Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, August 2018

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Topps Rod Beck
Topps Rod Beck

8/3/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #146 Rod Beck, Giants

More Rod Beck Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2002

 

I was 17 years old, and pretty dumb. How dumb? I wasn't far removed from announcing my boycott of the Giants for trading Matt Williams, not realizing what the team was trying (successfully) to do.

 

There's MANY more examples of my teen stupidity, but let's stay on point.

 

It was 9/19/1997. Friends and I are watching (on TV) the Giants host the hated Dodgers. San Fran was in hot pursuit of first-place Los Angeles but Rod Beck, onetime star closer who'd lost his touch, wasn't keeping up.

On this day, he opened the 10th by allowing three straight singles. Fans rained down boos. And teenage me, like just about everybody else in the ballpark, would have beamed Beck to Saturn if we had the power.

 

Manager Dusty Baker comes out to the mound. The Candlestick crowd prepares to really let Beck have it as he walks to the dugout. 

Only Beck doesn't walk to the dugout.

Baker spouts some pep, and returns to the dugout alone.

Are we TRYING to blow this game??

 

Beck would dig way down and strike out Todd Zeile. He then induced a double-play ground ball from Eddie Murray, ending the inning with NO damage done. To this day, I have never screamed louder—in joy—at a ballgame. Not when Giants C Brian Johnson sunk the Dodgers with a home run two innings later.

Not when J.T. Snow took Armando Benitez deep in 2000, not when Brian Wilson struck out Ryan Howard or Nelson Cruz in 2010. Never.

 

As far as non-decisive regular-season games go...it may be the closest to a movie script that I've ever seen. A gazillion dudes eclipsed Rod Beck's talent. Damn few could even match his fortitude.

 

 

THIS CARD: We've specially selected Rod Beck's card in recognition of what would have been his 50th birthday. Beck passed away in 2007, three years after his final major league game, but no 1990s Giants fan has forgotten him. We couldn't if we wanted to!

 

I honestly could not choose which Beck Topps card to use, so for the first time I put it to Facebook vote. 1994 won in a landslide—it represented the '93 season in which Beck rose to stardom.

 

Beck could be about to fire up the splitter/forkball here. He also attacked with a low-90's fastball and slider, but the pitches had to be spotted to be effective, especially as his velocity decreased.

 

True story: Beck's newspaper image was once featured on The Tonight Show's "Headlines" segment. He was "sidelined with a bulging disk in his lower back", at which Jay Leno pointed out the same "bulging disk in his lower back" (butt) you see here.

 

(flip) Yes, friends, Rod Beck was primarily a starting pitcher into the 1991 season, and based on the stats, a half-decent one. As the CG column proves, even then Beck had plenty of experience getting the last three outs of a game.

 

In 1994, Beck went further and converted 28 saves in a row! Then stupid Eric Gagne 'roided up and saved 84 in a row 10 years later.

 

Beck's 48 saves in '93 were second in the majors to Randy Myers' 53 for the Cubs.

 

Did you know Beck was originally an A's prospect? He came west in a 1988 deal for the great Charlie Corbell—a 28-year-old righty starter with zero MLB experience—on my eighth birthday. A deal like this, you can only assume someone in the Oakland organization really didn't like Rod Beck.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Beck's effectiveness slipped beginning in '95, but he remained SF's primary closer thru '97. He then signed with the Cubs, turning in 51 saves in '98 but getting destroyed by Atlanta in the playoffs.

 

Boston acquired Beck for the 1999 stretch run, and when healthy—neck problems disabled him twice in 2000—he worked mainly in a setup role for the team through 2001. 

 

Beck sat out 2002 ( UCL surgery), then re-joined the Cubs on a MiLB deal for '03 (his comeback attempt gained notoriety). Still stuck in AAA in May, the team allowed him to join the Padres, who were minus injured CL Trevor Hoffman—Beck dazzled, saving all 20 of his ops with a 1.78 ERA and 1.012 WHIP! (and somehow, no '04 Topps card.)

 

Sadly, Beck was well into drug addiction by then, and missed the first two months of '04 while attempting rehab. He couldn't duplicate his '03 magic upon returning to SD, was released that August, and never pitched again. It's still tough to believe he's been gone gone for 11 years now.

 

Rod Beck debuted in Topps with a 1992 Gold card—Topps reproduced the entire 1992-94 sets with Gold foil, subbing the checklists with commons excluded from the regular set—one of which was a pre-mullet Beck. 

He then appeared annually in the base set 1993-1999, with one final visit in 2002. His 2004 omission gnaws at me to this day—though he was included in that year's Topps Total and Upper Deck sets if you crave a Padres Beck card. 

 

 

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, San Francisco Giants, Now Deceased

 
Topps John Olerud
Topps John Olerud

8/5/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #76 John Olerud, Mariners

More John Olerud Topps Cards: 1990T 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004 2005U

 

Rickey Henderson is my all-time favorite player, largely because much of what he said left people scratching their heads. If they even understood it.

 

I mean, Rickey once said, in response to contract negotiations, "All I'm asking for is what I want." How can you not dig a guy like that?

 

Over the years, so many Rickey quotes, stories and observations served to prove just how, uh, "unique" Henderson was. Obviously, we cannot verify each and every one of them 100%—stories have a way of becoming embellished, if not outright fabricated, for the purposes of entertainment.

 

One such story has been proven to be just that, a fabrication. A totally believable fabrication. I want so badly for it to be true because it's just...so...Rickey. You've possibly heard it already.

 

Henderson was a teammate of John Olerud with the 1993 Blue Jays and the 1999 Mets. Olerud, of course, wore a helmet in the field his entire career due to a brain aneurysm suffered in college.

 

Henderson was reunited with Olerud on the 2000 Mariners. As the story goes, Rickey observed Olerud with his helmet and stated "I used to play with a guy like that in New York." Olerud could only reply "That was me."

 

When Olerud himself identified the story as false...it bummed me out a bit. It's such a great story...

 

 

THIS CARD: We've interrupted our usual random COTD selection for the second straight time, as we recognize one of the game's better two-way players from my youth on his 50th birthday.

 

We chose his 2002 Topps card because

  • A) 2002 Topps is under-represented, 

  • B) Olerud is fresh off helping Seattle to a record-tying 116 wins in '01,

  • C) we couldn't pick a second straight 1994 Topps card, which represented Olerud's breakout 1993 season, and

  • D) 2001 was Olerud's only other All-Star season besides '93.

 

See? Helmet. Olerud was one of the best defensive first basemen of his time, and was shown fielding on five of his Topps commons, including three in a row at one point.

 

Yes, Safeco Field did host the '01 All-Star Game, meaning Olerud got to play in front of his home fans (he went 0-for-2). No U.S. flag is visible; this may be our first '02 Topps card with a pre-terror attack photo.

 

(flip) Olerud's overall 2001 numbers, while solid, pale in comparison to those of usual All-Star first basemen. Remember Olerud was hitting over .330 as late as June 24 for baseball's best team and probably got residual votes from playing with Ichiro, who couldn't scratch himself in 2001 without a hundred reporters falling over themselves.

 

More on that cycle: it happened on June 16 at San Diego, and Olerud completed it with a 454-foot home run! It was Olerud's second cycle (1997 vs. Montreal), and he joined Bob Watson as the only man with cycles in both leagues (in 2014, Michael Cuddyer became the third).

 

Those career totals are awfully cramped. 2002 Topps contained many printing errors; just wait until we profile Art Howe's card.

 

Fall City is located 25 miles east of Seattle, and 46 miles north of Tacoma.

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Olerud nearly duplicated his '01 numbers in '02, and though he fell off somewhat in '03, he still took his second straight Gold Glove. Unfortunately, his offensive slide continued into '04 and he was released halfway through the season as Seattle started to go young.

 

The Yankees signed him to take over 1B for the ailing Jason Giambi; he started 55 of their final 64 games, including postseason, until tearing ligaments in his foot stepping on his bat while running to first.

 

Recovered from surgery on said foot, Olerud joined the Red Sox for '05 on a minors deal—noteworthy because to that point, he had never played in the minors, having debuted with the Jays one week after signing out of college. The 37-year-old got in his first three MiLB games, then was promoted to Boston in a part-time role, appearing in 87 games. He called it quits that winter.

 

John Olerud's first Topps card? 1990 Traded. His last? 2005 Updates and Highlights. In between, he appeared annually in the base set 1991-2004. Happy 50th birthday!

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Seattle Mariners

 
Topps Ty Wigginton
Topps Ty Wigginton

8/6/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #111 Ty Wigginton, Orioles

More Ty Wigginton Topps Cards: 2004 2005 2007 2008 2009 2011 2012 2013

 

For 1.5 glorious summers, Ty Wigginton was the Mets main man at third base.

Then David Wright came along, and that was the end of that.

 

Not to be deterred, Wigginton embarked on a 10-year run as a traveling bopper (I just invented that term). He never stayed in one city for long, and never had a position of his own for long. But what he did do: bop the baseball. 

Case in point: for the '06 Rays, he started at least five times at five different positions and was so staggered by all the shuffling that he ended up leading the team in doubles, HR and RBI.

 

Traded to Houston in mid-2007, Wigginton continued to be productive in a semi-regular role, smacking 23 bombs in just 386 at-bats in '08. Here, we catch up with Wigginton after his first season in Baltimore (who signed him as a FA just before Spring Training '09). He started slowly, but hit .292 in the second half.

 

 

THIS CARD: Wiggy does what he did best: hustle. Hard play was Wigginton's calling card; he certainly got the very most out of his talent. 

 

Wigginton's full first name? Ty. Not Tyler, Tyrus, Tyson...just plain ol' Ty. And I bet people still misspelled it.

 

#23 is one of six numbers Wigginton wore in his career. Among the many previous Orioles to wear that number: Tippy Martinez and Chris Hoiles. Joey Rickard currently has it.

 

(flip) That is WAY too complicated and obscure of a feat to be blurbed about. Talk about Ty being the first Oriole with a pinch-hit in 2009 (in 17 attempts). Or playing SS for the first time in his career. But what does THIS even mean?

I love Topps, and I'm only (mostly) bashing them in jest. But how long before we're presented with the following blurb? 

 

"Smith becomes just the third Kentucky-born left-handed hitter to pinch-hit home runs off three consecutive right-handed former first-round picks." 

 

1998 Round #17 proved fairly fruitful—in addition to Wigginton, it also produced the likes of Eric Hinske (AL Rookies of the Year in 2002) and All-Star relievers Mike MacDougal, B.J. Ryan and  J.J. Putz.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Wigginton enjoyed a far more productive 2010 season with Baltimore—so much so that he repped them in the All-Star Game! This was followed by 121 starts for the 2011 Rockies and a mostly-forgettable 2012 with the Phils (there was that six-RBI game in May against the Mets).

 

Wigginton's career ended with a thud; signed to a 2Y/$5M deal by the Cardinals for 2013, the 35-year-old didn't make it through July, released with a .158 average in 47 games. Miami signed him in January 2014, cut him in Spring Training, and that was it for Wiggy.

 

Ty Wigginton appeared annually in Topps 2004-13, except 2006 (he spent nearly three months of '05 back in AAA). 

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Baltimore Orioles

 
Topps Jean Machi
Topps Jean Machi

8/7/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #SF10 Jean Machi, Giants

More Jean Machi Topps Cards: 2014G 2015U

 

If you're out in public somewhere and you spot a beefy Venezuelan guy with his index and middle fingers unusually far apart, chances are you've spotted Jean Machi, who—by the word of the Giants broadcasting team—doesn't go very far without a baseball jammed in between his fingers so as to maintain the feel of his money pitch, the splitter (obviously).

 

Can't blame the guy—if you'd spent 11 years across four organizations in the minors, you'd be doing whatever it took to avoid going back, no matter how ridiculous it may look.

 

As a minor leaguer Machi started games...then closed them...then started a little more before becoming a full-time closer in 2009. The Giants nabbed him off waivers in 2011, and when rosters expanded in September 2012, Machi's long wait for an MLB opportunity ended at last.

 

 

THIS CARD: Okay, here's what's up with the Chevron logo—at one annual home game from 2007-14, the Giants gave away a Topps team set pack, first sponsored by Emerald Nuts and later by Chevron. Most of the cards in these packs were duplicates of those from the regular Topps set, but several cards per pack were not included in either the base or Update sets.

I've added those non-set cards to my albums, and to the regular COTD random selection pool. Machi is our first such selection.

 

In this photo, Machi resembles a darker, chunkier Daisuke Matsuzaka, does he not?

 

(flip) Machi is not going to break Orosco's record unless it's in Career Mode of MLB: The Show. At this point, he'll be lucky to appear in more games than Jesse Chavez. 

 

If I couldn't identify those MiLB cities offhand, you likely can't, either:

 

  • Batavia was a low-level Phillies affiliate,

  • Visalia and Montgomery: A and AA Devil Rays,

  • New Hampshire: AA Blue Jays, and

  • Altoona: AA Pirates. 

 

 

Since Topps no longer lists games started, I'll do it: eight games in '03, 14 in '05, nine in '08, and a handful of others.

 

El Tigre is a little over 200 miles southwest of Caracas.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: In between repeated options to AAA Fresno, Machi was one of the Giants' more effective relievers in 2013, and followed it up with an even stronger 2014 (2.58, 0.95 WHIP in 71 games, though he struggled in the postseason).

 

But he slumped in 2015 and was claimed off waivers by the Red Sox, who at times used him as closer with limited success. Let go at year's end, Machi has since only made five MLB appearances (with the '17 Mariners), while drifting through three other organizations—including San Francisco again. He also misbehaved a little off the field.

