Featured card: 2011 Topps Lineage #93, Roy Oswalt
Topps finally did it. Less than two full years after Major League Baseball handed back to them their monopoly on baseball cards, Topps finally put out a set that proves that they don’t give a shit about the quality of the product they’re crapping out, because they don’t have any competition to force them to put any real effort into anything anymore. That’s exactly the first thought I had when I looked at my Phillies team set of 2011 Topps Lineage when it arrived in the mail yesterday.
Admittedly, I had seen the previews of the set, but as with all new sets I decided to reserve judgment until I got my hands on the real thing. If anything, that only lowered my opinion of the set. The key to my disappointment lies in the set name, “Lineage.” According to Marriam-Webster, lineage means “descent in a line from a common progenitor.” Well, if the base set is any indication, then the only things that this new brand descends from are the recent styles favored by Topps for its flagship line. Honestly, the front of the card looks like it’s very likely the initial (probably rejected) mock-up for year’s regular Topps set. Hi gloss, unnecessarily using silver foil for the name* and a generic border — nothing to indicate any acknowledgement of the history of Topps cards over the past six decades.
The backs only serve to compound the laziness of the design and effort. Ever since Donruss and Fleer issued their sets in 1981, when designing the back of the card Topps has been the old man on the street who keeps yelling at teenagers to turn their car stereo down when they drive by his house. Yes, Topps has experimented with different looks on the back of some of its brands, but when it comes to their main offering, you can count on complete career major league stats — something that no other card company regularly did over the past 30 years. Yet, on the debut of the “Lineage” brand, there’s no stats; instead, there’s just a laughable effort at a brief text summary for the player. While this is what card companies mostly did until the mid ’50s, Topps never did that sort of thing well — even on recent issues with this type of back. Judging by the look of the Lineage cards, they still haven’t bothered to learn how. I seriously did better work on the half-assed book reviews I wrote for 6th grade English class.
What could they have done to make the set better? Well, the first thing they could’ve done was actually wake someone up in the design department and tell them to spend more than 10 minutes on creating a card that harkened back to an older set without actually duplicating it. They could have given the set a Heritage treatment, did away with the high gloss and foil stamping and used a heavier light grey or brown cardboard stock so that it had the feel of an older card. Failing all that, they could have actually reused all their old designs in a meaningful way, which is exactly what they with the inserts and is clearly the only thing Topps really cared about with this set — something I’ll address in my next post.
* Another quick rant: does anybody know how to get a scanner to properly scan one of these cards so that you can actually read the foil printing? Seriously, not once have I gotten a Topps card that uses foil for the player or team name to scan legibly.