Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, August 2016
COTD Archive 2014: May June July August September October November December
COTD Archive 2015: January February March April May June July August September October November December
COTD Archive 2016: January February March April May June July August September October November December
COTD Archive 2017: January February March April May June July August September October November December
COTD Archive 2018: January February March April May June July August September October November December
COTD Archive 2019: January February March April May June July August September October November December
COTD Archive 2020: January February March April May June July August September October November December
COTD Archive 2021: January February March April May June July August September October November December
COTD Archive 2022: January February Current Month
A = Alternate Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
Click on images for larger views.
8/1/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #113 Nick Markakis, Orioles
More Nick Markakis Topps Cards: 2006B 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Many apologies for the lengthy delay between select and post time. The combination of end-of-month archive work and extended solo dad duty has left me with little spare time. I don't like to begin a COTD unless I know I can finish it the same day.
On to the card...
Players like Nick Markakis (Mar-KAY-kis) are our most difficult COTD selections.
He never misses games (aside from a broken-mirror 2012*, he's never sat more than seven from 2007 on), his numbers do not fluctuate to any great degree, there's nothing particularly distinctive about his physical appearance or style of play, he's never led his league in anything except sac flies, he'd had no publicized off-field issues, he was never flagrantly overpaid a la Jason Heyward and he's never had a Daniel-Murphy-like postseason to "put him on the map".
Great guy to have on your team. Lousy guy for a baseball card write-up.
Here, the former #7 overall pick (2003) has wrapped his first big-league season, having made the Orioles out of Spring Training despite having zero AAA experience. Initially destined for a utility-outfielder role, Markakis wasted little time in claiming Baltimore's RF job—a 12-for-19 streak and a three-homer game in August helped him keep it.
THIS CARD: First of all...those gloves are long. Second, Baltimore still uses an orange alternate today, but it lacks the black shoulder striping. Which is too bad—I liked it.
Markakis' signature seems to read "Flib Mclib". That 2006 ASR class had staying power—10 years later, only Dan Uggla is out of baseball, and most of the others are still playing regularly, if not at a high level. Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Hanley Ramirez and Russ Martin were among Markakis' "teammates".
(Speaking of Uggla...I recently watched a Giants/Nats game in DC. A home run replay clearly caught a fan in the LF seats wearing an Uggla Nationals jersey. How the hell did a Dan Uggla Nationals jersey get produced? His career was Stage 4 by that point.)
(flip) The three home runs in five innings were all off Twins P Carlos Silva, and powered Baltimore to a 6-3 win 8/22. After a brief lull, Markakis also homered in three of the final five games of August—which added up to nine homers in just 14 games!
Woodstock is but 30 miles north of Atlanta off I-575. It is also the birthplace of Dean Rusk, secretary of state under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in the 1960's. (From previous reading on the JFK assassination, I'd actually previously heard of Rusk despite being under 50. If you have too..thumbs up.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Markakis would average in the neighborhood of .300, 20, 95 for Baltimore for the rest of the decade—earning him a 6Y/$66M extension in early 2009. Though his RF defense netted him Gold Gloves in 2011 and 2014, Markakis' offensive numbers dipped substantially after decade's turn (possibly due to increased time batting first rather than his familiar third spot.)
Additionally, though he never blamed it for any production slip, the now-veteran played through 2013-14 with a bulging neck disk.
After the 2014 season, Baltimore chose to let Markakis walk as a free agent—he took issue with their reasoning, but later received a very warm welcome upon returning to Camden Yards in 2015 with his new team (Atlanta)...who often bats him cleanup even through month-long home run droughts these days.
Nick Markakis' Topps debut was a 2006 Rookie Bonus card inserted in factory sets (which I do not believe I have...yet). He has appeared annually in Topps since.
*that year, Markakis underwent abdominal muscle surgery in January, broke his hand on a swing in May, then broke his thumb via HBP in September, sidelining him for the Orioles' first playoff run in 15 years.
