Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, December 2016

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Topps Brian McNichol
Topps Brian McNichol

12/2/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #239 Brian McNichol, Draft Pick

More Brian McNichol Topps Cards: n/a


You remember the infamous Jon Lester "Squeeze-Bunt Game" from July 2016? Of course you do, the whole nation had Cubs fever this year!


If you watched the entire game (it was nationally televised) you know spot starter Brian Matusz—making his Cubs debut—allowed three home runs. What you don't know: the last guy with such a tough Cubs debut was Mr. Brian McNichol in 1999. For three glorious weeks to close the 1999 season, McNichol was a big leaguer sharing a clubhouse with Sammy Sosa, Mark Grace, Kerry Wood, etc.


But here, he's just a 6'5", 200-pound draft pick out of Virginia's James Madison University. Shifting between starting and relieving, McNichol combined for 16 wins against four losses during his sophomore and junior seasons, and was the #34 overall pick in the 1995 draft (for some context, Carlos Beltran and Sean Casey went #49 and #53, respectively.)

 

 

THIS CARD: Though I was never a fan of non-first rounders receiving cards, this set produced a number of quality dudes. In addition to Beltran and Casey, Brett Tomko, Jarrod Washburn and several other 1995 second-rounders enjoyed productive MLB careers. 


Not sure why, but I dug the Draft Pick foil logo in 1996 Topps. Maybe because it gives the impression of the youngster "exploding" onto the scene? Topps never used anything like it again.


After going very, very long stretches with very few 1996-2000 Topps selections—their smaller set size creates random selection difficulty—we've decided to tweak the process a bit. Without going too "inside" our process, expect to see an increase of card selections from that (dark) era.

 

(flip) Topps lists McNichol at only 6'5", while pretty much all other sources give him an extra inch. It is possible he grew after the draft.


Look at those numbers for 1995 Williamsport: nine starts, nine complete games...but 49.2 innings? According to baseballreference.com, McNichol completed a more-realistic zero games. It's just an awesome misprint.


Who was Chicago's #1 pick that year? Wood. Even with a franchise as poorly run as the mid-90's Cubs, that's pretty neat if you're McNichol.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: McNichol was up-and-down early in his MiLB career before putting together a nice 12-win 1998 season (at two levels.) In September 1999, he was called on to start Game #2 of a doubleheader against Cincinnati—as alluded to, it didn't go so well.
McNichol pitched thrice more for Chicago and fared better, but was released by the Cubs before the 2001 season (during which he became a full-time reliever.) The changeup artist next signed with Cincinnati, who were obviously not swayed by his unimpressive debut against them 19 months earlier.


Unfortunately, McNichol underwent 2002 Tommy John surgery that kept him out through 2003. Upon healing, he moved through three more AL organizations but was done after 2005 having never returned to MLB. 


This was Brian McNichol's lone Topps card.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Draft Picks

 
Topps Bret Saberhagen
Topps Bret Saberhagen

12/7/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #350 Bret Saberhagen, Royals

More Bret Saberhagen Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1999 2000 2001

 

It's unfortunate that Sabes—one of the top pitchers of his time—is largely forgotten today, even though 


⦁    he was the ace pitcher on a World Champion (1985 Royals), winning 20 games and a Cy Young Award 
⦁    won 23 more games and another Cy Young four years later, and
⦁    was the NL's most effective starter not named Greg Maddux during a league-wide explosion of offense five years after that.

 

Obviously, Saberhagen was capable of greatness...just not sustained greatness. 
You see, aside from those three excellent seasons, the slender righty was all too often unavailable to pitch. Saberhagen did have other quality seasons, just not enough to maintain much relevance after his career ended in 2001. In fact, from that point until his old Royals team won the 2015 World Series, I don't recall one mention of Sabes anywhere aside from his mandated appearance on the 2007 Hall of Fame ballot.


Saberhagen weighed about as much as one of Bo Jackson's legs, which is probably why he was only a #19 pick. But he could reach 94-97 MPH with movement—add in a great curve, effective changeup and excellent command, and you have a guy who, if his dominant World Series performances are included, owned more wins (22) than birthdays (21) during the 1985 season! 


He fell off in '86 due to injuries, but returned in '87 with 18 more wins and his first All-Star appearance. And though he threw an incredible 260 innings in 1988, he lost 10 of 14 decisions after a 10-6 start (although much of that could be blamed on a significant dip in run support.)
Here, 25-year-old Saberhagen is again on top of the baseball world—no pitcher was more successful in 1989 (23-6, 2.16, 12 CG, 0.9 WHIP) than the Royals' ace righty. Sabes received all but one first-place vote for the Cy Young Award, and for good measure he snapped Mark Langston's two-year Gold Glove streak.

 

 

THIS CARD: That looks like a changeup being released. In addition to the aforementioned fastball/curve/change Saberhagen featured, he developed a slider upon reaching the pros but gave it up at the behest of KC management. He brought it back upon reaching New York—whether that pitch did in his once-durable arm can never be known with any certainty, but it couldn't have helped.

 

Rare for 1990 Topps: the graphics color actually matches the primary team color. You can say that about three other teams in the set.

(flip) That son, Drew, was born during the infamous Game 6 of the 1985 STL/KC World Series—Bret started and dominated Game 7 en route to MVP honors! Drew would later play for Pepperdine and be a #38 pick by the A's in 2008, but never played professionally. Another son, Dalton, was born in '92 and pitched for the University of Tennessee earlier this decade.


Seven wins in a month?! That's what happens when you average over eight IP/start and walk a total of five batters. Saberhagen was indeed AL Pitcher of the Month for August—and again after a 6-1 September!

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: It took until April 7, 1993 for injury-plagued Saberhagen to win his next 23 games. By that time he was early in his second season with the Mets, who'd acquired him from KC via five-player trade after the 1991 season—the clubs finished in 5th and 6th place respectively in '91 and sought change.


Saberhagen threw 237 innings over 34 starts and went 10-12, 3.38 for the lowly Mets, which wouldn't be an issue at all if not for 
⦁    it representing the aggregate total for two seasons of work (1992-93) as finger tendinitis, knee surgery and more disabled him several times,
⦁    his Spring 1993 signing of a three-year, $15M-plus extension (with deferred payments through 2028), and
⦁    his accidental spraying of reporters with bleach in July 1993, and subsequent denials of involvement (he was attempting to prank a Mets staffer but missed.)


The now-30-year-old bounced back with a fully healthy, excellent 1994 season during which he became the first man in 75 years to record more wins (14) than walks (13; minimum 150 innings pitched). Only Maddux and Ken Hill earned more Cy Young votes—Hill only because he pitched for the first-place Expos; Saberhagen was better in every way.


That would be it for the Illinois native as a top-flight pitcher. He'd miss all of 1996 and 2000 after (separate) major shoulder surgeries and never top 175 innings again, although he enjoyed decent success for the 1998-99 Red Sox (15 wins, 31 starts in 1998, 10-6, 2.95, 22 GS in 1999)


A forgotten warm moment of 2001: Saberhagen's July return to the Red Sox following a 21-month layoff—reaching 93 MPH against the White Sox, he earned what was ultimately his last big league W. Forced back to the DL two starts later, the 37-year-old opted against another comeback.


Bret Saberhagen debuted in 1984 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in Topps 1985-1996. After a two-year hiatus, he returned to Topps 1999-2001.

 

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Kansas City Royals

 
Topps Sammy Sosa
Topps Sammy Sosa

12/10/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #307 Sammy Sosa, Cubs

More Sammy Sosa Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2007U

 

COTD showcases Sosa for the second time, having previously featured his 2007 Update card back in May 2016. By the time this card/set (1998 Topps Series 2) was released in mid-'98, Sosa was fast rising from talented star to otherworldly superstar—remember, it was his 20-homer June that vaulted him into the spotlight that year.


Mind you, Sosa was no slouch before his magical 1998—he already boasted an All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger and two 30-30 seasons at this point—but playing for mostly mediocre teams, not many noticed or cared outside of Chicago. 
Here, Sosa has just wrapped his sixth season with the Cubs. Playing every game for the second time in three years, Slammin' Sammy was far and away the lone true slugging threat on the miserable 1997 Cubs—no teammate came within 23 home runs or 41 RBI of his totals (partially why they lost 98 games, including their first 14.)

 

 

THIS CARD: This was the third of four consecutive Topps Sosa cards depicting him on the basepaths. In fact, Sosa is not shown batting on any of his first seven (1993-99) Topps base card fronts as a Cub, although he does so on several reverses.


My guess for this photo: he's just walked with the bases loaded to bring home either Brian McRae, Shawon Dunston or Doug Glanville.


The patch on his sleeve honors the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson integrating MLB.

 

(flip) Batman! Get it? Hahahahahaha!!!


Sosa would run his 100-RBI streak to nine years (1995-2003), while Banks maxed out at four (1957-60). Not comparing the two, just being thorough with information.


Tough to believe Sosa has just turned 48...real tough. As for his weight of 185 pounds...he certainly didn't start or end his career at that weight.


Sosa would lead the NL in K in 1998 and 1999 as well. He ranks 4th all-time and will likely be there for a while—to my surprise, there's only one even semi-active player within even 475 of him and that player (free agent Ryan Howard) will not receive the opportunity to strike out 475 more times.

 

AFTER THIS CARD: The Home Run Chase of 1998, three 60+ homer seasons out of four, trade to Baltimore, wouldn't sign a minors deal, 609 career homers, weird photo, clinging to Hall-of-Fame eligibility by his nails.


Sammy Sosa appeared annually in Topps or Topps Update 1990-2007, except 2006 when he was unsigned and thought to be retired. 

 

CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Chicago Cubs, $100M Men

 
Topps Brooks Kieschnick
Topps Brooks Kieschnick

12/13/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #205 Brooks Kieschnick, Draft Pick

More Brooks Kieschnick Topps Cards: 1995 1996 1997 1998

 

First...there was Babe Ruth. Then...there was Rick Ankiel. Later, there was Adam Loewen (groan.)


And for a time...there was Michael Brooks Kieschnick, moderately successful two-way major leaguer. What's a two-way major leaguer? One who reaches MLB as a pitcher and becomes a (primarily) position player, or vice versa.

 
Kieschnick had been a superstar outfielder and pitcher simultaneously at the University of Texas—as a junior, he batted .374 with 19 HR and 81 RBI while going 16-4, 3.25 on the mound in the same season. He was All-American for the third time that year, and named Baseball America's Player Of The Year. In summary, Brooks Kieschnick was pretty hot s--- back in the day.


The Chicago Cubs thought so, too—here, they've just selected him #10 overall (as an outfielder) in the 1993 Draft. Kieschnick was the first college position player selected that year, and he went on to slug .443 in the Rookie League that summer. 

 

 

THIS CARD: Brooks marks our second Cubs draft pick (and third Cub overall) in the past four selections...random selection, my butt.


Kieschnick's #23 is one of only five baseball numbers retired by Texas. 1994 Topps Draft Pick cards remind me of the A-Team; you can guess why.

 

(flip) I have multiple other sources listing Kieschnick's final junior record as 16-4, not 15-3. Maybe one opposing win was later vacated...either record is damn impressive; no TSR investigation is forthcoming. 


Today, Kieschnick ranks behind Kyle Russell in slugging and home runs, and behind Jeff Ontiveros in XBH. Additionally, I should note it was way too difficult unearthing that data. (Both Russell and Ontiveros played MiLB but neither came close to reaching MLB.)

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: After three seasons failing to stick with the Cubs, Kieschnick was left unprotected in the 1997 Expansion Draft and went to Tampa Bay—who never called him up. In fact, he spent most of the next five years in the minors, putting up good numbers but accumulating just 49 MLB games (split between Cincinnati and Colorado) during that span.


It was in 2002 while with AAA Charlotte (White Sox) that the now-30-year-old decided to return to the mound full-time, deeming it his clearest path back to MLB. He threw well, and by the following April was back in the bigs relieving for Milwaukee. 


Over the 2003-04 seasons, Kieschnick evolved into a combo reliever/pinch-hitter deluxe for Ned Yost's Brewers—he slugged .614 with seven HR in just 70 AB in 2003 alone! And in '04, he went a whole month without allowing a run and owned a sub-2.00 ERA entering June before slipping.
Still, the Brewers let Kieschnick go at the end of 2005 Spring Training. He signed with the eventual NL Champion Astros, but was never promoted and retired after that season.


Brooks Kieschnick debuted as a 1994 Topps Draft Pick, returned as a 1995 Topps Future Star, received two Cubs base cards 1996-97, and appeared one last time as a Devil Ray in 1998. While this company ignored Kieschnick's Brewers stint (save for Topps Total), Fleer Tradition and Upper Deck did not.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Draft Picks, Not Related

 
 
Topps Troy O'Leary
Topps Troy O'Leary

12/17/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #454 Troy O'Leary, Red Sox

More Troy O'Leary Topps Cards: 1994 1995 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

 

Seven years with the Boston Red Sox, averaging 137 games per. Four seasons with 80+ RBI, two seasons with 20+ home runs,  five seasons with 30+ doubles, author of one of MLB's most profilic October performances ever.


And yet, when my online trivia game asks for the top 200 Red Sox (by games played) from 1980-2010, I—someone who's followed the game since forever—frequently blank on Troy O'Leary's name. I'm betting many others outside of New England have the same issue; O'Leary was not one to seek attention.


Maybe if the guy questioned dinosaur existance, or threw an old man to the ground, or went a few years without grooming above the neck, or peed in the middle of a play, he'd be tougher to forget. But all the guy ever did was hit, and since he did so in an era when everybody was hitting...he never really stood out. 


Prior to establishing himself in the majors, the former #13th-rounder (1987 Brewers) batted .329 or higher in four separate MiLB stops—his accolades are detailed on this card's blurb. By 1993-94, AAA Stockton and MLB Milwaukee regularly ping-ponged O'Leary until the unimpressed Brewers finally waived him in April 1995. Boston—whose GM Dan Duquette had drafted O'Leary as Milwaukee's scouting director eight years prior—pounced, and by year's end O'Leary had started 100 times for the Red Sox, hitting .308 and slugging .491!


Here, O'Leary is fresh off a somewhat disappointing follow-up to his strong 1995 season. He started 126 games split across all three outfield spots, but hit just .214 on the road and .229 from May through July.

 

 

THIS CARD: In the 30 Topps sets I own, I wonder if there are even three images of a guy avoiding a brushback pitch as O'Leary does here. Which isn't to say I don't like it—I do, solely for the rarity. More images I'd like to see introduced/increased: guys diving into first base, pitchers completing 3-1 putouts, catchers retrieving wild pitches and throwing home...just to name a few.


No clue what blue-seated field this could be. It's 1996, which limits the candidates to the other 13 AL parks. There's sunshine, which eliminates two others. That's as much sleuthing as we're willing to do at this time.


As his bat knob implies, O'Leary did wear #25 with Boston. Subsequent users include Mike Lowell and Jackie Bradley.

 

(flip) Possibly Compton's most famous product, Ice Cube, was born there just seven weeks before O'Leary. 


O'Leary chucks it in from Fenway's RF corner. 88 of his 126 starts in '96 were in right, and he threw out four runners from that position.


Rialto is about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: O'Leary opened the 1997 season on the bench in favor of...Rudy Pemberton. But by 1998, he'd emerged as Boston's full-time LF and signed a four-year/$14.8M deal—one he justified with .275, 25, 93 averages for 1998-99.


It was in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS (at Cleveland) that O'Leary's signature game took place—with superstar Nomar Garciaparra IBB'd ahead of him, O'Leary walloped a grand slam off SP Charles Nagy. Later, with Nomar IBB'd again, O'Leary responded with a three-run shot off RP Paul Shuey! 
The 7-RBI explosion helped eliminate Cleveland, tied a one-game postseason record (which appears to still stand; official confirmation proved highly difficult) and would represent 78% of O'Leary's lifetime playoff RBI.


From that point on, O'Leary's career tumbled. In 2000 he was put on the disabled list due to a divorce—well, officially it was "personal reasons"—he didn't reach .220 to stay until July 1 (batting/slugging .296/.464 afterward). Then in '01 Manny Ramirez arrived to an already-crowded OF/DH pool; by May O'Leary was again a part-timer and on the trade block—he finished at just .240 with a .298 OBP. After failing to make the '02 D'Rays, O'Leary platooned for the '02 Expos and was a reserve/PH for the '03 Cubs—the final MLB stop for the 33-year-old.


Troy O'Leary debuted as a 1994 Topps Coming Attraction, then appeared annually in the base set 1995-2002. He also received a 2003 Traded card as a Cub.


 

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Boston Red Sox

Topps Mike Greenwell
Topps Mike Greenwell

12/21/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #402 Mike Greenwell, All-Star

More Mike Greenwell All-Star Topps Cards: n/a

We go from one Red Sox LF (Troy O'Leary) who never made an All-Star team to one being recognized for making his first of two All-Star teams. Greenwell was the Sox' longtime LF before O'Leary emerged from a group of candidates, and by 1988 the 24-year-old already had a .328, 19, 89 season to his credit.


Here, Greenwell has been (deservedly) named to the 59th Midsummer Classic on the strength of a .345/.435/.577 line, with 15 homers and 71 RBI for good measure. He entered the game in the 6th on a quintuple-switch, taking over for the only man with more 1988 MVP votes: Oakland's Jose Canseco.

 

 

THIS CARD: This era of Topps generally produced cards of All-Star starters only. Yet Greenwell is here ahead of Rickey Henderson, who did indeed start and play in the Classic and was indeed licensed to Topps. Perhaps the company was executing a protest—as much as it pains me to speak ill of my favorite player, 1988 Rickey was inferior to Greenwell in every category except steals, excitement and recognition. 


The game took place six days before Greenwell's 25th birthday.

 

(flip) We're not listing all nine players tied with six triples.


Strange but true: Greenwell hit exactly zero triples the following season, in 145 games.


Greg Swindell and Jeff Dedmon served up the respective bombs; Greenwell ripped four more hits the next night! Those represented games 11-12 of a 19-game hit streak.


 

AFTER THIS CARD: Greenwell played eight more seasons after 1988—all with Boston—but only made one more All-Star team (1989); '88 would be his pinnacle by far. Injuries did in much of his prime—he was even beaned by Randy Johnson—and Greenwell's MLB career ended at just 32, though he later played another handful of games in Japan.
This is Mike Greenwell's only Topps All-Star base card; he is included in a 1990 Topps All-Star insert set.

 

CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, All-Stars

 
Topps J.J. Putz
Topps J.J. Putz

12/24/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #240 J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks

More J.J. Putz Topps Cards: 2002T 2006U 2007 2008 2009 2010U 2011 2012 2014

 

For a time, Putz was one of the top relievers in the AL. As a prospect, he was not one of the top relievers anywhere, because his pro career began in the starting rotation. Young Putz experienced some degree of success in that role 2000-02, mainly because he threw 97—his secondary pitches weren't yet the weapons they'd become.


In 2003—months after the organization shifted him to relief—Putz reached the majors. He took over as temporary closer in late 2004 when Eddie Guardado's shoulder gave out, and became permanent closer in 2006. Now armed with a "change-split" instead of his old curveball, Putz saved 76 games over the next two years; he was a 2007 All-Star (40/42 save ops, 0.7 WHIP, 82 K in 71.2 IP.)
Putz's elbow acted up in 2008 and Seattle decided to move him rather than continue increasing his salary (now $4.4M). Enter the New York Mets and Cleveland Indians—via three-team deal with Seattle that winter, Putz became a Met (Joe Smith, Franklin Gutierrez and others changed addresses in this deal as well.)


It was a rough, abbreviated 2009 for the now-30-year-old, who took a setup role for the team and remained there upon joining the White Sox for 2010. That winter, Arizona gave Putz two years/$10M to resume closing; here, he's just wrapped Year Two of said deal—Putz was a little shaky early, but after May 26 he nailed down 23/25 save ops with a 1.14 ERA, moved into second place on the Snakes' career saves list, and (in effect) earned a two-year extension over the winter.

 

 

THIS CARD: When throwback colors collide with current colors...you get this monstrosity. Nothing against the classic Diamondback threads, but Topps...never do this again. If you do, alter the card's color theme as well.


Two-seam fastball?


Putz's #40 was issued to Andrew Chafin within six weeks of his eventual departure from the D'Backs. This is why I could never be a pro athlete (well, that and my glaring lack of talent); something like that would crush my fragile ego more than the release itself.

(flip) I wouldn't want a Bieber card, either...that guy sucks.


Notice the surge in K from 2005 to 2006—Putz reportedly worked with Guardado on the aforementioned new splitter that spring.


Putz is 519 saves away from Mo's record of 425? There's so much wrong with that. Such goofs are part of why Card Of The Day exists—the world needs more laughter. (Spoiler alert: Putz wasn't quite able to catch up to Rivera.)

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Not a lot. Putz missed nearly half of 2013 with elbow and finger injuries (the latter coming when he attempted to barehand a Kevin Frandsen bouncer; THIS is why they tell pitchers not to do that) and as a result, lost his closer's job—for good this time, as it turned out.


Despite his velocity decreasing to about 90, 37-year-old Putz held his own early in 2014 before struggles hit (13.50 ERA in next nine games sandwiched around a month-long DL stint) and the D'Backs released him in June. He was named special assistant to the CEO after the season, and remains in that role today.


Joseph Jason "J.J." Putz debuted way back as a prospect in 2002 Topps Traded, returned in 2006 Topps Update, then appeared annually in Topps 2007-14 (2010 was an Update card with the White Sox.)
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks

 
Topps Mark Whiten
Topps Mark Whiten

12/28/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #409 Mark Whiten, Cardinals

More Mark Whiten Topps Cards: 1991 1992 1993 1994 1997

 

File "Hard-Hittin" Mark Whiten—pronounced "Witten"—in the folder marked "Guys Who'll Seem Far More Accomplished Then They Were 100 Years From Now Based On Their Nicknames". (To date, the "Hit Dog" Mike Easler, the NFL's "Johnny Football" Manziel and the NBA's  "Hot Rod" Hundley are the club's charter members, FYI.)


Whiten was originally a Toronto Blue Jay; he began 1991 as the team's primary RF (starting 24 of their first 31 games) and played well before leveling off and joining Cleveland via trade for P Tom Candiotti. He went on to start 70 of the Tribe's last 93 games—slugging .422—and was on his way.


A tall, strong switch-hitter with perhaps MLB's top OF arm, Whiten settled in as the Indians' RF in 1992. But the infamous Florida boat crash depleted Cleveland's pitching corps in Spring 1993, so with top RF prospect Manny Ramirez almost ready, the Indians sacrificed Whiten for pitching help (Mark Clark of the Cardinals).


Whiten enjoyed his best year by far with the 1993 Cardinals. As you likely know, of his 25 home runs and 99 RBI that year, 4 and 12 came in one September game—only he and Hall-of-Famer Jim Bottomley have ever reached a dozen ribbies in one game!
Here, Whiten has finished the abbreviated 1994 season with a 40-point batting average increase from the previous year. From a purely personal standpoint, he likely hated having to walk out when he did—Whiten was hitting .372 in August!

 

 

THIS CARD: Whiten trots in after either A) the lead runner on a deep extra-base hit, B) a bases-loaded walk, or C) a balk. My guess is A; not even Cardinals fans would rise to their feet and cheer for B or C.


Note that bright, shiny, likely scorching Busch Stadium II turf, which was replaced with grass after the 1995 season. 


Other notable Cardinal #22's include Jack Clark in the mid-80's and Mike Matheny in the early 00's. Jason Heyward was the most recent, in 2015.

 

 (flip) This is a tough one. Baseballreference.com credits Whiten with 12 infield hits...and Ozzie Smith (who I originally assumed was the team co-leader in the category) with 13. Let's just say Whiten had at least a dozen more IF hits than you or I did in 1994, and call it a wrap.


We mentioned Whiten's hot finish. As for the slow start: the 28-year-old was batting .219 with no home runs in nine games before a three-week DL stint. He recovered with a .325/.379/.600 May.


Pensacola is one of those cities we hear frequently, but probably know nothing about. Writing this, I realized I have no clue where in Florida it's even located. (Turns out it's literally the west end of the panhandle.)

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Whiten became a baseball nomad, beginning with his trade to offensively-challenged Boston for 3B Scott Cooper shortly after the strike ended. He lasted a few disappointing months there before being traded to Philadelphia—the first of five other major league cities he'd pass through over the next three seasons (none for very long; Whiten even served three extended AAA stints and a Mexican League trial late in his career.)


The veteran OF did manage a .262, 22, 71 statline split among three 1996 teams; aside from that he never again approached his 1993 levels. His last major league action was in 2000. 
In 2004, Whiten became a hitting coach in the Texas system—one pupil was John Mayberry Jr., whose father not only was Whiten's first hitting coach with Toronto, but also bestowed the "Hard-Hittin'" nickname upon him! Baseball is awesome, isn't it?


Mark Whiten appeared in 1991-95 Topps, then returned for one last dip in 1997.

 

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals

 
Topps Jered Weaver
Topps Jered Weaver

12/31/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #473 Jered Weaver, Angels

More Jered Weaver Topps Cards: 2005U 2006U 2007 2008 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

 

There are reasons why PED's ran so rampant in 1990's-2000's MLB. One reason was ego: dudes wanted to be among the best—if not the absolute best—damn the cost. Cash was obviously a motivator; once you put up the big numbers, you got financially rewarded.


Another reason why so many players turned to PED's: they didn't want to become Jered Weaver. When Weaver entered the league, he owned a fastball with mid-90's capability, even reaching 96 as a collegiate. This past season, Weaver (at only age 33 with 11 seasons in the league) struggled to even reach 85. Just two years ago he averaged over 90.


This wasn't a Brad Radke situation where Weaver was pitching hurt all year—he's never seriously hurt his throwing arm. The guy's heat just dried up prematurely, plain and simple. Only exceptional pitchers can survive in MLB with sub-85 velocity; no one could blame someone in Weaver's shoes for seeking "help". (NOT accusing him.)


That velocity drop is about the only difference between 2016 Weaver and 2009 Topps Weaver—same uniform, same unusual cross-body motion, same distinctive mane. When this card was released, Weaver was entering Year #4 in MLB; as the novelty wore off his delivery, Weaver's 2008 ERA jumped nearly two runs from his rookie year. But he allowed just one homer in his last seven starts and beat defending WS champion Boston in ALDS Game 2.

 

 

THIS CARD: The gangly Weaver makes an acrobatic throw fielding a bunt/dribbler up the third-base line—Topps needs more defensive action shots for pitchers. Since this is such a great shot, I'll overlook Topps using a two-year-old photo—Weaver only wore #56 as a 2006 rookie before switching to #36. 

(flip): According to MLB.com, the 2008 Dodgers were only the fifth team to win without a hit, the others being the 1964 Colt 45's (Astros), the 1967 Orioles, 1990 Yankees and 1991 Red Sox. Jose Arredondo pitched the last two innings in relief of Weaver, whose own fielding error led to the Dodgers' run.


Only one of the "Lowest Average Against" guys is still in the league (Crisp); I'm not going to research the others' final rankings. Just know Crisp now stands at .188 in 69 AB, and Weaver's all-time worst BAA is now Kelly Shoppach, who finished up 0-for-13 (although 0-for-11 Jake Smolinski or 0-for-10 Starlin Castro could soon pass him.)


Simi Valley is about 20-30 minutes west of Northridge, which is a short ride up the 405 from Beverly Hills. 

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Weaver took over as undisputed staff ace when John Lackey left after the 2009 season, and twice led the league in wins—in fact, he won 20 games in '10 despite only making 30 starts! WIth three straight All-Star appearances and three straight top-5 Cy Young Award finishes between 2010-12, it was now fair to say Jered's career transcended that of big brother Jeff.


An extremely freak injury led to the younger Weaver's first DL trip in '13, but he returned with 18 wins in '14. Unfortunately, the past two years have been challenging due to those velocity issues. Still, Weaver's last home start of '16 secured career win #150 as well as a heartfelt ovation from the Anaheim crowd—the 11-year vet is not expected to be an Angel in '17 and is unsigned as of this writing.


Jered Weaver's Topps career began with Update appearances in 2005 (as a Draft Pick) and 2006. He's appeared annually in the base set from 2007 on.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Los Angeles Angels