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Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, December 2022

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A = Alternate Card  •  B = Bonus Factory Set Card  •  F = Factory Team Set  •  G = Giveaway Set  •  I = Insert Card  •  T = Traded Set  •  U = Update Set

 

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Topps Carl Crawford
Topps Carl Crawford

12/31/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #368 Carl Crawford, Red Sox

More Carl Crawford Topps Cards: 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2011U 2012U 2013 2014 2015 2016

If there was a Hall of Fame voting for each individual decade, Crawford would have been a shoo-in for the 00's election. He did it all for the (Devil) Rays from 2002-10, and by "all", I mean: 

  • leading the AL in steals four times

  • leading the AL in triples four other times,

  • winning a Gold Glove in the outfield,

  • winning a Silver Slugger, and

  • winning the All-Star MVP award in 2009.

Unfortunately, Crawford was so ordinary from his age-29 season onward that he received no consideration for the actual Hall of Fame...but he still had an excellent career. Here, Crawford is fresh off his first season with the Red Sox, who plucked him away from division rival Tampa Bay with a 7Y/$142M deal in December 2010. His overall performance slipped in 2011, but he was able to bang out career hit #1,500 in early May.

THIS CARD: One of two things is happening: A) the Royals catcher didn't realize how big Crawford was when he offered to play horsey, or B) Crawford is taking no prisoners attempting to score since—after Buster Posey's broken leg in May 2011—obliterating catchers at home plate would soon be outlawed.

According to Getty Images, this pic was shot 8/18/2011 at Kansas City. A VERY young Salvador Perez survives the collision and records the out on Crawford, who was trying to score on Mike Aviles' fly to center, to end the T4th. Boston still won 4-3, however.

More from Crawford's 2011 season: he got off to a cold start at the plate, hitting just .197 thru 5/5. But he soon warmed up, with an 11-game hit streak to kick May off and back-to-back four-hit games 5/25 and 5/26. On 9/3 vs. Texas, Crawford belted a grand slam off Yoshinori Tateyama, the fourth of his career!

(flip) If I know friends...they probably still ragged on Crawford even once he got to the big leagues. And he probably wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

See those 130 games in 2011? Crawford spent some time on the DL with a mid-season hamstring injury, and also sat out a handful of contests with elbow and neck issues after that.

As you see in the stats, Crawford's 2011 K total matched his 2010 K total...but in almost 100 fewer at-bats. Strange, considering he didn't even swap divisions and shouldn't have been seeing all that many unfamiliar pitchers. But Crawford WAS seeing Rays pitchers for the first time...and most of them were darn good.

AFTER THIS CARD: Troubled by a wrist injury early in 2012 and a groin injury after that, Crawford underwent UCL surgery that August and didn't play again until Opening Day 2013—by which time he was (happily) a member of the Dodgers, who acquired him in a MEGATRADE two days after his surgery.

Crawford played well enough during his first two Dodger campaigns (2013-14), especially in a torrid 2013 NLDS. But he didn't play as often as hoped due to hamstring (2013) and ankle (2014) injuries.

Now 34, Crawford lost more than half of 2015 with a late April oblique tear; he batted just 181 times that year. The Dodgers cut ties with their struggling, injury-plagued, now-reserve outfielder in June 2016, eating $35M in the process. Though Crawford never played professionally again, for a month in 2020 he made his share of news—none of it good.

Carl Crawford appeared annually in Topps 2003-16, with Update cards in 2011-12.

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Boston Red Sox

Crawford_Carl

More December 2022 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Sandy Alcantara
Topps Sandy Alcantara

12/1/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps Update #104 Sandy Alcantara, All-Star

More Sandy Alcantara All-Star Topps Cards: 2022UI

The list of 6-14 pitchers to make All-Star teams is not a long one. The list of league co-leaders in losses to make All-Star teams is probably even shorter. But in 2019, Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins ended up being both in his first full MLB season.

Alcantara, who made 14 appearances (six starts) for the 2017-18 Marlins before sticking in 2019, got off to a 1-3, 4.86 start to the season. But he went 3-4, 2.83 in his next nine starts, putting him in position to represent Miami—who was not exactly stacked with talent—in the 2019 Midsummer Classic. 

THIS CARD: 2018 marked Miami's first season with this logo/uniform. I don't dislike this one, but I liked the rainbowy look of 2012-17 better.

Over the years, some of Topps' All-Star Game logos have been difficult to spot, leading to me mis-sorting a card or two. No chance of that happening here—that logo is MASSIVE.

Per Getty Images, we're indeed seeing Alcantara in action at Cleveland's Progressive Field in the 2019 ASG. I wasn't able to narrow it down to batter, however.

(flip) Alcantara finished 2019 with 23 HRA in 197.1 innings...not shabby in this era. In 2022 he led MLB with 228.2 innings and allowed all of 16 homers!

In that first start, Alcantara beat the Rockies in Miami 3-0, scattering four hits and whiffing six.

In that one-hit All-Star eighth inning, Yankees 2B Gleyber Torres supplied the (infield) hit. Alcantara then struck out KC 2B Whit Merrifield and retired White Sox 1B Jose Abreu via 6-4-3 double play. The AL still won 4-3, however.

AFTER THIS CARD: Of course, there was no ASG in 2020; Alcantara had a strong case to represent the Marlins at the 2021 Classic but young SP Trevor Rogers was chosen instead. 

In 2022, there was no denying Alcantara an All-Star berth at minimum; he went 9-4, 1.76 in 19 first-half starts and could have started the All-Star Game, but Dodgers legend Clayton Kershaw took the ball instead. As consolation, Alcantara claimed the NL Cy Young Award and seems primed to make his share of All-Star appearances—maybe even starts—in the future.

Sandy Alcantara received All-Star cards in 2019 and 2022 Topps Update, the latter being an insert card (which will indeed join the COTD rotation once it is acquired).

CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps Update, All-Stars

AlcantaraAS
Topps Scott Schebler
Topps Scott Schebler

12/2/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps Update #73 Scott Schebler, Reds

More Scott Schebler Topps Cards: 2017 2018 2019

As I commenced a Google search to dig up info on today's COTD subject, Autofill did its job, supplying a long list of names beginning with "Scott Sc". One of them was former Beverly Hills, 90210 character Scott Scanlon, who starred in Season 1 before being killed off and is barely remembered today.

One must ask, whose star shined brighter: one-season teen hearthrob Scott Scanlon, or one-season MLB homer hero Scott Schebler? As part of one of the most successful shows of its time, Scanlon was seen by millions every week and his actor still gets some sort of royalties, I'm sure. As part of a proud-but-struggling Reds franchise, Schebler was seen by about 100K every week, and his success didn't last long enough to set him for life financially.

Wow...this ended up being tougher than I expected. Let's call it a draw.

Here, Schebler—pronounced SHEBB-Ler—is in the midst of his first extended MLB trial. Acquired from the Dodgers in December 2015, the young outfielder won a part-time job with the 2016 Reds and wasted little time making an impact, delivering a game-winning hit in the season's second game.

THIS CARD: We're seeing Schebler as he cracks a B6th homer against the Cubs 4/23/2016. That helped the Reds to a 13-5 win—sorely needed after falling to the eventual champs by a combined score of 24-1 the previous two nights.

After wearing #30 during his initial MLB go-round with the 2015 Dodgers, Schebler took #43 in Cincinnati, a number also worn by notable Reds like top starter Jack Billingham in the 1970's and ace rookie reliever Alexis Diaz in 2022. (Schebler would go on to wear #45 with the 2020 Braves and #44 with the 2021 Angels.)

More from Schebler's early 2016 season: he served in a semi-platoon in LF with Adam Duvall while also doing a heavy amount of pinch-hitting. Unfortunately, Schebler closed April in a 4-for-46 skid and was optioned to AAA Louisville in early May; he remained there past the All-Star break.

(flip) That walk-off double was hit off Philadelphia's Dalier Hinojosa, an ex-Cuban star who appeared 29 times for the 2015-16 Phils and threw well. I had never once even tangentially heard of him before tonight, however.

Who the hell has time to play five sports in high school? Unless Schebler was one of those athetes who had others "help" him complete his assignments, it's tough to see how he pulled it off.

That three-team trade also involved the White Sox; 3B Todd Frazier went from Cincy to Chicago, with OF Trayce Thompson and SP Frankie Montas—both prospects at the time—going from Chicago to Los Angeles. IF Jose Peraza, who became the Reds regular SS in the late '10's, joined Schebler on the "ride" from L.A. to Cincinnati.

AFTER THIS CARD: Schebler finished 2016 as (the traded) Jay Bruce's successor in RF for the Reds, a position he retained in 2017. That year, Schebler smacked 30 home runs in 473 at-bats, but in 2018 he lost six weeks with a shoulder sprain suffered while catching a popup; he hit just .202 in 31 games after returning in late August.

In '2019, the 28-year-old opened as Cincinnati's CF, but was demoted to AAA Louisville in May with a .123 average, never to return to the Reds. They DFA'd Schebler just before the delayed 2020 season opened; Atlanta traded for him, gave him one at-bat on 8/5, then outrighted him to their alternate training site (remember, no minors that year).

Schebler's last MLB opportunity to date came with the 2021 Angels, who watched him go 5-for-34 across two stints with the team; he then failed to make the 2022 Rockies roster and was cut that July. With exactly 15 hits and 44 K in his past 116 major league at-bats, we may have seen the last of Schebler as a major league player.

Scott Schebler debuted in 2016 Topps Update, then appeared in the base set 2017-19.

CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps Update, Cincinnati Reds

Schebler
Topps Eric Young Sr.
Topps Eric Young Sr.

12/3/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #28 Eric Young Sr., Cubs

More Eric Young Sr. Topps Cards: 1993 1993A 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004 2005

Here, we catch up with the longtime MLB second baseman as he wraps up his second year with the Cubs. In 2001, Young wasn't quite the terror he'd been for Chicago in 2000, but it was still a quality season. After outstealing the rest of the entire 2000 Cubs roster combined, Young again led the club in swipes while finishing second (to Sammy Sosa) in runs, hits and triples in '01. He finished the year eighth among active players with 377 career SB—which would rank first among actives today.

THIS CARD: Someone recieves a fist bump from a very happy Young. If he were to flash that smile at me, I could probably be convinced to do his bidding; a great attitude goes a long way with me. 

Now, to make ridiculous guesses as to whom and why Young is executing said fist bump:

  • OF Sammy Sosa, for actually running hard to first base.

  • RP Todd Van Poppel, for throwing the first 1-2-3 inning of his eight-year career, or

  • High-priced C Todd Hundley, for laying off a pitch in the dirt (yes, they actually stopped the game for that one so he could get some love)

After appearing twice in a two-month span back in 2014, we finally get a third COTD visit from Young here in December 2022. And not one of them features Young with the team I primarily associate him with—the Colorado Rockies.

(flip) The all-time NL record for consecutive steals without being caught is ex-Cardinal Vince Coleman, who swiped 50 straight from September 1988 to July 1989.

Of those 149 games in 2001, 145 were starts. 2001 represented the sixth straight year Young played exclusively 2B, a streak that would end in 2002.

That Trade With Dodgers sent two minor leaguers and RP Terry Adams back to L.A. Beleagured SP Ismael Valdez joined Young in Chicago.

