Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, February 2018

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Topps Fred McGriff
Topps Fred McGriff

2/2/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #139 Fred McGriff, Devil Rays

More Fred McGriff Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

There aren't that many guys who toed the line of greatness, but never actually quite got there like Fred McGriff. He was consistently a very, very good player, don't get me wrong. At times he was as dangerous at-bat as anybody. But he was kind of like the Ed Harris of his profession—if you had a chance to work with him, of course you do it. You know you'll get at worst an A- performance. When he's on, he's got few peers.

 

But then once you had him...you don't really appreciate him as you would, say, a Hanks or a Clooney. He's not as sexy, in name or in body. Sure, he's consistent and rock-solid but...when is he going to sweep you off your feet?

After a while, you want to say "Yeah, Ed, your resume speaks for itself. You lived up to it in every way. All those Oscar nominations are impressive and well-deserved but at this point...we're ready to go after somebody who'll actually win one."

 

I hope that makes for an apt comparison.

 

As I sit here, I'm trying to think of just ONE individual Fred McGriff on-field moment, that one swing, throw, catch, ejection, injury, anything that could pass for a lasting memory. And—even though I watched most of McGriff's career—I have none. (Not saying none exist, but for a guy with McGriff's credentials, I should remember something. For God's sake I have vivid Eddie Williams memories!)

 

McGriff had already launched 339 baseballs out of major league parks (for the Blue Jays, Padres and Braves) by the time he signed with the Rays for 1998. After being involved in two of the most famous trades of the 1990's, the "Crime Dog" used his second foray into free agency to come home, having been born and raised in Tampa Bay.

 

 

THIS CARD: McGriff and the old-school D-Rays jersey. He was traded as they switched to the green "Rays" uni, but got to wear it upon his 2004 return.

 

Ballpark could be almost anywhere besides Minnesota, Toronto or Boston. I launched a 48-second investigation before realizing it's just not that important.

 

Most of McGriff's base cards depict him swinging the bat; this is one of two featuring him afield. He also got three non-action shots over the years.

 

(flip) I can't believe that record does not belong to a Rockie. As it turns out, in April 1993 Charlie Hayes led that team with "just" five homers. (BTW, it was the original Frank Thomas of the 1962 Mets whose record McGriff tied. That was literally the last expansion team I checked.)

 

At first glance, it seems McGriff slumped in 1998 (just 19 HR). You must remember, however, the Rays cleanup hitter was often followed by a .225 hitter (Paul Sorrento) and a Mike Kelly (Mike Kelly). Of all people, .568-slugging Bubba Trammell was McGriff's only quality protection, but the sophomore only started 52 times. 

 

Those 35 homers in 1992 stood as a Padres lefty record for 16 years until Adrian Gonzalez broke it in 2008.

 

Look at those games played totals; McGriff was nothing if not durable, playing at least 90% of his teams games from 1988-2002 and never hitting the DL until a June 2003 groin injury.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: With more sluggers around him, McGriff's regular power production resumed over the 1999-2000 seasons, but having committed to a younger, cheaper approach, Tampa swapped McGriff to the Cubs near the 2001 deadline (for Jason Smith and Manny Aybar). He stayed with the Cubs through 2002, reaching the 450-homer mark at age 38.

 

However, the end came fast for the five-time All-Star—on a 1Y/$3.75M deal with the Dodgers for '03, McGriff couldn't stay healthy and was no factor. He went unsigned for '04 until a minor-league offer from the Rays in late March. Called up in late May, 40-year-old McGriff—sitting on 491 career home runs—received 81 at-bats to reach 500...but was released seven homers short. No one else called.

 

McGriff has steadily received enough votes to remain on the Hall of Fame ballot, but has maxed out at 24% and will lose eligibility after 2019.

 

Fred McGriff debuted in Topps with a 1988 Traded card, then appeared annually in the base set 1989-2004.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

 
Topps Charlie Blackmon
Topps Charlie Blackmon

2/6/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps #93 Charlie Blackmon, Rockies

More Charlie Blackmon Topps Cards: 2011 2014 2015 2017

 

In 2017, one jumbo-bearded National League outfielder batted .319, slugged .595, and smoked 29 homers along with 87 RBI and a 1.008 OPS for a 97-win team.

 

In 2017, another jumbo-bearded National League outfielder batted .331, slugged .601 and smoked 37 homers along with 104 RBI and a 1.000 OPS for an 87-win team. He also added baseball's most runs scored (137) in 10 years and its most TB (387) in 12 years.

 

The first man is the volatile, accoladed, cell phone-hawking headliner Bryce Harper. The second is the low-key, underrated, generally obscure Charlie Blackmon. It's fair to say if Blackmon wasn't six years older and stigmatized by playing in Denver, most GM's would pick him ahead of Harper in a free-for-all major league draft—if nothing else, you know he wouldn't get kicked out of every 10th game.

 

Blackmon has certainly done it to my Giants over the years, on offense and defense. it is fortunate that, being in Las Vegas at the time, I wasn't watching live when his liner to right destroyed Hunter Pence and went for an ITPHR on 4/21—already on edge from Madison Bumgarner's crash the day before, I might have taken a bat to my television.

 

The Georgia Tech product reached the majors when incumbent Rox CF Dexter Fowler hit the DL in mid-2011; he played well until being injured himself a month later—Blackmon fractured his foot sliding to third, ending his season. 

But by late '13, his stock was rising—Blackmon closed the year hot and took over the primary CF job in '14 after Fowler's winter trade (also playing extensive RF). The 28-year-old registered a six-hit game during Opening Week and wound up a 2014 All-Star! 

 

Here, Blackmon's enjoyed another solid year. Batting leadoff while again alternating between CF and RF, Blackmon finished third in the NL with 43 steals, Colorado's highest total in seven years. He also threw out nine runners and proved his mettle by finishing 7th in the league in PA (682) and 6th in HBP (13).

 

 

THIS CARD: This represents Blackmon's second bearded appearance in Topps.  Click here for a special MLB.com feature on his famous growth, including a year-by-year photo progression.

 

Few players have ever needed Topps' redundancy checker like Blackmon—his 2014-17 base cards were all snapped from the virtually the same angle, distance and moment. (At least his two All-Star card images vary.)

 

In 2015, that swing produced a .331 home average, as well as six leadoff home runs.

 

We've already explained the stamp. It'll be on every 2016 Topps card.

 

(flip) Blackmon was born in Dallas, but reared in Georgia, attending both high school and college there. He was actually drafted #28 by the Marlins out of high school and #20 by the Red Sox one year later...but obviously stayed in school.

 

Of Colorado's 50 draft picks in 2008, Blackmon, P Christian Friedrich (2012-15) and IF Thomas Burns (2011-12...who?) were the only three to reach MLB with the Rockies. (Three others played elsewhere.)

 

Blackmon was indeed a player's selection to the 2014 Midsummer Classic. Willy Taveras was the last 30-steal Rockie (68 in 2008).

 

It seems we'll have each card's Series accompanying its number for the foreseeable future—it's been in every set since 2015. 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2016, Blackmon enjoyed what we thought was his breakthrough year, obliterating most of his offensive career highs, finishing 4th in NL average and winning the Silver Slugger while playing center exclusively. Then the aforementioned 2017 happened—all but one of Blackmon's RBI came from the leadoff spot, setting a new MLB record. Now 32, the veteran will earn $14.5M in his walk year of 2018.

 

Charlie Blackmon debuted in 2011 Topps Update, returned in the 2014 base set, and has appeared annually ever since.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps, Colorado Rockies

 
Topps Chase d'Arnaud
Topps Chase d'Arnaud

2/14/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps # Chase d'Arnaud, Pirates

More Chase d'Arnaud Topps Cards: 2011

 

Wait...Chase is the big brother???

 

It appears the d'Arnauds are my modern-day Guerreros; back in the day I was unable to properly grasp the fact that Wilton Guerrero—the smaller, later-debuting, vastly inferior brother of future Hall-of-Famer Vlad—was the older brother. (Of course, they're Dominican, which means Vlad might not be the younger brother anymore; who knows.)

 

In this case, I'd long assumed Chase's brother Travis (of the Mets) was the elder, given his success in MLB to date. Uh, nope.

 

Chase d'Arnaud was a #4 pick of the Pirates in 2008 out of Pepperdine (near his native Torrance, CA). A doubles and steals machine in the minors (among 2010 Eastern Leaguers, he was #9 and #4 in doubles and steals, respectively), d'Arnaud reached the majors in June 2011—hard to believe now, but future All-Star Josh Harrison got himself demoted to AAA, replaced by the former.

 

Here, d'Arnaud has stuck around as the Pirates interim SS, as incumbent Ronny Cedeno recovered from a concussion. Playing regularly at 3B and SS, the youngster had his share of struggles on both sides of the ball and lost time with a broken finger, but did string together three straight multi-hit games in early July.

 

 

THIS CARD: Chase looks nothing like Travis, IMHO. (No, I'm not hinting at anything.)

 

#12 on a Pirate and I automatically flash to Freddy Sanchez...which means I'm probably TOO connected to baseball. Other notable Pirates who wore #12: Mike LaValliere during the Jim Leyland years, and Jack Wilson before he switched to #2.

 

"d'Arnaud" is pronounced "DARR-NO".

 

I'm easily impressed with new logos, but from its 1997 debut the one on d'Arnaud's sleeve did little for me—the prominent red just does not belong. As of 2014 it's Pittsburgh's secondary logo.

 

(flip) This font features no lowercase, apparently.

 

Before being drafted by Pittsburgh, d'Arnaud was drafted #44 out of high school in 2005...by the Dodgers. Though potentially playing at home must have been tempting to d'Arnaud, I choose to believe he didn't sign with L.A. because they suck so bad.

 

That's a lot of K for a guy with so little power.

 

"State College"? It's not actually a college; it's a borough located in the dead center of Pennsylvania. Today the State College Spikes  (lower A) are affiliated with the Cardinals.

 

That walk-off hit came against the tough Jason Motte, and keyed a 4-3 Pirate win. The Bucs, who'd been a season-high seven games over .500, had lost three in a row prior to d'Arnaud's heroics.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: d'Arnaud has since become the second-coming of Bobby Wilson, appearing every year in MLB without me even noticing—although from 2012-14 he appeared just 16 times in the majors. A torn thumb ligament suffered during a Spring 2013 rundown drill helped limit him to minors play that year, during which time he learned the outfield. Pittsburgh outrighted him (for the second time) in November 2014.

 

The now-28-year-old appeared with the 2015 Phillies (finally opposing his brother in MLB), then was called up by the 2016 Braves in May—he started 51 times at six positions and stroked his first big league homer, off Milwaukee's Justin Nicolino. d'Arnaud split 2017 with the Braves, Red Sox and Padres; as of this writing he's trying for a job with the 2018 Giants.

 

Chase d'Arnaud debuted in 2011 Topps Update, featured with his then-and-now teammate Andrew McCutchen. This is his lone Topps card since, despite appearing 84 times in 2016.

 

(Note: this COTD write-up  was delayed by two days because my stupid web browser refused to allow me to save it; I was forced to re-start from scratch. That browser has since been fired.)

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates

 
Topps Steve Cishek
Topps Steve Cishek

2/16/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #254 Steve Cishek, Marlins

More Steve Cishek Topps Cards: 2012 2013 2014 2016 2017

 

Submarining/sidearming pitchers are rare enough, but how many such closers can you think of? Kent Tekulve, Dan Quisenberry...Brian Fuentes...Brad Ziegler sometimes...that's all I got.

 

Just a few years ago Steve Cishek was the game's first breakout sidearming closer in a long time. Originally a Marlins 5th-rounder out of a no-name school, Cishek—like seemingly every other sidearmer I've researched—was encouraged to adopt a more conventional delivery by more than one MiLB coach.

In the end, sidearming won out, and Cishek reached MLB just three years after being drafted; he opened his career with 14 zeroes in a row—a team record.

 

By late 2011, Cishek was receiving some of Leo Nunez's (aka Juan Oviedo) save opportunities; the next year, when Nunez/Oviedo ran into identity issues and pricey new closer Heath Bell proved a massive bust, Cishek won a spot and closed out 15 of 16 save ops after the All-Star break. With both predecessors long gone by 2013, Cishek emerged as one of the league's better firemen, saving 34 of 36 and allowing three homers all year!

 

Here, the now-28-year-old has enjoyed another strong year closing games in South Beach. There were a few first half hiccups, but Cishek again turned it on after the break, saving 19 of 20 including 11 in a row at one point.

 

 

THIS CARD: The more time passes, the more I dig 2015 Topps. The graphics, the expanded set size...I was very pleased with this set. It's got staying power.

 

Redundancy check fail: all but one of Cishek's six Topps cards show him mid-windup. And the one exception? He's about to wind up. I understand wanting to illustrate his unique motion, but it's time to show him jogging in from the 'pen, laughing in the dugout, something different in 2018, Topps.

 

What's he throwing? Either his 91-mph sinker, 88-mph four-seamer, or his biting slider. Cishek used to throw a change earlier in his career, but has all but abandoned it these past few years and is basically a three-pitch guy.

 

I'm guessing Tropicana Field. The background aura just feels like a domed stadium.


(flip) Adrenaline junkie Cishek is definitely in the right role. If I had unlimited time I'd research his "getting in work" stats vs. his "actual game on the line" stats; like many guys, I'm willing to bet he struggles if the score ain't close.

 

Cishek piles on those K's without overpowering velocity. Partly due to the era he pitches in, partly due to his deceptive delivery. Righties have hit .205 against him lifetime; lefties .231.

 

Falmouth is located on Cape Cod, east of Rhode Island and the southernmost point of Massachusetts.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: An up-and-down ride. After a salary raise to $6.65M, Cishek's delivery betrayed him in early 2015; he blew four of seven saves and lost his job in May—making matters worse, GM Dan Jennings soon took over as manager and demoted Cishek to AAA. Effective after returning, the Cardinals procured Cishek via deadline trade (A.J. Ramos had locked down Cishek's old closer's job with Miami.)

 

Cishek signed a 2Y/$10M deal with Seattle for 2016, but lost his closing job that August and underwent hip labrum surgery in October. He returned to Florida—as a Tampa Bay Ray—in a 2017 deal and enters 2018 on a 2Y/$13M deal with the Cubs to likely set up Brandon Morrow, at least to open the year.

 

Steve Cishek debuted in 2012 Topps Update and has appeared annually in the base set since.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Miami Marlins

 
Topps Jeanmar Gomez
Topps Jeanmar Gomez

2/22/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps Update #92 Jeanmar Gomez, Pirates

More Jeanmar Gomez Topps Cards: 2010 2011 2017

 

For whatever he achieves the rest of his career, Jeanmar Gomez can always say he did something that only one other man in an 86-year-old league ever did—back in 1943, Scranton's Chet Covington became the first Eastern League (AA) pitcher to ever throw a nine-inning perfect game; in May 2009, Akron's Gomez became the second.

 

14 months later, the sinker/slider artist found himself in Cleveland's rotation, where he remained for most of the season's duration. Though he lost a competition for a rotation spot on the 2011 Tribe —and was shuttled to/from AAA several times—Gomez did open 2012 in Cleveland, though he hit a huge wall in late May and was demoted to AAA for two months.

 

Here, Gomez is in the midst of his first year with the Pirates, who acquired him following his D4A by Cleveland in January 2013. It was a strange '13 for the 25-year-old—he won a Spring job as a reliever/fill-in starter, but left two of those fill-in starts himself with calf and forearm injuries. Plus, he was hit in the chest by an Adrian Gonzalez liner 4/5 (but still caught the ball).

 

Despite the setbacks, Gomez helped the Pirates end a 21-year playoff drought and even fired four shutout relief innings in the NLDS opener!

 

 

THIS CARD: Gomez gears up to fire either his 90-92 MPH sinker, his mid-80's slider, or the changeup he featured until 2016, when he all but junked it in favor of a new splitter (perhaps taught to him by new Phillies teammate Hector Neris, who stole Gomez' job on the strength of his turbo split; read on.)

 

I see a slight resemblance to veteran OF Marlon Byrd. And I'm probably alone in that.

 

According to MLB.com, Gomez' first name is pronounced JENN-mar.

 

Gomez' is wearing #30. During my lifetime, the most significant Pirate out of 20 to share that number was Jason Thompson.

 

According to my source, Pittsburgh began wearing the gold caps on Sunday home games beginning in 2013; if you can confirm that, please do let us know, and/or if they're still in use.

(If that criteria is true, we can narrow the date to one of the six Sunday home games Gomez pitched in 2013: 4/14, 4/21, 6/2, 7/14, 9/1 or 9/22.)


(flip) The "Trade With Indians" sent OF prospect Quincy Lattimore west; he played 10 pro seasons with four organizations without a MLB call-up and was in the Mexican League at last check.

 

Jeanmar Gomez is not going to catch Cy Young. He is never even going to get a Cy Young Award vote. Not a knock on him; Julio Teheran, Mike Leake and Chris Tillman are among many who've never gotten one, either.

 

As you see, Gomez just turned 30 a couple of weeks ago (allegedly; he is Dominican.)

 

I'd never before heard of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (short-season A ball; Gomez cameoed there during the AAA All-Star break.)

 

Since Topps quit listing games started around this time, I'll tell you that Gomez started 11, 10 and 17 games, respectively, in the majors 2010-12.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Much like his specialty sinker, Gomez' career has been up at times, down at others. He game the 2014 Pirates servicable relief work, but was still D4A after the season (on the same day as teammate and 2/14 COTD selection Chase d'Arnaud, coincidentally.)

 

Gomez won a middle relief job with the 2015 Phillies, and was promoted to closer for 2016 —though he lost that job with a dreadful September, his 37 saves were 5th-best in the NL and helped secure a 300% salary raise to $4.2M for 2017.
Sadly, Gomez pitched himself off the roster in June and has bounced through three organizations since, including the White Sox for with whom he's currently auditioning.

 

Jeanmar Gomez debuted in 2010 Topps Update,  and has since appeared in 2011 Topps, 2013 Update and 2017 Topps.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps Update, Pittsburgh Pirates