Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, March 2016
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3/2/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #218 Dave Hansen, Dodgers
More Dave Hansen Topps Cards: 1993 1994 2001
Hansen spent parts of 11 non-consecutive years with the Dodgers, largely as a pinch-hitter extraordinaire after 1992. The team's #2 pick in 1986, Hansen annually hovered around .300 in the minors and finally reached the majors in '90 following a .316, 11, 92 performance for AAA Alberquerque.
In '92, he was given a second-half audition at 3B and wound up starting 98 times there for the Dodgers overall, but was playing hurt and hit just .214—both he and fellow 3B Mike Sharperson were displaced by Tim Wallach the next year. While Sharperson's career quickly sputtered, Hansen became a force off the bench for Tommy Lasorda.
Here, the now-26-year-old is coming off his second straight year as one of the best—if not the best—pinch-hitters in the major leagues.
THIS CARD: Hansen looks in as third-base coach Joey Amalfitano flashes a series of signs that, judging by Hansen's expression, were not discussed prior to the game. He wears #5 here, though he began 1994 wearing #15 and switched for unknown reasons. (Hansen would also don #43 and #25 during his Dodgers career.)
(flip) The crash left Hansen with a "strain", although four years later he was diagnosed with three stress fractures in his back that Hansen couldn't trace to anything other than said crash.
AFTER THIS CARD: Hansen remained with LA through 1996, by which time his salary jumped from $100K to...$400K. He actually took less when signing with the Cubs for '97 ($325K), but still enjoyed a .311 season largely off the bench.
For the first time in years, the 29-year-old got to play regularly in 1998...for the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese League. The Dodgers offered him his old pinch-hitting job back for 1999, and he took it—receiving a whopping raise of $50K from his '96 salary. (Wow. Times have changed...these days Hansen could make $450K in a month, at least.)
Remaining with LA through 2002, Hansen became their career pinch-hit leader that year, departing with 110. He ping-ponged between SD and Seattle during his final three seasons; his lifetime total of 139 PH ranks sixth all-time. (The guy is at/near the top of too many all-time PH stat categories to be listed here.)
Now 47, Hansen has held a variety of coaching jobs since retiring and will be assistant hitting coach for the 2016 Angels under old teammate Mike Scioscia.
Dave Hansen appeared in 1993-95 Topps, then disappeared during the small-set era before returning one last time in 2001. (He also received a 1991 Topps Major League Debut card.)
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
3/7/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #790 Golden Moments: Andruw Jones
More 2001 Topps Golden Moments Cards: 782 783 784 785 786 787 788 789 791
Topps' 50th Anniversary 2001 release closed with a 10-card Golden Moments subset that recalls great performances from baseball's past. This particular card recognizes rookie Braves outfielder Andruw Jones, who hit a home run in the 1996 World Series.
"...SO?" You may be asking. Oops—forgot to mention that every other man to homer in a World Series has been older than Jones was (19 years, 180 days) by at least 727 days.
Still, this is easily the least "golden" of the 10 moments selected—not a knock on Andruw's achievement, but he was grouped with nine of the most famous highlights ever. It's kind of like a limo opening, and out climb Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino and...John Stamos. Stamos is good, but he really doesn't belong with the others.
THIS CARD: We touched on the stamp in a previous COTD. Note how Jones remains on both feet throughout his swing—the longer he played, the rarer such instances became.
The bottom font belongs on a tombstone.
Card #790 is the penultimate card in 2001 Topps; I'd long believed the set consisted of 789 cards for some reason. Now I'm left annoyed at Topps for not adding one more damn card for old time's sake—throughout my adolescence until the 1994-95 strike, 792 was the standard! But after all those 400-something sets that closed out the 1990's, I dare not officially gripe about 791.
(flip) Jones smoked a 6th-inning shot off Mark Petkovsek in that Game 7 (won by Atlanta 15-0 over St. Louis), then tagged Yankees Andy Pettitte and Brian Boehringer in the respective 2nd and 3rd innings of WS Game 1—part of a three-hit, five-RBI explosion that helped the Braves to a 12-1 win.
Mickey Mantle had been the youngest to hit a World Series homer, doing so in 1952 Game 6 against Brooklyn three days shy of his 21st birthday.
Gene Tenace's 1972 blasts helped Oakland go up 1-0 against Cincinnati; he'd hit five total with nine RBI in the Classic and be named MVP.
AFTER THIS CARD: Jones went 8-for-20 overall in Atlanta's six-game 1996 World Series loss; in his only other WS (1999), he was 1-for-13. Still, he owns 10 career postseason home runs, slugging a respectable .433 in 238 at-bats over 76 games.
He retired from pro baseball this winter among the all-time Top 10 in many Division Series stat categories; only longtime teammate Chipper Jones has played more NLDS games (42 to 39).
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Subsets
3/22/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #143 Matt Joyce, Tigers
More Matt Joyce Topps Cards: 2008 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Remember how the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays stormed back from nine games down in the final month to steal the American League Wild Card from the Boston Red Sox in Game 162? You do? Good, that was among the greatest MLB games ever. (This writer dislikes the Red Sox greatly.)
Think back: who were the Rays' three All-Star representatives that year? If you guessed David Price, James Shields and Evan Longoria (the Game 162 hero), you'd be absolutely wrong—little-known outfielder Matt Joyce was voted to the team that year, not Longoria.
Joyce's selection was deserved—he led MLB with a .370 average entering June, accompanied by a .430 OBP and .636 SLG! And the Rays needed it; Longoria missed the first month to injury. Joyce's hot streak, while impressive, was not totally shocking; the corner outfielder/DH had shown good pop ever since being called up in 2008—the year represented on this card.
THIS CARD: This is not Joyce's official Rookie Card because he debuted in 2008 Topps Update.
Joyce was with Tampa Bay for so long, he now looks off in a Tigers uniform.
If Joyce had spent 2008 with the Rays, this shade of blue works. It does not work for the Detroit Tigers. Since Joyce was a Ray by the time I completed and albumed 2009 Topps, he could have very easily been accidentally grouped with Tampa because of said color.
(flip) Finally, we can play 6° Of Mantle together! 2009 Topps reverses carried several different list variants, most related to statistics. All were interesting; none were as fun as the Mantle game.
If you're unaware, this is based on the (unofficial) theory that any film actor/director/producer could be connected to actor Kevin Bacon in six steps—"degrees of seperation"—or fewer. Angelina Jolie, for example, starred in Salt with Liev Schreiber, who appeared in The Butler with David Oyelowo, who appeared in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes with John Lithgow, who worked with Bacon in Footloose. Get it?
On this card, Joyce teamed with Polanco in 2008. Polanco played with McGee in 1998-99, McGee played with Littell in 1981-82, Littell played with McDaniel on the 1975 Royals, and McDaniel—who may be the most frequently-used fifth step in this game—teamed with Mantle during his farewell season of 1968.
(Topps uses six degrees exclusively; eventually, I will try to connect somebody in five or fewer. But not here.)
Caught a mistake in the blurb: Jason Thompson 1996 should have been Jason Thompson 1976. Understandable—there was a Jason Thompson active in 1996 (for the Padres), and there was a Justin Thompson on the 1996 Tigers.
Joyce's slugged a very solid .492 despite only homering twice in his final 133 at-bats after July 22—both in the same August game.
AFTER THIS CARD: The Rays moved expendable (and soon-to-be-expensive) SP Edwin Jackson to acquire Joyce after the '08 season. He remained with Tampa for six years, averaging over 100 starts and 18 homers annually 2011-13. Though his 2011 numbers came way back to earth following his scorching start, it still stands as Joyce's finest year overall.
By 2014, however, Joyce was earning about $4M. Rather than absorb another raise for 2015, Tampa dealt free-agent-to-be Joyce to the Angels for RP Kevin Jepsen. His Anaheim stint was a nightmare—Joyce spent three days of the year over .200, was benched over a start-time gaffe, and lost five weeks after being concussed in a July collision.
Joyce went from playing practically full-time in April/May to seven pinch-hit AB in September, finishing at .174 with five home runs. What a way to hit the open market for the first time.
As of this writing, Joyce is on a minor-league deal with the Pirates.
Matt Joyce has appeared in Topps or Topps Update annually since 2008, except 2010.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Detroit Tigers
3/28/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #20 Denny Martinez, Indians
More Denny Martinez Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1996 1997
El Presidente makes his second Card Of The Day appearance; his 1991 Topps card was chosen back on June 15, 2015. This card represents his first of three seasons with the upstart Cleveland Indians, who signed the near-40-year-old to a 2Y/$9M deal in the 1993 off-season.
The longtime Expos ace started for Cleveland on Opening Day '94, and went on to complete seven starts (second in the AL) while tying for the team lead with 11 wins—remember, the last seven weeks were wiped out by greed.
THIS CARD: Second 1995 Topps selection in the past four. That means hiatus time.
It seems Martinez is bluffing a Royals runner back to second base, as another Royal runner scampers back to first at Kauffman Stadium. The Cleveland ace only made one 1994 start in KC, on April 10—but since we're unable to determine the blurry runner's face or number, we can't pinpoint the play. (He does seem to be white, but so was most of KC's lineup that day.)
I'm guessing this took place during the Royals' three-run 6th—it was either then or the 2nd, the only innings KC put men on first and second simultaneously. Cleveland ultimately lost 6-1.
(flip) Martinez' card lists his birth year as 1955; baseballreference.com says 1954. Somehow this discrepancy went unnoticed when we chose his 1991 card.
Check out 1979—four-man rotation, 39 starts, 292 innings, 18 complete games. If Martinez could do that at 25 and last 23 seasons, many of which were All-Star caliber into his 40's, why the hell aren't most current starters allowed to come within 75% of that?? In 2015 Clay Kershaw led MLB with 232.2 innings pitched. That's an abomination.
I'd assumed Martinez' 92 K (4.7/9, a six-year low) played a role in his completing seven games, but it turned out his average pitch count actually increased in '94 from the previous season without opposing pitchers to feast on 2-3 times per start...go figure.
AFTER THIS CARD: When the 41-year-old Martinez made the 1995 All-Star team on the way to a 12-5, 3.08 finish, the Tribe had little choice but to exercise his $4.5M option for '96. Unfortunately, his decade-long streak of durability was snapped by a bad elbow that disabled him three times that year, costing him ⅓ of the season.
When Cleveland didn't re-sign him, Martinez joined Seattle on an incentive-laden minor league deal for 1997. The good news: in his second start, Martinez returned to Cleveland and won. The bad news: in his other eight starts, his ERA hovered around nine and the league batted .350 against him—the Mariners mercifully cut him six weeks in.
Martinez soon retired, but off-season throwing sparked a comeback with the Braves for 1998; the now-44-year-old grandfather worked 53 games—five starts—for the NLE division winners.
Though the Brave bullpen blew potential Martinez wins in consecutive May starts, on August 9 he finally topped Juan Marichal as Latin America's most victorious pitcher ever with a relief win at—of all places—San Francisco (where Marichal starred for 14 years). Just before Spring Training 1999, Martinez walked away for good.
Denny Martinez appeared in Topps 1977-97, all as "Denny" rather than "Dennis".
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Cleveland Indians