AFTER THIS CARD: Young joined Milwaukee on a 2Y/$5M deal in January 2002. He hit .280 with 31 steals across 138 games in 2002, then out of nowhere erupted for 15 homers in 109 games with the 2003 Brewers before being dealt to my Giants that August.

From there, Young ping-ponged between the Rangers, Padres and Rangers again in a utility role 2004-06. He retired with a .283 average and 465 career steals, and has served as a coach for the Astros, Diamondbacks, Rockies and since 2018, the Braves, mostly in a first-base capacity.

Eric Young appeared in Topps annually from 1993-2005, except 1996; his final two seasons were not represented by Topps. You can also find Young in 2000 and 2002 Traded, as well as 2005 Update.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Chicago Cubs

Young_EricSr
Topps John Buck
Topps John Buck

12/4/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #444 John Buck, Royals

More John Buck Topps Cards: 2001T 2003T 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2011U 2012 2013

No known relation to Travis, Jack or Joe.

John Buck was the primary return for the Royals when they traded superstar OF Carlos Beltran to the Astros in mid-2004. He went on to a solid 11-year MLB career, including the first six as Kansas City's primary catcher. Much to my surprise, Buck even snuck his way into the 2010 AL All-Star team as a Toronto Blue Jay!

Here, however, he's just a "Young Buck". Lacking MLB experience prior to being traded, the Royals immediately inserted Buck into their lineup—which was missing projected starting C Benito Santiago—and watched him bat .235, 12, 30 over 71 games to finish the 2004 campaign.

THIS CARD: Buck takes a healthy cut at what looks like Progressive Field, though I absolutely cannot confirm it. On the road with the '04 Royals, Buck hit .220 with six homers in 37 games.

That's uniform #2 on Buck's ribcage area, not a number you see very often on receivers.  Buck switched to #14 from 2006 on; other notable Royals to wear #14 include the great Bill Buckner near the end of his career, Mark "Mighty" Quinn in the early '00's, and at present, OF Edward Olivares.

I've previously commented on this Royals sleeveless jerseys, which lasted from 2002-05. Maybe if they hadn't lost 100+ games in three of those four seasons, this look might have earned a longer life.

(flip) In just the week alone prior to Buck's acquisition, the Royals started Santiago, Kelly Stinnett, Mike Tonis (who I never heard of until now) and Alberto Castillo behind the plate.

Among those final 11 home runs by Buck in 2004: a trio of three-run shots, a grand slam off Oakland's Santiago Casilla (then Jairo Garcia) 8/13, and a B8th, go-ahead two-run shot off Seattle's Ryan Franklin 8/18 that held up as the game-winner!

The full Trade With Astros sent Buck from Houston to KC, Beltran from KC to Houston, RP Octavio Dotel going from Houston to Oakland and youngsters Mark Teahen (3B) and Mike Wood (P) going from Oakland to KC.

AFTER THIS CARD: As mentioned, Buck remained with the Royals through 2009, averaging .234, 12, 45 from 2004-08 before back problems and the emergence of Miguel Olivo limited him to 59 games in '09. Toronto brought Buck in for 1Y/$2M in December 2009, and watched him bat .281, 20, 66 in just 118 games in 2010! That led to his first and only All-Star selection.

Buck parlayed that successful 2010 campaign into a 3Y/$18M deal with the Marlins that November. He spent two seasons there, and despite smacking a grannie in his debut, as a Marlin Buck more closely resembled the adequate Royals version of himself rather than the All-Star Jays version.

In November 2012, Buck was traded back to Toronto in the 12-player megadeal centered around superstar SS Jose Reyes; one month later Toronto moved Buck to the Mets in a seven-player trade that sent ace SP R.A. Dickey to the Jays—and then-prospect SP Noah Syndergaard to the Mets.

After starting 95 games for the 2013 Mets, Buck kept his bags packed, serving short stints with the Pirates (late 2013) Mariners (early 2014) and Angels (late 2014). He joined the Braves for 2015, but retired during Spring Training a few months shy of 35.

John Buck received Prospect cards in 2001 and 2003 Topps Traded, then appeared as a big leaguer in the 2005-13 base sets.

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Kansas City Royals

Buck_John
Topps Orlando Cabrera
Topps Orlando Cabrera

12/6/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #11 Orlando Cabrera, Twins

More Orlando Cabrera Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2008U 2009 2009U 2011U

Cabrera, one of the steadiest, most durable shortstops of his era, completed his 13th major league season in 2009. The longtime Montreal Expo and 2004 World Series champion (with the Red Sox) quietly enjoyed another fine offensive season, although his usually superb defense slipped a bit. Cabrera helped the 2009 Twins to the AL Central title, playing a key role in Game #163 as we'll detail below.

THIS CARD: No surprise that we see Cabrera on D in his Topps front image. Something like 75% of his Topps front images through the years depict him in the field—even after two of his first three depicted him batting. Cabrera was a good fielder, though.

In Twins history, #18 has also been worn by notables such as "Everyday" Eddie Guardado and...crickets. SP Kenta Maeda has claimed #18 since 2020.

More from Cabrera's 2009 season: he was signed to a 1Y/$4M deal by the A's well after Spring Training '09 had already started, displacing declining incumbent SS Bobby Crosby. That could have been a disastrous move from a P.R. standpoint, but Cabrera avoided injury and hit well—two things Crosby hadn't done in a long while. On 5/12 against the Royals, Cabrera stroked three hits and drove home four runs in a blowout A's win.

(flip) -No blurb, so we'll tell you that Cabrera enjoyed a 13-game hit streak in early 2009, a 22-game hit streak in mid-2009, and ended the year on a 16-game hit streak!

As you see in the stats, Cabrera homered five times with 36 RBI for the '09 Twins. Homer #5 came in dramatic fashion—in the winner-take-all Game 163 against Detroit, Cabrera ripped a  two-run homer off Zach Miner in the B7th that put Minnesota up 4-3! Though it didn't hold up as the game-winner, that improbable blast still gives me a couple chillz today. DAMN, that was a great game...

The Trade With Athetics sent then-prospect SS Tyler Ladendorf to Oakland. Ladendorf would get in 53 games with the mid-10's A's in a utility role, going 8-for-65 but also pitching a scoreless inning.

AFTER THIS CARD: Cabrera moved on to the Reds in January 2010 (1Y/$3M); there, he hit .263, 4, 42 while missing nearly all of August with a side strain. In February 2011, 36-year-old Cabrera joined Cleveland on a 1Y/$1M deal—as their potential second baseman. The longtime SS had to beat out Luis Valbuena and Jason Donald to win the job, which he did, making 78 of his 83 starts at 2B before being shipped off to San Francisco via Deadline trade.

Back at SS, Cabrera hit .222 in 39 games for the '11 Giants before retiring in January 2012.

Orlando Cabrera appeared annually in 1998-2010 Topps; he also has 2008, 2009 and 2011 Update cards.

CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Minnesota Twins

Cabrera_Orlando
Topps Matt Franco
Topps Matt Franco

12/7/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #268 Matt Franco, Mets

More Matt Franco Topps Cards: 2001 2003

When former Phillies 3B Maikel Franco reached MLB in the mid-2010's, there would be times when I'd obviously have to include him in my articles. Which meant I included him in my notes. Which meant abbreviating his name for the sake of brevity.

The first time I did so, and saw "M. Franco" on the page, I flashed back to the former PH whiz Matt Franco of the late-1990's Mets. And that moment, which must have been about 2017 or so, was the first time I'd thought about Matt Franco since at least 2003.

Naturally, I recalled Franco somehow hurting my Giants as a rookie (turns out he had back-to-back pinch hits against them in his third and fourth major league games) and doing something of note during the Mets' 2000 pennant march (turns out he was part of a Mets four-run rally late in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS against Atlanta).

So aside from my facts being incomplete, wrong or nonexistant...yeah, I totally remember Franco.

THIS CARD: It's surprising that Dark Era Topps—especially 1999 Topps—spent a card on someone who A) essentially pinch-hit full-time, and B) did so for a non-playoff Mets team. Obviously I'm always happy to see Franco and his ilk get recognition...until I remember that 1999 Topps was missing full-timers like Mike Stanley and Harold Baines and Mark Gardner.

This represents Franco's first Topps appearance. His performance for and usage by the 1997 Mets exceeded that for/by the '98 Mets, but 1998 Topps did not have space for him, evidently. Or his future teammate Rickey Henderson, for that matter.

Today, #15 is probably best remembered as superstar OF Carlos Beltran's number; it was also worn by key Mets such as controversial 1980's OF George Foster, 1980's SP Ron Darling (in his final Mets years) and 2010's C Travis d'Arnaud (in his early Mets years).

(flip) Overall, Franco pinch-hit 68 times for the 1998 Mets, recording 14 hits and seven RBI in 55 official at-bats. He also drew 12 walks and sac flied once.

Among Franco's key pinch-hits in '98: a T9th, go-ahead RBI single off Chad Fox that held up as the game-winner (6-5) at Milwaukee 7/23.

Franco's lone 1998 homer was a B9th, one-out, game-tying (1-1) solo shot off Dodgers CL Jeff Shaw 8/10! A few batters later, teammate Edgardo Alfonzo doubled home the winning run, also off Shaw. COULDN'T have happened to a better team...

AFTER THIS CARD: Franco remained in the same familiar role for the 1999-2000 Mets, batting in the .230s but drawing plenty of walks. In a strange turn of events, Franco spent all of 2001 playing regularly for Norfolk, the Mets AAA team. 

Atlanta brought Franco in for 2002 and watched him hit .317 across 205 AB in a platoon 1B role. In 2003, however, the Braves returned Franco to his old role as pinch-hitter extraordinaire, and understandably, all of his numbers nosedived. He did not return to professional baseball in 2004.

Matt Franco appeared in 1999, 2001 and 2003 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, New York Mets

Franco_Matt
Topps Trevor Hildenberger
Topps Trevor Hildenberger

12/8/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps #459 Trevor Hildenberger, Twins

More Trevor Hildenberger Topps Cards: 2018F

 

​As a frequent boxscore peruser, I'd heard of Trevor Hildenberger well before I actually saw him pitch. And just from his name, I was able to deduce he was at minimum a sidearmer, possibly even a submariner. When you've followed baseball as closely as I have for as long as I have, you just FEEL these things.

And I was right—sidearming righty reliever Hildenberger enjoyed an impressive second half of 2017 in the Twins bullpen, posting a 1.038 WHIP in 37 outings. This led to a full-time role sprinkled with save ops for the 2018 squad; Hildenberger appeared 73 times for the Twins that year and was largely effective before a disastrous final two weeks.

THIS CARD: This image doesn't fully display Hildenberger's tough arm angle, but you get a taste of it. His delivery looks conventional until the very last moment when his arm sort of slings the ball to the plate.

In Twins history, #39 has also been worn by the likes of CL Ron Davis in the early 1980's, longtime middle man Juan Rincon in the '00's—plus, it was star 3B Gary Gaetti's first number with the Twins! Standout 2014 rookie OF Danny Santana wore #39 for a time; in 2022, veteran C Sandy Leon claimed the digits.

Per Getty Images, we're seeing Hildenberger as he battles the visiting Royals 8/5/2018. That day, he pitched the T7th and despite serving up a two-run homer to 2B Whit Merrifield, Hildenberger was credited with the hold in an eventual, nail-biting 6-5 victory. 

(flip) That final 5.42 ERA doesn't do Hildenberger's entire 2018 season justice. He entered play 9/14 with a 4.06 mark, but coughed up 13 earnies and 14 hits across his final seven games covering 4.1 IP. That's a 27.00 ERA, people.

As you can identify from the bio info, Hildenberger was already 23-and-a-half years old by the time Minnesota drafted him out of Cal State Berkeley. It was at Cal that he adopted his sidearm delivery. (The bio info also reveals we nearly selected Hildenberger for COTD on his 32nd birthday.)

Five of those seven saves mentioned in the blurb were converted in August in the wake of CL Fernando Rodney's Deadline trade to Oakland. However, Minnesota turned to Trevor May to close during Hildenberger's late September swoon.

AFTER THIS CARD: Not a ton. Hildenberger started 2019 strong, but was smacked around so badly in May that his demotion to AAA Rochester lasted until September. He finished with a 10.47 ERA across 22 MLB games in '19, prompting Minnesota to let him go that winter. 

Since then, Hildenberger has been on the move, pairing up with the Red Sox (2020), Mets (2021) and Giants (2021-22) organizations but only making two forgettable MLB appearances in that period (for the '21 Mets). 

Trevor Hildenberger appeared in the 2018 Topps Twins Factory Team Set, as well as the 2019 Topps base set.

CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps, Minnesota Twins

Hildenberger
Topps Greg Vaughn
Topps Greg Vaughn

12/9/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #397 Greg Vaughn, Padres

More Greg Vaughn Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1998 1999 1999T 2000  2000T 2001 2002 2003 2003T

 

Just a few days ago, I randomly came across a YouTube video of the 1998 NL pennant-winning San Diego Padres 15-year reunion in 2013. Hall-of-Fame OF Tony Gwynn Sr. was still alive at the time, and despite being obviously stricken, he made it to the event and clearly seemed to be enjoying himself. Many other ex-Padres ventured out, including—to my surprise—superstars Kevin Brown (SP) and Greg Vaughn (OF).

Often, those of Brown and Vaughn's ilk have little use for such events, but there they both were, engaging and jovial with their ex-teammates and other personnel. I gotta admit, people—your boy Skillz, having been a part of a very special (amateur) baseball team himself, was almost moved to tears.

Almost. 

Here, Vaughn is fresh off his first few months as a Padre. Acquired from the Brewers via 1996 Deadline trade, the addition of Vaughn's power bat to Bruce Bochy's lineup helped San Diego—who led the NL West by 0.5 games at the time of the swap—fend off the Dodgers for the division title.

THIS CARD: Vaughn is far on his front foot here, as you can see, but he was strong enough to still deposit a baseball 400 feet away.

After wearing #23 for almost his entire Milwaukee career, Vaughn initially claimed #7 in San Diego, as fellow '96 trade acquisition C John Flaherty had dibs on #23. Vaughn then claimed #25 with the 1997 Padres before returning to #23 in 1998. 

That appears to be a Pirates catcher of some sort behind the plate. Vaughn played four games at Pittsburgh in '96—August 8-11—hit in all of them, and homered twice!

(flip) That Trade sent RP's Bryce Florie and Ron Villone plus OF Marc Newfield to the Brewers. None made any lasting impressions in Milwaukee, while Vaughn powered the '98 Padres to the WS.

So...85 homers between Greg and Mo Vaughn was the MLB record for shared last names as of 1996. Offhand, I'm not sure anyone's eclipsed that total, but if so, it's probably the Davis "brothers" Khris and Chris sometime in the late 2010's. (Though I admittedly haven't checked the annual homer totals of Josh and Billy Hamilton...HAR HAR HAR)

"Truly healthy" was in reference to Vaughn's troublesome surgically-repaired right shoulder; he did miss a handful of games in 1996—including the All-Star Game to which he was selected—due to a tough bout of influenza, but was otherwise healthy. (Vaughn's relatively-low 43 games in two months with the Padres resulted from sharing time in LF with Rickey Henderson.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Vaughn signed a 3Y/$15M extension in February 1997 but struggled to stay over .200 for most of that season, and at one point the Padres seemed to have cut bait via trade to the Yankees. But Vaughn failed his physical and remained with San Diego, who fell to fourth place. 

The big fella rebounded in a big way in 1998, blasting 50 home runs for the NL Champion Padres—and adding three more in October! But that winter, the team needed to shave a few dollars off its growing payroll, and in one of the most shocking deals of my fandom, the all-in Cincinnati Reds traded for Vaughn in February 1999. He blasted 45 homers for Cincy—who just missed the postseason—and inked a 4Y/$34M deal with the Devil Rays in December 1999.

Vaughn's production for the 2000-01 D-Rays resembled that of his early Brewers years—in other words, good but not spectacular as in 1998-99 (though he was still a 2001 AL All-Star). Another shoulder injury shortened an absolutely miserable 2002 campaign, and Vaughn's career ended—two days after his 38th birthday—following 37 at-bats with the 2003 Rockies, where he landed after his March '03 release by Tampa Bay.

Greg Vaughn appeared annually in Topps 1990-2003; he also received 1999, 2000 and 2003 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, San Diego Padres

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Topps Tony Sipp
Topps Tony Sipp

12/11/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps #536 Tony Sipp, Indians

More Tony Sipp Topps Cards: 2015

 

Tony Sipp, for over a decade in MLB, was asked to retire lefthanded hitters late in games. And for the majority of that decade-plus, Sipp did so effectively. In his career, lefty batters mustered a .223 average against him...although I'd be failing you if I neglected to include Sipp's lifetime .216 BAA by righty batters.

Given those figures, how did anyone get to Sipp at all? Well, A) his command could come and go at times and B) he was known to serve up a tater or two. But when all was said and done, Sipp only endured one season out of 11 with more hits than innings pitched, and he never allowed a run in nine lifetime postseason appearances. There's something to be said for that, people.

Here, Sipp has just finished up his second major league season, and first without any MiLB excursions. With 70 appearances, he shared the title of busiest Indians reliever with fellow lefty Rafael Perez, and in May Sipp went 11 straight outings without allowing a run—with all but one of those outings lasting at least one full inning!

THIS CARD: The Indians wore this alternate regularly from 2008-16, but the blue hats only lasted thru 2010. (Thank you, SportsLogos.net.) Here's the story behind the throwback look.

Per Getty Images, Cleveland wore this uniform for their 2010 home opener, so based on the crowd—or lack thereof—in the background, one can conclude (hope) this image was not from said opener.

Sipp has just fired off either his low-90's four-seamer, his effective slider, or the changeup he picked up in the minors. Sipp has also been credited with a splitter, which may or may not be said changeup under a different name—I couldn't confirm. (In 2016 Sipp added a two-seamer.)

(flip) Well, maybe those base runners shouldn't totally relax, because Sipp picked off 12 runners in his career—including a whopping FIVE in 2010 alone!

Sipp did not play in 2007 due to UCL surgery; he blew his elbow out in Spring Training.

 

45th round? That doesn't even exist anymore. Among all 2004 draft picks who were signed, Sipp was the lowest selection to reach MLB.

When 1967 Topps was released, Joe Niekro hadn't yet reached MLB, but the foreshadowing proved correct as he did indeed become a big league star (41 wins from 1979-80). Phil's bro, who passed in 2006 just short of 62, pitched 22 seasons and won 221 games in his own right, although today he's usually only discussed when the topic is foreign objects on the field. Which is highly unfortunate.

AFTER THIS CARD: Sipp appeared 132 times for the 2011-12 Indians before going to Arizona in a three-team trade with the Reds involving Shin-Soo Choo and then-prospects Bryan Shaw, Trevor Bauer and Didi Gregorius. In his lone D'Backs season, Sipp—who was outrighted to AAA Reno for most of August 2013—posted a 4.78 ERA in 56 games and was not retained for 2014.

Enter Houston, with whom Sipp won a job in Spring 2014. The now-31-year-old made 276 appearances for the Astros from 2014-18, including a 2015 campaign that saw him post a 1.99 ERA in 60 games! That earned Sipp a new, massive—for a middleman—3Y/$18M deal with the Astros!

Though he was not at his best in 2017 (5.49 ERA plus a month-long DL stint to heal a calf strain) and did not pitch in the postseason, Sipp picked up his first World Series ring that fall.

After bouncing back with a strong 2018 (1.86 in 54 games), Sipp took his talents to Washington for 2019. There, he struggled a bit, and despite being cut in August, he still helped his now-ex teammates defeat Houston in the World Series. (linked passage highlighted)

Here's some more good reading on Sipp, whose MLB career did not continue after being cut by the Nationals.

 

Tony Sipp appeared in 2011 and 2015 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps, Cleveland Indians

Sipp
Topps Starlin Castro
Topps Starlin Castro

12/12/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps #556 Starlin Castro, Cubs

More Starlin Castro Topps Cards: 2010U 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2016U 2018 2018U  2019 2020 2020U 2021

Much like current Yankees SS/2B, the hype surrounded Cubs prospect Starlin Castro long before he slipped on a major league uniform. And while he did not reach superstardom, Castro was—for years—one of the better offensive shortstops around. Some years, he even ranked among the best—such as 2011 when he batted .307 with 207 hits. Or 2019, when his 22 homers were the most by a 2B not named Dan Uggla in Marlins history (minimum 70% games played at 2B).

Unfortunately for all involved, Castro may not get a chance to expand upon his four MLB All-Star appearances for reasons that A) have nothing to do with baseball, and B) are all his fault.

Here, however, the 26-year-old is fresh off a fine year for the 2016 Yankees, who traded for him in December 2015 to fill a gaping hole at 2B (Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder manned the position for New York during the final weeks of 2015; with all due respect to those men, that is not an acceptable combo for the New York Yankees). Castro, who'd only played SS in MLB prior to the deal, wound up fielding a fine .980 across 150 games in 2016.

THIS CARD: Per Getty Images, we're seeing Castro as he bats against Baltimore during a 7-3 Yankee triumph 10/1/2016. That's the latest dated regular-season pic we've uncovered via Getty so far.

The partially obscured number on Castro's back is #14, which he adopted as a Yankee since his Cubs #13 belonged to some Alex guy.

More from Castro's 2016 season: if you can believe it, his 70 RBI tied for the team lead (with SS Didi Gregorius); it's true, I double-checked. Castro also led the team in hits, doubles and multi-hit affairs (41), while ranking one behind OF/DH Carlos Beltran for the club lead in home runs. On 4/6 vs. Houston—in the season's second game—Castro went 4-for-5 with a three-run jack and five total RBI as New York rolled to a 16-6 victory.

(flip) Excuse me while I give a 120-second effort to research the six 1,000-hit dudes younger than Castro...

...okay, I was able to unearth the only four dudes younger than Castro to reach 1,000 hits since 1993: Roberto Alomar, Ken Griffey Jr., that Alex guy, and Miguel Cabrera. I'd give more deets, but I'm behind on updates right now.

See those 21 home runs in 2016? The 10th was a walk-off shot against Colorado's Jason Motte—the only such blast of Castro's career to date.

Castro's IG handle/account is still active, although there's been no public posts in 11 weeks. He did post a graphic honoring Albert Pujols' addition to the 700-homer club in 2022, which is cool.

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2017—which represented the fourth year of the 7Y/$60M deal Castro received from the Cubs in August 2012—Castro was limited to 112 games by two DL stints in June/July (both for a right hamstring strain) but slashed .300/.338/.454 when healthy and earned his fourth All-Star nod in eight major league seasons.

Castro might have remained in New York for some time, but the Marlins (predictably) wanted to move OF Giancarlo Stanton and his zillion-dollar contract about three hours after said contract was signed; the Yankees sacrificed Castro in order to land Stanton via December 2017 trade.

Despite going from the revered Yankees to a hollowed-out Marlins squad that lost 203 games during Castro's 2018-19 tenure, he appeared to give his very best for Miami, missing only eight total games (all in 2018) while pacing the team in hits both years and homers in 2019. He even drew 48 walks in 2018, a career-high by far! 

 

In January 2020, Castro joined the Nats for 2Y/$12M, but was limited to 16 games that first year by a broken wrist suffered while diving for a ball in Baltimore. Castro was batting .283, 3, 38 in 87 games for the 2021 Nationals when his, uh, troubles began in mid-July. The team cut him that September, and he's yet to resurface in MLB. 

 

Starlin Castro has appeared in 2011-21 Topps, as well as 2010, 2016, 2018 and 2020 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps, New York Yankees

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Topps Brett Gardner
Topps Brett Gardner

12/13/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #547 Brett Gardner, Yankees

More Brett Gardner Topps Cards: 2009U 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

I am a fan of longtime 95.7 sports talk host Rick Tittle and I'm onboard with most of his opinions, but one thing I disagree with him on: describing a player in any pro sport as a "winner" is a pejorative. In Rick's opinion, that description is generally used when you can't identify any one particular facet of the game said player is skilled at.

In Skillz Savage's opinion, however, being called a "winner" is anything but a backhanded compliment. At the end of the day, do you want a guy to hit three homers while you lose 6-3, or do you want that player to grind out a 10-pitch at-bat, walk, then hustle his way home with the tiebreaking run in the 8th inning?

(Well, if you're a team owner and trying to attract fans, I suppose you'd prefer the former...)

Longtime Yankee OF Brett Gardner was one of the best "winners" of his era, a poor man's Dustin Pedroia with all of the necessary grit. Gardner did all the little things needed to win, and at times he could do the big things needed to win, too.

Here, Gardy's just completed his rookie season, one that ran 40 games short due to a broken thumb (suffered while sliding in late July) but still included 26 stolen bases—third-most by a Yankee rookie since 1960 (Alfonso Soriano, 43, 2001 and Willie Randolph, 37, 1976...thanks, MLB.com).

THIS CARD: We see Gardner making an incredible defensive play, as was his M.O. Although he could have played another decade and never topped this play from 2016.

Gardner's 13 Topps base front images are well-varied; he's shown batting, going all-out defensively, sliding, and he even got a couple of inaction shots.

More from Gardner's 2009 season: his efforts helped the Yankees win their 27th World Series championship, and he was the last member of that team to leave the Bronx (after the 2021 season). On 5/15 vs. the Twins, Gardner went 3-for-3 with an inside-the-park homer, triple and two runs, which is notable enough on its own, but even moreso because Gardner entered the game in the 4th inning! Maybe OF Johnny Damon should have gotten himself tossed more often.

(flip) See, Gardner was smart not to offer to hit a homer for that kid, because as is well-known, ex-Yankee Paul O'Neill made such a promise once, but his homer was scored as a triple and an error. #Seinfeld

That's the thing about the classic Yankee uniform that's been worn forever and ever: here, Gardner can pose for a pic presumably in the year 2009, but with just the right angle and lighting, it can appear as if he posed in 1957. The Mets can't say that!

Of those 108 games Gardner played for the 2009 Yankees, he started 63 of them, all in CF. Remember: in 2009 the Yanks had Johnny Damon in LF, Nick Swisher in RF, and usually young Melky Cabrera when one of those two weren't available. (Cabrera also started 97 of the 99 games in CF Gardner didn't, with—of all people—Jerry Hairston Jr. starting the other two.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Thirteen more Yankee seasons, a litany of clutch catches, 1,374 more hits, 235 more swipes, and even a once-impossible-to-fathom 28 home runs in 2019 alone! Gardner was the 2013 AL leader in triples (10) and 2011 co-leader in steals (49, with Coco Crisp of Oakland), plus—17 months after inking a 4Y/$52M extension in February 2014—he was a 2015 AL All-Star reserve! 

In his later years, Gardner—despite still supplying the D that earned him a 2016 Gold Glove—wasn't able to keep his batting average up quite as high as was ideal; once the 2021 season closed, the Yankees finally moved on after bringing him back time and again. The 38-year-old never signed elsewhere (despite interest) and appears to be finished.

 

Brett Gardner debuted in 2009 Topps Updates & Highlights, then appeared annually in the base set 2010-22.

CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, New York Yankees

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Topps Juan Nieves
Topps Juan Nieves

12/14/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #287 Juan Nieves, Brewers

More Juan Nieves Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1990

No known relation to Mel, Jose or Wil.

Today Juan Nieves is known as the assistant pitching coach forthe Detroit Tigers, and former pitching coach for the Red Sox and Marlins during the 2010s. But during my youth, he was known as the once-promising Brewers lefty whose combination of strikeout stuff and iffy command contributed to a no-hitter against Baltimore in early 1987! 

Here, Nieves—who went 14-8 across 33 starts in 1987—has just finished the book that was his disappointing 1988 season. He opened the year in the Brewers rotation, but injured his shoulder in late May and was out for two months. Upon healing, he was yo-yo'd between the Milwaukee rotation and bullpen for the rest of the year and finished up 7-5, 4.08 in 25 games (15 starts).

THIS CARD: We see Nieves about to fire either his mid-90's fastball, his good slider, or his work-in-progress changeup. Some sources credit him with a curve as well, but I think Nieves' supposed curve was often mistaken for the slider. Many sources simply went with "breaking ball".

Immediately prior to Nieves, #20 belonged to longtime Brewers masher Gorman Thomas; he wore it during both of his Milwaukee stints (1978-82, 1986) during which time Nieves wore #10. Later on, #20 could be found on the jerseys of 3B Kevin Seitzer in the 1990s, OF Jeromy Burnitz into the 2000's, OF Scott Podsednik in the mid-00's, and most notably, C Jonathan Lucroy in the 2010s. In 2022, former Rays IF Mike Brosseau claimed #20 in Milwaukee.

More from Nieves' 1988 season: despite the setbacks, there were highlights. He threw one CG, which we'll discuss below, and went 8.1 innings at Boston in a no-decision 8/9. Nieves also won four consecutive starts from 4/19 thru 5/7, and should have won the 5/12 start as well (7.2 IP, one ER vs. Cleveland).

(flip) Nieves appeared nine times (two starts) in August 1988, allowing him ample opportunity to rack up those 27 K. But his season-high for one outing came 9/18 at Seattle (seven).

No blurb, so we'll (sort of) create one: Nieves' 100 BB in 1987 only ranked eighth in the AL, which is a little tough to believe since many BB leaders these days don't even reach 90. But then again, how many dudes even approach the innings totals Nieves did...

That 1988 Brewers SHO occurred 9/13 at the White Sox; Nieves scattered three hits, walked two and punched out four in the 4-0 Brewers victory. He fired 116 pitches.

AFTER THIS CARD: Rotator cuff surgery in June 1989; Nieves wouldn't pitch in MLB that year. From there, he attempted to come back with the 1990 Brewers farm teams, but with no results by 1992, Nieves retired and turned to coaching in MiLB.

In 1998, 33-year-old Nieves made a short-lived pitching comeback in the Independent League, but soon resumed his coaching career. He's made too many stops to list here, but among them is the World Champion 2013 Red Sox! Nieves served as their pitching coach thru early 2015, then took the same position with the Marlins 2016-18. As mentioned, Nieves has since landed in the Detroit organization.

Click here for Nieves analyzing his own no-hitter some 30 years later.

Juan Nieves debuted in 1986 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1987-90.

CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers

Nieves_Juan
Topps Daniel Norris
Topps Daniel Norris

12/16/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps #382 Daniel Norris, Tigers

More Daniel Norris Topps Cards: 2015 2015U 2016 2017 2018 2020 2021 2022U

Here, we catch up with the veteran Norris on the heels of a 2018 season that was essentially over before it truly began. A nasty groin injury and subsequent surgery sidelined Norris from May through August, but before the season ended, he was able to turn in a few decent starts for the Tigers. His eight K at Milwaukee on 9/29 tied for the second-highest of his four-year career.

THIS CARD: This is Norris's second COTD visit; we profiled his introductory (2015) Topps card back in November 2020.

Here, we're seeing Norris in action on the road against the Yankees 9/1/2018—at least, that's what Getty Images says. That day marked Norris's return from the DL, and he went 4.1 innings with one hit, one walk and seven strikeouts! Problem is, the hit was a homer by Andrew McCutchen, and New York eked out a 2-1 victory.

More from Norris's 2018 season: in his season debut 4/5, he threw 3.1 innings of long relief at the White Sox, striking out six as Detroit won 9-7.

(flip) Norris's Twitter and IG handles remain unchanged; not sure what the 18 represents as he's never worn that number in MLB. Norris hasn't tweeted publicly since March 2022 and he hasn't 'grammed (?) publicly since September 2022.

Norris originally injured his groin during the 2017 season; it was aggravated in his 4/29/2018 start at Baltimore.

That Trade With Blue Jays sent Norris and fellow young pitchers Matthew Boyd and Jairo Labourt to Detroit, with SP David Price heading east. (I'd never once heard of Labourt before this moment, not even when the trade was announced. He got in six games for the '17 Tigers before evidently melting into a puddle somewhere.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Norris rediscovered health and made 29 starts (and three RA) in 2019, but won just three of them for a Tiger team that lost 114 games overall. In 2020, Norris converted to relief full-time, but when struggles hit in mid-2021, Detroit dealt him to Milwaukee, where he didn't fare any better.

Norris joined the Cubs bullpen for 2022, but was cut in July with a 6.90 ERA in 27 outings. He returned to the Tigers, made two solid-ish starts, then scuffled in relief for two weeks before closing the year with seven straight scoreless appearances. As of this writing, he's on the market.

Daniel Norris has appeared in 2015-21 Topps, as well as 2015 and 2022 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps, Detroit Tigers

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Topps Mark Lewis
Topps Mark Lewis

12/17/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #21 Mark Lewis, Reds

More Mark Lewis Topps Cards: 1989 1991T 1992 1993 1994 1997 1998

Hype surrounded young Indians prospect Mark Lewis before he even knew the route to Cleveland Stadium. As someone personally unimpressed with incumbent Indians SS Felix Fermin, and as someone tired of the Indians being an AL doormat, I personally rooted for Lewis to arrive in Cleveland ASAP and save the franchise from continued mediocrity.

You see, 11-year-old Skillz didn't yet understand that hype does not always equate to success. Lewis did indeed join the 1991 Indians, but in parts of four seasons with the team—during one of which he played regularly—Lewis ended up being very ordinary.

Fortunately, he improved from "disappointing bu