Wednesday, May 27, 2015

2015 BBM 1st Version Set

2015 BBM 1st Version Set Summary

Size: 372 cards numbered 1-324, CP01-CP36
Cards Per Team:  28 (team card, manager + 26 players)
Team Card Theme:  Mascots
Number Of Leader Cards:  N/A
Checklists:  None
Subsets:  Cross Plasma (36)
Inserts:  Allrounders(12), Lightning(12)
Memorabilia Cards:  Jersey cards for Hiroki Kuroda and Daisuke Matsuzaka (as well as a combination card with both of them).  Each individual jersey card is serially numbered to 200 plus some sort of parallel version numbered to 10.  The dual jersey cards are numbered to 10 with a parallel that's numbered to 3.  There are 29 autographed cards with print runs that vary between 10 and 30.
Parallels:  108 of the regular player cards have parallel versions - I think there are five different versions but I don't know what they are or what they are numbered to.  There is also a parallel to a number of the rookie cards (looks like 13 in the SCM checklist).  There's also parallel versions of the insert cards.  The Cross Plasma cards have two parallels - one that's serially numbered to 100 and the other that's a "1 of 1".
Notable Rookies: Hayato Takagi, Yusuaki Yamasaki, Tomohiro Anraku, Kohei Arihara

I'm trying to decide what's the more significant thing about the 2015 edition of BBM's annual 1st Version set - is it that there are no subsets (besides the ubiquitous cross set subset called Cross Plasma this year) or the fact that this is the smallest 1st Version set ever?  Obviously the former fact is a major factor in the latter fact.

But ok, let's start with the set size.  As 372 cards, this is the smallest 1st Version set ever.  In fact, it's smaller than any of the pre-2002 "flagship" sets as well.  It's almost 200 cards smaller than the 1st Version set from 10 years ago.  The almost complete lack of subsets accounts for the drop in size - last year there were 72 cards in six 12 card subsets.  This year there's just the one 36 card subset - the Cross Plasma set.

As usual, the thing that saves the set is that the cards are very good looking.  BBM has done their usual great job in combining great photos in an attractive, minimalist design.  Here's some examples:


#305

#086

#043

#069

#152

#214

Back of #23 (Ryosuke Kikuchi)
There was one kind of odd thing about the set.  Typically the photos for any particular team are a mix between pictures taken last season and pictures taken in training camp this season.  The training camp pictures are for rookies, new foreign players and players who have changed teams in the off season.  When teams change uniforms in the off season, there's frequently a mismatch of photos - those from the previous season in the old uniform and those from the current season in the new uniform.  For one of the few times I can remember, BBM chose to have all the photos for the Giants and Lions taken at training camp this year due to both teams having changed uniforms.  The most recent time I can remember something similar was when the Baystars were bought by DeNA during the 2011-12 off season - all the Baystars cards in the 2012 1st Version set had the new uniforms (although the Dragons had new uniforms that year as well but still had the hodge podge of old and new uniforms on their cards).  I find that the training camp photos have a little more variety than the photos from last season - although BBM still managed to use the standard shot for Kazuhisa Makita:

#116

#185
Curiously, it looks like the Baystars photos were all taken at training camp as well (with the exception of Yulieski Gurriel who ended up not making it to Japan this year) although I don't think they changed uniforms this year:

#290
One gripe I have about the size of the set is that some notable players end up being left out.  You'd think 27 cards per team would allow BBM to feature most of the regulars but keep in mind that those 27 cards include the manager as well as all the non-ikusei rookies for the team, which could be as few as four (Giants) or as many as nine (Buffaloes, Fighters, Dragons).  Which means some teams only have 17 cards for their regular, established players.  So for example, the following players who are among the leaders on the All Star ballot don't have cards:  Edison Barrios (Hawks), Kensuke Kondo (Fighters), Tatsuhiro Tamura (Marines), Mitsutaka Gotoh (Eagles), Ryoma Matsuda (Tigers), Katsuhiro Nagakawa (Carp), Hirokazu Ibata (Giants), Kenjiro Tanaka (Baystars), Tony Barnette (Swallows), Nobumasa Fukuda (Dragons), Anderson Hernandez (Dragons), Taiki Sekine (Baystars) and Wily Mo Pena (Eagles) (although I will grant you that Pena was a late signing player).  I really wish BBM would go back to 36 cards per team to make sure the set includes more of the everyday players and significant pitchers.

Another thing I wish BBM would do is pick a subject for the team checklists other than the team's mascot.  This is the sixth time in the past seven years that the mascots have been on the 1st Version checklists.  Enough!

#334
The cross set subset has become a staple of BBM's flagship sets the past six seasons.  There was "Cross Stream" in 2010 that was in the 1st and 2nd Version sets as well as Touch The Game and the team sets.  In 2011, there was "Cross Blast" that was just in the team sets.  2012 and 2013 had "Cross Blaze" and "Cross Wind" respectively that were just in the 1st and 2nd Version and Genesis sets.  Last year there was a 36 card "Cosmic Cross" set that was only available as inserts in Sports Card Magazine.  This year the subset is called "Cross Plasma" and I don't know for sure which sets will contain the cards.  The subsets are numbered separately from the sets they are distributed with and in past years have been skip numbered so that you could kinda-sorta get an idea of how the set would be laid out.  For example, in 2013, the first "Cross Wind" cards in the 1st Version set were numbered CW001 to CW003, followed by CW010 to CW012, etc.  This implied that CW004-CW006 would be in 2nd Version and CW007-CW009 would be in Genesis.  This year, however, the Cross Plasma cards are not skip numbered - they are numbered CP01-CP36.  And CP37-CP48 were included in SCM #110.  Since the numbers are only two digits, I wonder if this means that BBM is going to have less than 100 cards total in the subset.  Perhaps the set will only be continued in 2nd Version (the early ads for that set just came out this week and there are 36 "Cross Plasma" cards in it as well).

Anyway, the "Cross Plasma" cards look pretty much like all the "Cross" cards have - a photo of the player super-imposed on some sort of odd background on the front and the original photo on the back:

#CP03

Back of #CP03
The set I bought included one of the insert sets - the 12 card "Allrounders" set.  This set features a position player for each team with a foil finish:

#AR07
As usaul, all the cards (including inserts, some of the parallels and some of the promo cards) can be seen over at Jambalaya.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Achievers

The last of the recent box sets I got from Ryan a week or so ago were the Achievement sets for the Hawks, Buffaloes and Whales.  The Achievement sets a new series of box sets from BBM that have a retro feel to them.  The sets have a matte finish rather than a glossy finish and the backs of the cards have a look that evokes old (pre-1992) Topps cards.  BBM issued sets for the Hankyu Braves and Nankai Hawks last October and the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Taiyo Whales in December.

I don't have a whole lot to add about these sets that I didn't already say about the Braves set so I'll keep this kind of short.  I do like these sets quite a bit - the photos are nice (even if some of them are black and white) and it's an interesting change of pace from BBM.

The Hawks set is only 29 cards while the other two are 30 cards.  The Hawks and Buffaloes sets feature primarily players from the 1970's and 80's which purely from a player selection standpoint make both sets a bit redundant as this era for both teams been featured in a number of OB team sets over the past several years.  Both sets feature the guys you'd expect (Katsuya Nomura, Hiromitsu Kadota, Yoshinori Hirose, Nobuyuki Kagawa for the Hawks, Keishi Suzuki, Masataka Nashida, Koji Ohta, Charlie Manuel, Ralph Bryant for the Buffaloes).  Here's some sample cards from the two sets:

2014 BBM Hawks Achievement #16 (Katsuya Nomura)

2014 BBM Hawks Achievement #23 (Shinsaku Katahira)

2015 BBM Buffaloes Achievement #20 (Yasanuga Makishi)

2015 BBM Buffaloes Achievement #25 (Charlie Manuel)

The Whales set on the other hand features players from the 1950's through the 1970's as it focuses on the team's time in Kawasaki before they moved a little further south to Yokohama in 1978.  This is an era previously untouched by BBM in any of their OB team sets for the Whales/Baystars franchise.  As a result, there's a number of players included in this set that I don't think have previously had BBM cards - Shigeyuki Takahashi, Katsuji Sakai and Isao Itoh are a couple of the names in this group.  There's a large number of players who are a bit more familiar as well - Akio Saitoh, Masaji Hiramatsu, Akihito and Kazuhiko Kondoh, Makoto Matsubara, Shinichi Etoh, Daisuke Yamashita, Tomio Tashiro and John Sipin.  This is the kind of OB team set I'd like to see BBM do more of.

2015 BBM Whales Achievement #04 (Shigekuni Mashiba)

2015 BBM Whales Achievement #13 (Isao Itoh)

2015 BBM Whales Achievement #30 (Kazuhiko Kondoh)

To see all the cards in the sets, check out Jambalaya's pages for the Hawks, Buffaloes and Whales sets.  Ryan has posts up on all the sets as well (Hawks, Buffaloes and Whales).

Card Of The Week May 24

Last week Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Marlins got his 2,874th hit of him MLB career, passing Babe Ruth for 38th place for batters since 1900 (and 42nd for all time).  Ichiro now has 4,154 between NPB and MLB (including his hit in today's game) which is pretty damned impressive even if it isn't a record.

Here's Ichiro's card from the 1999 TV Sports set:


This was a 16 card set that appeared as an uncut sheet in an issue (or issues) of the magazine TV Sports.  Besides Ichrio, the set included Hideki Matsui, Kazuo Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Tomonori Maeda, Tsuyoshi Shinjyo, Atsuya Furuta, Tomohiro Kuroki, Kenshin Kawakami, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Atsushi Kataoka, Akinori Ohtsuka, Takanori Suzuki and Yoshinobu Takahashi.  Half the guys in the set ended up spending time in the US and a quarter of them are still active this year in either MLB or NPB (Ichiro, Kazuo Matsui, Kenshin Kawakami and Yoshinobu Takahashi).  So far there are only two Hall Of Famers (Sasaki and Furuta) but that will change.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Just Released and Upcoming New Stuff

Well, once again I've put off doing a new releases post while waiting for BBM to add information about their upcoming sets onto their website and once again, I've ended up delaying so long that one of the sets that they actually did list on the site has been released.  Here's a quick run-down of what's coming soon from BBM and Epoch:

- The latest two team sets from BBM are for the Fighters and the Dragons.  The Fighters set was actually released yesterday and the Dragons set will be out on Tuesday.  Both sets will have 81 cards in their base sets, 18 insert cards (two nine card sets - Sky Is The Limit and Game Changer - for the Fighters, no details for the Dragons) and the usual assortment of autograph cards.

- BBM hasn't updated their new release website in almost a month, but Niki has information up about the team sets for the Marines, Baystars, Tigers and Lions as well as this year's editions of Dancing Heroine - Hana and Classic.

- Niki also has information up about Epoch's next two sets.  The first is a set celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Carp's "Red Helmet" era - the Carp switched to the red caps similar to the ones they wear today starting in 1975.  It's a bit odd that Epoch is releasing this set since they just did one on this era for the Carp last year and BBM covered similar ground in the Carp Legends set last winter.  This set will be a box set containing 64 cards - 61 in the base set plus three "special" cards - a "shadowbox" card, a parallel card and some sort of autograph or memorabilia card.  The big difference between this set and the one released last year is that this one will contain cards of active players, a first for Epoch's box sets.  There will be 32 cards for "active players, coach, mascot" and 29 cards for OB players.  The set will be out in late June.

The other Epoch set is another collaboration with the Japan Baseball Promotion Association called "National Record Holders".    If I'm reading the Google translations correctly, this looks like Epoch's answer to BBM's extremely high end "Masters Of Insert" set.  Each box will contain five serially numbered cards - two regular cards, one "shadowbox" card and two autographed cards.  There are 24 regular cards available, each of which has two possible "shadowbox" parallels (including a "1 of 1" parallel).  The boxes will run 15,000 yen apiece (around $125) and will be released on July 11.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Some 2014 BBM Box Sets

BBM put out three team based box sets last summer that included both active and OB players for the featured team.  Ryan tracked these down for me and included them with the stuff he sent me last week (and I have neglected to publicly thank Ryan for finding all this stuff for me so let me fix that now - Thanks Ryan!).

The first of these was a set that only contained pitchers for the Carp.  This set was called "Pitchers Spirits Of Carp" and featured 27 cards in the base set - 18 OB pitchers and 9 pitchers from the 2014 roster.  The OB players included retired greats like Ryohei Hasegawa, Manabu Kitabeppu, Yutaka Ohno, Shinji Sasaoka, Yoshiro Sotokoba and the late Tsunemi Tsuda as well as Hiroki Kuroda and Kan Ohtake who were active with other teams in 2014.  The active players include Kenta Maeda, Yusuke Nomura, Bryan Bullington, Kam Mickolio and 2014 rookies Aren Kuri and Daichi Ohsera.  It's kind of an odd little set but I like it.  For more information, check out Jambalaya's gallery for the set and Ryan's post on it.

#03

#21
The name of the next set reminds me of some of the Front Runner sets - "Young Hawks - Futures And Legends".  This is a 36 cards set that features 27 "young" players for the 2014 Hawks and 9 "Legend" players from the 1970's era Nankai Hawks.  The active players include guys who were major contributors to the Hawks Nippon Series Championship last year like Shota Takeda and Yuki Yanagita along with guys who pretty much spent the season in ni-gun.  The backs of the cards show the p;ayer's 2014 ichi-gun stats up until May 18th.  One thing I like is that some of the players are shown wearing retro Nankai Hawks uniforms.  The nine "Legend" players include Katsuya Nomura, Yoshinori Hirose and Hiromitsu Kadota.  I don't know if there's a theme to why these OB players were selected to appear in this set.  Oddly enough there's an OB player included in this set (Sanshiro Nishioka) who is making his first BBM appearance despite BBM having done two Hawks Anniversary sets in the past 10 years.  This is an attractive set but probably my least favorite of these three sets.  Once again, check out Jambalaya and This Card Is Cool for more information.

#08

#36
The final box set of this group was issued as a tie-in with the "Lions Classic" series of games that Seibu put on last season.  BBM has issued a couple sets like this in the past (like this one from 2009) and they typically show active players wearing this year's retro uniform along with OB players from the era that the retro uniform is from.  The retro uniform from 2014 was the all blue uniforms that the Lions wore in the 1980's.  This years set (which is named "Lions Classic - Impact Of Lionsblue") contains 27 cards - nine cards showing members of the 2014 Lions and 18 cards showing 1980's era Lions players.  The previous Lions Classic sets have shown the active players in action but this set actually uses posed shots for them instead.  The nine players selected for the set include Shogo Akiyama, Yusei Kikuchi, Kazuhisa Makita and Ginjiro Sumitani.  The OB players kind of surprisingly don't include the obvious guys - there's no Koji Akiyama, Tsutomu Itoh, Kimiyasu Kudoh or Kazuhiro Kiyohara.  The biggest names are Osamu Higashio, Hiromichi Ishige and Koichi Tabuchi.  My only real gripe with this set is that all the OB players except Higashio appeared in the Lions Legend set that came out last November so it's kind of redundant.  As usual, check out Jambalaya and Ryan's blog for more information.

#09

#22

Monday, May 18, 2015

Recent Epoch Sets

Continuing with the box sets I got from Ryan last week...

Epoch has issued two new OB box sets in the last six months, neither of which were done in conjunction with the Japan Baseball Promotion Association.  The first one of these was 46 card set that was issued last November called something like "Giants V9 Glorious Victory".  The set was a tie-in with the Giants 80th Anniversary last season (the third and final set following the Front Runner Giants Stars & Legends set and the BBM Giants 80th Anniversary set) and commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the V9 Giants.  For those who don't know (and even for those who do), "V9 Giants"is the name for the Giants team that won nine straight Nippon Series between 1965 and 1973.

The 46 cards each feature a different player from the Giants' teams of that era.  I haven't done a serious study, but I believe that it's a fairly comprehensive list.  The set includes all the guys you'd expect - Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, Isao Shibata, Tsuneo Horiuchi, Masahiko (Masaaki) Mori and Shozo Doi - plus a lot of guys who were very much bit players such as Isao Ohhashi, who got into around 220 games for Yomiuri between 1963 and 1968.  It's probably safe to say that for guys like Ohhashi and Yusaku Akimoto this set may contain their first baseball card ever (the V9 era overlaps the "dead zone" in Japanese baseball card history between the end of the menko era in 1964 and the first Calbee issue in 1973).  This set also contains a card for Masaichi Kaneda, making it the only set of the three Giants 80th Anniversary sets to feature him.

While I like the set quite a bit, I think it could have been a little bit better.  It would have been nice to have had cards for the Giants' manager during this time period (Tetsuharu Kawakami) as well as at least one of the team's coaches - Hall Of Famer Shigeru Makino who has no modern cards.  A subset devoted to each Nippon Series would have been nice as well.  But these are minor quibbles.

Here's some example cards:

#31

#10

#1

As always, Jambalaya has all the cards on line and Ryan did a post on this set a few months back.

The second recent Epoch set came out about a month or two ago.  The Hanshin Tigers are celebrating their 80th Anniversary this season and coincidentally are also celebrating the 30th Anniversary of their sole Nippon Series Championship in 1985.  While BBM is taking care of the former celebration (and I'm hoping to have a post up on that set later this week), Epoch is handing the latter celebration with a 45 card box set entitiled "Tigers Nippon Champions 1985".  43 of the cards in the set feature the players, coaches and manager (Yoshio Yoshida) for the 1985 team.  Like the Giants V9 set, this includes both stars - Randy Bass, Akinobu Okada, Masayuki Kakefu and Akinobu Mayumi - as well as players who's roles were much more minor - like Koichi Hattori who only appeared in 14 games during the 1985 season.  I've only found five players from the team who are not in the set - Rich Gale, Masashi Fujiwara, Hideaki Sato, Eiju Tsukiyama and Shinichi Yamauchi.  (All the missing players except Tsukiyama appeared in BBM's 2013 Tigers Legend set that covered this period of time and ironically Yamauchi appeared in the V9 Giants set!)  The biggest name in the coaches for the team was Hall Of Fame pitcher Tetsuya Yoneda.

The other two cards in the set are a card dedicated to the 3-4-5 hitters in the Tigers lineup that season (Bass, Kakefu and Okada) and a card showing the Tigers' celebration after winning the Series.

Here's some example cards:

#39

#03

#44
One item of interest - Randy Bass is the first Westerner to appear in any of Epoch's box sets since 2009.

Jambalaya has all the cards on line here.

And I think it would be appropriate to mention here that I've added a list of all of Epoch's box sets to the Set Index.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Card Of The Week May 17

One of the box sets that Ryan found for me cheap in Japan recently was a little team set for the Orix Buffaloes that BBM put out in early 2012.  Called "Pedigree", it has three subsets that each show Orix players (and manager Akinobu Okada) in a different uniform - the regular uniforms (both home and away) for Orix, Hankyu Brave retro uniforms and Kintetsu Buffalo retro uniforms.  I'm assuming all the photos are from the 2011 season.

Here's the Okada cards:

#01

#02

#03