Posted: 10:00 a.m. Sunday, May 19, 2013
When I got back into the hobby in late 2005, I was in absolute awe at the number and types of sets that were being produced. As it was all new to me, I was a bit irrational in some of my purchasing decisions. I made an attempt to buy a box of almost everything that wasn’t super high end as soon as it came out. I quickly became a favorite of the card shop near me. I then discovered Dave & Adam and Blowout Cards and abandoned the shop for the cheaper internet, but saving money just allowed me to buy additional boxes.
When Topps took the Bowman brand out of mothballs in 1989, I have to admit, I was less than impressed. I thought the cards were ugly and the ones I decided to keep were a pain because they wouldn’t fit into any of the standard boxes or pages that I had. That was fine for pre–1957 cards, but it was simply annoying for these ugly new cards. I can’t recall when Topps decided to brand Bowman the “Home of the Rookie Card”, but it was long before I got back into the hobby. When I left the hobby, it was that first base card that was a really big deal. When I came back, it was the Bowman Chrome rookie, preferably signed.
I spent two years buying a lot of boxes of the big three Bowman products (Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects). I’m a set collector by heart so I sorted each set by card number and put them in boxes. They then set there and the vast majority of those cards are sitting there now. Turns out, I don’t really like the Bowman sets. The cards themselves are attractive, but as far as design goes, they change too little from year to year. The designs aren’t distinctive enough to stretch across three different product lines.
A bigger problem for me is the checklist. If you get to see a lot of minor league games, you might love this set. Bowman is full of minor leaguers. When I open a pack, especially of Draft Picks and Prospects, I’m left scratching my head at each of the names. The vast majority are people I’ve never heard of. Of course, that’s to be expected of any set dedicated to minor league prospects. I love minor league baseball. I love it when the different Braves top prospect lists come out each year. That said, I’m not interested in collecting sets full of players I won’t remember in a few years. The thrill of an older baseball card set is leafing through the pages of a set in a binder and seeing the history of the game unfold. With Bowman, I can’t do that. Bowman just confuses me.
Topps just released their first Bowman set of 2013 and for Braves collectors, there’s not a lot here. The set itself is mostly the same as it ever was, with additional gimmicks to make up for what is widely considered a week autograph checklist. The base set comes in at 220 cards featuring major league players. Their is also a 110 card prospect list that are technically inserts, but are realistically, considered a part of the set. The prospects are available in Chrome parallels, which are also the beginning of the Bowman Chrome prospect parallel set that will be continued when 2013 Bowman Chrome is released. The base cards and prospect cards are available with the usual variety of colored borders allowing the collector to build a rainbow of their favorite player or team.
There are other notable insert sets and gimmicks. The Topps 100 prospect insert set has been continued in 2013. This set features a card for each of Bowman’s Top 100 prospects in baseball, in order. Debuting this year is 2013 Bowman Blue Sapphire Best Players of All Time. This insert set features shiny reprints of top players first Bowman card and will be continued throughout all of the Bowman products this season. Topps has produced a series of Blue Wave Refractors which can only be obtained by redeeming wrappers. Finally, Topps has created a list of the top 5 prospects in each organization and created a series of Bowman Chrome Prospect Mini cards. You should be able to find a mini in about every six packs.
The base set features the usual array of Braves that you would expect, with a notable exception or two. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is the most notable starter not included among the base set players. (At this point, Topps should really consider including Simba over Dan Uggla, although, they should both appear in every base set.) Each of the base cards is relatively nice, but none are especially memorable. They feature the same crisp, bring photography that you can find in all of the Topps sets these days.
The Braves didn’t exactly rack up a lot of hits in the prospect insert set. The only Braves included are Christhian Bethancourt and Jose Peraza. Both are worthy inclusions, but it would have been especially nice to have seen Evan Gattis get an autographed Bowman prospect card. With Gattis on the major league roster to stay, I would think Bowman Chrome would be the last shot for a Gattis Bowman prospect card of any sort. While two players makes for a week checklist for the Braves, I’m sure there will be plenty of additional players included in the remaining Bowman sets.
There are only two Braves hits in Bowman this year. There’s not a single relic featuring any of the Braves players. The Braves are not included on the Rookie Autograph checklist. They are not included on any of the special, rare, weird autographs like the Dual Franchise autograph. There is a rare Hank Aaron Blue Sapphire auto, and chances are you won’t ever see one. Even if we do see one on the market, I doubt most of us could afford it. The hit that can be found is a Christhian Bethancourt autograph. You can see the card pictured here. Well, you can see the hit you would actually pull from a pack since the only obtainable Braves auto in Bowman this year is a redemption. Better yet, the redemption codes still haven’t been loaded into the Topps system so who knows when I will ever see the card. (Actually, I’ve been waiting on a 2011 Jason Heyward/Freddie Freeman dual relic box loader from 2011 for two years now, so I’ll be shocked if I even get the card.)
Bowman gets mini cards this year, for which exactly no one was asking. Still, since the set includes five players for every team, it does give a team collector some cards to chase. The cards themselves are attractive, but there’s no real reason they had to be mini. The Braves list includes Julio Teheran, Sean Gilmartin, Lucas Sims and J.R. Graham, along with Bethancourt. You can see the four I’ve picked up so far. The Braves are also well-featured in the Blue Sapphire Best Players of All Time set. The three Braves included, Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn, are undoubtedly among the greatest players of all time and belong in the set. The problem is that the cards are among the ugliest I’ve ever seen. Some older designs work really well when they are presented in shiny fashion with colored borders, but these do not. The Spahn card is overwhelmed by the blue borders. The Aaron just looks ridiculous with the blue obscuring the wood borders of the original. The Mathews is the best of the bunch, but it is also flawed. If Topps had just left the borders blue, the cards might have been tolerable. As it is, the blue tint is applied over the photo and they are among the most overwhelmingly ugly cards I’ve ever laid eyes on. I’m all for getting new Aaron, Mathews and Spahn cards, but I could have lived without these.
So, basically 2013 Bowman is the same as 2012 Bowman and 2011 Bowman, but with minis. If you collect minor league cards, then the set is for you. If you like to get prospect autographs yourself, they buy it up. The rest of us would be better served by just picking up the Braves cards we want.
How many names do you remember on the following lists? Topps did better some years than others, clearly, at pulling names who “made it” in the big leagues. There are a lot of names here I simply can’t remember. This list is more about who was chosen and not so much about who was not chosen. It might look like Topps missed an obvious top prospect here, but they might have picked them up in Bowman Chrome or Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects.
2000: Pat Manning, Marcus Giles, Rafael Furcal, Jimmy Osting, Troy Cameron, Ryan Langerhans, Derrin Ebert, Matt Belisle, Junior Brignac, George Lombard, Nick Green, Luis Rivera, Jason Marquis, Scott Sobkowiak, Jung Bong
2007: NONE! (Two doesn’t look so bad now, does it?)
2008:Josh Anderson, Jamie Richmond, Jonathan Venters, Quentin Davis