Tom Brady (12)
Tom Brady (12)
ORLANDO – (Staff Report) – As the Baseball Winter Meetings begin in Orlando, Hot Stove trade talks are plentiful. The New York Yankees opened the meetings with the blockbuster acquisition of slugger Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim became the new home for Japanese ace Shohei Ohtani who is destined to become a two-way player rarely seen in modern day baseball. There will be plenty of trade rumors and off-season maneuvering throughout the next few days while both baseball operations and business barracudas meet in sunny Florida, but today, we’re looking into an off-the-field business story that blends old-and-new.
In today’s sports marketing and business world that screams for engagement and innovation, many of the most admired brands still need to recognize and have the ability to pivot and thrive. Marrying that concept in the tradition-laden world of baseball is a daunting task, but one iconic sports company has found a way to reinvent itself while keeping its brand relevant – not just to a passionate core – but also to a new level of young, enthusiastic and engaged fans.
That company is Topps.
Do people still collect baseball cards?
Yes, millions do, but it’s not the same business model as it was in days of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.
Topps and MLB went out in early 2016 and launched TOPPS NOW, which created a new “on-demand” mechanism to collect cards from the latest “big moment” in baseball. The new model called for ordering in real time, and prompt delivery right to your door, with as many copies as you wanted. No more waiting for the next set six months down the line or ordering a virtual card (which by the way Topps does have with Topps BUNT).
If your favorite pitcher throws a no hitter? Card is here. Amazing catch by Mookie Betts in the outfield? We have it. Local hero gets his first hit? Order away. The ability to print hard cards on demand meant that there was no surplus of wasted paper, so it became a fast-growing, cost efficient and wildly popular endeavor.
How popular? In just two seasons, Topps sold over one million cards, making it the company’s most successful launch product ever. So popular that they have extended the brand to their partners like the UFC, MLS and even The Premier League, with more ideas beyond sport coming.
“In 2018, we are looking to increase our fan engagement through new product enhancements that we’re finalizing,” said Jeff Heckman, the Director of New Product Development and eCommerce Marketplace for Topps. “We would like to formalize a way for fans to help us develop TOPPS NOW cards. Additionally, we’re planning to build a mobile shopping app to create a richer and more seamless vehicle for fans to interact and engage with TOPPS NOW.”
Heckman and his colleagues at Topps have a lot to look forward to in 2018, considering the full season of 2017 saw production of 886 cards with such highlights as Aaron Judge’s record-breaking season, Adrian Beltre’s 3,000th career hit, and Derek Jeter’s number retirement ceremony. The card where Judge broke the rookie record with his 50th home run of the season set a TOPPS NOW record with 16,138 cards sold alone.
The Top 5 best-selling TOPPS NOW cards of all time all rolled off the presses this past summer:
New York Yankees OF Aaron Judge – Commemorating his rookie home run record (2017) – Sold 16,138 cards
New York Yankees OF Aaron Judge – Commemorating his Home Run Derby (2017) win – Sold 8,997 cards
New York Yankees OF Aaron Judge – Commemorating a 495-foot home run (2017) – Sold 8,623 cards
New York Yankees OF Aaron Judge – Commemorating his breaking of Joe DiMaggio’s Yankees rookie team record – Sold 8,538 cards
Former New York Yankees SS Derek Jeter – Commemorating his number retirement ceremony – 7,791
So why has the platform taken off when many think the baseball card collecting business has stagnated?
“They have mastered the on-demand mentality that millennials, and for that matter, sports fans of any age crave,” said Chris Lencheski, of MP & Silva, a longtime sports marketer and professor at Columbia University.
“We want what we want – now – and we want as many as we can get, but companies have no way to really anticipate demand. Topps provides a window, limited, to catch that moment and deliver a real product – not virtually – but place it in my hands in just a few days. I don’t have to do anything but point and click, and I get it. Best part is, there is no leftover inventory so all the love goes to the bottom line. It’s a perfect system for today’s fan, and one that baseball has benefitted from tremendously.”
In total, more than 617,000 base cards were sold, and revenue is up 50 percent for the TOPPS NOW program year over year (at roughly $7.50 per card at retail that’s an estimated yet unofficial take of almost $4.5 million). Topps created more team sets, such as “The Road to Opening Day” collection for all 30 teams that examined each MLB team’s roster as the season got underway last spring.
So with all that success, what’s next for Topps?
“We currently offer TOPPS NOW cards for the Premier League (futbol) and we are hoping to add the UEFA Champions League in 2018,” said Heckman.
CHICAGO – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – In the only BIG EAST action on Monday, DePaul pushed its winning streak to five games with an 83-59 victory against Alabama A&M at Wintrust Arena. The Blue Demons (6-4) got out of the gate quickly, taking a 16-5 lead and gaining a 48-22 edge by halftime. Max Strus led a balanced scoring attack with 14 points. Tre’Darius McCallum added 13 points. The five-game winning streak is the longest since a seven-game run early in the 2012-13 season.
Strus leads the Blue Demons in scoring with a 15.3 average. He is the top scorer among newcomers in the BIG EAST.
In the national polls released on Monday, Villanova jumped from No. 4 to No. 1 in the Associated Press and USA Today Polls. It’s the third straight season the Wildcats have spent time at No. 1. Xavier is No. 10 in the AP poll and ninth in USA Today. Seton Hall is ranked 15th in both polls. Creighton is 25th in USA Today and the first team among those receiving votes in the AP. Georgetown is receiving votes in USA Today.
This week is the lightest of the season for BIG EAST teams. The only game tonight has Seton Hall hosting Saint Peter’s on campus at Walsh Gymnasium. FS1 has the game at 7 p.m. ET. On Wednesday, Villanova plays at Temple at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
BIG EAST teams have been on a hot streak of late. League squads have won 38 of the last 43 games overall (.884). For the season, the BIG EAST non-conference record is 78-18 (.813), the best mark since 1988-89 (113-23, .831).
Jarvis Landry (14)
MIAMI GARDENS — The Miami Dolphins undermined the New England Patriots’ chances for gaining AFC home-field advantage and Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry made sure the reigning Super Bowl champions made the historical connection to the NFL DeflateGate connection by mocking his opponent.
Landry, Miami’s star wide receiver, caught two of Jay Cutler’s three touchdown passes as the double-digit underdog Dolphins upset the Patriots 27-20 on Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium. After his second touchdown grab, Landry celebrated by pretending to inflate the football — perhaps mocking New England quarterback Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” issues.
After the game, Landry was asked what his celebration meant, and he answered in song.
“This song right here — ‘take the air out of the ball just so I can flex,'” Landry said. “I won’t say the rest (of the song) because you all will take it out of context.”
Asked again about his gesture, Landry said: “I’m taking the air out of the ball. I’m deflating.”
Landry wasn’t the only Dolphins hero.
Cutler completed 25 of 38 passes for 263 yards. Kenyan Drake led Miami’s ground game with 114 yards on 25 carries. It was the second consecutive 100-yard game for Drake, who also caught five passes for 79 yards.
“We felt that, with our personnel, we could take advantage of mismatches with their defense,” Drake said. “Jay was out there slinging the rock around the field, and everyone was making big plays.”
The Patriots (10-3), who visit the 11-2 Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in what was looking like a battle for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, may have been caught looking ahead as their eight-game win streak was snapped.
“We weren’t good enough in any area tonight to win the game,” New England coach Bill Belichick said. “It was not a good effort across the board.”
Brady got off to a poor start, missing all four of his first-quarter passes. For the game, Brady completed 24 of 43 passes for 233 yards and one touchdown, but he was intercepted twice, both times by cornerback Xavien Howard.
“They get them sometimes, too,” Brady said of defensive players. “I wish they never got them, but sometimes they do. There were a lot of 50-50 balls that were close.”
Before Monday, Brady had just four interceptions all season and never more than one in a game. His last multiple-interception game was in 2015.
The Patriots went 0-for-11 on third downs, a statistic that surely bothered Brady.
“We just didn’t make enough plays,” Brady said. “We’ve had a lot of good nights this year, but this was a bad night.”
Miami (6-7) compiled an impressive 123-2 yardage advantage after one quarter but led just 6-0. The Dolphins scored on field goals of 30 and 44 yards by Cody Parkey. The first field goal was the result of a 13-play, 69-yard drive. The second was set up by an interception by Howard.
New England got untracked in the second quarter, taking a 7-6 lead on a 3-yard run by Rex Burkhead.
On the next possession, Miami took a 13-7 lead on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Landry.
New England closed its deficit to 13-10 on a 46-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with two seconds left in the first half.
Miami extended its lead to 20-10 when Jakeem Grant made a spectacular, leaping 25-yard touchdown catch, crashing to the turf in the end zone.
The Dolphins closed the third-quarter scoring with Landry’s 4-yard reception.
New England crept closer as Brady’s 3-yard touchdown pass to James White cut Miami’s lead to 27-17 with 13:05 to play.
With 53 seconds left in the game, the Patriots, who had a first-and-goal at the Miami 1-yard line, had to settle for a 33-yard Gostkowski field goal after getting hit with illegal-shift and holding penalties.
Trailing 27-20, New England failed to recover an onside kick, sealing the win for Miami.
NOTES: Dolphins DE Andre Branch sustained a first-half knee injury and did not return. … Miami wore uniforms styled from its undefeated 1972 Super Bowl champion team. … Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski served his one-game NFL suspension for an intentional late hit last week against Buffalo Bills CB Tre’Davious White. … Miami’s inactive players included QB Matt Moore, RB Damien Williams, OG Jermon Bushrod and CB Cordrea Tankersley. … New England RT Marcus Cannon (ankle) was inactive. … New England added DE Jonathan Freeny to its roster.
CHICAGO – Not that long ago, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis couldn’t even share the same practice space. Now, the pair has helped spark the Chicago Bulls’ three-game winning streak. Mirotic scored 24 points in his first start of the season, and Portis scored a career-high 23 as the Bulls beat the Boston Celtics 108-85 on Monday night.The Bulls (6-20) haven’t lost since Mirotic made his season debut on Friday after missing 23 games with facial fractures and a concussion sustained in a fight with Portis in practice in October.
Now, it is Mirotic and Portis that are helping the rebuilding Bulls jell on the floor after snapping a 10-game losing streak with an overtime victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
“So far, we have had great chemistry on the team,” Mirotic said. “Bobby and I, we are playing good, we are finding each other and we are bringing that energy that the team needs.”
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, for one, isn’t surprised to see Mirotic and Portis playing well together despite their obvious differences that resulted Portis breaking two bones in Mirotic’s face during the fight that caused early drama, which included Mirotic refusing to speak to Portis.
“They’re both pros,” Hoiberg said. “They’re both guys that are going to go out and play with great passion and emotion. You can see it with the way they’re playing off of each other out there. I love to see the way they’re playing together. Hopefully, they’ll keep it going.”
David Nwaba finished with 13 points for Chicago, which has not lost since snapping a 10-game losing streak on Friday with an overtime victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Kris Dunn added 12 points for the Bulls (6-20) as the Bulls got 55 points from their bench.
Portis, who was suspended for the first eight games of the season following with the altercation with Mirotic, led the effort among his fellow reserves.
“Everybody is of one accord, everybody is playing together and the ball is moving tremendously well,” Portis said.
After coming off the bench in his first two games, Mirotic started in the place of Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen, who missed the game because of back spasms. Mirotic and Portis helped spark a 24-2 second-quarter scoring surge when the Bulls turned a four-point deficit into an 18-point lead
The Celtics (23-6) played without Kyrie Irving, who sat out due to a left quadriceps contusion, and never got closer than 11 points.
“Sometimes, you get your butt kicked — it’s as simple as that,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Chicago dictated the whole game, they played harder than we did, they played with more presence than we did, they played more competitive than we did, they played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win very many games when you play like that.”
With Irving in street clothes, Al Horford scored 15 points, and Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier each contributed 13 points for Boston, which was coming off a win at Detroit on Sunday. Aron Baynes finished with 10 points for the Celtics.
Stevens said the Celtics failed to defend Mirotic and Portis like they needed and allowed the Bulls to get to the rim too easily. The result, he said, was predictable as the Bulls led by as many as 30 before winning by 23.
“What do they say — it was a collective success for them and a collective failure for us,” Stevens said.
Defensively, the Bulls kept the Celtics to a season-low 85 points, including just 13 in the second quarter. But now, after stringing together three straight wins in the last four days, the Bulls know they can’t allow their recent success to keep them from continuing to improve.
“We’ve been in a slump the last two or three weeks and now, we’ve got three wins in a week,” Portis said. “That’s been big with our team. It’s always fun to win.”
NOTES: G Kyrie Irving scored 16 points in Boston’s victory over Detroit on Sunday, but he took a knee to his quad in that game and experienced discomfort on Monday morning. … Celtics F Marcus Morris missed his second straight game with a left knee injury. Coach Brad Stevens said the injury would be re-evaluated on Tuesday in Boston. … Celtics F Al Horford, who had a knee-to-knee collision with another player Sunday, started Monday despite being classified as questionable. … Bulls F Lauri Markkanen experienced some back issues over the summer and underwent treatment for tightness in his back after the shootaround Monday. Coach Fred Hoiberg said he hopes to get Markkanen back in the lineup soon.
CHICAGO – The Boston Celtics will try to complete a winning road trip when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Monday. After dropping the opener of the three-game trip at San Antonio, the Celtics clamped down defensively in a 91-81 victory at Detroit on Sunday to improve to 9-2 on the road against the Eastern Conference.”We were locked in,” center Aron Baynes told reporters after his team got revenge for a recent 118-108 home loss to the Pistons.”Our offense wasn’t as crisp as we wanted it to be, but defensively we had a game plan and we stuck with it. We were trying to pack the paint and make them make plays from the outside. Last time, they really had whatever they wanted inside the paint.” The Bulls have won two in a row following a 10-game losing streak as they’ve made the most of Nikola Mirotic’s return to the lineup. “I said to (assistant coach) Randy Brown at the Charlotte game that we’re going to win that game, and he said, ‘Why?'” Mirotic told reporters after a 104-102 victory over New York on Saturday. “And I said ‘Because I’m back.’ And we won that game, and today I told him too – ‘We’re going to win two in a row.’ And he said, ‘Niko, I trust you.’ We are 2-0, so there is no coincidence.” Mirotic, who missed the first 23 games due to facial fractures and a concussion resulting from a preseason fight with teammate Bobby Portis, scored 19 points in 20 minutes versus the Knicks.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN Boston, WGN (Chicago)
ABOUT THE CELTICS (23-5): Forward Al Horford rebounded from a season-worst two-point performance against the Spurs to lead his team with 18 points at Detroit while chipping in nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and zero turnovers. Point guard Kyrie Irving added 16 points and Baynes recorded a season-high 13 rebounds as Boston prevented itself from losing consecutive games for the first time since starting 0-2. “We responded not only to that loss at home (to Detroit), but also to the tough Spurs loss,” Irving told the media. “We want to continue to build character and identity for our team and be responsive with a quick turnaround.”
ABOUT THE BULLS (5-20): Mirotic’s big effort Saturday night was part of a solid showing for Chicago’s five reserves, who combined for 54 points on 21-of-37 shooting with 14 assists and two turnovers. Point guard Kris Dunn led the starters with 17 points and nine assists and he is averaging 17.5 points, eight assists and 6.3 rebounds during a four-game stretch. “I want to be a leader for my team and I want to make the big plays,” Dunn told reporters. “I know we have multiple guys who can make plays, but I definitely want to be one of them.”
1. Boston rookie F Jayson Tatum was 3-for-5 from 3-point range Sunday to improve his NBA-leading percentage from long distance to 52.3.
2. Celtics F Marcus Morris (knee) is expected to miss his second straight game.
3. Chicago has won four straight regular-season meetings with Boston at home.