Thursday, June 29, 2023

More Summer Sets

I've been putting off doing a "new releases" post for over two weeks now and it seems like every time I delay it, there's news of yet another new set.  So let's get caught up before there's another announcement...

- Epoch has announced the seventh entry in their series of "Premier Edition" team sets for 2023.  The Carp set will hit the shelves on August 19th and will have a 38 card base set featuring mostly active players.  Each base set card has a holographic parallel.  The set will have the same massive amount of insert cards as all the other "Premier Edition" sets - "Regular Printed Signature (Silver)" (18 cards), "Regular Printed Signature (Gold)" (18 cards), "Regular Printed Signature (Hologram A: Silver)" (18 cards), "Regular Printed Signature (Hologram A: Gold)" (18 cards), "Regular Printed Signature Variation (Hologram A: Silver)" (9 cards), "Regular Printed Signature Variation (Hologram A: Gold)" (9 cards), "Regular Printed Signature Variation (Hologram B: Silver)" (9 cards), "Regular Printed Signature Variation (Hologram B: Gold)" (9 cards), "Metal Power (Silver)" (18 cards), "Metal Power (Gold)" (18 cards), "Metal Power (Hologram A: Silver)" (18 cards), "Metal Power (Hologram A: Gold)" (18 cards), "Metal Power (Hologram B: Silver)" (18 cards), "Metal Power (Hologram B: Gold)" (18 cards), "Time To Shine (Hologram A)" (6 cards), "Time To Shine (Hologram B)" (6 cards), "Time To Shine (Hologram C)" (6 cards), "Decomori Signature (Gold) (6 cards), "Decomori Signature (Green) (6 cards), "Decomori Signature (Hologram) (6 cards), "Gem" (6 cards) and "Black Gem" (6 cards).  It looks like there's an "Authentic" autograph card corresponding to every card in the base set along with ten "Rookie" autograph cards, six "Star" autograph cards, 29 "1-of-1" autograph cards and eight "Baseball" autograph cards.

- While I suspect that the Carp set will be the final "Premier Edition" team set for the year, Epoch is releasing the first of their ultra-high end "Stars & Legends" combination active/OB team sets.  The Tigers set will be released on August 11th and four card boxes will retail for 18,700 yen (roughly $130).  There are 65 cards in the base set and three types of insert cards - Decomori Signature (Gold) (6 cards #'d to 25), "Decomori Signature (Green) (6 cards #'d to 5), "Decomori Signature (Hologram) (6 1-of-1 cards).  There also two types of "Special" insert cards - "Gem" (9 cards serially numbered but I'm not sure to what) and "Black Gem" (9 cards #'d to 5).  There are also four types of autograph cards - "Authentic" (64 cards), "Star" (37 cards), "Legendary" (27 cards) and "Baseball" (12 cards).

- Epoch will be releasing their annual "Pacific League Rookies" box set on August 19th.  This set features all the non-ikusei draft picks from last fall's draft for the six Pacific League teams - essentially it's Epoch's version of half of "Rookie Edition".  Each box contains 37 cards - the 34 card base set plus three "special" cards.  I'm not quite sure if there's any guarantee about what "special" cards you get in the box but I think they include serially numbered parallels of the base set cards, "Gem" insert cards (six possible - I assume for the first round pick for each team) and autographed cards.  Each player has four possible autograph cards - "Authentic Silver Foil", "Authentic Hologram Foil", "1-of-1" and "Baseball".

- "Genesis", BBM's annual high end set, will be released in late September.  As usual, the base set will contain 120 cards - 108 player cards (nine per team) plus 12 overly thick checklist cards designed to feel like memorabilia cards when someone is examining an unopened pack.  As usual, no one will really care about the base set as the whole point of "Genesis" is the parallels (there are likely several for each base card although no details have been released yet), the insert cards ("Elite Of Nine", "Game Changer", "Rookie Limited" and "Combo Cross Foil Signing"), the autograph cards, the memorabilia cards and the combination autograph/memorabilia cards.  The webpage lists a dizzying array of autograph and/or memorabilia cards for many of the NPB stars - I think the one I find most intriguing is a "super patch booklet card" for Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Roki Ssaki although I think that might be just a wee bit out of my price range.

- The second part of the Eagle team issued set - 2nd Version - was released last Friday.  The base set has 82 cards - one card for every player on the 70 man roster as well as the ikusei players (all members of the team as of April).  There's also two checklist cards that are numbered separately.  Each base set cards has three parallels - silver facsimile signature, gold facsimile signature and red facsimile signature (which is 1-of-1).  There are three different insert sets - "Tohoku Stronghold" (six cards with a die-cut parallel version), "Rising Eagles" (nine cards) and "Stars Of Tohoku" (eight cards).  There are ten different "Rookie Bib" memorabilia cards and every player in the set has an autographed card.  Jambalaya has the cards online if you want to see them.

- BBM and the Lions have once again teamed up to produce the "L Collection Vol. 1" set (not sure why they call it "Vol. 1" every year when I've never seen a Vol. 2).  I couldn't find information about this set on the Lions website but Jambalaya has most of the cards up.  The base set appears to have either 35 or 36 cards - the cards are numbered 1 to 36 but Jambalaya doesn't have card #22 listed.  I'm not sure if it's because they don't have it or if it was not issued.  There are also 12 insert cards.  None of the players in the insert cards have a card in the base set and as you'd expect, they're the bigger names from the team - Sosuke Genda, Shuta Tonosaki, Takeya Nakamura, Kona Takahashi, Kaima Taira, Takumi Kuriyama and manager Kazuo Matsui.

- Another team issued set I couldn't find any information about on the team's website is for the Fighters' cheerleading/dance squad.  The "Fighters Girls 37card" set came out a few weeks ago but I really don't know anything more about it than the 20 cards for it that Jambalaya has on their site.  To be honest, I don't even know if there's only 20 cards in the set since I really have no idea how big many Fighters girls there are.

- SCC's first KBO set of the year was released last week and Dan Skrezyna (Korean Cardboard) tweeted the details.  It's called "Rainbow Draft" and it has a 108 card base set.  35 of the cards also have a "Base Holo" version, 40 have both a "Check" and a "Check Holo" version and 35 have "Rookie Blue", "Rookie Green", "Rookie Orange", "Rookie Rainbow" and "Rookie Red" versions.  All 108 players have autograph cards and it appears that there are three different varieties of those.  There are also 35 "Printing Plates".  Dan's put the set's checklist up at the Trading Card Database.  It appears to be very weighed towards younger players rather than the established KBO stars - for example, Lee Jung-hoo is not in the set.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Another Suruga-ya Order

Last week I placed another order with the online store Suruga-ya.  I'd found some stuff I was interested in but I was balking at paying $20-ish for shipping for just a handful of cards.  But then I remembered that Jason had said something to me when I had done my last order that he'd be willing to split the shipping costs with me on my next order if we included some cards he wanted as well.  I got in contact with him to see if he still wanted to do that and he did.  He sent me a list of cards he wanted, I added to the order and we split the shipping cost.  Now granted $10 for eight cards in my case is still on the high side but it's better than $20.

I thought I'd do a quick rundown of what I got.  These first two cards were the only ones that were actually on my want list, a pair of BBM team set cards:

2008 BBM Dragons #D11

2004 BBM Tigers #T30

I was especially interested in getting the Irabu card as I've just recently become aware of how few cards he had during his two seasons with the Tigers in 2003-04.  He didn't appear in BBM's flagship set for either year, just their All Stars and Nippon Series sets for 2003 along with the Tigers box set(s) for winning the Central League pennant that year.  I think he only has one Calbee card during that stretch - a 2004 card celebrating him winning a monthly MVP award the previous year.

I decided to supplement my order with some Takeya Nakamura cards.  I don't try to get all the cards of any particular player but if I did, it would probably be for Nakamura.  I picked up five cards for him - three photo variants from 2017 Epoch sets along with two cards celebrating him winning a Best 9 award - 2009 BBM 1st Version and 2019 Konami Baseball Collection:

2017 Epoch Lions #24 Variant 2

2017 Epoch Pacific League #32 Variant 1

2017 Epoch Pacific League #32 Variant 2

2019 Konami Baseball Collection #2019C9-P-L060-00

2009 BBM 1st Version #BN05

The 2009 BBM card is shiny so it didn't scan very well.

In case you're interested, here's what all three versions of both 2017 Epoch Nakamura cards look like:

2017 Epoch Lions #24

2017 Epoch Pacific League #32

The last card I got was a Giants Winning Game card from 2012 that celebrates Hirokazu Sawamura pitching in over 200 innings.  It's got a "holo" finish on the front so it doesn't scan well either:

Monday, June 26, 2023

2023 Topps WBC Stars

The latest Topps offering of World Baseball Classic cards is the WBC Stars set.  This is actually a 60 card insert set distributed with the Topps Series 2 set that came out earlier this month.  So far these are the only WBC cards this year that can be pulled out of a pack.  Each card has five different parallel versions - blue, black (#'d to 299), Gold (#'d to 75), Red (#'d to 10) and Platinum (1 of 1).  I think there are also autographed versions available although I don't know any details about them.

Despite having more cards that the Global Stars set this set has few teams from the tournament represented - just 14 of the 20 teams.  Like the other set, China, Taiwan, Australia and Nicaragua are no-shows along with the Czech Republic and Panama.  There's a player from Colombia though which Global Stars did not have.  Team USA has the most cards with 13, followed by the Dominican Republic (9), Japan and Mexico (7 each), Venezuela (6), Puerto Rico (5) and Korea (3).  Canada, Italy and the Netherlands each have two and Colombia, Cuba, Great Britain and Israel each have just a single card.

All seven of the Japanese players appeared in the Global Stars set although Lars Nootbaar was only in the "Flags Of A Nation" insert set.  Here are all seven Samurai Japan cards:








Two of the three Korean players appeared in the Global Stars set.  This is the only WBC card for the other one, Tommy Edman.  Here's the three Korean players:




I've got kind of mixed feelings about this set.  I don't like the design much as I feel having the country name in big letters across the middle of the card along with the flag background for the top of the card really gives it a cluttered look.  On the other hand, the set reflects what actually happened at the tournament both in the text on the cards and the player selection (Trea Turner is in this set but not Global Stars because no one predicted he'd hit five home runs during the WBC.  Compare the text on the back of Masataka Yoshida's card from this set to his Global Stars card and you'll see what I mean:


Global Stars #43

If someone could create a hybrid set with the fronts of the Global Stars cards and the text from the backs of these cards, I think I'd be really happy.  It's more doable than you'd think because there are 37 players who appear in both this set and the Global Stars base set (and it's 38 if you count Lars Nootbaar's Global Stars insert card).

I don't know if Topps is planning any additional WBC related cards this year.  We've already seen 227 cards between the 73 Topps Now cards, the 12 card Topps Now All Tournament Team set, the 12 card Topps Now WBC Champions set, the 70 card (base set plus inserts) Global Stars set and the 60 cards in this set which is over 100 more than we saw for the 2017 WBC.  And that's not even including the on demand 30-ish card Samurai Japan set that was sold by Topps Japan back in April.  It's possible though that Topps might slip some memorabilia cards into some of their products this year so it's probably worth keeping an eye out for them just in case.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

2023 Topps Global Stars

In addition to the Topps Now cards, Topps issued another set for the World Baseball Classic back in March.  Well, they had them on sale on line back in March but the physical cards did not get mailed out to the folks that ordered them until the end of May.  The set is called Global Stars and it consists of a 50 card base set and 20 card insert set (Flags Of A Nation).  There were also autographed cards available and the usual gazillion parallels - the base cards had nine different parallels, the inserts had four different ones and the autographed cards had six different ones.

Unlike the Topps Now cards which had card representing 19 of the 20 teams from the tournament (all but China), the Global Stars base set only has cards from 15 teams - China, Taiwan, Australia, Nicaragua and Colombia are all excluded.  Japan and the Dominican Republic have the most cards with ten each, followed by the US (7), Puerto Rico and Venezuela (4 each) and Cuba, Italy, Korea, Mexico and the Netherlands (2 each).  Canada, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Israel and Panama are each represented with a single card.

The ten members of Samurai Japan in the set include two players who were not on any of the Topps Now cards (including the 12 card "WBC Champions" set) - Ryoji Kurabayashi and Hiroto Takahashi.  Here's all ten cards:











The two Korean players were Kim Ha-seong and Lee Jung-hoo.  I was surprised that Lee did not appear in the Topps Now set since he's going to be posted at the end of the year (especially since he hit .429 in the tournament) but I suppose Korea's quick exit from the tournament again played a role in that.  Here are the two Korean cards:



The 20 card "Flags Of A Nation" insert set represents 12 countries with the Czech Republic, Mexico and Panama being left out (along the other five left out of the base set).  Japan has the most cards with 5 followed by the Dominican Republic (4) and the US (2).  All the other countries only have one card.  The five Japanese players include one who was not in the base set - Lars Nootbaar.  This is the only player in the insert set who is not in the base set.  Here's four of the five Japanese cards and the one Korean card (I have not gotten the Ohtani Flags card yet):






Here's what the back of one of the base cards looks like.  The backs of the inserts look pretty much the same with the addition of the country's flag in the upper left corner:


I like this set for the most part.  I think the design of the base cards is attractive and Topps used a nice variety of photos.  I'm a little less enamored of the "Flags Of A Nation" inserts but they're not bad.  I think the one thing that annoys me about this set is that despite it being published two months after the WBC ended, it doesn't actually reflect any events from the tournament (for example the text on the back of Yoshida's card I showed above doesn't mention his record setting 13 RBIs in the Classic).  In fact, the text on several of the cards implies that the WBC hasn't been played yet - Lee Jung-hoo's insert card says "One of the country's finest hitters will help to turn around his team's recent luck in the tournament and propel them to the later rounds."  Sadly, no, that didn't happen.  I doubt that many of the photos were actually taken during the tournament - most of the ones on the Samurai Japan cards look like they were taken outside and Samurai Japan played no outside games during the Classic - all their games were either in Tokyo Dome or the Marlins' domed ballpark.  My guess is that a bunch of these were from their training camp in Miyazaki.

It's also kind of odd that Kurabayashi was included in the set as he got injured and was replaced by Soichiro Yamazaki without throwing a pitch in the tournament.  Just another indication that the set was decided on and laid out before the WBC even started.

The set was sold in boxes containing 20 cards in all - 16 base set cards, 2 inserts and 2 parallels.  I had originally not planned on buying a box of these back in March but I ultimately relented and bought one.  The expected arrival date for my box was May 30th, the day before I was leaving on a 12 day vacation.  The actual delivery data ended up being June 1st but I wasn't too worried about it because we had someone stopping by the house to feed the cat and I knew she'd bring in any packages.  The downside though was that I didn't know which cards I had until I got back from vacation so I wasn't able to start the process of tracking down cards on Ebay to complete the set until then,  It didn't take me too long to nearly complete the set (just need that Ohtani insert) and it wasn't TOO terribly expensive (although the Ohtani is likely to run me nearly as much as I spent for the rest of the base set).  I may try to make back some of the money I spent by trying to sell the two parallel cards I got in my box - a "black" parallel of Ohtani (unnumbered) and an "aqua blue" one of Julio Urias (#'d to 99):



Card of The Week June 25

Interleague play wrapped up last week with the Baystars being dubbed the champs - they tied for best record (11-7) with the Giants, Hawks and Buffaloes and won via the tiebreaker rules.  Somewhat surprisingly however, the interleague MVP did not come from DeNA but from Yomiuri.  It's only the second time the MVP didn't come from the interleague "champ" - the other was 2018 when the Swallows won interleague but Masataka Yoshida of the Buffaloes won MVP.  This year's MVP is Kazuma Okamoto so here's his Rookie Edition promo card from Sports Card Magazine #109, published in January of 2015 - it's a silver facsimile signature parallel version:

2015 SCM #302

Thursday, June 22, 2023

KBO Stars In NPB

A couple weeks ago, Yakyu Cosmopolitan tweeted the following regarding Lee Jung-hoo's future:

That tweet got me thinking - how many KBO superstars moved to Japan to play in NPB and who was the last one to do so?  I sat down and did some research and I came up with a list of twelve Korean players who started their careers in KBO and then moved to NPB.  Now note how I phrased that - I specifically am not counting Korean players like Park Chan-ho and Kim Byung-hyun who played in MLB before playing in either NPB or KBO and I'm also not counting foreign players like Tyrone Woods who played in KBO before coming to NPB.

The first KBO superstar to move to Japan was Sun Dong-yol who signed with the Chunichi Dragons for the 1996 season.  The last KBO stars to play in NPB were Lee Dae-ho and Oh Seung-hwan in 2015.  Since then, six other KBO stars have left Korea to go directly to MLB - Park Byung-ho and Kim Hyun-soo in 2016, Hwang Jae-gyun in 2017, Kim Kwang-hyun in 2020 and Yang Hyeon-jong and Kim Ha-seong in 2021.  Prior to 2016 I believe there had been only two KBO players who joined MLB teams without having played in NPB first - Ryu Hyun-jin in 2013 and Kang Jung-ho in 2015.  So Yakyu  Cosmopolitan was right - KBO stars used to come to NPB regularly but now they're bypassing the league to go to MLB.

I thought I'd round this post off with the cards of all twelve KBO players who played in NPB in more or less chronological order.  My goal was to show a KBO card of the player from before they came to NPB and then an NPB card but I was thwarted in two cases - I don't have any KBO cards of Sun Dong-yol and the only KBO cards I have for Kim Tae-kyun are from after his stint in NPB.

Sun Dong-yol Chunichi Dragons 1996-99

1999 BBM #101

Lee Sang-hoon (Samson) Chunichi Dragons 1998-99

1994 Teleca Twins #47

1999 BBM #61

Lee Jong-beom Chunichi Dragons 1998-2001

1994 Teleca #18

2000 BBM #404

Koo Dae-Sung Orix BlueWave 2001-04

2000 Teleca #78

2001 BBM Late Series #603

Chung Min-tae Yomiuri Giants 2001-02

1999 Teleca #181

2002 BBM Central League Champion Giants #YG12

Lee Seung-Yeop Chiba Lotte Marines 2004-05, Yomiuri Giants 2006-10, Orix Buffaloes 2011

1999 Teleca Premium #52

2007 Calbee #TR-10

Lee Byung-kyu Chunichi Dragons 2007-09

1999 Teleca #114

2007 BBM Dragons #D079

Lim Chong-yong Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2008-12

2000 Teleca #59

2010 Bandai Owners League 02 #031

Kim Tae-kyun Chiba Lotte Marines 2010-11

2014 Superstar Baseball Season One #SBC01-113

2011 BBM Marines #M56

Lee Bum-ho Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 2010

2000 Teleca #R9

2010 BBM Hawks #H46

Lee Dae-ho Orix Buffaloes 2012-13, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 2014-15

2010 KBO Game Set #AL-006

2013 Calbee #AS-16

Oh Seung-hwan Hanshin Tigers 2014-15

2010 KBO Game Set #AS-004

2014 Calbee #137

Nine of the twelve players ranked on the "KBO 40 Legends" list, a ranking done last year of the top 40 players in the first 40 years of the KBO's existence.  Two of the other three players (Lee Dae-ho and Oh Seung-hwan) were still active last season and therefore ineligible for the list.

Five of the players used their time in NPB as a springboard to head to MLB - Lee Sang-hoon, Koo Dae-sung, Lim Chang-yong, Lee Dae-ho and Oh Seung-hwan.  Six of the remaining seven players returned to KBO after their NPB stint with the other - Sun Dong-yol - retiring rather than returning.