Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, June 2020
A = Alternate Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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6/30/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #206 Prospects
More 1997 Topps Prospect Cards: n/a
As a Giants fan, I heard a lot about Dante Powell in the 1990's, and most of it was good. The guy had speed for days and could clear a fence or two as well—it was only a matter of time before he called Candlestick Park home. Drafted in 1994, Powell, despite a problem with strikeouts, reached MLB in 1997.
Billy McMillon was drafted by the Marlins during their first season (1993), and within one year was a 100-RBI man for Class A Kane County. What hurt him most: the Marlins had Jeff Conine at McMillon's primary position, left field, as he was wrecking AAA pitching. When all was said and done, McMillon received just 69 AB with Florida.
One has to wonder, when the Tigers drafted Bubba Trammell, if he answered "yes" when asked about being related to Alan Trammell. It's just too much of a coincidence for one Trammell to join the Tigers right after another ends his 20-year career!
Unlike Alan, Bubba was a true slugger, but one publication described his defense as "barely tolerable".
THIS CARD: Good action shots for all three prospects. Only McMillon had major league experience when this card was released, so you see Powell and Trammell in MiLB uniforms. (No MLB experience would prevent Powell and Trammell from appearing in today's Topps sets, although for some reason Luis Robert is being allowed to appear in 2020 Topps prior to his debut. Spring Training must count now.)
Each one of these men's offensive style fits his body type: you have the slim Powell as the speedster, the medium-sized McMillon spraying liners everywhere, and the 6'3" Trammell launching baseballs very far.
I do not think I ever noticed the diamond behind the images before.
(flip) Boy, it's been a long time since the Phoenix Firebirds were the Giants AAA affiliate. (Phoenix became the Tucson Sidewinders upon the birth of the Arizona Diamondbacks.)
Topps could and should have made room for McMillon's MLB stats (.216, 0 HR, 4 RBI in 28 games). By the way, his rookie card can be found in 1991 Topps Traded; it is McMillon the Olympian.
Yes, Trammell was already 25 years old and hadn't debuted for the Tigers yet, even though they essentially stunk. Detroit management couldn't seem to do anything right in the mid-1990's.
As you can see on all three stat lines, SO and AVG is pressed together to form some new stat category, SOAVG.
AFTER THIS CARD: Powell hit .327 over three stints with the Giants, but never got a real unimpeded shot at a full-time job. His pro career ended in 2002.
McMillon was traded to the Phillies for Darren Daulton in 1997, but didn't make any real MLB impact until 2000 with the Tigers (.301 in 46 games). He got some more run with the 2003 A's but faded away in 2004.
Trammell had the best career of the three, lasting seven years and batting .261 with 82 HR, including 25 in 2001 for the Padres. Sadly, he gained notoriety for suddenly leaving the Yankees during the 2003 season due to depression. He never made it back to MLB.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Prospects
More June 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day
6/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps Update #274 Mitch Moreland, Red Sox
More Mitch Moreland Topps Cards: 2010U 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
I know, I know. We just did a Red Sox Mitch Moreland COTD in February. It is too soon for anyone to need a refresher. You have 30,000 Topps cards, Skillz. Pick somebody else!!
Nope. That's not the way it works. Unless it picks a card that doesn't exist or one we've already profiled—which has happened a few times—we must present whatever the Randomizer selects. That's the rule. That's always been the rule. Can't stray from it now just because I, or you, might feel like it's warranted.
Here, Moreland has just joined the BoSox after seven mostly-solid seasons with the Texas Rangers. Boston had just lost DH/1B David Ortiz to retirement and needed some left-handed pop—enter Moreland on a 1Y/$5.5M deal to play primarily against righty starters.
THIS CARD: This is a good break from Moreland's base set front images, which from 2016-19 were almost identical save for varied uniforms. Moreland comes in hard to the plate vs. what is either a Chicago Cub or...another team. Boston did host the Cubbies in late April 2017, so we may be right.
Update: Per Getty Images, this photo was taken 4/29/17, and Miguel Montero is the Cubs catcher. Moreland, attempting to score on a Jackie Bradley single, was indeed safe on the play, but Boston eventually lost 7-4.
I can't figure out why, on 4/29, there is so much green at a Cubs/Red Sox game. (There's even more if you see the full photo.)
(flip) Moreland doubled in each game between April 7-13 (albeit with just one RBI). He finished with 12 that month, which had he maintained the pace would have easily broken Earl Webb's record of 67 in a season.
Oh, that's right. Beginning in 2017 Topps and lasting through 2018 Topps, complete stats weren't shown anymore. Despite that, I ended up liking 2017 Topps very much, much to my own surprise.
I don't know when he opened it, but Moreland does have an Instagram account (@mitch_moreland18). There exists an unverified Twitter account with his name and images, but it is unused. (And again, unverified.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Moreland ripped 22 HR for the second straight year in 2017 (and made his second career pitching appearance), re-upped with Boston for 2Y/$13M, and made the 2018 All-Star team after a fine first half.
But he slumped badly in the second half of '18 and gained a few splinters because of it. Then quad and back injuries interrupted Moreland's 2019 season; he played well enough when healthy (career-high .507 SLG).
Mitch Moreland has appeared annually in Topps since 2011. He's got 2010 and (this) 2017 Update cards as well.
CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps Update, Boston Red Sox
6/4/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #339 Jim Leyland, Tigers
More Jim Leyland Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 2006 2007 2008 2010
Jim Leyland was one of the most respected managers of his time (and Barry Bonds's legitimate favorite, in spite of their infamous Spring Training clash). His teams made eight postseasons, won three pennants, and won the 1997 World Series. So far, that hasn't been enough to get him into the Hall of Fame, but if The Powers That Be ever got so s---faced they awarded me a vote, Leyland would have it—when management gave him a chance, his squads were always right there.
Here, Leyland has just wrapped up his third season running the Tigers after a six-year baseball layoff. Detroit lost their first seven before climbing to 52-49 on July 23, but skidded to a 22-39 finish.
THIS CARD: Love this card. Anytime Topps captures managers doing anything besides just standing there, it's a treat for me...don't ask why and don't judge, either. Hopefully, Leyland is trying to hit a fly ball because he seems to have gotten under this one.
Leyland does have experience swinging a bat. He caught in the minors 1964-1970, but a .222 average with little power kept him from ever reaching MLB.
This is Leyland's second COTD appearance; we presented his (shared) 1993 Topps card back in March 2018.
More from Leyland's 2008 season: the Tigers entered '08 with a then-huge $130M payroll and plenty of expectations after importing 3B/1B Miguel Cabrera and SP Dontrelle Willis over the winter. But Willis never won a game, CL Todd Jones was ineffective, then injured, DH Gary Sheffield missed 48 games and hit just .225, and C Ivan Rodriguez was traded in July. Plus, comments from ex-Tiger Jason Grilli earned Leyland's ire.
In the end, the 2008 Tigers placed last in the AL Central.
(flip) Those 2006 Tigers were the best team in the league for much of the year, but ultimately backed into a wild-card berth. To the chagrin of old-school purists, Detroit still reached the World Series, but fell to the Cardinals.
Leyland won Manager of the Year awards in 1990, 1992 and 2006. He never got enough credit for guiding the parade of high-priced egos on the '97 Marlins to a championship.
By the time he retired after the '13 season, Leyland had upped those Tiger and MLB win percentages to .540 and .506 respectively.
AFTER THIS CARD: Leyland's Tigers did eventually return to contention—they just missed the '09 playoffs after losing Game 163 to Minnesota (one of the best games ever, no joke), but then won the AL Central 2011-13 and reached the 2012 World Series (losing to my Giants).
Following a tough ALCS loss to Boston in 2013, Leyland stepped down from managing at age 68, finishing his Tigers career with exactly 700 regular-season wins. He returned to the dugout in 2017, guiding Team USA to the World Baseball Classic title. His #10 has not been reissued by Detroit.
Jim Leyland graced Topps annually as Pirates manager 1987-93, then returned as Tigers manager 2006-09 and sort of again in 2010, on the Tigers team card.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Detroit Tigers
6/6/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #132 Will Venable, Padres
More Will Venable Topps Cards: 2009 2010 2011 2013 2014 2015
Second-generation big leaguer Will Venable (whose papa Max carved out a 12-season career 1979-91) was a solid, but inconsistent outfielder for the 2010's Padres who was used extensively at all three outfield posts. He never really had his own position for any sustained length of time, but still averaged over 400 AB for San Diego over a five-year stretch.
Venable premiered in MLB as the Padres' regular CF over the final month of 2008. Though he held his own, he opened '09 in AAA; Venable returned in June looking like a potential star at times. The Princeton grad made the '10 Padres opening roster, but started slow and never really got hot until mid-September; Venable finished at .245 in 131 games.
Here, Venable has completed his fourth major-league season, which was very similar statistically to his third major-league season. Venable started 85 times across the outfield, but his cold bat led to a two-week demotion to AAA in late May.
THIS CARD: A great look at Venable's swing. When he was going good it was pretty to watch, and rather productive. When he wasn't...
San Diego introduced this camouflage alternate in 2011 and wore it through 2015, according to SportsLogos.net.
The Padres went through too many logos last decade. I'd forgotten about this one, largely because they still wore uniforms matching the previous one.
(flip) Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs had potential home runs robbed; the Ramirez catch can be seen here. (Venable's grabs were huge in a tight game won by SD 3-0.)
Venable smoked leadoff blasts on 6/22, 7/20, 8/21, 9/3 and 9/7/2011. All but one aided a Padre victory; Venable teased with his offensive skillz like this all the time.
Among major leaguers, Venable's 89.6 (26 of 29) SB percentage ranked 4th behind Craig Gentry, Gerardo Parra and Tony Campana.
AFTER THIS CARD: After again playing part-time in 2012, Venable enjoyed a career year in 2013, starting 120 times and ripping 22 HR to go with 22 SB; San Diego rewarded him with a 2Y/$8.5M extension that winter.
However, Venable's numbers again dipped in 2014, and he was pushed into a reserve role for 2015 before being traded to Texas in August. A series of minor league deals followed (from Cleveland, Philadelphia and the Dodgers, all in 2016) but Venable's 18 AB with the 2016 Dodgers would be his last in MLB.
In 2017, Venable became a Special Assistant to Cubs prez Theo Epstein; he has coached first base and, later, third base for the team in ensuing seasons.
Will Venable appeared annually in Topps 2009-15.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, San Diego Padres
6/8/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #330 Kenny Baugh, Tigers Draft Pick
More Kenny Baugh Topps Cards: n/a
Baugh was pretty hot stuff once upon a time, boasting a 37-6 record over the 1999-2001 seasons for Rice University. Those numbers elevated him from the #70 pick he'd been out of high school (by the Devil Rays) to the 11th overall pick by the Tigers in 2001.
THIS CARD: On its own, this isn't a bad front image. Problem is, 2001 Topps Traded used an almost identical front image for Baugh. I don't think he's using a particular pitch grip here, but what do I know.
Hopefully when Baugh threw real pitches, he carried a livelier expression. If a dude pitched to me all expressionless like that, I'd be spooked and rendered unable to swing.
More from Baugh's first pro dip: he was 3-4, 2.24 at two minors levels in 2001. He struck out 69 in 64 innings, thanks in part to 95-MPH heat.
(flip) Beaumont is located about 87 miles east of Houston, near the Louisiana border.
Checking out those numbers for Rice, you wonder how Baugh lasted til the 11th pick. Of course, Joe Mauer, Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira were on the board, too.
Behind Baugh's prized right arm, Rice finished first in their conference all four years he played there, reaching the 1999 College World Series.
Some of that legalese seems redundant. It could probably be condensed into three lines rather than five.
AFTER THIS CARD: Baugh underwent labrum surgery and missed the 2002 season. By 2005, he'd recovered to go 12-8, 3.38 for IL champion Toledo (AAA), but the Tigers moved him to San Diego, who then moved him to Florida that winter. Injuries kept Baugh off the field in '06 as well; he bounced between the Independent League and AA Corpus Christi (Astros) 2007-09, after which he faded from pro baseball.
Kenny Baugh debuted in 2001 Topps Traded & Rookies, then appeared in 2002 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Draft Picks
6/10/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #316 R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays
More R.A. Dickey Topps Cards: 2005 2011 2012 2013 2013A 2014 2016 2017
Knuckleballing Robert Allen Dickey did not become a consistent, reliable MLB pitcher until he was 35. Still, he was able to put together several solid years with the Mets and Blue Jays, even winning a Cy Young Award and securing what ended up as a $37M contract.
Dickey first reached MLB in 2001 with Texas, who'd drafted him 18th overall in 1996 (read about how a photo cost Dickey a lot of draft cash.) He was not a true knuckleballer in those days, but after unsuccessful trials with the Rangers 2003-05, Dickey turned to the specialty pitch in '06.
It still took time for him to find solid MLB footing but by 2010, he was an 11-game winner for the Mets. Two years later, Dickey's knuckler really danced as he won 20 games and led the NL in a number of categories—the 37-year-old walked away with the Cy that year. New York would not pony up the contract extension Dickey now sought, however, and moved him to a team that would: the Toronto Blue Jays.
Here, Dickey has completed his second year north of the border. Now more of a workhorse than an ace, Dickey led the league in starts for the second year in a row, and saved his best for last (4-1, 2.48, .171 BAA in September).
THIS CARD: You get one guess to figure out what Dickey is throwing here. (Dickey would mix in a fastball here and there to surprise the hitters.)
Dickey could be firing at Detroit's Comerica Park, where he pitched and won 6/4/14.
I love 2015 Topps fronts. After designing 2013-14 sets that to this day I still confuse for each other, the company obviously realized a drastic change in appearance was needed for 2015. This is a distinctive-looking set; there is no mistaking it for any other. Period.
(flip) I'm stunned that Dickey threw a shutout in 2003. He was not good in those days.
Dickey landed with the Mariners in '08 as a Rule V pick from Minnesota; I'd explain all the ping-ponging he did between those two organizations from November 2007 to March 2008, IF I could do so without confusing you (and myself).
That Trade With Mets brought C John Buck and (then-prospects) C Travis d'Arnaud and SP Noah Syndergaard—yes, that one—to New York. Dickey's catcher Josh Thole accompanied him to Toronto in the deal.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2015-16, Dickey slipped to an ordinary 21-26 for Toronto; he was hammered in the '15 ALCS and left off the '16 ALCS roster (at least the Jays exercised his '16 option for $12M, though.) Now 42, Dickey signed a 1Y/$7.5M deal with the 2017 Braves and finished 10-10, 4.26. He did not pitch again.
R.A. Dickey debuted in 2005 Topps, went AWOL for five sets, then appeared annually 2011-17 (including twice in 2013).
CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays
6/12/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #239 Mike Boddicker, Royals
More Mike Boddicker Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992
He didn't throw hard at all, and one opponent described his repertoire as "Little League slop". But Mike Boddicker had command, guts and a "foshball", which turned out to be all he needed to shine for the 1980's Orioles and 1990 Red Sox.
Boddicker was a 16-game winner as a 1983 rookie, and also won in the ALCS and World Series! One year later, he was a 20-game winner, ERA champ and All-Star. That proved to be Boddicker's peak, though he continued to be a double-digit winner and workhorse through decade's turn.
Famously, in mid-1988, the Red Sox traded prospects (and future All-Stars) Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling to land pending free agent Boddicker, who went 7-3 down the stretch, re-upped for two years, and won 32 times for the Sox 1989-90. Then the Royals came calling, nabbing Boddicker for 3Y/$9M in November 1990.
Here, Boddicker has completed the second of those years in Kansas City. While the first one went okay, Year Two saw the 35-year-old demoted to swingman.
THIS CARD: It's surprising to find Boddicker in this set; even in the 1990's pitchers with his numbers —especially aging ones—often got lost in the Topps shuffle. Almost no chance he would have made it into a modern set as a long reliever/spot starter.
Boddicker wears #52, as did 1999 Royal Mark Quinn during his impressive MLB debut month. Onetime KC semi-ace Bruce Chen had #52 from 2009-14.
More from Boddicker's 1992 season: he peaked in his very first game, throwing 7.1 innings at Seattle 4/12 but losing 2-1. He made one more start before being shifted to relief.
(flip) You imagine an ex-college third baseman might swing a decent stick in the pros. Boddicker had one pro at-bat, for 1982 Rochester (AAA), and smacked a two-run double.
I salivate over those CG and SHO numbers that will never be seen again in MLB, at least not until the current analytics craze is over.
Boddicker's three saves in 1992 lasted four, three and four innings. The three-inning save "protected" a seven-run lead at Baltimore, of all places.
AFTER THIS CARD: Little. The Royals sold Boddicker to the Brewers in April '93; the veteran posted a 5.67 ERA in 10 Milwaukee starts, then announced his retirement mid-season. He was later elected to the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame.
Mike Boddicker debuted in 1981 Topps on a shared Orioles prospects card, then appeared annually 1984-1993. He's also got a 1991 Traded card as a new Royal.
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Kansas City Royals
6/14/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #315 Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers
More Hiroki Kuroda Topps Cards: 2008 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Kuroda was an excellent starter for the Hiroshima Carp of the Japan League 1997-2007, but decided at age 33 to take his talents to SoCal (despite strong pursuit from the Mariners and Royals). Kuroda joined the 2008 Dodgers and took immediately to MLB, throwing seven innings of one-run ball at San Diego in his debut and—save for a sore shoulder in June—never looking back.
THIS CARD: Good capture of Kuroda mid-motion. If you never saw him pitch, know that said motion carried a little hitch, just enough to throw off timing of opposing hitters. At least, that's what the results indicate.
Kuroda is firing off either his low-mid-90's fastball, sinker, mid-80's slider, or tough splitter.
I can't readily identify the road ballpark Kuroda is working at (I suspect Petco Park or Angels Stadium), but I can tell you he was only 3-8 away from Dodger Stadium in 2008 despite a 3.78 ERA.
(flip) Owchinko held the Dodgers perfectly through 7.1 IP on 7/16/77, ultimately losing 1-0. Hershiser was perfect vs. the Reds through 7.2 on 7/29/84; he would win 1-0.
Kuroda allowed a leadoff double to Atlanta's Mark Teixeira in the 8th to spoil his own perfection bid, but still won 3-0.
I'm not going to delve into Kuroda's lifetime opponent OPS by count. Sorry.
AFTER THIS CARD: Following a challenging 2009 during which he missed over two months (oblique, concussion from line drive to the head), Kuroda settled in to become one of the game's most dependable starters over the next five years. He made between 31 and 33 starts each year, throwing no less than 196 innings annually.
Following a 13-16, 3.07 2011 season, Kuroda hit free agency again and signed three consecutive one-year deals with the New York Yankees (worth a sum of $41M). Though he won neither game, Kuroda gave New York two strong 2012 postseason starts after a 16-win regular season.
Kuroda finished his MLB career with back-to-back 11-win campaigns for the Yankees 2013-14, leading the club in innings (by a mile) and K in 2014. He decided to return to Japan for 2015, pitching two more seasons there before retiring at 41.
Hiroki Kuroda appeared annually in Topps 2008-14.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
6/16/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #303 Ryan McGuire, Expos
More Ryan McGuire Topps Cards: 1994 1998 2000
Ryan McGuire was a big deal at UCLA in the early 1990's, making a first and a third team All-American and being elected to their Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003. However, his major league career was brief and nondescript.
Though drafted #3 by Boston in '93, it was with the Expos that McGuire got the majority of his major league run. Here, the 26-year-old has found his way into a career-high 130 games for the 1998 Expos, even though his offensive numbers didn't really warrant it.
THIS CARD: For whatever reason, Topps seemed to be fond of Ryan McGuire. Despite being a reserve with unimpressive stats on a bad team, the company made room for him in three "Dark Era" sets. Between 1996-2000 (the Dark Era of Topps) almost nobody received a Topps common unless they played regularly, were a starting or closing pitcher, or a top prospect. Yet McGuire broke through three times! Lucky him.
With the angle and design of this card, McGuire looks like the smallest first baseman in the major leagues, even though he is 6'2". Montreal often used him as a defensive replacement at first for Brad Fullmer.
If I had to wager, I'd guess Three Rivers Stadium as the ballpark, except that turf looks too real. Perhaps it's Bush Stadium II, which had switched to grass by 1998.
(flip) As you can see, it was a rough offensive 1998 season for McGuire. He did go 2-for-3 with a BB and HR vs. the Astros on 5/20.
McGuire singled vs. Arizona's Russ Springer 5/2, and walked vs. Cincinnati's Stan Belinda 5/5 for those walk-off victories.
McGuire wears #6, which he switched to from #9 for some reason. Brad Wilkerson was a notable Expo who later claimed #6.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 1999, 27-year-old McGuire did improve upon his dismal '98. Still, Montreal let him go after that season.
McGuire got in one game with the 2000 Mets and 48 with the 2001 Marlins. When David Segui got hurt in May 2002, Baltimore called up McGuire for 17 games, but because he "boasted" a cumulative .146 average from 2000-02, there would be no further MLB run (minors deals with the '03 Yankees and Twins led nowhere).
Ryan McGuire debuted in 1994 Topps as a Red Sox draft pick, then appeared in the 1998-2000 sets with Montreal.
CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Montreal Expos
6/18/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #533 Kyle McClellan, Cardinals
More Kyle McClellan Topps Cards: 2012U 2013 2013U
Kyle McClellan was a force out of the 2008-10 Cardinals bullpen, but he traveled a bumpy road to get there. A former minor league starter, McClellan—a #25 pick in '02—was buried for three years in Class A, then underwent two arm surgeries while on the farms (including the dreaded Tommy John.) But he worked his way back and won a job in the '08 Cardinals bullpen. Did we mention McClellan was from St. Louis?
THIS CARD: Either McClellan's hand is way too big for that glove, or that glove isn't on properly.
This man really looks like he doesn't want to be wasting his time taking photos, but being a rookie, he's forcing himself to tolerate it.
That looks more like a heartbeat monitor than a human signature.
(flip) That other arm surgery? His ulnar nerve needed transposing. We've all been there.
Only one other player from McClellan's draft round reached MLB, and that was as a Rule V draft pick (RP Jay Marshall).
Following his debut, McClellan gave up runs in two of his next three games, but closed that month with 11 straight scoreless innings over eight outings.
McClellan is listed as 6'4" on this card, but by his 2013 Topps card had shrunken down to 6'2".
AFTER THIS CARD: As we mentioned, McClellan relieved for the Cardinals through 2010; in Spring Training 2011 he was elevated to starting in an effort to fill injured Adam Wainwright's void. McClellan did surprisingly well at the outset, but injured his hip entering June and was not the same afterward. He returned to relieving upon SP Edwin Jackson's acquisition.
In 2012, McClellan underwent labrum surgery and was released at year's end. He hooked up with Texas on a MiLB deal and was called up in June 2013, but didn't impress. The following year, McClellan announced his retirement at age 30.
Kyle McClellan appeared in 2008 and 2013 Topps, as well as 2012 and 2013 Topps Update (the latter as a Ranger).
CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals
6/20/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #321 Sandy Martinez, Blue Jays
More Angel/Sandy Martinez Topps Cards: 1995 1997
Once Carlos Delgado reached the majors (and converted to LF), Sandy Martinez became the top catching prospect in Toronto's system, though at the time he was known by his first name Angel.
Martinez wasn't a superstar-in-the-making like Delgado had been, but he threw the ball exceptionally well. With longtime Jays C Pat Borders departed after the '94 season, Toronto had no clear-cut #1 behind the plate; Martinez was called up from AA in June 1995 for a long audition. He split time with 39-year-old Lance Parrish and nondescript Randy Knorr to finish the season.
THIS CARD: Martinez appears to be running from home to first, and if he is, that means he A) batted without gloves, or B) paused to remove them before running. A seems more likely.
1996 Topps has an underrated design that should have, but did not crack the Top 25 all-time design ranking done by MLB.com's Cut 4 in 2019. 1996 was the beginning of the Dark Era for Topps, of course, and much like Season 10 of The Simpsons, die-hards often deny its existence.
This could be Yankee Stadium based on the seat and dugout color, but I cannot be 100% sure.
(flip) See? No gloves; just a wristband.
Told you the guy could throw. Lifetime in MLB, Martinez erased 33% of enemy basestealers.
Martinez wears #53; no other Jay of note besides Melky Cabrera (2013-14) has shared those digits. (Martinez switched to #35 in 1996.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Martinez seemed set to play more in '96, but journeyman Charlie O'Brien emerged. Then Toronto signed FA Benito Santiago to catch in '97, pretty much finishing Martinez as a Blue Jay. He got MLB run with the Cubs, Marlins, Expos, Indians and Red Sox through 2004 and was behind the plate for Kerry Wood's infamous 20-K game in '98.
Today, Martinez manages in the Dominican Summer League (DSL).
Angel/Sandy Martinez appeared in 1995-97 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays
6/22/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps #631 Houston Astros Team Card
More Houston Astros Topps Team Cards: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2010 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
The 2010 Astros were on pace to be historically awful. No Houston team to that point had lost 100 games, but after May 2010, the Astros stood at 17-34, putting them on a 54-108 pace. Changes were made, including the release of 2B Kaz Matsui, who'd been an Astro since 2008, and the benching of veteran 3B Pedro Feliz for young Chris Johnson.
The changes paid dividends. Houston—guided by rookie manager Brad Mills—finished at or above .500 each month for the rest of the season despite trading away longtime stars Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt. Late in the year, the Astros pulled to within four games of .500 overall but slumped and finished at 76-86.
Brett Myers set a record by making 32 straight starts of 6+ innings, while Johnson hit .308 and slugged .481 in 89 starts. On the flip side, star LF Carlos Lee's average fell 54 points, and rookie SS Tommy Manzella hit .225 in 83 games and never played MLB again.
THIS CARD: Michael Bourn is flanked by Carlos Lee #45 and high-fiving Hunter Pence.
Yes, you bandwagon Astro fans, this is how their uniforms and logo used to look. Was it pretty? Not exactly, but it grew on you.
The LF scoreboard shows Detroit visiting the Yankees. New York hosted Detroit from 8/16-8/19/2010, so this pic is from one of those dates. (Now that's detective work.)
(flip) Steve Barber was a two-time All-Star SP for the 1960's Orioles, who primarily relieved for several other clubs in the second half of his 15-year career. Barber was a 20-game winner in '63.
It would take more research than I'm willing to do to confirm if Norris's record still stands. I can tell you Gerrit Cole whiffed 15 at MMP in a 2019 postseason game.
It irks me when Topps mentions a player not included in its set. Wilton Lopez was a full-time reliever for years and never appeared in a Topps set.
AFTER THIS CARD: Houston did finally lose 100 games in 2011...and 2012...and 2013, as new GM Jeff Luhnow embraced a total bottoming-out to score high draft picks. Eventually, despite two of the most notable draft busts in history, the Astros—now in the American League—rose to the top of the standings. In fact, they won the 2017 World Series and reached the 2019 World Series.
But they had illegal help with that 2017 championship, it was revealed in 2020. Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended from MLB, then fired from the Astros in the fallout. Since many of the players involved with the cheating remain Astros, the team faced heavy backlash from opposing fans, and even some opponents, throughout Spring 2020.
It will take years to un-tarnish Houston's reputation.
CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps, Houston Astros
6/24/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #335 Claudell Washington, Yankees
More Claudell Washington Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1989T 1990
We break from the standard TSR Card Of The Day selection process in memory of Washington, a longtime big league outfielder who passed away 6/10/20. Washington is best remembered for his early days with the mid-70's Oakland A's before going on to several solid years with the Atlanta Braves in the 1980's.
In the majors at 19, Washington was an All-Star at 20 for the Athletics. But at 21, he was a disappointment and soon on the move to Texas, the first of seven times Washington would swap uniforms over his 17-year career.
After stints with the White Sox and Mets (where he became just the third man with a three-homer game in both leagues), Washington landed with the Atlanta Braves in 1981, settling in as their primary RF after signing a very lucrative (for the times) 5Y/$3.5M deal.
In '84, he returned to the All-Star team, finishing the year with a career-high 17 home runs. But the next year, he was implicated in the Pittsburgh drug scandal, only avoiding a 60-day suspension by agreeing to some terms.
After re-signing Washington for '86, the Braves swapped him to the Yankees that June; here, we catch up with him after his first full year in The Bronx. Now a part-timer, the 32-year-old started 70 times in 1987 and hit a shocking .361 vs. LHP, nearly 100 points over his career average.
THIS CARD: Very good action shot of a Washington follow-through. Say what you will about Washington's production versus his talent—the guy had a nice swing.
I've said this before on a prior 1988 Topps COTD: what the hell is yellow doing on a Yankees card?
Washington is taking his cut at Yankee Stadium, where he hit .299 in 1987 compared to .262 on the road. For his career, CW hit .303 in 171 games at the stadium, among his highest at any park.
(flip) Since this card omits "This Way To The Clubhouse", I'll tell you that trade sent OF Ken Griffey, Sr., who was disenchanted with his use by the Yankees, and SS Andre Robertson to the Braves. Washington and IF Paul Zuvella went north.
Check out Washington's 1983 stat line; he was striking out 100 times with fewer than 10 home runs before it was in vogue.
"SGND"? Look at all the space remaining on that line!
AFTER THIS CARD: Despite tying his career-high with a .308 average, hitting two walk-off HR in three days (including an 18th-inning shot) and belting the 10,000th HR in Yankee history in 1988, New York allowed Washington to walk to the Angels (3Y/$2.6M) in January 1989. He only lasted 16 months there before being moved back to the Yankees (for OF Luis Polonia).
Now 36, Washington only managed a combined .167 average in 1990. The Yankees released him in October, and he never resurfaced in MLB.
Claudell Washington appeared annually in Topps 1975-1990, and in 1981, 1986 and 1989 Topps Traded.
6/26/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps #168 Nathan Eovaldi, Yankees
More Nathan Eovaldi Topps Cards: 2012 2012U 2013 2014 2015 2015U 2017 2018U 2019U
In August 2011, Eovaldi was called up by the Dodgers to replace injured Rubby de la Rosa in their rotation. Eovaldi won his debut, but went winless in five (mostly quality) subsequent starts.
The following July, the Dodgers sent Eovaldi to Miami in the Hanley Ramirez trade. In '13, Eovaldi threw to a 3.39 ERA, though he won just four of 18 starts. In '14, he fell just shy of 200 IP, but saw his ERA climb nearly a full run. Miami moved the 24-year-old to the Yankees in a five-player deal that December.
