Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, July 2014
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7/2/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #484 Boomer Wells, Red Sox
More David/Boomer Wells Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2006 2007
This is the second of two "Boomer" Wells cards produced by Topps near the end of his career (Topps mercifully reverted back to "David" for 2006-07, his final two Topps appearances.) He isn't the first to be recognized by his nickname mid-career—recall Tim "Rock" Raines' 1989-91 and Dwight "Doc" Gooden's 1988-94 Topps cards.
Boomer's career, nearly over before it began after major elbow surgery in 1985, spanned 21 major league seasons for nine clubs—three of which employed Wells twice! He's best known as a Blue Jay and Yankee.
At his best, Wells simply gobbled up innings—he walked few and rarely maxed out on velocity, enabling him to go deep into games. Good teams followed him wherever he went (eleven postseason appearances; Wells went 10-5 although he took serious heat when back pain forced him out of Game 5 of the 2003 World Series after exactly one inning.) He won 71 games from 1997-2000, against 32 losses. He then underwent major back surgery, then proceeded to go 61-29 from 2002-05. That's a 132-61 record over an eight-year period, excluding injury-shortened 2001—one of those wins being a perfect game in 1998.
Because he was usually around the plate as alluded to, Boomer coughed up a lot of hits; several of his winningest seasons are accompanied by less impressive secondary numbers—though one must remember he pitched through the entire "Steroid Era" in MLB's most competitve division.
Here, the 42-year-old lefty has just left the pitching haven of Petco Park (San Diego) for the $$$ of Boston. He'd pitched well for the Padres as the compliment to young RHP Brian Lawrence, Adam Eaton and Jake Peavy, but was only offered a (second) incentive-laden contract by San Diego. Boston offered guaranteed money, so off Wells went.
THIS CARD: My first "new uniform" base card. Obviously, both front and rear photos came during Spring Training—my guess is, even before position players were due to report. He seems to be slightly slimmer than usual in these pix.
What is that, a sand outfield?
(flip) It really bothered me that Topps' invariably wasted their new "Key Stats" feature. The concept worked, but why use a number readily available in the standard career statistics—in this case, Boomer's 3.73 ERA in '04? This is where a BB/K ratio, home run total, even a home/road split could and should have been used.
Archaeologists can't compete with some of the obscure statistical feats dug up by the Topps' people over the past decade-plus—so there's no valid excuse why they couldn't have highlighted Wells league-best 0.9 BB/9. Or his 5/1 BB/K ratio. Sufficient space existed in that little box.
AFTER THIS CARD: Wells got off to a grotesque start in Boston (2-4, 6.81 after seven starts, and that's including two scoreless outings covering 15 innings!) sandwiched around a month-long DL stint. He appeared to be done at age 42, but then got on a summer roll and wound up one behind staff leader Tim Wakefield in wins. Another dip in performance in '06 led to a trade back to San Diego.
The Pads cut him in mid-07, and Wells closed his career up the freeway with the Dodgers. In all he made 29 starts in 2007, but was excluded from 2008 Topps.
Wells went down as an equally overrated (the perfecto, playoff success and four seasons with very successful Yankee teams seem to fluff up a very good-but-not-great career) and underrated (239 lifetime wins despite not becoming a full-time starter until age 30) player capable of generating headlines without throwing a single pitch.
David/Boomer Wells appeared annually in Topps 1988-2007.
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Boston Red Sox
7/11/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #149 Ray Searage, White Sox
More Ray Searage Topps Cards: 1988 1990
Searage was recently in the news for being drilled by a Ben Roethlisberger foul ball during a Pirates' batting practice, though his COTD selection was random and had zero to do with the blooper.
The former southpaw reliever is a member of the All-Brenly team, which honors (?) players who physically resembled 15-year veterans—even as rookies. (See Searage's 1982 Topps card if you don't believe me.) He was a 22nd-round pick of the Cardinals who made it; over the 1978-79 seasons Searage appeared in 81 minor league games (75 in relief), going 18-7, 2.53. Still, St. Louis had a chance to acquire former third-round pick Jody Davis from the Mets and took it, exchanging Searage in the process. Davis went on to become a repeat All-Star, albeit for the Cubs. Searage wound up a journeyman.
He only spent 1981 with the Mets, and only a portion at that. It wasn't until 1984 that Searage—now 29—made a major league impact. In 21 games covering 38 innings, Searage allowed three earned runs for the Brewers. But by mid-1986, he'd lost his touch and was traded to the Pale Hose..
THIS CARD: Yes, that used to be the White Sox logo. No, I'm not kidding.
Searage is cool as a cucumber in this pregame shot, seemingly amused by an off-screen mishap (possibly teammate Steve Lyons dropping his pants?) He enjoyed another (brief) run of excellence during his 1986 White Sox stint; in 29 innings subbing for stricken lefty Joel McKeon (hospitalized with hepatitis, out for the year), Searage gave up only two ER!
(flip) Wilhelm pitched another two decades without ever hitting another home run in the majors—431 official at-bats. (Wilhelm was primarily a reliever but made 52 starts in his career; additionally, relievers in his non-DH era threw multiple innings. Because of this, Wilhelm averaged around 30 plate appearances annually for his first 14 years.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Searage led the 1987 White Sox in appearances but was cut in spring training 1988. He spent that year at Albuquerque (Dodgers' AAA) then made 70 appearances over the 1989-90 seasons for the Dodgers—with respectable numbers. That would conclude Searage's major league experience; he lost the 1991 season to elbow surgery and spent all of 1992 with Edmonton (Angels' AAA) before retiring.
He's been in baseball ever since, most notably as the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates' pitching coach (Searage spent several years coaching in their minor league system before joining Clint Hurdle's major league staff.) He's also worked in the Marlins and Devil Rays' minor league systems, teaching pitching.
CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Chicago White Sox
7/14/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #64 Mike Williams, Pirates
More Mike Williams Topps Cards: 1993 1994 1995 2000 2001 2002 2004
This is the same Mike Williams from my June 4, 2014 video post—the one charged by Pedro Martinez, of all people, for throwing at him back in 1996. At that time, of course, Williams started games but by the time his career ended he was best known for finishing them. Which isn't to say he was all that good—his 2003 All-Star selection may be the worst of the 2000's. Williams didn't have great stuff at all and was known for being a "Pepto Pitcher", meaning the manager needed to pop a couple of those during his often-adventurous outings.
Had Williams been with just about any other organization, he'd never have gotten a shot at closing. But once Rich Loiselle fell apart and Ricky Rincon was traded following the 1998 season, the Pirates weren't exactly bursting at the seams with strong competition. Williams, who'd posted excellent numbers in a setup role after being picked up off the scrap heap in 1998, went on to save 69 affairs from 1999-01—including 23 in a row at one point!
THIS CARD: I've always been a fan of the occasional autograph-signing card; Topps is usually good for a handful per set (the best ever in this regard: 1996 Score.)
Following a second half of '01 spent setting up for Billy Wagner in Houston, Williams was re-acquired by the Bucs for 2002—and reached new career heights at age 34. His 46 saves set a new Pirates record and ranked behind only Eric Gagne and John Smoltz in MLB. In addition, he registered a WHIP nearly 0.5 lower than in 1999! Williams deservedly made the All-Star team, but did not pitch.
(flip) The save record references a streak of 10 straight appearances (April 17 to May 19) where Williams nailed one down— no "maintenance games", no blown saves, no ties preserved during that stretch. In nine of those contests, the Pirates led by two or less! Williams' next appearance came five days later in a maintenance game; naturally, he coughed up the run that put his ERA over 1 to stay.
AFTER THIS CARD: Not much. As alluded to, he'd been a rather undeserving 2003 NL All-Star on the strength of his playing for a team that needed a representative (again, he didn't pitch.) Williams' ERA and WHIP were grossly inflated, and only dipped slightly upon being traded to his original Philadelphia team shortly after the break.
Williams appeared one final time in 2004 Topps as a new member of the Devil Rays—who released him in March with an 18.00 ERA. Just like that—his career wrapped at age 36.
CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates
7/19/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #194 Derek Lowe, Red Sox
More Derek Lowe Topps Cards: 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
The big sinkerballer makes his second Topps appearance as a starting pitcher after many mostly successful seasons in Boston's bullpen. Lowe was a 17-game winner in 2003, a year after 21 victories, a no-hitter and a third-place place Cy finish. The Sox' 1997 acquisition of Mariner prospects Lowe and Jason Varitek in exchange for the highly combustible Heath Slocumb still places high on the all-time list of MLB fleecings.
Lowe, an eighth-round pick, was not a top prospect as a minor league starter. In fact, it took him five years to reach AAA and his own GM thought he was left-handed (as you can see at left, he isn't.) By 1996, he'd began to make strides—enough for Sox GM Dan Duquette to accept he and the former Olympian Varitek in a trade for the supremely disappointing Slocumb. Of course, he didn't have much flexibility; Slocumb had been brutal the first three months of '97 before finding "it" in July, convincing M's GM Woody Woodward to acquire him for the stretch run.
Slocumb did settle down an unstable Mariners closing situation that saw Norm Charlton and Bobby Ayala each pitch their way out of the job, but Lowe (who did pitch briefly for the M's) and Varitek would both debut for Boston later that year—and stay for eight and 14 more years, respectively.
THIS CARD: I never knew Lowe as an "unbuttoner", though the man he was dealt for (Slocumb) was one of the most flagrant of his era. My first guess as to venue is Turner Field, but Lowe didn't pitch there in '03. Milwaukee? The Trop? That aqua wall color is throwing me off.
(flip) Lowe's numbers took a dip in '03 from his standout '02, mostly due to his gross inability to succeed away from Fenway. Yes, you read that properly. Lowe was 11-2 with a .220 BAA at home in 2003, but registered a 1.8 road WHIP and a 6.11 road ERA.
For his career, Bobby Higginson was 5-for-25 with one homer against Lowe. His final 17 at-bats produced two hits.
AFTER THIS CARD: After winning Game 7 of the historical 2004 ALCS, then the World Series clincher against St. Louis, Lowe jumped to the Dodgers as a free agent. He'd spend four years there and three more in Atlanta, starting between 32-35 times each year. During Lowe's Atlanta stint, more and more of his induced grounders began to find holes and he led the NL in 2011 losses (17). The Indians, convinced he still had something left, nabbed the 39-year-old for 2012 via trade.
Lowe started very strong (7-3, 3.06 entering June) but won only once more over the next two months as his ERA soared into the mid-fives. He was cut after 21 starts, finishing out '12 as a Yankee reliever. Nine games in early 2013 with Texas signaled the end of Lowe's long career, though he refused to utter the "R" word—saying only that he was "officially done playing the game." He appeared continuously in Topps through the 2013 set.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Boston Red Sox
7/24/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #320 Barry Bonds, Pirates
More Barry Bonds Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
In acknowledgment of Barry Bonds' 50th birthday on July 24, 2014, we eschew the random selection process to present Barry's first Topps card. Just one year after being drafted by Pittsburgh sixth overall out of Arizona State, Bonds was the Pirates' primary center fielder and leadoff man.
Called up in late May, he started and finished strong, though he struggled mightily in between. Talented as Bonds was, little did the Pirates or any of baseball know the ride their rookie speedster would take them on—at and away from the field—over the next two decades.
THIS CARD: #7? Really? Who the hell is this? Many people double-take at Bonds' slim figure. I can't get past the number. No idea what stadium he's in. This is Bonds' first Topps base card.
(flip) How the Pirates wound up with a minor-league team based in the Pacific Ocean is beyond me. Wouldn't the Bahamas be more appropriate? Oh, wait—that's not US territory. But then again, neither is Calgary. At least the team was smart enough to wait for a road trip to LA before summoning Bonds from Hawaii.
Barry's father Bobby did "play major league ball", for 14 seasons. Interesting wording. Hey, did you know Ronald Reagan "got into politics" after his acting career? Wow. That's up there among the grossest understatements in sports card history. It made Bobby sound like a key role player rather than a man who hit 332 homers, stole 461 bases, went 30/30 five times and twice finished Top-5 in MVP votes.
Dave McNally remains the only pitcher with a World Series grand slam; teammate Mike Cuellar is the only other pitcher with a postseason slam of any kind—having smoked one in the 1970 LCS! No player has hit a Series grannie since Paul Konerko of the White Sox in '05.
AFTER THIS CARD: Yada, yada, two MVP's with Pittsburgh, Sid Bream, record-setting contract, 40-40, 500 homers and steals, single-season record 73, own personal licensing, flaxseed oil, five more MVP's, knee surgery, Bonds On Bonds, Mark Sweeney, 762, fired, no 2008 Topps card. That about sums it up.
CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates