Saturday, July 23, 2016

2016 BBM Classic


This year's edition of BBM's Classic set (the fourth edition overall) was released just over two weeks ago.  Classic is BBM's version of the Topps Heritage and Archives sets - it contains cards of current players using an older (i.e. "classic") card design.

There's actually two parts to the set - the current players and the OB players.  There are 72 current players in the set (six per team).  All of their cards use BBM's set design from 1994 (last year it was 1993, the year before was 1992, etc).  There are 36 OB players in the set (3 per team).  Their cards use the card design from BBM's All Time Heroes set from 2002.

Here's a sample card from the 1994 set and one from this set (there are two guys from the 1994 set who are still active in NPB - Kazuya Fukuura and Kazuo Matsui,  Only Kukuura is in the set)

1994 BBM #529


2016 BBM Classic #017

1994 BBM #529 Back

2016 BBM Classic #017 Back
Once again they've matched the original design pretty well.  (You might point out that the colors don't match but they are the team's colors and the Marines' colors have changed in the past 22 years.)  As with the previous three years, the biggest difference in the card design is that the new cards are the standard size (2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches) while the 1994 cards were a little smaller.  This will be the last time that this difference occurs as the 1995 cards were standard size.

The checklist for the current players contains pretty much the top stars that you'd expect - Shohei Ohtani, Yuki Yanagita, Tetsuto Yamada, Shintaro Fujinami, Shogo Akiyama, Takeya Nakamura, Seiichi Uchiyama, Hideaki Wakui, Hayato Sakamoto, Yasuaki Yamasaki and Yuki Matsui are all in the set.  There's a number of rookies - Shun Takayama and Louis Okoye probably being the biggest two - and their cards are denoted by the same "Rookie" symbol that the 1994 rookie cards had (as seen on the Fukuura card above).

The photography is...ok.  While each individual photo is attractive, I have my usual complaint about the lack of interesting photos in BBM's recent sets.  Once again, most of the photos are simply of pitchers pitching and batters batting.  I think there's only one card in the set showing a current player fielding.  Here's some examples:

#007

#057

#023

#040

#036

#069
BBM used a new design for the OB cards in the last two editions of this set but this year's set uses the design of the 2002 All Time Heroes set (which is the design that the OB cards in the first Classic set in 2013 used).  As usual, I can find no rhyme or reason why any of the OB players were chosen for the set.  There's a couple older (50's to 70's era) players - Yoshio Yoshida, Keishi Suzuki and Hiromitsu Kadota - and several who retired last year - Michihiro Ogasawara, Masahiro Yamamoto, Kazuhiro Wada, Satoshi Nagai, Teppei Tsuchiya.  The bulk of the rest of the players are from the 80's through the 00's.  There's also a card of last year's Eagles manager Hiromoto Ohkubo as manager rather than as a player.  There are no OB players from Orix or Hankyu - instead there are three Kintetsu players.

Here's a comparison between Yoshida's actual 2002 All Time Heroes card and his card from this set:

2002 BBM All Time Heroes #096

2016 BBM Classic #098

2002 BBM All Time Heroes #096 Back

2016 BBM Classic #098 Back
So again BBM did a great job matching the original design.  Here's a couple more of the OB cards:

#075

#087

#104
You can see all the cards here at Jambalaya.

I pretty much feel the same way about this set as I've felt about the other three - it's a nice idea that BBM doesn't execute very well other than the cards for the current players.  I'd prefer a larger set or at least replacing the OB players with additional current players.  It'd also be a little more interesting to do the OB players in the same format as the current players - kind of like what Topps Archives does.  Having some subsets that harken back to the original set would be nice as well - the 1994 set had some multi-player cards that BBM could have emulated for this set.  But it looks like BBM isn't planning on changing the format of this set so we can look forward to another round next year using the 1995 design.

Hiroki Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda joined the Meikyukai today by getting his 200th career victory (121 in NPB and 79 in MLB) by defeating the Tigers 7-0 today.  Kuroda was originally drafted by the Carp in the second round of the fall 1996 draft.  He remained with the Carp for 11 seasons until leaving for MLB (and the Dodgers) after the 2007 season.  After seven seasons in MLB (4 with the Dodgers and 3 with the Yankees) he returned to the Carp last season.

I did a post on Kuroda back in 2007 when he left NPB for the Dodgers so I'll just share a couple more now:

2011 BBM Tohto 80th Memorial #45

1997 BBM #496

1999 BBM #119

2001 Upper Deck #39

2003 BBM Japan National Team #07

2005 Calbee #147

2007 BBM All Stars #A37

2015 BBM Carp #C71

Friday, July 22, 2016

2016 Calbee Series Two

The latest Calbee release (and the second Series for the season) was released a couple weeks ago and I got my copy in the mail the other day.  I'd mentioned in my write-up for Series One that it was the smallest Calbee Series set in recent memory - at 88 cards the new Series is actually six cards smaller.

Like Series One, Series Two features 72 "regular" player cards (split evenly among the 12 teams so there's six cards per team).  Unlike Series One, which had a checklist largely bereft of the top players from NPB, this set is chock full of stars.  Shohei Ohtani, Yuki Yanagita, Tetsuto Yamada, Shogo Akiyama, Hayato Sakamoto, Shintaro Fujinami and Yasuaki Yamasaki are all in the set.  The set also features a number of rookies including Eigoro Mogi of the Eagles and Juri Hara of the Swallows.  It doesn't look like there's any duplication in the player cards with the ones in Series One.

Following this year's format established in Series One, there's no English on the cards - the player's names are only in kanji.  Following the tradition of Calbee cards, the photography is outstanding:

#073 Nobuhiro Matsuda

#082 Shohei Ohtani

#086 Takashi Ogino

#103 Yuki Matsui

#109 Tetsuto Yamada

#128 Yoshihiro Maru

#141 Yasutaka Tobashira
The remaining cards in the set are in two subsets (or non-premium insert sets).  The first one is a 12 card subset entitled "First Win" that celebrates the first win for each team this year.  Most (nine of them) feature the starting pitcher for the winning team - Shota Takeda, Kohei Arihara, Hideaki Wakui, Brandon Dickson, Takahiro Norimoto, Yoshihisa Naruse, Hiroki Kuroda, Yudai Ohno and Shoichi Inoh.  The exceptions are the Lions card which has Ernesto Mejia who had the game winning hit and the cards for the Giants and Tigers which feature their managers (Yoshinobu Takahashi and Tomoaki Kanemoto) who were getting their first wins.  These cards also do not have any English on them:

#FW-09 Tomoaki Kanemoto
The other subset is the standard four card Checklist subset (numbered C-5 to C-8).  These cards feature events from the first week of the season - Seiya "Aja" Inoue of the Marines on 3/25, Shun Takayama of the Tigers on 3/26, Ernesto Mejia of the Lions on 3/25 and Hiroki Yokoyama of the Carp on 3/30.  All but the last one are scenes from the respective team's card from the "First Win" subset and obviously Mejia is featured in both subsets (these don't have any English on them either but that's not unusual):

#C-7
All the cards can be seen at Jambalaya (as usual).

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

White Whale Finally Defeated

Well, it took almost 16 years but I was able to finally defeat my white whale - the 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 set.  While I had finished the base set almost two years ago, there was one final insert card that had eluded me until recently.  I finally got it off of Yahoo! Japan Auctions almost two months ago and it was delivered today with a couple other items in a shipment from the auction proxy company.

