Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, July 2021
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A = Alternate Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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7/31/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #387 Ryne Sandberg, All-Star
More Ryne Sandberg All-Star Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1993
From the moment he hit those two home runs off Bruce Sutter in 1984 through the end of the 1993 season, Cubs great Ryne Sandberg set the standard for two-way major league second basemen. He did it all and he did it all at the highest level.
"Ryno" made every NL All-Star team 1984-93, starting all except 1985. As great a player as he normally was, Sandberg had very little individual success in the All-Star Game itself—more on that later.
Here, Sandberg's been selected as the NL All-Star starter at 2B for the fourth straight season. Early in the year, the popularity of rookie Padres 2B Roberto Alomar had Sandberg looking over his shoulder for about five minutes. But Alomar didn't really heat up for good until after the Break.
THIS CARD: Sandberg started the 1984, 1986 and 1987 All-Star Games and should have had corresponding cards in 1985, 1987 and 1988 Topps. But he has no All-Star card in the latter two sets for reasons only Topps knows.
How did Sandberg make the '88 NL All-Star team? After batting .179 through 21 games, he then slashed .300/.361/.458 leading up to the game (excluding an 0-for-4 to close the first half). Plus, he was Ryne Sandberg and competition wasn't exactly strong—reserve All-Star 2B Robby Thompson (of my Giants) was having a good but not great first half.
In the All-Star Game, Sandberg went 1-for-4 with two K; he played the whole game as Thompson—sidelined with a pinched nerve in his leg—was replaced on the roster by Pirates SP Bob Walk instead of Alomar or some other infielder.
(flip) If you're puzzled by the massive Galarraga managing eight triples in one season, just know he was once young and not quite as massive.
Of Sandberg's eight triples, two came in one game against the Giants 5/8. (He enjoyed one other two-triple day, in 1994.)
That 100th home run was a B5th solo shot off Montreal RP Neal Heaton. Sandberg also added an RBI single off SP Dennis Martinez.
AFTER THIS CARD: As mentioned, Sandberg was an All-Star Game staple through 1993...but he did not shine under those bright lights. In 26 career ASG at-bats, Sandberg managed all of three hits, no home runs and no RBI. Granted, he was facing the best the AL had to offer year in and year out...but wasn't that true of every All-Star?
Sandberg temporarily retired about a month before the 1994 All-Star Game, which he was unlikely to be selected to. He returned for the 1996-97 seasons, but his All-Star days were long over.
Ryne Sandberg received All-Star cards in 1985 and 1989-93 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
More July 2021 Topps Cards Of The Day
7/1/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #430 Pete Incaviglia, Rangers
More Pete Incaviglia Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991 1991T 1992 1992T 1993 1993T 1994
Today, each team has about five guys capable of 25 homers and 150 K per year.
Back in the day, the entire major leagues had about five guys like that.
Pete Incaviglia was their prototype.
Incaviglia, a legend at Oklahoma State, was picked eighth overall by Montreal in 1985 but did not want to play in MiLB and was traded to the Rangers that winter—more on that later. He was the AL Rookie Of The Year in 1986 despite flirting with the all-time season K record, and was on his way to an even more productive 1987 before a late-season ankle injury.
In '88, "Inky" produced when he played, but lost time with hand and back injuries. Here, the 25-year-old has completed his fourth major league campaign. In 1989, his 27 doubles set a career high and his 21 home runs were second on the Rangers, but he missed half of June with a neck strain (which facilitated the MLB debut of one Sammy Sosa).
THIS CARD: As you can see, Incaviglia was a big fella—at times even bigger than this. In fact, one 1991 article covering his release by Texas opened with the line "He's a little arrogant, and a little heavy..."
For the record, it's pronounced "Ink-uh-vill-ia". NOT "In-CAV-uh-glia" as 10-year-old me first thought.
More from Incaviglia's 1989 season: on 4/25 at Cleveland, he ripped four hits and missed the cycle by a home run. Over two games 7/16-17, he racked up three home runs—including a grand slam—and nine RBI. And his T8th, PH three-run homer off Chuck Crim sunk the Brewers 9/17.
(flip) As you see in the scoreboard, Incaviglia went homerless in June 1989; he was limited to 13 games that month by the aforementioned neck strain.
Offhand, do I know any of the other 30-homer rookies in MLB history pre-Inky? I think Frank Howard might have hit 45 one year. Otherwise, I'm drawing blanks. This will have to be rectified. (BTW, Don Sutton was the Angels pitcher to serve up #30, 10/5/86.)
Check out the bio box: Incaviglia didn't sign with Montreal until the trade with Texas was worked out, in November 1985. Quickly, MLB instituted a rule banning trades of draft picks for one year after signing with their drafting clubs. (Today, newly-signed picks can be swapped after that year's World Series.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Incaviglia remained healthy in 1990 and homered 24 times with 85 RBI, but was suddenly released by Texas the following Spring. He spent 1991 and 1992 in part-time roles with Detroit and Houston, respectively, before landing with the eventual pennant-winning 1993 Phillies. Incaviglia platooned in LF with Milt Thompson that year and batted .274, 24, 89 in just 368 AB!
After spending 1995 batting .181 in Japan, 31-year-old Incaviglia returned to the Phillies, who swapped him to playoff-bound Baltimore in late 1996. Demand was low after Baltimore released him in July 1997 and Incaviglia voyaged to the minors for the first time after signing with the Yankees. He would accrue just 48 more major league PA (split between the '97 Yankees, '98 Tigers and '98 Astros) before his big league career drew to a close at age 34.
Incaviglia played a few more seasons in the Independent League, coached in the Tigers system during the mid-2000's, and has served as a successful manager for several Independent League clubs since then.
Pete Incaviglia appeared annually in Topps 1987-1994, with 1986, 1991, 1992 and 1993 Traded cards.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Texas Rangers
7/3/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #278 World Series
More 1998 Topps World Series Cards: #282 #283
For the first time in my collecting era, the previous year's postseason was represented in a Topps set. In this particular case, it was the seven-game 1997 World Series highlighted in a seven-card subset at the end of Series 1.
Here, we look back on Game 2, which went down in Miami on 10/19/97 and was started by righties Chad Ogea (Cleveland) and Kevin Brown (Florida).
THIS CARD: I knew this card wouldn't scan well...and I was SO right. With proper lighting the background is clearer and the text is, well, visible.
Indians C Sandy Alomar Jr. is pictured here. His 1997 season was right out of a dream; he obliterated many of his career highs, enjoyed a 30-game hit streak, and was the MVP of the All-Star Game at his home field! The only thing left for him to do was lead Cleveland to its first championship in 49 years...
(flip) Alomar's blast (off a hanging Brown slider) accounted for the Indians' final two runs and can be seen here. Brown was charged with all six runs on 10 hits over six innings.
Ogea went 6.2 innings, allowing the one run on seven hits; he threw 95 pitches. Grissom's grounder just past Marlins SS Edgar Renteria brought in Matt Williams in Cleveland's three-run 5th.
AFTER THIS CARD: As you may know, Florida took the series on Renteria's walk-off single in Game 7. A different cast of Marlins (except OF Jeff Conine) won the 2003 World Series as well, but the franchise has made just one postseason appearance since (2020).
Since 1997, Cleveland has returned to the Fall Classic once, losing in seven games to the Cubs in 2016.
CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Subsets
7/4/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #368 Postseason Highlights (WS Game 4)
More 2005 Topps Postseason Cards: #732
For the first time, TSR will present two consecutive postseason highlight cards for COTD.
If you were a baseball fan alive and coherent in 2004, you certainly recall the fireworks from the historic 2004 ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox—it was wild, to say the least, and it ushered in a somewhat anticlimactic World Series between the Cardinals and Red Sox.
But once the final out of the clinching game was recorded by Boston's , things would never be the same for the Red Sox or their long-suffering fans.
THIS CARD: The -win Red Sox did sweep the -win Cardinals, who like the Red Sox reached the World Series after a seven-game League Championship Series. Unlike the Red Sox, however, the Cardinals did not trail Houston 3-0 in the series. (Remember, kids: Houston used to be an NL franchise, until 2013.)
Lowe's numbers are for Game 4; Ramirez's numbers are for Games 1-4. The latter clinched MVP honors by smoking three hits with a pair of RBI in Game 1, homering with two crucial RBI in Game 3, and not doing anything ridiculous to mess things up otherwise.
(flip) I had long forgotten Lowe was the winner in the ALDS clincher...impressive.
The "courageous" wins by Schilling refer to the torn ankle tendon he pitched with during the 2004 postseason. Which led to the infamous "bloody sock" Game 6 of the ALCS.
Across the Red Sox' four WS wins over the Cardinals, they never once trailed, though they were tied for parts of Game 1.
AFTER THIS CARD: Since 2004, Boston has returned to the World Series three times and won the World Series three times (2007, 2013, 2018), never staying down for very long. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have reached two World Series: 2006 (victory over Detroit) and 2013 (another loss to Boston).
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Subsets
7/6/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps Traded #100 Willie Randolph, Dodgers
More Willie Randolph Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1990T 1991 1991T 1992 1993 2005U 2006 2007 2008
Picturing Willie Randolph in anything but Yankee pinstripes was challenging, to put it mildly. The speedy second baseman contributed to New York's World Series titles in 1977 and 1978, and held down the keystone for another decade (even as high turnover took place around him).
Primarily a singles hitter, Randolph's numbers didn't wow anyone, but he nonetheless made five All-Star teams as a Yankee and was as steady and professional a ballplayer as anyone of his time.
But by 1988, Randolph was 33, and losing more and more playing time to injuries. Here, the Yankees have opted to go with former Dodger Steve Sax as their 1989 second sacker, leaving free agent Randolph to take Sax's old spot on the Dodgers (for 2Y/$1.75M).
THIS CARD: Even 32 years later, Randolph looks off in Dodger Blue. That's #20 or #12 concealed by his arm; Randolph switched numbers during the 1989 season for some reason.
Randolph was a noted bunter; in 1988 he executed 11 successful sacrifices and in 1989 he laid down five bunt hits.
More from Randolph's early 1989 season: he got off to a 1-for-12 start with LA, but then hit in 13 of the next 15 games. On 4/23/89 Randolph singled and drew four walks in an extra-inning win over my Giants...boo.
(flip) 99% of the population doesn't know Randolph debuted in MLB with Pittsburgh. The Yankees acquired him, P Ken Brett and SP Dock Ellis for SP Doc Medich in December 1975. Medich had won 35 games for the Yankees 1974-75, but New York GM Gabe Paul was never known to rest on his laurels.
Those league-high 119 BB in 1980 edged future teammate Rickey Henderson by two. He ended that year by drawing at least one walk in each of his final 15 games!
Check out Randolph's 1987 line: a .305 average and 82 BB vs 25 K. We might see a .400 hitter in MLB before we see that line again.
