Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, March 2021

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Topps Fernando Rodney
Topps Fernando Rodney

3/30/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #448 Fernando Rodney, Tigers

More Fernando Rodney Topps Cards: 2006U 2009 2010 2011 2012U 2013 2014 2015 2016U 2017 2017U 2018 2019

Fans may eventually forget a lot of things about 2010s Major League Baseball, but well-traveled closer Fernando Rodney's "Arrow To The Sky" celebration of successfully converted saves won't be one of them. Working with his cap tilted ever so slightly to the side, Rodney would often make his managers sweat a little bit, but he and his baffling changeup usually got the job done.

And then the imaginary arrow was "shot" into the skies above.

The man was nothing if not entertaining.

Here, Rodney has just spent his first full season in the major leagues. After serving as Detroit's closer in the second half of 2005, Rodney opened 2006 in the same role after newly-added CL Todd Jones injured his hamstring. Once Jones healed, Rodney slid into a setup role; his relief work helped the Tigers back to the playoffs after a 19-year absence.

THIS CARD: 2007 Topps featured two flagrant uncorrected error cards, and this was one of them (along with Jose Guillen's). The man you see in that front image is not Fernando Rodney; it is Rodney's teammate Roman Colon.

Colon, for the record, pitched 124 gams for the Braves, Tigers and Royals 2004-12 but never appeared in a Topps set. At least not legitimately.

More from Rodney's 2006 season: he racked up all seven of his saves by 6/3; in those games, he allowed a total of ONE hit. Strangely, after hitting four batters in his first 52 games, Rodney plunked four more in his final 11 games (contributing to a 5.02 ERA in that span).

(flip) Topps blurbs usually address the subject by their first name at least once. Not here.

The company got the reverse photo correct, just as it did with Guillen's card. I just can't make any sense of such glaring goofs.

When Rodney last pitched in MLB in 2019, he was still reaching the mid-90's with his gas at age 42.

It's pretty rare for players from Latin nations to sign with a MLB team at age 20; I'm not sure if Rodney had an injury or some other impediment but I don't think he ever fudged his age.

AFTER THIS CARD: Rodney was elevated back to full-time closer by the Tigers in August 2008, and wound up saving 37 games the next year—earning a 2Y/$11M deal from the Angels. To summarize, things did not go well there, and Rodney moved on to Tampa Bay for 2012 on a 1Y/$1.75M deal. There, the 35-year-old was practically invincible, converting 48 of 50 save ops with an 0.60 ERA and an All-Star selection! (This is when the arrow celebration was born, BTW.)

Following another solid showing for the '13 Rays, Rodney was signed by the Mariners (2Y/$15M) and broke their single-season saves record in 2014 (48). But by August the next year, he'd pitched himself off their roster, and officially turned journeyman.

From late 2015 through 2019, Rodney suited up for (in order): the Cubs, Padres, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Twins, Athletics and Nationals; only in 2017 did he spend the entire season in one locale (Arizona). Through 2019 (his most recent MLB season), Rodney owned 327 career saves in 951 career games for 11 teams; at last check, he was still pitching at 44 in the Mexican League.

Fernando Rodney appeared annually in Topps and/or Topps Update 2006-19, except 2008.

CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Detroit Tigers

 

More March 2021 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Mitch Webster
Topps Mitch Webster

3/2/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #502 Mitch Webster, Cubs

More Mitch Webster Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990T 1991 1992 1994

Outfielder Mitch Webster was up and down with the mid-80s Blue Jays before finding an opportunity with the other Canadian team, Montreal. Webster played regularly in CF for the '86 Expo squad, shifted over to RF in '87, then returned to CF in '88. But the Expos felt they needed more range in CF, so Webster was traded to the Cubs for fellow CF Dave Martinez in July 1988.

Here, Webster is coming off a mixed-bag of a 1989 season. On the one hand, his Cubs returned to the postseason after four straight losing seasons. On the other hand, his job as Chicago's starting LF was lost when he injured his thigh in May and his replacement, Dwight Smith, caught fire at the plate.

THIS CARD: Webster was allegedly 30 in 1989, but he looks well past that here. And you can't even blame it on years of stress playing for the Cubs.

"Hey, Mitch, just one more thing before we take the picture: can you throw your hat in the air and try to catch it on your head? When you do, we'll take the picture. Thanks."

More from Webster's 1989 season: he wound up starting just 59 games across three outfield spots when all was said and done. In the NLCS vs. San Francisco, Webster was used as a PH/DR, singling in three at-bats.

(flip) Montreal won four of the five games during Webster's hot streak, including the finale in which he homered and drove in five runs.

The Kansas native is in that state's Sports Hall of Fame as of 2018.

Webster was indeed a #23 pick who eventually made good. Two years after choosing him in the amateur draft, Los Angeles lost Webster to Toronto in what's more commonly known as the Rule V Draft.

AFTER THIS CARD: Webster joined the Indians in 1990, initially as their starting CF before speedster Alex Cole burst onto the scene. Webster then split 1991 between the Indians, Pirates and Dodgers; he remained with said Dodgers through the 1995 season. Initially a part-time outfielder for Tommy Lasorda, Webster underwent knee surgery in September 1993 and spent his final two seasons doing little more than pinch-hitting.

After retiring as a player, Webster began a long scouting career with the Dodgers and Royals, though I could not confirm if he's presently doing so.

Mitch Webster appeared in 1986-94 Topps, except for a mysterious 1993 exclusion (Webster did appear in 1993 Stadium Club). He's also got a 1990 Traded card as a new Indian.

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Chicago Cubs

 
Topps Ben Sheets
Topps Ben Sheets

3/3/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #524 Ben Sheets, Brewers

More Ben Sheets Topps Cards: 2000 2000T 2001 2001T 2002 2003 2004 2005 2007 2008 2010U 2012U

Ben Sheets, at one point, might have been the most famous minor leaguer in the land. The second-year pro represented Team USA in the 2000 Olympics (Sydney, Australia), shutting out Cuba in the Gold Medal game. At that time, Sheets could have run for office against George Washington himself and won.

But any presidential aspirations Sheets might have had were tabled as he rose through the Milwaukee Brewers' system...which didn't take long. Sheets opened 2001 as Milwaukee's 4th starter, and though there were stumbles, he wound up a National League All-Star that summer!

 

By 2003 Sheets was the Brewers Opening Day starter and de facto ace; he followed that up in '04 by earning a Cy Young vote (and not in Ryan Tepera fashion), another All-Star berth and a 4Y/$38.5M extension.

 

Here, the 27-year-old has just completed a 2005 season interrupted by an inner ear infection that cost him most of May and a torn back muscle that cost him September. When healthy, Sheets excelled, averaging over seven innings per start and going 4-1 in the month of July.

THIS CARD: At least to me, Sheets looks more black than white in this image.

Sheets prepares to fire off either his mid-90's gas (it was upper-90's early on), his nasty curve, or his fine changeup.

Other Brewers of note to wear #15: the great Cecil Cooper back in the 80's, and a variety of undistinguished characters post-Sheets. OF Tyrone Taylor had #15 in 2020.

(flip) Effective? At times in 2004-05, Sheets was plain dominant. See this video for evidence.

In both 2004 and 2005, Sheets received less than four runs of support per nine innings, hence his less-than-impressive 22-23 combined record.

Instead of that redundant 2005 ERA in the stat box, Topps could have told you about Sheets 5.64 K/BB ratio, which would have easily led the league had he enough innings to qualify.

AFTER THIS CARD: Going forward, good health often escaped Sheets, who was limited to 41 starts in 2006-07 (shoulder tendinitis, hamstring strain), though he performed well when available. In 2008 the 30-year-old enjoyed his best all-round statistical season (13-9, 3.09, three shutouts, a second straight All-Star nod) and, along with new teammate CC Sabathia, boosted Milwaukee back to the playoffs after a 26-year drought!

Sadly, Sheets was battling a torn elbow muscle when he squared off against the Cubs in Game 161, gutting through 2.1 innings in what would be his final Brewers start. Surgery kept him off the field in 2009, but he returned with the A's on a 1Y/$10M deal for 2010. Another serious elbow injury ended his season in late July, and Sheets was off the diamond until resurfacing with Atlanta two years later.

Sheets made eight starts for the 2012 Braves, injured his shoulder, then announced he would retire after his 9th start. And that's exactly what happened.

Ben Sheets appeared annually in Topps 2000-08. He's also got 2000-01 Traded cards, plus 2010 and 2012 Update cards with the A's and Braves, respectively.

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers

 
Topps Vladimir Nunez
Topps Larry Rodriguez

3/5/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #250 Vladimir Nunez/Larry Rodriguez, D'Backs Prospects

More 1997 Topps D'Backs Prospects: n/a

When you think great duos of the 1990's, you think Ross and Rachel, Beavis and Butthead, K-Ci and JoJo, etc. For a time, Nunez and Rodriguez were expected to join that list. The Diamondbacks hoped that by 1998, when the expansion team began play, the two Cuban defectors—age 22 and 21—would be ready to anchor, or at least contribute to, their pitching corps.

It didn't quite work out as hoped.

THIS CARD: In February 1996 Nunez and Rodriguez were signed to combined $3M contracts out of the Dominican Republic, where they'd defected from Cuba. (Evidently, if they came straight to the States, they'd have been subjected to the draft.)

Nunez was the harder-throwing of the pair, featuring 97-MPH gas to go with a slider and changeup. Rodriguez reached 95 MPH at his best, with superior command to Nunez.

1997 Topps, in spite of its reduced set size, burned 10 cards on expansion team prospects even though said teams weren't set to begin play for another year (most of the prospects didn't reach MLB; the most accomplished of the group was Rod Barajas).

The company did not do this for the Rockies and Marlins in 1992 Topps and I wish they hadn't done it here.

(flip) A lil' misalignment on Nunez's bio lines. And what the hell is that symbol next to the 96 in Rodriguez's blurb? 

Nunez was, in fact, named the 1996 Pioneer League Pitcher Of The Year.

I wonder what scouts report when no stats are available. "This guy is special. He started...frequently,  he pitched hella innings and I swear he struck out a dude every 30 seconds!"

I don't think I viewed any reverse of this subset since completing the 1997 Topps set over 20 years ago. The reverses are clean and simple, yet visibly satisfying. But too much is happening on the fronts...the name text is barely readable.

AFTER THIS CARD: Nunez reached the D'Backs in 1998, but his biggest contribution to the team was going to Florida in a 1999 trade for RP Matt Mantei, who helped Arizona win the division that year. Meanwhile, Nunez struggled as a Marlins starter but turned in a 20-save 2002 season as their temporary closer.

 

Not effective in 2003-04, Nunez toiled for four organizations in 2005, but didn't get The Call back to the majors until a final 24-game run with the 2008-09 Braves. 

Sadly, an arm injury and subsequent surgeries ended Rodriguez's pro career in 1998 before he ever escaped Class A. He finished 13-21, 4.40 in three seasons.

Vladimir Nunez appeared in 1997-98 and 2001-03 Topps, as well as 2008 Updates & Highlights. Larry Rodriguez appeared in 1997-98 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks

 
Topps Ray King
Topps Ray King

3/6/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #487 Ray King, Cardinals

More Ray King Topps Cards: 2003T 2004 2006

I remember the moment clearly.

In 2003, ex-big leaguer Bobby Bonds died.

His son, Giants superstar Barry Bonds, left the team for about a week. In his first game back, he came up to bat in the 10th inning of a tie game against the Atlanta Braves.

On the mound: Braves lefty Ray King, otherwise known as the Bonds Neutralizer. Barry was something like 0-for-14 lifetime against King to that point.

What happens next? You guessed it. BOOM! Walk-off home run into McCovey Cove.

You bring in Bonds' toughest foe while the man is rusty and grieving, and STILL can't keep him in the ballpark.

It's okay, Ray. Bonds was going to win that battle no matter what.

By the time of this card's release, King had moved on and completed his first year with the Cardinals. The 6th-year man added to a staff that had limited quality lefty relief in 2003.

THIS CARD: King is about to deliver either his low-90's heater, or the big-breaking slider he was known for. I've found no evidence he threw anything else.

This pic was shot at Busch Stadium II, where King recorded a 2.94 ERA in 48 games in 2004. His road performance was even better (2.22 in 38 games).

More from King's 2004 season: Only San Francisco's Jim Brower appeared in more NL games (89), though King did not pitch more than 1.2 innings in any game. The veteran stranded 34 of 44 inherited runners.  

(flip) I went out of my way to refrain from referring to King as "big", just because that description of him has been done to death. And there it is, the FIRST word of the blurb.

Topps, why not use that stat box to tell collectors about King's sterling 1.081 WHIP, the second-lowest of his career? The company didn't print hits allowed yet, so it's not like we collectors could have calculated it on our own.

Edgardo Alfonzo of my Giants was the only opponent to take King deep in 2004; it was a 10th-inning, game-winning shot on Bonds' 40th birthday that I'm ashamed I don't remember. The Cardinals team record for appearances was and is held by Steve Kline (89 in 2001).

AFTER THIS CARD: King worked one more season with the Cardinals before joining Colorado in a December 2005 trade. It wasn't a smooth go for King in Denver, and he signed with Washington for 2007. Washington moved him to Milwaukee in September 2007; King then re-signed with the Nationals for 2008.

About a month into the 2008 season, the Nats attempted to send King down. He refused, elected free agency, and signed a couple of MiLB deals without ever returning to the bigs.

Ray King appeared in 2003 Topps Traded, as well as 2004-06 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals

 
Topps Rickie Weeks
Topps Rickie Weeks

3/8/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #492 Rickie Weeks, Brewers

More Rickie Weeks Topps Cards: 2003T 2004 2006

Watching young Rickie Weeks, for a time, was like stepping into a time machine—in the batter's box, he waggled his bat just like another young Brewers infielder once did, Gary Sheffield. Brewers fans could only hope Weeks's run in Milwaukee didn't end the way Sheffield's did.

(Spoiler alert: it didn't.)

Weeks, drafted second overall by Milwaukee in 2003, debuted in the bigs later that year, and by 2005 was playing regularly for the Brewers at 2B. He usually hit in the .230's and battled injuries in those early years, but talent ultimately won out, and in 2010 27-year-old Weeks exploded with 29 home runs!

In 2011, the name Weeks was a hot baseball topic all year long—Rickie during his marvelous first half, and his brother Jemile of the Athletics in the second half. Rickie, who signed a 4Y/$38M extension in February 2011, had a great shot of surpassing his career-highs set in 2010...until a bad ankle sprain washed away most of his second half. 

THIS CARD: If I had to guess, I'd say Weeks just came through with a walk-off hit—IF he was in Milwaukee's home uniform. Let's check Getty...

...after checking Getty, we've learned this is Weeks celebrating a 9th-inning, go-ahead two-run home run 7/16/11. Which to me (and probably only me) is better than a walk-off homer. That's Prince Fielder in on the fun with Weeks.

More from Weeks' 2011 season: he was named to the All-Star team after batting .278 with 17 homers and 39 RBI in the first half (he also participated in the Home Run Derby). Weeks led off the season with a home run and went deep in three of his first four games!

(flip) Four of Weeks' 20 homers in 2011 were lead-off shots; another was an inside-the-parker against Cincinnati.

On 7/27, Weeks came down ugly on first base, and was out until 9/10. He hit .243 with one (impressive) homer in 14 games to end the year and started in the NLDS and NLCS. 

I'm trying to think of another Milwaukee second baseman pre-2011 to hit 20 home runs in a season PERIOD, let alone in 120 or fewer games. Don Money? (Upon research, Money didn't even do it.) I got nothin'.

AFTER THIS CARD: Healthy again, Weeks was decent in 2012, poor and injured in 2013, and ordinary in 2014 as Milwaukee fluttered at or below the .500 mark. After 12 seasons, the organization understandably passed on exercising his $11.5M option for 2015.

Weeks spent 2015 with Seattle, but was cut in June with a .167 average. We next saw him with the '16 Diamondbacks, who used him in 108 games mostly as a PH/LF. A brief run with the 2017 Rays ended Weeks' career at 35.

Rickie Weeks debuted in 2004 Topps as a Draft Pick, then appeared annually 2005-14. He's also got a 2016 Update card with the Diamondbacks (now with the Jr. suffix).

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers

 
Topps Alex Gonzalez
Topps Alex Gonzalez

3/9/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #266 Alex S. Gonzalez, Cubs

More Alex S. Gonzalez Topps Cards: 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2002T 2004 2004T 2005

You must imagine poor Steve Bartman must have mumbled the following line to himself, and maybe others, about 100 times in the wake of the 2003 Cubs' Game 6 collapse against the Marlins:

"B-but I'm not the one who botched (Miguel) Cabrera's double-play ball..."

THAT would be the usually sure-handed Cubs SS Alex Gonzalez. Obviously, he knew his role in Chicago's 8th-inning implosion, and probably kicked himself a time or two for it. But by and large, it was more vogue, more fashionable to jump on the geeky Bartman for "interfering" with Luis Castillo's foul ball than Gonzalez for fumbling an easy grounder, so that's what angry Cubs fans did.

Humans. We're really something else, aren't we?

Here, Gonzalez has just wrapped his first season with the Cubs after spending most of the previous eight with the Toronto Blue Jays. Gonzalez gave the Cubs pretty much what they should have expected: good defense, steady pop, a load of K's and an iffy batting average. The 29-year-old did set a career high for slugging percentage (.425) in 2002.

THIS CARD: Gonzalez taking a big rip at Wrigley Field. In 2002 he hit 13 of his 18 home runs at The Friendly Confines.

Gonzalez has great variety on his many Topps cards. No one of them stand out, but they all differ in angle, action, location and even uniform. I often get on Topps for lacking a redundancy checker, but in Gonzalez's case there wasn't a trace of redundancy.

2001 Cubs coach Oscar Acosta didn't return in '02, allowing Gonzalez to retain his familiar #8 without any bartering. Except for 46 games in the '04 season, Gonzalez wore #8 his entire 13-year career.

More from Gonzalez's 2002 season: he joined the Cubs as he entered Year Two of a 4Y/$20M deal signed with Toronto in December 2000. He opened the '02 season 10-for-18, and ran off a 15-game hit streak in August during which he batted .373!

(flip) On 5/6/02, Gonzalez took Mike Timlin deep for a Cubs victory over St. Louis. 

On 6/18/02, Gonzalez walked off John Rocker to beat the Rangers. It was the second-straight walk-off hit Rocker gave up (Houston's Craig Biggio singled home the winner 6/16).

Those 400-homer participants: Fred McGriff and Sammy Sosa (Cubs), plus Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro (Rangers). Interesting in hindsight how not one of them reached the Hall of Fame. No idea if four 400-homer guys in one game has happened since, though if it has, it probably includes Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira of the mid-2010's Yankees versus somebody.

AFTER THIS CARD: Despite his ill-timed error and .228 regular season, Gonzalez returned to Chicago for 2004...briefly, as he returned to Canada in the famed four-team Nomar Garciaparra trade of July 2004. In September, however, the Expos essentially gave Gonzalez to the Padres (who'd just lost SS Khalil Greene to a finger injury). 

Gonzalez signed with the Rays for 2005, batting .269 in 109 games. He next joined Philly in Spring Training 2006, reuniting him with the man who drafted him, Phillies GM Pat Gillick. But after batting .111 in 20 games, Gonzalez retired in May 2006. The 34-year-old attempted comebacks with the Royals and Nationals on minor league deals in '07, but neither panned out.

Alex Gonzalez appeared annually in Topps 1994-2006. He's also got 2002 and 2004 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Chicago Cubs

 
Topps Rheal Cormier
Topps Rheal Cormier

3/10/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #630 Rheal Cormier, Phillies

More Rheal Cormier Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1994 1995 1995T 1997 2001T 2006 2006U

Here, the veteran left-hander Cormier has completed his third season working out of the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. Statistically, not only was it his best year, but he was among the best relievers in the entire 2003 National League—among pitchers with 50+ innings, only superstars Eric Gagne and John Smoltz posted better ERA's than Cormier's 1.70 mark.

THIS CARD: Cormier makes his pitch at the old Veterans Stadium. Interesting fact: he earned the W in Philly's final triumph at the stadium, and he also earned the W in Philliy's first triumph at Citizens Bank Park in 2004.

We specially selected this card in memory of Cormier, who passed away 3/8/21 from cancer. We randomly selected his 1993 Topps card in June 2017 and his 1995 Topps card in March 2020.

Cormier wore #37 for the majority of his career; he started out wearing #52 as a Cardinal before switching.

(flip) I would research any Phillies who've gone 9-0 or better since 2003, but I'm 98% sure there haven't been any. I'll also wager this: if I'm wrong, it was Ryan Madson who went 9-0 or better.

Cormier was signed as a free agent in November 2000 for 3Y/$8.75M with a 2004 team option that was exercised. He was later re-upped for 2Y/$5M covering 2005-06.

 

More from Cormier's 2003 season: he earned that lone 2003 save on 9/5 versus the Mets, called upon to protect a 1-0 lead in the 9th after SP Vicente Padilla threw 128 pitches. CL Jose Mesa wasn't used much in September 2003, partially due to his struggles and partially due to his contractual situation.

AFTER THIS CARD: Cormier remained in the Phillies bullpen for another two-and-a-half seasons; he had endured a very rough 2005 campaign before bouncing back strong in '06. The Reds traded for Cormier in July 2006, but released him after a slow start to 2007. Though that ended the 40-year-old's MLB career, he represented Team Canada in the 2008 Olympics. RIP.

Rheal Cormier—by the way, it's pronounced RE-AL COR-ME-AY—appeared annually in Topps 1992-95, dropped by in 1997, and made a comeback in 2001 Traded before two final appearances in 2004 and 2006 Topps. 


He also has a 1995 Traded card with Boston and a 2006 Topps Update card with Cincinnati. 

CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies, Now Deceased

 
Topps Kelly Johnson
Topps Kelly Johnson

3/11/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #614 Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks

More Kelly Johnson Topps Cards: 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2014U 2015U 2016U

Johnson is probably best known in MLB for being the first (of two to date) to play for all five AL East teams, but by that time he was basically a utility guy trying to hang on. But as the 2010's kicked off, Johnson was among the NL's best second basemen for a brief period.

Originally a #38 overall pick out of HS by the Braves in 2000, Johnson reached Atlanta in 2005 and spent a chunk of that summer playing regularly for them. His '06 was essentially wiped out by UCL surgery but he bounced back nicely with solid 2007-08 seasons as Atlanta's #1 second baseman.

Here, Johnson has bounced back nicely after a rough 2009 season with the Braves. Non-tendered by Atlanta in December 2009, Johnson signed with Arizona two weeks later and was named NL Player of the Month for April 2010!

THIS CARD: Drafted as a SS, Johnson played some OF in the minors before settling in at 2B. By 2010's end, he was a .988 fielder at the position—second-highest in Arizona's short history (Craig Counsell fielded .990 in 2005).

There was no need for the Snakes to ever abandon this look. They looked more like security guards than baseball players in the dark gray setup that followed.

More from Johnson's 2009-10 seasons: for a guy that lost his starting job (to Martin Prado) in July 2009, Johnson was revitalized x10 in 2010, especially in the first half. He won that April Player of the Month Award by slugging .750 with nine homers and 17 XBH...all of which led the National League!

(flip) Yes, Drew and Johnson were quite the combo...for 18 months, anyway. By mid-2012 both of them were out of Phoenix.

I ALWAYS forget Johnson was not a switch-hitter. Even though he got some big hits off me in MLB '11: The Show.

Johnson is card #614 in this set; he was card #612 in 2008 Topps.

The supplemental pick used to select Johnson was acquired by Atlanta when free-agent 3B Jose Hernandez signed with Milwaukee.

AFTER THIS CARD: Johnson hit just .209 as a 2011 Diamondback, and was swapped to the Blue Jays (for Aaron Hill) that August, beginning his path to history. Johnson served as Toronto's main 2B in 2012, and got extensive run for the 2013 Rays, but in '14 he cycled through the Yankees, Red Sox AND Orioles...batting a combined .215 in 106 games. (Only Steve Pearce has also played for all five AL East clubs, BTW.)

Returning "home", Johnson made the 2015 Braves roster, then was traded to the Mets in July.

Returning "home", Johnson made the 2016 Braves roster, then was traded to the Mets in June.

Returning home, Johnson's career ended at 34.

Kelly Johnson appeared annually in Topps 2007-14; he's also got 2014-16 Update cards. For some reason, the company didn't include Johnson in 2006 despite his extensive run for the 2005 Braves (though he did appear in 2006 Heritage).

CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks

 
Topps Derek Bell
Topps Derek Bell

3/12/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #121 Derek Bell, Blue Jays

More Derek Bell Topps Cards: 1991T 1993 1993T 1994 1995 1995T 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2000T 2001 2001T 2002

Within the baseball world, the most famous operation is the "Tommy John" procedure, in which the player's ulnar collateral ligament is replaced/repaired with another ligament from either the player's own body or a cadaver's, from what I understand. Longtime pitcher John was the first to undergo this operation, back in 1974.

The second-most famous operation has to be, no doubt, "Operation Shutdown", orchestrated by then-Pirates outfielder Derek Bell in 2002.

What is "Operation Shutdown", you ask? Read on:

"If it ain't settled with me out there, then (the Pirates) can trade me. I ain't going out there to hurt myself in spring training battling for a job. If it is (open competition), then I'm going into Operation Shutdown." - Derek Bell, Spring Training 2002, upon learning he'd have to compete for a job

Bell wasn't kidding. He shut down, and his services were not sought by any other club. Mind you, Bell had already been in decline even before batting .173 and pocketing $5M in 2001.

THIS CARD: I was surprised to find Bell in this set; I'd forgotten he was around way back in 1991.

Bell had several exciting images during his Topps run (though this doesn't really qualify as one of them). In fact, of Bell's first eight Topps base cards, only one depicts him conventionally batting.

More from Bell's 1991 season: the rookie was called up in late June, went 1-for-17, was returned to the minors, then recalled in September. In Bell's second go-round, he went 3-for-11, mostly as a PR/DR.

(flip) Class A Myrtle Beach was part of the now-defunct South Atlantic League. As you can see in the stats, Bell was a worthy MVP. (Also, I've never heard of St. Catharines despite owning this card for 28+ years. It's GOT to be defunct now as well.)

Note Bell's six walks against five strikeouts for the '91 Jays; even in such a short sample size, this is very impressive for a rook. Good luck finding a rookie outwalking his K's in 2021.

For those of you unaware, today's Rogers Centre was known as Skydome 1989-2004. I don't think I've ever said "Rogers Centre" out loud; it'll always be Skydome to me.

AFTER THIS CARD: Bell was actually one of MLB's better run producers during the mid-1990's for the Padres (who traded for Bell after the 1992 season) and Astros. In fact, Bell famously drove in 86 runs for the 1995 Astros despite homering just eight times!

Bell topped 100 RBI in both 1996 and 1998, but slumped in '99 and was dealt to the Mets that winter. He played well enough for the 2000 N.L. Champions to earn a 2Y/$9.75M deal from the Pirates in December 2000...and we've detailed how that worked out. (Though, to his credit, Bell later apologized for his role in their divorce.)

Derek Bell appeared in 1992-2002 Topps, as well as 1991, 1993, 1995, 2000 and 2001 Traded.

CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays

 
Topps Austin Jackson
Topps Austin Jackson

3/14/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #339 Austin Jackson, Mariners

More Austin Jackson Topps Cards: 2010 2011 2011A 2012 2013 2014 2014U 2016U 2017

Another fallout from the blown Jim Joyce call in Armando Galarraga's 2010 would-be perfect game: the catch made by Tigers CF Austin Jackson in the T9th to preserve Galarraga's perfecto has largely been forgotten—dude must have ran 228 feet! Most everyone from that era remembers the plays made by DeWayne Wise and Aaron Rowand to preserve gems by Mark Buehrle and Jonathan Sanchez, respectively, but Jackson? Eh, not so much.

(Okay, enough. The more I reflect on that game, the madder I get at Bud Selig and friends for dragging their feet on replay. Even 11 years later.)

Here, Jackson has moved on to Seattle after five seasons in the Motor City. Seattle acquired the 27-year-old in the July 2014 three-team (Rays) David Price trade, and he immediately took over in CF, swiping 11 bases in 13 tries for the M's. 

THIS CARD: Let's be real: how many of you (die-hard Marniers fans excluded) remembered Jackson ever played for Seattle? I barely did and I breathe this stuff 24/7.

Jackson wore #16 for much of his post-Tigers career. He couldn't have it with the White Sox, however (retired for Ted Lyons in 1987).

Thanks, Getty, for identifying the date of this pic for us—here, we have Jackson batting in his second game for Seattle, 8/2 at Baltimore. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs on the day, helping Seattle to the win.

(flip) As you can see, Jackson's runs and home runs took a severe dip in 2014, perhaps due to his move to the middle of the lineup and trying too hard to justify it. As you cannot see, since Topps no longer prints batting K, Jackson struck out at alarming rates throughout his career.

Before Jackson arrived in Seattle, the alliterative duo of Abraham Almonte and James Jones got the bulk of time in CF for the '14 Mariners. Not exactly a pair of All-Stars there.

More from Jackson's 2014 season: as we alluded to, early on the former leadoff man was used mostly in the #5-6 holes—a gross miscast, IMHO—by rookie Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. He was returned to leadoff in July and remained there after the trade.

AFTER THIS CARD: Jackson had a solid season for the '15 Mariners, who traded him to the Cubs in August of that year. Next, Jackson signed with the White Sox for 2016 (1Y/$5M), but was limited to 54 games by a June knee injury that was surgically repaired in August.

On a minors deal with Cleveland for 2017, Jackson made the team and did this on 8/1. He then inked a 2Y/$6M deal with my Giants, but I BARELY remember his uninspiring tenure at all, in part because Jackson was traded to the Rangers halfway through the season. (It's better to not be remembered than to be remembered for monumental sucking, however.)

 

Texas soon cut him, but the Mets gave him extensive run to close out 2018. To my knowledge, Jackson has not re-emerged in pro ball since. 

Austin Jackson appeared in 2010-15 and 2017 Topps (including twice in 2011). He's also got 2014 and 2016 Update cards...but none as a Giant.

CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Seattle Mariners

 
Topps Jay Bell
Topps Jay Bell

3/15/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #185 Jay Bell, Diamondbacks

More Jay Bell Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2001 2002 2003T

Jay Bell is best known as the longtime shortstop of the Jim Leyland-era Pirates; Bell was a key contributor to the 1990-92 division winners. Originally a Twins prospect, Bell headed to Cleveland in the 1985 Bert Blyleven trade; during Spring Training 1989, Cleveland quietly dealt Bell to the Pirates. 

By 1990, 25-year-old Bell was Pittsburgh's SS, and barely missed a game for the next decade. In 1991 he belted 16 homers and drove in 67 runs, fairly gaudy numbers for an early-90's shortstop not named Ripken or Larkin. In 1993 Bell made his first All-Star team.

By 1996, however, the Pirates were doormats and began to ship out their veteran players, such as Carlos Garcia, Orlando Merced, Jeff King and Bell—the latter two were traded to the Royals for 1997. Bell exploded for .291, 21, 92 in what would be his lone year in KC.

Here, Bell has just completed Year Two of a 5Y/$34M deal signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in November 1997 (MASSIVE dollars for that time). The 34-year-old led the star-studded Arizona lineup in runs, home runs and walks, and smoked a dramatic, go-ahead two-run double in Game 4 of the NLDS.

THIS CARD: It was weird watching Bell play second base after a decade at shortstop, but if I could adjust to Cal Ripken playing third base, I could adjust to pretty much anything. Even Rick Ankiel in the outfield.

Whoever this enemy runner is, he's out by a gallon of feet. I just made that term up and am proud of myself. 

Glasses weren't uncommon in MLB when Bell first came up, but by the end of his career he was something of a unicorn in that regard.

(flip) I'm not sure I ever knew Bell was a Twins draft pick, rather than one by the Indians. This is why COTD exists, people—I'm trying to learn, too.

One of those 38 HR in 1999 made a woman rich; here's details. And those 132 runs in 1999 still stand as Arizona's team record. 

What the blurb is trying to explain: in successive years, Bell set KC's homer record for shortstops, Arizona's homer record for shortstops, and Arizona's homer record for second basemen. Nevermind that the last two were essentially by default—the D'Backs began play in 1998.

AFTER THIS CARD: Not that anybody really expected 35-year-old Bell to keep up his 1999 pace, but in any event his numbers took a permanent nosedive across the board in 2000. In fact, Bell lost his 2B job to Junior Spivey in mid-2001, but still got on base and scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees.

Still under contract, Bell returned to Arizona as a reserve for 2002; he hit the DL for the first time ever in April (torn calf). After returning in late July, Bell batted just .163 in 32 games and looked done, but he was able to squeeze in 142 more PA with the 2003 Mets before the sun fully set on his playing career.

Bell has since gone on to manage in the Yankees system (2017-19) and is set to helm the AA (Angels) Rocket City Trash Pandas in 2021.

Jay Bell appeared annually in Topps 1988-2003 (2003 was a Traded card as a new Met).

CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks

 
Topps Bert Blyleven
Topps Bert Blyleven

3/17/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps Traded #11 Bert Blyleven, Angels

More Bert Blyleven Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993

I only caught the tail end of Blyleven's career, and he was hurt for a chunk of that. So when I think of him, it's largely the huge debate his Hall of Fame candidacy sparked that comes to mind.
In Blyleven's time, wins were the main quantifier of a pitcher's quality/effectiveness, and while Blyleven piled up a lot of them (287), he also piled up a lot of losses (250). And in many of his seasons, he was only ordinary statistically.

But when he was on, he was dominant, and he did put together some fantastic seasons for some very good teams. Eventually Blyleven did reach the Hall, on his 14th year of eligibility (back then candidates got 15 years instead of the current 10). Voters, swayed by the sabermetric boon of the 21st century, recognized Blyleven, much like Nolan Ryan, could not be solely judged by his record.

Here, the 38-year-old has just been traded to the California Angels, his fifth and final team. There were some financial complications—you can click here for deets—but ultimately, the big right-hander was able to come "home" to finish his long career.

THIS CARD: Despite only excelling during the first of his four Angels seasons, Blyleven is still the most notable #28 in their 60-year history, although current wearer Andrew Heaney has a shot to claim that title someday.

I liked Blyleven's delivery; he just curled up that big body and attacked, often ending up nearly sitting on the mound. This pic was likely shot during Spring Training—the outfield looks vacated.

What did Blyleven throw? Well, he had probably the best curveball of his time (he actually threw hard and slow versions of the pitch), along with a 90's fastball and changeup. Just going by what I saw, Blyleven's heater was no longer breaking 90 with the Halos.

(flip) No blurb, so I'll tell you that Blyleven opened the 1989 season with three CG in five April starts, including a four-hit shutout at Seattle.

Just LOOK AT all those shutouts. Blyleven finished his career with an even 60, good for 9th-most ever.

That trade sent prospects Paul Sorrento, Mike Cook and Rob Wassenaar to Minnesota. Sorrento had a good career mostly for the Indians and Mariners, Cook had a few MLB coffee sips, but Wassenaar never escaped the minors.

AFTER THIS CARD: Very strong for California in '89, Blyleven's 1990 season was negatively impacted by a bum shoulder that required surgery; he'd be out until 1992. That year, the 41-year-old went 8-12, 4.74 for the lowly Angels and was not re-signed. Blyleven attempted to continue his career for the 1993 Twins but didn't make the team, and that was that.

In addition to his HOF plaque, Blyleven's #28 is retired by the Twins, for whom he became a legendary broadcaster 1996-2020. We Giants fans have Mike Krukow "eliminating" fans with the Telestrator; Twins fans had Blyleven circling them with it.

Bert Blyleven appeared annually in Topps 1971-93. He's also got 1981 and 1989 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps Traded, California Angels

 
Topps Jordan Hicks
Topps Jordan Hicks

3/18/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2020 Topps #511 Jordan Hicks, Cardinals

More Jordan Hicks Topps Cards: 2018U 2019

It's always phenomenal—and a tad creepy—when the Randomizer selects a player who's recently made news for whatever reason. It was just a few days ago when Cards' fireballer Jordan Hicks, facing his first batter since undergoing UCL surgery in June 2019, issued a 22-pitch walk to Mets hopeful Luis Guillorme (a condensed video of the AB can be viewed here).

Hicks, having gotten a full inning's worth of work facing just one hitter, was removed from the game. The battle was front-and-center on MLB.com for days!

Here, Hicks is a few months removed from his operation. He was having a fine first year as Cardinals' closer in 2019 before his injury, saving 14 games in 15 tries.

THIS CARD: This could be the most obvious slider grips I've seen in COTD. Hicks has a nasty one; in addition to his 100+ MPH fastball, his slider clocks in the high-80's. Often, dudes with Hicks' fastball velo can hit 90 MPH with the slider, but he's doing just fine as-is.

Hicks has a shot to be the best #49 in team history, a title currently held by Rick Ankiel (the outfielder) and previously, Ricky Horton (who wore it off-and-on for a while during the Whitey Herzog era).

Picking this card will help me distinguish Jordan Hicks from Jordan Walden, the ex-reliever who my brain likes to confuse Hicks with for reasons I can't grasp.

More from Hicks' 2019 season: his gas was clocked as high as 104 MPH at one point, and he saved 14 chances in a row after blowing his first. Hicks allowed three runs each to the Braves and Brewers, and just four others to everyone else!

(flip) Nasty, dirty...same thing.

Why Topps is concealing identities this year, I'm not sure—in the past, they never hesitated to name-drop coaches, etc. but several blurbs in this set quote unnamed sources. (Whatever the reason, I REALLY HOPE IT ISN'T A LEGAL ONE. THAT WOULD UPSET ME.)

Going by the stats, it looks like Hicks was a MiLB starter before reaching High A Palm Beach in 2017. (For the record, to date Hicks has never appeared in AA or AAA.)

I don't know how the Cardinals got multiple 3rd round picks in 2015, but Hicks' teammate Harrison Bader was chosen just five picks ahead of him.

AFTER THIS CARD: Hicks was injured 6/22/19 and underwent surgery four days later. A diabetic, Hicks understandably opted out of the 2020 season (though he likely wouldn't have pitched until September at the earliest, anyway). Provided he's not "Guillormed" on a regular basis this Spring, he'll open 2021 in the Cardinals bullpen.

Jordan Hicks has appeared in 2018 Topps Update, and 2019-20 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2020 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals

 
Topps Ryan Howard
Topps Cole Hamels

3/20/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #689 Prospects

More 2005 Topps Prospects Cards: n/a

Good job, Ed Wade! On your watch, the Phillies drafted Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels in back-to-back years; the selections eventually paid off with a 2008 World Series title and a near-miss in 2009 (even though you were long gone by then).

Howard was a big, strong first baseman out of Missouri State University; Philly took him in the 5th round of the 2001 draft. Hamels was a tall lefty pitcher from Rancho Bernardo HS in San Diego; Philly took him with the 17th overall pick in the 2002 draft in spite of this.

By 2004, it was only a matter of when, not if, the two prospects would make an impact in Philadelphia.

THIS CARD: Our first 2005 Topps Prospects card couldn't have been a better one, in terms of major league impact for the featured team by its subjects. Howard became a three-time All-Star and 2006 NL MVP, while Hamels finished Top 6 in Cy Young voting three times and made four All-Star teams.

24-year-old Howard actually got some brief run with the 2004 Phillies, but Hamels didn't make his MLB debut until early 2006, at age 22. Hamels was beset by elbow tendinitis in 2004, then broke his pitching hand in a 2005 bar fight. But by May of '06, he'd blown through the minors and was called up to MLB.

(flip) For Hamels to have only thrown 16 innings in four starts with a 1.13 ERA in the year 2004, his elbow must have knocked him out of a start or two.

I did not know, or had long forgotten, that Howard was that much of a beast before his 2004 call-up, and I'm embarrassed about that. Howard was a basher in college as well, and I don't have a clear-cut reason why he lasted to the fifth round of the draft (weight/K concerns?)

AFTER THIS CARD: Howard filled in for injured superstar Jim Thome on the '05 Phillies, and played so well that Thome was traded that off-season. Howard departed the Phillies 11 years and 382 home runs—including a team-record 58 in 2006—later, and will surely get some consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame come 2022.

Hamels remained with the Phillies until mid-2015, making nearly every start while going 114-90 for them in the regular season. He also won seven postseason games for Philly, taking home the 2008 NLCS and WS MVP awards! Hamels also pitched for the Rangers and Cubs, and was a Brave for one game in 2020 (shoulder). Now 37, he has not retired, but is currently unsigned.

Ryan Howard appeared annually in Topps 2004-16. Cole Hamels appeared in 2003, 2005 and 2007-20 Topps, as well as 2006, 2015 and 2018 Update.

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Subsets

 
Topps Pittsburgh Pirates
Topps Pittsburgh Pirates

3/21/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #609 Pittsburgh Pirates Team Card

More Pittsburgh Pirates Team Topps Cards: 2001 2003 2004 2005 2007 2010 2011 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

In 2005, Andrew McCutchen joined the Pirates franchise.​ He was fresh out of high school. But he couldn't have been much worse that what Pittsburgh trotted out during the '05 season.

After finishing 72-89 in 2004, the 2005 Pittsburgh Pirates made...one change. Longtime catcher/franchise face Jason Kendall was dealt to Oakland in a salary dump. Kendall was replaced by the ancient Benito Santiago (who played six games and was cut in May 2005). The hard times began immediately for the Bucs, who dropped their first two games of the year by a combined 19-4 score (to Milwaukee).

Manager Lloyd McClendon didn't survive his fifth season, canned in early September after a three-game sweep by the Cubs dropped Pittsburgh to 55-81. And though replacement Pete Mackanin fared better, in the end the Pirates registered consecutive losing season #13.

In spite of things, the Pirates' attendance increased by about 300K!

THIS CARD: Somewhere in this pic is #14 Jose Castillo, who went down early with an oblique injury, returned in late April, and held down 2B until 8/22 when Hector Luna of St. Louis wrecked his knee with a slide. Two days later, Pirates coach Gerald Perry mixed it up with Cardinals coach Dave Duncan, earning both eight-game suspensions.

Somewhere in this pic is #36 Craig Wilson, who drilled 29 home runs for the 2004 Pirates but was limited to just five in 2005 by a pair of hand injuries. Pittsburgh could have used his power; no one on the '05 team besides OF Jason Bay hit more than 12 home runs.

Somewhere in this pic is #19 Ty Wigginton, who opened the year as Pittsburgh's 3B, hit his way back to the minors in early June, and was recalled in August after Castillo's knee injury. At .204 when demoted, Wigs hit .365 in 22 games after returning to MLB.

(flip) That 67-95 record included a combined 9-23 mark against division rivals Chicago and St. Louis.

The Pirates won four straight games twice: in early June (capped by an 18-2 demolition of the Devil Rays) and again in mid-September.

Duke finished 2005 8-2, 1.81 in 14 starts. When he was sidelined by an ankle sprain, the team just plugged in Maholm (3-1, 2.18 in six starts).

I'd long forgotten Dave Williams ever existed.

AFTER THIS CARD: The Pirates continued to lose...and lose...and lose, until McCutchen reached stardom in the early '10's. From 2013-15 he and manager Clint Hurdle led the team to three straight NL Wild Card berths, but they were dispatched in the NLDS by St. Louis in '13 and KO'd in the Wild Card game in 2014-15.

Since then, Pittsburgh has posted one winning season (82-79 in 2018) and was a brutal 19-41 in 2020. Having traded away 1B Josh Bell, SP Jameson Taillon and SP Joe Musgrove over the winter, improvement isn't expected in 2021.

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates

 
Topps Ben Sheets
Topps Ben Sheets

3/23/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps Update #316 Ben Sheets, All-Star

More Ben Sheets All-Star Topps Cards: n/a

Happy Birthday to me!!!

I was troubled upon first realizing today's COTD would be a 2008 Topps Update card, because I DID NOT want to feature a Combo card on my birthday, of all days. If you're familiar with COTD, you know I DO. NOT. LIKE. Combo cards at all, especially the redundant, pointless ones of the mid-late 2000's.

But as it turns out, the selection turned out to be a Ben Sheets All-Star card. Now I'm not thrilled with profiling Sheets for the second time this month, but it SURE beats the alternative.

THIS CARD: At first I thought: why is Sheets in his road greys if the 2008 All-Star Game was at Yankee Stadium? Then I remembered Milwaukee has been in the NL for the past 23 years. Oops.

The frieze in the logo immediately gives away Yankee Stadium as the 2008 ASG locale. Remember that was the last year of The Stadium before it was vacated for the current edition.

Good, clean signature, almost impossible to mess up a name like "Ben Sheets". 

(flip) Sheets whiffed Josh Hamilton, Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis—all swinging—but he also allowed two hits and a walk (though no runs, as the blurb indicates).

Sheets had been a beast in 2008, going 13-9, 3.09. Sadly, he was injured just before Milwaukee kicked off its first playoff run in 26 years.

Perhaps due to pitching hurt, Sheets only racked up 50 more K in the second half, though he still made 31 total starts.

The eight-year veteran was also selected to the 2001, 2004 and 2007 All-Star teams

AFTER THIS CARD: The 2008 All-Star Game was Sheets' last. He only pitched two more (partial) seasons, for the 2010 Athletics and 2012 Braves. 

CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps Update, All-Stars

 
Topps Brad Radke
Topps Brad Radke

3/24/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #316 Brad Radke, Twins

More Brad Radke Topps Cards: 1995T 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006

Here, we catch up with young Radke after his second year in the major leagues. With the established 1-2 punch of Kevin Tapani and Scott Erickson both traded away during the 1995 season, Minnesota desperately needed its young pitchers to step up.

In 1996, Radke was easily the best of those pitchers. Though he was only second on the team in wins, Radke led Minnesota in innings, strikeouts and WHIP (1.241). Perhaps most importantly, he was the only Twin to remain in the rotation from Opening to Closing Day.

THIS CARD: Radke graces COTD for the third time, having appeared in November 2014 (2002 Topps) and November 2016 (1999 Topps). It does not seem like 4.5 years since we last presented him.

Radke toils at an unidentifiable road ballpark that must have been a bit chilly; I don't think he was wearing sleeves to cover up magnets Hideki Irabu-style.

More from Radke's 1996 season: he won each of his first three starts, then dropped 10 of 11 decisions. Radke did go 3-2 in September, opening the month with consecutive CG. 

(flip) Radke took a hard-luck, 2-0 CG loss in that 6/18/96 game against the Yankees. He threw 78 pitches in eight innings!

Not shown in Topps until 2006: Radke's hit totals. He was often around the plate, which resulted in few walks but a load of hits allowed. Though he finished his career allowing nearly 200 more hits than IP, he somehow never led the league in any season.

Blyleven was 21 years, nine days old when he started on Opening Day 1972 for the Twins; the future Cooperstown enshrinee went six innings, but Minnesota lost 4-3 in 11 innings to the eventual champion Athletics.

AFTER THIS CARD: Radke emerged as a 20-game winner in 1997, and in 1998 made his first and only All-Star team (although his performance torpedoed in the second half that year). Radke finished with 12 wins annually 1998-2000, leading the AL with 16 losses in 2000 as Minnesota continued to spin its wheels.

 

The Twins began to turn things around in 2001, when their young pitchers finally made strides. A year later, they returned to the postseason despite Radke missing 1/3 of the season with a groin injury. 


Though no longer the Twins ace—teammate Johan Santana emerged in 2002 as the ace of the damn American League—Radke remained a workhorse for the Twins (over 200 IP in each year 2003-05) until pitching '06 with a torn labrum and fractured shoulder socket. He retired at season's end rather than rehab.


Brad Radke appeared in Topps annually 1995-2006; 1995 was a Traded card.

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Minnesota Twins

 
Topps Tom Herr
Topps Tom Herr

3/26/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #297 Tom Herr, Phillies

More Tom Herr Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1988T 1989 1989T 1991

Steady second baseman Tom Herr, one of few to play on all three Cardinals World Series teams of the 1980's, joined the Phillies in an October 1988 trade with Minnesota and soon signed a 2Y/$1.8M deal to remain there. In 1989, Herr led or co-led Philadelphia in at-bats, hits and triples, and was one of just two Phillies to play in 150+ games (Von Hayes).

THIS CARD: We spot Herr possibly on the move to cover the bag. He was a Gold-Glove caliber second baseman throughout the 1980's, but Ryne Sandberg of the Cubs ruined any shot Herr had at the award.

The full number on Herr's back is 28, which even in the old team garb looks strange on any Phillie besides Jayson Werth (I looked up other Herr Phillies pics to confirm). And Werth only had it a few years! I have issues.

(Trivia: #28 was the number of ex-Phillies closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams before he switched to #99.)

More from Herr's 1989 season: he opened the year batting 6-for-13 over three games at Chicago, and batted .355 overall in April! Entering play 7/24, Herr had only made two errors all season before being charged with two that day. He finished the season with just seven miscues!

(flip) In addition to swimming, young Herr also played football, hooped and ran track. In fact, Herr was once (briefly) recruited for basketball by Duke and later hooped as a walk-on at Delaware!

As you see, Herr only homered twice in 1989. But one won a game for the Phillies on 9/25—Herr's two-run shot off Bob Ojeda in the 8th inning did in the Mets.

As you also see, Herr turns 65 in just over a week. Having seen the end of Herr's career with my Giants, I feel even older than I already did.

Not a misprint, and no justifiable story behind it as with Tom Seaver, but Herr was indeed undrafted. In fact, many nights in the early 80's, St. Louis trotted out an undrafted 2B in Herr, and an undrafted 3B in Ken Oberkfell.

AFTER THIS CARD: Herr was putting together a 1990 season similar to his 1989 season when he was dealt to the Mets in August (New York was contending; Philly wasn't.) Somewhat reluctantly, New York re-signed Herr for 1Y/$1.4M—only to release the struggling veteran in August; he finished up 1991 (and his MLB career) in a part-time role for the Giants.

Herr later managed in the Independent League for a time before joining the Nationals organization, managing one season for A Hagerstown in 2007. His sons Aaron and Jordan both played in the minors.

Tom Herr appeared in Topps annually 1980-91; he's also got 1988-89 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies

 
Topps San Diego Padres
Topps San Diego Padres

3/27/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #342 San Diego Padres Team Card

More San Diego Padres Team Topps Cards: 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2010 2011 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

The 2014 San Diego Padres were the NL's worst offensive team of the entire 2010's. Only one team, the 2013 Marlins, scored fewer runs than their 535, and they were the only team to bat under .230 (.226). They were no-hit by Tim Lincecum of my Giants 6/25. Early in the season, they were giving at-bats to an over-the-hill Xavier Nady (5-for-37; cut in May). Later in the season, they were giving at-bats to an over-the-hill Jeff Francouer (2-for-24; cut in August). 

San Diego was counting on a surgically-repaired Carlos Quentin for thump, but he batted .177 in 50 games while beginning and ending the year on the disabled list. And remember—Petco Park's fences were moved in the previous season, so blaming the ballpark was pointless. Buried in 4th place in late June, the Padres canned GM Josh Byrnes after 2.5 years on the job.

The club's offensive woes wasted an excellent pitching effort; its 3.27 ERA was second-best in the league.

THIS CARD: That 77-85 record put San Diego in third place in the NL West (17 games behind the first-place Dodgers) and 11 games out of either Wild Card spot.

The man in the middle looks like Yangervis Solarte, but I'm not positive—I'm not a Padres facial expert. Let me research...

...after researching, I've concluded...nothing. But no other position player on the '14 Padres resembles the pictured fellow. If YOU know, please let ME know.

You may be aware the #19 patch is in memory of Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn Sr. who passed away in 2014.

(flip) Pitching did indeed lead the way; Kennedy and Ross each won 13 games, and rookies Odrisamer Despaigne and Jesse Hahn both pitched well in their combined 28 starts. Cashner was disabled twice, however.

Smith also led the team with a very meager 118 hits. In fact, Alexi Amarista was the only other Padre with more than 100. True, there were some trades, a couple injuries and Cameron Maybin's 25-game suspension. But still.

More from the 2014 Padres season: the team was shut out in three of five games June 6-11, and they also absorbed consecutive 1-0 losses July 12-13. C Yasmani Grandal led the team with 15 HR, and 2B Jedd Gyorko was the RBI leader with...51.

But despite their struggles, attendance was up by nearly 30,000 in 2014. Even with the Lincecum no-no, the Padres went 10-9 against the division-rival Giants. And San Diego also brought former outfielder-turned-pitcher Jason Lane back to the major leagues...twice! (Lane had been out of MLB since 2007.)

AFTER THIS CARD: New Padres GM A.J. Preller went all-in for 2015acquiring the likes of Matt Kemp, both Upton brothers and Wil Myers to fortify the lineup. He also nabbed ace SP James Shields and CL Craig Kimbrel to boost the pitching staff. But in spite of these changes, the Padres actually finished three games worse in 2015. Not even the June firing of longtime manager Bud Black could spark them.

By August 2016, all of the 2015 imports (except Myers) were sent packing, and the team's mediocrity continued. But in 2019, superstar 3B Manny Machado was brought in as a free agent, with highly-touted youngster Fernando Tatis Jr. alongside him at SS. With those two building blocks in place, Preller went all-in again in 2020, executing about 29 different trades near the deadline—this time it worked, as San Diego ended a 14-year postseason drought that year.

(Did we mention the Padres brought brown back to their uniforms in 2020?)

CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, San Diego Padres

 
Topps Mike Bell
Topps Mike Bell

3/28/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #201 Mike Bell, Draft Pick

More Mike Bell Topps Cards: n/a

Bell was fated to play professional hardball—his grandpa Gus was a slugging All-Star outfielder for the Pirates and Reds in the 1950's, his papa Buddy was an All-Star and Gold Glover for the Indians, Rangers and Reds during the 1970's and 1980's, and his bro David, the current Reds manager, was a fine infielder for several teams in the 1990's and 2000's.

Mike Bell didn't have the same major league playing career that his relatives did, but he had 27 more at-bats and two more home runs than you or I did!

THIS CARD: Interesting cap. It looks nothing like any Rangers hat I've ever seen, but makes it clear who just drafted Bell and where his allegiances currently lie.

This Mike Bell is not to be confused with the Mike Bell who played for Atlanta in the early 1990's and appeared in several major sets of that era (but not Topps).

TSR presents this card in memory of Bell, who passed away 3/26/21 at age 46 from kidney cancer. He'd had a growth removed in January 2021, but it wasn't enough to beat the disease, evidently.

(flip) Moeller High School also produced Hall-of-Famers Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey, Jr. Among active big leaguers, however, there's pretty much just Brent Suter.

Bell went #30 overall in the 1993 draft. I'm not sure why Texas was drafting so low, since they weren't exactly a juggernaut in those days.

Today, there is a Gatorade Player of the Year for every state; not sure if that was the case in Bell's day. Recent winners include college standout Jack Leiter and Detroit's top prospect Riley Greene.

AFTER THIS CARD: Bell was good enough for the Rangers to retain, but not promote past AAA. He was dealt to the Angels (for RP Matt Perisho) in October 1997, drafted by the expansion Diamondbacks one month later, then traded to the Mets three more months later...personally, my head would spin right off.

Finally, Bell got a taste of the majors in 2000 with the Reds, who summoned him when incumbent 3B Aaron Boone hit the DL. Bell's stint lasted 19 games and four starts, during which he went 6-for-27 with the two homers; the next Spring, Bell broke his arm applying a tag and missed extended time. The Spring after that, he injured a tendon in his hand and missed even more time. Bell was never recalled to MLB and stepped away after the '05 season.

Next came 13 years working for the Diamondbacks, including the final 10 as farm director. Bell was preparing for his second season as Twins bench coach when he fell ill.

Mike Bell appeared in 1994 Topps; 2001 Pacific produced the lone card of Bell with Cincinnati stats.

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Draft Picks, Now Deceased

 
Topps Brian Griffiths
Topps Brian Griffiths

3/29/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #483 Brian Griffiths, Marlins

More Brian Griffiths Topps Cards: n/a

This will be very brief.

Brian Griffiths was a marginal Astros pitching prospect who went to the Marlins in an Expansion Draft-day trade for RP Tom Edens. And because 1993 Topps felt the need to produce a card of just about anybody associated with the expansion teams, the undeserving Griffiths made the set.

THIS CARD: No other major company produced a card of Griffiths, who slightly resembles another ex-Astros farmhand, Darryl Kile.

(flip) As you see, Griffiths' numbers were so unimpressive I can't even deduce which of his seasons might have been his best.

Dan Huston later went to work for the Brewers. His most notable signings are now-Mariners OF Mitch Haniger and Brewers prospect Tyrone Taylor.

AFTER THIS CARD: Somehow, Griffiths wound up in the Giants organization for 1993, going 5-11 in 23 starts for AA Shrevport (making him 25-48 lifetime). He then disappeared from pro ball...but we'll always have this card to remember him by, I suppose.

Brian Griffiths appeared in 1993 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Florida Marlins