Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, February 2017

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Topps Checklists/Highlights
Topps Checklists/Highlights

2/3/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps Update #28 Checklist/Highlight

More 2015 Topps Checklist/Highlight Cards: N/A


Beginning with the 2011 set, Topps began to combine their Checklist and Highlight cards into one (save for the 2013 set, which combined Checklists and Rookie Combos.)


If Topps is going to insist on restoring those silly, unnecessary Combo cards (as it did the past couple sets), I'd personally prefer Checklists shared a front with those—this way the Highlight cards could have a blurb, as in the old days. 


But this isn't bad, either; remember, from 2000-08, Topps excluded Checklist cards altogether (I know 2000 Topps issued Checklist cards as inserts; not sure about the others.)

 

 

THIS CARD: Miguel Cabrera joined the 400-homer club on 5/16/15; he took St. Louis LHP Tyler Lyons deep with two outs in the first inning of an eventual 4-3 Tiger win—aren't the milestones sweeter when they aid a win? 


In terms of age, only seven men reached 400 faster than Cabrera, and all of them finished with at least 534.


According to the boxscore, it was 75º and dry in St. Louis that day, yet there's at least a dozen umbrellas in this pic. In short, the boxscore was wrong, at least during Cabrera's AB—watch the video and you'll clearly see rain as he rounds third base.

 

(flip) I still don't know who Aaron Thompson is. Pleasantly surprised to see Ryan Vogelsong included in the set. Still don't know who Tim Cooney is. And how did Kelvin Herrera get an All-Star Card, but not a common card in either the base or Update set?

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps Update, Checklists, Highlights

 
Topps Jack Cust
Topps Jack Cust

2/7/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #301 Jack Cust, Athletics

More Jack Cust Topps Cards: 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2007 2008 2009 2011


For three years in the late 00's, Cust was the main power threat on Oakland's roster, once Eric Chavez' body totally betrayed him (we're not counting Matt Holliday in '09 because he was a rental. And because I dislike him.) Cust was your classic Three-True-Outcomer; it seemed he either walked, whiffed, or went yard in 80% of his times at-bat.


It was a long time coming for the 1997 #1 pick by the still-fetal Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona won their 2001 title despite not-so-great lefty relief, so Cust—who received his first two MLB at-bats on that club—and fellow prospect J.D. Closser were dealt to Colorado for Mike Myers over that winter.


12 months later Baltimore traded for him, beginning a wild 15 months for Cust in which he would: 
⦁    be jerked up and down from AAA several times, 
⦁    star in one of 2003's best bloopers, 
⦁    get designated for assignment, 
⦁    have said designation rescinded by the team, then 
⦁    finally outrighted off the roster.

 

Over the next two years, Cust received three MLB PA's before Oakland called him up in May 2007—he then homered six times in his first seven games! Splitting time between OF and DH, he'd be a mainstay in their lineup through 2010 (with a gap we'll explain below); in 2008, Cust smoked 33 homers in 481 AB, while his lefty-hitting teammates combined for 37 in 2,536 at-bats!


Here, 31-year-old Cust is coming off his third season in the middle of the A's order. Oakland acquired some additional thump in the 2008-09 offseason—but by mid-August, Holliday was traded and Jason Giambi was dropped, leaving Cust naked again. Still, he cut his K ratio by 14%, and stole the first four bases of his career.

 

 

THIS CARD: "NO ROOM!!!" Is that what it says behind Cust? If so, why is that such exciting news?
The A's went through a period of wearing this alternate WAY too much, almost more than the actual road greys. Introducing the gold alternate a few years back kind of balanced things out.


There's...something to the right of Cust's helmet logo. Can't tell if it's glare, paint, writing, or other. Guesses?

 

(flip) As mentioned, Cust also added a lot of K's, but that isn't really a skill. However, he did add another triple and two more steals to his ledger before retiring. So there was some growth.
The "Trade With Padres" was actually a sale.


Flemington, New Jersey is about 27 miles north of Trenton and about 15 miles east of the Pennsylvania border.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: More wildness—Oakland chose not to re-sign Cust after '09, re-signed him after all, outrighted him to AAA just before the season opener (Chavez was healthy enough to DH only), then finally reinstated him in May. Mostly DH'ing, Cust put up a .272/.395/.438 slashline in his partial season, but that winter the A's let him go again.


Now 32, Cust was signed to be Seattle's DH for 2011, but struggled, was benched and ultimately released in early August. Minor league deals with five other teams all led nowhere, and pro baseball said goodbye to John Joseph Cust III in March 2014.


Jack Cust's first four Topps base cards—1998 Draft Pick, 2000-01 Prospect and 2003 Future Stars—were shared with others. He finally appeared solo in 2004 Topps, then appeared annually in 2008-11 Topps. Cust also has a 2002 Traded card and a 2007 Update card.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Oakland Athletics

 
Topps Mike Gonzalez
Topps Mike Gonzalez

2/10/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #454 Mike Gonzalez, Pirates

More Mike/Michael Gonzalez Topps Cards: 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011


"Miiiichael....Miiiichael....I know you HEAR me, Michael.... MICHAEL!!!"


I can still hear it to this day. It was May 2011, and I took my mom to her first Oakland Athletics game in a while (my defending champion Giants were too hot a ticket at that time.) We sat a few rows up from the RF bullpen, and 10 rows behind us a young guy was just giving it to any Baltimore Oriole who dared warm up.


It wasn't mean-spirited, just a dude having some fun by needling the visiting team, drawing laughs all around because he  just...wouldn't...stop. (Alfredo Simon got it hardest, which I'll detail whenever he's selected for COTD.)


Mike Gonzalez was among those targeted that day—he was getting toward the end of his 11-year MLB career, and at that point was just trying to sneak in, get his one or two lefties out, and disappear into the night...oh, well.


Here, Gonzalez comes off a rookie season among the decade's finest for relievers. After being recalled in May, the 26-year-old Pirates lefty went 13 games without giving up an ER, posted an 0.88 WHIP for the season, and walked only two of 107 batters faced after the All-Star Break!

 


THIS CARD: Adam LaRoche, who'd one day be swapped for Gonzalez, also made Topps' All-Star Rookie team. So did Gonzalez's Pirates teammate Jason Bay. This is Gonzalez's first Topps card.


Do not be fooled—Gonzalez looks balanced here, but in reality his follow-through practically shot him off the pitcher's mound.


In case it's unclear, Gonzalez wears #51—the only number he ever wore in the big leagues.

 

(flip) I've touched on how uninformative the little inset photo boxes are in previous 2005 Topps COTD...no need to assault the horse's corpse here.


About that Pirates/Red Sox transacting: 


⦁    7/23/03: Pittsburgh dealt Scott Sauerbeck and then-prospect Gonzalez to Boston in exchange for RP Brandon Lyon (plus a prospect),
⦁    7/25/03: the Pirates learn Lyon has a frayed elbow ligament, and 
⦁    7/31/03: Lyon and said prospect are traded back to Boston with SP Jeff Suppan, with Gonzalez and IF Freddy Sanchez going to the Pirates—just like they drew it up, I'm sure.

 

Gonzalez may have been a #30 pick in 1997, but Pittsburgh tried to make him a #17 pick in 1996 right out of high school. Instead, he spent a year at San Jacinto college. (No criticism. Just sharin' facts.)

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Gonzalez continued to shine for the Bucs, saving all 24 of his chances in 2006! But Pittsburgh needed slugging—off to Atlanta Gonzalez went, in exchange for LaRoche.


As best as we could research, it was in Atlanta that Gonzalez adopted his famous "rocking" pre-windup motion—he'd literally rock/sway on the mound as his catcher put down signs. (If you know for a fact this motion was born elsewhere...let us know.)


With Gonzalez fully recovered from 2007 Tommy John surgery, Baltimore inked him for 2Y/$12M and named him closer. Each of those years began poorly and ended strong for the veteran, who was acquired by reigning A.L. Champion Texas in late 2011.


Gonzalez finished up playing one year each with Washington and Milwaukee; he failed to make the '14 Nats and has been out of baseball since. Approaching age 39, that's unlikely to change.


Mike Gonzalez debuted here in 2005 Topps, then appeared annually 2007-11 (he's "Michael" on his 2011 card.)
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates

 
Topps Mike Minor
Topps Mike Minor

2/15/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #316 Mike Minor, Braves

More Mike Minor Topps Cards: 2011 2012 2013 2015

 

My Giants had a guy like Minor a decade back—Noah Lowry. Like Minor, Lowry was a middle-round draft pick, a lefty who won games without exceptional stuff. And like Minor, he was forced off the diamond by injury just as he entered what should have been his prime.


Lowry never made it back, unfortunately, but Minor still could. 


The Vanderbilt alum's first two MLB seasons went like this: incumbent Braves P gets hurt (Kris Medlen, Jair Jurrjens, etc); team calls up Minor, lather, rinse, repeat. He was never good or bad enough to disrupt that status quo. 


Minor finally won a rotation spot all his own for 2012—with a precarious grip on it early (five-start stretch with 11 HRA; 6.20 ERA through June.)


Here, Minor has grown into one of the NL's more promising starters—the tall lefty whiffed 181 men, posted a 1.090 WHIP (both team-bests) and won 13 times that year. He also was the only Brave over 200 IP, and ripped his first MLB homer 5/25.

 


THIS CARD: That is one neatly-trimmed goatee.

 

Minor seems to be firing a breaking ball of some sort as he sports the old-school cream Atlanta uniform of yesteryear (covered on Julio Teheran's previous COTD).

 

(flip) We covered some of the blurb above. 


Minor struck out 12 Cubs in his third MLB start; Atlanta won 16-5. (Topps? Using "SO'S" for strikeouts is, well, unbecoming for a company of your repute. Call them K's; it's the modern term. K?)


I thought North Carolina had the only Chapel Hill. This Chapel Hill is apparently named after that one (according to Wikipedia) and is about 50 miles south of Nashville.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Following his strong 2013 performance, Minor was seemingly on the rise...


...but in mid-2014, he endured a miserable 10-start mid-season stretch (7.33 ERA and .357 OAVG) that threatened his roster spot. That slump was bookended by shoulder pain that ultimately led to season-ending labrum surgery in May 2015. So Minor wound up throwing zero pitches for Atlanta in 2015 after beating them in arbitration for $5.6M three months prior—understandably, the Braves let him go at season's end.


Curiously, the defending champion Royals gave the injured Minor a two-year deal for 2016 (with a hefty 2018 team option). But a MLB return eluded him thanks to that same painful shoulder; Minor battled through 10 AAA starts before being shut down in August.


Mike Minor has appeared in Topps 2011-15.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps, Atlanta Braves

 
Topps Chariie Leibrandt
Topps Charlie Leibrandt

2/22/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps Traded #60 Charlie Leibrandt, Braves

More Charlie Leibrandt Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993

 

TSR goes from a current Royals lefty to a key Royals lefty from yesteryear in Leibrandt, who went 71-50, 3.32 for the 1984-88 squads before eventually becoming a trivia answer—he is the man who allowed Kirby Puckett's infamous "We'll see you tomorrow night!" home run in the 1991 World Series.


But like Ralph Branca and Al Downing with Bobby Thomson and Hank Aaron, respectively, Leibrandt was a quality pitcher for years who shouldn't be remembered for one pitch...but probably will.


Prior to KC, Leibrandt was a #9 pick by the 1978 Reds, and in the majors 15 months later. He'd be up and down with the Reds through mid-1983, when he was traded to the Royals for a reliever who never pitched in MLB again.


Here, Leibrandt is among the newest Atlanta Braves. Needing more offense for a team that finished 11th in the AL in runs, 12th in SLG and 13th in HR, the Royals traded for Braves OF Gerald Perry in December 1989, with Leibrandt the main return. 
The 10-year veteran was coming off a clunker of a 1989 season (12.12 ERA in eight starts July-August; removed from rotation), easing Kansas City's decision to part with him.

 


THIS CARD: Leibrandt, supposedly 34 when this card was released, would be a first-round pick by the Bob Brenly All-Stars. Check out his early Topps cards as a Red—even in his early 20's, he looked 40.

 

That one little lonely cloud...one could Photoshop a pipe in Leibrandt's mouth and it'd line up perfectly, wouldn't it?

 

(flip) Leibrandt was good, people—he spun those shutouts during Year Of The Hitter (in a DH league, no less.) 


Shutout #1: Leibrandt allowed two hits, walked three, K'd seven and received support from Lonnie Smith's four hits, including a homer. 


In Shutout #2, Leibrandt allowed six hits, walked one and K'd four, while being supported by George Brett's two-run homer.

 

Leawood is literally on the Kansas/Missouri border, just south of Kansas City, Missouri. It ain't that big.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Leibrandt lasted four more seasons—the first three with Atlanta as the elder statesman of their rising young rotation. He won 15 games with 229 IP in 36 starts for the 1991 pennant winners, then went 15-7 for the 1992 squad before joining the Rangers via trade (he became expendable when Greg Maddux arrived.)


Leibrandt began 1993 very well, but went winless after the break—he missed most of the final two months with shoulder stiffness and retired after the season. His son Brandon is currently a Phillies pitching prospect.


Charlie Leibrandt appeared in Topps annually 1981-93, except 1984. Topps did not issue him a 1994 card with Texas, but Score, Fleer and Donruss did. (1993 Stadium Club depicts him with Texas, as well.)

 

 

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps Traded, Atlanta Braves

 
Topps Jeremy Guthrie
Topps Jeremy Guthrie

2/28/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps #321 Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles

More Jeremy Guthrie Topps Cards: 2003 2004 2007 2008 2009 2010 2012 2013 2014 2015


When this card was released, Guthrie was entering his fourth year as the O's de facto ace and most dependable starter. From 2008-11 when the O's were mostly bad, he annually threw at least 190 IP (only one other Oriole did so even once), led Baltimore in wins thrice, and while no Cal Ripken in terms of popularity, certainly was not disliked by Oriole fans.


So why, three years later, were those same fans ready to hang him—even though he'd long since moved on? Did he throw at Manny Machado? Did he call Chris Davis a stinky poo-poo face?
Nope. Guthrie became Public Enemy #1 for this. (For those of you unaware, it's a parody of an unflattering rap lyric.)


You'd think a city that once lost a football team in the middle of the night wouldn't be so sensitive.


Guthrie began his pro career with Cleveland; they drafted him #22 overall from Stanford in '02. Though he reached MLB in '04, it wasn't until '06 that Guthrie enjoyed sustained success on the AAA level (9-5, 3.14 in 20 GS). So in early '07, the Indians rewarded him with...walking papers; they needed his roster spot for Trot Nixon.
 
With recommendation of manager Dave Trembley, Baltimore nabbed him, and you know the rest. Here, Guthrie has enjoyed what could be his best statistical season to date—his home run rate dropped from 1 per 5.71 IP to 1 per 8.37 IP, and his 1.16 WHIP would be by far his career-best.

 


THIS CARD: I'm not exaggering when I say each of Guthrie's 2008-11 Topps cards are nearly identical. Same angle, same point in the windup. I ask yet again—Topps, HIRE ME AS YOUR ANTI-REDUNDANCY OFFICER!


That's one of the best strain faces on a baseball card I've seen yet—Guthrie is totally unrecognizable. I'd guess him to be Billy Koch before Jeremy Guthrie.


Doesn't it look like the O's defender is standing in front of...a dugout? (To our knowledge, Camden Yards does not have a dugout in right-center field, and never has.)

 

(flip) Fitting for Topps to go back exactly 25 years for an Oriole legend on the sidebar. Don't know if that was intentional or not, but either way it's cool. (Those 2011 sidebars just make me wanna...sift through baseball cards. I'm not kidding.)


Don't worry, those 123 K in 2007 are not still Guthrie's career high. He advanced that total all the way up to 130 in 2011.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: For the second time in three years, Guthrie led the AL with 17 losses in 2011; Baltimore traded him to the Rockies that winter (the deal was less about the L's and more about Guthrie's pending free agency.) But he didn't pitch well, and the Rox swapped him for the Royals' Jon Sanchez in July.


Guthrie rediscovered himself in KC and earned a 3Y/$25M deal after the season. He then won 28 more times from 2013-14, as his team grew into a title contender. They won that title in 2015, but Guthrie struggled most of the year and was not on the postseason roster. He failed to make the 2016 Rangers and is attempting to win a job with the 2017 Nationals at this writing.


Jeremy Guthrie debuted as a draft pick in 2003 Topps, appeared as an Indians prospect in 2004 Topps, returned in 2007 Topps Update with Baltimore, then was featured annually in 2008-15 Topps.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps, Baltimore Orioles