Here, Eovaldi has completed a so-so debut season in New York. His record sparkled (14-3), but he posted a 1.45 WHIP and missed most of September with elbow inflammation.
THIS CARD: All of Eovaldi's Topps front images show him mid-motion. He prepares to fire either his high-90s fastball, curve, slider, or the new splitter he picked up in late 2014.
We haven't had many 2016 Topps COTD lately, so I'll re-explain the ASG logo: I had an opportunity to nab this set for about half its actual value, provided I could live with the stamp—which appears on all 700 cards in 2016 Topps.
Today...I wish I'd paid regular value for a stamp-free set.
The more time passes, the more I'm annoyed by the partially-obscured team logos on the fronts of 2016 Topps. That logo background should have stretched all the way to the corner.
(flip) Eovaldi's .824 percentage led runner-up David Price of Detroit/Toronto by 41 points.
I have never seen the term "moundsman" in print before, or heard it spoken out loud.
That complete Trade With Marlins sent Eovaldi, 1B/OF Garrett Jones and then-prospect Domingo German to the Yankees, while IF Martin Prado, P David Phelps, and $6M headed south.
AFTER THIS CARD: Eovaldi's 2016 season kicked off well enough (6-2, 3.71, five straight starts won in May), but he slumped and eventually underwent his second UCL operation that August (his first was in high school). Released by the Yankees in November 2016, Eovaldi signed with Tampa in February 2017, but didn't play that year as he recovered from the surgery.
Finally, in May 2018, Eovaldi returned, firing six no-hit innings against Oakland. Tampa flipped him to Boston near the deadline; Eovaldi won twice that postseason and threw six relief innings in World Series Game 3! Boston won it all, and rewarded Eovaldi with a 4Y/$68M deal that winter. Elbow problems derailed his 2019 season (5.99 ERA).
Nathan Eovaldi has appeared annually in Topps 2012-17, and in 2012, 2015, 2018 and 2019 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps, New York Yankees
6/28/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #380 Vladimir Guerrero Sr., Angels
More Vladimir Guerrero Sr. Topps Cards: 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2011U
Even with one free agent foot out the door, and even with his franchise just about out to pasture, Vlad Guerrero played hard and played well in 2003 when not sidelined for two months with a herniated disk. The injury pretty much nullified any shot Montreal had at getting something for Guerrero in a trade, but at least with Vlad's help they were able to finish with a winning record (83-79).
THIS CARD: You would be smiling too, if you just landed a 5Y/$70M deal. It wouldn't shock me to know this pic was taken immediately following the contract signing.
Reports of this photo being snapped inside a cave are unconfirmed.
Between Guerrero and Mike Trout, #27 has brought good fortune to the Angels since 2004. Interesting, since except for Darin Erstad's first three seasons, nothing but scrubs and has-beens wore #27 from the Angels' inception.
"Anaheim" Angels and that logo just seems off today.
(flip) Frank wasn't exaggerating; you may know Guerrero once singled off a bounced pitch.
On the front, last names are in all caps, but on the reverse they're not. Never really noticed before.
Guerrero's .330 average in 2003 would have ranked T4th in the NL had he enough PA to qualify. (No surprise he hurt his back, given how frikkin' HARD the guy swung.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Guerrero promptly won league MVP in Year One as an Angel, and continued to mash throughout the duration of his contract, which was extended for a sixth year (2009). He was unable to lead Anaheim/Los Angeles back to the Fall Classic, however, and was allowed to walk after an injury-plagued 2009 season.
Texas picked up the 34-year-old for 2010; he gave the Rangers .300, 29, 115 in 152 games, but after DH'ing all year, Guerrero's brutal defense got him benched in the World Series. Baltimore—who unsuccessfully pursued free agent Guerrero in 2003—made him the latest addition to their overhauled 2011 lineup (1Y/$8M).
Guerrero was fairly ordinary as an Oriole, however, and could only secure a minors deal for 2012 from Toronto that winter. Bad Vlad didn't last long there, got no other offers, and wound up officially retiring in 2014. Four years later, Guerrero entered the Baseball Hall of Fame. One year after that, Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero Jr. emerged.
Vladimir Guerrero Sr. appeared annually in Topps 1996-2011. He's also got a 2011 Topps Update card as a brand new Oriole. (Guerrero sort of appears in the 2012 Topps set, on a record-breaker/checklist card.)
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Anaheim Angels