Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, February 2020
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2/29/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #440 Shawn Green, Dodgers
More Shawn Green Topps Cards: 1992 1994 1995 1995T 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2005 2005U 2006 2006U 2007 2008
Are you KIDDING me? A SECOND CONSECUTIVE DODGER IS TOPPS CARD OF THE DAY?!
Ugh...fine, I'll do it. But I won't like it.
Shawn Green was a talented two-time All-Star who enjoyed some huge offensive years around century's turn. Originally a #1 pick of the Blue Jays, Green got short looks with the 1993-94 squads before earning a platoon role with the '95 team. Though he finished 5th in AL Rookie Of The Year voting, manager Cito Gaston continued to platoon Green until being let go in 1997.
With Tim Johnson now in charge, Green was given the everyday RF job for '98 and took off, becoming Toronto's first 30-30 man in their 22-season history. After a 42-HR '99 season, Toronto—unable to sign the free-agent-to-be to an extension—dealt him to the Dodgers, who promptly dropped $84M in Green's lap.
Green walloped 91 home runs in 2001-02, including four in one game 5/23/02, but here, Green's coming off a tough 2003 season. He played the year with shoulder pain which seriously sapped his power, and underwent surgery for a torn labrum after the season.
THIS CARD: Of Green's 14 regular Topps base cards, this is the only one to depict him fielding. After playing over 90 games at the other outfield spots previously, Green was used exclusively in RF in 2003.
I dig this Dodger road uniform strictly because it reminds me of the dysfunctional 1999 team. The blue piping down the front and white lettering highlight have since been removed, and it just isn't the same.
Green wore #15 most of his career, a number shared by ex-Dodgers star Davey Lopes. Austin Barnes has worn it for LA since 2016.
(flip) Green's blurbed six-year run has to be among the quietest, and most forgotten, in recent history. Though paid like it, he was never really "The Man" on his teams, most of which were mediocre, and even in his best years he only received tepid MVP consideration. I might have guessed Rodriguez and Guerrero, but I'd have never guessed Shawn Green.
Today, more than ever, I appreciate a durable ballplayer. Despite his shoulder issues, as you can see, Green rarely missed games during his prime. Starting in '98, not until 2006 did he dip below 150 games played (149).
That Trade With Blue Jays sent Green and a prospect to the Dodgers in exchange for the very unhappy OF Raul Mondesi and RP Pedro Borbon Jr.
Nope, there's no bold/italic error; Green's 134 runs in 1999 did not lead the AL (Robby Alomar, 138), though they are still Toronto's all-time record.
AFTER THIS CARD: Because of his shoulder, Green moved to first base for much of 2004. Though hardly a liability at-bat, and despite an impressive power display in October, Green's days as an elite hitter were behind him and he was traded to the Diamondbacks after the '04 season for C Dioner Navarro and three failed prospects.
Green lasted in Arizona until August 2006 until being swapped to the division champion Mets; he only homered 10 times in 446 AB in '07 and was not re-signed. He announced his retirement in February 2008, owner of 328 career home runs.
Shawn Green debuted as a draft pick in 1992 Topps, then appeared annually 1994-2008. He's also got a 1995 Traded card and 2005-06 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
More February 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day
2/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #197 Freddy Garcia, Phillies
More Freddy Garcia Topps Cards: 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2004T 2005 2006 2010 2011 2011U 2012
Not to be confused with the 1990's Pirates IF of the same name—that one never appeared on a Topps card—this Freddy Garcia was a bulldog starting pitcher most notably for the Mariners and White Sox in the 2000's. In fact, for much of his first four years in MLB, he was Seattle's co-ace along with Jamie Moyer.
6'4" Garcia—acquired by Seattle from Houston in the 1998 Randy Johnson trade—threw hard and had pretty nasty breaking stuff, explaining why he won 60 times during his first four seasons despite missing much of one of those seasons with an injury.
By 2004, however, Seattle was down in the standings and Garcia's free agency loomed—off to the White Sox he went via trade. Garcia quickly inked a 3Y/$27M extension and helped Chicago win the 2005 World Series.
Here, the eight-year veteran has been moved once more, this time to Philadelphia in a December 2006 trade for young SP's Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez. Why move Garcia, who had just won 17 games in '06? Officially, according to Sox GM Ken Williams, Chicago simply wanted to get a little younger. And though I ordinarily wouldn't buy that, Williams was especially honest in the year 2006.
THIS CARD: As you can see, Garcia didn't just have an imposing build; he had an imposing face as well. Garcia's physical presence probably shaved 0.50 off his career ERA alone.
With this being a Series 1 card, Topps couldn't have snapped this pic during Spring Training 2007. You're seeing airbrushing at work.
Of all our 2007-08 Topps COTD pulls, Garcia has the cleanest signature. Easily. (BTW, his full name is Freddy Antonio Garcia.)
