Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, August 2022
A = Alternate Card B= Bonus Factory Set Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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8/31/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #396 Ugueth Urbina, Expos
More Ugueth Urbina Topps Cards: 1997 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2003T 2004T 2005 2005U
The ABC serial Port Charles ran from 1997-2003. And during the Port Charles era of American history, there may be no repeat MLB All-Star who's talked about or remembered as little today as former Expos closer Ugueth Urbina. (The last paragraph of this profile might explain why.)
Urbina lasted parts of 11 major league seasons, and for most of that he was among the top relievers in baseball. He was the NL saves leader in 1999, a 1998 and 2002 All-Star, a 2003 World Champion and at one point, he commanded a salary near $7M.
Here, however, the power-armed youngster has just completed his first full season as a big league closer—and his first full season as a big leaguer, period! The former starter took over 9th-inning duties in the latter half of April—a committee had handled Montreal's few save ops to that point—and never relinquished them, finishing with 27 saves in 32 chances. Of those 27 saves, seven were of the four/five-out variety.
THIS CARD: Urbina MAY be at Candlestick Park...or Cinergy Field...or about 13 other ballparks of that era with green outfield walls. In any event, he was less effective outside of Montreal in 1997, going 0-4, 4.18 with six homers allowed compared to 5-4, 3.38 with three homers allowed at home in roughly the same amount of innings.
(A HORRIBLE outing 5/9 at Los Angeles skewed Urbina's road figures.)
Urbina has just unleashed either his upper-90's gas or his tough slider (during the 1998 All-Star Game, Urbina whiffed eventual AL MVP Juan Gonzalez on a slider that bounced in the lefty batter's box.) Like many young closers, Urbina also featured a changeup that could be best described as "developing".
More from Urbina's 1997 season: 124 of his 145 professional appearances prior to '97 were starts, but the Expos left him in relief from the very beginning of '97—possibly because of the minor shoulder/elbow surgeries he underwent in 1996, possibly because he was just better out of the 'pen. On 7/11, Urbina earned the save at Cincinnati by getting all four outs on strikes!
(flip) Urbina's partially-obscured jersey number is #41; he wore that through mid-2003 until being traded to the Marlins, who already had a #41 (Braden Looper, who wore it nearly his entire 12-year career EXCEPT when Tom Seaver's glory rendered it unavailable with the Mets). At that point Urbina switched to #74 for the rest of his time in MLB.
On 6/27 at Florida, Urbina's 14th save of the year broke Tony Castillo's previous MLB season record for a Venezuelan-born pitcher. (Of course, Francisco Rodriguez now holds not only the Venezuelan season saves record, but the OVERALL MLB season saves record with 62 for the Angels in 2008.)
I don't care what level you're at, 10-1—which, as you can see in the stats, Urbina was for Class A Burlington in 1993 prior to being promoted—is damn impressive. He could have been an amazing MLB starter if he'd ever mastered an off-speed pitch, but the man probably has no regrets about his still-excellent career.
AFTER THIS CARD: Urbina lasted in Montreal until the 2001 Trade Deadline, saving 125 games—elbow surgery in 2000 reduced that total—and making the 1998 All-Star team before being moved to the Red Sox. He shined down the stretch for Boston in '01, signed for 2002 at $6.7M, then put together another All-Star campaign in 2002 (40-for-46 in save ops with a 3.00 ERA).
The free agent signed a 1Y/$4M deal with relief-starved Texas in December 2002, only to be swapped to the hard-charging Marlins in July 2003. There, Urbina initially set up for Looper before taking over as closer down the stretch; though shaky at times during the postseason, Urbina earned four October saves for eventual champion Florida!
In very late Spring Training 2004, Urbina joined Detroit for 1Y/$3.5M (with a $4M option for 2005 that was exercised). Despite converting 21 of 24 save ops, it was a so-so year for Urbina that only got worse after his mother's September kidnapping (which, fortunately, ended with her safe return).
Though Detroit, as mentioned, exercised Urbina's 2005 option, his status was unknown for a time, so the Tigers signed star CL Troy Percival in November 2004 and initially used him as their 2005 closer. But Percival was injured early, and Urbina returned to his familiar stopper role until being dealt to the Phillies in early June. There, Urbina set up for Billy Wagner, converting just one save.
After the '05 season, Urbina was arrested in Venezuela for attempted murder; he was imprisoned from March 2007 until December 2012—by which time he was nearly 39 and unwanted by MLB.
Ugueth Urbina appeared annually in Topps 1996-2005, except 2004. He can also be found in 2003-04 Traded & Rookies as well as 2005 Updates & Highlights.
CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Montreal Expos
More August 2022 Topps Cards Of The Day
8/1/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #62 Tommy Hunter, Orioles
More -- Topps Cards: 2010 2012 2014U 2015 2015U 2019
Tommy Hunter is best known for his outstanding relief work over the past decade, mostly for the Orioles, Rays and Phillies. He's been such a weapon out of the bullpen that it's hard to imagine he was initially a starting pitcher—and a pretty good one for a while—for the Texas Rangers 2008-10. In fact, in his first full season in MLB (2010), Hunter went 13-4, 3.73 and helped the Rangers to their first ever World Series! (But they were facing my Giants, so they had no chance.)
Here, Hunter has moved on to the Baltimore Orioles, and is coming off a 2012 season that saw him experience some struggles. Baltimore demoted him to AAA Norfolk in June, and upon returning, he oscillated between starting and relieving for a time before finishing the year as a full-time middle/mop-up man. In 10 September appearances, Hunter allowed just one earned run.
THIS CARD: As you can see, Hunter is a big fella, with the hard stuff to match. As a starter, he was clocked in the upper 90's, but he hit 101 at least once after moving to the 'pen. Hunter also features a tight curve, a sinker and a cutter—not much trickery with this guy, even today at age 36.
The partially-obscured uniform number is #29; Hunter had three different numbers across two stints with Baltimore, wearing #39 in 2011 and #41 in 2016 after being reacquired.
More from Hunter's 2012 season: while many of his starts were unpretty, not all were. In fact, on 4/7, he went seven innings against the Twins and both runs he allowed were unearned. Another strong outing came on 7/18, when Hunter went 7.1 innings to beat the Twins again! On 9/29, though he blew the save, Hunter picked up the win (against Boston) that clinched Baltimore's first postseason berth since 1997!
(flip) I didn't see Hunter's "pursuit of" Cy Young's wins record gaining any steam even in 2012-13. It's slightly less likely now, with 36-year-old Hunter having accrued just 49 career wins. But hey, there's always a chance he could pitch three more seasons and earn the win in every last game that his team plays...it's happened before, right???
Many of 2013 Topps' double-digit numbered cards match the uniform numbers of its subjects. But Hunter didn't have the acclaim to warrant such an honor.
Ironic that Hunter is described as one of the game's sharpest control pitchers, when Orioles manager Buck Showalter specifically said Hunter needed to work on fastball command when demoted to Norfolk. But then again, that was in June 2012, and perhaps by season's end the description was accurate??? I'm not going to crunch the data; too far behind on site updates.
AFTER THIS CARD: Hunter, to date, has started just one MLB game since the end of the 2012 season (and that was as an opener for the 2021 Mets). He spent 2013 as a very effective setup man for Baltimore—even opening 2014 as their closer after the trade of Jim Johnson! But after Hunter was injured in mid-2014, Zack (then Zach) Britton emerged as a ninth-inning star, and Hunter returned to setup duties. Baltimore swapped Hunter to the Cubs in 2015.
Since then, the veteran righty has toiled for the 2016 Indians, 2016 Orioles, 2017 Rays (2.61 ERA in 61 games), 2018-20 Phillies and 2021-22 Mets. But Hunter has also endured injury woes, such as core muscle surgery after the '15 season, a back fracture during the 2016 season (he fell at home), a calf injury suffered on the basepaths in 2017, and a flexor tendon injury that limited him to five games in 2019.
After appearing in just 33 MLB games 2019-21, Hunter was activated by the 2022 Mets in June and has held his own to date.
Tommy Hunter has appeared in 2010, 2012-13, 2015 and 2019 Topps, as well as 2014-15 Topps Update. He was inexplicably excluded from 2011 Topps despite his aforementioned outstanding 2010 campaign, though he does appear in 2011 Topps Chrome.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
8/2/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2021 Topps #642 Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees
More Mike/Giancarlo Stanton Topps Cards: 2010U 2011 2012 2012u 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2018U 2019 2020
It is interesting that we selected a Giancarlo Stanton card—our first ever here in COTD—a mere hours after I viewed a video of Stanton lasering possibly THE lowest, in terms of trajectory, outside-the-park home run in MLB history.
This ball might have been catchable by a tall, leaping first baseman, that's how low it was. And yet it remained on a frozen rope all the way over the right field wall at Marlins Park. (I'd share the link, but I plan to share it here on TSR in the near future.)
What I'm trying to tell you is, Giancarlo Stanton can cream a baseball.
He's not somebody I'd ever want to pitch to.
Here, Stanton has completed his third season with the Yankees. Unfortunately, for the second straight season, health eluded the former NL MVP for much of the COVID-shortened campaign. A left hamstring strain—suffered on the bases 8/8 against Tampa Bay—limited Stanton to 23 games in 2020.
THIS CARD: Seeing Stanton in a Yankees uniform used to trigger me, because I felt he was essentially given to the Yankees, a team that didn't really need him, by none other than new Marlins exec Derek Jeter before the 2018 season. It ate at me that the Yankees, who already had the 2017 AL home run champion in the massive Aaron Judge, now had the 2017 NL home run champion in the massive Stanton as well.
But today, five seasons in, I'm pretty much over it. The Yankees not even reaching the World Series with the Judge/Stanton pairing has played a role in calming my nerves.
We see Stanton lining up his swing with a pitch from the Rays' Tyler Glasnow in Game 2 of the 2020 ALDS on 10/6. You would think a behemoth like Stanton would have a long swing. That is not the case—he's very quick at whipping his bat through the zone, and baseballs go a long, long way as a result. He has produced home runs at over 121 MPH and no fewer than eight of his blasts have traveled 470+ feet (including a 504-footer in 2016).
More from Stanton's 2020 season: he homered on Opening Day for the fourth time, including three with the Yankees (two were in 2018). On 9/17, in his second game off the IL, Stanton stroked four hits, including a homer, in a win over visiting Toronto. And in the postseason, the big fella went yard six times in seven games—tying the Yankee record shared by Bernie Williams (1996) and Alex Rodriguez (2009)!
(flip) Despite his years of slugging prowess and status as a superstar, Topps has only given Stanton three base cards ending in a multiple of 25 (2015, 2017-18). In years past, those numbers were always reserved for stars, but as the current era of Topps baseball advances, we're seeing that pattern less and less. The New York Times even did a story about it once.
Thank you, Topps, for recognizing that home run measurements did not begin in 2015 with that goddamn Statcast!!! Though MLB Network and MLB.com would try to have everybody believing that.
See all those home runs Stanton hit while with Miami? He is the franchise's all-time leader with 267—113 more than runner-up Dan Uggla—and all things being equal, they need to make him the first Marlins player to have his number retired (#27), with Jose Fernandez's #16 right behind him.
AFTER THIS CARD: Stanton remained mostly healthy in 2021 and returned to form, smashing 35 homers with 97 RBI for the Yankees while mostly serving as DH. Even with the universal DH added in 2022, however, Stanton has found an equal amount of run in the outfield; manager Aaron Boone has opted (or been told) to rotate several players at the DH spot.
So far in 2022, Stanton is hitting .228/24/61 in 80 games, but has been out for the past week-plus with left Achilles tendinitis.
Giancarlo Stanton has appeared in Topps annually since 2011, with the 2011-12 editions depicting him as "Mike". He's also got Update cards for 2010 (as Mike), 2012 and 2018.
CATEGORIES: 2021 Topps, New York Yankees
8/3/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #398 Jose Ortiz, Rockies
More Jose Ortiz Topps Cards: 2001
Second baseman Jose Ortiz did some special things in the minors. Special enough that even today, 20 years later, I'm puzzled at how brief his MLB career ended up being.
Being in the SF Bay Area, I heard plenty about Ortiz tearing up the minors as an Athletics prospect, and most (not all) signs pointed to him taking over at second base once incumbent Randy Velarde, 38, took his leave. That is indeed what happened...for all of five minutes, as we'll detail below.
Here, Ortiz is coming off a productive half-season with the Rockies; Colorado traded for him as the 2001 Deadline approached and gave him their second-base job, which had belonged to a combo of Todd Walker (traded) and Terry Shumpert (shifted to LF). Ortiz smacked two hits in his second Colorado start, and on 8/10, he ripped five hits—including a homer—at Cincinnati!
THIS CARD: Ortiz, as you can see, is a righty batter, but in my head I've always pictured him as a lefty. I would say I'm subconsciously fusing my memories of Jose Ortiz and (somewhat) contemporary infielder Jose Lopez, but Lopez was also a righty hitter, so that would make no sense. The moral of this story: I make no sense.
In Colorado, #12 has an interesting history. Previously, solid Rockies veterans such as OF's Mike Kingery and Darryl Hamilton sported #12, and Walker had those digits prior to his trade—which went down about a week before the trade for Ortiz. Later on, IF Clint Barmes wore #12 for most of eight years with Colorado, though he surrendered it temporarily after the 2007 acquisition of OF Steve Finley.
In 2022, the number was issued to rookie OF Sean Bouchard.
Ortiz joined Colorado with two other Oakland prospects in exchange for OF Jermaine Dye, The Rockies had acquired Dye from the Royals that same day in a trade for IF Neifi Perez.
(flip) Check out those numbers for AAA Sacramento in 2000; Ortiz was no joke in terms of prospect hype. That 1996 season for A Modesto wasn't shabby, either.
Ortiz looks even younger than his 24 years in this pic. I see a strong resemblance to 1990's era Tiger Woods, actually.
Those 11 games for the 2001 Athletics? Ortiz opened the year as their regular second sacker, starting 10 of their first 11 games. He was 6-for-his-first-17, then fell into a 1-for-22 slump before straining his left calf and going on the DL for a month. Ortiz got in one May game upon healing, then was optioned to Sacramento upon healing and never played for Oakland again.
AFTER THIS CARD: Ortiz opened 2002 as the Rockies' second baseman, but through two months he didn't display much power at all (as in 2001) and lost his full-time job. He then strained his hamstring, then had the misfortune of tearing his meniscus while rehabbing. Ortiz finally returned to Colorado—as a reserve—in September.
Ortiz then took his show on the road, playing—and playing well—in Japan, Mexico and the Independent League for the next 11 seasons, never returning to MLB. The 36-year-old finished up in 2013 with exactly 300 home runs as a professional across the globe (excluding winter ball).
Jose Ortiz appeared in 2001 Topps on a shared Prospects card, then returned with this 2002 Topps standard common.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Colorado Rockies
8/4/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #383 JaCoby Jones, Tigers
More JaCoby Jones Topps Cards: 2017 2019 2020 2021
Jones is a gifted athlete who could often make the spectacular defensive play look relatively easy. But in baseball, athleticism only gets you so far. A bit of skill is required, and too many times Jones' offensive skillz left the Detroit Tigers wanting.
Jones debuted for Detroit in late 2016, and not only did he win a job with the 2017 Tigers, but he started in CF and cracked a three-run homer on Opening Day! Sadly, it went downhill from there, as Jones was hitting just .150 when a pitch from Minnesota's Justin Haley lacerated his lip and sent him to the DL in late April. Upon healing in early May, Jones spent most of the next three months at AAA Toledo.
THIS CARD: You kind of have to look closely to notice the smaller "A" in "JACOBY". This separates JaCoby Jones of MLB from the Jacoby Jones formerly of the NFL.
Here, we see Jones high-fiving with first-base coach Dave Clark after his aforementioned Opening Day blast. White Sox SP Jose Quintana served it up in the T2nd, and it helped Detroit to a 6-3 win. Jones didn't homer again in MLB until 9/5, when he went yard TWICE against the Royals!
The patch commemorates late Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, who passed away in February 2017. He was the Tigers' top dog for 25 years and also owned the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL; being the founder of Little Caesar's Pizza allows for such splurges. (Also, Ilitch quietly did this.)
(flip) No less than the Hall-of-Fame Tiger Al Kaline reportedly praised Jones's defense, though the clip of the 2017 Spring Training broadcast on which he shared that praise doesn't seem to be available anymore.
That Trade With Pirates sent RP Joakim Soria to the contending Bucs. Soria, who'd been closing for Detroit in '15, gave Pittsburgh solid setup work. And Jones had his moments with the Tigers, so I guess both teams won this deal?
Not sure where the 23 in Jones' handle comes from; it wasn't either of his Tiger uniform numbers (#40 and #21). Jones' public Twitter page is mostly retweets, the most recent one coming in August 2020.
AFTER THIS CARD: Jones, who'd been an infielder in the Pirates system, did some infield work in 2018 Spring Training to increase his odds of making the Tigers roster—which he did, though I'm not sure if re-learning the infield played a role. In any event, Jones wound up starting 117 games in the outfield for Detroit that year, batting .207 with 11 homers and 13 steals.
Jones dramatically improved his slashline in 2019, but he was limited to 88 games by three IL stints (AC joint in March/April, back strain in July and a season-ending wrist fracture in August). The young outfielder raised that slashline even higher in the COVID-shortened 2020 season (.268/.333/.515 in 30 games for the Tigers) but missed the final weeks with a fractured hand.
Along with the injuries, strikeouts continued to serve as an obstacle for Jones; when the Tigers outrighted him and his .170 average off the 40-man roster in June 2021, Jones had whiffed in 36% of his career official at-bats in MLB. He finished 2021 with AAA Toledo, then unsuccessfully auditioned for the 2022 Royals—they stashed him at AAA Omaha for a couple of months before releasing him. Jones has yet to latch on elsewhere as of 8/4/2022.
JaCoby Jones has appeared in 2017-21 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Detroit Tigers
8/6/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #192 Stan Javier, Mariners
More Stan Javier Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1990 1990T 1991 1992 1993 1994 1994T 1995 1996 1997 1998 2002
Back when I first began following MLB, I was 10 and didn't understand a whole lot—about baseball or really anything else.
I understood that badmouthing Jesus in my household was a big no-no. I understood how to operate the call-waiting on our landline. But I did not understand the value of role players like Stan Javier, players who can help a ballclub even though they can't hit a ton of homers, can't steal a ton of bases, can't contend for a batting title, and—at least in Javier's case—can't play six or seven positions.
As I aged, though, I began to understand just how important guys like Javier are to a successful club, especially after he joined my Giants in 1996. Javier was a tough out, always hustled, took the extra base, and rarely screwed up when it hurt the team. Plus, he could defend and was well-respected by his teammates—obviously, having a World Champion big leaguer for a papa rubbed off on Javier (see below).
Here, the 36-year-old has just drawn the curtain on his first year with the Seattle Mariners, his eighth team (if you count Oakland, where he played twice, as one team). Javier started 77 games for the 2000 Mariners, including two at first base, and led the team in triples despite just 342 official at-bats. He missed three weeks in July with a left knee tendon strain.
THIS CARD: Javier returns to Topps after a two-set absence. The veteran outfielder was omitted from Topps despite appearing in over 130 games both years...I call it the "Dark Era" for reasons like this.
Javier in his Mariners uniform evokes memories of the infamous 2001 Seattle squad that won 116 games; that was his swan song as an MLB player and he went out strong, batting .292 in 89 games. The M's signed him in December 1999 at 1Y/$1.5M with a $1.5M club option for 2001 (that was exercised in November 2000).
More from Javier's 2000 season: he hit .343 during the first month before cooling down. On 5/19, his tying double in the B8th set up a Seattle win over Tampa Bay. And exactly 22 years ago today, Javier went 5-for-6 with two RBI in a blowout win at Yankee Stadium!
In the season's penultimate game, Javier's three hits and three runs helped his Mariners sink the Angels 21-9—keeping them one game up on Cleveland in the AL Wild Card race!
(flip) No blurb, so I'll tell you that Javier's papa Julian was the Cardinals' second baseman through the 1960's, helping them to championships in 1964 and 1967. The elder Javier—an NL All-Star in 1963 and 1968—finished his career with the 1972 NL Champion Reds; he's set to turn 86 in three days! (I sure hope none of Javier's previous Topps blurbs regurgitate that data...)
I'd completely forgotten that Stan Javier started out with the Yankees way back when; he joined the Oakland organization in the December 1984 trade sending OF Rickey Henderson to New York. Later on, Javier would be Rickey's teammate on the 1989, 1994 and 1995 Athletics...as well as on the 2000 Mariners!
Javier was with San Francisco for three-and-three-quarter seasons? It only felt like a couple. He was a good Giant, and part of why the 1997-98 Giants contended.
AFTER THIS CARD: As mentioned, Javier gave it one last go with the 2001 Mariners, enjoying a strong regular season and postseason—he accounted for all of Seattle's offense in ALCS Game 2 with a two-run homer off Yankee great Mike Mussina, then robbed 2B Alfonso Soriano of a home run in Game 4!
Still, the 37-year-old, citing the physical challenges of being an older player, retired that winter.
Stan Javier appeared in 1987, 1989-98, and 2001-02 Topps; he also turns up in 1990 and 1994 Traded. Want him as a Yankee or Astro? Tough.
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Seattle Mariners
8/7/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #255 Prospects
More 1998 Topps Prospect Cards: #484
Shared Prospects cards, especially from 1990's Topps, were hardly a lock to feature big-leaguers-in-waiting. Some of them, in fact, could go 0-for-4 in that department. So here, I'm excited to profile a 1998 Topps Prospects card showcasing THREE future major league outfielders out of three!
Oakland's Ben Grieve, for a short time, was a borderline MLB star and enjoyed by far the best career of these three young men. Kansas City's Dermal "Dee" Brown had a couple moments in the big league sun, lasting parts of eight MLB seasons and not totally embarrassing himself. The Yankees' Brian Buchanan is best known for a trade he was included in, after which he managed a couple decent MLB seasons before quickly fading away.
THIS CARD: Football standout Brown was KC's #1 pick in 1996, and one respected 1998 publication described him as the organization's best power hitter since, well, another football standout—Bo Jackson. Brown was the system's Minor League co-Player Of The Year in 1997 (with Jeremy Giambi) and was later named their top prospect by Baseball America.
Buchanan was New York's #1 pick in 1994, but was set back by a 1995 ankle dislocation so gnarly that it put his foot at risk of amputation. He eventually recovered, but despite a strong 1997 season split between AA Norwich and AAA Columbus, Buchanan did not crack Baseball America's Top 100 prospects of 1997-98.
Grieve was the #1 overall pick in the 1994 Draft, by Oakland, and I can tell you as a Bay Area native the hype was real. The son of 1970's Rangers outfielder Tom seemed like a natural coming up the minor league ladder, and found himself ranked as the game's #1 prospect by—you guessed it—Baseball America entering 1998. The junior Grieve was as "can't miss" as they get.
(flip) Not shown in Grieve's stat line: his cup of coffee with the 1997 Athletics. He got in 24 games and batted .312 with three home runs for Oakland—the last one traveling 480 feet!
Those numbers for the 1997 Spokane Indians (A) earned 19-year-old Brown the Northwest League MVP award!
Buchanan's 162 hits in 1997 led the Yankees' minor leaguers; he was aided by a 16-game hit streak across May-June. Thanks for that tidbit, MLB.com! (Later on, Buchanan would be named Team MVP of the Arizona Fall League's Phoenix Desert Dogs, for whom he hit .299, 10, 29.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Brown spent time with the Royals each year 1998-2004, but only in 2001 did he receive extensive run. He hit .245, 7, 40 in 380 AB across 106 games that year, but he maxed out at 59 games played in his other six Royals campaigns. Brown's final MLB action: three hitless at-bats with the 2007 A's. His final pro action: 2009 with AAA Albuquerque (Dodgers).
In February 1998, New York packaged Buchanan in a trade to Minnesota that sent 2B Chuck Knoblauch west. The 2001 Twins gave Buchanan decent run; he hit .274 with 10 HR in 69 games. In 2002, he hit .269 with 11 HR in 92 games for the Twins and Padres, and was also solid in a limited role for the '03 Padres. But by September 2004, 31-year-old Buchanan was through in MLB, and I couldn't nail down a precise, obvious reason why.
"Buck" spent 2006-07 in the Independent League before finishing his pro career with AAA Omaha (Royals) in 2008-09.
Grieve had the best career of the three, making the 1998 AL All-Star team and winning 1998 AL Rookie of the Year honors after batting .288, 18, 89. Despite defensive challenges, Grieve enjoyed two more very good years with the A's before joining Tampa via trade in January 2001; for whatever reason he declined offensively with the 2001-03 D'Rays and never recovered.
Grieve lost most of 2003 to the DL (thumb infection, blood clot in his arm), and after a go with the 2004 Brewers and short stints with the 2004-05 Cubs—sandwiching a lengthy stint at AAA Iowa—Grieve was done in MLB at 29.
CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Prospects
8/8/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps Update #258 Dana Eveland, Pirates
More Dana Eveland Topps Cards: 2005U 2008U 2009
Eveland was a stout lefty pitcher who would get just hot enough to continue earning new gigs every few months. He could never sustain success for long, which is how he ended up pitching for 10 teams in 11 seasons. Only three of those seasons could be described as "adequate" or better statistically, and only one of those three seasons was spent predominantly active at the MLB level.
So basically, Eveland enjoyed just one MLB campaign out of 11 where he was both
around most or all season, and
effective most or all season.
It was pretty cut-and-dried: when Eveland threw strikes and kept his walks down, he experienced success. The problem is that in seven of his 11 MLB seasons, he averaged over five BB/9.
Here, the 27-year-old has just joined the Pirates via June 2010 trade from the Blue Jays, for whom he produced a 1.881 WHIP in nine starts. Eveland had been sold to Toronto by the A's as Spring Training 2010 dawned; he opened that year as their fifth starter and initially looked like a huge steal before the roof fell in.
THIS CARD: As you can see, Eveland was a little hefty out there on the mound, but he still moved decently from what I remember during his Oakland days. His 2004 MiLB cards list him at 220 lbs., and his 2014 MiLB cards list him at 235 lbs—I would roll in aged cat phlegm to reach either weight.
Eveland gears up to fire either his low-90's four-seamer, his low-90's tailing sinker, or his curve, slider or changeup—his stuff was good but aside from the sinker, it was pretty basic. During his brief renaissance with the 2011 Dodgers, Eveland's fastballs seemed to have lost a little steam, but he was still gettin' dudes out.
More from Eveland's early 2010 season: he opened the year with a brilliant scoreless start at Baltimore, going 7.1 innings and walking two. He was solid against the White Sox five days later (six innings, two runs). But then Eveland compiled an 8.62 ERA and 2.245 WHIP in his next seven starts—which includes a seven-inning scoreless outing at the White Sox 5/6.
Toronto DFA'd Eveland 5/24, and Pittsburgh claimed him off waivers 6/1.
(flip) Eveland and future Cardinals RP Brad Thompson were the only two picks from that draft round to reach MLB.
As you see, Eveland wore #59 for Pittsburgh, a number never worn by a Pirate before 1988. Fellow Pirate #59's include UT Rob Mackowiak 2001-04, SP Oliver Perez in 2006 (he switched from #48 for some reason), SP Joe Musgrove in 2018-20 and at present, SP Roansy Contreras. Eveland had at least 112 different uniform numbers during his MLB career.
I love how the blurb glosses over why Eveland ended up being dealt to the Pirates—Toronto dumped him, and that gem versus Chicago is the only reason he wasn't dumped sooner. In 2008, the only (qualifying) AL starting pitcher with a lower homer rate than Eveland's 0.53/9 was Cleveland star Cliff Lee, at 0.48.
AFTER THIS CARD: Eveland appeared in three games with the Bucs, didn't really improve, and was outrighted to AAA Indianapolis in July. From there, he hooked up with the Dodgers, spending most of the 2011 season with AAA Albuquerque before turning in five very impressive starts for Los Angeles down the stretch.
Baltimore traded for Eveland in December 2011, and though they outrighted him to AAA Norfolk thrice during the 2012 season, Eveland still got in 14 games (two starts) and held his own. He spent 2013 pitching in Korea and returned to MLB with the 2014 Mets; Eveland owned a 2.63 ERA in 30 games when a late July comebacker from Philadelphia's Ben Revere injured Eveland's pitching elbow—though X-rays were negative, he didn't return to the mound that year.
Following 3.1 innings for the 2015 Braves, and 33 appearances for the 2016 Rays (9.00 ERA, 2.217 WHIP), Eveland's pro career ended at 32.
Dana Eveland appeared in 2009 Topps, as well as 2005, 2008 and 2010 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps Update, Pittsburgh Pirates
8/9/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #250 Nolan Ryan, Astros
More Nolan Ryan Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1989T 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
Nolan Ryan was as tough as ever on the mound in 1987, leading MLB in ERA and K during the so-called Year of the Hitter.
His Astros were another story, however—with one of the league's lesser offenses, the club dropped from 96 wins and a division title in 1986 to 76 wins and a third-place finish in 1987. Ryan took the brunt of the misfortune—in spite of his excellence, he finished 8-16 and was only supported by 27 Astros runs in those 16 losses.
THIS CARD: 1988 Topps' graphics didn't always match the team colors, but at least the Astros were properly represented. The team did away with the huge color splurge across their jersey fronts in 1987, but given the way their luck turned, that may have not been wise in hindsight.
This is Ryan's second appearance in COTD; we presented his 1989 Topps Traded card back in August 2019. I wish we'd be able to showcase more than nine Ryan commons; thankfully he's got a number of subset cards we can pick apart.
More from Ryan's 1987 season: in addition to dominating on the hill, he hit his second and final career home run 5/1, against Atlanta's Charlie Puleo in a 12-3 Houston blowout. It was the only homer hit by an Astros pitcher all year! Also, on 9/9, Ryan ended the T7th with a whiff of San Francisco's Mike Aldrete for his 4,500th lifetime K.
(flip) No blurb, no This Way To The Clubhouse...but then again, Ryan was one of select few dudes who could hold your interest with just their career statistics.
As you see, Ryan was not allowed to complete any of his starts in 1987—because of the Astros lackluster offense, manager Hal Lanier probably had to pinch-hit for him more than he ideally would have. The only other seasons Ryan didn't tally a CG were 1966 (when he started just once) and 1993 (when he was 46 and fighting injuries).
Ryan was Acquired as a Free Agent for the record-setting cost of 4Y/$4.5M, and he signed two-year extensions in May 1983 and April 1985—the latter of which included a 1988 option that was exercised. I wasn't able to dig up a reliable source for Ryan's salaries for those years, but based on this, it's safe to say his salary did not decrease.
AFTER THIS CARD: After going 12-11, 3.52 in 1988, Ryan—now pushing 42—hit the free-agent market again. Though he hoped to remain with Houston, the Rangers offered significantly more cash (1Y/$2M with a $1.4M option for 1990), and Ryan officially signed in December 1988. (He would play the rest of his career on exercised contract options that were ultimately worth $12.8M from 1990-93.)
In 1989 Ryan reached 5,000 career K when he punched out fellow legend Rickey Henderson 8/23. Overall, The Express lived up to his high salary—and then some—for his first three years in Texas; he made the '89 All-Star team, no-hit the A's in 1990 and no-hit the Blue Jays in 1991! Though Texas hadn't climbed in the standings, it seemed like Ryan might dominate forever.
Finally, in 1992, injuries began to impact the now-45-year-old, who won just five of 27 starts. Still, Texas picked up Ryan's option for 1993, which Ryan soon stated would be his last in MLB. That September, Ryan tore his UCL, finally bringing his 27-season big league run to completion...but not before he famously taught White Sox 3B Robin Ventura who not to mess with.
You may recall Ryan returning to the mound in and firing an 80-something-MPH ceremonial first pitch at the age of 63 in 2010 (he was president and CEO of the Rangers 2008-13). He's worked as an Astros special assistant since 2014.
Nolan Ryan appeared annually in Topps 1968-1994, as well as 1989 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, Houston Astros
8/11/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #90 Robin Ventura, White Sox
More Robin Ventura Topps Cards: 1988T 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Younger visitors to this site best know Robin Ventura as the successor to the great Ozzie Guillen—his longtime teammate—as White Sox manager 2012-16.
However, those in my age bracket best know Ventura as one of MLB's top third basemen for over a decade—which followed a short stint as possibly MLB's worst third baseman. The Oklahoma State alum starred in two of the most iconic moments of the 1990's—though he's only likely to boast about one of them...more on those below.
Here, Ventura has just wrapped up his fourth season at the hot corner for the White Sox. In 1993, his average dipped 20 points from 1992, but his power increased and he took home his third straight Gold Glove! Ventura also added six walks, five RBI and a homer in the 1993 ALCS versus Toronto.
THIS CARD: Yes, we picked a Robin Ventura card after a Nolan Ryan card—crazy, considering what went down between that duo on 8/4/1993. The selection wasn't entirely random; after randomly selecting a card we'd previously featured on COTD, we re-selected based on certain criteria and came up with Ventura. Just two days after presenting Ryan's 1988 Topps card....fascinating.
Ventura wears #23 here; he originally wore #21 as a Chicago rookie. In the 2000's, OF Jermaine Dye would have a pretty good run wearing #23 for the White Sox; today, SP Vince Velasquez claims the number.
More from Ventura's 1993 season: he enjoyed a 12-game hit streak from late July into August, and on 9/19 his two-run homer off legendary CL Dennis Eckersley sank the A's in the T9th. From 5/16 thru 5/18, Ventura went 8-for-12 with two homers against the Rangers and Angels.
(flip) Those 105 BB in 1993 were seven behind team leader Frank Thomas, and 6th in the AL. Ventura would never draw 100 BB in a season again.
Of those 22 homers in 1993, seven were hit in May, with two coming on 5/21 versus Oakland. Two others were grand slams, on 7/2 versus Baltimore and 7/28 vs. Cleveland. (And yes, Ventura did touch all four bases both times...see below.)
The only AL third baseman with more 1993 RBI than Ventura? Dean Palmer of the Rangers (96).
AFTER THIS CARD: Ventura, who signed a 4Y/$20.275M deal with the White Sox in February 1994, steadily improved his slugging percentage until exploding for 34 homers, 105 RBI and his fourth Gold Glove in 1996. Unfortunately, the durable slugger went down with a broken ankle in Spring Training 1997 and didn't debut that year until late July.
In his walk year of 1998, Ventura bounced back with his fifth Gold Glove, 21 HR and 91 RBI; that December, he joined the Mets for 4Y/$32M—$7M more than Chicago offered to retain him. The veteran star responded with a huge 1999, batting .301, 32, 120 and producing one of his era's most famous hits during the NLCS—the only instance where a player didn't mind losing a home run on a technicality.
Possibly impacted by knee/shoulder surgeries after the '99 season, Ventura's 2000-01 campaigns didn't compare to his 1999, although he did help the Mets to the 2000 World Series. In December 2001, Ventura was swapped to the Yankees, where he enjoyed such a strong first half of 2002 that he wound up on his second All-Star team! He finished '02 with 27 HR and 93 RBI, but skidded to the finish line from there.
Dealt to the Dodgers at the 2003 Deadline, Ventura retired after a 2004 season spent primarily as a PH. He finished up with 18 grand slams—tied with Willie McCovey for fifth-most in MLB history. He returned to the Sox as a scout in 2011, and was elevated to manager in October 2011. He went 85-77 in 2012, but never rose past fourth place 2013-16 and was dismissed. Ventura did sort of bury the hatchet with Ryan, however.
Robin Ventura debuted in 1988 Topps Traded as an Olympian, returned in 1989 Topps as a White Sox Draft Pick, then received standard commons in 1990-2003 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Chicago White Sox
8/12/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #481 Draft Picks, Kris Benson & Billy Koch
More 1997 Topps Draft Pick Cards: n/a
SP Kris Benson and RP Billy Koch were entirely different pitchers and personalities, but aside from both being 1996 MLB draft picks, they shared one other commonality: their pitching wasn't always the first thing that came to mind when hearing their names.
Benson became better known for being married to someone who obviously aspired to gain their own fame—at all costs, class be damned. Koch gained as much notoriety for his ink (before it was commonplace among pro athletes) and for being generally "crazy" as for his work on the mound.
Both men enjoyed varying degrees of success during their MLB careers, although not for extended periods. Here, they're just a few months removed from joining the professional ranks after spending the past three seasons winning a combined 50 games for Clemson.
THIS CARD: Koch with no facial hair is something I'll never get used to; he later became one with what I can only describe as an extended soul patch.
I can't prove Topps had both pitchers share the same glove during their photo shoot, but I'd bet somebody else's money on it.
Pittsburgh gave Benson a $2M signing bonus; Toronto gave Koch $1.45M. For some context, in this past Draft (2022), #1 overall pick Jackson Holliday got over $8M from Baltimore, while #4 overall pick Termarr Johnson got over $7M from Pittsburgh. So at least those guys won't have to settle for prison food as they climb up the minor league ladder...
(flip) Yes, Koch was a starter at Clemson, and during his MiLB career. Let's all pretend I always knew/remembered that. (BTW, Koch would never start a single game in MLB.)
Ah, yes, back when hitting 90 MPH was considered "bringing it". Good times...
The first exclusive baseball player to be named ACC Male Athlete of the Year? North Carolina's B.J. Surhoff in 1985. No baseballer has received the honor since Benson.
Neither pitcher played in the minors in 1996 because they both signed in mid-August, by which time the Rookie leagues were pretty much wrapping up.
AFTER THIS CARD: After two encouraging seasons with the 1999-2000 Pirates, Benson underwent elbow surgery that sidelined him for the 2001 season. Benson recovered and went on to contribute to starting staffs in Pittsburgh, New York (NL) and Baltimore thru 2006, even earning a 3Y/$22.5M deal from the Mets in November 2004. But he was never the ace pitcher he was at Clemson.
Benson—who did not pitch in MLB 2007-08 in the wake of rotator cuff surgery—made eight appearances with the 2009 Rangers and three more with the 2010 D'Backs before fading out of MLB.
Koch became a smash hit as a closer for the 1999-2000 Blue Jays, saving 64 games for them during that period. Despite a career-high 36 saves in 2001, Koch's effectiveness dipped, and he was traded to Oakland that December. Koch saved 44 games for the 2002 Athletics, and they rewarded him by...swapping him to the White Sox in December 2002.
In one-and-a-half ChiSox seasons, Koch was not effective; he was traded to the Marlins in June 2004. There, his numbers improved in a setup role, but Florida still cut ties that October. Koch then returned to Toronto on a 1Y/$900K deal, but was cut in Spring Training 2005. According to unreliable sources, this angered Koch to the point he remained unsigned in '05 just to keep the Jays on the hook for his salary. But more reliable sources describe Koch as handling the news like a pro...form your own conclusion.
Kris Benson appeared annually in Topps 1997-2007—except 1999—as well as 2004 Traded and 2009 Update. Billy Koch appeared annually in Topps 1997-2005, except 1998.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Draft Picks
8/13/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #20 Gary Carter, Mets
More Gary Carter Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1990T 1991 1991T 1992 1992T 1993
Remember that kickass MLB commercial from the very early days of MLB Network? The one with dozens of unforgettable baseball legends/highlights/calls from Babe Ruth's time all the way to Brad Lidge celebrating the final out of the 2008 World Series?
If you've seen this commercial, you haven't forgotten it—even today, it induces goosebumps and chillz from even the most casual of baseball fans. (And if you haven't, here it is.)
I bring it up here because I'm pretty sure in this ad's infancy, a wink from Hall-of-Fame catcher Gary Carter followed the "MLB Network" logo seen at the very end. If I'm not imagining things and the wink from Carter was indeed there, it's long since been removed, presumably due to the untimely death of Carter in 2012.
(Something similar happened to an NFL ad of the mid-2000's that initially featured a triple-clip of legendary coaches Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry; after Walsh passed away in 2007, his clip was removed from the ad, much to my chagrin.)
Here, Carter is coming off a 1986 season that surely inspired a wink or two from "The Kid". His second year in New York was, statistically, not as sensational as his first—off-season knee surgery didn't help matters (unless it did). But Carter's year was good enough to earn third place in NL MVP voting...and help carry the Mets to their second World Series title in franchise history!
THIS CARD: Though we still have not pulled my favorite card from 1987 Topps—fellow Met Kevin Mitchell's "dirt card"—I'm not sure we've ever been closer, at least physically.
This is Carter vs. the Phillies, against whom he hit .333 with seven runs in six games—five of which the Mets won—at Shea Stadium in 1986. During his lengthy Topps career, Carter's front images were varied as well as anyone of his time; he was not saddled with an abundance of posed headshots as so many pre-1990 big leaguers were. (And his 1991 Topps card is among my favorites.)
More from Carter's 1986 season: in the season's second game 4/11, he went 3-for-5 with a homer and five RBI at Philadelphia. He ended the season on a 13-game hit streak and just one RBI short of 1,000 for his career. And in the World Series, Carter hit .276 with two homers—both in Game 4—nine RBI and a key Game 6 single against the Red Sox.
(flip) As you see, Carter's 1986 average and homer totals dropped off from his incredible 1985 campaign, partially due to a thumb injury that cost him the second half of August (he was hurt diving for a ball at first base, ironically). Yet Carter went from a sixth-place MVP finish in '85 to third place in '86—obviously, the Mets going from 98 wins and no playoffs in '85 to 108 wins and first place in '86 mattered to the voters.
Both of those game-winning RBI totals would be gaudy and impressive IF you didn't know the criteria for "game-winning". In short, there's a reason this stat was only tallied briefly in the 1980's...it was ALL kinds of flawed.
Since I won't be presenting Carter's 1985 Topps card, I'll use this space to tell you he tied with legendary Phillies 3B Mike Schmidt for the 1984 NL lead in RBI. The duo tied for eighth in MLB, however, with Boston OF Tony Armas topping all run producers with 123.
AFTER THIS CARD: In February 1982, Montreal extended Carter for 7Y/$14M, carrying him through the 1989 season. As it turned out, the final five years of that lucrative deal were spent with the Mets, for whom Carter's production slowly declined after 1986 (though he still managed 20 homers in 1987, ripped his 300th career homer in 1988 and made the NL All-Star team both years). After being limited to 50 games in 1989 by arthroscopic knee surgery in May and an icy bat that didn't thaw at all until August, the Mets let Carter go that fall.
Carter joined my Giants in January 1990 for 1Y/$1M plus (unmet) incentives; at the time, I had no clue how great a player Carter had been—1990 was my first year following baseball—but I knew I wanted him, and not Kirt Manwaring, to platoon with Terry Kennedy at catcher for San Francisco.
On 6/19/1990, Carter became the all-time NL games caught leader with 1,862, passing Al Lopez. (Today, with 2,159 and counting, Yadier Molina claims that title.) After spending 1991 with the Dodgers in a part-time role, Carter returned to Montreal for his 19th and final MLB season. He doubled in his final at-bat; view it here on TSR because it's a pretty cool moment.
Post-retirement, Carter worked as a Marlins analyst in the 1990's; the 10-time NL All-Star and three-time Gold Glover was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. Later that year, the Expos retired Carter's #8, and the Mets unofficially removed it from circulation.
Beginning in 2005, Carter coached in the Mets' system for a time, then managed in the Independent League—at one point his comments ticked off a couple of notable members of the Mets family.
By 2011, however, Carter had taken ill—he was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors which took his life 2/16/2012. Love it or hate it, there has never been any other player before or after Carter with as much unbridled enthusiasm.
Gary Carter appeared annually in Topps 1975-93, as well as 1985 and 1990-92 Topps Traded.
8/14/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps Update #28 Olmedo Saenz, Dodgers
More Olmedo Saenz Topps Cards: 1995 2001 2002
Two separate times, it appeared that Olmedo Saenz had played his final major league game. He'd received a couple sips of coffee with the 1994 White Sox—only to return to MiLB for the next four full seasons. The up-and-coming 1999 A's brought Saenz back to the bigs, and for a couple of years he was productive for Oakland in a part-time/platoon role.
Then, just as it seemed Oakland had milked all it could out of Saenz, he suffered a torn Achilles in the 2003 ALDS, sidelining him for the entire 2003 season (save for a handful of MiLB games). But Saenz still wasn't through—he won a part-time job with the 2004 Dodgers and pound-for-pound, was one of their more productive players. Saenz slashed .275/.339/.510 for the 2005-06 Dodgers, with a combined 26 homers and 111 RBI.
Here, the 36-year-old is set to enter his fourth season in Los Angeles. The 2007 season represented Year Two of a 2Y/$2M deal Saenz inked in December 2005, and it also saw him somehow become the Dodgers' longest-tenured player at the time, beating RP Yhency Brazoban by four months.
THIS CARD: Saenz returns to Topps after not having appeared since the 2002 base set. Even though he was a Dodger, I'm pleased the company found room to include him with Los Angeles at least once—he played well for them and was popular there.
Saenz represents the second consecutive COTD subject wearing #8—which is probably the only way you could lump Gary Carter and Olmedo Saenz together. Past/future Dodgers to wear #8 include Carter in 1991, All-Star C John Roseboro in the 1960's, All-Star OF/1B Reggie Smith for the pennant-winning 1970's clubs, and longtime coach Joey Amalfitano in the 1980's-1990's. Currently, UT Zach McKinstry claims #8 for the Dodgers.
Quality signature, even if the last name seems to read "Joray" rather than "Saenz". (For the record, it's pronounced "SIGNS".)
More from Saenz's early 2007 season: though he enjoyed a 14-for-43 (.326), six-RBI Spring Training, he only started once during all of April and four times in May—a departure from years past. Still, in that only April start 4/22, Saenz homered and doubled against the Pirates. And on 5/1, his pinch-hit single off RP Brandon Lyon walked off the Diamondbacks.
(flip) Saenz is only listed as a first baseman, though it should be noted he also played a considerable amount of third base through the years—including 2006. But hey, I'm just glad he's in the set.
"Killer Tomato" is not original. I expect something that trite and unimaginative from a group of Dodgers.
How extraordinary a PH was Saenz? Well, he hit eight pinch-homers as a Dodger, tied with two others for second-most in franchise history behind Dave Hansen's 13. Additionally, Saenz finished his career with 12 total pinch-homers— one of just 20 men to ever reach that total.
AFTER THIS CARD: Not much. Saenz batted just 110 times in 2007, managing just a .191 average as his Dodgers deal expired (although he did club a walk-off home run 6/8 against the Blue Jays).
Saenz joined the Mets on a MiLB deal for 2008, but the 37-year-old was unable to claim a roster spot, ending his pro career. He finished up with a .263 average and 73 home runs—including four walk-off jacks—in 773 major league games
Olmedo Saenz debuted with an "On Deck" shared prospects card in 1995 Topps, then appeared in 2001-02 Topps before taking one last dip in 2007 Topps Updates & Highlights.
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps Update, Los Angeles Dodgers
8/16/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #561 Travis Lee, Devil Rays
More Travis Lee Topps Cards: 1999 2000 2000T 2001 2002 2003 2004 2006
Travis Lee was by no means a bad major league player. But he goes down as one of the most disappointing players of my 30+ years of baseball fandom.
When Lee agreed to a 4Y$10M deal with the Diamondbacks as an amateur free agent (see below) in October 1996, he was telling the world "Hey, look at me—I'm hot s---". And as a 1998 rookie with the Snakes, Lee was pretty darn good, finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year voting. But from there, he never improved with the bat, and in fact regressed for long stretches.
After a down 1999 season, Arizona packaged Lee to Philadelphia in the Curt Schilling deal of July 2000. Even though he hit in the .230's for the second straight year, the Phillies gave their 1B job to Lee in 2001, and he responded with an encouraging .258, 20, 90 line. But his production slipped once more in 2002, and he was let go.
Lee signed with Tampa Bay for 1Y/$1M in February 2003, and served as their regular 1B (.275, 19, 70). His $2.5M option for 2004 was mutually declined and he signed with the Yankees, but was limited to seven games by shoulder surgery. Here, Lee has returned to the D-Rays—who had been interested in bringing him back after the '03 season—on a 1Y/$1M deal plus incentives.
THIS CARD: Classic STUN image of Lee; good for Topps not recycling any images of him from his 2003 stint with the Devil Rays.
It should be noted Lee had considerably more hair than that by the time the 2006 season started.
More from Lee's 2004 season: he opened the season on the DL with what was first called shoulder inflammation, but was activated in mid-April. Lee went 2-for-19 in seven games (four starts) before returning to the DL; the torn labrum in his shoulder was surgically repaired 5/11. Lee's second and final hit of '04 was a two-run oppo double off Boston's Bronson Arroyo 4/19.
(flip) Instead of the unimpressive career average, Topps could have used the stat box to share Lee's career .997 fielding percentage thru 2004. He made just 23 errors thru his first seven seasons.
Note Lee's 50 K in 1999; it's not too often someone's K rate decreases from 22% to 13% in one season and their batting average drops 32 points.
Um...2003 was not the best season of Lee's career. See how fast his rookie season was forgotten? Other than doubles, Lee was better in all departments in 1998.
AFTER THIS CARD: Lee was limited (by a May groin strain) to 101 starts for the 2005 Rays, using a strong second half to finish at .272, 12, 49 and earning a $2.45M deal for 2006. Unfortunately, the 31-year-old fell to .224 and was cut in September (despite a .279 August). Lee briefly auditioned for the 2007 Nationals, but retired near the end of Spring Training after admittedly losing his passion for baseball.
Travis Lee appeared annually in Topps 1999-2006; he's also got a 2000 Traded card as a new Phillie.
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
8/17/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #155 Jesse Chavez, Athletics
More Jesse Chavez Topps Cards: 2009 2013U 2014U 2016 2017U 2018
Before I get into Mr. Chavez's card/career, I'd like to take a moment to give my boy Hirday "Dhillo" Dhillon a 42nd birthday shout-out. I'd also like to remember my late granny, who was also born on this date (though no one knows for sure what year).
Now, on to Chavez...
For a long time, the Oakland Athletics employed a star 3B named Eric Chavez. Eric had some big years on both sides of the ball for Oakland before back problems derailed—and ultimately shortened—his potential Hall-of-Fame career. While Jesse Chavez is no relation to Eric and not quite as gifted athletically, he might have been just as valuable to the 2015 Athletics as Eric had been for the early-2000's Athletics.
You see, the 2014 A's lacked depth in their rotation until the mid-season trades for SP's Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Prior to those moves, Chavez—who had started two of his previous 191 major league games—capably patched one of the holes in the Oakland rotation. The 31-year-old ended up as a key contributor in multiple roles in '14, and of the eight A's to start 10 or more games, Chavez's 8.4 K/9 ranked first.
THIS CARD: We see Chavez return to Topps base after a five-set absence, though he did appear in the previous two Update sets. For most of that period, he was largely off the MLB radar and his stats weren't too good—dudes like that will very rarely appear in Topps sets.
Chavez became the sixth Oakland Athletic to wear #60 during the regular season (Dick Allen was the first, in 1977); he'd switch to #30 for 2015. Currently, lefty RP Sam Moll wears #60 for Oakland.
According to Getty Images, this pic was shot 7/7/2014 against the Giants; Chavez went six shutout innings that day, striking out nine as Oakland won 5-0. Bastards...
(flip) Geez, even back in 2014 Chavez had already played for five MLB teams in seven seasons—and was FAR from finished packing his bags (see below). Pittsburgh dealt him to the Rays, who quickly moved him to Atlanta in exchange for RP Rafael Soriano. Chavez joined the 2010 Royals in the July 2010 trade sending OF Rick Ankiel back to Atlanta.
Toronto acquired Chavez off waivers after the 2011 season—most of which he spent in the minors—then sold him to Oakland in August 2012.
I don't know who those other four April-strong pitchers are, and I'm not going to research them.
Chavez wound up making 21 starts in 2014, finishing 8-7, 3.44 in the role before switching to the bullpen after the Deadline to accommodate the new arrivals.
AFTER THIS CARD: Chavez returned to Oakland's rotation for most of 2015 before (unwillingly) embarking on a mission to become the most-traded player in MLB history. Chavez has made too many stops across too many seasons for me to detail them all here, but we can cover his highlights:
Chavez posted a 1.15 ERA in 32 games with the 2018 Cubs, then pitched in his first postseason
Chavez posted a 2.14 ERA in 30 regular-season games with the 2021 Braves, and
Chavez posted a 0.00 ERA in seven postseason games as he earned his first World Series ring with the 2021 Braves!
So far in 2022, Chavez has made 41 appearances with three clubs (the Cubs, Braves and Angels, all of whom he previously played for); he's been hot and cold but continues taking the ball at age 38.
Jesse Chavez has appeared in 2009, 2015-16 and 2018 Topps, as well as 2013, 2014 and 2017 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Oakland Athletics
8/18/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #545 Chris B. Young, Diamondbacks
More Chris B. Young Topps Cards: 2005U 2007 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2014U 2015U 2016 2016U 2017 2018
Chris Young was an interesting player. There's not many dudes with 25-homer power, the ability to fly around the bases, the ability to track down anything in center field, and the potential to strike out 150 times a year. There's some valid comparisons between Young and current Twins star Byron Buxton, except A) Young was more durable than Buxton, and B) Young was less talented than Buxton.
Here, Young is fresh off a superb rookie season for the Diamondbacks. He started in CF on Opening Day and other than a four-day absence to nurse an April groin strain, he barely sat the rest of the way. Young's power, speed and defense helped put Arizona back in the postseason after a five-year absence.
THIS CARD: 2007 marked the first year of the red Arizona uniforms. At the time, I didn't like them going from the only team in purple and teal to one of many in red. But over time, I got used to the new look and naturally, now that it's gone...I miss it.
Young was a unanimous for the Topps All-Rookie Team (and the accompanying trophy); he placed fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Astros OF Hunter Pence, Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki, and the winner, Brewers 3B/OF Ryan Braun.
Young and his teammates did a lot of postgame celebrating in 2007; their 90-72 record was the best in the NL, believe it or not. (At least, I'm ASSUMING this is a postgame celebration; it'd be a tad bizarre if the whole team lined up and hi-fived after, say, a successful sacrifice bunt.)
More from Young's 2007 season: for a week in early May, Young was among the hottest hitters alive, slashing .519/.517/.889 (14-for-27 with two homers and four RBI) in seven games. Young homered four times in the final six games of July, and then followed that up with five homers across four mid-August games!
(flip) As you see in the stats, Young just missed a 30-30 season in 2007. It was within his range, but he only went 1-for-3 in steal attempts over the final two weeks.
My incomprehensive research unearthed one rookie since Young to homer 30 times with 25 steals—none other than Mike Trout, who homered 30 times with 49 steals back in 2012.
Chris was landed by the D'Backs as a prospect from the White Sox (along with SP Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and RP Luis Vizcaino) in a deal for SP Javier Vazquez, who gave Chicago three up-and-down seasons 2006-08. While Hernandez did little for Arizona, Young became their CF for a half-decade and Vizcaino supplied a quality 2006 season, so at worst this trade was a wash.
AFTER THIS CARD: As mentioned, Young—who signed a 5Y/$28M deal with Arizona in April 2008—served as their CF thru 2012, save for a three-week demotion to AAA Reno in late 2009 (upon returning, he became the first 300-AB, sub-.200 player to homer three times in a game...thanks, MLB.com). Young participated in the 2010 Home Run Derby and was a 2010 NL All-Star, but after a 2012 season marred by shoulder and quad injuries, the Diamondbacks dealt him to Oakland that October.
From there, Young became a part-time player for a number of teams, including the 2013 A's, the 2014 Mets, the 2014-15 Yankees, the 2016-17 Red Sox, and the 2018 Angels. Young's Angels stint was interrupted by ongoing hamstring issues; in August he underwent surgery for a torn right hip labrum and never made it back to pro baseball. Since 2021, Young has worked as an analyst for MLB Network.
Chris B. Young appeared annually in Topps 2007-18, except 2015. He appears as a prospect in 2005 Topps Updates & Highlights and also turns up in 2014-16 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks
8/19/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #487 Brandon Lyon, Blue Jays
More Brandon Lyon Topps Cards: 2004 2005 2007U 2010 2011 2012U 2013
As the 2000's wore on, Lyon would eventually become an effective big league reliever—most notably for the Diamondbacks and Astros. But here, he's just a rookie starting pitcher for the middling 2001 Toronto Blue Jays, who summoned him from AAA Syracuse in early August after cutting veteran SP Joey Hamilton. Lyon completed five or more innings in 10 of his 11 starts for Toronto down the stretch.
THIS CARD: Here in 2022, Lyon—physically—is reminding me very strongly of Joe Blanton, even though Blanton didn't debut in MLB until 2004. Back in 2002 when I obtained this card, Lyon probably reminded me of some goofball from high school.
Partially obscured is Lyon's uniform #28, a number shared by notable Jays such as SP Al Leiter in the 1990's, C Greg Myers and SP Shaun Marcum in the 2000's, and CF Colby Rasmus in the 2010's. The most recent player to wear #28 was veteran RP Joakim Soria in 2021.
More from Lyon's 2001 season: in addition to his outstanding debut which is detailed on the reverse, Lyon also turned in quality starts in five of his final six outings. The best one? His 9/7 win at Detroit, when Lyon went 7.1 innings, scattering six hits and allowing one run on just 67 pitches!
(flip) Delving a little further into Lyon's debut, he walked one, K'd five and surrendered four hits; it was the only time Toronto let him reach 100+ pitches (101) in 2001. Dan Plesac (yep...Zach's uncle) and Billy Koch got the final five outs for the Blue Jays.
Lyon was originally taken #37 by the 1997 Mets before going to Toronto #14 in 1999. The only other notable big leaguer from that draft round was future Pirates OF/1B Garrett Jones.
Geez, I don't remember Lyon having command like THAT, but as you see, in his initial 1.5 professional seasons, he issued a total of 40 BB in 250.1 combined innings—and did so without allowing a ton of hits, either.
AFTER THIS CARD: Lyon couldn't maintain his success in 2002 and went to Boston via waivers shortly after season's end.
Then came his 2003 Deadline adventures—Lyon and RP Anastacio Martinez were dealt by Boston to Pittsburgh in exchange for RPs Mike Gonzalez and Scott Sauerbeck on 7/22...but once he was found to be damaged goods, Pittsburgh sent Lyon, Martinez and SP Jeff Suppan back to Boston in exchange for Gonzalez and IF Freddy Sanchez on 7/31.
Lyon went to Arizona in the November 2003 Curt Schilling trade, but due to ulnar nerve transposition surgery and a bumpy rehab, he did not debut for the D'Backs until April 2005. That year, Lyon was doing excellent work as Arizona's closer until straining his elbow in mid-May; he returned in August and was absolutely creamed by the opposition (13.91 ERA in 14 games).
In 2006-07, Lyon rediscovered his effectiveness in a setup role for the D'Backs, then resumed closing duties for most of 2008 (26 saves) until struggling and ceding the job to Chad Qualls in September. Then came a solid year setting up for the 2009 Tigers, a 3Y/$15M deal from Houston in December 2009, and a return to closing in 2010. But in June 2011, Lyon underwent season-ending right biceps surgery in June.
From there, Lyon enjoyed a solid 2012 split between Houston and Toronto, who traded for him in July. Somehow, he ended up with a MiLB deal from Boston for 2013; in the end, he scuffled across 37 games for the '13 Mets. A MiLB deal from the Angels for 2014 did not lead to a callup, and Lyon stepped away from pro baseball at 35.
Brandon Lyon appeared in 2002, 2004-05, 2010-11 and 2013 Topps, as well as 2007 and 2012 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays
8/21/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps Traded #45 Dante Powell, Team USA
More Dante Powell Topps Cards: 1997
The young outfielder Powell would soon become a top Giants prospect, but here, he's a member of the 1993 Collegiate National Team (aka Team USA). This is not connected to the 1992 Olympic team represented in 1992 Topps Traded.
THIS CARD: All these Team USA cards of the late 1980's and early 1990's left me confused—the Summer Olympics only occur every four years, yet 1991, 1992 and 1993 Topps Traded all featured Team USA subsets. Eventually, through extended effort, I discovered all these other eminent amateur baseball tournaments that seem to occur with no rhyme or reason.
Powell is a clear mix of the Jeffrey's Leonard and Hammonds. Just without their shared ability to hammer major league pitching consistently.
(flip) Does Powell's Cal State-Fullerton triples record still stand? (Leaves to research) Yes, according to the school's online record book.
First Team All-Big West sounds made up. Besides, after being named All-American, no other accolades measure up.
Powell was selected by Toronto with the sandwich pick awarded after the free-agent departure of SP Bud Black (to my Giants!). Powell went 42nd overall.
AFTER THIS CARD: In the end, Powell was able to accrue 85 plate appearances across 70 MLB games for the 1997, 1998 and 2001 Giants plus the 1999 Diamondbacks. He went 20-for-74 (.270), but for whatever reasons, his pro opportunities dried up after 2002.
Dante Powell appeared in 1993 Topps Traded, and 1997 Topps (on a shared Prospects card).
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps Traded, Team USA
8/22/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #788 Coming Attractions
More 1994 Topps Coming Attractions: #782
More Brian Barber Topps Cards: 1992 1996
More Richard Batchelor Topps Cards: n/a
Neither Brian Barber nor Richard Batchelor did much of anything in the majors, but at least they reached The Show and received several opportunities, and there's something to be said for that.
Barber was by far the most touted of the pair; most publications of the time penciled him in as the Cardinals' fifth starter at some point in the mid-1990's. Batchelor, however, was the first of the two to reach MLB, but learning anything about him from TV broadcasts was tough since so many commentators wanted to zero in on "Rich Batchelor" jokes.
By 1994, both seemed to have bright futures in MLB.
