Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, July 2018
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7/4/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #378 Scott Podsednik, Brewers
More Scott Podsednik Topps Cards: 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009U 2010U
As I commenced this write-up, I quickly cycled through my memory for the most improbable over-the-fence home runs I'd seen live. Bear with me, I do not have a great memory.
#1 was Rajai Davis (Indians) vs. Aroldis Chapman (Cubs) in the '16 World Series.
#2 was Dan Johnson (Rays) in 2011 Game 162 against the Yankees.
#3 was Scott Podsednik.
It was the 2005 World Series, Game 2, bottom of the 9th, tie game. Podsednik, certainly a capable home run hitter but without one in 2005 until the Division Series, turned on 95-MPH Brad Lidge gas and drove it out to RCF...and it wasn't a wall-scraper.
(Side note: generations from now, it would suck if people judged Lidge for the homers he allowed to Albert Pujols and Podsednik that postseason...he was filthy when on.)
Here, however, Podsednik has just closed the book on his rookie season of 2003. It took until age 27 for his opportunity to shine, and he made the most of it by leading Milwaukee in average, runs, hits and triples. Only Florida's Dontrelle Willis received more NL Rookie Of The Year votes.
THIS CARD: Podsednik easily beats the pickoff throw to first base. He was picked off three times in 2003, which seemed like a lot until I learned he was picked off 10 times in 2005 (including when he was caught running and retired by the first baseman's throw).
Podsednik wore #20 throughout his Brewers tenure, digits shared by ex-Brewer stars such as Gorman Thomas, Jeromy Burnitz and more recently, Jonathan LuCroy. It was one of many numbers Posdednik adopted during his 12-year career...too many to list.
This is Podsednik's first Topps card, though Donruss featured him as far back as 2001 when he still roamed the minor leagues.
(flip) As you see, Podsednik toiled for most of nine MiLB seasons before sticking in MLB. Why was he getting such little run 1999-2001? Hernia, wrist and knee operations in those respective years. (And, fittingly, it took an injury Milwaukee star Geoff Jenkins for Podsednik to even win the fifth outfielder's job for 2003—he was not a regular until mid-May.)
Note Podsednik's .314 average; in Milwaukee's 34-season history, no title-qualified rookie had ever hit .300 before.
West, Texas is strangely not in West Texas—it's a short drive up from Waco and a longer drive down from Fort Worth.
AFTER THIS CARD: Though Podsednik led the NL with 70 steals in '04, his average dropped 70 points, and the power-challenged Brewers dealt him to White Sox for slugger Carlos Lee that winter. The 29-year-old took over Lee's old LF spot and helped Chicago end its 88-year title drought.
Podsednik spent two more seasons with the Sox, the last of which (2007) was essentially a washout thanks to adductor and ribcage strains—having missed 100 games and reached base at just .299, the veteran settled for a minors deal with Colorado. He spent one year there as a reserve before returning to the White Sox for 2009.
Podsednik started 130 times and hit .304 that year, following that up with a strong showing for the '10 Royals. Brief stints with the Dodgers (2010) and Red Sox (2012; his final pro action) sandwiched a 2011 season lost to separate injuries to both feet—all 34 games he played that year were on the farms.
At last check (2017), the 2005 All-Star was working as a CSN studio analyst for the White Sox.
Scott Podsednik debuted in 2004 Topps and appeared annually through 2008; he also received Update cards for 2009-10. Not one of these cards depict him batting (this card, five fielding, and one tipping his cap.)
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers, All-Star Rookies
7/7/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #440 Fausto Carmona, Indians
More Fausto Carmona Topps Cards: 2004 2006 2007 2008 2010 2011
For one shining night in 2008, my favorite player was a guy who didn't exist.
Let's travel back to that year, specifically 9/19. Carmona, young co-ace of the rising Cleveland Indians, faced the tough Detroit Tigers and their intimidating star Gary Sheffield. Carmona—almost definitely by mistake—drilled Sheffield for the second time that year. Sheff clearly did not appreciate that, but for the moment, peace prevailed....
...until Carmona's pickoff throw to first base.
Now, if I had the power, I would ban pickoff throws to first base after hit batters—it just seems wrong, like hand-smashing a guy's window and then suing him for medical costs.
But for now it's legal, and Sheffield appreciated the throw even less, barking at Carmona to pitch. Carmona, however, was not at all fazed by Sheffield and barked right back...cue fight, cue several punches landed by Carmona.
I don't have anything against Sheffield; still, for standing up to him Carmona rose about 125 slots in my personal Power Rankings just for the sheer cajones required—especially for a far younger player.
Turns out he wasn't as younger as we thought at the time—in early 2012, the pitcher was proven to be 31-year-old Roberto Hernandez, not 28-year-old Fausto Carmona, so for that glorious September 2008 evening, I idolized a fantasy.
THIS CARD: No, this image is not the aforementioned pickoff throw. Though I'm curious how Sheffield reacts if Carmona did flip it underhand.
Not much about the card to delve into, so we'll revisit Carmona's 2008 season pre-brawl: he began strong (4-1, 2.25 thru 5/17) before straining his hip covering first base 5/23—that, added with the Sheffield incident and a 2011 baserunning spill, convinces me Carmona really pissed off first base in a previous life.
Beginning with that 5/23 start, Carmona (whose injury sidelined him for two months) was 4-6, 8.21 in 13 starts to close 2008...ouch.
(flip) All the MiLB promotions and rehab stints, and at first glance it appears Carmona spent forever on the farms, when in fact he reached MLB after four MiLB seasons.
2008 Carmona walked nine more hitters than 2007 Carmona...in 95 fewer innings. Had to be the hip...right?
When Carmona/Hernandez's career ended after the '16 season, his top ERA-vs. were Miami (2.08) Washington (2.34) and the Angels (2.53). That Yankees mark ballooned up to 6.64.
AFTER THIS CARD: Carmona would never again be an elite pitcher. Though he remained in the Indians rotation through 2012—when healthy and available—only 2010 could be considered quality (and even then he absorbed a six-start losing streak).
Carmona's legal/visa issues and a sprained ankle cost him most of 2012 (three starts). He made 24 starts for the '13 Rays, 29 more for the 2014 Phillies and Dodgers, and though he won a starting job with the '15 Astros out of camp, he was eventually demoted and cut. Two unimpressive starts with the '16 Braves ended his career; he finished 71-99 on the mound and 1-0 in brawls.
Fausto Carmona debuted as a prospect in 2004 Topps Traded. He returned in the 2006 base set (also receiving an Update card despite remaining with Cleveland) and appeared there annually through 2011. His identity ordeal ended his association with Topps, even though he was a full-time starter for most of 2013-14.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Cleveland Indians
7/13/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps Update #296 Henry Rodriguez, Nationals
More Henry Rodriguez Topps Cards: 2010
For several years now, a baseball blog has sat unfinished on my desktop.
It's titled "Changes I'd Make If I Were MLB Commissioner".
The piece is mostly serious, but some of the proposed changes do border on unconstitutional. An example: if two players currently in the league share a name, they could NOT share a position—remember back when we had two Jeff Robinsons pitching in the late 1980's? Nuh-uh; one of them would have to become an outfielder to stay in MLB under my rule...it's called "Confusion-Free Rosters".
Fortunately, under this law, the two Henry Rodriguezes floating around MLB in 2012-13 would have been protected—the one we're profiling now is a reliever, while his namesake was an infielder. Neither of them is to be confused with the 1990's Dodgers/Expos outfielder Henry Rodriguez, in terms of identity or skill.
This Rodriguez brought five-star velocity and complemented it with one-star command—he walked 107 dudes in 150 career innings, not to mention 36 wild pitches (for some contrast, Chris Sale—who, like Rodriguez, can reach triple-digits—has 36 lifetime wild pitches in over 1,400 MLB innings at present.)
Originally an Oakland Athletic, Rodriguez joined Washington in the long-forgotten Josh Willingham trade of December 2010. Here, he's in the midst of Season Two of Three as a National—what began as possibly a breakthrough campaign for the youngster ended with him waylaid by August elbow surgery.
THIS CARD: My guess: Rodriguez—who opened 2012 subbing for Drew Storen as Washington's closer—was heading to cover 1B on a grounder to the right side. The first baseman completed the (final) out on his own, and Rodriguez thanks the heavens.
Sadly, Rodriguez did not last long as the Nationals' fireman; after converting his first five save ops, the 25-year-old blew three of six...including two walk-off home runs...plus he was about to blow two other before being pulled.
From mid-May on, Tyler Clippard handled most of the closing while Rodriguez missed most of June (finger injury shutting his bathroom door) before his season ended 7/31.
63 must mean something to H-Rod; he wore it his whole major league career except for five games with the Cubs...when he switched to 62 (Kevin Gregg, Chicago's closer and an 11-year vet, had 63.) Rodriguez is only the second Nat to ever wear #63 during the regular season (Winston Abreu, 2007).
(flip) As a kid I'd often play Super Bases Loaded on the SNES with my buddy Luke. His philosophy for selecting a reliever: "I pick the guys with the high ERAs; they throw hardest." Seldom truer than in minor league Rodriguez's case—with all those walks and K's, I would not want to be one of his fielders.
Not shown in the stats: Rodriguez allowed just one homer (to John Buck) in 2011, but led the league with 14 wild pitches.
As you can tell by the random particles plus the less-than-flawless cropping...this scan was kind of a rush job.
AFTER THIS CARD: In June 2013, the Nats designated Rodriguez for assignment, ultimately trading him to the Cubs for a dude who never reached MLB. He'd join three other organizations, totaling seven MLB appearances before fading from baseball in 2015.
Henry Alberto Rodriguez appeared in 2010 Topps as an Athletic, and 2012 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps Update, Washington Nationals
7/18/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps #521 Brandon Phillips, Braves
More Sunny Kim Topps Cards: 2000 2002 2003 2004 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2018
I have nothing personal against Brandon Phillips. He's not a Giant killer, nor does he seem to be a jerk. He doesn't play for the Dodgers. I've always admired his play; the guy has some serious defensive skillz.
Yet, I'm not exactly unhappy that Phillips isn't currently in the league (though he's working on a comeback). This is because I'm a nightly Quick Pitch watcher, and their regular host Heidi Watney—whom I'm otherwise okay with— refuses to go one stinkin' highlight without referring to him as "Dat Dude", his longtime unofficial nickname.
Perhaps it's my being ultra-sensitive to bad grammar. Perhaps I'm just stuffy. But for whatever reason, it grated on me after a while. So that's why I haven't missed Phillips at all this year and hope he decides baseball sucks and aborts his comeback to become an artist or something.
Hey, you never know.
Here, Phillips is about to kick off his 15th major league season. After years of trade rumors and trade vetoes, rebuilding Cincinnati finally moved its longtime second baseman to Atlanta—not far from where he grew up—just before Spring Training 2017.
THIS CARD: That seems to be a St. Louis Cardinal behind Phillips.
I just noticed for the first time that in 2017 Topps, even the copyright symbol gets the 3D treatment.
Phillips is listed as a second baseman, but in August 2017 he shifted to third base to allow Atlanta to accommodate rookie Ozzie Albies. Prior to that, Phillips' lone hot corner experience was a lone AA game in 2001. He'd played all but 20 innings of his defensive career at 2B.
(flip) The "Trade With Reds" sent young RP Andrew McKirahan and a prospect (who's yet to reach MLB) to Cincy. At the time, McKirahan was fresh off his second Tommy John surgery—in 2017, he threw 16 minor league innings for the Reds and is currently out of baseball. Oh, well; the trade was mostly a salary dump.
As you see, Phillips was an Expos draft pick; you may or may not recall he was part of the package Montreal sent to Cleveland in exchange for Bartolo Colon back in 2002. Colon and Phillips would be 2017 teammates with Atlanta (though neither man finished the season there).
Since Topps no longer prints full career stats, I'll tell you that Phillips all-time OPS high was .816 back in 2007—he slugged .485 that year on the strength of 30 homers, both career-bests.
Phillips did indeed reach 200/200; he currently sits at 210 HR and 209 SB.
AFTER THIS CARD: Little, so far. At the end of August, Atlanta dealt Phillips to the Angels for journeyman catcher Tony Sanchez (who batted exactly once for the Braves and struck out). Phillips, who stabilized a problematic 2B situation for LA, said on record that leaving Atlanta was actually harder than leaving Cincinnati (after 11 seasons).
In mid-2018, the 37-year-old free agent signed a MiLB deal with Boston; at last check he was getting run at 3B for AAA Pawtucket.
Brandon Phillips appeared in Topps, Topps Traded, or Topps Update annually 2000-18, except 2001 and 2005.
CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps, Atlanta Braves
7/22/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #12 Bengie Molina, Angels
More Bengie Molina Topps Cards: 2001 2002 2003 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
In my nearly 30 years of baseball fandom, I can remember two dudes who failed to score on a home run. Gabe Kapler, then of Boston, was the first—he once blew out his Achilles running the bases on Tony Graffanino's bomb. The other? Bengie Molina.
Now, I know what you're thinking: the game ended before the notoriously slow Molina COULD complete his trot. Not quite.
MLB, as you know, was slow to adapt full use of replay, but in the late '00's, the league finally allowed replay review on "boundary plays"—was it fair or foul, was it in or out of the park, that sort of thing. The details escape me, but once in 2008 or so, then-Giant Molina blasted one that was initially ruled an automatic double. With that, manager Bruce Bochy pinch-ran for him.
Back then, challenges weren't initiated as they are now, but the umps reviewed the play and reversed the call to homer—but would not allow Bochy to re-insert Molina. He got credit for the bomb, but the pinch-runner scored the run.
I got to see plenty of Molina during his Giants days; after Barry Bonds left, Molina got a whole lot of run as their cleanup hitter. Which is sort of like hiring IHOP to cater your wedding—IHOP is definitely a quality place to dine, but it would be miscast serving a wedding. Molina was a quality player, but was miscast batting cleanup on a major league team. Needless to say, though we respected the guy's effort, the Molina years weren't much fun for us Giants fans.
Here, the big catcher is still a relative youngster for the defending champion Angels. Despite missing the last month with a broken wrist, he won his second straight Gold Glove, stole his second of three career bases, and exactly tied his Triple Crown career highs to that point.
THIS CARD: As a Giants fan, this card gives me double troubles. One: since the GIants and Angels didn't play in 2003, this image is obviously from the 2002 World Series...which my Giants lost to Molina's Angels. Puke. Molina plays 119 games in 2003 and Topps still can't get a decent pic? Obviously they're stickin' it to us Giants fans.
Two: J.T. Snow is charging towards the plate. While that saved Darren Baker's organs in said 2002 World Series, it led to the Giants' playoff elimination by Florida in 2003—if Ivan Rodriguez hadn't fathered current Giants phenom Dereck Rodriguez, I'd still not have forgiven him for withstanding Snow's crash.
Molina looks like RoboCop in his silhouette.
The #1 was Molina's fourth with the Angels. As a youngster during the Pinstripes Era, he went through 38, 63 and 5 before finally settling on 1, which he kept until switching to #11 with Texas in 2010.
(flip) Jose Benjamin and Benjamin Jose...that's some Newhart s--- right there.
You probably know a third Molina sibling, Yadier, eventually reached MLB. He never played with Jose or Bengie, although Bengie did coach him with the 2013 Cardinals—I remember Bengie struggling to get his furious kid brother under control after an ejection against the Giants. (I know, I know, Yadier Molina upset? Hard to imagine...)
Check out those strikeout numbers—for a power hitter known to occasionally chase pitches closer to the dugout than the plate, Molina didn't K a whole lot. In fact, in '08 he whiffed 38 times in well over 500 at-bats. Of course, we fans would have accepted a few more K's for a few more bombs...
Bengie did not weigh 220 when he finished up with the Giants.
AFTER THIS CARD: Molina was allowed to walk after the '05 season, signing on with Toronto for a year—he was the catcher in the infamous Ted Lilly/John Gibbons mound dustup that year—before landing with the '07 Giants for 3Y/$16M. As mentioned, the veteran became San Francisco's default cleanup hitter in '08 and easily led the team in homers (16...how sad was that) and RBI (95).
Thought to be gone after '09 with Buster Posey looming, the Giants surprised all by bringing Molina back on a 1Y/$4.5M deal for '10 not long after publicly dismissing that notion.
By June, however, Posey was ready, and Molina was a Texas Ranger. The slowest man in the game managed to hit for the cycle with Texas—his last of six career triples—but couldn't push Texas past his old Giants teammates in the 2010 World Series.
Molina officially retired at 37 in early 2012. Since his stints coaching the '13 Cardinals and '14 Rangers, all I've been able to unearth about him is a "Special Instructor" cameo with the 2016 Angels. He's very active on Twitter, which hopefully won't get him in agua caliente later on.
Bengie Molina appeared annually in Topps 2001-10; for you Rangers fans, he's also got a 2010 Update card with Texas.
(Some non-Topps sets depict Molina as "Ben", fyi.)
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Anaheim Angels
7/26/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #564 Russ Nixon, Braves
More Russ Nixon Cards: 1988 1990
Welp, I knew this would happen sooner or later.
When you own upwards of 30,000 cards and set out to showcase each and every one of them on a website, eventually you're going to stumble upon one and have nothing to say about the subject.
When Russ Nixon died a couple of years ago, I did as I always do and specifically selected one of his cards to profile (1988 Topps Traded). Seeing as I wasn't close to born during Nixon's ho-hum playing days and only caught the tail end of his ho-hum managing days, I had to scrape up enough material to do a half-decent write-up.
Which leaves me with next-to-nothing to discuss here. Not even an interesting photo.
And I've got one more card of his waiting for selection...
Sorry, TSR fans.
THIS CARD: This is Nixon's first of two appearances in the base set as Braves manager, a position he held from early-1988 to mid-1990. Taking over after Chuck Tanner's 12-27 start, Nixon proved Tanner wasn't the problem by going 42-79 himself—Dale Murphy forgot how to hit, Bruce Sutter was cooked, and Tom Glavine and John Smoltz had barely hit puberty.
I've always wondered of photos like this are posed—"Mr. Nixon, can you look as if the dude next to you is chewing on a sock?"—or if the cameraman just lurks nearby and clicks without any prep.
Having just browsed through my early-2000's Topps albums (in connection with our previous COTD subject Bengie Molina) featuring manager cards sporting a different design than the player cards...I appreciate this era a little bit more.
(flip) Just about every Brave who should have been in the set made it; .176-hitting IF Jerry Royster did not. Topps could have made room for the veteran P Juan Eichelberger, who returned from a four-year MLB absence to make 20 appearances—I've always dug stories like that. Not that 1989 Topps would have had much to say about him, but still.
Ron Gant, 3B-2B will never look right to me; he was a full-time LF when my MLB fandom began.
That's Steve Avery's Draft Pick card listed; for a while in the early 1990's it was pretty damn valuable. (Not so much now.)
We detailed the bio info in Nixon's '88 Topps Traded selection; see link above.
AFTER THIS CARD: Replaced by future legend Bobby Cox in June 1990, Atlanta didn't have ol' Nixon to kick around anymore. He coached, managed, and rove-instructed throughout MiLB into the 2010's (with a brief stop to coach the 1992 Mariners.) Nixon died at 81 in November 2016.
Russ Nixon appeared in Topps as a player annually 1958-69, plus as a manager 1983-84 and 1988-90 (1988 was a Traded card).
CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, Atlanta Braves
7/30/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps Traded #92 Vaughn Eshelman, Red Sox
More Vaughn Eshelman Topps Cards: n/a
On this penultimate day of July 2018, we interrupt the standard TSR selection process in memory of Eshelman, a mediocre lefty pitcher for the 1995-97 Boston Red Sox. He was struck down by complications following a March 2018 liver transplant four months later, aged 49. It's no fun watching so many players from my youth dying so young...but such is life, I suppose.
My main memories of Vaughn Eshelman: pulling his 1996 Score card and having no idea who he was, and not long after, reading about him burning his hands trying to put out a fire started by a candle.
Eshelman was a Rule V selectee by Boston from Baltimore in late 1994, meaning he had to stay on Boston's roster (or DL) for all of 1995. Here, he's in the midst of an up-and-down rookie season that began very well—Eshelman allowed zero runs in his first 18 innings. Among all-time Red Sox rookies, only Boo Ferriss's 22 tops that.
THIS CARD: Eshelman was not a flamethrower, relying on a sinkerball and curve to get by, along with a slider. As this photo indicates, he primarily threw from three-quarters. Madison Bumgarner immediately popped into my head when I pulled this card.
In late May '95, Eshelman made his first of two shoulder-related DL visits. After his torrid start, his ERA had swelled to 6.43 at the time of DL Visit #2, but once healed, the kid was again effective (3.18 ERA in 39 IP) and whittled it down to 4.85 for the year.
(flip) We talked about the zeroes already. Those three wins? How about one at Detroit sandwiched by two against the Yankees (one home, one away)? THAT'S how to win over a fanbase.
Eshelman was "injured" and "did not play" in 1992 after elbow surgery...no further details as of yet. I thought Topps was still using "On Disabled List" in such cases; obviously I don't know my cards as well as I thought.
Eshelman was the 108th overall player picked in '92, out of Houston. Of the 10 other players from that draft round to reach MLB, Paul Byrd was probably the best, with Terry Adams his lone competition.
Honest to God: I've had this set for 23 years and never once noticed the shoutout to Mitsubishi at the bottom...damn my weak attention to detail.
AFTER THIS CARD: Eshelman—though he made the '97 Red Sox roster out of camp—yo-yo'd between AAA and Boston over the next two seasons, combining for 16 starts and 44 reliefs. Unfortunately, he was hurt by a lack of a true strikeout pitch (career BB/K ratio just under 1:1) and never again matched that early 1995 peak. (This particular outing probably wasn't his fault, but it went on his ledger.)
Shortly after Oakland acquired him off waivers, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took Eshelman in the '97 Expansion Draft, but he never pitched in MLB for them or anyone else again.
This is Vaughn Eshelman's lone Topps card.
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps Traded, Boston Red Sox