Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, January 2017

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Topps John Barfield
Topps John Barfield

1/3/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #428 John Barfield, Rangers

More John Barfield Topps Cards: n/a

 

Happy New Year! TSR forgoes the usual Card Of The Day in memory of the late John Barfield, Rangers lefty from 1989-91 who was murdered by his girlfriend's husband in Little Rock, Arkansas on Christmas Eve 2016.


Barfield (no relation to Jesse) had been a #11 pick by the Rangers out of Oklahoma City University back in 1986; he reached MLB as a 1989 September call-up after going 10-7 for AAA Oklahoma City.


Here, Barfield has just completed a 1990 season almost evenly split between the majors and minors. He worked 33 games in relief for the Rangers that year, allowing only two HR in 44 IP.

 


THIS CARD: This is one of about eight 1991 Topps Rangers cards with that background, obviously a Spring Training field. 


Since Barfield was obviously no lock to be a 1990 Ranger, it's interesting that Topps had s Spring Training image of his to use. Does the company gather photos of everyone, just in case? This will be among the hard-hitting questions I'll ask when I tour the company.

 

That uniform # is 27, FYI.

 

(flip) 58 K in 175 innings for 1989 OKC? It's no misprint—Dean Palmer and friends were busy that year.


On that same note, Barfield's one September K (in 10 innings covering 7 IP and 26 batters faced) doesn't initially impress. What if I informed you the victim was Ken Griffey, Jr. in a tie game at the Kingdome?


Barfield died only about 45 miles from his birthplace.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Fast-working, strike-throwing Barfield opened 1991 in the Rangers' bullpen, but was thrust into the rotation in June. He held his own at first (2-2, 3.58 ERA, 37 IP in first six starts) before a rib stress fracture triggered a slump and a premature end to his season.

 

Barfield pitched professionally for another seven years, but never returned to MLB. THAT is a crappy break (zero pun intended.)


This is John Barfield's lone Topps or Traded card, though he has a 1990 Major League Debut card and also appears in 1992 Score.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Texas Rangers, RelativesNow Deceased

 
Topps Nate Schierholtz
Topps Nate Schierholtz

1/6/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #63 Nate Schierholtz, Giants

More Nate Schierholtz Topps Cards: 2005 2007U 2008 2009 2010 2011U 2013 2014


Lifetime, I'm batting .000 in the "catch a foul/home run ball" department. But in 2008 I almost broke that oh-fer thanks to young Nate Schierholtz. I was in attendance at AT&T Park when he boomed his first career four-bagger; for a few moments the blast was headed right for me! 
But just as my hopes rose, the ball dipped—ultimately landing a few seats down and away from mine (click here for TSR video).


Schierholtz (pronounced Shur-holtz, even though I've never done so personally) was a solid prospect for the late '00's Giants. He had pop and excellent defensive skillz, plus he could run a little. 


However, he didn't hit consistently enough to sustain regular playing time for long, though his pinch-hitting and defensive abilities kept him on the Giants' roster—see Game Two of the 2010 World Series.


Here, Schierholtz is coming off his second full major league season—at the outset, San Francisco's crowded outfield pushed him to a strictly reserve role (and the trading block). Starting May 1, however, he'd start 74 of 101 games before a season-ending broken foot (foul ball) August 21. 

 


THIS CARD: Schierholtz's swing was often more of an awkwardish poke, not unlike current Giant Joe Panik—the man who currently wears the #12 emblazoned on Nate's batting glove—and this card seems to drive that home. Or maybe as a Giants fan I saw so much of him that it's ingrained...either or.

 

(flip) Having been essentially fired from the blurbed website (who I was still with upon this card's release) when they began phasing out amateur writers, I seriously considered airbrushing it off this card—until remembering Topps has made subsequent mentions, and airbrushing every one is more work that we don't need. So it stays...but they still suck.


Though you must take any pre-2013 B/R rankings with a grain of salt (again, largely amateurs), Schierholtz was a damn good Giants RF, one who made erasing runners from deep right look easy. Skill-wise, he could be the best of the AT&T Park era (2000-present).


To date, that walk-off (against Pat Neshek...not the last dramatic Giants homer Neshek would serve up) remains Schierholtz' only such blast. He'd enjoy a pair of multi-homer games in 2012, and another in 2013.


2012 Topps had more than enough space to spread the vitals out a bit...much too cluttered. Danville rests about 40 minutes from SF on a good traffic day.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Benched again in early 2012, Schierholtz eventually requested a trade—Philadelphia acquired him (and their current 1B Tommy Joseph) in exchange for Hunter Pence at the deadline. There, Schierholtz became a regular again...until yet another foul ball to the foot knocked him out of action for three weeks. Domonic Brown took—and kept—his starting job, and that was that for Schierholtz in Philadelphia.


If MLB awarded a "Most Improved Player", Schierholtz probably wins it in 2013—now a Chicago Cub, the 29-year-old exploded with 21 HR and 68 RBI despite making only 117 starts!

 

Unfortunately, in 2014 the league figured him out; the veteran OF was at .192 when Chicago cut him in August. He's journeyed through three organizations since—and Japan—totaling 42 MLB at-bats. Should Schierholtz find another team, an 80-game PED suspension awaits him.


Nate Schierholtz debuted in 2005 Topps as a First-Year prospect, then appeared annually 2007-14 (2007 and 2011 were Update cards.)
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, San Francisco Giants

 
Topps Pat Borders
Topps Pat Borders

1/9/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #424 Pat Borders, Blue Jays

More Pat Borders Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995T


For those of you not around in the 1990's, a number of catchers ranging from "potentially decent" to "former All-Star, now just decent" emerged as postseason heroes during the decade. Tony Pena, Jim Leyritz and Francisco Cabrera are on that list...

 

...as is Pat Borders, whose MVP-winning performance helped bring the 1992 World Series trophy across the Canadian border. Sure, Dave Winfield had the clinching double, but Borders went 9-for-20 with three doubles and a difference-making homer in Game 4. (Besides, Winfield is in the Hall of Fame. Let Pat have this.)


Drafted out of high school in 1982, Borders was almost exclusively a corner infielder his first four pro seasons until the organization moved him behind the plate—Borders was not strong defensively at either base.
He opened 1988 with Toronto, debuting with a five-RBI game and slugging .483 through June! Before 1990, 13-year Jays vet Ernie Whitt was traded to clear space for Borders (and fellow youngster Greg Myers), who impressively erased 41% of attempted base-stealers 1988-91...not shabby for a convertee.


Myers was eventually moved as well, leaving Borders as the Jays' top catcher thru the 1994 season represented here—the 31-year-old is coming off a (walk) year where he was possibly MLB's only player whose power numbers dipped in 1994 (only three HR in 85 games.) He was far from the only Blue Jay to slump that year, as the two-time defending champions finished sub-500 despite a star-studded roster.

 

 

THIS CARD: With one action-shot exception, all of Borders' Topps base cards depict him standing or sitting around—none at-bat or on the bases (although 1988 Traded shows him bat in hand.) 


The photo is way too similar to his 1994 pic; the only difference is the jersey color and missing helmet. Borders allowed a league-worst eight passed balls in '94; judging by his expression, this image was probably shot immediately following one of them.

 

(flip) Borders once stated in an interview he and his wife were going for six children; they wound up with nine. The one referred to in the blurb is Luke, who at this writing is a senior on the South Florida AAC baseball team. Another son, Levi, also played there 2013-16 and was a 2012 Braves draft pick.


We're going to assume Borders is still #2 in Blue Jays games caught, since they seem to have a new catcher every two years or so.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Since little was heard from Borders upon his 1994 Toronto departure, many of you will be stunned to hear Pat Borders lasted in MLB all the way to Spring Training 2006! He played with five different teams 1995-96, backed up in Cleveland 1997-99 (starting 84 times), then briefly returned to the Jays in '99 before spending all of 2000 in AAA Durham (Devil Rays).

 

Borders resurfaced with the 2001-05 Mariners, mixing in several extended AAA stints and a 19-game dip with the '04 Twins (he even got in the 2004 ALDS!)


With heavy competition young and old, 42-year-old Borders failed to win a spot on the 2006 Dodgers, and retired that May.


Other than a 2006 Heritage card, Borders never appeared on any Topps brand after 1995 despite his longevity (the other major companies largely ignored him too.) He first appeared in 1988 Traded, then received base cards 1989-95 as well as a 1995 Traded card depicting him with the Royals.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays

 
Topps Brett Gardner
Topps Brett Gardner

1/13/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #413 Brett Gardner, Yankees

More Brett Gardner Topps Cards: 2009 2010 2011 2012 2014 2015 2016 


Brett Gardner is one of those guys who always seems like a fourth outfielder to me, even though he's been a full-timer when healthy for this entire decade. What that means is: whenever I see him in the lineup, I automatically assume he's subbing for some high-salaried underachieving/injured "name" Yankee. 


So it's not really anything Gardner did or didn't do; it's more of how the Boss-era Yankees conditioned me to picture their roster—I'm not sure George Steinbrenner would have thought much of a Brett Gardner unless it was Spring Training 1982. Hank and Hal seem content, however.

 

As of this writing, CC Sabathia and Gardner represent the lone holdovers from the 2009 World Champion Yankees; the latter beat out Melky Cabrera for the starting CF job that spring but dealt with multiple injuries during the year (shoulder inflammation, concussion, broken thumb) and wound up starting just 63 times.
Gardner won the LF job for 2010 (though in May he subbed for injured CF Curtis Granderson), and kept it in 2011 despite a horrific start to the year that cost him playing time—but not enough to prevent him from stealing a league-high (tying) 49 bases!


Here, Gardner—a small speedster with a little pop who bats primarily first, second or ninth in the lineup—has recovered from a lost 2012 season. A supposed elbow strain interrupted his fast April start, but when weeks turned into months with no sustained progress, Gardner finally went under the knife in July. Initially thought to be done for 2012, Gardner healed and made the ALDS roster in full capacity (he was nearly activated in September to strictly pinch-run.)

 

 

THIS CARD: Gardner is on the move. It's no surprise to see his left thumb wrapped up—as mentioned, he broke it in 2009 and battled lingering soreness throughout 2010, wearing a thumb "ring" during the second half of that year. Finally, after donning other safeguards, Gardner adopted a full-time cast for running the bases in Spring Training 2013. This is not it.

 

(flip) I'd never even heard of Fritz Maisel, and neither had you, so here's a bit more about him: a career .242-hitting shortstop, Maisel was a Yankee from 1913-17, a Brown in 1918, and a Baltimore Oriole (then of the American Association, not a major league) from 1919-28, where he hit near or over .300 almost every year. Maisel stole an AL-high 74 bases in 1914 and 51 more in 1915.


Today Gardner has 218 steals. If he plays until age 45, as Rickey did, he only needs to average 91.3 steals per year to pass him. Once MLB finally starts crediting runners who advance from one base to the next for any reason with steals, Gardner will indeed have Rickey in his sights. Of course, so will Matt Duffy and Kole Calhoun, so this will need revisiting come 2029.


Located about an hour's drive northwest of Charleston, Holly Hill is also the hometown of Yankee great Willie Randolph. 


97 runs on just 132 hits is a lot. Especially when only 32 of the hits went for extra bases. 

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Gardner swapped positions with Granderson for 2013; the Yankees felt this optimized their outfield defense. Despite swirling trade winds, Gardner signed a 4Y/$52M extension in January 2014, and moved back to LF with Granderson's departure that same winter.


Gardner blew away his previous power totals in 2014-15, with 17 and 16 respective home runs (he'd never hit more than eight before) and even made the 2015 All-Star team despite playing much of the year with a bad wrist. Though Gardner's power numbers returned to normal levels in '16, the 33-year-old earned his first Gold Glove—this play alone might have sealed it.


Brett Gardner has appeared in Topps annually since 2009 (which was an Update card.)
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, New York Yankees

 
Montgomery_Jeff_96ToppsFront.jpg
Montgomery_Jeff_96ToppsBack.jpg

1/16/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #308 Jeff Montgomery, Royals

More Jeff Montgomery Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2000

 

Want to stump your sports fan friends? Ask them to name the first MLB clubs of Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Whitt, Jay Buhner, and more recently Anthony Rizzo and Carlos Gonzalez—the average fan will guess Cubs, Blue Jays, Mariners, Cubs and Rockies, respectively. And the average fan will be wrong on all five counts (Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, Padres, Athletics).


Jeff Montgomery, longtime closer for the 1990's Kansas City Royals, belongs on that list—his first MLB run came as a Cincinnati Red, just a two-hour drive from his hometown! If you knew that, you are indeed a fan. Three years into his pro career, the Reds put Montgomery in the AA starting rotation, but he worked almost exclusively in relief as a Red.


After giving Cincy 11 good-to-decent games and three rough ones,  the club decided to deal him for Royals prospect Van Snider, who played 19 career MLB games while Montgomery became a repeat All-Star. (To be fair, Snider was later swapped to the Yankees for Hal Morris, who helped the Reds win the 1990 World Series and became a fixture in his own right. So both teams eventually won in this deal.)


When Steve Farr was sidelined in '89, Montgomery did well subbing as closer. Still, KC signed 1989 Cy Young winner Mark Davis after the season—only to turn to Montgomery again when Davis quickly turned bust. From 1990-93, Montgomery saved 141 games in 167 save ops (we're excluding blown saves in his setup role), with a 2.44 ERA and 1.13 WHIP—making two All-Star teams along the way while Davis struggled just to stay in MLB. KC rewarded him with a 3Y/$11M extension in early '93.


Here, Montgomery has wrapped up his usual solid season closing for the Royals (although he slumped somewhat in the final weeks.) Kansas City fell from 64-51 in '94 to 70-74 in 1995, but their ace reliever closed out 31 of 38, held RHH to a .200 average, and earned his 200th lifetime save on June 21.

 

THIS CARD: Montgomery appears to be preparing to leap for a chopper, or watching a ball drift into foul territory. Can't tell what park he's at. The "MIK" patch honors Muriel Irene Kauffman, wife of late owner Ewing Kauffman. She died in March 1995 after cancer surgery complications. 


#21 was the only number Montgomery wore in Kansas City. He wore #40 in Cincinnati.

 

Montgomery just celebrated birthday #55 last week.

 

(flip) It seemed Topps added unnecessary words to the blurb in order to fill space; the "Kansas City" wasn't necessary, nor was "submariner". 


Note that "Kansas City Royals" isn't trademarked or copyrighted as it would on today's cards...legalese sucks.


Montgomery passed Quisenberry on July 20, 1996, nailing down a road win against the White Sox. He finished up with 304; only Joakim Soria has managed even half of that for KC since (though Greg Holland would have about 200 by now if not for injury.)

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Montgomery remained a Royal through the '99 season, which he entered at age 37 and two years removed from (minor, if there is such a thing) rotator cuff surgery—he was not used as closer until mid-June of that 1997 season but returned to full-time duties for '98. 


But in '99, the veteran saved only five of his first 10 opportunities with two other losses and a 7-plus ERA attached to it—KC disabled him in July with a bad hip. Though Montgomery improved after returning, he was still on the decline and retired after the season. He's been an analyst/broadcaster for Fox Sports KC since 2010.

 

Jeff Montgomery debuted in 1988 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1989-2000.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Kansas City Royals

 
Topps Josh Wilson
Topps Josh Wilson

1/19/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps Update #4 Josh Wilson, Devil Rays

More Josh Wilson Topps Cards: 2006R 2011M


Every now and again, I read up on a retired player from my youth taking on a coaching job. The statement will read something like "So-and-so has been hired by whats-it as a first base coach. So-and-so enjoyed a 12-year major league career..."


And that's when perplexity drapes my face—I knew the guy played, but for that long?! What the hell was I doing while this took place right under my nose?


This has also happened for me with two active players: the Wilson "brothers", Bobby and Josh. I remember being stunned to learn Bobby had eight MLB seasons to his credit (one full) last year, and being even more stunned to learn of Josh's eight seasons (none full, spread over 11 years.) 


Both are still active, but Josh—a versatile IF who once enjoyed an 82-RBI season as a Marlins prospect—spent 2016 in the Independent League; here, Wilson has just hooked up with the '07 Devil Rays shortly after his Nats release. In hindsight, it's tough to believe anyone ever voluntarily chose Wilson over Ben Zobrist, but the latter wasn't established yet—after Zobrist was demoted in May at .167, Wilson was acquired to help fill the void.

 

 

THIS CARD: Not much to comment on here besides the old-school Rays jerseys, which I was just starting to like when extinction hit. Since Wilson, a load of dudes have worn #9, including onetime prodigy Wil Myers.

 

(flip) Note Wilson's .344 average at 2000 Utica. As you can see, he had some stick in the minors—Florida didn't make him a #3 pick for nothing.


Wilson spent most of 2008 in the Pirates' organization; he had to be itching for the call from his hometown team...but it didn't happen and they dealt him to Boston in August.


Since you're curious, Wilson scored that other Marlins run as a pinch-runner for Luis Castillo on 9/18. Miguel Cabrera doubled him in, the 10th of 14 Marlin runs that day. They did win.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Wilson finished up 2007 at .251, 2, 24 in what ended up being 90 games (Zobrist was down for a long time, and got hurt after returning). Already on his third MLB squad here, Wilson has suited up for six other teams since and played on minors deals with four others; that doesn't include three Diamondback stints. 


Wilson secured just under 400 PA with the turbulent 2010 Mariners—remember Chone Figgins' unfortunate dugout fight with Jose Lopez that year? It was Wilson who subbed in for the former.
Ironically, after never topping .239 in any of his first seven MLB seasons, Wilson hit .316 in limited 2015 action with Detroit...and has gotten zero MLB trials since. Maybe he developed BO that summer? Who knows.


What we do know is Josh Wilson has never appeared in a Topps base set. He received a Rookie Bonus card in the 2006 Factory Set (which I will now buy) , this 2007 Update card, and a 2011 Seattle Mariners Team card.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps Update, Tampa Bay Rays

 
Topps Juan Uribe
Topps Juan Uribe

1/24/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #51 Juan Uribe, White Sox

More Juan Uribe Topps Cards: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

 

Eight years ago, I was present at AT&T Park for the 20th anniversary reunion of the 1989 N.L. Champion Giants. I remember three things about the day:


1. My seats not being where I thought they were. Determined to finally catch a foul ball, I paid extra for seats close to the action. But unless you count hungry hovering seagulls as "action", I failed miserably due to my poor recollection of the park's layout.


2. Craig Lefferts' name being announced, which I'll detail whenever we pull one of his cards, and


3. Juan Uribe lining up in place of his deceased cousin, Jose Uribe, and hugging Jose's widow (at the time, Jose had only been dead a couple of years.) It was tragically beautiful and powerful; what fortunate timing for Juan to be on the Giants' roster.


Juan began his career with the Rockies in 2001—today, his build resembles an NFL fullback, but back then it more closely matched his slender cousin's. He became the full-time SS in July once Neifi Perez was shipped out, and stayed through slumps and injuries until being traded to the White Sox for Aaron Miles after the 2003 season (Colorado had Clint Barmes ready and wasn't about to risk an arbitration raise for the defensively-frustrating Uribe.)


Here, Uribe is fresh off directly helping Chicago complete a four-game sweep of Houston in the 2005 World Series—in the 9th inning of the decider, Uribe ranged from SS into the seats to secure Chris Burke's foul pop for the second out, then charged Orlando Palmiero's slow roller and gunned him to end it—nothing frustrating about that D! Uribe scored seven runs and drove home six more that postseason, adding five doubles in just 12 games.

 

 

THIS CARD: By today's rules, Detroit's Carlos Guillen would automatically be called out thanks to the Ruben Tejada rule disallowing wide takeout slides. Of course, a similar rule existed when this card was released and for generations before that. But you seldom saw enforcement.


Uribe ended up so beefy, it's hard to imagine him ever skying over a runner like this, despite likely having seen it during his SF days. 


We've now selected three of the four 2005 White Sox infielders for COTD (Paul Konerko, Joe Crede, Uribe...only Tad Iguchi remains.) We've also featured fellow champs Jon Garland, A.J. Pierzynski, Brandon McCarthy and Brian Anderson at varying points.

 

(flip) We touched on Uribe's direct help to the White Sox championship cause above. 
I'm no A-Rod fan, but when he pulls a somewhat similar stunt, it's labeled bush league while Uribe gets positive recognition (at least on this card)? Through research, the batter and runner have been identified as Aramis Ramirez and Corey Patterson, respectively (although the latter only received a single.)


And while the story is better in Topps' telling, according to baseballreference.com, the White Sox lost 4-3. 


Today, Uribe is officially listed at 6'0", 245 lbs. Which means he was probably closer to 255.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Uribe played three more seasons in Chicago, but lost his starting job in 2008—his third straight year hovering around .240 (though he added 41 homers in 2006-07).


The veteran infielder joined the Giants for 2009 and directly assisted in their 2010 pennant—taking over at 3B during the NLCS, his walk-off sac fly won Game 4 and his late Game 6 homer put them in the Fall Classic! (Spoiler alert: they won.)
But when the Dodgers (who'd tried to trade for Uribe in '08) offered 3Y/$21M that winter, he had little choice but to take it.


After a nightmarish first two years in blue, Uribe came around and even hit .311 in 2014—no small feat for a man who hit .248 from 2002-12. He spent 2015 with three teams before landing with the eventual 2016 A.L. Champion Indians—who clinched that pennant three months after releasing Uribe and his .206 average.

With Uribe unsigned and set to turn 38 in March, the odds appear against him receiving a chance to hit the one HR he needs for 200 career.


Juan Uribe has appeared in Topps annually since 2001—2001 was a Traded card, while 2011, 2013 and 2016 were Update cards.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps, Chicago White Sox

 
 
Topps Yordano Ventura
Topps Yordano Ventura
Topps Andy Marte
Topps Andy Marte

1/28/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #78 Yordano Ventura, Royals and 2003 Topps #300 Andy Marte, Braves First Year

More Yordano Ventura Topps Cards: 2012 2013 2014 2016
More Andy Marte Topps Cards: 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010


I honestly can't believe I'm doing this again.
It was in the 2014 World Series that young Royals flamethrower Yordano Ventura memorably scrawled the number of Cardinals outfielder and friend Oscar Taveras—who'd just been killed in a car crash—on his hat before taking the mound against San Francisco. 


Who knew that just over two years later, Ventura himself would suffer the same fate.
On January 22, 25-year-old Ventura became the second young pitching star in four months to lose his life in a motor vehicle crash. The same day, former major leaguer Andy Marte (2005-10, 2014), a one-time top prospect who never really panned out in the bigs, died in a car crash as well. Both deaths occured in the Dominican Republic—Ventura's 40 miles away from Santo Domingo; Marte's 95 miles away.


For space considerations, we will remember them both in a joint Card Of The Day segment.

 

 

THESE CARDS: We chose Ventura's 2015 Topps card because it represented his best overall season (2014; he was good in the playoffs as well), plus I like the photo—Ventura's follow-through was about as electric as his stuff. FYI: That's #30 he's wearing; don't be surprised if KC retires it as they did in 1987 with late manager Dick Howser's #10.


This is Marte's first Topps card—I felt it somewhat poignant to use it here. Marte's career disappointed and his life ended prematurely, but at least on this card, his potential is forever limitless and his future is brighter than the sun.


Most of 2003 Topps' inset photos greatly differed from the primary image (different uniform, obvious pose, etc.) Safe to bet Marte's was one exception, especially given his low-minors status. 

Topps produced First-Year cards from 2003-05; they reflected back on the first full professional seasons—usually low minors—of top prospects (and some not-so-top prospects.) 2003 Topps featured 31 First-Year cards; 18 at least reached MLB.

(flip) By 2016, Jones felt a little different about young Ventura: "I knew it (a brawl triggered by Ventura drilling Jones' teammate Manny Machado) was going to happen. The guy has electric stuff but between the ears, there is a circuit board off balance...He wants to be Pedro Martinez; hopefully the league catches on to it." (From Twitter via CBSSports.com)


It'll be a long time before I take WAR seriously. Case in point: Topps lists Ventura's 2014 total at 2.8, while baseballreference.com gives him a 3.2 mark. Whatever. I'm old-school. 


Those reflexes helped Marte win four straight votes for best defensive 3B in his minor league. I'm not looking up who led the 2002 Sally League in homers. 


Once upon a time, card #300 would be saved for a star. Times were a-changing by 2003, evidently. 

 


AFTER THESE CARDS: With the departure of James Shields, Ventura took over as Kansas City's #1 starter for 2015, signing a 5Y/$23M extension 24 hours before an easy Opening Day win. By May, he'd developed an unfavorable reputation as a headhunter—over the 2015-16 seasons, Ventura's "wildness" cleared the benches of the A's, White Sox and Orioles, providing ample material for articles like this.

 

In addition, he pitched his way back to AAA in July...for all of 24 hours. Despite his slump, KC won the 2015 World Series...but didn't come close to defending that title thanks in part to Ventura's inconsistent year. 


Marte made it to the Braves in 2005—but Chipper Jones was back at the hot corner by then after a stint in LF, so Atlanta moved him to Boston for Edgar Renteria. Boston then sent him to Cleveland in the Coco Crisp deal seven weeks later.


Marte closed 2006 and began 2007 as Cleveland's starting 3B, but spent most of '07 back in AAA. The Indians kept him on their roster for all of '08, outrighted him to AAA in Spring 2009, then recalled him to play 1B after Ryan Garko's trade. Marte stuck as a backup CI for the 2010 Tribe before being cut for good that winter.

 

It took three years, a Martin Prado injury, and a huge showing for AAA Reno to get Marte back to the majors, but unfortunately his 2014 Diamondbacks stint lasted but 16 at-bats. He took his talents to Korea for 2015-16 and ended his MLB career at .218, 21, 99 in 308 games.


Yordano Ventura appeared annually in Topps 2014-16; no word as to his status for 2017 Topps (Update: he's excluded). Andy Marte appeared in Topps annually 2003-10, except 2004. 2005 was a shared Prospects card.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps2003 Topps, Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves, Now Deceased

 
Topps Bobby Thigpen
Topps Bobby Thigpen

1/31/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #255 Bobby Thigpen, White Sox

More Bobby Thogpen Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991 1992 1993


The closer position is highly volatile—one minute you're a perennial All-Star, notching 40+ saves a year, signing a megadeal complete with press conference and everything. 30 months later, a .454 team doesn't even want you for middle relief. Heath Bell's stunning fall is one of the reasons I cannot get too excited over my Giants' recent addition of star relief ace Mark Melancon.


So was Bobby Thigpen's.


If Thigpen hadn't eventually become a White Sox coach, chances are people born outside Chicago after 1994 A) would've never heard of him, or B) forgotten he existed—that's how fast the door to his superstardom opened and shut. He was a good closer for the White Sox in the late 1980's, but in 1990 he saved 57 Chicago leads—obliterating Dave Righetti's four-year-old record of 46. 


For good measure, Thigpen posted a 1.83 ERA and 1.04 WHIP that year. At age 26 with a good young nucleus forming around him, the Mississippi State alum seemed headed for a lengthy run of success.


He did not have a lengthy run of success. By mid-1992, he was out of the closer's role. By mid-1993, he was out of Chicago. By May 1994, he was out of the major leagues for good.


But here, Thigpen is still a young relief ace for the lowly 1989 White Sox. Using a low-90's fastball that could either dart or sink, accompanied by sliders and (later) changeups, the 26-year-old has recorded his second straight 34-save season—and was rewarded with an absolutely whopping $10,000 raise for 1990.

 

 

THIS CARD: Blue font for the White Sox. Yeah, that makes sense.


If this were 1991 Topps, I'd have been up in arms over a headshot being used after Thigpen's record-setting performance. Here in 1990 Topps...I suppose it's acceptable.


Given the stereotype of fire-breathing, intimidating closers, it's ironic that for 18 years, the single-season save record was held by a man who, at least in this image, looked about 10. (Which I say respectfully.)

 

(flip) Expanding on the blurb...


⦁    Thigpen's debut: He mopped up the final three innings of a 9-0 loss at Boston, allowing two runs on five hits.            
⦁    Thigpen's first save: He got the final five outs in a 7-4 home win vs. Milwaukee.        
⦁    Thigpen's first win: three perfect innings ended a 10-inning walk-off win against California.


How convenient that for at least seven of Thigpen's Spring Trainings, the White Sox' facility was practically in his backyard (Sarasota, Florida, 36 miles from St. Petersburg.)

 

AFTER THIS CARD: We touched on the save record set in 1990; Thigpen finished 4th in A.L. Cy Young voting that year. But he was shaky in 1991 and 1992—click for a theory why—and temporarily removed from the closer's role. In Spring Training 1993 young fireballer Roberto Hernandez took over stopper's duties for good, and Thigpen was shipped to Philadelphia via August trade for P Jose DeLeon.


(This is why we do Card Of The Day: I had zero idea Bobby Thigpen pitched for Philly in the 1993 World Series...and forgotten he was even on that team. Thigpen willingly sacrificed $7M for the chance to pitch in October.)


In '94 he made the Mariners on a MiLB deal, but simply stunk and was cut before the end of April, never to pitch in the majors again. He was seriously injured in a 2003 fall, but recovered and managed in the low minors for a time. From 2013-16, Thigpen was bullpen coach for the White Sox (managed by his old teammate Robin Ventura.)


Bobby Thigpen appeared annually in Topps 1987-1993.

 

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Chicago White Sox