Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, August 2020

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Topps Matt Downs
Topps Matt Downs

8/31/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #522 Matt Downs, Astros

More Matt Downs Topps Cards: 2010U 2011U 2012U

Giants fans remember Downs for his notable 2009 mid-season callup—when San Francisco opted to send down Emmanuel Burriss, it went with Downs as his replacement at 2B, even when the "obvious" choice, local fella Kevin Frandsen, was available to be summoned. This sent a very strong message to Frandsen, who had once been a solid Giants prospect.

Downs wound up sharing time at 2B with Juan Uribe before Freddy Sanchez was acquired. He was re-summoned in 2010 briefly, until San Francisco acquired Cody Ross. Downs was then designated for assignment and claimed by the Astros off waivers.

Here, Downs has stuck with Houston for the entire 2011 season. Used at five positions (including a new addition, the outfield) and as a pinch-hitter, Downs was among the NL's best off the bench that year.

THIS CARD: Downs wears #16, shared by one notable Astro during my fandom: Rafael Ramirez. (Trivia: did you know/remember Doc Gooden was an Astro briefly? He had #16 as well.) Today, infielder Aledmys Diaz wears #16 for Houston.

Our third Astro of the month, which is a problem because I'm currently mad at them for cheating and for picking a recent fight with the A's.

More from Downs's 2011 season: his 11th-inning single sank his former Giants teammates 8/28. And his 10 home runs ranked a close 4th on the lowly Astros despite limited playing time.

(flip) The Astros' pinch-RBI record belonged to Orlando Merced when this card was released; I don't know if that record still stands and am not in a researching mood.

By "underneath", Downs means down below the field in the clubhouse. Hopefully.

No misprint: Downs was picked way down in round #36 (out of college, no less), yet made it to MLB within three years. Let this be an inspiration to you low-drafted youngsters—don't get discouraged, just work on your game and good things might happen.

AFTER THIS CARD: Downs returned to Houston for 2012, and enjoyed the game of his life on 7/18, but was otherwise frigid with the bat including a 3-for-32 May. He was demoted to AAA for a time in August and let go after the season; Miami brought Downs in on a MiLB deal but he couldn't crack the roster and never played in MLB again.

Matt Downs appeared in 2012 Topps, and in 2010-12 Topps Update. The 2012 Update card is redundant, but not identical.

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Houston Astros

 

More August 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps John McNamara
Topps John McNamara

8/1/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #549 John McNamara, Indians

More John McNamara Topps Cards: 1987 1988

Though generally regarded as a decent guy, John McNamara embodied the look of every crusty, aging manager in every baseball movie you ever saw. That's probably unfair, but it's not untrue. McNamara ran a lot of teams for a lot of years, leading six major league clubs (one of them twice) off-and-on from 1969 to frikkin' 1996.

Though he never won a title, McNamara did come within an out of the 1986 championship as manager of the Boston Red Sox, but his own failure to sub out 1B Bill Buckner helped quash that (plus he and Roger Clemens differ on the latter's usage in that World Series). Prior to that infamy, McNamara helmed the A's just before their streak of five division titles in the early 1970's, followed by a forgettable four-year run with the mid-70's Padres.

McNamara's 1981 Reds had the best overall record in MLB, but lost out on postseason play due to the split season. He then took over the Angels in the wake their infamous '82 ALCS collapse before moving on to Boston. Here, he's completed Year One in charge of the rebuilding Indians after short-term predecessor John Hart returned to the front office. 

THIS CARD: You can't really tell thanks to my smooth scanning skillz, but trust me: this card is in nowhere near mint condition.

We at TSR specially selected this card in memory of McNamara, who passed away 7/28 at the age of 88. But let's be real for a moment: in this 30-year-old photo, doesn't he already look close to 80? Managing in the big leagues is stressful, and like Jim Leyland, McNamara looked Social Security-eligible almost from the beginning of his career.

RIP Chief Wahoo, though I completely understand why you were retired.

McNamara appears to have just heard the news that Joey Belle is now Albert Belle, and is reacting with the proper confusion.

(flip) Cole stole those 40 bags in 63 games from 7/27 on.

That's a lot of runs for "The Guv'nor" Jerry Browne; he did it on just 137 hits (but walked 72 times).

McNamara shares a birthday with my momma! (Though she was born in 1953.) Hopefully she lives to at least 88 as well.

The young Indians finished 77-85, but were 19-16 at one point in May and over .500 in mid-July until closing that month 4-14, which pushed them under for good. Cleveland did head into the off-season with three straight wins though.

AFTER THIS CARD: During the '91 season, the second and final year of his deal, McNamara was fired by the 17-27 Indians (what skipper wasn't fired that year?) and replaced with Mike Hargrove, who did pretty okay in the role. We next saw 64-year-old Mac as an interim manager of the '96 Angels, going 10-18 in his second stint with the team (which was interrupted by a blood clot that required hospitalization.)

That was it for McNamara in MLB; he finished up 1167-1242.

John McNamara received his own Topps cards in the 1970, 1984-88 and 1991 sets (Topps didn't issue manager cards during the second half of the 1990's.) He also appeared on a host of shared Field Leaders and Team cards in the 1970's and early 1980's.

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Cleveland Indians

 
Topps Cris Carpenter
Topps Cris Carpenter

8/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #99 Cris Carpenter, Rangers

More Cris Carpenter Topps Cards: 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994

Carpenter, 1987's 14th overall pick by the Cardinals, originally reached MLB as a starting pitcher. In fact, in his debut, he threw the first six innings of an infamous 19-inning clash between the Cards and Braves—Carpenter's childhood team—that concluded with IF Jose Oquendo pitching four innings! (St. Louis lost, 7-5)

In 1989, Carp was converted to closer for AAA Louisville; he'd get in 36 games with St. Louis that year before converting back to starting for 1990 Louisville (where he spent most of the season).

Finally, in 1991-92, the Cardinals left Carpenter in the bullpen full-time and watched him blossom into one of the finer middlemen in the league. He was taken by Florida in the '92 Expansion Draft and traded to the Rangers (for the young, enigmatic Robb Nen) during the '93 season. Here, Carpenter has wrapped his first, and only, full season down in Arlington (1994); it veered way off-course after a promising start.

THIS CARD: I will miss the distinctive Ballpark In Arlington hill of grass that served as a hitter's background, especially the young fans swarming it after home run balls.

Carpenter inherited Nen's #31 following the trade; Francisco Cordero is the only subsequent Ranger to don #31 for any period of time since '94.

More from Carpenter's 1994 season: after a quality beginning to the year during which he closed several games in Tom Henke's absence, Carp posted a 7.08 ERA from 5/4 to 7/30, allowing 59 hits in 40 IP. Ouch indeed. (Making matters worse: while this went on, Nen developed into a fine closer for Florida.)

(flip) Carpenter did indeed reach MLB less than a year after being drafted. He was originally taken by the Blue Jays #7 in '86 but opted for his senior year at Georgia.

In 1975, the great Al Hrabosky piled up 13 relief wins (and 22 saves) for St. Louis.

This is a much better close-up of Carpenter than from his first Topps card (1989), which could have legit passed for a mug shot.

AFTER THIS CARD: Carpenter spent all of 1995 back at AAA Louisville, returning to MLB in April '96 for the Brewers. His performance was wobbly, and after blowing a lead vs. Seattle 4/26, Carpenter was demoted to AAA to finish '96. He never pitched professionally again.

Cris Carpenter (NOT to be confused with 2000's Cardinals standout Chris Carpenter) appeared annually in Topps 1989-95.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Texas Rangers

 
Topps Jose Herrera
Topps Jose Herrera

8/3/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #338 Jose Herrera, Athletics

More Jose Herrera Topps Cards: 1997

From A's GM Sandy Alderson on 8/22/1996:

"He's played himself off the team. I don't think he's a very good defensive outfielder. He has tools. He hasn't put them together. He may never put them together." (SFGate.com)

The "he" in question is onetime hot A's prospect Jose Herrera, after he inexplicably allowed a routine fly ball to right field (his position) to drop untouched, setting off a rally. Alderson ultimately didn't boot Herrera off the Oakland roster, but it was clear to all he'd compromised his future with the Athletics—that mistake was just his latest of many. It was quite the stunning fall for a dude once traded for a Hall-of-Famer near his prime; more on that later.

