Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, September 2016

COTD Archive 2014: May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  

COTD Archive 2015: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December

COTD Archive 2016January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December

COTD Archive 2017: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December

COTD Archive 2018: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December

COTD Archive 2019: January Current Month

 

Click on images for larger views.

Topps Chip Hale
Topps Chip Hale

9/1/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #704 Chip Hale, Twins

More Chip Hale Topps Cards: 1994

 

You've seen the video about 100 times—minor leaguer hits ball, outfielder literally runs through outfield wall in pursuit of said ball. 
You might know the outfielder in question was White Sox prospect Rodney McCray. You are less likely to know the batter that May 1991 evening was Twins prospect Chip Hale.
 
Hale, like this website, originated in San Jose, California. Unlike this website, he attended the University of Arizona, where his composite .346/.436/.539 line got him drafted #17 by the Twins in 1987. Closing that year in A ball, the young second baseman batted a league-leading .345 in his first pro dip—to date, no other player has ever been a pro batting champ in his draft year!
 
Here, Hale's just gotten his first major league look—a pulled muscle disabled Twins star Gary Gaetti in late 1989; up came Hale to help fill the void. The scrappy 25-year-old split time at second and third base for the final month, hitting .209 in 28 games. 
 
 
THiS CARD: Much like with our 5/25/14 selection Dann Bilardello (1990 Topps #682), Hale seems mountainous because of the image angle. He's only 5'11".
 
Look closely at the upper right sleeve—clearly, Hale wanted to play for Minnesota so bad that his jersey magically formed the "M" Twins logo. And they still buried him in Portland for three years.)
 
That sky looks a little weird. Are those UFO lights?
 
(flip) Those three August hits spanned 12 AB over five games; the first was a single off Seattle's Scott Bankhead (a recent COTD subject having a career year in 1989); Hale came around to score the go-ahead run in an eventual Twins win!
 
Flores was a minor league player in his own right; his dad (an ex-big leaguer) was known for signing and mentoring Bert Blyleven. The Southern League is AA.
 
 
AFTER THIS CARD: From 1990-92, Hale was stashed at AAA Portland—he was originally projected as Minnesota's future second baseman, but Chuck Knoblauch emerged in 1991; back then, he was throwing straight and staying out of jail, meaning Hale was s--- outta luck, at least at that position. He made one major league appearance in those three years, and lost his prospect status.
 
The 28-year-old rulebook rookie did return to Minnesota for the final ⅔ of 1993, batting .333 in a reserve role. His scrappiness and pinch-hitting prowess kept him with the Twins through 1996 before being outrighted.
Opting for free agency instead, Hale opened 1997 with the Dodgers—but was demoted to Albuquerque one month in and never played in the majors again. He wrapped his pro career with the 1998 Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals) at age 33. 
 
Hale managed AAA Tucson (Diamondbacks) in the mid-00's before joining Bob Melvin's major league coaching staff in Phoenix; after a stint with the Mets, he re-joined Melvin's staff in Oakland for 2012-14 before the Diamondbacks lured him back to Phoenix...with their managerial position! Hale took the gig, but has struggled mightily—after the 2016 All-Star break, his rear end, along with that of his high-profile GM and COO, all but caught fire.


TSR update: Hale was fired shortly after the 2016 season ended.
 
Chip Hale appeared in 1990 and 1994 Topps.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Minnesota Twins

 
Topps Ron Hassey
Topps Ron Hassey

9/5/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #667 Ron Hassey, White Sox

More Ron Hassey Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991

 

On this card, you'll observe Ron Hassey calmly posted in his White Sox gear, but few of you are aware of what led to him wearing that White Sox gear—the seven months preceding this pic were anything but calm; possibly outright chaotic in the Hassey household(s).


You see, during that period, Hassey was a human tennis ball—the veteran catcher was ping-ponged between the same two teams two different times each in that half-year span. 


What?
In December 1985, when Yankees owner George Steinbrenner became inexplicably fascinated with White Sox SP Britt Burns—who, mind you, had already been diagnosed with hip problems that ultimately ended his career—Hassey's capable lefty bat was sacrificed to get him. 


Two months later, Hassey—acquired by the Sox to help fill the catching void left by Carlton Fisk's transition to left field—was back in New York, who'd been unable to acquire Fisk or any other proven catcher to replace him. 


Hassey did spend the first four months of 1986 with the Yankees before the depth-challenged team dealt him back to Chicago in exchange for Ron Kittle, Wayne Tolleson and young Joel Skinner at the July 31 deadline.


If that weren't enough ping-ponging of one man, the White Sox soon debated returning Hassey to the Yankees as damaged goods—his knees were worse than reports let on! Ultimately, he stayed in Chicago, batting .353 and slugging .500 over the final two months of the 1986 season represented on this card.

 

 

THIS CARD: This marks Hassey's first of four consecutive Topps inaction shots. He seems fairly upbeat for a guy living out of a moving van the past seven months.


If White Sox unis ever feature red again, it'll be too soon.

 

(flip) Hassey is listed as a DH-C. Though overall he caught way more than he DH'd, Hassey had primarily caught with the Yankees before largely DHing with the White Sox, who'd moved Fisk back behind the plate in early May. Topps obviously chose to lead with his most recent role...understandable.


Note that lifetime BB/K ratio; Hassey put the bat on the ball. In fact, for 1986, he nearly accumulated as many doubles (25) as K (27)!


Hassey beat some fairly long odds, not being drafted until age 23 and in the 18th round, no less. Being a lefty-hitting catcher didn't hurt...


Bill Hassey played in something known as the Longhorn League, which I'm going to assume is based in Texas. Ron Hassey's son Brad, an infielder, would also play pro ball; he was a #19 pick in 2002 by Toronto and played in their system through 2007...but unfortunately topped out at AAA with a career .210 average.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Hassey spent one more season with the White Sox before joining the Athletics for three years—reaching the World Series in all of them! In Oakland Hassey served as Bob Welch's personal catcher, earning a little extra notoriety in 1990 when Welch won 27 times.


Despite his tie to Welch, Oakland released the aging catcher after that '90 season; he won a backup spot with the Expos for 1991. There, the 38-year-old caught the second perfect game of his career (thrown by Dennis Martinez; this followed Len Barker's gem for the 1981 Indians) before retiring at season's end. 


Next, Hassey coached throughout the majors (most notably for the expansion Colorado Rockies), scouted for a time, then managed several years in the Marlins' organization before retiring from baseball entirely after the '13 season—wrapping 38 seasons in professional baseball.
Ron Hassey appeared annually in Topps 1980-1991. Topps did not produce a Ron Hassey Expos card, although Stadium Club and Score did.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Chicago White Sox

 
Topps Jeff Treadway
Topps Jeff Treadway

9/9/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps Traded #122 Jeff Treadway, Reds

More Jeff Treadway Topps Cards: 1989 1990 1991 1992


Much as Mookie Wilson played a direct role in Bill Buckner's plunge into major league infamy in 1986, he played an indirect role in Jeff Treadway's major league establishment—Wilson inadvertently wrecked the knee of Cincinnati 2B Ron Oester in mid-1987, creating an opening that was filled mostly by Treadway from September 1987-July 1988, when Oester returned.


When baseball found its way into my life, Treadway was the second baseman of the then-awful Atlanta Braves; I had a tough time distinguishing him from Atlanta's then up-and-coming SS, Jeff Blauser. For young Skillz, Treadway was also a good lesson—your past achievements will only get you so far in your future pursuits. "What have you done for me lately" applies in sports as well as life in general.


You see, I remember hearing announcers talking up Mark Lemke as Atlanta's 1991-92 seasons unfolded, and thinking to myself "Well, where are they gonna put Treadway if Lemke's the new 2B?"

 

Uh, the bench, dummy.
Drafted by the Expos out of high school, Treadway chose to attend the University of Georgia...after which he went undrafted! Still, he signed a free-agent deal with Cincinnati—offhand, I'm unaware of anyone else taking Treadway's unconventional route to pro baseball.


Here, after parts of four years in the minors (including an impressive .315 for AAA Nashville in 1987), Treadway has opened 1988 with the Reds fresh off batting .333 in 28 games to close 1987.

 


THIS CARD: Treadway sort of resembles the long-lost love child of Buster Posey and Bill Doran. And Jeff...you missed a spot, bud.


Only late-80's Topps would find yellow lettering for the Cincinnati Reds appropriate. 


#15 had been ex-Reds star George Foster's number as well as Barry Larkin's original number before taking his hallmark #11. Treadway was the first of 24 men to use it in the 29 years since Larkin switched—none for more than two years and none more prominent at the time of use than Denny Neagle.

 

(flip) Pretty good offensive numbers from the young infielder. I'm always keen on a guy who walks more than K's, even if he couldn't maintain that rate in the bigs. 


One of these days, I'll check if Topps always listed career minor league numbers for dudes with only one season/row of major league stats. It would make sense, but like every other entity on Earth, Topps can't always be counted on for sensible decisions.


At least Treadway's HS tracked batting average—scour Topps draft picks through the years; you'll find many of their high schools tracked literally nothing. I mean seriously, people...there's nobody in your town who can both count and spare three hours of a Friday evening?


Zuraw was a former MiLB player in the 1950's who scouted 20 years for the Reds, among other baseball jobs. He once hit 16 homers for Batavia in the P.O.N.Y. League. Draw from that what you will.

 


AFTER THIS CARD: Treadway, who closed 1988 with a shoulder injury of his own, was no lock to make the '89 Reds roster with Oester—surprisingly—back in the picture. However, down south, Atlanta's 2B options entering 1989 consisted of defensively-challenged 1988 regular Ron Gant and offensively-challenged Lemke, so the team bought Georgia native Treadway from Cincinnati and gave him the job.


Treadway would be the Braves' primary second baseman through late 1991, a year he smoked .320 for the resurgent Braves—and executed his second successful hidden ball trick—until a hand injury forced him to the bench. Given opportunity, Lemke took over 2B in mid-September and batted .417 in the 1991 World Series. Unlike Oester, Treadway didn't get his job back upon healing.


Released by Atlanta after '92, Treadway finished up with brief stints in Cleveland, Los Angeles and Montreal—he was part of the blockbuster Roberto Kelly/Marquis Grissom trade of early 1995, and his MLB career ended when the Expos cut him that summer.


Jeff Treadway debuted in 1988 Topps Traded, then appeared in Topps 1989-92. Topps never included the veteran again, though he was exclusively in the bigs three more seasons. His 1994 exclusion from both Topps and Traded is especially glaring—at least '94 Score found room for Treadway, who'd moved on to Cleveland and played well.
 

 

 

CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps Traded, Cincinnati Reds

 
Topps Steven Matz
Topps Steven Matz

9/13/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps Update #134 Steven Matz, Rookie Debut

More 2015 Topps Rookie Debut Cards: n/a


Most people hear the name "Dan Rather" and their first image is he seated stoicly at the CBS News desk. Most people hear the name "Simon Cowell" and picture him in a white t-shirt insulting wannabe singers. Most people hear the name "Soleil Moon Frye" and think of little pig-tailed Punky Brewster.


For unknown reasons, when reading/hearing the names of pitchers Charlie Morton or Steven Matz, my mind pictures them as knuckleballers. Neither one of these men throws the knuckleball. In fact, they're as far away from knuckleballers as a pitcher can be. Somehow, early in their careers, I subconsciously linked them with the floater pitch and to this day haven't fully re-trained my stupid brain to the facts.


(In Matz's case, I kind of have an excuse; a Red Sox knuckleballer by the name of Steven Wright rose to prominence around the time Matz did. No such case with Morton...maybe there's some Charlie Hough channelling at work?)


When the New York drafted Matz #2 in 2009, they made the dreams of the devoted Mets fan a reality. In fact, according to sources entirely within my imagination, he had to be talked out of changing his name to Steven Metz two days later. (Hey, if it were me, I'd do it.)


2010 Tommy John surgery slowed his progress—the tall lefty didn't debut as a pro until 6/20/12. But by 2014 he was a hot prospect again, healthy and reaching the mid-90's. Teaming that with his new curveball, Matz allowed three homers in 140 MiLB innings that year!


Here, Topps recognizes one of the finest MLB pitcher debuts in recent memory.

 

 

THIS CARD: Topps' increased rookie focus reached new heights beginning with the 2012 Update set—10 of that year's hottest noobs received "Rookie Debut" cards, recapping each noob's initial dip in the major league pool. Think those "Major League Debut" Topps sets of the early 1990's without the fancy headline script.

 

I don't hate these cards as I do the (alleged) Classic Combo cards of the late '00's. But they are a redundant waste—in many cases these debuts are (or could be) summarized on the player's common card. Yes, most of the RD's receive common Update cards as well, although Matz did not.


That is first-base coach Tom Goodwin heaping the love on Matz, presumably after his RBI single. No idea what random Red drifts in the background.

 

(flip) Matz doubled home two in the 2nd (after the Reds intentionally walked Eric Campbell to get to him), singled in the 5th, then singled home two more in the 6th. 


Among those six K were revenge whiffs of Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier, who'd both homered off him.


I was about to complain about the MLB copyright in the stat line, but will refrain since it was omitted from the text.


Matz was not called up to replace anyone necessarily; the Mets had opted for a six-man rotation.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Matz has pitched very well since his electric debut...when able. Due to a torn back muscle, elbow bone spurs and rotator cuff irritation, Matz has made but 27 starts of a possible 40-48 since this one. Still only 25 with all kinds of upside, all Matz needs is a cooperative body.
Steven Matz has since appeared in 2016 Topps.
 

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps Update, Rookie Debuts

 
Topps Chris James
Topps Chris James

9/18/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #494 Chris James, Indians

More Chris James Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1992 1993 1995


For several years, undrafted Chris James—described by one publication as "lean and tough and hard around the edges"—was a good 3B/OF who was possibly miscast as an everyday player on teams that didn't have much else, most notably the Phillies and Indians. Statistically, he was a frugal man's Jonny Gomes.


At one point, however, James was so highly regarded that according to the LA Times, when the Indians were shopping Joe Carter, they rejected Willie McGee and Vince Coleman from St. Louis AND Danny Tartabull from Kansas City—All-Stars in or near their primes—when the Padres included James in their offer. I'm not sure how much of that I buy, but there you go. 


As a prospect, James bounced between 3B—where he played full-time at Reading in '84—and the outfield. The Phillies used him at all three outfield positions and, later, at 3B; in fact, when legendary Mike Schmidt retired in 1989, James was the guy tapped to succeed him!
However, days later James surrendered not only his new position...but also his roster spot when San Diego acquired the 26-year-old in a deal sending John Kruk and Randy Ready east.


After the season, the Padres reluctantly included James in the deal for Carter. (This has nothing to do with James, but note that Carter and Robby Alomar were traded by San Diego to Toronto after the '90 season and helped them win two championships. Sandy Alomar and Carlos Baerga—both traded with James to Cleveland—helped the Indians start a long run of late-'90's success, and Kruk helped Philly to the '93 World Series. For all its dealing, SD went nowhere during this time and soon held a fire sale.)


Here, James has just completed his first of two seasons in Cleveland. It lacked the fanfare of a certain other James' first season in Cleveland, but it was good—the veteran ranked 9th in the league in batting while tying for the team lead in doubles and finishing a close 2nd in slugging.

 


THIS CARD: 1991 Topps avoids the surplus of posed head shots so prominent in 1990 (and prior) Topps; in fact, all but two of the '91 Topps Indians had at least a semi-action shot.


#18 Chris James takes his lead at old Cleveland Stadium; he'd switch to #7 one year later (remember, Kenny Lofton didn't arrive until 1992.)


James did indeed make 121 of his 133 starts at DH in 1990...good job, Topps.

 

(flip) 40 hits in August...pretty gaudy. James batted .357 and slugged .554 that month—quite an uptick from his .122 April. 


I don't recall the anniversary logo being that prominent before.


Rusk is a little more than halfway between Dallas and Houston, 2-3 hours by car from either metro.

 


AFTER THIS CARD: In 1991, despite an eye-popping 9-RBI May game James' overall production slipped, and Cleveland didn't retain him for '92. James landed with the Giants and played well in a part-time role, helping bridge the LF gap between Kevin Mitchell and Barry Bonds in SF.


Now largely a bench guy, James would wrap his career at 33 after the 1995 season having completed an odyssey through four organizations in the preceding three years—including both teams from his native Texas. 


Chris James debuted in 1987 Topps Traded, appeared annually in Topps 1988-1993, then again in 1995 as a Texas Ranger.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Cleveland Indians, Undrafted

 
Topps League Leaders
Topps League Leaders

9/21/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #338 League Leaders

More 2004 Topps League Leader Cards: n/a

 

When I began collecting in 1990, League Leaders appeared on the reverse of All-Star cards. That ended with the 1992 set, and for six years the only LL's produced (that I know of) were inserts in the 1995 set. LL's returned in the 1999 set, allowing Topps to produce a couple more cards of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa fresh off their great Home Run Chase...which had to be a coincidence, right?


Except 2007, Leaders have occupied every Topps set since—but no longer sharing space with All-Stars. Between 10-12 LL cards appear most years, including this one (12). This card represents 2003 American League Hits Leaders, with young Toronto star Vernon Wells fending off the dynamic Ichiro despite a season-ending 3-for-16 bump.

 


THIS CARD: Topps' first card of Ichiro was in 2001; it remains their sole issue of him with first and last name (Suzuki). In my albums, he's still sorted alphabetically by last name. It's not personal; I'd do the same with Nene. Unless he told me not to. Because Nene is a huge, scary man.


Michael Young could pass for George Eads. Not sure if that's a step up or down—Young made more money, but more eyes saw Eads on CSI every week for 15 years.


As I said in a previous COTD, not a fan of Velcro bat images (where the bat is seen but not the hands holding it, making it appear Velcroed onto the jersey). It's a dumb peeve, but it's a peeve.


(flip) Wells' 215 hits came on the strength of 65 multi-hit games, and 21 games of three hits or more. The star outfielder never came close to finishing #1 in hits any of his 12 other full seasons—his highest finish being #9 in 2006.


Of those 10 dudes, only 43-year-old Ichiro is still active as of this writing. 


Wells broke Tony Fernandez' team record of 213 hits set in 1986. That record still stands—in fact, no Jay has come within 24 of it since. 

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, League Leaders

 
Topps League Leaders
Topps League Leaders

9/24/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #106 League Leaders

More 2010 Topps League Leader Cards: n/a

Didn't expect this! Our second consecutive League Leader pull tracks the Top 10 National League Earned Run Averages of 2009. This is also our first 2010 Topps selection in many months; the set has evaded selection since January 2016.


THIS CARD: 2009 was not that long ago, yet two of these careers have ended and the third is facing an 0-2 count in the 7th inning of game 161. 34-year-old Carpenter won 17 games and was the Cy Young runner-up (to Lincecum); he did not allow an earned run in his first 23 innings covering four starts!


Quite the contrast to 25-year-old Lincecum, who was saddled with a 7.86 mark after two starts, but registered a 2.28 figure after that and won 15 times. The two men combined for 12 scoreless starts of seven or more innings!


23-year-old Jurrjens' tied for the league lead with 34 starts, and he never left one with an ERA higher than 3.01. Though he'd go on to be a 2011 All-Star, Jurrjens couldn't match his 2009 levels of durability and effectiveness for long after that—his last MLB appearance was in 2014 and he struggled in China this year.

 

(flip) Four of these dudes remained active in 2016, but only Kershaw was any sort of threat to occupy the ERA leaderboard—13 more innings and he crushes Kyle Hendricks by almost half a run. 


I forgot Vazquez pitched for the Braves. I forgot Wells existed...boy, did that career torpedo.
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, League Leaders

 
Topps Jose Fernandez
Topps Jose Fernandez

9/27/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps #118 Jose Fernandez, Marlins

More Jose Fernandez Topps Cards: 2013 2014 2015


I was a big-time NewsRadio fan back in the 1990's. When my local news station ran its teaser of Phil Hartman's 1998 death (referring to him as the "late actor Phil Hartman"), I paused, furrowed my brow, then assured myself I simply misheard whatever the anchor said. Hartman is a (kind of) big TV star. I just saw and enjoyed him on TV three weeks ago. He's not even 50. He simply COULDN'T be "late".


He was.
And so was Jose Fernandez 18 years later.


I came home on September 22, 2016 and pulled up MLB.com as I often do. There it was, right in the day's headlines: "Marlins star Fernandez killed". Cue double-take. Cue calendar check—was this some sick April Fool's joke? Cue utter disbelief.


While I obviously didn't know Fernandez personally and wasn't a big-time rooter of his, I was still saddened by the horrific boat crash that took his life. I love the sport of baseball, and Fernandez was a superstar in the making—if not already. Fernandez was among the game's top starters and a legitimate 2016 Cy Young award candidate even without sentimental sway. The game was better with him in it.

 

More than that, Fernandez had the personality to go with stardom; by all accounts, fans couldn't get enough of him and he was truly grateful for actually being paid to do something he loved...and was damn good at. 
Here, Fernandez has made a return from 2014 Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for a year. Working on an unofficial "common sense" pitch limit, the 23-year-old returned from a year's layoff on July 2, and went at least six innings in each of his first six starts.

 

 

THIS CARD: Based on the "W" against the red background, that could be Nationals Park, where Fernandez made one 2015 start.


Fernandez actually pitched in that 2016 All-Star Game. Since I'm not positive he'll have a 2017 Topps card, we'll use this space to note his four-out, 26-pitch, one-run outing that day.

 

(flip) A haunting quote in hindsight. For the record, in Fernandez's last start on 9/20/16, he went eight innings to beat visiting Washington 1-0, whiffing 12...the guy went out dominant. 


Expanding on those pretty career stats: Fernandez ended with a 2.58 ERA in 471 IP; he was 38-17 in 76 GS for largely poor teams. And how did he only win 7 of 14 starts for 2012 Greensboro (A) with a 1.59 ERA and 0.87 WHIP? By seeking run support from a lineup that, in five years, has sent one man to MLB (Austin Barnes).


I'd never heard of Santa Clara, Cuba. (As you may know, teenage Fernandez defected to Miami in 2008, going on to become the #14 overall pick by the Marlins three years later.)

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: With a soft innings limit for 2016, Fernandez simply dominated the league. The big righty went 12-2 at home—upping his career Marlins Park ledger to 29-2—struck out 253 batters (2nd in the league to Max Scherzer even without those two final starts) and allowed a league-best 5.78 H/9. 


Then it all ended with nary a warning. Players not just on his team, but around the league, paid tribute to the fallen star by decorating themselves with his uniform #16—which, just yesterday, the team announced would be retired. Teammate Dee Gordon, who has about as much home run power as you do, went deep in his first at-bat after the tragedy, memorably weeping as he trotted home.


Jose Fernandez appeared in Topps 2013-16 (and may or may not appear one last time in 2017.)
 

 

CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps, Miami Marlins, Now Deceased

 
Topps Santiago Casilla
Topps Santiago Casilla

9/30/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps Update #26 Santiago Casilla, Giants

More Santiago Casilla Topps Cards: 2011S 2013 2014 2015 2016


In memory of Dennis Green, the recently deceased former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals head coach, I'd like to revisit what—probably to his chagrin—goes down as his most famous quote: "THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!!" (Angrily referencing a victorious opponent)


For several years, Santiago Casilla was NOT who we thought he was.


In 2000, the Oakland Athletics signed who they believed was 17-year-old flamethrower Jairo Garcia of the Dominican Republic. However, in 2007 Oakland learned it had actually signed Santiago Casilla, 20-year-old flamethrower obviously willing to do whatever it took to increase his odds of landing a stateside deal.


Though he'd aged three years overnight, the Athletics kept Garcia/Casilla around, and he wound up appearing 143 times out of the 2007-09 A's bullpen. Which isn't to say he was necessarily good. All too often, Casilla's effectiveness didn't match his stuff—mid-90's heat, tough slider, iffy changeup—and Oakland let him go after the 2009 season. (To be fair, he wasn't always fully healthy. But what pro athlete really is?)


Cut loose by a 75-win team, 29-year-old Casilla couldn't have in his wildest dreams predicted his career's direction upon inking an MiLB deal with San Francisco in early 2010. Before long he was back in the majors—with a shiny new curveball—and was arguably the Giants best reliever for that (championship) season's duration! 


Here, the 2012 season is underway, and Casilla has advanced from middle relief to co-closing duties in the wake of incumbent Brian Wilson's season-long injury absence—at least initially (see below)

 


THIS CARD: That's mostly jersey—Casilla is a sturdy guy, but he isn't beefy. He appears to be snapping off one of those curveballs learned in the 2009-10 winter; it's not his out pitch, but he can steal strikes with it.


Though Casilla was in his 9th MLB season when this set released, he had never appeared on a base/Traded/Update card under either name before (although he was included in Topps Total as Garcia twice, as well as an AT&T Park giveaway 2011 Topps Giants team set—these sets are in the COTD rotation.)

 

(flip) Casilla was indeed among the game's finest out of the 2012 gate, converting 20 of his first 21 save ops! But then he blew five of seven, earning a trip back to middle relief.


Okay, Topps—we highly doubt SF management bragged at all about the Casilla steal. Remember: his old A's teammate Barry Zito was still a Giant at this time, and was not yet the playoff hero he'd become months later.

 

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Overcoming one of the more foolish on-field injuries of his era in early '14, Casilla returned to closing that summer when Sergio Romo stumbled—aiding San Francisco's third championship march of the decade!


After converting 38 of 44 saves in 2015, Casilla endured a miserable first half of 2016 and again lost his job. As the Giants desperately and unsuccessfully tried to close out Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cubs, none of the five pitchers Bruce Bochy turned to that inning was Casilla—a 36-year-old free agent as of this writing who will not be back in San Francisco. He leaves as one of nine to play on all three Giants title teams of the 2010's.


Santiago Casilla has appeared in that 2011 Topps giveaway set, 2012 Topps Update, then 2013-16 Topps annually.

 

 

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps Update, San Francisco Giants