AFTER THIS CARD: Though Randolph made his sixth All-Star team with the 1989 Dodgers, they were unable to return to the postseason. In May 1990, 36-year-old Randolph was dealt to Oakland and helped them to their third straight World Series (a loss to the Reds).
From there, Randolph spent one season each with Milwaukee (batting an insane .327 in 124 games in 1991) and the Mets, who used him fairly frequently in the first half of 1992 but lost him to a broken hand in August (Bob Walk's HBP). Randolph memorably returned for that season's final game before retiring.
As Randolph coached for the Yankees 1994-2004, he became an increasingly popular managerial candidate; the Mets finally hired him prior to the 2005 season. Though he guided the 2006 team to Game 7 of the NLCS, the 52-year-old was fired after the high-priced Mets opened 2008 34-35. Randolph returned to coaching but surprisingly, he never got another shot to manage in MLB.
As a player, Willie Randolph appeared in Topps 1976-1993 and in Traded 1989-92. As a manager, he appeared in 2005 Topps Update and 2006-08 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps Traded, Los Angeles Dodgers
7/7/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #477 Josh Willingham, Nationals
More Josh Willingham Topps Cards: 2006 2007 2008 2010 2011 2011U 2012 2013 2014
Like a more famous Josh who came along a few years later, Josh Willingham began his MLB career behind the plate, and began to put up some noteworthy power numbers after changing positions. He never quite reached Josh Donaldson's level as a hitter, but Willingham still put together a very respectable career for five major league teams.
Willingham, a #17 pick by Florida in 2000, received 57 plate appearances for the 2004-05 Marlins—most of them as a catcher— before taking over as their regular LF in 2006. Over the next two seasons, he averaged .271, 24, 82 and even threw out 14 runners!
Here, the 29-year-old is looking to rebound in Washington after a 2008 season wrecked by injuries. Willingham had been one of baseball's hottest hitters out of the gate, but hit the DL 4/28 with a back strain. He didn't return for nearly two months.
THIS CARD: Willingham likely getting loose before a game, possibly during Spring Training. This was the Nationals' first season with this look, if I'm not mistaken. (We can't confirm or deny that Bernie Sanders is chillin' in the background.)
Topps did a fair job varying Willingham's front images...after he left Florida. He'd received three fairly similar front images as a Marlin, but is shown running, warming up, batting and high-fiving in subsequent sets.
More from Willingham's 2008 season: despite the back trouble, he did produce multiple highlights. Such as his Opening Day home run, his 12-game hit streak in April, and his four-game homer streak in September. Furthermore, Willingham was hit by a whopping 14 pitches in just 102 games!
(flip) If Washington acquired Willingham to boost its offense for 2009, it had a funny way of showing it—he didn't play regularly until mid-May, and not because of injury.
Willingham did have minor league experience at 1B, but entering 2009, he'd only spent three major league innings there. Odds are he would not have "helped" the Nats much at first base without some extensive reacquainting.
The trade was, from Florida's standpoint, a pre-arbitration salary dump. Willingham and SP Scott Olsen headed north, while IF Emilio Bonifacio and a couple of prospects headed south (neither prospect did much in MLB).
AFTER THIS CARD: Willingham was enjoying a solid 2010 campaign for Washington when his season ended in mid-August (torn meniscus). That winter, Oakland acquired the free-agent-to-be in a trade for two prospects and watched him lead the club—by FAR—with 29 home runs and 98 RBI! Minnesota signed him for 3Y/$21M in December 2011.
As the 2012 Twins' primary LF and sometimes DH, Willingham won the Silver Slugger after exploding for 35 homers (including 11 in July alone) and 110 RBI. Things weren't so rosy in 2013 (.208, plus another debilitating meniscus tear) and after escaping significant injury from DOZENS of HBP over the years, Willingham lost most of early 2014 after an errant pitch fractured his wrist.
That August, with Minnesota going nowhere, Willingham was swapped to the contending Royals, allowing him to reach the postseason for the first and only time in his career. After KC fell to the Giants in the 2014 World Series, Willingham retired at 35.
Josh Willingham appeared annually in Topps 2006-14, with a 2011 Update card as well. There is something called a Topps "Gypsy Queen" card depicting him as a Royal, if you're interested.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Washington Nationals
7/9/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #560 Jim Edmonds, Cardinals
More Jim Edmonds Topps Cards: 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2000T 2001 2002 2003 2005 2006 2007 2008 2008U 2010U
Outfielder Jim Edmonds was one of the best two-way players of his era, capable of following a 420-foot homer with a ridiculous, all-out sprawling catch the next inning. Even 24 years later, his back-to-the-plate robbery of Kansas City's David Howard is almost impossible to comprehend.
Edmonds got his first extensive MLB run as a 1B/LF/RF for the 1994 Angels; one year later he became their regular CF, made the AL All-Star team (as a reserve) and never looked back. From 1995-98 he averaged .298, 28, 86 mostly out of the #2 or #3 holes, and won a pair of Gold Gloves.
In March 2000, following years of trade rumors, Anaheim finally dealt Edmonds to St. Louis—proving the risk in taking a sports executive seriously.
With a healthy Edmonds now occupying the #3 spot in their lineup, the 2000 Cardinals broke a four-year run of mediocrity and won the NL Central. But despite his 12 RBI in eight postseason games, St. Louis bowed out in the NLCS.
Here, Edmonds has completed a quality 2003 season, his fourth in St. Louis. Though he missed time with a bruised knee and a bad shoulder (that required off-season surgery), Edmonds won his fourth straight Gold Glove and was chosen for his third All-Star Game.
