Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, October 2022
A = Alternate Card B= Bonus Factory Set Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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10/31/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #179 Deivi Cruz, Cardinals
More Deivi Cruz Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2002T 2003 2003T 2004 2005G
Every good team seems to have one or two dudes who contribute to its success after materializing from thin air. Granted, the 1997 Tigers were not a conventionally good team, but they were 23 games better than the 1996 edition—and the defense of rookie SS Deivi Cruz was a factor in that improvement.
Cruz came up in the Giants system, went to the Dodgers in the 1996 Rule V Draft, then was swapped to Detroit that same day. By rule, the Tigers had to keep him on their '97 roster, but they went a step further and installed him as their starting SS! Cruz held that job through 2001, proving to be a quality hitter as well as fielder.
The veteran IF then moved through San Diego (2002) and Baltimore (2003) before landing back with the Giants for 2004 after a Spring release by the Devil Rays. Here, after splitting 2005 with the Giants and Nationals, 33-year-old Cruz has joined the Cardinals on a 1Y/$800K deal. As the salary suggests, St. Louis targeted Cruz as infield depth behind SS David Eckstein and 2B Aaron Miles.
THIS CARD: As you can see, Cruz didn't have the typical shortstop's body. But just like fellow Dominican Juan Uribe later on, his beef didn't stop him from doing the job and doing it well.
Given the fact that Cruz never played a regular-season game for the Cardinals, and given the fact that this image was shot at San Francisco's AT&T Park, I'm willing to bet pretty much anything this is an airbrushed image of Cruz the 2005 Giant. (Cruz WAS issued #35 by the Cardinals, who were apparently eager to wash away all traces of their recently departed former ace Matt Morris.)
More from Cruz's 2005 season: with legendary SS Omar Vizquel now in the picture, Cruz had to settle for a bench role with the '05 Giants. He wound up starting 38 times for San Francisco, most of that as a fill-in for injured 2B Ray Durham, before being dealt to Washington at the August Trade Deadline. I'm not sure what Cruz had for breakfast 8/16, but the man exploded out of a 2-for-28 slump with a 5-for-5, five-RBI night at Cincinnati in which he added a three-run homer!
(flip) I WAS going to list the others in Giants history with three doubles in one game. But as it turns out, it happened 64 times prior to Cruz and 15 more times since Cruz. That being said—good job taking it to the Dodgers, Deivi. Wish you had saved it for Game #162, though.
Instead of posting such a redundant stat in the Stat Box, Topps COULD have shared with you Cruz's 2005 fielding percentage of .989. But I digress.
See those comically low walk totals? Those aren't misprints. Cruz, in his entire nine-year MLB career—the majority of which was spent as a regular—drew fewer walks than Juan Soto drew in 2022 alone (135). Billy Beane would have probably consumed urine before ever signing Cruz.
AFTER THIS CARD: Cruz hit .146 in 2006 Spring Training, earning him his preseason release. He wound up spending '06 in the Independent League, his final professional baseball action.
Deivi Cruz appeared annually in Topps 1998-2006, except 2005 (although he does appear on a 2005 Topps San Francisco Giants Emerald Nuts card, which I didn't know existed until 40 seconds ago and will now try to purchase.)
More October 2022 Topps Cards Of The Day
10/1/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #300 Mike Trout, Angels
More Mike Trout Topps Cards: 2011U 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2019 2020 2021 2022
Mike Trout had been on the MLB radar for over a year by the time I really got to observe him in action. Up to that point, I'd always assumed he was just Steve Trout's kid following in papa's big league footsteps.
You see, when Mike Trout emerged as a big leaguer, I was busy raising a two-year-old. Whereas I'd normally be up to my neck in all things MLB, in 2011-12 I was up to my neck in potty training, Sesame Street, See-N-Say's and the like. Something had to give, so instead of making sure I had Trout's interleague OPS versus lefty pitchers committed to memory, I opted to make sure my child could tell red from yellow.
It's come in handy multiple times over the years! No regrets.
Here, Trout continues his reign as baseball's top superstar—even as his Angels missed out on postseason play for a third straight season. One wonders how the 2017 Halos would have fared had Trout—who was blistering-hot in the early weeks of '17—not missed 48 games with a thumb injury that required surgery. He was out from late May to mid-July, and Los Angeles went 23-25 without him.
THIS CARD: Some of Trout's greatest moments have been preserved on his Topps card fronts, but per Getty Images, this is just him slicing a foul ball against the visiting Mariners 4/9/2017. That day, Trout was 0-for-3 with two walks and two K; his Angels edged Seattle 10-9.
Trout has occupied Card #1 in a trio of Topps sets, but here he slides down to #300. Since 2013 Topps, Trout has thrice occupied both Card #1 (2014, 2016, 2020) and Card #27 (2013, 2021, 2022 referencing his uniform number), with the remaining card numbers ending in 0. That's how Topps labels somebody as "pretty darn good".
More from Trout's 2017 season: he ranked second in AL average, third in runs, second in HR, fourth in RBI, first in BB, first in SLG, first in OBP and first in XBH when he was injured sliding into second base at Miami 5/28. In spite of his extended absence, Trout still placed 4th in AL MVP voting...albeit a distant 4th. On 8/30 vs. Oakland, Trout went 4-for-4 with a walk, missing the cycle by a double and scoring four times in a 10-8 Angels victory.
(flip) See those 1,040 career hits? Trout raked #1,000 on 8/7/2017 versus Baltimore, a B4th double off Dylan Bundy.
See those 201 career homers? Trout blasted #200 (and #201) on 9/29/2017 versus Seattle's Marco Gonzales and Nick Vincent, respectively.
Trout was AL MVP in 2014 and 2016, and would later win a third MVP in 2019. I'm pointing that out as much for myself as I am for TSR visitors, as I tend to forget in my old age.
AFTER THIS CARD: Oh, not much, just a 12Y/$430M extension in March 2019, a third AL MVP award later that year, four All-Star berths, three Silver Sluggers, and 149 more homers (giving him a club-record 350 even thru 2022). Plus, for good measure, Trout's beloved Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl 52 after the 2017 season.
After making his Topps debut in 2011 Update—a card that will cost you a few bucks but not quite this many—Mike Trout has been one of the headliners of Topps base sets since 2012.
CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Los Angeles Angels
10/2/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #555 David Ross, Dodgers
More David Ross Topps Cards: 2006U 2007 2008 2009U 2011U 2014U 2015U 2016
As a longtime baseball fan, I can tell you that some dudes are able to sneak in a decade-plus in MLB without anyone ever really noticing. Former Brewers ace Cal Eldred was one—we remember his first (great) year with Milwaukee, his last couple years as a Cardinals reliever...and pretty much nothing in between.
Joe Blanton was another. One minute (2005), he's an emerging young starter for the Athletics. The next minute (2016), he's a lights-out reliever for the Dodgers. Trying to figure out those middle 10 years will get you nothing but a headache.
David Ross may be the ultimate such case. Personally, I recall him coming up as a young Dodger in the early '00s, and I recall his final season as a 2016 World Champion Cub. All I immediately recall in between is him winning a ring with the 2013 Red Sox—and that's only because his 2014 Topps Update card features him proudly showing off said ring!
It took a minute for Ross's MLB career to gain traction. But once it did, his strong defense, leadership and capable bat—in limited doses—kept him on track. Ross wound up playing MLB for 15 years, seven of which ended with postseason play and two of which ended with World Series glory.
Not bad for a guy who, at age 28, was buried in AAA behind Humberto Cota. And later swapped for the great J.J. Furmaniak.
THIS CARD: I've gotten so used to the grayed, grizzled version of David Ross that exists today; I'm not sure I could have identified this 25-year-old version. He looks more like ex-Giants SP Matt Cain than Matt Cain does, to be honest.
Not sure who Ross is giving the dap to, but it signifies something good happened for the Dodgers, so I don't like it. I THINK they are celebrating at PNC Park in Pittsburgh...(leaves to research)
(returns)...except Ross did not play there in 2003. In the end, I could not definitively identify the location of this pic, despite the fact Ross didn't appear at all that many road ballparks in '03.
Other notable Dodgers to wear #40: Rick Honeycutt, both as a player in the 80's and the team's pitching coach 2006-19.
(flip) I never knew Ross displayed such a dangerous bat on the farms. Granted, the Vegas elevation might have aided a few of those home runs, but Ross did show more than adequate pop after being promoted to the bigs, too. YES, I'm giving credit to a Dodger.
The Dodgers always had their eye on young Ross. Not only did they draft him #7 in 1998 out of Florida, but they tried to nab him #19 in 1995 out of high school.
How well did Ross throw with the 2003 Dodgers? Well, he caught 16 of 45 attempted basestealers, a healthy 36%, so I'd say the blurb is on point. Need more evidence? Okay—for Class A San Bernadino in 2000, Ross gunned 34 of 66 would-be thieves (52%)!
AFTER THIS CARD: For the 2004 Dodgers, Ross shared time behind the plate with first Paul Lo Duca, then Brent Mayne. Los Angeles then sold Ross to the Pirates near the end of Spring Training 2005 but—as referenced above—Pittsburgh didn't have much use for Ross and dealt him to the Padres near the '05 Trade Deadline.
It wasn't until joining the 2006 Reds (on a 2Y/$4.5M deal that January) that Ross re-emerged as a viable major leaguer—the 29-year-old banged 21 homers in just 247 at-bats for Cincinnati!
Ross then followed that up by batting .203 in 112 games in 2007 (albeit with 17 more bombs); he wasn't much better in 2008 and finished the year with Boston after being cut by the Reds in August.
Next, Atlanta signed Ross for 2Y/$3M in December 2008; he backed up Brian McCann so well that the Braves extended him for 2Y/$3.25M in July 2010! Next came two seasons back with Boston, where Ross shook off two lengthy concussion absences to directly help the Red Sox win the 2013 World Series!
Ross landed with the Cubs in December 2014 (2Y/$5M), backing up Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras. Once more, he directly aided his club's championship march by homering off Cleveland's Andrew Miller in 2016 WS Game 7—the oldest player to ever homer in a Fall Classic (39).
Ross then transitioned into the Cubs' front office while also doing some ESPN work; in October 2019 he succeeded Joe Maddon as Cubs manager. Ross's 2020 Cubs won the NL Central, but by mid-2021 a full-on rebuild was underway in Chicago. Still, in March 2022, his contract was extended through at least 2024.
David Ross appeared in 2004, 2007-08, and 2016 Topps. He can also be found in 2006, 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2015 Topps Update—Topps repped Ross with all the notable clubs he played for.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers
10/3/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #444 Cliff Floyd, Expos
More Cliff Floyd Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007U 2008 2009U
Here, the future All-Star Floyd has completed a bounce-back 1996 season. When I say "bounce-back", I don't necessarily mean Floyd's '96 campaign was productive. I do mean to say that Floyd even taking the field in 1996 was an accomplishment—his May 1995 wrist injury was a bad one, folks.
The 23-year-old took on a part-time role for the '96 Expos, and though his overall numbers weren't particularly impressive, Floyd did bat .348 (24-for-69) from 6/24 thru 7/24, and his four triples tied for second on the team behind F.P. Santangelo's five.
THIS CARD: Floyd appears in COTD for the second time this year; we profiled his 1996 Topps card in May 2022—and did so poorly, as I now realize after checking out said profile. We published that COTD with incomplete and erroneous information, and I'll correct it immediately after completing this one. (No, the error was not accidentally calling him Gavin Floyd. Or Sleepy Floyd.)
Floyd appears to either be A) debating whether or not to advance on a ball hit to the left side, or B) caught up in a pickle. Floyd wasn't a blazer, but he moved well for a man his size and later enjoyed a pair of 20-20 seasons with Florida.
More from Floyd's 1996 season: he spent the first month of '96 rehabbing at AAA Ottawa. When the Expos recalled Floyd, they mercifully spared him from returning to 1B save for an 8/10 start and an 8/12 finish there in August (not sure about 8/10, but Rodriguez was ejected 8/12 for charging Houston's Danny Darwin). On 6/30, Floyd's PH, three-run homer off Phillies CL Ricky Bottalico in the T9th gave Montreal the comeback win!
(flip) Yes, that's Tim Raines' old #30 Floyd is wearing, though it might look like #33 at first glance. The number was not retired by the Expos until Raines himself retired after the 2002 season.
GEEZ...12/5/72...Cliff Floyd is about to turn 50?!!! Holy Christ, I'm getting old, too!
Three of Floyd's six homers in 1996 were of the pinch-hit variety.
Here is the video of Floyd's 5/15/1995 collision with Mets C Todd Hundley. It is NOT for the faint of heart, and I personally cannot look directly at it...you've been warned.
Doctors told Floyd his career might be over, and they meant it—under those circumstances, you'll never see a more impressive .242, 6, 26 line from a non-pitcher unless it's produced by a duck or a lizard.
AFTER THIS CARD: With extensive playing time no longer available to him in Montreal, Floyd was traded to Florida in Spring 1997. Interestingly, he initially played even less there, but came away with his lone World Series ring as a 1997 Marlin! After the club's Great Fire Sale that winter, Floyd emerged as their starting LF in 1998 and finally broke through, batting .282, 22, 90 in 153 games.
Floyd was gifted with a 4Y/$19M extension in January 1999, but knee and Achilles injuries cost him more than half of that season. He bounced back with a .300, 22, 91 season for the 2000 Marlins and in 2001, Floyd finished up at .317, 31, 103 for the Fish—earning his lone career All-Star nod!
Off to a strong start in 2002, the pending free agent was traded back to Montreal, then to Boston during the '02 season; he finished at .288 with 28 jacks in all and signed a 4Y/$26M deal with the Mets that December.
In his four seasons in New York, Floyd missed at least 49 games to injury three times, the exception being 2005 (.273, 34, 98). After spending 2007 in a part-time role with the Cubs and 2008 in a similar role with the AL Champion Rays, Floyd began 2009 on the Padres DL, went 2-for-16 upon activation, underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, and never returned to MLB. He's good on MLB Network; check him out.
Cliff Floyd appeared annually in Topps or Topps Update 1992-2009, except 1998.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Montreal Expos
10/4/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #503 Albert Belle, Indians
More Joey/Albert Belle Topps Cards: 1990 1992 1993 1994 1996 1997 1998 1999 1999T 2000 2001
Belle was one the most prolific hitters of the 1990's, and he was arguably never better than in the strike-shortened 1994 season. That year, the 28-year-old left fielder hit .357—including a 67-game stretch 4/22 to 7/6 where he hit .392—set a Cleveland record for SLG which still stands today, and probably would have eclipsed Hal Trosky's club record of 405 total bases (1936) given those final seven weeks of action.
Of course, detractors must take that performance with a barrel of salt, considering Belle was caught using a corked bat on 7/15, and later revealed to have an entire supply of them.
THIS CARD: Belle was just "regular big" during his playing days, as you see here. But like many of us, he expanded substantially as he aged. LET ME STRESS that there's not a damn thing wrong with that...I've got enough problems without getting on Belle's bad side.
Since Belle left the Indians after the 1996 season, uniform #8 has made the rounds, most notably to IF John McDonald in the 00's and 3B/OF Lonnie Chisenhall in the 10's. Which is too bad, because transgressions and all, that number would probably be retired by Cleveland today had Belle played his whole career there.
(Also, back when Belle was in diapers, the late, great Ray Fosse wore #8 in Cleveland.)
More from Belle's 1994 season: you've probably learned by now that after White Sox manager Gene Lamont busted Belle out to the umpires that 7/15 evening, Indians RP Jason Grimsley climbed through the vents of brand-new Jacobs Field to extricate the confiscated bat from the umpires' room.
It didn't take long for authorities to figure out something was up, however, and Belle ended up with a 10-game suspension that was reduced to seven upon appeal and served August 1-7.
(flip) Believe it or not, that insane .714 SLG in '94 did NOT lead the AL. That honor belonged to future Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas, who slugged .729 for the White Sox en route to his second straight AL MVP award.
If Thomas was first in AL MVP voting, and Belle was third, WHO was second? That would be another future Hall-of-Famer, Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr., who placed a distant second in spite of some pretty amazing performances in 1994. Junior finished just eight points ahead of Belle, who would place second in 1995 AL MVP voting and third in 1996.
That's how Belle looked all the time, I feel obligated to inform you. I never really saw him smiling until his reunion with Indians teammates during 2012 Spring Training.
AFTER THIS CARD: Let's see, in addition to multiple on-and-off-field mishaps, Belle drilled 103 XBH in 1995 to nearly power Cleveland to the championship, drove in 148 runs in his walk year of 1996, then signed a historic 5Y/$55M deal with the White Sox in November 1996. Though 1997 was a bit of a down year for Belle, he rebounded with a .328, 49, 152 line in 1998 and promptly exercised an opt-out in his contract.
In November 1998, Belle jumped to Baltimore for 5Y/$65M and homered 37 times in 1999. But following an ordinary—for him—2000 campaign, Belle could not shake hip pain during 2001 Spring Training. He was found to have degenerative osteoarthritis in the hip, and though his career ended immediately at 34, he officially remained an Oriole with a roster spot until his contract expired after the 2003 season so that insurance would cover his final two years of salary ($27M).
For the most part, Belle—who finished up with a .295 average and 381 homers—laid low for a decade until a surprisingly upbeat reunion with several members of his old Indians squad in Spring Training 2012.
Albert Belle debuted in 1990 Topps as Joey—short for his middle name Jojuan—then was omitted in 1991 (just nine MLB games in '90). He returned in 1992 Topps as Albert and appeared continuously thru 2001, while also receiving a 1999 Topps Traded card as a new Oriole.
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Cleveland Indians
10/6/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #83 Tom Urbani, Cardinals
More Tom Urbani Topps Cards: 1995
For the final weeks of the 1993 season, people were talking about Cardinals rookie lefty Tom Urbani, who put together a solid stretch for the St. Louis Cardinals after moving into their rotation.
As what tends to happen for many young players, Urbani's fine finish to 1993 did not portend great things to come. Still, he lasted parts of four seasons with St. Louis, usually as a fill-in guy but also with a spot to call his own for a time.
Here, Urbani has closed the book on that rookie season, one that came to an encouraging end after he posted a 3.73 ERA from 8/21 on (nine starts). While Urbani was only credited with one win during that stretch, St. Louis went 6-3!
THIS CARD: Unfortunately, this is not a random selection. We had a different 1994 Topps random selection all ready to go when news of Urbani's passing broke at the end of September. The 54-year-old's cause of death remains private; I quickly made the executive decision to replace our original 10/6 selection with Urbani.
We see the young lefty pitching at an unidentifiable road ballpark. Smashing all rookie stereotypes to hell in 1993, Urbani posted a 3.58 ERA and 1.374 WHIP on the road compared to 5.50 and 1.777 at Busch Stadium II.
More from Urbani's 1993 season: he was recalled from AAA Louisville three times by the Cardinals, those occasions being
when SP Rene Arocha's finger was broken by a Dante Bichette (Rockies) liner in late April,
when P Omar Olivares hit the DL with a strained groin in early June, and
when SP Rheal Cormier came down with a sore shoulder in mid-August.
(flip) According to the blurb, the 1993 American Association qualified ERA leader would have needed just 115 IP—MLB requires one inning pitched per team game and I always assumed MiLB did so as well (they don't, which I suppose makes sense). Under that rule, Rod Bolton of Nashville (White Sox) was the league leader with his 2.88 ERA across 115.2 IP.
Not shown: the three previous times Urbani was drafted prior to 1990 (the 1986 Royals #33, the 1988 Rangers #34, and the 1989 Twins #29). Texas had attempted to draft Urbani out of something called Cabrillo College in CA, but he wisely chose to attend Cal State Long Beach.
This is Urbani's TOPPS rookie card, allegedly. But he appeared—as a big leaguer—in 1993 Stadium Club, which is of course produced by Topps and was released well before 1994 Topps. Do you SEE why collectors, including myself, were confused as crap back in the day?
AFTER THIS CARD: Urbani got in 20 games (10 starts) for St. Louis over the course of the 1994 season, throwing some good games but finishing with a 5.15 ERA. In 1995, despite peripherals very similar to his 1994 season, Urbani dropped his ERA to 3.70 in 24 games (13 starts) for the Cardinals. But after a pair of shaky outings in early 1996, Urbani was shipped off to Detroit.
As a Tiger, Urbani posted a 1.901 WHIP in 16 games and was demoted to AAA Toledo, never to return to MLB. He did pitch in the Texas, Montreal and St. Louis (again) systems as well as the Independent League through 1998.
Tom Urbani appeared in 1994-95 Topps
10/7/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #218 Dan Schatzeder, Twins
More Dan Schatzeder Topps Cards: 1987
Schatzeder, the epitome of the journeyman left-hander, joined his sixth team (counting the Expos twice) in 1987 following a June trade with Philly. It wasn't a smooth go in Minnesota for the 32-year-old, who was battered in his first Twins outing and scored upon in 17 of his 30 regular-season games with the club. Schatzeder was able to clean things up in the postseason, however.
THIS CARD: I'm not sure I've ever seen a dude wearing a T-Shirt on his baseball card, but there you go.
Schatzeder was one of those guys who, because of that mustache and journeyman status, always seemed to be 38 years old. He was only 32 in 1987, however.
More from Schatzeder's 1987 season: he held his own as a Phillies long man, working as many as 3.2 innings in one outing and throwing three shutout innings in another. On 8/3, Schatzeder turned in his finest outing as a Twin, going the final 5.2 innings after SP Joe Niekro was famously ejected for this. Schatzeder allowed four hits and just one run in Minnesota's 11-3 triumph over California.
(flip) Since there's no blurb, I'll create one: through 1987, Schatzeder was a lifetime .249 hitter with five homers in 229 MLB at-bats. He was often used as a pinch-hitter during his NL days and went 6-for-15 in that role!
See those six unearned runs Schatzeder allowed with the 1987 Twins? They all came in one outing, on 7/7 at the Yankees; he allowed the six runs and four hits in just 0.1 innings. They were not earned because 2B Steve Lombardozzi Sr. booted Rick Cerone grounder, extending the B7th.
That Trade sent minor leaguers Danny Clay (RP) and Tom Schwarz (IF) to Philadelphia. Only Clay reached MLB, posting a 6.00 ERA in 17 games for the 1988 Phillies.
AFTER THIS CARD: After splitting 1988 with the Indians and Twins, Schatzeder worked—and worked well—out of the Astros bullpen 1989-90 until being moved to the Mets in September 1990. He then got in eight games with the 1991 Royals before being released, ending his MLB career at 36. (Schatzeder did appear nine times for AAA Tidewater [Mets] after his release by KC.)
Dan Schatzeder appeared in 1978-88 Topps, as well as 1982 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, Minnesota Twins
10/8/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #31 Brent Morel, White Sox
More Brent Morel Topps Cards: 2011
Entering the 2009 season, after the White Sox decided to part ways with onetime star 3B Joe Crede over concerns about his chronic back issues, somebody had to take over the position. Ideally, Chicago could have traded for Alex Rodriguez or Michael Young or Chipper Jones to handle third, but that didn't happen.
The team cycled through a number of third base hopefuls/stopgaps over the next few years. For a time, even Omar Vizquel—the 42-year-old perennial Gold Glove shortstop—was asked to hold down the hot corner.
In 2011, young Brent Morel—a Cal Poly alum who could hit and run—received his opportunity to man third base at U.S. Cellular Field. He started there on Opening Day and added 63 more starts (out of 105 Sox games) there through the end of July, when chief 3B competitor Mark Teahen was traded to Toronto.
Morel played virtually every day from then on, homering nine times in 180 at-bats—including eight in September alone!
THIS CARD: Per Getty Images, we're seeing Morel in action on 6/7/2011 versus Seattle, firing over the top of SP Philip Humber. Evidently, Morel is making a play on a bunt, and I WOULD HAVE looked up the bunter had it not taken 10 minutes just to find the image. (BTW, the Sox won that day 5-1.)
That Mariners third-base coach in the background has to be Jeff Datz—who I've never once heard of despite his month as a Tigers catcher in 1989, or his eight years coaching with the 2000's Indians. Per Wikipedia sources, Datz was scouting for the Yankees at last check.
On Morel's chest, we see the partially-obscured #22. In White Sox history, notables such as OF Ivan Calderon, 3B/SS Jose Valentin and OF Scott Podsednik also wore #22—no one remotely close to Cooperstown status, obviously, but still guys who enjoyed extended success on the South Side.
(flip) So THAT'S why Topps chose a photo of Morel firing to first base for the out—the honor from Baseball America, If a buddy told you a large-chested gal was interested in you, you wouldn't have much use for a photo of her ankles, would you?
AFTER THIS CARD: Morel's strong 2011 finish would not be a precursor to further MLB success, unfortunately. As May 2012 wound down, Morel—batting just .177 in 35 games for the Sox—went down with a back strain that was only supposed to sideline him for a couple of weeks. But issues persisted, and by the time Morel was finally activated 8/1, Chicago had replaced him at 3B with former All-Star Kevin Youkilis. Morel finished the year at AAA Charlotte.
Morel got just 30 at-bats with the 2013 White Sox, who stashed him at Charlotte and then waived him that December. Toronto soon claimed him, then waived him as well two months later. This time, the Pirates took a flier, but they used Morel as depth at AAA Indianapolis—he only received 46 at-bats over 23 games for the 2014-15 Pirates.
Morel signed an MiLB deal with Oakland in July 2015 and hit .331 in 34 games at AAA Nashville to close the year; his pro career ended with two seasons in Japan during which Morel showed even less power than he had in MLB.
Brent Morel appeared in 2011-12 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Chicago White Sox
10/9/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #194 Zach Day, Expos
More Zach Day Topps Cards: 2005 2005U 2006 2006U
Zach Day was a decent starting pitcher for Montreal in spurts over the 2003-04 seasons; I personally thought he would last a lot longer in MLB than he did.
Unfortunately, in 2005, Day became known (perhaps BEST known) for something other than his arm—after being pulled from a May start in which he'd been laboring, Day appeared to turn his back on manager Frank Robinson as he was removed from the game. He lost his rotation spot, and two months later, Day was moved to Colorado. His career never recovered.
But here, Day is fresh off a 2003 season full of promise...and a little weirdness, as you'll see below. As Montreal's #2 starter, he threw seven shutout innings in his season debut 4/2 and was effective for most of his 23 starts for the '03 Expos.
THIS CARD: Day appears to be toiling at San Francisco's SBC Park. He pitched there once in 2003, giving up one run in six innings to earn his fourth victory on 5/12.
ARE there any other notable #54's in Expos history? Well, future star OF Ellis Valentine and future star CL Tim Burke wore #54 as rookies, and middle reliever Tim Scott enjoyed some success wearing #54 in the mid-1990's. That's pretty much it.
More from Day's 2003 season: he was ejected in the third inning of his 5/17 start after superglue was found on his person. Around the same time, Day battled a cyst on his knee and was eventually sent to the DL with an inflamed right shoulder that ended up being a partially torn rotator cuff.
(flip) In that 5/1 shutout at Milwaukee, Day walked one, struck out five, and threw 114 pitches. It was the first of two career shutouts he'd throw; we'll detail the other when we pull his 2005 Topps card.
In this pic, Day—at least to me—strongly resembles one of his future ExpoNats rotation mates, John Patterson. Which, while not on the level of a John Stamos or John Travolta resemblance, was not a bad thing in the year 2004.
Day was indeed a Yankees draft pick who went to Cleveland in the deal for OF David Justice. A year later, the Expos acquired Day straight up for then-prospect Milton Bradley—which, years later, doesn't look fair at all to Montreal until you remember Bradley was not completely sane.
AFTER THIS CARD: The 2004 Expos opened their final season with Day as their #4 starter/ he went 5-10, 3.93 in 19 starts before a season-ending finger injury suffered while bunting in a "game" that was eventually rained out. As mentioned, Day endured a tough 2005 with the newborn Nationals, prompting that July trade to Colorado (in exchange for OF Preston Wilson).
As a Rockie, Day was no better, and by May 2006 he was back in Washington via waivers and instantly returned to their rotation. Day delivered two dazzling starts, two clunkers, and one that fell somewhere in between before undergoing another rotator cuff surgery. The Nats released him that fall, and when MiLB deals with the 2007 Royals and 2008 Twins led nowhere, Day simply evaporated into the pro baseball abyss.
Zach Day appeared in 2004-06 Topps, as well as 2005-06 Topps Updates & Highlights.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Montreal Expos
10/11/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #392 Matt Morris, Cardinals
More Matt Morris Topps Cards: 1996 1998 1999 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2007U 2008
In the first half of the 2000's, there weren't many dudes winning more games than Matt Morris of the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, from 2001-05 he was victorious 79 times in the regular season (and once more in the postseason). Only seven other MLB pitchers earned more wins in that period.
Morris wasn't too bad in the 1990's either—after being drafted by St. Louis in 1995, he spent exactly one full season on the farms before winning a spot in the 1997 Cardinals' rotation. (He didn't get the attention he might have otherwise because the Cardinals imported another Double-M that summer.)
A Spring shoulder strain kept Morris out for the first half of 1998, but upon healing, he was even better than in '97! But the 25-year-old lost all of 1999 due to MCL surgery on his pitching elbow.
Here, Morris is coming off a spectacular 2001 season that earned him an All-Star nod and would have culminated in the NL Cy Young Award had the Diamondback Duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling not performed at superhuman levels. Still, Morris could brag that his '01 win total (22) had gone unmatched by any Cardinal in the past 31 seasons.
THIS CARD: We see Morris unleashing either his mid-90's four-seamer, his sinking two-seamer, his power curve, or his straight changeup. After arthroscopic shoulder surgery in 2003, Morris lost a couple MPH off his fastball but could still reach back to 94-95 when necessary...at least for a time; by 2008, his final season, 33-year-old Morris was down to 85 MPH.
Topps' redundancy checkers failed Morris, whose 2003 Topps front image was nearly identical to this one. His 2004 Topps front image used the same angle/zoom, but at least it caught Morris at the top of his motion.
More from Morris's 2001 season: On his 27th birthday 8/9, the Cardinals gave him the gift of a victory despite his five runs and 10 hits allowed in 6.2 innings. In his 20th win of the year 9/19, Morris accrued a season—and ultimately, career—high of 13 K to complete a three-game sweep of Milwaukee. And from 8/3 thru 9/4, Morris won seven straight starts with a 3.21 ERA!
(flip) Tying with Morris for the NL lead in wins was Schilling.
Uh...if anything, 2000 should have been Morris's "comeback" season; he didn't "come back" from anything in 2001 other than pitching full-time relief—which, last I checked, didn't earn any awards for Scott Garrelts in 1989 or Todd Stottlemyre in 1995. Perhaps Morris could have been the inaugural "Return To Prior Form" award winner?
There weren't many dudes who could look as mean as Morris when scowling and as gentle as Morris when smiling. I don't KNOW the man, but from what I heard in interviews, etc. he fell somewhere in the middle in terms of temperament—he might snarl at you, but then he'd buy you ice cream.
As you see in the bio, Morris was a #1 pick in 1995 (12th overall, out of Seton Hall). That was three short years after being a #26 pick by Milwaukee out of HS in 1992.
AFTER THIS CARD: We summed up Morris's successful 2002-05 period; included in that was a 3Y/$27M extension signed in January 2002, a second straight All-Star appearance that year, and this iconic (at least to me) moment in the '02 postseason in tribute to fallen rotation mate Darryl Kile.
Morris threw five CG and three SHO in 2003, but missed a month with a liner-induced broken hand and this foolishness. He responded in 2004 by...allowing nine homers in April on the way to 35 for the year and going winless in four postseason starts. That winter, Morris underwent shoulder surgery and more closely resembled his old self in the first half of 2005, parlaying that into a 3Y/$27M deal with my Giants in December 2005.
Morris—who later admitted to be bothered by a rib injury in late 2006—struggled to find consistency in his first year with SF, despite being reunited with his old Cardinals batterymate Mike Matheny (for a few weeks, anyway). He finished 10-15, 4.98 that year and with 2007 not looking much better, the Giants were able to dump Morris's contract on the lowly Pirates via Deadline deal for OF Rajai Davis He finished '07 at 10-11, 4.89.
When Morris sported a 9.67 ERA and severely diminished velocity a month into the 2008 season, Pittsburgh cut him, and he quickly retired at 33.
Matt Morris debuted as a Draft Pick in 1996 Topps, then appeared annually as a big leaguer in 1998-2008 Topps, except 2000. Morris also turned up in 2007 Topps Update as a new Pirate.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals
10/12/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #318 Dave Hollins, Angels
More Dave Hollins Topps Cards: 1990T 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1998
Here, we catch up with the veteran third baseman Hollins as he basks in the afterglow of his final season as a big league regular. Hollins, in Year 2 of a 2Y/$3.8M Anaheim deal he signed in November 1996, started 98 of 101 games in 1998—91 at 3B, six at 1B and one at DH. He missed the final seven weeks of '98 after undergoing rotator cuff surgery.
THIS CARD: "Dave Hollins, Angels?" Yes, it happened and believe me—I understand if it sounds strange to you. It sounds strange to me and I specifically remember when and why the Angels signed him! I'm aware most of the nation only remembers Hollins the early-1990's Phillie, but he played several more years after leaving the City of Brother Love.
Hollins laying down a bunt? Not as uncommon as you may think. In his 12 MLB seasons, Hollins bunted for 42 hits—including 18 as an Angel 1997-98!
In Angels history, #10 has been worn by a number of guys who—not entirely unlike Hollins—were just passing through Anaheim, although slugging OF Justin Upton wore it during his final two seasons with the team (2020-21) after switching from #8. Hollins, of course, wore #15 with the Phils.
(flip) If there is ONE active big leaguer sporting that 'do in 2022, I'll shave my own head. In NO way am I making fun of Hollins; just observing how different today's players look from just 25 years ago.
In that 1993 All-Star Game played at Camden Yards, Hollins doubled against future Twins teammate Rick Aguilera in the T8th. This was the same Classic where Hollins' Phillies teammate John Kruk was "brushed back" by the frightening Mariners legend Randy Johnson.
If I ever knew Dave Hollins was drafted by the Padres, I'd LONG AGO forgotten it.
I'm still irked when I see Hollins' 1996 stat line: 16 homers, 78 RBI in 149 games and the man did not receive a 1997 Topps card...
This is Hollins' second appearance in COTD. We profiled his 1994 Topps card in November 2017.
AFTER THIS CARD: Nearing age 33 upon conclusion of 1999 Spring Training, Hollins was traded to Toronto to clear space at 3B for prospect Troy Glaus. Hollins would play just 43 more major league games—a total which would've been higher if not for this.
Between the 1999 Blue Jays, 2001 Indians and 2002 Phillies, Hollins went 25-for-121 (.207) with two home runs in those 43 games. He retired the next year, coached for AA Binghamton (Mets) in 2005, and at last check was scouting for the Phillies.
Dave Hollins debuted in 1990 Topps Traded, received cards in 1991-95 Topps, then popped up two more times in 1998-99 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Anaheim Angels
10/13/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps #194 A.J. Ramos, Marlins
More A.J. Ramos Topps Cards: 2013 2014 2015U 2016 2018
To all you young, prospective baseball stars out there: if you ever go pro. and you're ever fortunate enough to sign a major league contract...DON'T BLOW IT ALL IN FIVE MINUTES.
No matter how good you are, no matter how successful you are, continued success is never guaranteed in pro sports. For every Wander Franco who's fortunate enough to sign a kajillion-dollar contract five minutes into his MLB career, there's an A.J. Ramos who was on his way to such a deal—well, he was a closer, so maybe not quite as large a deal as Franco's—before his body betrayed him.
Here, Ramos's stock has never been higher—he's just completed an All-Star 2016 campaign for the up-and-coming Miami Marlins. Ramos's 40 saves ranked fourth in the NL, tied for the fourth-best total in the Marlins' 24-season history, and set a Miami Marlins record that still stands today.
THIS CARD: Per Getty Images, we're seeing Ramos at Minnesota's Target Field as he gets in some work during a 10-3 Marlins blowout of the Twins 6/9/2016. Like many closers, Ramos was woefully ineffective in the non-save situation, allowing three hits and a walk while recording just one out—why Topps would want to preserve that performance, I just don't know.
Ramos reaches back to deliver either his cutter, slider or low-90's fastball (Ramos also featured a curve, but that doesn't look like a curve grip). He did not have overwhelming stuff, or even great command, but during the mid 2010's he didn't need it to succeed, evidently.
More from Ramos's 2016 season: on 9/26—with a Jose Fernandez #16 jersey on his back—Ramos completed a 3-1 putout of Curtis Granderson to finish Miami's 7-3 win against the Mets in their first action after the sudden death of their ace SP the day before.
(flip) I really hope weightlifting didn't contribute to the career-altering injury Ramos suffered in 2018.
The blurb is a little disjointed. What Topps is trying to tell you is that:
Ramos's 24th consecutive save to open 2016 broke the club record in that department, and
Ramos eventually ran that streak up to 33 straight, which was not only the new club record to open a season, but is also tied for the overall club record (with former Fish teammate Steve Cishek, who saved 33 straight over the 2013-14 seasons).
As far as I can tell, Ramos's Instagram is active but a tad dormant—his most recent public post , showing him bottle-feeding a baby, was three weeks old. And the previous post's thumbnail is from this play...ouch to both involved.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2017, Ramos's salary nearly doubled (to $6.55M) and he went 20-for-22 in save ops before being dealt to the Mets near the Deadline. Aside from a disastrous outing 9/19, Ramos was solid for New York and re-upped with them at $9.225M for 2018.
However, the Mets went with Jeurys Familia as their closer that year; adding injury to insult, Ramos went down in May with what ended up being a torn rotator cuff; he underwent surgery and never pitched for the Mets again.
Out of baseball in 2019, Ramos signed MiLB deals with the Dodgers, Cubs and Rockies in 2020; he finally returned to MLB in September 2020 with Colorado. Next, Ramos joined the Angels on a MiLB deal; he spent most of 2021 at AAA Salt Lake before making four scoreless appearances for the Halos, who brought him back on another MiLB deal for 2022.
Sadly, the 35-year-old tore a capsule in his pitching shoulder during '22 Spring Training and soon retired from baseball. At least he was able to seize a couple of healthy paychecks from his MLB employers before stepping away.
A.J. Ramos appeared in Topps 2013-14 and 2016-18, as well as 2015 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps, Miami Marlins
10/14/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #152 Roberto Alomar, Orioles
There wasn't a more controversial figure in MLB than Roberto Alomar from late September 1996 on through the bulk of the 1997 season. You may have heard about why: Alomar, unhappy with a call and even less happy about what he thought was a racial epithet slung his way by home plate umpire John Hirschbeck, unloaded about a gallon of loogie in Hirschbeck's face.
Yes, that happened. In the first inning at Toronto on 9/27/1996.
And it didn't really end there.
Though the public demanded his instant removal from postseason play—Alomar's Orioles were set to face the Indians in the 1996 ALDS—the superstar 2B was allowed to continue playing, with his eventual five-game suspension to be served at the 1997 season's commencement. I'm STILL amazed that baseball didn't have Hirschbeck's back—he did not utter any slurs to Alomar and certainly did NOT deserve his spit soaking.
THIS CARD: Alomar makes his third appearance in COTD; we profiled his 1990 Topps card in May 2015 and his 2000 Topps card in August 2020.
Alomar works to turn the double play against the White Sox, with runner Ray Durham—a fellow 2B—doing what he can to bust it up. Robby was as smooth, acrobatic and reliable on the double play as any 2B I've ever seen; besides Javier Baez, I can't think of any other second baseman as physically gifted as Alomar was during his prime.
More from Alomar's 1996 season: his incident with Hirschbeck overshadowed what was a magnificent first year in Baltimore. He led the O's in runs, hits, doubles, AVG and OBP while finishing second in steals (to Brady Anderson's 21) and walks (to Rafael Palmeiro's 95). On 7/25 versus Cleveland, Alomar went 4-for-5 with a double and solo home runs from each side of the plate...but the Orioles lost 10-7.
(flip) We see switch-hitting Alomar hacking righty here; in 1996 he hit .313 with nine homers in 192 AB from the right side—aiding a healthy .547 SLG. He slashed .336/.414/.518 as a lefty hitter.
As hard as it is to believe for someone as great as Alomar, Topps didn't goof—he'd never led his league in any major category to this point, not even with those 132 runs he scored in '96. That total placed third behind Seattle's Alex Rodriguez (141) and Minnesota's Chuck Knoblauch (140); in fact, in 17 MLB seasons, Alomar only led his league in one major offensive stat: 1999 runs (138, AL).
The blurb touches on Alomar's early flirtation with .400 in 1996. While he wasn't able to maintain that level of excellence, he DID hit .476 (40-for-84) during that 22-game hit streak, which ran from 5/12 to 6/8. The great 2B also enjoyed an 11-gamer in April!
AFTER THIS CARD: Though his Gold Glove streak ended at six, Alomar hit .333 and slugged .500 in 112 games for the 1997 Orioles, missing time with the suspension and several other injuries—including a bad shoulder that forced him to abandon righty-hitting down the stretch. Alomar enjoyed a solid-but-unspectacular 1998 and joined Cleveland on a 4Y/$32M deal that November.
As an Indian, Alomar continued to terrorize AL pitchers thru 2001, but was still dealt to the Mets for '02—New York refused to take no for an answer. As a Met, however, 34-year-old Alomar's bat began to slow, and over the next two seasons he bounced from the Mets to the White Sox to the Diamondbacks back to the White Sox without a load of impact at any of those stops.
Despite needing less than 300 hits for 3,000, Alomar retired from the Devil Rays during Spring Training 2005, refusing to continue playing at a substandard level.
In 2011—even as high drama and legal issues dogged his personal life—Alomar was deservedly enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Since then, more unpleasantness surfaced, and in 2021 Alomar was put on baseball's ineligible list (though his #12 remains retired by the Blue Jays, the team severed every other tie to their former star, including firing him as a special advisor and removing him from their Level of Excellence).
Roberto Alomar debuted in 1988 Topps Traded, then appeared in every Topps set through 2005—his final card as a Devil Ray. Alomar also appears in 1991 and 2003 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
10/15/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #435 Bruce Sutter, Braves
More Bruce Sutter Topps Cards: 1988 1989
How do you know you're a great pitcher? When an opponent makes a name for himself simply for homering against you twice. "The Ryne Sandberg Game" took place 6/23/1984 and featured the semi-obscure Cubs 2B taking ace Cardinals CL Sutter deep in the B9th to tie the game at 9—then adding an encore blast in the 10th to re-tie things at 11! (The Cubs eventually won.)
The baseball world stood amazed at Sandberg's feat for days—NO ONE homers twice in consecutive late innings, and ALMOST no one homered off Sutter ever! Sandberg soon shot to superstardom, but Sutter wasn't fazed too badly by his heroics, as his third-place finish in NL Cy Young Award voting proved.
Here, the soon-to-be-34-year-old is coming off a lost 1986 season. After being limited by a shoulder impingement for part of 1985, Sutter continued to have issues in '86 and did not pitch after 5/27. August surgery revealed a partially torn rotator cuff.
THIS CARD: This is not a random selection. TSR presents this card in memory of Sutter, who passed away 10/13/2022 at 69. He had been battling an undisclosed illness for some time, and in August was unable to attend the 40-year reunion of the World Series Champion 1982 Cardinals.
We picked Sutter's 1987 card because A) I like 1987 Topps, and B) Sutter's 1988 and 1989 Topps cards didn't offer as much for me to discuss.
As yo see, Sutter wore #40 for Atlanta after wearing #42 with the Cubs and Cardinals 1976-84. The Cards retired #42 in his honor in 2006; he is one of two players to have the #42 retired by individual teams after it was retired by MLB in honor of Jackie Robinson in 1997. (Legendary Yankees CL Mo Rivera is the other.)
(flip) Chad Sutter—who played one season in the Yankees' low minors—spoke about his father's passing: “Being a St. Louis Cardinal was an honor he cherished deeply,..to the Cardinals, his teammates and, most importantly, the greatest fans in all of sports, we thank you for all of the love and support over the years. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on through his family and through Cardinal Nation!” (per MLB.com)
See all those high innings totals? Sutter is second all-time in saves of at least two innings (130); only fellow Cooperstown inductee Rollie Fingers had more (135).
As the bio states, Sutter was acquired by Atlanta as a free agent in December 1984. Not shown is the then-gaudy 6Y/$10.4M deal he agreed to, one that later put him in Bobby Bonilla territory.
I was not aware Sutter only spent four seasons as a Cardinal compared to five as a Cub; it speaks volumes that St. Louis hung up his #42 in spite of his short tenure. It also makes you wonder why Mark McGwire's #25 isn't hung up (The Cards DO retire numbers of non-Hall-of-Famers).
AFTER THIS CARD: Sutter sat out all of 1987 recovering from his cuff surgery. In 1988, he started decently enough, but racked an 11.45 ERA and stacks of blown saves in July and August—during which time he also battled Bell's Palsy, of all things. Come 1989, Sutter's rotator cuff was found to be completely torn this time, ending his career at 36 (though he spent 1989 on the DL and didn't officially retire until collecting his 1989-90 salaries).
Sutter—who finished up with an even 300 saves, third-most ever at the time behind Goose Gossage (302) and Rollie Fingers (341)—was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, his 13th year on the ballot. In 2014, Sutter was part of the inaugural class inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.
Bruce Sutter appeared annually in Topps 1977-89. He's also got 1981 and 1985 Traded cards as a new Cardinal and Brave, respectively.
10/16/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps Update #204 Jesus Montero, Mariners
More Jesus Montero Topps Cards: 2012 2013 2014 2016
Here, we catch up with the former top Yankees prospect Montero as he embarks on a new adventure in the great Northwest. Seattle threw their new piece right into the fire, starting him at DH or at C in 21 of their first 24 games of 2012, including Opening Day against the A's in Japan. Batting fifth, Montero went hitless that 3/28 afternoon, but didn't take another oh-fer until 4/15! (Yes, we're aware the Mariners were idle for a week of that period. Just let Jesus have it, folks.)
THIS CARD: Per Getty Images, we're seeing Montero in action 4/22/2012 against the Chicago White Sox—legit action, no less! Topps Update is known to airbrush some players in new uniforms, but not in Montero's case. On that 4/22 day, he went 1-for-5 with an RBI but the M's fell 7-4.
This is Montero's second appearance in COTD; we profiled his 2014 Topps card back in January 2019.
More from Montero's early 2012 season: he homered four times in April, including twice in his final three games, but drew just two walks against 18 strikeouts for the month. Montero made 16 of his first 21 starts at DH, but as the season progressed—and regular C Miguel Olivo battled a groin issue—the youngster was trusted more frequently behind the plate. Montero opened May with a 4-for-4 performance at Tampa Bay!
(flip) Check out those numbers for 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as well as Montero's robust SLG for 2009 Tampa and Trenton. Catchers who slug over .500 can't be found at your local Wal-Mart, and Montero found himself in every MiLB All-Star game he was eligible for. Entering 2011, the guy ranked third overall on Baseball America's prospect list!
That Mariners no-no actually took place 6/8/2012, and those six Mariners pitchers were, in order, Kevin Millwood (6 IP) Charlie Furbush (0.2) Stephen Pryor (0.1) Lucas Luetge (0.1) Brandon League (0.2) and Tom Wilhelmsen (1), since you likely forgot in the 10 years since it happened.
Gibson no-hit the Pirates 8/14/1971, his first and only such feat. Simmons was in his first full MLB season when he teamed with Gibson to make history.
That Trade With Yankees sent SP Michael Pineda—who at the time was coming off a fine rookie season—east. When Pineda missed the 2012 season with injury (on the way to missing 2013 as well), pundits declared Seattle the runaway winners of the trade.
This is the TEXTBOOK example of why you should never rate/judge trades—especially straight-up trades featuring two youngsters—right away; Pineda eventually healed and gave the Yankees several quality seasons, while Montero...well, read on.
AFTER THIS CARD: The 2013 season went wrong in just about every way it could have for the up-and-coming receiver. His cold bat got him demoted to AAA Tacoma in late May. One week later, Montero suffered a torn meniscus and missed a month. And then the BioGenesis scandal led to his 50-game suspension in August.
Montero showed up to 2014 camp overweight, and spent practically the whole year in AAA (making the wrong type of headlines). Back in shape, the now-25-year-old got some second-half run for the '15 M's and showed flashes, but was ultimately let go the following spring.
Stints with the Toronto and Baltimore organizations led nowhere, and at last sighting Montero was showcasing his skillz in the Mexican League. Never fully believe the hype, kids...hype means s---.
Jesus Montero debuted in 2012 Topps as a Yankee, and returned in 2013, 2014 and 2016 Topps. He also appeared in 2012 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps Update, Seattle Mariners
10/17/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #592 Bo Jackson, Angels
More Bo Jackson Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1991T 1992 1993 1994 1994T
When I began this profile, I couldn't remember for sure if we'd done a Bo Jackson Topps COTD previously, and had to resort to searching our own archive.
Too bad I didn't have Jackson's personal phone number.
Bo would have known the answer to that question.
After all, Bo Knows...well, everything, if you believe the ads.
Jackson wasn't blessed with the longevity of a Deion Sanders or a Brian Jordan in either his MLB or NFL careers. But he was blessed with more talent than either of those men—both of whom were very talented in their own rights—and from 1987 to 1990, Bo put on SHOWS. He was as an electric football player as I've ever seen, and the distance he could hit (and throw) baseballs bordered on obscene.
He was special, people, and he is worth hours on YouTube if you never saw him play.
Here, however, Jackson has just made his last MLB stop. He signed as a free agent with the Angels in January 1994 after tough final days with the 1993 White Sox, and went on to career-highs in AVG and OBP in '94, with his second-highest career SLG.
THIS CARD: It's always a treat for me when we pull a card I know from memory. Jackson's return to Southern California had a chance to be very interesting if he were able to hold up physically, and I always remember this visual of Bo the Angel since I didn't get to see much of him on TV in 1994. (Actually, 14-year-old Skillz may or may not have chosen other, uh, activities over MLB at times that year.)
Jackson's jersey appears to be missing the "L", which obviously is just the photo angle. That being said, if Bo Jackson—who was twice as imposing as he appears here—told a staffer that he no longer wanted "L's" on his uniform, odds are that staffer LISTENS. Same if Jackson were to go up to owner Gene Autry and politely demand that all elevators at the ballpark be replaced with slides.
More from Jackson's 1994 season: He initially split time in LF with Dwight Smith Sr., but as summer approached, the Angels gave the majority of LF time to young Jim Edmonds. Jackson—unlike Smith—didn't complain, despite only starting 14 games (between LF, RF and DH) between 5/28 and 7/17.
Jackson did get regular run when RF Tim Salmon was injured near July's end, but wound up starting just one of the final seven games before the strike.
(flip) See Bo at age 31? Other than a tiny bit more chin, he still looks the same today one month from 60. And YES, we will be presenting a special COTD on Bo's 60th birthday 11/30/2022.
Jackson's Heisman was won in 1985 while at Auburn, and he gained those 221 rushing yards (AND three touchdowns!) against Seattle in the famed "Brian Bosworth Game" 11/30/1987. That yardage broke the Raiders' single-game record and stood until 1997!
In 1995, I didn't understand how impressive hitting a 450-foot homer was from one's natural side, let alone his unnatural side—Bo was a freak, people!
As you know, Jackson was "ON DISABLED LIST" in 1992 as he recovered from that hip replaceent surgery—there was more damage than what anybody initially thought. (BTW, I forgot Jackson was actually with the White Sox before said surgery.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Nothing. Jackson retired from MLB in April 1995 and has since gone on to many other ventures, including several guest TV appearances. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 of the 2005 World Series between the White Sox and Astros, and he participated in the 25-year reunion of the 1993 AL Central champion Sox in 2018.
Bo Jackson appeared annually in Topps 1987-95—good for Topps giving him a sunset card, even if it wasn't planned—as well as 1986, 1991 and 1994 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, California Angels
10/18/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #121 Greg Golson, Rangers
More Greg Golson Topps Cards: 2004T 2005U
I know what you're thinking...WHO?
Golson, at one point, was a pretty solid prospect in the Phillies system. He put up back-to-back 30-steal seasons in 2006-07, and also showed good power. What set him back: obscene strikeout totals (173 K in 571 at-bats in 2007, for example) which contributed to low batting averages.
Here, Golson has just joined the Rangers in an off-season trade for OF John Mayberry, Jr. He had no real shot at cracking a Rangers OF that included David Murphy, Marlon Byrd, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz plus intriguing youngster Julio Borbon. But Texas still gave him a Spring look.
THIS CARD: Either Golson is in disbelief over a call ("Strike Two, You're OUT!"), in disbelief over a fan, ("Hey Golson, your shirt is as red as your blood!") or in disbelief of a coach's sign ("Hit Triple into Gap")
Golson is one of those guys who, in spite of owning this card since 2010, I would have NEVER been able to identify which set(s) he appeared in from memory. There's at least two or three dudes like Golson in every Topps set since the whole "Rookie Card" adaptation beginning with the 2006 set.
Speaking of "Rookie Card", this is Golson's rookie MLB card, sure. But he appeared in two Topps sets previously—2004 Traded as a Draft Pick, and 2005 Update as a Prospect.
(flip) That 2008 season for AA Reading was interrupted for a month by a June wrist sprain suffered while swinging, but Golson still received six at-bats with the Phillies as a September call-up. He went hitless with four K, but still scored twice!
I forgot Lopes was ever a Phillies coach, but apparently the former MLB basepath demon was there from 2007-10—his Phillies played my Giants in the 2010 NLCS and yet I have no recollection of Lopes ever being there. Maybe he just stopped showing up to work? Eh...unlikely. (Too bad Golson didn't have much time to work with him—with his speed plus Lopes' knowledge, Golson could have stolen bases just to pass the time.
Golson indeed was perfect as a MLB thief through 2008—1-for-1 in his debut as the blurb stated. At first, I wondered how Topps was able to obtain Golson's SB% at all the low MiLB levels but not at AAA...then I remembered Golson hadn't yet played in AAA.
AFTER THIS CARD: 24-year-old Golson spent practically all of 2009 with AAA Oklahoma City, receiving one at-bat for the Rangers on 5/7 (a K) as one of several roster replacements for injured star Josh Hamilton. Texas swapped Golson to the Yankees (for a minor leaguer) in January 2010, and he remained in the Yankees organization for two seasons.
During those two seasons, Golson accumulated 34 at-bats over 33 games for the Yankees and even appeared for them thrice as Nick Swisher's late-inning DR during the 2010 postseason! From there, Golson moved through the Royals, White Sox, Rockies, Braves and Brewers systems without returning to MLB. However, he lasted professionally through 2019 in the Mexican and Independent Leagues.
Greg Golson debuted in 2004 Topps Traded as a Draft Pick, returned in 2005 Topps Update as a Prospect, then made his lone big league appearance in 2009 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Texas Rangers
10/19/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #502 Greg Briley, Mariners
More Greg Briley Topps Cards: 1989 1990 1991 1993 1993T
I always wondered why Greg Briley's career ended so suddenly at age 28. He'd been a decent, maybe even a good, part-time outfielder for years in Seattle before joining the expansion Marlins for 1993. True, Briley hit just .188 that year, but he was in a new league back when that actually mattered, he was still young and healthy, and had a good enough statistical history.
Yet, we never saw Briley on a major league diamond after 1993. I was puzzled...
...until reading the 10/5/1993 edition of Baseball Weekly. Apparently, Briley bitched so long and so loud about not playing as often as he felt he deserved—in spite of that sub-.200 average—that the Fish cut him about a week before the season ended. The young Marlins did not need that kind of "veteran influence".
Here, however, Briley is still a Mariner, one who manned five positions plus DH during the 1991 season. He set career highs in steals, finishing second on the team to Harold Reynolds (28).
THIS CARD: We see Briley seeming to make a play during Spring Training 1991. As mentioned, Briley was all over the diamond for the 1991 Mariners, starting 49 games in LF, 41 games in RF, and two in center—plus, having entered pro ball as a 2B, he was used for two innings each at second and third base.
I'm not sure if Lasik was a thing in 1991, but it sure is now, which is why Eric Sogard is practically the only even semi-regular active big leaguer. Briley never ditched the lenses that I saw; in fact, I wouldn't recognize him without them.
More from Briley's 1991 season: my personal favorite Briley achievement of the year came 5/1, when he went 3-for-3 to jump his average from .233 to .283—which I didn't think was possible with a month's worth of at-bats. Briley enjoyed four three-hit games in a seven-start stretch in late August. And on 5/5, his two-run homer off Rich Monteleone walked off the Yankees...in the B16th!!!
(flip) That second homer of 1991 came in Seattle's second game, which doubled as Briley's first start. As you see, he was once good for more than a few blasts, but became more of a contact hitter as his career unfolded. (Ironically, two years after this two-homer season, Briley became the first Marlin to homer twice in one game. Baseball is weird.)
I'll go ahead and wager that Bellingham is no longer a MiLB city.
Topps goes out of its way to detail Briley's ordinary stats from his first year in the pros. I thought long-ago MiLB feats for established big leaguers went away with 1988 Topps? Obviously not.
RIP Kingdome (1976-2000). You hosted some incredible baseball near the end, and you made sure those falling tiles in 1994 didn't hurt anyone. (Those fatally injured workers weren't your fault.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Even though Briley upped his SLG 64 points in 1992, he was limited to 82 games by an elbow strain that cost him nearly all of July and—after a short return—75% of August, Seattle cut him near the end of Spring Training 1993, and a week later the Marlins jumped in.
Briley was largely used as a PH/DR by the Marlins, and as we mentioned, he didn't really like it. From 7/6 until his 9/24 release, Briley went 5-for-60, including 0-for-September. He turned up at AAA Charlotte (Indians) in 1994, and two MiLB levels for the Tigers in 1995-96, but never again played in MLB.
Briley went on to coach in the Pirates and White Sox systems 1999-2014; not sure of his current endeavors.
Greg Briley appeared in 1989-93 Topps, and appeared as a new Marlin in 1993 Topps Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Seattle Mariners
10/21/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps Traded #17 Casey Candaele, Astros
More Casey Candaele Topps Cards: 1987T 1988 1991 1992 1993
Casey Candaele taught young Skillz that in MLB, players can fall off the radar sometimes. Be it injury, or a numbers crunch, or plain old sucky play, being a full-time player one year does not guarantee you will be a full-time player the next year...or ever again.
So good had young Candaele been for the 1987 Expos that he made the Topps All-Rookie team! At 26, he seemed in good position to thrive for a while, but he suffered a horrible sophomore slump in 1988 and found himself swapped to Houston in exchange for C Mark Bailey that July. The Astros gave Candaele 31 at-bats post-trade, then banished him to AAA Tucson for the entire 1989 campaign.
But here, the 29-year-old has returned to the majors, summoned by the Astros in late April 1990. He played well and because of that, he ended up playing often, frequently as a PH but also at 2B, SS and all three outfield spots.
THIS CARD: This is a conventional, cookie-cutter baseball card pose—which was not the norm for Candaele's Topps cards. His library includes one with his All-Star Rookie trophy, one with his leg appearing bent 90° to the side, and one with him laughing as if Dave Chappelle is performing nearby.
I highly doubt that background isn't airbrushed. Why would Candaele even have a bat in the middle of left field?
More from Candaele's early 1990 season: he was promoted to the Astros when IF Steve Lombardozzi Sr. broke his toe during BP 4/15. In his second game there 4/21, Candaele smoked a pinch-hit homer off Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers, and on 5/11 his average reached .333 (10-for-30).
NOTE: Lombardozzi was cut by Houston in late May 1990 and never returned to MLB. As much as fate was smiling upon Candaele in that batting cage, fate was essentially pistol-whipping Lombardozzi.
(flip) As you see in the stats, Candaele didn't swipe a TON of bases, but he made them count. Case in point: 5/23/1990, when Candaele reached on a Pirates error, stole second, stole third, and soon scored on a Ken Caminiti single.
That first major league hit was a two-run double against Philadelphia's Dave Rucker. The first MLB homer? A game-tying, B8th solo shot served up by Rick Mahler of Atlanta.
As for the scoreboard, Candaele did indeed spend all of 1989 with AAA Tucson, even as Astros 2B Bill Doran and outfielders Billy Hatcher and Gerald Young all hit .233 or lower. Candaele, however, was batting .218 with zero homers and a .257 SLG in 68 games that year—you don't typically replace bad with worse in pro sports.
AFTER THIS CARD: By the end of 1990, Candaele was playing regularly for Houston, who traded away longtime 2B Doran at the August Deadline. Candaele remained with the Astros through 1993, mostly in a utility role though he did get in 151 games for the 1991 Astros. By '93, however, Houston was using Craig Biggio at 2B, meaning playing time for Candaele was almost nil; he did not return to the Astros for 1994.
Candaele spent the 1994-95 seasons in the Reds, Dodgers and Indians systems without any MLB action, but the 1996 Indians turned to him for a bench/PH slot in July; he earned his only MLB postseason experience that year. However, all but 14 of Candaele's final 351 professional games were at the MiLB level and his playing career ended in 2000.
From 2011-14, Candaele worked as a baserunning/infield coordinator in the Texas organization. In 2016-17, he served as Mariners 1B coach under old Astros teammate Scott Servais, then coached and managed in the Toronto system until being promoted to major league bench coach in July 2022.
Casey Candaele appeared in 1988 and 1990-93 Topps, as well as 1987 and 1990 Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps Traded, Houston Astros
10/22/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #146 Tony Watson, Pirates
More Tony Watson Topps Cards: 2014U 2016 2017 2018 2021 2021U
The Pittsburgh Pirates, sitting on 20 straight seasons without a playoff berth, snapped that dubious streak in 2013 and, for good measure, returned to postseason play in 2014-15. When reflecting on those teams, 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen probably gets most of the credit for their turnaround. And while he deserves loads of credit...the man had plenty of help.
And one of the "helpers" who'll likely never get proper due is lefty reliever Tony Watson.
Even though he was a 2014 All-Star.
Watson, a durable lefty reliever who could retire both lefty and righty batters, completed his fourth season with the Pirates in 2014. His 78 appearances not only tied Milwaukee's Will Smith for the NL lead, but they tied Scott Sauerbeck's 2002 club record for a lefty pitcher. All for the couch-cushion price of $518K.
THIS CARD: Per Getty Images, we're seeing Watson 7/11/2014 at Cincinnati. That night, the veteran reliever entered in the B8th with Pittsburgh up 5-3. He gave up five hits—including a jack—and three runs across 0.2 innings in his worst outing of '14. Way to shine a light on it, Topps!
In Pirates history, #44 has been worn by...no one of real acclaim, at least not for any real length of time. In fact, Watson—as an All-Star during his six years in Pittsburgh—seems to be the most notable Pirate to wear #44.
More from Watson's 2014 season: his 10 relief wins were the most by a Buc since Jeff Robinson in 1988, and his ERA at home was 0.91 in 40 games! From 4/24 thru 6/24, Watson didn't allow a single earned run across 26 games and 26.1 innings! (Though he was charged with two unearned runs on 6/15.) And on 5/26, Watson stroked his first—and last—major league hit, a single off the Mets' Carlos Torres.
(flip) Watson wasn't just a college SP; in the low minors, he actually put together a couple of impressive seasons as a starter. Watson was 8-12, 3.56 in 28 starts for A+ Lynchburg in 2008, but after a nightmarish 2009 for AA Altoona—0-3. 8.22 in five starts before season-ending elbow tendinitis—he gradually transitioned to the bullpen.
In that All-Star Game, Watson threw one pitch, retiring Jose Abreu of the White Sox on a flyout in the B8th. He was quickly replaced by Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman.
Both of those 2014 saves were converted in late September. Watson stepped in 9/21 against the Brewers after regular Pirates CL Mark Melancon worked three straight days; despite serious trouble, Watson slammed the door. Two days later, he gave up a run but was still able to put the Braves away.
AFTER THIS CARD: Watson made 194 mostly-quality appearances for the 2015-17 Pirates—saving 25 games along the way—but by '17 Pittsburgh was no longer a playoff contender and Watson was a luxury. The eventual NL Champion Dodgers traded for him at the 2017 Deadline (landing prospect O'Neil Cruz in return) and watched him post a 0.00 ERA in the NLCS and WS! Watson then signed a 2Y/$7M deal with my Giants in February 2018.
Watson enjoyed two strong seasons with the semi-rebuilding Giants of 2019-20, then joined the Phillies on a MiLB deal, surprisingly, for 2021. He was cut during Spring, hooked up with the Angels, then was traded back to the Giants at the 2021 Deadline (much to my delight). Shaky in Anaheim, Watson boasted a 4-1, 2.96 line in 26 games for the 107-win Giants. The 36-year-old opted to retire prior to the 2022 campaign.
Tony Watson appeared in 2015-18 and 2021 Topps, as well as 2014 and 2021 Topps Update. As far as I can tell, only Topps Now produced a card featuring Watson the Dodger (and both such cards are shared with three other players).
CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates
10/23/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #71 Mike Bordick, Mets
More Mike Bordick Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2000 2000T 2001T 2002 2003
Orioles fans of the 2010's know Mike Bordick as an analyst for MASN, but Orioles fans of the 1990's know Mike Bordick as one of THE cleanest-fielding shortstops of his time. Taking over SS in Baltimore once Cal Ripken Jr. shifted to third base required a special player—Manny Alexander wasn't quite it, but Bordick proved to be.
The longtime Oakland Athletic (1990-96) joined the Orioles as a free agent in December 1996, but when Mets SS Rey Ordonez broke his arm in late May 2000, New York swung a deal to bring Bordick—who was having an incredible '00 season—north from Baltimore. While he couldn't maintain the offensive pace he'd been on with the O's, Bordick was a more-than-adequate stopgap for the eventual NL Champions.
THIS CARD: Bordick's Topps cards usually depicted him doing what he did best: fielding. But here, he's shown batting for the second straight set, following a year in which Bordick shed any remnants of the "good field, no hit" label he once carried.
In 2022, Bordick's #17 was retired in honor of the great 1980s Mets 1B Keith Hernandez. Bordick was more closely associated with #14 throughout his career, but the Mets retired that number for Gil Hodges, manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets, long ago. Hodges passed away just before the start of the 1972 season, which would have been his fifth leading New York.
More from Bordick's 2000 season: as the blurb explains, he transformed into an offensive weapon in Y2K, opening the year with a 13-game hit streak and obliterating his previous career-high for homers by the Trade Deadline! On 4/13 at Kansas City, Bordick went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer; his best game as a Met was likely 8/17 versus Colorado, when he again went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer.
(flip) In that 2000 All-Star Game, Bordick pinch-hit for AL starter David Wells (Blue Jays) in the T3rd, but lined out to CF against Kevin Brown (Dodgers). Thanks to a three-run T9th against Trevor Hoffman (Padres), the AL upended the NL 6-3.
To be fair, blurb, Bordick already had a pair of double-digit homer seasons to his credit prior to 2000. But he'd never even flirted with 20, his combined 2000 total.
That Trade sent 3B Melvin Mora to Baltimore, where he thrived for several years. Youngsters Mike Kinkade (IF) Leslie Brea (RP) and Pat Gorman (minor leaguer) also changed locales.
AFTER THIS CARD: Hitting the free agent market again at 35, Bordick returned to Baltimore on a 2Y/$9.5M deal in December 2000. Unfortunately, he was limited to 58 games in 2001 (torn labrum in right shoulder) and 117 in 2002 (fractured kneecap), and his numbers more closely resembled those he put up during his Oakland days.
Next, Bordick took less money ($1Y/$1M) to sign with Toronto in December 2002...though that was not exactly his plan. Still, he fulfilled his deal with the Jays, bringing his playing career to an end at 38. Bordick retired with the longest consecutive errorless games (110) and chances (544) streaks by a SS in MLB history.
For nearly a decade after retiring, Bordick worked in the Toronto and Baltimore systems; for a time in 2011 he even served as O's interim bullpen coach. That gig began a week before he was elected to the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame. Next, Bordick spent nearly a decade analyzing Orioles games for MASN before being dismissed in early 2021.
Mike Bordick appeared annually in Topps 1992-2003, except 1996 for some reason. He's also got 2000-01 Traded cards.
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, New York Mets
10/24/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #80 Reggie Sanders, Reds
Here, the veteran outfielder Sanders has just closed the book on a highly disappointing 1996 season. Expectations were high for the 1996 Reds—who fell just short of the World Series in 1995— and for Sanders, who fell just short of a 30-30, 100-RBI output the year before.
But instead, he played exactly half the season, making three trips to the disabled list (which we'll detail below) and not producing close to his '95 level when he did play.
THIS CARD: Sanders makes his third appearance in COTD; we profiled his 2001 Topps Traded card in November 2018, followed by his 1996 Topps card in April 2020. He's clearly an even-year Topps guy, although he was an odd-year major league performer.
Because of Sanders' teammate Jose Rijo, I now "see" a water hose on every Cincinnati Red's card featured in 1997 Topps. At least I'm not "seeing" the jumpsuit Rijo sported. Yet.
More from Sanders' 1996 season: he was sidelined in mid-April (back) late May (rib cage) and late August (thumb); the latter injury sidelined him for the rest of '96 save for a pinch-running appearance on 9/10. The Reds missed him; their (many) substitute right fielders combined for 24 RBI in 82 games. It wasn't entirely a lost year for Sanders; on 6/20 he went 4-for-4 with a walk and two runs to aid a 5-3 win at the Mets.
(flip) I hate to be "that guy", but Sanders' 1995 REGULAR season was brilliant. He struck out 19 times in 29 postseason at-bats, with only five hits.
Sanders never really did "come all the way back" from his trying 1996 campaign. As fine as a player as he was over the 11 seasons that followed, he never again approached the .306 average or the 99 RBI he posted in 1995—a strike-shortened season, no less. Sanders did twice break the 30-homer barrier, however, so there's that.
Of those 81 games in 1996, 79 were starts, and all 79 of those starts were in RF. Sanders was initially a CF/LF upon reaching MLB, but the Reds eventually anchored him in right. Naturally, upon leaving Cincinnati after the 1998 season, Sanders was frequently asked to shift around by most of his future employers.
AFTER THIS CARD: Two more seasons with the Reds, numerous team swaps (San Diego to Atlanta to Arizona to San Francisco to Pittsburgh to St. Louis 1999-2005), numerous additional aches and pains (Sanders maxed out at 140 games for the 2002 Giants) and two final years in the American League with the 2006-07 Royals.
For all his injuries and imperfections, Sanders lasted until age 39 in MLB and finished up with 305 homers and 304 steals—only seven other players belong to that club.
Reggie Sanders appeared annually in Topps 1992-2006, except 1999. He's also got 1999 and 2001 Traded cards and a 2007 Update card.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Cincinnati Reds
10/26/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps Traded #145 Quilvio Veras, Rookie Of The Year Candidate
More 1995 Topps Traded ROTY Candidates: n/a
"Q" hadn't yet sniffed MLB prior to winning the 1995 Marlins 2B job out of Spring Training (we were not able to dig up his Spring stats, unfortunately). Veras, a speedster who hit over .300 four times in MiLB, doubled, walked twice and stole a base in his MLB debut, and though he hit a cold spell after that, he was able to rebound and put together a stretch of 11 games out of 12 with at least one hit in mid-May.
THIS CARD: 1995 Topps Traded—or, technically, 1995 Topps Traded & Rookies—strayed from the usual Traded format by including numerous subsets that, at least to me, weren't all that memorable or even worthy of inclusion. "Rookie Of The Year Candidates" fell somewhere in the middle; I'm convinced it was dreamed up solely as an avenue to produce another Hideo Nomo card.
The ROTYC subset consisted of 10 youngsters—plus Nomo—who gained attention early in the 1995 season. Two of them, SP Nomo of the Dodgers and Twins OF Marty Cordova, did end up as the NL and AL Rookies of the Year, respectively.
Veras was the only member of the ROTYC subset who appeared hatless. I repeat, hatless. #ChiefWiggum
(flip) Veras returned to the farm for a 28-game tune-up in 1996, but never went back other than a three-game rehab assignment in 2001.
That 5/5/1995 grand slam was against Montreal's Curt Schmidt in the T4th. The blast—the only slam Veras ever hit in MLB—helped Florida to an 11-6 road win.
Not only did Veras lead the NL in steals at the Break, but he wound up leading for the whole season too (56). Veras was also able to improve that low first-half average to .288 in the second half.
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps Traded, Rookie of the Year Candidates
10/27/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #16 Dan Wilson, Mariners
More Dan Wilson Topps Cards: 1991 1993 1994 1994T 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Sometime in the late 1990's, one of my popular MLB publications printed a photo featuring six prominent members of the Seattle Mariners: SP Randy Johnson, SS Alex Rodriguez, RF Jay Buhner, CF Ken Griffey Jr., DH Edgar Martinez and C Dan Wilson.
By including Wilson with the group of not just Mariner legends, but in some cases baseball legends period, a clear statement was made regarding Wilson's level of importance to the team.
No, he didn't put up the ridiculous numbers Johnson, Rodriguez, Griffey or Martinez did. Nor did he approach the gaudy numbers of Buhner. But what Wilson DID do for the Seattle pitchers couldn't really be measured numerically—he was just as vital to the club as the others, carried as much weight in the clubhouse as the others, and for THOSE reasons he was included in the pic.
And I love it. Almost as much as I love THIS pic.
Here, Wilson has just completed a 2004 season that started off well enough, but ended in disappointment (as it did for the whole Mariners team). Wilson hit .282 thru 6/23, but then skidded to a .215 mark in his final 49 games and lost playing time to Miguel Olivo, who was acquired in June from the White Sox. Wilson did notch his 500th career RBI 5/15—more on that game later.
THIS CARD: For the third time in his long Topps career, Wilson's front image shows him on the basepaths—chugging home in this case. Remember: in both 1997 and 1998 Wilson cracked inside-the-park home runs against the Tigers, none of whom were maimed in either instance. So he could chug a little bit once he got going.
Wilson only scored 15 runs on the road in 2004. Assuming Wilson was safe on this play, we probably could narrow down when this pic was shot if I thought identifying this ballpark was the best way to spend my time right now. But I do not, not while two weeks behind on COTD.
More from Wilson's 2004 season: he split time at C with Ben Davis early on, but gradually eliminated that competition with his hot bat. But just as Olivo showed up, Wilson went cold, and he sat more and more as the season unfolded. On 5/15, however, Wilson exploded for a pair of three-run doubles at Yankee Stadium—including the T13th tiebreaker! The six RBI tied his career high, set in 1998 vs. the Royals.
(flip) Instead of displaying Wilson's career average in the Stat Box—which is already clearly visible with the regular statistics—Topps could have shared Wilson's .997 fielding percentage in '04 with you; the man committed two errors across 103 games that year! His career mark of .995 still stands as the AL record, by the way.
It is very rare in the glossy Topps era for a player's wife to be mentioned at all, let alone named. But there you go. And a shout-out to the Wilsons for trying to do good for children—until EVERYONE loves the children, and the people who can't/won't do so stop having them, the world will suffer.
As you see in the stats, Wilson played a ton of games for Seattle; his 1,251 rank sixth in M's history.
The second of Wilson's two 2004 homers was a three-run shot off Donovan Osborne of the Yankees 5/9—just a week before the aforementioned clutch three-run double! Obviously, Rodriguez—new to the Yankees in 2004—was too busy touring Times Square, or whatever, to warn his teammates about Wilson's underrated bat.
AFTER THIS CARD: Practically nil. Set to retire after the 2005 season—during which he'd be Olivo's backup—Wilson tore his ACL that May while retreating to 1B on a lineout against the Angels. But in a special moment, he recovered enough to catch one final inning 9/30 rather than end his career on the DL.
Along with Johnson, Wilson was elected to the Mariners Hall of Fame in 2012; he then took over as the team's minor league catching coordinator after serving as a part-time broadcaster for a couple of years.
Dan Wilson debuted as a Reds Draft Pick in 1991 Topps, then appeared annually in 1993-2005 Topps. He's also got a 1994 Traded card as a new Mariner.
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Seattle Mariners
10/28/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps Update #197 Cole Tucker, Pirates
More Cole Tucker Topps Cards: 2020 2021U 2022
It took me all of about, oh, four minutes of TV exposure to Cole Tucker before he was added to my "list".
As in, the list of major leaguers I actively root against.
It's a short list. But it's inspired and its subjects usually deserve their placement there.
You see, Tucker made his MLB debut against my Giants in April 2019, and I quickly took note of his coiffe. Call me what you want—you will and do anyway—but I'm a product of my time. In my formative years as a MLB fan, rooks didn't enter the majors with untamed hair; that was a privilege to be earned with service time. Strike one to Tucker.
Then he homered against Giants SP Derek Holland. Strike two.
Then, he took an extended curtain call, standing practically on the third base line patting his heart to the delight all 2,573 Pirates fans in attendance.
It was the 5th inning of a 3-1 game.
Emphatic strike three. Cue addition to list.
But hey, Tucker has long been omitted from revised versions of said list. Read on:
THIS CARD: In Pirates history, #3 has also been worn by All-Star infielder Phil Garner in the 1970's, Silver-Slugging 2B Johnny Ray in the 1980's, Gold Glove SS Jay Bell in the 1990's, and super-utilityman Sean Rodriguez in the 2010's. (Best I could do for the 2000's was All-Star OF Nate McLouth, who wore it for about an hour in 2007.)
Per Getty Images, this pic was shot 4/27/2019 as Tucker batted against the host Dodgers. That night, he went 0-for-2 with a BB and a K as Pittsburgh fell to Clayton Kershaw 3-1.
A short-print variation of this card shows Tucker entering the ballpark in a Frozone costume. (He is a sidekick of The Incredibles, the animated superhero family that is NOT to be confused with The Expendables.
(flip) Altoona is the Pirates AA affiliate; Tucker made the jump to MLB from AAA Indianapolis in April 2019—along with future All-Star OF Bryan Reynolds—a day after Pirates OF Starling Marte and IF Erik Gonzalez were injured in an outfield collision.
Tucker's injuries as a prospect: left thumb surgery in 2014, a torn labrum (right shoulder) in 2015 and a fractured right thumb in 2017.
Wow...I forgot Tucker's blast stood up as the game-winner against San Francisco that day. STRIKE FOUR! (Not really.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Though he had a seemingly clear path to take over as Pittsburgh's SS in 2019—Gonzalez was not the long-term answer—Tucker flirted with the Mendoza line all season, and eventually Kevin Newman supplanted him at SS. The Pirates deployed Tucker as a part-time CF/RF in 2020, at least until mid-September when he concussed himself falling in a tunnel at Cincy's Great American Ballpark. For most of the first five months of 2021, Tucker was stashed at Indianapolis.
Tucker—who hit a combined .221 with three homers in 80 games from 2020-21—made the 2022 Pirates' Opening Day roster and received steady RF run that April, but by mid-May the switch-hitter was so cold at the plate that he ceased righty batting. It didn't help; Tucker was first demoted to AAA, then DFA'd altogether in June.
His hometown Diamondbacks claimed him off waivers, but he has not since returned to the majors.
But hey, at least Tucker's no longer on Skillz Savage's list! I can't actively root against somebody who's played so poorly; it's like throwing a rock at a drowning deer.
Cole Tucker has appeared in 2020 and 2022 Topps, as well as 2019 and 2021 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps Update, Pittsburgh Pirates
10/29/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2020 Topps Update #173 Edwin Encarnacion, White Sox
More Edwin Encarnacion Topps Cards: 2001 2004T 2005U 2006 2007 2008 2009 2009U 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2019U 2021
Encarnacion is a prime example of why you don't give up on young players until they've THOROUGHLY proven they've peaked at mediocrity. Can you imagine somebody like Encarnacion, who disappointed as a Red early on, never getting an opportunity with Toronto? The man wound up with 424 lifetime homers, and 353 of them came after leaving Cincinnati.
Not to mention the EE entertainment factor—after homering, the man rounded the bases with an invisible bird on his arm. Even in this keyed-up celebration era, NOBODY else does/did anything like that and hadn't since the "Hac-Man" Jeffrey Leonard 30 years prior!
Here, no one really knows it yet, but, Encarnacion is nearing the end of the line after 16 years in MLB. He enjoyed another 30-homer season in 2019, however, leading MLB with 11 jacks in June—one of which was #400 of his career (6/9 in Anaheim)! Encarnacion—who split '19 between the Mariners and Yankees—lost a month of action to a fractured wrist suffered when hit by a Josh A. Smith pitch 8/3.
THIS CARD: I love 2020 Topps Update. Because of the COVID situation, Topps obviously had no game photos from the first half of 2020 to use in its Update set. But it DID have Media Day images, and BOY did they put them to use! For the first time in over a decade, we collectors were treated to a bevy of posed front images—which had all but disappeared from Topps sets since about 2010.
Well, I was certain that this image was a product of the White Sox' Photo Day held in February 2020, but it did not turn up in that gallery, and now I must wonder: DID Topps somehow get Encarnacion to stand in the middle of a vineyard for this pic???
More from Encarnacion's 2019 season: he didn't turn up in the 2020 base set, so we'll use this space to discuss his '19 highlights. Which included: back-to-back four-RBI games 4/7 and 4/8, a stretch of four homers in five early May games, and a grand slam off Colorado's Kyle Freeland 7/19. We will NOT discuss his woeful ALCS against the Astros.
(flip) Encarnacion the free agent signed for 1Y/$12M, with a 2021 option that was not exercised.
See those 13 homers EE hit for the Yankees? He was their 13th player with 10 blasts or more in 2019, establishing a new MLB record.
I'm not sure why the Blue Jays or the Indians didn't hang on to Encarnacion; he wasn't old yet, still swung a productive bat, and in 2010's dollars, wasn't overly expensive. What I am sure of—neither club returned to the postseason the following year without him.
AFTER THIS CARD: Other than a two-homer game 8/19 against the Tigers, Encarnacion never resembled himself in 2020. Used exclusively as a DH for the first time and plagued by an achy shoulder, the 37-year-old batted just .157, 10, 19 in 44 games and started just one of three postseason games.
As late as March 2021, Encarnacion expressed a desire to continue playing, but he remained unemployed through 2021-22. At this point, it seems Edwin Diaz of the Mets has the monopoly on star Edwins in MLB.
Edwin Encarnacion debuted as a Draft Pick in 2001 Topps, then appeared in 2006-19 and 2021 Topps. He's also got a 2004 Traded card as a prospect, and 2005, 2009, 2019 and 2020 Update cards. (2019 Topps Heritage features Encarnacion the Mariner, if you must have such a card.)
CATEGORIES: 2020 Topps Update, Chicago White Sox