 

Jean Machi appeared in Topps giveaway Giants sets 2013-14, and 2015 Topps Update as a Red Sock.

 

CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, San Francisco Giants

 
Topps Tino Martinez
Topps Tino Martinez

8/9/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #633 Tino Martinez, Yankees

More Tino Martinez Topps Cards: 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 

 

Up until pulling this card, I'd completely forgotten Martinez had a second stint with the Yanks, with whom he starred during their 1996-2001 World Series years. Initially just the "other" Martinez with the Mariners—Edgar was kind of a big deal in Seattle—Tino was no slouch, either, having being named the Pacific Coast League's MVP in '91. By '92, he was in Seattle to stay.

 

That year, Martinez pushed aside fading veteran 1B Pete O'Brien and showed promise, aside from an awful July. His progress stalled with a torn ACL in late 1993,  but by 1995 he was an All-Star, batting .293/31/111 on the Refuse To Lose Mariners. 

However, with free agency looming, Seattle traded Martinez to the Yankees (incumbent 1B Don Mattingly's one-year vacation proved permanent). The rest is history—Martinez just missed out on the '97 AL MVP award, clobbered a crucial-but-controversial grand slam in the 1998 World Series, and much more.

 

In 2002, Martinez moved on to St. Louis, replacing another icon (Mark McGwire) at first base. But he never approached his Yankee production in two Cardinal seasons, and wasn't re-signed.

 

Here, after an '04 season with the D-Rays, Martinez—who'd contemplated retirement that winter—has returned to the Yankees, who needed some first base insurance in the wake of Jason Giambi's weird 2004 season. Ultimately, Martinez and Giambi shared 1B/DH duties, with the former enjoying a streak of eight homers in eight games in May!

 

 

THIS CARD: Martinez takes grounders at Yankee Stadium, most likely during Spring Training. Martinez never won a Gold Glove but he was one of the game's best-fielding first basemen during his career...you don't get there without practice.

 

I'd never before noticed the intertwining colored borders at the head and foot of 2005 Topps fronts. Only one other set I own, 2000 Topps, displays the set's year on the commons. Too bad 2013 and/or 2014 Topps didn't; I'm forever confusing those two.

 

This is Martinez's fifth Topps front as a fielder, second as a Yankee. Topps' redundancy-checking often fails, but they did well varying Martinez's images over the years.

 

(flip) Hmm. We could have and should have specially selected a Martinez card for his 50th birthday last year. I wonder if in his youth, when Pearl Harbor was still somewhat fresh in American minds, people ever gave him crap for actually celebrating on that date (as some have been known to do on 9/11).

 

Martinez was selected by Seattle #14 overall; among that year's first-rounders, only Robin Ventura could challenge Martinez for best major league career.

 

Check out the low K totals—even in down years, Martinez made more contact than most sluggers. 

 

Since Topps wasted space with a redundant stat (and useless diamond), I'll tell you what they could have: thru 2004, Martinez's career OBP stood at .345. And that he had 10 grand slams to that point (11 overall).

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Little. Giambi ended up being available and generally productive in 2005, and Martinez only played part-time. After the torrid May in which he led the league with 10 total bombs, Martinez scuffled the rest of the way (.232 AVG, .351 SLG) and was not brought back for '06. He retired soon after, and was eventually given a plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park.

 

After some TV work for ESPN, Martinez joined the Marlins as hitting coach. It ended poorly.

 

Tino Martinez appeared annually in Topps 1991-2005.

 

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, New York Yankees

 
Topps Alex Fernandez
Topps Alex Fernandez

8/11/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #599 Alex Fernandez, White Sox

More Alex Fernandez Topps Cards: 1991 1992 1993 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000 2001

 

Fernandez was in the majors within two months of being drafted, all of 21 years old. He'd pitch just 28 more minor-league innings in his career.

 

The University of Florida alum and 1990 Golden Spikes winner took some lumps during his first full season of 1991, carrying a 9.56 ERA after six appearances. It wasn't until after the All-Star break that he found his stride, going 5-6, 3.08 in 14 starts after July 22.

 

Though far better overall to begin '92, Fernandez was demoted to AAA after a rough June outing—accumulating those 28 minor-league innings. Upon returning, he still struggled to find consistency.

 

Here, Fernandez is in the midst of the best statistical season of his career. He won five consecutive starts at one point and 18 overall (which doesn't even include his 10-inning ND in June). Fernandez's rise helped the previously mediocre White Sox to the AL West division title, and kicked off a stretch of 74 wins over five years!

 

THIS CARD: Fernandez, at least to me, seemed much shorter than his listed 6'2", but teams aren't going to spend the 4th overall pick on a 5'9" pitcher.

 

My guess: he's bringing the slider. Along with that, Fernandez featured a low-90's fastball, with a tough curve and changeup to complement it.

 

#32 was the only number Fernandez wore in his 11-year career; he is easily the most notable wearer of the number in team history. Trayce Thompson wore it for the Sox in '18.

 

(flip) That 1993 shutout? In Fernandez's second start he three-hit the Twins, whiffing seven and throwing 114 pitches.

 

Expanding on the blurb, Fernandez was 5th in AL WHIP (1.164), 6th in GS and 7th in IP. He was also one of only 10 AL'ers with a shutout.

 

As mentioned above, Fernandez was selected 4th overall in 1990 (behind Chipper Jones, Tony Clark and Mike Lieberthal); he was previously taken 24th overall by Milwaukee in 1988 before opting for school. 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: When Jack McDowell left Chicago after the '94 season, Fernandez elevated to the role of staff ace, leading the club in pretty much everything until signing with Florida after the '96 season (5Y/$35M, roughly $5M more than Chicago offered.) He continued to excel, leading the '97 Marlins with 17 wins and finishing just behind Kevin Brown in many other categories.

 

Then came the 1997 NLCS—Fernandez was battered by Atlanta in Game 2 and later revealed to have torn his rotator cuff. He did not pitch again until 1999, making 24 starts in between three DL stints. Still, the 30-year-old pitched well enough to win NL Comeback Player of the Year.

 

Fernandez hoped to build on that in 2000, but his arm would not cooperate (I remember him battling hard against my Giants early that year, but the stuff just wasn't the same) and he was back on the DL by May, never to return. He officially retired at 32 in September 2001.

 

Alex Fernandez appeared annually in Topps 1991-2001. except 1999.

 

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Chicago White Sox

 
Topps Alex Rodriguez
Topps Alex Rodriguez

8/14/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #256 Alex Rodriguez, MVP

More Alex Rodriguez Award Topps Cards: n/a

 

The AL MVP runner-up in his first full season (1996, at age 22), Alex Rodriguez kept chipping away until he finally won the award in 2003...and again in 2005. By the time A-Rod secured his third MVP in 2007, he'd earned seven Top-Six finishes in his 12 full seasons.

And like 2007 NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki, Rodriguez's playoff performance—while not nearly as ghastly as in 2005-06—didn't wow anyone. 

 

Still, New York probably doesn't even make the playoffs without Rodriguez's season-long domination (and occasional duplicity).

The 32-year-old had 29 more homers and 53 more RBI than any other Yankee, and his 156 total RBI were the most by a Yankee in 70 years. Plus, in the first nine days of September, after New  York's Wild Card lead had shrunk to two games over Seattle, Rodriguez batted .533 with eight bombs and 15 RBI—much of it critical—helping NY pull away for good.

 

 

THIS CARD: Having selected Rodriguez's 2010 Topps All-Star card on June 20, we've now featured two Alex Rodriguez subset cards before selecting any of his commons.

Speaking of A-Rod commons, I'll use this space to inform you I've acquired a special mini-set of Topps Alex Rodriguez cards produced in the styles of the 1994-97 sets, the years he didn't appear in Topps due to a dispute. 

Those cards have been added to the COTD selection pool...they'll be fun to profile.

 

Rodriguez claimed 26 of 28 first-place MVP votes, with Detroit's Magglio Ordonez claiming the others.

 

Topps: If you have to trademark AL, for God's sake use a ™ far smaller than the main text. This crud is almost the same freakin' size; a novice might think ALTM meant "All-Time Most Valuable Player".

 

(flip) I don't care what Topps says; Rodriguez did not have 101 game-winning RBI, my main evidence being New York only won 94 damn games. He may have had 101 games with an RBI...I'm not going to research.

 

Friendly reminder: Cleveland ace CC Sabathia, Rodriguez's future teammate of eight years, was the '07 AL Cy winner—somehow he made 34 regular-season starts without a single one coming against the Yankees. Naturally, Sabathia opened the ALDS against New York; Rodriguez drew two walks and popped out.

 

I'm assuming that "Rival Team" was Boston.

 

Rodriguez's 54 HR, 156 RBI, 143 runs and .645 SLG all led MLB. 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: This was Rodriguez's final MVP win, though he did garner scattered votes in 2008-10, and a single 10th-place vote in his comeback 2015 season. He retired at 41 after the '16 season, owner of 696 career home runs and plenty of PED baggage.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, Award Winners

 
Topps Freddy Sanchez
Topps Freddy Sanchez

8/22/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #133 Freddy Sanchez, Giants

More Freddy Sanchez Topps Cards: 2003 2006 2007 2008 2009 2011 2012

 

When the Giants traded for Pirates semi-star Freddy Sanchez in July 2009, it didn't initially mean a whole lot other than the end of the Kevin Frandsen/Emmanuel Burriss "battle" for San Francisco's 2B job (held by neither when the trade was made).

At the time, alleged pundits questioned the wisdom of giving up mega-prospect Tim Alderson for some short dude without much pop, just for a shot at the Wild Card.

 

Of course, Sanchez would become an integral part of the historic 2010 Giants, while Tim Alderson spent as much time in the majors as Tim Allen did. #toldyaso

 

Long before that, Sanchez was involved in one of the weirdest trade sequences ever...I was going to print it here, but I actually want you the reader to understand it clearly.

 

After landing with the Bucs, Sanchez hit his way into a full-time role without really having a full-time position, getting extended run at 3B, 2B and SS in 2005-06. Despite the shuffling, he fended off Miguel Cabrera for the '06 NL batting title—Cabrera led as late as September 15—and finally settled at 2B once Pittsburgh moved on from stagnant Jose Castillo.

 

Here, after repping Pittsburgh as an All-Star reserve in '06, '07 and '09, Sanchez has completed his first two months as a Giant. He kicked off his SF career with a seven-game hit streak during which he batted .367 and slugged .500, and only struck out thrice in his first 50 Giants PA.

 

 

THIS CARD: Sanchez was a hacker; he got up there and swung the bat. He was a talented inside-out hitter who used the whole field well, obviously. Counting playoffs, Sanchez played 211 games with the Giants and walked 47 times. And no, he was not an 8th-place hitter. 

 

I often give Topps crap for failing to utilize a redundancy checker for their card fronts, but they varied Sanchez's images very well over the years: two hitting, three fielding, one running, one posed, one random.

 

With this selection, 2010 Topps will go on a 10-selection hiatus.

 

(flip) The last six-hit Pirate before Sanchez: Wally Backman in April 1990 at San Diego.

The last similar mid-season Giants debut: Andres Galarraga, with three hits and two RBI at none other than old familiar Coors Field. (BTW, I guessed Galarraga before even checking....bow before me.)

 

Odd circumstances surrounded this trade as well: Pittsburgh came to SF for a three-game series 7/27/09. Sanchez did not play due to a "sore knee", then was traded during the series—confirming any suspicions about the injury being a front. Right?

 

Not quite. After Sanchez switched clubhouses...he still didn't play for five more days; turns out he really was hurt. Luckily, he recovered to bat .304 in August after a .193 July.

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Just as in 2009, the 2010 Giants had to wait for Sanchez's services—he underwent left shoulder surgery over the winter. Upon healing, the 32-year-old shined on O and D, ultimately becoming the first man to double in each of his first three WS at-bats! The Giants broke a 56-year championship drought in 2010, with Sanchez directly contributing to wins in Games One and Three.

 

While leaving his feet in the '10 WS put him on SportsCenter, doing so in 2011 and 2012 put Sanchez on the DL— he dove for a Brandon Phillips (Reds) grounder in June 2011 and wrecked his right shoulder.

During his rehab from the ensuing operation, Sanchez leaped for a ball and injured his back on the landing; that surgery ended his career (though he didn't make it official for nearly four more years.) 

 

Freddy Sanchez debuted in 2003 Topps as a Red Sox prospect. He then appeared annually in the base set 2006-12.

 

CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, San Francisco Giants

 
Topps Doc Edwards
Topps Doc Edwards

8/24/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #534 Doc Edwards, Indians

More Doc Edwards Topps Cards: 1988

 

John McCain wasn't the only 81-year-old with a Naval background to pass away in August 2018, although he was undoubtedly the most famous.

 

On 8/20/18, Howard Edwards—the ex-Navy Medic better known as "Doc"—passed away in Texas. Chances are, even devoted baseball fans long forgot about him...if they'd ever heard of him in the first place. Edwards' big league playing career was short; his big league managing career even shorter.

Despite those limited runs on the big stage, the man lasted in various roles at various levels of pro baseball for nearly 60 years; I can barely last anywhere for 60 days. 

 

As with many managers, Edwards was a catcher, playing parts of four seasons with the Indians, Athletics and Yankees 1962-65.

Then came four seasons exclusively in the minors, after which Edwards retired—only to be activated by the Phillies, for whom he was coaching, for three months in 1970 (apparently, both incumbent catchers, one of whom was Tim McCarver, broke their hands in one inning. Not joking.)

 

For his career, Edwards hit .238, 15, 87 in 317 games; one of those 15 home runs was served up by Jim Bunning!

 

THIS CARD: Edwards appears in two of my Topps sets: 1988 and 1989; I chose his '89 card because I forgot he appeared in the '88 set. Besides, it was during collection of the '89 set that I first learned Doc Edwards existed. He was promoted from bullpen coach to manager when Pat Corrales was fired in July 1987, and somehow his 30-45 finish procured a Manager Of The Year vote.

 

I wonder if Edwards wore that over his uniform during games, as is current Indians manager Terry Francona's custom. Chief Wahoo will be missed by this fan come next season.

 

This has to be old Cleveland Stadium. Not many others seem 3,000 feet tall.

 

(flip) ALMOST every Indian who should have gotten a card did. Paul Zuvella, who finished the year with Cleveland and was their starting SS throughout August, was omitted.

Also omitted: IF Ron Washington (yes, that one). Wash was with the team all year and memorably broke up Odell Jones' (Brewers) no-no in the 9th inning in May, so it was curious why both Topps and Score excluded him...until I saw his Donruss card.

 

Since the card doesn't say, I'll tell you that Edwards went 78-84 in 1988. He finished up 173-207 in parts of three MLB seasons.

 

Red Jacket is just inside the Kentucky border, about 90 minutes SW of Charleston.

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Described in my sources as a "players manager", Edwards didn't survive the 1989 season—Cleveland stood 1.5 GB of Toronto in August, but a subsequent tailspin closed the book on Edwards with 19 games to go. He never managed in MLB again, though he did coach for a time with the early-90's Mets and scouted for the expansion Diamondbacks.

 

Edwards took his managerial talents to the Independent League in 1998, culminating in a nine-year stint with San Angelo ending in 2014.

 

Doc Edwards appeared in Topps as a player 1962-65, and as manager 1988-89.

 

CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, Cleveland Indians

 
Topps Dominic Rich Aaron Herr
Topps Dominic Rich Aaron Herr

8/26/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #358 Draft Picks Dominic Rich, Blue Jays and Aaron Herr, Braves

More Topps Draft Picks Cards: 2000 #450

 

Sigh...we're in a COTD lull. This is the second straight selection that I have virtually no knowledge of—neither of these dudes ever reached the majors.

 

In the early 2000's, Topps—still trying to extricate itself from the 1994 strike rubble—went heavy on rookie cards, especially in their Traded sets but also notably in the base sets. It backfired miserably in 2001 Topps, as 34 of the 50 Draft Picks featured never even reached the majors, and many of the 16 who did made zero impact.

 

I've previously mentioned the internal debate that took place when commencing this page in May 2014—include non-big leaguers or not? Ultimately, I decided this feature is about the cards, not the success of their subjects. Think of it this way: if you threw birthday parties for everyone on your block, would it be right to exclude those who never finished high school?

 

Rich, a second baseman, was originally drafted by the 1997 Mets before opting for Auburn. Herr, fathered by the longtime Cardinals 2B Tom Herr, was the final pick of 2000's first round—a supplemental pick for the free agent defection of RP Russ Springer to Arizona. 

 

 

THIS CARD: Rich could be Mark Sweeney's twin. Herr resembles a young Troy Tulowitzki.

 

2001 Topps featured 25 Draft Pick combo cards, for 50 total kids. As alluded to above, 16 of them reached MLB, one being Adrian Gonzalez, none being Chase Utley. But at least I'll have the opportunity to share Matt Harrington's baffling story one day.

 

After five years of shared Draft Pick cards, Topps went back to individuals for the '02 set.

 

(flip) Rich is a second baseman here, but he began his collegiate career as a full-time outfielder. Sunsbury is located about 90 miles SW of Scranton.

 

No stats available for Herr, but according to his 2000 Bowman card, he hit .418 with six bombs and 23 RBI as a senior—just assume he was halfway decent in the other years as well.  Lancaster is about 80 miles west of Philadelphia.

 

I am now noticing the chain-link fence blended in the background for the first time, after owning this card for 17 years.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Rich, described in one of my publications as "a gap hitter who makes consistent contact, (but whose) defensive game at 2B is less advanced", enjoyed a .345 season for A Dunedin in 2002, but never rose above AA and finished up with a handful of games for A Palm Beach (Cardinals) in 2005.

 

Herr, too, joined the Cardinals organization in 2005 after five seasons in Atlanta's system—but only lasted one season there. He split the following three years between the Reds and Indians systems, showing more than a little pop but never rising past AAA.

Herr's pro career ended at 30 in 2011 following three seasons playing for his hometown Lancaster Barnstormers of the Independent League—in one of those years he hit .321, 23, 103, fyi.

 

Aaron's brother Jordan was also an Indy Leaguer and auditioned for the '09 White Sox.

 

This card represents the sole Topps base appearances of Dominic Rich and Aaron Herr, although Rich received a solo card in '01 Topps Traded & Rookies.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Draft Picks

 
Topps Matt Mantei
Topps Matt Mantei

8/30/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #162 Matt Mantei, Diamondbacks

More Matt Mantei Topps Cards: 1999T 2000 2001 2003

 

Though he'd been with the Marlins for years, ace reliever Matt Mantei was trivial to me until July 1999, when the Diamondbacks—pressed for relief help—traded for him. The sources differed, but the messages were all the same: Mantei's addition solved Arizona's closing issues. Lock it in, drop the gavel, slam dunk.

 

Which puzzled the hell out of me because Mantei, while obviously talented, was hardly an established closer at that point—imagine, for example, the 2018 Diamondbacks losing Brad Boxberger to injury, trading for, say, Blake Parker of Anaheim, and pundits reacting as if Wade Davis or Kenley Jansen is coming to town. 

 

(Speaking of Davis, something similar happened when the Cubs replaced him with Brandon Morrow for 2018 and virtually no one expressed concern with the move, even though Morrow had never closed full-time and seemed to go on the DL every five hours. It sort of worked out—Morrow's excelled when actually able to pitch.)

 

Mantei's closing experience consisted of the final two months of 1998 and first half of 1999—he'd done well enough, but I felt it premature to shift the balance of power to Arizona upon his acquisition. This was Matt Mantei, not goddamn John Wetteland or Troy Percival.

 

Of course, Mantei did solve Arizona's closing issues, and they blew right past my Giants en route to a second-year division title. What's your point?

Here, after three years of injuries and reduced effectiveness, Mantei has enjoyed a resurgent 2003 season. Mostly healthy—he lost June to a shoulder sprain—Mantei re-claimed his closer's job in Spring Training, and nailed down 29 of 32 save ops for the 84-win D-Backs.

 

 

THIS CARD: Here is an image we don't see too often on Topps cards: full-body, first-base side, pitcher looking in for the sign. As far as action-but-not-action shots, this ranks as a 7 out of 10 on the Skillz-O-Meter. 

Mantei's catcher is calling for either the mid-90's heat (Mantei could reach 100 as a youngster), or the overhand curve, or maybe the less-impressive slider which he added in '99.

 

While Mantei's return to health benefited HIM and his team greatly, it ups the difficulty in identifying the park on this card. After 40 minutes of research and comparing to other cards, the best guess I can muster is old Veterans Stadium. Mantei pitched once there in 2003, the park's final season.

 

Mantei—pronounced Man-tye, by the way—wore #31 his entire Arizona career after sporting #18 and #33 with Florida. I'd love to see another Topps set with uniform numbers in the design, BTW. 

 

(flip) 1997 is not shown because Mantei didn't pitch in MLB that year (rotator cuff surgery). Because he did get in a few late MiLB games, the usual "Did Not Play - Injured" used for yearlong absences didn't apply.

 

Yes, Mantei was originally a Mariners product—Florida acquired him in the 1994 Rule V Draft after a strong year for A Appleton. Arizona gave up prospects Brad Penny and the Nunez "brothers", Vladimir and Abraham, to get him from the Fish.

 

Only three others from Mantei's draft round reached MLB—one of them was future Mariners/Cardinals star Ryan Franklin. The other two filled space.

 

According to this article, there's a little more behind that "Iceman" nickname.

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Unfortunately, not as much as Mantei hoped. 2004 was essentially a washout—he started horribly, was demoted from closing in May, then underwent season-ending surgery (bone spur in shoulder) in June.

Signed to a 1Y/$750K deal by Boston that winter, Mantei badly sprained an ankle ligament backing up 3B on a Javy Lopez (Orioles) double in April. He initially pitched—and pitched well—through the pain, but his effectiveness waned over time. Cue another season-ending operation for the frustrated vet.

 

Mantei attempted to come back with the 2006 and 2008 Tigers, both helmed by his old Marlins manager Jim Leyland, but fell short each time. Mantei finished up with 93 saves...and the equivalent of four seasons lost to the disabled list.

 

Bubble-blowing Matt Mantei debuted in 1999 Topps Traded, then appeared in the base set 2000-01 and 2003-05. 1999 Fleer and Pacific have Mantei as a Marlin; only 2005 Topps Total has him with Boston.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks