Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, July 2019

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Topps Einar Diaz
Topps Einar Diaz

7/31/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #164 Einar Diaz, Indians

More Einar Diaz Topps Cards: 1995 2002 2003 2004

At least for me personally, longtime Indians catcher Einar Diaz's lasting legacies will be the following:

  • Doubling twice off Pedro Martinez in 2000, angering him, and triggering a clear brushback (message) pitch his third time up—the subsequent retaliations eventually causing a brawl, and

  • For years, stumping me as to whether his name was Einar or Elnar. Not really his fault, per se, but if he never reaches MLB I'm never in the position to struggle with his name. So it kind of IS his fault.

Diaz, a minor-league infielder-turned-catcher, sipped the Indians' coffee each year 1996-98 (including a 1998 postseason roster spot) before sticking with the team for 1999—when Sandy Alomar Jr. got hurt (WHAAAT?!), Diaz got extended run for the eventual AL Central champs.

Here, with Alomar available for 97 games in 2000, Diaz has been relegated to part-time status. Still, in 142 fewer at-bats, the young veteran exceeded his 1999 home run total by one!

THIS CARD: That swing produced a 5-for-5 on 5/5/2000—something like that usually makes its way into Topps blurbs but not this time.

This is actually Diaz's second Topps card; he debuted way back in 1995 as a prospect. He SHOULD have been included in 2000 Topps, having received most of the Tribe's catching run in 1999. But that was the dark era of Topps.

(flip) Einar did throw pretty well for a while, erasing 36% of would-be thieves 1998-2000 and picking off three other runners! But for the sake of thoroughness, along the way he committed a lot of throwing errors.

DIaz looks closer to 14 than 28 in that photo.

Really? A 165-lb. catcher? As I said, Diaz started as an infielder but once he switched, the Indians needed to protein that boy up.

AFTER THIS CARD: When Alomar left as a free agent after Y2K, Diaz became the Indians #1 receiver and enjoyed a decent 2001 campaign. But, wrecked by injuries, he fell off miserably in '02—with young Josh Bard and Victor Martinez on Cleveland's horizon, and Texas in need of a replacement for Pudge Rodriguez, Diaz was shipped off to the Rangers in a trade that netted the Indians Travis Hafner...win goes to the Tribe on that one.

Diaz got 95 starts for the 2003 Rangers, putting up numbers more closely resembling his career norms. Here's something I'd long forgotten: he backed up Brian Schneider on the 2004 Expos and Yadier Molina on the 2005 Cardinals before returning to the Indians on a MiLB deal. Failing to win a job, Diaz closed his MLB career with three September call-up AB for the '06 Dodgers.

Though that was it for Einar Diaz the catcher, he went on to coach and manage in the minors for several years. He recently wrapped (read: was fired from) a five-year run as Baltimore's assistant hitting coach.

Einar Diaz debuted in Topps on a 1995 shared Prospects card, then returned for 2001-2004 Topps. 2005 Topps Total features Diaz the Cardinal.

CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Cleveland Indians

 

More July 2019 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Harrison Bader
Topps Harrison Bader

7/1/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #21 Harrison Bader, Cardinals

More Harrison Bader Topps Cards: 2019

Harrison Bader can go get the ball. Charging in and making the dive, or going back and challenging the wall full-bore, it didn't take long for Bader to develop a reputation as a prolific defensive outfielder and St. Louis fan favorite.

Oh, yeah, he can throw, too—in fact, the day before I selected this card, I'd watched a YouTube video of early 2019's top outfield assists; numerous commenters wondered the whereabouts of Bader's throw from center to wipe out Bryce Harper at the plate in May. (Further proof that the Randomizer sees all.)

 

Here, we catch up with Bader during his rookie season of 2017. He originally debuted July 25, doubling late in the game and soon scoring the walk-off run against Colorado.

THIS CARD: I'm fairly sure this is Wrigley Field. Note the smattering of blue along with the Cardinal red in the crowd; Bader faced just five MLB road opponents in 2017 and of them, only Chicago's primary color is blue. (I'm assuming those are Cubs jerseys, of course.) In his one game at Wrigley that year, Bader went 0-for-3 with an IBB.

Bader's uniform is dirty...shocker; the guy's a big-time hustle player. Unless he slid into first base on one of his outs, Bader must have dirtied himself sliding while advancing after his IBB. I could research his post-IBB activity, but choose not to—dirt doesn't concern me that much.

Bader wears #48, and given the (numerous) personnel it's been recycled to over the years, he has a fair shot to be the best #48 in Cardinal history if his bat ever picks up. 

(flip) We covered part of the blurb already; Rockies RP Jake McGee served up the double to Bader, who later scored on Jedd Gyorko's sac fly. (According to the MLB.com recap, Bader could have been out at home had C Ryan Hanigan picked the throw clean... but let's not diminish Bader's moment.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Bader started 97 times at all three outfield positions for the 2018 Cardinals—getting in 138 games in all, he made the Topps All-Rookie Team and seemingly turned in a highlight-reel play nightly. He beat out Dexter Fowler for the starting CF job to open 2019, mostly serving as the Cardinals #8 hitter. But problems at the plate have since reduced his role to a platoon with Fowler.

Harrison Bader has appeared in 2018-19 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals

 
Topps Tyler Skaggs
Topps Tyler Skaggs

7/4/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #173 Tyler Skaggs, Diamondbacks

More Tyler Skaggs Topps Cards: 2014 2015 2016 2018U 2019

Isn't enough enough already?
From the winter of 2014 to the winter of 2018, the baseball world faced the heavy losses of Oscar Taveras, Jose Fernandez, Yordano Ventura and Luis Valbuena—a staggering amount of active players to die in such a short period. 
And just when I dared hope God finally had enough dudes to fill out his heavenly lineup card...tragedy strikes again. 27-year-old L.A. Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs, two days after pitching against the Oakland Athletics, was found dead in his hotel room on 7/1/19 prior to a game at Texas. Needless to say, that day's game was postponed as the Angel organization grieved.

Skaggs, who was two weeks shy of his 28th birthday,  was in his sixth season with the Angels—each of the first five being shortened various lengths by injury (in fact, he lost all of 2015 to UCL surgery). In 2019, however, Skaggs had taken the ball every fifth day and seemed on track for his first 30-start season until fate intervened.

Here, Skaggs is just a rookie Diamondback, acquired from the Angels (who originally drafted him and re-acquired him later; see below) in a trade for P Dan Haren. The 21-year-old beat Miami in his debut (despite five walks) and started six times in all down the stretch for the 3rd-place Snakes.

THIS CARD: That seems to be a curveball Skaggs is preparing to snap off; he threw a good one, along with low-90's heat and, later on, a changeup. He'd also tinkered with a slider in the past.

Obviously, we did not randomly select this card. But I know you're asking: if Skaggs was best known as an Angel, why did we choose a Skaggs Diamondbacks COTD? Truth is, none of his Angels seasons—or Topps cards—stood out enough for me to make a decisive choice. So I just went with his rookie card, figuring many didn't know he'd played anywhere but Anaheim.

(flip) As an adult, Skaggs' mechanics were pretty basic and brought back no memories of the Unit.

Skaggs was not a pure strikeout pitcher, but after his surgery he did average 8.8 K/9 (of course, in this era that's not the feat it once was, but you or I couldn't do it.)

More from Skaggs' 99-pitch debut W: he went 6.2 innings, allowed three hits and struck out four visiting Marlins as Arizona took Game 1 of a double-dip 3-2.

Normally, I'd say something ridiculous here in response to the Career Chase...but this is no normal circumstance.

AFTER THIS CARD: Skaggs rejoined the Angels organization after a three-team deal with the White Sox in December 2013 (Mark Trumbo went to Arizona in the deal) and won a starting job for 2014. In July, however, his no-hitter vs. Baltimore was interrupted by a UCL tear—Skaggs didn't pitch for two years following the ensuing surgery.

Skaggs won a starting job for 2017, only to lose half the year to an oblique strain. Despite two DL stints with an adductor strain, he made a career-best 24 starts for the 2018 Angels, going 8-10, 4.02 in 125 IP (all career bests as well). Skaggs ended 2019 7-7, 4.29 in 15 starts; he'd won three straight before the Oakland setback..

Tyler Skaggs appeared in Topps or Topps Update annually 2013-19, except 2017.

CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks, Now Deceased

 
Topps Ozzie Guillen
Topps Ozzie Guillen

7/7/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #612 Ozzie Guillen, White Sox

More Ozzie Guillen Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2001 2004T 2005 2006 2008 2009

Baseball wasn't prepared for a manager like Ozzie Guillen, one who openly berated his players when he felt them too soft, told the media literally whatever was on his mind, used body sizes to signal pitching changes and operated at a level louder than that of any of his players. In fact, even though he was often overshadowed by teammates during his playing days, for a time Guillen the manager was the unquestioned star of the White Sox.

From 1985-97, Guillen was Chicago's regular SS (when healthy), a free-swinger with speed who made three All-Star teams and won the 1985 AL Rookie Of The Year award. His best year was probably '90, when he earned an MVP vote, a Gold Glove and an All-Star nod—his 160 games and 58 RBI set career highs.

Here, Guillen is a year removed from leading the White Sox to their first World Series win in 88 years. The Sox promptly extended his contract through 2008 with an option for 2009 (despite a lengthy effort, I could not unearth financial terms for either contract,)

THIS CARD: Ozzie, you're not allowed to signal for the left-hander from the dugout. (Note: the White Sox used exactly four lefty pitchers and 18 overall in 2006. So far in July 2019? 24 pitchers, including seven lefties...I miss simpler times.)

This card represents the 2006 season, one in which Guillen became a naturalized US citizen, signed the extension, coughed up some of it to MLB after calling reporter Jay Mariotti a bad name, and was suspended after one of his pitchers threw at Chris Duncan of the Cardinals. And when all that wasn't going on, Guillen was openly dressing down P Sean Tracey after he failed to retaliate for two hit batters.
Boring stuff, I know.

It seemed like Ozzie always had a jacket or sweatshirt/pullover on.

(flip) In 1985, in addition to his glovework, Guillen hit .273 with nine triples in 150 games for the Sox, who'd nabbed him from San Diego for LaMarr Hoyt, a star pitcher who had but one good year left.

Guillen's 90-72 record was good for third place in 2006; the team had stayed close to the upstart Tigers into July but eventually fell behind the surging Twins as well. They closed six games out.

Today, the longtime White Sock ranks sixth in games (1,743) and seventh in hits (1,608).

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2007, despite a rough season, Guillen received a four-year contract extension through 2012. Chicago returned to the playoffs in 2008 but lost to Tampa in the ALDS; though that was it for Guillen in the postseason, he was far from done making news.

Guillen had lobbied for another extension in 2011, but by year's end he was taking less money (4Y/$10M) to helm the newly-anointed Miami Marlins. Ostensibly for marketing purposes, Guillen departed the White Sox with two games left in the 2011 season.

The huge expectations for the new-look Fish (for whom Guillen coached prior to managing Chicago) were not close to met; there were issues with at least one star as well as comments favorable to Fidel Castro, which understandably didn't go over well in a large Cuban community. Miami terminated Guillen after one season, and he hasn't managed since—though he continues to weigh in on current events as a White Sox studio analyst for NBC Sports.

Ozzie Guillen appeared in Topps as a player 1986-2001 (except 2000), and as a manager 2005-2009. He's also got 1985 and 2004 Traded cards as a player and manager, respectively.

CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Chicago White Sox

 
Topps Luis Mercedes
Topps Luis Mercedes

7/11/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #446 Luis Mercedes, Orioles

More Luis Mercedes Topps Cards: 1992

 

Luis Mercedes the prospect could hit. In fact, at ascending minor league levels 1989-1991 he annually topped .300, won two batting titles, and stole plenty of bags (though one publication described his baserunning as "erratic" overall). But he also had behavioral issues which, when added to the erratic play, hurt any chance he had of beating out Mike Devereaux for Baltimore's CF job.

Mercedes signed at the relatively old age of 19—though it's possible Baltimore didn't know that at the time—and reached MLB for the first time in 1991. The kid started 14 times for the Orioles in September '91, whacking two hits in his debut.

Here, Mercedes is coming off a 1992 season spent largely in AAA. He did get in 10 games near season's start and 13 more near season's end, and though he only hit .140 overall, he did manage three hits and two walks in his final two games.

THIS CARD: TSR forgoes the random selection process in memory of Mercedes, who passed away in the Dominican Republic 6/30/19 from diabetes.

Some of Mercedes' earlier cards depict him sporting the mustache. Let's just say he did well to discard it.

How could somebody who looks so chill on this card have a reputation as a helmet-throwing hothead?

(flip) That does not look like the same guy in the reverse pic. And I'm not a fan of obscuring names with batting helmets or anything else.

Mercedes led the IL with...23 steals? Given the decline of the running game in baseball, what does today's leader tally, nine?

As you see, Mercedes was signed as a belated birthday present.

AFTER THIS CARD: Not much. With OF Dave Martinez on the shelf, the Giants traded for Mercedes shortly into the 1993 season, but he only got in 17 more major league games that year. Off the baseball radar in 1994, Mercedes' handful of games with AAA Calgary (Pirates) in 1995 wrapped his stateside pro career, though he did play in Mexico for a time afterward.

Luis Mercedes appeared in 1992-93 Topps. It does not appear anybody produced a card of Mercedes the Giant.

CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Baltimore Orioles

 
Topps Humberto Quintero
Topps Humberto Quintero

7/14/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps Update #156 Humberto Quintero, Astros

More Humberto Quintero Topps Cards: 2005T 2006 2009 2010 2012

 

"DO YOU GUYS WANT ME OR NOT?!"

I don't know if Humberto Quintero ever screamed those words to Astros management, but he surely had to be thinking them. The guy was called up, sent down, outrighted too many times in his early Astros career for me to list here. He was the guy the Astros wanted...until they didn't, which was often.

Quintero, an excellent defensive catcher with a plus arm, originally reached Houston in 2005 when the club parted ways with backup C Raul Chavez. For the next few years, when healthy, Quintero would receive a smattering of run in the majors, but by and large was relegated to AAA ball. He finally earned a longer look with Houston in 2008 when J.R. Towles went ice-cold at the plate.

With Towles largely out of the picture, Quintero hung around as Houston's primary backup in 2009-10, albeit for bad teams that were about to get worse. Here, Quintero—now earning $1M for 2011—has elevated to half of a catching tandem with Towles in the wake of a knee injury to projected starter Jason Castro. He started 32 of Houston's first 51 games before a high ankle sprain in late May.

THIS CARD: Quintero bats at a park I can't begin to identify. He wasn't much of a hitter, although he did belt a game-winning two-run double on 4/23/11. On 7/17/11, Quintero hit a two-out solo HR in the bottom of the 11th to...reduce a four-run loss to three runs. His other jack was originally an 8th-inning insurance run against the Reds that proved to be the decisive score later on.

I dig the state of Texas patch on the old Houston jerseys...it should be carried over if it isn't already (I haven't known the Astros to bust out the 2000-11 throwbacks yet.)

For such an initially marginal player, Quintero got a lot of love from Topps; this is his fifth of six base/Traded/Update cards with the company. These days, if dudes like him appear once in Topps, they're lucky.

(flip) Obviously, Quintero's stint in Houston was far from continuous if you count all the times they outrighted him. SP Wandy Rodriguez played for Houston 2005-12, most of that continuous.

Quintero turns 40 in about three weeks. We will not be selecting a special COTD in his honor.

As you see, the veteran "sage" was originally signed by the White Sox. He joined San Diego in a July 2002 trade for SS D'Angelo Jimenez, then landed in Houston for P Tim Redding in March 2005.

AFTER THIS CARD: Once his ankle healed, Quintero resumed his role with the Astros...until the following March (2012), when he was traded to the Royals. KC cut him that July, and he'd only play 49 more MLB games split among Philadelphia and Seattle 2013-14.

Buried in AAA 2015-16, the 37-year-old accepted a coaching job the Arizona Diamondbacks in June 2016 where he remains today—no longer having to worry about being designated for assignment or outrighted. Fired, yeah, but not D4A'd or outrighted.

Humberto Quintero debuted in 2005 Topps Traded and made base set appearances in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012, along with this 2011 Update card.

CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps Update, Houston Astros

 
Topps Vince Coleman
Topps Vince Coleman

7/17/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #419 Vince Coleman, Royals

More Vince Coleman Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1991T 1992 1993 1994T 1996

Really? The TARP ran you over?

Some 30 years after I first learned of then-Cardinal Vince Coleman's run-in with the automatic tarp at Busch Stadium II prior to Game 4 of the 1985 NLCS, I still have so many questions. How the hell did Vince not see the tarp, or at least, not hear the tarp?

Just how common are/were automatic tarps?

Why weren't there more (any?) conspiracy theories?

Could Vince, of all people, have simply outrun the machine had he had any warning at all?

And lastly: how many heads rolled—pun semi-intended—after the incident?

Initially it was thought Coleman "only" suffered bad contusions and scrapes that day, but a fracture was later discovered—just like that, no more postseason for the rookie speedster. Can an on-field injury get crazier than that? Perhaps if an opposing player bit somebody, that's about it.

Coleman, of course, had just wrapped what would be a NL Rookie-Of-The-Year regular season, his first of six with the Cardinals (during all of which he led the NL in steals, thrice topping 100). You probably remember his three-season run with the Mets, who signed him for 4Y/$12M after the '90 season but due largely to off-field issues—one being the amount of time he spent off-field—were ready to exile him after 2½.

But here, at least temporarily, Coleman has resurrected his career with the Royals, who traded for him after Coleman's abbreviated 1993 season. The 33-year-old sat out just 11 games in 1994 (he annually missed at least 70 in New York), set a four-year high for steals, and was one of only two men (Lance Johnson, White Sox) to reach double-digit triples before the strike hit. 

THIS CARD: Coleman catches his breath at what I believe to be new Jacobs/Progressive Field. You might see today's player in this pose during a replay review.

It wasn't until now that I realized Coleman lacked a 1994 Topps base card, though he is seen flying down the baseline on a 1994 Traded card with KC. After saddling Coleman with inaction shots throughout the 1980's, Topps varied his images well in the 1990's.

That is #29 on Coleman's back, which he also wore during his glory years in St. Louis. Upon joining the Mets—whose veteran corner IF Dave Magadan staked claim on #29—Coleman took #1 and saw just about all his good luck dry up.

(flip) Coleman led the league in fewest teeth shown per smile.

THAT is Coleman's actual birthday; Topps incorrectly aged him one year annually until the '93 set.

There's a reason I no longer toss any of my publications—it took some serious digging in a 15-year-old book of records to learn the AL record for consecutive steals Coleman approached was then held by another KC speedster, Willie Wilson (32 straight in 1980, later tied by Todd Cruz). Today, the AL record for consecutive steals is held by Ichiro (45 straight in 2006-07), but Coleman still holds the NL record (50 straight in 1988-89).

Coleman hit just .240 overall in 1994, but those marks jumped to .262 right-handed and .300 at home.

AFTER THIS CARD: Coleman joined the 1995 Refuse To Lose Mariners via mid-season trade; he hit .288 with 42 steals between KC and Seattle that year. Within 21 months, however, the veteran outfielder's career petered out—after a June '96 release by the Reds, Coleman won a job with the '97 Tigers, but his time in Detroit (and MLB, as it turned out) ended after 15 PA.

Coleman has gone on to coach in several organizations; he worked as baserunning coach for the mid-10's White Sox and is currently instructing in the Giants system.

Vince Coleman appeared in Topps annually 1986-1996, except 1994. He's also got Traded cards in the 1985, 1991 and 1994 sets.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Kansas City Royals

 
Topps Kevin Maas
Topps Kevin Maas

7/19/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #168 Kevin Maas, Yankees

More Kevin Maas Topps Cards: 1990T 1991 1992

It was three years ago when rookie Yankees C Gary Sanchez took the baseball world by storm, rising from AAA and belting 20 home runs—some of them LONG—in only 201 late-season at-bats. He was the "Sanchize", an instant hit in New York with a future brighter than a team of NASA scientists. "What would Gary do next?" went the buzz; bathroom breaks and beer runs waited til the next man was up.

It was 29 years ago when a different #24, rookie Yankees 1B Kevin Maas, did something similar. Called up in late June to help fill injured Don Mattingly's void, Maas homered six times in a nine-game stretch and finished with 21 blasts in just 254 AB. On a team with little worth watching sans Mattingly, all eyes were on Kevin Maas for a time.

With Mattingly back healthy in 1991, Maas—to his chagrin—found the majority of his run at DH, with some fill-in time at 1B. Those expecting a (non-realistic) repeat of his 1990 magic watched as the kid slumped to .220 with 128 K in 500 AB that year, although he continued to produce the longball—including two HR vs. Cleveland in the season finale.

 

By 1992, the year represented by this card, Buck Showalter occupied the manager's office, and Maas had to win the platoon DH job he wound up with.

THIS CARD: Maas, who batted out of a slight crouch, is reacting like a man who's just hit one a long way. The numbers suggest that, at least in 1992, he took a bigger cut at Yankee Stadium—though he hit seven of his 11 HR at home, his average was was 67 points lower (.211). Click and scroll to Paragraph 2 and you'll understand why Maas can't be blamed for wanting to go yard in the Bronx.

For the record, it's pronounced "Moz".

Expanding on Maas's 1992 season: he started 69 times, most of them in the first half when he popped 10 of his 11 jacks. He hit .344 in April and .368 off the bench, but was asked to start at 1B just 15 times.

(flip) Maas homered against Royals P Mark Gubicza in the 7th inning; he also singled earlier in the game.

At the time of this card's release, the Top 3 Yankee rookie sluggers were Joe DiMaggio (29 HR) Bobby Murcer (26) and Joe Gordon (25). Aaron Judge is the current, and likely permanent, record-holder (52). Miguel Andujar (27) and Gleyber Torres (24) have since jumped ahead of Maas as well.

Maas is a local kid! Castro Valley is located about 15 minutes east of Oakland.

AFTER THIS CARD: Precious little. With Mattingly signed through 1995, Maas correctly saw little hope of his role changing and sought a trade which never happened. Rather, the 28-year-old hit .205 in 59 games and even spent a few weeks back in AAA. New York cut him in early 1994.

Out of the majors that year, Maas passed the time slugging .580 combined in the Padres and Reds systems. Minnesota brought him in for 1995; Maas played his final 22 MLB games that year before being let go. Sandwiched around a Japan stint, several MiLB deals followed (including one with the Yankees) that led nowhere, and Maas ended his pro career in 1997.

Kevin Maas debuted in 1990 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1991-93.

 

CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, New York Yankees

 
Topps Andy Benes
Topps Andy Benes

7/22/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #244 Andy Benes, Diamondbacks

More Andy Benes Topps Cards: 1988T 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003

For a brief time in the mid-1990's, Andy Benes was one of my favorite pitchers. He was the Padres #1 starter, big, strong and hard-throwing—everything I desired to be (except the Padres part). He'd entered the league with huge expectations that proved impossible to completely fulfill (could anyone have fulfilled them?), but he still had a very good career split among the Padres, Mariners, Cardinals and Diamondbacks.

The 1988 #1 overall pick, Benes came armed with 90+ heat and a tough curve which vaulted him to the majors in '89 after just 135 minor league innings (he soon replaced the curve with a slider). By 1991, he was the Padres co-leader in wins (15) and outright leader in several other categories. But the Padres weren't much of a team back then and Benes' record continued to hover around .500 despite quality secondary numbers.

Though openly bitter at the Padres over his contract situation—he wanted security SD wasn't offering—26-year-old Benes survived the 1993 Padres fire sale and even repped the team at the 1993 All-Star Game. Come mid-1995, with free agency looming, the veteran righty was dealt to the upstart Mariners. Despite a 5.86 AL ERA, Benes won seven times for Seattle, but was then bombed in the ALCS.

Here, following a two-year run in St. Louis (where brother Alan was a teammate), Benes has inked a 3Y/$18M deal with expansion Arizona. It was not Benes' original intent; he'd initially re-upped with the Cardinals for five years until said deal was voided by the league. Joining Arizona, however, allowed Benes to throw the first pitch in Diamondbacks history on March 31, 1998.

THIS CARD: Pitchers batting! I always enjoy these cards—after all, pitchers are baseball players too, are they not? Today's Topps sets are pretty much devoid of pitchers doing anything but firing pitches, which is unfortunate. Benes actually had great front image variety during his 15-set Topps career.

Benes batted 11-for-65 (.169) with a HR off Kevin Brown in San Diego in 1998. He twice enjoyed streaks of hits in three straight starts and at one point, went on a 3-for-6 "tear". Lifetime, Benes—a gifted athlete who also played football and basketball at the University of Evansville—hit .143 with eight home runs. 

2001 Topps depicts Benes batting as well.

(flip) On 9/13/98, Benes took on the Reds in Cincinnati, losing his no-no with one out (not two) in the 9th on a Sean Casey single. After issuing his fifth walk, Benes—who'd thrown 138 pitches—was replaced by Gregg Olson, who induced a game-ending double play. The 5-0 win evened Benes' record at 13-13.

While most people focus on Matt Williams's homers and Tony Gwynn's average, I'll always wonder how many 1994 K Benes finishes with had the strike never happened. Oh, and how many innings Greg Maddux adds on to his 202.

Poway is located about a half-hour drive north of San Diego. No clue if Benes still resides there; this card is 20 years old.

AFTER THIS CARD: Benes opted out of Year Three of his Arizona deal, rejoining the Cardinals for 3Y/$18M in February 2000. An arthritic right knee would hamper him that year, and contribute to serious struggles in 2001 (seven-plus ERA, left off playoff roster). With his career on shaky ground, Benes hit the 60-day DL in 2002, but ultimately opted against retirement and—armed with a new splitter—pitched remarkably well for the Cardinals (even if he was no longer the workhorse he had been).

Despite his very strong second-half finish, Benes decided not to push his knee any further and hung it up after the 2002 season. He returned to Arizona for the 20th anniversary of his first pitch for the franchise, and re-created the moment along with C Jorge Fabregas and Rockies batter Mike Lansing...I dug that.

Two Benes sons have played pro ball: Drew was drafted by the Cardinals and played in their system 2010-13, while Shane joined the Cardinals system as an undrafted free agent in 2019.

Andy Benes appeared annually in Topps 1989-2003; he's also got a 1988 Traded card as an Olympian.

CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks

 
Topps Carlos Gonzalez
Topps Carlos Gonzalez

7/26/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #5 Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies

More Carlos Gonzalez Topps Cards: 2005U 2008U 2009 2010 2011 2012 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

"CarGo", as he's more commonly known, was one of those dudes who was so good as a prospect that nobody held on to him. Arizona sent him to the A's in the Dan Haren deal before he even reached MLB, then after one year in Oakland they dealt him to the Rockies for Matt Holliday after the '08 season.

Gonzalez had some of everything—speed, power, defense—and it didn't take long for him to put it on display in Denver (does it take anybody long there?) First, he lit it up in the 2009 NLDS. Then, he won the 2010 NL batting title and finished third in MVP voting. So good was the kid, Colorado locked him up for 7Y/$80M in January 2011.

For the next several seasons Gonzalez was good for 20+ bombs, 90 or so RBI, and fine defense at all three outfield spots—plus, he never went long without a big hit against my Giants. (Gonzalez is one of just three visitors to park three homers into McCovey Cove at Oracle Park; Carlos Delgado and Adam LaRoche are the others).

Here, Gonzalez has just wrapped his first All-Star season. Exclusively playing LF (and claiming a Gold Glove), the 27-year-old achieved his third-straight 20-20 campaign while leading the lowly Rockies in several offensive categories (including RBI by a mile). all despite being repeatedly sidelined by a troublesome hamstring.

THIS CARD: Gonzalez slides in safely, I presume. CarGo scored 89 runs in 2012, 17 more than any other Rockie. 

Not only did Gonzalez take Holliday's place on the Rockies roster; he also inherited Holliday's #5.

You usually only see that in the NFL where available numbers are not always plentiful.

Of all the players I've profiled so far, Gonzalez may have the best Topps image variety of anybody. I often give Topps grief for not utilizing a redundancy prevention officer in many cases, but CarGo is shown hitting, fielding, running and chilling on his Topps cards over the years.

(flip) I do not know nor have I ever met Gonzalez but he does not look like an easygoing guy. He actually looks a little mean, IMHO. Evidently, I'm mistaken.

Gonzalez was one of many to receive 2013 Topps card numbers matching their uniform numbers.

There is so much wrong with that Career Chase...

That three-homer game May 30? Gonzalez also went yard off Houston's Bud Norris in his first AB the next day, making him the 22nd to homer in four consecutive PA.

AFTER THIS CARD: Never a picture of durability, Gonzalez sunk to .238 in an injury-marred 2014 season (surgeries on his finger and knee) but bounced back with 150+ games in both 2015 and 2016 while settling in RF full-time. The result? A career-high 40 bombs in '15, and his second 100-RBI milestone in '16—CarGo was named to his third All-Star team out of five that year. But, at age 32, Gonzalez' production began to slip in '17-18, and Colorado opted not to re-sign him for '19.

So far in 2019, Gonzalez has signed minors deals with both the Indians and the Cubs, struggled in the majors with both the Indians and the Cubs, and been released by both the Indians and the Cubs. Approaching 34, CarGo finds himself at a career crossroads.

Carlos Gonzalez debuted in 2005 Topps Updates & Highlights as a Diamondbacks prospect, returned in the '08 set as a new Oakland A, then appeared in the base set 2009-18. Not sure if he'll turn up in the 2019 Update set, given his employment status.

CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Colorado Rockies

 
Topps Francisco Cordero
Topps Francisco Cordero

7/29/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #429 Francisco Cordero, Rangers

More Francisco Cordero Topps Cards: 2001 2004 2005 2006U 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2012U

Francisco Cordero threw hard. And once he learned to throw straight, as well, his career took off. Signed out of the DR by Detroit in 1994, the 24-year-old reached MLB in '99, only to be packaged to Texas in the infamous Juan Gonzalez trade of November 1999.

For the next couple years, Cordero was just another dude, one who was ineffective in 2000 and missed a huge chunk of 2001 with a back injury. Come 2002, however, Cordero would go 10-for-10 in traditional save ops after June 15 (sandwiched around a month-long DL stint).

By 2004, Cordero was making $2M and closing in Texas full-time, setting a club record with 49 saves (it still stands) and making his first of three All-Star teams! Here, the 30-year-old has completed an up-and-down 2005 season—he blew two of his first four save ops, and eight in total. But Cordero closed out his final seven chances, holding the great Ichiro hitless while going 5-for-5 against the Mariners.

THIS CARD: It seems like every Rangers Topps card in my collection, the front image is shot at the Oakland Coliseum.

Cordero lets loose either his high-90's heater, hard slider, or the changeup he flung to lefties when so moved. Can YOU tell if that's the second baseman or center fielder behind him?

Though all his Topps front images depict him on the mound, Cordero's front images with the Rangers varied nicely. But once he left Texas...all that varied were the uniforms and cropping.

(flip) Cordero was not lights-out in 2005, though he was still better than most.

Not the most inspired cartoon from the 2006 set, even if it is accurate.

Cordero was listed at 225 lbs. on his 2001 Topps card, 200 on his 2004 card, and 235 here. His final Topps card, 2012, lists him at 245 lbs. Hey, nobody knows better than me how hard it is to stay in shape.

Rather than the redundant save stat, Topps could have used that extra space to tell you the collector that Cordero allowed five HR in 2005, or his WHIP was 1.32—neither number is particularly impressive, but at least it's original.

AFTER THIS CARD: 2006 was not kind to the veteran Cordero, who blew five saves in April and was traded to the Brewers two months later in a blockbuster that sent Carlos Lee to Texas. Cordero turned things around in Milwaukee, saving 44 contests and making his second All-Star team in '07—later parlaying that into a 4Y/$46M deal with the Reds. 

From 2008-11, Cordero saved 150 games with a 2.96 ERA, helping his Reds return to postseason play after a long absence (even though they made quite the effort to unload his contract along the way).

By 2012, however, Cordero was 37, with decreased velocity—a $4.5M deal with Toronto was abbreviated due to his struggles and he fared even worse in a brief trial with the Astros. Following a year away from the field, Cordero unsuccessfully auditioned for Boston in Spring Training 2014 and shortly retired afterward.

Francisco Cordero debuted in 2001 Topps, then returned in 2004-2012 Topps. He's also got Update cards in 2006 and 2012.

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps, Texas Rangers