Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, July 2020
"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.'" -- Ben Franklin
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A = Alternate Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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7/30/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #202 Jerry Hairston Jr., Orioles
More Jerry Hairston Jr. Topps Cards: 1999 2001T 2003 2004 2005 2006 2006U 2009 2009U 2010 2010U 2012U 2013
Hairston, a 1997 #11 pick whose papa, grandpa, uncle and brother all played major league baseball, had a faint chance to succeed Roberto Alomar as Baltimore's 2B for 1999, but they went out and nabbed Delino DeShields Sr. to plug that gap. So Hairston split the next two years (1999-2000) between AAA and subbing for DeShields in MLB when needed, while also recovering from shoulder surgery.
The veteran moved on after 2000, giving young Hairston the opening he'd waited for. Here, Hairston is fresh off that first season as the Orioles full-time 2B. Though his batting left a bit to be desired and he made too many errors (19), Hairston started 154 games at 2B in 2001 and turned an impressive 93 double plays, second-most in the AL.
THIS CARD: As the blurb states, Hairston was known as an outstanding (and even flashy at times) fielder despite his error tally. His pro career began at SS before a move to 2B (and then everywhere else on the diamond).
Hairston wears #15, his third number with the O's. Longtime Baltimore fans remember Davey Johnson with those digits in the '60's; catcher Chance Sisco is the current wearer.
More from Hairston's 2001 season: he busted out with three hits (including two doubles) on Opening Day, batted .300 in the second half of May, and hit a two-run walk-off homer off Tampa Bay's Esteban Yan on 8/1—his second straight game with a jack.
(flip) Despite a solid effort, I could find no other references to Hairston's custom glove anywhere, meaning that "prominent equipment company" remains unnamed. (Check out the glove on the front of this card.)
For his whole career, Hairston carried that same "aw, shucks" look as in this pic. Some just don't age.
Naperville, Illinois is located about an hour west of Chicago.
AFTER THIS CARD: Hairston's offensive struggles cost him his regular job for several weeks of the '02 season. But his replacement, Brian Roberts, fared even worse, and Hairston reclaimed the job. In '03, however, Hairston broke his foot during a swing and missed substantial time.
New Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli turned Hairston into a utilityman in '04; he batted .303 while playing five positions that year. After that season, Hairston went to the Cubs in the Sammy Sosa trade, kicking off a long career as an extra-versatile journeyman.
From 2005-13, Hairston got run with the Cubs, Rangers, Reds, Yankees, Padres, Nationals, Brewers and Dodgers, averaging 101 games/320 PA and earning a World Series ring with the '09 Yankees.
Post-playing days, we have seen Hairston doing studio work for ESPN, MLB Network, and currently, for SportsNet LA covering the (ew) Dodgers. He is a frequent sports talk radio guest here in the San Francisco Bay Area and always offers meaningful commentary.
Jerry Hairston, Jr. appeared in 1999 Topps, 2002-06 Topps, 2009-10 Topps and 2013 Topps. You can also find him in 2001 Traded and 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012 Topps Update. (No Hairston Topps cards as a Nat or Brewer.)
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
More July 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day
7/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #474 Rich Thompson, Expos
More Rich Thompson Topps Cards: n/a
I won't have much to say about Rich Thompson's career because there isn't much to say about Rich Thompson's career. He was a #8 pick by the Indians in 1980, picked up some saves as a prospect, then reached the Indians in 1985 at age 26.
Thompson was pretty decent in the first half of the year, but posted a 9.75 ERA from 8/26 on—including an 11-run drubbing by Boston on 8/29 from which his ERA never recovered.
From 1986-88 Thompson fluttered through the KC, Montreal, Yankee and Milwaukee organizations; Montreal brought him back for '89 and watched him excel as a starter for AAA Indianapolis. Here, Thompson has made his long-awaited return to the major leagues.
THIS CARD: I always remember this card because A) it was the last Montreal Expo I needed to complete the '90 Topps set, and B) Richard Thompson was the name of my buddy's now-deceased dad.
Thompson sits, possibly in the bullpen, possibly at Spring Training. He looks like either the happiest mad guy in the ballpark, or the maddest happy guy in the ballpark.
That's #48 Thompson wears, a number shared by no other Expos of note for any real length of time. Unless you count Joey Eischen. We do not count Joey Eischen.
(flip) More from Thompson's 1989 season: he was called up in August and promptly reeled off six straight scoreless appearances, including innings 15-20 of an 8/23 game against the Dodgers.(Great job, Rich!) Montreal eventually dropped that game 1-0 in 22 innings.
In fact, if you throw out the four ER from Thompson's lone start, he registered a sub-2.00 ERA for the Expos!
Check out those numbers for 1989 Indianapolis...told you he excelled.
AFTER THIS CARD: Next-to-nothing. Thompson faced four batters for the Expos on 4/22/90, split 1991 between the Texas and Toronto organizations, then disappeared off the planet. Many years later he resurfaced...as a lawyer.
Rich Thompson debuted in 1985 Topps Traded, then appeared in 1986 and 1990 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Montreal Expos
7/4/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #59 Eric Gagne, Brewers
More Eric Gagne Topps Cards: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007U 2008
The irony: on American Independence Day the Randomizer selects a Canadian for COTD.
Here, Gagne makes his second COTD appearance (in just six weeks). Having signed a 1Y/$10M deal with Milwaukee entering Spring Training 2009, Gagne entered the year as the Brewers' closer.
In short, he did not end the year as the Brewers closer.
THIS CARD: The emotional Gagne is fired up, presumably after recording a final out (or possibly witnessing a great defensive play). Opponents just loved Gagne's animated displays.
After switching to #83 with the 2007 Red Sox, Gagne has his familiar #38 back. Despite only lasting in Milwaukee for one tough season, he's still one of the most notable Brewer #38's in team history.
I can't identify the road ballpark, but I can tell you Gagne was miles better away from Miller Park in 2008, with a .211 BAA compared to .294 at home. Also, his ERA was well over two runs lower on the road.
Strange, as Gagne had previously retired six of six hitters as a visitor to Miller Park, whiffing four of them.
(flip) On our previous Gagne COTD selection, from 2006 Topps, he was 6'2", 235 lbs.—meaning he gained five pounds and lost two inches. Shawn Bradley would have probably tried Gagne's diet back in the day.
As you can see in the stats, just the year before Milwaukee signed him, Gagne had been lights-out as the Rangers' closer, so it was not unreasonable to believe he could at least be adequate for them in the role. It just didn't work out.
C'mon, Topps. Gagne wasn't reinvented as an eighth-inning specialist by anybody's choice. He was reinvented because he blew five of his first 15 save ops in 2008, with an ERA over six.
AFTER THIS CARD: Gagne went to Spring Training with the '09 Brewers, and the '10 Dodgers, but did not make either roster and retired at 34. Still, that 84-consecutive-save streak...let's see that one get broken anytime soon.
Eric Gagne appeared annually in Topps 2001-09; 2007 was an Updates & Highlights card with Boston. There exists a 2007 Topps Factory Team Set card of Gagne the Ranger.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers
7/6/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #487 Rafael Palmeiro, Rangers
More Rafael Palmeiro Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1989T 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1994T 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2004 2005
"Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids. Period. I don't know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never."
It is possible when Raffy Palmeiro spoke those words (while emphatically pointing his finger) to Congress in 2005, they were true. Is it likely? Not very, considering he tested positive for steroids later that summer. Yes, Palmeiro could have started 'roiding up after the Congressional hearing, but looking at his career numbers and factoring in the accusations from Jose Canseco—who's been proven truthful about the topic several times—what is more likely?
I want to believe Palmeiro wouldn't go in front of Congress (and the world) and flat-out lie like that. Let's just say the evidence is not on his side.
Here, Palmeiro has completed the fourth year of a 5Y/$45M contract with the Texas Rangers. He continued to rake as always, especially in the final three months, and led the team in doubles and walks (104, third in the AL).
THIS CARD: 2003 Topps harkens back to Palmiero's first Topps Rangers card (1990). Different uniform and park, but same camera angle and pic timing. It's welcomed, since Palmeiro's 2001 and 2002 Topps front images were nearly identical.
Not sure why there's so much yellow at a Rangers home game, or how the Orkin man got such a good seat to the event.
Palmiero charges out of the box at The Ballpark In Arlington, his home field. In 2002, Palmeiro batted 48 points higher at The Ballpark, but his home/road power splits were fairly equal.
The Randomizer picked this card just as I started updating and expanding the TSR section listing proven 'roid users. If Palmeiro was the first name to come to the universe's mind, it must mean something.
(flip) 1993: Rafael Palmeiro stole 22 bases??
1996: Rafael Palmeiro drove in 142 runs and didn't lead the league? (Nope; Albert Belle had 148.)
1999: Rafael Palmeiro drove in 148 runs and didn't lead the league? (Nope; Manny Ramirez had 165.)
All: just look at those games played totals. I never properly appreciated durable ballplayers until the "load management" trend hit the NBA; Palmiero was the epitome of durability. He never once hit the DL in his 20-year career—which would support the argument he wasn't juicing all those years.
AFTER THIS CARD: At 38, Palmiero's numbers dipped a little for the 2003 Rangers, but 90% or more of the league would have eaten mold for those numbers (.260, 38, 112). That winter, Palmeiro signed a one-year deal to return to the Orioles (where he played 1994-98). His numbers continued to dip, but Baltimore still brought him back for 2005.
You had the hearings in March, and the positive test in August. Palmeiro didn't handle things particularly well, and was eventually sent home for the year. He never returned to MLB, though he did resurface in the Independent League well past his 50th birthday.
The owner of 3,020 hits and 569 HR lifetime, Palmeiro lasted on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for four years, maxing out at 12.6% of the vote. In short, if the guy had been beamed aboard a spaceship to parts unknown right after the 2004 season, he'd be in the Hall. (Unavailable for the induction, perhaps. But IN.)
Rafael Palmeiro appeared annually in Topps 1987-2005 (nope, no sunset card). He's got 1989 and 1994 Traded cards, too.
CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Texas Rangers
7/7/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #84 Jonathan Schoop, Orioles
More Jonathan Schoop Topps Cards: 2014 2016 2017 2018 2018U 2019 2019U
In football, hang time is a thing—the better your hang time, the better a punter you are. In baseball, hang time has never been a thing—until Schoop came along. The guy's home runs seem to stay in the air longer than anybody else in the game; it's like he hits 400-foot popups. Teams don't directly benefit from the hang time on home runs, obviously, but the dramatic effect can't hurt the entertainment factor.
The other thing about Schoop: he is the toughest guy to walk this side of Jeff Francoeur. Being extra-aggressive has helped him some years (such as 2017) and hurt him in others (such as 2014, the year repped on this card).
Here, Schoop has just completed his rookie season. It was tough at times, but he did have his moments, such as his 3-for-5, two-homer game at Milwaukee on 5/26/14.
THIS CARD: For the record, it's pronounced "Scope". Certainly not "Shoop".
Here, Schoop is saying, "C'mon, buddy. Take that extra step. Go ahead. I dare ya." With the ball in his hand, Schoop is dangerous (in a good way).
That little cartoon Oriole does not fit well at all with the graphics on this card, in my opinion.
(flip) Schoop's first MLB blast, off Toronto's Kyle Drabek, traveled 430 feet (and I bet it had mega hang time). In 2015, he smoked a 484-footer off KC's Johnny Cueto.
Yeah, Schoop finished at just .209 in 2014. His averages alternated monthly from the .240s to sub-.200 and back, while almost all of his splits put him in the low .200's at best. But Schoop did hit .280 with two home runs at Yankee Stadium in 2014.
2014: 13 walks in 455 AB is pretty difficult to do, unless you're playing vs. the computer in an EA Sports video game season. Not shown: Schoop's 122 K that year.
AFTER THIS CARD: Schoop improved his hitting (not his patience) and remained Baltimore's second baseman through the first half of 2018. A PCL/MCL injury derailed his 2015, but he averaged 161 games 2016-17 and made the 2017 All-Star team (a year he blasted 32 HR with 105 RBI).
Traded to Milwaukee in the Baltimore Purge Of 2018, Schoop did not impress as a Brewer in the regular or post season, and was not re-signed. He has since inked one-year deals with the Twins (2019) and Tigers (2020).
Jonathan Schoop has appeared annually in Topps since 2014. He's also got 2018-19 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
7/8/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #514 Cito Gaston/Dusty Baker, Managers Combo
More Cito Gaston Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 2009
More Dusty Baker Topps Cards: 1987 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2008 2009
Cito Gaston took over the Toronto Blue Jays in early 1989—he had been their longtime hitting coach—and led them to consecutive championships 1992-93; we all know that. But what some of us don't know (or have long forgotten): during a 1991 pitching change, an argument ensued with SP David Wells; Wells became so heated he flung the ball down the left field line, telling Gaston to "go get it, (expletive)". I want you to see the film so bad, but it is not currently available online.
Dusty Baker, Gaston's old teammate with the 1970's Braves, was set to take over the Giants (his first managerial gig) when this card was released. He's gone on to a fabulous career, achieving everything except the elusive championship. And yet whenever I hear Baker's name, the first thing that comes to mind is a strange dream of mine where he basically refers to Ernie Banks as a zombie. (That's the short version; the full version with context is actually funny, but I'm not going to subject you to that on a COTD write-up.)
THIS CARD: There I go, again imagining the Brooklyn Dodgers when viewing the background pic (I first made this observation on our previous 1993 Topps Managers COTD).
More from Gaston's 1992 season: Since 1985, the Jays had made three ALCS under Bobby Cox and Gaston, but fallen short of the World Series each time. In '92, with Hall-of-Famers Dave Winfield and Jack Morris on board, Toronto got over the hump, beating Atlanta in six games.
More from Baker's 1992 season: he completed his fourth year as the Giants' hitting coach. The '92 Giants ranked 5th in NL home runs, but were at/near the bottom in many other categories, which was to be expected after losing Kevin Mitchell via trade and watching Matt Williams fall apart for no obvious reason. The Giants wisely realized Baker was not to blame—that roster was doomed no matter who the coach was—and elevated him to manager 12/16/92, replacing Roger Craig.
For the record, Baker, who's now 71, doesn't look much different than he does here, at age 43.
(flip) I remember that awful second half by the '92 Giants. Making matters worse, they were all but set to move to Tampa Bay that year; one could understand the team being a tad distracted.
Baker was a former outfielder in MLB 1968-86, and a member of the '81 Dodgers title team. He played for the Giants in 1984 on his way to 242 lifetime homers.
Gaston was a former outfielder in MLB 1967-78, mostly for the Padres and Braves. He was a 1970 All-Star and briefly among the better young outfielders in the league.
Those 96 Toronto wins remain the 2nd most in club history, behind the 1985 squad's 99.
Now I see where Topps got the idea for the cursive font used in its 1994 set.
AFTER THIS CARD: As mentioned, Gaston guided another title team in 1993, but age, injuries and defections hit the Jays en masse and they didn't return to the playoffs for 22 years—18 years following Gaston's 1997 firing. Toronto brought him back to replace John Gibbons during the 2008 season; he remained thru 2010 before retiring from managing at age 66.
In 1999, Gaston joined Toronto's Level Of Excellence (a club only 11 men deep); his 913 managerial wins rank first in club history.
Baker—the 1993, 1997 and 2000 NL Manger Of The Year—has gone on to win 1,863 games at the helm of the Giants (1993-2002) Cubs (2003-06) Reds (2008-13) and Nationals (2016-17); he will add to that total with the 2020 Astros as long as COVID doesn't ruin everything.
Baker's most notorious team? The '02 Giants, who were five outs away from a championship when Baker pulled SP Russ Ortiz...and presented him with the game ball as a souvenir. The ensuing Anaheim rally guaranteed that for the rest of time, no manager will ever do that again.
Baker was also skipper of the '03 Cubs, who were five outs from reaching the WS for the first time in nearly 60 years until Steve Bartman ruined everything (at least, that's how Cubs fans saw it).
Cito Gaston appeared in Topps as a player 1969-79 (under his given name Clarence) and as a manager 1990-93 and 2009.
Dusty Baker appeared in Topps as a player 1971-87 plus 1984-85 Traded, and as a manager annually 2001-09 (except 2007) plus 2003 Traded & Rookies.
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Managers
7/9/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps Update #161 Brandon Wood, Angels
More Brandon Wood Topps Cards: 2003B 2008 2009 2010 2011U
Former #1 draft pick Brandon Wood seemed like a sure bet to become a solid major leaguer (at minimum). He had done it all in high school. He had done it all in the minors. He seemed to have a good enough head on his shoulders. He was physically sound. The boxes were all checked.
But every shot the Angels gave Wood in the majors, he fell flat on his face. We're not saying he struggled a bit. We're saying he was quite possibly the worst player in the league during his trials. It made no sense on paper. It made no sense in person. But no one, including Wood, could ever get things ironed out.
Wood went from potential star to flaming bust in four short years, able to say he reached the majors but pretty much zero else. Here, he's just getting his first taste of the bigs after two prodigious MiLB seasons. The reigning two-time Baseball America top prospect took the place of Kendrys Morales on the Angels roster, a move now that seems downright laughable but at the time made real sense.
THIS CARD: That's gotta be the narrowest signature in the whole set. Base or Update.
There is no truth to the rumor Wood took this photo in front of the Pearly Gates.
This is Wood's "Rookie Card" although he previously appeared in 2003 Topps as a Factory Set Bonus Draft Pick.
(flip) Wood started receiving extended run at third for AAA Salt Lake in 2007. I haven't been able to learn exactly why, but LA did have SS Erick Aybar on the scene by then.
Topps sold Wood a bit short; 43 plus 25 equals 68 combined homers in 2005-06.
That 4/29/07 single was off flamethrowing Bobby Jenks in the 9th inning; Wood soon came around to score on Aybar's hit.
AFTER THIS CARD: Wood finished 2007 with a .152 Angels average in 13 games, but no one had soured on him. Yet.
Though he batted .199 in 73 games 2008-09, the Angels gave Wood their 3B job entering the 2010 season. In 81 total games he slashed .146/.174/.208, and the plug was pulled on Wood the regular in late May. (Through all of the MLB ups and downs, the kid continued to rake whenever sent back to the minors.)
In April 2011 the Angels finally ran out of patience and cut Wood loose; he hooked up with Pittsburgh and while he only hit .220 as a Pirate, he at least no longer carried the label of worst player in baseball.
Wood passed through four more organizations before his final release, by San Diego in Spring Training 2014. Here is what Wood is up to these days.
Brandon Wood debuted in 2003 Topps on a Factory Set Bonus card, returned in 2007 Topps Update, appeared in the 2008-10 base sets, and bowed out as a Pirate in 2011 Update.
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps Update, Los Angeles Angels
7/11/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #257 John Smiley, Reds
More John Smiley Topps Cards: 1987T 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1992T 1993 1994 1995 1997 1998
What I remember and appreciate most about John Smiley had nothing to do with his pitching. According to David Wells' book Perfect, I'm Not, Smiley was the one Red courageous enough to tell Reds owner Marge Schott to keep her "filthy" dog hair the hell away from him (she used to sprinkle it around Cinergy Field for good luck...who could make this up).
To my knowledge, Smiley never faced any consequences from the old bat...although his good luck did dry up soon after leaving the Reds, as we'll explain.
Here, Smiley, the former Pirates 20-game winner, has just completed his third year of a 4Y/$18.4M deal with the Reds. He was on fire in the first half and turned in his second quality campaign in a row following a dreadful 1993 that left Schott and company wondering if the contract was a huge mistake.
THIS CARD: After two consecutive horizontal Topps front images 1994-95, Smiley returns to the land of the vertical for the 1996 set.
Smiley reaches back for his 90+ fastball, curve, changeup or slider. Whatever he threw, chances are it was within the strike zone; Smiley only topped 60 BB in a season once (1992, his first go-round in the American League).
That's #57 Smiley wears; he is by leaps and bounds the most notable #57 in Reds history (Johnny Vander Meer wore it during his second season only; that doesn't count.)
(flip) Smiley had been 5-0 when the Expos got the better of him 6/16/95. (Remember, the '95 season didn't kick off until late April.)
In that All-Star Game, Smiley pitched the third and fourth innings, allowing a two-run homer to Frank Thomas of the White Sox.
When Smiley was on, home plate must have felt that oversized to hitters. He had a nine-start streak during '95 during which he walked one or fewer men each time out.
Phoenixville, PA is about a 27-mile drive northwest of Philadelphia.
AFTER THIS CARD: With Jose Rijo and Pete Schourek done in by injury, Smiley emerged as the Reds' leading winner in 1996 and was rewarded with a three-year contract extension that September. Despite Smiley's tough beginning to 1997, Cleveland traded four dudes to acquire him that July—he wasn't exactly thrilled at the deal.
Out nearly a month with shoulder tendinitis, Smiley was set to return 9/20 against the Royals. But while warming up in the bullpen, his pitching arm broke; despite signing a MiLB deal with the Pirates for 2000, Smiley never made it back.
John Smiley debuted in 1987 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1988-98. He's also got a 1992 Traded card.
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Cincinnati Reds
7/13/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps Update #168 Ben Zobrist, Rays
More Ben Zobrist Topps Cards: 2006U 2007 2009U 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2015U 2016 2017 2018 2019
It went like this: Rays and Cubs manager Joe Maddon would wake up, decide he wanted Ben Zobrist to play (insert any position except P/C) that day for whatever reason, and Zobrist would dutifully report. Sometimes, it felt like Maddon was just stretching his limits, seeing how much he could juggle Zobrist before the kid's patience ran out.
It never did, at least not publicly. For his career, Zobrist racked up over 100 starts at four positions (most frequently 2B) and a handful of starts at four others. Though he never had a set position for very long, Zobrist was an everyday player, averaging over 650 PA 2009-14 with Tampa and not too much less as a Cub 2016-18 (he also came up 535 times in 2015, split between Oakland and KC.)
Despite the shuffling, switch-hitting Zobrist was a very good player from either side of the dish. He could work a walk with the best of them, had his share of power, and even stole bases as a younger player.
Here, after being used exclusively at SS for the Rays in 2006-07, Zobrist is about to showcase his versatility for the first time with Tampa. He started at all three outfield spots as well as second base in 2008, and played error-free ball.
THIS CARD: Zobrist is perhaps tossing the ball back to the pitcher after a lil' around-the-horn. I watched enough Zobrist to be fairly certain he's not capable of such nonchalance during an actual play.
Zobrist appears to be at Fenway Park, judging from the low wall and the red in the stands. If this is Fenway, the pic was likely taken either 9/26/06 or 8/15/07, the only two times in his career to that point he'd played regular-season infield in Boston.
Benjamin Thomas Zobrist has a decent signature, especially compared to what we've seen so far in 2007-08 Topps—there's some scrawl in there, but it's legible overall.
(flip) The shortstop-by-trade never started more than 47 games there in a major league season. He barely sniffed the 6 at all after leaving Tampa Bay.
In 2008, Zobrist also played a whopping 4.2 innings at third base (I'm guessing Evan Longoria got hurt or ejected.)
That Trade With Astros sent Zobrist and P Mitch Talbot to Tampa; 3B/1B Aubrey Huff headed west.
AFTER THIS CARD: Zobrist got a chance to play in 2009 and busted out (297, 27, 91), making the All-Star Team in doing so. Despite a rough 2010, Zobrist was given what ended up as a 5Y/$29.5M extension; he responded with four solid seasons in a row 2011-14, and Maddon shifted him around considerably less.
With free agency looming, the Rays dealt Zobrist to Oakland in January 2015; the A's, in turn, moved him to the Royals near the deadline. Zobrist helped KC break their 30-year title drought and then cashed in with the Cubs (4Y/$56M), reuniting him with manager Maddon.
In 2016, Zobrist contributed what has to be the biggest hit in Cubs franchise history, a 10th-inning oppo double off Cleveland's Bryan Shaw that gave Chicago the lead in World Series Game 7 (and, from a personal standpoint, clinched Series MVP honors). Minor injuries tugged away at Zobrist's availability in 2017-18, and major off-field stuff sidelined him two-thirds of 2019—no coincidence the Cubs' performances suffered in those years.
Pushing 39, the three-time All-Star officially retired in March 2020. Ben Zobrist appeared annually in Topps and/or Topps Update 2006-19.
CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps Update, Tampa Bay Rays
7/14/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #760 Ozzie Smith, Cardinals
More Ozzie Smith Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1993 1994 1995 1996
In 1991-92, Ozzie Smith was still "The Wizard" at shortstop, though he was advancing in age and his Cardinals were going nowhere. Smith didn't have a particularly good 1990 season with the bat (.305 SLG) but rebounded in 1991 while batting almost exclusively second in the Cardinal lineup.
For the year 1991, Smith set a National League record by committing just eight errors at shortstop all season! He also paced the Cardinals in PA, BB and OBP.
THIS CARD: Smith, judging by this image, looks a muscular 6'2", 220 lbs. And his bat looks about 36 ounces. In reality, he was listed at 5'10", 160 lbs. And he probably swung a 30-ouncer at best.
I can't be positive but this might be old Busch Stadium Smith poses at.
Oddly for a guy so known for his mitt, Smith got exactly one defensive card front image from Topps through the years (1987), and another featuring him standing around with a glove on (1982). True, he's got 2010 and 2020 Topps variations making the same spectacular defensive play, but those don't count.
(flip) With 14 years of stats, I thought this meant the end of blurbs on Ozzie Smith Topps cards, but his 1993-95 Topps reverses did indeed feature small ones.
Remember, there was a 50-day strike in 1981, which is why Smith led the league with such low games and at-bats totals.
This is Smith's second COTD appearance; back in December 2014 we marked his 60th birthday by selecting his 1996 Topps card.
AFTER THIS CARD: Despite missing some time with the chicken pox, Smith batted .295 in 1992 and reached free agency for the first time. He had other suitors but ultimately Smith re-signed with the Cardinals; he would win no more Gold Gloves but did make the 1994-96 All-Star teams.
In 1995, Smith underwent rotator cuff surgery (for a 10-year-old tear) and played just 44 games. The Cardinals traded for Giants SS Royce Clayton for 1996, creating problems when Smith returned wanting to play full-time. He retired after that year and didn't return to the Cardinals organization until 1996 manager Tony LaRussa retired after the 2011 season.
Smith was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot (2002).
Ozzie Smith appeared annually in Topps 1979-1996.
CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals
7/15/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #550 Corey Seager, Dodgers
More Corey Seager Topps Cards: 2016 2017 2018 2019
6'4" shortstop Corey Seager is a doubles machine, one who can capably dial up home run power as well. He gets the job done defensively. He doesn't seem to be an idiot. But he's a Dodger, and has been one his entire five-year career, so I'm predisposed to think very little of him. (The same way I'm sure Dodger fans think little of Brandon Crawford.)
But as far as Dodgers go, Corey Seager's okay. I'm not recalling any run-ins with any of my Giants, nor do any specific big hits against them come to mind.
Seager, whom you probably already know is Kyle Seager's little bro, earned a September 2015 summons to Dodger Stadium on the heels of a fantastic year for AAA Oklahoma City (he was not only an All-Star, but also AAA Player Of The Year). Impacting the team right away, Seager became the Dodgers' #1 shortstop for 2016—at year's end he was an All-Star, NL Rookie of the Year, and a Silver Slugger.
Here, Seager has completed a second full major league season that, if not for a September slump, might have topped his first. The 23-year-old homered on Opening Day, and hit .376 from 7/28-8/27/17 including a 15-game hit streak.
THIS CARD: There exists two variations of this card (sort of; the variations are numbered #556). One is Seager chillaxing near the cage...fine. The other is Seager fired up over something good happening for the Dodgers, which makes me want to rip it up. (You must understand how much I dislike the Dodgers; it's only worsened over the years).
Despite all the helmets flying off baserunners in MLB, Topps hasn't given us too many bare-headed action shots. I can't even recall one for Eduardo Nunez, the king of flying helmets.
Not really visible, but Seager wears #5. You can imagine how perturbed I was when Topps awarded him card #5 after his rookie season...he was solid, but not that frikkin' special.
(flip) Beltre turned 23 in 2001, while the late Davis turned 23 in 1963. I would normally calculate those <23 hit totals, but I'm not putting forth that type of effort for two Dodgers.
Seager hasn't tweeted since February 2019. The world's loss, I guess.
Those 539 AB and 159 hits in 2017 both led the Dodgers, surprisingly, while Seager's .295 average that year ranked second on the team to Justin Turner.
AFTER THIS CARD: Part of why Seager slid in late 2017 was a sore elbow; in May 2018 he underwent surgery for a strained UCL and missed the rest of the year (also having hip surgery in August). He returned strong in '19, driving in 87 runs and tying Anthony Rendon for the league lead with 44 doubles—including a whopping 15 in August alone—despite missing time with a bad hamstring. He is set to start for the Dodgers in 2020.
Corey Seager has appeared annually in Topps since 2016.
CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
7/17/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #374 Freddy Garcia, White Sox
More Freddy Garcia Topps Cards: 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2004T 2006 2007 2010 2011 2011U 2012
Here, the strapping Garcia has kicked off his first of what would be two stints with the Chicago White Sox. Acquired from Seattle in June 2004, Garcia gave quality innings to what had been a shaky Sox rotation, and won nine times down the stretch. Garcia's 1.243 WHIP raked first among all five White Sox pitchers with 100+ innings, and he was rewarded with a 3Y/$27M extension 10 days after joining the team.
THIS CARD: Garcia is featured in COTD for the second time; we presented his 2007 Topps card back in February 2020.
That's Garcia's once-familiar #34; other notable White Sox with that number include SP Rich Dotson (who promptly won 22 games after switching to it in 1983) and Gavin Floyd, who essentially inherited it from Garcia in 2007. Currently, prospect Michael Kopech claims it (I think; he's opted out of 2020 and I'm not sure what that means for his digits).
Garcia fires off one of his many pitches (see blurb) at U.S. Cellular Field; the 28-year-old was only 3-3, 5.37 at home after joining the White Sox.
For a while it seemed like 2005 Topps might be the last set with vertical team/player names, but then 2020 Topps hit shelves. While understanding the need to do something different (aka "mix it up"), I admit not being a fan of vertical card front text.
(flip) TOLD ya Garcia had a big repertoire.
Yes, Garcia once led the AL with a 3-plus ERA; during my fandom that has only happened two other times (Aaron Sanchez 3.00 in 2016 and John Lackey 3.01 in 2007). With dual-league DH's and juiced baseballs on top of thin pitching, don't be surprised if 2020's league-leading ERA pushes 3.50.
Instead of the redundant 184-K stat, Topps could have used that space to tell you of Garcia's 0.94 HR/9 in 2004, good for 10th-best in the American League.
AFTER THIS CARD: Garcia played no small part in the 2005 White Sox charge to the championship; he made all 33 of his turns during the season, won 14 times, then once more during each postseason round (including the World Series Game 4 clincher!)
Though Garcia won 17 more games in '06, Phillies GM Pat Gillick was able to pry him from Chicago for Floyd and young Gio Gonzalez that winter; Gillick had Garcia in Seattle and sought a Philadelphia reunion. Shoulder problems basically ruined Garcia's brief Philly tenure, though.
By 2009, Garcia was back with the White Sox, throwing quality starts seven times in nine tries. He followed that up with 12 wins in 28 starts the next season.
From there, after making good on a MiLB deal, Garcia won 12 more times for the 2011 Yankees at the price of $1.5M...but by the following April he'd lost his starting gig there. The 37-year-old closed his MLB career in 2013 with the Orioles and Braves, finishing strong (1.65 ERA for the latter club.) Garcia pitched a couple more years in foreign leagues before retiring in 2016.
Freddy Garcia appeared annually in Topps 2000-12, except 2008-09. He's also got a 2004 Traded card and a 2011 Update card.
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Chicago White Sox
7/18/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #611 Brent Mayne, Royals
More Brent Mayne Topps Cards: 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 2000 2001 2003 2004
The longtime MLB catcher Mayne's bags were packed a lot between 1996 and 2001, a testament to his prowess behind the plate as well as his limitations next to it. In mid-2001, however, he returned "home" to his original team (for whom he played his first six seasons), the Kansas City Royals...though, given how he'd been hitting as a Rockie, Mayne might not have exactly done somersaults upon learning of the trade.
As one might expect, Mayne's offensive numbers dipped upon leaving Coors Field, though they were still far superior to those of fellow catcher A.J. Hinch, the man he essentially replaced. Plus, KC liked what Mayne brought to the pitching staff and re-signed him for 2Y/$5.5M during the 2001 postseason.
THIS CARD: On Mayne's 2000 and 2002 Topps cards, he's got the socks high, but on his 2001 Topps card, you can't see a bit of sock. Perhaps he was slumping and needing a change of luck when that pic was snapped? I don't think the Rox barred high socks.
Mayne wore #49 and #24 during his first Royals stint, but as you can see, switched to #2 here. Through many address changes, Mayne never retained any of his uniform numbers until moving from Arizona to his final stop, the Dodgers, in 2004 and keeping #6.
There's not enough for me to identify the road ballpark here. I can tell you Mayne batted .440 during a seven-game road hit streak as July turned to August 2001.
(flip) More from Brent's KC "debut": he was indeed 3-for-4 with four RBI vs. Detroit that day, but it was a KC blowout, and Mayne didn't have any tying RBI according to Baseballreference.com. In fact, the host Royals didn't even bat in the 9th...not sure where Topps got its info here.
Note Mayne was 33 at the time of this pic. Does that look like a 33-year-old man to you? Not knocking Mayne in any way, but he always looked 10 years older than he actually was, even as a rookie.
Told you Mayne packed his bags a lot between 1996-2001. He was a solid Giant; we previously noted he was the batter who lined out immediately after Barry Bonds' bases-loaded IBB in 1998.
2002 Topps has one of my all-time least-favorite front designs...and one of my most-favorite reverse designs, especially the fonts.
AFTER THIS CARD: Mayne completed his two-year deal with KC, helping them break an eight-year streak of losing seasons in 2003. He opened 2004 with the Arizona Diamondbacks (going on the DL in June for just the second time ever) but was swapped to the Dodgers along with Steve Finley in July.
With LA, Mayne reached postseason play for the very first time, going 2-for-6 against the victorious Cardinals in the NLDS. That was the end of the line for Mayne in MLB, but if you need catching instruction, hit him up.
Brent Mayne appeared in 1991-95 Topps, disappeared the rest of that decade, then returned for Topps 2000-04. Despite all his team-hopping, Mayne never appeared in a Topps Traded set (to be fair, that was largely because Traded wasn't produced from 1996-98 when Mayne's transience peaked, but still.)
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Kansas City Royals
7/20/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps Traded #137 Jack Morris, 1992 Topps Traded Reprint
More 2001 Topps Traded Reprints: #104 #108
In case you weren't familiar with TSR back in January 2018...we'll re-explain.
2001 Topps Traded includes dozens of reprints of past Topps Traded cards, almost all of them big-name stars whose uniform swapping made big news. Almost every Traded set ever is represented dating back to the first one (1976), and even Traded cards from the 1974 base set are reprinted.
Here, we have a reprint of Jack Morris's 1992 Topps Traded card. The 1991 World Series MVP has just jumped from the Twins to the Blue Jays for 2Y/$10.85M, becoming baseball's highest-paid pitcher in the process.
THIS CARD: It's hard to articulate just how weird it felt to hold a glossy 1992 Topps card. Topps, as longtime collectors will recall, was very slow to hop on the gloss train back in the day. The company didn't release a fully glossed set until 1994, years after Upper Deck, Score and others had done so.
Morris never looked right in Toronto garb. Despite being a Tiger for over a decade, I remember him best as a Twin, largely because highlights from his classic 1991 World Series Game 7 start are replayed so frequently.
50 Years of Topps baseball and we're less than a year now from the 70-year anniversary set. Meaning this set is about to turn 20, which is insane.
Advance warning: when we pull Jack Morris's original 1992 Topps Traded card, I'll probably copy and paste most of this writing.
(flip) Can't put my finger on it, but something is different about the name font at the top...it seems a little less blocky than on the regular 1992 Topps cards. I'll look more closely upon pulling a true 1992 Topps card...chances are it's my imagination, but it won't hurt to confirm.
I salivate over those high innings and complete game totals. Morris was a horse if there ever was one.
True, Morris walked 110 dudes in 1985 and didn't lead the AL; that honor went to Phil Niekro of the Yankees with 120. (Fun fact, freshly learned: Niekro walked 164 dudes in 1977.)
You have to squint and/or lean in close, but there it is in the fine print: the reprint card number.
AFTER THIS CARD: Morris spent two seasons with Toronto; the first was great and culminated in a Toronto championship. The second was an injury-plagued disaster but also culminated in a Toronto championship, giving Morris four rings in all.
The 17-year vet moved on to Cleveland in 1994 and went 10-6 despite a 5.60 ERA; the Indians controversially released him just prior to the strike before contract incentives could kick in. Though he was through in MLB, Morris did gain election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018 (through the Veterans Committee).
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps Traded, Reprints
7/21/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps #569 Jorge Alfaro, Phillies
More Jorge Alfaro Topps Cards: 2018U 2019
Dominicans often say they "don't walk off the island", a broad explanation for their free-swinging ways. In the case of Jorge Alfaro, you don't walk out of Colombia, either—he's got 44 free passes in just under 1,000 career big league plate appearances, and he wasn't any better in the minors.
I point this out because, as solid as a player as Alfaro has already become, it's tantalizing what he could do if he saved his swings for strikes.
Here, Alfaro is just off his first taste of MLB. The rookie catcher made two trips to Philadelphia, first as a bridge until new C A.J. Ellis joined the team (via trade for C Carlos Ruiz), then again as a September call-up. Alfaro started four times for the Phillies, but was overmatched (1-for-14, seven K).
THIS CARD: To date, this is the lone Topps card (out of four) to depict Alfaro batting. True, he's got dreadful BB/K ratios and has next to no discipline. But when he makes contact, watch out—the kid has power and, additionally, goes very well to the opposite field. What I'm trying to say is: Alfaro's offensive ceiling is pretty high if he can find a way to reduce the K's.
Alfaro, in that uniform, looked right. How a Philadelphia Phillie should look: burly and tough. He's just not the same in Miami garb with the long hair and such.
Those are some prime empty seats in the background. Before I assume the 91-loss 2016 Phillies couldn't sell the seats, let's remember this could be the resumption of a rain-delayed game. Or the 13th inning of a game. I'm not going to research.
(flip) Trying to decipher his Twitter handle, Alfaro must have worn #11 in the minors or something; he's only worn #38 in the bigs. He does a lot of retweeting, the most recent one posted on 7/6/20.
A number of familiar Phillies were acquired in that trade with Texas. Veteran SP Matt Harrison was the "name" piece, but he did nothing for the team. Then-prospects Alfaro, Jerad Eickhoff, Nick Williams and Jake Thompson also headed north in the Hamels deal; to date, Alfaro has had the best career.
Pinch-hitting for RP Hector Neris in the B8th, Alfaro singled off Pirates RP Jared Hughes. He was soon forced out at 2B.
Reading is the Phillies AA team; Alfaro made the long jump to MLB in 2016.
AFTER THIS CARD: Alfaro received more minor league seasoning in 2017, this time at AAA Lehigh Valley, but re-joined the Phillies in August of that year and hasn't looked back (batting .318 as a '17 Phillie). He succeeded Cameron Rupp as Philadelphia's primary C in 2018, and played well for the most part, even making the Topps All-Rookie Team.
But the Phillies weren't satisfied—first, they traded for C Wilson Ramos in August 2018, then they traded for All-Star C J.T. Realmuto in the off-season.
Alfaro went to Miami in the latter trade and immediately became their #1 catcher; the 26-year-old enjoyed several hot streaks but couldn't shake the strikeouts, finishing at .262 with 18 homers (middle of the pack for NL catchers). He is set to start for the Marlins once more in 2020. (Update: Alfaro kicked off back-to-back-to-back home runs for Miami just hours after this posting.)
Jorge Alfaro debuted in 2017 Topps, was held over to 2018 Topps Update, then returned for 2019-20 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies
7/23/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #53 Frank Tanana, Tigers
More Frank Tanana Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992
For his first five full seasons in MLB (1974-78), Frank Tanana was among the game's very best starting pitchers. In fact, the mid-70's Angels' Nolan Ryan-Frank Tanana tandem might be one of baseball's most dominant ever; like Ryan, Tanana seemed poised to continue winning for years to come.
While Tanana did indeed win a lot of games after 1978, it wasn't in the style that he or anybody else envisioned. You see, a bad case of shoulder tendinitis struck him in 1979; after he recovered, blowing the ball past hitters was no longer an option. The only way Tanana was to last in MLB was to reinvent himself as, essentially, a junkballer...so that's what he did.
By and large, it worked!
Tanana spent '81 with Boston before moving on to Texas for '82 (2Y/$800K); he had a couple decent years with the Rangers before joining the Tigers in mid-1985. The veteran went 41-30 over his first three seasons with his hometown team, including a famous postsea