Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, June 2016
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6/26/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps Update #330 Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners
More Ken Griffey Jr. Topps Cards: 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
When I heard the (sudden) news that Griffey was hanging up his spikes in June 2010, I honestly felt tears coming on. Not because of particular love or devotion for Junior (I did like him, but he wasn't my idol or anything), but because I'd convinced myself that as long as Griffey was around...my childhood lived on. He was 20 when 10-year-old me became a baseball fan, and it didn't seem he'd ever grow old.
But he did, and when his career ended, so did said childhood—I had to now officially "grow up" at age 30. And that stirred up some internal emotions. It happened again the next year when Shaquille O'Neal retired from the NBA. Hey—I never claimed to be all there, people.
From 1993-1999, the Mariners CF simply dominated the game of baseball. Griffey gave us numerous iconic moments—for goodness sake, the guy hit back-to-back homers with his dad—and he played with charisma matched by few.
Then he more-or-less forced a trade to the Reds, had one okay (for him) season, then fell apart physically; Junior missed 331 games 2001-04 with one catastrophic injury after the other, totaling 63 home runs in that stretch—quite a drop for a guy with two individual 56-homer seasons on his resume.
From 2005-2007, Griffey stayed relatively (but not fully) healthy. While his mean .278/31/86 in those years didn't approach his Seattle standard, it moved him closer to the 600-HR club. Two months after joining said club in 2008, Griffey was dealt to the White Sox (who moved him back to CF after 180 straight starts in RF with the Reds).
Here, a week or so into 2009 Spring Training, Griffey has decided to bring his career full-circle and return to the Mariners, who were competing with the Atlanta Braves for his services.
THIS CARD: Griffey, visibly beefier here than in his first Seattle stint, also has a base card with the White Sox in this set. Topps lists him as an OF evidently out of habit, since over 90% of his 2009 run came at DH—though he did start eight times in left field. I didn't personally witness this, or I'd have assumed my TV was broken.
The Oakland Coliseum, with its acres of foul ground, is one of the game's easiest parks to identify on a baseball card.
Not 200% positive, but this could be our first final card of a set chosen for COTD...hooray.
(flip) Lifetime, Griffey's top SLGA (20 PA) was Rolando Arrojo (1.433 in 22 PA), who was done after 2002 and hence not listed on this card. Tomko—once traded for Griffey—managed to drop his SLGA to .700, while Penny's fell to .722; Junior never again faced the others after this card. (Shout-out to baseballreference.com.)
Griffey had at least three other "homes" on his Topps cards over the years. (Issaquah, WA was my favorite.) I wonder if this was to throw off overzealous fans, or if he just rotated one of his many homes for Topps use.
AFTER THIS CARD: Not a whole lot. Many thought '09 would be Griffey's swan song in MLB—although he never publicly indicated such, it seemed appropriate given his age (turned 40 that November) and on-field decline. (.214 average in 2009)
Somewhat stunningly, Junior was brought back for 2010, but had absolutely nothing left at that point (.184, 0 home runs in 33 games) and by late May, wasn't playing. Unwilling to be a further distraction, the former superstar called it quits June 2 via statement—just one of many low points for the 2010 Mariners. Griffey finished with 630 roundtrippers, but we'll forever wonder how many he would have hit given better health—he lost well over three full seasons worth of games on the disabled list.
In January 2016, Griffey fell three votes short of becoming the Hall of Fame's first unanimous electee. He will wear a (forward-facing) Mariners hat on his plaque come his July 24, 2016 induction.
Ken Griffey, Jr. appeared in Topps annually 1989-2010 (the 1989 is from Topps Traded).
6/21/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #432 Damion Easley, Tigers
More Damion Easley Topps Cards: 1993 1994 1995 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2007 2008
Often times, teams—specifically GM's—are hesitant to give up on top draft picks who aren't cutting it in the majors for whatever reason.
They fear the kid will "figure it out" in a new uniform and make the GM look bad on two fronts: not giving him enough of a chance, and not having the proper staff in place to guide/teach him. Think Jackie Bradley as a guy who finally rewarded his original team's patience. Think Jake Arrieta as one who had to change uniforms before blooming—don't you think the Orioles had that one to do over again?
Easley, however, wasn't a high draft pick (#30 in 1988). The same GM who drafted him was gone by the time he reached the majors. He went through more than one full-time field manager, too (and several interims). Despite that—even through years of injuries and subpar production—the Angels waited a long time before giving up on Easley...and it was still too soon.
While the pitcher he was swapped for (in July 1996) washed out of baseball two months later, Easley soon became the Tigers' full-time second baseman and in 1997, exceeded his career home run total 1992-96 in less than half the at-bats. One year later, he drove in 100 and was an All-Star! Detroit soon rewarded him with a $26.4M extension to begin in 2001.
Easley's numbers settled over the next three years—remember, the Tigers moved from Tiger Stadium to Comerica Park during this time—but he remained Detroit's second baseman. Here, the now-33-year-old has wrapped up a very trying 2002 season—Easley lost nearly half the season to injury and spent much of the summer below the Mendoza line.
THIS CARD: Hiatus time for 2003 Topps, even though #111 Ruben Quevedo two selections ago was hand-picked in response to his passing.
Easley attempts to make a throw across his body while stepping on his own head and tripping over the Tigers logo. His 2003 Traded card shows him attempting an even tougher throw from third base...in the garish green of the Devil Rays.
(flip) Easley was listed 30 pounds lighter on his original Topps card (1993). The trade was for Greg Gohr, whose career 8-11, 6.21 statline included one victory for the Angels. (Whenever we draw 1994 Topps #711, we'll expand.)
Both games blurbed were against the Red Sox—on 5/31/99 in Boston, Easley was victimized once each by Mark Portugal, Tom Gordon and Pat Rapp in an 8-7 loss. On 7/16/02, Red Sox hurlers Willie Banks and John Burkett (twice) plunked the veteran IF in a 9-4 win at Detroit.
We don't know if any others have matched or exceeded Easley's feat since, and won't be researching.
AFTER THIS CARD: Easley would be released by Detroit days prior to this card's April 2003 release—Ramon Santiago beat him out for the starting 2B job under new manager Alan Trammell. The Tigers ate the $14.3M still left on Easley's deal, a then-record. He quickly signed with Tampa Bay, who cut him two months later.
Easley resurfaced and lasted five more seasons in part-time roles with Florida, Arizona and the Mets...even enjoying a three-homer game as a 36-year-old Diamondback in 2006!
Damion Easley appeared in 1993-95 Topps, returned in 1998-2003, received an Update card for 2007 and got one final nod in 2008 (though he played quite a bit with the '04-05 Marlins and should have been repped in at least one corresponding set.)
CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Detroit Tigers
6/19/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #313 Robert Andino, Marlins
More Robert Andino Topps Cards: 2008 2009 2012 2013
For years, even as he failed to stick in the majors, I never forgot young Andino thanks to this card—his hair and expression made him look almost gangsta. I can't recall any previous player with a 'do quite like this on his card, certainly not a young player.
Much later, a de-braided Andino won me over for life with one simple swing of the bat that will be detailed later. But here, the young infielder has made the September leap from AA Carolina to the Marlins roster—Jack McKeon started the 21-year-old 13 times at SS, as incumbent Alex Gonzalez had been reduced to pinch-running that month by a bad elbow.
THIS CARD: I miss the old Marlins unis, though the new ones are growing on me. Topps with a little foreshadowing using orange as the secondary Florida color???
Andino seems momentarily distracted—perhaps Joe Girardi and Jeff Loria are already feuding in the background.
Bare hands on a tan bat evoke fond memories of ex-Marlin Moises Alou. Considering Andino had spent 2005 in AA until September, this photo was likely taken in Spring Training 2006—I doubt the kid was invited to 2005's camp, though I could be wrong (please let me know if so).
Though he became better known as a second baseman, Andino was exclusively a shortstop in the majors until 2008.
(flip) Andino is a case of hometown kid makes good...sort of (he played parts of four seasons in Miami, but established himself elsewhere.) Alfonso Soriano joined the cartoon trio in the 40-40 club months after this card's 2006 release.
Instead of printing a redundant stat such as steals, Topps could have pointed out Andino's .324 OBP...which of course is nothing to brag about, but at least it's different!
Jon Lester went five picks after Andino in that draft. Brian McCann went 12 picks after. Oops.
AFTER THIS CARD: The Marlins shuttled Andino up and down from the minors about 10 times 2006-08, but he never stuck for long and was eventually traded to Baltimore for P Hayden Penn. Penn washed out of MLB a year later; Andino filled in first for SS Cesar Izturis in 2009, then extensively for injured All-Star Brian Roberts in 2011-12 after spending '10 in AAA.
Remember the epic September 2011 collapse of the division-leading Boston Red Sox? Remember Tampa Bay miraculously beating the Yankees while Baltimore—playing only for pride—scored two runs in the 9th inning of the season finale, eliminating Boston? You do?
Well in case you forgot this part, Andino was the man who cracked the game-winning single off Sox RP Jon Papelbon. Since I abhorred the Red Sox at the time, this was borderline orgasmic for me to watch. NO non-Rays fan took more pleasure in the collapse than yours truly, and I'll always pull for Andino for his role. (Well, unless he turns out to be a predator or something.)
Andino opened 2013 with the Mariners, but was outrighted off the roster in May and hasn't returned to the majors since, relegated to AAA and the Independent League. He's back in the Marlins organization for 2016, playing regularly for AAA New Orleans through June.
Robert Andino appeared in 2005, 2012 and 2013 Topps sets, as well as 2008-09 Topps Updates & Highlights.
CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps, Florida Marlins
6/10/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #111 Ruben Quevedo, Brewers
More Ruben Quevedo Topps Cards: 1999
Wow. Did NOT intend to go this long between COTD posts. Over a full week late here...apologies.
TSR forgoes the normal random card selection process in memory of Quevedo, who passed away on June 7, 2016. He's the second ex-Brewer in the past year to succumb to a heart attack in his 30s, joining Jose Capellan (4/7/2015). Even during his days as a pro athlete, Quevedo was, to euphemize, not overly concerned with his diet. That concern probably did not grow in the 13 ensuing years.
The Venezuela native originally came up with Atlanta, who signed him as a 16-year-old in 1995. By 1998, he was an 11-game winner in A ball and whiffing over a batter per inning. But the Braves sought to acquire IF Jose Hernandez from the Cubs in mid-1999; Quevedo—who by then had skipped AA and was AAA's youngest player—was one of three youngsters sacrificed to get him.
Despite having grown significantly overweight, Quevedo made his MLB debut as a 21-year-old in 2000, one of many times he'd be summoned from the minors that year. Chicago left him there in 2001 before dealing him to the Brewers for RP David Weathers at the deadline. Quickly inserted into Milwaukee's rotation, Quevedo went 4-3, 2.63—if you throw out stinkers in his first and last starts.
Here, Quevedo has just completed an '02 season spent mostly in the majors—though the 23-year-old entered June on a scalding hot streak—2.88 ERA thru June 5—he literally doubled his ERA by mid-August and ended the year in AAA (Indianapolis).
THIS CARD: This pic was shot at AT&T Park in San Francisco. As you can see, Quevedo's build evokes memories of Bartolo Colon. (Okay, maybe slightly slimmer.) He is finishing off a delivery known as one of the game's smoothest at the time.
(flip) In the 5/25 game, Quevedo trumped SD 2-0 at Miller Park on 113 pitches; in the 5/31 game, backed by a Geoff Jenkins slam, he went seven strong at Qualcomm Stadium for the easy win. Quevedo's next start: eight shutout innings, nine whiffs—only to watch Mike Dejean and friends collapse in the 9th; Milwaukee wound up losing 5-1, sending Quevedo's season...and career...into freefall.
Those scoreless starts are especially notable because Quevedo had quite the penchant for the gopher ball—he allowed 70 in 328 career MLB innings. For contrast, steroid era peer Ramon Ortiz allowed 68 in 398 innings 2002-03—and that was considered abysmal.
AFTER THIS CARD: Already having carried his late-2002 struggles over into 2003, Quevedo did himself little favor with Milwaukee management when, as they attempted to demote him back to AAA in June, he claimed to be hurt and wound up on the DL until late September.
Quevedo was outrighted off the roster that winter, wound up in the Orioles system, made one appearance for AA Bowie—and was soon cut, out of baseball at 25.
He passed away June 7, 2016—almost 12 years to the day of his final pro appearance (at least in the US; he pitched briefly in the Venezuelan winter league in 2008).
Ruben Quevedo's only other Topps appearance was 1999 Traded, as a Braves prospect.
6/3/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #619 Mike Dunne, Pirates
More Mike Dunne Topps Cards: 1985 1989 1990 1991
Not to be confused with the current Marlins lefty reliever Mike Dunn.
I first pulled a Mike Dunne card in 1990 Topps; by then, he'd gone from Rookie Of The Year runner-up to lousy starter on lousy team within two short years.
A 1984 Olympian and #7 overall pick by the Cardinals that summer out of Bradley, Dunne wasn't turning many heads in the minors, and went east with Mike LaValliere and Andy Van Slyke in an April 1987 swap for perennial All-Star receiver Tony Pena.
Known for his cool on the mound, Dunne impressed enough in AAA to earn a June promotion, taking the rotation spot of fellow rookie Dorn Taylor and facing Doc Gooden in his debut! Here, Dunne has just wrapped that initial season—among National Leaguers, only Benito Santiago received more Rookie Of The Year votes, and only Nolan Ryan's ERA was lower.
THIS CARD: I'm not sure if the black name text is exclusive to my card, but every other Pirates name text in my '88 Topps collection is white.
While most 1988 Topps commons left a triangle of space between the name banner and corner, All-Star rookies saw that corner filled in to fit the trophy. Fortunately, no other sets I own were graphically altered to accomodate ASR's...but I only go back to 1987.
Young, unshaven Dunne resembled a rounder-faced Justin Verlander. You can't tell here, but his Score cards will back me up. Also hard to tell here: Dunne's uniform #41.
(flip) We alluded to that debut; Gooden was making his season debut following a drug rehab stint—he defeated the erratic Dunne. That first win: a complete gamer at Montreal, his first of three straight CG. The shutout: a 1-0 win over Cincy. Johnny Ray drove in Van Slyke in the first, and Dunne made it stand up—allowing two hits and one walk.
Pittsburgh made the difficult deal six days before Opening Day, doing so because of A) Pena's looming free agency, and B) it (correctly) saw a potential star in young Van Slyke.
AFTER THIS CARD: Dunne spent an up-and-down 1988 in the Bucs rotation. His 1989 kicked off poorly on-and-off the field—his wife miscarried their first child in April, during which time Dunne was struggling to a 7.53 ERA and 2.09 WHIP before being packaged in a trade to Seattle for Rey Quinones.
Though only 27, Dunne's best days were already past. Proving how easy it is to get to MLB but tough to stay there, he only made 29 MLB appearances after the trade (for the Mariners, Padres and White Sox) and was done after 1992. He went on to coach for nearly a decade at his alma mater, Bradley.
Mike Dunne debuted as an Olympian in 1985 Topps, then appeared annually as a major leaguer in 1988-91. (Barely a major leaguer for the 1991 set.)
CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates