Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, December 2018

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12/3/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #103 Curt Young, Athletics

More Curt Young Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1990 1991 1992 

 

20 years from now, the Boston Celtics will hold a 30-year reunion of their 2008 championship team. They will all be present, ready to receive the love rained down from 20,000 Celtic strong.

After some pomp and buildup, the starting five will finally be introduced:

 

"RAJON RONDO!" (thunderous applause)

"RAY ALLEN!" (thunderous applause)

"PAUL PIERCE!" (thunderous applause)

"KEVIN GARNETT!" (thunderous applause)

"AND..uh...Kendrick Perkins..." (confused applause as crowd struggles to remember him)

 

Which brings me to Curt Young, Oakland's primary 5th starter on those 1988-90 pennant winners on which the likes of Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Mike Moore, Storm Davis and Scott Sanderson took the ball every 5th day ahead of Young.

If he hadn't later served as Oakland's pitching coach for so long, Young would certainly get Perkinsized at any future reunions. ("...who's this guy? He was on the team? Is he somebody's nephew?")

 

Here, Young has completed a 1987 season where, despite tailing off in the 2nd half, he set career highs in starts, innings, K, WHIP (1.172) and BB/9 (2.0). Only Dave Stewart made more starts and won more times among Athletics.

 

 

THIS CARD: Good old 1980's Topps, always good for overlapping the team name.

 

Young wore #29 as a player but may now be best affiliated with the #41 he donned as a coach.

 

Generally a three-pitch dude; you may be viewing Young's #1 pitch, an overhand curve. He also used a semi-fastball and changeup; he was not overpowering, but he had command and changed speeds. You kind of have to if you want to pitch in MLB without high velocity.

(flip) What I'm wondering is this: did the Athletics' official renaming to the A's for a time factor in the abbreviations here? If so, how do you explain the front? These are the questions I MUST have answers to when I tour the Topps company.

 

One of those six CG was a 1-hit win over the White Sox in June. The hit was an 8th-inning Kenny Williams homer, however—Young wound up allowing three runs (two earned) on one hit...not often that happens.  Young completed five of his first 13 starts, but lost two of them (in a row, no less).

 

Note the 44 BB in 1987: Young damn near allowed more four-baggers (38) than free passes.

 

In that 1982 season, Young was 15-8 and allowed but seven HR in those 205 innings...wonder how big the yard was.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Young continued with Oakland through 1991, mostly starting but eventually switching to long relief in 1991. Kansas City signed Young for 1992 but released him in June; the Yankees, after initially dispatching him to AAA,  summoned Young to replace injured Steve Farr—though his WHIP was a bit high, Young was 3-0, 3.32 in 13 Yankee appearances wrapped around a DL stint.

 

Young finished his playing career back with the A's; after another AAA run, the now-33-year-old made three starts (pre-LaRussa experiment), came down with a sore shoulder in July, and never pitched again. He's been a big league coach since (2004-17 with Oakland sandwiched around 2011 with Boston, and 2018-present with the Giants.)

 

Curt Young appeared annually In Topps 1985-92.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, Oakland Athletics

Topps Curt Young
Topps Curt Young
 
Topps Mark Whiten
Topps Mark Whiten

12/5/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #588 Mark Whiten, Blue Jays

More Mark Whiten Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997

 

"Hard-Hittin'" makes his second COTD appearance; we profiled his 1995 Topps card back in December 2016.

Here, the switch-hitting, cannon-armed youngster is fresh off his first taste of MLB, surely intriguing Toronto management with his talent. 

 

 

THIS CARD: Don't you get the feeling the photographer told Whiten to smile, and got this response: "I AM smiling"? By the way, not sure if you can tell, but Whiten is NOT posing at Skydome.

 

A Triple-A All-Star in '90, Whiten's July ascension to MLB came courtesy of future trade-mate Glenallen Hill's infamous spider nightmare. How many people besides Tobey Maguire can credit their career break on arachnids? "Hey, Glen, uh...thanks, man."

 

FYI, Whiten also has a 1991 Topps Major League Debut card with a very similar photo.

 

 

(flip) With Rickey Henderson out much of '87, Whiten obviously worked to pick up pro baseball's swiping slack. (In 11 MLB seasons, Whiten stole 78, with a high of 17 in 1996).

 

Ellis Dungan scouted for Toronto 1982-2002, then made the rounds through Houston, Philly and Baltimore (I could not confirm his continued employment with the O's). According to three reliable sources, Dungan signed several major leaguers, but you've probably only heard of Ryan Freel.

 

Topps erred on the bio info; Whiten batted right and left and I'm pretty sure he did so before reaching MLB.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Whiten lasted a decade in MLB with a host of teams, most notably the Cardinals. He'll always be remembered for his quartet of homers in one '93 affair, but let's not forget this guy once struck out Miguel Tejada (and two others) in a garbage relief inning!

 

His career momentum rose and fell almost annually after '94; an ugly off-field issue didn't help and got him cut from the '97 Yankees. After some time in Mexico, Whiten resurfaced with the '98 Indians and batted .283 in 87 games (including said relief outing).

In the end, he homered 105 times and drove in 423 runs...not to mention the 77 outfield assists despite his arm's deserved reputation.

 

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

 

 

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays

 
Topps Jose Castillo
Topps Jose Castillo

12/7/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #589 Jose Castillo, Pirates

More Jose Castillo Topps Cards: 2006 2007 2008 2008U

 

It seems every year, the Giants employ somebody else's castoff and watches him tear up the league for a short time. "Why in the world did (insert team) let HIM go? Are they run by idiots?!", we fans cry out. 90% of the time, that team is not run by idiots and we Giants fans eventually learn why (insert team) gave up on (insert castoff).

 

In 2018 it was Alen Hanson. In 2008, it was Jose Castillo. Dumped by Pittsburgh (after three years as their primary 2B) and Florida, SF signed him hoping he'd provide depth at 3B (vacated by Pedro Feliz) and 2B (Ray Durham's time-bomb hammies). Castillo would end up starting 90 times at the hot corner—he went hitless in just three of the first 14 and looked like a real find.

 

Then he went 3-for-30 in August and got cut. 

Guess Pittsburgh and Florida were on to something.

 

Here, Castillo is just beginning his MLB career. Starting at 2B 105 times in '04, Castillo—named Pittsburgh's #1 prospect by USA Today Sports Weekly entering the year—was fairly steady in the first half before seesawing wildly in the second (.188 July, .347 August, .221 September). 

 

 

THIS CARD: This is a special selection in the wake of Castillo's death 12/7/18—he was killed along with fellow big league alum Luis Valbuena in a bandit-orchestrated car crash in Venezuela.

Why 2005 Topps? That set's barely come up in the Randomizer, plus...anybody could identify a ballpark with Hank Aaron on the wall (Turner Field).

 

The minor-league SS Castillo made but 11 errors at 2B in 2004; four came in one eight-game June stretch. I do not know how costly any of them were.

(flip) Rather than regurgitate an unimpressive stat already displayed on the card, Topps could have told you about that .347 August average.

 

Castillo, along with Tom Prince 1990-93, are the most stable Pirate #14's since pretty much the Stargell era.

 

That 0-for-20 covered eight games from 7/27 to 8/7, 2004. Castillo busted out of the slump with four hits in nine AB August 10-11. 

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Castillo endured an injury-plagued 2005 (oblique early, MCL tear late) to return as Pittsburgh's main man at 2B once more in '06. He set most career highs that year, including 14 bombs but also 18 errors. But by 2007, Freddy Sanchez was a reigning batting champion and needed a place to play...to the bench went Castillo, who failed to homer even once in well over 200 PA. Plus, he grounded into double plays twice as much as he walked.

 

Not surprisingly, the Bucs let him go after '07, and Castillo landed with the Marlins...for three months, until they waived him in Spring '08. After his SF run ended, Castillo went to Houston and struck out every three AB—MLB career over at 27.

 

But not his pro career; Castillo went on to star in several foreign leagues, too many to list here (though I will tell you one year in Mexico, the guy drove in 108 runs in 102 games!). In fact, he was on his way to a game in Venezuela when those s---heads took his life.

 

Jose Castillo appeared in Topps 2005-08, the final one as a Marlin. He's also got an '08 Update card with San Francisco.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates, Now Deceased

 
Topps Luis Valbuena
Topps Luis Valbuena

12/7/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #621 Luis Valbuena, Astros

More Luis Valbuena Topps Cards: 2009U 2010 2013U 2014 2016 2017 2018U

 

You want to know 15% of the reason I tried to kill myself in September 2018?

 

Because in this life, good people—honest, hardworking people—can spend years working toward a goal, achieve that goal, live life the right way and actually contribute to society...and wind up dead in a robbery perpetrated by animate scum passing itself off as human beings. I didn't want to live in a world like that, and I still don't (but am done hastening my own demise)

 

Which brings me to Valbuena, who died 12/6 because a group of two-legged vermin wanting their stuff forced the vehicle carrying he, ex-Pirate Jose Castillo and ex-Red Sock Carlos Rivero off the road in Venezuela (where the group was playing winter ball). I guess the more routine Venezuelan method of kidnapping players/relatives for ransom required too much effort.

 

It's just not effing fair.

 

As his MLB career advanced, Valbuena became known for flipping his bat after home runs...then after extra-base hits...then after singles...then even after grounding out. Of course, 20 years ago he'd be covered in bruises for such behavior, but in today's MLB it's just par for the course. Most people realized Valbuena meant no disrespect; it was just his idea of fun.

