Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, March 2017
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3/3/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps Update #313 Mitch Maier, Royals
More Mitch Maier Topps Cards: 2009U 2011 2012
Maier (pronounced Myer) spent five years with the dark-era (pre-2013) Royals, and got quite a bit of run. Though drafted as a catcher, he wound up playing extensive CF in MLB—you don't see many of those dudes—and became popular in Kansas City.
Tall, powerful and fast, Maier was the #30 overall pick in 2003. One year later, he'd stolen 43 bags in A-ball, and enjoyed a 92-RBI season in 2006. Still, he didn't reach the bigs until 2008—by which time he was 26.
In his 24th major-league game, Maier took a Zach Jackson cutter to the face and was out several weeks as his bone fractures healed. There's no good time to be beaned, but the timing here especially sucked because Maier was hot that month.
Here, the University of Toledo alum is in what would be his first of two seasons spent entirely in the majors (2010). Maier had began 2009 in the minors but was back up a week later, receiving loads of run after Coco Crisp's season-ending May injury.
THIS CARD: Maier gears up to fire one back to the infield. There's a good chance he got his man; no AL center fielder topped Maier's 10 assists in 2009 (though this is a 2010 photo; Maier wore #35 before that season. But he had a good arm, good enough to pitch twice for the Royals.)
The #48 pitching for Minnesota on the scoreboard is Carl Pavano.
(flip): Those are ghastly low season and career slugging percentages; Maier's 2009 SLG easily ranked last among all 14 Royals with 180+ PA—even Willie Bloomquist's was higher. Bring back the turf! Get this guy some acceleration on those grounders.
Petoskey is a small city near the north end of lower Michigan. Novi is about 30 miles northwest of Detroit (Maier attended college about an hour south of Detroit.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Maier stayed in Kansas City through the first half of 2012, when his .172 average and KC's need for an extra pitcher led to his demotion. (Maier was evidently not a candidate to do so regularly.)
The five-year vet later signed MiLB deals with the Red Sox, Cubs and even those familiar Royals, but never returned to MLB as a player—although KC retained his services as a coach beginning in 2015.
Mitch Maier appeared in Topps Update 2009-10, as well as the 2011-12 base sets.
CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps Update, Kansas City Royals
3/10/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #51 Orioles Leaders
More 1988 Topps Leaders Cards: n/a
Team Leader cards were a staple of the late 1980's Topps sets before their content was switched over to Manager card reverses. With their faded edges and oft-mystery personnel, these TL's almost gave off a surreal, dream-like quality—is this real? Or am I actually with the Bash Brothers?
I'd rate these cards higher IF Topps consistently used images of the actual team leaders every time, clearly and identifiably—at times, it seemed the company used TL's for stashing random pics it couldn't use anywhere else (like Tony Pena posing with Red Schoendienst; the latter did lead the Cards in several categories...35 years prior. Who the hell remembered him by '88?)
Here, we reflect upon the top performers of the 1988 Orioles, which is kind of like reflecting upon the most athletic Supreme Court justice—ranking #1 isn't exactly bragworthy, considering your competition.
THIS CARD: Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken pose while armed insurgents point weapons at them off-camera—what a lousy way to treat two future Hall-of-Famers in their primes.
The soft edge almost forms a semi-heart shape uptop...how cute, especially since these two were good friends.
(flip) The conversation with Topps went like this:
LARRY SHEETS: Can I be in the photo, too?
SHEETS: But I led the 1988 Orioles in two of three Triple Crown categories!
TOPPS: ...get the taser.
Is that so far-fetched? Look up Sheets' stats—he was never even semi-remotely close to the same after 1988. He knew subconsciously that good performances led to tasings. Murray didn't homer in his final 39 AB, allowing Sheets to overtake him in game #161.
Wiggins did not receive a 1988 Topps card due to his release near season's end—he wasn't exactly behaving himself.
Those were 10 of Bell's 11 career wins to date. He didn't win again until 1991, finishing his career with 15.
CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, Team Leaders
3/16/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps Traded #126 Hector Villanueva, Cubs
More Hector Villanueva Topps Cards: 1991 1992
Entering the 1990's, the Chicago Cubs had three primary catching candidates, each with varying skillz: Damon Berryhill was a switch-hitter with power. Joe Girardi brought the defense. Villanueva was the largest of the three, with just the right balance of offensive and, eventually, defensive skill.
And despite being pretty damn popular at Wrigley Field for a while, he had the shortest MLB career. By lots.
Villanueva began his pro career with 100 RBI in 412 AB for Winston-Salem (A) in '86, and had continued to post good slugging numbers as he rose through the system—until 1989, when his first foray into AAA led to a 62-point average drop.
Still, Chicago had not given up on Villanueva—here, with Berryhill recovering from shoulder surgery and the catching tandem of Girardi and Rick Wrona simply offering too little punch, the Cubs turned to Villanueva. Wisely so, as the beefy Puerto Rican smoked three homers in his first six games!
THIS CARD: Look just to the left of Villanueva's right hip, and unfocus your eyes...the blurry fans mesh into what looks like a giant Muppet mask. (Or maybe I'm just tired.)
This is Villanueva's first Topps card.
(flip) No info on Velilla, who never played professionally or signed anyone else of note, apparently. Maybe his existence is just an early April Fool's hoax? Note the signing date...
My favorite statistic from Hector's breakout 1986: he walked almost twice as much as he whiffed...Albert Pujols would be proud. If he'd ever heard of Villanueva, that is.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 1991, Villanueva flourished. Playing for Jim Essian, the former MLB catcher who'd also managed him in the minors, Villanueva busted out with 13 homers in only 192 AB and seemed on his way (especially since Greg Maddux reportedly liked throwing to him.)
But in 1992, with young Rick Wilkins breathing down his neck and Essian gone, Villanueva slumped badly—batting .132 from April 23 on—and not even a two-month AAA demotion could help. Let go in the off-season, Villanueva made the 1993 Cardinals as Tom Pagnozzi's backup, but was released in August. That was it for him in MLB (though he was a replacement player in 1995 Spring Training and played for another eight years in the Independent and foreign leagues.)
This is Hector Villanueva's debut card with Topps; he received base cards in 1991-92 as well. If you're interested, he's also got 1993 Stadium Club and Upper Deck cards as a Cardinal.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps Traded, Chicago Cubs
3/26/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #104 Dallas Green, Yankees
More Dallas Green Topps Cards: 1993
Six years ago, we mourned the tragic loss of Green's granddaughter in the horrible Arizona attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Here, we mourn the loss of George Dallas Green Jr. himself; the ex-MLB pitcher, manager and executive passed away 3/22 from kidney failure, aged 82. At first, I wasn't sure if our protocol for remembering recently-deceased big leaguers from my collecting era encompassed managers as well.
But if we gave Don Zimmer COTD space upon his passing, we must give Green similar treatment—his pro baseball career wasn't quite as lengthy as Zimmer's, but 50+ years is still noteworthy, wouldn't you agree?
Green was a big, hard-throwing swingman for the 1960s Phillies, chewing up almost 550 innings over six seasons with the club. He then managed in the Philly organization for a while before reaching the big-league club in 1979.
Despite clashes with stars, his Phillies defeated the Royals in the 1980 World Series...but just one year later, Green was out, hooking up with the Cubs as general manager and eventually bringing young Ryne Sandberg with him. (Nice start.)
Success came Green's way again in 1984, when the Cubs came thisclose to a World Series berth. Tough times followed, however, and Green resigned after the 1987 season—but not before fighting hard to bring lights and night baseball to Wrigley Field (they were activated in 1988).
Here, after a year on the sidelines, Green has become the latest man to take on the challenge of working for George Steinbrenner (on a two-year, $750K deal.) Often, when two Type A's such as Green and Steinbrenner don't see eye-to-eye, co-existing becomes impossible. This turned out to be such an instance.
THIS CARD: This is the lone solo Dallas Green Topps card from my collecting era—when he led the 1993-96 Mets, manager cards were on hiatus, though he did sneak his way onto a combo 1993 Traded card.
But even if it weren't, we'd probably choose it anyway; anytime you have a chance to talk Steinbrenner, especially his dealings with a manager, you must take it.
In these days, Topps always included the manager from the previous season, which was Lou Piniella. Green was hired on Halloween 1988—and strongly rumored for the job well before that—several weeks before the set was released, so featuring Piniella didn't make much sense.
The NY on Green's hat seems wider than it's supposed to be. Maybe it's just me. Not sure where they could have taken the photo, since as we mentioned, Green was a fresh Yankees hire when this card was released.
(flip) Apparently, the last time I viewed this card, Al Leiter wasn't in my collection yet—his box was unchecked prior to scan.
I can tell you nothing about Hipolito Pena other than he apparently existed at some point. The ex-Mariner Lee Guetterman could have occupied that card instead.
Green batted left, but not very well (.120 lifetime, one XBH). West Grove is about a 45-mile drive west from Philadelphia.
AFTER THIS CARD: New York won its '89 opener, then lost seven straight by an aggregate 57-15 margin—somehow, Green was not terminated at that time. Though back over .500 by early May, the Yankees fell to 6th place by the All-Star Break—soon after, rather than allow his coaches to be fired, Green publicly criticized Steinbrenner and got fired along with said coaches.
The 58-year-old rejoined MLB with the wayward 1993 Mets, taking over the club from Jeff Torborg about six weeks in. Not much else happened that year except OF Vince Coleman firecracking a fan, SP Bret Saberhagen bleaching a reporter and RP Anthony Young running his losing streak to 27 games. (In fairness, all those incidents were unintentional.) In the end: 103 losses.
New York did improve over 1994-95 under Green, flirting with .500 both years. Expectations grew that winter with free agents Bernard Gilkey and Lance Johnson added to the "Generation K" trio. But said trio disappointed, and management wasn't happy with Green's public criticism of them or the team's overall 59-72 record. Unhappy management = pink slip.
By 1998, Green was again working for the Phillies, this time as a senior advisor to multiple GM's; he remained in this role into at least 2015. Remember, Philadelphia was good-to-great for most of that stretch—that might or might not be a coincidence.
Dallas Green appeared in Topps annually 1960-65 as a player; he then returned in 1980-81 as a manager...sort of. Back then skippers were listed on team photo cards, along with an inset pic.
Green then resurfaced in 1989 Topps, making one last appearance in 1993 Topps Traded on a combo card with fellow in-season hire "Dave" Johnson.
CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, New York Yankees