(flip) I'm unsure of when they met, but Garcia and wife Glendys wed in December 2004, a few months after Guillen became his manager.
Garcia later returned to the White Sox and his win percentage dipped to .640, dropping him into third place (behind way back White Sox Lefty Williams and Virgil Trucks) based on Topps' 500-IP criteria.
I wish I could tell you why there's a canyon between the W and L columns.
AFTER THIS CARD: Garcia pitched to a 5.90 ERA in 11 Philly starts in '07, limited by a bad shoulder that eventually required surgery. Following three late-season starts with the '08 Tigers, Garcia resurfaced in August '09 with the White Sox, throwing quality starts seven times in nine tries. He followed that up with 12 wins in 28 starts the next season.
From there, after making good on a MiLB deal, Garcia won 12 more times for the 2011 Yankees at the price of $1.5M...but by the following April he'd lost his starting gig there. The 37-year-old closed his MLB career in 2013 with the Orioles and Braves, finishing strong (1.65 ERA for the latter club.) Garcia pitched a couple more years in foreign leagues before retiring in 2016.
Freddy Garcia appeared annually in Topps 2000-12, except 2008-09. He's also got a 2004 Traded card and a 2011 Update card.
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies
2/4/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #70 John Franco, Mets
More John Franco Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1990T 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2002 2003
Just as I developed baseball fandom, the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets swapped closers prior to the 1990 season—I learned right away that some trades end up helping BOTH teams in very different ways. You see, Myers co-powered the Reds to the 1990 World Series Championship, while Franco was the Mets' ace reliever throughout most of the 1990's.
Franco had done a fine job as Cincy's closer, but for whatever reason (both teams said money didn't drive the deal, but who knows) the Reds were willing to part with him to land Myers. While the Franco-era Mets didn't move much in the standings until 1999, Franco nailed down an average of 28 saves per year 1990-98. (For the times, that was a fair amount of saves; back then starters were still allowed to complete some games.)
Prior to '99, the Mets acquired flamethrowing Orioles RP Armando Benitez, but continued to use Franco at CL...until he strained a finger tendon near the All-Star Break; Benitez stepped in with a 14/16 save performance; Franco would not close full-time again.
Here, Franco is coming off a 2000 season spent setting up for Benitez during a run to the World Series! The 40-year-old was especially effective from 4/12 to 9/5 (1.74 ERA). Franco famously froze San Francisco's Barry Bonds with a slider to end Game 2 of the 2000 NLDS, as well.
THIS CARD: If you saw Franco pitch, you remember his very short, very quick motion to the plate. He threw a 90-MPH fastball, a big-breaking slider, and a tailing changeup that many mistook for a screwball.
Franco had one of the last great standalone mustaches in baseball.
Franco's front images were varied fairly well by Topps over the years; he's shown from a number of angles and delivery points, as well as shaking hands postgame and signing autographs on his many Topps cards.
(flip) Don't let the smile fool you; Franco was one of the most intense, in-your-face competitors around.
Yes, Franco was originally employed by the (ick) Dodgers. They (stupidly) traded him to the Reds in December 1983...for Rafael Landestoy.
Those NL-leading 1988 and 1990 save totals helped Franco secure Rolaids Relief Man Of The Year awards both years. Those 420 career saves were second-most ever at the time (to Lee Smith).
AFTER THIS CARD: Franco—who nearly jumped to division rival Philadelphia in the 2000-01 off-season before re-upping for three years with the Mets—continued in his setup role during the '01 season; the New York native mercifully lost none of his firefighting relatives in the 9/11 attacks. Come 2002, however, Franco's sturdy left elbow finally gave out; he missed the year following UCL surgery.
Franco returned to action 5/30/2003 and was effective over 38 games for the Mets, earning another deal for 2004. However, the 44-year-old was not effective this time around and was not brought back for '05. Fifteen ugly innings for the '05 Astros ended Franco's MLB career.
In 2011, despite being the all-time lefty saves leader, Franco missed induction to the Baseball Hall Of Fame by about 28 miles. He was inducted into the Mets Hall Of Fame in 2012, however.
At present Franco trails only Jesse Orosco and Mike Stanton—both also ex-Met lefties—in all-time games pitched with 1,119.
John Franco appeared annually in Topps 1985-2003. He's also got a 1990 Traded card.
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, New York Mets
2/6/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #421 Felipe Lopez, Blue Jays
More Felipe Lopez Topps Cards: 1999T 2000 2001 2001T 2003 2004 2006 2006U 2007 2008 2009U 2010 2010U
When you're a Barry Bonds or a Manny Ramirez and can control a major league baseball game just by standing in the batters box, you're permitted things that the ordinary Joe isn't. It's called star treatment, and it's reserved for...say it with me now..."stars".
But sometimes, you get a guy who can't even spell star, or who used to be a star, that for whatever misinformed reason believes star treatment (still) applies to him. Felipe Lopez was one of those players. After a decade in the league—two years of which were good—Lopez still hadn't figured out you're supposed to show up on time and hustle.
I suppose it's not entirely his fault; Toronto forked over a $2M bonus to 18-year-old Lopez upon drafting him, and the heads of kid millionaires have been known to swell up. That said, Lopez had a little game—a minors manager once said "Felipe is a very exciting player who runs well, plays solid defense and he's very strong with an impressive offensive game."
Here, Lopez has reached MLB at age 21 with the '01 Jays, starting 47 of their final 53 games at 3B.
THIS CARD: Lopez goes high to avoid the incoming runner. In 2001, Lopez played exactly 20.1 innings at a middle IF position (SS), so we can pinpoint the date of this image: August 30, 2001 at Yankee Stadium. On that day, the Jays lost 5-4 in 11 innings; one Yankee run scored on a Lopez throwing error late.
Thanks to the helmet, I can identify the Yankee runner #33 as David Wells. I mean, young Alfonso Soriano. Soriano had one chance to take out Lopez at 2B—in the bottom of the 3rd inning, on an Enrique Wilson comebacker. Jays P Chris Carpenter tried to turn two, but Soriano was safe at 2B with Wilson retired at 1B. Perhaps Fonzi was running on the play...
(flip) Preferring to skirt dark topics, Topps doesn't tell you that Lopez was raised by his aunt and uncle because his dad routinely beat him after failing (and succeeding) on the baseball diamond, eventually losing custody. (Mom was long out of the picture.)
We mentioned Lopez's sizable bonus. For his MLB career, he earned roughly $17M according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Why Lopez is listed solely as a SS when he almost exclusively played 3B in '01, I can't grasp.
Lopez looks as if he's wondering "What exactly is that odor?"
AFTER THIS CARD: Traded to the Reds for '03, by 2005 Lopez was an All-Star SS, one who clubbed 23 home runs with 85 RBI that year. But by mid-2006, neither the Reds or the Nationals were going anywhere in the standings, so they shook things up with an eight-player deal centered around Reds OF Austin Kearns. Lopez continued to start for Washington, but his numbers came way back down to earth.
In mid-2008, the Cardinals signed Lopez after Washington cut him, commencing the journeyman phase of his career. He bounced back strong in '09 as starting 2B for the D'Backs and Brewers, batting a combined .310. Returning to St. Louis for 2010, Lopez found time at six positions (including P) before being cut for the tardiness problem.
From there he bounced between the Red Sox, Rays and Brewers again—not lasting long in any of those spots—until his phone quit ringing entirely after 2011.
Felipe Lopez appeared in Topps, Topps Traded & Rookies, or Topps Update annually 1999-2010, except 2005.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays
2/8/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps #340 Evan Longoria, Rays
More Evan Longoria Topps Cards: 2008U 2009 2010 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2018U 2019
For 10 years, Evan Longoria was the face of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays; their rise to relevance in the American League standings coincided with his rise to stardom. Very early on, Longoria was laying the groundwork for what was looking like a potential Hall-of-Fame career, making three All-Star teams in his first three seasons, winning two Gold Gloves as well as the AL Rookie Of The Year award for 2008.
Here, Longoria is coming off an eventful 2010 season. He quarreled in the dugout with teammate B.J. Upton in June, broke up Brandon Morrow's August no-hit bid with two out in the 9th, suffered a (regular) season-ending quad strain in late September, and publicly called out the non-existent Rays fans during his recovery.
THIS CARD: Longoria graces to COTD for the 2nd time; his 2012 card was profiled back in December 2014.
After recalling Longoria's 2010 ALDS Game 4 home run off future Giants teammate Derek Holland, I immediately began to suspect this pic could be said home run. After a little research, I was proven correct. This two-run bomb put Tampa Bay up 5-0 in the 5th at Texas; they'd win 5-2 (but lose the series 3-2).
There exists a variant of this card with a sparkle on Longoria's belt...not worth obtaining, personally.
(flip) Longoria was drafted #3 overall by the then-Devil Rays.
The blurb is somewhat deceiving—while Longo did break five scoreless ties with homers, all of them were early in the game. Aside from those, none of his other 17 jacks put Tampa ahead. (I'd wager Longoria smacked a bevy of go-ahead inside-the-park hits, however.)
1960 Topps was a 572-card release, massive for the times (remember, there were only 16 teams at that time and not nearly as many pitchers used as today). You may have heard about Haddix as throwing 12 perfect innings at Atlanta in '59, the year repped by 1960 Topps. For his career, Haddix won 136 games for five clubs 1952-65.
AFTER THIS CARD: Unless he is revealed to be a child-beating KKK member or some other similar extreme, I will always be a Longoria fan simply because his walk-off home run vs. the Yankees at 2011's end set up the elimination of the Red Sox (who I loathed at the time) from playoff contention.
