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2023 Bowman Baseball: Feel the Excitement, or Not

It’s May and Spring is in the air. The MLB and MLS seasons are in full swing, the NBA and NHL Playoffs are entering their respective second rounds, and the NFL just had their draft. For us card collectors, this time of year usually means one thing: The release of 2023 Bowman Baseball. While most collectors are ripping open their boxes and scurrying to find the latest hot prospect’s autograph, I on the other hand, have taken a pass on Bowman the past few years. In fact, I don’t understand why there’s much to be excited over this product anymore.

Over the past few years, Bowman Baseball has followed the same, familiar, format: With Spring comes the Bowman “flagship” and with it a 100-card base set that has a couple dozen rookies sprinkled throughout, a 150-card Prospects set, and a pseudo-parallel 150-card Chrome Prospects set. Later in the Summer will come Bowman Chrome and another couple dozen rookies and another 150 Chrome Prospects. Finally at the end of the year is Bowman Draft, with 200 draft picks and prospects, available in plain and Chrome flavors.

(By the way, while I’m here, can we please stop calling it “Bowman Paper?” It’s “Bowman Baseball,” or just plain “Bowman.” Thank you.)

Between the three Bowman “series,” there are around 40 or 50 true rookies, and anywhere from 400 to 500 Prospects – most, but not all of which, are the coveted “First Bowman” cards. This has been the way this brand has been structured for almost two decades.

And yet, year in and year out, of all those dozens of rookies and hundreds of Prospects, how many wind up being worth anything? You can probably count on one hand, maybe two? And this isn’t just a new phenomenon, either. Go back what many consider the first “real” Bowman set: 1992 Bowman. Thirty-one years later, and how many 1992 Bowman cards are worth anything? There’s Mariano Rivera and Mike Piazza rookie cards, and … that’s it. The Chipper Jones and Pedro Martinez cards are technically second-year cards and not RCs. and I suppose they’ve held their value. Manny Ramirez and Carlos Delgado were worth something, once. Trevor Hoffman is a Hall of Famer, but you can find his 92 Bowman in the dollar box. Cliff Floyd, Garrett Anderson, and Pat Mahomes, Sr. all had decent enough careers, but are also dollar box fodder.

Pick any year of Bowman over the last 30 years, and you’ll find one or two players who, Hobby wise, panned out, and hundreds of has-beens and never-weres who didn’t. Don’t take my word for it, look for yourself.

Which is why when I scroll through my Twitter and Facebook apps, and see the fruits of various 2023 Bowman box breaks, and see the multi-colored galaxy low-numbered Refractors and autographs of late round draft picks and … I’m sorry, I don’t get it anymore. Sure, you may have pulled an Autographed Blue Lunar Crater Refractor (and WTF is a “Lunar Crater Refractor anyway?) of an 13th round draft pick who, chances are, will top out at Class-AA.

I guess that’s part of the appeal of Bowman Baseball. You just never know if that 13th round draft pick will turn into an Albert Pujols. But often, those highly touted, can’t miss prospects do exactly that, miss. The thing is, why am I the only one in this Hobby that’s figured that out?

Last month I wrote about 2023 Topps Big League and the overhaul Topps put this product through. I’d like to bring your attention to another Topps product also in need of an overhaul, but sadly, won’t be getting one – at least not this year. 2023 Topps Heritage is scheduled to come out at the end of May, and from the looks of it, it’s not much of a change from what we saw last year. Or the year before. Or the last decade.

I bet you probably haven’t seen the sell sheets for this year’s Heritage, but even if you have, you already know the deal: 500 cards with the last 100 short-printed, Chrome parallels, gimmicks, and a hit in every box. Same as it ever was. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This year’s Heritage is based on the 1974 Topps set, which, if you remember was the first Topps set to be released all in one series. 660 cards, all at once. (Well, not all at once, if you account for the San Diego/Washington errors and the late season “Traded” cards.) Why isn’t this year’s Heritage like that? 660 cards, with no short prints? Now I understand that the short-prints in previous Heritage sets were meant to simulate a high-number series – notwithstanding the stand-alone “High Number Series” of recent Heritage years. But we didn’t have that in 1974. Why not go back to a series where all cards are printed equally?

Don’t get me wrong, you need to have inserts, parallels, and hits in a 2023 product, and I have no problem with them in Heritage. But as for the gimmicks, why? What do “Action Image,” “Throwback Uniform” and “Nickname” gimmicks have to do with 1974 Topps? Now, a San Diego/Washington variation would work here! It’s a shame they already did it in Archives a few years ago.

I used to like Heritage, a lot, but now it’s gotten stagnant. It’s just … there. I stopped collecting it about five years ago, and until something changes, it looks like it’ll be a while before I collect it again.

I was this close (insert photo of my pinched thumb and index finger here), to submitting this article for publication when news broke (by this website, no less) that Kunal Chopra is out as Beckett CEO. The fiasco over the new “BGS 10” grade that was unveiled, and quickly scrapped, at the recent Mint Collective, along with the redesigned BGS slab that was unveiled at last year’s NSCC, and also quickly scrapped, is said to have played a part in Chopra’s ouster.

I hate to say good-bye and good riddance, but “Good-bye and good riddance.” It was obvious from day one that Chopra was not qualified for the position, as he wasn’t an actual collector. I mean, how do you hire a CEO that knows nothing about the industry?

I think the powers that be at Beckett need to ask themselves, what exactly is Beckett in the year 2023? Is it a tech company that just so happens to grade cards and publish a couple of magazines? Or is it a media company that runs a website and happens to also grade cards?

2023 Topps Hidden Gems alert: Nope they still aren’t out there.

I’m going to be on Hobby Hotline at the end of this month: Saturday, May 27, at 11:00am ET (12:30pm in Newfoundland). I have no idea this far out what we’ll be talking about, but I’ll be on with Hobby News Daily founder Danny Black and Victor Roman.

Before I put a bow on this column, I’d like to take some time to remember long-time Carolina area dealer Chandy Greenholt. If you’ve been to a major cardshow between Chantilly and Atlanta in the last quarter century, surely, you’ve ran into Greenholt and his “Dollar Box of Doom.” When I first moved to the D.C. area in 2009, I would regularly make the 5+ hour drive to the North Carolina State Fairgrounds just to pick through Greenholt’s dollar, two-dollar, five dollar, and ten dollar boxes. I don’t know where he got his inventory, I didn’t care if it was “hot.” All I knew was, Chandy Greenholt had the best, and sometimes only, selection of late-90s/early-2000s baseball anywhere. He will be missed.

If you got any questions, comments, trade offers, you can slip into my DMs, or shoot me an e-mail. All my want lists (separated be year) are up on my website. And be sure to check out BaseballCardPedia, too, while you’re at it.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world.


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