Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, December 2020
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A = Alternate Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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12/30/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps #6 League Leaders, NL Wins
More 2019 Topps League Leader Cards: n/a
We close 2020 with one last Topps Card Of The Day, and it's from one of my favorite—and least-explored—sets, 2019 Topps. This League Leaders card is only our third selection from 2019 Topps in 12 months of ownership....the Randomizer is clearly not as much a fan as I am.
In 2018, Nationals star Max Scherzer led/co-led his league in wins for the fourth time (two AL, two NL). He won six of his first seven starts and was 10-1 at one point; not until 5/25—his 11th start of 2018—did Scherzer allow more than two earned runs in a game!
Any feasible shot Scherzer had at 20 wins likely went kaput in June, when the Nationals offense/bullpen gave him losses in three games he could have easily won. For the year, Scherzer threw 11—ELEVEN—quality-or-much-better starts that did not lead to personal triumph, but he still emerged victorious 18 times. Just think: Scherzer could have legit won 29 frikkin' games in 2018!!!
THIS CARD: If you regularly peruse Topps COTD, you know I wrote the company in 2018 complaining of the League Leaders overkill in their 2017-18 sets (each set featured 30 LL cards rather than the usual 10-12, meaning extreme redundancy). I can never prove my words impacted anything, but the fact is, Topps (thankfully) scaled LL's back to 10 for the 2019 set.
Yes, those of you who didn't know: Scherzer has two different-colored eyes.
Scherzer held the NL wins lead outright with 18 on 9/25, when he made his final start. But Cubs ace Jon Lester won his third straight start for win #18 on 9/27, and St. Louis surprise Miles Mikolas tied both with his 5th win of the month on 9/29. Why Scherzer (and not the others) is featured here, I don't know, but at least Topps didn't produce cards for all three.
(flip) Our days of seeing win totals this high may be over. If MLB gets in 162 games in 2021, I'm predicting the wins leader to have no more than 14.
Second-year man Freeland placed 4th in NL Cy Young voting in 2018. He bounced back from a 1-4 start to finish 17-7, winning his final eight decisions.
The four players tied with 14 wins: Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs, Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams of the Pirates, and German Marquez of the Rockies.
AFTER THIS CARD: Scherzer was impacted by physical problems in 2019 and only won 11 games (still finishing third in NL Cy Young voting). He did notch five victories in the shortened 2020 season, good for an eighth-place tie in the NL. The likely Hall-of-Famer-in-waiting needs just 25 wins for 200 lifetime.
Mikolas co-led the NL in losses in 2019 and didn't pitch in 2020 (flexor tendon). Lester put up 13 wins in 2019 but only three in a tough 2020; he stands seven W's away from 200 career but is currently a free agent.
CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps, League Leaders
More December 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day
12/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps Update #210 Jason Vargas, Mariners
More Jason Vargas Topps Cards: 2005U 2006 2010U 2011 2012 2013 2013U 2014 2015 2017 2018 2018U 2019
I can't fathom how, out of over 30,000 Topps cards I own, the same player can be randomly selected less than three weeks apart. But...here we are. I'm warning you in advance the last part of this review is copied and pasted from our 11/15/20 review of Vargas's 2013 Topps Update card...my way of sticking it to the Randomizer.
Here, Vargas has just joined the Seattle Mariners in a complex three-team trade with the New York Mets and the Cleveland Indians in December 2008. Vargas, who had been with the Mets, missed the 2008 season recovering from October 2007 elbow surgery and March 2008 hip labrum surgery. He was as low-risk, high-reward of a case around, and his acquisition worked out well for Seattle.
THIS CARD: 2009 Topps is full of warm-up photos like this. I imagine the discussion went:
"Okay, Jason. Meet me on this empty, desolate ballfield. In full uniform, of course. I'm gonna give you a baseball and you act like you're about to throw it. Got it? Okay, wait, one more thing. Make sure your expressions look as unnatural as possible. We wouldn't want anyone thinking you're really playing catch, would we?"
Not visible is Vargas's uniform #38, which puts him in decent Mariners company; Danny Tartabull, Mike Jackson, early Raul Ibanez and Joel Piniero also wore #38. Not exactly Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle but hey, it's the Mariners.
(flip) That month of May, 2009 included two relief appearances and four starts for Vargas; his best game, naturally, was against my Giants. On 5/22 he allowed two hits and a run over seven innings vs. SF but received no decision.
I'm not looking up Vargas's final minor league ERAs—they shouldn't have changed much, if at all—but I'll tell you Vargas had a career 4.29 ERA at the end of 2019, when he last played.
Initially, I was not going to detail the Trade With Mets (And Indians). Then I decided I was going to. Now, after realizing the complexity of the deal one more time, I'll just direct you to Baseballreference.com for trade details.
Apple Valley is located 68 miles NE of Los Angeles, as the crow flies.
AFTER THIS CARD: Vargas split the rest of 2009 between starting and relieving, then became a Mariners rotation mainstay from 2010-12. After going 14-11, 3.85 in 2012, the Mariners swapped Vargas to the Angels for 1B/DH Kendrys Morales—evidently, since both were pending free agents, Seattle felt it needed the bat more than the arm.
Vargas spent a lone, injury-shortened season with the Angels, then Kansas City came calling, signing Vargas for 4Y/$32M in November 2013. After a quality 2014 year with the eventual AL champions, Vargas was unable to contribute on-field to the Royals' 2015 World Series title, as UCL surgery knocked him out from July 2015 to September 2016.
The veteran lefty bounced back in 2017 with a league-high 18 wins and his sole career All-Star berth, then signed a 2Y/$18M deal with the Mets in February 2018. Vargas began that year 2-8, 8.75 before turning things around in August; he also missed extended time with hand and calf injuries. In 2019, Vargas—despite shutting out my Giants in June—made more news off-field than on, and was traded to the Phillies at the deadline.
As we noted, Vargas went unsigned for 2020, and at 37 may be done.
Jason Vargas appeared annually in Topps and/or Topps Update 2005-19, except 2007-08 and 2016.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps Update, Seattle Mariners
12/3/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #275, Checklist
More 1998 Topps Checklists: n/a
Topps Checklist cards were heading toward extinction by 1998; they hung around for the 1999 set before disappearing from sets for about a decade.
As an 18-year-old collector who didn't yet have Internet access or the ability/patience to buy factory sets with checklists printed on the box, I needed in-set checklists. Before the strike, I always knew I was getting 792 cards (or more) in a Topps set; for years after the strike, I didn't know what I was getting without the Checklists cards.
Here, the 1998 Topps Checklist has increased by eight cards over 1997, thanks to a couple of subsets dedicated to the newly-introduced Interleague Play. Still, given the times, I took what I could get from the Company.
THIS CARD: Even after gloss was introduced to Topps cards in 1994, I filled out my Checklist cards...until the 1997 set, whose "checklist" was just a list of names with no box to check. As you see, Topps fixed that in 1998, but as you also see, I didn't bother filling them out anymore.
Honestly, I'm not sure how I tracked my collecting in 1998-99.
Names on that list I guarantee you forgot (if you ever knew): Roger Bailey, Rich Loiselle, Kevin Polcovich. The latter two were one-and-done in Topps and Bailey may as well have been.
(flip) It took me longer than it should have to find this card in my album because Topps omitted the card number. On both Series 1 Checklists, in fact. That was corrected for Series 2.
Names on that list I guarantee you forgot (if you ever knew): Kevin Orie, Mike Holtz, George Williams. The latter two were one-and-done in Topps and Orie may as well have been.
At least in 1998, stars still received the 0 and 5 card numbers, evidenced by #100 Mike Piazza and #150 Randy Johnson.
CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Checklists
12/5/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #463 Highlights, Paul Molitor 3,000th Hit
More 1997 Topps Highlights: n/a
Paul Molitor put up 188 hits in his second big league season, at age 22. In 1982, Milwaukee's lone World Series year to date, he stroked 201 more safeties. But going forward, he battled some debilitating injuries, and despite his famous 39-game hit streak in 1987, Molitor "only" possessed 1,870 hits at age 33.
Fortunately, if you choose to look at it that way, all the time Molitor missed in his 20's preserved his skillz well into his 40's. When he finally rediscovered consistent health, a bevy of high-hit seasons followed, including three seasons over 200 (all three leading the American League!)
Finally, in September 1996, 40-year-old Molitor joined the 3,000-hit club for the otherwise ordinary Minnesota Twins—his hometown team who signed him to a 1Y/$2M deal prior to 1996.
THIS CARD: That #4 was Molitor's staple through Milwaukee and Minnesota (it was taken by Alfredo Griffin in Toronto, and evidently the classy Molitor didn't push for it.)
Imagine the surprise when 17-year-old me ripped open packs of 1997 Topps to find...Highlight cards? Topps had never produced anything like them during my seven years of active collecting to that point. Highlights would appear in some form every year going forward, but these days they're relegated to Update sets and not blurbed; the reverses are Checklists.
In 1997 Topps Series 1, the player's team is under his name. In Series 2, the actual highlight is named.
(flip) Rosado was a pretty good pitcher done in too soon by arm problems. Minnesota went on to lose 6-5 that day, despite a two-run 9th inning comeback which included a sac fly by Molitor.
Today, 32 players have 3,000+ hits, and Ichiro Suzuki has also tripled to reach the milestone.
Molitor did indeed reach 3,200...and 3,300...finishing with 3,319 hits in 1998. He currently ranks 10th all-time, though with a good 2021 Albert Pujols may bump him to 11th.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Subsets
12/6/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #545 Dale Murphy, Phillies
More Dale Murphy Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1992 1993
Murphy, one of the 1980's great superstars, graces COTD for the second time; we profiled his 1990 Topps card back in July 2016.
Here, the longtime Atlanta Brave has closed the 1990 season as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, who leaned toward the left side and needed a little righty balance. Murphy, who had performed below standard offensively the past two-plus seasons, did benefit a bit from his change of scenery—his average after the trade was 34 points higher.
THIS CARD: Murphy's hard swing at an unidentified road ballpark. Murphy hit seven home runs as a 1990 Phillie, but only one in Philadelphia.
Murphy got to continue wearing his famed #3 as a Phillie. At the time of the trade, coach Darold Knowles had it, but he obviously gave it up for a great player. (Just as well; Knowles was fired after the season.)
This is actually one of Murphy's most action-packed Topps front images; a number of his Braves cards through the years were posed/inaction shots.
(flip) Murphy is listed as an outfielder; more specifically, the five-time Gold Glove CF was a RF by the 1990 season and played exclusively there before the trade. Philadelphia did start Murphy once apiece in left and center fields that first year.
Those league-leading K totals are almost humorous now. Murphy's worst strikeout years wouldn't even rank Top 10 in the NL these days.
Check out Murphy's 30-30 season for 1983 Atlanta; he was the second Brave to join that club, after Hank Aaron in 1963. Ron Gant (twice) and Ronald Acuna (2019) have since gained membership.
Murphy was traded with SP Tommy Greene in exchange for RP Jeff Parrett, OF Jim Vatcher and P Victor Rosario. Parrett had a decent run for several teams, but the others combined for 116 major league at-bats. But Atlanta, in a way, still won the trade because it opened up RF for Dave Justice.
AFTER THIS CARD: Philadelphia immediately extended Murphy's contract through 1992 upon acquiring him. The 35-year-old played almost every day in 1991, but was ordinary. Murphy missed a huge chunk of 1992 following knee surgery, and was released from his MiLB deal in early 1993 (after finding another team to sign with, expansion Colorado.)
Murphy the Rockie needed just two home runs to reach 400 and improve his waning Hall-of-Fame odds, but he fell short and chose to retire at 37 rather than be cut again. Murphy remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for all 15 years (it was 15 at the time; 10 now) but maxed out at 23.2% of the vote.
Dale Murphy appeared annually in Topps 1977-93.
CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies
12/8/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #230 Ken Griffey Jr., Star Power
More 1996 Topps Star Power Cards: #227
TSR Refresher: Star Power was the one-and-done subset that essentially replaced All-Star cards in 1996 Topps. Like their predecessors, Star Power subjects were not necessarily members of that year's All-Star squad.
Back in 1995, nobody was a bigger star than outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. of Seattle. One year after leading the AL in home runs and inspiring Roger Maris talk, Griffey would have played in his sixth straight Midsummer Classic in '95 were it not for a broken wrist suffered making a catch only he would make. Junior Griffey returned in time to score perhaps the most famous run of the 1990's that October.
And don't forget: the man had his own video game!
THIS CARD: Even today, the sight of Griffey in his prime, bat in hand in poised for damage, is incredible, isn't it? Every time he stepped up, fans had a chance to witness something special.
This is the second Star Power card we've selected for COTD. Back in June 2017, 1996 Topps #227, Ivan Rodriguez Star Power, came up.
This is also the third Dark Era non-common we've selected in just the first week of December. I'm not a probability expert, but those HAVE to be some miniscule odds we've just beaten.
(flip) Remember, April 1995 was abbreviated due to the strike and delayed Spring Training.
Griffey injured his wrist May 26, and returned August 15. As you can see, it took him some time to rediscover his stroke. (It was all good; Mike Blowers and Edgar Martinez were busy setting club records with 33 RBI that month.)
The Mariners were on fire in September 1995 with Griffey leading the charge; they won six of the seven games he homered in that month. Three of those bombs came in consecutive games 9/19-22; another was a tiebreaking grand slam in the 8th inning at Texas!
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Subsets
12/9/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps Update #138 Sean Marshall, Cubs
More Sean Marshall Topps Cards: 2005 2008 2009U 2010U 2012 2013 2014
Marshall, a BIG lefty starting pitcher out of Virginia, posted sub-3.00 ERAs in the minors annually 2003-05, and was named the Cubs' 6th-ranked prospect following that 2005 season. A solid Spring 2006 allowed the kid to bypass AAA and open the year in Chicago's rotation at age 23.
Marshall wound up making 24 starts for the Cubs in 2006 (and four more on a AAA rehab assignment for a July oblique injury). He owned a 3.12 ERA after six starts, but wasn't all that effective afterward. Here, Marshall has re-joined the Cubs rotation in late May 2007 after opening the year in the minors.
THIS CARD: Nice to see Marshall find his way into a 2007 Topps set; he pitched frequently enough in '06 to be included in the '07 base set, but evidently not well enough. Didn't use to matter...
Marshall sets up to throw either his curve, slider (the two pitches he leaned on most) or perhaps a two-seamer. He also had a four-seamer in the low 90's; from what I can tell he had a changeup early on but eventually phased it out.
Not a particularly legible signature, Sean Christopher Marshall. You'll make a fine doctor.
(flip) Look at those numbers for 2005 West Tennessee: four starts, 25 IP, a 0.84 WHIP and not a single victory...criminal.
Marshall somehow managed to average over five innings per start in '06 despite leaving a lot of games before the 5th inning (before it was trendy to do so).
Sean did not make a strong rookie impression in 2006, at least not a positive one. But in early 2007, Marshall looked like possibly MLB's most improved pitcher; he was 3-2, 2.84 after six starts and threw 6.1 shutout innings in the eighth start! He'd finish '07 at 7-8, 3.92 in 19 starts and two relieves.
AFTER THIS CARD: During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Marshall shifted between starting and relieving but come 2010, Chicago left him in the bullpen and watched as he posted a 2.65 ERA in 80 appearances. The team locked him with a for 2Y/$4.7M deal that winter.
After Marshall's strong 2011 season, new exec Theo Epstein dealt him to Cincinnati, who soon extended him for 3Y/$16.5M. Marshall rewarded the Reds handsomely in '12, and my Giants were hapless against him in that year's NLDS. (But SF won the series anyway.)
It began to come apart for Marshall in 2013; shoulder tendinitis and a shoulder sprain sidelined him twice for long stretches, though he shined when able to pitch. Marshall lost most of 2014 as well, this time to shoulder surgery; a second surgery to repair a tear in the shoulder finished him off for good in 2015 at age 32...thank heavens he got paid first.
Sean Marshall debuted in 2005 Topps as a First Year player, then appeared annually in either Topps or Topps Update 2007-14, except 2011. (I was truly shocked 2014 Topps didn't forget about him.)
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps Update, Chicago Cubs
12/11/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #279 R.A. Dickey, Mets
More R.A. Dickey Topps Cards: 2005 2011 2013 2013A 2014 2015 2016 2017
Here, Dickey is coming off a tough-luck 2011 season. From July 30th on, he made eight quality starts that he did not win, and finished 8-13 despite a 3.28 ERA that ranked 12th in the NL.
THIS CARD: True, Dickey looks slightly crazed here, but in interviews and public appearances he always seemed, well...sane. It can't hurt for hitters to think you've got screws loose, however.
You can practically see that knuckleball not spinning right out of Dickey's hand.
Dickey wore #43, shared by dozens of other Mets through the years. By way of winning the 2012 Cy Young, Dickey is the most noteworthy Met to wear the number. Pitcher Erasmo Ramirez wore #43 for six games in 2020.
(flip) The knuckler was indeed not Dickey's only pitch. Remember, he came up as a conventional starting pitcher and even after adopting the knuckleball—of which he threw two types—Dickey still featured a low-80's fastball. (And maybe a curve, too, though I cannot find anything to substantiate my questionable memory.)
Yes, Johnny Damon did play a season with the Rays (2011). If you think it looks strange in print, try actually seeing him in the uniform.
No matter how many times I view Dickey's stats, I'm taken aback that he pitched (and pitched so frequently) for the Mariners and Twins. I have zero memories of Dickey between his Rangers and Mets stints; he was ordinary on the mound at best, and nobody was talking about him much.
AFTER THIS CARD: As you may know, in 2012 Dickey made the All-Star team, won 20 games and took home the Cy Young award for the Mets, but New York moved him to the Jays that winter rather than fork over a contract extension. In both 2013 and 2014, Dickey made 34 starts and went 14-13 as a Blue Jay, also winning a Gold Glove in 2013.
In 2015-16, Dickey slipped to an ordinary 21-26 for Toronto; he was hammered in the '15 ALCS and left off the '16 ALCS roster (at least the Jays exercised his '16 option for $12M, though.) Now 42, Dickey signed a 1Y/$7.5M deal with the 2017 Braves and finished 10-10, 4.26. He did not pitch again.
R.A. Dickey debuted in 2005 Topps, went AWOL for five sets, then appeared annually 2011-17 (including twice in 2013).
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, New York Mets
12/12/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #327 Ken Williams, Tigers
More Ken Williams Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1989T 1991
Yes, before he became the longtime general manager and executive vice president of the Chicago White Sox, Ken (or Kenny) Williams was a player himself. A former #3 pick of the Sox in '82, by 1987 Williams was playing extensively in the Chicago outfield.
For 1988, the White Sox shifted Williams to 3B to accommodate young Lance Johnson in CF, but both men struggled and plans changed. Williams also missed time that year with a stress fracture in his foot.
Here, the 25-year-old is coming a 1989 season spent with the Detroit Tigers, who traded for him during Spring Training of that year.
THIS CARD: Somewhere off-camera, Alan Trammell must be doing something hilarious. Maybe he's imitating Sparky Anderson.
As you can see, this card looks every bit its age, and more, since I did not take care of my 1990 Topps set at all. I kept them in a box, unprotected, separated by rubber bands. But I was just 10.
More from Williams' 1989 season: originally set to platoon in CF with Gary Pettis, Williams started 71 games across all three outfield spots instead. He had a seven-game hit streak in April, and batted .563 against his old White Sox teammates!
(flip) I have owned this card for 30 years and can almost swear I've never read it before. An all-football blurb would have stood out in my mind, especially in the year 1990 when blurbs weren't particularly interesting.
Williams teamed with John Elway at Stanford; he was also a defensive back when not returning kicks. (Williams' native Berkeley is, of course, the home of Stanford's rival California.)
Williams was traded (on my 9th birthday) to the Tigers in exchange for P Eric King.
Those nine SB in 1989 came in 13 attempts (70%), a step forward from Williams' 55% success rate of 1988.
AFTER THIS CARD: Detroit waived an unproductive Williams in June 1990. Toronto picked him up, but waived him as well in June 1991. Williams' MLB playing career ended with 74 AB for the 1991 Expos.
Williams returned to the White Sox organization in several capacities before being named general manager after the 2000 season. You may have heard of his 2005 Sox squad ending an 88-year championship drought, or his subsequent ugly split with star Frank Thomas.
After the 2012 season, Williams was named executive VP of baseball operations, a position he still holds as of this writing. In recent years he's dealt with one or two, uh, "distractions".
Ken Williams appeared annually in Topps 1988-91. He's also got a 1989 Traded card.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Chicago White Sox
12/14/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #459 Joe Mays, Twins
More Joe Mays Topps Cards: 2001 2003 2004 2005
Starting pitcher Joe Mays was part of those early 2000's Twins teams that spit in the face of contraction and made the playoffs three straight years. A big winner in the minors, Mays won a job with the 1999 Twins, working in long relief before moving into the rotation in June.
Here, after a bumpy 2000 season during which he was briefly removed from the Twins rotation, Mays has broken through with an All-Star 2001 campaign. He led the Twins in wins, innings and ERA, and threw at least six innings in 30 of 34 starts.
THIS CARD: I should be able to identify this grip, but I can't. Mays threw a low-90's fastball, a sinker, curve and changeup. He liked to use that sinker, though.
Mays originally wore #53 as a Twin before switching to #25. Other notable Twins to wear #25: the great Jim Thome, longtime Twin Randy Bush, and current wearer Byron Buxton.
Not enough for me to identify the road ballpark. Mays was 10-6, 3.00 in 19 GS away from the Metrodome in 2001.
(flip) Mays' 2001 shutouts included a 5/30 five-hitter at Anaheim and a 9/20 six-hitter vs. Detroit.
The only 2001 start vs. Detroit Mays didn't win? His 10/4 season finale; Mays threw six shutout innings but watched his bullpen blow his lead. Minnesota still won, however.
Joe Mays, the very rare switch-hitting pitcher. Lifetime, Mays was 4-for-20 from the left side and 2-for-4 from the right side. He also drew three walks for a respectable career .333 OBP. (Interesting, as Mays was only 1-for-16 in the minors.)
AFTER THIS CARD: In January 2002, Minnesota locked Mays up for 4Y/$20M, but that proved to be a mistake. He injured his elbow in April 2002 and missed three months; upon returning, he posted a 5.38 ERA over the rest of '02 (not counting a fine playoff start vs. the Angels). In '03 Mays was no better, and underwent UCL surgery that September.
Mays returned to the mound in April 2005, but the surgery robbed him of his sinker; after 7/22 Mays registered a 9.00 ERA and a WHIP over two. That winter his contract expired, and after 13 games for the Royals and Reds in 2006, his MLB career expired as well. Mays did make eight starts for AAA Las Vegas (Dodgers) in 2007 before leaving pro baseball.
Joe Mays appeared in 2001-05 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Minnesota Twins
12/15/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #392 Tim Worrell, Padres
More Tim Worrell Topps Cards: 1994 2001T 2003 2004 2005
Showing he was more than Todd's little brother, Tim Worrell put together two fine seasons as a starter in the Padres' system 1991-92. He was promoted to the rebuilding club in 1993, working both out of the rotation and pen, with mixed results.
In the rotation and off to a fine beginning to 1994, Worrell blew out his elbow in his third start; the ensuing UCL surgery and rehab kept him out of the majors until September 1995.
Here, Worrell comes off a generally healthy 1996 season, all of which was spent on the Padres roster. He opened and closed the year in relief, making 11 non-consecutive starts in between for Bruce Bochy.
THIS CARD: A bit surprising to find Worrell in this set, as very few swingmen received Topps cards during the Dark Era. Maybe because the 1996 Padres were a playoff team? That has always increased the odds of Topps inclusion.
Wherever Worrell is pitching at, it's a turf field. Back in 1996, there were still several in the National League, so I can't really pinpoint the locale.
Worrell originally wore #58 before switching to #36. Older Padre fans remember Gaylord Perry winning the 1978 Cy Young award wearing that number, while newer fans will attribute it to longtime Padre pitching coach Darren Balsley.
(flip) Can YOU figure out why "DRFT" isn't spelled out, with that acre of adjacent open space?
Worrell's lone 1996 save went down 7/16; he worked the final three innings of a 10-1 Padres win over the Dodgers (take THAT!)
I was surprised to find so many others from Worrell's low-ish draft round made it to MLB. In fact, Jeff Kent was taken three spots behind Worrell.
AFTER THIS CARD: Worrell spent one more season with the Padres; he broke his left hand punching a wall in May 1997, got ejected after two innings in his next game, and generally endured a tough year. That off-season, the Padres dealt Worrell to Detroit, the first of five teams he'd suit up for over the 1998-2000 seasons.
Finally, in 2001-02, Worrell stuck with the Giants as a setup man for CL Robb Nen. When Nen couldn't recover from off-season surgery, Worrell was elevated to closer for 2003 and responded with 38 saves in 45 chances, though he took the loss in the infamous Jose Cruz Jr. "Drop Game" (aka Game 3 of the 2003 NLDS vs. Florida).
That winter, Worrell signed with the Phillies for 2Y/$5.5M to set up for CL Billy Wagner. In 2004, he wound up subbing for the injured Wagner as closer for much of the year, racking up 19 saves. But in 2005, Worrell was sidelined with personal issues and never got it going for the Phils.
After finishing '05 strong with the D'Backs, Worrell returned to the Giants for 2Y/$4M (as with Jose Vizcaino's return, I have zero memory of this). He began 2006 as the team's closer, but didn't pitch after 6/27 and underwent shoulder surgery in August. That, coupled with neck problems, led 38-year-old Worrell to hang up his cleats in January 2007.
Worrell then coached for a time in the Padres farm system; I'm not certain of his current endeavors. He appeared in 1994, 1997 and 2003-05 Topps, plus 2001 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, San Diego Padres
12/17/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #511 Endy Chavez, Nationals
More Endy Chavez Topps Cards: 2004 2005U 2006 2006U 2007 2008 2009U 2012 2013 2013U
Outfielder Endy Chavez played 13 major league seasons, and played a lot in some of them. I'm sure he had many, many fine moments and contributed in a variety of ways to a number of victories.
But all he'll ever be remembered for long-term is "The Robbery". You've probably seen it: Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Chavez's Mets vs. the Cardinals. Scott Rolen hits what looks like a roundtripper to left. But Chavez, almost if possessed, springs high off the ground, snags the ball well over the wall, and proceeds to start a double play.
One of the greatest defensive plays in MLB postseason history.
But here, he's one of the original Washington Nationals, carried over from the Expos for whom he played 2002-04. Chavez had been a regular in 2004 and went into Spring Training with the CF job to lose...which he did, opening the '05 season in AAA.
THIS CARD: Chavez puts one in play against the Mets, one of whom is visible in the background. Chavez was a decent hitter and good bunter; Montreal miscast him as a leadoff hitter early in his career but he didn't have the plate discipline for that role.
This was among the first Nationals cards to appear in a Topps set. 2005 Topps Series 1 featured Expos, 2005 Topps Series 2 featured Nationals.
More from Chavez's 2004 season: he opened the year in AAA but ended up starting 122 games for the Expos, all of them in center field, and started a league-high five double plays. He was very effective in May, opening the month with four multi-hit games out of six and registering a pair of four-hit games later in the month. Chavez also hit .337 in July!
(flip) Washington's hopes were dashed; Chavez never developed the patience it sought.
Bowden, hired by the ExpoNats in November 2004, thought so highly of Chavez that he moved him to Philadelphia shortly into the 2005 season. Maybe that line from the blurb was his sales pitch?
AFTER THIS CARD: Chavez closed 2005 with the Phillies, then spent 2006-08 as a part-timer with the Mets. He joined Seattle as a reserve for '09, but tore his ACL in a June collision and only played a handful of minor league games in '10 before a knee strain cut that season short, as well.
For the rest of his MLB career, Chavez would serve as a fourth outfielder, suiting up for Texas (2011) Baltimore (2012) and Seattle again (2013-14). His pro career wrapped in the Independent League in 2018, at age 40. At last check (2020), Chavez was coaching in the Mets' low minors.
Endy Chavez appeared in Topps and/or Topps Update annually 2004-13, except 2010-11.
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Washington Nationals
12/18/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #437 Dayan Viciedo, White Sox
More Dayan Viciedo Topps Cards: 2010U 2011 2012 2013U 2014
Without going into explicit detail, I'll just tell you that Viciedo was a very big deal as an amateur in his native Cuba. He defected to the US in 2008, at 19, and signed a 4Y/$10M deal with the Chicago White Sox.
Viciedo, then a corner infielder, debuted in Chicago in mid-2010 but wasn't quite ready to stick. After a shift to the outfield in 2011, Viciedo had a productive season in AAA; Chicago recalled him in August to replace injured Carlos Quentin on the Sox' roster.
Here, Viciedo is coming off his first full major league season. He spent 2012 as Chicago's regular LF in intraleague games and finished third on the team in RBI while committing just two errors.
THIS CARD: Viciedo has #24, the old number of past White Sox such as Joe Crede, Mike Cameron, and going back to the 1980's, Floyd Bannister. Today, #24 belongs to Yasmani Grandal.
The two patches pay tribute to the late Bill "Moose" Skowron (BMS) and Kevin Hickey (Hic-Man). Both men were former players who worked for the White Sox.
I don't think Viciedo barrels this one up. He's just a tad late, and the ball seems a bit up the handle. Soft liner to shortstop, IMHO.
(flip) Of Viciedo's 78 RBI in 2012, five came in one game 5/26 vs. Cleveland. That was part of a three-game, nine-RBI series and part of the blurbed seven-game span.
Viciedo was not breaking Bonds' record unless they banned outfielders in Major League Baseball after the 2012 season.
Robinson was an outfielder with the White Sox 1960-66. He was the 1962 AL doubles champion and finished third in Rookie Of The Year voting in 1961.
AFTER THIS CARD: Viciedo missed three weeks of 2013 with an oblique injury, and slipped down to 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 124 games. Off to a solid start in '14, Viciedo hit exactly .200 from June 1 on (albeit with power). In a somewhat surprising move, the White Sox re-signed him for 1Y/$4.4M for 2015. Then, in a more surprising move, they released him in February 2015.
Viciedo then passed through the Toronto and Oakland organizations before signing a MiLB deal with those familiar White Sox to close 2015. Approaching 27, Viciedo then signed with the Chunichi Dragons of the Japan League, and completed his fifth season there in 2020.
Dayan Viciedo debuted in 2010 Topps Update, then appeared in the base set 2011-14. For some reason, he appeared in 2013 Topps Update with Chicago, even though he was already in the 2013 base set with Chicago.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Chicago White Sox, Quirks
12/20/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #137 Chad Kreuter, Royals
More Chad Kreuter Topps Cards: 1989 1990 1993 1994 1995 2001 2002
Chad Kreuter was a journeyman catcher whose glove, more than his bat, kept him in MLB for 16 years. He was originally a Texas Ranger for parts of the 1988-91 seasons, but barely hit at all. That, coupled with the emergence of Pudge Rodriguez, spelled the end of Kreuter in Texas.
Next came three seasons with the Tigers; Kreuter's hitting came around and he received extended playing time on the 1993 squad, shifting incumbent Mickey Tettleton into a utility role. But Kreuter couldn't keep it going in '94 and was not re-signed.
Next, Kreuter found employment with the 1995 Mariners, then proceeded to zig-zag between the White Sox and Angels twice each 1996-98 while hitting a combined .237 with 10 home runs. Here, he's completed a 1Y/$725K deal with the 1999 Royals; Kreuter started 85 times that year while sharing time behind the plate with fellow journeyman Tim Spehr.
THIS CARD: Kreuter's left-handed stroke in action at Kauffman Stadium. In 1999 he hit .217 with three home runs in 281 AB as a lefty compared to .279 from the right side. But lifetime he batted .239 lefty and .232 righty.
I have always had a problem spelling Kreuter's name properly, including in this write-up, largely due to the existence of pitcher Bill Krueger. So here's another personal reminder: it's K-R-E-U-T-E-R, not K-R-U-E-T-E-R.
Kreuter wears #19, worn by many, many other Royals through the years. Cheslor Cuthbert had it 2015-19; Franchy Cordero wore it in 2020.
(flip) You now see the zigzagging I referred to between the White Sox and Angels. Kreuter signed with Chicago for '96, then was dealt to Anaheim in the Tony Phillips trade of May 1997. He re-signed with Chicago for '98, then was moved to Anaheim again in September 1998—truly the Ron Hassey of his time.
Interesting blurb. Kreuter's left shoulder was wrecked by a horrific July 1996 collision with KC's Johnny Damon (a 1999 Royals teammate...awkward much??); he suffered a bad separation and multiple fractures. $40K of metal probably guaranteed Kreuter a lifetime of difficulties at airports nationwide.
Of Kreuter's five home runs in '99, three tied games the Royals were trailing...he made 'em count.
AFTER THIS CARD: As a 2000 Dodger, Kreuter gained infamy in May of that year for being slapped in the head by a hat-stealing Cubs fan—the ensuing fracas led to many suspensions and fines. Still, LA re-upped the 36-year-old for 2Y/$2.3M; he'd get in 104 games for the Dodgers over the 2001-02 seasons and was credited with boosting SP Chan Ho Park's game.
Largely due to the struggles of now-Ranger Park, Texas brought Kreuter back on a MiLB deal for '03 but the veteran backstop didn't make it to May before being sent packing (Park would later sue him, but that's another story.)
That was it for Kreuter as a player; he'd later coach at USC and is currently managing in the Mets farm system.
Chad Kreuter appeared in 1989-90, 1993-95 and 2000-02 Topps. He had no Traded cards.
CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Kansas City Royals
12/21/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #96 Trevor Wilson, Giants
More Trevor Wilson Topps Cards: 1989 1990 1992 1993 1994 1995T
Finally, another Giant!
When you think Trevor Wilson, the first thing that comes to mind is the grimace. On every pitch, regardless of the situation, a strained expression would occupy Wilson's face, causing anyone unfamiliar with him to wonder if the poor guy was all right.
Grimacing aside, Wilson was a guy who statistically wasn't that bad at all, but would often frustrate fans such as myself with his inconsistency. He debuted as a Giant with four winless starts in '88 and got another limited look in '89, but here, Wilson has spent most of the 1990 season with the Giants. Initially, he was used as a starter and at times was brilliant, but San Francisco moved him to the bullpen to finish the season.
THIS CARD: I'll guess that Wilson is attacking with the curve or slider here, he also threw a live fastball and a changeup.
This marks our first Giants COTD since March 10, 2020. During that time frame I estimate we've selected 20 Indians and Blue Jays each.
More from Wilson's 1990 season: he turned heads in his second start by no-hitting the Padres through eight innings! Mike Pagliarulo spoiled the fun with a leadoff single in the 9th, but Wilson still finished off the shutout.
(flip) A few other Oregon City alums have since signed pro contracts, but Wilson is the lone alum to reach the majors. Thanks to thebaseballcube.com for that data.
Wilson's other 1990 shutout? In Game #161, he whitewashed the Dodgers on two hits. Absolutely beautiful.
Check out Wilson's numbers for 1987 Clinton (A). That 2.01 ERA ranked second in the Midwest league among pitchers with 100+ innings. The immortal Keith Brown raked first (1.59).
AFTER THIS CARD: Wilson grew into a valuable member of the 1991 Giants staff, leading the team in wins, ERA and strikeouts despite making just 29 starts. But he opened the '92 season on the DL after having portions of two ribs removed, finished 8-14, 4.21, got bloodied in a brawl and didn't pitch in September. Wilson was disabled three times in 1993 with a bad shoulder that was eventually operated on, wiping out his 1994 campaign.
Wilson returned to make 17 starts in '95, but they covered only 82 innings and he underwent another operation. The 31-year-old was not seen in the majors again until 1998, when he got in a handful of games as an Angels reliever. Those would be his last in MLB; Wilson went on to coach in both the Giants and Angels minor league systems. He is fondly remembered today as a good Giant.
Trevor Wilson appeared in 1989-94 Topps, with one last dip in 1995 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, San Francisco Giants
12/23/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #310 Adrian Beltre, Rangers
More Adrian Beltre Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
By the time of this card's release, Adrian Beltre had re-established himself as one of the top third basemen in at least the AL, if not all of baseball. After no recognition in his first 12 seasons, Beltre made his second straight All-Star squad in 2011 and also won both the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove for the third time—all despite missing nearly 40 games that year.
Beltre, of course, had originally been a member of the Dodgers, for whom he debuted in 1998 at 19. Several equally promising and middling seasons followed, then Beltre exploded with an MVP-caliber season in 2004—just in time for free agency. He signed a 5Y/$64M deal with Seattle and though he put up decent-to-good offensive numbers for the Mariners, they were nowhere near what he'd produced in '04.
Here, Beltre is about to enter Year #2 with the Rangers, who inked him to a 5Y/$80M deal in January 2011 following his strong 2010 season with the Red Sox.
THIS CARD: What to make of this pic? Why is the background out-of-focus with Beltre almost looking Photoshopped in? I can't recall Topps trying to pull a fast one like this in 2012 or any other year until 2020 Update. It's not a bad concept, it's just random as random has ever been.
After a couple semi-redundant Mariners front images, Beltre the Ranger had great variety with his Topps front images over the years. In fact, this is the only one to depict him at-bat.
Beltre wore #29 in all 21 of his MLB seasons except 2005 (Bret Boone was still around and had claim to #29, so Beltre took #5). That number, as you may know, was retired by the Rangers in Beltre's honor in 2019.
(flip) Those 32 HR in 2011 tied for the team lead, and the 105 RBI trailed Michael Young by one. Beltre's .561 SLG did lead the club (500+ PA).
Beltre was limited to 124 games in 2011 by a bad hamstring strain suffered 7/23 against Toronto. To that point, he'd only missed one game all year.
No blurb, so we'll supply one: Beltre smoked his 300th career home run 9/11/11 against Oakland's Josh Outman. Two innings later, he ripped #301 against Andrew Carignan!
AFTER THIS CARD: Beltre continued to hit and hit well in his early-mid Texas years, and as he continued to put up numbers, a couple of exclusive milestones became very reachable. By averaging 182 hits a year 2012-16, Beltre was able to join the 3,000 hit club in 2017, but fell 23 short of the 500-home run club. (477 certainly isn't shabby.)
The 39-year-old retired after the 2018 season, and as it presently stands, he's set to become one of the few third basemen elected to the Hall of Fame (he's eligible in 2024). I'll actually applaud for Beltre when he's inducted—I think of him more as a Ranger than a Dodger.
Adrian Beltre appeared annually in Topps 1998-2018, as well as 2005, 2010 and 2011 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Texas Rangers
12/24/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #432 Dillon Gee, Mets
More Dillon Gee Topps Cards: 2011 2012 2013 2015
A SFBA sports talk radio host once told the story of speaking with 1990's Warriors F Billy Owens after a game. Owens, at one point in the chat, stated that asking him to "play hard every night" was essentially asking too much.
The host, whose identity I cannot recall, advised Owens to never say those words out loud again for the sake of his career.
Evidently, no one ever warned onetime Mets SP Dillon Gee not to say "I don't care anymore" out loud. As a semi-direct result, Gee's once-promising career torpedoed...more on that later.
Here, Gee has entered what would be a frustrating 2014 season. He had been a 12-game winner the year before, leading the '13 Mets in starts and innings while sextupling his salary to $3.6M for the 2014 season.
THIS CARD: Well, this is one of the most obvious pitch grips we've ever showcased in COTD. Gee, who only threw about 90, featured a tough changeup that tailed away from lefty hitters; you're seeing it here.
Obscured by the mitt is Gee's #35; the most notable past Met to wear #35 for any length of time was Rick Reed 1997-2001 (although the likes of rookie Jon Matlack and rookie Kevin Mitchell briefly had it). RP Jared Hughes wore it in 2020.
More from Gee's 2013 season: he was all set to shut out the Braves 1-0 in Atlanta when Freddie Freeman belted a two-run walk-off homer against him with one out in the 9th—the rare-for-the-times CG that ends in such a way. Gee's other 2013 CG was also unusual; it was shortened by weather to six innings, but this time Gee picked up the win at Philadelphia.
(flip) Gee did indeed begin the year 2-6, 6.34 but finished 10-5, 2.71.
All 32 of Gee's 2013 games were starts; no other Met had more than 26.
Before researching, I'm going to guess the first Mets SP with such a fine debut was Doc Gooden. (After researching, I've been proven dead wrong; the correct answer was Jason Isringhausen in 1995...he was a fine starter once upon a time. Thanks, MLB.com)
AFTER THIS CARD: Gee lost two months of 2014 with a strained lat and only won seven of 22 s