Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, November 2021

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Topps Kelly Downs
Topps Kelly Downs

11/30/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #629 Kelly Downs, Giants

More Kelly Downs Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1990 1991 1992

In the late 1980's, it could be argued that Kelly Downs was the most talented of the Giants' starting pitchers. He threw hard and possessed a good curve along with a tough splitter. And though Downs never became a star, he did give San Francisco a couple of quality seasons before injury robbed him of his high velocity...more on that below.

Here, Downs has contributed 12 wins to the 1987 Giants' successful postseason push. He opened the year in the rotation, but spent most of the final weeks working out of the bullpen after San Francisco traded for veteran SP Rick "Big Daddy" Reuschel.

THIS CARD: Downs' motion was compact with little fuss. He became more of an over-the-top thrower following his 1990 arm surgery.

That's #44 Willie McCovey honored behind Downs at old Candlestick Park.

More from Downs' 1987 season: he was jarringly inconsistent, literally throwing a shutout in one start followed by a seven-run demolition the next. After a month in the bullpen, Downs started on 9/29 and 10/3, winning both while allowing one total run in 11 combined innings!

(flip) You're likely familiar with Al Oliver. the former Pirates/Rangers All-Star. George Riley was a lefty pitcher who got in five games (four starts) for the 1984 Giants after that trade; ten games with the 1986 Expos ended his MLB career. Renie Martin was a righty pitcher who appeared in 78 games for the 1982-84 Giants; the nine games he pitched for the '84 Phillies were his last in MLB.

 

I can't wrap my head around how, in the Year Of The Hitter, the Giants were able to take a pitcher who'd thrown THREE SHUTOUTS that year and just dump him in the bullpen because they got somebody better. Yeah, Downs was inconsistent, but still.

That is indeed an UER (uncorrected error) you see between the 83 and 85 columns. We hadn't had one in COTD for a while.

AFTER THIS CARD: Downs went 13-9, 3.32 in 26 starts for the 1988 Giants, but that would be his peak. He underwent rotator cuff surgery in early 1990 and when he returned, his fastball didn't have quite the same zip. Downs continued to serve as a swingman for Roger Craig and was for the most part decent, at least statistically, until being cut in June 1992. 

Picked up by Oakland, Downs had a decent go down the 1992 stretch (5-5. 3.29 in 18 games including 13 starts) for the eventual division champions, even pitching in the ALCS that year. After a rough 1993 (5.64 in 42 games for Oakland), Downs made his final two pro appearances for AAA Salt Lake (Twins) in 1994.

Kelly Downs appeared in 1987-92 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, San Francisco Giants

 

More November 2021 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Gene Garber
Topps Gene Garber

11/1/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #351 Gene Garber, Braves

More Gene Garber Topps Cards: 1988

Younger TSR visitors: remember Paul Byrd? Remember Pat Neshek?
Well, merge their unique deliveries into one and you'll have Gene Garber's.

Garber was the co-closer for the division-winning 1976-77 Phillies, and the primary closer for the division-winning 1982 Braves. Though he's perhaps BEST known for being the pitcher to end Pete Rose's NL-record 44-game hit streak in 1978—much to Rose's chagrin—don't get it twisted: Garber was much more than a trivia answer.

The man saved 218 games in an era where closers were not turned to nearly as much as they are now. He pitched 100+ relief innings six times. And in 1982, he pitched 119 innings and allowed a grand total of FOUR home runs. Again, that was 1982, not 1968.

Here, Garber has just wrapped his eighth full season with Atlanta. Though 1986 was a rough year for the Braves, Garber had a fine personal season, finishing 7th in the NL in saves in place of the injured Bruce Sutter. In the first half, Garber was 4-1, 1.57 with 10 saves; he allowed just one ER in all of May!

THIS CARD: Though the likes of Garber, Sutter, Glenn Hubbard and others might have one believing beards were required on the 1980's Braves, that was not the case.

Obscured is Garber's #26. Since his time, no notable Brave wore that number for over 20 years, at least not for long. Braves All-Stars Dan Uggla (early 2010's) and Mike Foltyniewicz (late 2010's) would later claim #26. Reserve C Stephen Vogt wore it in 2021.

More from Garber's 1986 season: He entered September with a 1.65 ERA, but a six-run outing 9/10 helped swell his final mark (which was a still-impressive 2.54). Between 5/31 and 6/11, Garber notched a pair of three-inning outings, earning a save in the first and a win in the second. 

(flip) Since there's no blurb, I'll add one: Garber ended 1986 with nearly twice as many saves as any other Brave in history.

Check out Garber's 1973 stat line: he made eight starts and completed four of them! For a lil' contrast, Hall-of-Famer-in-waiting Max Scherzer has made 398 starts and completed 12 of them.

Check out Garber's 1979 stat line: it takes a quality reliever to get enough opportunities to lose 16 times, as Garber did that year (if that makes any sense). Among NLers, only Phil Niekro lost more (20) that year.

AFTER THIS CARD: With Atlanta out of contention and the Royals still within striking distance in the AL West, Garber was traded to KC (for a PTBNL, C Terry Bell) in August 1987. With incumbent CL Dan Quisenberry mired in the Royals' doghouse, Garber saved all eight of his opportunities, though the Royals still missed the playoffs.

Garber returned to Kansas City for 1988, but despite decent numbers, he and Quisenberry were both cut on the same July day, ending Garber's career at 40. He retired as Atlanta's all-time saves leader (though John Smoltz and Craig Kimbrel have since passed him) and with the 5th-most appearances in MLB history (now 23rd).

Gene Garber appeared in 1974-1988 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Atlanta Braves

 
Topps Maicer Izturis
Topps Maicer Izturis

11/2/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #87 Maicer Izturis, Angels

More Maicer Izturis Topps Cards: 2000T 2006U 2009U 2010 2011 2012U 2013 2013U 2014 2015

Who was Maicer Izturis?

One of baseball's busiest utility infielders from 2006-13, that's who. During that time, Izturis never started more than 105 games in a season, but he still averaged 99 games and 370+ PA over that span for the Angels and Blue Jays. Once the Angels stopped moving Chone Figgins all over the field in 2007, they needed versatility off the bench, and Izturis—while not AS versatile as Figgins—helped in that regard.

Originally an Indians prospect, Izturis was moved to Montreal in a trade for RP Scott Stewart in January 2004, later joining Los Angeles via another trade. Here, the 27-year-old has wrapped his third season spent primarily with the Halos—across the board, Izturis posted nearly identical numbers to those from his impressive 2006, though he didn't run as much. He also started all three ALDS games.

THIS CARD: What the hell, Maicer? Did you sign while holding the pen like a cigarette? I can't even come up with anything funny this signature MIGHT say because it's literally just a couple of squiggly lines. Hopefully Izturis was more legible with his contracts.

Even without the random Yankee in the dugout, Yankee Stadium II (and maybe even III) was the only stadium I instantly recall featuring Bank Of America in the dugouts. If only I could identify ALL ballparks so easily...

More from Izturis's 2007 season: he would have played even more had hamstring injuries not cost him 38 games in two DL stints (early May and late May/entire June). Izturis closed July with a stretch of five multi-hit games out of seven, and on 8/21 he enjoyed his first three-hit game of the year and scored four times in a blowout of the Yankees—kicking off an 11-game hit streak!

(flip) Though Izturis opened and closed 2007 as the Angels' primary 3B, he also got extended run at 2B, enough to where he should have been listed as both in my humble opinion. The blurb even mentions his time at the keystone...oh, well.

One of those three August homers was a grannie off Minnesota's Scott Baker, helping LA to another blowout win.

Check out Izturis's run with the Expos, which I'd completely forgotten about. He was the penultimate former Expo to retire from MLB; only Bartolo Colon, a 2002 Expo, lasted longer (2018).

That Trade With Expos was the necessary deal to move the highly (and irrationally) disgruntled OF Jose Guillen out of Anaheim. The Angels also received OF Juan Rivera, who was just about as talented as Guillen without any of the headache.

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2008-09, Figgins returned healthy and reclaimed 3B for the Angels, leaving Izturis to fill in at SS/2B when needed. The 29-year-old signed a 3Y/$10M deal in early 2010—only to watch much of that year ruined by three DL stints. Izturis bounced back in 2011 with a career-high 105 starts (at four positions) and a team-high 35 doubles! Izturis finished 2012 hot and stole a career-high 17 bases, parlaying that into a 3Y/$9M deal from Toronto in November 2012.

Izturis's first year as a Blue Jay went poorly, and ended in August with an ankle sprain. Then the veteran infielder missed practically all of 2014 with a torn knee ligament suffered in April. Piling on, Izturis opened 2015 on the DL (groin), then wrecked his shoulder while rehabbing and never took the field for Toronto that year.
Despite getting almost nothing from their initial investment, Toronto re-signed Izturis to a MiLB deal for 2016, but he retired at 35 in early March.

Maicer Izturis debuted way back in 2000 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base and/or Update set 2006-15, except 2007.

CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, Los Angeles Angels

 
Topps Brady Anderson
Topps Brady Anderson

11/3/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #258 Brady Anderson, Orioles

More Brady Anderson Topps Cards: 1988T 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002

Ander​son, one of the American League's best two-way players for most of the 1990's, enjoyed a solid but unspectacular 1995 season (Year Two of a total 4Y/$14.25M deal he signed in early 1994).

Playing mostly LF until Bobby Bonilla's mid-season acquisition led to some extended run in CF, Anderson led Baltimore in at-bats (yes, four more than Cal Ripken), runs, doubles (tie), triples, steals and walks. The 31-year-old fell to .213 against LHP (178 AB) in '95 after two years of improvement, however.

THIS CARD: I'd LOVE to know if Anderson still has the 'burns, and if so, will he wear them into old age like Rollie Fingers has done with his mustache...

Anderson is keeping his eyes squarely on the ball as he swings here. He batted mostly leadoff for Baltimore until September, when young Curtis Goodwin was auditioned in the #1 spot, dropping Anderson to second.

More from Anderson's 1995 season: he opened the year 0-for-9 with five K, then promptly went 18-for-his-next-38 (.474). On 9/5 against California, Anderson registered his only multi-homer game of '95, then on 9/30 his five RBI against the Tigers included his first of three career grand slams!

(flip) Today, the AL record holder for consecutive steals is Ichiro Suzuki (45, from 2006-07). And Anderson still shares the SB% record; Kansas City's Carlos Beltran matched Anderson's 31-for-32 effort in 2001.

In the 5th inning of that 7/3/1995 affair, Anderson was drilled by Minnesota's Kevin Tapani. He soon stole second, but was eventually erased by C Matt Walbeck trying to take third (as 2B Manny Alexander took a walk, no less).

Those 111 K in a shortened 1995 season seem rather high for the times, but to my surprise Anderson didn't even crack the AL's Top Ten in that category. The 87 BB in 1995 ranked 9th, however.

AFTER THIS CARD: As everyone knows, Anderson absolutely exploded in 1996 (.297, 50, 110);

he also led off four straight games with a jack which set a MLB record. After making his second straight All-Star team in '97, Anderson reached free agency but was re-signed by the O's for 5Y/$31M. The 35-year-old hit .282 with 24 HR in '99 but by 2001, he'd sunk to .202 with but eight HR in 131 games split among all three OF positions. The Orioles released him in November '01 with a year left on his deal.

Cleveland snapped Anderson up for '02 but he was through by then, lasting 80 AB before being cut. A minors deal with the Padres for '03 led nowhere.

Brady Anderson debuted in 1988 Topps Traded as a Red Sock, then appeared annually in the base set 1989-2002 (the final card as an Indian).

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Baltimore Orioles

 
Topps John Hicks
Topps John Hicks

11/5/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps #593 John Hicks, Tigers

More John Hicks Topps Cards: 2016 2018U

Hicks was, once upon a time, a damn good Mariners catching prospect.​ But after he went 2-for-32 in his first Seattle trial (2015), the M's waived him (all I have to say is, good thing my Giants didn't part with Buster Posey after his uninspiring 2009 cup of coffee). After passing through Minnesota, Hicks wound up with the Detroit Tigers via more waivers in April 2016.

But it wasn't until 2017 that Hicks received extended run in Detroit; that year, he got in 60 games as a C/1B/DH and fared far better with the bat than in his introductory season. Here, Hicks has wrapped a 2018 campaign spent entirely in the majors—sort of; after Miguel Cabrera was hurt in late April, Hicks took over at 1B for all of May and most of June. But he was back in a part-time role when a nagging groin issue finally required August surgery.

THIS CARD: According to Getty Images, we're viewing Hicks on 4/8/18 at the White Sox. While he went 0-for-3 with a pair of whiffs that day, he guided SP Mike Fiers and four relievers to a 1-0 victory. (Cabrera's sac fly in the T1st held up.) Defensively, Hicks also turned a strike-him-out/throw-him-out double play in the B3rd!

Hicks is correctly listed as a C/1B; he started 20 games at the former and 56 games at the latter in 2018. Hicks didn't challenge anybody for the Gold Glove at either spot, but he was capable.

More from Hicks' 2018 season: he batted .300 at home and enjoyed an 11-for-23 stretch in early June. On 4/18, Hicks brought down the house with a go-ahead three-run HR in the B8th off Baltimore's Darren O'Day, setting up a Tigers walk-off win. 

(flip) See Hicks' squeeze, and the JaCoby Jones triple that set it up, here.

 

Prior to his acquisition by the Tigers, Hicks had 28 games of MiLB experience (spread across six seasons) at 1B. Detroit wasted little time re-acquainting him with the position, and the rest is history.

Of those nine homers Hicks smoked in 2018, seven came on the road. (We mentioned one of them above; the other was hit off Seattle's Felix Hernandez during a 5/12 doubleheader.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Hicks' role continued with the 2019 Tigers, for whom he cracked 13 homers and went errorless in 55 games behind the plate! But he only batted .210. struck out over 33% of the time, and was non-tendered that fall. Arizona brought Hicks aboard on a MiLB deal for 2020, but he never escaped the alternate training site.

In 2021, Hicks spent three weeks of July with Texas, going 8-for-31 with four homers in 10 games. That wasn't enough to keep him from being outrighted back to AAA Round Rock, however.

John Hicks has appeared in 2016 and 2019 Topps, as well as 2018 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps, Detroit Tigers

 
Topps Brad Ausmus
Topps Brad Ausmus

11/6/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #127 Brad Ausmus, Padres

More Brad Ausmus Topps Cards: 1992 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001T 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009U

Younger fans may remember Brad Ausmus as the manager of the late-2010's Tigers and (very briefly) Angels, but before that he was an excellent catcher for four teams covering 17 big league seasons. Ausmus, who beat long odds just to even reach MLB (more on that below), took home a trio of Gold Gloves during his career and was a 1999 AL All-Star.

Here, however, the ex-Yankees farmhand is fresh off his rookie season with the Padres. Called up in late July, Ausmus quickly assumed regular catching duties for San Diego (whose duo of Kevin Higgins and Bob Geren wasn't cutting it). Ausmus notched a pair of three-hit games within his first seven MLB starts.

THIS CARD: Ausmus with what looks like a quality swing. He was not a great hitter by any means, but in his prime he'd finish up between .260-.270 with a little pop. Put it to you this way: during Ausmus's heyday, he was closer to Buster Posey than to Jeff Mathis.

I cannot identify the road ballpark, but I can tell you Ausmus struggled away from "The Murph" as a 1993 rookie (.188). He did hit .325 at home, however.

More from Ausmus's 1993 season: though he only hit .256 overall, Ausmus batted 20-for-his-last-60 (.333) including a pair of additional three-hit games. On 8/25, his walk-off single in the 10th off Lee Guetterman downed the Cardinals.

(flip) For his career, Ausmus threw out an excellent 35% of opposing basestealers. He led the NL with 49% in 1997, and topped 40% three other times! (RIP Pacific Coast League.)

That Trade was a disastrous one for the Rockies. They gave up prospects Ausmus, SP Andy Ashby and RP Doug Bochtler in exchange for Padres SP's Greg Harris and Bruce Hurst. While Ausmus and Ashby became solid contributors for San Diego—and even Bochtler had his moments—Harris stunk up the entire state of Colorado and Hurst only gave the Rox eight so-so innings.

No misprint: Ausmus drew six walks in 49 games/160 at-bats as a 1993 Padre. Made more interesting because A) he did walk in each of his first two games, and B) he batted 8th almost exclusively, but nobody felt the need to work around him and face the opposing pitcher.

AFTER THIS CARD: Ausmus remained San Diego's primary C until mid-1996, when he was traded to the Tigers essentially for fellow C John Flaherty. That winter, Ausmus was part of a nine-player trade between the Tigers and Astros, for whom he'd catch through 1998 before returning to Detroit in a seven-player trade.

As we mentioned, Ausmus made the All-Star team as a 1999 Tiger and was even better in 2000. But once again, the Tigers traded him to Houston after the 2000 season—no, their teams were not being run by six-year-olds; their respective GM's were very familiar and, up to this point, everybody seemed to want Ausmus until they had him.

This time, the veteran backstop remained with Houston for eight seasons, helping the 2004 Astros to the NLCS and the 2005 Astros to their first ever World Series! By 2008, however, the 39-year-old was ceding time to youngsters J.R. Towles and later, Humberto Quintero.
It seemed he'd retire after that campaign, but instead...Ausmus resurfaced as a backup with the Dodgers for 2009-10. In April 2010, he hit the DL for the first time ever (back surgery).

Again, it seemed he'd retire post-surgery, but instead...Ausmus returned in July and got in 20 more games before finally stepping aside after the season, age 41.

In 2014, Ausmus took over for Jim Leyland as manager of the Tigers, guiding them to a first-place finish in the AL Central. Detroit was swept by Baltimore in the ALDS, then finished last in two of the next three seasons...see ya, Brad. He resurfaced as the Angels' skipper in 2019, but a 72-90 record and Joe Maddon's sudden availability made Ausmus's Los Angeles stay a very short one.

Brad Ausmus debuted in 1992 Topps, returning for the 1994-2000 and 2002-08 sets. He's also got a 2001 Traded card and a 2009 Update card.

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, San Diego Padres

 
Topps Dwight Gooden
Topps Dwight Gooden

11/7/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #480 Dwight Gooden, Mets

More Dwight/Doc Gooden Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1991 1992 1993 1994 1997 1999 2000 2000T

Here, we catch up with the Mets superstar after his fourth major league season. At this point in his career, Gooden was still at or near the top of his game (73-26, 2.45 lifetime) even though he missed much of 1987 after testing positive for cocaine in the Spring and entering treatment. 

THIS CARD: Gooden makes his third Topps Card Of The Day appearance here; we presented his 1997 Topps card in November 2014, and his 1994 Topps card in April 2020.

I don't know if it's my scanner or what, but this pic seems a bit underexposed. This may be the closest I've ever come to being blinded by a pic's background features...sorry, visitors.

This was the last time Topps referred to Gooden as "Dwight" for nine years. His 1989-94 Topps cards call him "Doc", but after a two-set absence he returned in 1997 Topps as "Dwight" once more.

(flip) When I look at J.R. Richard's career stats, I think about what could have been and get sad. When I look at Gooden's stats through four seasons, I just get MAD. Wasted talent rankles me like little else, and unlike Richard, Gooden did himself in.

Lynchburg was a Class A affiliate; Gooden never pitched in Classes AA or AAA until a 1994 rehab assignment.

Carlos Pascual was (former Senators/Twins star) Camilo Pascual's big bro; Carlos pitched briefly for the 1950 Senators before embarking on a long MiLB career. He scouted for the Twins and Orioles before joining the Mets; as far as I can research Gooden was his one big splash. Carlos Pascual died in 2011 at 80.

AFTER THIS CARD: Let's see: a shoulder injury in 1989, a 132-53, 2.91 career line through 1991, more drug issues in 1994 leading to a suspension through 1995, a comeback with the 1996 World Champion Yankees featuring a no-hitter, a pair of up-and-down years with the 1998-99 Indians, retirement in Spring Training 2001, enshrinement in the Mets Hall of Fame in 2010, continued substance abuse and legal problems.

Dwight "Doc" Gooden appeared annually in Topps base from 1985-94, then again in 1997, 1999 and 2000 Topps. He's also got 1984 and 2000 Topps Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, New York Mets

 
Topps Derek Lowe
Topps Derek Lowe

11/9/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #491 Derek Lowe, Red Sox

More Derek Lowe Topps Cards: 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

Now ​that Lowe's career has been over for approaching a decade, it's easy to forget (at least for me) that before he was a workhorse starter for the Red Sox, Dodgers and Braves, he was a nasty closer for the Red Sox. Remember how Wade Davis spent two full seasons starting for Tampa before being converted into a filthy reliever in Kansas City? Well, Lowe was basically Davis in reverse.

Here, Lowe has wrapped up his second season as Boston's primary closer, although he was supplanted by Deadline acquisition Ugueth Urbina in mid-August. The 28-year-old made three effective starts to close the 2001 season.

THIS CARD: This image is almost like a video to me; I can literally see Lowe's distinctive windup/delivery play out right on the card. Topps did a very good job on Lowe's front image variety through the years, save for his final two cards (2012 and 2013) which have nearly identical front images save for the uniform.

Lowe is in his home whites, but this is obviously NOT Fenway Park. Similar RF wall, though.

More from Lowe's 2001 season: he was brutal to open the year, allowing earned runs in eight of his first 11 games (7.41). Lowe then saved 21 of 22 with a 2.63 ERA. But when he had the audacity to blow a save 8/14, Lowe was demoted by new manager Joe Kerrigan. Still, on 6/12, Lowe earned his 70th career save with Boston, moving him into 5th place in team history. (He's now 7th.)

(flip) So THAT'S what Lowe looked like minus long hair and scruff. ​That must be how he looked during his partial Yankee season (2012), but I don't remember seeing him in action that year.

You remember the trade: Boston receives then-prospects Lowe and Jason Varitek, while Seattle receives erratic CL Heathcliff Slocumb. Woody Woodward made a few good deals in his decade-plus as Mariners GM...but within a year it was clear this was NOT one of them.

Uh...that blurb is largely false, Topps. After Boston acquired Urbina, Lowe continued to close for two weeks, then he moved into setup relief for a month, THEN he made those season-ending starts. They did get the part right about his future, though.

AFTER THIS CARD: After being an All-Star closer in 2000, Lowe emerged as an All-Star starter in 2002; the man won 21 games and finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting! He continued to pile up wins in 2003-04 despite not being nearly as effective.

 

But in October 2004, Lowe was absolutely masterful during Boston's historic march to their first World Series title in 86 years, starting and winning the ALCS and WS clinchers! The Dodgers rewarded Lowe with a 4Y/$36M deal in January 2005.

Lowe averaged over 13 wins, 32 starts and 200 IP annually for the Dodgers 2005-08; he then joined the Braves on a 4Y/$60M deal in January 2009. During Lowe's Atlanta stint, more and more of his induced grounders began to find holes and he led the NL in 2011 losses (17). The Indians, convinced he still had something left, nabbed the 39-year-old for 2012 via trade. ​

Lowe started very strong (7-3, 3.06 entering June) but won only once more over the next two months as his ERA soared into the mid-fives. He was cut after 21 starts, finishing out '12 as a Yankee reliever before winning a job with the '13 Rangers. They released him in May after nine outings, and Lowe—careful to not use the "R" word—announced his career was over that July.

Derek Lowe appeared annually in Topps 1999-2013.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Boston Red Sox

 
Topps Ivan Nova
Topps Ivan Nova

11/10/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps #535 Ivan Nova, Yankees

More Ivan Nova Topps Cards: 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016U 2017 2018 2019 2020

Since the dawn of baseball over 150 years ago, it's been drilled into every pitcher's head that throwing strikes is the key to success. Some pitchers, however, could stand to throw a few less strikes—at least hittable ones. Ivan Nova is (was?) one of those pitchers. 

Nova had great stuff, especially early in his career, but far too often he'd bite off huge chunks of the plate. This led to inflated hit/homer totals and prevented him from ever repeating his breakout 2011 performance over a full season.

 

Overall, however, Nova's enjoyed a very good career. After a wildly inconsistent 2012, Nova was one of baseball's best starters in the second half of 2013 (7-4, 2.59, just under seven innings averaged over 15 starts). Not bad considering he'd missed much of the first half while either on the DL or demoted to AAA.

In 2014, Nova was knocked around in four starts before undergoing UCL surgery. Here, he's fresh off his 2015 return campaign; there were bumps, but overall Nova's comeback was encouraging. He went five or more innings in 13 of 15 starts, and he won his first three starts after the All-Star break.

THIS CARD: Topps did a pretty good job mixing up Nova's front images, even though nearly all of them depict him mid-motion. This front image is a tad similar to Nova's 2015 front image, but varies enough to avoid a "mark" from me.

Nova rears back to fire either his vaunted low-to-mid-90's sinker, his slow curve, his slider (added in 2011) or his steady changeup. 

I WILL one day replace my 2016 Topps set with an un-stamped edition; it was worth the $25 discount at the time.

(flip) Nova's 6.2 shutout innings came at the expense of the visiting Phillies. Nova scattered three hits and struck out one as the Yankees won 10-2.

Until this very moment, I'd never noticed a player's acquisition listed by Topps as "Returned by..." No, Nova was not being held hostage; he went to the Padres via Rule V draft in December 2008. As you may or may not know, any such players drafted must remain on the new team's roster/injured list for the entire upcoming season or be offered back to their original team. In hindsight, San Diego might want this one back.

As the numbers indicate, Nova was not a huge strikeout guy; in 2015 his season-high for K was seven, accomplished three times. His career-high was 12 against the Reds 5/19/2012.

AFTER THIS CARD: Nova began 2016 in New York's bullpen before rejoining the rotation in May. Up and down as a starter, Nova (as part of the Yankees' semi-fire sale) was dealt to Pittsburgh at the Deadline and promptly entered Dominator Mode (5-2. 3.06, 1.098 WHIP in 11 Pirates starts), earning a new 3Y/$26M deal. Two so-so seasons followed (combined 20-23, 4.16 in 60 starts for Pittsburgh), then Nova was traded to the White Sox for 2019.

Nova recovered from a horrific beginning to 2019 (8.33 ERA after six starts; 3.99 ERA in final 28 starts) but was not brought back by Chicago. He signed with Detroit for 2020 but hit the IL (right triceps tendinitis) after four starts and hasn't pitched in MLB since, having failed to win a job with the 2021 Phillies out of Spring Training.

Ivan Nova appeared annually in Topps 2011-20, and also has a 2016 Update card as a new Pirate.

CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps, New York Yankees

 
Topps Frank White
Topps Frank White

11/11/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #479 Frank White, Royals

More Frank White Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991

From the mid-1970's into the 1990's, if your life depended on one man cleanly fielding 10 grounders in a row, you'd want Frank White to be that man. Defensively White was Pac-Man before Pac-Man even existed, and in time he became a legitimate threat with the bat as well. Kansas City made six postseasons from 1976-85 and White's prowess at second base was a major reason why.

White went undrafted because his HS didn't field a baseball team. But (long story short) he signed with KC in 1970, was in the majors by 1973 and was playing regularly by 1975. Though he hadn't fully blossomed as a hitter yet, White made four All-Star teams between 1978-82 as the Royals grew into a power in the AL West.

In the mid-80's, White even developed into a home run threat, finishing second on the team to Steve Balboni (29) in 1986. As late as 1988, the 37-year-old reached 150 games played! Here, White is coming off a 1989 season that saw him officially bat just 418 times—his lowest in an uninterrupted season since 1975. Over his first 43 games of 1989, White was charged with exactly one error.

THIS CARD: For a man who won eight Gold Gloves, including six in a row at one point, White was depicted batting quite a bit on his Topps front images. It was a different era, though—action shots were just gaining steam in the 1970's, and today the split would probably be closer to 50/50.

If I've ever noticed a Topps logo in the bottom right corner of a card front, it's not presently coming to mind.

More from White's 1989 season: he hit safely in the first three games of the year and batted .400 (10-for-25) during a seven-game hit streak in late April. On 6/20, White broke an 0-for-10 skid with three hits and two RBI in an extra-inning victory at Milwaukee.

(flip) I have never heard of Lee's Summit in my entire life, and I know more U.S. geography than the average person. If White is still living there, I sincerely hope he's comfortable.

As you see in the stats, at the end of the '89 campaign White needed just 46 hits to reach 2,000. He still barely made it, achieving the milestone 9/11/1990 with a two-run double off Toronto's Frank Wills.

At gunpoint, 2021 Skillz could have never guessed White put together successive 22-homer seasons, despite owning Topps cards with that information for 31 years. 1990's Skillz (the virgin childless edition with no other interests besides MLB) would have easily guessed that, however.

AFTER THIS CARD: Despite being less than a year from age 40 and undergoing knee surgery, Kansas City brought free agent White back for 1990 for $1.15M. He did not have anything close to a good season (save for the aforementioned milestone) and youngsters such as Terry Shumpert gobbled into his playing time. The Royals, understandably, did not re-sign White for 1991, ending his playing career.

What followed was an icy-hot relationship with the franchise and its longtime star. Following a mid-90's coaching run with Boston, White re-joined the Royals organization and served in multiple capacities before being dismissed in 2011. Though at that time he vowed never to set foot in Kauffman Stadium again, over time the relationship thawed, and White has since returned to the ballpark he literally helped build multiple times.

White's #20 remains one of just three numbers retired by the Royals (though one day, Salvador Perez and possibly Alex Gordon will grow that list).

Frank White appeared in 1974-1991 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Kansas City Royals

 
Topps Greg Olson
Topps Greg Olson

11/13/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #708 Greg Olson, Braves

More Greg Olson Topps Cards: 1990T 1991 1992 1994

Not to be confused with the former Orioles closer or the former Seahawks tight end.

Because of his game-winning hit in the 1992 NLCS, Francisco Cabrera may be the most famous of the early 1990's Braves catchers, but Olson was the busiest. He was an, uh, unexpected selection for the 1990 All-Star Game as a rookie, then in 1991 Olson started 113 games for the worst-to-first Braves, whose other catching options weren't very good.

Here, Olson has wrapped a serviceable 1992 season. He split time behind the plate with former Cub Damon Berryhill until being creamed at home plate by Houston's Ken Caminiti on 9/18; the resulting broken ankle ended Olson's season.

THIS CARD: Topps: "Hey, Greg? We wanna take your picture. Can you try to look happy to be in the majors and five seconds away from eating me all at once?"

I assume Olson's helmet reads "10" because his Braves uniform number was #10. Note Chipper Jones would not debut in MLB until late the following season, wearing #16. Also note that Atlanta signed the reliever Gregg Olson for 1994 and issued him #10, which I want to believe was because the equipment staff didn't know it was a different guy.

More from Olson's 1992 season: in 94 defensive games (85 starts), he erased 39% of opposing base thieves and committed just one error. And on 5/23, Olson missed the cycle by a triple in a loss to Montreal. 

(flip) Prior to his signing by the Braves, Olson was a longtime Mets farmhand who joined Minnesota as a MiLB free agent in November 1988.

Holy Ted Simmons, a catcher who walked more than he struck out in 1992. (And did so again in 1993.)

At last check, Olson was up to three children.

That two-run homer stunned 20-game winner John Smiley (who lasted just two frames) and helped make a winner of John Smoltz. Atlanta, of course, won that series in seven games—all of which were started by Olson, who hit .333!

AFTER THIS CARD: Olson returned to Atlanta for 1993, but he slipped a bit with the bat and glove; with Javy Lopez waiting in the wings, Olson was not re-signed for 1994. He auditioned for the Mets in Spring Training '94, but didn't make the team and subsequently retired at 33.

Greg Olson debuted in 1990 Topps Traded, then appeared in the 1991-94 Topps base sets.

CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Atlanta Braves

 
TeamLeaders319_06ToppsUFront.jpg
TeamLeaders319_06ToppsUBack.jpg

11/14/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps Update #319 Rangers Team Leaders

More 2006 Topps Update Team Leaders: n/a

 

Back when I first began collecting Topps cards, Team Leaders appeared on the back of Manager cards. Eventually they went away, but every few years a Topps or Update set restores them in some form. In 2006 Topps Updates & Highlights, Team Leaders received their own subset.

However these Team Leaders were not a comprehensive list as in years past. Rather, two random categories were highlighted—sometimes pitching, sometimes hitting, sometimes both. The format was basically an avenue to further showcase the game's brightest stars, as card companies are known to do here and there.

Here, we've got the 2006 Rangers hits and runs leaders.

THIS CARD: In the mid-2000's, Topps Updates & Highlights was released later than it is now, allowing the company to produce Team Leader cards from that season. If they tried to do so today, it would require an incredible rush job. Or a delayed release date.

Michael Young, with all of his 200-hit seasons, must've led the Rangers in hits quite a few times. But I'm not going to look them all up. Matthews was second with 194, 73 more than he had in any other season.

Matthews' 102 runs were also a career high by far. No other Ranger reached the century mark, although 1B Mark Teixeira tallied 99.

(flip) Matthews: "Hey, why do I get a recycled pic but Mike gets a different one???"

It's strange whenever Young is listed as a shortstop; I always think of him as a second baseman. As is known, various trade/free agent acquisitions by the Rangers led to Young bouncing all over the infield during his career.

2006 was Texas's final year led by Buck Showalter. The Rangers held sole possession of first place in the AL West as late as 6/14 before skidding to that final record of 80-82.

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps Update, Team Leaders

 
Topps John Franco
Topps John Franco

11/15/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #155 John Franco, Mets

More John Franco Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1990T 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

 

Franco, the LONGTIME Reds/Mets closer, is coming off another quality season. His 1995 save percentage (81%, 29 of 36) was a bit lower than ideal, but he finished very strong, with 18 saves in his final 19 chances accompanied by a 2.00 ERA. Franco finished the year just five saves shy of 300, a very small club at the time.

THIS CARD: This is a front image almost never seen on a Topps card—a pitcher tossing the ball in the outfield. Excellent photo choice, especially since Franco didn't wind up wrecking his knee and missing the whole year like Mariano Rivera would later do.

If Shea Stadium still stood today, that 371' distance to left-center would be the fourth-shortest in MLB, behind Tropicana Field, Wrigley Field and (the renovated) Comerica Park.

More from Franco's 1995 season: after a week layoff, he was asked to throw three innings and 44 pitches in a close 10-inning loss at St. Louis 7/26. Proving there were no ill effects, Franco then went unscored upon with a .107 BAA in 10 August outings! 

(flip) Funny Sandy Koufax is mentioned here; just 24 hours ago I learned a close friend shares his birthday.

Wilpon, a part-owner of the Mets when this card was released, later became their sole owner in 2002 until 2020. You may recall Wilpon making news as one of Bernie Madoff's many victims.

Despite Franco's early challenges, those 29 saves in 1995 ranked eighth in the NL. He advanced his club saves record to 147, 40 more than Jesse Orosco.

AFTER THIS CARD: Though his ERA climbed each year, Franco racked up 102 saves for the Mets from 1996-98 before missing a portion of '99 with a finger injury—young Armando Benitez picked up his slack, and Franco's days as a full-time closer came to an end. The 40-year-old nearly jumped to Houston after the 2000 season, but returned to the Mets as a situational reliever. Franco sat out 2002 after UCL surgery; he returned to the Mets in May 2003 and was effective over 38 outings that year.

In his age-44 season, Franco was not effective in 2004, and the Mets parted ways. He signed with the Astros for 2005, but after being released mid-season, his career finally ended. Franco did not come close to election to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite being MLB's all-time lefty saves leader (424), but he was inducted into the Mets Hall Of Fame in 2012.


Only fellow ex-Met lefties Orosco and Mike Stanton have pitched more games than Franco's 1,119.​

John Franco appeared annually in Topps 1985-2003. He's also got a 1990 Traded card.

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, New York Mets

 
Topps Julio Lugo
Topps Julio Lugo

11/16/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #520 Julio Lugo, Rays

More Julio Lugo Topps Cards: 1999T 2002 2003 2003T 2004 2006 2006U 2007 2008 2009U 2010

 

We present this card in memory of the former SS for the Astros, D-Rays, Red Sox and more.​ Lugo passed away from a heart attack 11/15/2021, one day before his 46th birthday. A solid player for several playoff teams, Lugo was Houston's regular SS from 2000 until being cut in May 2003 after misbehaving off the field.

He landed with the lowly Devil Rays, who in those days couldn't always afford to turn away talent based on character. Lugo immediately took over at SS for Felix Escalona (who'd taken over for the washed-up Rey Ordonez) and wound up third on the club in home runs that year.

Here, Lugo has closed the book on his second season as Tampa's regular SS. In 2004, the 28-year-old endured a horrific defensive slump at year's end (10 errors in September), but set career-highs in at-bats, hits and doubles (41, then the second-most in franchise history).

THIS CARD: Of Lugo's eight Topps base cards, this is one of only two front images depicting him batting. He's shown throwing four times, which has to be an unofficial record.

If you're curious why we presented a Lugo card and not one of Pedro Feliciano, the ex-Mets RP who also passed recently, it's because Feliciano only had one Topps base/Update card and we presented it back in December 2020.

Isn't #23 Carl Crawford's number? Wasn't Carl Crawford ON the Devil Rays in 2004? (Upon research, Crawford wore #13 and my baseball memories are evidently vacating Kelly Bundy-style in favor of geology, geometry and Native American history—my kid is in 6th grade.)

More from Lugo's 2004 season: he started 142 games at SS for Tampa (and eight more at 2B in August). On 5/14 Lugo banged out three hits and five RBI—including a game-tying two-run bomb in the 9th—in an eventual loss to Cleveland. And on 6/24, he went 5-for-7 with three RBI in a very wild 19-13 win at Toronto!

(flip) I know managers have to build players up, but there's just no way Julio Lugo was the Rays' "heart and soul" in the year 2004. He hadn't been there long enough, first of all.

Lugo was able to notch 75 RBI in 2004 because the Rays batted him mostly sixth well past the All-Star break. He even hit fifth a few times and fourth twice. Yes, Julio Lugo—who in most years might have batted eighth or ninth for other teams—started at cleanup for the Rays twice in 2004. There MUST have been circumstances because, by all accounts, Lou Piniella was not trying to get fired that year.

I never knew Lugo was a #43 pick who made good. As you might imagine, he was the only draft pick of six signed that round who reached MLB.

AFTER THIS CARD: Lugo batted .295 with 39 steals for the Rays in 2005 and was hitting .308 with 12 homers when dealt to the Dodgers at the 2006 Deadline. LA used Lugo as a part-time 2B/3B, then watched him walk to the Red Sox as a free agent (4Y/$36M) in December 2006.

Playing regularly at SS again, Lugo fell to .237 in 2007, but that didn't prevent Boston from winning its second championship in four years. A quad injury wiped out half of his 2008 season and he underwent Spring 2009 knee surgery that sidelined him until late April.
Finally, after too many defensive lapses and a missed mandatory workout, the Red Sox cut their losses and DFA'd Lugo in mid-July 2009.

The 33-year-old soon landed with the Cardinals via trade (for OF Chris Duncan), then served as a UT for the 2010 Orioles (93 games, including this one) and 2011 Braves (6-for-44 in 22 games). Lugo sat out 2012, then retired in early 2013 at 37.

Julio Lugo debuted with a 1999 Traded card as a prospect, then appeared annually in the base set 2002-10 (except 2009). He's also got a 2003 Traded card as a new Devil Ray, a 2006 Update card as a new Dodger, and a 2009 Update card as a new Cardinal.

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Now Deceased

 
Topps Adam Eaton
Topps Adam Eaton

11/17/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #555 Adam Eaton, White Sox

More Adam Eaton (OF) Topps Cards: 2013 2014U 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021

 

Not to be confused with the ex-Padres pitcher of the same name.

This Adam Eaton is a hard-nosed outfielder who, when healthy, can do a bit of everything well and is a weapon near the top of the lineup. What I specifically remember him for ON the field: lots of hustle and aggressiveness, with some fine play during the 2019 postseason.
What I specifically remember him for OFF the field: validating my irrational dislike of veteran 3B Todd Frazier, his former teammate. (Jake Arrieta later offered further validation, though he's not exactly up for a Nobel Prize himself.)

Here, Eaton has just joined the White Sox after trials with the Diamondbacks the past two seasons. In Spring Training 2014, he batted .368 with three steals in 19 games, securing a spot on Chicago's Opening Day roster.

THIS CARD: Considering the release date of 2014 Topps Series 2, there's a good chance this pic is airbrushed. Let's take to GettyImages.com for possible confirmation...

...yes, it's an airbrush job. This pic was originally Eaton the Diamondback from 9/22/2013 at Coors Field. At least they got the incoming uniform number correct.

"Future Stars" returned to Topps in 2014 after a long hiatus. The company was very generous with the label; Eaton became a solid regular for several seasons but never quite a star.

(flip) That Trade With Diamondbacks was more complicated than that. The Los Angeles Angels were also involved, with OF Mark Trumbo the biggest name changing teams (LA to Arizona). This is also how the Angels acquired SP Tyler Skaggs (from Arizona).

There goes Topps, assuming its younger collectors know who Lofton and Dykstra are. For the record, they were two of the game's top CF's in the 1990's, and hopefully Eaton follows Lofton's post-career path and not Dykstra's.

I'm not aware of any subsequent Diamondbacks to achieve Eaton's feat, and though I COULD research it, that time would be best spent catching up the TSR backlog.

AFTER THIS CARD: Eaton soon became Chicago's regular CF (and later RF), leading the league in triples in 2014, adding untapped power to his game in 2015-16 (14 jacks both years after just one in 426 AB in 2014) and earning a 5Y/$23.5M extension in early 2015.
In fact, Eaton's statistics were eerily similar in 2015-16, part of why the White Sox dealt him to the Nats in December 2016 (JOKING; the deal was made because the win-now Nationals really wanted Eaton; future ace SP Lucas Giolito was part of Chicago's return).

Injuries derailed Eaton's 2017 season (knee surgery) and much of his 2018 season (ankle bruise), but he returned healthy in '19 and helped Washington to its first ever World Series title. After a down 2020, Eaton was not re-signed and returned to the White Sox (1Y/$7M), who surprisingly released him in mid-2021. The 32-year-old was signed and cut by the Angels soon after, and at last check remains a free agent.

Adam Eaton has appeared in 2013-21 Topps, as well as 2014 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps, Chicago White Sox

 
Topps Mike Cameron
Topps Mike Cameron

11/18/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #41 Mike Cameron, White Sox

More Mike Cameron Topps Cards: 1997 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2009A 2010 2011