Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, November 2022
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11/29/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps Update #127 Tyler Skaggs, Angels
More Tyler Skaggs Topps Cards: 2013 2014 2014U 2015 2016 2017 2019
Here, we catch up with the young lefty Skaggs as he opens his second straight season—and third overall, including 2014—in the Angels rotation. Skaggs had a lousy Spring Training 2018, but clearly the Angels felt they would get the pitcher who went 1-2, 3.86 with a 4.25 K/BB ratio across his final five starts of 2017.
In short...they were right.
THIS CARD: According to Getty Images, we're seeing Skaggs at Detroit's Comerica Park on 8/28/2016...the season prior to the one represented on this card. Topps almost never does this unless injuries/suspensions dictate, which they should not have in Skaggs' case; he did miss some time but was still plenty active between the start of 2017 and the time this card was released (October 2018).
BTW, Skaggs gave up two hits across six shutout innings to beat the Tigers that August day.
#45, of course, has been out of the Angels' circulation since Skaggs' sudden death in July 2019. If it ever gets worn again, it won't be for a long time.
More from Skaggs' early 2018 season: he beat Oakland in his first start, firing 6.1 shutout innings at the Coliseum. Through May he stood at 3-4, 3.60 in 11 starts, going at least five innings in nine of them and striking out 64 in 60 innings!
(flip) Skaggs' most notable physical setbacks prior to 2018: UCL surgery in August 2014 that kept him out of MLB for just under two years, and an oblique strain that robbed him of half of 2017.
Yes, Skaggs got even better after those already-solid first two months of 2018. His 0.84 ERA broke the Angels June record previously held by Garrett Richards (1.05, June 2014; min. 30 IP). And know that it took effort to dig that up thru Stathead.
Yes, the Angels drafted Skaggs back in 2009, shipped him off in the August 2010 deal sending SP Dan Haren to Arizona, then reacquired him in December 2013 in the three-team, six-player deal that sent big OF Mark Trumbo to the Snakes (and OF Adam Eaton from the Snakes to the White Sox). You don't see that happen a whole lot in MLB.
AFTER THIS CARD: Ultimately, Skaggs was only able to make 24 starts in 2018 (8-10, 4.02) as a strained groin in late July mucked up what was a very fine season. He was 7-7, 4.29 across 15 starts in 2019 before his tragic death. You may know the Angels threw a combined no-hitter against Seattle in their first game without Skaggs.
Here's a terrific MLB.com Cut 4 piece covering said no-hitter, with plenty of trivia thrown in.
Tyler Skaggs appeared annually in Topps 2013-19, except 2018. He's also got 2014 and 2018 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps Update, Los Angeles Angels
More November 2022 Topps Cards Of The Day
11/1/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #410 Mike Sweeney, Royals
More Mike Sweeney Topps Cards: 1997 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009U 2010
In the early 2000's, Mike Sweeney was The Man in Kansas City. He wasn't about to challenge George Brett atop the all-time Royals hierarchy, but if they were to build a Mount Royalsmore, Sweeney made as strong a case as anybody to fill a spot alongside Brett and Frank White.
Nationwide, Sweeney never quite got the recognition his production warranted—not much attention was paid to the Royals even when they were good, let alone when they weren't, as was the case during most of Sweeney's tenure. From 1999-2002, the man averaged .324, 26, 108 with three trips to the All-Star Game, but I'd wager in ANY city besides Kansas City, Julia Sweeney would have been the most recognized of the two.
Here, despite more physical setbacks, Sweeney has enjoyed a fourth straight All-Star season for the upstart 2003 Royals. Alternating between the three and four holes in the lineup, Sweeney was batting .321, 12, 50 in 62 games when nerve irritation in his neck and back forced him to the DL in June. He wound up missing nearly two months and was not the same hitter when he returned.
THIS CARD: Sweeney—whose MLB career began behind the plate—is listed as a 1B here, and he did play the position extensively before his DL stint. Upon returning, however, Sweeney was used exclusively as a DH, and by 2006 that was his primary "position" until joining the National League in 2010.
While Sweeney's familiar #29 is not retired in Kansas City, no Royal has worn it since he departed after the 2007 season—my guess is it'll be retired by the team in the next 15 years or so. Sweeney wore #29 digits his entire Royals career before switching to #5 with the A's, Mariners and Phillies later on.
I miss this Royals look; they sported it from 2002-05 which, of course, includes that semi-magical 2003 campaign. But it also includes the Royals' nightmarish 2004 campaign in which they were one of THE most disappointing MLB clubs I've ever tracked...oh, well.
(flip) As you see, Sweeney finished at .293, 16, 83 across 108 games in 2003. As we mentioned, he was on a far gaudier pace before being hurt in June. In his 46 games post-injury, Sweeney hit .260, 4, 33 with a meager .379 SLG.
Sweeney was obviously unable to play in the 2003 Midsummer Classic; he finished 0-for-4 in the four All-Star Games he did participate in (2000-02, 2005).
Those 144 RBI in Y2K did not lead the AL—DH Edgar Martinez of Seattle drove in 145 that year. Sweeney still holds the Royals season record, however, and no other Royal has come all that close since he set it.
AFTER THIS CARD: Sweeney continued to swing a productive bat for the Royals in 2004-05, which would have meant a lot more to all involved had he not missed 96 games in that period. Sweeney missed even more time in 2006-07 as he dealt with a bulging disc in his back as well as right knee inflammation, and unlike previous seasons, he was ordinary when he did play.
Though the longtime Royal volunteered to take a huge pay cut and reduced role to stay in KC, Sweeney was not re-signed once his 5Y/$55M deal expired after the 2007 season.
Sweeney spent the final three seasons of his MLB career on MiLB deals, first with the 2008 Athletics followed by the 2009-10 Mariners. He missed a huge chunk of '08 after dual knee surgeries and was cut in September, but in '09 Sweeney swatted his 200th career homer in a part-time role with Seattle. The 37-year-old, who was traded to Philadelphia late in the 2010 season, made more news in '10 for this than for his play.
In 2011, Sweeney retired on a one-day contract with the Royals. He joined their front office in 2014 and was elected to their Hall of Fame in 2015.
Mike Sweeney appeared annually in Topps 1997-2010, except 1999 and 2009. He's also got a 2009 Update card.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Kansas City Royals
11/2/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #446 Craig Grebeck, White Sox
More Craig Grebeck Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1994 1995 2001
Craig Grebeck may not have been the BEST utility infielder of his time, but there might not have been anyone more synonymous with the job title. Grebeck lasted parts of 12 seasons without ever A) having his own full-time job on anything more than a temporary basis, or B) doing anything to deserve a full-time job on anything more than a temporary basis.
I don't mean that in a pejorative way; Grebeck simply was who he was and never tried to be something he wasn't. Undrafted out of something called Cal State, Dominguez Hills—which was later attended by current MLB OF Kevin Pillar—Grebeck beat the odds just to reach MLB, which he did on 4/13/1990 after winning a spot on the White Sox roster out of Spring Training.
THIS CARD: Fitting that Grebeck's first Topps card depicts him gettin' his defense on—Grebeck lasted in MLB because of his glove and versatility. For such an unremarkable player, Grebeck received some distinctive, original front images from the company through the years.
Grebeck's #14, of course, is now retired at U.S. Cellular Field for Paul Konerko. Grebeck finished his Sox career wearing #12 for reasons that I suspect have to do with 1994 teammate Julio Franco.
More from Grebeck's 1990 season: on 8/10 vs. the Rangers, he smashed his first (and only) homer of the year, which was immediately followed by SS Ozzie Guillen's first (and only) homer of the year. If that wasn't unusual enough—both blasts were served up by the great Nolan Ryan! Shout-out to NBCSports.com for directing me to that info. (BTW, Ryan drilled Grebeck in their next meeting, true to character.)
(flip) You'll never convince me that at least 50% of why Wallenbrock signed Grebeck was because they shared a first name.
It seems crazy now, but yes, Grebeck did hit 15 homers in a 378-AB 1987 season for Class A Peninsula. The same man who went on to homer 19 times in 1,988 MLB at-bats. Perhaps that 1987 home park had small dimensions, being on a peninsula and all.
Grebeck had no July 1990 hits for the Sox in part because he spent half the month at AAA Vancouver, a level he skipped en route to Chicago.
AFTER THIS CARD: Grebeck stuck with the White Sox through 1995, mostly in a utility role but also as their regular SS for the early months of 1992 after Guillen suffered a season-ending knee injury (Grebeck saw his own season end that August with a broken foot). Next, the 31-year-old signed with the Marlins for 1996 and the Angels for 1997, neither stint all that remarkable.
Grebeck then completed a three-year stint with the Toronto Blue Jays, highlighted by 77 starts at 2B in 1998, a 2Y/$1.35M extension that October, a .363 average in 1999—a season shortened to 113 at-bats by recurring foot problems, but still—and a .295 average across 66 games in 2000. After a short run filling in for injured Boston superstar SS Nomar Garciparra in 2001, Grebeck retired at 36. He resurfaced as a MiLB coach 2005-07.
Craig Grebeck appeared in 1990-95 Topps, disappeared during the company's Dark Era (like so many others), then made one last visit in 2001 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Chicago White Sox
11/3/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #206 Quinton McCracken, Rockies
More Quinton McCracken Topps Cards: 1993 1997 1998A 1999 2001T 2003 2004
If memory serves, Quinton McCracken was the first dude to play full-time for both of MLB's 1998 Expansion teams, the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks. I really wish that bit of trivia was relevant in any way, but nope, it gets filed away under the already-overflowing "Useless" label.
McCracken was a speedster who regularly received MLB opportunity, performed well, then for whatever reason, completely fell off the major league radar. Be it due to injury or unshakeable slump, McCracken was never able to string together more than two quality big league seasons.
Here, the 27-year-old has just wrapped his second straight year as a semi-regular Rockies outfielder. McCracken got in 147 games for Colorado, just under half as a starter in CF and 16 apiece as a PH/PR. His 28 steals (in 39 tries) ranked third on the ballclub.
THIS CARD: We see McCracken with the acrobatic play in center. A huge chunk of McCracken's 1997 run came as a late-inning defensive replacement; while he was not GREAT with the glove himself, he was a better option than the gimpy Ellis Burks.
Topps—or whoever they contracted photography to—was gradually taking advantage of the increasingly-powerful zoom lens in the mid-1990's, allowing for game-action photos that simply did not exist in sets from 10 or even five years prior...such as this one. BTW if my legs ever split that far apart, I'd need surgery. Or possibly amputation.
More from McCracken's 1997 season: he tied Steve Finley (Padres) and Rondell White (Expos) for the league lead among CF's with three double plays turned. On 4/20, McCracken's four hits and three runs helped sink the Braves 9-2, and on 9/28 his three hits and three RBI aided Colorado's 13-9 victory over the Dodgers in Game #162.
(flip) That's the look of a man who just got caught stealing to end an inning. Hang in there, Q.
McCracken attended Duke 1989-92, FYI. And in addition to his baseball and football skillz, the man started at point guard for his high school hoops squad!
The newly-christened Central Valley Rockies, for whom McCracken stole those 60 bases in 1993, existed for one more year before returning to their previous name of the Visalia Oaks and becoming an A's affiliate.
AFTER THIS CARD: McCracken went to Tampa in the 1997 Expansion Draft, immediately became their CF, and established career highs in everything except steals. But in May 1999, he tore his ACL, and was replaced by young Randy Winn and later, veteran Gerald Williams in CF. After stashing him at AAA Durham for most of 2000, Tampa Bay released McCracken.
Following a short run with the Twins in mid-2001, McCracken finally re-established himself in MLB with the 2002 D'Backs, batting .309 in 123 games (78 starts) and .364 in the NLDS, though he was no longer a serious stolen base threat. "Q" fell to .227 in 115 games in 2003, and was traded to the Mariners that December.
Cut by Seattle in June 2004, McCracken returned to Arizona and remained there in a part-time role through 2005; he ended his MLB career with the 2006 Cincinnati Reds (11-for-60 in 45 games).
Quinton McCracken debuted as a Prospect in 1993 Topps, then appeared in the 1997-99 and 2003-04 Topps sets. He's also got a 2001 Traded card with Minnesota.
CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Colorado Rockies
11/4/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #311 Kelly Shoppach, Indians
More Kelly Shoppach Topps Cards: 2006B 2006U 2007U 2010 2010U 2011 2012 2012U
In 2008, young Kelly Shoppach seemed set as the Indians catcher of the present and possibly—depending on Victor Martinez's contract situation—future after slugging .517 on the strength of 21 homers in just 352 at-bats—not to mention his history of high CS percentages at the minor and major league levels. Before long, however, Shoppach's inability to make regular contact at the plate reduced him to journeyman backup.
Among Shoppach's many achievements as a Red Sox prospect:
named Best Defensive Catcher of the Eastern League (2003),
named AA Portland Player of the Year (2003),
claimed Pawtucket's season homer record for catchers (21, 2004)
four All-Star selections (2002-05) and
stood as Boston's #8 overall prospect entering the 2005 season per Baseball America.
In other words, Shoppach was hot stuff on the farms...but not hot enough to make the Red Sox think about moving longtime C Jason Varitek. So off to Cleveland went Shoppach in a January 2006 trade. Here, the 28-year-old has just closed the book on that special '08 campaign, one that saw him prove to be a more-than-adequate replacement for the injured Martinez.
THIS CARD: All four of Shoppach's Topps base set front images depict him defensively, although on two of them, he's at least removed his mask. So we know he is not Batman moonlighting as an American League catcher.
Shoppach reaches back to gun what I have to believe is an attempted base thief. He erased 36.3% of them in 2006-07 but fell to 21% in 2008, which included an 0-for-14 streak in and around June. Shoppach bounced back to lead the AL with 41% CS in 2011 and finished his career at 30%.
More from Shoppach's 2008 season: he started 54 of the 66 games Martinez missed June-August following elbow surgery, and slashed .279/.357/.572 with 14 homers and 39 RBI in 201 AB during that span. He ran off a 10-game hit streak as June turned to July, and soon after it ended, Shoppach went 3-for-3 with a homer in a blowout loss to Minnesota 7/4. His biggest day, however...
(flip)...is highlighted here in the blurb; I NEVER KNEW Shoppach had joined Boudreau—a very prominent Indians player and manager in the 1940s—in that select club. Unfortunately, the Tigers wound up winning that 13-inning game 14-12.
The six NLers with five XBH in one game, through 2008: George Gore (1885) Larry Twitchell (1889) Joe Adcock (1946) Willie Stargell (1970) Steve Garvey (1977) and Shawn Green (2002).
Since those original eight, seven more big leaguers have cracked five XBH in one game: Josh Hamilton (2012) Jackie Bradley (2015) Kris Bryant (2016) Jose Ramirez (2017) Matt Carpenter (2018) Alex Dickerson (2020) and Luis Urias (2021). Thanks for the shortcut, baseball-almanac.com.
Shoppach's 1.278 OPS against my 2008 Giants stands as his highest vs. any opponent in his career (he never faced SF again). The bastard doubled thrice and singled once across nine at-bats vs. the Giants in '08.
"Forth Worth" was a perpetual error on Shoppach's Topps cards; it was there on his first Topps card (2006 Topps Update) and his last Topps card (2012 Topps).
AFTER THIS CARD: Martinez was traded in mid-2009, but by then the league had adjusted to Shoppach, who fell to .214 with a 36% K rate. Dealt to the Rays that December, Shoppach—who underwent knee surgery and missed seven weeks of 2010—was unable to crack .200 in either 2010 or 2011 and was not re-signed for 2012 despite a two-homer game in the '11 ALDS against Texas.
Shoppach moved between six organizations over the 2012-13 campaigns, receiving MLB run with the '12 Red Sox and Mets as well as the '13 Mariners and Indians. But during that span, he hit just .220 with 11 homers and 135 K in 328 AB. That winter, Shoppach didn't receive any offers—at least none he found suitable to continue his pro career.
Kelly Shoppach appeared in 2009-12 Topps, as well as 2006-07, 2010 and 2012 Topps Update. Shoppach also is one of 20 players included in 2006 Topps Rookie Bonus set.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Cleveland Indians
11/6/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #573 Kyle Farnsworth, Rays
More Kyle Farnsworth Topps Cards: 2002 2003 2004 2005 2005U 2006 2007U 2008U 2009U 2010U 2011U 2013
Here, we catch up with the veteran fireballer Farnsworth as he reflects on a very successful 2011 season with the Wild-Card winning Rays. For the second time in his career (and first since 2005), Farnsworth served as a regular closer, a job that belonged to no lone individual when the season opened.
Despite his inexperience in the ninth inning, Farnsworth kept getting the ball and kept doing good things with it. He finished the year 25-for-31 in save ops and would have been an All-Star in many other seasons.
THIS CARD: Per Getty Images, we're seeing Farnsworth deliver to the Red Sox 7/17/2011. That day, he pitched a scoreless T9th around a hit and two walks, but Tampa lost to Boston in MLB's longest 16-inning 1-0 game since 2004.
Farnsworth reaches back to deliver either his mid-to-high-90's heat (which once reached 100), or his splitter, hard slider, or possibly the sinker or changeup he added in 2007.
More from Farnsworth's 2011 season: he was 17-for-19 in save ops with a 2.02 ERA in the first half, certainly All-Star caliber numbers. But with Tampa seemingly out of contention at the Break, Farnsworth was placed on waivers but went unclaimed. Only separate bouts of elbow soreness in August and September diverted the 35-year-old from a 30-save campaign.
(flip) Those 776 appearances through 2011 moved Farnsworth into 50th place all-time; today he ranks 29th all-time with 893 (27th when he retired).
No blurb, so we'll tell you that Farnsworth joined the Rays on a 1Y/$3.25M deal in January 2011, with a club option for 2012 that was exercised on Halloween '11.
As you see in the stats, Farnsworth's career high in saves prior to 2011 was 16 for the Tigers and Braves in 2005. As we indicated earlier in this profile, he eclipsed that total in the first half of 2011 alone!
AFTER THIS CARD: Farnsworth missed the first half of 2012 with an elbow strain, allowing newcomer Fernando Rodney to emerge as a superstar (48 saves, compared to zero for Farnsworth). Still, Tampa Bay brought him back on a 1Y/$1.25M deal for 2013...only to cut him in August with a 5.76 ERA. Farnsworth ended on a strong note for the '13 Pirates, however.
An injury to RP Bobby Parnell allowed Farnsworth to win a job with the 2014 Mets; he would split his 35 appearances that year almost evenly between the Mets and Astros. Farnsworth reportedly aimed to continue pitching in 2015, but no contract materialized and his pro career ended at 38.
By 2022, Farnsworth had drastically changed his appearance from his playing days.
Kyle Farnsworth appeared in Kyle Farnsworth appeared annually in Topps or Topps Update 2002-13, split almost evenly.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Tampa Bay Rays
11/7/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #442 Todd Ritchie, Brewers
More Todd Ritchie Topps Cards: 2000 2001 2002 2002T
During the Pittsburgh Pirates 20 consecutive seasons (1993-2012) on the outside of the postseason looking in, one man...and only one man...managed to win as many as 15 games in any of those seasons. And that man was the unheralded righty Todd Ritchie, who had been working full-time middle relief for the Twins just two seasons prior to his breakout 1999 campaign.
While he was not able to reach those heights again, Ritchie was a mainstay in the 2000-01 Pittsburgh rotations, eclipsing 200 innings in 2001 and prompting the White Sox to trade for him that December. We catch up with Ritchie on the heels of his lone Chicago season, one that started well enough but gradually disintegrated into disaster, likely due to shoulder inflammation that sidelined him for practically all of August 2002.