 

TSR remembers Valbuena with this special Card Of The Day selection.

 

 

THIS CARD: Using Valbuena's 2015 Topps card was a no-brainer; he set pretty much all his career highs in the preceding 2014 campaign or the in-progress 2015 run.

 

The 'Stros used this alternate in 2013-14, and evidently carried it over to at least the following Spring.

 

Wasn't too hard to identify the RF bullpen wall of Citi Field; Valbuena is warming up, it appears. This must be an exhibition, since the Astros didn't play the Mets during the '15 season. Defensively, Valbuena was versatile, playing mostly 2B for the Indians, 3B for the Cubs, and extensive 1B with the Astros and Angels.
 

(flip) As you see, Valbuena was just a week past his 33rd birthday at his death.

 

Caja Seca is located about 400 miles west of Caracas.

 

During Valbuena's home run streak, he batted .319 overall (47 AB). All but one of the homers were solos; none were game-winners but three accounted for Houston's first runs.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Valbuena smacked 38 HR with 96 RBI over two years in Houston—memorably going yard off Johnny Cueto early in 2015 ALDS #5, as well as walking off the A's in a wild June 2016 affair—before moving on to the Angels and cementing his bat-flipping legacy. 

 

Though still showing plenty of pop, Valbuena—never a high-average hitter—reached August 2018 under .200 for the year; Los Angeles finally cut ties to call up a pitcher. At the very least, the 33-year-old would've likely gotten an invite to 2019 Spring Training from somebody; Chris Davis is paid $23M annually to hit under .200 with pop...and he lacks defensive versatility.

 

Luis Valbuena appeared in the 2010 and 2014-17 Topps base sets, as well as 2009, 2013 and 2018 Topps Updates (and Highlights).

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Houston Astros, Now Deceased

 
Topps Jose Lima
Topps Jose Lima

12/11/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #475 Jose Lima, Royals

More Jose Lima Topps Cards: 1996 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003T 2004T

 

"Lima Time!"

 

Besides MC Hammer, do YOU know anybody else with their own time?

 

He may not have been the most talented pitcher in the bigs, nor was he the most imposing. But especially during his 1998-99 heyday, Jose Lima was the most fun pitcher to watch in MLB, often doing little dances or finger-shooting batters after strikeouts. He was a performer on the mound...and off.

 

Too bad Lima couldn't sustain success in the 2000's; who knows what theatrics Lima the Cy Young winner might have pulled out? As it were, he still had a pretty good ride.

 

Initially a Tiger, Lima didn't take off until joining Houston in the 1996 megatrade centered around teammate Brad Ausmus and Houston's Todd Jones and Brian Hunter. He relieved in '97 before joining the Astro rotation—this card's reverse tells the statistical story. Only teammate Mike Hampton won more NL games in 1999 (22 to Lima's 21), and the 27-year-old earned a 3Y/$18.75M extension.

 

Then, as is well-documented, Lima (and the team around him) imploded in Year One of what's now known as Minute Maid Park. He never recovered his touch in Houston and, in 2002, was traded back to Detroit...who cut him that September.

 

Lima began 2003 in the Independent League before a late audition with Kansas City; at one point he won seven straight starts! Here, Lima is back in the KC uniform after a fine year with the Dodgers. Initially used as a swingman, Lima entered the rotation in early June and went 9-4, 4.14 in 20 starts—then shut out the Cardinals in NLDS Game 3!

 

 

THIS CARD: Where is Lima warming up, behind a shed? As for what he's throwing, it's either his 92-MPH sinker (in his prime), his vaunted changeup, his splitter, or possibly the slider added in 2003.

 

Lima wore #25 during his first Royals stint, but is better associated with the #42 worn during his Astros heyday.

 

Never thought I'd say this about 2005 Topps, but...hiatus time.

 

(flip) Those 23.2 IP covered parts of eight games 5/23 to 6/9. During the streak, Lima allowed one unearned run; he also fired eight shutout innings at the Diamondbacks.

 

Lima, in addition to baseball, was part of a salsa band; the Anthem was not the first time he'd performed for the masses.

 

Instead of the redundant win stat, Topps could have told you Lima allowed 33 home runs in those 170 .1 innings—146.2 if you exclude the above streak...that's a LOT.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Lima's second go-round in KC went, well, terribly. But he remained in the rotation all year since other options included Denny Bautista, Kyle Snyder and Ryan Jensen. Simply wanting to pitch, Lima spent most of 2006 with AAA Norfolk (Mets) encompassing four starts with the big club. 

 

Though that was it for Lima in MLB, he continued to play in foreign and independent leagues through 2009; at 37, he died suddenly of a heart attack in May 2010.

 

Jose Lima debuted in 1996 Topps, then appeared annually 1999-2005 (2003-04 were Traded cards).

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Kansas City Royals, Now Deceased

 
Topps Felix Hernandez
Topps Felix Hernandez

12/13/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #430 Felix Hernandez, Mariners

More Felix Hernandez Topps Cards: 2004T 2005U 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

 

I know exactly what Mariners fans are going through right now.

 

For three years, we Giants fans watched our longtime star struggle after years of quality pitching. He looked the same. He was still young enough to be pitching well. He didn't throw quite as hard as he used to, but he threw hard enough to succeed. And yet, he succeeded less and less.

 

Each time we ran him out there, we began to look for the smallest signs of positivity. In a short time, Giants fans went from expecting seven-plus strong from Matt Cain every time out, to rejoicing if he completed five without totally imploding. Cain never did learn to pitch at 92 rather than 97 and retired at 33 after the 2017 season.

 

What happened to Cain is happening to the onetime King of Seattle, Felix Hernandez—except Hernandez was a superstar, far better than Cain at their peaks. Like Cain, Hernandez debuted in 2005 before being able to legally drink. Like Cain, he threw a load of innings for mediocre West Coast squads. Like Cain, he threw a perfect game in 2012.

 

And now, like Cain, he is merely a shadow of himself despite being relatively young (32). Mariners fans can only hope his story ends better than Cain's did. 

Here, Felix is still at the height of his powers. Just 25, the reigning Cy Young Award winner made his second of six All-Star teams and led Seattle starters in practically everything by far.

 

 

THIS CARD: (Too) many of Hernandez's Topps cards depict him head on, firing a pitch. Fortunately, he has a few variations, which I'm thinking about adding to my collection.

 

Button your shirt, dude! And tuck in that chain; remember what happened to the last Mariner whose jewelry was deemed too distracting. 

 

Fernandez fires from his very own Safeco Field, where he went 7-6, 3.67 in 2011. (Even though that looks like a road jersey, so much so that I double-scouted Safeco's wall.)

(flip) We'll be lucky to see entire teams with five or six complete games anymore.

 

Fee-Fee is a cat's name, just spelled differently (Fifi). Hernandez should resist this moniker.

 

Until Jacob deGrom won the NL Cy Young this year with a 10-9 record (and he had to win his last start to reach 10), Hernandez' 13-12 ledger in 2010 was the worst by a Cy winner ever. Not HIS fault; Felix would have 200 wins minimum by now with comparable run support, not 168.

 

Hernandez was 14-11 in early September 2011, but was pounded in his last three starts (7.71 ERA). I blame an injury but am too lazy to investigate further.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Blah blah blah, four more years of excellence and Cy Young votes, annual All-Star teams, perfect game vs. Rays in 2012, wife thieved by Pedro Borbon's daughter, all-time Mariners wins leader, shoulder problems in '17, awful in '18 and bounced from rotation briefly.

 

King Felix Hernandez debuted in 2004 Topps Traded, returned in 2005 Updates and Highlights, and has appeared annually in the base set since.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Seattle Mariners

 
Topps Glenn Hubbard
Topps Glenn Hubbard

12/15/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #745 Glenn Hubbard, Braves

More Glenn Hubbard Topps Cards: 1988 1989

 

Obviously, when the average seasoned card collector thinks Glenn Hubbard, he/she does not think 1987 Topps. His 1984 Fleer card goes down as one of the greatest of all-time—anytime an animal shares the spotlight, you've got a classic on your hands.

 

(Note I said "shares" the spotlight, not hogs it like this card.)

 

Hubbard was Mark Lemke before Mark Lemke—a great defensive 2B known for hanging tough on the double play ball, but only offering a modest amount of offense. Though Hubbard might not have been Ryne Sandberg at the plate, he was no Jose Lind either; he'd smack a few out of the yard here and there at ol' Fulton-County Stadium.

 

Here, Hubbard is coming off a tough 1986 season. After nearly being traded to the White Sox over the winter, he committed a career-worst (by four) 19 errors, and was pinch-hit for more than ever before by new manager Chuck Tanner. Plus, the Braves weren't good at all (72-89).

 

 

THIS CARD: Hubbard is sporting just the 'stache here, but for some time prior, he donned a full beard before they were fashionable.

 

If you squint, you can see Montreal Expo uniforms in the background. If you squint TOO hard, they blend in with the dugout wall.

 

I've owned this card for God knows how long and never noticed the bottom right corner turning inward...

 

(flip) Hopefully Hubbard was not one of those Stan Marsh-type Little League dads hollering from the bleachers and trying to undermine the coach.

 

In case you didn't know, GW RBI = Game-Winning RBI. But they were calculated all wonky, so their credibility with this writer is nil.