THIS CARD: Edmonds' distinct swing/follow-through in action; longtime Angels teammate Tim Salmon once described it as "beautiful". Almost all of Edmonds' Topps front images 1995-2007 depict him at some point in his swing.
Though several have worn #15 since Edmonds left St. Louis (including Randal Grichuk for four years), it still evokes his memory. For some reason, several Cardinals have taken #15 only to switch later on. Hopefully not because some psycho Edmonds fan harasses them.
More from Edmonds' 2003 season: he ripped 28 home runs in the first half alone, including 14 in June. He walked off the Mets 5/1 with a 10th-inning blast off RP Scott Strickland.
(flip) Not as surprised as you think, Topps...Edmonds had quite a home run stroke going in '03 before his shoulder went bad. Ironically, he aggravated it during that year's Home Run Derby.
Note the 55 games Edmonds was limited to in 1999; groin and labrum injuries delayed his season debut until August.
That Trade With Angels sent SP Kent Bottenfield and 2B Adam Kennedy to the Angels. While Bottenfield—an 18-game winner for St. Louis in 1999—was a disappointment, Kennedy directly helped the 2002 Angels reach, and later win, the World Series. So both clubs won.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2004, 34-year-old Edmonds placed 5th in NL MVP voting (.301, 42, 111), which would prove to be his peak. Following a solid, All-Star 2005 season, various injuries—including a gnarly concussion—impacted Edmonds availability and performance in 2006 and 2007. The Cardinals traded him to San Diego in December 2007, netting future October hero David Freese in the process.
Edmonds lasted 26 unimpressive games before the Padres released him; he finished 2008 with the Cubs, slugging .568 in a platoon role. The 38-year-old opted to sit out 2009, but gave it another go with the 2010 Brewers and Reds. One week after signing a MiLB deal with the 2011 Cardinals, Edmonds retired, owner of 393 HR, 1,199 RBI and eight Gold Gloves. He was elected to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014.
Jim Edmonds appeared annually in Topps 1993-2008. He also received a 2000 Traded card plus 2008 and 2010 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals
7/10/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps #270 Pat Neshek, Astros
More Pat Neshek Topps Cards: 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011U 2013U 2014U 2015 2017 2017U 2018 2019
I was wondering when we'd get around to Pat Neshek!
On the diamond, Neshek was a nasty sidewinding reliever who put together a fine career for the Twins and several other clubs later on.
Off the diamond, Neshek was/is a big-time card collector himself who has a website devoted to the hobby where he interacts with fans and fellow collectors. Likely because of this, Neshek got more attention from Topps than any other middle reliever of his time...more on that below.
Here, Neshek is a few months past helping the 2015 Astros make an improbable run to the postseason. He was signed to a 2Y/$12M deal in December 2014, not bad for a guy who'd settled for a MiLB deal from St. Louis just the year before.
THIS CARD: Through the years, Topps collectors saw Neshek at every point of his distinctive unconventional delivery. This looks like the changeup to me.
From 2007-19, Neshek appeared in Topps or Topps Update annually except 2012. In an era where Neshek's middle relief peers are often overlooked by the company, this is noteworthy, and no doubt a byproduct of his well-publicized affinity for trading cards.
It's the least Topps could do for somebody who did this.
More from Neshek's 2015 season: he went unscored upon over 12 May appearances, and allowed only four of 27 inherited runners to score all season! In the ALDS vs. Kansas City, Neshek faced five batters across two appearances, whiffing two and allowing two hits.
(flip) Neshek didn't play in 2009 due to UCL surgery. He went 23 months between major league appearances.
Toronto's Mark Eichhorn opened the 1991 season with a record 30 walk-free outings.
Neshek's 2015 ERA was a little inflated by a less-than-stellar September. He was at 2.78 at the All-Star Break and 3.04 through August.
AFTER THIS CARD: After the 2016 season, Houston worked out a trade with Philadelphia, who exercised his $6.5M contract option. Neshek appeared in both the 2017 World Baseball Classic and the 2017 All-Star Game...then was traded to the playoff-bound Rockies in July (whch I'd completely forgotten).
The Phillies re-signed Neshek (2Y/$16M) that winter, but he was done in by injuries. In 2018 a forearm strain limited him to 30 games. Then in 2019, days after returning from a shoulder injury, Neshek's hamstring forced him from a June game. He underwent September surgery, had his option declined by the Phillies, and was done at 39 just like that.
As we mentioned, Pat Neshek appeared annually in Topps and/or Topps Update 2007-19, except 2012.
CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps, Houston Astros
7/12/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #728 Steve Frey, Angels
More Steve Frey Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1994 1995
25-year-old Steve Frey was called up to the 1989 Expos when righty Gene Harris was demoted. Frey wasn't all that effective, but in 1990 he emerged as Montreal's top lefty reliever, saving nine games, winning eight others and leading the staff with a 2.10 ERA in 51 games. The good times did not carry over into 1991, however, and the Expos wound up selling Frey to California in Spring Training 1992.
Here, Frey has bounced back with a quality season for the 5th-place 1992 Angels. Despite a rough August that ended with a DL stint (ribcage), Frey's 51 appearances ranked second on the club and he held lefties to a .189 average.
THIS CARD: Frey (pronounced FRY) offers up either his cutter, curve or changeup. Though he racked up plenty of K in the minors, Frey the major leaguer pitched to contact.
This may be Cleveland Stadium; I can't tell for sure and because I'm so behind on TSR updates at the moment, research would be counterproductive.
Frey was able to retain #41 after going from Montreal to California. Of course, longtime Angels fans will always recognize that as ace SP John Lackey's number in the 2000's. Today, RP Junior Guerra has #41.
(flip) Frey was drafted by the Yankees out of something called Bucks County Community College in Lewiston, PA. I could find zero regarding his time there.
After Frey's purchase by California, he was sent to AAA, but the team brought him up two weeks later when lefties Chuck Finley and Scott Bailes were injured.
Three of Frey's four saves in 1992 were converted from 9/16 on. As best as my memory and research indicate, they were situational and Frey was not seriously considered as an alternative to CL Joe Grahe.
AFTER THIS CARD: Frey, ironically, DID emerge as an alternative to Grahe in the first half of 1993 and finished up with a career-high 13 saves! This led to a 2Y/$1.85M deal from my Giants—solid dollars for a pitcher with Frey's resume in the year 1994 (and $150K more than the Angels offered).
Unfortunately, like too many SF pitchers, the now-30-year-old slipped that year.
Frey would split 1995 between the Giants, Mariners and Phillies, compiling 31 total appearances. He matched that workload for the 1996 Phillies and was largely decent except for a six-run outing in July, but Frey's last three professional seasons were spent entirely in AAA (Angels, Red Sox, Rangers systems 1997-99).
Steve Frey appeared annually in Topps 1990-95.
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, California Angels
7/13/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #644 Los Angeles Dodgers Team Card
More Topps Dodgers Team Cards: 2001 2002 2004 2005 2006 2007 2010 2011 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
The 1999 Dodgers seemed to be baseball's most dysfunctional ballclub (much to my satisfaction). But by 2002, the franchise had gotten its act together—on the field if not financially.
In the 2001-02 off-season, the Dodgers' middle-of-the-pack pitching staff watched ace SP Chan Ho Park scamper off to Texas and All-Star CL Jeff Shaw retire. So new GM Dan Evans re-acquired former ace SP Hideo Nomo as well as SP's Kaz Ishii (from Japan) Odalis Perez and Omar Daal to fortify a rotation that was weakened by injuries to Kevin Brown, Andy Ashby and Darren Dreifort in 2001.
Those additions pushed erstwhile SP candidate Eric Gagne into Shaw's old bullpen role...with amazing results; more on that below.
Offensively, losing LF Gary Sheffield in a trade with Atlanta (for OF Brian Jordan) hurt the lineup, but undoubtedly helped the clubhouse. RF Shawn Green came close to repeating his breakout 2001 campaign. C Paul LoDuca did not. New CF Dave Roberts couldn't match the power of predecessor Marquis Grissom, but was an overall upgrade to LA's attack, which ranked 5th in the NL with a .264 average.
Defensively, Los Angeles made just 90 errors, but its 134 double plays ranked next-to-last in the NL despite the emergence of rookie SS Cesar Izturis.
THIS CARD: Can I identify anyone??? Well, I recognize Odalis Perez by his #45 (center of middle row). And I'm pretty sure that's LoDuca to his front left. And...that's all the energy I'm willing to spend on identifying Dodgers.
Topps re-introduced Team Cards in the 2001 set, and many of them featured these obviously airbrushed "walls". From what I understand, this is to obscure personnel who for whatever reason cannot be shown on a baseball card. These "walls" remained a consistent presence on Team Cards through the 2007 Topps set, after which the company shifted to miscellaneous game photos.
More from the 2002 Dodgers season: on 9/2 they beat the D'Backs 19-1, racking up 24 hits in the process. And on 5/7 they outlasted Atlanta 6-5 in 16 innings, thanks in large part to five relief innings by winner Giovani Carrara.
(flip) Never too hot, never too cold, same record home and away...cough BORING cough...
That is right, my Giants edged out the Dodgers over the final weekend and went ALL THE WAY to the World Series! That felt good. Until 2004, anyway.
Gagne went from mediocre starter on the 2001 Dodgers to damn near invincible closer for the 2002 Dodgers. We now know he had a little help, but still.
Green unloaded at Milwaukee 5/23, racking up 18 total bases and driving in seven runs. I may or may not have clapped politely at his achievement.
Chen, a LF, finished his MLB career 2-for-22 across four seasons—all with Los Angeles. With "hot prospects" like that, why were the Dodgers bringing in guys like Roberts and Jordan??? (Hey, when you visit TSR, expect shots to be fired toward Chavez Ravine. It's just who I am.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Los Angeles returned to the postseason in 2004, and I still have difficulty watching the decisive blow. That began a stretch of four postseason berths in six years (under three managers) for the franchise...none advancing further than the NLCS.
Following three ordinary seasons (while my Giants rose to the top), the Dodgers ran off eight straight NL West titles 2013-20, with now-manager Roberts guiding the final five. L.A. fell to the Astros in the 2017 World Series and to the Red Sox in the 2018 World Series—I celebrated both loudly. Of course, extenuating circumstances now surround at least one of those defeats...but still.
Then, much to my chagrin, the 2020 Dodgers added superstar RF Mookie Betts, and damn if he didn't carry them all the way to the championship...puke.
CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
7/15/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #268 Scott Rolen, Phillies
More Scott Rolen Topps Cards: 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2002T 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2008U 2009 2009U 2010 2011 2012
I didn't like Scott Rolen.
There, I said it.
Some guys just rub you the wrong way, in baseball and in life. Rolen was one of those guys for me, and any chance of that changing was effectively squashed when he pouted over his (warranted) benching in the 2006 postseason like a modern day Darryl Strawberry.
But even as a detractor, I can't deny the man was a damn good third baseman for a long time, though it's a travesty he's garnering Hall-of-Fame attention.
Here, Rolen is just getting started in MLB. With Philadelphia going absolutely nowhere, the 21-year-old made his Phillies debut 8/1/1996...and banged out three hits on 8/2/1996!
THIS CARD: Maybe slightly down the barrel a bit, but it's possible Rolen's strength still produced a line drive somewhere.
Topps did well mixing up Rolen's front images through the years. No real redundancy, and there's a good mix of Rolen at-bat, fielding, and even on the basepaths—everything but a posed shot of him unhappy about something.
More from Rolen's 1996 season: he held the distinction of playing both ends of a doubleheader on his first day in the big leagues. He didn't homer until three weeks into his Phillies career, when he went yard twice at Dodger Stadium 8/21.
(flip) Boy, 1996 was a long time ago; I'd completely forgotten Rolen wore #6 as a rookie. As if Rolen doesn't have enough of my contempt—he's wearing the great Ryan Howard's future number. Blasphemy.
Cubs SP Steve Trachsel did Rolen the favor of preserving his ROTY eligibility for 1997; he wound up taking the prize. Which I'd also long forgotten (or purposely blacked out).
Forget Rolen's .361 average and .591 slugging for 1996 Reading (AA); I'm more impressed by his 34 BB to 32 K. Flukish, since Rolen the big leaguer finished with over 500 more K than BB.
AFTER THIS CARD: Rolen had several productive seasons with Philadelphia when not waylaid by injury, and he won three Gold Gloves between 1998 and 2001. But by 2002, his walk year, things weren't rosy between Rolen and the front office—rejecting contracts worth up to $140M can do that—and he was traded to St. Louis that July shortly after making his first All-Star team.
Rolen signed an 8Y/$90M deal in '03 and made the next four All-Star teams; in 2004 he finished 4th in MVP voting as St. Louis returned to the World Series after a 17-year absence. Rolen also added three more Gold Gloves to his trophy case between 2003-06, but a bad shoulder affected, and shortened, his 2007 campaign. Just as well, since he was determined to continue feuding with manager Tony LaRussa.
Traded to the Blue Jays (for 3B Troy Glaus) in January 2008, Rolen continued to scuffle at the plate, but was batting .320 when swapped to the Reds (for 3B Edwin Encarnacion) in July 2009. Though he won a Gold Glove, made the All-Star team and helped Cincinnati back to the playoffs in 2010, Rolen's final two seasons were wrecked by repeated left shoulder injuries/surgery. He then ended his playing career at 37.
Eligible for Cooperstown beginning in 2018, Rolen received 53% of the vote in 2021. Damn, the dude just might reach the necessary 75% someday...ugh.
Scott Rolen appeared annually in Topps 1996-2012. He's also got a 2002 Traded card and 2008-09 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies
7/16/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #53 Mike LaCoss, Giants
More Mike LaCoss Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991
I've previously shared how, during my first year following the Giants, my 10-year-old mind regarded Giants pitchers Scott Garrelts, Don Robinson, Mike LaCoss and Kelly Downs—as pretty much the same guy. None of them stood out for long, they were all repeatedly shuffled between the rotation and bullpen by manager Roger Craig, and none of their repertoires impressed me much.
Well, 41-year-old me knows a lot more about the Giants—if not life—than 10-year-old me, and I can now convincingly declare those four pitchers as not at all "the same guy". Specifically, LaCoss was the nearest thing to a junkballer of the group, the oldest member of the group, and the most-travelled of the group.
Here, LaCoss has enjoyed a quality return from a 1988 season sidetracked by injury. He opened 1989 in relief before moving to the rotation in late June, replacing injured vet Atlee Hammaker and remaining even after Hammaker's return.
THIS CARD: LaCoss's 1989 Topps front image is an all-time classic, in my book and his 1991 front image is pretty cool, too. This one isn't bad, but doesn't stand out at all.
We see LaCoss "firing" his sinker, slider or changeup. For a time he featured a splitter as well, but at some point around 1990 he junked it.
More from LaCoss's 1989 season: he made a pair of three-inning relief outings in a five-day span in early May, allowing a total of one run. On 5/20 LaCoss went the final 3.1 innings for the save at New York NL. Unfortunately, he was not effective in two of his three postseason appearances.
(flip) I knew LaCoss was an Astro and even remembered his brief KC stint, but I always forget he started out in Cincinnati. That 1979 season earned him an All-Star selection.
In that 1979 All-Star Game, LaCoss faced four AL batters and retired three of them. The one who reached, future HOFer Jim Rice, doubled but was erased trying for third base—a crucial mistake late in a close game eventually won by the NL 7-6.
Note LaCoss's one CG in 1989; he beat the Astros on 9/24, throwing a now-whopping 124 pitches in the effort! The win clinched a NL West tie for San Francisco.
AFTER THIS CARD: LaCoss was 6-4, 3.94 in 13 games (12 starts) for the 1990 Giants but missed extensive time after arthroscopic knee surgery. The 35-year-old was wholly ineffective to open 1991, was released by the Giants in early July, and after a brief run with AAA Indianapolis (Expos) in 1992, LaCoss's career ended.
Mike LaCoss appeared annually in Topps 1979-1991. He also shows up in 1982, 1985 and 1986 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, San Francisco Giants
7/18/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #156 Dennis Cook, Mets
More Dennis Cook Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1993 2002 2003
Dennis Cook was originally a Giant, but he was shipped off to Philadelphia in the Steve Bedrosian trade shortly before I devoted myself to the Orange and Black. Nobody really knew what to do with Cook for a while—he was exclusively a starter with the Giants organization, but the Phillies, Dodgers and Indians ping-ponged him between the rotation and the bullpen for years, even when he performed decently.
