Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, September 2014
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9/5/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #349 Hal Morris, Royals
More Hal Morris Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
Before Sean Casey came along, there was Hal Morris—a poor man's Casey who played incumbent Todd Benzinger out of the Reds full-time 1B job (and into a platoon) in 1990. Morris roped .351 in the final four months, and his overall .340 would have easily won the batting title had he enough PA's. (He settled for a World Series ring...not a bad consolation prize.)
Benzinger eventually moved on, and Morris became the Reds' primary first sacker—when healthy—thru 1997. Like Casey, Morris lacked a picturesque swing but still hit over .300 several times. Unlike Casey, he was a below-average power hitter for his position (topping out at 16 homers.)
THIS CARD: If it weren't for this card, I'd forget Morris ever played in KC. Morris signed with the Royals after the '97 season for the hefty sum of...$1M. After having played but one game in the outfield since 1990, KC shuffled the now-33-year-old between there, DH and first base equally. Morris homered once in over 500 Royal PA's, and was not re-signed.
The card front tells only some of the story about Morris' unorthodox approach at the plate—his lower limbs tended to shuffle as he geared up. It worked for the guy, though—he was a lifetime .304 hitter.
(flip) Morris' five-hit-game began with a K at the hands of Bret Saberhagen, who won two Cy Young awards as a Royal. He then singled twice vs. Sabes, doubled against ex-Reds teammate Greg Swindell, smacked an RBI single off Hall-of-Famer Dennis Eckersley, and finished up with an RBI double vs. Carlos Reyes. At that point KC was up 4-2 in the 9th; they went on to win 8-4.
AFTER THIS CARD: This was Morris' final Topps' base/traded card. He returned to the Reds as a reserve in 1999-00 before finishing up with Detroit in late 2000. Morris ended his career in memorable fashion—he stroked a pinch-hit, walk-off single off Twins no-name Danny Mota to seal a wild 12-11 win! (Mota, 24, never appeared in the majors again either.)
After some time away from the game, Morris has worked in the Pirates/Angels scouting departments in recent years.
CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Kansas City Royals
9/13/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps Update #107 Brandon McCarthy, Athletics
More Brandon McCarthy Topps Cards: 2005 2007 2008 2009 2010 2012 2013 2014
6'7" McCarthy was drafted in 2002, and in the majors by 2005. In fact, he went 3-1, 1.69 down the stretch for the eventual champion White Sox (yet for some reason did not receive a base or Update card in the '06 set.) He spent '06 in the Sox' pen before being dealt to Texas—a deal that landed then-prospect John Danks in Chicago.
McCarthy could not stay healthy in Texas. Separate blister, elbow, hand and (two) shoulder injuries cut into his first three seasons there (2007-09); he was demoted—and eventually injured—in 2010, never pitching in the majors.
Oakland signed the free agent for $1M to round out an already-good rotation; at 27, McCarthy was now the "old man" of the Athletics' staff.
THIS CARD: I have every Topps card of McCarthy ever made except his '05 Update, and none of them capture just how tall the guy is. 2011 is no exception. Topps had the right idea with this angle, but the faint image of the batter and the overlapping graphic kind of botch things.
Maybe it's just me but the batter looks to be facing left but batting right, and his hands seem to be in front of him rather than behind. All the distraction takes away from McCarthy, at least for this card viewer.
(flip) As alluded to, McCarthy wasn't out for the entire 2010 season; he was pitching—and pitching well—in AAA Oklahoma City wrapped around several DL stints, including a season-ender in July. (He did not have a 2011 Topps base card.)
Not only did McCarthy kick off 2011 well; he went on to make a career-high 25 starts, toss a career-high 170.2 innings, record a 3.32 ERA, and complete five games (topped only by Tampa's James Shields in the AL.) His nine wins were also a career high; he could have easily won 13.
AFTER THIS CARD: McCarthy landed in infamy on September 5, 2012, when an Erick Aybar liner fractured his skull and nearly killed him. He came back with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013; in '14 McCarthy finally enjoyed a 30-start season (combined with the Snakes and Yankees) and should reach 200 IP for the first time—he's 12.1 IP shy as of 9/15.
Every year since that baffling '06 exclusion, McCarthy has received either a Topps Base or Update card.
9/16/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #215 Ian Kinsler, Rangers
More Ian Kinsler Topps Cards: 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Kinsler was one of the final players to appear in Topps before being on an MLB roster, having appeared in a 2005 Topps set released over a year prior to his MLB debut. He played for three separate NCAA schools and was twice drafted (but unsigned) by his hometown Arizona Diamondbacks—Kinsler attended high school just outside of Tucson and was teammates with several future big leaguers, including Scott Hairston.
As a junior, Kinsler was drafted by the Rangers #17 in 2003; this time he put pen to paper and went about the business of hitting .402 and slugging .692 in A ball the following season! He became a top prospect, succeeded Alfonso Soriano as the Rangers' 2B in 2006, and never looked back.
By 2008, Kinsler was an All-Star and a 20-20 man, although he was missing 30-40 games per year. Kinsler had been drafted as a shortstop and only switched to second in the high minors, explaining a somewhat high error total. He was regarded as a good defender overall, however.
THIS CARD: I've never liked cards where the player's face isn't at least largely visible, and no accompanying head shot appears either on the front or back. Kinsler is one of the few star players I cannot identify by face and I blame this card!!! (Not really.)
(flip) Kinsler's lifetime BAA vs. Wandy has since dropped to "only" .632; He is at .583 and .571 vs. Brian Matusz and Rick Porcello, respectively. (He never batted again vs. Byrd and Rogers.) His hit streak ended in Game #1 of the second half of '08, a 6-0 loss at Minnesota in which then-SP Glen Perkins and friends held Kinsler in check (0-for-4).
Kinsler, who signed a 5Y/$22M contract in the spring of '08, made the All-Star team on the strength of a .337 first half (he slugged .548) during which he ripped 34 of his 41 doubles. A sports hernia ended his season 8/17; he was the league hits and runs leader at the time. Kinsler came back with a 30-30 2009 season.
AFTER THIS CARD: Kinsler played for Texas thru 2013, going 30-30 in 2011 and making two more All-Star teams. In consecutive ALDS vs. Tampa Bay in '10-11, he smoked four home runs in nine total games, including the 2010 series capper off Rafael Soriano.
With the younger, cheaper Jurickson Profar wating in the wings, Texas dealt Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder in the winter of '13. The veteran second baseman made yet another All-Star team, while both Profar and Fielder saw their '13 ruined by major injuries.
Kinsler left Texas as their all-time steals leader, though former DP partner Elvis Andrus passed him in 2014. He still ranks 7th in doubles and 5th in runs.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Texas Rangers
9/19/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #67 Troy Percival, Angels
More Troy Percival Topps Cards: 1996 1997 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Percival was drafted as a catcher but converted to pitcher in A ball (partly why he did not debut in MLB until age 26). The move paid off; Percival nailed down an Angels' franchise record 316 contests over nine years as closer (ten overall). When he left the team, he was 190 ahead of the next-closest Angel! Percival was known for a high leg-kick, and wearing glasses on the mound.
Here, Percival has just completed his fourth season. He shook off command lapses to nail down 42 games—tied for 2nd in the league—against six blown for the semi-surprising 85-win Angels, who were tied for first place as late as the final week.
THIS CARD: Like just about every 1999 Topps card, not a bad front photo, just little of interest to discuss on a page like this. Troy's pitch grip is about it—he was pretty much a two-pitch guy in these days, using high-90's heat and a sharp curve. Every great while, out came the changeup.
(flip) Today, Percival is author of but one of the top six Angel save seasons (42 in 1998 rank sixth; Topps misprints "43" in the blurb.) At the time of this card only Bryan Harvey—who had been the Halo all-time saves leader—had a higher single-season save total for the Angels (46 in 1991) than that. The likes of K-Rod and Brian Fuentes have since joined him.
The rear photo depicts him about to look in for a sign. Or possibly praying silently—he was known to do that.
AFTER THIS CARD: With Percival advancing in age and K-Rod waiting for his shot, LA parted ways with the 35-year-old after the 2005 season. He joined the Tigers for two years, but was on the DL and basically retired for one of them before re-emerging in St. Lous in '07. He got in over 60 more games over 2008-09 with Tampa before bowing out for good.
In '02 Percival allowed one of the most spectacular World Series home runs ever hit, to Barry Bonds in what wound up an 11-10 Angel win in Game 2. He also memorably feuded with teammate Mo Vaughn over the latter's (lack of) leadership, both during and after his Anaheim stint.
9/23/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #398 Mike Fiers, Brewers
More Mike Fiers Topps Cards: 2014
We use a random selection process for Card Of The Day here at TSR. Only four COTD selections have been handpicked—three in memory of recently deceased major leaguers, one celebrating Barry Bonds' 50th birthday.
All others have been randomly selected—including Fiers, who's been in the news recently for an unfortunate reason. Yes, out of the nearly 20,000 Topps cards up for selection, the only card I own of arguably the month's biggest headliner is chosen.
Between the past selections of Jim Fregosi (died in early 2014) Ray Searage (June '14 blooper star) and now Fiers...startin' to get a little suspicious about this "randomizer". If it picks a Derek Jeter card next, cue the investigation.
THIS CARD: These are the kinds of photos/crops 1999 Topps sorely needed. Full-body shots work, but not for 80% of a set. Here, Fiers is caught mid-delivery; some cards from this angle will feature distracting bats, helmets, etc. (including the 9/13 COTD) but here, it's as if the camera is positioned at the base of the mound.
Fiers looks to be quite the fireballer in this shot, but he isn't—he's low-90's at best, not a guy who will blow away hitters. He's since switched to #50; according to baseballreference.com, he's the only Brewer to ever wear #64 in the regular season.
(flip) Going a little further into Fiers' hot streak: Fiers went 4-2 during that eight-start stretch, and allowed a single home run (to Brett Wallace of Houston). He went at least six innings each time out.
Note his 2009 Rookie League debut: 35 K vs. 1 BB in 21 innings! Of course, at 24, Fiers was way more experienced than many of his opponents...still impressive. (Also note that 8-0, 1.11 mark he recorded in AAA just before being promoted in 2011. How Topps did not at least give him a 2012 Update card is beyond me; this is his first base/Update Topps card.)
AFTER THIS CARD: A Nova Southeastern University teammate of Fiers was J.D. Martinez, who after an unimpressive stint with the 'Stros became a 2014 sensation with the Tigers (Fiers and Martinez were the first two NSU alum to reach MLB.)
Following a washout 2013 season (broken arm), Fiers re-emerged as a dependable starter for Milwaukee in late '14—though still well under the radar. That all changed on 9/11 when an 88-mph Fiers fastball bore in on the face of superstar Marlin Giancarlo Stanton—hospitalizing him and ending his season.
Umps ruled Stanton swung at the fateful pitch, so Reed Johnson finished his AB—with the exact same HBP/swing result (but on the hand). Some Marlins became enraged, which in turn set off the already-upset Fiers; benches cleared but nothing more. Fiers had entered the Brewer rotation in early August; he's 6-3, 1.84 since (as of 9/22).
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers
9/25/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps Update #13 Scott Hairston, Athletics
More Scott Hairston Topps Cards: 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Hairston carries a special place in my heart—to date he is the only player I've ever seen ejected in person. It was at AT&T Park during his rookie year; he vehemently disagreed with a called third strike and got rung. Don't recall offhand who won that game, but the Giants chances sure increased once Hairston hit the showers—early in his career, he was a notorious killer of my Giants.
Hairston, who comes from deep MLB lineage, was the Snakes' primary 2B in '04, disappeared off the map for a couple of years, then resurfaced as a combo outfielder/2B. In time he developed into one of the game's best role players, and he'd find his name on the lineup card more often than not.
THIS CARD: As alluded to, Hairston turned Giant killing into an art form; in fact, Hairston ripped seven homers off Giant pitching in '07 alone and I'm sure at least four of them were-game winners.
I mention this because of the joy I felt upon learning back in '09 he'd been traded out of San Diego! Finally rid of him, I thought. Then I find out he's going to Oakland and will still be facing Giant pitching up to six games a year. So long, joy. (Note: he batted .440 against the SF in 2009, naturally.)
Sorry for the hard-to-read gold-embossed name. I scanned Hairston's card three times and this was the best outcome. He received a card in the base set as well (#626, Padres). This shot makes Hairston seem bigger than he really is (6'0", 200 lbs.) Don't you just wanna smash those Gatorade coolers in the background?
(flip) Hairston was traded to Oakland for three youngsters, one of whom is current O's reliever Ryan Webb. Sean Gallagher accomplished little in 91 games over four years; Craig Italiano never reached MLB.
The Hairston HR referenced was a first-inning solo shot off Boston's Josh Beckett (who still won) two days after the trade. The late Shea Stadium has since moved up to first place on Hairston's career-average-by-ballpark list.
AFTER THIS CARD: Hairston played nearly every day for Oakland—first in CF, then in LF in place of the traded Matt Holliday. He's since been employed by four clubs; after busting out for 20 homers as a 2012 Met, his production has slipped dramatically (combined .194 in 2013-14). Now a 34-year-old Washington National, he is almost strictly a pinch-hitter.
Scott Hairston has appeared in Topps every year, either as base or update, since 2003.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps Update, Oakland Athletics
9/29/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #541 Jack Hannahan, Indians
More Jack Hannahan Topps Cards: 2009 2012 2014
Immediately after drawing Scott Hairston, the Randomizer has selected his 2009 kind-of teammate of one week, Mr. Jack Hannahan (Hannahan had been with Oakland until an end-of-June demotion to AAA; one week later Hairston was acquired by Oakland, and a week after that Hannahan was traded to Seattle.)
So while they were never actually on the field or even in the same clubhouse together, it is possible they were both treated with the same roll of tape.
If Eric Chavez' brittle body had held up, it's possible Hannahan never wears the Green and Gold—he started 180 games at 3B for the A's in 2007-09. He flashed some pop but struck out a lot. After spending 2010 in AAA with the Seattle/Boston organizations, Cleveland auditioned him for 2011. With prospect Lonnie Chisenhall not quite ready, Hannahan actually won the Tribe 3B job!
THIS CARD: It'd be interesting to know if Hannahan managed to stay upright making this throw. Or if he got the out. Or if he even got the the throw off. So many questions. I could never play with my finger outside the mitt as the pros do. I've tried it numerous times but the temperature difference in my fingers is too distracting.
(flip) Hannahan's streak came after he'd surrendered the regular 3B job to Chisenhall, and covered only 16 games.
AFTER THIS CARD: As in 2011, Hannahan won the Indians' 3B job in Spring Training, and as in 2011, he lost it in-season to Chisenhall. Because the latter eventually went down with a broken hand, Hannahan still played extensively. He made the drive down Route 3 to Cincinnati on a 2Y/$4M deal to become (an expensive) pinch-hitter/reserve corner infielder.
Despite amassing over 100 games/300 PAs in 2012 and changing teams in the offseason, Hannahan did not receive a 2013 base or Update card.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Cleveland Indians