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
8/7/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #575 Scott Sauerbeck, Pirates
More Scott Sauerbeck Topps Cards: n/a
Scott Sauerbeck was admittedly close to retiring when the Pittsburgh Pirates rescued him from the drudgery known as minor league baseball via the 1998 Rule V Draft. Years stashed away in the Mets minor league system with no promotion in sight understandably left the southpaw pitcher—who'd gone from relieving to primarily starting by 1996—prepared to walk away.
Next thing he knew, he was in the Bucs bullpen recording a 2.00 ERA in 65 games as a rookie, holding lefties to a .167 average and righties to one home run in over 150 at-bats! He did so on the strength of his curveball—with a friendly radar gun, Sauerbeck's fastball might climb over 90 every so often—and his sidearm pitching motion.
Here, the now-28-year-old has just wrapped his sophomore MLB season. It was rough at the start (four runs on Opening Day) and at the close (he blew the save and lost the Three Rivers Stadium finale) with some DL time in the middle. But from 4/18 to 9/14, Sauerbeck recorded a 2.66 ERA in 62 games/64 innings.
THIS CARD: See previous 2001 COTD for Home Team Advantage information. Or not. It's basically nothing.
This shot gives a fine look at Sauerbeck's slinging delivery. He wasn't limited to just that one arm angle, however. As for the ballpark he's slinging at—even at the height of my baseball obsession, I'd need more than dirt and grass to identify a field.
The Pirates and Brewers recently did a 1990's night at Milwaukee's Miller Park, with current Pirates wearing this "classic" uniform. Just another reminder of how damn old I have gotten...though I always did like the Pittsburgh pinstripes (they were discontinued after the 2000 season represented on this card, as the Pirates chose a vested look to open PNC Park.)
(flip) That statement about Sauerbeck vs. LHH is provably untrue—see preceding and succeeding text. Amending "get" to "got" with the qualifier "in 2000" would have worked.
Look at those BB/9 ratios in the minors, especially 1996-97—Sauerbeck the prospect put up a 3.4, quite the contrast to his MLB rate of 5.7. Even stranger—the concurrent rise in his K/9 ratio! I can't explain. I wasn't there.
AFTER THIS CARD: Though now armed with a 3Y/$2.4M deal, Sauerbeck's command and resulting numbers fell even further in the 2001 season—he carried a 9.32 ERA vs. his own division; 2.38 vs. all others. He recovered with a strong '02, but by '03 was being booed at home following a succession of pivotal home runs allowed to lefty hitters. The Bucs dealt him to Boston as the 2003 trade deadline approached.
32-year-old Sauerbeck underwent rotator cuff surgery that wiped out his 2004 season; he hooked up with the Indians for '05 and held his own...until an early 2006 slump coinciding with off-field antics ended his stay there prematurely.
Sauerbeck closed 2006 with the A.L. West Champion Athletics, but was left off the playoff roster. Minor league deals with Houston, Toronto and Cincinnati over the next 18 months led nowhere, and the 36-year-old quietly retired. He did so having pitched seven MLB seasons, about seven more than your average 23rd-round pick.
Despite those seven MLB seasons, this would be Scott Sauerbeck's lone Topps appearance—early-00's Topps wasn't exactly overflowing with middle relievers from bad teams. He did receive a pair of Topps Total cards.
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates
8/11/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #256 Greg Hibbard, White Sox
More Greg Hibbard Topps Cards: 1990 1992 1993 1994 1994T
Soft-tossing Hibbard, for a time, could arguably be described as the ace of the 94-win Chicago White Sox.
Nabbed along with fellow prospect Melido Perez from KC for SP Floyd Bannister after the 1987 season, Hibbard earned a promotion to Chicago's rotation in May '89. The Alabama alum—a college reliever who still holds the school record with 39 appearances in 1986—only won six of 23 starts as a rookie, but his 3.21 ERA and average of one HRA per 31 innings showed his true effectiveness.
Here, Hibbard has just completed a sophomore season that would end up as his all-round best in MLB; he was Top 10 in American League starts, BB/9, ERA and WHIP while tying Jack McDowell for the team lead with 14 wins—and topping the future Cy Young award winner in several other statistical categories.
THIS CARD: For 1990, that's a lot of chain.
Oh, you White Sox with your red-and-blue color scheme. No, this isn't the throwback uniform current Sox lefty Chris Sale so despised—this look was only in use 1988-90 before the team moved to New Comiskey Park and adopted its current look.
(flip) Look at those MLB K totals: 147 in 348 innings to date. Those 92 in 1990 would be his career high by a good margin; he finished with just 408 in 990 lifetime innings.
KC drafted Hibbard #16 in 1986. This is after Houston selected him #8 in 1984 (he chose college.) Five other future major leaguers went in that round; out of that five, Scott Aldred—with his 6.02 ERA and 1.62 WHIP over 229 games—had the best career.
That stain is my doing...I didn't take very good care of my pre-gloss Topps cards.
AFTER THIS CARD: The next two seasons proved disappointing for the 27-year-old; he even temporarily lost his starting spot in September 1991. After an up-and-down '92—and with arbitration looming—Chicago left him unprotected in the Expansion Draft. The Marlins selected Hibbard, then promptly dealt him to the Cubs for IF Alex Arias.
Now 29, Hibbard—the only lefty to start even once for the Cubs in 1993—gave his new club 15 quality starts and won a team-high 15 times, helping them to a six-game turnaround. Still, new Cubs management opted to let him test free agency, and the Mariners roped him in for 3Y/$6.75M.
Seattle wound up with a return of 14 starts on its investment, few of them good—Hibbard's rotator cuff and labrum gave out in June 1994, ending his season and ultimately, career (Though his contract had expired, the M's auditioned him for a Spring 1997 comeback attempt...which failed.)
He went on to coach in the Indians' farm system from 1999-2015 and, as of 2016, coaches for AAA Round Rock (Rangers).
Greg Hibbard appeared in 1990-94 Topps. He has a 1994 Traded card with the Mariners, as well.
CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Chicago White Sox
8/13/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #505 Ross Detwiler, Nationals
More Ross Detwiler Topps Cards: 2008 2009U 2010 2011 2012U 2014 2015 2015U
Sometimes, we wonder if our COTD randomizer watches SportsCenter—how else to explain when it chooses (very) recent headliners?
It happened with Mike Fiers soon after he crunched Giancarlo Stanton's face, and it's happening now with Ross Detwiler, currently in the news for a damaging HBP of his own—his errant heater put Shin-Soo Choo on the D.L. for the 4th time in 2016 two days ago (broken arm).
Prior to this, I'd often confuse Ross Detwiler and Ross Ohlendorf—they both broke in the same year, both floated between relieving and starting, both had exactly one double-digit win season, were teammates on the '13 Nats and '15 Rangers, and have bounced around like crazy in recent seasons. (Also, Detwiler's first MLB start was against Ohlendorf. That doesn't help.)
After a few seconds, I'd fall back on Ohlendorf being right-handed and Detwiler left-handed; that does the trick. Usually. But don't be shocked by a slip-up on my future podcasts.
Here, Detwiler, who likes to pitch off his 93-MPH fastball and also has a sinker, curve and change (later adding a cutter), is coming off what will likely go down as his best major league season—after years on the AAA shuttle and a hip surgery, Detwiler won a rotation spot with the '12 Nationals, lost it in May, reclaimed it a month later, and went 6-3, 2.94 over his next 16 starts (before two season-ending duds).
THIS CARD: At his coach's request, Detwiler employed a new delivery upon reaching MLB; in '09 he dusted off the one he was drafted with...unsure which one he'd settled on by the time of this image. He wore #29 in his MLB debut before switching to #48
I'm probably the lone life form who misses the original Washington road unis (with the predominantly blue lettering.) These aren't bad, but the prior scheme preserved a piece of the old Expos...
Popeye would be proud of Detwiler's expression. (By the way, I'm still almost accidentally typing "Ohlendorf".)
(flip) I must admit, NationalDet is pretty clever...or at least it was until they dumped him after the '14 season. According to BaseballReference.com, Detwiler then switched to @RangerDet and has understandably decided against altering it for each of the three teams he's thrown for since—or he has a new account not posted on BR; the last activity on this one is well over a year old.
Detwiler was one of five Nat starters to win in double figures. He was also one of five Nat starters to fall short of 200 IP.
In that playoff game against St. Louis, the Missouri native did allow one unearned run; he departed with a 1-1 tie. Jayson Werth boomed a 9th-inning walk-off solo against Lance Lynn...but the Cardinals won the series in a shocking Game 5 that Detwiler's Nationals led 6-0 at one point.
As you can see, Detwiler debuted in his draft year of 2007. This followed three years at Missouri State interspersed with successful Cape Cod League and WUBC runs.
As for the Career Chase, he has since pulled to within 5,380 of Ryan's record—if the now-30-year-old can last 10 more seasons, and they replace all active position players with kindergartners, Detwiler has as good a shot at anyone of taking over first place.
AFTER THIS CARD: After representing Team USA in the '13 WBC, a pinched back nerve halved Detwiler's 2013 season. His salary was still raised to $3M, but his rotation spot was lost—Detwiler spent the whole 2014 season working out of Matt Williams' bullpen. He was then left off the playoff roster and successfully requested a trade that off-season.
To the Rangers Detwiler headed, with a starting spot his to lose...and lose it he did, going 0-5, 6.95 after seven starts (that ERA had been 10.95 after three starts) before hitting the disabled list. He returned as a reliever, was eventually released, and has passed through Atlanta, Cleveland and Oakland, whose depleted rotation he recently entered.
Ross Detwiler appeared annually in either Topps or Topps Update 2008-15.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Washington Nationals
8/15/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #264 Brent Mayne, Royals
More Brent Mayne Topps Cards: 1991 1992 1993 1994 1996 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Mayne has recently been in my conscious for reasons that have little to do with him. See, the Baltimore Orioles recently visited my San Francisco Giants for three games. Baltimore, of course, is managed by Buck Showalter.
As CSN often does with infrequent Giants opponents, it dug into the vault—twice—for video of an infamous Showalter moment. As manager of the infant Arizona Diamondbacks in May 1998, Buck memorably ordered Barry Bonds walked...with the bases loaded. Showalter's risky strategy ultimately paid off when the next batter lined out to end the game.
That next batter? Brent Mayne.
The Randomizer sees all.
Given his modest statistical major league output, few would guess Mayne was once a #13 overall pick (in 1989, out of Cal State Fullerton). Obviously, Mayne possessed skillz that can't be tallied on a baseball card, or he wouldn't have lasted 15 MLB seasons.
As a collegiate, Mayne registered a 38-game hit streak and put up .393 and .350 averages as a sophomore and junior, respectively. He'd join KC a year after being drafted, and go on to share catching duties with the offensively-superior Mike MacFarlane from 1991-94. Here, Mayne has just completed the abbreviated 1994 season without committing an error; he also roped his first of two lifetime grand slams!
THIS CARD: Almost identical to his 1993 Topps Card. Mayne is doing his best Ivan Rodriguez and preparing to gun a runner from his knees. Not much else to comment on, except having to gently chide my child/assistant for not holding Mayne's card by the edges as she scanned it. (Josie likes to help sometimes.)
(flip) Mayne's shot at a larger role came that very off-season, when #1 receiver MacFarlane moved on to the Red Sox.
Rex Goodson was a #8 overall pick; he made it no further than AA and was out of pro baseball after 1974.
As you can see, Mayne was one of those guys who looked 40 even as a 25-year-old.
Loma Linda, CA is about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
AFTER THIS CARD: Mayne went on to change addresses many times after that one season as KC's primary catcher (1995). That included lone seasons with the Mets and Athletics followed by a two-year stint with the Giants sharing catching duties with Brian Johnson—he footnoted himself into another memorable 1998 Giants moment without even trying.
For 2000-01, Mayne was employed by Colorado, where his .311 average and .404 slugging as a Rockie topped his career rates by about 50 and 60 points, respectively—you may have heard of him toeing the rubber and winning a game (when he was too injured to do anything else) during this period.
He returned to now-wretched KC from 2001-03 (playing a lot more this time around), then joined the 2004 Dodgers as a tag-along in the Steve Finley trade from Arizona—Mayne's four playoff games that year would be the first and last of the 36-year-old's career, which ended that off-season.
If you want to learn to catch, Mayne can and will show you.
Brent Mayne appeared in 1991-95 Topps, disappeared the rest of that decade, then returned for Topps 2000-04. Despite all his team-hopping, Mayne never appeared in a Topps Traded set (to be fair, that was largely because Traded wasn't produced from 1996-98 when Mayne's transience peaked, but still.)
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Kansas City Royals
8/19/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #239 Masato Yoshii, Expos
More Masato Yoshii Topps Cards: 1999 2000T 2001
It took a while to pull this card for scan, because I 100% forgot Yoshii ever played for the Expos. I knew he started with the Mets and played a couple years there before Colorado traded for him. I assumed he was still a Rockie in this set. But after checking for Yoshii's card in the Rockies section of my '02 Topps album and coming up empty...I was completely stumped as to who else he could have been with.
Thanks for the assist, comc.com.
Yoshii had been an ace reliever for Kintetsu of the Japan League for several years; some of the leads he protected were for a young Hideo Nomo. Yoshii eventually switched to starting, helping Yakult to two Japan League titles in that role before taking his talents to Flushing, New York following some encouragement from Nomo.
Landing with the Mets for 1998, the 32-year-old—who was no flamethrower but owned a fine splitter and "knew how to pitch"—gave the Mets two mostly-decent years (although he was roughed up enough in '99 to lose his rotation spot briefly; Yoshii reclaimed it and went 5-1, 1.74 down the stretch for the eventual NL Wild Card.)
But New York needed to clear payroll to acquire another pitcher via trade; Yoshii and his $3M salary were sent to Denver for a pair of nobodies—and that other trade still never materialized. (The 2000 Mets still won the pennant, so no heads rolled.)
As with many pitchers before him, Coors Field was unkind to Yoshii (5.85 ERA there in 2000), but so were all the other parks (4-12, 5.87 on the road). Still, the now-36-year-old went to camp with the '01 Rockies...but was cut. Enter Montreal.
Here, Yoshii has completed his first of two seasons as an Expo; he was one of three Japanese pitchers for the 2001 Expos (along with Hideki Irabu and Tomo Ohka).
THIS CARD: Can't tell for sure where Yoshii is at, though I can make out a blue wall and a few orange seats in the background—Shea Stadium? Yoshii did throw twice at his old stomping grounds in 2001.
My daughter was quite pleased to learn a baseball player shared a name (kind of) with a Super Mario Bros. character.
(flip) Though those early starts went mostly well, the veteran righty recorded a 5.57 ERA and 1.5 WHIP as a starter overall. Out of the pen: 4.03 and 1.1, respectively.
Of those 11 total starts, six came in/around June subbing for the injured Mike Thurman. Three more closed Yoshii's season; he went 1-2, 5.29 against three lousy opponents.
"As an Expos?" Monta Ellis approves.
AFTER THIS CARD: Montreal, even as they faced contraction, brought Yoshii back in a similar role for 2002—on June 11, he was shutting Detroit out in the 4th when Randall Simon smoked a liner off the side of his face/head. Yoshii returned nine days later, no worse for wear, but was shut down in early September with a bad shoulder and eventually underwent labrum surgery.
Yoshii was waived that winter; he then returned to the Japan League for five more seasons, lasting until age 42.
Masato Yoshii appeared in Topps 1999-2002; 2000 was a Traded card.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Montreal Expos
8/24/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #562 Bryan Clutterbuck, Brewers & 1992 Topps #52 Juan Bell, Orioles
More Bryan Clutterbuck Topps Cards: 1989T 1990
More Juan Bell Topps Cards: 1990 1994
We did it back on April 21, 2015, and we're doing it again today: telling the stories of two recently-deceased MLB alumni in one joint write-up.
Neither Juan Bell or Bryan Clutterbuck did much in the majors. On-field, the only similarities between the two men: brief stints with the Milwaukee Brewers (though at different times under different management). Off-field, they share the tragic similarity of losing their lives to illness long before they should have.
While Bell hit exactly 255 fewer MLB home runs than his big brother George, he hit 10 more than you or I ever did, now didn't he? Originally a Dodgers shortstop prospect, 20-year-old Bell was thought so highly of by LA management that it actually took haggling to include him in a deal with Baltimore...for Eddie Murray. A reasonably-priced Hall-of-Famer in his prime.
But eventually the deal did happen, and off went Bell to the wasteland for shortstop prospects.
Despite so-so secondary numbers, Clutterbuck was on track for a fifth straight year of 10-plus wins in '86 before being promoted to MLB. He'd been a #7 pick by Milwaukee in 1981 out of high school in neighboring Michigan. At this point, we'd like to inform you that despite his recent death, it was VERY difficult to dig up anything on Clutterbuck's career—my cards, articles, books and memories were of zero help. What little you read here took effort.
Here, obviously unable to displace one Ripken (shortstop Cal), the rookie Bell started 54 games in 1991 in place of another Ripken (second baseman Billy, out over a month with a strained rib cage muscle). The fellow rookie Clutterbuck is fresh off a 20-game stint in long relief for Milwaukee—three of them exceeding five innings! (Although in the last one, he beaned Red Sox star Jim Rice.)
THESE CARDS: Bell doesn't look like a scared rook in the slightest (he does look nearly identical to his brother sans jheri curl). I tried fielding with a glove under my mitt for a time; just couldn't do it.
All three Clutterbuck Topps cards have non-action headshots. In all three, he looks like a different guy. WTH is he wearing under his jersey, a bowling shirt?
We went with 1992 Topps for Bell because it represented his first full MLB season; we chose 1987 Topps for Clutterbuck because that set rocks and hasn't been nearly represented enough in COTD. (Both men are in 1990 Topps, but that set is tired.)
(flip) If you merge Bell's 1988 AA San Antonio and AAA Albuquerque stat rows, you find he actually popped 13 homers that year—I'm guessing those are/were hitter-friendly venues. The blurb neglects to mention all the plays Bell didn't complete in 1987 (53 errors), or that he somehow recorded the exact same assist total (431) in 1988, as well.
The most RBI Bell ever had in a major league game: three, in the very 1991 season represented on this card. (BTW, it happened in Game #2 of a doubleheader...that went 12 innings. By game's end, that strike zone had to be ocean-sized.)
1989 Topps Traded also makes mention of Clutterbuck's racquetballing.
Baseball is full of oddities, like Clutterbuck registering a 0.00 ERA in seven innings over three games against league champion Boston—but staggering to a 7.91 combined ERA and 1.6 WHIP over six games against the lowly (aggregate .441 win percentage) White Sox and Twins. Of course, maybe if he threw Rice a strike rather than a beanball, the Red Sox manage a run or two...
AFTER THESE CARDS: Though in the bigs for all of 1991, Bell wound up only hitting .172 in 100 games and was essentially done in Baltimore. The young Dominican went on to start 81 times for the '93 Brewers; he was also a forgotten reserve on the infamous 1994 Expos before bowing out in 1995 with a career .212 average in 329 games. (His last U.S. professional action: 1999, for Elmira of the Independent League.) Bell died of kidney disease 8/24/16 at 48.
Elbow surgery did in Clutterbuck for much of 1987-88 (he made a combined 27 appearances, all with AAA Denver). But by 1989, the huge righty was in Milwaukee's rotation, and for a stretch made their decision to stick with him look brilliant. Sadly, Clutterbuck succumbed to shoulder surgery in June—he wouldn't pitch professionally again for four years.
In 1994, 34-year-old Clutterbuck became a player-coach for Brainerd of the Independent League; his strong mound performance helped secure an audition for his hometown Tigers the following spring...as a replacement player.
Though many replacements did eventually find themselves on major league rosters post-strike...Clutterbuck was not one of them. He died of colon cancer 8/23/16 at 56.
Juan Bell appeared in 1990, 1992 and 1994 Topps. Bryan Clutterbuck appeared in 1987 and 1990 Topps, as well as 1989 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, 1992 Topps, Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, Now Deceased
8/31/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #235 Jason Kipnis, Indians
More Jason Kipnis Topps Cards: 2011U 2012 2013 2015
He isn't known all that well outside of the baseball world, but Jason Kipnis is a pretty good player—one who'd have likely commanded a nine-figure contract after the 2017 season, had Cleveland not already locked him up through 2019 (wisely).
Kipnis, who when bearded and from an angle somewhat resembles Chuck Norris, is one of those dudes who seems physically imposing...but really isn't. I would have easily guessed him to be 6'2", 230 lbs. until viewing the vitals on this card.
An outfielder at Kentucky and later, Arizona State, Kipnis converted to second base upon his 2nd-round selection by Cleveland in 2009. By 2011, incumbent Indians second baseman Orlando Cabrera was in decline and out of position—up came Kipnis; Cabrera was benched and soon traded. Was Kipnis truly ready to be the guy? Well, the day after the trade, Kipnis began a four-game home run streak. One week after that he went 5-for-5. Most interpreted that as "ready".
The remainder of Kipnis' debut season was interrupted by oblique/hamstring injuries, but in 2012 he was a legit All-Star candidate—only a logjam at 2B denied him the honor. Though Kipnis slumped after the break, he finished with six errors in 145 starts at second base, 31 steals (6th in the AL) and a share of the team lead in RBI!
Here, the 27-year-old is fresh off a 2013 spent leading the resurgent Tribe in hits, doubles, RBI and steals—the lefties that neutralized Kipnis in 2012 (.215) inspired him in 2013 (.308).
THiS CARD: First of all, we did select this card on 8/31, and the write-up was complete by 9/2. However, idiot me failed to upload it until 9/6. Many apologies. (And many thanks to my six-year-old daughter for her assistance.)
Going by the ordinary follow-through shown here, you wouldn't guess Kipnis uses one of the game's least-ordinary batting stances. If you remember the ex-Orioles/Tigers catcher Mickey Tettleton, know that his uncommon stance lives on through Kipnis—bat held horizontally at sternum-level (or lower) as the pitcher gears to throw.
Cleveland demoted Chief Wahoo to secondary logo in early January 2014. This set (Series 1) was released three weeks later—too late for sweeping changes. Though released months later, both Series 2 and Update still showed Wahoo as well.
The uniforms pictured were originally used early in the 20th century; they became a regular alternate in 2008 (but will be re-retired after this season). I'm going to guess the on-deck hitter as Carlos Santana, who did bat behind Kipnis for much of the year.
(flip) More about the Rookie Fact: Kipnis' heroics capped a duel between teammate Fausto Carmona and Dan Haren of the Angels. After leading 1-0 entering the 8th, Cleveland found itself down 2-1 entering the 9th—seven batters later, Kipnis drove in Travis Hafner (who'd tied the game with a double) via single off Hisanori Takashi. That's how you make an impression in your second MLB game.
Northbrook is described as a suburb of Chicago.
5'11", 190? Must be the cameras. For some reason I routinely forget Kipnis isn't a switch-hitter.
AFTER THIS CARD: Kipnis signed a 6Y/$52.5M extension in early 2014...then, hampered by an oblique injury, had his worst season to date by far. He rebounded with another All-Star performance in 2015; for the surprising first-place 2016 Indians, "Dirtbag" has already obliterated his previous career high in home runs with a month to go!
Jason Kipnis has appeared annually in Topps since 2012; he debuted with a 2011 Update card.
CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps, Cleveland Indians