THIS CARD: This is our second of 28 "Coming Attractions" to be presented in COTD. The subset made its second and final appearance in 1994 Topps as the company continued to lay it on thick with draft picks and prospects.
We can see Batchelor's partially-concealed uniform number. It appears to end in an 8 or a 9, which tells me this is a Spring Training pic, since Batchelor wore #47 with the 1993 Cardinals.
(flip) As good as Barber's 1993 numbers were for AA Arkansas and AAA Louisville, they were even better in 1992, when he went 8-9, 3.40 in 27 starts at both levels of Class A. Barber never had the high win totals even as a top prospect, but he produced many gaudy stats otherwise.
See? I never knew Batchelor had been such a dominant MiLB closer in 1993! And it's because the broadcasters wouldn't stop joking about his name long enough to relay that info! I guess Batchelor HAD to be a baller, since the Cardinals acquired him from the Yankees for Hall-of-Fame CL Lee Smith straight up in August 1993.
As you see, this is Batchelor's Rookie Card, but not Barber's. The latter previously appeared in 1992 Topps as a Draft Pick.
AFTER THIS CARD: The Cardinals finally called Barber up in 1995, and despite some iffy command, he held his own until being bombed in his final appearance. Barber made one ineffective start for the 1996 Cardinals, then spent all of 1997 in AAA racking up a 7.12 ERA in 23 starts.
From there, Barber made 16 appearances for the 1998-99 Royals, even opening 1998 as their fourth starter. But he didn't turn any heads, and after spending 2000 in the Independent League, Barber faded from pro baseball. Well, as a player, anyway—Barber went on to a long career as a Yankees scout and was named the Phillies scouting director in 2020, a position he still held at last check.
Batchelor got in nine games for the 1993 Cardinals as a September call-up, but did not re-appear in MLB until early 1996. That year, Batchelor sported a 1.20 ERA in 11 Cardinals appearances, but in June 1997 he was dispatched to the Padres in a six-player deal. He got in 13 games for the '97 Padres but struggled, and his final three pro seasons were all spent in AAA (in the Indians, Diamondbacks and Yankees systems 1998-2000).
Brian Barber appeared in 1992, 1994 and 1996 Topps. Richard Batchelor appeared in 1994 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Subsets
8/23/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #387 Bob Tewksbury, Rangers
More Bob Tewksbury Topps Cards: 1986T 1987 1988 1990T 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1995T 1997 1998
It is highly unlikely Bob Tewksbury would be the ace of any major league staff of the 2020's as he was in the 1990's—he just didn't throw hard or filthy enough. "Tewks" survived almost exclusively on superior command; he seldom walked anyone and put himself in as few hitters' counts as anybody else in the league.
Originally a Yankees product, Tewksbury made their 1986 rotation out of Spring Training and wound up 9-5 in 20 starts, missing a few turns with injury. His 1987 season began poorly, however, and he was twice demoted to AAA Columbus before being traded to the Cubs in July (in exchange for SP Steve Trout). Tewksbury gave the Cubs little before a season-ending DL stint in August (shoulder).
The 27-year-old made one appearance for the 1988 Cubs before undergoing shoulder surgery; they cut ties and the Cardinals swooped in. By 1990, Tewksbury was starting regularly for St. Louis, and by 1992 he was their undisputed ace and an NL All-Star!
Here, however, Tewksbury has just wrapped up a 1995 season spent with the Texas Rangers. Though he missed a month with a rib injury, Tewksbury pitched gamely when healthy, and the Rangers won 12 of his 21 starts.
THIS CARD: This may not be the most exciting front image, but after 1991-93 Topps gave Tewksbury practically identical front images...I'm not complaining.
Tewksbury, as you see, had a distinctive look. He was one of those guys who, depending on the day and angle, could pass for both 20 and 40.
More from Tewksbury's 1995 season: he signed with the Rangers for 1Y/$1.5M—a notable pay cut—about a week after the strike ended, replacing departed SP Kevin Brown. On Opening Day, he beat eventual AL Champion Cleveland with six innings of one-run ball, and during the month of May he walked five total hitters in six starts! We won't discuss Tewksbury's, uh, challenging September.
(flip) Here is an SI article covering Tewksbury's artistry; unfortunately, no samples appear.
Tewksbury retired with a career 1.5 BB/9 rate, still damn impressive and the fifth-best of any pitcher whose career began after 1900 (Josh Tomlin—yes, that one—Babe Adams, Dan Quisenberry and Addie Joss - minimum 1,000 IP).
That 1995 shutout took place 7/7 against the Yankees; Tewksbury scattered six hits and, of course, walked none.
AFTER THIS CARD: The 35-year-old Tewksbury signed a 1Y/$1.625M deal (with a club option that wasn't exercised) with San Diego in December 1995. He started the 1996 season 9-5, 3.80 before limping to the finish line; despite being moved to the bullpen in late September, Tewksbury threw seven shutout innings to clinch the NL West for San Diego in Game 162!
Next, Tewksbury joined the Twins on a 1Y/$2.1M deal for 1997. Limited to 26 starts by pinky, shoulder and back woes, he went 8-13, 4.22 and tailed off after the break. Still, Minnesota exercised Tewksbury's $1.75M option for 1998; that year he finished 7-13, 4.79. Despite some free agent interest, the 38-year-old retired after that season.
Later on, Tewksbury worked as MLBPA's director of player development and also spent time as a sports psychologist—his 2018 book Ninety Percent Mental is available on Amazon.com.
Bob Tewksbury appeared in 1987-88 and 1991-98 Topps. He's also got cards in 1986, 1990 and 1995 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Texas Rangers
8/24/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2020 Topps #81 Ryan Yarbrough, Rays
More Ryan Yarbrough Topps Cards: 2018U 2019 2021
The advent of the "opener" effectuated one of the oddest statistical seasons of my baseball fandom—and probably everyone else's, too. Rookie P Ryan Yarbrough of the 2018 Rays was essentially used as (what used to be called) a long reliever for most of the year; he made just six starts totaling 28,2 innings that year, but still was credited with 16 wins—14 of them in relief.
I never thought I'd see a season stat row read: G=38 GS=6 W=16.
Those who don't value pitcher's wins as a stat practically salivated in the wake of Yarbrough's "feat".
Here, however, the young lefty has proven to be more than just a gimmick or a glorified vulture—the 2019 Rays used him more conventionally, and when they began to lean a little too heavily on openers in early August, Yarbrough was assigned to the rotation. In his first start after that promotion 8/11, Yarbrough came within one out of shutting out the Mariners!
THIS CARD: According to Getty Images, this pic was shot at San Francisco's Oracle Park 4/6/2019, in the B5th. That inning saw Yarbrough—who pitched innings 5-7 for the Rays—allow a two-run double to Giants OF Steven Duggar and a two-run homer to 1B Brandon Belt, so I'm not sure why Topps chose to chronicle it on a baseball card.
As you see, Yarbrough's delivery is a tad funky. And by a "tad", I mean he frequently comes close to throwing true sidearm and even flirts with submarine. He has a four-seamer that comes in around 88 on average, and a slow slider, but he usually leans on the cutter, change and curve these days.
More from Yarbrough's 2019 season: he opened the year as a long reliever/spot starter, was optioned to AAA Durham twice, made three straight starts in early June—only one of which went smoothly—but finally hit his stride in mid-June, posting a 1.75 ERA in 13 games and 67 innings through 8/28. On 8/17, Yarbrough followed up his near-shutout with 6.1 scoreless innings against the Tigers, striking out a season-high 10.
(flip) That aforementioned 16-win season got me curious: who owns the record for most relief wins in a season? The answer is Roy Face of the 1959 Pirates (18); Yarbrough's 14 relief wins in 2018 is the most in MLB since 1977.
In that near-perfecto, which occurred 7/14/2019, Rays opener Ryne Stanek retired the first six Oriole batters in order, followed by Yarbrough setting down the next 18! He allowed two hits to open the 9th and was removed after striking out C Chance Sisco; Tampa still won 4-1.
As for the near-shutout, Yarbrough—at exactly 100 pitches—was removed from the 1-0 nail-biter to avoid facing powerful Seattle righty Domingo Santana; Tampa CL Emilio Pagan retired PH Omar Narvaez for the final out. (Yarbrough still has yet to throw a shutout, but on 6/3/2021 against the Yankees, he was allowed to go all nine—the Rays' first CG since May 2016!)
AFTER THIS CARD: In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Yarbrough went 1-4, 3.56 in 11 games (nine starts). That was followed by a 9-7, 5.11 performance across 30 games (21 starts) in 2021; so far in 2022 he's filled his familiar swingman role for the Rays with a twist—they've optioned him to Durham twice, more for roster purposes than as any sort of true demotion.
Ryan Yarbrough debuted in 2018 Topps Update, and has since appeared in 2019-21 Topps. He may still yet pop up in 2022 Update, due to release in less than two months!
CATEGORIES: 2020 Topps, Tampa Bay Rays
8/26/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #312 Keith Lockhart, Royals
More Keith Lockhart Topps Cards: 2001
Lockhart is best remembered for his days as a role player with the Braves, for whom he served as a semi-regular in stretches and as a top pinch-hitter/defensive sub at other times. But here, he's just wrapped up his second year with the Royals, for whom he started 105 games in 1996 at second and third base. Lockhart was over .300 as late as 8/6 before going cold in the final weeks (.197 from 8/7 on).
THIS CARD: That is not Adrian Beltre taking out Lockhart; he was still two years away from his MLB debut in 1996. That is Boston IF Esteban Beltre, and using that info, we may be able to narrow down the date of this pic...
...we WERE able to narrow down the date of the pic! Lockhart played against Boston at home five times in 1996, but only twice as a second baseman. And Beltre only played in one of those games—4/6!!! He drew a walk to lead off the T7th but was erased on a GIDP by Wil Cordero two batters later.
More from Lockhart's 1996 season: on 6/28 vs. Minnesota, he went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI to aid a 6-2 win. On 4/27 at Boston, he homered and drove home five in a 10-0 KC win. And from 5/1 to 5/19, Lockhart took 43 official at-bats with just one strikeout!
(flip) Lockhart is listed as a second baseman, but he also started 44 games at third base; he saw most of his hot corner action from April to early June.
Yes, the Royals got Lockhart from San Diego for zilch; he'd spent over eight years in the minors before receiving a shot with the 1994 Padres—who obviously didn't know what they had as Lockhart was cut loose that winter.
Geez, I thought Dwight Gooden's 1997 Topps blurb was impossible to read without a microscope. In case you WERE able to make out those tiny letters, I'll tell you that Lockhart's near-cycle happened at Minnesota; he doubled hard to LF against RP Oscar Munoz and advanced to third on an error by LF Marty Cordova. So technically, no cycle.
AFTER THIS CARD: In March 1997, Lockhart was dealt to the Braves in a deal sending OF Jermaine Dye back to KC. As mentioned, Atlanta used Lockhart as a semi-regular more than once over the next six seasons, but he also received extensive run as a lefty bat off the bench, tallying 59 pinch-hits with Atlanta. (He also went 8-for-16 in the 1997 NLCS against Florida!)
Lockhart's average fell under .220 in both 2001 and 2002, and he was not brought back for 2003. He returned to his original team, San Diego, and batted .242 in 62 games that year. The Padres cut Lockhart at season's end, bringing his pro playing career to a close.
Much to my surprise, Keith Lockhart only appeared in 1997 and 2001 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Kansas City Royals
8/27/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #389 Rick Reed, Twins
More Rick Reed Topps Cards: 1993 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004
For whatever reason, even though he enjoyed his greatest success with the Mets and Twins later on, I always remember Reed for his early days as a Pittsburgh Pirate. You see, young me once stumbled upon a piece of 1990 Pirates trivia: eight different Pirates earned saves that year. For whatever reason I was fascinated for a time, and soon memorized all eight pitchers. Reed was one of them.
Reed was up and down with the Bucs from 1988-91, generally used as a rotation/bullpen stopgap and then returned to the minors. The Pirates released Reed after the 1991 campaign, but he held his own during a half-season stint with the 1992 Royals.
Solid MLB footing still escaped Reed, however; he passed through two other organizations before making the difficult decision to serve as a 1995 replacement player during the strike. Later that year, with the strike long settled, Reed earned a legit call-up from the Reds, and as you might expect, his teammates didn't exactly roll out the red carpet for him.
By the end of 1997, however, Reed had hooked up with the Mets and developed into a fine major league starter. He went 51-30 for the 1997-2000 Mets, which made him attractive to the other 29 teams. The Twins landed Reed via trade in July 2001.
THIS CARD: From 1995 on, Topps was the only card company that could produce Rick Reed cards. All other card companies get their licensing through the MLBPA, but due to Reed's crossing the picket line during the strike, he was permanently denied entry into the MLBPA.
So while Score, Donruss, Upper Deck, etc. were forced to exclude Reed from their sets—as well as Brian Daubach, Kevin Millar, Matt Herges and all other big leaguers who served as replacement players—Topps was not, since they license every major leaguer individually. (I guess it balanced out since those companies could produce early Alex Rodriguez cards while he beefed with Topps.)
As you (partially) see, Reed wore #31 with Minnesota—but only from 2002 on; he actually wore #36 with the 2001 Twins. Because 2002 Topps Series 2 wasn't released until mid-2002, collectors got Reed with his new digits.
(flip) Topps had months to take/obtain multiple images of Reed with Minnesota, but evidently got just one to use on both sides. And it's a STUN (Spring Training New Uniform) image without the UN. I guess it's forgivable considering the chaotic state of America during late summer 2001.
That Trade, with the Mets, sent OF Matt Lawton east.
Geez, Reed was a #26 pick? His path to MLB success had obstacles from the very frikkin' start...
AFTER THIS CARD: Reed, who was traded to the Twins during the first year of a 3Y/$21.75M deal he signed with the Mets in December 2000, exercised his right to demand a trade after the 2001 season—but eventually withdrew said demand. He then went 15-7, 3.78 to help the 2002 Twins—after an 11-year drought—return to the postseason! (Reed wasn't so sharp there, but still.)
In 2003, the final year of his deal, 39-year-old Reed fell to 6-12, 5.07 and finished the season in the bullpen after a back injury forced an August DL stint. He went to camp with the 2004 Pirates, but didn't make the team and retired soon afterward.
Rick Reed debuted in 1993 Topps, then appeared annually in the 1998-2004 Topps sets. After being neglected by Topps during his first Pittsburgh stint, he's featured as a Pirate in 2004 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Minnesota Twins
8/28/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #65 J.P. Howell, Rays
More J.P. Howell Topps Cards: 2004T 2006U 2007U 2010 2011U 2012U 2013U 2015U 2016 2017U
Since the baseball strike of 1995, Topps hasn't not been nearly as liberal about including middle relievers in their sets as before. In fact, during the Dark Era of Topps sets (1996-2000 ), aside from top prospects expected to become closers, middle relievers/setup men were practically nonexistent. In 2001, many made a triumphant return. And from 2011 Topps on, most clubs have had at least a couple MRP's represented.
During these past 20+ years, for whatever reason, certain middlemen have received more representation than others. Pat Neshek, a well-known Topps aficionado, was one. J.P. Howell, longtime lefty specialist for the Rays and Dodgers, was another.
Almost from the beginning of his career, Howell received nearly annual representation in Topps and/or Topps Update (as he should have) when others like him got little (or no) representation. I'm not sure why he was preferred, but I'll find out someday.
Here, we catch up with Howell after his second season back on the mound after shoulder surgery wiped out his 2010 campaign. In 2012, Howell more than halved his ERA from 2011 while holding lefties to an even .200 average (17-for-85).
THIS CARD: In this image, you might suspect Howell to be a sidearmer, but he really wasn't. His motion was deceptive but pretty conventional, as he attacked with his hard-sinking two-seamer, various curveballs, the changeup, or—infrequently—his mid-80's four-seamer.
Wide-open jerseys like that used to annoy me; I was very much a traditional MLB fan hesitant to accept the style of modern players. But I've unclenched my cheeks considerably these past few years and am much more tolerable. Still—get off my lawn!
More from Howell's 2012 season: working on a 1Y/$1.35M deal, Howell's work neutralizing lefties helped Tampa win 90 games, just one fewer than in their magical 2011 but not enough to qualify for the postseason. Despite his status as a specialist, on four occasions Howell was asked to work two or more innings—and not on any of those occasions was he scored upon!
(flip) That scoreless streak went down from 6/14 to 8/30; Howell worked 24 games with a .138 BAA over that stretch! It still stands as a Rays record.
As mentioned, Howell sat out 2010 after shoulder surgery. He was initially DL'd that April with a shoulder strain, but suffered a setback during a simulated game and went under the knife that May.
Howell at least had a SHOT of catching Orosco at one point, but he ended his career with 547 appearances—a healthy amount, but still less than half of Orosco's total.
AFTER THIS CARD: After seven seasons with the Rays, Howell signed with the Dodgers for 1Y/$2.85M in January 2013. He went on to an excellent year and earned what ended up being a 3Y/$17.5M deal (including the exercised player option) that December. Howell completed all three years of the deal with Los Angeles and was excellent during the first two...but slipped a bit in 2016 and was allowed to walk that winter.
Next, Howell signed with Toronto for 1Y/$3M. Not one thing went right for him professionally in 2017; shoulder tightness limited him to 16 games, during which his ERA shot up to 7.36. He was cut by the Jays in August, and other than a brief go in an Independent League in 2018, Howell never pitched professionally again. THAT'S how fast pro careers go kaput, people.
J.P. Howell debuted in 2004 Topps Traded as a Royals Draft Pick, returned for 2006-07 Update, then appeared in the base and/or Update set annually 2010-17, except 2014.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Tampa Bay Rays
8/29/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #455 Danny Espinosa, Nationals
More Danny Espinosa Topps Cards: 2012 2013 2015 2016 2017
In his fifth major league game, Danny Espinosa went 4-for-5 with two homers and six RBI against the Mets. Unfortunately for him, that offensive explosion was not a sign of things to come.
The 2008 #3 pick served as Washington's regular 2B (and sometimes SS) from 2011 until June 2013, then held a part-time utility role for new Nats manager Matt Williams in 2014-15. But by 2016 the versatile youngster had replaced the departed Ian Desmond as the Nats' regular shortstop—as you can deduce, it was quite a ride for Espinosa in the nation's capital!
Here, Espinosa is fresh off a 2013 season that began with him starting for Washington at 2B into June, and ended with him serving the final three months at AAA Syracuse. Given Espinosa's miserable 44-game slashline (.158/.193/.272), his strikeouts (seven in 12 at-bats at one point), and his near-complete failure to draw walks or steal bases, the demotion was highly warranted.
THIS CARD: Per Getty Images, this pic was shot 5/18/2013 at San Diego; that day, Espinosa went 0-for-3 with two K as Washington fell 2-1. That was part of an 0-for-14 drought for the young infielder, but at least he still photographed well during his slump.
Uniform #8 in Washington has been worn by perennial IF prospect Carter Kieboom the past four seasons, but the franchise's most famous #8 is Expos legend Gary Carter, of course. The Nationals, understandably, chose to return all Expos retired numbers to circulation upon their 2005 birth.
Why is Espinosa listed as a SS when he played exactly one game there in 2013 and had been primarily a second baseman previously???
(flip) Not shown in the stats: Espinosa's post-demotion performance for 2013 Syracuse, for whom he hit .216 with two homers and 101 K in 283 at-bats. At that point, if I'm Espinosa, I'm changing my bat supplier and contemplating Lasik as well.
Wow. Espinosa is the rare pro athlete of the past decade-plus who doesn't commonly use his "Jr." If you are a regular COTD visitor, you know that unnecessary suffixes annoy me and I don't use them in my writing. I'm talking to you, Jackie Bradley and Carl Edwards.
I, too, tried switch-hitting as a Little Leaguer. Or should I say more accurately, switch-whiffing.
The Rookie Fact: Espinosa's 21 homers tied fellow NL rookie Freddie Freeman of Atlanta. Boy, their careers took separate trajectories after 2011, didn't they...
AFTER THIS CARD: As mentioned, Espinosa—despite his gallons of struggle at the plate in '13—did claim a utility role with the 2014-15 Nats, finding time at all four infield positions as well as LF. He started 152 games at SS for the 2016 Nats, despite hitting just .209 (Dusty Baker explained why), That December, Espinosa was traded to the Angels.
In Anaheim, the now-30-year-old opened the year as the Angels' starting second baseman, but was cut in July after a 2-for-29 slump dropped his average to .162. Over the next 18 months, Espinosa passed through seven organizations, receiving just 38 at-bats in the majors (all in 2017, with the Mariners and Rays). At last check, Espinosa was still active in the Mexican League.
Danny Espinosa appeared in 2012-17 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps, Washington Nationals