Though Longoria missed half of 2012 with a torn hamstring, he still received a 6Y/$100M contract extension that winter (locking him up thru 2022). He rebounded with 160 games played and 32 HR in 2013 but in '14 he lacked protection in Tampa's lineup and his numbers fell off across the board.
By 2016, Longoria was a 36-homer man once more; he claimed his third Gold Glove the following season. But Tampa was looking to cut costs and get younger, so the 32-year-old was dealt to the Giants for 2018. There have been injuries, but overall Longo has provided decent production for the Giants (although not approaching his early Rays numbers.)
Evan Longoria debuted in 2008 Topps Update, and has appeared annually in the base set ever since. He's also got a 2018 Update card.
CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps, Tampa Bay Rays
2/10/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #439 Prospects
More 1996 Topps Prospect Cards: n/a
You're looking at four of the better outfield prospects of the year 1995-96. Though all four of these fellas played multiple seasons in the big leagues, only Dye wound up having what would classify as a good career. Benitez and Echevarria had their moments, however.
Beamon (who coincidentally turns 46 tomorrow) was Pittsburgh's #2 pick in '92; he was a tall lefty hitter with next-to-no power. Benitez, a Puerto Rican signee by the '89 Expos, was a high-strikeout guy with power and speed. You likely know about Dye, a five-tool Braves prospect and SF Bay Area native. Slugging Echevarria tore up the minors for years (although much of that was in hitter-friendly Colorado Springs).
THIS CARD: Beamon is the happiest-looking of the bunch. Benitez appears to be posing at gunpoint. I've never seen Dye look so young, not even as a rookie the following season. Echevarria looks like he just gave the cameraman five seconds to snap the pic before he snaps his neck.
This is not a random selection; we're presenting this card in memory of Echevarria, who passed away 2/7/20 at age 48; he had taken a fall at his home. This was his only Topps base/Traded card.
With this selection, all five of the "Dark Era" sets (1996-2000 Topps) have had a Prospects card featured in COTD.
(flip) This is not Beamon's rookie card; he was featured in 1995 Topps.
On these Prospect cards, next to "Draft", we get the entire team name including city rather than just the nickname, as is customary on standard commons.
The card omits each player's 1995 team(s), so I'll tell you Beamon played for AAA Calgary, Benitez played for AAA Ottawa, Dye played for AA Greenville, and Echevarria played for AA New Haven.
AFTER THIS CARD: Beamon spent most of August/September 1996 with the Pirates as a reserve, then was dealt to the Padres in late March 1997. He received limited run with the '97 Padres and '98 Tigers before being released in December 1998. Beamon, who never went yard in MLB, fluttered through three more organizations before his career ended in 2001.
Benitez got in 25 games with the 1995-96 Expos before a trade to KC. Beginning in July, he became a regular for the Royals in RF, then LF, starting 52 of the final 67 games and slugging .440. The Diamondbacks took Benitez in the 1997 Expansion Draft; he got in 91 games and though he cracked the first walk-off HR in team history, overall he hit just .199 and was not brought back. Benitez's pro career ended in 2000.
Dye went on to star for the Braves, Royals, A's and White Sox 1996-2009; he was the 2005 World Series MVP and finished up with 325 homers and 1,072 RBI.
As for Echevarria, he got some healthy run with the 1999 Rockies (102 games) and batted .293 with 11 HR. Still, he was waived in 2000 and claimed by Milwaukee, where he remained through 2001. MLB Echevarria's career ended with 50 games as a 2002 Cub; though he hit .306, he never got another MLB shot.
Trey Beamon appeared in 1995-97 Topps. Yamil Benitez appeared in 1996 and 1998 Topps. Jermaine Dye appeared in 1996-97 and 2000-2010 Topps. Angel Echevarria, as we said, only appeared in 1996 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Prospects
2/12/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #436 Denny Neagle, Reds
More Denny Neagle Topps Cards: 1992 1992T 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 1999T 2000T 2001 2002 2003
Neagle's legacy in MLB centers around his pranks, jokes and impressions—he had multiple articles written specifically about his sense of humor back in the day—but for five years, he was one of the better lefties in the game (and in 1997, one of the best). Which is a good thing; pranks and jokes are always better accepted when the perpetrator is playing well.
Originally a Minnesota Twin—who drafted him out of the University of Minnesota—Neagle blossomed with the 1995 Pirates as he led the league in innings, won 13 games and made the All-Star team. The Braves traded for him in mid-1996, and 1997 he put it all together by winning 20 games and making his second All-Star team. Adding a cherry on top, Neagle shut out Florida in Game 4 of the '97 NLCS! He then proceeded to win 16 more times in '98.
Here, Neagle (pronounced NAY-GUL) has closed his first season as a Cincinnati Red. Seeking an upgrade to its rotation, the Reds swapped 2B Bret Boone (and others) to acquire the veteran lefty for 1999.
THIS CARD: I love going through my 2000 Topps album; it allows me to relive the 1999 Reds, one of my favorite all-time teams.
With the Reds dugout in the background, I lost my best shot at identifying this ballpark. Neagle only made eight road starts in 1999 at six parks, so it's either Atlanta, Philadelphia, Colorado, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh or San Diego. Later I'll peruse the album in hopes of identification via other cards. (Update: mission failed.)
Neagle gears up to throw what looks like an off-speed pitch, he was known for his fastball/changeup combo, and also offered a slider and curve. Neagle hit the low-90's as a youngster.
(flip) Topps could and should have used a different reverse photo; it's too similar to the front photo and the shadow on Neagle's face mucks things up.
Neagle missed over three months of 1999 (in two DL stints) with weakness in his pitching shoulder, which left him so ineffective he received a no-decision in a game his teammates scored 24 runs.
That lone 1999 RA came in Game #163, as the Reds battled (and lost to) the Mets for the NL Wild Card playoff spot. Neagle went 2.1 IP, allowing a run in the eventual 5-0 loss.
AFTER THIS CARD: Healthy again in 2000, Neagle threw well enough to trigger a deadline trade with the World-Series bound Yankees. Like many before and after him, however, he did not fare as well in the Bronx, but that didn't stop the free-spending Rockies from dangling $51M over five years at him after the 2000 season.
Coors Field was not kind to Neagle, who threw to a 5.57 ERA over parts of three seasons with Colorado. In 2003, he underwent surgery on his left UCL that knocked him out through 2004. Because of off-field shenanigans, Year Five of his deal never happened, and Neagle was last seen in MLB unsuccessfully auditioning for the 2005 Devil Rays.
Denny Neagle appeared annually in Topps 1992-2003. He's also got Traded cards in the 1992, 1999 and 2000 sets.
CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Cincinnati Reds
2/14/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #104 Mitch Moreland, Red Sox
More Mitch Moreland Topps Cards: 2010U 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2017U 2019
For several minutes in October 2010, I was ready to sock Mitch Moreland in the gut (as if he'd allow that, but still.) The no-name Texas Rangers rookie had just taken Jonathan Sanchez of my Giants deep with two men on in Game 3 of the 2010 World Series, which the Giants were trying to win for the first time since 1954.
Texas rode that bomb to victory, but since they did not win in the series again, I eventually forgave Moreland (who never thanked me for sparing his gut, it should be noted.)
That was just one of numerous big hits Moreland would record over the years as a fine complementary piece in Texas (2010-16) and Boston (2017-present). Usually the Rangers' primary first baseman when healthy—Prince Fielder pushed him aside in '14 but was soon injured—Moreland topped 20 homers thrice and won the 2016 Gold Glove.
Here, Moreland has hooked up with the Red Sox on a 1Y/$5.5M deal to help fill the void left by David Ortiz's retirement. Moreland handled 1B vs. RHP, pushing erstwhile 1B Hanley Ramirez into the DH role; despite the platooning and a toe fracture in June, Moreland got into a career-high 149 games in 2017.
THIS CARD: If you watch Moreland play, you know he's got a short, unpretty swing that somehow gets the job done at an acceptable rate. In '17, he exceeded 20 homers for the fourth time in five years, proving swings need not be beautiful to be effective.
Moreland takes a cut at Fenway Park, where he hit .267 in 2017 as opposed to .226 elsewhere.
Topps' redundancy checker failed Moreland; his 2016-19 Topps front images, while in different uniforms, are fairly similar. TOO similar, in fact.
(flip) Amory, Mississippi is located just outside the famed Tupelo (Elvis's birthplace) in the NE region of the state.
I will not be researching the other four players with 10 doubles in the season's first 14 games.
As the three career triples and eight career steals attest to, Moreland is not fleet of foot, although he did manage to rip four three-baggers in 2018 somehow.
AFTER THIS CARD: Moreland inked a 2Y/$13M deal to remain with the Red Sox for 2018-19; his .525 SLG in the first half of '18 got him into the All-Star Game as a reserve. He fell into a deep slump afterward, and lost playing time to Steve Pearce during Boston's 2018 World Series run. Injuries to his back and quad limited Moreland in '19, but he still slugged a career-high .507.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the 34-year-old re-signed with Boston for 1Y/$2.5M, with a $3M option for 2021.
Mitch Moreland has appeared annually in Topps since 2011. He's got 2010 and 2017 Update cards as well.
CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Boston Red Sox
2/16/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #180 George Brett, Royals
More George Brett Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993
One of the game's biggest stars from the mid-70's through the late-80's—and even a little beyond—Brett could hit with anybody, and he was no slouch at the hot corner. His lone glaring weakness was a lack of durability; Brett topped 150 games only four times in his final 17 seasons. He played hard, and his body paid the price.
Brett was an All-Star, batting champion, MVP runner-up and postseason hero at the age of 23, and then he added power to his game. With him leading the charge, Kansas City made six postseasons in 10 seasons 1976-85, and emerged victorious in the 1985 World Series. Brett was an All-Star in each of those seasons, and three more to follow.
