Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, December 2014
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12/1/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #240 Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
More Chris Carpenter Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Here, Carpenter is wrapping up an incredible three-year run of mound excellence for the World Champion Cardinals. His rise to prominance ranked among the decade's least probable—the big right-hander pitched six unremarkable seasons for mediocre Toronto 1997-02 before being cast off. As was well-publicized at the time, St. Louis signed Carpenter knowing he would miss at least most (ultimately all) of the 2003 season with a torn labrum.
Originally the 15th pick of the 1993 draft by Toronto out of high school, Carpenter's major league initiation came in May 1997, when a sore shoulder felled SP Robert Person. Carpenter made it to stay in 1998 and showed tremendous upside, but battled inconsistency and injuries. (To any struggling prospects who may read this: know that Carpenter and rotation mate Roy Halladay combined for a 7.48 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in 2000—and went on to become two of the greats of their era.)
THIS CARD: Carpenter headlined nine Topps base cards as a Cardinal; only this one doesn't show him in mid-delivery (although his '03 Traded card is a posed close-up). One wonders if Topps has "redundancy control" people on payroll.
I mean, come on—one of those years Carpenter couldn't have been bunting? Or conferring with a base coach? Or covering a bag? Or even a dugout shot, since he unfortunately spent extensive time on the DL?
(flip) Carpenter tied with Brandon Webb of Arizona for the NL lead in shutouts; he had four other scoreless starts of 7+ IP including postseason. Following Carpenter's '05 Cy Young win, he came in third behind Webb and San Diego's Trevor Hoffman in '06.
AFTER THIS CARD: The rest of Carpenter's career fluctuated between dominance and disability. When he wasn't missing practically all of four seasons (2007, 2008, 2012, 2013) dealing with various arm issues, he was going 44-22, 3.02 from 2009-11.
Along the way Carpenter game up big in several postseason starts, most notably shutting out the Phillies and Halladay 1-0 to clinch the 2011 NLDS, and shutting out the Rangers on three days' rest in the '11 World Series clincher. His tattered arm, now with nerve damage, finally forced him into retirement following the 2013 season.
A team player to the end, Carpenter—idle all year and all but certainly finished as a player—still traveled with his Cardinals throughout their 2013 postseason run.
Chris Carpenter appeared in every Topps set from 1998-2013, except for 2004 (he was disabled all of 2003). Topps gave him 2003 base (Blue Jays) and Traded (Cardinals) cards, with the latter acknowledging his looming absence. So that omission was understandable.
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals
12/5/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #538 Jorge Julio, Orioles
More Jorge Julio Topps Cards: 2002 2004 2005 2006 2007
Julio's acquisition from Montreal went down as a steal by GM Syd Thrift—for a while, anyway. Initially, the two franchises appeared to be swapping one washout (Ryan Minor) for another (Julio, then a minor-league starter, was not effective at all in 2000 for Jupiter [A]).
Minor hit .158 in 2001 and was done in the majors, but Julio emerged as a mostly-dependable, if erratic, closer for the post-Ripken Orioles.
Julio could bring it (as a youngster, he routinely hovered around 97 and hit 100 at times), but like many flamethrowers, he couldn't always harness it.
THIS CARD: After appearing in 2002 Topps Traded, Julio makes his first ever Topps base appearance. Look at his arm: there is power in that limb. I can't think of very many cards of pitchers in the "set" position. Starting the windup? Yes. Peering in for the sign? Yes. Set position? Few, if any. I like it.
(flip) Never noticed until now that 2003 Topps displayed team logos on both the front and back. You can see by the stats Julio was a half-decent starting prospect early in his career and didn't walk too many guys, either. But by 2000, his stock had fallen so far no one even claimed him in the Rule V Draft that winter. Ouch.
As for the blurb, Topps makes 8-for-11 sound noteworthy, but 73% is actually a mediocre save percentage that can get closers run out of town. Baltimore (3-9) did not have any save opportunities until that 4/16 game; Julio made six scoreless appearances before that.
AFTER THIS CARD: Julio lost his job as closer in 2004 and was traded out of Baltimore after the 2005 season. He bounced all over the majors—sometimes closing, usually not. He won the closer's role for the 2007 Marlins out of Spring Training...only to blow all three save chances and record a 3.1 WHIP (not ERA) in 10 games before being dispatched.
He last pitched in MLB in 2009, drifting through AAA and the Independent League afterward. He's been off the radar for two years and is likely done at 35.
Jorge Julio appeared in Topps base 2002-05, and Topps Update 2006-07.
CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
12/8/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #521 Derrick Turnbow, Brewers
More Derrick Turnbow Topps Cards: 2006
Without getting too inside TSR and the COTD selection process, the Randomizer's setup makes it possible to pick cards that simply do not exist. On average, this takes place once every 3-4 selections. This time, non-existant cards from 1989, 1995 and 1996 Topps were chosen before finally landing on 2003 Topps #521 Derrick Turnbow.
(Was bummed about that 1996 fail...it's one of the sets that has yet to appear in COTD.)
Tennessee-born Turnbow was a Philadelphia 5th-rounder in 1997; all 40 appearances he made in their system were starts. The Angels snapped him up in the 1999 Rule V Draft, used him briefly in 2000, and sent him down. During the "down", Turnbow broke his elbow throwing a pitch, but eventually returned to the mound in late-2001.
In 2005, he landed in Milwaukee's bullpen and took his turn as Brewers' closer. He was/is huge, threw hard, and enjoyed much early success (a Brewer-record 39 saves in 43 chances).
THIS CARD: Turnbow's delivery featured no leg kick—he'd set, extend his left leg, and explode 99-MPH heaters. Here's a great shot at his follow-through. Not the ideal fielding position, but not Mitch Williams-poor.
Turnbow's 2006 season began great; he was 12-12 in save ops with a 1.35 ERA thru May 12. Those numbers fell to 23-29, 4.74 by the All-Star Game—which he was voted to, and not as the token Brewer rep! Turnbow's scoreless 14-pitch ASG inning gave hope he'd turned things around.
Not quite. In the second half of '06, Turnbow was practically useless. He managed one save, an ERA near 12 and a WHIP of 2.3! Needless to say, he lost his job and was rarely allowed near slim Brewer leads for 2006's duration.
Milwaukee imported expensive free agent closer Francisco Cordero for 2007; Turnbow was mostly effective in setup relief (44 hits in 68 IP, 84 K), his stats inflated by two blowups against the Cardinals—throw those out and his season ERA falls to 3.61.
(flip) For some reason, I always thought Turnbow was from Australia, and always would have if not for this Card Of The Day selection. No word on the other 49 items on the beauty list.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2008, Turnbow—now 31—pitched himself off the roster in April. Back in AAA, he partially tore his rotator cuff, but was advised against surgery. After an '09 season in the Texas system, Turnbow went to camp with Florida in 2010. He doubled over with severe shoulder pain following a HBP to Washington's Danny Espinoza, and never pitched again.
His only other Topps base, Traded or Update card was 2006 Topps, although he did appear in three Topps Total sets (two as an Angel.)
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers
12/11/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #350 Evan Longoria, Rays
More Evan Longoria Topps Cards: 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Here, the Rays' star third baseman has just wrapped his fourth MLB season. a mixed bag that saw him lose the first month to an oblique strain, set a career-low by far in batting average and stay home during the All-Star break for the first time—but also smack 20 homers in the second half, draw a career-high in walks and set a career-low strikeout rate.
He even batted leadoff three times at the end of May! (5-for-11, HR, four BB; Tampa went 1-2.)
The third overall pick of the '06 draft out of Cal State Long Beach has been firmly entrenched at third base for the Rays since he reached the majors in April 2008, as so many others have come and gone. He was a Gold Glove winner in 2009-10 and has appeared in several TV ads.
THIS CARD: Longoria, a very talented fielder, goes to his knees for the over-the-shoulder grab at Tropicana Field—safe bet he made the play.
Initially, the sign behind Longoria seems to read "RAYS baseball", but upon re-examining the letter spacing, I amend that to read "RAYS brand baseball" or something similar.
(flip) Downey is just outside of Los Angeles.
The referenced home run is the stuff of legend, and requires a detailed explanation to realize just how incredible it was:
Entering the final month of 2011, the Yankees basically had the A.L. East wrapped up, and Boston led the A.L. Wild Card by nine games over the Rays. (Remember, at the time there was only one WC.)
In that September, Boston began to drop games at a frantic pace, as Tampa won its way into a tie entering the season's final day.
Facing Baltimore—who had nothing to play for—Boston blew a 2-0 lead in the 9th and lost.
Facing the Yanks—with had nothing to play for—Tampa fell behind 7-0 but chipped away. Not only did Longoria smack a three-run homer to pull the Rays within 7-6 in the 8th, but in the 12th he ripped the walk-off against Scott Proctor.
Adding to the drama, the two games ran concurrently—each team and their fans paid as much attention to the other's game as their own.
(By the way, Bobby Thomson was the Giants' outfielder who took Dodger P Ralph Branca deep in the 9th inning of 1951's final game, sending the Giants to the World Series (which they lost to the Yankees.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Longoria missed half of 2012 with a torn hamstring, but was still given a 6Y/$100M contract extension that winter (locking him up thru 2022). He rebounded with 160 games played and 32 HR in 2013 but in '14 he lacked protection in Tampa's lineup and his numbers fell off across the board.
Longoria debuted in 2008 Topps Update and has appeared in every Topps base set since.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Tampa Bay Rays
12/13/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #115 Robby Thompson, Giants
More Robby Thompson Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1994 1995 1996
Robby Thompson was a steady All-Star, Gold-Glove Giants second baseman from 1986-96. His homer against Houston in June 1990 was the first one I ever saw in person, so he'll always hold a special place in my memory. Here, he is coming off MLB season #7, a mediocre one for the Giants but a typical one for the 30-year-old Thompson (despite missing 42 games). He is about to embark on the best year of his career.
THIS CARD: Thompson becomes the fourth prominent Giant from my early fandom (along with Willie McGee, Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell) to be featured in COTD. He was in a stretch where Topps featured him running the bases on three of four cards—here, Thompson is busting out of the box, hopefully after a base hit.
This could be a Shea Stadium shot, though I can't be certain. The background dugout character has uniform shoulder stripes, which I believe the Mets did too.
(flip) Those grand slams came against Jim Acker of Atlanta and Tom Gorman of the Mets, respectively. The Acker happened at home and was his final homer of '86, while the Gorman happened at New York and was his initial homer of '87. Both slams led to blowout Giant wins; Thompson would hit zero others in his career.
For six years straight, Thompson was given the special Topps distinction of a card number ending in "5" (1989-94). It's still hard to imagine in a league with Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Juan Samuel and others that Robby Thompson out-tripled all of them over a full season (1989).
AFTER THIS CARD: Thompson busted out like never before in 1993, until Padres rookie Trevor Hoffman beaned the living s--- out of him in late September. (Mike Harkey beaned him again the following Spring Training.) The two-time All-Star couldn't return to 1993 levels—or even pre-1993 levels.
In fact, he wasn't even able to get on the field, as myriad injuries—most notably operations on both shoulders—restricted him to 193 of 411 possible games from 1994-96, during which he hit just .217. The Giants traded for Jeff Kent after the '96 season, ending Thompson's decade-long Giants stint. He tried out for Cleveland in Spring '97, but didn't make it.
Since retiring, Thompson has coached for the Giants, Indians and Mariners, serving as interim manager for the latter in 2013 as Eric Wedge missed a month following a stroke. (He is not to be confused with Rob Thompson, who's coached 3B for the Yankees.) Thompson appeared in every Topps set 1987-1996, but was excluded in '97 as his career wound down.
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, San Francisco
12/17/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #290 Albert Pujols, Cardinals
More Albert Pujols Topps Cards: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Part of my motivation behind Topps Card Of The Day is to shine the light upon some of baseball's more obscure players—guys who didn't make much of a major league impact, guys from a favorite team who just kind of faded away, prospects who flamed out, etc. Think Mark Acre, Andy Stankewicz, Jason Hirsh, and the like.
Lately, the Randomizer has inundated me with one All-Star after another. In fact, eight of the past 11 selections are former All-Stars. Another could/should have been, and yet another just came off an excellent postseason performance that put him on the national map.
The trend continues with not only another All-Star, but one of the greatest players ever. Prince Albert was arguably never better than in 2008-09, as he won back-to-back MVP's for the Cardinals. We all know his story: a former #13 pick from Missouri (by way of the D.R.) who, after one pro season and a torrid 2001 Spring, made the 2001 Cardinals due to Bobby Bonilla's Spring injury.
Pujols initially juggled the corner infield/outfield spots, depending on St. Louis' needs, but wherever he played, he mashed. He won '01 Rookie of the Year, won the '05 MVP, finished second three other times, hit one of the most memorable postseason homers of his generation, been a World Series champion, and by 2008 was already on a collision-course with Cooperstown.
THIS CARD: Pujols was a third baseman in the minors, and didn't play 1B full-time until '04. But through dilligence he became a repeat Gold Glove winner at the position—although one with a slightly inflated error total. Here, Albert gets low in anticipation of a grounder in his direction. I am about Pujols' size and age, and if I dared get that low, only a jack could raise me back up.
The big slugger drew a Cardinals' record 34 IBB in '08, a total he surpassed in each of the following two years.
(flip) Pujols' 30/100 streak lasted through 2010 (10 years) and came one 2011 RBI from stretching to 12. Simmons' streak ran from 1924-34 for the A's and White Sox, while Williams' streak ran from 1939-49 for the Red Sox, with three years excluded to military service. I'm not researching who Pujols' top OPS-against pitchers are today; just know all six of the listed pitchers are now out of the majors. Moral of the story: Albert Pujols ends careers.
The somewhat-rare drafted foreign-born player, it was in 1996 that Pujols and family moved first to New York, then Independence, Missouri—229 miles from St. Louis but right next door to Kansas City, where Albert attended high school.
AFTER THIS CARD: Let's see: 500 homers, another World Series win, three homers in a World Series game, hand smashed by pitch, $240M contract from Angels, foot surgery, feud with Nyjer Morgan, second all-time in Cardinal home runs, questions about age and PED use, in Topps every year. That about covers it.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals
12/19/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps Update #297 Chris Narveson, Brewers
More Chris Narveson Topps Cards: 2007 2010 2011 2012
Remember my complaints about too many All-Stars and not enough lesser names in the previous COTD (2009 Topps #290 Albert Pujols)? This is the type of lesser name I had in mind. Narveson is a guy who passed through three organizations before reaching the majors at age 24.
A 2nd-round pick in 2000 by St. Louis, Narveson's tough road to the big leagues began with 2001 Tommy John surgery. He went to the Rockies system in the Larry Walker trade of 2004, but by '06 was a Cardinal prospect once more. Though his MiLB stats didn't jump off the page, Narveson threw several pitches for strikes including a low-90's fastball. He compared to a younger Doug Davis.
Eventually, following only a five-game Redbird audition, Narveson's labrum gave out; he didn't reach the majors again until September 2009 with Milwaukee. But injuries and struggles by incumbent starters—plus his own effectiveness—landed Narveson 56 starts and a 23-17 record from 2010-11! Just when he seemed to have found a home, the bottom fell out...
THIS CARD: Sorry, Eric Gagne is the only (Miller Park era) Brewers #38 I recognize.
Narveson's delivery carried a slight "hitch", or maybe a "hop", not unlike the aforementioned Davis. His changeup—which he may be throwing in the photo—didn't move much, but it didn't have to.
That is not the proper shade of blue to use for Brewers cards.
(flip) Coincidentally, Narveson celebrates his 33rd birthday tomorrow.
The Brewers' expectations, sadly, were not met—see below. And the only way Narveson will reach Cy Young's wins record is if the criteria for wins is drastically changed. As in: pitchers are credited with one win for each day they're on the 25-man roster. (I'm going to enjoy lampooning these "Career Chase" projections.)
Not shown here, but Narveson has had periods of capability with the bat. He went 17-for-78 (.218) from 2003-07 in the minors, and hit .327 in 49 AB in 2010 for Milwaukee.
AFTER THIS CARD: Narveson did indeed miss practically all of 2012 following cuff surgery—hence his relegation to the Topps Update set—but won a spot in the '13 Brewers bullpen out of Spring Training. After two appearances, he sprained a finger and missed two months. Milwaukee outrighted him upon healing and cut him after the season. He spent '14 in Japan and signed a minor league deal with Miami for '15.
Chris Narveson appeared in 2007, 2011 and 2012 Topps, as well as 2010 and 2013 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps Update, Milwaukee Brewers
12/26/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #301 Ozzie Smith, Cardinals
More Ozzie Smith Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995
TSR recognizes The Wizard Of Oz on his milestone 60th birthday. Hard to believe it's been 18 seasons since he last graced the diamond.
Widely considered the greatest defensive shortstop of all-time, Ozzie is near the end by 1995, a year he was limited to 44 games by rotator cuff surgery. (He'd originally torn it over a decade earlier, but kept it quiet and chose rehab over the knife.)
It was an amazing run that began with the San Diego Padres—until his relationship with management soured over what he felt was underpayment. Smith was swapped with another shortstop who'd fallen out of favor: Garry Templeton of St. Louis. The rest is sweet backflipping history.
Though offense was not his strength, Smith did enjoy some decent statistical seasons with the bat, including 1987 when he hit .303 with 75 RBI and 104 runs (he won the Silver Slugger that year). He never struck out more than 49 times in a season and only broke 40 once after 1980. He fell just short of 600 career steals and ranks 22nd all-time. And, of course, in 1985 Smith hit one of the biggest homers in club history...
Afield, Smith won every Gold Glove 1980-1992; he also made every All-Star team 1981-1996 except for 1993. His barehanded bad-hop diving stop of a Jeff Burroughs grounder in 1978 and over-the-shoulder diving grab over a diving teammate in 1986 remain two of the best defensive plays ever caught on film.
THIS CARD: We're using 1996 Topps for Ozzie because A) it's his last Topps card and B) it pops the set's Card Of The Day cherry. (Our previous COTD came veryclose but the selection didn't exist.)
Ozzie eases off second base pre-pitch to someone. Not much to comment on here except A) Smith stayed put, having not attempted any steals of 3B in '95, and B) the single-flap helmet. Fellow switch-hitter and longtime Smith teammate Willie McGee wore the double flaps his entire career, no matter what side he was hitting from. Smith obviously opted for separate helmets.
(flip) My mom was born in Mobile just 18 months before Ozzie...but left for California less than a year later. They could have had the same obstetrician! Meaningless...but cool.
In 1981, as you can see, Smith played for the Padre.
Is this some sort of diss perpetrated by the Kroc family in retalliation for Smith's contract issues at the time? It gives the appearance that Ozzie stopped being a team player and was only about himself. Topps: shame on you for going along with that.
AFTER THIS CARD: Little. The Cardinals traded for young SS Royce Clayton and gave him the majority of playing time at SS in '96, leading to controversy and a bitter falling-out with manager Tony LaRussa (who also came onboard for 1996). Smith retired after the season and spent two years hosting This Week In Baseball. He was elected to the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 2002 and returned to the Cardinal organization once LaRussa finally retired after the 2011 season.
This was Smith's final Topps Card after 17 consecutive appearances.
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals
12/27/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #4 Paul Carey, Orioles
More Paul Carey Topps Cards: n/a
For a time in 1993, the Orioles had three members of the 1990 Stanford team on their roster: Mike Mussina, Jeffrey Hammonds and Carey. They also had former LSU star Ben McDonald, against whom Carey drilled a memorable walk-off grand slam in 1987 to send the Cardinal to the title game (which they won). Carey would be the series Most Outstanding Player.
Carey, a hulking 25-year-old first baseman at the time of this card, was called up to replace injured Sherman Obando in May 1993—and sent down a month later when Obando returned. He was used at DH as well, at times in favor of fading star Glenn Davis!
Carey's best game was a three-hit, two-RBI performance against his hometown Red Sox, whom he rooted for as a youth. Carey was recalled when rosters expanded, finishing the season 10-for-47 in 18 games.
THIS CARD: What...the...heck. From 1987-1991, Topps Future Stars matched "regular" cards, save for an accompanying "Future Star" graphic. Now, they get RoboFont and pixelated backgrounds. In retrospect, this extra effort gnaws at me more given the dearth of designees who actually accomplished anything in the bigs—if they even reached.
This is the lowest card number thus far selected by the Randomizer.
(flip) Carey became the second of three Orioles in the 1990's to wear #88, joining Rene Gonzales and Albert Belle. In these days, the designation "Rookie Card" confused the hell out of me...and still does. Was it his first card ever? Was it his first card with this particular company? In Carey's case, no and yes, respectively.
Though the Future Star fronts differ greatly from regular commons, the backs are identical except for the lemon-lime color.
Note that Carey was drafted by "Miracle". No, that is not to mean it was a miracle anyone drafted him. He passed up contracts from two MLB organizations out of college and was drafted by a minor league team, which I didn't know was possible.
The Miami Miracle—formerly known as the Miami Marlins—were affiliated with no one at the time, as stated in the blurb. They eventually sold Carey's contract to Baltimore, moved to Fort Myers when the major league Marlins were born, and became affiliated with the Twins.
AFTER THIS CARD: Carey never played in the majors again; this would be his only Topps card. He remained in the O's system for two more years before being cut loose. After a partial season in independent ball, Carey wrapped his playing career at age 28.
He managed in the Rangers' system from 1998-01, then became a hitting coach there for several years. Most of that period was spent with Oklahoma City, not far from Oklahoma State University—the school his Stanford Cardinal vanquished in that 1987 College World Series! Wonder if he got booed there.
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Baltimore Orioles