Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, August 2022
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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.