Here, however, Herrera is still Oakland's potential center-fielder-of-the-future. Summoned (rushed?) from AA Huntsville in August 1995 when Mark McGwire's back acted up, the 22-year-old started 15 games for the A's over the final two months.

THIS CARD: 1996 Topps was...different. It was smaller than any other Topps set in forever, plus you had that "AAA Stars" subset, "Star Power" cards replacing All-Star cards, and then this: "Now Appearing". Fifteen players who debuted in 1995-96 received this designation, including Herrera (but not including several "name" newbies such as Jason Isringhausen.) Ironically, "Now Appearing" disappeared after 1996.

Say what you will about Herrera; he looked like a ballplayer. Lean, strong and athletic, but he had the baseball instincts of a sheep.

Not visible: Herrera's uniform #44. That was Reggie Jackson's number during his 1987 A's farewell, and Isringhausen's number during his tenure as A's closer. Today, superprospect Jesus Luzardo has it.

(flip) Check out Herrera's numbers for 1995 Huntsville—they're fairly ordinary. I'm not sure why Oakland opted to call (rush) Herrera to MLB to replace McGwire, Herrera's complete opposite, when they did. In the long run, it surely did more harm than good.

You ever seen one of those shinguards actually work? The ball always hits the top of the foot or the middle of the shin.

Herrera was the player to be named later in a 7/31/93 trade that sent superstar Henderson to the Blue Jays. (P Steve Karsay also joined Oakland in that deal.) Those singles came against the washed-up Dave Righetti of the White Sox, who went on to lose 8-2.

My question is: why even have the Dominican Summer League row listed at all?

AFTER THIS CARD: Herrera did not make the '96 A's roster out of Spring Training but was recalled in early May. He poked five hits in his first 11 AB and hit .269 overall, but there were too many fielding gaffes to overlook and he returned to the minors for 1997. No one knew it at the time, but Herrera had already played his final major league game.

 

The 26-year-old re-joined the Blue Jays organization for 1998 and spent some time in the Baltimore system as well before taking his bat and glove to the Korean League. Herrera returned stateside and starred for the Independent League's Newark and York clubs for several years until his career ended in 2011, age 39.

Jose Herrera appeared in 1996-97 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Oakland Athletics

 
Topps Brian Fuentes
Topps Brian Fuentes

8/5/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #581 Brian Fuentes, Rockies

More Brian Fuentes Topps Cards: 1998 2007 2008 2009 2009U 2010 2011 2012U 2013​

The 2020 Colorado Rockies are off to a scorching start (some of it at the expense of my Giants) in spite of injuries to high-priced CL Wade Davis and his would-be replacement, Scott Oberg. So far, Jairo Diaz has received the post-Davis save ops and is 2-for-2 as of 8/5/20.

The 2005 Colorado Rockies also had a closer go down early in the year, one Chin-Hui Tsao. Fortunately for them, erstwhile middleman Brian Fuentes was up to the task of replacing Tsao, finishing 31-of-34 in save ops and making the 2005 All-Star Team.

THIS CARD: You're looking at basically Fuentes' entire "windup"; the sidearmer basically went from being set to releasing the ball with just a little leg lift in between. The dude was very effective for a long time pitching that way.

Not enough for me to identify the road ballpark, though I think I see red jackets in the dugout.

This is Fuentes' second COTD appearance; we profiled his 2008 Topps card back in January 2019.

(flip) Topps could have used that space to give you a non-redundant 2005 stat, such the stifling .218 batting average against Fuentes.

As for the toon, Fuentes still holds this record. The previous Rockies lefty save record belonged to Bruce Ruffin, who converted 24 saves in 1996.

Fuentes did not actually pitch in the 2005 ASG. In fact, of the four total All-Star teams he was named to, Fuentes only pitched in one game (2006).

AFTER THIS CARD: For two-and-a-half seasons, Fuentes shined as Rockies closer, but a mid-2007 slump led to a demotion. Fuentes reclaimed his stopper role in mid-2008 and threw well enough to secure a 2Y/$17.5M deal from the Angels. Year One was excellent (48 saves, All-Star berth), but Year Two was not and Fuentes heard the boos at home.

The veteran was traded to the Twins in August 2010, then signed by Oakland for 2Y/$10.5M after that season. He was shaky in 2011 and awful in 2012; Oakland cut ties in July 2012. St. Louis dropped Fuentes a line, but he soon left the team for personal reasons and ended his season—and career—on the restricted list.

Brian Fuentes debuted in 1998 Topps on a shared Prospects card, returned in 2006 and appeared annually through 2011, with one last dip in 2013 Topps. (He's also got 2009 and 2012 Update cards).

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Oakland Athletics

 
Topps Jerry Blevins
Topps Jerry Blevins

8/6/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #NM-9 Jerry Blevins, Mets

More Jerry Blevins Topps Cards: 2014

Blevins first became known as an up-and-down lefty reliever for the Bob Geren-led Oakland Athletics 2007-11. Under Geren's successor Bob Melvin, Blevins secured a full-time job and shined over the 2012-13 seasons. And as everyone knows, when you perform well in Oakland, you punch your ticket out of town—cue a trade to Washington for OF prospect Billy Burns.

Blevins' lone season with the Nats could be described as shaky—until the playoffs, when he sat down all 10 Giants batters he faced (boo). Washington sold high, dealing the 31-year-old to the short-on-lefties Mets just before 2015 Opening Day.

Off to a red-hot start (five perfect innings), Blevins was taken out by a comebacker from Dee Gordon—the resulting broken arm was nearly healed when Blevins slipped on a curb and re-broke it, which I originally thought was a prank headline. (The Mets were still able to reach the World Series without their lefty specialist, but fell to the Royals.)

Here, Blevins has just wrapped Year Three in New York, having been re-signed to a 1Y/$6.5M deal over the winter. Used once more as a specialist, Blevins' ERA didn't crack 1.00 until mid-May, and he posted an 0.74 ERA for the year at Citi Field!

THIS CARD: As previously noted in COTD, Topps annually releases 17-card Factory Team Sets, most of which are just duplicates from the base or Update set. But you can find some dudes who were excluded from the main releases, and I've decided to incorporate them into the COTD "database".

This Blevins card is one such example; he cannot be found in either 2018 Topps Base or Update. In fact, despite Blevins' longevity, he can only be found in one Base or Update set to date: 2014 Topps. (He does appear in Total and Heritage sets, however, but still. He belongs in the flagship.)

Perhaps the lone downside to these "bonus" cards: the images are often (obviously) recycled from previous seasons. For example, 2018 Roberto Perez uses an image from the 2016 World Series. And 2018 Jake Diekman uses the exact image from his 2016 Update card. So there's no telling when this Blevins image was taken...2015?

(flip) Technically, the Mets didn't exercise Blevins' option; he was a free agent after the 2016 season.

Don't let those high K totals fool you; by the time he reached New York, Blevins wasn't blowing anybody away anymore. His curve can be just that filthy; it's slow, tight and effective against lefties and the few righties he's allowed to face.

Unlike the 2018 base/Update sets, none of that year's Topps Factory Team Set cards featured player social media handles. Know that Blevins does have a Twitter account, and it's kind of popular.

AFTER THIS CARD: Blevins spent one final year with the Mets, earning his first MLB hit in a 24-4 rout of the Phillies in August '18. Oakland re-signed him for 2019 but then sold him to the lefty-starved Braves in Spring Training; he had a solid enough year but was left off the playoff roster vs. righty-heavy St. Louis.

The 37-year-old joined the Giants on a MiLB deal for 2020, but was roughed up in camp, didn't make the team and is currently a free agent with an uncertain baseball future. 

In addition to this 2018 Topps Factory Team Set card, Jerry Blevins has appeared in 2014 Topps as a new Washington National.

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps Team Sets, New York Mets

 
Topps Rick White
Topps Rick White

8/8/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #383 Rick White, Rockies

More Rick White Topps Cards: 1994T 2001 2003T

White was a very well-traveled righty reliever for parts of 12 seasons, though early in his career the Pirates toyed with the idea of White as a starter. He's best remembered as 1) an original Devil Ray, 2) a key reliever on the 2000 Mets World Series team, and 3) a key reliever for the heavy-hearted 2002 Cardinals who reached the NLCS.

For most of 1994-95, White was on the Pittsburgh roster, but he didn't resurface in MLB until '98 with Tampa, for whom he threw over 100 relief innings in 1999! The following July, White was swapped to the Mets with Bubba Trammell; White would be charged with four earned runs in seven innings during the 2000 postseason.

The 32-year-old gave the Mets more quality work in 2001, but here, he's just signed with the Rockies for 1Y/$1M.

THIS CARD: How many baseball cards do you own featuring a full-length shadow? White appears to be posing next to a giant blackboard. Outdoors, of course.

I briefly thought we somehow randomly selected two Mets relievers in a row, until realizing White made 2002 Topps as a Rockie.

Not pictured: White's uniform number #51, carried over from his Mets and Rays days. To my surprise, 15 other Rockies players have worn those digits over the years, including Jake McGee 2016-19.

(flip) Before you say "couldn't they have found a minor leaguer to test the mound?" remember that White was a minor leaguer for the two years leading up to the Devil Rays' debut.

White looks happy to be in Colorado (for now). Much of the time, White didn't look capable of smiling—thick goatees tend to up one's intimidation factor, especially when one is already huge.

In that one 1999 start for Tampa, White went 2.1 IP with six hits allowed, including a home run, at Yankee Stadium 7/22. I'm going to conclude it was an emergency start. (The Rays lost 5-4.)

AFTER THIS CARD: White did not take well to Coors Field; he was released in August with a home ERA approaching triple that of his road ERA. He recovered his touch with the Cardinals to close 2002, though he did take the loss in Game 4 of that year's NLCS vs. my Giants; Tony LaRussa's strategy to IBB Barry Bonds with none on and two out in the 8th royally backfired.

White then began an odyssey throughout the major leagues. From 2003-07, he suited up for (in order) the White Sox, Astros, Indians, Pirates, Reds, Phillies, Astros again, and the Mariners. 2007 was a struggle, and White's career ended that year at the age of 38. He finished up with a 4.45 ERA in 613 major league games.

Rick White debuted in 1994 Topps Traded as a Pirate, then appeared in 2001 Topps with the Mets (and shown batting!), 2002 Topps with the Rockies, and 2003 Topps Traded as a new White Sock...the irony.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Colorado Rockies

 
Byrd_Paul_07ToppsFront.jpg
Topps Paul Byrd

8/9/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #528 Paul Byrd, Indians

More Paul Byrd Topps Cards: 2000 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006 2008

When you think Paul Byrd, what comes to mind first is the delivery—Byrd swinging his arms back behind him like hurlers from decades gone by once did, then firing to the plate. What comes to mind second: his notable resemblance to Kelsey Grammer of Cheers and Frasier fame.

After those two things, you remember how solid a pitcher Byrd was, when healthy.

Originally a Met in 1995, Byrd didn't break through until joining the Phillies (off waivers from  Atlanta) in 1998. He dazzled in eight starts that year, then produced 15 wins and an All-Star berth in '99. Sadly, that momentum was halted by shoulder surgery in 2000. Philadelphia dealt Byrd to KC in mid-2001, and he finished the year in their rotation.

In '02, not only did Byrd return to his 1999 levels—he exceeded them, earning 17 victories for a not-so-good Royals squad. Though he hoped to stay in KC, the free agent instead re-joined the Braves for 2Y/$10M. Unluckily, Byrd sat out 2003 following UCL surgery.

Here, Byrd has just completed his first season with the Cleveland Indians, who signed him for 2Y/$14.25M following an encouraging campaign for the '05 Angels. Byrd was not at his finest in 2006, but if nothing else, for the first time all decade he was fully healthy in consecutive seasons.

THIS CARD: Here, we have the veteran righty posing at Cleveland's Spring Training complex—precisely what he was shown doing on his 2006 Topps card as well. Just an observation, not a complaint, since I've longed for more posed photos in today's Topps sets.

That is a four-star signature. I can only hope Byrd signed other collectibles as beautifully.

More from Byrd's 2006 season: not sure why Topps seemed to be short on action shots for him, as he made 31 starts during the year. In 11 May/June starts, Byrd went 3-3, 2.80 and averaged nearly seven innings. His lowlight? An August 23 nightmare at Kansas City (of all places) in which he allowed nine runs (three earned) in ⅔ innings.

(flip) 2007 Topps wasn't yet printing the "hits" statistic on its reverses; just know that throughout his career Byrd—who never had great stuff—gave up a LOT of them, including a whopping 232 in 179 innings in '06.

More about Byrd's missed 2003 season: he threw just one inning in Spring Training, then underwent surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow in April. His need of the UCL operation was announced in July; Byrd made it back to the mound in June 2004. (BTW, "Club" should not be blank for 2003. Byrd had a Club. It was the Braves.)

Absolutely meaningless observation: this is Byrd's third straight year with a Topps card number in the 500's.

AFTER THIS CARD: Winner of 15 games for Cleveland's ALC champion team in '07, Byrd was traded to the Red Sox in August 2008; he won four of eight starts for them down the stretch. Unsure of his desire to continue pitching in '09, Byrd sat..and sat...and sat, until August, when he rejoined the Red Sox for seven appearances. That off-season, he retired for good at 38...I still miss that windup.

Paul Byrd appeared annually in Topps 2000-08, except 2002. He had no Traded or Update cards.

CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Cleveland Indians

 
Topps Alcides Escobar
Topps Alcides Escobar

8/11/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps #338 Alcides Escobar, Royals

More Alcides Escobar Topps Cards: 2009 2010 2011 2011U 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2018

For the longest time, I couldn't differentiate Alcides Escobar, longtime Venezuelan SS for the Brewers and Royals, from Yunel Escobar, longtime Cuban SS for the Braves, Blue Jays and others. It took Alcides lighting it up during the 2015 postseason for me to finally and permanently sort out the Escobar pair (plus, Yunel helped kick off a gnarly brawl around that time that helped him stand out).

Alcides was originally a Milwaukee Brewer and the top prospect in their system per Baseball America in 2009. Recalled to replace the struggling J.J. Hardy that season, by 2010 the Brewers SS job was his—briefly. In the 2010-11 off-season Escobar was part of a six-man (plus $) deal that sent SP Zack Greinke from the Royals to the Brewers; KC fans were too busy lamenting the loss of Greinke to realize they'd just acquired two key pieces of a future Royals championship team (Escobar and OF Lorenzo Cain).

Escobar became KC's starting SS right away; his offense would fluctuate but he provided speed and defense for the rising Royals squad. Manager Ned Yost eventually moved him to leadoff during the Royals' title year of 2015; Escobar batted .329 during that year's postseason (including four straight leadoff hits in the ALCS, of which he was MVP).

Here, Escobar has just wrapped Year Six as the Royals' main man at short. In 2016, the veteran set career highs in AB, HR and RBI, and even put up a pair of 14-game hit streaks!

THIS CARD: Escobar likely has his mind on getting even dirtier. He was 17-for-21 on steal attempts in 2016, good for second on the Royals to Jarrod Dyson's 30. And now I have to keep an eye out for dudes who keep gloves on while running the bases; Escobar is the only one I've encountered doing COTD.

Check out the champion's patch on Escobar's right sleeve. With the help of a magnifying glass, of course! I was happy for the '15 Royals ending their 30-year title drought (but not as happy as when my Giants beat them the year before).

More from Escobar's 2016 season: he hit his first homer 6/24, then his final six all after 8/7. He also registered a league-high 10 sacrifices, the sixth straight time he placed among the league's Top 7 in that category.

