Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, April 2022
A = Alternate Card B= Bonus Factory Set Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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4/29/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #584 Ron Washington, Rangers
More Ron Washington Topps Cards: 1987 1988T 2007 2008
Coaches don't get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But if they did, Ron Washington is a first-ballot selection with 97% of the vote. The work he did with the 2000's Athletics has been well-documented; Eric Chavez presented Washington with one of his Gold Gloves as a seismic thank-you (and even replaced it when it was damaged!).
Successful coaches have a way of earning managerial consideration from other clubs, and "Wash" was no different—he was on the fast track to manage almost from his first year coaching in Oakland. The Texas Rangers ultimately gave Washington his first shot at running a team in November 2006, and though they fell one strike short of a championship, it was quite the gainful hire.
Here, Washington is fresh off his second season at the helm in Texas. Though the 2008 Rangers finished under .500 for a fourth straight year, they improved by four games from 2007 as newcomer Josh Hamilton emerged as an MVP candidate. Washington's pitchers mostly disappointed, however, and the Angels blew through the rest of the division.
THIS CARD: This is not a random selection; we specially selected Washington's card in acknowledgement of his 70th birthday 4/29/2022. Despite his off-field issues and his having the audacity to take on my Giants in the 2010 World Series, I've always had a lot of respect for Washington and can't recall anyone ever disparaging him publicly.
In Rangers history, #38 has also been worn by notables such as...no one. But former team cornerstone Ruben Sierra wore the number when he returned to the Rangers in '03, so there's that. Washington remains the most significant #38 in club history; the most recent user was OF D.J. Peters in 2021.
More from Washington's 2008 season: Texas started 9-18 but climbed to 60-54 by early August. They still trailed the Angels by hella, however, and a 3-13 stretch in mid-August ended whatever slim hopes they had of even a Wild Card berth. The Rangers finished with an unsightly 5.37 ERA, allowing 12+ runs 14 times and even losing a game in which the Texas offense supplied 17 runs.
(flip) Today, the Rangers' team record for players used is 64 in 2014. Sixty-four. That's frikkin' hard to do. 41 pitchers. You'll never convince me in a pre-COVID world that all that was necessary.
Of those 19 rookies, 1B/OF Chris Davis (.285, 17, 55) was the only one who really shined for an extended period. SP Matt Harrison won nine times, but with a 5.49 ERA and 1.566 WHIP. Tommy Hunter would later become a fine MLB pitcher, but he was knocked around in three 2008 outings.
Washington, a former IF who played mostly SS, suited up for the 1977 Dodgers, the 1981-86 Twins, the 1987 Orioles, the 1988 Indians and the 1989 Astros. Only in 1982 did he top 100 games (119).
AFTER THIS CARD: Washington's Rangers squad, under .500 in 2008 as we mentioned, was in the World Series by 2010—but lost to the Giants in five games. As we also mentioned, Texas was within a strike of winning the 2011 World Series against St. Louis, but fate was not on their side. The skipper received AL Manager of the Year votes annually 2009-13 but somehow never finished higher than second.
By 2014, Texas was a 95-loss team and Washington was out as manager; he resigned in September once reports of an extramarital affair came to light. Wash stepped down as the Rangers' all-time wins leader with 664 over eight seasons; he's since returned to coaching, with the 2015-16 Athletics and the Braves since 2017. Happy 70th from TSR.
Ron Washington appeared in Topps as a manager in 2007-09 Topps; he appeared as a player in 1983-87 Topps and in 1988 Topps Traded. For whatever reason, the company excluded him from 1989 Topps, while two companies who DID include him in their 1989 sets (Donruss and Upper Deck) used absolutely frightening photos of him. There HAS to be a connection.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Texas Rangers
More April 2022 Topps Cards Of The Day
4/1/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #233 Rich Amaral, Mariners
More Rich Amaral Topps Cards: 1993 1995T 1998
Rich Amaral had to wait until two months past his 29th birthday to receive his first taste of the major leagues. As you might expect from someone buried on the farms for over a decade, Amaral was willing to play wherever the Seattle Mariners told him to, and managed to extract 10 major league seasons out of that versatility (and speed).
The Mariners originally called Amaral up in May 1991; Omar Vizquel wasn't hitting and Amaral was over .300 down in AAA Calgary (in fact, he'd be the Pacific Coast League batting champion in 1991). Two days later Amaral was on the DL, knocked out for six weeks by a sprained elbow ligament suffered on a play at second base.
In 1992, Amaral got in a handful of April/May games for Seattle before returning to the club from Calgary in September; in all, he hit .240 but found time at seven positions (though only three for more than three innings).
Here, the 31-year-old has completed his official rookie season, one in which he served as the 1993 Mariners' primary 2B (and sometimes 3B) through July before injuring his hamstring. Amaral took on a utility role after healing, but still placed 5th in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
THIS CARD: This is not a random selection; we are presenting Amaral in COTD in recognition of his 60th birthday today. It's crazy watching him become a sexagenarian because I can remember Amaral's rookie season of 1993, which in my mind was about 15 years ago, not 29.
It's pretty obvious why we chose Amaral's 1994 Topps card, isn't it? 1993 was his best season by far, and Topps didn't give me a stack of Amaral cards to pick from.
Amaral is listed as a SS even though, as we said, he played mostly 2B-3B in 1993. In fact, only 14 times in Amaral's 110 games did he handle SS. Strange...
(flip) Yes, Amaral was a #2 pick by the 1983 Cubs and might have had a future there, except A) 2B Ryne Sandberg elevated his game to superstar levels in 1984, and B) SS Shawon Dunston, drafted first overall by the Cubs in 1982, existed (and played well).
Three full years at AA Pittsfield (Cubs)? Granted, Amaral wasn't a star, but his play didn't warrant that. To his credit, upon reaching the majors, Amaral never bad-mouthed the Cubs for denying him promotions. But I'm happy to do it for him.
Those 57 steals for AAA Birmingham (White Sox, who plucked Amaral from the Cubs after the 1988 season but never called him up either) were second in the Southern League to teammate C.L. Penigar's 64. Penigar never reached MLB and I guarantee his name is 12% of the reason why.
AFTER THIS CARD: Defensive issues cost Amaral his full-time 2B job in early 1994, as Luis Sojo and later the shifted SS Felix Fermin gobbled up most of the 2B at-bats. In fact, Amaral even returned to AAA Tacoma when some Alex Rodriguez guy was promoted for a time. But he still started 53 times at several positions for Seattle that year.
But from 1995-97, Amaral—now firmly in a super-utility role—averaged nearly 100 games and 20 steals for the Mariners while hitting .287! After a 1998 season which began and ended with Amaral on the disabled list (strained back muscle, torn left calf muscle), the Mariners moved on from the 36-year-old. Enter Baltimore, who gave Amaral 2Y/$1M.
Amaral hit .277 with nine steals in 91 games for the '99 Orioles, but was cut in July 2000 with a .217 average and never played again.
Rich Amaral appears in 1993-94 and 1998 Topps, as well as 1995 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Seattle Mariners
4/2/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #538 Alex Romero, Diamondbacks
More Alex Romero Topps Cards: 2004T
I get Alex Romero confused with Alex Ramirez, another short-lived MLB outfielder who went on to a long career in foreign leagues. The difference is: Ramirez was a legendary Japan League slugger, while Romero might be best known for, well, something far less praiseworthy.
Here, however, Romero has just won a job with the 2008 Diamondbacks. Seven seasons in Minnesota's system had led nowhere for Romero, and the Twins actually did him a favor by waiving him in January 2007. He joined Arizona and came within four hits of leading the Pacific Coast League that season while batting .310 for AAA Tucson.
THIS CARD: Geez, Romero! That signature had to take five minutes to complete. It's pretty obvious this guy practices (given all the contracts he'd end up signing to play in winter/foreign leagues, he was wise to do so).
This might be our first 2008 Topps Diamondbacks card—or should I say, D-Backs? Rather than squeeze the little circus balls too tightly, Topps went with the abbreviated nickname. All other team names were fully spelled out.
More from Romero's early 2008 season: almost all of his early run came as a pinch-hitter, and he went 3-for-his-first-7 with three RBI in that role. That includes an RBI single off Colorado's Ryan Speier in the T10th that iced a 5-2 win on 4/6. Romero spent 4/22 through 5/26 at Tucson.
(flip) Nixon, of course, was the longtime Red Sox outfielder and 2004 World Champion who spent 2007 with Cleveland. Nixon wound up going 6-for-35 with the 2008 Mets, his final major league stop.
"Final Outfield Spot" LOL. Is that what they told Romero? He played outfield once for the Diamondbacks until June started (he started in CF 4/20 and was double-switched out in the B6th).
Ugh. Seeing Bob Melvin's name just reminds me of Oakland's 2021-22 off-season purge, which included Melvin, their (successful) manager of 10+ seasons.
AFTER THIS CARD: Romero finished 2008 at .230, 1, 12 in 78 games. In Spring Training 2009, despite being recovered from a broken hand suffered in winter ball, the 26-year-old was outrighted to AAA Reno by the Diamondbacks...but wound up getting in 66 games with Arizona after returning in late June (batting .248 with one homer).
That was it for Romero in MLB; subsequent minor league deals with the Astros, Braves, Marlins and Giants did not lead to a big-league promotion. Romero played several years in the Mexican and Italian Leagues and has headed to Venezuela literally every winter—including this past one—for more action; Romero's 780 career Venezuelan Winter League games have to rank high on their all-time list.
Alex Romero debuted as a First-Year player in 2004 Topps Traded & Rookies, then made his final appearance in 2008 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks
4/3/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #432 Brian Roberts, Orioles
More Brian Roberts Topps Cards: 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Roberts, fleet 2B of the Orioles, was one of the league's best at his position from 2004-09. Unfortunately, he was essentially done by age 32 due to myriad physical woes in the 2010's.
Roberts made his MLB debut in 2001, serving as Baltimore's regular SS for most of June/July while Mike Bordick was out (despite major defensive issues). Roberts then shuttled back and forth between Baltimore and AAA Rochester in 2002, though it should be said that the 2002 Orioles—who were 67-95 overall—were 20-18 when Roberts played.
Here, Roberts has completed a breakout 2003 season. Called up from AAA Ottawa in May to replace injured Jerry Hairston Jr., Roberts became the O's regular 2B and wound up batting .270 while leading the club in triples and steals.
THIS CARD: We see Roberts stretching to force out Texas OF Doug Glanville at 2B. Glanville was only a Ranger for 52 games in 2003, and just two of those games were at Baltimore. Let's see if we can pinpoint when this pic was shot (it's too old for a Getty Images search).
7/21/2003: Glanville reaches 1B twice. After singling in the T2nd, he advances to 2B on a walk. After singling in the T8th, he's stranded on a fly ball. So let's try the next day...
7/22/2003: Glanville, after singling in the T3rd, advances to 2B on an infield hit; he does not reach base again. So this pic must be Glanville advancing to 2B as the Orioles unsuccessfully try to retire him on Einar Diaz's infield hit (which went to SS, according to Baseball Reference).
(flip) Roberts' 5/22 slam off Anaheim's Troy Percival in the T9th gave Baltimore a 7-4 comeback win. His 5/28 slam off Anaheim's Ramon Ortiz in the B2nd keyed a 6-2 Baltimore win. Roberts hit just 97 career homers in MLB, but six were slams!
There's no way Delmaria still exists as a MiLB affiliate; it had to go belly-up in the 2021 restructuring, if not sooner.
That SPEC indicates Roberts was drafted as a compensatory pick for a lost free agent—in this case, 1B/DH Rafael Palmiero, who left the Orioles after the 1998 season but returned in 2004-05.
AFTER THIS CARD: Now the Orioles' unquestioned 2B, Roberts took off in 2004, leading the league with 50 doubles and scoring 107 runs. In 2005 he made the AL All-Star team as he exploded for 18 homers and a .314 average! Roberts hit .294 and averaged 13 bombs, 46 doubles and 37 steals from 2005-09, making his second All-Star squad in 2007! The Orioles inked their star 2B to a 4Y/$40M extension in February 2009.
Then came the setbacks.
In 2010, Roberts missed most of the first four months with a strained abdominal muscle—and the last six games with a concussion after bonking himself in the helmet with his bat. In mid-May 2011, he was concussed once more while sliding into 1B and didn't return until June 2012. After a month of action, a groin strain and hip surgery ended Roberts' 2012 season. And in 2013, he missed most of the first three months with a hamstring strain.
Not surprisingly, the Orioles—having gotten all of 192 games from Roberts 2010-13—let him walk once his contract expired after the '13 season. He joined the rival Yankees on a 1Y/$2M deal (with incentives) for 2014, but was cut in August after batting just .237 with a .300 OBP. Two months later, 37-year-old Roberts announced his retirement. He finished up with 1,527 hits and a .276 average across 14 campaigns.
Brian Roberts—who was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2018—appeared in 2004-14 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
4/4/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #344 Felipe Alou, Expos
More Felipe Alou Topps Cards: 1992T 1993 2003T 2004 2005 2006
Felipe Alou was a big league semi-star, batting .286 with over 2,000 hits and over 200 homers from 1958-74, mostly with the Giants and Braves. Fast-forward to 1992, when Alou took over as Expos manager from Tom Runnells and turned that scuffling ballclub around practically overnight. Alou guided the Expos to 94 wins in 1993 and probably would have led them to a championship in 1994 had the strike not wrecked everything.
Montreal went into cost-cutting mode following that season and never seriously contended again, though under Alou's leadership the young Expos always gave nothing less than total effort. They even managed to finish 2nd in the NLE with 88 wins in 1996 despite a payroll well under $20M!
Here, however, Alou's 2000 Expos squad has skidded to a fourth consecutive 4th-place finish in the NLE, losing over 90 games for the third straight season despite the presence of budding superstar Vladimir Guerrero Sr. It was hardly all Alou's fault; he was forced to use the likes of Peter Bergeron as his CF and Mike Thurman as a SP.
THIS CARD: If the Expos still existed, #17 might be retired in Alou's honor by now. He is comfortably ahead of Buck Rodgers as their all-time leader in games managed (1,408) and won (691). And let's face it: barring a major shift in the front office/ownership, nobody else would have lasted long enough in Montreal to have their number retired.
The only other notable #17 in Expos history was OF Ellis Valentine, who was an All-Star and Gold Glover for the team in the late 1970's.
More from Alou's 2000 season: the infamous Jeffrey Loria bought into Montreal's ownership group in 1999, and before long the club had gone on a spending "spree", signing RP Graeme Lloyd (3Y/$9M, HUGE in Expos dollars) and trading for SP Hideki Irabu ($2M for 2000 plus a pricey 2001 option that was restructured). Expectations grew a bit, and the team got off to a 31-23 start through 6/5 before injuries—including to both Lloyd and Irabu—and inexperience reared their ugly heads.
(flip) During his Expos run, Alou gained NL Manager of the Year votes in 1992 (2nd place) 1993 (3rd place) 1994 (1st place) 1996 (2nd place) and even secured a vote in his 95-loss 2000 season! As Giants manager, he also got NL Manager of the Year attention (4th-place in 2003, 5th-place in 2004).
TOPPS PHOTOGRAPHER: "Okay, Mr. Alou, we got a straight-on shot of you for the front of your card. Now, for the back photo, can you pretend a cat just ran onto the field near third base?"
Manager cards returned to 2001 Topps after a seven-set absence. I was happy about this, my only complaint being Topps altering their design from the rest of the commons. By 2004 Topps, Manager card designs matched player card designs once again.
AFTER THIS CARD: After a 21-32 start to the 2001 season, Alou was fired by the Expos. He spent 2002 as the Tigers bench coach before returning to the Giants as their manager 2003-06. The 2003 team went to the NLDS, the 2004 team was painfully eliminated from postseason contention in Game #162, the 2005 team challenged for the NL West title despite being under .500 and without Barry Bonds until Spetember. And the 2006 team, well, stunk.
Now 86, Alou continues to serve as a special assistant for the Giants. He is warmly received whenever taking the Oracle Park field for ceremonies, reunions, etc.
Felipe Alou appeared as a player in 1959-74 Topps, and as a manager in 1993, 2001, and 2004-06 Topps. Alou also turns up as a manager in 1992 and 2003 Traded.
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Montreal Expos
4/6/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #413 Jon Garland, White Sox
More Jon Garland Topps Cards: 1998 2002 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2010U
Garland, longtime fixture in the White Sox rotation during the 00's, went 92-81, 4.41 during his nine-season Chicago tenure. Twice, he won 18 games, and he was never better than in the White Sox' championship year of 2005—that year Garland made the AL All-Star team and earned some Cy Young consideration.
But here, he's a 23-year-old fresh off his first full season in MLB. Abused by AL hitters during his debut campaign of 2000, Garland made large strides after temporarily switching to relief in 2001. He rejoined the rotation that July and remained there throughout 2002. Though consistency escaped him in '02, Garland posted a 2.72 ERA in his final seven starts of the year.
THIS CARD: Garland wears #52 here, but he wore his more familiar #20 from 2003-07 (not sure why he switched). Next to longtime teammate Jose Contreras, Garland may still be the most notable #52 in club history.
Typically, dudes with visible chains throw fairly hard—think Javier Vazquez 20 years ago or Jose Berrios today. Unofficially, the thicker the chain, the higher the velocity. Garland's bling-to-velo rate, on the other hand, had to be among the lowest ever by the time he was through. He only reached the low-90's as a youngster and was down to 86-87 MPH at the end...but the visible chain remained. It left me puzzled.
More from Garland's 2002 season: on 8/28, he shut out the Blue Jays on 109 pitches, whiffing a season-high nine. Garland's WHIP dropped in every month except July, and he did not allow a homer in his final three starts (covering 18 innings).
(flip) On 5/22 at Boston, Garland pitched shutout ball into the B9th but was pulled after back-to-back pinch-hit singles; CL Keith Foulke preserved the combined shutout.
Garland induced four GIDP in his 4/25 start at Cleveland—that's a lot. All four of the runners had reached via walk or error!
That Trade was an outright fleecing: the White Sox gave up ex-closer Matt Karchner to acquire Garland near the 1998 Trade Deadline. Though the Cubs did reach the NLDS that year, Karchner didn't contribute much, registering a 4.60 ERA and no saves across parts of three seasons before the Cubs issued his career-ending release in September 2000.
AFTER THIS CARD: Garland continued to take some lumps over the next two seasons, but made every start and still picked up 24 wins. We mentioned his 2005 breakout campaign; he was extended for 3Y/$29M in December 2005 and supplied Chicago with 18 more wins in 2006.
Though his ERA and WHIP actually dipped from 2006, Garland was only 10-13 in 2007 and found himself moved to the Angels in a curious deal for SS Orlando Cabrera (the salary difference was just $3M and the Sox already had a pricey SS in Juan Uribe). Though he went 14-8 for the 2008 Angels, Garland's ERA swelled to 4.90 and he wasn't re-signed.
Garland split 2009 with the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, then went 14-12, 3.47 for the 2010 Padres. The Dodgers inked him for 1Y/$5M in November 2010, but his season ended 6/1 after a shoulder injury that required a surgical cleanup. Doubtful he'd pass his physical, Garland backed out of a potential deal with Cleveland for '12, finally returning to MLB with the 2013 Rockies.
The big righty began surprisingly well, but gradually pitched himself into a mid-season release. He never pitched professionally again.
Jon Garland debuted in 1998 Topps as a draft pick, then appeared annually from 2002-10. His quality, 33-start season with the 2010 Padres did not lead to inclusion in 2011 Topps base or Update ...baffling.
CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Chicago White Sox
4/7/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #391 Robby Thompson, Giants
Here, we catch up with the veteran 2B on the heels of his ninth season with the Giants, which was also the second year of a 3Y/$11.6M extension he signed after his breakout 1993 campaign. 1995 was challenging for Thompson, as he hit just .223 and missed 49 games with a groin strain and a bad shoulder that eventually required surgery in September.
THIS CARD: Thompson manages to look like a player, coach and umpire all at once with this particular stance/expression. This card has long been—at least to me—one of the most identifiable of 1996 Topps, and I wish front images like this one were still common today.
That radio station in the background was (and still is) the San Francisco Giants flagship station. I do not listen to that station for anything other than occasional Giants games, however—it is all about 95.7 The Game!!
More from Thompson's 1995 season: he was on the DL from 5/26-6/10 with the groin injury and last played 9/13 before the shoulder issues grew to be too much. Thompson ended the year on a seven-game hit streak, and on 5/2, after the Dodgers had gone up 3-0 in the T15th—not a typo—Thompson's three-run homer off Greg Hansell tied the score in the B15th! Two batters later, Matt Williams doubled home Barry Bonds for the thrilling walk-off Giants win!!!
(flip) Just saying, Topps would do well to include a colored/patterned background for the stats in a future set.
I've seen a couple of bunt doubles, but none of the suicide-squeeze variety. The Giants won that day 6-5; Jeff McCurry was the Pirates reliever victimized by Thompson.
Thompson, once again, shown running. As I've mentioned in previous COTD, he was shown blazing the basepaths in three of four Topps front images at one point; I don't think even Vince Coleman got that treatment.
AFTER THIS CARD: Thompson was limited by neck whiplash (from a dive) and a strained hip to 63 games in 1996, in which he batted .211. With his contract expired after the '96 season, San Francisco traded for 2B Jeff Kent of Cleveland. Ironically, Thompson tried to hook up with Cleveland in Spring Training 1997, but received a career-ending release prior to Opening Day.
Next, Thompson coached for the Giants, Indians and Mariners, serving as interim manager for the latter in 2013 as Eric Wedge missed a month following a stroke. (He is not to be confused with Rob Thompson, who served as Yankees 3B coach for a time.)
Robby Thompson appeared annually in Topps 1987-1996.
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, San Francisco Giants
4/8/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #414 Jeff Ware, Blue Jays Draft Pick
More Jeff Ware Topps Cards: 1991T
Not to be confused with Jeff Ware of the 1996 Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ware, a member of Team USA in the 1991 Pan-American Games, at least reached the major leagues—which is more than can be said for many of his old Pan-Am teammates. Here, he's just been taken 35th overall in the 1991 Draft...more on that below.
THIS CARD: I remember pulling my first 1992 Topps Draft Pick card (probably not Ware) and thinking "What the hell is this?" in response not only to the design—which for the first time did not match regular Topps commons—but the player in street clothes. While Topps continued to give Draft Picks a different design from commons through 2001, at least they scrapped the "Growing Pains" photos.
The other issue with the Draft Picks: despite the altered design, they were listed on Topps Checklists with the teams who drafted them. They should have had their own section, like All-Stars had.
Not a bad looking guy, Jeff Ware. I see a combination of Darren Daulton and Shawn Estes. And I'm probably one of two people on Earth who sees it (there's one other guy in Singapore who shares my opinion).
(flip) The ERA is a little high for a first-round draft pick, but hey, whatever. As you see, Ware started 16 times as a junior at Old Dominion and successfully closed the other two games he pitched in—today, we call that the (Julio) Urias Usage Plan.
VCU is Virginia Commonwealth University. For someone who is acronym-heavy like me to not know that is embarrassing.
The Blue Jays drafted Ware as a compensatory pick for the loss of free agent George Bell to the Cubs. Despite losing their longtime superstar, and despite Ware's minimal MLB impact (read on), Toronto won two titles in the early 1990's. So everything worked out PERFECTLY!
AFTER THIS CARD: Ware performed well for High-A Dunedin in 1992 (5-3, 2.63 in 12 starts), but lost all of 1993 to rotator cuff surgery. An elbow strain and shoulder tendinitis limited him in 1994, but by September 1995 he was in the majors after a 7-0, 3.00 performance for AAA Syracuse.
Ware was bombed in his first and last Toronto starts, but turned in three strong performances in between (even winning once while walking seven). In 1996, he was either solid or disastrous, racking up a 9.09 ERA in 18 games (nine starts) for the Blue Jays. After an unimpressive go with AAA Tucson (Brewers) in 1997, Ware's pro career ended just shy of 27.
Since 2006, Ware has worked as a minor league pitching coach at various stops, with a 2017-19 stint as the Blue Jays' minor league pitching coordinator mixed in.
Jeff Ware appeared in 1991 Topps Traded as a Team USA member, then returned in 1992 Topps as a Draft Pick. If you want a Ware card with Toronto, turn to 1996 Collector's Choice.
CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays, Draft Picks
4/9/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps Update #164 Robert Andino, Mariners
More Robert Andino Topps Cards: 2006 2008U 2009U 2012 2013
Here, Andino, the former Marlins prospect who got three sips of iced tea followed by a half-cup of coffee across four seasons with Florida, has just joined the Seattle Mariners after a couple of seasons as a semi-regular with the Baltimore Orioles. In one of those series of transactions that only baseball executives can make sense of, the Mariners traded for Andino in November 2012, non-tendered him, then re-signed him to a 1Y/$1.6M deal.
It's the least Andino deserved after ripping the single that, coupled with Rays 3B Evan Longoria's walk-off homer against the Yankees, eliminated the 2011 Red Sox (who I loathed) from postseason contention.
THIS CARD: Andino charges a slow roller at Safeco Field (I do not yet recognize T-Mobile Park as a stadium name). This isn't as exciting as the barehanded catch he made against Minnesota's Justin Morneau in 2011—no video available at present—but you gotta make the routine plays, too.
According to Getty Images, this pic was shot 4/18/2013 against the Tigers; no other details available. Andino's Mariners defeated Detroit 2-0 that day, with Andino collecting two hits and playing both 3B and SS.
More from Andino's early 2013 season: on 4/5, he pinch-ran for Kendrys Morales in the T10th and scored the go-ahead run on Jesus Montero's double! Seattle eventually went up 8-6 and held on for the 8-7 win.
(flip) When this Andino card was randomly selected for COTD, I did not know where to search for him in my 2013 Topps album. The fact that he moved on to other teams after those four seasons apiece with Florida and Baltimore had completely escaped my memory.
Imagine if teams immediately decided to acquire dudes after they delivered a big hit against them. We'd have Roberto Alomar the 1993 Oakland Athletic, Edgar Renteria the 1998 Cleveland Indian, and perhaps most blasphemous, David Ortiz the 2005 Yankee. (Shudder) Although given what went down with Ortiz's teammate Johnny Damon, the latter example doesn't seem so ridiculous.
Andino beat the Mariners with a T9th solo homer off RP Charlie Furbush, 7/3/2012, and that first MLB homer took place 4/1/2008 against Mets RP Matt Wise. Andino only hit 18 career jacks, but many of them came in crucial situations.
AFTER THIS CARD: For a very brief period in 2013, Andino was Seattle's starting SS, but that arrangement lasted less than two weeks, during which Andino hovered around the Mendoza line. He was DFA'd and outrighted to AAA Tacoma in late May, then dealt to the Pirates two months later.
Pittsburgh (who was good in 2013-14) kept Andino at AAA Indianapolis through the 2014 season. He did not play anywhere in 2015, but got in 13 MLB games with the 2016 Marlins and 49 more with AAA Norfolk (Orioles) in 2017 before being slapped with a 50-game suspension for Amphetamine. He never made it back to pro baseball.
Robert Andino appeared in 2006, 2012 and 2013 Topps sets, as well as 2008-09 and 2013 Topps Updates & Highlights.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps Update, Seattle Mariners
4/11/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps Update #175 Masumi Kuwata, Pirates
More Masumi Kuwata Topps Cards: n/a
Kuwata, an ace starter for most of 21 seasons with Yomuiri of the Japan League, fulfilled a years-long dream of playing in the United States when he signed a MiLB deal with Pittsburgh in December 2006. Now, had the signing taken place 10 years prior, it would have been quite a coup for the Pirates. But Kuwata was 38 when he signed the deal, and 39 when he made his MLB debut 6/10/2007.
THIS CARD: Inside this pic:
TOPPS PHOTOGRAPHER: "Excuse me, Masumi?"
TP: "We're taking your Topps photo. Can you drive 15 miles to an open field and pretend you're warming up with somebody?"
KUWATA: "But I actually am about to warm up with somebody right here—"
TP: "Just go to the field, old man."
I'll forgive the signature since Kuwata likely didn't do much writing in English back home. (And if I'm dead wrong, I apologize.)
More from Kuwata's 2007 season: he started strong for the Pirates, with a 2.53 ERA and .114 BAA through nine appearances. Then on 7/2, the Brewers tagged him for seven earned runs in ⅔ of an inning, and he never recovered his effectiveness.
(flip) In that MLB debut, which took place at Yankee Stadium, Kuwata pitched a 1-2-3 B5th but allowed a two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez in the B6th.
Olivo, a relief pitcher, got in 85 games with the Pirates and Cardinals 1960-63. Among his teammates were Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski and rookie Willie Stargell.
This is where Topps should NOT have been married to their Rookie Card format. There was absolutely no reason to not include Kuwata's full Japan League stats on the reverse, rather than just those from his (forgettable) final season there. Kuwata had some big years in Japan; collectors should have been told this. At least the company had the sense to print his impressive career stat line.
AFTER THIS CARD: The Pirates designated Kuwata for assignment in August 2007, but he refused an outright assignment to AAA Indianapolis and returned to Japan. Surprisingly, he signed a new MiLB deal with the 2008 Pirates, but failed to win a job and retired from baseball.
Masumi Kuwata appeared in 2007 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps Update, Pittsburgh Pirates
4/12/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps Update #6 Chris Herrmann, Diamondbacks
More Chris Herrmann Topps Cards: 2013
No known relation to Frank.
Catcher/outfielder Chris Herrmann debuted in MLB in September 2012. The next year, he was recalled by Minnesota during a 10-game hitting streak for AAA Rochester; in July, Herrmann whacked one of Minnesota's three grand slams of the season!
Herrmann was recalled four more times by the Twins in 2014, but finally won the backup catcher's job (to Kurt Suzuki) out of Spring Training 2015. Herrmann, however, never hit all that much and was traded to Arizona in November 2015.
Here, the 28-year-old has earned a job behind starting C Welington Castillo. He got off to a cold start, but as he warmed up in May, manager Chip Hale began to use Herrmann in the outfield and at first base—just as Minnesota used to do—in addition to his backup catcher role.
THIS CARD: Per Getty Images, this pic was shot 4/10/2016 as the Cubs visited Arizona. That night, the D'Backs fell to Chicago 7-3, with Herrmann taking an 0-for-4 hitting and an 0-for-1 throwing out basestealers. (In the Getty gallery, there was a sensational pic of Herrmann making a sprawling catch that I wish Topps could have used here, but I don't think it was shot early enough to land in the Update set.)
We see Herrmann serving behind the plate here, but he was also used nine times in the outfield and twice at first base by Arizona. In fact, not only did he become the first Diamondback ever to start at both C and CF—he became the first major leaguer PERIOD to do it since Brandon Inge in 2008! Thanks, MLB.com.
More from Herrmann's early 2016 season: he hit .138 in April, but in his first five starts of May he recorded four multi-hit games. On 5/8, Herrmann homered twice at Atlanta—including a two-run game winner in the T11th off Jim Johnson!
(flip) I will never learn. I will never read the blurbs before profiling the cards. This proves it. (Berkman's blasts, which came off SP Jeff Suppan and RP Jay Witasick, powered Houston to a 9-6 win over the Royals 7/9/2000.)
That Trade With Twins sent future White Sox phenom Daniel Palka to Minnesota. Palka went to the White Sox on waivers in November 2017, blasted 27 homers for Chicago in 2018, and has barely been heard from since.
Those 18 BB in 157 AB in 2013 aren't bad at all, averaging out to 70-something over a full season.. But the 49 K (not shown) were bad at all.
AFTER THIS CARD: Herrmann got in a career-high 106 games for the 2017 Diamondbacks. The good news: he homered 10 times, including a walk-off against the Mets in July. The bad news: he hit .181 with a few too many K. Arizona let Herrmann go in Spring Training 2018, and he's since appeared in just 66 MLB games (for the 2018 Mariners and 2019 Athletics).
Despite a VERY hot start to his A's career in 2019 (a grand slam in his first start, and a 4-for-4 effort in his second), Herrmann has been outside the bigs looking in since that season. He spent 2020 at the Giants' Alternate Training Site and 2021 at AAA Worcester (Red Sox).
Chris Herrmann has appeared in 2013 Topps and 2016 Topps Update. Why he lacks a 2018 card is beyond me, but 2018 Topps wasn't very good IMHO.
CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps Update, Arizona Diamondbacks
4/13/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #444 John Burkett, Red Sox
Here, Burkett, the ace of my Giants in the early 1990's who's making his third COTD appearance, has just closed the book on his first of two seasons with the Red Sox (2002-03). While not as tough as he'd been during his All-Star 2001 campaign with Atlanta, Burkett proved to be a serviceable back-end starter for the Red Sox in 2002 (except for August, see below).
THIS CARD: Here, we have the rare front image of a pitcher receiving a throw back from his catcher. Topps, by 2003, had come a long way from the redundancy horror of Burkett's 1993-95 Topps front images, which were practically identical.
That's #19 across Burkett's back, a number with a good Red Sox history. Fred Lynn wore it in the 1970's, Bob Ojeda wore it in the 1980's, Josh Beckett wore it in the 2000's and Jackie Bradley has worn it off-and-on since 2017.
More from Burkett's 2002 season: he allowed one ER in his final 16+ innings, including eight shutout innings vs. Baltimore 9/21 to keep the Red Sox within one game of the AL Wild Card. Also, on 7/11 at Toronto, the 37-year-old picked up career win #150 with six strong innings.
(flip) That lone 2002 shutout went down 7/27 against Baltimore; Burkett fired 111 pitches, scattered four hits and whiffed seven. His effort was appreciated by his manager and bullpen, which worked six innings the previous night.
Those 13 wins in 2002 included seven victorious decisions in a row to open the season. Burkett was very streaky from a won-loss standpoint in 2002.
Free agent Burkett signed with Boston for the price of 2Y/$11M, despite hoping to parlay his excellent 2001 into a three-year deal.
AFTER THIS CARD: In what proved to be his final big league campaign, Burkett went 12-9 for the 2003 Red Sox, benefitting from a strong offense that offset his 5.15 ERA and staggering inconsistency. Burkett retired a month shy of 39 after Boston's postseason run, during which he started twice but was not all that effective.
John Burkett appeared annually in Topps 1991-2003, except 2000. He's also got Traded cards for 1990 and 1995.
CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Boston Red Sox
4/14/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #740 Len Dykstra, Phillies
Hey, Lenny. Long time, no see!
Dykstra, the part-timer with the 1980's Mets who flipped a new gear upon becoming a regular with the 1990's Phillies, hoped to bounce back in 1992 from an injury-marred 1991 season. Unfortunately, a broken thumb early (HBP) and a broken hand late (sliding into 1B) limited him to 85 games. Dykstra still led Philadelphia with 30 steals despite his extended absences.
THIS CARD: Dykstra appears in COTD for the fourth time, tying Alfonso Soriano and Odalis Perez for the "league lead". His 1994 and 1988 Topps cards were consecutively selected in January 2015, and his 1997 Topps card came up in April 2018.
This is one of only two times Dykstra was depicted batting in his Topps front image from 1991-97. Understandably, the company depicted him getting dirty—which wasn't hard to do—on several of his front images. You RARELY saw his uniform this clean.
More from Dykstra's 1992 season: he batted exclusively first in the Phillies' order and clobbered one home run leading off a game, on 8/7 against Montreal's Chris Nabholz—one day after his second four-hit game of the year. From 7/16 until his season-ending injury 8/15, Dykstra batted .345!
(flip) On 5/23/1987, Dykstra took the Dodgers' Bob Welch deep twice, but his Mets still lost 4-2.
On 9/16/1987, Dykstra slammed Montreal's Bob Sebra in the T8th, icing New York's 10-0 victory.
On 7/24/1990, facing former Mets teammate David Cone, Dykstra drove one deep into the gap. CF Mark Carreon probably couldn't get to it all that quickly, while RF Darryl Strawberry probably didn't feel like getting to it all that quickly. In any event, Dykstra touched 'em all as the Mets won 7-4. Thanks for the assist, UPI archives—this was one of the rare ITPHR with no video available online.
AFTER THIS CARD: Healthy at last in 1993, Dykstra erupted as an MVP candidate; his 129 BB that year remain a Phillies record and his 143 runs are tied for MLB's third-most in the past 36 seasons. He won Game 5 of the NLCS with an extra-inning homer and might have been World Series MVP had the Phillies beaten the Blue Jays. Philadelphia inked Dykstra to a 4Y/$25M extension that December.
Sadly, the man known as "Nails" only played 186 MLB games after his magical 1993 season. After an appendectomy took out a chunk of his 1994, spinal stenosis cut into his 1995 and eventually ended his career following 1996 surgery (a spring 1998 comeback attempt failed.) The list of Dykstra's post-baseball issues runs too long for this space; click here for a detailed Newsday account.
Lenny, aka "Len" Dykstra appeared in every Topps set from 1987-97.
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies
4/16/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #128 Lucas Duda, Mets
More Lucas Duda Topps Cards: 2011 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
One minute, Lucas Duda was one of the better—if not best—first basemen in the NL, a key bopper on a pennant-winning Mets team who seemed headed toward a big payday.
Next minute, Lucas Duda had changed teams four times in two years and was struggling just to hit his weight. Duda's career petering out at age 33 seemed totally absurd four years prior, but that's precisely what happened.
Here, Duda is basking in the afterglow of a promising 2011 season. He made the Mets roster out of Spring Training, was optioned back to AAA Buffalo twice, but returned for good on 6/10. In his final 80 games, Duda hit .317—good for eighth in the NL per MLB.com (250+ AB).
THIS CARD: We see Duda celebrating his walk-off, two-run single against the Padres 8/8/2011. Duda victimized San Diego closer Heath Bell, a 2011 All-Star who went 43-for-48 in save ops that year. (Justin Turner and David Wright scored the tying and winning runs, FYI.)
Flanking Duda, from left to right: #10 Terry Collins, the Mets manager who recently returned to Citi Field for Tom Seaver's statue unveiling; #22 Willie Harris and #44 Jason Bay. Judging by the red hair, I believe that's Turner behind Harris.
More from Duda's 2011 season: he hit just .143 with no homers in his first 20 games, leading to those two AAA demotions, but then heated up. On 6/25, he went 4-for-5 with three doubles and four RBI in New York's 14-5 win at Texas. And on 9/16 at Atlanta, Duda stroked four more hits and scored three times in a 12-2 Mets triumph.
(flip) Almost NEVER does Topps discuss the front image in the blurb, but there you have it. Sorry you had to read about Duda's big hit twice; I'll obviously never learn to read blurbs prior to writing.
BUFFALO was a Mets AAA team? I'd have never known/remembered that, even under the threat of poopy diaper spatter.
Of those 100 games with the 2011 Mets, Duda started 37 at 1B and 42 in the outfield, so he should have gotten the 1B-OF designation. In fact, Duda didn't play 1B full-time in the majors until 2014.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2012-13, Duda received extended run at 1B/OF, but both years he was returned to AAA to work out some kinks. But in 2014 he finally stuck as the Mets' everyday 1B, batting .253 with 30 HR and 92 RBI! One year later, a similar performance helped the Mets to the World Series! Duda banged out four hits in the first two games, but that wasn't nearly enough to fend off the Royals, who took the Series in five games.
A stress fracture in his back left Duda spectating for most of 2016; he underwent core muscle and wrist surgeries that off-season. The 31-year-old was dealt to the Rays in mid-2017 and finished up with a combined 30 homers despite batting just .175 for Tampa Bay.
Kansas City signed Duda to a 1Y/$3.5M deal (plus incentives) in February 2018, but traded him to Atlanta—who needed some lefty thump off the bench—that August. From there, Duda batted .171 in 39 games with the 2019 Royals, was cut in July, played a month for AAA Gwinnett (Braves), then faded from pro baseball entirely.
Lucas Duda appeared in 2011-18 Topps, the final card as a Royal.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, New York Mets
4/17/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #620 Hector Santiago, White Sox
More Hector Santiago Topps Cards: 2012U 2014 2014U 2015 2016 2017 2018U
Hector Santiago was a quality starter for the White Sox and Angels in the early 2010's, but his star didn't shine brightly for very long, and he's since devolved into a 26th man—the guy who gets the MLB call when somebody better isn't available for whatever reason.
(Wait...IS it still a bad thing to be a 26th man in MLB? Just how large are the rosters supposed to be now? I can't keep track.)
Whatever his status, Santiago beat long odds just to even reach MLB, let alone shine there. A 2006 #30 pick who made good, the New Jersey native was initially a reliever in the minors but became a starter in 2011. That June, the White Sox summoned him from AA Birmingham when SP John Danks suffered an oblique injury; more on that below.
Here, Santiago has completed his first extensive run in MLB. He made Chicago's 2012 roster out of Spring Training and actually closed for them in April before settling into a long relief role for manager Robin Ventura.
THIS CARD: Whoever thought it'd be a good idea, at any point in history, to have the Chicago White Sox wear red full-time needed to be removed from human society lest they do further damage. When I first pulled this card I thought Santiago was Bobby Abreu from his Phillies days!
Chicago wore these uniforms from 1971-75, and brought them back as an alternate for 2012. Several White Sox sport this garb in 2013 Topps, sadly. But at least the franchise re-retired this look after the '12 season.
Specifically, this image of Santiago was shot 8/26/2012 against Seattle; in that game Santiago worked four innings in relief of SP Gavin Floyd, who left after two frames with elbow discomfort. The Sox won 4-3. (BTW, that's Kevin Youkilis in the background manning third base!)
(flip) Those two games for the 2011 White Sox: Santiago sat around Chicago's dugout/bullpen for 11 days before being used on consecutive days against the Royals and Twins. Despite one hit allowed in 5.1 shutout innings, Santiago then sat around for 12 more days before being returned to Birmingham. Homie was more like a security guard than a ballplayer during that stint.
Santiago HAD a shot at surpassing Orosco's games pitched total before his 2021 suspensions (spoiler alert). That is, he had a chance of surpassing Orosco's games pitched total with the Orioles (336).
Those three games with 2012 Charlotte? Santiago was sent down for two weeks in early August. That was his first AAA experience, and as you see, he dominated.
AFTER THIS CARD: Santiago and his screwball shuffled between the White Sox' bullpen and rotation in 2013; his 3.56 ERA and 8.3 H/9 indicated he might be full-time rotation ready. But it wouldn't be for the Sox, who moved him to the Angels in a six-player, three-team trade in December 2013,
Santiago was up-and-down for the '14 Angels, who demoted him to the bullpen and then to AAA Salt Lake during the season. But in 2015, he emerged as an All-Star, finishing 9-9, 3.59 with a career-low 1.26 WHIP in 32 starts! Santiago opened 2016 10-4, earning a trade to the last-place Twins. (???)
Since the start of 2017—a year he sat extensively due to shoulder and back injuries—Santiago has made five MLB stops, including two more with the White Sox.
Used largely as a reliever since 2018, Santiago has not been effective since posting a 1.85 ERA in his final 20 games of '18 with the Sox. After sitting out 2020, he joined Seattle for 2021 but was suspended 10 games for "sticky stuff" that July; TWO DAYS after returning, Santiago received an 80-game ban for something called exogenus Testosterone. He's currently on the market but at 34, don't be shocked if he fails to resurface in MLB.
Hector Santiago appeared in 2013-17 Topps, as well as 2012, 2014 and 2018 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Chicago White Sox
4/18/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #127 Kevin Foster, Cubs
More Kevin Foster Topps Cards: 1994 1995 1996
From 1994-97, Kevin Foster went from an excellent member of the Cubs rotation, to a serviceable member of the Cubs rotation, to an absentee member of the Cubs rotation, back to a serviceable member of the Cubs rotation. He was easily one of the best rookie starters in the league during the 1994 season, but couldn't consistently regain that form.
In 1995, Foster began miserably, but went 8-8, 3.87 in his final 20 starts for the Cubs despite a very high homer rate. In 1996, a 7.65 ERA through 5/11 got him demoted to AAA Iowa, but he posted a 4.63 ERA in eight starts after returning in August. Here, the 28-year-old has completed a 1997 season that essentially ended in mid-August due to a shoulder strain.
THIS CARD: Foster has just uncorked either his hard four-seam fastball, his moving two-seamer, his solid changeup, or the slurvy breaking pitch he featured.
At Wrigley Field in 1997, Foster went 6-2, 3.75 in 13 starts. He was only 4-5, 5.71 on the road.
More from Foster's 1997 season: he started and won the first interleague game in Cubs history, an 8-3 triumph over the White Sox (which can be viewed in full here). Staked to a 6-0 lead after three innings, Foster allowed three runs in six innings for his eighth win of the year.
(flip) As a major leaguer, Foster batted .190 with one home run. But from 1995-96—before his reputation grew—Foster hit .264 with 15 RBI in 87 at-bats!
Today, of course, #31 is retired by the Cubs in honor of Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux. Foster wore #31 in 1994, switched to #32 in 1995-96 for some reason, then re-acquired #31 for 1997-98.
As you see in the bio, Foster was an Illinois native; Evansville is five hours southwest of Chicago. (We're not confusing the Illinois city with its more famous namesake in Indiana; both states have an Evansville.) And according to the Chicago Tribune, Foster was a Cubs fan as a youth.
AFTER THIS CARD: Foster strained his shoulder again during Spring Training 1998, and was on the DL until June. He made three relief appearances, two of which went poorly, and was demoted to AAA to finish the year. Foster's December 1998 deal with Cincinnati was voided, presumably for health reasons, and he did not play professionally in 1999.
After spending 2000 with AAA Pawtucket (Red Sox), Foster got the midseason call from the 2001 Rangers after some success at AAA Oklahoma City. In just nine games with Texas, Foster managed to:
break the hand of Yankees 3B Scott Brosius with an errant pitch, sidelining him for a month, and
allow the controversial "single" by Toronto's Jeff Frye that completed his cycle (it should have been a double, but Frye—under direction from his manager and coach—stopped at first base).
Foster refused a demotion back to OKC, got in three games for AAA Louisville (Reds) in 2002, and never pitched professionally again. He passed away in 2008 from renal cancer at age 39.
Kevin Foster debuted in Topps on a 1994 Coming Attractions card, then received regular commons in the 1995, 1996 and 1998 Topps sets.
4/19/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2020 Topps #524 Jurickson Profar, Padres
More Jurickson Profar Topps Cards: 2013 2014 2016 2017 2018U 2019U 2021
Jurickson Profar was a mega-prospect, ranked #1 by respected outlets including Baseball America, MLB Network and Olive Garden. (Okay, maybe not the last one.) Adding further fuel to the hype, in September 2012 he became the first Texas Ranger ever to homer in his first MLB at-bat!
Then came the setbacks.
After the Rangers gave Profar a long look in 2013, second base was his job to lose entering 2014. But Profar tore a muscle in his right (throwing) shoulder during Spring Training and wound up missing the whole season, having chosen rehab over surgery.
Profar hadn't healed by Spring 2015; the resulting operation cost him 2015 as well and the delay earned the ire of, well, the state of Texas. Profar did get in 90 games for the '16 Rangers, but spent 2017 on the AAA/MLB shuttle and no longer resembled a star-in-the-making.
Finally, in 2018, the 25-year-old remained healthy and productive, starting 137 times across five positions and producing a line of .254, 20, 77, plus 10 steals—at long last Profar was making a regular impact in MLB! Texas was so pleased with his development that they traded him to the Athletics in December 2018.
Here, Profar has just been acquired via trade by the San Diego Padres. After years of struggle, GM A.J. Preller went all-in for 2020—as he'd done in 2016—and Profar was one of his early hauls.
THIS CARD: I write this just a few days after Profar the Padre made an insane warning-track diving catch to rob Darin Ruf of my Giants late in a close game. It will easily be my lasting memory of him in this uniform, surpassing the time he aggressively jawed with Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers last season.
According to Getty Images, this image was shot 9/15/2019, while Profar was still with Oakland (playing at Texas). The airbrushing was pretty much a given; no WAY Topps could have gotten a fresh Padres image with MLB on hold due to COVID in early 2020. The A's won that day 6-1; Profar was 0-for-3 with a BB. (That's Jose Trevino's mask you see.)
More from Profar's 2019 season: Oakland used him largely as their 2B; he started 115 times at the position, with 11 other starts split between DH, LF and 1B. Profar made just five miscues in his final 96 games at 2B after some early challenges, and on 4/9 at Baltimore he went 4-for-5 with a homer, five RBI and three runs scored!
(flip) One of those 40 homers was a grand slam off Detroit's Spencer Turnbull 5/16/19. Two others came in one 7/17/2019 game vs. Seattle.
Of those 20 homers Profar hit for the 2019 Athletics, 18 of them came as a 2B—one short of Mark Ellis's franchise record set in 2007. Thanks, MLB.com.
That Trade With Athletics sent hard-hitting catching prospect Austin Allen and OF prospect Buddy Reed back to Oakland. Allen's played sparingly in MLB and Reed has yet to appear in MLB; I'd say the Padres won this deal.
AFTER THIS CARD: Profar started 51 of 60 games for the 2020 Padres, mostly at LF/2B, and hit .278 with a .428 SLG. San Diego then re-signed the free agent for 3Y/$21M in January 2021, and watched him fall to .227 with four homers in 137 games that year—perhaps being shuffled defensively more than ever was detrimental to Profar's offense.
Jurickson Profar has appeared in 2013-14, 2016-17, and 2020-21 Topps. He also shows up in 2018-19 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2020 Topps, San Diego Padres
4/21/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #602 Matt Anderson, Tigers
More Matt Anderson Topps Cards: 1999 2001
Today, just about half of MLB throws 100+ MPH. But Matt Anderson threw 100+ back when such dudes were in scarce supply. He was groomed to be the next great Tigers' closer as the new millennium approached, but he just didn't throw enough strikes to be trusted in many high-leverage situations.
Here, the Rice alum has just completed his fourth season with the Tigers—and first as their stopper! Anderson finally harnessed his blazing fastball in 2001, and after a VERY rough April (14.04 ERA in 11 games), he righted himself in May and was elevated to closer in June. Anderson registered a solid 3.21 ERA from May on!
THIS CARD: Anderson was of the Tim Lincecum mold—he got a lot of velocity out of a slim body, as you see here.
That patch on Anderson's sleeve marks 100 years of the American League; all AL uniforms featured said patch in 2001, as you might have guessed.
More from Anderson's 2001 season: he blew just one save all season, on 4/17 against the White Sox (and it wasn't a "true" save opportunity). His ERA stood at 54.00 on Opening Day, dropped to 16.20 soon after, then exploded back up to 45.00 after a ⅓-inning six-hit, seven-run implosion against the Twins 4/11. It took over a month for Anderson to whittle his ERA back under 10.00.
(flip) That 2.9 BB/9 ratio in 2001 fell from 6.4 BB/9 in 1998-2000...why didn't he try easing up on the gas sooner?!
Anderson shares a birthday with my late grandma and a close friend. If I ever meet him, I will point this out. And he will not know how to respond. I'm good for things like that.
Anderson wasn't just a #1 pick in June 1997—he was the first overall pick! At Rice, he teamed with future Astros superstar Lance Berkman, set school records for wins and saves (which is hard to do), and went to the 1997 College World Series—which is essentially a tournament, but still. Anderson was elected to the Rice Hall of Fame in 2019.
AFTER THIS CARD: Anderson tore a muscle in his pitching shoulder in 2002—don't blame the octopi—and never regained MLB effectiveness. He opened 2003 with the Tigers but was back in AAA Toledo by mid-May and didn't show enough in September to warrant a return to the Tigers in 2004.
Twelve games with the 2005 Rockies (12.60 ERA) ended Anderson's MLB career, though he hung around pro ball through 2011 on spaced-out MiLB deals with the Giants, White Sox and Phillies.
Matt Anderson appeared in 1999-2002 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Detroit Tigers
4/22/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #404 Alex Claudio, Rangers
More Alex Claudio Topps Cards: 2015U
There aren't many sidearming left-handers in MLB. or even in the galaxy. One of the precious few is Alex Claudio, a force out of the Rangers bullpen in the late 2010's who was leaned on so heavily by Brewers manager Craig Counsell in 2019 that he tied the club record for appearances (83)!
Claudio debuted with 15 strong RA for Texas in late 2014, and turned in 18 more quality outings for the Rangers in early 2015 before returning to AAA Round Rock. A groin strain nixed any shot at a September recall, but in 2016 Claudio spent most of the season in the Rangers bullpen (though they continued to shuttle him to AAA here and there). He pitched five scoreless innings against Toronto in that year's ALDS.
Here, the 25-year-old is fresh off a 2017 season in which manager Jeff Banister gave him the majority of save ops in the second half. Claudio appeared 70 times, all in the majors, and kept his ERA below 3.00 for all but two days of the entire season!
THIS CARD: Of all the pitchers to NOT show mid-motion! Today's Topps sets rarely depict hurlers doing anything but hurling, but here, we have Claudio checking the runner on first as he prepares to deliver. We collectors would have WANTED a shot of Claudio slinging the baseball. (Oh, well. I suppose I'm just happy he made the set at all.)
According to Getty Images, this pic was shot 8/9/2017 in what ended up as a 5-1 Rangers victory over the Mets. That day, Claudio pitched a scoreless B9th, striking out two.
More from Claudio's 2017 season: in April, he threw 10 innings across nine appearances and gave up just eight baserunners and zero runs. On 5/2 at Houston, Claudio made an emergency start for Cole Hamels, going three scoreless innings before things fell apart in the 4th and 5th. And from 8/1 through season's end, Claudio issued TWO walks in 27 innings!
(flip) Adrian Beltre, for those of you new to baseball, is the future-Hall-of-Fame 3B who played for Texas 2011-18.
You're going to think I'm joking, but this card #404 was literally NOT FOUND the first time I scoured my album for it. How perfect.
Those 70 appearances in 2017 ranked third in the AL among lefties (to the 72 by Oakland's Daniel Coulombe and the 77 by Dan Jennings of the White Sox and Rays) and tied for eighth overall.
As you see, Claudio went pretty low in the 2010 Draft; only two others from his draft round ever reached MLB (for a total of 61 games; I'd name them but I promise only their immediate family has heard of them).
AFTER THIS CARD: The Rangers used Keone Kela and later, Jose LeClerc as their 2018 closers, pushing Claudio back to a situational role. For the first time in his career, outs were tough to come by—his WHIP increased by 50% and his ERA went up two runs. That winter, Texas traded Claudio to Milwaukee for a 2019 Competitive Balance Draft Pick (which was once illegal in MLB).
Claudio recovered some effectiveness with the 2019 Brewers, leading MLB in appearances while helping the Crew to Wild Card berths in both 2019 and 2020. He earned just over $3M in all from Milwaukee before signing with the Angels for 1Y/$1.125M in December 2020...but in July 2021, Claudio was released by Los Angeles with a 5.51 ERA.
Boston inked him to an MiLB deal but cut him in September without an MLB promotion; at last check Claudio had failed to win a job in the 2022 Mets bullpen and is toiling for AAA Syracuse.
Alex Claudio has appeared in 2015 Topps Update and 2018 Topps. Want him as a Brewer? Your sole option is 2019-20 Topps Total (somehow, Claudio has never appeared in Topps Heritage).
CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Texas Rangers
4/23/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #269 Jeff Fassero, Expos
More Jeff Fassero Topps Cards: 1991T 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2001T 2002
Fassero, Montreal's setup-man-turned-number-two-starter for much of the 1990's, wasn't quite as effective throughout 1995 as he'd been for Montreal's memorable 1994 squad. Still, the veteran lefty opened the year 7-1, 2.63 and finished second (to Pedro Martinez) on the '95 Expos in wins, innings and strikeouts—all for the bargain price of $1.5M!
THIS CARD: We see Fassero reaching back to fire either his sinking fastball, good curve, forkball, or his out pitch—a back-foot slider.
Only six Expos players ever wore #13, and Fassero was better, and with the team longer, than the other five combined (although his original number in Montreal was #39).
More from Fassero's 1995 season: according to The Scouting Notebook, Fassero and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan briefly beefed over the former's attitude and approach—evidently, they mended fences since Fassero credited Kerrigan's presence when he decided to sign with Boston years later. On 6/2, Fassero K'd 10 over eight innings—including Andujar Cedeno thrice—in a win at San Diego. And on 5/7 against the Marlins, Cliff Floyd scored on Fassero's squeeze bunt, his lone RBI of 1995.
(flip) I continually forget Heaton's brief Expos stint; he's always an Indian and a Pirate in my mind.
See that one CG in 1994? It could have been four. That year, Fassero went nine innings in a game that went 10 innings, and was pulled after 8.2 innings two other times—one of those being a no-hitter he lost 6/13 when Pittsburgh's Carlos Garcia singled off Fassero's glove with two outs in the B9th! Jay Bell then homered, knocking Fassero from the game.
THAT'S the position you want to be in after throwing a pitch. Unfortunately, maybe one in three pitchers are able to land in good fielding position after delivering.
Fassero was a CARDINALS draft pick? I don't think I ever knew that. If I did, I long ago replaced that fact with some inane trivia from The A-Team or something. (Fassero came to Montreal as a FA after stints in the Cardinals, White Sox—for about 45 minutes—and Indians systems.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Fassero, now earning $2.8M via arbitration, was excellent from start to finish in 1996. He went 15-11, 3.30 for the Expos, which got him traded to postseason-hopeful Seattle that fall. Fassero quickly signed a 3Y/$13.5M deal for the M's and won 29 games for them in 1997-98 before completely falling apart in 1999 (5-14, 7.20 for Seattle and Texas) at age 36. He never started full-time in MLB again.
Despite that awful performance, Fassero was far from through in MLB. He pitched seven more seasons for six more clubs, mostly in relief but with some stretches in the rotation mixed in. His best showing post-Seattle was with the 2001 Cubs, for whom Fassero appeared 82 times and saved 12 contests.
Fassero's career ended after a season-plus with my Giants, for whom he served as a quality long reliever/spot starter in 2005 before losing his touch in 2006. San Francisco released the 43-year-old that May, ending his pro career. Fassero finished up 121-124, 4.11 in 720 games across 16 seasons...not shabby at all.
Jeff Fassero appeared in Topps base or Traded every year 1991-2002, except 2000. Giants fans: 2005 Total and 2006 Upper Deck feature Fassero in Orange and Black.
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Montreal Expos
4/24/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #546 Kevin Hickey, Orioles
More Kevin Hickey Topps Cards: 1987 1991
I owned this card for over 20 years before I knew the late Kevin Hickey's baseball oddysey. He was a solid lefty reliever for the 1981-82 White Sox, and a not-so-solid lefty reliever for the 1983 White Sox. Hickey then spent the entirety of the next five FULL seasons in the minors, bouncing through several organizations before resurfacing with the 1989 Orioles—who desperately needed any kind of talent after dropping 107 games in 1988.
We catch up with Hickey on the heels of that bounceback 1989 campaign, one in which he posted a career-low 1.236 WHIP and a career-high 5.1 K/9!
THIS CARD: TOPPS PHOTOGRAPHER: "Kevin, we'd like to snap a photo for your 1990 Topps card if that's okay."
HICKEY: "Sure, no problem. You ready now?"
PHOTOGRAPHER: "Actually, we'd like you to wait until just after the sun goes down, then meet us here. Still in full uniform, of course."
HICKEY: "...I'll do it, IF somebody holds up a semi-funny photo of Alf just as you snap the photo."
PHOTOGRAPHER: "You got it!"
Kevin Hickey is no known relation to former Rays/Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey.
More from Hickey's 1989 season: he went unscored upon in 12 of his first 13 outings, and he walked only two batters across 13 appearances in June. On Opening Day (4/3), Hickey's first big-league task in over five years was facing Red Sox legend Wade Boggs with the tying run on second base. Despite falling behind 3-1, Hickey induced an inning-ending GO from the pesky 3B.
(flip) There's more to that "Signed As Free Agent" in the bio. Hickey never played high school baseball and was plucked from a softball league by the White Sox during an amateur tryout! Out of 250 hopefuls, only Hickey received a pro deal that day.
In Hickey's 4/14/1981 MLB debut, he relieved SP Ross Baumgarten and pitched a 1-2-3 T9th in a 9-3 Chicago win over visiting Milwaukee.
Yes, Hickey went the entire final month of 1989 without a single K in seven games—but just 3.1 innings. Somehow, as we mentioned, Hickey still obliterated his previous K/9 high that year.
AFTER THIS CARD: Hickey rolled with the 1990 Orioles as well, but his ERA grew to 5.13 in 37 games and he spent a period back in AAA. His effectiveness further waned in 1991 and the Orioles cut him in July; Hickey's subsequent MiLB deal with the Giants led nowhere, and his pro career ended at 35.
But shoot, the undrafted, unscouted Hickey pitched parts of six MLB seasons, got in 231 games, and posted a 3.91 ERA. Plus, he got the distinction of playing for Tony LaRussa and Frank Robinson. Pound for pound, Hickey may have had one of the best careers ever!
In the 2000's, Hickey returned to the White Sox as a batting practice pitcher, a position he held until his untimely passing in 2012 at age 56. Kevin Hickey appeared in 1982-84 and 1990 Topps.
4/26/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #517 Norichika Aoki, Royals
More Nori/Norichika Topps Cards: 2012 2013 2015U 2016 2017
Nori Aoki was a good player for six major league seasons, most of which was spent as a regular or semi-regular player. He was always an adventure on the field, taking curious routes in the outfield that made routine plays challenging and constantly getting hit with the ball some way, some how (which was all fun and games until a 2015 beaning put him out of action for a while).
Here, we find Aoki on the heels of his second season as Milwaukee's RF. He started 145 games for the 2013 Brewers, racked up nine assists from RF and hit a league-best .339 against lefty pitchers as a lefty batter. For his efforts, Aoki was traded to Kansas City in December 2013.
THIS CARD: I dug...and dug...and dug through Getty Images for the original pic of Aoki, both as an actual Royal and as an airbrushed Brewer. But from at least 2013-14, Getty photographed just about every move Aoki made short of using the toilet, and my patience ran out. If this is an airbrushed pic, Topps got the correct uniform number—Aoki wore #7 with the Brewers.
Aoki's 2012-15 Topps cards use his full first name; 2016-17 Topps calls him "Nori".
More from Aoki's 2013 season: he homered on Opening Day vs. the Rockies 4/1, and on 4/7 against Arizona, he went 4-for-6 with three RBI—on his Bobblehead Day! That was Aoki's first of two four-hit games of the season, but no doubt the coolest.
(flip) LOL!!! In 2013, MLB hitters whiffed a record 36,710 times. Think that's bad? How about 42,145 in 2021?
That December deal sent RP Will Smith from the Royals to the Brewers. It's the same Will Smith who saved 37 games for the World Champion 2021 Braves. It is not the Will Smith who slaps comedians.
About the Rookie Fact: Aoki ripped four homers, a triple and a whopping 13 doubles in September 2012; I'm assuming the 18 XBH's are a franchise rookie record for that month.
AFTER THIS CARD: Aoki played one season for the Royals, batting .285 and helping them to the World Series. But he homered just once after going deep 18 times in 2012-13, and was just 1-for-14 in said World Series, and the Royals chose not to re-sign him f