Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, November 2020
A = Alternate Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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11/30/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #52 Jaret Wright, Yankees
More Jaret Wright Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003T 2005 2007
"...I was supposed to be there," a retired Jaret Wright once said about his famous 1997 World Series Game 7 start on three days rest...as a 21-year-old rookie. A second-generation big leaguer brimming with confidence, Wright pitched well enough to win that night, but the Marlins came back to beat Wright's Indians in extras.
Young Wright showed loads of potential over the 1997-98 seasons, and was rewarded with a 4Y/$9M deal in October 1998. But he could never get things going in 1999, and then the injuries hit him harder than opposing batters were; he underwent shoulder surgery in 2000 and 2001.
Wright was so thoroughly ineffective in 2002 that he wound up making more starts for AAA Buffalo (10) than Cleveland (6); the Indians had no choice but to decline his $6M option for 2003.
Following a 2003 season pitching relief for the Padres and Braves, Wright returned to the rotation for Atlanta in 2004 and enjoyed the best—and perhaps healthiest—season of his career, cashing in when the Yankees went on a spending spree that winter (3Y/$21M). Here, Wright has completed the first year of that deal, with little success.
THIS CARD: We see Wright completing his follow-through during what is likely an exhibition game (if a game at all) at Yankee Stadium, based on the jersey and camera angle. I'm based in the SF Bay Area and only see limited Yankees action each year; I do not recall them ever wearing this uniform in a regular-season game. If they did/do and you'd like to point out my idiocy for not knowing, contact me.
If this is indeed a game at the Stadium, odds are things were not going well for Wright; he posted a 7.86 ERA there in 2005, compared to 3.99 on the road.
That's part of the #33 you see on Wright's back; for some reason he switched to #34 in 2006. I remember him as #27 with the Indians.
(flip) The cartoon makes it sound like Wright had been struggling in the NL for years before being introduced to the AL in 2005.
Wright was signed as a free agent about two weeks before New York dropped $40M in Carl Pavano's lap. Neither deal paid off.
Inflammation and torn scar tissue in Wright's shoulder cost him nearly three months of the '05 season.
Wright pitched 39 games, not three, for the 2003 Padres. That error originated in 2005 Topps and was never corrected on Wright's future Topps cards.
AFTER THIS CARD: Wright was mostly (but not totally) healthy in 2006, making 27 starts and winning 11 of them with a 4.49 ERA. But in a salary dump—a rare move for the 2000's Yankees—he was traded to Baltimore for young Chris Britton in November 2006.
For the 2007 Orioles, Wright made two starts, hit the DL with a sore shoulder, made one more start, then returned to the DL. Rather than continue a rehab assignment, the 31-year-old returned home in September. A minor league deal with Pittsburgh for 2008 led nowhere, and Wright's playing career ended; at last check (2013) he was suing his financial advisors.
Jaret Wright appeared in 1998-2002 Topps, 2003 Topps Traded, and 2005-07 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps, New York Yankees
More November 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day
11/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #425 Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
More Hanley Ramirez Topps Cards: 2005 2006 2007 2009 2010 2011 2012 2012U 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
In my long MLB: The Show career, perhaps the most imposing hitter I dealt with was Hanley Ramirez during his Florida days. He stood on top of the plate, hulking, and was substantially tough to retire. "Mike" Stanton batted behind Ramirez, and he still got the four-finger treatment more than any other opponent I faced.
In his early years, virtual Ramirez embodied real Ramirez rather closely; it seemed with a little luck the youngster might even end up in Cooperstown someday (laughable now, but plausible a decade ago). He could do it all, and he did do it all for several years in Miami.
Here, however, Ramirez is just coming off his second full major league season. The kid batted a robust .332 to rank 5th in the NL, and his 212 hits placed second to Colorado's Matt Holliday.
THIS CARD: Yes, Red Sox fans, there was a time Ramirez would lay one down and beat it out. In 2007, for the second straight season, he bunted thrice for hits. But by 2013 it was no longer part of his arsenal...hitting a lot of home runs will do that to a guy.
Solid, clean signature. My only issue is with the circle dot. It doesn't exactly reek of masculinity.
More from Ramirez's 2007 season: the 23-year-old led Florida in runs, steals and hits, while finishing a close second in doubles. He also paced the club in official at-bats and was just .003 off the slugging lead. If he and Miguel Cabrera had stayed together long enough to team up with Stanton...
(flip) Note Ramirez's durability over those first two seasons; as his career progressed he seemed to get hit in the hand practically monthly. After 2009 (his age-25 season), Ramirez topped 150 games just one more time, in 2012.
Let's see. Of the 11, I know Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson. Now I'll look up the others: Cesar Cedeno, Joe Morgan, Lou Brock, Ryne Sandberg, Brady Anderson, Eric Davis, Craig Biggio and Eric Byrnes.
The Trade With Red Sox sent SP Josh Beckett and 3B Mike Lowell to Boston. Ramirez was one of four prospects Florida received; Anibal Sanchez was another. (I'd long forgotten Ramirez actually debuted in MLB with the Red Sox.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Early in the 2008 season, the Marlins extended Ramirez for 6Y/$70M, and he responded by making three straight All-Star squads 2008-10 and winning the 2009 NL batting title (.342). But by 2012, the Fish were flopping despite a new ballpark, high payroll and high expectations—Ramirez, who'd switched to 3B that year to accommodate Jose Reyes, was dealt to the Dodgers in July.
In 2013, after two straight ordinary seasons, Ramirez returned to SS and surged to a .638 slugging percentage—problem is, he achieved it in just 86 games (hamstring strain, thumb surgery). After returning to earth in 2014, the 30-year-old signed with his original team, Boston (4Y/$88M) for 2015. The catch: he'd now be a left fielder. At Fenway Park.
The outfield experiment failed, to the surprise of few, and in 2016 Ramirez switched to first base; he'd enjoy a 30-HR, 111-RBI campaign. But after a season-plus of fair-to-poor play, the Red Sox shocked many by cutting Ramirez—who'd had a hot April—in May 2018. The veteran got in 15 games with the 2019 Indians before they, too, cut ties, and his career now appears over at 36.
Hanley Ramirez appeared annually in Topps 2006-18; he also has a 2012 Update card.
CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, Florida Marlins
11/3/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #308 Carl Crawford, Dodgers
More Carl Crawford Topps Cards: 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2011U 2012 2012U 2013 2014 2016
For multiple reasons, I am unhappy with selecting this card. First of all, I'm still recovering from the blow that was LA winning the title; the last thing I need is to have a Dodger front and center on any page of this website. Even one who hasn't been on the team in years.
Secondly, it's only been a few months since I learned what a not-so-nice guy Crawford seems to be, so remaining objective when talking about his career could prove difficult.
But I'll try.
Crawford, as you may recall, was the league's top basestealer in the 2000's and a fine overall player on some lousy Devil Ray teams. Ironically, the 2008 team reached the World Series as Crawford endured his worst season up to that point (he did post a largely-cosmetic .632 SLG in said WS against Philadelphia).
The veteran came back with an All-Star 2009 season, and backed it up in his walk year of 2010, leading the league in triples for the 4th time, swiping 60 bases and finishing 7th in MVP voting!
In December 2010, Boston signed Crawford for 7Y/$142M...but they did not get the player they expected. Crawford didn't much care for Boston, either, and as he recovered from UCL surgery in August 2012, he was shipped to the Dodgers in a blockbuster nine-player deal.
Here, Crawford is fresh off his second year as a Dodger. Now 33, he still was not the impact player he'd been with Tampa Bay, but he did contribute, hitting .300 for the first time since leaving Tampa and finishing second on the 2014 Dodgers in steals despite missing six weeks with a sprained ankle.
THIS CARD: We see Crawford in action, dropping the bat and about to do what he did best: fly down the line. I can't be sure of the ballpark; it looks like possibly Citi Field but the Mets don't wear hats like those seen in the background...
Crawford wore #3 with LA; offhand, I think that number belongs to Chris Taylor today. (Upon research, I was right.) Cesar Izturis and Steve Sax also wore #3 for the Dodgers.
More from Crawford's 2014 season: he was injured 5/27 while chasing down a ball in the outfield, and missed 40 games. He was only 3-for-his-first-28 upon returning, but turned it on over the final two months, bringing his average from the .240's to .300 on the season's final day.
(flip) No blurb, so I'll tell you that Crawford closed the 2014 season on a three-game multi-hit streak, and a seven-game hit streak overall. He doubled three times in LA's 4-0 win over San Diego 9/10.
That Trade With Red Sox sent IF Nick Punto, 1B Adrian Gonzalez and SP Josh Beckett with Crawford to the Dodgers. Boston received 1B James Loney and four insignificants.
No, Topps didn't err; Crawford did not lead the AL in steals in either 2009 or 2010. Those honors went to Jacoby Ellsbury and Juan Pierre, respectively.
AFTER THIS CARD: As 2015 unfolded, Crawford got the bulk of the Dodgers' LF duty...until tearing his oblique in late April and missing three months; he finished up with a .265 average in 69 games (43 starts). Crawford opened 2016 as a reserve before being released in June with a .185 average and over $34M left on his deal. He did not play professionally again.
Carl Crawford appeared annually in Topps 2003-16, with Update cards in 2011-12.
CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
11/5/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps #537 Jake Peavy, White Sox
More Jake Peavy Topps Cards: 2001 2001T 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2009U 2010 2012 2013 2013U 2014 2014U 2015 2016
On 7/30/16, I was among 42K to see Jake Peavy's final major league start in person, at AT&T Park vs. the Nationals. No one at the time knew it was Peavy's final start, including Peavy himself. But for much of that 2016 season, he hadn't been effective, and the Giants moved him to the bullpen after the Washington game...permanently, as it turned out.
10 years prior, Peavy had been one of the premier pitchers in the game for the San Diego Padres, winning two ERA titles, making two All-Star teams, and taking home the 2007 NL Cy Young Award after winning a league-high 19 games. In December 2007, San Diego extended Peavy for 3Y/$52M beginning in 2010.
The Padres never would pay Peavy that cash, however—in 2009, with the team 20 games under .500, San Diego moved their ace to the White Sox at the deadline (even though he was injured at the time). The veteran healed and dominated down the stretch for Chicago, but here, Peavy is coming off a 2010 season that began poorly, improved, then ended suddenly in July with a torn back/shoulder muscle.
THIS CARD: We see Peavy about to attack with the fastball (once 96 but low-90's once he reached Chicago), two-seamer, slider, change, cutter or curve. In addition to being good, Peavy was entertaining as well, a fiery competitor who could often be seeing railing at himself if unhappy with a pitch.
The Randomizer Knows All, Example #76: just a few days ago Peavy and the White Sox finished off me and my Giants in the World Series of MLB '11: The Show. Yes, I'm stuck in the past.
Though all of Peavy's commons through the years depict him mid-motion, by and large the looks are varied, although this front image is a bit too similar to his 2010 front image. Overall, I give the Topps Peavy redundancy checking a B.
(flip) This card is the second of three straight Peavy commons to be numbered in the 500's, which is highly uncommon for Topps.
Peavy's shoulder injury was rotator cuff tendinitis developed late in Spring Training; he was out until 5/11/11. It was unrelated to the groundbreaking 2010 surgery he underwent to repair his (complicated name) muscle which had torn completely off the bone—an injury not seen in a baseball player.
Notice Pete Rose is mentioned on this card! But by the 2014 Topps set that was no longer allowed...
Peavy's lone 2010 CG/SHO was a three-hitter at Washington 6/19. (Ryan Zimmerman was the only Nat in the lineup that day and in the game mentioned above, if you wondered.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Peavy also dealt with a groin pull and arm fatigue in 2011, but bounced back in 2012 with 32 starts, 11 wins, an All-Star berth and a Gold Glove; Chicago extended him for 2Y/$29M after that season but dealt him to Boston in mid-2013. Peavy went 4-1 in 10 starts down the stretch, and came away with a World Series ring.
Once again, Peavy was on the move at the Trade Deadline in 2014, this time to my Giants. After going 1-9 with the Red Sox, the 33-year-old went 6-4, 2.17 in 12 starts for San Francisco, aiding their third World Series triumph in five years! He'd ink a 2Y/$24M extension that winter.
Then things went downhill. Peavy lost nearly half of 2015 with a back strain, then endured the poor 2016, which had to be at least partially impacted by serious off-field issues which kept him off the field in 2017. Though he talked of returning, Peavy officially retired just shy of 38 in May 2019.
Jake Peavy debuted as Jake "Peavey" on a 2001 Topps Prospects card, then appeared annually in Topps 2003-16. He's also got a 2001 Traded card and 2013-14 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps, Chicago White Sox
11/6/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #180 Ryan Braun, Brewers
More Ryan Braun Topps Cards: 2005U 2007U 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2019
As I write this, the baseball future of Milwaukee fixture Ryan Braun is uncertain. He's a free agent, 11 days away from his 37th birthday and contemplating retirement, and even if he doesn't retire, there's no guarantee the Brewers will bring him back for a 15th season—he was pretty ordinary in 2020.
Though we may have seen Braun for the final time as a Brewer, there's plenty to remember him by. Braun currently ranks first in team history with 352 home runs, and is a close second or third to Robin Yount and/or Paul Molitor in most other offensive categories. In fact, were it not for Braun's PED scandal, there'd be folks pushing for his statue outside The-Ballpark-Formerly-Known-As-Miller-Park.
Before his 2013 PED bust, Braun was doing special things at the plate, winning NL Rookie Of The Year in 2007, making the next five All-Star teams, and taking home the 2011 NL MVP award. But after the bust, Braun has gone from great to pretty good (while enduring numerous aches and years of booing at many road ballparks).
While juicing and lying about juicing didn't ruin his career, it pretty much ruined his legacy.
Here, Braun is coming off an abbreviated 2017 season; he missed 60 games with a recurring calf injury and a bad wrist that hampered him in many games he did play. Still, the 33-year-old socked his 300th career home run 9/8, and also broke a four-way tie for the Brewers all-time grand slam lead 7/14.
THIS CARD: It's been 12 years since Braun moved from 3B to LF, and I still think of him primarily as a third baseman. Same with Alex Gordon, and that guy was possibly the best left fielder of his era. Braun, as you may know, was drafted as a SS, and also was Milwaukee's regular RF 2014-15.
That #8 will one day reside alongside the retired numbers of Yount and Molitor. Before Braun came along, the only notable Brewer to wear #8 was Mark Loretta.
TSR randomly picks 2018 Topps #180 just a couple of months after randomly picking 2018 Topps #181 Garrett Cooper.
More from Braun's 2017 season: Milwaukee opened the year in discussions with the Dodgers about a potential Braun trade; it didn't happen. He missed much of May and practically all of June battling the calf strain, and slugged .471 with 10 HR in 74 games after returning—solid numbers for most but low for Braun as he battled the wrist pain. Curiously, the Brewers were 53-51 with Braun and 33-25 without him...
(flip) John Lackey of the Cubs served up Braun's 300th, a two-run shot in the T1st. The blast stood up as the game's only scoring!
If you feel a sense of Deja Vu talking about all-time Brewers grand slams, it's because we discussed them back in February 2019 for John Jaha's COTD. Jaha, along with Cecil Cooper and Jeromy Burnitz, had been tied with Braun atop the Brewers slam list.
I tried, but was unavailable to find even one other team's all-time grand slams leader. For something that basic to not be readily available online is a travesty. (Update: I did learn the Marlins' slams leader is Jeff Conine, who hasn't been active in some time.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Braun smoked 20 homers in '18 (including two walk-offs) and got his first professional run at 1B, but was sidelined twice with separate back issues. In '19 he got in 144 games, his most since '12, and roped career grand slams #7 and #8.
Milwaukee used Braun as a RF/DH in '20; he did not have a strong season, missed some time with a finger infection and missed one-and-a-half games of the '20 Wild Card Series with an oblique injury. As we mentioned, he is presently a free agent.
Ryan Braun debuted in 2005 Topps Updates & Highlights as a Draft Pick, returned in 2007 Topps Updates & Highlights as a rookie, and has appeared annually in the base set since 2008.
CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers
11/8/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #497 Ben McDonald, Orioles
More Ben McDonald Topps Cards: 1990 1990T 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
In Bill Wegman's recent COTD write-up, I shared my affinity for high IP totals, especially from dudes who might not be expected to be so durable. 1996 Ben McDonald of the Brewers is one of my favorite examples; he'd been injured the year before and the year after, but in between he chewed up 221.1 frames for Phil Garner.
The same Phil Garner who allowed Wegman to log 261.2 IP in 1992.
I wish Phil Garner was still managing...
McDonald was a quality pitcher for eight-plus major league seasons, but injuries prevented him from being the star Baltimore envisioned when it took him #1 overall in the 1989 draft. The 6'7" ex-college hoops star was rudely introduced to MLB later that summer; as a RP, he allowed runs in each of his first four appearances.
Here, after a half-season in the minors and a few more MLB relief outings, McDonald has joined the Orioles rotation and made an immediate impact...read on.
THIS CARD: McDonald's pitching arm does not look particularly strong here, but it held up for most of his first eight years. He threw a 90+ fastball but his money pitch was the curve.
Topps redundancy checkers failed McDonald more than once. His 1991 and 1993 Topps front images are practically identical, as are his 1994 and 1995 Topps front images.
More from McDonald's 1990 season: he dealt with an oblique strain during Spring Training, then had blister issues at AAA Rochester. But when he finally entered Baltimore's rotation 7/21, all he did was four-hit shutout the White Sox!
(flip) Somehow, the less-than-mint condition of this card didn't show up in the scan. I didn't take good care of my Topps sets until gloss was introduced.
Ray Crone pitched four years with the Braves and two with the Giants in the 1950's. He later embarked on a long scouting career with four teams and was with the Diamondbacks as recently as 2017, at age 86, according to Wikipedia. (Their source, MLB.com's Diamondbacks page, no longer lists Crone among its scouts, however.)
Those three July wins and two August wins came in McDonald's first five MLB starts, setting an Orioles record that to my knowledge, hasn't been matched. If it has, correct me.
McDonald, in those 15 starts, accumulated 109 of those 118.2 IP, an average of over seven per start. In fact, the kid threw at least eight innings in five of his final six starts of 1990! Probably not advisable, but still cool and a far cry from where we're at today.
AFTER THIS CARD: "Big Ben", as he was occasionally called, would be a mainstay of the 1992-94 Orioles rotations, winning 40 games over that period and missing exactly zero starts; he was not the superstar some envisioned, but McDonald was certainly a quality pitcher.
In 1995, the 27-year-old won his arbitration case...but only three ballgames, as shoulder tendinitis hampered him. That winter, Milwaukee signed McDonald to a 2Y/$5.89M deal loaded with incentives—Baltimore only offered one year—and he led the 1996 team in starts, innings and K.
But in '97—a year his agent foolishly rejected a three-year extension—McDonald's season ended early with a torn rotator cuff; he was swapped to the Indians that winter but ended up having career-ending surgery in February 1998. Don't worry, the Brewers took McDonald back from Cleveland.
At last check, McDonald was announcing college baseball and occasionally popping in on Orioles broadcasts.
Ben McDonald appeared annually in Topps 1990-98; he's also got a 1990 Traded card acknowledging his ascent to the majors.
CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
11/9/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #344 Nelson Cruz, Rangers
More Nelson Cruz Topps Cards: 2007 2009 2010 2011 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Nelson Cruz was 29 when he secured MLB footing, but he has since made up well for lost time.
And then some.
Cruz was traded twice before even reaching MLB, passing through the Mets and Athletics organizations before debuting with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005. But they surrendered him to Texas (with Carlos Lee) to acquire CL Francisco Cordero in July 2006.
After two extended looks in 2007 and another in late 2008, Cruz finally stuck with the Rangers in '09 and wound up on the All-Star team as his 33 home runs led the Rangers (Cruz also finished second in that year's Home Run Derby).
Injuries to both hamstrings limited him to 108 games in 2010, but he still hit .318 with 22 homers in helping Texas to the World Series! They'd lose to my Giants, with Cruz himself ending the series with a strikeout.
Here, Cruz has endured a frustrating 2011 during which he hit the DL twice (May quad strain, August hamstring strain) making it five such visits in two years. Still, he swatted 29 home runs in 475 official at-bats.
THIS CARD: As soon as I saw this image, it was clear that either A) the fan in the back is celebrating WAY too soon, or B) Cruz couldn't have known if this ball was fair or foul, because he has a very distinctive two-hand follow-through as he steps toward first base on home runs.
Since Cruz had been ALCS MVP in 2011, I felt this image could be from that Rangers/Tigers series. Based on his and the fan's reaction, Cruz is obviously smashing one deep here, so I reviewed his walk-off grand slam from Game 2...sure enough, nailed it on the first try! Same gloves, same bat, even the same sleeve position from the video.
Cruz finished that series with six home runs and 13 RBI against Detroit. In fact, of the six games, he homered in all except Game 3!
(flip) To watch a guy who hit nine home runs in 307 AB in 2007 go yard six times in the 2011 ALCS was amazing...until this came to light, anyway. Cruz also homered twice in the World Series against St. Louis.
In the 2020 postseason, Corey Seager of the (ew) Dodgers also hit eight home runs, which would have tied the record had Tampa Bay's Randy Arozarena not walloped 10 that same October.
Jesus God, Nelson CRUZ once stole 20 bases in a season??? FYI, he's stolen two bases the past four years but hey, given his leg problems from 2010-11, one could understand him limiting his running in the aftermath.
AFTER THIS CARD: Cruz, even after his 2013 PED bust, has remained one of the premier, reliable sluggers in the game as he overcame his recurring leg issues. As an Oriole in 2014, he led MLB with 40 home runs, then signed a 4Y/$57M deal with the Mariners that December. Ever consistent, Cruz averaged .284, 41, 104 with Seattle, though he was unable to boost them back into the playoffs.
Now a full-time DH, Cruz has spent the last two seasons with the Twins and shown no signs of age; he cracked 41 homers with a .311 average at age 39 in 2019, and belted 16 jacks in 53 games at age 40 in 2020. At this writing, he is a free agent, one with 417 lifetime four-baggers despite the late blooming.
Nelson Cruz has appeared annually in Topps since 2007, except 2008. He's only appeared in Topps Update on All-Star and Derby cards; all his uniform swaps have been represented in the base set.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Texas Rangers
11/11/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #767 Kal Daniels, Dodgers
More Kal Daniels Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1993
The Dodgers entered 1991 with high hopes for Kal Daniels after his impressive 1990 season, especially after he was named NL Player Of The Month for September 1990. But he continued to battle arthritis in both knees and watched all his numbers dip in '91 despite an increase in playing time. Not helping matters: his mother's illness (Daniels took 11 days off in July to tend to her) or his own late-season flu battle.
If that weren't enough, Daniels publicly clashed with teammate Darryl Strawberry after the season.
THIS CARD: TSR features Daniels for the second time in COTD; we pulled his 1987 Topps card in October 2019.
According to just about everything I've read about him, Daniels was every bit as confident as he appears in this photo. What I've learned about baseball as I've aged: you don't necessarily have to be the best player to be the most imposing, and Daniels at his best was a solid example of that.
Daniels wore #28 in LA, same as notable Dodgers such as Pedro Guerrero and Todd Hollandsworth. I don't know who, if anyone, wore it in 2020 and because it's the Dodgers I'm not bothering to look it up.
(flip) You can see the drop-off in Daniels' 1991 stats, but hell, if my mother were hospitalized in the middle of the season I wouldn't be producing at a high level, either! The 93-69 Dodgers only went 3-7 during Daniels' absence.
Atlanta's Doug Sisk served up Daniels' 5th-inning blast; the Dodgers went on to win 8-4. That loss dropped the record of John Smoltz—the same John Smoltz who'd go on to star in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series—to 0-3.
The Trade brought Daniels and IF Lenny Harris to Los Angeles, with IF Mariano Duncan and SP Tim Leary going to Cincinnati.
AFTER THIS CARD: Not much. Despite the off-season drama, Daniels opened 1992 with the Dodgers, who experimented with him as a first baseman in April before returning him to LF. Come June, with high-priced new acquisition Eric Davis set to return from injury, Los Angeles D4A'd Daniels, who wound up traded to the Cubs.
Now 28, the veteran outfielder slugged a pedestrian .417 in 48 games for Chicago, who released him after the season. Nobody else picked Daniels up, and that was that.
Kal Daniels appeared annually in Topps 1987-1993.
CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
11/12/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #413 Carlos Beltran, Mets
A LOT has changed for Carlos Beltran since we last presented a COTD for him (back in October 2019). Weeks after said COTD, Beltran was hired to succeed Mickey Callaway as manager of the New York Mets, for whom Beltran starred as a player 2005-11. Not all loved the move, but most were at least willing to give the newbie a fair chance.
Until it came to light that during Beltran's final go-round as a player, he was the total antithesis of "fair chance"—in early 2020 Beltran was revealed to be front-and-center in the 2017 Astros sign-stealing scheme.
Not just a beneficiary or a willing participant, but rather one of the ringleaders.
Goodbye, new managerial job. Just par for the course if you're a Mets fan...
That was not the first time Beltran joined the Mets after departing the Astros—here, Beltran the player has just signed with the Mets after dominating in the 2004 postseason for Houston. It cost New York $119M over seven years to lure the slugger north, as Houston's bid fell $19M short.
THIS CARD: We see Beltran in a classic STUN (Spring Training New Uniform) image. Not visible is Beltran's familiar #15 which, for longtime Mets fans, had to evoke memories of another free agent outfielder once signed by the Mets: George Foster. Said fans could only hope Beltran's tenure ran smoother than Foster's.
Beltran suited up twice for the Astros and neither time did he appear in the ensuing Topps set as an Astro. In 2005 Topps, he's a Met. In 2018 Topps, he's nonexistent. There are 2004 Traded and 2017 Update cards of Beltran the Astro, though.
More from Beltran's 2004 season: you know about the postseason heroics, but did you know/remember Beltran also homered in five straight games 8/23-27/04? The young veteran enjoyed three regular-season multi-blast games for the Astros, all presumably without the aid of anything being banged.
(flip) Instead of the redundant runs stat, Topps could have used that little box to share Beltran's .367 OBP in 2004, since the split '04 stats made it tougher for curious collectors to self-calculate. But what do I know.
Beltran's shared record stood until 2020 when Randy Arozarena broke it. I should note the FOUR SERIES it took for Arozarena to do so, however.
Beltran finished his career with a SB% of 86.4 (312 for 361), good for second all-time among players with 150+ career steals (Chase Utley, 87.5%) and still first among the over 150 players with 300+ steals.
AFTER THIS CARD: Beltran's first season in New York was pretty ordinary, and temporarily sidetracked by his vicious outfield collision with teammate Mike Cameron. But he bounced back by making three of the next four All-Star teams and tying the Mets then-record for HR with 41 in 2006, helping the Mets to the NLCS!
Unfortunately, Beltran took a sharp curve from the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright for a series-ending strike three, and the Mets didn't return to October baseball until 2015.
By 2011, Beltran was coming off two consecutive injury-marred seasons and in the final year of his deal; the Mets flipped him to the Giants in exchange for then-prospect Zack Wheeler. Beltran then moved on to St Louis for two All-Star seasons, then signed with the Yankees in December 2013 for 3Y/$45M.
Now in his late-30's and doing a whole lot of DHing, Beltran hit 56 home runs in what wound up as 2.5 years as a Yankee; they dealt him to Texas in mid-2016. Then came Beltran's notorious second stint with the Astros...as we mentioned, he did not receive a sunset card in 2018 Topps.
Carlos Beltran debuted in 1995 Topps Traded, he then appeared annually in Topps from 2000-17 and also had Update cards in 2011, 2016 and 2017.
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, New York Mets
11/13/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #367 Johnny Paredes, Expos
More Johnny Paredes Topps Cards: n/a
Here, we catch up with young Paredes on the heels of his first major league action. After losing out on the 1988 Expos 2B job in Spring Training (to Casey Candaele), he joined Montreal in late April and was their primary second baseman through May. Paredes then returned to AAA until rejoining the Expos as a September call-up.
THIS CARD: I wasn't planning to do a COTD today, but then I found out Paredes passed away 11/4/20. Selections are now planned out at the beginning of the month, so fortunately I had an "off-day" to fit in a write-up for Paredes' lone Topps card.
I've mentioned this before in COTD: that is too much color for a major league batting helmet.
Can't figure this out: baseballreference.com only has Paredes as wearing #5 as an Expo, but he's clearly wearing something like #52 here (he'd be the first middle IF I can remember with a number in the 50's). So this is either a Spring Training image or some extreme airbrushing.
(flip) Nice game for Paredes the prospect in May 1987. In MLB, he batted leadoff exactly once (on 5/8/88) and enjoyed a maximum of four hits on 9/11/91. BTW, Omaha was (and is) the AAA affiliate of the Royals.
Paredes' lone MLB homer of '88 was a three-run insurance shot in the 14th inning of a 7-3 win at Houston 5/1.
As you see, Paredes was originally in the Phillies system, but was released after a lackluster 1983 season in Class A. Most guys in his shoes quickly fizzle out; good for Paredes for persevering and making it to the Majors (albeit briefly).
AFTER THIS CARD: UCL surgery sidelined Paredes for 1989, and the Tigers acquired him via Rule V Draft for the first month of 1990 before sending him back to Montreal (who only gave him seven more at-bats).
We last saw Paredes the big leaguer in September 1991, back with the Tigers; including that four-hit breakout the 29-year-old went 6-for-18—not enough to secure any further major league action.
Paredes spent the bulk of the next two seasons with AAA Toledo (Tigers) with a Japan League stint mixed in. Sources list him in the Mexican League for at least part of 1995, as well...RIP.
Johnny Paredes appeared in 1989 Topps.
11/14/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #282 Shane Mack, Twins
More Shane Mack Topps Cards: 1989 1990T 1991 1992 1994 1995
Shane Mack, a 1984 Olympian, is best remembered for his days with the early 1990's Twins; he was their starting LF in 1992 and played regularly all over the outfield for most of his five years in Minnesota. If you watched the 1991 World Series, you may recall Mack getting caught stealing home in Game 4 as batter Greg Gagne failed to lay down the squeeze on a pitch way outside.
Mack debuted in MLB with the Padres at 23 back in 1987, starting 90 games for SD over the 1987-88 seasons but only hitting 241 with .331 slugging. In '89, elbow surgery limited Mack to 24 games—all in the minors. The youngster's career took another backwards step when he was outrighted of the 40-man roster by the Padres.
Mercifully, the Twins snapped Mack up in that winter's Rule V Draft, saw him bat .392 through May 1990, and wisely kept him in the lineup. Though Mack was ice-cold in that 1991 World Series, Minnesota might not have made it there without his efforts.
Here, Mack is coming off a solid 1992 season. He batted .315 in a career-high 156 games, including a robust .348 in the second half, and his 26 steals ranked second among Twins.
THIS CARD: Usually, when I come down on Topps for failing to prevent image redundancy, it's a criticism. But in Mack's case, neglect was beneficial—four of his five Topps base cards as a Twin depict him belly-sliding into a base! They're all fairly exciting, and Mack's 1991 Topps card is one of the 10 favorites of my entire collection.
This particular card, I believe Mack is diving back into first base on a Red Sox pickoff attempt; yes, the Metrodome did have painted lines between the basepaths.
More from Mack's 1992 season: he put together a fine year despite being hit in the head by Milwaukee's Mike Fetters in April. How did the rough beaning affect Mack? Uh, he returned two days later with a four-hit game (including a home run!) Mack also enjoyed a 22-game hit streak from 7/26 to 8/18.
(flip) Mack would finish his career with five grand slams overall, including the blurbed one off Frank Tanana. He hit .376 (74-for-197) average with 11 bombs against the Tigers lifetime.
Mack went #11 overall to the Padres back in '84, immediately behind Mark McGwire.
Those 1992 totals of a .315 average, 189 hits, 31 doubles, 16 home runs and 75 RBI were all second on the Twins to Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett. (Mack did pace Minnesota with a .394 OBP in '92, which of course is not shown here.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Injuries slowed Mack over much of the next season-plus; he separated his shoulder in Spring 1993 and was bothered by it all year until shutting down three weeks early. Mack would open 1994 on the DL but seemed recovered afterward, slugging .564 in 81 games. But when the strike dragged on, Mack joined the Japan League for 1995 (2Y/$8M).
Now 33, the veteran returned to the States in 1997 as a part-timer for the Red Sox. Oakland seemingly signed Mack for 1998, but just days into the season they swapped him to KC for C Mike MacFarlane. With the Royals, Mack suffered a protruding disc of his cervical vertebrae that more or less ended his career; his comeback attempt with the 1999 Padres fizzled out in Spring Training and no one else came calling.
Shane Mack debuted in 1985 Topps as an Olympian, came back for the 1988 set, then closed his Topps career with appearances in the 1991-95 sets. Most of the major companies produced a card of Mack with Boston, but Topps did not. (Mack also shows up in 1987 and 1990 Traded.)
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Minnesota Twins
11/15/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps Update #229 Jason Vargas, Angels
More Jason Vargas Topps Cards: 2005U 2006 2009U 2010U 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2017 2018 2018U 2019
Jason Vargas was a #2 pick by the 2004 Marlins and in the majors by the next season. Okay as a rookie, Vargas struggled badly in his second MLB season (2006) and was traded to the Mets that winter. Beset by injuries, Vargas never got much of a shot in his first stint with the Mets—it took until 2010 for Vargas to solidify a major league rotation spot (with the Mariners).
In that 2010 season, a very difficult one for Seattle, Vargas went 9-12 despite a 3.78 ERA. The 27-year-old followed that up with 32 starts, 201 IP, and 10 wins (including three shutouts) for the 2011 Mariners and clearly seemed to be on the rise. His salary sure was; it doubled to $4.85M for 2012.
Here, Vargas—a pending free agent—has kicked off his first and only season (2013) with the Angels, having been dealt for 1B/DH Kendrys Morales in December 2012. Vargas had been one of the game's better pitchers in 2012, winning 14 times and throwing 217.1 innings for Seattle; he was named AL July Pitcher of Month as well (5-0, 1.64 ERA).
THIS CARD: I'm not sure how Vargas ended up with the #60, but he only wore it during his one year in Anaheim.
Is it really that hard to button a uniform top? It's just a sloppy look that some players insist upon sporting. I suppose it's possible Vargas's button broke as he pitched, but what's the excuse for the other few dozen of unbuttoned major leaguers? (I know, I know, get off my lawn, etc.)
Vargas reaches back to throw what I'm guessing is his signature changeup...it was one baffling pitch that allowed Vargas to extend his career despite only averaging around 85 MPH on his fastball later on.
Offhand, I initially guessed Comerica Park or Progressive Field as the backdrop, but Vargas pitched at neither field as an Angel. So, after researching, I amend my guess to be Seattle's Safeco Field, where Vargas returned twice as an Angel (going 1-1).
(flip) Vargas missed the 2008 season after hip labrum surgery in March; he was also beset by elbow surgery in October 2007.
The Angels didn't just "round out" their rotation with Vargas; they all-but-desperately needed him after losing Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana from their 2012 corps. Morales was expendable after the signing of Josh Hamilton (or so it appeared at the time).
Vargas currently sits just 412 wins away from Young's record. He did not pitch in 2020, which seriously hurt his pursuit, but let's not lose optimism.
AFTER THIS CARD: The Royals came calling in November 2013, signing Vargas for 4Y/$32M. After a quality 2014 year with the eventual AL champions, Vargas was unable to contribute on-field to the Royals' 2015 World Series title, as UCL surgery knocked him out from July 2015 to September 2016.
The veteran lefty bounced back in 2017 with a league-high 18 wins and his sole career All-Star berth, then signed a 2Y/$18M deal with the Mets in February 2018. Vargas began that year 2-8, 8.75 before turning things around in August; he also missed extended time with hand and calf injuries. In 2019, Vargas—despite shutting out my Giants in June—made more news off-field than on, and was traded to the Phillies at the deadline.
As we noted, Vargas went unsigned for 2020, and at 37 may be done.
Jason Vargas appeared annually in Topps and/or Topps Update 2005-19, except 2007-08 and 2016.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps Update, Los Angeles Angels
11/17/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #392 Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays
More Marcus Stroman Topps Cards: 2014U 2015 2016 2017 2019
At times I enjoy Marcus Stroman. At times his (over)confidence irks me. Rarely, however, does he go unnoticed by anyone, and that's probably by design.
Stroman, a Duke grad, arrived in the majors in early May 2014, and by late May was in Toronto's rotation. Despite starting only 20 times, the kid won 11 games, including his only career shutout to date. A torn ACL cost him most of 2015, but he returned in September and dazzled (4-0, 1.67 in four starts). He was also splendid in the postseason.
Here, following a so-so 2016, Stroman has bounced back with an excellent all-round 2017, going 13-9, 3.09 and eclipsing 200 innings for a second straight year. Topping it off nicely: a Gold Glove award!
THIS CARD: A good horizontal image; even with the wide shot of the crowd, I cant begin to speculate where Stroman might be pitching here.
Much was made early on of Stroman wearing a single-digit number, highly uncommon for pitchers (though a couple more have since emerged). Stroman originally wore #54 as a Blue Jay before switching to #6 in 2015 to honor his late grandmother, who was born on the 6th of March.
More from Stroman's 2017 season: between late April and early June, he won six straight decisions. And during April, he completed two of three starts at one point, although one was a loss.
(flip) A lot of history went with that double. First of all, in response to the blurb, the last pitcher of interleague times whose first career hit was off the bench was Tampa's Wade Davis in 2011. Additionally, Stroman became the first AL pitcher with an extra-base pinch-hit since Gary Peters in 1971, and the first Blue Jays pitcher ever with a pinch-hit. Miguel Socolovich of St. Louis served it up.
The card is out of date; Stroman's Twitter handle is now @STR0. I don't know if his IG handle changed and I'm not looking it up.
I did not realize until doing this write-up that Stroman was already 29; it does not seem like he's been around as long as he has.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2018, Stroman—now earning $6.5M—was beset by shoulder fatigue and repeated blister issues; he threw to a 5.54 ERA in 19 starts. But in 2019 he was back to his old self, making the AL All-Star team in fact, before being traded to the Mets in July (for whatever reason, Toronto wasn't offering a long-term deal and obviously didn't expect or want to re-sign their ace as a free agent after 2020).
With a 4-2, 3.77 mark as a 2019 Met, the team had high hopes for Stroman in 2020, but after missing the start of the abbreviated season with a torn calf muscle, he opted out of the season's balance due to COVID-19 concerns. A free agent after 2020, Stroman wisely accepted the Mets' $18.9M qualifying offer for 2021 just last week.
Marcus Stroman debuted in 2014 Topps Update, and has appeared annually in Topps since 2015.
CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays
11/18/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #109 Justin Masterson, Indians
More Justin Masterson Topps Cards: 2009 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
No relation to Danny or Christopher or Mary Stuart.
Few dudes in my time have gone from being All-Star caliber good to washing out of the league within two years while still supposedly in their prime like Justin Masterson did. One minute, he was the ace of a 92-win Indians team, the next, he was stuck in AAA for an entire season at age 32.
Masterson first reached the majors with the Red Sox in 2008 as a swingman; here, he is part of Cleveland's return in the trade for C/DH Victor Martinez in July 2009. The Indians were down at the time—they'd replace longtime manager Eric Wedge with Manny Acta after the '09 season—and Masterson quickly nabbed one of the many jobs available.
THIS CARD: You can't tell here, but Masterson threw from an unconventional angle, almost sidearm, which made his vaunted sinker that much tougher. He also attacked with a 93-97 MPH fastball in his younger days, a slider, and a changeup for show.
If I had to guess under penalty of torture, I'd place Masterson at the familiar Fenway Park. It's hard to tell post-scan, but there was a smattering of red in the crowd.
More from Masterson's 2009 season: he opened the year in Boston's bullpen, made six mostly-decent starts subbing for injured Daisuke Matsuzaka, then returned to the 'pen until being traded. Masterson's first Indians game was a three-inning RA vs. the Tigers; he was then added to the rotation, where he was wildly inconsistent until a brilliant finale...see below.
(flip) Masterson, at least to me, doesn't look of legal smoking age in this pic, let alone drinking.
The Indians stopped Masterson's streak with a 9-2 beating, tagging their future ace for six runs in 6.1 innings. The young righty recaptured his Fenway form in 2010, throwing his first career shutout there.
Check out the unusual MiLB numbers for Masterson in '07: he struck out just 56 in 95.2 IP at A Lancaster, then after being promoted to AA Portland, he whiffed 59 in 58 IP. It would seem perhaps Masterson was encouraged to use that sinker and wrap up at-bats quickly in A-ball? Or the hitter's backgrounds are much worse in the Eastern League?
AFTER THIS CARD: Masterson started regularly for Cleveland in 2010, at least until September, when Acta moved him to the bullpen officially for precautionary reasons. But the dude was 6-12, 4.88, which no doubt factored into the move.
Masterson rebounded with 12 wins and a 3.21 ERA in '11, scuffled again in 2012 despite a league-high 34 starts, then broke through in '13 with his career year: 14-10, 3.45, three shutouts and an All-Star berth! At 28, Masterson seemed to finally be on his way—he evidently thought so, as he rejected a 3Y/$45M deal from the Tribe the following Spring.
Though Masterson claims not to regret that choice, it sure looked foolish when he struggled mightily in 2014, was eventually traded to the Cardinals, and had to settle for a 1Y/$9.5M deal from the Red Sox for 2015. That year, he developed shoulder tendinitis, saw his velo dip, was cut in August and underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery in September.
Just like that, Masterson was done in the majors—he signed minors deals with the Pirates and Dodgers in 2016 and 2017, respectively, but was never promoted and finally retired in 2018.
Justin Masterson appeared annually in Topps 2009-15. He also appeared in 2008, 2009 and 2014 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Cleveland Indians
11/20/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps Update #251 Kyle McClellan, Cardinals
More Kyle McClellan Topps Cards: 2008 2013 2013U
Here, McClellan has kicked off his fifth season in a Cardinals uniform, despite having his $2.5M contract actively shopped during the Spring as St. Louis made a push for free agent SP Roy Oswalt. Now playing for Mike Matheny, who succeeded legendary Tony LaRussa, McClellan returned to full-time bullpen duties in 2012 after being auditioned as a SP during the first half of 2011.
Sadly, by the time of this card's release, McClellan had already been diagnosed with a torn UCL.
THIS CARD: McClellan appears in a Topps/Update release for the first time since his 2008 rookie card, which we profiled back in June 2020. He had been a regular in the Cards' pen that entire time, but omitted from sets nonetheless.
The veteran reliever prepares to throw...wait, his repertoire is discussed on the reverse.
McClellan wore #46 as a Cardinal; you may have caught a glimpse or two of current Cardinals star Paul Goldschmidt in those digits.
(flip) There's McClellan's repertoire: fastball, cutter, curve and change. If only more Topps cards gave this information...WHY did Score/Pinnacle have to go belly-up?!
There was brief talk of McClellan perhaps returning to the rotation when ace Chris Carpenter went before '12 even started, but it didn't happen.
Since Topps no longer lists games started, we'll tell you that McClellan made 17 starts in 2011, which were the only starts of his MLB career. He threw 104.2 innings in that role, striking out 53 and winning six times (not seven).
AFTER THIS CARD: McClellan was forced to leave a May 2012 game against my Giants, and was soon diagnosed with a small UCL tear. Prescribed rest instead of the knife, McClellan was working his way back from that injury when he suffered a frayed labrum...cue surgery after all. St. Louis released him in November 2012.
Texas brought the 28-year-old in on a minors deal for 2013; he was bothered by a lat injury during Spring Training and didn't make the team. The Rangers did call McClellan up for seven games in June 2013, but then cut him. That was it for McClellan in MLB; he officially retired in December 2014 having had two more labrum surgeries (including one on his left shoulder, injured during a 2012 postseason celebration).
Kyle McClellan debuted in 2008 Topps, then appeared in 2012-13 Topps Update as well as 2013 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps Update, St. Louis Cardinals
11/21/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #732 Postseason Highlights, Game 2 World Series
2004, as you recall, was quite a year for October baseball. Carlos Beltran was doing things for the Houston Astros. The high-powered Yankees were kicking off what would become a generation-long mastery of the Twins in October. Though not technically postseason, who could forget how the Dodgers clinched their division title? (Not I; it came at the expense of my Giants.)
Then you had the Idiots.
Also known as the Red Sox.
Boston swept the 2002 World Series champion Angels in the ALDS, then fell behind 3-0 to those mighty Yankees in the ALCS. Four more games and one gnarly fight later, Boston had made history by upending the Yankees despite being read their last rites. Then came the World Series; Boston survived a wild Game 1, then sent co-ace Curt Schilling to the mound 24 hours later.
THIS CARD: Why did Topps not use a photo with Schilling's bloody sock clearly visible? To protect the squeamish, perhaps? We do see Schilling's affected ankle here, but that's stirrup, not blood.
Sales of Topps Now, the (pricey) instant-cards available on the Topps website, would have gone absolutely insane if it existed back in 2004. Schilling's sock, not Dr. Fauci, would be the sales record-holder, that much is certain. (With the original rally squirrel a close second.)
Schilling put together his second straight strong outing after being knocked around a bit by the Yankees in ALCS Game #1.
(flip) Remember, Topps did not have a contract with Varitek at the time, but was allowed to mention his name, just as they'd done with Barry Bonds in 2004 Topps. Could you imagine "Two RBI apiece by RED SOX CATCHER, Mark Bellhorn and Orlando Cabrera"?
The Cardinals managed an unearned run vs. Schilling in the 4th when Bill Mueller couldn't handle Reggie Sanders' grounder to 3B, allowing Albert Pujols (who'd doubled and advanced to 3B) to score.
Here is more information about Schilling's temporary fix. He had surgery to permanently repair the ankle on 11/10/04.
Card #732 is the third-to-last card of the 2005 Topps set; this is the closest we've come to selecting the final card of a Topps base set for COTD.
AFTER THIS CARD: The series moved to St. Louis for Game 3, which was won by Boston 4-1 behind Pedro Martinez; the Red Sox finally played errorless ball after consecutive games with four miscues. In Game 4, the Sox scored in the 1st for the fourth straight game, added two more in the 3rd, and held on behind a dominant Derek Lowe for the series sweep!
As you might have heard, it was the Red Sox' first championship since 1918, so much celebrating took place. Players, management, essentially all of New England (don't forget the transplanted fans nationwide, or the bandwagoners who took over Red Sox road games in 2005.)
The Cardinals returned to the Fall Classic in 2006 and 2011, beating Detroit and Texas, respectively. The Red Sox won another title vs. Colorado in 2007.
St. Louis and Boston squared off again in the 2013 World Series, and again the Red Sox came out on top; they'd add Title #4 in 15 seasons in 2018, although that one is shrouded in a bit of controversy. (I really don't care, it came against the Dodgers.)
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Postseason Highlights
11/23/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #381 Joey Hamilton, Blue Jays
More Joey Hamilton Topps Cards: 1994T 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000 2001 2002
Joey Hamilton, the burly right-handed starting pitcher for the 1994-98 Padres, is about to swap out the Stars And Stripes for the giant Maple Leaf. He had won 55 games for San Diego since 1994 but by late 1998, for a number of reasons, Hamilton was available in a trade.
The Blue Jays, whose 1998 rotation outside of Roger Clemens disappointed somewhat, saw Hamilton as an upgrade over Woody Williams and executed the swap in December 1998.
THIS CARD: I greatly dislike randomly selecting the same player twice in one year. We profiled Hamilton's 1995 Topps card just over two months ago, for Christ sake.
Interesting photo angle. I can't tell if Hamilton is squatting, kneeling, or sitting on a bucket, and that's probably how the photographer wanted it.
Remember this Jays logo from the 1997-2002 Jose Cruz Jr. era? Despite the obvious salute to Canada, this logo never was all that popular in Toronto from what I understand. Gee, could it be because it's a giant RED leaf on a BLUE Jays uniform?
Hamilton's 1999 season got off to a brutal start; by the time this card was released he had already spent over a month on the DL and owned a 19.29 ERA.
(flip) Joey, put your tongue back in your mouth; I don't care how hot the photographer is.
About those league-worst 106 BB in 1998: Hamilton walked two D-Backs in his final start to break a 104-all tie with Florida's Livan Hernandez. Hamilton walked four or more batters a whopping 15 times in 1998.
From 1996-99, MLB played an annual series in Mexico. Hamilton's blurbed homer actually was hit in 1996 (which took a LOT more research than it should have); his Padres "hosted" the Mets and cruised to a 8-0 victory on 8/18/96...the infamous Snickers Game. It was his first of four career bombs.
Today, Hamilton ranks tied for 9th in Padres wins and 10th in Padres strikeouts. Jake Peavy, Clayton Richard and Trevor Hoffman pushed him down.
That Trade was pushed by incoming Toronto assistant GM Dave Stewart, who had been Hamilton's pitching coach in San Diego. Hamilton, whose salary had jumped to $3.25M in arbitration in 1998, had been dogged by trade rumors during that year, much to his chagrin.
AFTER THIS CARD: Hamilton returned to the mound in late May 1999, initially relieving before moving back into the rotation. He was wildly inconsistent, and would undergo rotator cuff surgery that September.
The 29-year-old pitched mostly well in 2000 after returning to MLB that August, but by August 2001 he'd been cut by Toronto after going 5-8, 5.89 in 22 starts. He spent the next 20 months with the Reds trying to rediscover his touch, but it never happened. San Diego released Hamilton from a MiLB contract in 2004, ending his career.
Joey Hamilton debuted in 1994 Topps Traded, then appeared in the base set 1995-2002.
CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays
11/24/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #217 Daniel Norris, Blue Jays
More Daniel Norris Topps Cards: 2016 2017 2018 2019
Not long after this card was released, the "free-spirited" Toronto prospect Daniel Norris gained fame courtesy of an in-depth ESPN article that covered not only his baseball exploits, but his many eccentricities as well (namely, voluntarily living in a 36-year-old van at the time).
No one would have cared at all about Norris or his van if he couldn't also pitch a baseball effectively, however. Norris was once good enough to be named the #3 LHP prospect in baseball by MLB in early 2015; he went 12-2, 2.53 across three minor league levels in 2014 and earned his first MLB call-up in September of that year.
THIS CARD: I believe this is a Toronto home alternate uniform. If I'm right, this pic was shot on either 9/5 vs. the Cubs or 9/25 vs. the Mariners—the only two games Norris pitched at home in 2014.
Norris has only received standard (uninteresting) card images during his Topps career. If only Norris had played back in the 1990's when card images weren't so confined. He's the kind of guy who would have been depicted juggling baseballs, goofing off during a rain delay, maybe even posing by his van!
More from Norris's 2014 season: his first four appearances for Toronto came out of the bullpen, then he was given the start 9/25 vs. Seattle. Norris was effective thru three, then allowed a couple of baserunners in the 4th and was pulled after 59 pitches.
(flip) That Boston batter was David Ortiz. Striking him out is no ordinary feat and I'm curious why Topps didn't identify him in the blurb.
As you can see, there's nothing special about Norris's career minor league numbers, but he was so good in 2014 that everyone kinda forgot how average he'd previously been. Not unlike a free agent in his walk year.
Norris was picked #74 overall in 2011. Baseballreference.com says Toronto obtained the pick from the Angels as compensation for the loss of free agent RP Scott Downs.
AFTER THIS CARD: The 21-year-old underwent elbow surgery after the 2014 season, but healed in time to make Toronto's Opening Day roster. He lasted five starts, was demoted, then traded to the Tigers with two others for SP David Price in July. As it turned out, Norris was also dealing with thyroid cancer at the time; he quietly beat it.
In '16, Norris went 4-2, 3.38 in 13 starts for Detroit, but spent half the season in AAA. He fell to 5-8, 5.31 in 2017 and 0-5, 5.68 in a 2018 season ruined by groin surgery. In '19, a disastrous year for the Tigers, Norris made 29 starts and finished 3-13. 4.49. After recovering from COVID-19, the 27-year-old was switched to full-time relief in 2020, and held his own...could he one day become another Andrew Miller?
Daniel Norris has appeared annually in Topps since 2015.
CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Toronto Blue Jays
11/26/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #536 Mike Trout, AL Defensive Player Of The Year
More 2013 Topps Award Winners: n/a
No, no, we didn't get our sports mixed up—there is a Defensive Player Of The Year award handed out in MLB these days. Originally (2012), winners were named for both the AL and NL, but since 2014 the award has been handed out to just one dude for all of MLB.
In 2012, his first full MLB season, Angels CF Mike Trout—who's been known to make a great play or two—won the AL DPOY. (Braves CF Michael Bourn won the NL prize.)
THIS CARD: This represents Topps' first defensive award winner card since the 2007 set, when Gold Glove winners were last featured. Something went down with Topps and Rawlings, obviously, because these days Topps won't even print the words "Gold Glove" on their cards.
Wilson sponsors the Defensive Player Of The Year award, which is determined by sabermetrics. In that regard, they heavily differ from Gold Glove awards, which are determined by the opinions of coaches and managers.
Trout lays all-out to steal one from somebody. I am not a sabermetrics guy at all, but for the first time ever on this site, I will share one: As a CF, Trout was worth 21 defensive runs saved above average in 2012. Don't ask me what it means exactly, or how it's calculated. I'm just regurgitating a number from baseballreference.com.
(flip) I can't possibly produce all 24 of Trout's "Good Fielding Plays", but I can tell you from whom he robbed those four home runs—J.J. Hardy, Gordon Beckham, Miguel Olivo and Prince Fielder. Thanks, ESPN.
There's no reason to print Trout's batting stats on this card instead of his fielding stats. None.
Mike Trout is often compared with Mickey Mantle, even back in 2012-13. Mantle hit 536 major league home runs. With Topps, you can't always be sure of coincidences.
AFTER THIS CARD: To date, Trout has not won any other Wilson DPOY awards. To my surprise he's not won any Gold Gloves, either—sometimes, gaudy offensive numbers can sway Gold Glove voters a bit but it hasn't happened thus yet for Trout.
Topps did not bring back DPOY cards after the 2013 set, for whatever reason.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Award Winners
11/27/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #282 Darryl Strawberry, Yankees
More Darryl Strawberry Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1991T 1992 1993 1994 1995 1999
There is no shortage of discussion material when it comes to Darryl Strawberry, but for the sake of brevity, and to keep my own blood pressure at a manageable level, I'm going to minimize mention of his off-field "issues" and try as hard as I can to omit any personal opinions/feelings towards the subject.
How big was Strawberry during his glory years? I had actually HEARD OF HIM before I started following baseball! Straw was the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year, the key slugger for the 1986 World Champion Mets, an annual All-Star and the 1988 NL home run champ. What I'm trying to tell you is that 30 years ago, Strawberry was kind of a big deal.
Then, after the 1990 season, he signed a 5Y/$20.25M deal to join his hometown Dodgers. Basically, after that first season in LA, little went right for Strawberry on or off the field, and he wound up released in early 1994. My Giants eventually took a flier, and Straw did help them win a few games before the strike hit.
Here, the 34-year-old has completed his second stint as a New York Yankee. Signed out of the Independent League in July 1996, Strawberry started 55 games at RF, LF (?) and DH for Joe Torre, slugging a mighty .630 at Yankee Stadium!
THIS CARD: Strawberry's classic swing. If you saw it once, you never forgot it—the high leg kick, the extension, the follow-through were all beautiful and exciting to watch. Not many dudes of his time had natural talent like Strawberry, and none made hitting a baseball look so effortless.
We mentioned Straw's slugging exploits at The Stadium; in 1996 he hit eight of his 11 home runs there. His first, on 7/28, was a walk-off shot off Jason Jacome of the Royals!
Strawberry wears #39 after sporting #26 during his first Yankee go; it looks strange on somebody who's not Roberto Kelly. Today, OF Mike Tauchman is the latest of MANY dudes to slip #39 on his back for the Yankees.
(flip) "Dap-able" moments on the road were few for Strawberry in 1996, but there was that two-homer, four-RBI explosion at Baltimore 7/13.
Others who have since joined Strawberry in the New York Four Club: Jose Vizcaino (who I knew) and Ricky Ledee (who I did not know). In this era of rapid player movement, how can that number only be three?
As you can see, Strawberry was 30-30 in 1987. To date, he and Howard Johnson (3x) remain the only Mets in that club. (Note: Strawberry and Johnson, in 1987, became the first MLB teammates in the 30-30 club, with Dante Bichette and Ellis Burks of Colorado joining them in 1996.)
You notice Strawberry played with the Yankees in 1995 and 1996, but is listed as signing with the Yankees in mid-1996. This is because in between Straw's first two Yankee seasons, he was a free agent and briefly played for St. Paul of the Independent League.
AFTER THIS CARD: Limited by a bad knee to 29 AB in 1997, Strawberry came back full-force in 1998, belting 24 HR in under 300 AB before being sidelined by colon cancer. That, and legal issues, kept him off the field until September 1999; Strawberry hit .327 that month and walloped the deciding homer in the deciding game of that year's ALDS.
However, during Spring Training 2000, Strawberry was removed from a workout by the Commissioner's Office—he was being investigated for a failed drug test, an investigation that eventually led to his suspension for the 2000 season (it was not his first failed drug test). That was it for Strawberry, just shy of 38.
In retirement, Straw's legal troubles did not end, though he seems to be holding things together at present and was elected to the Mets Hall of Fame in 2010. He has written multiple books, at least one of which (Finding My Way) is a good read.
(Okay, I got through that without any personal feelings seeping through...good job, Skillz.)
Darryl Strawberry appeared in Topps 1984-1995, and again in 1997 and 1999. He's also got 1983 and 1991 Traded cards.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, New York Yankees
11/29/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #304 Joey Cora, Mariners
More Joey Cora Topps Cards: 1988 1992 1993 1994 1995 1995T 1997 1998
After winning World Series with the Astros and Red Sox in 2017-18, then getting slapped with a yearlong suspension for his role in helping at least one of those clubs cheat, Alex Cora is probably the most famous of the Cora brothers. But today we're talking about Joey Cora, who was in the majors first, had the better playing career, and still has an untarnished reputation within the game.
Who could forget the image of a devastated Cora sobbing in the dugout, with rookie Alex Rodriguez attempting consolation, after Cleveland finally ended Seattle's magical playoff run in October 1995? It's been 25 years and I still see it clearly...
Originally reaching MLB with the 1987 Padres, Cora lost any hopes of securing even part-time 2B duty when Roberto Alomar emerged in 1988; the youngster ping-ponged between AAA Las Vegas and San Diego for four years before being sent to the White Sox after the 1990 season. Chicago gave Cora extended run in 1991, limited run in 1992, then a full-time gig in 1993 when 2B Steve Sax's arm proved wholly unreliable for the position.
Here, Cora has just completed his first of four seasons as the Mariners' regular 2B. Batting mostly from the first or second spot, the 30-year-old finished third on the club in hits and tied for second in steals...all for the ridiculously low price of $425K.
THIS CARD: Look at the 1995 AL MVP Mo Vaughn jostling his way onto other people's cards as if he didn't get enough individual love from 1996 Topps...shame!
We can narrow down when this pic was shot. Seattle played six games at Boston in 1995—June 2-4, and August 29-31. Cora reached first base with Vaughn covering in four of them (June 3-4 and August 29-30). That's the closest we'll be able to get, unfortunately.
Cora got great action shots from Topps through the years, and I believe we'll be able to pinpoint the date of at least one of them.
(flip) Of those 127 hits in 1995, eight came in 15 AB from June 17-21. He also closed August with an 8-for-15 stretch.
Cora was quite the ignitor in that Division Series. Never forget that he kicked off the historical Game 5's scoring with a 3rd-inning home run, or that he led off the classic 11th inning with a bunt single. Ken Griffey Jr.'s infamous dash home is the one we always see in replays, but Cora scored the tying run just ahead of him.
Yes, Cora was a #1 pick (23rd overall); he's got to be one of the three smallest #1 picks ever. One day I will research, but that day is not today.
AFTER THIS CARD: Cora's salary doubled to $850K for 1996, and he turned in another quality season. The veteran muscled up in 1997, belting 11 home runs (two fewer than his career total entering that season), setting a team record with a 24-game hit streak, and finally reaching a seven-figure salary. Cleveland traded for him in late 1998, but he only hit .229 down the stretch followed by a 1-for-17 postseason showing.
Cora went to Spring Training with the 1999 Blue Jays, but retired in March two months shy of 34. He's since gone on to a long coaching career—he couldn't exactly retire on the scraps he earned as a player—most notably on former teammate Ozzie Guillen's White Sox and Marlins staffs. Cora has coached third base for the Pirates since 2017.
Joey Cora debuted in 1988 Topps as a Padre, then appeared annually in the 1992-98 sets (he was one of many flagrant omissions from the 1999 Topps set). Cora also has a 1995 Traded card as a new Mariner.
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Seattle Mariners