 

12 jacks and 70 RBI from a 1983 NL second baseman is pretty damn special. No wonder Hubs went to the All-Star Game that year (He went 1-for-1 subbing late for Steve Sax.)

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Hubbard was to be replaced by ex-Toronto All-Star Damaso Garcia for 1987, but Garcia's injury problems kept Hubbard in the starting lineup for most of the year; he responded with a fine bounceback season.

 

Oakland signed the FA for '88; he started 93 times including postseason for the AL Champions. However, he was released after the year, re-signed, and released again in mid-1989 to accommodate Walt Weiss's return from the DL—ending his career just shy of 32.

 

Next, Hubbard coached 10 years in Atlanta's farm system, then 12 more seasons on Bobby Cox's major league staff. He then moved on to the Kansas City system for at least four years; I couldn't confirm his current status there.

 

After debuting on a 1979 shared Prospects card, Glenn Hubbard appeared annually in Topps 1981-1989.

CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Atlanta Braves

 
Topps Jeff Bagwell
Topps Jeff Bagwell

12/17/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #593 Jeff Bagwell, Astros

More Jeff Bagwell Topps Cards: 1991T 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2004 2005 2006

 

It's always great to pull Hall-of-Famers for COTD...I never lack for memories or analysis of those guys, especially the ones who regularly took it to my Giants as Jeff Bagwell did.

 

For a time, it didn't seem that Bagwell would become a Hall-of-Famer; even though anybody who saw him play and realized what he meant to the Houston lineup for 15 years knew he belonged, Baggy was guilty of steroid use in the eyes of voters because, well, he put up big numbers when steroid users were.

 

Didn't matter that he never failed a test, didn't carry around an NFL player's body, and had been consistently great from his third year in the game. Using that logic, Lennox Lewis must be an ear-biting rapist too, am I wrong?

 

Ultimately, seven years into Bagwell's eligibility, the voters got it right—if he played the Giants for all 162 every year, he'd have retired with 857 homers, 2,683 RBI and a .412 batting average.

 

Here, the Astros are in-between successful periods. a season removed from four playoff runs in five years, and a season before they reached consecutive NLCS (and the 2005 World Series!). Coming off shoulder surgery, Bagwell took a while to get going and his overall production dipped—but remember, his "down" years couldn't be duplicated by 95% of the league.

 

 

THIS CARD: Bagwell's swing could not be described as "pretty"; he basically heaved the bat at the ball with a short but lethal stroke. Can't argue the results!

 

Why, in 2003 Topps, does a player of Bagwell's caliber not have a card number ending in "0" or "5"?

 

Bagwell had several different looks throughout his career—clean-shaven/long hair, goatee/long hair, goatee/short hair, super-long goatee, etc. This look coincided with Bagwell's best years, but IMHO he was more intimidating with long hair, as was mid-1990's Mark McGwire.

 

This is not Minute Maid Park, but I'm not really up for a park-identification mission.


 

(flip) According to The Sporting News Scouting Report: 2003, Bagwell was the only player ever with six straight 30 HR, 100 RBI/R/BB seasons until the 2002 opening "slump". Bagwell hit just three April homers and had only 40 RBI after 76 games...obviously, he picked things up.

 

It will always bug me that I forgot to do special 50th-birthday Cards Of The Day for Bagwell and Frank Thomas this past May.

 

Bagwell advanced that homer total to 449, 123 ahead of runner-up Lance Berkman. If his shoulder holds up, Bagwell has Frank Thomas's career numbers at minimum, maybe even 3,000 hits if he saw enough strikes.

 

As is well-known, Bagwell's acquisition from Boston cost only rental RP Larry Andersen. The Astros could have ponied up late nights with Loni Anderson and still won this deal by miles.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: That arthritic shoulder Bagwell had "repaired" prior to 2002 wound up deteriorating further and eventually shortened his career; he missed most of 2005 because of it but was still able to play in the 2005 World Series—strictly as a PH/DH. If he's full strength, maybe the 'Stros don't get swept by the White Sox.

Controversy ensued in '06 when Bagwell wouldn't retire, forcing the Astros to pay his $17M salary—insurance wouldn't cover any of it unless Bagwell was "disabled", which his participation in 2006 Spring Training disproved. (He ultimately retired and got paid, with insurance covering a portion.)

 

In 2017, Bagwell finally reached Cooperstown along with Tim Raines and Pudge Rodriguez.

 

Jeff Bagwell appeared annually in Topps 1992-2006 after debuting in 1991 Topps Traded.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Houston Astros

 
Topps Jay Bruce
Topps Jay Bruce

12/19/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps Update #246 Jay Bruce, All-Star

More Jay Bruce All-Star Topps Cards: 2011U  2012U

 

Over the years, I've randomly pulled multiple cards that seem anything but random, such as when I pulled Mike Fiers the same week he destroyed Giancarlo Stanton's face with a fastball. Or when I pulled Paul Konerko just after his celebrated final game in the majors.

 

Now, I've fittingly picked Bruce as he performs at an All-Star level against me in MLB 11: The Show. (Shut up, it's the newest one available for PS2 and I don't have $400 to drop on a PS4). In fact, just yesterday—after a 3-for-5 series opener—Bruce beat me by taking Brian Wilson deep in extra innings; you better believe I groaned when pulling this card.

 

Currently a new Seattle Mariner, Bruce has spent the past few years with the Mets (sandwiched around an Indians stint) after several excellent years with Cincinnati. Here, he's been selected to his third Midsummer Classic, repping the Reds about three weeks before they traded him.

 

 

THIS CARD: Topps usually won't use a "festivities" pic for those who actually played in the ASG, but I guess this shot of Bruce (far left) clowning around with Carlos Gonzalez and Bryce Harper was too good to not use somehow. (Gonzalez, BTW, was a participant in that year's Home Run Derby.)

 

Being a baseball whiz of sorts, I usually have no trouble figuring out who the subjects of cards like this are...but many might not; I really wish Topps wouldn't use multiple dudes on cards unless it's CLEAR which one is the actual subject.

 

As the 1980's Padres colors suggest, this game was held at San Diego's Petco Park.

 

While I'm ranting, go back to giving Subset cards different graphics than the commons. Thank you.
 

(flip) Among NL outfielders, Bruce's overall 99 RBI ranked fourth behind Matt Kemp, teammate Adam Duvall and Gonzalez; he did not triple after the Break and thus finished sixth.

 

As part of a mass substitution/realignment, Bruce took over in RF for Harper, struck out vs. KC's Kelvin Herrera in the 6th and again K'd vs. the Yankees' Andrew Miller in the 8th.

 

That is TOO many damn copyrights, but I guess it could have been worse.

 

If you enter that code on Topps.com...it will tell you it's already been redeemed. Hey, awesome.

 

It appears the Series name will be permanent fixtures on card reverses going forward.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: To date, Bruce has not made any other All-Star teams, though he might have in 2017 had the voting taken place post-season. (He whacked 36 HR with 101 RBI for the Mets and Indians). 2018 was a very down year for the 31-year-old, and moving to the former Safeco Field probably won't help matters. Good health would, however.

 

Jay Bruce has received All-Star Topps cards in 2011, 2012 and 2016 Topps Update.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps Update, All-Stars

 
Topps Julio Urias
Topps Julio Urias

12/21/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #124 Julio Urias, Dodgers

More Julio Urias Topps Cards: 2016U 2017

 

Like a number of dudes, I initially had trouble distinguishing Julio Urias from the Marlins' Jose Urena, until the latter got mad and drilled Ronald Acuna basically for existing. Now I remember Urena as the "pissy" one, and Urias—well, his name sort of resembles "your eyes", which brings his customary goggles to mind.

There, problem solved.

 

Urias, the youngest man to start a playoff game (age 20 when he took the ball in 2016 NLCS #4; the Cubs beat him, though), debuted at 19 earlier that year and shook off early struggles to finish up 5-1, 2.73 in his final 16 games—Dave Roberts handled Urias very carefully, probably under threat of beheading should anything happen to the kid.

 

Unfortunately, here, Urias has closed the book on his 2017 season earlier than hoped. Despite management's caution, Urias' shoulder betrayed him; he underwent anterior capsule surgery in June of 2017 and finished the year winless in five starts.

 

 

THIS CARD: Changeup grip? Urena throws one of those, along with a slider added in 2015 and a refined curveball. As for the velo on his four-seamer, a reliable source maxes it out at 93, but another clocked it at 98 in the minors. I will find out for myself soon.

 

Urias and the goggles: he's had four surgeries to remove growths from his left eye. His vision is fine, though at times he's looked as if he hit somebody's fist with his face.

 

For the record, it's pronounced "Yur-eee-us".

 

20 with sleeves?! My mom would have had me committed if I'd done that, adult or not! 

 

(flip)  Urias opened the year at OKC, joined LA in late April, flirted with the no-no until Andrew McCutchen led off the 7th with a double—LA won 4-3 in 10 innings—then got hammered by the Rockies and Marlins. He last pitched 5/20.

 

Urias is the rare single-digit uniform pitcher, as his social media handles reference (although, as his rookie card shows, he began with #78). "TheTeenager"? He did know that wasn't a permanent designation, right? (Someone obviously did that for the young phenom.)

 

Culiacan is located about 125 miles north of Mazatlan. It's the capital of the state of Sinaloa.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Urias finally retuned to the Dodgers in September 2018, and threw well enough to make their postseason roster! Though he gave up what proved to be the game-deciding homer to Milwaukee's Jesus Aguilar in NLCS #1, he was lockdown afterwards and seems on his way.

 

Julio Urias debuted in 2016 Topps Update and has since appeared annually in the base set.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers

 
Topps Derrick Gibson
Topps Derrick Gibson

12/23/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #392 Derrick Gibson, Rockies

More Derrick Gibson Topps Cards: 1996 1997 1998

 

Back so soon? TSR profiled Gibson's shared 1998 Prospects card last September, and we pretty much covered everything there was pertaining to Gibson's short career.

 

But apparently, the big guy can't get enough attention from us, so he hijacked our Randomizer to select another of his commons over the other 25K or so Topps cards in my collection. Okay, Derrick, we see you've got your hand up. What do you have to share with the class?

 

 

THIS CARD: There was a lot of power packed in Gibson's swing; he was probably the type of guy who could break a bat when swinging and missing. 

 

Those may be the ugliest batting gloves I've seen. But at least they match the Mizuno "M" on the bat.

 

On Gibson's previous COTD profile, I harped on 1997 Topps wasting precious space in its small set on a Gibson common when he hadn't even reached MLB yet. And though this time around he DID play in MLB...this set was even smaller than 1997 and he shouldn't have gotten a common. Not when Javier Vazquez, Shane Spencer, Shane Andrews and Mark Portugal didn't.

 

Note: I know times were rough for the company 1996-2000, but I'm still bitter over some of 1999's flagrant omissions...can't you tell???

 

(flip) Versus Florida lefty Jesus Sanchez, Gibson went 3-for-3 with two RBI, and later added an infield hit off Antonio Alfonseca as Colorado outlasted the Fish 11-10. I'm more shocked that the 1998 Marlins managed a 10-run game even at Coors Field!

 

Until Wilson Ramos' 4-hit the Indians in his 2010 debut, Gibson was the most recent to achieve the feat, meaning there's now 17 total. Among them: Willie McCovey, Kirby Puckett and Delino Deshields.

 

Those 1993 Chandler numbers...ouch. (BTW, I'd never heard of Chandler before; that team was more commonly known as the AZL (Arizona League) Rockies, based in Chandler, Arizona.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Gibson spent 110 of his first 111 games of '99 in the minors, returning to Colorado in September—he enjoyed a 3-hit, 2 HR, 6 RBI game vs Arizona 9/20, but otherwise went 2-for-23 with zero RBI. Out of options entering 2000, he was acquired by the Marlins off waivers that Spring—guess that debut left an impression.
But his numbers came way back down to earth and the Fish never called him up, nor did the other three organizations he'd later join. Gibson's pro career ended with a 2006 Independent League stint, at age 31.

 

Derrick Gibson appeared in 1996 and 1998 Topps as a Prospect, and as a regular common in 1997 and 1999 Topps.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Colorado Rockies

 
Topps 1989 Checklist
Topps 1989 Checklist

12/24/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #378 Checklist

More Topps Checklist Cards: 2015U #28

 

THIS CARD: Let's play a game of "Who's This Fella?" Subject A: Oswald Peraza!

 

ME: ???

 

Subject B: Steve Ellsworth!

 

ME: ???

 

We will be using outside resources to discuss those players when their cards are pulled.

(flip)  Let the games continue! Johnny Paredes? Nope. Jim Adduci? Well, I know of his same-named son. Jack Lazorko? He was on a blooper show for making all these hockey stops on the mound. So...what's my prize?

 

The final 10 cards are All-Stars. Anyone with the "Bonus" designation is starring on a Team Leaders card. Why they, and not All-Stars, get card designations is unknown.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Most of these dudes appeared in Topps again, but this was the last go for veterans Larry Parrish, Steve Lombardozzi and Tim Flannery.  Checklists appeared in Topps thru 1999.

 

CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Checklists

 
Topps Lyle Overbay
Topps Lyle Overbay

12/26/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps Update #95 Lyle Overbay, Pirates

More Lyle Overbay Topps Cards: 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013U 2014U 2015

 

Lyle Overbay. Just has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

 

Overbay was originally an Arizona Diamondback and got his first real MLB run for the 2003 squad, but it wasn't until joining Milwaukee in the Richie Sexson trade that Overbay really broke through as a big leaguer in 2004-05; he was the NL doubles leader in '04 and hit .301 in 159 games for the Brewers.

 

By '06, however, Prince Fielder loomed, and so did arbitration for Overbay—cue trade to Toronto, who evidently didn't like their Shea Hillenbrand/Eric Hinske 1B tandem of 2005. Overbay lasted five years in Toronto, but only the first measured up to the offensive standard he set in Milwaukee—it earned him a 4Y/$24M extension, in fact.

 

Here, the veteran first baseman has just hooked up with the Pittsburgh Pirates after said extension expired. On a 1Y/$5M deal, Overbay succeeded incumbent Garrett Jones—who shifted to the outfield—as the Pirates starting 1B, at least at 2011's outset.

 

 

THIS CARD: Though not Gold Glove-caliber, Overbay was lauded for his strong defense at 1B, in spite of a bit too many errors. Unfortunately, in 2011 no fewer than three Overbay errors contributed to opposing rallies in eventual Pirate losses—but he looks very good here, fundamentally perfect, no chance of a Buckner.

 

Overbay also has a 2011 base card with the Jays.

(flip) For those not familiar with the 2011 base set, the box on the far right contained text—a corresponding card number from the past ("In 1974 Topps, Card #95 Was Dick Littlebutt", etc.). Since the Update series only goes back to 2005, and since past Traded sets only went up to #160 rather than #330, Topps chose to simply leave its Update boxes empty.

 

We here at TSR will inform you that in 1988 Topps Traded, card #95T was Doug Robbins (and we've featured it on COTD!)

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Overbay  could never get it going with the bat or glove in Pittsburgh, and the team cut him after trading for Cubs star Derrek Lee in July 2011. Overbay returned to the Diamondbacks, but they cut him the following summer.

 

It seemed like the 35-year-old was through, but his career was briefly resuscitated by the 2013 Yankees, who platooned him at 1B with Mark Reynolds while Mark Teixeira's wrist healed. Overbay rode that wave back to Milwaukee, where he spent one final season as a 1B/PH for the now Fielder-less Brewers.

 

Lyle Overbay appeared annually in Topps 2003-15; 2013-14 were Update cards.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps Update, Pittsburgh Pirates

 
Topps Randy Wolf
Topps Randy Wolf

12/29/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #141 Randy Wolf, Phillies

More Randy Wolf Topps Cards: 1999 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2014U

 

He didn't have electric stuff. He didn't have a special windup. He never earned a gazillion-dollar deal.

 

Randy Wolf just went out and won baseball games, 133 of them in fact, without a whole lot of pomp.

 

The 1997 #2 pick reached MLB in '99 when Phillies SP Carlton Loewer hit the DL—after three starts Wolf sported a 1.74 ERA (though from then on it more than tripled to 6.23). In 2000, Wolf emerged as Philadelphia's leading winner and only pitcher to reach 30 starts/200 IP. In '01, however, midyear struggles temporarily cost him his rotation spot.

 

Wolf finished that year strong and carried it over to 2002, despite an unimpressive record. In '03 he secured some of those wins that escaped him in '02, and represented Philly in the All-Star Game (10-4, 3.31 first half) before a second-half swoon. 2004 was marred by two elbow-related DL stints, although he did have one special game that year.

 

Here, Wolf—now making $6.6M—is facing the biggest challenge of his major league career. That troublesome elbow didn't let up, and after half a season he finally underwent UCL surgery

 

 

THIS CARD: Wolf's motion was rare in that he'd wind up and sort of explode the ball to the plate, but end up in a square fielding position. He threw a low-90's heater, nasty changeup, late-breaking slider and a slow curve that could buckle dudes. (A cutter was added later.)

 

Nice of Topps to finally vary Wolf's front image; his 2002, 2003 and 2005 images are practically identical. I'm not going to even try and identify the park.


(flip) According to an unreliable source, "southpaw" originated from the 19th century—mounds were positioned with pitchers facing west, meaning left arms were on the southern side of the field. Whatevs.

 

Since Topps put in a redundant stat (4.14 career ERA); I'll use this space to tell you Wolf's career BB/K ratio was 2.29 to this point.

 

Wolf did not last 14-15 more years, but as you'll read below, he enjoyed plenty of post-op success.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Wolf made a full recovery from his surgery and returned to the mound in  2006...but was not effective; Philly allowed him to walk as a FA and he went all the way across the country to LA on a 1Y/$7.5M deal.

 

Through 2012, Wolf continued to be an effective starter mostly for the Dodgers and Brewers, with a solid stretch run for the 2008 Astros mixed in. After nearly three seasons, Milwaukee cut Wolf in late 2012, and from that point on it was nearly impossible to track Wolf's current MLB whereabouts.

 

The brother of umpire Jim Wolf signed with eight clubs over the next three years—his Seattle "tenure" was especially odd—but only received 75.2 innings of major league run during that time; in fact, he sat all of 2013 following a second UCL operation. After going 0-5 for the '14 Tigers, Wolf retired.

 

Randy Wolf debuted in 1999 Topps,  then appeared annually 2001-12 with one last 2014 Update card with the Marlins.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies