Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, January 2016
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1/1/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #224 Ryan Rupe, Devil Rays
More Ryan Rupe Topps Cards: 1999 2000 2001 2002
Rupe, a 6'6" Texan, was a second-team All-American as a Texas A&M senior and went to Tampa Bay as a #6 pick in 1998—their first draft since fully joining the American League. He was in the bigs within a year and pitched well, finishing just one behind staff leader Wilson Alvarez in wins as a 24-year-old rookie.
This is all extra-remarkable considering Rupe's career nearly ended in college due to a blood clot affecting circulation in his pitching arm—he'd sat nearly a year with no guarantee of a full (athletic) recovery.
Though he obviously did make the majors and flashed plenty of ability, Rupe could never find the consistency needed to last in MLB. After opening 2000 strong, Rupe was awful against a string of awful teams and demoted to the minors for two months. He came back better, but that isn't really saying much.
In '01 he struggled with the home run ball and won once in the final three-plus months. Here, Rupe is coming off a 2002 featuring several very strong performances, but too many equally weak ones. Rupe's season was halved by knee tendinitis; he made one (abbreviated) start after June 15.
THIS CARD: At what appears to be old Yankee Stadium, Rupe could be firing one of his signature changeups—his once mid-90's velocity was a casualty of his arm issues, and by the time he reached the majors, his fastball rarely exceeded high-80s, forcing him to rely more on his good slider and said changeup. It worked at times, not at others.
The patch on Rupe's sleeve looks like the 100-year American League anniversary patch worn around the league...in 2001. Topps almost never uses archived images, but I haven't been able to uncover any other patch possibility. The obvious answer: the frugal Rays stuffed Rupe in an old jersey on this date.
Never before noticed the two small lines extending from the inset photo frame.
(flip) With team management finally learning how to draft and develop pitchers in the past decade, Rupe has since fallen all the way to 8th in all-time Rays starts (83), and will fall to 9th when Alex Cobb makes start #3 after Tommy John surgery. James Shields' 217 ranks first today.
In the three referenced seven-inning stints, Rupe beat Detroit and Minnesota, but lost to Boston. In said complete game, he threw 114 pitches and was supported by a John Flaherty grand slam. His second and final CG was a 4-2 loss to Andy Ashby and the Dodgers two weeks later.
This may be the only Topps card I've ever seen with minor league stats for a player with four or more major league seasons—and they're not even full minor league stats, since Rupe was with AAA Durham for parts of 2000-01.
AFTER THIS CARD: Tampa waived Rupe at 2002's end. He signed with the Red Sox and made four appearances for them in '03—including a fill-in start for former college teammate Casey Fossum. After a 2004 Japan League stint and a season each in the Dodgers and Marlins systems—but no further major league run—he was finished at 29.
Ryan Rupe appeared in Topps 1999-03; 1999 was a Traded card.
1/5/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #408 Roberto Kelly, Rangers
More Roberto Kelly Topps Cards: 1988T 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1999 2000 2001T
I regularly play a challenging game on Sporcle.com; contestants attempt to name the top 200 dudes (by games played) for any of the 30 current MLB franchises. The day before selecting Kelly for COTD, I participated in the Rangers edition of the game—naturally, he was one of the 11 I missed (for the first time ever.)
Known today as the first base coach for the three-time World Series champion Giants, Kelly was an intriguing power/speed combo for the early 1990's Yankees—he averaged 34 steals a year 1989-92, and smoked 20 homers in 1991. In '92, Kelly was hitting .330 as late as June 9 and made the All-Star team! Still, the Yankees now had young Bernie Williams on the scene—shifting Kelly from CF to LF—and traded Kelly that off-season to acquire lefty power in the form of Reds OF Paul O'Neill.
O'Neill helped form the core of five pennant-winning Yankee squads; Kelly changed teams seven more times and accumulated 500 at-bats in a season exactly once. He also insisted on going by "Bobby" for a while—his 1994 Topps and Score cards each reflect this. Kelly made his second straight All-Star team as a 1993 Red, but was essentially a rent-a-player throughout the mid-1990s.
By the time of this card's issue, Kelly was 33 and no longer playing every day—Texas signed him to play part-time in 1998, particuarly in CF against tough lefties and RF when Juan Gonzalez needed a break. Here, the veteran prepares for his first camp with the Rangers.
THIS CARD: This is a STUN card; Kelly split 1997 between the Twins and Mariners. The background steps/seats behind him almost look generated, like something you'd see in the background of Pardon The Interruption or some other sports talking head show.
(flip) Either never knew or long forgot Kelly was a .323 hitter for the '96 Twins.
On 9/18/91, Kelly took Jaime Navarro of Milwaukee deep twice—the only scoring in a 2-1 Yankee win. Then on 9/18/97 he tagged new Rangers teammate Darren Oliver twice in a 6-3 Mariners triumph. (He added two multi-homer games in 1998 and another in '99...none on 9/18.)
Kelly has shifted from his position in the front image—the background behind him looks more (but not totally) authentic.
AFTER THIS CARD: Kelly played one more season with the Rangers, but didn't play nearly as much or as well. He landed a minor-league deal with the 2000 Yankees and did get in 10 early-season games, but reconstructive elbow surgery "cut" him out of the picture very early. The Panama native failed to make the Rockies roster for 2001 and was done in the majors at 36.
Kelly put up two statistically impressive seasons in the Mexican League 2002-03, which closed his pro playing career. Following three years managing Class A Augusta (Giants), Kelly received a 2007 promotion to Giants 1B coach. (He's since moved to 3B.)
Roberto Kelly appeared annually in Topps base 1989-95. He was omitted for two years—largely why I forget his Twins stint—then returned with three final base cards 1998-2000, all with Texas. Kelly also has 1988 (Yankees) and 2001 (Rockies) Traded cards.
CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Texas Rangers
1/8/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps Update #166 Andrew Romine, Tigers
More Andrew Romine Topps Cards: 2015U
Kevin Romine was on the AAA/MLB shuttle for years until an injury to Ellis Burks created opportunity with the Red Sox. 25 years or so later, son Andrew Romine shuttled between AAA/MLB for years until an injury to Jose Iglesias created the same opportunity with Detroit—though he needed trading from the Angels to grab it.
The Arizona State alum was a great speed/OBP guy in the minors (even stealing 62 bases once), compensating for his lack of power. Plus, he could pick it clean at SS. However, Erick Aybar had that position locked down for many years in Anaheim—from 2010-12, most of Romine's major league run came as a September call-up.
With 3B Alberto Callaspo injured, Romine opened '13 with the Angels and played a lot. But once Callaspo healed, Romine—who during this time temporarily batted lefty rather than switch—went back on the shuttle.
Out of options entering 2014, Romine was (mercifully) traded to the Tigers that spring, where great opportunity awaited him.
THIS CARD: Romine was not quite this sturdy as an Angel; he bulked up somewhat during the 2013-14 winter in hopes of adding pop to his bat and increasing his value.
Romine's left arm reminds me of my days as an armed courier. Exposed tattoos were strictly forbidden; if you had one, it needed to be covered up during work hours. One guy's arm was so decorated, he could only work with an inch or so of skin exposed—much like Romine here.
(flip) Iglesias' injury: dual leg stress fractures diagnosed on 3/20. As shown, Romine was traded 3/21. That's certainly "swift" in our books. (Pitcher Jose Alvarez went west in the deal; he'd appear 64 times for LA as a 2015 rookie.)
That homer was a solo off Texas' Scott Baker, the sixth run of an eventual 7-2 Tigers home win.
Detroit probably never intended to use Romine quite that much, but when former longtime Marlin Alex Gonzalez—acquired around the same time—proved to be finished defensively, he was gone as fast as he came with Romine the immediate beneficiary.
Rookie Fact side note: in the one such game Romine was kept off the bases, the Angels beat Baltimore 13-1. Romine had a .500 OBP in his limited 2012 majors stint.
AFTER THIS CARD: Romine played regularly for a while in '14 but eventually lost time to rookie Eugenio Suarez, a superior hitter but inferior fielder. With Iglesias healthy in '15, Tiger manager Brad Ausmus used Romine all over the field—most often as a defensive sub at third and occasional fill-in SS. He enters 2016 arbitration-eligible for the first time.
Andrew Romine has never received a Topps base card, but has appeared in 2014 and 2015 Update sets.
CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps Update, Detroit Tigers
1/11/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps Update #6 J.D. Drew, Red Sox
More J.D. Drew Topps Cards: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
(Disclaimer: this column will be riddled with cheap shots.)
We won't bore you with the details of the TSR random selection process for Card Of The Day. Just know that the method we use makes it possible to select cards that do not exist. On average, every fourth pick or so requires a re-selection—which is almost always immediately successful.
For this particular COTD, we had to re-select five times—un-produced cards from 2004, 1996, 1997, 2000 and 1992 popped up consecutively before we finally stumbled upon J.D. Drew's 2007 Update card. That marked the second moment in 17 years since Drew entered the majors that he's triggered a positive emotion from me—the first will be detailed later.
Speaking of Drew's MLB entry, he was a very easy man to dislike at the time. Represented by the infamous Scott Boras, Drew—whose list of broken records and accolades earned at Florida State are too lengthy for this page—clearly bought into his own hype and refused to sign with Philadelphia, who drafted him #2 overall in 1997, for anything under $10M—for perspective, Bryce Harper didn't even get that and only two dudes ever have.
Philly offered a little over $2M, but Drew stuck to his word, joining the Independent League for parts of two seasons before re-entering the draft. (This is not allowed anymore.)
$7M from the Cardinals was enough for Drew this time, and he embarked on a 14-season injury-plagued career—the guy never once reached 150 games played! Though Drew did enjoy some impressive periods and made one All-Star roster, his overall career and legacy fell far short of the hype—though I estimate 85% of active big leaguers would swap their career for his.
Here, Drew—whose brothers Stephen and Tim reached MLB as well—has opted out of a five-year deal with the Dodgers to make his fourth and final MLB stop. The Red Sox previously decided a decade of Trot Nixon was enough, so they signed the slightly younger Drew for twice as much annual cash to put up similar numbers. (You've probably correctly deduced that I do not care much for Drew.)
THIS CARD: Drew also has a 2007 Topps base card as a Dodger, with whom he co-produced one of the greatest highlights of all-time—a dual tag-out with Jeff Kent at home plate by Paul LoDuca of the Mets in a playoff game—just before opting out. This is the moment I alluded to earlier, and it makes me smile to this day.
Whatever Drew did to dirty up his uniform, I'll bet it landed him on the disabled list. (You know, I really did try to prevent bias from seeping through this writing. Just not that hard.)
(flip): Drew's explosion upped his season average to .235! He went yard off Doug Davis and Edgar Gonzalez in the eventual 10-3 victory behind Josh Beckett.
AFTER THIS CARD: Boston won the World Series in Drew's first year there—he batted .314 and slugged .431 that postseason, while managing to not get thrown out by a mile at home plate. He then made the 2008 All-Star team with a 17-HR first half—only to Tyler-Green his way through the second (.211 in 28 games).
Drew then put up his first successive 20-homer seasons 2009-10—making sure to take a couple dozen games off each year—before fading away after a washout 2011 during which his maladies reached a whole new level of frequency and creativity (hamstring, shoulder, finger, foul ball off face in BP). It's a semi-shock that Beckett's fried chicken didn't injure him somehow.
J.D. Drew—who uses that nickname despite being named David Jonathan—appeared in Topps annually 2001-11. He did not appear in 1999-2000 despite a phenomenal '98 cup of coffee and over 400 PA in '99. Either he was also refusing to sign with Topps for less than $10M, or they just wanted to humble the guy a bit.
1/15/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #74 Shane Andrews, Draft Pick
More Shane Andrews Topps Cards: 1995 1997 2000 2001
The mid-1990's Expos never topped the standings, but it sure wasn't due to poor scouting—talented youngsters seemed to roll off assembly lines to plug holes in the Montreal lineup. Some, like Vladimir Guerrero and Larry Walker, earn Hall-of-Fame consideration. Many weren't in that class yet had very good careers such as Moises Alou, Delino DeShields Sr., Mark Grudzielanek, Rondell White, etc.
A much smaller total didn't enjoy extended MLB success despite the talent and opportunity. Shane Andrews was one such individual.
Andrews, like many major leaguers, put up video game numbers in high school—see the back of this card. He was drafted #11 overall by the Expos in 1990, and in the majors five years later.
THIS CARD: Remember when the NBA's Toronto Raptors drafted Chris Bosh, spawning a litany of "Well, this year they didn't draft for need or talent. They just picked the guy who looked most like an actual raptor" jokes? That applies with Andrews' high school team—he really resembles a caveman in this pic, even though he's allegedly 19 at the time. I believe he's 19 here about as much as I believe goats orchestrated Tupac's murder.
I'd forgotten that once upon a time, Topps only featured #1 draft picks. Boy, did that change over the next decade.
Topps' 40th anniversary was a pretty big deal at the time. The 50th anniversary set (2001) also received a commemorative logo—but to my inexplicable disappointment, the 2011 set did not. (A Diamond Anniversary parallel set was produced that did feature a logo, however.)
(flip) Andrews made one professional appearance at SS (for AA Harrisburg), getting most of his run at the hot corner. As for those pitching skillz, he never got a chance to showcase them in MLB, but did toss three innings in the minors.
1.120 SLG is impressive no matter what level. Note as a senior Andrews homered more than he struck out.
I went two decades believing this guy was Troy Glaus-sized, only to find he was actually listed at 6'1", 200 lbs. (later 215)
AFTER THIS CARD: Andrews became a "Three True Outcomes" guy upon finally reaching the majors in 1995—most of his at-bats ended with a walk, K or home run. After playing semi-regularly at 3B in 1996 (107 starts), a shoulder nerve injury ended his 1997 one month in.
Andrews came back strong in 1998; now 27, he finished (a distant) second among Expos with 25 home runs. But by '99 he'd regressed offensively and defensively, and was let go entirely just before season's end.
Though the Dallas native slugged .490 in 85 games with the Cubs over the next season-plus, he was hampered by a bad back that eventually needed surgical repair in 2000. There would be no bouncing back this time, as 306 of Andrews' final 313 professional games were in AAA—his MLB career wrapped with a seven-game cameo as a 2002 Red Sox September call-up.
Shane Andrews was a sporadic Topps inclusion during his career; besides this set, he has cards in 1995 Topps (an "On Deck" card shared with Perez) 1997 (his only Topps common as an actual Expo) and 2000-01, both with the Cubs.
For whatever reasons, 1999 Topps didn't feel an emerging young star with 25 home runs over 143 starts was worthy of inclusion. Interestingly, they found room for Andrews each of the following two sets even though his stock—and playing time—had each dropped significantly by then.
CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Montreal Expos
1/18/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #270 Mariano Rivera, Yankees
More Mariano Rivera Topps Cards: 1995 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Recently, the BBWAA—contrary to every last prediction since about 2003—failed to vote Trevor Hoffman to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Baffling, since Hoffman had everything a Hall of Fame closer should have. He dominated for over a decade, made seven All-Star teams, was baseball's all-time saves leader for five years and had a great reputation off the field.
If that weren't enough, all but the very beginning and tail end of his career came with one team.
It wasn't enough to get Hoffman in on the first try, because despite Hoffman's impressive resume, he just wasn't "Mo".
Mariano Rivera, the man who broke Hoffman's saves record in 2011, was nothing less than a baseball diety (well, maybe not to Joba Chamberlain.) For 18 years, he was the surest three outs in the game. With only a couple of notable hiccups over 17 postseasons, his October dominance was unparalled—the Yankees don't win five World Series in 14 years without him. They certainly don't reach seven.
And let's face it: excelling in pinstripes holds a lot more meaning than excelling in San Diego—how did Padre fans/media punish Hoffman for slumping? Not wearing his jersey to one game? Mo had to throw in a whole different atmosphere.
Here, 32-year-old Rivera has just completed his fifth year as Yankees closer. Though he'd just blown the save in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series (committing a brutal throwing error in doing so), he's still regarded as the premier fireman in baseball.
THIS CARD: From this angle, that doesn't look like the grip for Rivera's trademark cutter.
This is only our third 2002 Topps selection; two of the three have been Yankee relievers.
(flip) Rivera sat the '01 Midsummer Classic with ankle tendinitis. He also skipped the 1999 All-Star game, but not because of injury as blurbed—according to the New York Times, he had a business matter in his native Panama to tend to.
Witness the excess space on 2002 Topps reverses—even with a photo! So why exactly has almost every set of the past decade lacked reverse images? As this card proves, you can Tetris bio info, legalese, etc. fairly easily and leave enough room to fit upwards of seven years of statistics and a concise blurb.
AFTER THIS CARD: Rivera played 12 more seasons with the Yankees and, along with Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter, played on all five Yankee championship teams 1996-2009. He was the last man allowed to wear #42 (excluding Jackie Robinson Day), finished with 652 lifetime saves—accruing the most ever despite only leading the league thrice—and might have reached 700 were it not for an ACL tear while shagging flies in early 2012.
Rivera boasted a 1.89 ERA from 2003 on, and a 1.3 BB/9 from 2006 on. He blew just 76 of 723 save ops after ascending to closer in 1997, finished Top 5 in Cy Young Award voting five times—though never winning it—and put up 0.70 and 0.00 ERAs in his postseason and All-Star careers, respectively.
All in all...not bad, especially since the guy was groomed as a starting pitcher and didn't reach the majors until age 25.
Mariano Rivera appeared annually in Topps 1995-2014, except 1996 (when all other major sets included him...even Stadium Club!) 1995 is from Topps Traded; the future "Sandman" shares an On-Deck card with fellow prospect Lyle Mouton of the White Sox.
WIthout exception, 1997-2012 Topps gives Rivera an action shot from the mound; only in his final two inclusions did Topps mix in a pregame introduction dap (2013) and a trot from the 'pen (2014).
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, New York Yankees
1/23/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #616 Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners
More Franklin Gutierrez Topps Cards: 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
In 2009, the Seattle Mariners brought Ken Griffey Jr. back for his final two major league seasons. In 2010, the Seattle Mariners center fielder won a Gold Glove. Can you guess the particulars?
A) Mariners management, now imbibing in copious amounts of crack, made the bulky, 40-year-old Griffey their regular center fielder in 2010 "for old times sake", and he delivered beyond anyone's expectations.
B) Griffey, a 10-time GG winner in center field himself, coughed, sneezed and hacked on the M's then-current CF every single day of the season, successfully spreading his defensive gifts to the younger man.
C) Seattle's then-current CF is pretty damn good in his own right, and would have won the GG with or without Junior around.
The correct answer is C (though plenty M's fans do have cause to suspect team management of heavy crack use.) Gutierrez, a part-timer for the 2007-08 Tribe, is coming off his first season as a major league regular. No 2009 Mariner played more games. Only Ichiro scored more runs or hit for a higher average.
The 26-year-old Venezuelan finished strong, playing himself into a 4Y/$20M extension that off-season.
THIS CARD: Gutierrez did this a lot in his heyday—I promise you, that ball is caught. (Yes, the ball is in the photo, camoflauged by Frankie's left shoulder sleeve.) Though, given the position of his legs, I'm betting he came down hard on his torso.
(flip) Sigh...all right, I'll dig up the other seven:
Albert Pujols, STL
Ryan Braun, MIL
Troy Tulowitzki, COL
Hanley Ramirez, FLA
Matt Kemp, LAD
Shin-Soo Choo, CLE
Justin Upton, ARI
Chase Utley (PHI) missed by a batting average point, Derek Jeter (NYY) missed by four RBI and Dustin Pedroia (BOS) missed by three homers. That's some damn good company, Franklin.
I'd long forgotten Gutierrez' professional origins; he was originally a Dodger before joining Cleveland with Andrew Brown (the former RP, not the active C) for the recently-demoted OF Milton Bradley in April 2004. Topps neglects to mention Gutierrez went west in a trade with Seattle and the Mets—yes, a three-team deal that landed M's closer J.J. Putz in shiny new Citi Field. (For a couple of months, anyway.)
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2010, Guti's offensive numbers nosedived across the board, though he did nab that Gold Glove by committing zero errors in 415 chances that year!
Sadly, Gutierrez encountered four years of physical setbacks that kept him off the field for 75% of 2011-14—stomach gastritis, torn pec, concussion from being beaned by a pickoff throw, high-level hamstring strain, and finally, a recurrence of the 2011 gastritis that left him on Seattle's restricted list for all of 2014. And that's just the notable stuff—seriously, just about everything short of a Griffey-spread disease befell the young outfielder.
Through it all, the Mariners did not give up on Gutierrez, bringing him back on a MiLB deal for 2015. Now playing the corner outfield spots, the now-32-year-old slugged .620 in 59 games after a June call-up!
Franklin Gutierrez appeared in 2003 Topps as a Dodger draft pick (no recollection of this), 2006 Update, then annually 2008-14 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Seattle Mariners
1/30/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #219 Kevin Rogers, Giants
More Kevin Rogers Topps Cards: 1993 1994
Current Giants fans who weren't Giants fans 20 years ago: you know how Javier Lopez comes in to face lefty hitters, and routinely shuts them down with ease? You know the surprise you feel whenever a LHH does manage to get a hit off of him? Well, that was Kevin Rogers in 1993, only younger with more electric stuff.
In fact, offhand, I'm not recalling a Giants reliever who murdered lefties quite like Lopez since Rogers—though I'm only going by a half-minute memory bank search; apologies to Alan Embree and his ilk if I've forgotten someone.
The 1993 Giants rose from near-exile to within a game of postseason play. New ownership (led by Peter McGowan) a new manager (Dusty Baker) and a new star (Barry Bonds) produced the lion's share of credit, but the team's new middle reliever Rogers often escapes recognition for his role in the turnaround.
Lefty hitters—whom Dave Justice once said had "no chance" versus Rogers—only managed a .230 average against him, and he regularly gave Baker two and even three innings of shutout relief.
25-year-old Rogers, a 1988 #9 pick who was a full-time (and successful) starter in the minors, had no reason to expect anything other than more excellence in 1994—the kid didn't seem to have a ceiling. But five games in, he triggered an unpretty scuffle with the Marlins, and nine games in, his MLB career ended.
THIS CARD: Any pre-Posey Giant wearing #28 now borders on blasphemy. (I myself have a #28 customized Giants jersey bought pre-Posey that is barely worn today for that reason. Well, that and the 25 pounds I've gained during the Posey era.)
Much as the outfields in 1999 Topps were too bright, many of the outfields in this set weren't bright enough. 1995 Topps used angles, tints and effects not seen before or since.
Please excuse the off-centering of this crop; my young daughter wanted to "help".
(flip) See? It wasn't just me—Topps also saw potential greatness in 1993 Rogers.
The blood clot was (finally) discovered 5/28; Rogers developed unexplained hand numbness after throwing two shutout innings at Philadelphia on 5/1 and was disabled the next day.
Those 11 wins set a school season record, and helped Rogers into the MDCC Hall Of Fame in '14.
Switch-hitting lefty relievers...they're kind of like ambidextrous T-Rexes. (Yeah, yeah, I know Rogers wasn't always a reliever. Just chuckle and move on.)
AFTER THIS CARD: As if his own health issues weren't enough, Rogers' relatives were also dealt medical blows during his recovery, which spanned 1994 and almost all of 1995.
When he couldn't recapture his old form even in the minors, SF let him go—only to bring him back on a MiLB deal after tryouts with the Pirates and Braves led nowhere. Sadly, Rogers just didn't have it anymore, and called it quits in 1998.
Kevin Rogers appeared in 1993-95 Topps, with the 1993 card of the "Coming Attractions" variety.
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, San Francisco Giants