Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, March 2018
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3/5/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #204 Sammy Stewart, Red Sox
More Sammy Stewart Topps Cards: 1988
I want to throw some statistics at you: 93, 95, 96, 75, 140, 93, 127.
They belong to pitcher Sammy Stewart of the Baltimore Orioles, and were posted in the years 1979-85, respectively.
Hits allowed? Nope. Runs allowed? Nope. Strikeouts? Nope.
Those numbers represent Stewart's annual innings pitched total...out of the bullpen.
Did Earl Weaver and Joe Altobelli even warm anybody else up?
While it's true that back in the day, ace relievers did log high innings totals, Stewart was NOT Baltimore's closer for much of that period—he averaged 23 games finished per year; for comparison, Mariano Rivera finished 60 games a year on average.
Stewart debuted as a starter in 1978, striking out seven consecutive White Sox at one point to set a rookie record that still stands. Unfortunately, cracking the Orioles rotation full-time in those days was a tall order; Stewart had to settle for long relief, spot starting and the occasional save op.
Big, strong and aggressive, Stewart filled all those roles commendably, helping the Orioles to the 1979 and 1983 World Series—winning the latter—and claiming the AL ERA title in strike-shortened 1981.
Here, Stewart's coming off a tough first (and last) year with the Red Sox. While Boston did come oh, so close to winning a championship, Stewart personally lost two months with a torn forearm muscle and then got himself in manager John McNamara's doghouse later on and was not used in the playoffs—despite sparkling career October stats and being the only team member with a WS ring.
THIS CARD: This is a non-randomized special selection in recognition of Stewart's recent passing. Since Stewart's glory years in Baltimore predate my Topps collecting, I settled on 1987 Topps because I thought it was the only Stewart Topps card I owned. Turns out he also appeared in the '88 set with Cleveland despite a rocky partial season.
In hindsight, I'm still glad I went with '87. Much more to comment on from Stewart's Boston tenure.
Stewart resembles Paul from The Diamond Center in this shot. (Too young to remember those ads? Too bad. Should've been born sooner.)
Between his DL stint and doghouse residency, Stewart spent a lot of time in that warmup jacket.
(flip) Rodriguez was a career .245 hitter with 16 homers in nine seasons...but made two All-Star teams representing the expansion '69 Royals and the virtually-expansion '72 Brewers. Damn that rule...
Anyway, his 19-putout effort came in a 4-2 win over Boston; I knew before even looking it up that Nolan Ryan must have pitched. I was right—all 19 putouts came courtesy of Ryan Express whiffs; Rico Petrocelli went down four times!
Topps never gave Stewart bold italics for his 1981 ERA title. I thought maybe because he barely qualified that they chose to recognize runner-up Steve McCatty instead—he qualified by miles—but nope, they never credited anyone as the 1981 AL ERA leader.
Note how Stewart's starts dried up in 1983—even though new manager Altobelli went to a five-man rotation, Stewart was passed over for young Storm Davis. Can't argue the results—Davis won 13 times and Baltimore won it all.
That 1985 trade sent OF Jackie Gutierrez to Baltimore.
AFTER THIS CARD: Stewart did not find a job for '87 until well after the season started, hooking up with the Indians in June. After a minors tune-up, he joined Cleveland—throw out an early White Sox drubbing and he allowed just two ER in his first 18 IP.
But it was all downhill from there, and Stewart was cut after the season. He never pitched again.
His post-career struggles have been well-documented, losing two children to cystic fibrosis, struggling with drugs and spending years either homeless or in prison. He died at 63 on March 2, 2018.
Sammy Stewart appeared annually in Topps 1979-88. In the 1979 set, he appeared on a Record-Breaker card before receiving his own common card (Stewart shared a Prospects card that year.)
3/7/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps Update #221 Gregory Polanco, Pirates
More Gregory Polanco Topps Cards: 2015 2016 2017
In the first half of the 2014 season, two Dominican right fielders were called up to contending NL Central clubs. One received so much pomp, praise and—seemingly constant—press that I grew sick of him and started to root against him. Not helping my negative opinion: the home run he hit—and pimped—against my Giants in his debut, which was of course replayed at least 679 times that night.
The other enjoyed a fairly quiet debut, received comparatively less pub, and perhaps most importantly—he didn't hurt my Giants, at least not as a rookie.
Player #1: Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals. Player #2: Gregory Polanco, Pirates.
Polanco, a five-tool stud rated the game's #10 prospect by Baseball America prior to his callup, was so highly touted that the Pirates were talking long-term contract even before he reached MLB. That's what happens when you open 2014 batting .347 in AAA on the heels of a .331 showing in winter ball. Many felt Polanco should have opened '14 with the Pirates, but he got the ol' Kris Bryant treatment before Bryant himself did.
Here, Neil Walker's appendectomy has vaulted Polanco to The Show. Though most of them were singles, Polanco hit safely in his first 11 games and 13 of 14—including a special five-hit affair on 6/13 that we'll detail below.
THIS CARD: #25 on a Pirate instantly flashes me back to Bobby Bonilla. Until Polanco, every Pirate to wear #25 since Bonilla last did so in '91 was either a scrub (many) or a rental (Sean Casey, Derrek Lee)—except Adam LaRoche.
We continue dipping heavily in Pirates of the '10's; ex-Polanco teammates Chase d'Arnaud and Jeanmar Gomez recently appeared in COTD. Which you should already know, of course.
Polanco, Hines and Peck are the only people I've ever known to go by "Gregory" rather than "Greg".
This is Marlins Park, where Polanco played his fourth, fifth and sixth MLB games. If a jackpot had depended on it I'd have guessed Citi Field—why wouldn't the Mets use this seat color? (By the way, thanks, fans, for being no help. INVEST IN SOME FISH GEAR!
(flip) See? Situations like this—when the player made three stops—deserve the asterisk for '13 team. For reasons I don't understand, Topps will use the asterisk even when a rookie only had one minor league team that year, although a few of their 2017 rookies finally broke the trend and used the same reverse template as veterans.
Expanding on Polanco's hot start: he notched 21 hits in his first 61 AB, a hearty .344 clip.
Expanding on the Rookie Fact: According to MLB.com, Polanco and Philadelphia's Willie Montanez in 1971 are the only MLB rookies since 1900 with an extra-inning jack as part of a five-hit game! (Miami's Mike Dunn served up Polanco's blast...it could very well be this card's front image.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Polanco hit a 1-for-30 wall and was briefly demoted back to AAA in August 2014, but he returned as Pittsburgh's main right fielder for 2015. Though his numbers weren't impressive, the Pirates saw enough upside to drop $30M on him for six years the following spring.
Polanco enjoyed something of a breakout in 2016, smoking 22 homers—though only one in September—and plating 86 runners; he was actually used at cleanup most of the final two months! He was set to spend 2017 in CF until LF Starling Marte's PED suspension threw everything out of—or back into, depending on your perspective—whack. Polanco's left hamstring put him on the DL thrice in '17; he was limited to 35 RBI and a meager .391 SLG as a result.
Gregory Polanco debuted in 2014 Topps Update and has since appeared annually in the base set.
CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps Update, Pittsburgh Pirates
3/10/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps Update #113 Francisco Rodriguez All-Star
More Francisco Rodriguez All-Star Topps Cards: 2007U 2008U 2014U 2015U
Nine months after setting MLB's season save record (62) and seven months after signing a mega-deal with the Mets, "K-Rod"—premier closer for several teams for over a decade—marks his first season with New York by representing them in the 2009 All-Star Game at New Busch Stadium.
Taking the hill in his third straight Midsummer Classic and fourth overall (2004), Rodriguez entered in the T9th and retired Brandon Inge on a first-pitch GO, K'd Carl Crawford on four pitches, and got Justin Morneau to fly out to center. Even with that effort, the NL couldn't crack Mo Rivera in the B9th and fell 4-3.
THIS CARD: Don't recognize Frankie? He'd temporarily shelved his trademark goggles in 2008-'09.
This was no token All-Star selection—fellow Mets David Wright, Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran joined Rodriguez on the NL roster.
You may know Rodriguez inversed his familiar #57 upon joining the Mets in deference to ace starter Santana.
That's Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres behind Rodriguez.
(flip) Some of the blurb was covered above, so we'll expand on Rodriguez's All-Star merits: he owned an 0.57 ERA after his first 30 games, went unscored upon in May, converted his first 16 save ops—that streak only ended on the infamous Luis Castillo drop of Alex Rodriguez's popup—and tied with Heath Bell for the NL saves lead at the Break.
On the one hand, this is very impressive considering Rodriguez pitched in both the Venezuelan Winter League and the World Baseball Classic, but on the other hand...he was dreadful in the second half, dude's arm was probably just cooked.
AFTER THIS CARD: Though still largely effective, Rodriguez lost star status within two years and didn't return to the All-Star Game until consecutive selections in 2014-15, by which time he'd taken over closing duties with the Milwaukee Brewers. In the latter season, K-Rod entered in the T7th and allowed his first two career All-Star runs.
Now 36 and fighting just to make a MLB roster, odds are Rodriguez has wrapped his All-Star career. He'll have done so having allowed but one All-Star hit (Mike Trout in '15) in 4.1 IP, albeit with five walks and just one K.
Francisco Rodriguez received All-Star cards in 2007, 2008, 2014 and 2015 Topps Update; his initial two selections were not recognized by Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps Update, All-Stars
3/14/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #476 Cristian Guzman, Nationals
More Cristian Guzman Topps Cards: 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Sometimes, you trade a star for prospects and zero of them pan out—remember Larry Walker's trade from Colorado to St. Louis 14 years ago? You do...but unless you're their child, you have no idea what happened to the three stiffs Colorado got back.
Less often, you "swap" a star for dudes who can't even get call-ups from bad teams—remember Dennis Eckersley's 1987 trade from the Cubs to the A's? Of course you do. But, again, you don't remember the return unless you're a baseball wacko like I am...and nor should you.
Then there's deals where the new kids actually impact and contribute to a successful rebuilding effort. For example, we saw Allard Baird turn a star with one foot out the door (Zack Greinke) into young pieces that eventually helped Kansas City win a title.
A similar haul went down 20 years ago, when the Twins turned unhappy Chuck Knoblauch into Brian Buchanan, Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman—while Buchanan washed out within a couple years, Milton and Guzman were key parts of Minnesota's turnaround in the early 2000's.
Here, Guzman is a veteran, but in a similar circumstance—the relocated Washington Nationals needed talent, and have acquired the still-young (26) shortstop to fill the void left by Orlando Cabrera's July trade.
THIS CARD: Guzman gets his warmup on at a field I cannot identify, most likely the same Spring Training yard shown on the reverse. I thought highly of the Nats' original script...until they replaced it three years later. As in relationships, sometimes you just need to see what else is out there.
Guzman wore #15 his whole career, save for a brief switch to #12 with Texas. Only coach Davey Lopes (2016-17) has worn it more than one season since; Matt Adams currently has it.
The new Nationals presented me with a dilemma—2005 Topps Series 1, released in late 2004, featured Expos. Series 2 (released months later) featured Nationals. Do I split them up in the album, or group them?
Ultimately, I pictured myself held at gunpoint being ordered to find Livan Hernandez's 2005 Topps card within eight seconds—being unable to remember if he was an Expo or a Nat, my time expired and I was shot. So, for my own safety, the Expos and Nationals are combined in the album.
(flip) I slightly disagree with Bowden—leading the league in triples three times certainly classifies as "scratching the surface" of one's offensive capabilities...just sayin'. (Also, Bowden lauded Guzman's range, even though he was almost annually below the league average range factor. Maybe they interviewed him late at night.)
I can possibly explain the 2004 dip in Guzman's triples total—his home park switched to synthetic grass that year, which could have slowed down a few balls. That does not explain the near 50% dip in his steals total; Guzman had no significant injuries that year, but he was listed 10 pounds heavier on this card than on his '04 card. Just speculating because nothing else adds up.
The Expos' move to Washington became "certain" on December 22, 2004, when a stadium plan was approved by the D.C. council.
AFTER THIS CARD: For most of the first three years of Guzman's 4Y/$16.8M deal, he was a total bust. Plagued by on-again/off-again left hamstring trouble in '05, Guzman's bat didn't come around until a six-game hit streak in the final week put him over .200 to stay. Determined to bounce back in '06, he underwent off-season Lasik surgery...only to wreck his shoulder and miss the entire season.
After missing the first month of '07 (hamstring), the 29-year-old finally began to show Washington the real Cristian Guzman...until tearing a thumb ligament in late June, essentially ending his year. Guzman returned in '08 with vigor, missing "only" 24 games and making his second All-Star team! (Ironically, when he signed his 2Y/$16M extension in July, he was the only Nats Opening Day starter to have not hit the DL—courtesy KFFL.com)
To accommodate young SS Ian Desmond (and to ask less of Guzman's right shoulder, operated on in late 2009), Washington hoped to move Guzman to 2B for 2010. He clearly wasn't down with the idea and opened 2010 as a reserve before being traded to Texas for two prospects.
One prospect, Tanner Roark, has since enjoyed several years of success for the Nats. Guzman, meanwhile, sat out the '11 season, failed to win a job with the '12 Indians, and simply faded away.
Cristian Guzman appeared annually in Topps 2000-2011.
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Washington Nationals
3/17/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #640 Jeremy Hermida, Marlins
More Jeremy Hermida Topps Cards: 2003 2007 2008 2009 2010 2012U
If you are a regular visitor to TSR and Card Of The Day, you may remember me occasionally relating the difficulty I occasionally have distinguishing players with numerous parallels (such as the Rosses Ohlendorf and Detwiler back in August 2016.)
More than likely, you don't. But that's okay; you know about it now.
Jeremy Hermida and Jeremy Reed reached the majors fairly close together. One played in the southeast tip of the US; one played in the northwest tip. Both were drafted fairly high in 2002. Both were lefty-hitting outfielders.
So even though they looked nothing alike, and Hermida's all-time great MLB introduction should have distinguished him...I struggled for a year or so recalling which was which; it took him becoming Jason Schmidt's Giants record-tying 16th K victim to "establish" Hermida in my mind. (I long thought that was also Schmitty's infamous, controversial 132-pitch outing; research has proven otherwise.)
14 months later, Giants fans might remember Hermida smoking a three-run jack off Russ Ortiz in what wound up his final (and injury-shortened) Giants appearance.
Here, however, Hermida—pronounced Hur-meeduh—is just a pup, albeit one who'd already made history as referenced above. The 11th overall pick in 2003 reached MLB in late August '05 by slashing .293/.457/.518 for AA Carolina, and though he went cold after that debut, Hermida's final 14 at-bats featured eight hits and three homers!
THIS CARD: It's one thing to (eventually) be succeeded as Marlins RF by somebody better, but when the guy also takes your uniform #27 and makes Miami forget anybody else ever wore it...it's gotta hurt a little. (Oh well, at least Giancarlo Stanton's debut wasn't as magical.)
Sometimes I wonder if Topps snaps these pics outside the player's homes and then Photoshops them onto some generic diamond built specifically for this purpose—there are no other signs of life at this park and I can't see Hermida agreeing to meet there alone. This could even be the field used for the new Marlins in 1993 Topps.
This was Year One of the official Rookie Card stamps; Topps used this garish model until the 2010 set. I'm confused about one thing: this is Hermida's official Rookie Card...but before this, he had a 2003 Topps Draft Pick card which was not marked as a Rookie Card—as was Topps' practice even then. Wonder how that's dealt with had Hermida become a true star with actual card values.
(flip) As the toon shows—111 BB in 118 games, first in the Southern League and third in all of MiLB—Hermida would wait for his pitch; in his Marlins days his OBP was very respectable compared to his fluctuating batting averages.
How does Topps fill that space with the totally meaningless text "Career Hits: 12" with a straight face? 2006 Topps showed it is possible to try too hard and too little all at once.
The blurb refers to Bill Duggleby's debut "grannie" in 1898. Kevin Kouzmanoff in 2006 and Daniel Nava in 2011 have since matched the feat...but none of those three were pinch-hitting like Hermida.
AFTER THIS CARD: Hermida became Florida's RF in '06; plagued by a hip injury early and ankle issues late, he never really got going. In '07 he emerged somewhat, slugging .501 after missing the first six weeks...but committed an NL-worst nine E's in RF. After a so-so 2008, Hermida was switched to LF for 2009, but wound up playing extensive RF as well (new RF Cody Ross took over CF from the demoted Cameron Maybin six weeks in.)
Ending two years of rumors, the 25-year-old was (finally) traded to Boston in November '09. Now a reserve, he got in 73 games with the Sox but only 43 more in the majors, split amongst Oakland, Cincinnati and San Diego through 2012.
Cleveland and Milwaukee signed Hermida for 2013-14, respectively, but he never escaped AAA and ended his pro career with an unimpressive 2015 stint in Japan.
Jeremy Hermida debuted in 2003 Topps as a Draft Pick, then appeared annually in the base set 2006-10. He popped up one last time as a Padre in 2012 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps, Florida Marlins
3/21/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #511 Tony LaRussa/Jim Leyland Managers Combo
More Tony LaRussa Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
More Jim Leyland Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
If you're a baseball fan over the age of 21, neither of these star managers of yesteryear needs much of an introduction.
In case you're not: the uber-stoic Tony LaRussa (pronounced Luh-roosa) is a 2013 Hall-Of-Fame inductee for his work piloting the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals for 33 seasons (1979-2011), while the tobacco-happy Jim Leyland probably will reach Cooperstown for his direction of the Pirates, Marlins and Tigers for 22 seasons between 1986-2013 (not so much for his 1999 Rockies stint, though.)
Though they're paired here semi-randomly (see below), it's fitting to have these two men share a card—it was then-Sox skipper LaRussa who hired Leyland to his first MLB job in '82, as a coach. 24 years later, they faced off in the World Series, with LaRussa's Cardinals besting Leyland's Tigers. They'd maintained a friendship throughout that quarter-century.
Here, both LaRussa and Leyland are about to enter a run of mediocrity after a collection of postseason appearances—in 1992, LaRussa's Athletics reached the ALCS for the fourth time in five years, while Leyland's Pirates made their third straight NLCS appearance.
THIS CARD: This is the first and only time in my Topps collecting era that managers shared a card—they'd appeared continuously on their own cards since at least 1985, the oldest set I'm familiar with. The timing is somewhat ironic; you'd expect condensing in a set of reduced size, but 1993 Topps expanded by 33 cards that year.
1994 Topps, of course, phased out manager cards altogether for seven years.
This was pretty much LaRussa's only on-field facial expression. What's up with his top? Maybe Oakland wore that uniform to mark 20 years since the '72 championship—I'm 85% certain they hadn't dipped in the alternate jersey pool yet.
Leyland was only 47 in 1992; he has always looked 15-20 years beyond his actual age.
In this set, managers are paired up alphabetically by league city—Oakland and Pittsburgh ranked 11th in the AL and NL, respectively. This worked since the managers of the incoming Marlins and Rockies were included, giving each league 14 cities.
For whatever reason, the background dugout reminds me of the Brooklyn Dodgers...no idea why.
(flip) Leyland batted right, threw right, and caught in the Tigers system 1964-70, maxing out at AA. He hit .222 with four homers in 446 games, 20 of which came at third; Leyland also pitched two innings. By 1972 he was managing in that same system...at 27; he'd do so at three levels through '81.
Leyland's second-half record included a 40-16 (.714) August/September; Pittsburgh entered August up just two games on Montreal and still only led by three on 9/16 before pulling away by nine.
I'd have never guessed LaRussa to be 6'1". He batted right, threw right and played infield for the A's as a teenager in '63 and again from 1968-71, ending his MLB career by pinch-running and scoring on Rick Monday's walk-off hit for the '73 Cubs; LaRussa lasted four more years in AAA before quitting.
AFTER THIS CARD: LaRussa stayed three more difficult years with Oakland, leaving after '95 to helm the Cardinals for 16 years, winning championships in 2006 and 2011 before retiring (and briefly becoming a Diamondbacks executive).
Leyland stayed four more difficult years with Pittsburgh. He then led the 1997 World Series champion Marlins as well as the 1998 AAA-caliber Marlins before jumping to Colorado for one trying season. Citing burnout, Leyland left managing for six years.
At 62, he re-emerged with the Tigers in 2006 and promptly guided them to the AL pennant before losing to LaRussa's Cardinals. His club won successive division titles 2011-13, falling to my Giants in the '12 Fall Classic. Leyland retired for good after the '13 season, though he did manage Team USA to victory in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Tony LaRussa appeared in 1964, 1968 and 1972 Topps as a player; sort of appears in 1980-81 Topps as White Sox manager, showed up annually 1983-1993 as A's manager, and returned 2001-09 and sort of again in 2010 as Cardinals manager. Got all that?
Jim Leyland graced Topps annually as Pirates manager 1987-93, then returned as Tigers manager 2006-09 and sort of again in 2010. Both men continued to appear in Topps Heritage well after Topps again retired managers after the 2010 set.
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Managers
3/27/18 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps Traded #95 Doug Robbins, Team USA
More Doug Robbins Topps Cards: 1992
When dreaming up the Topps Card Of The Day TSR feature, I held internal debates on numerous topics—such as the inclusion of players who never actually reached MLB and who exactly .0003% of my audience care to learn about. At the risk of countless hours wasted typing, I ultimately decided that any and all cards included in Topps base, Traded or Update—regardless of their subject's fate—would have a place on TSR.
So without further adieu, I give you ex-Orioles prospect and 1988 Olympian Doug Robbins, a Stanford standout and 1988 College World Series champion. The young catcher was named to Team USA alongside future major league stars such as Robin Ventura, Jim Abbott and Charles Nagy.
THIS CARD: Not much to discuss about Robbins here; I can't even compare his appearance to anyone famous in or out of baseball. 21 Olympians were featured in the set, all except Tom Goodwin, Ben McDonald and Mike Milchin.
They were sorted alphabetically rather than grouped, meaning if you were like me and read a non-descriptive checklist years after the fact, you'd be puzzled as to who the hell some of these dudes were and why were they taking up space in this set.
(flip) Robbins most famously helped Stanford with his second-round heroics: scoring the winning run on a throwing error by Miami, and smacking a late three-run HR to down Cal-State Fullerton in the semifinal decider.
Ed Sprague, Sr. became a scout after five years mostly relieving for the A's and Reds, and another three mostly starting for the Brewers (1968-76). The distinguishing suffix is necessary because by 1988, Ed Sprague Jr. was starring at Stanford alongside Robbins (and soon to be drafted by Toronto.)
I've owned this card for years and never noticed the Team USA fine print until now.
AFTER THIS CARD: Though he hit .300 almost annually in the minors and owned a career .400 OBP in the Baltimore system, Robbins never reached "The Show" and I haven't been able to definitively identify why. He was traded to Oakland for another minor leaguer for 1993, and washed out after 12 games—I suspect an injury and will continue to investigate.
Doug Robbins appeared in 1988 Topps Traded as an Olympian and in 1992 Topps on a shared Prospect card.
CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps Traded, Team USA