Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, February 2021
A = Alternate Card B= Bonus Factory Set Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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2/28/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps #322 Brent Morel, White Sox
More Brent Morel Topps Cards: 2012
Morel, a strong defensive third baseman, enjoyed a fine offensive year across two levels of the minors in 2010, his third professional season. The White Sox introduced him to MLB in September of that year, and he started 19 games down the stretch.
THIS CARD: Morel has put one in the air at U.S. Cellular Field. In limited 2010 action, Morel was an exponentially better player at home (.293, all three of his HR) than away (3-for-24).
Morel spent most of his 2010 major league run batting 7th, 8th or 9th. He cut into the playing time of veteran 3B Mark Teahen, who struggled on both sides of the ball in September 2010.
More from Morel's 2010 season: he closed the year on a modest six-game hit streak, batting .231 overall (15-for-65).
(flip) That home run was served up by Kansas City's Bruce Chen 9/10.
The White Sox drafted Morel #3 out of Cal Poly in 2008.
Garry Maddox's 1973 Topps card represented his rookie season with the Giants. The 22-year-old batted .266 with 12 home runs in 1972.
AFTER THIS CARD: Morel beat out Teahen for the White Sox' 3B job in 2011, but was very ordinary most of the year...until cracking eight home runs in September! Sadly, Morel was unable to ride that momentum into 2012; he wound up missing over two months with a back injury and was demoted to AAA upon healing.
Morel could only muster a couple of brief callups from the minors in 2013, as Chicago eventually went with Conor Gillaspie as its primary 3B. Morel's MLB career ended after 26 games played for Pittsburgh over the 2014-15 seasons, though he did play two more seasons in Japan.
Brent Morel appeared in 2011-12 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps, Chicago White Sox
More February 2021 Topps Cards Of The Day
2/1/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #674 Kevin Gross, Expos
More Kevin Gross Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997
I remember fairly clearly the night Kevin Gross shut my Giants down on no runs and no hits in 1992. Which was bad enough.
Making matters far, far worse: he was a Dodger at the time, and I was forced to watch his jubilant Dodger teammates pour onto the field and celebrate. Even 12-year-old me could only stand a few seconds of that.
Gross wasn't a guy you'd expect to no-hit anybody, but he was a quality pitcher for a long time (despite a career winning percentage of .473 and 10 of 11 seasons losing in double digits at one point.) He started out with the Phillies, leading the 1985 squad with 15 wins at age 24. Though he screwed up royally in 1987, by 1988, Gross was an All-Star after an 8-3, 2.89 first half.
Still, Philadelphia parted with Gross in December 1988. Now a Montreal Expo, the big righty turned in an uneven 1989 season but here, he's coming off a tougher 1990 season. That year began very well for Gross (8-4) got a bit tough (a broken finger on a June bunt attempt) and ended poorly (a demotion to the bullpen).
THIS CARD: Gross just swapped one powder blue uniform for another upon joining Montreal. At one point, four of five Gross Topps cards depicted him in blue.
Gross firing what looks like a circle change. He threw hard, with the usual slider, curve and said changeup accompanying his fastball. He also sank and cut the fastball.
More from Gross's 1990 season: he injured his finger bunting against Cubs SP Jeff Pico at Wrigley Field on 6/27. He returned 7/20, lasting ⅔ of an inning while allowing five walks and three runs to the Astros...ouch.
(flip) No blurb, so we'll tell you that on 5/14/90, Gross and opposing Dodgers SP Fernando Valenzuela both homered in the same inning, a feat not matched for another 22 years!
In those first two September games, Gross threw seven relief innings and allowed zero runs.
Those league-high 89 BB in 1988? Gross's 1989 Topps card originally marked that as tying for the league lead before correcting the error card.
AFTER THIS CARD: Unhappy with Expo management, Gross joined the Dodgers for 3Y/$7M in December 1990. He wound up staying in Los Angeles for four years, posting a 3.63 ERA but only going 40-44. In '95 he joined the AL on a 2Y/$6M deal with Texas, but led the AL in losses that year and lost his rotation spot after struggling in '96 (despite ironically posting a rare winning record).
36-year-old Gross returned to the Rangers chain on a MiLB deal for '97...for one month on the farms. He then joined the Angels as a MiLB free agent in June 1997, but was let go after 12 mostly unimpressive outings. He did not make it back to the majors.
Kevin Gross appeared annually in Topps 1984-1997, except 1996. He's also got 1989 and 1995 Traded cards (but not 1991?).
CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Montreal Expos
2/3/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #334 Blake DeWitt, Dodgers
More Blake DeWitt Topps Cards: 2005U 2008 2010 2010U 2011
No known relation to Joyce.
Blake DeWitt was a guy who briefly seemed to have the inside track at the Dodgers' second base job. The 22-year-old batted .292 across two levels of MiLB in 2007, and impressed enough in Spring Training 2008 to make the Dodgers roster with no AAA experience!
Here, DeWitt's completed his rookie season. Initially used by LA as a fill-in for injured 3B Nomar Garciaparra, DeWitt was eventually sent down for a month after the team acquired 3B Casey Blake. But he returned and was given extended run at Jeff Kent's 2B position while Kent recovered from knee surgery in September 2008.
THIS CARD: This is a re-selection, as the Randomizer originally wanted us to re-present 2009 Update #7 Brayan Pena.
The (then-NL) Astros visited Baltimore on 6/17 thru 6/19/08. On those dates, the Dodgers were playing at The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. In all three games, DeWitt started at 3B and went 1-for-4 as the Dodgers swept the Reds. (I thought I could narrow the game down by the Orioles' pitcher's 50-something uniform number, but nope—they had hella pitchers wearing 50-something.)
DeWitt wears #33; other notable Dodgers with that number include Eddie Murray and Eric Davis in the 1990's. Scott Van Slyke wore it 2012-17; in 2020 it went unused.
(flip) Do we have to talk about a Dodger besting a Giant? DeWitt singled off Barry Zito in the B2nd; he also walked twice in an eventual 5-0 victory behind Brad Penny. Resounding boo.
I like "Career Avg. By Month" when the career is one season old. DeWitt might have remained LA's 3B in 2008 if not for that June/July slump.
Those nine home runs in 2008 included an inside-the-parker 5/6 off Nelson Figueroa of the Mets. Check it out (in not-great quality) here.
AFTER THIS CARD: With Blake and 2B Orlando Hudson populating the 2009 Dodgers, DeWitt wound up on the shuttle between AAA and the majors. In Spring Training 2010, he beat out veterans Jamey Carroll and Ronnie Belliard for LA's 2B job, and batted .270 in 82 games before being sent to the Cubs in the Ted Lilly trade of July 2010.
Despite a poor Spring, DeWitt won a job with the 2011 Cubs, but was D4A'd (for the second time) in May 2012 and couldn't crack .130 with AAA Iowa. Four games with the 2013 Braves and DeWitt was done in pro baseball at 28. It's cutthroat, people.
Blake DeWitt debuted as a Dodgers draft pick in 2005 Update, then appeared annually in the base set 2008-11. He's also got a 2010 Update card.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
2/4/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #357 Bret Boone, Sporting News All-Star
More 2004 Topps Sporting News All-Star Cards: n/a
Putting aside whatever steps he did or didn't take to get there, 2003 marked Bret Boone's third straight year HIGH atop the list of the game's best two-way second basemen. He vacuumed everything up off the Safeco Field dirt, and batting ahead of Hall-of-Fame cleanup hitter Edgar Martinez usually ensured good pitches for him to drive.
Boone had always been an above-average slugger for his position, reaching double-digits in home runs seven times 1993-2000 and notching 95 RBI for the 1998 Reds. But his average had always been suspect, and he struck out a little more than his production compensated for.
Returning to Seattle in '01 after an eight-year absence rejuvenated the third-generation big leaguer. As is well-remembered, he knocked home 141 runs for the 116-win Mariners of 2001. And though Boone's numbers dipped slightly in '02, he bounced back with another All-Star campaign in 2003.
THIS CARD: Let's just say Boone did not fill out his 1993 Mariners uniform that well...good for him if he built his body the right way. (We don't throw around PED accusations at TSR.)
Though there's no archive of them on their actual website or anywhere else, The Sporting News actually names (postseason) All-Star teams and has done so since 1925. TSN All-Stars have shown up in Topps a number of times through the years dating back to at least the 1962 set. They re-emerged in the 2003-05 Topps sets, but since then have been replaced by a subset of actual All-Stars in the Update sets.
Shoot—2004 Topps SN All-Star cards lack the catchy headlines found in 2005 Topps. I enjoyed most of those headlines; they weren't (too) repetitive, cheesy or unimaginative.
(flip) Boone's body increased in size during his career, but his head never really did.
Soriano may not have been a SN All-Star in '03, but like Boone, he made the regular team with a .290, 38-homer year for the Yankees. (Soriano started at 2B, FYI.)
Boone's 35 homers ranked 8th in the AL, while the 117 RBI tied for 3rd.
Were the other two second basemen with three straight 100-RBI years Jeff Kent and Rogers Hornsby? (Answer: No, it was Kent (1997-2002) and Charlie Gehringer (1932-36). And since Robinson Cano hasn't done it since, I'm assuming no other second baseman has, either.
AFTER THIS CARD: Boone fell hard and fast after an offensively-ordinary 2004 season. He was cut by Seattle in July 2005 with a .385 SLG, picked up by the Twins, and cut again three weeks later. Boone went to Spring Training with the 2006 Mets but retired in early March; a comeback attempt with the 2008 Nationals dead-ended.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, All-Stars
2/6/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #679 Jaime Navarro, Brewers
More Jaime Navarro Topps Cards: 1991 1992 1993 1995 1995T 1996 1997 1998
Second-generation big leaguer Jaime Navarro balled out for the early 1990's Brewers, posting a 3.12 ERA in 19 games (17 starts) as a rookie in 1989. There were growing pains in 1990, but Navarro would go on to win 32 times in 1991-92, leading or co-leading Milwaukee in that category both years and chewing up 480 innings over that span!
Here, however, Navarro has endured a rocky 1993 season. He reported to camp out of shape, and though he never missed a start, the 26-year-old never found an extended groove, either. He posted a 6.02 second-half ERA.
THIS CARD: Navarro sets up to fire his once-94 MPH fastball, tough slider, or changeup. According to his Stadium Club cards he threw a curve as well, but I've not been able to substantiate this.
We've explained the Topps Gold parallel sets of the early 1990's. I estimate 15-20% of my 1994 Topps set is comprised of Gold cards.
For whatever it's worth, Navarro is the most notable #31 in Brewers history; he and SP Dave Bush are the only Brewers to wear the number for more than two seasons. RP Bobby Wahl racked up an 11.57 ERA wearing #31 in 2020.
(flip) Navarro is listed at 210 here, but that's not what he weighed in camp. On his 1995 Topps card, he's up (down?) to 225 lbs.
Today, among all-time Brewers, Navarro ranks tied for 9th in shutouts, 11th in wins, 11th in starts and in 12th innings.
Navarro went #3 to the 1987 Brewers, but previously he was selected by the Orioles...twice! In both the January and June 1986 drafts, Baltimore took the Miami-Dade College standout in the second round, but he signed neither time.
AFTER THIS CARD: Navarro's decline continued into 1994; he was bounced from the rotation with a 7.74 ERA in May and not retained for 1995. The Cubs brought him in on a one-year, incentive-laden deal for 1995 and he rewarded them with 14 wins and over 200 IP in the strike-shortened season!
After another strong performance in 1996, the White Sox signed Navarro for 4Y/$20M. In short, it was a deal to forget (25-43, 6.06 from 1997-99), and the veteran was traded back to Milwaukee prior to the 2000 season (for ex-rotation mate Cal Eldred). But he couldn't make it through April before being cut, and his MLB career ended three months later with seven appearances for Cleveland.
Several years later, Navarro resurfaced as a coach in the Seattle system, working on the major league staff as bullpen coach 2011-13.
Jaime Navarro appeared annually in 1991-98 Topps, as well as 1995 Topps Traded. I have no idea how he didn't make 1990 Topps base or Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers
2/7/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #237 Kevin Ritz, Tigers
More Kevin Ritz Topps Cards: 1993 1995T 1997
Kevin Ritz's claim to fame: for a brief time, he was the Colorado Rockies all-time wins leader. Never mind that the Rockies were only a few years old at the time; it still sounds pretty cool to say out loud (especially to someone who doesn't know better).
Early in his career, Ritz was just trying to survive in MLB. Here, the former 4th-round pick has wrapped up his debut big-league season. Called up to the majors in July, Ritz was overmatched in his debut, but entered the win column in his third start (despite giving up six walks).
THIS CARD: Ritz takes in the action at Tiger Stadium. Could he be ripping up the phone number of some groupie in the crowd?
Ritz also appears in 1990 Topps' Major League Debut set, firing a pitch at an unspecified road ballpark.
More from Ritz's 1989 season: he made 12 starts in all, walking at least three hitters in all but two of them. Ritz went 4-2, 4.10 at home, as opposed to 0-4, 4.66 on the road.
(flip) As you can see, Ritz's 1989 command issues didn't begin in Detroit. You gotta be pretty good to post an ERA under four with a BB/9 rate over five, as Ritz did for Toledo.
Despite owning this card for over 30 years, I'm not sure I've ever heard of AA Glens Falls. They eventually relocated and became the Trenton Thunder, which was an affiliate of several teams, most recently the Yankees, until MLB's mass re-organization of the minors in late 2020.
George Bradley worked in baseball in various capacities from 1972 until his death four days before the World Trade Center attacks, at age 58. At the time of Ritz's signing, Bradley was Detroit's scouting director.
AFTER THIS CARD: Ritz continued to battle poor control and didn't win another major league game until 1992. He went to Colorado in the November 1992 Expansion Draft, but underwent reconstructive elbow surgery and missed all of 1993 (he was even released by the Rockies, but soon re-signed). By 1995, however, Ritz was not only starting full-time for the playoff-bound Rockies, but he was essentially their de facto ace. One season later he was a 17-game winner!
For the most part, Ritz was over his control issues by this point, but in July 1997 he tore a muscle in his pitching shoulder and missed the rest of the year. Ritz returned to make two early starts in 1998, but was battered; by year's end he'd undergone surgery for rotator cuff and labrum tears. This time, he did not make it back.
Ritz's 17 wins in 1996 still rank tied for second-most in Rockies history.
Kevin Ritz appeared in 1990, 1993 and 1997 Topps, as well as 1995 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Detroit Tigers
2/9/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps #248 Wade LeBlanc, Padres
More Wade LeBlanc Topps Cards: 2010 2013 2017 2018U 2019 2020U
No known relation to Matt.
Wade LeBlanc just...survives. His career has been one giant obstacle course, but here we stand with the lefty having competed in 12 major league seasons.
Originally a #2 pick by the 2006 Padres out of Alabama, LeBlanc reached the majors in 2008 and struggled, but was far more effective across nine starts in 2009.
Here, the 26-year-old has just wrapped up a season spent almost entirely in the Padres rotation. LeBlanc opened the year in the minors and ended the year in oblivion (one September appearance during the Padres' playoff push), but in between gave San Diego 13 quality starts.
THIS CARD: This front image is too similar to LeBlanc's 2010 Topps front image.
It took me far too long to realize LeBlanc is pitching at AT&T Park, where he threw seven innings and won 8/15/10.
More from LeBlanc's 2010 season: even with that win in San Francisco, LeBlanc was anything but a road warrior. He was 4-5, 2.71 at Petco Park but 4-7, 6.11 everywhere else, including two August beatings that cost him his rotation spot in September.
(flip) Jesus Alou batted .248, 5, 34 in his first year as an Astro in 1969. He's still with us at age 78.
Those eight pickoffs in '10 tied Clayton Kershaw for the MLB lead. Lifetime, LeBlanc has picked off 16 runners and batted 30-for-120 (a more-than-respectable .250 average).
Check out LeBlanc's statline for 2008 Portland: his hits aren't high, his walks aren't high, but his ERA is 5.32 because he hit seven batters and coughed up 21 home runs. Still, LeBlanc was PCL Pitcher Of The Week on two occasions that year!
AFTER THIS CARD: If we were to document every stop on LeBlanc's baseball voyage in this section, we'd cramp up. So I'll summarize: he has bounced between the rotation and bullpen for seven major league teams since leaving San Diego after the '11 season. LeBlanc also spent 2015 pitching in the Japan League.
LeBlanc went 4-0, 3.77 for two teams in 2016, which helped him stick with the 2017 Pirates for 50 relief appearances in 2017. He was one of 2018's biggest surprises, going 9-5 in 27 starts (and five RA) for the Mariners. Despite a rough 2019, LeBlanc won a rotation spot with the 2020 Orioles—only to be sidelined by a stress reaction in his elbow six starts in.
Now 36, Wade LeBlanc is slated to go to camp with the 2021 Orioles at last check. He has appeared in 2010-11, 2013, 2017 and 2019 Topps, as well as 2018 and 2020 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps, San Diego Padres
2/10/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #407 Carl Everett, White Sox
More Carl Everett Topps Cards: 1991 1993T 1994 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2002T 2003 2003T 2004 2004T 2006
Carl Everett was a very talented and productive baseball player for a number of years; he had three 20-homer seasons, two 100-RBI seasons and was named to two All-Star teams. Carl Everett was also mercurial and capable of exploding at anyone at any time—ask Darren Lewis, Jimy Williams, Ron Kulpa, Jeff Frye and the staff of the Boston Globe, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, he is best remembered for his temper, as opposed to anything he accomplished with a bat or a glove.
Everett was a high Yankees draft pick in 1991, but he didn't find consistent MLB footing until joining the Mets in 1996. Eventually he became a regular there and showed flashes of ability...but New York wound up trading the 26-year-old to Houston in December 1997. Everett busted out with a .325, 25 108 line in 1999 for the Astros...but after that season, they became the 4th team to trade him away.
Now a member of the Red Sox, Everett repeatedly made the wrong type of headlines and left town two seasons later with his baseball reputation in tatters. Stops in Texas, Chicago (AL) and Montreal followed before the 33-year-old re-joined the White Sox via trade in July 2004.
THIS CARD: Mid-2000's Topps seemed to be on a mission to improve Everett's image through baseball cards. Everett is highly jovial in his 2004 Topps front image; here, he's giving a friendly wave to someone across the way. Probably not A.J. Pierzynski.
Everett returned to the White Sox in a trade with Montreal for RP's Jon Rauch and Gary Majewski. The White Sox needed pop with DH Frank Thomas and OF Magglio Ordonez ailing.
More from Everett's 2004 season: he, too, battled ailments that year. Early on, his shoulder knocked him out of 30 games, and during rehab from that injury, he suffered (and later aggravated) an ankle injury. Still, Everett homered in his first game back with the White Sox, who used him exclusively as a DH save for one outfield start.
(flip) Plyometrics are exercises involving jump-training; think lunges, jump-squats and clap push-ups. Don't be like me and instantly assume they have something to do with plywood.
While posting Everett's aggregate 2004 batting average of .277 in the stat box does save collectors a little math, Topps could have told you that Everett, who stood very close to the plate, was hit by 10 pitches in 2004.
Everett wears #8 here; he wore numbers 27 and 5 during his 2003 stint with the White Sox. Everywhere else, he usually wore #2 or #3. (Note: whatever Everett's fellow Sox are doing that has him smiling...keep doing it!!)
AFTER THIS CARD: Not a whole lot. Everett did help Chicago win the 2005 World Series—his 87 RBI were actually second on the team—but he wasn't re-signed for '06 and joined Seattle for 1Y/$4M.
There, a dip in production led to a dip in playing time, and three weeks after a publicized shouting match with manager Mike Hargrove, Everett was let go. No other major league team extended an offer; Everett's pro career ended with a couple of years in the Independent League.
Aside from all the, uh, conflicts, I'll remember Everett for his decidedly different lefty/righty stances and for breaking up Mike Mussina's near-perfect game in 2001 (which I watched on live TV).
Carl Everett debuted in 1991 Topps as a Yankees draft pick. He returned in 1993 Traded as a new Marlin, then appeared in the 1994, 1996 and 1998-2006 sets. Everett can also be found in 2002-04 Traded.
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Chicago White Sox
2/12/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #701 Pascual Perez, Yankees
More Pascual Perez Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1990T 1992
Just last season, Phillies SP Zack Wheeler missed a start because he injured his finger while getting dressed. Trevor Bauer, then of Cleveland, infamously missed a start after slicing his finger during drone repair in 2016. Jake Peavy, then of Boston, missed a start following a knife mishap while opening a package.
But former Braves righty Pascual Perez may take the start-missing cake. In 1982, the youngster—who'd just gotten his state driving license that day—wound up missing a start because he couldn't find Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium! By the time he did, the game was already underway and Phil Niekro had taken Perez's turn.
Remember, kids: there were no widespread cellphones, let alone Waze, back then.
Here, Perez is on his fourth and final major league stop. The Yankees signed the 32-year-old for 3Y/$5.7M in November 1989—a sizable salary for the times—but either some very incompetent people handled Perez's physical, or he managed to essentially destroy his entire shoulder structure in 14 innings. (Update: there evidently was no physical.)
THIS CARD: I was fascinated by my first Perez card (1990 Topps). In my limited experience, ballplayers simply didn't have jheri curls and gold teeth; my relatives did. Boy, how would I have reacted to a card featuring Perez's many gold chains??
Perez didn't last long in the Yankee uniform, but it did look good on him, I gotta say. For some comparison, it never looked right in any of Alex Rodriguez's 12 seasons wearing it.
You think those fans ever knew they were on a baseball card? For a while, 2010's Topps featured fans on every 10th common, it seemed, but back in 1991 this was rare.
More from Perez's 1990 season: he made three starts, hit the DL in late April, and finally underwent August surgery after initially attempting rehab. Turns out his labrum and rotator cuff were torn. Oops.
(flip) In a purge of veteran pitchers, Perez was released by Atlanta at the end of 1986 Spring Training and went unsigned all year, hence that missing row.
More on Perez's freeway adventure: he drove for hours and eventually ran out of gas. Only after being recognized by a gas station attendant was Perez able to figure out his way to the ballpark. He pitched 9.2 innings vs. the Mets the following night...receiving no decision.
As you can see by the numbers, Perez almost always pitched well when able to take the field, but for varying reasons he only managed a pair of 30-start seasons in his 11-year career. Think a right-handed version of Brett Anderson, only loads more entertaining.
AFTER THIS CARD: Perez made 14 starts for the '91 Yankees, going 2-4, 3.18 that year. But in Spring Training 1992, the 35-year-old produced his second failed drug test and was suspended for the season. He never pitched again, but his brothers Melido and Carlos enjoyed major league success in the years to follow.
Perez was murdered in a 2012 home invasion in his native Dominican Republic, aged 55.
Pascual Perez appeared in Topps 1981-1992, except 1983 and 1987. We look forward to selecting another of his cards, because believe me, we only scratched the surface of the man's career in this write-up.
2/13/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #556 Darryl Hamilton, Brewers
Following major league trials in 1988 and 1990, Brewers OF Darryl Hamilton spent a second consecutive year as a regular player without a regular position in 1992—Milwaukee frequently platooned him in RF with Dante Bichette, but also shifted him to the other OF spots depending on the availability of LF Greg Vaughn and CF Robin Yount.
Here, Hamilton has helped the 1992 Brewers seriously push the Blue Jays for the top spot in the AL East. Phil Garner's team ran a lot, so much so that Hamilton's 45 steals only ranked second on the club (to eventual AL Rookie Of The Year Pat Listach)! Additionally, he played over 1,000 innings without a single error all season.
THIS CARD: Is that a flat top Hamilton sports? I can't tell with certainty, but if so, it's one of precious few to ever appear on a Topps card. (1990's promotional opportunity lost: Flat Topps.)
Nice bubble, Darryl. Now it's time to stick it on the hat of an unsuspecting teammate, (I'd advise against Chris Bosio, however.)
Hamilton joins the three-time COTD selection club here; we specially selected his 1998 Topps card following his death in June 2015, and randomly selected his 2000 Topps card in July 2017.
(flip) That .298 average in 1992 was second on Milwaukee to Hall-of-Famer Paul Molitor (.320); no shame in that.
As discussed on his previous COTD write-ups, Hamilton got all of his 1989 run in the minors, hence the missing row.
The only other Nicholls Hall of Fame baseball name you have any shot at recognizing is former 1990's Oakland Athletic Mike Mohler.
In that five-hit affair, Hamilton doubled and scored three runs in helping Milwaukee to the 11-2 win. It was the 4th game of a 19-game hit streak!
AFTER THIS CARD: Hamilton succeeded Yount as Milwaukee's CF in 1994...only to miss most of the season with a bad elbow (which required surgery). He left Milwaukee—on not the best terms—after the '95 season, enjoyed a fine '96 season with Texas, then joined my Giants as a free agent for 1997.
Hamilton played well in SF, but the team needed more power and traded him to Colorado for OF Ellis Burks in mid-1998. A year later, Colorado traded Hamilton to the Mets, and he helped his latest team snap an 11-year playoff drought. But a foot injury wrecked his 2000 season.
From his August 2000 return on into 2001, Mets manager Bobby Valentine wasn't compelled to play Hamilton as much as he'd grown accustomed to, leading to a feud and Hamilton's eventual release in July 2001. Within two weeks he was signed and released by the Rockies without appearing in the bigs, and that was that for Hamilton in pro baseball.
Hamilton spent most of his remaining years working for MLB in some capacity; at the time of his death he was an analyst for MLB Network.
Darryl Hamilton appeared annually in Topps from 1989-2001, with 1990 being a Traded card. He's also got a 1999 Traded card.
2/15/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #249 Darren Dreifort, Dodgers
More Darren Dreifort Topps Cards: 1991T 1992T 1999 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
I have been working on a blog that, because it involves last year's postseason, requires re-watching the 2020 NLCS. Which, if you're a regular visitor to this site, you know is painful for me since the Los Angeles Dodgers emerged victorious.
So, already up to my neck in Dodger crap, the Randomizer just HAD to select a career Dodger for Topps Card Of The Day today. Barry Bonds, perhaps the greatest Giant of them all, was just one card number off.
What a perfect cap to an evening where my 49ers loss in Super Bowl LIV was aired on NFL Network...twice. The sports gods want me to feel the pain right now.
Here, Dreifort has completed his second season in the Dodgers starting rotation after splitting his first four big league seasons between the bullpen and the disabled list. The 27-year-old was up and down for much of the year, but went 2-0, 1.42 in three September starts.
THIS CARD: For someone who threw as hard as he did, Dreifort had a relaxed, fairly easy motion. Here, we see him about to fire either his mid-90's, high-movement gas, or perhaps his near-90-MPH slider, or possibly the changeup he began dabbling with upon joining the rotation. (As a reliever, Dreifort also featured a slow curve but I'm not sure if he still had it in 1999.)
In 2001, Topps' redundancy checker failed; Dreifort's front image in that set is nearly identical to this one.
Dreifort is the best #37 in Dodger history and wore it longer than anyone else (by miles). Mike Davis was wearing #37 when he scored ahead of Kirk Gibson's infamous walk-off HR in the 1988 World Series. Coach Brant Brown, in 2019, was the last Dodger to wear it.
(flip) Hard to hit is correct; after being knocked around a bit during his rookie season, Dreifort never allowed more hits than innings pitched again in his career. (In 2000, Topps was still four years away from including hits allowed in stat totals.)
Dreifort finished up with a .184 average and six home runs. He was asked to pinch-hit thrice in his career, and on 5/27/94 the rookie produced a walk-off RBI single off the bench in the 10th vs. Pittsburgh. (If he wasn't a Dodger, I'd have used an exclamation point there.)
That 1999 shutout took place 8/18 vs. Florida; Dreifort threw 103 pitches, scattered seven hits and went 2-for-2 with a run at the plate.
AFTER THIS CARD: Dreifort went 12-9, 4.16 in 2000, good enough to secure a 5Y/$55M free agent deal from L.A. It quickly proved to be a bust because of Dreifort's injury troubles; he underwent his second elbow reconstruction in July 2001 and was out until 2003. That year, he made 10 starts before MCL surgery ended his season in May.
To protect against further injury, Dreifort returned to the bullpen for 2004, making 60 appearances before ACL surgery knocked him out. That off-season, he was sliced up three other times, and didn't pitch during the final year of his deal or ever again. In 2009, Dreifort was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame.
Darren Dreifort debuted with Team USA cards in both 1991 and 1992 Topps Traded. He then appeared in the 1999-2005 Topps base sets.
CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
2/16/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #365 Mike Henneman, Tigers
More Mike Henneman Topps Cards: 1987T 1988 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997
In 1988, one year after being named The Sporting News AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year, Mike Henneman spent most of the season as Detroit's closer. He converted 22 of 29 save ops, and his 1.87 ERA was second in the league among pitchers with 60+ IP (to Milwaukee's Paul Mirabella).
THIS CARD: The life of a relief pitcher: sit around in the bullpen for however many innings, and maybe get called upon to warm up at some point.
As you can see, Henneman was unlikely to gain any advantage based on physical intimidation. He wasn't your stereotypical macho, fire-breathing, late-inning man, relying mostly on ground balls to secure outs.
More from Henneman's 1988 season: he recorded eight of his 22 saves in April, including seven straight at one point. And on 9/11 at the Yankees, Henneman threw seven shutout innings in an eventual 18-inning loss. He pitched again on 9/14!
(flip) That ALCS win came in Game 3 against visiting Minnesota; Henneman entered with no outs in the 7th and stranded both of SP Walt Terrell's runners. Detroit RF Pat Sheridan hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the 8th, and Henneman closed things out.
If you're curious about why Henneman saved just one game in July, I was, too. It turns out the Tigers, despite going 15-12 during the month, only recorded three saves as a team! (Willie Hernandez and Eric King earned one each.) Detroit starters completed 34 games in 1988, and I'm concluding that a chunk of that came in July.
Henneman was born in St. Charles but grew up in nearby Festus after being adopted (along with a sister). Here's an interesting story about his family ties.
AFTER THIS CARD: Despite being demoted from closing during the season, Henneman was named to the 1989 All-Star team (his first and only such recognition). For the next four seasons, pitching for mostly mediocre Tiger teams, Henneman averaged 23 saves and a 3.13 ERA. His 1994 season was rough, but he bounced back with a fine 1995 split between the Tigers and Astros, who traded for Henneman in August.
34-year-old Henneman wrapped his playing career by going 0-7, 5.79 with 31 saves in 37 chances for the '96 Rangers. In all, 154 of his 193 lifetime saves were with Detroit, good for second in franchise history (to Todd Jones). Henneman coached in the Tigers system during the mid-2010's.
Mike Henneman debuted in 1987 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1988-97.
CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, Detroit Tigers
2/18/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #201 Buck Showalter, Yankees
More Buck Showalter Topps Cards: 1993 2001 2003T 2004 2005 2006
Buck Showalter was a difference-maker.
35-year-old Showalter began his MLB managerial career with the also-ran 1992 New York Yankees; within two years they were the best team in the American League and only labor issues kept them out of the playoffs. Showalter was then hired to lead the expansion Diamondbacks and—with the help of a free agent or two—he guided the second-year franchise to a playoff berth.
Next, he took over the 72-win Rangers in 2003 and just missed leading them back to the playoffs in 2004. More recently, Showalter guided the 2012-16 Orioles—riding a 15-year playoff drought—to postseason play in three of five years!
But here, Showalter has just become the latest in the carousel of Steinbrenner-era Yankee managers. It was an odd circumstance—Showalter had just been fired as the team's third base coach three weeks prior to his 10/29/91 hire!
THIS CARD: If you watched Showalter lead a team, you saw a lot of this facial expression. The only time I ever recall seeing him smile was maybe on Baseball Tonight.
Showalter's given name is William; according to this article, he acquired the nickname "Buck" during his playing days.
Topps, in these days, usually included the manager from the just-completed season in its sets. But 1991 Yankees manager Stump Merrill was replaced by Showalter so soon after the season that the company just went with the new guy. 1989 Topps did something similar, featuring incoming Yankees manager Dallas Green rather than 1988 skipper Billy Martin.
(flip) From this perspective, doesn't Yankee Stadium appear horseshoe-shaped?
Today, Showalter is in the NY-Penn League Hall of Fame. Pete Rose, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andres Galarraga were also inducted in recent years. (The league disbanded in the huge MiLB re-shuffling of 2020-21.)
As you see, Showalter did not play in the majors. It's common nowadays for managers to lack MLB playing experience (there's eight such dudes at present), but not when Showalter climbed the ranks. That's a testament to his abilities.
AFTER THIS CARD: We pretty much covered Showalter's entire career above, did we not? He led the Yankees from 1992-95, the Diamondbacks from technically 1996 (two years before their first game) through 2000, the Rangers 2003-06 and the Orioles 2010-18. He was named AL Manager of the Year three times (1994, 2004, 2014).
If Showalter has managed his last game, he finishes up with 1,551 career victories.
Buck Showalter appeared in 1992, 1993, 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2006 Topps, as well as 2003 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, New York Yankees
2/19/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #452 Rey Ordonez, Mets
More Rey Ordonez Topps Cards: 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2002 2003 2003T 2004
Need a shortstop who can make relay throws from his knees? Rey Ordonez can do that. Need a shortstop that can flip the ball to second base with ease...from his mitt? Rey Ordonez can do that. Perhaps you want a dude who can sprawl out and hop back up to his feet as if controlled by strings. Ordonez can do that, too.
Easily the most entertaining defender since Ozzie Smith in his heyday, Rey Ordonez had everybody talking back in 1996, his rookie season. The man was simply magical with the glove, and if he could have been anything more than adequate with the bat, we would have seen him in multiple All-Star games in the late 1990's.
Still, Ordonez had a good run in perhaps the sport's toughest market.
Here, the five-year veteran is fresh off losing the final four months of the 2000 season. Despite a 4Y/$19M extension in January, Ordonez was not off to a great start offensively or defensively when he broke his arm on the helmet of Montreal runner F.P. Santangelo while attempting a tag 5/29. The arm didn't heal properly, and surgery was needed (The Mets replaced Ordonez with Mike Bordick and still made the World Series, however.)
THIS CARD: A routine play for Ordonez? He never seemed to get a ball he didn't have to leap, sprawl or knee-slide for. A three-time Gold Glover entering the 2000 season, Ordonez had already committed six errors in Y2K before his injury—two more than he had in 154 games the year before.
Of Ordonez's first six regular Topps commons, five depicted him fielding. But none were redundant.
We've previously discussed the "Home Team Advantage" stamp, but it's been a while, so I'll remind you that HTA was a 2001 Topps parallel factory set. The only visual difference between HTA and regular factory sets was the stamp, and other than a few reprints added in HTA sets, I can see no real "advantage" one has over the other. I got a few HTA's randomly mixed in my 2001 Topps factory set.
(flip) I have at least FOUR birthdates for Ordonez from varying, otherwise-reliable sources. BaseballReference.com has him born on 1/11/71—22 months older than he's listed here. (BTW, a single tear just rolled down my cheek upon realizing a guy who burst on the scene when I was in high school is now 50.)
Looking stern as always in his reverse pic—even his BR.com smile looks forced—Ordonez, for all his flash and dazzle, never seemed to be enjoying himself much on the field (at least when I was watching). There's nothing necessarily wrong with that; not everybody is wired like Frankie Lindor (the current Mets SS). But geez, Rey. Baseball is supposed to be fun.
The grounder Ordonez bobbled was hit by Cubs OF Damon Buford, the second batter of the game. He was stranded.
AFTER THIS CARD: Ordonez returned healthy in 2001, and held down SS for the Mets through the 2002 season. But the combination of his high salary, regressing defense, comments about Mets fans and the emergence of SS prospect Jose Reyes led New York to deal Ordonez to Tampa Bay prior to the '03 campaign. But a knee injury essentially wiped out that season.
Ordonez hooked up with San Diego for '04, but left the team when rookie Khalil Greene beat him out for the starting SS job. He hit 164 in 23 games for the Cubs in mid-2004, then signed MiLB deals with Philadelphia in '05 and Seattle in '07 that led nowhere. Ordonez then faded out of baseball.
(BTW, the more I re-educate myself on Ordonez, the more I see why teammate Luis Lopez socked him in 1999...he had a lousy attitude.)
Rey Ordonez appeared on shared Prospect cards in 1995-96 Topps, then received standard commons 1997-2004 (the final card as a Padre, for whom he never played in the regular season). He's also got a 2003 Traded card as a new Devil Ray.
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, New York Mets
2/21/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #432 Prospects Gabe Kapler, Armando Rios, Fernando Seguignol
More 1999 Topps Prospects Cards: #430
Kapler—yes, the same Kapler who is now leading my Giants—beat some long odds (#57 draft pick) just to reach top prospect status with the Tigers. Rios, for a brief time, seemed set to be at least a platoon outfielder for the new millennium Giants. And Seguignol may have possessed the most raw talent of them all, although his frequent strikeouts held him back.
