I got in the mail a week or so ago.

*Not that the person who called his blog "Japanese Baseball Cards" should really be criticizing anyone else for using an unimaginative name...

This is kind of a cool little set.  Cards #1-9 feature each inning Sasaki threw in his perfect game.  The fronts of these cards show a photo of Sasaki pitching - presumably in the featured inning - and the backs have a pitch by pitch breakdown of the inning.  Here's the front and backs of the cards for the third and ninth innings:

The backs of the remaining cards in the set all feature various aspects of the game.  Card #10 breaks down the Marines' offense in the game (and has catcher Kou Matsukawa on the front).  Card #11 has the box score of the game.  Card #12 lists the 13 consecutive strikeouts Sasaki registered while #13 highlights all 19 he had in the game.  Card #14 details the 26 consecutive innings (over four games) that he had at least one strikeout while #15 highlights his 17 consecutive perfect innings by listing every perfect game in NPB history along with how the pitcher did in their next outing.  Both of these cards feature photos of Sasaki from his start on April 17th, his next start after the perfect game in which he threw eight perfect innings before being lifted for a reliever.  Card #16 highlights the fact that it had been 28 years since the last perfect game in NPB, the longest gap in league history.  Card #17 commemorates Sasaki and Matsukawa being the youngest battery to have a perfect game by listing the pitcher and catcher for each perfect game in NPB history along with their respective ages.  The front of this card shows both Sasaki and Matuskawa.  Card #18 lists all the "putouts" in the game by Matsukawa which pretty much is all the strikeouts plus one foul popup that he caught - the front of the card shows him catching this ball.  Here's the front and back of a few of these cards:









If you were counting along, you'll have seen that there are 15 cards showing Sasaki, two cards showing Matsukawa and one card showing both of them.  You can see the fronts of all the cards over at Jambalaya.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Card Of The Week October 16

The participants for the 2022 Nippon Series have been determined and for the second year in a row it's the Swallows and the Buffaloes.  The Swallows completed their sweep of the Tigers on Friday to cinch their role as the Central League representative but the Buffaloes needed one more day to knock off the Hawks after Softbank beat them on Friday behind the pitching of Kodai Senga.  Orix took an early lead on a two run home run by Masataka Yoshida yesterday but the Hawks tied it in the seventh on a two run shot from Alfredo Despaigne.  The game remained tied into the bottom of the ninth when the Buffaloes had runners on second and third with two outs and Keita Nakagawa at the plate.  Nakagawa hit a ground ball just past a diving Hikaru Kawase and into left field to bring in the Series winning run:

Here's Nakagawa's card from the 2020 Epoch Buffaloes Rookies & Stars set (#27):

Saturday, October 15, 2022

2022 BBM Swallows History 1950-2022

BBM issued the "Swallows History 1950-2022" set back in late August.  This is the seventh in their OB team "history" sets going back the past few years.  Following the lead of the previous sets, this set has 90 cards in its base set split into three categories - "Swallows History", OB players and active players.

The Swallows entered professional baseball in 1950 as the Kokutetsu Swallows.  Kokutetsu sold the team to Sankei in early 1965 and from May 10th of that year to the end of the season the team was known as the Sankei Swallows.  Sankei then renamed the team the Sankei Atoms due to the popularity of the "Mighty Atom" anime (known in the West as "Astro Boy").  In 1969, Sankei jointly ran the team with Yakult and the team was known simply as the Atoms.  Yakult took over full ownership of the team in 1970 and the team became the Yakult Atoms.  In 1974 Yakult reverted the nickname back and the team became the Yakult Swallows.  In 2006 the team prepended their host city to the name to become the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

There are seven "Swallows History" cards.  Each covers a 9 to 12 year period in the team's history between their founding in 1950 up until last year.  The front of each card shows some highlight of the stretch of years the card covers while the backs list the team's finish in each year of the featured time period.  Here's the card commemorating the years between 1961 and 1970 - not entirely sure if these are Sankei or Yakult Atoms:


The bulk of the set is the 71 OB player cards.  I'm pretty sure these are all retired players - I don't think there are any former Swallows players who are still active with other teams.  As usual the player selection is heavy on players from the 1970's and later and particularly heavy on players who are still alive and can sign autographs.  There's only two OB players in the set who have passed away - Masaichi Kaneda and Katsuya Nomura (who managed the team from 1990-98).  There are four Kokutetsu Swallows included in the set - Kaneda, Yukihiko Machida, Genjiro Murata and Sadayuki Tokutake - but no Atoms.  Everyone else in the set is a Swallow.  The OB cards pretty much include all the big names that you'd expect - Tsutomu Wakamatsu, Toru Sugiura, Takhiro Ikeyama, Atsuya Furuta, Akihiko Ohya, Atsunori Inaba, Shinya Miyamoto, Kazuhisa Ishii, Akinori Iwamura, Shingo Takatsu and Kazuhiro Hatakeyama.  The biggest name that was missing that I could think of is Katsuo Ohsugi.  There's only one foreign player - Alex Ramirez - so guys like Dave Hilton, Jack Howell, Tom O'Malley, Roberto Petagine and Bob Horner don't appear.   Three players - Murata, Kunio Fukutomi and Tetsuo Nishii - appear to have their first ever BBM card in this set.

The cards themselves are gorgeous.  Once again BBM has found a lot of great photos with a nice of posed and action shots.  There's only maybe two black and white photos.  The cards use pretty much the same design as the other History sets.  Here's a bunch of examples:









BBM has made a bit of a departure from the previous sets in how they're handing the 12 active player cards.  Instead of using essentially the same design as the OB cards but with a tinted background, these cards use a completely different design.  The 12 active players include Munetaka Murakami, Tetsuto Yamada, Norichika Aoki, Yasuhiro Ogawa, Yasunobu Okugawa, Yuheo Nakamura, Shingo Kawabata and Masanori Ishikawa.  Here are the cards for Ishikawa and Yamada:



You can see all the cards in the set over at Jambalaya.