So here's the last card I needed - from "The Scene" insert set that commemorated famous moments in NPB history.  This shows Sadaharu Oh hitting his 756th home run to pass Henry Aaron:

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 "The Scene" #S-04
I kind of feel like Oh must of in this picture.  And it almost took me as long to get all the cards in this set as it did for him to hit all those home runs!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Hideki Okajima

Hideki Okajima announced his retirement today.  He was originally drafted out of high school by the Yomiuri Giants in the third round of the fall 1993 draft  and debuted with them in 1995.  He was a starter for his first couple seasons but by 1999 he had moved into the middle relief role that he excelled in for the bulk of his career.  He was traded to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in March of 2006 for Kazunari Sanematsu and Shigeyuki Furuki.  After one season with the Fighters, he left Japan for MLB, signing a two year deal with the Boston Red Sox.  He ended up staying with the Red Sox until the end of the 2011 season,  He briefly signed with the Yankees for 2012 but after he failed his physical, he was released.  He returned to Japan and signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.  Following the 2012 season he returned to the US and signed with the Oakland Athletics.  He split the season between Oakland and their AAA team in Sacramento.  He went back to Japan and the Hawks for the 2014 season then spent 2015 with the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.  He attempted to return to the US for the 2016 season by going to spring training with the Baltimore Orioles but he was released just before the season started (ironically his photo on his Baseball-Reference profile is his head shot from the Orioles).

He was a four time All Star - three times in NPB (2000-02) and one time in MLB (2007).  He was a five time champion - four Nippon Series championships (2000, 2002, 2006 and 2014) and one World Series championship (2007).  I believe he has the only five time winner of any player who has won championships in both NPB and MLB.

His first baseball card was #483 from the 1994 BBM set.  His first Calbee card was not until the 1997 set (#222).

1994 BBM #483

2000 BBM Nippon Series #S7

2002 BBM All Stars #A36

2006 BBM 2nd Version #511

2012 Calbee #151

2015 BBM 1st Version #275
One side note - Okajima spent the winter of 1996-97 pitching in the Hawaiian Winter League with the Honolulu Sharks.  He made the team's baseball card set:

1996 HWL Honolulu Sharks Team Set #8

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Card Of The Week July 17

The All Star games were played this weekend in Japan,  The Central League beat the Pacific League 5-4 in Game One on Friday and the two leagues tied 5-5 in Game Two yesterday,  Among the highlights was Takumi Kuriyama of the Lions hitting a two run home run in the bottom of the ninth of Game One.  This was Kuriyama's first ever All Star at bat - he was the 16th player to homer in his first ever All Star plate appearance.

Kuriyama's been around for a while - he was drafted by Seibu in the fourth round of the fall 2001 draft - and he's been a top player for some time now.  He recently passed the 1500 career hit mark and he's only 32.  It's kind of surprising that he's never made the All Star team before this year.

Here's a card of him from the "Young Lions" subset of the 2005 BBM Lions team set (#L075):


Friday, July 15, 2016

Yulieski Gurriel Of The Houston Astros

The Houston Astros signed former Cuban star Yulieski Gurriel to a five year contract today.  Gurriel, who defected from Cuba last winter, was one of four Cuban players who were allowed by the Cuban government to play in Japan in 2014.  Gurriel hit .305 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in 62 games with the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.  He had signed a contract with the Baystars for 2015 with his brother Lourdes (who defected with him) but he never actually returned and DeNA eventually voided his contract.

Gurriel (or Gourriel as his last name used to be spelled) already has quite a few baseball cards.  I listed a lot of his World Baseball Classic cards from Upper Deck, Topps and Konami when he signed with Yokohama two years ago and I listed many of his 2014 Japanese baseball cards at the end of the year.  His contract with the Baystars was voided just before the 2015 season started and about two weeks or so before BBM put out their 1st Version set that year so he has two cards in the set:

2015 BBM 1st Version #286

2015 BBM 1st Version Cross Plasma #CP32

Here's what I know exists for him in the way of base set cards from Japan:

2014 Bandai Owners League 03 #111
2014 BBM 2nd Version #439
2014 BBM Classic #063
2014 BBM Genesis #094
2014 Calbee #242
2014 Front Runner Baystars Signature Edition #07
2015 BBM 1st Version #286
2015 BBM 1st Version "Cross Plasma" #CP32

I'm pretty sure he has autograph and/or memorabilia cards in the Genesis and Front Runner sets.  He also appears in a couple of the Baystars team issued sets but I really don't know any details about them.