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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

Vaughn_Greg
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

Castro_Starlin
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

Gardner_Brett
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

Norris_Daniel
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 bust" to "contributing journeyman" in the ensuing seasons. After a stop in Cincinnati, where he played part-time in 1995, Lewis ventured to Detroit (1996), San Francisco (1997) and Philadelphia (1998)—all of whom employed him as at least a platoon player. Here, Lewis has just wrapped up Stint #2 with the Reds, who (again) used him off the bench in 1999.

THIS CARD: It is interesting that Lewis, after not playing a whole lot in 1999, finds himself in 2000 Topps when after playing every day in 1998, 1999 Topps passed him over for inclusion. But then again, lthe Dark Era of Topps was consistently "interesting" when it came to player selection.

For the fourth time in six Topps base selections, Lewis's front image depicts him fielding. In 1999 he started just 30 games—all of them at 3B—after starting 137 games at 2B for the Phillies in 1998.

Other notable Reds to wear #28 include stolen base champ Bobby Tolan in the 1970s, former Astros basestealing whiz Cesar Cedeno in the 1980s, star CL Randy Myers in the early 1990's, talented OF Austin Kearns in the 2000's, and generally reliable SP Anthony DeSclafani in the 2010s. In 2022, the number was shared by temperamental OF Tommy Pham and C Austin Romine.

(flip) Another "interesting" fact: Lewis's fine 1995 season did not lead to a 1996 Topps card.

Versatility? Lewis was used 52 times at 3B, and twice at 2B. I guess just knowing Lewis could fill in for SS Barry Larkin if necessary was the invaluable part.

That's #9 1B Hal Morris positioned behind Lewis.

Lewis was indeed a free agent signing, for the cost of 1Y/$500K. Ordinarily, I'd describe that as a massive bargain for someone who (as mentioned) played frequently and solidly from 1996-98. The Reds must have warned Lewis he wouldn't be playing nearly as much in 1999, barring injuries, for him to accept that deal in mid-December 1998.

AFTER THIS CARD: In November 1999, the Reds re-signed Lewis for Y2K, but waived him that April. He wound up batting .270 in 71 games for the 2000 Orioles, then was both signed and cut by the Dodgers in March 2001. Three weeks later, 31-year-old Lewis was back with Cleveland, and in six games for them that May, he went 1-for-13 and never saw any further major league action.

Mark Lewis debuted as a Draft Pick in 1989 Topps, then appeared in the 1992-94, 1997-98 and 2000 Topps sets. He's also got a 1991 Topps Traded card.

CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Cincinnati Reds

Lewis_Mark
Topps Mark Reynolds
Topps Mark Reynolds

12/18/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #235 Mark Reynolds, Rockies

More Mark Reynolds Topps Cards: 2007U 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2013U 2014U 2015 2015U 2016 2017 2018U 2019U

If Adam Dunn was the godfather of the current era of MLB—the one that accepts batters striking out 200+ times per season—longtime Diamondbacks 3B Mark Reynolds was (at minimum) the godnephew. Reynolds debuted in 2007 with a 35% K rate, whiffed 204 times the next year, and never looked back.

In fact, if Reynolds had not been demoted to platoon player the second half of his career, he might be among the top five all-time whiffers in MLB history (as it was, he still ranks 11th with 1,927).

But enough harping on Reynolds' main drawback. The man was as powerful as anyone of his era, mashing 30+ homers in a season four times (including consecutively 2009-11) and often forcing TV camera operators to guess, rather than track, where his moonshots touched down. Despite only playing four seasons with the Diamondbacks, Reynolds ranks fifth in team history with 121 home runs, and his 44 in 2009 ranks as second-most in Snakes annals (Luis Gonzalez, 57, 2001).

Here, the well-traveled CI has just wrapped up his second season with the Rockies. When he signed with Colorado, I predicted the Reynolds/Coors Field marriage would lead to a 96-homer season. While that didn't quite happen, Reynolds did indeed enjoy a return to the 30-homer club in 2017  after five seasons away (although increased playing time played a role in that as well).

THIS CARD: It appears Reynolds has hit a ball the other way. Which, based on my extensive experience watching Reynolds play during his 'Zona days, was probably not intentional.

According to Getty Images, we're seeing Reynolds grounding to second base in the B6th vs. Arizona 5/7/2018; he reached via Chris Owings' error and immediately came around to score on SS Trevor Story's double. That—plus Reynolds' earlier homer and single—helped Colorado to the 5-2 win.

No matter how many times I see it, I will probably never get accustomed to Reynolds listed as a 1B. He was a good enough 3B once upon a time, but by 2012 the majority of his run was coming at the "cold corner". By 2016 he wasn't playing third at all anymore (just 10 appearances there over his final four seasons, all in 2018).

In 2017 Reynolds played 138 defensive games (132 starts), with all but ⅓ of an inning at 1B (he played LF for three Cardinals batters in a walk-off loss 7/25).

(flip) Reynolds, technically, was not acquired by Colorado in December 2015. At that time, he signed a 1Y/$2.6M deal with the Rox for 2016, but despite an adequate '16 season, he was only able to secure a MiLB deal from the Rockies in February 2017. For bio purposes, Topps has always treated free agent re-signings as a non-transaction, which is fine and appropriate, but I felt the need to clarify Reynolds' situation since you don't see it all that often.

There is no other sports card in existance featuring the word "marshaled". Not even on the cards of either of the Mike Marshalls. I'd bet $1M on it and gladly work it off if I am wrong.

Oh, yeah, that's right: 2017-18 Topps featured incomplete statistics. So when the blurb referenced "another huge power season" by Reynolds...new collectors had to go elsewhere to learn about the others. Thankful every year that this was only a temporary change.

AFTER THIS CARD: Incredibly, Reynolds had to yet again settle for a MiLB deal for 2018, this time with Washington, who stashed him at AAA Syracuse until May. He enjoyed some HUGE games for the Nats that summer, finishing at .248, 13, 40 in 86 games—most of them at 1B but also including his first-ever mound appearance! (Reynolds retired the lone batter he faced, Miami C Bryan Holaday, in a 10-2 loss.)

Next, Reynolds returned to Colorado via MiLB deal in January 2019. This time around, he didn't play as much and was cut in July with a .170 average in 76 games. (A week before being cut, Reynolds pitched an inning against my Giants, allowing two runs in a 19-2 loss.) In April 2020, the 36-year-old announced his retirement, owner of 298 career bombs across 13 MLB seasons.

Mark Reynolds appeared annually in Topps 2008-2018, except 2014. He's also got 2007, 2013-15, and 2018-19 Update cards.

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Colorado Rockies

Reynolds_Mark
Topps Jeff Karstens
Topps Jeff Karstens

12/19/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #293 Jeff Karstens, Pirates

More Jeff Karstens Topps Cards: 2007U 2009 2011U 2012

I admit it.

As much as I immerse myself in MLB, as many games as I've seen and books that I've read, I do NOT remember everything about every player from my era.

More than most, sure. But not EVERYTHING.

And if it were not for his unfortunate broken leg via Julio Lugo (Red Sox) line drive in early 2007, I doubt I'd remember former Yankees and Pirates P Jeff Karstens ever existed at all. I mean, the other day I struggled to remember anything about 12-year vet Wil Nieves, a guy who lasted twice as long as Karstens but never suffered a Karstens-esque freak injury—that I can recall, anyway.

Which isn't to say Karstens was a guy worthy of remembering. He had very successful periods after joining Pittsburgh, as you'll read below, but he was done in prematurely by a bad shoulder. I don't think Karstens would have reached Gerrit Cole's level, but Jameson Taillon's level was within reach.

Here, Karstens—not to be confused with Carsten Charles "CC" Sabathia—has just completed what would be his final major league season. Limited to six starts before the 2012 All-Star break due to shoulder inflammation and a hip flexor injury, Karstens was a force throughout July and August, going 4-1, 2.75 in nine starts before the hip flexor acted up again 8/31. He  ended '12 in the bullpen.

THIS CARD: From Getty Images: we're seeing Karstens operating at Philadelphia 6/25/2012. That day, he endured his worst start of the 2012 season, coughing up seven runs (six earned) and 11 hits in five innings. Why on earth Topps would choose a photo from this game rather than Karstens' many strong ones stupifies me.

You can't see here because of his cap, but Karstens had/has some of the largest eyebrows I can remember seeing. I'm not going to make fun of another man's physical appearance, but there's no way Karstens went through his entire career without some other idiot calling him "Bert".

In the long history of the Prates, #27 has also decorated the backs of ace reliever Kent Tekulve during the "We Are Family" era, talented-but-troubled SS Jung Ho Kang during the Andrew McCutchen era, and most recently, IF Kevin Newman. (Karstens originally wore #36 in Pittsburgh.)

(flip) In that stretch, Karstens made 51 appearances, including 46 starts (he closed 2010 with a RA, opened 2011 with three more and pitched extra innings 5/25/2011 due to some off-day shuffling). For some reason, Topps omitted Karstens' 8/25/2012 outing—which consisted of seven shutout innings versus Milwaukee—from the blurbed stretch of success.

That Trade With Yankees sent RP Damaso Marte and OF Xavier Nady to New York, with the Bucs receiving Karstens, SP Ross Ohlendorf, OF Jose Tabata and RP Daniel McCutchen (all of whom were prospects at the time and all of whom would enjoy at least one decent year for the Pirates).

As for the Career Chase: first of all, did Topps really pick the stat category of Games Pitched for a starting pitcher?! Second of all, that's some horrific math (756 + 138 = 894, not 1,114). Third, Orosco pitched in 1,252 games, not 1,114. I have to believe Topps is not capable of that level of incompetence and that someone was deliberately messing with us collectors.

AFTER THIS CARD: Pretty much nada. Karstens spent all of 2013 on the DL after being sidelined during Spring Training with shoulder discomfort and eventually undergoing rotator cuff surgery. He was non-tendered by Pittsburgh that fall and after a year completely out of baseball, Karstens retired at 32 in early 2015.

Jeff Karstens appeared in 2009, 2012 and 2013 Topps, as well as 2007 and 2011 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates

Karstens
Topps Tom Browning
Topps Tom Browning

12/20/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #151 Tom Browning, Reds

More Tom Browning Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1992 1993 1994

You may or may not be aware of the "Tales From The (Insert MLB Team) Dugout" series of books that's been around for a while now. The books don't follow a specific format; some are quote-heavy, some are anecdote-heavy, and at least one—that of the Cincinnati Reds—was told almost entirely from the POV of longtime Reds SP Tom Browning.

It was a fun read, and it made me feel like I "knew" Browning. (I will edit this section to include one of my favorite sections from the book once the holiday season is over and my XMas tree is no longer blocking my "bookshelf".)

Entering 1990, Browning was one of the most successful and durable pitchers of the mid-to-late-80's, and he did nothing to dispel that once the '90 season commenced. For the fourth time, Browning (co-)led the NL in starts, then added three solid October outings during the Reds' successful march to the World Series title!

THIS CARD: For a "Junk Wax Era" pitcher who was not exactly exciting on the mound—though he certainly was a fun cat off of it—Topps gave Browning a load of action shots through the years. This is NOT one of them; Browning looks as if he turned around to find Fred Astaire in the batter's box.

Sadly, we're not presenting this card as a random selection. Browning passed away in Kentucky on 12/19/2022, at just 62 years of age. No cause was given publicly, though foul play was not suspected. We chose his 1991 Topps card because A) that set had not been featured in COTD this month, and B) it represented Browning's lone postseason action.

Not visible: Browning's uniform #32, which has a very good history with the Reds.  In addition to Browning, SP Sammy Ellis won 22 games in 1965 wearing #32, unsung SP Fred Norman wore it in the 1970's, ace CL Danny Graves wore it in the 2000's, and slugging OF Jay Bruce claimed it in the 2010s. In 2022, UT Max Schrock and journeyman P Luke Farrell shared the number.

(flip) I salivate at those starts and innings totals, people. Well, not literally, but close. If you know me, you know I LOVE workhorses. As you might imagine, Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara is one of my heroes today.

Browning went all of August 1990 with 11 K? Well, in his first start of the month, San Diego knocked him out after two innings (and one whiff), so he potentially could have had three or four more K that night—and about 15 for the month. Browning's 99 strikeouts in the entire '90 season ranked as second-lowest among the 42 MLB pitchers who eclipsed 200 innings that year (Greg Hibbard, White Sox, 92). 

The Reds' previous modern-era (since 1900) rookie record for wins was 19 by Elmer Riddle in 1941. Prior to Browning, the last major leaguer period to win 20 was the Yankees' Bob Grim in 1954—thanks, NYTimes.

AFTER THIS CARD: Browning, who re-signed with Cincy for 4Y/$11.9M—plus a 1995 club option for $3.5M—in November 1990, continued his reign as one of MLB's most durable arms in 1991 before a series of physical setbacks derailed his career. In 1992 against the Astros, Browning ruptured his PCL in a July collision at the plate, ending his season. In 1993 against the Dodgers, he fractured his left middle finger in August attempting to field Cory Snyder's shot up the middle, ending that season prematurely as well.

 

Then in May 1994, Browning's left arm broke as he pitched to San Diego IF Archi Cianfrocco—yet again, the formerly invincible lefty endured an early start to his off-season.

His 1995 option understandably declined by Cincinnati, Browning attempted a comeback with the '95 Royals, but it lasted all of two starts. He eventually embarked on a post-playing career that included authoring the aforementioned book, broadcasting work, and even some MiLB coaching. Browning finished up 123-90, 3.94, with a 1991 NL All-Star selection and the 12th MLB perfect game under his belt. He was an easy selection for the Reds Hall of Fame in 2006.,.RIP.

Tom Browning debuted in 1985 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the 1986-94 Topps base sets.

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Cincinnati Reds, Now Deceased

Browning
Topps Russ Johnson
Topps Russ Johnson

12/21/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #609 Russ Johnson, Devil Rays

More Russ Johnson Topps Cards: 1995 1997 1998 2001

To this day, YEARS after both of their MLB careers ended, I still sometimes get Russ Johnson and Chris Johnson mixed up. Both were Astros third basemen with limited power at different points, but unlike Russ, Chris actually enjoyed some major league success in spite of his relatively low—but not paltry—home run totals.

Russ, a 1994 first-round pick by the Astros, was in the majors by 1997. But the re-acquisition of 3B and former NL MVP Ken Caminiti in November 1998 put the kibosh on any real hopes Johnson had of playing the hot corner full-time in Houston. Mercifully, they dealt him to the Rays in mid-2000.

Here, Johnson is coming off a 2001 season that was both encouraging (he opened the year as Tampa's regular 2B) and discouraging (a May quad injury cost him his regular job). Through it all, Johnson never cooled off for long with the bat, and his .294 season average ranked second on the D-Rays (Fred McGriff, .318, minimum 200 AB).

THIS CARD: We see Johnson slapping the tag on a hard-luck runner at second base. I cannot even begin to guess what venue they're at.

In 2001, Johnson started 27 games at 3B, 28 games at 2B, and a pair at SS, where I'm guessing he's stationed here. Johnson played SS full-time during his first two MiLB seasons, but received only 6% of his MLB run there.

More from Johnson's 2001 season: at the end of play 5/1, his slashline read .319/.424/.528, and none of those were misprinted—the kid was HOT to start the year. even hitting in 11 straight games in April! On 8/17/2001, Johnson went 3-for-5 with three RBI to help the D-Rays down the Twins 9-4. For unexplained reasons, he didn't play in the week leading up to the 9/11 season interruption.

(flip) Here's a piece detailing Johnson's donation effort.

That Trade sent RP Marc Valdes, who'd been languishing in the minors, to the Astros. Houston promoted Valdes and he wound up making 53 appearances for them in 2000. (Nevermind that his ERA and WHIP were 5.08 and 1.659, respectively—Houston's new ballpark fried almost every Astros pitcher that year.)

Why in THE hell is Johnson listed solely as a SS when A) he played exactly 23 innings there in 2001, B) he was actually Tampa's starting 2B for a portion of 2001, and C) he played 10 times as much 3B as SS in 2001??? The unprecedented amount of errors and inaccuracies permeating 2002 Topps and Topps Traded make me wonder (legitimately) if the WTC attacks somehow impacted the Topps company that fall.

AFTER THIS CARD: Johnson's 2002 season did not go well at all; an early foot injury cost him his (projected) job as regular 3B, and he was batting .215 in 39 games when he left the Devil Rays during the first week of July. Turns out he was quite depressed, and he didn't return to action for over two months. That December, Johnson joined the Mets in a trade sending embattled SS Rey Ordonez to Tampa Bay.

The good news: in four of the next five seasons, Johnson accumulated over 400 PA. The bad news: those four seasons were spent exclusively with AAA Norfolk (Mets, 2003) AAA Iowa (Cubs, 2004) AAA Columbus (Yankees, 2006) and AAA Indianapolis/AA Altoona (Pirates, 2007). The fifth season, 2005, saw Johnson go 4-for-18 across 22 games for the Yankees—his final MLB action.

 

Russ Johnson debuted in 1993 Topps Traded as an Olympian; he returned as a Draft Pick in 1995 Topps and later made appearances in 1997-98 and 2001-02 Topps.  

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Johnson_Russ
Topps Jay Bruce
Topps Jay Bruce

12/22/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #220 Jay Bruce, Reds

More Jay Bruce Topps Cards: 2005U 2008U 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2016U 2017 2018 2018U 2019 2020 2021

It was one of THE most epic at-bats in Giants history.

Big, strong, baseball-crushing Reds lefty Jay Bruce squaring off against slider-slinging Giants RP Sergio Romo during the deciding Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS.

Today, I don't remember the EXACT circumstances that led to Romo being allowed to face Bruce late in a close game. What I do remember is the limited-versus-lefties Romo battling the imposing Bruce with two-seamers and changeups for what must have been at least 10 pitches. (There may have been A solitary slider, but Romo didn't usually attack lefties with that pitch.)

It was obvious that Bruce would crush a 420-foot home run if Romo made a mistake in the zone—with two men on and a 6-4 Giants lead, such a blast would have ended the series. It was tense, to say the least, but in the end, Romo got Bruce on a fly to left field for Out #2, preserving the Giants' slim lead.

Bruce may not have delivered there, but that doesn't spoil what was still a great career. Here, he's still a youngster, fresh off his rookie MLB season of 2008. Called up in late May, the 21-year-old finished the year as Cincy's everyday RF and placed third among NL rookies in home runs.

THIS CARD: We discussed the #32 in Reds history two COTD selections ago—Bruce was mentioned there—so I won't rehash that here. I WILL tell you that Bruce switched to #19 for both of his Mets stints, in deference to their SP Steven Matz.

If you think a front image of Bruce tracking down a deep drive to right is interesting, wait til we profile Bruce's 2015 Topps card—he had eight Topps commons as a Red and damn near every one of 'em is capable of exhilirating the average collector.

Other members of that 2008 Topps All-Star Rookie Team include Bruce's teammate 1B Joey Votto, and future GIants Evan Longoria (3B, Rays) and Denard Span (OF, Twins).

(flip) ...in his first HOW MANY MLB games??? Bruce stroked his 10th hit and walked off Atlanta's Manny Acosta in his fifth game, 5/31/2008.

It's been a MINUTE since we did a Six Degrees here on COTD. Here's the breakdown:

 

  • Bruce and Harang were teammates on the 2008-10 Reds,

  • Harang and Larkin played for the 2003-04 Reds,

  • Larkin and Trillo teamed up on the 1989 Reds,

  • Trillo and Hegan helped the 1973 Athletics win the World Series, and

  • Hegan and Mantle played together on the 1964-67 Yankees, winning the 1964 AL pennant.

Do you SEE Bruce's start for 2008 Louisville (AAA)? Hitting .364, 10, 37 in less than two months is how you force a team to promote you, even at age 21.

AFTER THIS CARD: Over the next eight-and-a-half seasons, Bruce powered 233 balls out of the park, made three All-Star teams and won two Silver Sluggers for Cincinnati. But strikeouts kept him from reaching true superstardom, and the last-place 2016 Reds traded Bruce—in the final year of a 6Y/$51M deal signed in December 2010—to the Mets at the Deadline. He slashed .219/.294/.391 with eight homers in 50 games with New York, who exercised his $13M club option for 2017.

Halfway through that '17 season, Bruce was enjoying a terrific year when yet again, he was moved at the Deadline—this time to Cleveland. Bruce re-signed with the Mets as a FA (3Y/$39M) in January 2018, but missed two months of '18 with a bad hip and struggled when he did play. That December, the Mets packaged him (along with then-prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn) to Seattle in a seven-player megatrade for 2B Robinson Cano.

From there, Bruce continued to go yard but battled to keep his average above the Mendoza line. On 6/2/2019—three days after he hit career homer #300—Bruce was dealt to Philadelphia, for whom he homered four times in his first four games! Overall, Bruce hit .212, 18, 45 iacross 83 games with Philly in 2019-20.

When the now-34-year-old Bruce got off to an icy first two weeks with the 2021 Yankees, he quickly retired. Bruce finished up with 319 longballs and 951 ribbies in 1,650 games across 13+ seasons.

Jay Bruce debuted as a Draft Pick in 2005 Topps Updates & Highlights, returned in 2008 Topps U&H, then appeared annually in Topps 2009-2021. Bruce also has 2016 and 2018 Update cards.

CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Cincinnati Reds, All-Star Rookies

Bruce
Topps Nori Aoki
Topps Nori Aoki

12/23/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps #153 Nori Aoki, Mariners

More Nori/Norichika Aoki Topps Cards: 2012 2013 2014 2015U 2016

Aoki, the former Japan League star who hit over .340 four times before coming to the States in 2012, wrapped up MLB Season #5 in 2016. While Aoki got off to a less-than-ideal offensive start, he nonetheless ended up being a solid contributor to Seattle's 2016 postseason push that ultimately fell four games short. Aoki shook off—or benefited from—two demotions to AAA Tacoma (totaling over five weeks) to bat .280-plus for the fifth straight season.

THIS CARD: Per Getty Images, we're seeing Aoki retreating to first base against visiting Milwaukee 8/20/2016. That day, Aoki doubled twice as part of a three-hit game; he also drove in two runs as Seattle triumphed 8-2. 

Aoki, as you can see here, was one of very few players during my fandom to sport the double-flap helmet despite batting from just one side of the plate.

More from Aoki's 2016 season: he was batting just .245 in 67 games before his first demotion to Tacoma 6/24. He returned 7/20 and hit .316 thru 8/26...only to be demoted again, anyway (this time the reason given was primarily roster purposes). After returning for good 9/6, Aoki slashed .371/.429/.600 thru season's end, and finished 2016 with four straight multi-hit games!

(flip) According to MLB.com, Aoki's .339 average was second-best in the AL over that span (to Detroit 1B/DH Miguel Cabrera's .346).

Of those four home runs in 2016, three were hit in September—and all contributed to Seattle victories!

Aoki indeed signed with the Mariners in December 2015, for the price of 1Y/$5.5M. There was also a $6.5M vesting option for 2017 based on Aoki's—you guessed it—2016 plate appearances. NOW those demotions make a bit more sense.

AFTER THIS CARD: In November 2016, Aoki was claimed off waivers from Seattle by the Astros, who moved him to Toronto at the 2017 Deadline (along with then-prospect OF Teoscar Hernandez). Toronto kept Aoki around for a month before cutting him; he'd finish up that year with the Mets, closing with an aggregate .277 average in 109 games.

Perhaps fed up with the constant upheaval during his MLB career (seven clubs in six seasons), Aoki returned to the Japan League in January 2018. where he remained active as a 40-year-old in 2022.

Nori Aoki appeared in 2012-14 and 2016-17 Topps, as well as 2015 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps, Seattle Mariners

Aoki
Topps Jamie Moyer
Topps Jamie Moyer

12/24/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #379 Jamie Moyer, Mariners

More Jamie Moyer Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1989T 1990 1991 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010U 2011 2012U

1999 was a  year of transition for the Mariners—one that saw them leave the Kingdome for Safeco Field and trade Ken Griffey Jr. to Cincinnati. However, SP Jamie Moyer continued to be a constant for Seattle; he shook off a very unpretty beginning to '99 and wound up earning Cy Young votes in the end. From 7/15 to 9/19, Moyer went 6-2, 1.94 in 12 starts. 

THIS CARD: Moyer appears in Topps COTD for the second time; we presented his 2002 Topps card in April 2021.

I forgot just how high Moyer would lift his plant leg during delivery. His right knee is almost at neck-level—not only would my hamstring tear attempting such a lift, but it would probably disintegrate.

More from Moyer's 1999 season: he went six or more innings in six of his first seven starts, which normally would be a positive thing—except Moyer's composite ERA in those seven starts was 7.69 with an opponent slashline of .323/.381/.500. But from that point on thru season's end, he went 13-4, 2.91 in 25 starts, no doubt aided by the move to Safeco Field. Only Boston megastar Pedro Martinez had a better second-half ERA (2.01 to Moyer's 2.30).

(flip) Guess Topps was low on Moyer images since they used nearly identical pics on the front and back.

That is a very uninteresting blurb. First of all, Moyer was not the first or only guy to do that. Second—expand a bit!!! Does this book have a name? What's an instance of it specifically helping him? And if there's no space TO expand...use another blurb and save the "book" one for 2001 Topps.

Of those four CG in 1999, three came in a four-start span 9/3 thru 9/19. And the one start Moyer didn't complete, he went eight innings against Toronto 9/8! 

AFTER THIS CARD: Following a shaky, injury-marred 2000, Moyer enjoyed a 20-win season for the record-setting 2001 Mariners, followed that up with a 13-8 record in 2002, then signed a 3Y/$15.5M deal that December to remain Seattle's co-ace. He went 21-7 in 2003, endured a rough 2004 (as did the entire Mariners team), then bounced back with 13 victories—including the 200th of his career—in 2005.

Though he re-signed with the M's in December 2005 (1Y/$5.5M), Moyer was swapped to the Phillies in August 2006 (for two career minor leaguers...shame). He finished a combined 11-14 in '06.

For the Phillies, Moyer won 42 games from 2007-09, though he wasn't as durable or effective as in his Mariners days (partially because of the new home ballpark, partially because the dude was frikkin' 44-46 years old during that span). Still, his efforts helped Philly to the 2008 World Series title.

 

Injuries began to hit Moyer in late 2009, and he wound up missing all of 2011 recovering from UCL surgery. Still, he made a game comeback effort with the 2012 Rockies, winning twice and becoming the oldest ever (49) to win in the major leagues before his career-ending June release. Moyer finished up 269-209, 4.25, and his 638 starts rank 5th all-time among lefties.

Jamie Moyer appeared in Topps from 1987-91, and from 1994-2011 except 1996 and 2010. Moyer also shows up in 1989 Traded as well as 2010 and 2012 Update.

CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Seattle Mariners

Moyer
Topps Gregg Jefferies
Topps Gregg Jefferies

12/26/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #341 Gregg Jefferies, Phillies

More Gregg Jefferies Topps Cards: 1989 1990 1991 1992 1992T 1993 1993T 1994 1995 1995T 1996 1997 1999 2001

Jefferies, the onetime Mets megaprospect who never lived up to (possibly unfair) expectations in New York, was still able to forge a fine career that took off once he escaped the Big Apple. In fact, entering 1997, Jefferies had hit .285 or higher—sometimes, way higher—for five straight seasons and made two All-Star teams! 

That streak came to a resounding end in 1997, his third season with the Philadelphia Phillies. Jefferies never got hot, hovering around .250 for most of the year and battling a troublesome right hamstring after the break (which certainly didn't help matters). He did club his 100th career homer 5/12.

THIS CARD: Surprisingly, this is only Jefferies' second COTD visit; he first appeared back in May 2015. He's appeared in multiple other sections of TSR, however, which is probably why I expected a higher number of COTD profiles.

We see Jefferies motoring down the line. If this pic was shot pre-August, he's likely going at or near 100%. But post-August, he undoubtedly had to dial it back a bit due to his hamstring.

That's #25 on Jefferies' sleeve; today—among Phillies—I more closely attribute that number to superstar 1B Jim Thome, who mashed a load of longballs for the Phils wearing #25 from 2003-05 and again in 2012.

(flip) From the left side in 1997, Jefferies hit just .234, compared to .325 as a righty. And since he batted more than 3X as often as a lefty...that was a problem.

See those 46 steals in the 1993 stats? TOLD you Jefferies could run once upon a time. But by 2000, the 32-year-old was through running—he dropped a fat ZERO in the steals column that year (41 games). Bad hammies will do that to ya.

Jefferies actually finished second in the NL in AB/K four times from 1994-98, and I could tell you without looking it up that all four times, he finished behind perennial leader Tony Gwynn Sr.

AFTER THIS CARD: In August 1998, after batting .294 in 125 games for the Phillies, free-agent-to-be Jefferies was traded to the Angels—for whom he hit .347 in 19 games as a semi-regular LF/1B. That winter, Jefferies joined the Tigers on a 2Y/$5M deal.

In 1999, Jefferies was limited to 70 games by elbow and hamstring injuries and hit just .200 when he was active. Any hopes of a rebound were dashed in May 2000, when the 32-year-old suffered what ended up being a career-ending hamstring tear. He finished up with 348 lifetime K in over 6,000 MLB plate appearances!  

 

Gregg Jefferies appeared annually in Topps from 1989-2001, except 2000. He also appears in 1992, 1993 and 1995 Topps Traded.

CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies

Jefferies
Topps Craig Worthington
Topps Craig Worthington

12/27/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #521 Craig Worthington, Orioles

More Craig Worthington Topps Cards: 1989 1991 

Worthington, Baltimore's primary 3B during the bulk of the Frank Robinson managerial era, enjoyed an encouraging 1989 campaign for a re-tooled Orioles team. He started 144 games that season and earned a handful of AL Rookie of the Year votes.

THIS CARD: We see Worthington as he tracks a popup. In 1989, his first full MLB season, he committed 20 errors, 12 of them between 7/1 and 8/9. But after 8/20, Worthington was charged with just a lone miscue, on 9/1 (#1) at Texas.

That name font is more cramped than it had to be, and I'd never noticed it before in nearly 33 years owning this card.

The vintage Topps All-Star Rookie trophy has not appeared much in COTD, but we have it here. The updated version—which is still used today despite an effort to phase it out in 2010 Topps—premiered in 1994 Topps.

(flip) That first MLB home run was hit off future Hall-of-Famer Bert Blyleven of the Twins. In fact, five of Worthington's first 17 MLB bombs were hit off eventual Cooperstown inductees (Blyleven, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, and a pair off Jack Morris). His very last one was served up by Roger Clemens, a Hall-of-Fame performer if not an actual inductee.

Those 70 RBI in 1989 ranked second on the Orioles (Cal Ripken Jr., 93).

All I think of when seeing the number 521 is Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas. Please please PLEASE let Miguel Cabrera finish 2023—expected to be his final season—with something other than 14 home runs so Club 521 doesn't continue swelling!!!

AFTER THIS CARD: Worthington spent most of 1990 as Baltimore's 3B, but lost playing time in August with his average hovering in the .210's. Eventually, top prospect Leo Gomez took over at third base, and Worthington was swapped to the Padres early in Spring Training 1992.

From that point on, Worthington would spend the overwhelming majority of his pro career in the minors, getting in just 58 more MLB games (spread between the 1992 Indians, 1995 Reds and 1995-96 Rangers) and batting .209, 4, 14 in 129 at-bats. But I suppose he'll always have 1989, which is more than a high percentage of dudes get.

Craig Worthington appeared in 1989-91 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Baltimore Orioles

Worthington
Topps Pokey Reese
Topps Pokey Reese

12/28/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #424 Pokey Reese, Reds

More Calvin/Pokey Reese Topps Cards: 1992 1994 1995 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004T 2005 2005U 2006

Pokey Reese was a flashy shortstop/second baseman with loads of speed and some pop in his bat. Highly-touted pretty much since the day he was drafted by the 1991 Reds, Reese—no matter HOW good he was or HOW many embarrassing photos he possessed—was still not going to displace Cincinnati icon Barry Larkin from the shortstop position. So he (eventually) slid over to second base and dazzled there.

Here, Reese—who as a 1997 rookie filled in extensively at SS for the injured Larkin—has completed his second season in MLB (1998). It didn't go well for Reese, who played part-time early on before taking over as Cincy's primary 3B in late June. Sadly, a torn thumb ligament ended his season 7/30; Reese ended up playing just 59 games in 1998.

THIS CARD: We see Reese as we saw our previous COTD subject Craig Worthington: tracking a popup. Defensively, Reese opened the 1998 season at SS while Larkin recuperated from disk surgery. As mentioned, Reese eventually became the Reds' #1 3B and made but one error in just over a month in that role.

Reese was the first Reds player to wear #3 since 1953; the number had been used exclusively by coaches and managers for 43 seasons! I'm just SURE Marge Schott had something to do with it.

More from Reese's 1998 season: he was hitting .143 before "earning" regular play, after which he went 27-for-84 (.321) with a .390 OBP! On 6/25 at the White Sox, Reese walked twice—once with loaded bases—singled, and cracked a three-run homer in the Reds 7-5 victory. 

(flip) Reese did indeed end up a Gold Glover at second base, for the Reds in 1999-2000.

Reese is listed as a shortstop, his position by trade, but in 1998 he was rarely seen there after that first week subbing for Larkin. Reese ended up starting 24 games at third, 12 at short and one at second in 1998; he would never be a full-time SS in the major leagues.

Check out Reese's 1997 stats: when Topps lists the minor league row after the major league row, it usually means the player began the year in the MLB but was demoted at some point thereafter. I never knew Reese had been optioned out to AAA Indianapolis in April 1997—twice, no less.

AFTER THIS CARD: The 1999 season would be Reese's all-round best; he hit .285 with 10 jacks, set most career highs, and won that first of two straight Gold Gloves at 2B! So high were the Reds on Reese that after the '99 season, he was off-limits in trade talks for the legendary Ken Griffey Jr.! 

By 2001, however, Reese was saddled with nagging injuries and a .224 average; he was dealt to the Red Sox and the Rockies that December—only to be non-tendered soon after.

 

Enter the Pirates in January 2002; Reese took their 2Y/$5M deal—not bad for a player in Reese's position until you realize he previously rejected $21M from Cincy (possibly because of this?). He delivered a so-so '02 campaign but suffered a season-ending torn thumb ligament in mid-May 2003.

 

Next: a 1Y/$1M deal with the Red Sox, who used Reese extensively at SS while incumbent Nomar Garciaparra was sidelined. That May, Reese pulled off the rare feat of homering inside and outside the park in consecutive innings! At year's end, he collected his first World Series championship.

At that time, no one knew Reese was done in MLB. He signed with the Mariners in January 2005 (1Y/$1.2M) but underwent shoulder surgery that May and never played an inning for them. The Marlins signed Reese in December 2005 but were forced to terminate his 1Y/$800K deal during 2006 Spring Training when he went AWOL. Other than a brief 2008 comeback attempt in the Nats system, that was it for Reese in pro baseball.

Calvin "Pokey" Reese debuted as a Draft Pick in 1992 Topps, made a pair of cameos as a prospect in 1994-95 Topps, then appeared annually in 1998-2006 Topps (except 2004, when he was held over to the Traded set). Reese also showed up in 2005 Topps Updates & Highlights as a new Mariner.

CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Cincinnati Reds

Reese
Topps Rafael Furcal
Topps Rafael Furcal

12/29/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #179 Rafael Furcal, Dodgers

More Rafael Furcal Topps Cards: 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2010 2011 2011U 2012 2013 2014

2008 represented the third year of the 3Y/$39M deal veteran SS Rafael Furcal signed with the Dodgers back in December 2005. But "Raffy" spent the bulk of his walk year on the sidelines—he didn't play from early May until the final week after a back injury that eventually required surgery in July. Despite being off the field for nearly five months, Furcal was still able to turn heads by batting .381 in April—including a five-hit game and 13 multi-hit games!

THIS CARD: Doesn't your groin hurt just looking at this pic? Furcal's range at shortstop rarely failed to impress, especially in his earlier years.

For the sixth time in nine Topps front images, Furcal showcases his defensive skillz, even coming off an NLDS where his defense gained attention for the wrong reasons. Furcal was shown firing off a throw from SS on each of his next two Topps front images as well; his Topps base tenure ended in 2014 with exactly ONE of his 15 front images depicting him batting. (Although he is swinging it on his 2011 Update card.)

More from Furcal's 2008 season: he was second in MLB in hitting during the month of April (former Braves teammate Chipper Jones, .410, minimum 75 PA) and still sat at .366 when he went to the DL 5/6. Impressively, Furcal homered in his final game before the layoff when he no doubt had to be hurting. On 4/30 at Florida, Furcal went 5-for-6 with three runs in a 13-1 Dodger anhillation. 

(flip) Using the 15 at-bat criteria, Furcal's career ended in 2014 with journeyman lefty Tom Gorzelanny as his highest active BAA (8-for-17, .471) per Stathead.

Dodger legend Snider finished the 1955 season with 126 runs—well off the pace of 170 or so he was on. But as a Dodger, he could have scored 1,070 runs that year and I'd still demean him.

Since I was in college when Furcal was a rook, it's hard to believe he is now 45. Of course, if he had his way, he'd be 43 instead of 45, but I digress.

AFTER THIS CARD: Freddie Freeman was hardly the first free agent to pick the Dodgers over the Braves; Atlanta seemed set to bring back their former fixture Furcal after the '08 season, but he

instead re-upped with the Dodgers for 3Y/$30M in December—much to Atlanta's chagrin.

Furcal experienced a pedestrian 2009 season, then missed 130+ combined games 2010-11 with hamstring, back, thumb and oblique injuries; he was still named to the 2010 NL All-Star team as an injury sub for the Mets' Jose Reyes. St. Louis traded for Furcal in mid-2011, and he was an All-Star for them in 2012 despite a bad elbow that wiped out his September/October.

 

Furcal eventually underwent elbow surgery and spent 2013 on the DL, but resurfaced the next year with the Marlins (a team he once tripled thrice in one game against). Set to be Miami's starting 2B, the veteran didn't debut until June due to groin and hammy issues. About 10 days after said debut, Furcal tore his hamstring and didn't play again in '14.

A MiLB deal with KC for '15 didn't pan out, and Furcal ultimately retired at 37.

Rafael Furcal debuted in 2000 Topps on a shared Prospects card, then appeared annually in 2001-14 Topps. He's also got a 2011 Update card as a new Cardinal.

CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers

Furcal
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