Brett moved over to first base in 1987 in an effort to scale back injuries, but he continued raking, winning the 1988 Silver Slugger and 1990 batting title. Here, the Hall-of-Famer-to-be is at the end of his exceptional career—he'd announced his upcoming retirement with just a couple of weeks to go in the '93 season.
THIS CARD: This is another of my favorite cards (thanks, Randomizer). This is a perspective not commonly seen on baseball cards, and it may be the only player common in circulation with a full shot of the Kauffman Stadium waterfall.
Using the scoreboard information, we can pinpoint the date of the pic: 6/6/93. Brett bats in the second inning against Milwaukee's Jamie Navarro; he'd ground out to 2B for the inning's second out. Leading 4-1 at the time, KC went on to win 8-7, with Brett adding a SF later on before being removed for Hubie Brooks for some reason. (The catcher shown is the immortal Joe Kmak, with Rocky Roe umpiring.)
Brett is listed as a DH-1B, but he played no 1B in 1993.
(flip) Cute, Topps, using a photo of George Brett, of all people, using pine tar. That was no accident.
Brett was born in West Virginia but grew up in the Los Angeles area.
In these days, pretty much every notable retiree got Sunset cards, and Brett was no different (Nolan Ryan also received one; Robin Yount doesn't really count since it was not known that he'd retire in 1993). Those 665 doubles ranked 5th all-time when Brett retired, rank 6th today, and will rank 7th shortly into the 2020 season when Albert Pujols reaches five doubles.
AFTER THIS CARD: Brett moved into his new role as Royals Vice-President of Baseball Operations immediately after retiring as a player; he remains in the role today and was very visible during KC's 2014-15 pennant marches. There was also that rather brief stint as Kansas City's hitting coach in 2013 that no one seems to bring up anymore.
George Brett appeared annually in Topps 1975-1994.
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Kansas City Royals
2/18/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #485 Tony Fernandez, Blue Jays
More Tony Fernandez Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1991T 1992 1993 1993T 1994 1994T 1995T 1996 1998 1999 2000
Tony Fernandez was a defensive wiz at SS and a fan fave in Toronto, for whom he suited up four separate times. The Dominican native debuted for the Jays in 1983, by late 1984 he was playing almost every day, and by 1985 was playing truly every day for a 99-win Jays squad.
Here, Fernandez has completed his second full season as Toronto's starting shortstop. He didn't miss any of Toronto's 163 games, made his first of five All-Star teams, and set franchise records for at-bats and hits in a season (the latter record stood for 17 years, while the former still stands).
THIS CARD: This is a special COTD selection in memory of Fernandez, who passed away 2/15/20 from a stroke at age 57; he had already been in poor health. We selected this card because it represents perhaps Fernandez's best all-round season, 1986. Plus, we hadn't selected any '87 Topps cards in a while.
Fernandez swings hard at an unidentifiable ballpark. (In what looks like a Braves uniform.) Though his 1989 and 1990 Topps front images are more similar than I would like, overall Fernandez had solid image variety on his 18 Topps/Traded cards over the years.
Does every 1987 Topps card I own have a frikkin' gum stain/print?
(flip) Fernandez eventually added three more children with said wife.
Note Fernandez's .428 SLG in 1986; that stood as his career high all the way until 1998 (.459)
Aaron, of course, finished with 755 home runs in 1976. He actually occupied the first six cards in the 1974 Topps set, and that card #1 titled him "Home Run King" in advance.
AFTER THIS CARD: Lots. Fernandez held down SS for Toronto through 1990, then went to San Diego in perhaps the decade's biggest blockbuster trade (it was Fernandez and Fred McGriff for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, for those of you under 30). Over the next decade, Fernandez team-hopped quite a bit, but always found his way back to the Blue Jays—including '93, when he helped the club to its second straight title.
Fernandez switched to 3B for the 1994 Reds, then was the last regular Yankee SS before Derek Jeter. He missed all of 1996 with an elbow injury, but resurfaced as the Indians 2B in '97. Unhappily, his error in Game 7 of the '97 World Series aided a Marlins rally that won them the championship.
In '98-99, the resurgent Fernandez batted a combined .324 playing regularly for Toronto, and was even named to the '99 All-Star team! He played in Japan in 2000, then closed his career with short runs in Milwaukee and Toronto in 2001.
Tony Fernandez appeared annually in Topps 1985-2000, except 1995 and 1997. He also shows up in the 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Traded sets.
CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays, Now Deceased
2/20/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps Update #189 Melky Cabrera, Giants
More Melky Cabrera Topps Cards: 2005 2006U 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019U
Unnamed Left Fielder.
For multiple years, that's who Melky Cabrera was to this writer.
Cabrera had come to my Giants in 2012 via backpage trade with the then-lowly Royals. I didn't know a ton about the guy other than he got regular run for three years with the Yankees, including 130 starts for the 2009 World Champions (although Cabrera needed replacing on the World Series roster after straining his hamstring in Game 4).
He was then traded to the Braves for 2010, released at season's end, and picked up by the Royals, for whom he enjoyed a breakout season. Few, including yours truly, expected him to maintain 2011's pace upon moving to AT&T Park, but Cabrera was even better as a Giant. He tore through the NL and was even named MVP of the 2012 All-Star Game! "The Melkman", as he became known, was a huge hit in San Francisco...
...until August 15, when he was suspended for PED use during the Giants' pennant chase.
So disgusted was I with Cabrera for allowing the SF Bay Area fan base to fall in love with a fraud, I refused to use his name in print for four years.
Here, however, Cabrera is in his early days as a Giant. His .343/.370/.629 Spring Training got everyone's attention, and the 27-year-old didn't slow down once the games counted.
THIS CARD: Cabrera lines one up beautifully at AT&T Park. He hit .324 in his 56 home games, albeit with just a pair of home runs.
Cabrera wore #'s 39 and 28 in his early Yankee years before switching to #53. Through all his subsequent stops, he's held on to those digits.
Not quite enough of the catcher to give away the opponent, although I'm leaning toward Colorado Rockies.
(flip) Check out those 2011 numbers for KC compared to his 2010 numbers for Atlanta; Cabrera had a lot of people thinking "fluke". No one in the Bay Area knew what to expect from him.
Cabrera cost SP Jonathan Sanchez, who'd been so strong for the Giants in 2010 but regressed in 2011. No one really won this trade—Cabrera was a cheater, and Sanchez never again pitched effectively in MLB.
Topps should have included the year "2012" after the word "May" just to be clear. (BTW, I remember Randy Winn in September 2005...that dude was straight up unconscious all month.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Though eligible to return during the 2012 postseason (different rules at the time), the Giants chose to deactivate Cabrera and won the World Series without him—he would have earned $6M as a Giant if not for the suspension.
Cabrera has since become a journeyman—after spending a few years each with the Blue Jays and White Sox, he's moved through Kansas City again, Cleveland (after opening 2018 without a job) and Pittsburgh.
Unsurprisingly, he's never approached the level of production he achieved as a Giant, though he's had a solid overall career and will reach 2,000 hits in 2020 if he can find a team.
Melky Cabrera has appeared in either Topps or Topps Update annually 2005-present.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps Update, San Francisco Giants
2/22/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #630 Ben Francisco, Phillies
More Ben Francisco Topps Cards: 2003T 2008U 2009 2009U 2011 2012U
Francisco, a #5 pick by the 2002 Indians, was a solid power/speed prospect who got his first real extended big league run in 2008, once Cleveland let Jason Michaels go in May. Francisco had started 82 more times in 2009, albeit with only so-so production, when Cleveland added him to the Cliff Lee trade with Philadelphia in July 2009.
THIS CARD: Francisco wallops a fly ball at a park I cannot identify, although the guy in the dugout almost looks to be wearing a Jays uniform. (The Jays' home dugout is not green.)
#10?! That was Darren Daulton's number!! I don't expect the team to retire it, but at the same time I don't expect them to circulate it either!
Francisco is a lot leaner here than I remember him being. I might be confused by memories of the beefier, unrelated RP Frank Francisco.
(flip) The entire trade, you may recall, went down as such: Lee and Francisco to Philly, SP Carlos Carrasco, C Lou Marson, IF Jason Donald and a prospect to Cleveland. Lee did help the Phillies return to the World Series, and Carrasco has spent much of the past decade in Cleveland's rotation when healthy—fair to say both clubs won.
Francisco's game-winning home run victimized Kevin Gregg of the Cubs on 8/11. The solo bomb broke a 3-3 tie and was one of just three Philadelphia hits the whole game!
The "HK" on Francisco's jersey is in memory of longtime Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, who died in April 2009.
AFTER THIS CARD: Francisco opened 2011 as the Phillies regular RF and initially lit it up, but the NL adjusted fairly quickly and he wound up benched by mid-season. Still, the veteran cracked a huge PH three-run HR in Game 3 of the 2011 NLDS to sink Jaime Garcia and the Cardinals; it was his first long ball in over four months.
2012 saw Francisco suit up for three MLB teams (Toronto, Houston, Tampa Bay); he was part of the 10-player megaswap between the Blue Jays and Astros in July. A very poor offensive showing with the 2013 Yankees led to his June release; Francisco lingered around for a couple of years on MiLB deals before retiring to become a scout in 2016.
Ben Francisco debuted in 2003 Topps Traded & Rookies, returned in 2008 Topps Updates and Highlights, then appeared annually in the base set 2009-11. He's also got 2009 and 2012 Update cards with Philly and Toronto, respectively
CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies
2/24/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps Update #33 Jayson Nix, Blue Jays
More Jayson Nix Topps Cards: 2008 2009U 2010 2011 2013U
In Nix, we have our second straight little-known journeyman COTD selection—not sure when that last happened.
I am sure that Nix accumulated seven full years of minor league experience before reaching The Show with the 2008 Rockies. He was overmatched by big league pitching, however, and allowed to walk after the season.
Nix then spent parts of 2009-10 with the White Sox, smacking 12 home runs in '09 while manning five positions. He really heated up in late '10 with the Tribe—starting regularly at 2B and 3B at different points in the second half, Nix ripped 13 more homers in just 282 AB as an Indian.
Here, the 28-year-old bro of Laynce Nix has just been sold to the Blue Jays by Cleveland in late Spring Training 2011. Out of options, he had lost a Spring roster competition to veteran SS Adam Everett,
THIS CARD: Another shot of Nix on defense. Of his six total Topps base and Traded cards, five depict him in the field.
Why is there so much lime green in the audience?
Nix the 2010 Indian is card #549 in the base set.
More from Nix the 2011 Blue Jay: Tampa Bay's Sean Rodriguez injured Nix's shin in April with a very hard slide into 2B. Nix sat out three weeks, then went into a horrific slump (.132 in 28 games) and was cut 7/2.
(flip) Nix is listed as a third baseman; Toronto was the first time in his MLB career he wasn't constantly shuffled all over the field.
Nix did eventually wallop two major league triples.
Topps has never listed players as being sold, at least during my collecting era. In Nix's case, he was technically traded for cash considerations, which is obviously a fancy way of saying "sold".
Nix wasn't just any old #1 pick. He was the final pick of 2001's first round, a supplemental pick for Colorado's infamous failure to sign Matt Harrington.
AFTER THIS CARD: Nix landed on his feet, spending 2012-13 with the Yankees and getting extensive run subbing for injured 3B Alex Rodriguez and injured SS Derek Jeter; it was actually Nix who took over for Jeter when he memorably broke his ankle in the 2012 playoffs.
However, Nix only slugged a composite .340 as a Yankee and was not re-signed for 2014. He wound up cycling between Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Kansas City that year, playing a sum of 41 games and taking his final major league cut in the 2014 World Series.
Jayson Nix debuted in 2008 Topps, and returned in the 2010-11 sets. He's also got 2009, 2011 and 2013 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps Update, Toronto Blue Jays
2/26/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #62 Ramon Martinez, Dodgers
More Ramon Martinez Topps Cards: 1989 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 2001
Pedro Martinez's big bro Ramon was the Dodgers' ace for much of the 1990's (despite that, I have no resentment toward the guy). As a 19-year-old at Vero Beach in '87, Ramon won 16 of 25 starts, proving himself a legit prospect.
Martinez reached MLB the following year and earned his first MLB victory, but no others due to paltry run support. I'm guessing the World Series ring Martinez received at season's end likely made up for that, however.
Still only 21, LA held Martinez over in AAA to open 1989, but by June he was back in MLB—more on that to come.
THIS CARD: At an unidentifiable park, hard-throwing Martinez fires off what looks like a changeup. He had a filthy one to accompany his mid-90's heat and also threw a so-so curveball.
Just like his more famous brother, Martinez packed a lot of velocity into a narrow body.
#48 has been passed around the Dodgers quite a bit since Martinez. You may recall it was Eric Gagne's first number before switching to #38; today prospect Gavin Lux wears it. Martinez wore #48 his whole career except his final season with the '01 Pirates (#38).
(flip) That one win in June: Martinez was called up for a spot start, shut out the Braves in Atlanta...and was promptly sent back down! He returned in July and remained, shining in September as the Monthly Scoreboard shows.
Here, Martinez bats right, but at various points in his career he batted left and switch.
That second shutout: Martinez set down the Braves again, this time at home, on 9/15.
AFTER THIS CARD: While longtime Dodger aces Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela slid off course, Martinez broke through with an All-Star, 20-win 1990 and briefly seemed on track to superstardom. That didn't quite happen, but Martinez did repeat as an All-Star in '91, then from 1994-97 he battled physical problems to go 54-25 for the Dodgers (starting on Opening Day 1995-97).
The Florida Marlins—obviously impressed when Martinez no-hit them in 1995—pursued the free agent after that season, but he re-signed with the Dodgers for 3Y/$15M.
Off to another strong start in 1998, Martinez tore his rotator cuff in June; the Dodgers did not pick up his option. Hooking up with Boston for '99 (reuniting him with Pedro, who had been his teammate 1992-93), Ramon returned in September to make four starts (two of them strong).
But 2000 was not kind to Martinez at all, and the Red Sox declined his 2001 option. Martinez re-joined the Dodgers for 2001 but was cut during Spring Training; after four rough games with the '01 Pirates, the 33-year-old retired.
Ramon Martinez appeared annually in Topps 1989-2001, except 2000.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers