Wednesday, March 3, 2010

MLB Properties Sticks it to Upper Deck . . . and Collectors

By now, you have all heard the news of the MLBP and UD settling their lawsuit.

I know almost every blogger has an opinion about this and in all honesty this post is more about self-serving therapy than anything, and probably will come off as more of a rant than a well articulated post, but for the record here is my two-cents on the subject at hand.

I don't in anyway blame Topps. The deal to acquire an exclusive license is good business. I get that. I don't like it. I don't support it. I don't think it is good for The Hobby. But I understand it.

However, Topps needs to step up their game, and I mean BIG TIME. Resting on the laurels of history, heritage, tradition, etc is not enough. Several years ago, when the league mandated a reduction in the number of brands produced, I was extremely disappointed because I knew this would result in the elimination of some of my favorites in favor of those craved by Joe Collector and those that are viewed as "kid friendly"

Bowman regular is a redundant brand that pales in comparison to it's big brother, Bowman Chrome. Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects is a confusing brand that took the spirit of the rookie card rule and threw it out the window adding only more confusion to true rookie card designation. Opening Day is simply a waste of natural resources. The marketing resources put into Attax would have been much better served with an advertising campaign as the TCG concept is a joke in this digital age. Topps Town is cute and all but the 3D cards, please. What do you do after you look at it once? Go play MLB2K9 on XBOX or PS3, that's what.

High-end products like Triple Threads and Sterling are poor excuses for card design and Topps has shown little ability to design a truly attractive high-end set. My fear is that know they don't need to. They know plenty of collectors like it and since I can no longer by brands like Ultimate, I'm simply SOL. Brands like SP Legendary Cuts and Sweet Spot defined affordable high-end with great content and great designs.

Topps needs to earn collectors respect and not simply assume, since they are the only game in town, that collectors will pony up their cash.

Bring back Pristine. Bring back the REAL Stadium Club. Take a freakin break from Allen & Ginter a do an update to Cracker Jack. Bring back Signature Edition. Bring back Turkey Red. Bring back Gallery. More importantly, give us something new that DOESN"T SUCK!

Ticket to Stardom? Keep it. Unique? Uniquely aweful.

The statement by Ethan Orlinsky, General Counsel and Senior VP for MLB Properties, was particularly nauseating, "The real winners today are the millions of fans who collect baseball cards. They will be able to clearly identify official Major League Baseball trading cards without any confusion.”

Hey Ethan! I don't feel like a winner. I feel bent over and violated, cheated and robbed, of my freedom of choice!!!

Here are the details that were made public in the settlement:

- Upper Deck can continue to sell three recently released baseball products currently on store shelves: 2009 Signature Stars, 2009 Ultimate Collection and 2010 Upper Deck Series One.

– Upper Deck will pay MLB Properties more than $2.4 million (the entire amount in dispute) for Upper Deck’s 2009 debts.

– Upper Deck will pay MLB Properties a substantial sum of money for the unlicensed cards it sold in 2010. The specific sum of that payment is confidential.

– Upper Deck has agreed not to issue any additional releases of infringing cards. Last year it issued 15 baseball card releases and there are currently only three infringing releases that are in distribution in 2010. (All other scheduled releases for 2010 will be scrapped)

– Upper Deck agreed it will not make any new sets of cards using MLB logos, uniforms, trade dress, or Club color combinations.

– Upper Deck also agreed it will not airbrush, alter or block MLB marks in future products.

– Upper Deck must receive approval from MLB for the use of baseball jerseys, pants, jackets, caps, helmets or catcher’s equipment in future products featuring players.

Exclusive licensing in any way shape or form is bad for the consumer. Myself and others have made this point time and time again. This is simply one more incredible example of the almighty $ winning out over consumer choice.

I can't wait to see what UD does in the future because I have every confidence in their ability to eventually bounce back from this. However in the short-term, I'm angry and sad for The Hobby I love.


Anonymous said...

I think UD has a big chance here to come out on top anyway. They can do a LOT without a license. They don't need to push buttons to do it either. Panini has Elite, don't they? UD can go NCAA, can't they? They can do MLB on Goudey/Masterpieces like products without logos (they are drawings/paintings after all. Look at what ITG does with hockey or even *shudder* Sport Kings. UD can do that, maybe even better.

They need to seize this challenge and run with it.

Now, that said, you're right. Topps has gotta impress us. Otherwise they will find a lot of their products floating around unsold.

Anonymous said...

Great news for collectors. UD broke the rules and they got spanked, just like they did by Konami.

They've got a year at the most of being in business. From what I hear, the NFL is extremely upset by their illegal actions and is looking to take away their license as well.

Buy all the boxes of UD you want, hayseeds. It won't matter. The good guys always win in the end.

Dave said...

I totally agree with everything that you said, Rob!

It's a sad day for the baseball card hobby, that's for sure. I hope that Upper Deck can still find a way to continue some of the great baseball card brands that we're used to.

But hey, at least the retards in MLB's offices will be able to "clearly identify official Major League Baseball trading cards without any confusion"

Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

Carnie- Do you work for Topps?

Dave- Yes, thank goodness MLB execs will be able to tell the difference LOL.

Jerry Stites - J&R Sportscards said...

I am very disappointed that Topps was awarded the exclusive licensee to produce baseball cards. I am just as disappointed that Upper Deck failed to assemble a legal team to beat this. While MLB enjoys an anti-trust exemption granted to it by Congress, Topps does not. It is my opinion that MLB violated federal law and the anti-trust exemption itself, in that they awarded a sole license to Topps. This created a monopoly. This is against the law. MLB has no right to extend its' anti-trust exemption to another company or entity. The ones that will suffer are every card collector. While I am sure it will be business as usual for Topps, you will see the slow change in the quality and price of the products. A sole venture in any business is an almost guarantee for failure. Good competition does just the opposite. It ensures that products will be top-notch and as lower priced. It also creates healthy business environments that will ensure that it survives into the future. With no competition to deal with, Topps can, literally, do anything it wishes with NO consequences. MLB at a very minimum should allow at least TWO companies to be licensed to produce baseball cards and memorabilia. If that were to happen, and one company went out of business, and no other companies came forward seeking a license, then we wold have to accept a sole company. I am not knocking Topps at all except for this issue. Topps is a very fine company that produces great baseball cards. They support communities all the time. They encourage kids to do good in school and be good citizens. They are not afraid to try new things and venture into areas they are not familiar with. But I think they did just that and in a bad way. I also view MLB in the same light. I will close with my opinion that MLB and Topps took a cheap shot at Upper Deck and so far, have gotten away with it.

ewokpelts said...

UD's NHL offerings have gotten consistently bland over the years since ud got the hockey exclusive. Not to mention more expensive on average.

Remember that when you cliam topps will cut on quality while jacking up the price.

The only thing that really sucks topps wise right now is their gum in packs. It has become inedible, even if it's a just released product.

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