Finally, the 1994 White Sox left Cook in the bullpen, and he embarked on a lengthy career as a setup man and later, a specialist. Cook was a member of the first-ever Rangers postseason squad in 1996, and his relief work helped Florida win the 1997 World Series.
Here, Cook has completed his third season with the New York Mets. Though his 2000 numbers did not rival those he put up in 1998-99, he found himself in another World Series come October. The veteran allowed eight runners in 2.2 postseason innings, but was somehow not charged with a single run.
THIS CARD: Like many middle relievers, Cook made a triumphant return to Topps in 2001 after disappearing during the Dark Era (1996-2000). In his case, it was a seven-set absence.
You can tell here that Cook didn't use a conventional motion, at least during his middle/later years—I can't recall his early seasons. At times he went full sidearm.
Cook wears the partially obscured #27, which in Mets history is best affiliated with its current wearer, RP Jeurys Familia. Cook was also the last Marlin to wear #42 before its retirement.
(flip) Cook's fifth 1999 win came on 5/2, in his 11th game. I'm willing to bet at the very least that's a Mets record, if not a NL or MLB record.
Check out Cook's excellent line for the 1988 Giants. Somehow he did not receive a base or Traded card in 1989 Topps...interesting.
That trade sent two failed prospects back to the Marlins, who of course didn't care as long as Cook's $850K salary was off their books.
AFTER THIS CARD: Near the 2001 deadline, Cook and fellow RP Turk Wendell were dealt to Philadelphia (for P Bruce Chen and a prospect) but an off-field issue impacted Phillies Stint 2.0. Cook signed with the Anaheim Angels for 2002 and threw well in the first half, but then missed time with a torn labrum; still, he earned his second World Series ring that October. The 40-year-old then headed off into the sunset, owner of a career .264 average with two home runs in 110 AB.
At last check, Cook was coaching in the famed Cape Cod Baseball League.
Dennis Cook appeared in 1990, 1991, 1993 and 2001-03 Topps. Very few cards exist of Cook from the mid-1990's; no major company produced a Cook card with Texas or Florida, although you can find Cook the White Sock in 1995 Fleer.
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, New York Mets
7/19/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #688 Angel Pagan, Giants
More Angel Pagan Topps Cards: 2007U 2008U 2010 2011 2012 2012U 2013 2014 2016 2017
Angel Pagan: the ultimate contradiction! (As far as names go. It's pronounced puh-GONE, btw.)
That was my only real take on Pagan until he became a Met; I didn't see or know much of Pagan during his early days with the mid-00's Cubs. He was traded to the Mets for a pair of failed prospects in January 2008, and by mid-2009 he was playing every day in CF (and sometimes LF) for them. I finally observed Pagan in depth during this period—the man could play.
Pagan enjoyed a very fine 2010 campaign, swatting 11 homers and batting .290 with 37 steals in 151 games. He slipped a bit in 2011—an oblique injury cost him most of May and a head injury caused by his own swing ended his year early—so New York moved the pending free agent to SF in December 2011.
Pagan's performance for the eventual champion 2012 Giants earned him a new 4Y/$40M deal. His walk-off inside-the-park homer vs. Colorado 5/25/13 remains one of THE most thrilling plays I've ever seen...even if the resulting torn hammy benched Pagan for three months. Here, the 33-year-old is coming off a 2014 season to forget—back issues plagued him all year, limiting him to 96 games and keeping him off the postseason roster.
THIS CARD: Well, what do you know? The Randomizer has produced some lengthy COTD Giant droughts over the years, but here we have our second Giant in three selections. TSR apologizes for nothing; the Giants rule (and by extension, so do their players. Well, most of them.)
Using Getty Images—which I will do for every 2011-and-later Topps selection going forward—I confirmed the date of this pic (8/28/14 vs. Colorado) but not the exact play. However, BaseballReference.com allows us to make an educated guess: in the B7th, Pagan singled and was most likely photographed chugging to third on Joe Panik's single.
More from Pagan's 2014 season: he opened the year with a 10-game hit streak. On 9/9 his four hits and three runs helped sink Arizona. And in August, Pagan enjoyed nine multi-hit games.
(flip) Note Pagan's 16 steals in 2014; they covered 15 games, in which San Francisco went 10-5.
In addition to his torrid April 2014, Pagan hit .305 in both May and August of that year.
I never knew Pagan was a Mets draft pick; he was sold to the Cubs in January 2006. San Francisco acquired him for OF Andres Torres and RP Ramon Ramirez...BOTH of whom returned to the Giants as free agents for 2013!
AFTER THIS CARD: Pagan started 122 games for the 2015 Giants, but slugged a career-low .324 and didn't exactly impress with the glove, either. Looking for better defense in CF, the Giants signed FA Denard Span for 2016 after successfully asking Pagan to slide over to LF. The 35-year-old responded with a .277/.331/.418 slashline, a career-high 12 home runs, and this!
That off-season, Pagan suited up for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, but a contract with Baltimore fell through (failed physical). Pagan chose to sit out 2017 for family reasons, but ultimately never returned to MLB. He did almost meet Jesus in 2019, however.
Summary: Pagan may not have been the most popular Giant, but he was a good Giant.
Angel Pagan appeared annually in Topps 2010-17; he's also got 2007, 2008 and 2012 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, San Francisco Giants
7/21/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps Update #64 Alex L. Gonzalez, Reds
More Alex L. Gonzalez Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2006U 2007 2008 2010U 2011 2012 2013
In the late 1990's, there were two quality big league shortstops named Alex Gonzalez. Today we're profiling the younger one who started out with the Florida Marlins.
Like many youngsters, Gonzalez could be an enigma at times, but the dude had a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. He was an All-Star as a 1999 rookie, at age 22 no less, but three seasons of injury and inconsistency followed. Florida stuck by Gonzalez, and he played a direct role in their 2003 World Series championship. One year later, his 23 homers obliterated his previous career high and paced NL shortstops.
After the 2005 season, Gonzalez split from the Marlins and began the journeyman portion of his long career. Here, the 28-year-old has returned to the 2009 Reds after spending 2008 on the disabled list. It took a while for him to get going with the bat, but on 4/25, Gonzalez homered (off Atlanta's Derek Lowe) for the first time in over 20 months.
THIS CARD: Assuming this image was shot in early 2009, odds are it's from the Reds/Pirates series at PNC Park May 1-3, 2009. The runner seems to be #13 Nate McLouth, who played and reached base in all three games of that series. I could try to narrow the image date further on Getty, but nah.
McLouth looks to be ON second base and yet Gonzalez still has time to fire a throw off...well, the 2009 Pirates weren't exactly the 1985 Cardinals, were they? Gonzalez usually turned a good double play; he was good for 100+ during his prime. But by 2009, he was a tad bulky.
More from Gonzalez's early 2009 season: he only hit .190 in April, but did close the month with hits in seven of eight contests. His RBI single off Atlanta's Javier Vazquez 4/24 represented career hit #1,000!
(flip) Gonzalez's "broken knee", a designation unheard by me before or since, was suffered in February 2008. The injury, which was initially diagnosed as a "sore knee", was improving, but Gonzalez suffered a setback and underwent July surgery.
Gonzalez made the 1999 All-Star team as a reserve, receiving one PH at-bat. As far as I can tell, only a couple of selected All-Stars didn't attend, a far cry from this year's group. (True, Ted Williams was at the 1999 All-Star Game. But still.)
Check out Gonzalez's height: it fluctuated throughout his Topps career. Some years he was 5'11", other years he was 6'0" or 6'1". On his first solo Topps common (1999), Gonzalez was listed at just 170 lbs. That didn't take long to change—not a criticism, just an observation.
AFTER THIS CARD: Gonzalez was hitting .210 in August when the Reds swapped him to the Red Sox. From there, he enjoyed a terrific 2010 season split between the Blue Jays and Braves (23 HR, 88 RBI in 157 games) and remained with Atlanta through 2011.
Milwaukee signed Gonzalez (1Y/$4.25M) prior to the 2012 season, but a torn ACL benched him in May. When he returned in 2013, he was used as a 3B/1B by the Crew, who re-signed him for 1Y/$1.45M that February.
The 37-year-old opened 2014 as the Tigers' SS, but poor defense ended that marriage very quickly, as well as Gonzalez's major league career.
Alex L. Gonzalez appeared in Topps annually 1998-2007, and again 2010-13. He's also got 2006, 2009 and 2010 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps Update, Cincinnati Reds
7/22/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #424 Julio Franco, Braves
More Julio Franco Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1989T 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1994T 1995 1997 2003 2006 2007
Whether you perceived him as ancient or ageless, the fact is Julio Franco was an effective major league player at an age when many dudes have completed their playing, coaching and managerial careers.
Franco was a hit machine throughout the mid-80's with Cleveland teams that went nowhere. Eventually he brought his big stick south, punishing the baseball for Texas teams that went nowhere. After the strike-shortened 1994 season, Franco took his talents to the Far East, returning to the now-mighty Indians for 1996 but again leaving MLB after the 1997 season.
Here, Franco has just enjoyed his first extensive major league action in four years. Fresh off a .437/18/90—no typos—showing for Mexico City of the Mexican League in 2001, the Braves signed 40-year-old Franco for September. Used as Atlanta's regular 1B down the stretch, he finished the year just eight RBI short of 1,000 for his career.
THIS CARD: As you can see, Franco the 40-year-old did not often skip workout days. Skillz the 40-year-old had more body fat in his neck than Franco did in his entire person.
Given the gold shirt guy and the gold hat guy in the background, one might suspect the Pirates are visiting Turner Field. But no, Pittsburgh did not play Atlanta during Franco's 2001 stint. Maybe those guys made a wrong turn on the way to PNC Park.
More from Franco's 2001 season: on 10/5, Franco went 3-for-5 with three runs and two RBI in Atlanta's 20-3 crushing of Florida. Two of those hits were off Marlins RP Benito Baez, a lefty who was one year old when Franco began his pro career. Baez never pitched in MLB again.
(flip) As you see, from the end of the 1997 season to September 2001, Franco generated exactly one major league at-bat (a pinch-hit K vs. Anaheim's Mike Magnante 9/22).
A few 2002 Topps reverses recycled the front images. I didn't really mind at the time, and today I'd LOVE for a Topps card to carry any reverse image—recycled or otherwise. It's been 10 years without 'em.
Check out Franco's 1994 season for the White Sox; he was reinvented as a cleanup hitter/run producer that year and threatened to lead the league in RBI for a time. One of my favorite individual seasons.
Franco was not only a 1B in 2001—he took over the regular job from the duo of old Ken Caminiti and young Wes Helms, both of whom were hitting around .220 and playing out of position.
AFTER THIS CARD: Franco remained with Atlanta through 2005, slashing .291/.364/.426 while averaging about 115 games and 300 PA annually.