Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, October 2015
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10/12/15 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #700 Don Mattingly, Yankees
More Don Mattingly Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996
Prior to collecting cards at age 10 in 1990, I could name every last Masters Of The Universe character with ease—and there were loads of them—but only three major leaguers: Darryl Strawberry, Orel Hershiser...and Don Mattingly.
If you're new to baseball and watching this year's NLDS between the Mets and the Mattingly-led Dodgers, convincing you that this average-sized, harmless bespectacled man was once one of the greatest hitters of the 1980s might be tough. Tax accountant? Sure. Insurance agent? Yeah, you'd buy that. But not "former feared slugger for the New York Yankees".
But Mattingly was. For a half-decade, he dominated the American League at bat (average of .327, 30, 110 from 1984-87) and broke their spirit in the field (annual Gold Gloves at 1B 1985-89, plus four more in the 90's), making six straight All-Star teams along the way and winning the 1985 AL MVP award.
The slugger once homered in a record-tying eight consecutive games and hit a record-setting six grand slams in 1987 (since matched by Travis Hafner.) His name even rings baseball, doesn't it? What I'm trying to communicate—in the mid-80's, Don Mattingly was kind of a big deal.
Here, Mattingly is about to embark on what would be his final season as an even remotely elite offensive player—at only 27, his power numbers had dipped substantially in 1988. Little could anyone imagine such "ordinary" production would be the norm for the Yankee superstar going forward...
THIS CARD: Mattingly is captured eyeing some wood while still lugging the leather. My theory: a warm Spring Training day in early 1988; Donnie is preparing to take the field for some grounders when suddenly a bat materializes from nowhere—and it's got his name on it!
Concerned it is a trap of some sort set by unknown enemies, Mattingly stops dead in his tracks and eyes the lumber carefully, trying to identify any clues.
Fortunately, despite being totally unaware a workout had been scheduled for that morning, teammate Rickey Henderson was nearby. Rickey reminds Mattingly he is a major leaguer and he likely owns the bat he's holding. All ends well (although Rickey is told no, he may not have the bat.)
(flip) Bold/Italics usually indicate a guy is pretty good. Mattingly's got plenty—his 238 hits and 53 doubles in '86 were/are club records!
Going further, no lefty Yankee hitter has ever exceeded Mattingly's 742 plate appearances that year (although a switch-hitter did once). The Indiana native still ranks among the top 10 all-time Yanks in RBI, runs, hits, total bases and doubles—not bad for a former #19 pick who was often consigned to the outfield by the presence of Ken Griffey Sr. and Steve Balboni early in his career.
Take a good look at those strikeout totals...from 1985-1987, Mattingly's strikeout-to-homer ratio was damn near 1/1. His single-season career high in K? 43. Chris Davis was rung up 47 times just this past August. (That's a credit to one slugger, not a knock on the other.)
AFTER THIS CARD: With so many accolades, why does Mattingly lack a plaque in Cooperstown? Because of his own body—after years as a superstar, a degenerative disk in Mattingly's back shelved him much of 1990, and he could only muster five home runs and a dreadful .335 SLG. He was able to play full-time for the ensuing five seasons, but only with the offensive production of a mere mortal.
Mattingly last played in 1995; he coached under Yankee/Dodger manager Joe Torre 2004-10 before succeeding Torre as Dodgers manager in 2011. Through hiccups and drama, Mattingly has lasted five years in the role to date. He appeared annually in 1984-96 Topps as a player; Topps has not produced manager cards during his tenure.
CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, New York Yankees
10/15/15 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #296 Edgar Gonzalez, Diamondbacks
More Edgar Gonalez Topps Cards: 2007 2008
No relation to the ex-Padre infielder of the same name (Edgar Victor Gonzalez), I remember Edgar Gerardo Gonzalez as a valuable innings-eater with the Oakland A's around decade's turn. Long before that, he was a 17-year-old signee by Arizona in 2000 out of Mexico. As a 19-year-old in single-A, Gonzalez went 14-8, 2.63 in 27 starts for South Bend.
The Diamondbacks gave Gonzalez 10 starts in the second half of 2004. He threw 46.1 innings, allowed 15 home runs and registered a 9.35 ERA—which is even more astounding considering he threw three quality starts! In his penultimate start of the season, my Giants demolished him for 10 earned runs in 1+ inning pitched en route to an 18-7 beatdown (in that game, Barry Bonds tagged Gonzalez for career homer #697).
In fact, in each of Gonzalez' first four starts, Arizona lost 10-3, 10-3, 10-3 and 10-2 (though not all the runs were charged to him.) Clearly, good things weren't happening when Gonzalez took the mound—he spent essentially the entire 2005 season in AAA Tucson.
Arizona held on to the beefy, still-young righty through 2008, however. Here, Gonzalez is coming off a much-improved major league showing. Called up in June and again in September 2006, he went 2-3, 3.00 in five non-consecutive starts.
THIS CARD: Gonzalez is given an Update card for some reason despite having a card in the base set with the same team. Maybe just to show off the new D'Backs uniforms (or his new long 'do)?
I don't want to bag on Gonzalez, who may well be a very nice man. But his signature looks written by a 15-month old. If you unfocus your eyes, you might see the word "Pear".
(flip) Wonder what kind of reaction Melvin's comment would get in 2015, given the fallout from the infamous 2014 Luol Deng (NBA) scouting report.
Those three starts came against Florida (loss), San Diego and San Francisco (wins). We referenced his 2006 record as a starter above; Gonzalez accrued an 8.68 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in six relief appearances.
The rare five-digit ERA...possible future Topps card category?
AFTER THIS CARD: Gonzalez did open 2007 in the Arizona rotation, but was pushed out by injured Micah Owings' return after five starts. He continued to alternate between relieving and starting before finally being outrighted by the D'Backs after the '08 season.
Since the aforementioned 2009 season with Oakland, Gonzalez has made a total of 15 major-league appearances—most recently with the 2013 Astros. He spent 2015 in the Mexican League, going 4-12, 4.90 in 23 starts for his native Monterrey.
Edgar G. Gonzalez appeared in 2007-08 Topps.
10/21/15 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #78 Tom Foley, Expos
More Tom Foley Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992
Today, he's the Tampa Bay Rays' third base coach largely known for being tied to a pair of (unfortunate) 2014 events...
A) wearing a #66 Zimmer jersey in tribute to Rays special advisor Don Zimmer, who took ill and eventually died following 66 years in pro baseball, and
B) being in the path of angry Red Sox OF Jonny Gomes when Gomes charged all the way to 3B from LF to get at Rays runner Yunel Escobar, who was inciting the Boston dugout.
Long before that, Tom Foley was a versatile infielder who spent parts of eight years with the Expos, but also got run for the Reds, Phillies and Pirates. Only twice did he exceed 70 starts in any one season, and after years approaching or exceeding 300 PA, he was essentially a backup after turning 30.
Never more than an average-at-best offensive player even in the minors, Foley lasted 13 years largely on his versatility and fielding skillz.
Here, Foley has just completed his first 2½ months as an Expo, having been traded from the Phillies in July 1986. Foley was set to start for Philadelphia at SS that year until an errant pitch broke his wrist in Spring Training—Steve Jeltz took and kept the job, rendering Foley expendable enough to be swapped for RP Dan Schatzeder.
THIS CARD: It's challenging digging up quality 30-year-old pix of defunct NL turf ballparks—to the best I can determine, Foley is posing at old Busch Stadium II in St Louis. "No, NO, that park was grass and didn't look anything like this one, dummy!" shouted the 20-and-under crowd.
That's partially correct—Busch began with grass, then was converted to turf 1970-95 before returning to grass as part of a huge renovation; the whole area behind Foley changed.
Never seen a bat held that way. Ever. Either do a bunt pose or don't, Tom.
(flip)Score made regular mention of Foley's ambidextry on their card reverses, perhaps overcompensating for Topps "scooping" them. (Score Baseball didn't debut until 1988).
I was precisely six months old when Wilson stole that base. His streak would not advance, as Seattle P Rick Honeycutt and C Jerry Narron teamed to erase the Royals outfielder on his very next steal attempt one week later.
Foley is listed as a second baseman, even though he played at minimum twice as much at SS every year of his career to that point, including 1986.
AFTER THIS CARD: Foley continued to get a lot of run under manager Buck Rodgers through the 1989 season, but by '92, the Expos had a new manager and remade front office who decided to part ways with him after a very difficult 1992. Two seasons in Pittsburgh and an abbreviated reunion with Montreal wrapped Foley's playing career just shy of 36.
He has worked for the Tampa Bay organization almost exclusively ever since, even before their MLB debut. Foley was third-base coach 2001-14 and moved to bench coach under rookie skipper—and former Rays player—Kevin Cash in 2015.
Tom Foley appeared annually in 1984-92 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Montreal Expos
10/27/15 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps Update #15 Corey Koskie, Brewers
More Corey Koskie Topps Cards: 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
We make our second dip into 2006 Topps Update for new Brewer Koskie, acquired from Toronto but best known for his seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins. The Canadian native snuck up on the baseball world; his collegiate ball came at two schools you've never heard of, and he wasn't drafted until the 26th round in 1994. Eventually, Koskie started to slug in the minors—by 1998 he was in the bigs and by 1999, he was playing regularly.
The 2001 Twins returned to contention after nearly a decade of futility—Koskie was one of several young Twins to bust out that year, and his 103 RBI led the club by 11. He'd never come close to that figure again, but did smack 25 home runs in his walk year of 2004.
Needing slugging after losing Carlos Delgado, Toronto brought Koskie in on a 3Y/$17M deal, but he lost two months to the DL (thumb) and wasn't all that productive before or after the May injury.
Here, Koskie has just hooked up with Milwaukee, who saw a bargain if he could approach his Minnesota numbers. Earlier in that 2005-06 off-season Toronto had a shot at acquiring star 3B Troy Glaus—far superior to Koskie as a slugger even at Koskie's best—from Arizona and jumped on it, rendering the latter expendable.
THIS CARD: Koskie also has a card in the base set, with Toronto (#227).
I can't tell how far up the line Koskie's dropping his bat, but this past season I paid attention to A) how close to the plate guys drop the bat, and B) how infrequently others moved it aside when a play at the plate unfolded—not even runners crossing the plate could be counted on to clear the path for a following teammate!
Other than David Price this past season stepping on the bat while backing up home, and Marcus Thames stepping on his own bat running up the line a few years ago, I can't immediately recall anyone else hurt by a dropped bat. Once someone gets seriously hurt—which will happen—you will see umps, batboys, catchers, on-deck hitters, everybody practically trampling one another to prevent a repeat...for a while.
(flip) For the geographically challenged, "Man" refers to "Manitoba", a Canadian province bordering North Dakota and Minnesota. The referenced trade was for prospect Brian Wolfe, who made 72 relief appearances with Toronto 2007-09 before joining the Japan League, where he remains today.
Braves P Kyle Davies served up that 4/24/06 home run, which secured a W for Chris Capuano. In fact, following Koskie's drought, he closed April with six ribbies in his final 20 AB of the month—that equates to 150 in a 500-AB season. Not too shabby.
AFTER THIS CARD: Not much. On July 5, 2006 Koskie suffered what would be a career-ending concussion despite no blow to the head—he tumbled awkwardly while going back on a 7th-inning popup by Cincinnati's Felipe Lopez at Miller Park, jarring himself badly enough to be concussed.
The symptoms persisted, and Koskie spent the final 1½ years of his deal on the disabled list. By 2009, a now-36-year-old Koskie healed enough to sort of represent Canada in the World Baseball Classic (he only played in exhibitions) and attempt a comeback with the Cubs, but ultimately retired late in the Spring.
Corey Koskie received a 1999 Topps shared prospect card, then received commons annually from 2000-06. Apparently sensing he was done, the company didn't issue him a 2007 base or Update card even though he played regularly in '06 before being hurt and had not retired.
CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps Update, Milwaukee Brewers