I really, really liked last year’s Topps baseball set. Not everybody did, but that slick, sharp, clean, modern look really did it for me. It was a bordered card that didn’t feel closed-in, it was a visually interesting card that didn’t feel cluttered. As far as base sets go, it was hard for me to imagine how they’d top it.
Having just had my first hands-on look at the 2022 set, I would say they didn’t.
I meannnnnn, it’s not BAD! It’s really not. It’s just super average to me, and that feels disappointing after such a great effort last season. For all the newness and uniqueness of last year’s look, this looks like a million other sets before it. The borders feel bigger and more oppressive on the main image. The player name doesn’t take a LOT of space, but it takes much more than last year’s, shrinking that photo real estate even more. The card backs, which didn’t break any new ground last year, broke even less ground in 2022.
They’re just … there. I can’t think of much else to say about this set. It doesn’t help that I’ve been mostly disenchanted by the hobby the last several months, whereas I was much more in the swing of collecting this time last year, but I truly believe I would have had the same reaction to this design, these cards, the uninspired subsets, etc., even if I was still card crazy.
I believe this is the first Topps set to be distributed under the Fanatics regime, though the design and checklists had presumably been done well in advance of that deal; I remember seeing a preview of the design at least a few weeks before the deal was announced. The one aspect of this set that I see as a general positive sign for the future of collecting as a hobby (if not as a moneymaker for collectors) is the print run. Reports are that the flagship Topps set will be four times as plentiful as the 2019 edition was (hard numbers are weirdly hard to come by), which should ensure that kids and non-sweathog collectors have plenty of access to buy these cards whenever they want, wherever cards are found.
But yeah, every aspect of this set leaves me yawning. For instance, each pack in my booster contained a card from the Stars of MLB subset. That kind of thing irritates me: Why have a subset that is represented in every pack that’s opened? What’s the point of that? And the design of that leaves me uninspired as well. They’re dark and dreary for a foil card, though they look a bit better rendered flat as in this image.
And whereas last year’s set included a 70th anniversary medallion card in each booster, this year’s boosters each have a guaranteed “commemorative relic” card, which for me was a Ronald Acuña Jr. card with a little metal medallion with his jersey number on it. Weird.
Why is the Braves logo so small in that top area? Why is the picture of Acuña himself so small? That’s an awful lot of real estate to devote to a little piece of painted metal with a number on it. It’s all a bit of a head-scratcher for me.
I’m not bothering to rate this set — I haven’t even felt motivated to sleeve up any of these cards or put them away. I just put all the cards back in the little box they came in and there they sit on my nightstand. I certainly don’t hate it. In fact, I feel very little for it one way or another.