(flip) Escobar seems to be pretty busy on both Twitter and Instagram, but before you follow him, know both accounts seem to be exclusively in Espanol.

Escobar's skillful SS play led to a 2015 Gold Glove. He also made his lone All-Star team that year.

I salivate over those high games played totals. If you regularly visit COTD, you've heard me previously state my appreciation for durable players, more now than ever before in this "load management" era of sports. Escobar came to play, and usually did.

Wasn't going to research this originally, but hey, here goes: Escobar scored in 51 games, and the Royals won 39 of them (.764). Thanks for making that simple, BaseballReference.com.

AFTER THIS CARD: My favorite moment of the 2017 baseball season (remember, my Giants were frikkin' dreary that year) was watching pending Royals free agents Escobar, Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas walk off the field in unison after KC's last home game...to thunderous applause, of course. Escobar (and Moose) ended up returning to Kansas City for 2018, however, and got in 140 games across four positions despite losing his regular SS gig to young Adalberto Mondesi in June.

MiLB deals with the Orioles and White Sox led nowhere in 2019 (in fact, the latter deal ended poorly), and the 33-year-old (that's it?!) Escobar joined the Japan League for 2020.

Alcides Escobar appeared annually in Topps 2009-18. He's also got a 2011 Update card with KC.

CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps, Kansas City Royals

 
Topps Mickey Mantle
Topps Mickey Mantle

8/12/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #7 Mickey Mantle, Yankees

More Mickey Mantle Topps Cards: 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 

Few ballplayers can match Mantle's fame and stature; even fewer could do what he did on the ballfield when healthy. I was way too young to ever see him play; shoot, he died when I was 15. But I've since studied the man's career and have come to understand just how great he was; you must go beyond the numbers to fully grasp his impact on the Yankees and the game itself. 

In the collectibles world, Mantle was royalty—it's why he's even included in this set. You see, the birth of Topps and the birth of Mantle's career ran concurrent; his popularity played no small role in the company's rise, so when he passed on in 1995, Topps retired card #7 in his honor (Mantle wore #7 with the Yankees). There is no card #7 in 1997-2005 Topps.

Beginning with 2006 Topps, card #7 returned to circulation, but reserved for new Mantle cards. Here, we present the seventh and final (for now?) such card. Again, it is not a reprint.

THIS CARD: Mantle looks like a fairly big dude here, but he was only listed at 5'11", 195. (Which isn't tiny, but you get my point.)

Mantle had mostly posed headshots throughout his original Topps run, but during this run the company gave him (pretty nifty) action shots. My question is: did the company have access to those pics all along and just sat on them, or were they obtained after his death?

As a lefty batter, Mantle was a .281 career hitter with 372 of his 536 home runs (including one that nearly cleared the roof at Yankee Stadium).

(flip) Yeah, Mantle won four home run crowns, but his most famous season cracking the longball was his runner-up year of 1961. You may know that Mantle was neck-and-neck with teammate Roger Maris that year in pursuit of Babe Ruth's record of 60 jacks in a season...but fell ill and missed much of the final two weeks, allowing Maris to triumph.

For all his homers, Mantle didn't register a ton of RBI; he only ranks 56th all-time in that category (but 18th in homers; 3rd when he retired).

If you want to be technical, Mantle's "home" today is Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Texas.

I'm not sure I ever noticed the Mantle logo before. If anyone deserved his own logo, The Mick did.

AFTER THIS CARD: Topps lost the rights to Mantle cards; the company re-retired card #7 beginning in 2013 and lasting through 2016. The number returned to circulation (again) beginning with 2017 Topps, but is reserved for current Yankee stars.

Mickey Mantle appeared annually in Topps 1952-69, and again 2006-12.

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, New York Yankees

 
Topps Florida Marlins
Topps Florida Marlins

8/13/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #649 Florida Marlins Team Card

More Topps Florida/Miami Marlins Team Cards: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2006 2007 2010 2011 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

Fresh off a stunning upset of the Yankees in the 2003 World Series, the then-Florida Marlins actually didn't sell off all their stars (like in 1997)! Though there were a couple of salary dumps—1B Derrek Lee and OF Juan Encarnacion were traded, while free agent C Pudge Rodriguez was not seriously pursued—most of the team was brought back, and the team even spent the $16M required to hold on to free agent 2B Luis Castillo!

Florida got off to an 8-1 start and held on to a share of first place as late as 6/30 before falling to .500 on 7/9. The ballclub surged in August but ultimately settled for an 83-79 record and third place in the NLE. Going 5-14 against the division rival Braves certainly didn't aid their cause, nor did being forced by a hurricane to vacate Pro Player Stadium for a September series with the Expos (that was ultimately played at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field.)

In addition to Lee, Encarnacion and Rodriguez, Florida also lost SP Mark Redman (14-9. 3.59 in 2003) and CL Ugueth Urbina (six saves down the stretch in '03) from the 2003 roster. But 2004 newcomer Hee Seop Choi added a little thump before being traded, SP A.J. Burnett made an encouraging return from 2003 surgery, and CL Armando Benitez, a free agent acquisition, dominated. (Plus, Encarnacion re-joined the Marlins mid-season!)

THIS CARD: Somewhere in this photo is #18 Jeff Conine, who had a fairly ordinary start to '04 until being shifted to first base after the re-acquisition of Encarnacion—over the final two months, Conine's entire slashline went up and he nearly matched his season homer total (eight thru 7/31; six after).

Somewhere in this photo is #14 Paul LoDuca (emphatically not smiling), acquired from the Dodgers in a six-player trade at the '04 deadline. LoDuca, the longtime Dodger, wasn't exactly doing somersaults upon being dealt out of L.A.

Somewhere in this photo is #21 Josh Beckett, the 2003 World Series MVP. He pitched well in '04 when healthy (9-9, 3.79), but was disabled thrice with blisters and a pulled side muscle.

Somewhere in this photo is #11 Alex Gonzalez, who in '04 whacked five more home runs than in '03 but at the expense of 24 points off his batting average.

(flip) Officially known as Pro Player Stadium 1996-2005, it was always Joe Robbie Stadium to me. The park changed names SEVEN TIMES during the Marlins' 19 seasons there, and has done so twice more since they departed.

The other winning seasons? The title years of 1997 and 2003. The Fish also eclipsed .500 in 2005, 2008 and 2009, PLUS they're off to a fine start in this abbreviated 2020 season...hey, it could happen!

That nine-game win streak occurred 8/27 to 9/8; Florida swept the Rockies at home, then ran off six in a row against the Mets! (The team didn't play 9/3 to 9/6...Hurricane Frances.)

AFTER THIS CARD: As we alluded to above, the Marlins were mostly solid over the rest of the '00's but lost every year of the '10's—although, in the mid '10's, the club seemed to have a quality young nucleus of players again. New ownership came in and tore things down after the '17 season, however.

Despite watching nearly its whole roster catch COVID very early in the '20 season and playing almost exclusively on the road, the patchwork Marlins have persevered and as of this writing, sit atop the NL East.

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Florida Marlins

 
Topps Roberto Alomar
Topps Roberto Alomar

8/15/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #140 Roberto Alomar, Indians

More Roberto Alomar Topps Cards: 1988T 1989 1990 1991 1991T 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2001 2002 2003 2003T 2004 2005

Yep, it's our third Cleveland Indian of the half-month. Time to have a little chat with the Randomizer, maybe introduce it to the other 29 clubs...

By 1999, Robby Alomar was undoubtedly the best second baseman in the game and among the best ever; what couldn't he do on a baseball diamond besides maybe throw a knuckleball? The Cleveland Indians clearly held a similar opinion, as they dangled $32M over four years in front of the perennial All-Star in November 1998.

As any sane person would, Alomar grabbed the cash and joined the Tribe (who already employed his big bro Sandy Jr. as starting catcher). How did it work out? Well, after Alomar made his 10th straight All-Star team, obliterated his career high for RBI, placed third in MVP voting and won another Gold Glove in '99, I'd say it worked out fairly decently!

THIS CARD: Great action shot of Alomar, who in addition to hitting and fielding like a wiz, could also impact a game on the basepaths. Shame on me for thinking nobody blew bubbles mid-play before Pablo Sandoval came along...

Notice the sliding Alomar's helmet still in place. A couple of days before this post, I watched a (forgotten) New York Met swipe second and just miss being pegged in his helmeted dome because Washington 2B Starlin Castro didn't snag the throw cleanly. YES, it's 10x more exciting when one's oversized helmet flies off as he jets. But wear one that fits.

The Tigers infielder is (I strongly believe) #27 Frank Catalanotto, who started at 2B a few times for 1999 Detroit against the Indians.

(flip) Alomar won the 1999 runs title despite not scoring in any of Cleveland's final four games. Of course, he scored at least once in nine straight games before that, so there was room for a "slump".

Those 120 RBI in '99 ranked 8th in the AL, and second on the Indians to Manny Ramirez's 165. Additionally, Alomar's 99 walks ranked 6th in the AL.

I could find no current online evidence of this survey—not saying it's phony or anything, just saying we can't tell you anything more about it.

AFTER THIS CARD: As an Indian, Alomar continued to terrorize AL pitchers thru 2001, but was still dealt to the Mets for '02. There, his bat began to slow, and he bounced from the Mets to the White Sox to the Diamondbacks back to the White Sox without a load of impact at any of those stops. 

Despite needing less than 300 hits for 3,000, Alomar retired from the Devil Rays during Spring Training 2005, refusing to continue playing at a substandard level.

 

In 2011—even as high drama and legal issues dogged his personal life—Alomar was deservedly enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

Roberto Alomar debuted in 1988 Topps Traded, then appeared in every Topps set through 2005—his final card as a Devil Ray. Alomar also appears in 1991 and 2003 Topps Traded.

CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Cleveland Indians

 
Topps Arthur Rhodes
Topps Arthur Rhodes

8/16/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #477 Arthur Rhodes, Orioles

More Arthur Rhodes Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1995 1997 2001 2002 2003 2004 2008U 2010U 2011 2011U

Arthur Rhodes was a fine lefty reliever for most of 20 seasons in MLB, most notably for the Orioles, Mariners and later, the Reds. He got a lot of big outs in big spots over the years, but what got him notoriety was refusing to remove his earrings at the umpire's request in a 2001 Mariners clash with the Indians.

You see, Indians SS Omar Vizquel was being blinded by the sunlight hitting the jewelry, and asked the umps to step in. Rhodes didn't like that one bit and became very irate. Ultimately, the benches cleared and Rhodes was ejected. FYI this was three weeks after Vizquel led Cleveland's infamous 12-run miracle comeback against Seattle...the M's should have never traded him.

(Personally, I also remember All-Star Rhodes being knocked around by my Giants during a huge 2010 rally against the Reds. I believe Andres Torres delivered the critical double. Update: I remember correctly, except this rally actually fell short. Oh, well, SF still won it all in the end.)

Here, Rhodes is still a youngster. In his third MLB season, Rhodes was being groomed as a starter and opened the year in Baltimore's rotation following a strong 1992 showing. But he struggled badly in '93 and eventually underwent knee surgery that kept him out three months.

THIS CARD: Rhodes appears in Topps for the third straight year. He was one of those guys who could look 23 and 43 all at once; here, I'd peg him for about 33 (he was actually 23).

Going strictly by the pants, Rhodes is firing one off at his home park of Camden Yards. In 1993, he was 2-4, 7.36, with a whopping 12 HR allowed in 36 IP in Baltimore, but remember: his knee wasn't 100 percent.

Rhodes wore #53 virtually his entire career, save for a short stint in Philadelphia (he wasn't about to wrest #53 from All-Star Bobby Abreu).

(flip) Check out Rhodes' fine 1992 numbers; he went into 1993 with (reasonable) expectations to perform at least as well. It just didn't work out.

I'm not sure what the blurb is getting at. A lot of people were born eight days after the '69 World Series. If Rhodes had some connection to New York, or was born during the World Series, I might be interested in this news.

Check out Rhodes' 1989 Erie stats: a 1.16 ERA and he only wins two of five starts...#nohelp

AFTER THIS CARD: For two more years, Baltimore tried to make a starter out of Rhodes, but the results just weren't there, and he shifted to the bullpen full-time in 1996 (posting a 19-4 combined record out of the pen 1996-97). Following a difficult 1999 season, Rhodes and the Orioles at last went their separate ways. 

Enter the Seattle Mariners; 31-year-old Rhodes posted a 1.72 ERA for the famed 116-win 2001 team, and vultured out 18 more wins 2001-02. Oakland brought Rhodes in to be their 2004 closer, but he was hit fairly hard. By 2007, Rhodes had drifted through Cleveland and Philly before landing back with the M's on a MiLB deal...only to need UCL replacement surgery and miss the year.

Rhodes signed with Cincinnati for 2Y/$4M in December 2008. Despite serious personal tragedy he put together two fine years out of the resurgent Reds' bullpen; so strong was his '10 performance that Rhodes—a 40-year-old middle reliever—was selected to his first All-Star team!

 

Rhodes' career ended after an '11 season split with the AL champion Rangers and World Series champion Cardinals (though he didn't officially quit until 2015). Here's a quality ESPN article about the 2011 Rangers' "Grumpy Old Men", Rhodes and Darren Oliver.

Arthur Rhodes appeared in Topps 1992-95, 1997, 2001-04, and 2011. He's also in 2008, 2010 and 2011 Topps Update as a Marlin (!) Red, and Ranger, respectively.

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Baltimore Orioles

 
Topps Lance Berkman
Topps Lance Berkman

8/18/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #470 Lance Berkman, Astros

More Lance Berkman Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

When you think about the consistent power hitters of the 2000's, Lance Berkman of the Astros has to be on the short list. In every year of the '00's, if you exclude '00 itself when Berkman opened in AAA, the big fella walloped at least 25 home runs. True, he played in quite the hitter's park during that time, but for his career—the majority of which was spent in Houston—he hit 34 more homers on the road.

Berkman was a superstar first baseman his final year at Rice, smoking 41 home runs—the second-most ever in NCAA Division I at the time. Houston took him 16th overall in '97, and by '99 Berkman was tasting the majors.

Sent to AAA for more seasoning to open 2000, the kid was back with the Astros after a month and shifted to the outfield (as good as Berkman was, he wasn't unseating Jeff Bagwell at 1B). He never went back to the minors, starting 90 games in 2000 and slugging .561, a bright spot in a disappointing overall season for the team.

Here, Berkman has taken over as the Astros' regular LF and sometimes CF. Batting mostly cleanup for Houston, the youngster ripped 34 home runs (32 from the left side), held his own in the outfield, and made the All-Star team...all for the price of $305K!

THIS CARD: He's in the alternate uniform here, but when I think about the Astros' pinstriped, cursive-fonted look of the 2000's, I think Berkman. The Astros debuted that look shortly after his arrival, and retired it not long after he moved on.

"Florida" in the background must mean Joe Robbie Stadium or Pro Player Park or whatever it was back then. Over three games there in '01, Berkman went 5-for-11 with two homers.

Berkman wears #17, which has not been reissued since he left Houston 10 years ago. It may well be retired someday; the Astros aren't too stringent about that.

(flip) 6'1", 205? Maybe when Berkman was in 8th grade! Dude was big and looked even bigger.

The patience it must have taken for Berkman to walk 370 times in just 53 games in 1997...(the correct number is 37; 2002 Topps was rife with uncorrected errors.)

Those NL-best 55 doubles in 2001 were one more than runner-up Todd Helton, and one less than Craig Biggio's team record set in 1999. Berkman smoked a whopping 14 two-baggers in September/October 2001 alone. 

AFTER THIS CARD: For an encore to his breakout '01, Berkman returned to the All-Star Game ripped 42 homers, and led the NL in RBI (128) in '02. Over the next three years, his numbers dipped (but were still very good), and in 2005 he shifted to 1B as Bagwell's shoulder gave out. Berkman—who signed a 6Y/$85M extension in March 2005—and his Astros reached the '05 World Series; he batted .333 with 14 RBI in 14 games that postseason.

Berkman smashed 45 out of the park in '06 and drove in 100 runs each year 2006-08 (including a team-record 136 in 2006). But by 2010, Berkman was 34, his performance was ordinary and the Astros stunk—cue a trade to the Yankees. Subbing for injured Mark Teixeira, Berkman homered just once in 37 games in New York.

Next came a two-year run in St. Louis; Berkman returned to the OF and helped the '11 Cardinals overtake Texas for the championship (he also made his sixth All-Star team that year), but lost 80% of '12 after calf and knee injuries. Berkman finished up with the 2013 Rangers, then retired at 38 in early 2014 on a one-day contract with the Astros.

Lance Berkman appeared annually in Topps 1998-2013. He's a 1998 Topps Draft Pick, and a 1999-2000 Topps Prospect.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Houston Astros

 
Topps Mark Portugal
Topps Mark Portugal

8/19/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #647 Mark Portugal, Astros

More Mark Portugal Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1990 1992 1993 1994 1994T 1995 1996 1997

I can predict the future. 

Well, at least once.

I was watching live on TV when then-Giant Mark Portugal raced to cover first base on former teammate Steve Finley's bunt in that fateful 1994 clash with Houston. 

I don't know how I knew it, but I just knew, watching Portugal streak, that he was going to hurt himself.

Sadly I was right. And it was more than just a hamstring pull; Portugal tore his frikkin' ACL on the play and was obviously done for the year, strike or no strike.

Prior to the '94 season, the Giants had wisely signed Portugal, since over the years beating him had proven near impossible. As a youngster, he had received looks in Minnesota but didn't really take off until reaching the Astros via 1988 trade. Here, Portugal has spent the whole year in a major league rotation for the first time; he led Houston in K and tied Danny Darwin for the club lead in wins.

THIS CARD: Portugal's first three Topps front images depict him just sitting or standing around; here, we finally get a Portugal action shot as he fires away at what has to be a Spring Training yard.

Here we have our second consecutive Houston Astros COTD, albeit from radically different eras. Some teams change logos, and/or uniforms, but the 'Stros have had at least three decidedly different eras since I began my baseball fandom 30 years ago. (And at least two others prior to that.)

Not shown: Portugal's uniform #51, shared by two other notable Astros: Randy Johnson (so out-of-this-world during his brief '98 stint) and Wandy Rodriguez. Today, RP Cionel Perez has the number.

(flip) Yes, Portugal was good in '81. He followed that effort up with 21 wild pitches, four balks and 62 walks in 119 IP for Class A Wisconsin in '82...and still recorded just a 4.01 ERA. That's some Houdini s--- right there.

Portugal was traded to the Astros for failed prospect Todd McClure. I don't know what else factored into the deal, but from a pure baseball standpoint, the Twins were fleeced.

To finish at that 1990 ledger of 11-10, Portugal had to rebound from a 1-7, 4.68 line through 6/17. He finished 10-3, 2.96 from 6/23 on (with three of those victories at my Giants' expense). 

AFTER THIS CARD: Portugal was up-and-down in 1991, then after a strong start, lost most of 1992's second half to shoulder tendinitis. As for 1993—there's career years, and there's career years. Portugal broke through with an 18-4 campaign for the 'Stros, right in time for free agency. That's when the Giants offered him 3Y/$11M to quit beating their brains in.

Mostly solid in 1994, Portugal did recover from his knee injury in time to start 1995's second game, but at mid-season the Giants packaged him to the Reds in a trade for Deion Sanders. Though beaten soundly by the Braves in Game 2 of that year's NLCS (lasting all of seven batters in his first and last postseason action), he'd remain with the Reds thru 1996, throwing well but not approaching his '93 levels.

Next, the now-34-year-old signed with the Phillies for 2Y/$5M, but missed most of 1997 (elbow surgery). Portugal recovered to go 10-5, 4.44 in 1998 despite off-field stuff, leading the Red Sox to ink him for 1999. But his AL return didn't go smoothly, and he was cut in mid-September. After failing to make the 2000 Reds' roster, Portugal's career ended at 37; he finished up 109-95.

Mark Portugal debuted in 1987 Topps, then appeared annually 1989-97. He's also got a 1994 Traded card as a new Giant. ('97 Fleer and Collector's Choice carry Portugal the Phillie, while '99 Upper Deck includes Portugal with Boston.)

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Houston Astros

 
Topps Craig Counsell
Topps Craig Counsell

8/21/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #343 Craig Counsell, Marlins

More Craig Counsell Topps Cards: 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2009 2010 2011U

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! TSR eschews the usual random selection process in celebration of Brewers manager Craig Counsell reaching the big 5-0 on this date. His club takes on the lowly Pirates tonight, so it's highly possible—maybe even probable—Counsell will notch a W on his special day. (Update: Counsell did not notch a W on his special day.)

Here, Counsell is receiving his first extended major league look with the high-priced Florida Marlins. Even as those around him matched his annual salary in a game or two, the scrappy youngster held down second base for the Fish for the final two months (replacing the demoted Luis Castillo).

THIS CARD: We chose Counsell's 1998 Topps card because A) he is fresh off helping Florida win the championship, B) His 2002 card, where he's fresh off helping Arizona win the championship, is a flagrant error card, and C) I love the underrepresented 1998 Topps.

This is Counsell's second COTD appearance; we chose his 2009 Topps card back in March 2015.

Counsell's got three pretty good defensive action shots in his Topps career; this is one of them. Here, at some turf stadium, he ranges out to right field to make a play. Does he end up on the RF warning track as Manny Machado recently did??

Counsell wears #30, a number taken over by Cliff Floyd from 2000-02, and then by a bunch of dudes just passing through Miami.

(flip) The Rockies acquired disappointing SP Mark Hutton in the trade for Counsell.

As you can see, Counsell was tearing it up at AAA Colorado Springs before being rescued by the Marlins. Since at least some of that production was aided by elevation, Florida obviously saw something else in Counsell to instantly start him at 2B in a win-now season. Hey, no one ever accused (then-GM) Dave Dombrowski of idiocy—Counsell was indeed special.

Refresher: Counsell hit that sac fly off Indians CL Jose Mesa in the 9th, scoring Moises Alou. And it was Counsell whose grounder was infamously bobbled by Tony Fernandez in the 11th, setting up Edgar Renteria's RBI single. Counsell's game-winning run was unearned.

AFTER THIS CARD: Counsell survived a horrific beaning in 1998 to last 14 more seasons in MLB, almost all of it with the Diamondbacks and Brewers.

Sometimes, he started. Sometimes, he platooned. Some years, he was the regular shortstop. Others, he'd be the regular second baseman. Let's not forget the years he split between 2B, 3B and SS equally. Or those in which he pinch-hit almost as much as he started.

Counsell took home the 2001 NLCS MVP award, and was also a part of playoff teams in Milwaukee in 2008 and 2011; he went 0-for-45 during that 2011 season and retired at age 41. Counsell, after some front office and broadcast work, was named Brewers manager in 2015 and guided them to the 2018 NLCS, coming within one win of Milwaukee's second World Series ever.

Craig Counsell debuted in 1998 Topps, was omitted for three sets, then returned in '02 and appeared in all but two sets thru 2011. 

CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Florida Marlins

 
Topps Gary Majewski
Topps Gary Majewski

8/22/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps Update #28 Gary Majewski, Reds

More Gary Majewski Topps Cards: 2000T

Majewski was originally a White Sox prospect, although the Sox left him unprotected in the 2002 Rule V Draft and Toronto swooped in. Majewski might have made their roster, but they opted to keep fellow Rule V draftee Aquilino Lopez instead, so Majewski was returned to the Chicago system.

Determined to free themselves of the young reliever, Chicago sent Majewski and P Jon Rauch to Montreal in exchange for OF Carl Everett in July 2004. The Expos gave "Juice", as I liked to call him, a shot, and he threw decently for them.

Majewski joined his Expo teammates in Washington for the 2005 season and grew into something of a force out of the Nat bullpen, but here, he's just been acquired by the Reds in an eight-player deal completed in July 2006. Almost immediately, Majewski's fortunes changed...

THIS CARD: Majewski is about to unleash either his mid-90's heat, or his hard slider. He also had a changeup that largely stayed in his back pocket.

Other notable Reds with #38: Pete Harnisch around century's turn, and pitching coach/manager Bryan Price 2010-18.

Don't these 2006 Topps Reds colors take you on a bit of a psychedelic trip? Eh...it's probably just me.

(flip) I actually have responded to my daughter's achievements with the word "Pride." I'm something of a weirdo, though. (Note: Bob Forsch threw no-hitters in 1978 and 1983, while Ken Forsch no-hit Atlanta in 1979.)

That one Expos save in 2004? Montreal's final win.

The Trade With Nationals sent Majewski, RP Bill Bray, pitching prospect Daryl Thompson, SS Royce Clayton and IF Brendan Harris to the Reds in exchange for SS Felipe Lopez, OF Austin Kearns and RP Ryan Wagner. It didn't really help either club.

No, Vero Beach was never a White Sox affiliate; Majewski was briefly a Dodger farmhand in 2001 before being dealt back to Chicago. (That's three times the Sox tried to purge Majewski. Why did they even draft him?)

That Career ERA eventually swelled up to 4.75 in parts of six seasons.

AFTER THIS CARD: From the 2006 World Baseball Classic on, Majewski's shoulder bothered him and he even took a cortisone shot early in the summer. Problem is, Washington failed to inform the Reds of this before the megatrade, and Reds GM Wayne Krivsky was not happy upon making the discovery.

 

Majewski would remain a Red, however, but simply put: he was pretty bad. From 2006-08 Majewski inexplicably made 88 appearances for Cincinnati—with a 7.38 ERA and 2.000 WHIP. He failed to make the 2009 Phillies roster, and his MLB career ended with two appearances for his hometown Astros in 2010.

Once the major league offers dried up, Juice settled in as closer for the Independent League's Sugar Land Skeeters 2012-14.

Gary Majewski appeared in 2000 Topps Traded & Rookies, and in 2006 Topps Updates & Highlights.

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps Update, Cincinnati Reds

 
Topps Cal Ripken
Topps Cal Ripken

8/24/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #270 Cal Ripken Jr., Orioles

More Cal Ripken Jr. Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000 2001

Rather than our usual random selection process, today TSR specially selects The IronMan on his 60th birthday (although, not to be mean, but said IronMan has looked 60 for about 10-15 years now.) 
Ripken was recently in the news as having taken on prostate cancer...and won. Are YOU surprised? I'm not—Cal is practically indestructible!! To him, cancer was probably no worse than a bad cold. He probably downed some Sudafed and moved on with life.

Here, we catch up with Ripken shortly after The Streak came to a quiet, dignified end at 2,632 games on 9/20/1998. He was slowing down by then, for sure, but still made his 16th straight All-Star team—and even doubled home two runs in the Classic!

THIS CARD: Ripken makes his second COTD appearance; we profiled his 1993 Topps card back in June 2018. We chose his 1999 card here because it represented the '98 season during which The Streak finally wrapped—Cal sat down on his own terms, not allowing an injury to take him out or putting a manager in an unenviable position.

(For the record, if Ripken had received a 2002 Topps sunset card, I'd have used it here. But he didn't, which still perturbs me, especially since Tony Gwynn and Mark McGwire each got one.)

The legendary infielder is likely warming up between innings/hitters here; I can't picture a third baseman with such a nonchalant look on his face mid-play—not even Cal. Plus, not all the fans seem to be paying attention. (There's not enough here for me to easily identify the road ballpark.)

(flip) For the 1999 set only, Topps printed award winner logos on standard common reverses, though they forgot Sandy Alomar Jr.'s 1990 AL Rookie Of The Year award. (Remember: Ripken was MVP the same year his Orioles won the World Series—that's an achievement.)

For those of you unaware, the reason for Ripken's low 1994 and 1995 games totals was a stupid baseball strike. Baltimore's owner had vowed to not use replacement players in '95, so if the strike hadn't been "settled", the Orioles would have forfeited games and Ripken would have never passed Lou Gehrig's previous IronMan record (2,130 games). All I got to say is...whew.

I'm pretty well versed in Ripken's career numbers, but I forgot (or never knew) just how close his BB/K ratio was. As you can see, even while Ripken did all that slugging, he walked more than he whiffed seven times.

AFTER THIS CARD: Ripken enjoyed a strong offensive resurgence in 1999 (.340/.368/.584) despite two visits to the DL for back problems; he underwent September surgery for nerve root inflammation. However, the back continued to act up in 2000, costing him two months of that season (during which his average plummeted to .256).

Still, the O's re-signed Ripken at 1Y/$6.5M for the 2001 campaign; he again started the All-Star game at his old SS position (after being forcibly moved there from 3B by Alex Rodriguez.) Yet again, the Orioles icon homered on a national stage, then quietly finished out his career at age 41. Ripken was a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 2007, and has remained visible in MLB through his studio work for TBS.

Cal Ripken Jr. appeared annually in Topps 1982-2001; 1982 was a shared Prospects card. (As mentioned, Ripken did not receive the honor of a sunset card in the '02 set.) TSR wishes him the happiest 60th birthday of all-time and sends wishes for at least 30 more.

CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Baltimore Orioles

 
Topps Justin Smoak
Topps Justin Smoak

8/25/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #512 Justin Smoak, Mariners

More Justin Smoak Topps Cards: 2011 2012 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

Scanning my personal database for Justin Smoak memories, all I came up with was the time Jarrod Saltalamacchia of Boston creamed him with a bad-hop ground ball to first base. Back when I played the game (in an amateur league, obviously), my fielding was negatively impacted because I was always afraid of a bad hop on our less-than-ideal infield—and our guys couldn't hit a ball half as hard as Salty.

Fortunately, Smoak wasn't kept down for long.

The former South Carolina star (62 home runs over 195 games there) was a #1 pick by the Rangers in 2008, and in The Show by 2010. The Texas heat never reached Smoak's bat, however, and he was dealt to the Mariners at mid-season.

Smoak received the majority of run at 1B for Seattle in 2011 and also found time at DH; here, he's completed his second full year as a Mariner. Smoak started 129 games at 1B in 2012, and though his slashline teetered towards ugly (.217/.290/.364) and he revisited AAA for a time, the 25-year-old did tie for second on the team with 19 home runs.

THIS CARD: Smoak appears in his third consecutive Topps set, all with Seattle. Here, he's driven one at Safeco Field, where he hit only .198 with four of his 19 home runs in 2012.

I've never been able to recall Smoak as a switch-hitter; my brain identifies him as a lefty by default. He's among the few switch-hitting, lefty-throwing major leaguers.

More from Smoak's 2012 season: he closed May with four roundtrippers in six games, including a two-homer, six-ribbie affair 5/30 at Texas. Seattle squeaked by the Rangers that day, 21-8.

(flip) Smoak will not catch Barry Bonds unless they shorten the distance around the bases to 90 feet total. 

For all the confidence Smoak took into 2013, many of his numbers were identical to those he posted in his ho-hum 2012 season. Smoak DID boost his average 21 points, it should be said.

Smoak was not only a former first round pick—he went #11 overall in 2008.

The Seattle player who switch-homered in 1998 was David Segui, who tagged righty Jaret Wright and lefty Paul Assenmacher in the season's second game.

AFTER THIS CARD: As stated above, Smoak's 2013 didn't differ much from his 2012. But when he slumped yet again in 2014, he found himself spending a third of the year at AAA Tacoma. Clearly, the M's were finished waiting for Smoak to blossom.

Toronto signed Smoak for 2015, he trudged along in a part-time role for the Jays until busting out in 2017 with an All-Star, 38-jack, where-the-hell-did-that-come-from performance. Though his production dipped in 2018, the Jays picked up his $6M option for '19. That year, Smoak lost time to a quad injury and batted just .208 with 22 homers. He joined Milwaukee for 2020 (1Y/$5M).

Justin Smoak has appeared annually in Topps since 2011.

CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Seattle Mariners

 
Topps Todd Hundley
Topps Todd Hundley

8/27/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #84 Todd Hundley, Dodgers

More Todd Hundley Topps Cards: 1990T 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001T 2002 2003 2003T 2004

My strongest memory of Todd Hundley has to be pulling his 1991 Topps (rookie) card and wondering, "Who is this little boy?" Hundley was 21 at the time and looked even younger on that card's front photo.

I soon found out Hundley was not the batboy or some random kid who lucked into a baseball card; he was the Mets talented switch-hitting catcher of the future. That future sort of began in 1992 when the Mets first gave Hundley extended run, though he scuffled at bat.

By 1994, Hundley was coming around, as he slugged .443. Two years later, the 27-year-old amazed the league when he not only broke the Mets' team record for home runs, but he also passed Roy Campanella's all-time catchers standard! (Awkwardly, but still.) New York extended him for 4Y/$21M in Spring 1997.

But by late 1997, Hundley's throwing arm needed reconstruction, and in '98 New York gobbled up Mike Piazza to take over as catcher. The team moved Hundley to LF upon healing, an experiment that failed miserably; he moved on to the Dodgers for 1999 via trade. 

Here, following a tough first year in LA, Hundley has bounced back with a strong, if injury-riddled, 2000 season. He raised each of his splits by at least 77 points and ranked second on the team in OBP (.375; minimum 300 PA).

THIS CARD: It would be just my luck, during what has been a difficult personal week, to pick a Dodger coming off a good year for COTD. (Making matters worse: LA just shut out my Giants in a doubleheader. Blecch.)

 

Adrian Beltre never even got a Topps card depicting him on one knee (and there were many opportunities to do so). Hundley may be the only fella in my entire collection in such a position. 

I've pointed this out before, but these Dodger uniforms with the white trim bring back fond memories for me, since LA was dysfunctional with plenty of tumult during its run.

(flip) We told you about Campanella, who homered 40 times as a catcher in 1953, but we did not tell you it was Darryl Strawberry's Mets record for homers that Hundley broke in '96. Straw hit 39 each in 1987-88.

Hundley was limited to 90 games in 2000 by a strained ribcage and later, a busted thumb.

The Trade (With Mets) sent C Charles Johnson and OF Roger Cedeno east. Johnson was moved to the Orioles (for RP Armando Benitez) later that same day.

I don't remember the "LA" shoulder patch. It looks dumb. Which means it fits right in with the Dodgers.

AFTER THIS CARD: A free agent after 2000, Hundley signed with the Cubs (his dad Randy's old team) for 4Y/$24M. Things did not go smoothly for Hundley in Chicago on the field or with the fans, however, and he was (mercifully) traded back to the Dodgers after the '02 season.

Hundley underwent two back surgeries in 2003 and did not play after May; a third back operation plus hip surgery in 2004 ended his career at 35. He finished up with 202 lifetime home runs.

Todd Hundley debuted in 1990 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1991-2004. He's also got 2001 and 2003 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 2001Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers

 
Topps Garrett Cooper
Topps Garrett Cooper

8/28/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #181 Garrett Cooper, Yankees

More Garrett Cooper Topps Cards: 2018U

The hulking Cooper, a #6 pick by the Brewers in 2013, did not slug his way through the minors as you might expect from someone his size. But he did gradually punch his ticket to AAA Colorado Springs, where—shock—the ball started jumping off his bat in 2017 (.366, 17, 82 in 279 at-bats). But Cooper was blocked in Milwaukee, so the Brewers mercifully sent him to the Yankees, who at the time were having all sorts of problems at first base.

Here, Cooper is coming off a brief, but productive, audition in the Bronx. Promoted in mid-July, Cooper began 0-for-7, then went on a 14-for-36 (.389) tear!

THIS CARD: In this image, Cooper doesn't look nearly as massive as he actually is.

We see the youngster at Yankee Stadium, where he started twice in 2017 (July 29 vs. TB and August 11 vs. BOS; Cooper was lifted from both games).

More from Cooper's 2017 season: his first MLB hit was a double off Boston's David Price. And he went 8-for-12 in a three-gamer at Toronto August 8-10. But days later he developed hamstring tendonitis, and upon healing, New York opted to keep him in the minors despite expanded rosters—my guess? AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was in the playoffs; why not have Cooper aid their run instead of clogging up the Yankee bench?

(flip) Cooper was traded to the Yankees for fellow prospect Tyler Webb, who's since become a regular in the Cardinals bullpen.

Cooper's four hits on 8/9 included a double and two RBI, as New York beat Toronto 11-5.

We shared Cooper's performance for AAA Colorado Springs; he went 8-for-20 at AA Trenton, where he rehabbed before joining SWB and going 0-for-7.

Those handles seem suitable...for a 12-year-old.

AFTER THIS CARD: The Giancarlo Stanton deal was not the only Yankees/Marlins transaction from late 2017; Miami acquired Cooper (and P Caleb Smith) from the Yankees for prospect Mike King and international bonus slot money. Cooper didn't get much of a look with the '18 Fish, as an early-season drilling by Kyle Hendricks (Cubs) led to wrist surgery.

 

But in '19 he started nearly 100 times at first base and the outfield while smoking 15 home runs. Cooper was set to serve a similar role in 2020, but came down with COVID and to date has played just two games.

Garrett Cooper has appeared in 2018 and 2020 Topps, as well as 2018 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, New York Yankees

 
Topps Addison Russell
Topps Addison Russell

8/30/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps Update #208 Addison Russell, Cubs

More Addison Russell Topps Cards: 2016 2017 2018 2019

Hype is more prevalent these days than perhaps ever before, simply because it comes at us from more directions than ever before. There's got to be 10,000 baseball websites out there, full of narratives. That's not even factoring in Twitter, Facebook, etc. or, of course, television and radio. If somebody's got an opinion on the American pastime, it's going to be heard.

With so much noise from so many forums, there's bound to be a ton of disagreement. But one item that just about everyone in the baseball universe agreed on five years ago: Addison Russell was going to do great things in MLB. And they were all correct—for one year, anyway.

Russell was so profoundly hyped up, he was almost doomed to disappoint. But at least the kid picked the right year to play his best ball, as we'll delve into below.

THIS CARD: Russell gears up to gun somebody. He was known for athleticism but not a great throwing arm; in fact, for a time most of his errors were on throws. By 2018, he'd developed shoulder problems.

This is Russell's Rookie Card, as you can see, but he was so hyped for so long I'd have honestly believed anyone who said 2013 Topps featured his RC.

More from Russell's 2015 season: He came up in April and became Chicago's regular SS in August. He was batted 9th in 117 games by Joe Maddon, and for the year, saw 4.12 pitches per PA, good for 7th in the NL (thanks, MLB.com).

(flip) The NL's youngest player at the time of Russell's debut was Dilson Herrera of the Mets, who has not panned out to date (but is still just 26).

Russell was acquired from the Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel deal.

That walk-off double? It came against Washington's Matt Grace and produced a 3-2 comeback victory.

AFTER THIS CARD: Russell's bat perked up in the first half of 2016, and he was named to the NL All-Star team. His postseason efforts (specifically in NLCS Games 4-5 and World Series Game 6) helped Chicago end their championship drought. It seemed Russell was well on his way to big things and would be a lifelong hero in The Windy City.

But in '17, his second half was ruined by a foot injury, and in '18, he was in the midst of a down year when levied with a domestic violence suspension that carried over into 2019. The Cubs, not happy with his play upon returning from an AAA tune-up, demoted him back to the minors and then non-tendered him after the season. Russell did eventually find a new hardball gig for 2020...in Korea.

Addison Russell debuted in 2015 Topps Update, then appeared annually in the base set 2016-19.

CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps Update, Chicago Cubs