Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, December 2017
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12/4/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #624 Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Phillies
More Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez Topps Cards: n/a
As if the Phillies organization hadn't withstood enough loss in 2017. Dallas Green, Jim Bunning, Darren Daulton, Roy Halladay...and now Miguel Gonzalez.
Granted, Green, Bunning, Daulton and Halladay were all kind of big deals in Philadelphia, while Gonzalez was just some 31-year-old rookie from Cuba who hadn't won a pro game in three years when summoned to MLB in late 2014 (and never would again).
But Gonzalez's lack of mantlepiece hardware doesn't lessen the tragedy that was his recent fatal car crash in Cuba, nor does it invalidate his inclusion with the legendary Phillies who passed—after all, not everyone remembered during the Acadamy Awards was a deceased award winner.
Gonzalez pitched in Cuba from 2004-11, all but the final year with Havana. His best year: 2008, when he went 8-4, 2.86 while averaging 7 IP as a 24-year-old for the first-place Vaqueros (57-33).
THIS CARD: The "Alfredo" is necessary to distinguish him from the veteran Orioles/White Sox pitcher Miguel Angel Gonzalez—in just about every news article/post about Gonzalez, his middle name is included. A lot of NFL Fantasy Football confusion on my part could have been avoided if Zachary Scott Miller (born 1984, presently with Chicago) took a similar route.
This is Gonzalez' first and only Topps card. He sort of looks like a high schooler in his pic, but certainly not in any others I've uncovered.
(flip) When you sign a 3Y/$12M deal—which originally was a 6Y/$48M deal until health concerns led to alterations—you get introductory press conferences, even when you're technically a rookie. Read on to find out what a disaster that $48M deal could have been even if Gonzalez had lived.
In his prime, Gonzalez hovered around 93 MPH with that fastball, and reportedly reached 96 shortly before signing with Philadelphia.
The Baseball World Cup was held 1938-2011; Gonzalez repped Cuba in 2009 and 2011. (It did not allow professionals until 1998, and even then only American minor leaguers, which is why you probably never heard of it.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Gonzalez was not impressive in his six-game Philly stint, and lost his competition for a spot in the '15 Phils' rotation. Ultimately, he came down with shoulder inflammation, was outrighted off the 40-man roster, and only available for six (abbreviated) starts in 2015—all in the minors, of course.
With new management in place and Gonzalez showing few signs of improved health/performance, the Phillies released him in April 2016. Just imagine sinking $48M into that investment rather than $12M...whew.
Gonzalez, who never played professionally again, died 11/23/17 in Cuba, age 34. He is not to be confused with yet another Miguel Gonzalez, a Baltimore minor leaguer who died in a car crash in the Dominican Republic in September 2017. Miguel Angel Gonzalez...might I suggest biking or walking?
12/9/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #101 Preston Wilson, Marlins
More Preston Wilson Topps Cards: 1993 1999 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Wilson was one of those guys well-familiarized with MLB fans long before he'd played an MLB game—after all, when Mookie Wilson is your stepdad/uncle, you're the 5th overall pick in the 1993 draft, and the "defending World Champions" target and acquire you in a trade for Hall-of-Famer Mike Piazza, folks tend to notice.
Before long, however, Wilson proved to be more than a trivia answer. This card represents Wilson's rookie season of 1999; the young OF nearly doubled the homer total of any teammate and also led the Fish in RBI and SLG. Granted, they weren't much more than an AAA club, but if it was good enough for the BBWAA to vote him 2nd for Rookie Of The Year—behind Cincy's Scott Williamson—it's good enough for us.
THIS CARD: Wilson got over the top of this pitch. Not much hips into it, either; he's on his front foot a bit.
Though 1999 represented Wilson's first extended MLB run, this is not Wilson's first Topps card—he received a Draft Pick card in 1993 and also made it in 1999 due to his big-time prospect status.
For those of you not around at the time, everything was marketed and/or labeled "_____ 2000" that year, not just Topps cards. Check EBay; I'm sure you'll find something like "Rubix Cube 2000" on there.
(flip) That "Trade With Mets" also sent P Ed Yarnall—who I'll soon be referencing again—and prospect P Geoff Getz to Florida; Getz never reached MLB and Yarnall might as well hadn't, either.
Among NL'ers, only Sammy Sosa (171) whiffed more than Wilson in 1999.
"Showed the most power potential" is a vast understatement. As alluded to above, Wilson homered nearly twice as much as any other Marlin; runner-up Alex Gonzalez hit 14. No one else topped 12.
Those blurbed home runs were hit on 4/6 and 4/15 vs. Allen Watson and Rigo Beltran, respectively. Both were late-gamers that only affected the outcome cosmetically.
AFTER THIS CARD: Wilson stayed with the Marlins through 2002, becoming the team's first 30-30 player ever in 2000 but slipping a bit after that. After hitting .243 that '02 season—one during which his salary jumped to $3.5M, astronomical by Marlins standards—he was packaged in a megatrade to Colorado that sent OF Juan Pierre and (for a couple of days) P Mike Hampton to Miami.
As one might expect, Wilson put up big numbers at Coors, leading the NL in RBI and making his lone All-Star team. Knee issues plagued him in '04 but he combined for 25 homers and 90 RBI between Colorado and Washington in '05.
The South Carolina native wasn't much more than ordinary after that, passing through Houston (2006 first half) and St. Louis (2006-07) before knee surgery took him down. Wilson—who was on the field when St. Louis clinched the 2006 World Series—spent part of '09 in the Independent League and raised the idea of a 2010 MLB comeback, but it didn't happen.
Since retiring, Wilson has worked as a Marlins commentator as well as an MLB Network studio host.
As mentioned above, Preston Wilson debuted in 1993 Topps as a Mets draft pick. He then appeared annually in the base set 1999-2008.
CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Florida Marlins
12/15/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #617 Ted Lilly, Blue Jays
More Ted Lilly Topps Cards: 2001 2002 2003 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Greg Hansell. Ed Yarnall. A third guy whose name slips my mind. And Ted Lilly. These are guys who moved around so much in trades before becoming established major leaguers, that I knew them better than some actual major leaguers. In the case of Lilly, who started out in the Dodgers system, he:
went to Montreal in the Mark Grudzielanek trade of July 1998
went to the Yankees in the Hideki Irabu trade of March 2000, then
went to Oakland in the three-team (Tigers) Jeff Weaver trade of June 2002.
So at age 26 with under two years of MLB service time, Lilly was on his fourth organization—I have no solid evidence that the guy was a jerk, had hygiene issues, or some other unacceptable flaw that kept his bags packed. In any event, he seemed to find a home with the Athletics in 2003—he made 31 starts for the division winners and near season's end, put together a six-game win streak with a 1.02 ERA!!
But here, pitching-rich Oakland has just sent the lean lefty north of the border—Oakland was drawn to the batting eye, pop and low salary of Blue Jays outfielder Bobby Kielty, and swung a deal in November 2003.
THIS CARD: Lilly's 2004, 2005 and 2006 cards all use STUN images. Not only that—they all seem to be from the same shoot! Same jersey, same cap, same sky. And it's not like opportunities for action shots were lacking; Lilly made 57 starts in 2004-05. (That said, it would be awesome if today's Topps sets carried a few posed shots. But I won't dare serve up legitimate complaints.)
That's got to be Lilly's changeup grip—he had a solid one. Lilly's fastball topped 90 as a youngster, but eventually dropped to the high-80's. The SoCal native with the Maddux-like motion also threw a hard curve, slider, and added a cutter later on.
Speaking of Greg Maddux, Lilly only wore #31 with the Athletics and Blue Jays.
(flip) We alluded to Lilly's late-2003 heroics; I didn't include his final start, which didn't go so well. Because Lilly didn't have a very long leash, his shutout streak covered three entire starts and parts of two others. (Mulder was waylaid by a late August right hip stress fracture, just FYI.)
Lilly was a #23 pick by the 1996 Dodgers, but he'd actually been selected #13 the year before—by Toronto! He opted for another year at Fresno City College.
Lomita is in Los Angeles county, just a bit west of Long Beach. I feel like Lilly isn't the first Lomita native featured on COTD. But we won't be researching.
AFTER THIS CARD: Despite winning 37 times and making an All-Star team there, Lilly's most famous moment with Toronto will forever be his 2006 on-field blowup with manager John Gibbons that ended with a tunnel fight. Lilly had coughed up most of a big lead to the visiting Athletics; I was watching live and knew trouble was brewing just from lip-reading—this was no ordinary pitching change.
Now 31, Lilly signed a 4Y/$40M deal with the Cubs prior to 2007; he went 17-9 for the 2008 team I firmly believed would win it all, but tapped out in the NLDS. Though not used in the game, Lilly made the '09 All-Star team (9-6, 3.18 in first half), but was traded to the Dodgers one year later. (A little awkward, as at least one Dodger had accused him of cheating that May.)
Having signed a 3Y/$33M extension, the veteran continued to be both reliable and effective until May 2012, when inflammation ravaged his shoulder so badly, he did not pitch again that year. More physical problems took hold in '13, and the Dodgers cut him in August. A deal with the Giants fell through, and Lilly retired that winter. His legal issues made headlines back in 2015.
Ted Lilly debuted in 2001 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 2002-13.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays
12/19/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #182 Ramon Ortiz, Nationals
More Ramon Ortiz Topps Cards: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Just as any future accented, musclebound European actor will have zero chance of avoiding Arnold Schwarznegger comparisons, any slight, hard-throwing Dominican pitcher will, without fail, be labeled "The Next Pedro Martinez"—especially if he experiences success. An active pitcher to draw such comparisons: Carlos Martinez (no relation) of the Cardinals. A former pitcher to do so: Mr. Ramon Ortiz, although the "Little Pedro" label bestowed upon Ortiz turned out to be wildly inaccurate.
Signed out of the DR at the very uncommon age of 22 in 1995, Ortiz was the first Angel to win his (1999) MLB debut in 33 years! In 2001, 28-year-old Ortiz enjoyed his first full MLB season, winning 13 times and completing seven innings in 13 of 33 starts—there were bumps, yes, but that isn't shabby.
In '02, Ortiz coughed up a ghastly 40 home runs, but overall shaved 0.59 off his era and 2.55 off his WHIP—his effort earned 15 personal wins and helped the Angels to their first championship.
That would be Ortiz's career peak; he remained with Anaheim through 2004, but was bounced from the rotation with a 9.28 ERA in May and traded to the Reds after the season. He wasn't much better there, but kept his rotation spot all year—Cincinnati didn't really have anybody better.
Here, the 33-year-old has struggled for the third straight year. He posted the NL's second-worst ERA (5.57), hit the second-most batters (18) and co-led the league in losses (16). But, like the '05 Reds, the Nats didn't have anybody better so Ortiz made all 33 starts.
THIS CARD: Five of his seven Topps cards display Ortiz posing during Spring Training—some even from the same roll. We can't even call them all STUN images—only 2005 depicts him with a new team.
Why so many poses? Here's my guess: Ortiz made a ton of errors during his career, leading photographers to take cover during his starts rather than snap action photos.
Ortiz is featured in Topps for the last time; he became a full-on journeyman after 2006.
Ortiz poses at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida; this was the Nats' Spring home from 2005-16 as well as the Expos 2003-04 and the Marlins 1994-2002. (But you can still save 15% on car insurance.)
(flip) I'm not convinced the reverse image matches the front.
St. Louis P Jason Marquis was Ortiz's loss co-leader. Fittingly, he was also the only NLer with a higher ERA and more runs allowed.
In 2006, Ortiz had what we here at TSR call a "resume-fudging statline". Meaning he could truthfully boast of leading Washington in wins, innings, strikeouts and starts—but it would all be deceptive, saying more about Washington's lousy staff than about Ortiz' (lacking) performance.
Ortiz reached on an ugly play, and scored on an even uglier play—he'd tried to bunt Marlon Anderson to 2B but Rays P Jon Switzer threw it away, putting Ortiz on 2B himself.
Switzer's fourth ball to Royce Clayton got away, scoring Anderson, and Ortiz followed him in after C Dioner Navarro's off-target throw. (So technically he scored on a TE, not a WP, but close enough.)
AFTER THIS CARD: '06 would be Ortiz's final go as a full-time major league starter. Washington tried to re-sign for '07, but he chose to sign with Minnesota. However, he pitched his way out of their rotation in May and off their roster in August, finishing up '07 with Colorado.
From that point on...a lot of packing and unpacking. Ortiz pitched in Japan in '08, AAA Fresno (Giants) in '09, returned for a combined 38 games with the 2010 Dodgers and 2011 Cubs, then went 13-6, 3.45 for AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) as a 39-year-old in 2012.
You might remember Ortiz's final major league act—as a 2013 Blue Jay, Ortiz partially tore his UCL while firing a pitch to San Diego's Chase Headley; emotions took over as Ortiz realized his time in the big leagues was in all likelihood done. (It was, although he pitched two more years in the Mexican League.)
Ramon Ortiz appeared in Topps annually 2001-07.
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Washington Nationals
12/24/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #290 Jim Thome, Indians
More Jim Thome Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
In one month exactly, Jim Thome (pronounced TOE-me) should be voted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame; I'm predicting 79% of ballots having his name checked. Thome piled up gaudy numbers for a decade with the juggernaut Indians of the 1990's—but he didn't particularly stand out as a superstar early on, not on a team with Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez in the middle of the order, Kenny Lofton atop, and a steady stream of All-Stars adding support.
For those of you who never saw Thome play, just picture a very large, but affable man stepping up to the plate with two goals in mind: A) see a strike, and B) hit that strike into Lake Michigan. This led to a ton of walks, a ton of strikeouts, and eventually 612 career home runs for six franchises.
Here, Thome has completed his first season as a full-time 1B. Having shifted from his natural 3B position to accommodate newly-acquired Matt Williams, Thome did have some defensive challenges, but still made his first All-Star team, finished a close 6th in MVP voting, and was trusted with the cleanup role for the final two months of the regular season.
THIS CARD: Any Indian wearing #25 since Thome evokes his memory, none moreso than Ryan Garko in the mid-00's, who also played Thome's old 1B position.
For such a big guy with extraordinary strength, Thome's swing was fairly controlled. He didn't come out of his shoes or lose his balance trying to wallop one.
Today's Topps could benefit from gold borders/text for a set or two. The no-bleed impressed for a while, but 2018 will be four straight years—the last bit of novelty has been scooped from the carton.
(flip) I've owned this card 20 years and still don't know anything about Trosky; in 1936 the guy hit 42 HR with 162 RBI, 405 TB, and 216 hits for a .343 average...and came in 10th in MVP voting! Trosky's offensive numbers, while not on par with contemporaries such as Lou Gehrig, were pretty damn good, but frequent migraines derailed his career at age 28, forever altering his legacy.
Topps gets the new position right—Thome's move was pretty high-profile; it involved two superstars on a World Series contender. After 1996, Thome never played third base again, save for a one-pitch 2011 appearance designed to draw an ovation from Indians fans (he'd rejoined Cleveland by then).
Technically, the 30-homer feat is innacurate because Thome's 1996 homer totals were as a 3B.
AFTER THIS CARD: Blah blah blah, 334 homers with the Indians, lots of walks and strikeouts, mega-contract with Philly, 2003 NL home run champ, traded to White Sox to clear space for Ryan Howard, two years with Twins, more bombs, bounces around final two seasons, retires at 42 with 612 home runs and 1,699 RBI.
Jim Thome appeared annually in Topps 1992-2012.
CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Cleveland Indians
12/31/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #484 Mike Fitzgerald, Expos
More Mike Fitzgerald Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991 1992
For a while, Mike Fitzgerald was my most coveted card.
No, he wasn't my favorite player or anything. During my adolescence, once people found out I collected baseball cards, they heaped them on me by the dozens. Somehow I came in possession of a 1988 Topps Fitzgerald card, and then a 1989—since I already had the 1990 (and would soon acquire the 1991), acquiring as many Mike Fitzgerald cards as possible became my new life subplot.
As it were, Fitz only received one more Topps card (1992), and I didn't snag his 1986-87 cards until the past couple of years—subplot wrapped. It was fun while it lasted, though.
Fitzgerald is part of the reason current Blue Jays manager John Gibbons only lasted 50 at-bats in MLB. The Mets' catching job seemed earmarked for Gibbons, the ex-#1 pick, but when he got hurt in 1984, Fitzgerald—who'd hit .284 with 14 homers in AAA the year before—assumed the role and never relinquished it that year.
That off-season, however, the Expos came calling—anytime you can upgrade to Gary Carter in his prime, you have to do it, so off to Montreal Fitzgerald went. For the next several years, he received the majority of playing time behind the plate for Montreal when not waylaid by injuries...of which there were several, including an undiagnosed knee cartilage tear Fitzgerald played with.
Here, Fitzgerald has returned to (relative) health after a 1988 season shortened by a fractured wrist. He set major league career highs in HR, 2B and RBI, and showed recovery from his career-threatening 1986 finger injury with a five-year high CS rate (26%).
THIS CARD: As you can see by the corners, I didn't take good care of my cards as a youth.
EVERY time I stumble upon those old-school uniforms, I miss the Expos. Shoot, every time I stumble upon their new-school uniforms, I miss the Expos. Summary: I miss the Expos. (Though visiting Nationals Park in 2010 is one of my favorite all-time experiences.)
These were Montreal's road unis, though there does seem to be more than one matching shirt in the crowd of whatever ballpark this is.
This HAS to be my only baseball card featuring a bandage.
(flip) Fitzgerald's draft round also produced Tim Flannery and the Mikes Marshall and Boddicker.
Trade details: Fitz, OF Herm Winningham, SS Hubie Brooks and P Floyd Youmans to NY for Carter.
Fitzgerald's milestone home run was a solo, 2nd-inning shot off Tony Ghelfi of Philadelphia; it helped the Mets to a 5-1 road win. I'd never heard of Ghelfi before this write-up.
AFTER THIS CARD: As the game continued to punish Fitzgerald's body, he began to find more time at 1B and the outfield. Let go by Montreal after a tough 1991 (broken hand, .202 average), Fitzgerald reunited with his longtime Expos manager Buck Rodgers with the 1992 Angels, appearing at six positions. 32-year-old Fitzgerald failed to make the 1993 Mariners' roster, and that was it.
Mike Fitzgerald debuted in 1984 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in Topps 1985-92. He was excluded in 1993 Topps, but the 1992 Stadium Club and Traded sets depict Fitz as an Angel.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Montreal Expos