Rios and Seguignol were both out of the majors by the end of 2003, but Kapler lasted over a decade as a big leaguer, picking up a World Series ring along the way.
THIS CARD: Kapler's smiling face can also be found on a Prospects card from 1999 Topps Series 1 (#205). On that card, he looks about 16.
Neither Kapler nor Seguignol received Rookie Card designation, even though neither player had appeared on a Topps card before. Trying to figure out RC criteria in the 1990's was—and still is—a fruitless venture for me.
In 1999, Baseball America ranked Kapler #1 among Tigers prospects (and #34 overall). Seguignol—Montreal's return in the 1994 trade for CL John Wetteland—was ranked Montreal's #7 prospect, and Rios ranked #9 among Giants prospects.
(flip) Jacksonville was the Tigers' AA affiliate; Kapler's monster year (146 RBI is not a misprint) allowed him to skip AAA on the way to Detroit in 1998.
As you can see, Rios the prospect packed a lot of power into a small body. He was named in the Mitchell Report years later, but it's not clear if he "used" in the minors. Rios made his MLB debut on 9/1/98.
Seguignol is listed as an outfielder, but he also played extensive 1B for AA Harrisburg in 1998. He debuted in MLB on 9/5/98.
AFTER THIS CARD: Kapler joined the Rangers in the December 1999 blockbuster trade for Juan Gonzalez. After a brief run with the 2002-03 Rockies, Kapler hooked up with the Boston Red Sox 2003-06 and, as a part-timer, helped them to a championship in 2004. He spent 2007 managing in the minors before resuming his playing career with the 2008 Brewers.
Kapler finished up for good as a player with the 2009-10 Rays; you may be familiar with his adventures managing the 2018-19 Phillies and 2020 Giants. Kapler appeared in 1999-2005 and 2009 Topps, as well as 2002 Traded and 2010 Update.
Rios showed some pop with the Giants, but ultimately, his biggest contribution to the team was going to Pittsburgh in a 2001 trade for SP Jason Schmidt. He showed no pop as a Pirate and was let go after the '02 season, getting 104 AB for the 2003 White Sox before fizzling out. Rios appeared in 1999-2002 Topps and 2003 Traded.
Seguignol slugged .512 in 76 games for the 2000 Expos, but by 2002 was playing in Japan. After briefly returning to MLB with the 2003 Yankees, he played eight more seasons mostly in the Japan and Independent Leagues. At last check Seguignol was the Marlins' international scouting director; this was his lone Topps card, surprisingly.
CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Prospects
2/22/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps Update #186 Lorenzo Cain, All-Star
More Lorenzo Cain All-Star Topps Cards: 2015
While Cain won't go down as one of the great center fielders of his time, he's certainly been one of the most reliable, and at times, spectacular CF's of his time. Cain has been a very fine player on some very fine teams, and don't forget he finished 3rd in AL MVP voting once!
Here, in his first season back with Milwaukee after an unforgettable seven-year run in KC, Cain has played in his second All-Star Game (he started the 2015 Classic for the AL). He joined Brewers teammates Josh Hader (RP) Jeremy Jeffress (RP) and Christian Yelich (OF) on the NL squad.
THIS CARD: You'd be smiling, too, if you were in the first year of a 5Y/$80M deal.
Assuming this photo is from the ASG (most Topps All-Star pics of this era are), this must be Cain after he lined out to RF in the B7th. He followed that with a strikeout, and a game-ending flyout—doubtful he'd be upbeat after either of those outcomes.
Nationals Park was the venue for this game.
(flip) Cain finished the 2018 season with 11 assists, as runners stopped challenging him as much. Plus he missed some time on the injured list.
According to MLB.com, a Brewer scored four runs in a game 62 other times before Cain, which I'm not sure I believe.
Just to be clear, Cain's first-half OBP was .393. For the year, it was .395 (good for 5th-best in the NL)!
AFTER THIS CARD: Cain did not make the 2019 All-Star team; he opted out of the 2020 season after five games, which is just as well, since there was no 2020 All-Star Game.
Lorenzo Cain has received All-Star cards in 2015 and 2018 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps Update, All-Stars
2/24/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #115 Tim Hudson, Braves
More Tim Hudson Topps Cards: 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2014 2015
Tim Hudson wasn't even on Oakland's 40-man roster when summoned from the minors in mid-1999; by year's end he was 11-2 in 21 starts and 5th in AL Rookie Of The Year voting. He was no fluke—he was an ace.
For the next five seasons—four of which the Athletics made the playoffs—Hudson headed up what came to be known as Oakland's version of "The Big Three" starting pitchers, along with lefties Mark Mulder and Barry Zito.
But after the 2004 season, the A's, unable/unwilling to pay Hudson in free agency, sent him to Atlanta for prospects. During Spring Training, the Braves extended their newest star for 4Y/$47M.
Hudson continued to rack up the W's for the Braves, even as the perennial playoff participants slipped in the standings after 2005. In August 2008, however, Hudson underwent UCL surgery; upon returning in September 2009, he showed enough down the stretch to be extended for 3Y/$28M.
Here, the 37-year-old has just wrapped his eighth season with Atlanta. Despite missing the first month after spinal fusion surgery, Hudson led the Braves with 16 wins including four straight starts from 7/19 through 8/3.
THIS CARD: Hudson at Turner Field in the red Braves alternate that's been in uniform rotation since 2005. .
That may be THE blackest glove I've ever laid eyes on. Hudson evidently left it on the grill too long.
Hudson, by this point in his career, threw a sinker, splitter, curve and cutter; I'm not sure what he's attacking with here. At different points in his career he also featured a slider and changeup.
(flip) Of all the two dozen or so 2013 Topps cards we've selected for COTD, this Career Chase is the closest to being realistic. Which, considering Hudson was 314 wins away from Young at age 37, isn't saying a whole lot. As I've said before: great premise, sorry execution.
Just look at all...those...innings. Aren't they beautiful? (I have a thing for high innings totals, if you're new to COTD.) There may not be one like Hudson again, at least not for a while given the way most MLB teams are currently run.
That Trade With Athletics sent P Juan Cruz, OF Charles Thomas and RP Dan Meyer from Atlanta to Oakland. In other words, Huddy was a total steal for the Braves.
AFTER THIS CARD: Hudson's $9M team option for 2013 was exercised, and by July he had turned things around after a shaky start...until Mets UT Eric Young Jr. accidentally crunched his right ankle as he covered 1B. That was his last play as a Brave; Hudson signed a 2Y/$23M deal with my Giants in November 2013.
Despite a fine 3.57 ERA, Hudson only managed a 9-13 record in 2014—but still walked away with his first World Series ring. During his up-and-down, pre-confirmed final season of 2015, the Giants kind of overdid it on the feting, but that's the type of respect and admiration Hudson earned in SF and throughout his 17-year career. He even earned 5.2% of the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame vote!
(Click here for Hudson's only HR as a Giant, and his last ever.)
Tim Hudson appeared annually in Topps 2000-15.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Atlanta Braves
2/25/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #493 Tom Lasorda, Dodgers
More Tom Lasorda Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993
Back so soon, Tommy? We just specially selected Lasorda's 1992 Topps card for COTD in the wake of his death in January 2021. Leave it to ol' #2 to grab a little extra attention from a devoted Giants fan.
In 1986, Tom Lasorda completed his 10th full season as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. After winning the NL West in 1985, his Dodgers were struck down by injuries and slumps by key players in '86, and finished just 73-89.
THIS CARD: Lasorda has a number of interesting front images on his Topps cards. This isn't really one of them.
Famous for his Slim-Fast commercials as well as his managing, Lasorda burned few calories going to the mound to remove his starters—the 1986 Dodgers led the NL with 35 CG. Topping the list was 25-year-old Fernando Valenzuela, who completed a whopping 20 starts on the way to 21 wins. You may not see an entire league complete 20 games for a long time, if ever again.
More from Lasorda's 1986 season: the skipper was tossed from three games, but I could only confirm the date for one of them. On 6/24, as his Dodgers dropped their 4th straight home game by one run, Lasorda got the late thumb for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout.
(flip) Orel Hershiser's dip from 19-3, 2.03 in 1985 to 14-14, 3.85 in 1986 contributed to LA's dropoff.
Pedro Guerrero's availability for just 31 games in '86 after hitting 33 HR in '85 contributed to LA's dropoff.
Mike Marshall's dip from .293, 28, 95 in 1985 to .233, 19, 53 in 1986 contributed to LA's dropoff.
Every Dodger who should have received a 1987 Topps card did, except possibly OF Jose Gonzalez, who got in 57 games in '86. An argument could be made for RP Carlos Diaz, who had gotten in over 100 games for the 1984-85 Dodgers but was off the radar most of '86.
AFTER THIS CARD: You may have heard about Lasorda turning to injured OF Kirk Gibson to pinch-hit in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, leading to one of the most famous home runs ever. Lasorda came away with his second and final World Series title that year (also winning the '81 Classic). But by 1992, the high-priced Dodgers were settled firmly in last place.
No problem: enter Lasorda's godson Mike Piazza, whose power bat boosted the Dodgers to consecutive playoff berths 1995-96. Unfortunately, Lasorda was not able to lead the 1996 team to season's end; he suffered a mid-season heart attack and soon retired from managing.
Through ownership changes, Lasorda continued to work for the Dodgers as an executive, notably coming out of retirement to manage Team USA in the 2000 Olympics and to coach 3B in the 2001 All-Star Game...where this happened. He passed away in January 2021, at age 93.
Tom Lasorda appeared in 1954 Topps as a player, in 1973-74 Topps on shared Manager/Coaches cards, in 1977-81 Topps on shared Team/Manager cards, in 1983-92 Topps on solo Manager cards, and in 1993 Topps on a shared Manager card.
CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
2/27/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2020 Topps #65 Cleveland Indians Team Card
More Cleveland Indians Team Topps Cards: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2010 2011 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
It was another winning season for Terry Francona's crew in 2019; the Indians actually finished two games better than in 2018 despite only having ace SP Corey Kluber for seven starts, trading star SP Trevor Bauer at the deadline and losing All-Star OF Michael Brantley as a free agent over the winter.
While 91 wins was enough to get the Tribe into the ALDS in 2018, 93 wins wasn't enough for even a AL Wild Card berth in 2019—the Minnesota Twins grew from mediocre to powerhouse overnight, taking the AL Central division title with 101 victories.
Not that Cleveland didn't battle. A red-hot July (18-6) put them within a game of first place 7/27, and after they walked off Boston 8/12 they actually held a half-game division lead! But after the Red Sox took the next two, the Indians absorbed a 2-5 road trip that put them behind Minnesota to stay.
THIS CARD: After three months of ownership, we finally break the seal on 2020 Topps. I was not originally going to buy this set, but in the end, I obviously wasn't ready to quit collecting.
You are viewing, from left to right, 3B Mike Freeman, 1B Carlos Santana, SS Francisco Lindor and 2B Jason Kipnis coming together after an 8/18/19 road win over the Yankees.
Freeman has never appeared on his own standard Topps/Topps Update card, though he is included in the 2017 Seattle Mariners Factory Team Set.
More from Cleveland's 2019 season: in consecutive games vs. the Phillies 9/22 and White Sox 9/24, the Indians won by a combined score of 21-1! But they also lost consecutive games to lowly Baltimore 13-0 in late June. That's just not forgivable.
(flip) It was a nightmare final weekend-plus for the Indians, who lost their final five games by a combined score of 42-14, allowing eight or more runs in each affair. Oakland (97 wins) and Tampa Bay (96 wins) scooted into the AL playoffs as Wild Card teams.
The Indians actually enjoyed a pair of six-game win streaks: June 30 to July 7, and July 14-19.
Why on earth Topps didn't print the actual statistics of the team leaders is anybody's guess—cutting back on ink usage, perhaps? Anyway, here you go: Lindor batted .284, Santana cracked 34 homers and drove in 93, Bieber went 15-8, 3.28, and the Reyes/Bradley blasts traveled 457 feet (which shouldn't have been as difficult to look up as it was).
AFTER THIS CARD: Despite Francona's health issues and controversy with SP's Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger (the latter of whom was traded), Cleveland finished 35-25 in 2020, losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Yankees. The team dealt superstar SS Lindor and let CL Brad Hand walk after that season, and expectations aren't exactly sky-high for their final season as the Indians in 2021.
CATEGORIES: 2020 Topps, Cleveland Indians