Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, September 2021

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Topps Mike James
Topps Mike James

9/30/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #431 Mike James, Angels

More Mike James Topps Cards: n/a

Today, we present our fourth Angel—from three decidedly different eras—of September for Topps Card Of The Day. Hard-throwing reliever Mike James was a force for much of the Angels' eye-opening 1995 season; he sported a 3.00 ERA in 43 games until coughing up six earned runs in his final 1.2 innings.

 

The former Dodgers 43rd-rounder had gone nowhere as a starting pitcher in their system despite some decent stats, and by the time he reached Anaheim, he was a mediocre swingman. The Angels called 27-year-old James up in early 1995, and he remained "up" for four years until injury intervened.

Here, James has enjoyed a fine 1996 season setting up All-Star closer Troy Percival. James led the Angels staff with 69 appearances, many of them spanning two-plus innings and a pair of them covering three-plus innings! Righties batted a mere .195 against James in 1996.

THIS CARD: Here, we see James appearing cocked to fire what I believe is his slider. He also featured a low-to-mid-90's fastball that tailed away from lefties and into righties. Later on, after arm surgery, James added a cutter and unleashed more changeups. He was also effectively wild.

Remember these uniforms? The J.T. Snow era (1993-96), as I came to call it. James was not nearly as effective on the road (.270 BAA, 4.72 ERA) as at home (.171 BAA, 1.16 ERA) in 1996.

This is a Topps era where middle, specialist and setup relievers, by and large, found themselves on the outside looking in. Some exceptions were made for young setup men with closer potential, such as Julian Tavarez, Mariano Rivera, Terry Adams and James in 1997 Topps.

More from James' 1996 season: he finished very strong, stringing together 10 straight scoreless outings from early August to early September, and registering a 0.93 ERA from 8/6 on. During that span, James allowed exactly one XBH to 65 batters faced!

(flip) Here, James looks to be in a rather upbeat mood. One publication, however, described him as having "a mean streak, and perhaps a little bit of loose wiring." James boasted tattoos and piercings well before they were commonplace in MLB, and he suspects the Disney-owned Angels didn't dig it.

As you can see in the stats, James was a decent starter in the Dodgers' low minors for a time. But as a #43 pick, you usually have to dominate, not just be decent, to get promoted ahead of the Kiki Jones and Ronnie Waldens—Dodgers #1 picks of the era who never escaped the minors—of the world.

Yes, James walked 42 in 81 innings in 1996—not recommended. But seven of those came in one outing, a 7/6 outing at Oakland covering 3.1 innings. James seemed to be taking one for the team that day, as California's bullpen had worked hard the prior two nights.

"Strained right neck"? Interesting. A lesser man would make a joke about the Hensel girls, but I try to stay somewhat mature here on TSR. (BTW, it is not uncommon even today to read about players sidelined by injuries to their right toe, for example.) 

AFTER THIS CARD: James returned to the Angels' pen in '97 and even racked up a few saves while Percival was sidelined early in the season. But overall, his effectiveness waned, and by early 1998 he'd gone under the knife (elbow). A year later, James required shoulder surgery as well, and that summer the Angels released him just as he was completing his rehab.

James reportedly received zero offers until holding a private workout, and he ended up with the St. Louis Cardinals for the 2000-01 seasons. James put up a 4.03 ERA over 91 games for the RedBirds, also cleaning up SP Rick Ankiel's infamous mess in the 2000 NLDS Game 1.

Next, the 34-year-old made Colorado's 2002 Opening Day roster, but was outrighted to AAA after 13 up-and-down outings. Though James signed MiLB deals with the 2003 Devil Rays and 2005 Tigers, he never returned to the majors.

This is Mike James' lone Topps card. To my semi-surprise, nobody produced a card of James the Cardinal, but he does have 2002 Topps Total and 2002 Upper Deck 40-Man cards as a new Rockie.

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, California Angels

 

More September 2021 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Eli Marrero
Topps Eli Marrero

9/1/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #662 Eli Marrero, Cardinals

More Eli Marrero Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2000 2003 2004 2005 2005U

Marrero had a pretty decent career primarily as a Cardinals catcher, but later as a Cardinals utility guy. After belting 20 HR and throwing out 38% of basestealers for AAA Louisville in 1997, Marrero joined the Cardinals that September. Midway through the following season, he was taking at-bats from St. Louis catching fixture Tom Pagnozzi.

Marrero opened 1999 as the Cardinals' primary catcher, but as the year wore on, he struggled to stay above .200 and lost playing time. Here, Marrero is coming off a largely lost 2000 campaign. He was relegated to backup catching duties by Mike Matheny's emergence—until injury prevented him from even doing that; more on that below.

THIS CARD: We see Marrero sizing up his stick before an at-bat at an unidentified road ballpark. Given the fact just two days ago I saw someone's bat split in three pieces after being jammed, it's always advisable to perform inspections.

That's #26 on Marrero's back; no Cardinal wore it longer than his seven seasons. Today, young outfielder Justin Williams claims it.

More from Marrero's 2000 season: on 4/20 against San Diego, Marrero homered twice and drove home five runs in a blowout win. And from 5/24 to season's end, he gunned all eight runners who attempted to steal against him! Marrero also received regular run in the 2000 postseason after Matheny was injured.

(flip) Marrero had a cancerous thyroid gland removed in March 1998. Not 2000, as his Wikipedia page erroneously states (as of September 2021).

Marrero suffered his thumb injury while stealing a base against Houston 7/1. He returned 9/2, as a pinch-runner.

Of those 17 RBI in 2000, nine came in a three-game stretch from 4/14-20. Marrero had 11 RBI in April alone, but was shut out in the column after 6/18.

AFTER THIS CARD: Marrero expanded his versatility in 2001, finding (limited) time in LF, RF and 1B while continuing to serve as the #2 catcher. In '02, he became a semi-regular, starting 86 games across the outfield and 15 more at catcher; Marrero blasted 18 homers with 66 RBI that year and seemed to be on his way.

But in early May 2003—in a game that was rained out—Marrero severely sprained his right ankle and was out until September. Three months later, he was traded to the Braves in the five-player deal that sent then-prospect Adam Wainwright to the Cardinals.

Now a full-time OF, Marrero got in 90 games for the 2004 Braves and batted a robust .320—remarkable considering he didn't crack .200 until 6/11. Following that season, however, Marrero was dealt to Kansas City, then to Baltimore in June 2005. Marrero didn't hit much for either club and settled for a MiLB deal from the Rockies for '06. 

But after hitting .204, 6, 15 in 55 games with the Rockies and Mets that year, the once-promising Marrero was done in the big leagues. St. Louis signed him to a MiLB deal for 2007, but released him from AAA in May of that year after one game, his last as a professional.

Marrero's nephews Deven and Chris have played in the majors (the former remains active) and his son Elih was a 2018 #8 pick by the Red Sox.

Eli Marrero appeared annually in Topps 1998-2005, except 2002. He's also got a 2005 Update card as a new Oriole.

CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals

 
Topps Fred Lewis
Topps Fred Lewis

9/2/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #545 Fred Lewis, Giants

More Fred Lewis Topps Cards: 2007 2008 2009 2010U 2011

Whenever I think former Giants OF Fred Lewis, five glorious words come to mind each time

"I'm tryin' to go yard."

I don't recall the exact context, but it was basically Lewis sharing his approach in the batters box. The quote became a popular "drop" at the Giants' flagship radio station for years to come, and while it didn't excuse the frequent strikeouts that eventually stalled Lewis's progress at the plate, at least it explained it.

Here, Lewis has just concluded his second consecutive season spent entirely on the Giants roster. Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly as productive or encouraging a season as his impressive 2008 campaign, although Lewis still finished second on the team with a .348 OBP.

THIS CARD: The oft-exciting Lewis slides into third base against the visiting Rockies. We weren't able to pull this image up on Getty, meaning we can't narrow down the date. And while one of Lewis's three 2009 triples came at Colorado's expense, it was hit at Coors Field, so for all we know this is Lewis bizarrely sliding into 3B on a balk (though I think I'd remember that).

Lewis was a far better hitter at then-AT&T Park in 2009 (.288 versus.228 away), something precious few lefty hitters not named Bonds can claim.

More from Lewis's 2009 season: he started 49 of the Giants' first 59 games that year, and hit .339 through his first 18 games and .294 through 35 contests. From there, Lewis cooled, though not enough to lose his roster spot. On 6/19, his homer off Scott Feldman of Texas proved to be the gam-winner, and a month later Lewis missed his second career cycle by a homer.

(flip) On-again, off-again starter was highly accurate in 2009; Lewis started just 21 of San Francisco's final 103 games—a starting pitcher's ratio.

That cycle took place on Mother's Day 2007.

Both of Lewis's slams were hit on the road, both scored Randy Winn, and both powered Giants victories. Philadelphia's Adam Eaton and Cincinnati's Matt Belisle served them up; Lewis never hit another slam in the big leagues

AFTER THIS CARD: Lewis spent most of April 2010 on the Giants DL before being sent to the Blue Jays, for whom he started 102 games across the OF and DH (yes, SF gave Lewis a World Series ring). Though his final numbers weren't awful, K's continued to be a problem and Lewis was not re-signed by the Jays. He spent most of 2011 as a part-timer for the Reds, but following a 3-for-20 showing for the 2012 Mets, Lewis's pro career ended at 31.

Fred Lewis appeared in 2007-11 Topps, as well as 2010 Topps Update as a new Blue Jay.

CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, San Francisco Giants

 
Topps Zach Duke
Topps Zach Duke

9/3/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps #307 Zach Duke, Cardinals

More Zach Duke Topps Cards: 2004 2005U 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2015 2015U 2016 2016U 

For half a season (2005), SP Zach Duke of the Pirates seemed poised to become one of the better young lefties in the National League. Though he was never able to reach that level, he still lasted five more seasons in a Pirates rotation hurting for any sort of quality arms. After the 2010 campaign, Duke was traded to the Diamondbacks.

For the next three seasons, Duke bounced between four organizations as both a starter and reliever, without much impact. But in 2013, after a "reinvention", Duke found success out of the bullpen and was able to extend his career just as the thin ice it was on started to crack.

Here, the 34-year-old is coming off a quality half-season with the Cardinals, who acquired him from the White Sox in a deadline trade. Duke made an excellent first impression, allowing just one earned run in 14 August appearances.

THIS CARD: Duke appears set to snap off one of his breaking balls from his 2013-born sidearm angle. Both righties (.203) and lefties (.233) had trouble picking him up in 2016.

Among Cardinals, I'll always associate #29 with Vince Coleman and Chris Carpenter. Current Cards closer Alex Reyes, until his recent slump, was doing some special things with #29 on his back this season.

More from Duke's 2016 season: his lone Cardinals save came on 8/30, when he struck out Brewers PH Manny Pina with a 2-1 lead, loaded bases and two outs in the 10th! Duke's lone White Sox save of 2016 went down 6/22; he pitched a scoreless 9th against Boston when CL David Robertson and setup man Nate Jones were not available.

(flip) Duke obviously led neither league in appearances in 2016, but his 81 total were one behind MLB leader Brad Hand of San Diego.

That Trade With White Sox sent OF prospect Charlie Tilson to Chicago. Tilson played one game for the 2016 Sox, then slugged under .300 for them in 95 games from 2018-19. This is one of those trades most would describe as a "wash".

Duke's Twitter handle remains unchanged today, though he's not overly active (his last five posts are retweets, the most recent from 9/2/21.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Thought to be out for all of 2017 following UCL and flexor tendon surgeries in October 2016, Duke blew everybody away when he returned to the mound in July 2017! Among the 15 Cardinal pitchers to make 25 or more appearances that year, Duke's 1.036 WHIP was second-lowest. 

In January 2018, Duke signed with Minnesota (1Y/$2.15M plus incentives), but was traded to Seattle at the Trade Deadline. Despite less-than-impressive numbers in Seattle, the Reds signed Duke for 2019 (1Y/$2M), but cut him that July after he walked 18 and allowed four homers in 23 innings. He's been out of baseball since, though he has not officially retired.

Zach Duke debuted in 2004 Topps as a First-Year Player, returned in 2005 Update, then appeared annually 2006-11. After a three-set hiatus Duke returned in 2015-17 Topps, as well as 2015-16 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals

 
Topps Tino Martinez
Topps Tino Martinez

9/5/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #377 Tino Martinez, Mariners

More Tino Martinez Topps Cards: 1988T 1991 1992 1993 1994 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2004T 2005

Here, Martinez has just completed his third season as Seattle's primary 1B. Despite the shortened 1994 season, issues with the Kingdome and a stint on the DL, the 26-year-old easily set career highs in home runs and slugging. Martinez slugged .705 in 24 games after the All-Star break.

THIS CARD: Martinez does not look like himself here. I would have believed this was Paul Sorrento before I believed it was Martinez.

We got Martinez feeding the pitching machine, but with both batting gloves on. I can only hope he was not feeding the machine to pitch to himself.

The young veteran makes his second appearance in COTD; we profiled his final Topps card (2005) in August 2018.

(flip) The good old days when every team used initials for teammates with shared last names. Edgar Martinez never looked right without the "E" on his back after Tino departed Seattle.

Martinez was limited to those 97 games in 1994 by a 

Elected to the Pro Scouts Hall of Fame in 2015, Luke Wrenn scouted for Seattle 1984-89 (where he also signed Mike Hampton) and Boston 1990-99 (where he signed Nomar Garciaparra) before joining the Diamondbacks from 2001 to at least 2015. Keon Broxton seems to be the only active major leaguer he's credited with signing.

AFTER THIS CARD: Martinez exploded for .293, 31, 111 in 1995 and made his first All-Star team. But rather than pony up the raise he was surely due, the Mariners dealt Martinez to the Yankees...on his 27th birthday (12/7/95). He was quickly extended (5Y/$20.25M) by New York.

Taking over for the iconic Don Mattingly at 1B, Martinez helped the '96 Yankees to a World Series title. In 1997 he was AL MVP runner-up (.296, 44, 141) and in 1998, his controversial Game 1 grand slam helped New York to a sweep of San Diego in the 1998 World Series.

Martinez never quite returned to that MVP level of 1997, but he put up (mostly) solid numbers for the Yankees through 2001 before signing with St. Louis (3Y/$21M) to replace another icon, Mark McGwire. After a pair of somewhat disappointing years there, the almost-36-year-old was traded to Tampa Bay for two failed prospects; Martinez supplied a decent 2004 campaign before returning to the Yankees on a 1Y/$3M deal.

Martinez enjoyed a torrid May 2005 in which he led the league with 10 total bombs, but scuffled the rest of the way (.232 AVG, .351 SLG) and was not brought back for '06. He retired soon after, and was eventually given a plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park.

 

After some TV work for ESPN, Martinez joined the Marlins as hitting coach. It ended poorly.

 

Tino Martinez debuted in 1988 Traded as an Olympian, then appeared annually in Topps 1991-2005. He's also in 2004 Traded & Rookies.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Seattle Mariners

 
Topps Home Run Derby
Topps Albert Pujols

9/6/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps Update #300 Albert Pujols, Home Run Derby

More Albert Pujols Home Run Derby Topps Cards: 2007 2015

Just yesterday, against my Giants, Prince Albert Pujols took Jake McGee deep in the 9th inning with a man on, cutting the Dodgers' deficit to 6-4...just enough to make us Giants fans sweat (though they did hold on for the win).

So it's somewhat fitting to present a Pujols card dedicated to his home run prowess. Through 9/5/2021 he's homered 678 times during the regular season, 19 times during the postseason, at least 54 times during Spring Training and approximately 64,521 times during batting practice, so it's fair to say Pujols knows a thing or two about hitting a baseball over a wall.

Here, he's fresh off sending 11 balls into orbit at Busch Stadium III, his home park, in the 2009 Home Run Derby. The setup/rules of 2009 were nothing like those today, as we'll explain below.

THIS CARD: Yes, kids, once upon a time the game's very best home run hitters could be found in the Home Run Derby—they weren't worried about jacking up their swing for the season's second half. Pujols competed against fellow National Leaguers Prince Fielder (MIL), Ryan Howard (PHI) and Adrian Gonzalez (SD), along with Nelson Cruz (TEX) Joe Mauer (MIN) Carlos Pena (TB) and, uh, Brandon Inge (DET; not a misprint) from the American League.

Derby rules of 2009: in the 10-out Round 1, the Top 4 sluggers advanced to a 10-out Round 2. The Top 2 combined Round 1 and 2 mashers advanced to the 10-out Finals, where the highest HR tally would claim the trophy...SO MUCH SIMPLER than the rules of recent years. Pujols advanced to Round 2, but it was Fielder (17 homers) and Cruz (16) who reached the Finals. The former won.

(flip) Pujols wound up leading MLB with 47 total homers in 2009 en route to his third MVP award.

If you haven't already, check out Pujols' return to St. Louis as an Angel in 2019 and a Dodger in 2021...those Cardinals fans still go gaga for him a decade after his departure.

Pujols edged Pena and Mauer 2-1-0 in the five-out swing-off made necessary when all three finished with five homers in the first round.

AFTER THIS CARD: The 2009 Home Run Derby was Pujols' third (2003, 2007) and he would appear one final time in the 2015 Derby at Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark.

There, Joc Pederson of the Dodgers edged Pujols 12-11 in the Semifinals (the setup/rules had changed drastically by then). I'm sure Pederson, being the Dodger that he was, relied on underhandedness somehow.

Albert Pujols received Home Run Derby cards in 2007, 2009 and 2015 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps Update, Home Run Derby

 
Topps Lance Parrish
Topps Lance Parrish

9/7/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps Traded #96 Lance Parrish, Angels

More Lance Parrish Topps Cards: 1987 1987T 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993

I've always been fascinated by Lance Parrish. Here is a guy who whacked 324 home runs—a ton for a catcher—was a perennial All-Star, won three Gold Gloves AND was a World Series champion to boot. Yet, he received exactly 1.7% of the Hall of Fame vote from the BBWAA.

I admit to not seeing most of Parrish's glory years, so I can't supply reliable testimony of what he brought to the Tigers and Angels the way I could, say, Buster Posey. Maybe Parrish was held back because 278 of those homers came when the Tigers already led or trailed by six runs. Perhaps he was a giant turd, though I have not heard or read anything depicting him as such.

It's gotta be the Alfonso Soriano reasoning. Soriano put up some great numbers for the Yankees, Cubs and others, but watching him day in, day out, you just knew he was NOT a Hall-of-Fame player. I guess Parrish just wasn't, either...

Here, after two disappointing years with the Phillies (who signed him as a free agent for 1Y/$800K plus a $200K health incentive in March 1987, then re-signed him for 1988), Parrish has just been traded to the California Angels. I'm not entirely sure how the Phillies had the right to trade Parrish, but it had something to do with the famous MLB collusion case of the late 1980's that affected a number of big leaguers.

THIS CARD: If Parrish looks like a big man with long limbs here, it's because Parrish was/is a big man with long limbs. He batted with his back nearly facing the mound, not unlike Giancarlo Stanton but more exaggerated.

Parrish wore #13 for 17 of his 19 MLB seasons, only forgoing it as a 1992 Mariner (where Omar Vizquel claimed it) and a 1994 Pirate (where Carlos Garcia claimed it).

Among Angels, Parrish is certainly the most notable #13 ever, with only Maicer Izturis coming within three football fields of him.

More from Parrish's early 1989 season: he went 4-for-4 with his first SB since 1985 in his second game as an Angel on 4/5. And on 5/26, Parrish's 250th career homer backed the first shutout of Chuck Finley's career.

(flip) Parrish, in fact, turned down that scholarship to play baseball...a sound decision.

In that 1974 draft, Parrish went #16 overall. He was better than everyone taken ahead of him except Dale Murphy, who went 5th to Atlanta, and maybe Garry Templeton, who went 13th to St. Louis.

As you see, Parrish only hit .215 overall in 1988, but he still made the NL All-Star team after a .229, 12, 47 first half. You'd think reigning NL Rookie of the Year Benito Santiago would have made it on popularity alone...but nope.

AFTER THIS CARD: Parrish enjoyed a bounce-back 1989 season and was rewarded with a 3Y/$6.75M deal that winter...big money for the times. He then set the Angels franchise record for catchers with 24 homers in 1990 (a record which still stands) but fell to .216 in 1991 and was released in June 1992 following two DL stints.

Parrish finished 1992 as a part-timer with Seattle. He seemed done after amassing all of 24 MLB plate appearances in 1993 (with the Indians in May), but Parrish won a backup job with the 1994 Pirates and batted .270 in 40 games. The 39-year-old finally finished his career in 1995, batting .202, 4, 22 in 70 games with the Toronto Blue Jays.

After retiring, Parrish coached at various spots in the majors and minors, including stints with Detroit 1999-2001 and 2003-05. At last check, he was working as a special assistant for the Tigers.

Lance Parrish appeared in Topps 1978-1993; he also turns up in 1987 and 1989 Topps Traded. 1995 and 1996 Collector's Choice features Parrish the Pirate and Blue Jay, respectively.

CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps Traded, California Angels

 
Topps Aroldis Chapman
Topps Aroldis Chapman

9/9/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2021 Topps #157 Aroldis Chapman, Yankees

More Aroldis Chapman Topps Cards: 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

It was 10/10/2016.

Conor Gillaspie, lefty PH for my Giants, stood in against turbo-armed Aroldis Chapman, closer for the Cubs. It was the 8th inning of NLDS Game 3, which the Giants trailed two games to zero.

Chapman, as he always did, brought some serious cheese. Gillaspie, a fringe big leaguer even in his "heyday", drove one of Chapman's heaters deep into the RCF gap, scoring the two go-ahead runs and sending then-AT&T Park into pandemonium. At this point I was convinced the Giants were a team of destiny and would soon extend their even-year championship streak.

That didn't happen, as we know, but that Gillaspie at-bat remains my #1 memory of the usually-invincible Chapman.

Here, Chapman is fresh off Year 4 of Stint 2 with the Yankees. He'd signed a 5Y/$86M deal with New York prior to the 2017 season, exercised an opt-out after the 2019 season, then re-signed for 2020-22 at $48M.

THIS CARD: Among players who appear in Topps seven years or more, the company does a good job mixing up the front images of about 75% of its subjects. Chapman falls into the 25% with redundant front images. His 2021 Topps image, which you see here, is almost identical to his 2020 Topps image, and his 2018 and 2019 Topps images almost match, too. Hopefully, before Chapman is through, we see him high-fiving teammates or fielding a bunt or something.

Welcome to the COTD rotation, 2021 Topps! I was not supposed to buy this set because I found it visually unappealing and didn't like the scaled-back set size. But what'tya know, here it is.

More from Chapman's 2020 season: he didn't pitch until mid-August due to a COVID bout—remember, the season opened in late July—and was brought along slowly. The rusty veteran allowed three runs across his first two appearances, but coughed up just one over his final 10 games.

(flip) No blurb, so we'll supply one: only three left-handers in MLB history (Randy Myers, Billy Wagner and John Franco) have saved more games than Chapman. He has allowed one ER in 13.0 career Division Series innings.

For all his accolades and ridiculous radar-gun readings, it's astounding Chapman has never led his league in saves. He might have in 2016 had he not been traded from the AL to the NL, however.

I almost laughed out loud when reading Chapman "Bats: Left". HAS Chapman ever batted in the big leagues? The answer, after researching, is...yes, once in 2013 and once in 2015. Half of me wants to dig up the video for amusement purposes, but out of respect to Chapman, I'll refrain.

AFTER THIS CARD: P--

Aroldis Chapman has appeared annually in Topps since 2011. He also appears in 2016 Topps Update as a new Cub.

CATEGORIES: 2021 Topps, New York Yankees

 
Topps Jamie Brewington
Topps Jamie Brewington

9/10/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #331 Jamie Brewington, Giants

More Jamie Brewington Topps Cards: n/a

Every team, every generation, has that guy. That guy who came on like gangbusters one year and then vanished into oblivion as quickly as he came. Out of nowhere, longtime fans might blurt out the question "What the hell ever happened to (insert temporary phenom)???"

A recent example for the Giants is SP Dereck Rodriguez, who dazzled in 2018 but was out of the organization within two years and out of MLB altogether soon after that.

A not-so-recent example for the Giants is SP Jamie Brewington, who dazzled in 1995 but never pitched for the Giants again. What the hell ever happened to Brewington? That's what Card Of The Day is here for, visitors...

THIS CARD: If you see Brewington's #30 and do a double-take because you haven't seen a Giant with that number in forever...that's because it was retired in 1999 for Orlando Cepeda. Granted, Cepeda hadn't been a Giant for 33 years by that time and a load of assembly-line forgettables (except Chili Davis) had since cycled through that number...but at least it got done.

Brewington receives a return throw at the late Candlestick Park, where he was 3-2, 3.51 in 1995. Quite the contrast from his 5.77 road ERA.

More from Brewington's 1995 season: he was called up in July and went 4-2, 3.10 in his first eight starts. September was not kind, however (7.83, and that includes a six shutout innings against Colorado in his penultimate start).

(flip) Who's "Jaime"?

Jim Brewington, a 6'6", 280 lb. defensive tackle, got in 14 games with the 1961 Raiders. No idea why his career was so brief, but he's still with us today at age 82.

As you see, Brewington averaged just under six innings per start for the 1995 Giants, but if you toss out a two-inning debacle at St. Louis, he reaches the threshold. Brewington completed seven innings in four of his first eight starts for San Francisco.

AFTER THIS CARD: Brewington was shelled in Spring Training 1996, and spent the entire year in the low minors. He split 1997 between the Royals and Brewers' farm systems, then underwent labrum surgery that sidelined him for 1998.

Brewington joined the Indians organization in 1999, scuffled a bit, but then opened the 2000 season on fire for AAA Buffalo. Cleveland called him up to their bullpen that June, and he produced an effective first month of action before finishing at 5.36 in 26 games. That would represent Brewington's final MLB run, though he did pitch in the Minnesota and Boston systems in 2001 and 2002, respectively, with a final pro showcase with the Independent League in 2004.

Jamie Brewington appeared in 1996 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, San Francisco Giants

 
Topps Mike Boddicker
Topps Mike Boddicker

9/11/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #652 Mike Boddicker, Red Sox

More Mike Boddicker Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991 1992 1993

Here, we catch up with the veteran SP Boddicker on the heels of his first full season with the Boston Red Sox, who traded for him in mid-1988. As always, he made every start and delivered well over 200 innings, finishing second on the team to Roger Clemens in most categories. On 9/23, Boddicker earned career victory #100 at Detroit.

THIS CARD: This has to be a Spring Training pic; I'm fairly sure Boston wasn't wearing that top in 1989 regular season games.

Boddicker makes his second Topps COTD appearance; we presented his 1993 Topps card in June 2020 (as society collapsed around us).

That's a pretty balanced, clean follow-through by Boddicker. Of course, he was anything but a hard thrower—how silly would he have looked falling off the mound after delivering an 83-MPH fastball?

More from Boddicker's 1989 season: from 6/30 to 7/25, he won all five of his starts. He also closed the season with three consecutive victories, putting the 7.31 ERA he posted in his first six starts well in the rearview mirror.

(flip) Those two 1989 shutouts, on 7/14 and 7/25, sandwiched Boddicker's 7/19 start of 6.1 scoreless innings. That equals 24.1 consecutive zeroes, people! (I checked; Boddicker allowed runs in the innings immediately before the first SHO and after the second SHO.)

I miss regular names like those of Boddicker's kids. Today, the boy would be named C'orre and his sister would be Bryttaneigh. I wish all major leaguers would time their kids' births for January...

(NO HATE LETTERS, PLEASE. I REALIZE IT'S NOT ALWAYS THAT SIMPLE.)

Those 34 games started in 1989 only ranked 8th in the American League! And those 211.2 innings  in 1989 only ranked 17th!!! It was a different time then, people, though it seems starters are getting a tad more leeway as the 2021 season advances.

AFTER THIS CARD: Boddicker won 17 games and a Gold Glove for the AL East champion Red Sox, then the Royals came calling, offering Boddicker 3Y/$9M in November 1990. He took it, but was only so-so for Kansas City in 1991. In 1992, he lost his rotation spot and lingered most of the year in long relief.

The Royals sold Boddicker to the Brewers in April '93; the veteran posted a 5.67 ERA in 10 Milwaukee starts and then announced his retirement mid-season. He was later elected to the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame.

Mike Boddicker debuted in 1981 Topps on a shared Orioles prospects card, then appeared annually 1984-1993. He's also got a 1991 Traded card as a new Royal.

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Boston Red Sox

 
Topps Matt Walbeck
Topps Matt Walbeck

9/13/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #471 Matt Walbeck, Twins

More Matt Walbeck Topps Cards: 1993 1994 1994T 1999 2000 2001

Pre-Willson Contreras, there were periods during my baseball fandom that the Chicago Cubs needed somebody, anybody, to step up and handle their catching duties. 

The year 1993 was not one of those periods. That was the year Rick Wilkins tore up the National League, and since the Cubs had no clear reason to believe he wouldn't continue to do so, catching prospect Matt Walbeck was out of luck in Chicago.

As it turned out, Wilkins did not continue tearing up the National (or American) League, but by the time his regression took hold, Walbeck had long since been traded to the Twins. Here, Walbeck's just wrapped up a challenging rookie campaign, one where his defense (39% CS) and game-calling (he caught Scott Erickson's no-hitter 4/27/1994) somewhat compensated for his suspect offense.

THIS CARD: Say what you will about Walbeck's athletic prowess, but the man was one good looking catcher. This is what I imagine the love child of J.T. Snow and Ben Davis would look like.

PHOTOGRAPHER: "Hey, Matt, got a minute?"

WALBECK: "Sure, what's up?"

PHOTOGRAPHER: "Wanna snap your pic. Can you take a knee and then look off to the side..."

WALBECK: "Sure—"

PHOTOGRAPHER: "...with an expression like you're seeing Rick Aguilera scratch behind his ears like a dog?"

WALBECK: "...I'll try!"

More from Walbeck's 1994 season: on 4/25, he notched three hits and three RBI in a win over Cleveland. He smoked a go-ahead grand slam and gunned two attempted base thieves in a win over Milwaukee 5/4, and on 5/20 he scored three and drove in two of Minnesota's 21 runs against Boston!

(flip) PHOTOGRAPHER: "Hey, Matt, got time for one more pic?"

WALBECK: "Okay...how should I look?"

PHOTOGRAPHER: "As if you're watching Kent Hrbek lather himself with butter."
WALBECK: "Done."

That 1989 knee injury? Jeff Branson, the future Reds infielder then playing for A Cedar Rapids, slid into Walbeck at home plate, tearing his ACL and MCL. He was out into the 1990 season, but went from a righty hitter to a switch-hitter during his rehab.

That Trade sent Walbeck and future Twins CL Dave Stevens to Minnesota in exchange for SP Willie Banks.

AFTER THIS CARD: Walbeck remained Minnesota's primary catcher into the 1996 season, but that year veteran Greg Myers cut into his playing time, and the Twins moved Walbeck to Detroit after the season. As an Anaheim Angel in 1998-99, Walbeck hit well enough to receive 170 starting assignments; that changed in 2000 when Bengie Molina emerged as the regular catcher.

In 2001, Walbeck received 339 at-bats—but 338 of them came in the minors (he went 1-for-1 with the Phillies). His final two seasons were split between Detroit and AAA Toledo; Walbeck batted .174 in 138 AB for the woeful 2003 Tigers and never played again.

Next, Walbeck spent several seasons managing in the minors and served as third base coach for the 2008 Rangers.

Matt Walbeck appeared in Topps 1993-95, and again in 1999-2001. He's also got a 1994 Traded card.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Minnesota Twins

 
Topps Kevin Gausman
Topps Kevin Gausman

9/14/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps Update #274 Kevin Gausman, Orioles

More Kevin Gausman Topps Cards: 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2018U 2019 2020 2021

Gausman, the 4th pick in the 2012 Draft out of Louisiana State, was in the majors less than a year later as Baltimore's starting corps disappointed. Out of the gate there were struggles, but the 22-year-old earned his first MLB win with 4.1 innings of relief against the Yankees 6/28/13.

THIS CARD: Gausman wears #37 here, but switched to #39 from 2014-17 and #34 in 2018. Reasons behind the first switch are unclear, but the second switch honored Hall-of-Famer Roy Halladay, who died in late 2017. (After more swaps, Gausman reclaimed #34 upon joining the Giants in 2020.)

I believe Gausman is about to fire his four-seamer, which flirted with triple digits in his youth. He also attacks with a splitter and changeup, and has employed a slider and/or a curve at various points in his career.

More from Gausman's early 2013 season: he was roughed up in three of his first five starts and spent the rest of the year relieving. Gausman was also optioned to AAA Norfolk twice over the summer.

This is Gausman's second COTD appearance, evidently. I don't recall the first, even though it was just nine months ago.

(flip) I hope Showalter at least signed the note; you don't want Gausman getting all excited thinking the message is from his significant other.

Unfortunately, Toronto was not all that impressed with the kid's heat or the stellar change; Gausman coughed up four runs, including a homer, on seven hits across five innings in his MLB debut.

Unless their salary reaches six digits, I don't know how the Topps staffer responsible for printing that Career Chase did so with any semblance of pride.

AFTER THIS CARD: After some more fluctuating in 2014-15, Gausman finally got 30 starts with the 2016 Orioles and posted a 3.61 ERA despite a 9-12 record. One year later, he made 34 starts but was only 11-12, 4.68. Near the 2018 Trade Deadline, the Orioles dealt Gausman (5-8, 4.43 at the time) to Atlanta, where he went 5-3, 2.87 down the stretch. 

The NL figured Gausman out in 2019, however, and he finished the year working out of the Reds bullpen. San Francisco picked him up for 2020 and he re-emerged as a dependable starter (3-3, 3.62 in 10 starts), leading to an accepted 1Y/$18.9M qualifying offer for 2021. Throughout the first half of '21, Gausman was San Francisco's ace before coming back to Earth somewhat.

Kevin Gausman has appeared in Topps 2014-21, as well as 2013 and 2018 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps Update, Baltimore Orioles

 
Topps Tommy La Stella
Topps Tommy La Stella

9/15/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps Update #29 Tommy La Stella, Angels

More Tommy La Stella Topps Cards: 2014U 2015 2018F 2020 2021

I didn't like La Stella for a little while. After spending much of the 2015-16 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, La Stella was optioned to AAA Iowa in July 2016, mostly due to a numbers crunch. 

Initially, he refused to go. La Stella, a reserve with minimal service time and limited upside, was actually telling the Cubs "No, I'm not going to the minors. I only want to play for the Chicago Cubs." Eventually he did report to the minors, and I was satisfied enough with his explanation to remove him from my doghouse. 

Here, following two more seasons as a Cubs reserve/PH, La Stella has been dealt to the Angels  (for a prospect). Suddenly, the 30-year-old found himself playing regularly (mostly at 2B but also at 3B) and boasted an incredible .302, 12, 31 line through 5/23/19!

THIS CARD: La Stella—our second straight current Giant selected for COTD—returns to Topps/Topps Update after not appearing in either since 2015 (though he did receive a card in the 2018 Topps Cubs Factory Team Set.)

La Stella attempts to turn two as his future A's teammate Marcus Semien charges in. According to GettyImages.com, this pic was snapped in the 5th inning on 3/29/19—the second game of the Angels' season.

At first glance, it appears La Stella got some serious dirt on Albert Pujols and now claimed his #5. But that's actually Chone Figgins' old #9 on the newcomer's jersey. 

(flip) One of those early 2019 homers was a grand slam in the bottom of the 9th...that cut the Angels deficit to 16-7.

Uh, whoever told La Stella to stop batting upright in the first place should be sued. Ten home runs in five seasons?! How much cash did he piss away?

That lone homer in 2018 was a go-ahead, two-run shot in the 6th at Atlanta. It held up as the game winner!

AFTER THIS CARD: La Stella's breakthrough 2019 campaign landed him on the AL All-Star team...but about a week before the game, he broke his own leg with a foul ball and didn't return to action until late September. In the shortened 2020 season, the veteran infielder started 53 games for the Angels and Athletics, who acquired him in a Deadline trade for IF Franklin Barreto.

My Giants inked La Stella to a 3Y/$18.75M deal in February 2021. Playing mostly 2B against righties, La Stella missed extensive time with a hamstring injury and hovered around the .250 mark all year.

Tommy La Stella has appeared in 2015, 2020 and 2021 Topps. He can also be found in 2014 and 2019 Topps Update as well as the 2018 Topps Cubs Factory Team Set.

CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps Update, Los Angeles Angels

 
Topps Hal Morris
Topps Hal Morris

9/17/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #773 Hal Morris, Reds

More Hal Morris Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999

Being a young first base prospect for the mid-to-late 1980's Yankees was a lot like being one of Jerry's girlfriends on Seinfeld. You got to be part of something prestigious, but you never had a real shot at a future in either role.

That brings us to Hal Morris, a Yankees 1B prospect who was relegated to pinch-hitting and late-game defense thanks to Don Mattingly's presence. Morris was a very good player, but Mattingly was a legend, so Morris was likely happier than anyone upon being traded to the Reds in December 1989.

Morris's torrid hitting earned him the Reds' 1B job during that 1990 season, one that ended with the Reds winning the World Series! In fact, the youngster hit more like Mattingly than Mattingly himself did in 1990.

Here, Morris and mates have just completed one of the worst World Series title defenses of my 31-year fandom. Cincy was 40-32 and within striking distance in the NLW in late June, but they soon collapsed, never to recover. This in spite of Morris's runner-up finish in the 1991 NL batting race and his seven tying or go-ahead home runs that year.

THIS CARD: It looks like Morris's right arm is protruding from the middle of his back. Topps is known for some interesting airbrushing (Photoshopping) in its day, but this time I think it's my own tricky eyes.

Morris wears #23, since been claimed by notable Reds such as C Jason LaRue in the '00's and OF Adam Duvall in the '10's (not to mention OF Greg Vaughn during his mighty 1999 season). This season, swingman Jeff Hoffman claimed it.

I'm about 70% sure this is pre-renovation Wrigley Field Morris slides at. Am I right? (Leaves to research) Yes I'm right. Today, there's a bullpen gate just left of that distance marker.

(flip) Morris did not play enough OF in 1991 to be listed as one. In fact, he played OF once that year and just six times the year before.

For God's sake, to be stuck with each other in college and the majors, I hope Morris and Larkin got along.

Among NLers, only league MVP Terry Pendleton of Atlanta outhit Morris in 1991 (.319).

Of Morris's 14 home runs in 1991, a whopping 12 were solo shots. And no, he wasn't batting leadoff.

AFTER THIS CARD: When healthy, Morris held down 1B for the Reds through 1997, batting over .300 five times in total and going 5-for-10 with five runs in the 1995 NLDS against the Dodgers (my man!)

With Cincinnati ready to move on from the high-salaried, oft-injured veteran, Morris jumped to KC for 1998 (1Y/$1M) during a worrisome personal period. But in a homer-happy 1998 season, the 33-year-old cleared just one fence in over 500 AB and was not re-signed.

From there, Morris returned to the Reds in a reserve role for 1999-00 before being sold to Detroit in July 2000. He sliced a walk-off single against Minnesota in his final at-bat that fall.

For a time, Morris worked in the Angels and Pirates scouting departments (not simultaneously).

Hal Morris appeared annually in Topps 1990-99.

CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Cincinnati Reds

 
Topps Tony Gwynn
Topps Tony Gwynn

9/18/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #1 Tony Gwynn, Star Power

More 1996 Topps Star Power Cards: #227 #230

TSR Refresher: the Star Power subset essentially replaced the All-Star subset in 1996 Topps. It was different, but ultimately unremarkable, and wound up a one-and-done creation. As with All-Star Topps cards of the 1980's and 1990's, Star Power subjects did not necessarily make that year's All-Star team.

After flirting with .400 in 1994, Tony Gwynn's "star" never shined brighter than it did entering the 1995 campaign. What did he do for a follow-up to that ridiculous '94 performance? 

  • Batted .400 through 5/14,

  • Batted .206 from 5/15 thru 6/3, then

  • Batted .389 from 6/4 to season's end.

Who does stuff like that?

Stars, that's who.

THIS CARD: We don't pull a ton of cards from the Topps Dark Era (1996-2000), but it seems like half of those we do pull are from subsets. That's because those sets, while smaller, did not reduce the size of the subsets much. So the subset-to-common ratio was somewhere around 10:1, compared to about 20:1 in the past.

As is well-known, Gwynn played his 20 years in MLB with three different bodies—the first one was sleek and allowed him to steal bases and win Gold Gloves, the second one was clearly thicker but didn't seem to drastically slow him much, and the third one was, well, massive. This is Gwynn's second body, the one he won his final four batting titles with.

This is the third Star Power card we've selected for COTD. We pulled Pudge Rodriguez's and Ken Griffey Jr's Star Power cards in June 2017 and December 2020, respectively.

(flip) For those of you not in a mathing mood, that's 90 RBI Gwynn totaled in 1995, a then-career high (by far) and second-most on the Padres to Ken Caminiti's 94.

Gwynn played five games in April because the 144-game 1995 season started in late April rather than late March...stupid strike.

Star Power appeared in both series of 1996 Topps. It occupied cards #1-12 (except #7, a Mickey Mantle commemorative card) and #221-230.

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Subsets

 
Topps Carlos Martinez
Topps Carlos Martinez

9/19/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #634 Carlos Martinez, Cardinals

More Carlos Martinez Topps Cards: 2014 2015 2016 2017 2019 2020 2021

Just to be clear, this covers the two-time All-Star starting pitcher—and for one season, effective closer—of the St. Louis Cardinals, not the late outfielder who homered off Jose Canseco's head 28 years ago. 

Not sure which of the two is more famous.

We (coincidentally) present the once-tantalizing Martinez two days before his 30th birthday. Martinez, who at times reminded me of (unrelated) Hall-of-Fame SP Pedro Martinez in his youth, was among the game's best righties from 2015-17. He went 42-27, 3.24 in that period in spite of a bit of on and off-field drama.

Here, Martinez is coming off a very good 2017 campaign. The 25-year-old inked a 5Y/$51M extension in February, then started for St. Louis on Opening Day! Though he made his second All-Star team in '17, Martinez was not his sharpest down the stretch as the Cardinals' playoff hopes faded. 

THIS CARD: Martinez cycled through #62 and #44 before adopting late teammate Oscar Taveras's #18 in 2015. Past notable Cardinal #18's include OF Andy Van Slyke in the '80's, IF Luis Alicea in the '90's, and coach Dave Duncan from 1996-2011.

Here, we see Martinez after whipping off either his gas (which could reach triple digits at one point), his effective slider, his tailing changeup, or his less-frequent curveball. Topps' redundancy officer has failed Martinez the past three years—his 2019-21 Topps front images are far too similar.

More from Martinez's 2017 season: in that Opening Day assignment, he walked zero and whiffed 10 across 7.1 innings against the Cubs, but still took a no-decision. In fact, he was 0-3, 4.71 in April 2017 before a 6-2, 2.06 reversal in his next nine starts. On 5/20, Martinez threw nine shutout innings against the Giants...but received no run support of his own as San Francisco won in the 13th.

(flip) As you see, the 5/20 debacle didn't prevent Martinez from leading the NL in shutouts. He also tied for the league lead in CG (2), which used to be discoverable on a Topps card.

Martinez has not realized that dream yet, although he carried a no-hitter into the 7th in May 2021.

Those social media handles are still active; Martinez posts semi-regularly on Twitter in both English and Spanish, but only has eight total visible IG posts (all of which you'd expect from a $51M man).

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2018, Martinez was once again tabbed to start on Opening Day, but the year proved to be a disappointment as he battled lat and oblique injuries and finished the year in the bullpen. Martinez opened 2019 on the IL (rotator cuff), returned in mid-May, then took over for injured closer Jordan Hicks in July and finished with 24 saves.

St. Louis returned Martinez to the rotation in a disastrous 2020 (COVID bout, 0-3, 9.90 in five starts). He still hadn't totally found his form in 2021 (4-9, 6.23 in 16 starts) when thumb surgery ended his season in July. If the Cards pick up Martinez's $17M option for 2022, it is because he has compromising video of team prez John Mozeliak.

Carlos Martinez has appeared annually in Topps 2014-21.

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals

 
Topps Matt LeCroy
Topps Matt LeCroy

9/21/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #667 Matt LeCroy, Twins

More Matt LeCroy Topps Cards: 1999 2001T 2004 2005

Matt LeCroy once had such a terrible game behind the plate, his manager Frank Robinson wound up in tears. That's the short version; click here for the full explanation.

Overall, LeCroy was a decent player for several major league seasons, most notably for the Twins. Here, the rookie receiver is part of a four-headed catching monster for the 2000 Twins and manager Tom Kelly. LeCroy—who started on Opening Day—got the most playing time of the bunch, though that didn't translate to impressive stats.

THIS CARD: Why is LeCroy going around wearing Tom Brunansky's number? (Although I grew up accustomed to Shane Mack wearing #24 in Minnesota.)

For some reason, LeCroy also has a 2001 Topps Traded card, depicting him with...the Twins.

More from LeCroy's 2000 season: on 6/11, the Brewers attempted six steals on  the defensively-limited LeCroy, who was able to erase two of the thieves. His first MLB hit was a double off Tampa Bay's Steve Trachsel on Opening Day, and on 4/14 his two-run double in the B8th keyed a six-run  Twins rally against the Baltimore Orioles!

(flip) When a player opens a season with a team, THEN is demoted to the minors, Topps usually lists the major league team ahead of the minor league team(s) in the stats. They don't do it here—LeCroy was sent to the minors in mid-June and didn't return until mid-September.

Unfortunately, LeCroy left his hot bat in Salt Lake, only batting 4-for-20 in eight games upon returning to the Twins.

For those of you with limited math skillz, that's 30 HR and 99 RBI LeCroy totaled in 1999. Somewhat surprisingly, he did not rank near the top of MiLB in either category.

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2001, A.J. Pierzynski took over as the Twins #1 catcher, with veteran newcomer Tom Prince as his backup. That left LeCroy on the outside looking in until September, when he batted 17-for-40 (.425) after being recalled from AAA Edmondton.

LeCroy finally stuck in the majors in 2003, when he started 88 games across DH, C and 1B for the now-contending Twins; the 27-year-old batted .287 with 17 home runs and seemed on his way.

Pierzynski was traded after the 2003 season, which might have been a good development for LeCroy had the deal not cleared space for hometown megaprospect Joe Mauer. And though Mauer wound up missing much of the '04 campaign, LeCroy remained in his 2003 role, receiving most of his run at DH with occasional work behind the plate.

By 2005, however, LeCroy was essentially done catching; that year he hit 17 more homers as a part-time DH/1B for the Twins. Following that referenced 2006 season with Washington, LeCroy took his final 20 major league at-bats for the Twins in September 2007 after over a year back in AAA. He enjoyed a strong (.326, 22, 83) 2008 season in the Independent League before retiring.

Since then, LeCroy has worked in the Nationals organization, mostly as a minors manager but also as Nats bullpen coach for two seasons under manager Matt Williams 2014-15.

Matt LeCroy appeared in 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2005 Topps, with a redundant 2001 appearance in Topps Traded.

CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Minnesota Twins

 
Topps Kenny Rogers
Topps Kenny Rogers

9/22/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps Update #226 Kenny Rogers, All-Star

More Kenny Rogers All-Star Topps Cards: n/a

Rangers southpaw Kenny Rogers began his MLB career as a middle reliever, ascended to closing for a time, then became a full-time starter in 1993. For most of the next 16 seasons he was among the better lefties in baseball—Yankees tenure notwithstanding—and at times he stood among the very best.

And when you're among the best, you find yourself on All-Star rosters. In 2006, the new Detroit Tiger was not only named to the Midsummer Classic for the third straight season and fourth overall, but he was chosen to start after going 11-3, 3.85 for the upstart Tigers in the first half of '06.

THIS CARD: I promise you, Rogers was not the psycho he appears to be in this unflattering image. Yes, he did angrily knock that cameraman down that time, but come on—EVERY celebrity has wanted to do that at some point.

This was the last Topps All-Star subset with graphics even partially varied from the regular commons. The company's insistence upon using matching graphics for subsets and commons today costs me at least three sorting mistakes annually.

It isn't stated anywhere on this card that the 2006 All-Star Game was held at Pittsburgh's five-year-old PNC Park. Rogers pitched two career regular-season games there: an excellent 2002 start and a rough 2006 start just before the Break.

(flip) I was surprised to learn Rogers made just one All-Star team between 1993 and 2003. Who else did the 1998 Oakland Athletics have to represent them??

Rogers allowed the game-tying run in the '95 All-Star Game, didn't pitch in the '04 All-Star Game, and his '05 All-Star inning was one to forget. So I've got to give the guy credit for even accepting his '06 assignment—today's "stars" would find an excuse to stay home.

The oldest pitcher to start an All-Star Game was Roger Clemens, who was 41 years, 11 months and nine days when he started for the NL in 2004.

Expanding on that First Half Best Stat: it's criminal Rogers didn't start full-time until he was 28. The man still won 219 games (although, to be fair, he enjoyed two 10-win seasons as a reliever).

AFTER THIS CARD: Rogers never came close to returning to the Classic, as he lost ⅔ of 2007 to injury and was wholly ineffective in 2008, his final season.

This was Kenny Rogers' lone All-Star Topps card.

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps Update, All-Stars

 
Topps Jeff Kent
Topps Jeff Kent

9/23/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #265 Jeff Kent, Giants

More Jeff Kent Topps Cards: 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 2003T 2004 2005 2005U 2006 2007 2008

Warm and fuzzy, he was not. 

Somebody you wanted to pitch to in a big spot, he also was not.

When my Giants traded for Jeff Kent (and others) in the winter of 1996, I responded by going on my first and only ever Giants boycott. 16-year-old me was too dumb to understand that sacrificing Matt Williams allowed the Giants—who stunk in 1996—to improve in multiple areas. Eventually, I came around in time to watch Kent and the rest of the 1997 Giants clinch the NL West.

Originally a Blue Jay, Kent was dealt to the Mets (for All-Star SP David Cone) in his rookie season of 1992. Kent spent the next three-plus seasons putting up good (not great) numbers as the Mets' regular 2B and later, 3B. He joined Cleveland in a mid-1996 trade (for 2B Carlos Baerga), gaining his first postseason experience before reaching San Francisco.

As a Giant, Kent returned to 2B and blossomed into a star batting behind Barry Bonds. From 1997-2000 Kent averaged .293, 29, 119 and beat out Bonds for the NL MVP award in 2000 (.334, 33, 125). Here, the 33-year-old is coming off a 2001 season that slightly disappointed by his high standard, but was still envied by most. Kent eclipsed 100 RBI for the fifth straight year, made his third straight All-Star team, and shattered Jack Clark's team record for doubles in a season.

THIS CARD: This is an interesting photo. For anyone wondering, I watched Kent's entire Giants career. Though this photo suggests it, I can assure you he did NOT wait to hand his bat to the batboy upon hitting the ball.

Kent, throughout his Topps career, received some of the best front image variety I've seen from the company...until he joined the Dodgers. Clearly, the Topps redundancy prevention officer was a Giants fan too traumatized to continue in his role after Kent's migration to the enemy.

More from Kent's 2001 season: he enjoyed a 13-game hit streak from 5/27 thru 6/9, and was at .300 on 10/5 before a 1-for-6 in the final two games of the year dropped him to .298. On 5/13, Kent ripped his 200th career homer versus the Mets.

(flip) The Giants won that 5/1 game 11-6 at Pittsburgh; Kent's seven RBI included a three-run homer, a three-run double and an RBI double. Bonds was walked in each of his first four PA that day, and when the Bucs pitched to him trailing 9-3 late, Bonds struck out swinging.

That looks like Candlestick Park behind Kent. Modern day Topps typically refrains from using pics from prior seasons (except for injured players); I don't know what the story is here.

Bellflower is located just south of Los Angeles (and east of Compton).

AFTER THIS CARD: Kent's 3Y/$18M deal was set to expire after 2001, but the Giants picked up his $6M option for 2002. That year, when he wasn't falling from his motorcycle or fighting in the dugout with Bonds, Kent was batting .313, 37, 108 to help San Francisco back to the World Series! They lost to the Angels, however, and Kent signed with Houston as a free agent that winter (2Y/$18.2M).

In two Astros seasons, Kent supplied 49 homers and 200 RBI, then signed with the Dodgers for 2Y/$17M in December 2004. At this point, I turned on Kent the same way I turn on most ex-Giants who join the Dodgers (Sergio Romo was a rare exception).

Kent made his fifth and final All-Star team in 2005, but lost five weeks of 2006 to wrist and oblique injuries and was part of a classic blooper in that year's NLDS against the Mets. Still, the Dodgers extended Kent through 2007 (.302, 20, 79 in 136 games) and despite some frustrations with the team, he honored his vested option for 2008.

Even after Kent recovered from knee surgery in August 2008, the Dodgers went with youngster Blake DeWitt at 2B down the stretch. After serving as a PH in the '08 postseason, Kent retired as the all-time MLB leader in homers by a 2B—which was supposed to make him an easy Cooperstown choice. But he's maxed at 32.4% of the vote and will only remain on the ballot through 2023.

(Oh, and after hearing a couple of his post-retirement interviews, I forgave Kent for being a "traitor".)

Jeff Kent appeared annually in Topps 1993-2008, and also can be found in 2003 Traded and 2005 Update. (The 1992 Leaf and Pinnacle sets feature Kent as a Blue Jay, if you care.)

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, San Francisco Giants

 
Topps Postseason Highlights
Topps Postseason Highlights

9/25/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #227 Postseason Highlights

More 2000 Topps Postseason Highlight Cards: n/a

The 1999 American League Championship Series pitted the storied Yankees against the cursed Red Sox for the first time in postseason history—it wasn't possible for the division rivals to clash in October until the advent of the Wild Card in 1994-95.

Since then, the two franchises have made sure to clash in the postseason every two or three years.

The five-game series had its share of controversy (in the form of "The Phantom Tag"), but unlike future NYY/BOS series, no gloves were slapped, the benches never cleared and nobody was shoved or thrown to the ground. In fact, the closest thing to discord might have been Red Sox fans giving it to their former hero, Roger Clemens, after his early exit in Game 3.

THIS CARD: On the right is Yankees semi-legend Bernie Williams, high-fiving coach Willie Randolph after his walk-off home run in the B10th of ALCS Game 1. Boston's Rod Beck served it up.

As you can see, I chose not to use the actual "League Championship HGLGT" title of this card because A) what the hell is HGLGT, and B) it's best we have a consistent label for the entire subset.

Once again, we pick a Subset card from the Topps Dark Era (1996-2000). This is the third straight Subset card we've selected from 2000 Topps...hello, Randomizer? Maybe I WANT to talk about Homer Bush!

(flip) Williams, in his 16 seasons with the Yankees, hit .275, 22, 80 in 121 postseason games. And no doubt most of that came, as the blurbs indicates, when New York truly needed it.

That 1996 home run was served up by Baltimore's Randy Myers in the B11th, sealing a 5-4 win. Other than the drastic differences between Beck and Myers on-and-off the field...the similarities are striking.

 

I love the title font. 2022 Topps will employ something similar, according to previews. 

AFTER THIS CARD: Boston and New York faced off in: the 2003 ALCS (won by New York), the 2004 ALCS (won by Boston after trailing 3-0), and the 2018 ALDS (won by Boston). Not to mention virtually every regular season Sunday night on ESPN.

While the Yankees went on to World Series glory in 1999 (and again in 2000), the Red Sox own almost all subsequent bragging rights. They emphatically squashed the "Curse Of The Bambino" in 2004 and added titles in 2007, 2013 and 2018. The Yankees, by contrast, have just one trophy (2009) in the past 20 seasons. 

One title in 20 years would satisfy the Colorado, Milwaukee and Texas organizations, but by Yankee standards...let's just say George Steinbrenner would have wrecked some lives over such a drought.


Both teams have a reasonable shot at going all the way in 2021, though Boston's starters are slightly more suspect.

CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Subses

 
Topps Alex Kirilloff
Topps Alex Kirilloff

9/26/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2021 Topps #413 Alex Kirilloff, Twins

More Alex Kirilloff Topps Cards: n/a

Alex Kirilloff is supposed to be mighty talented. He's really got skillz, everyone says. The numbers have supported those reports—at Class A in 2018, Kirilloff batted .348, 20, 101 and opened 2019 as baseball's #15 prospect per Baseball America. A sprained wrist cost him several weeks of the 2019 season, however, and like loads of other prospects, he didn't play in the COVID-impacted 2020 season.

Here, however, Kirilloff has landed on the 2021 Twins' early-season roster. After opening the year in the minors, the 23-year-old joined Minnesota for a 4/14 doubleheader against Boston. He was quickly returned to AAA St. Paul.

THIS CARD: A SECOND 2021 Topps selection in two weeks? Awesome. I don't get to talk nearly enough about active players or newer Topps sets in COTD.

This is one of my favorite cards of the entire set. Almost any card using the "center field camera" angle is a treat for this collector.  

Kirilloff only wore #19 with the 2021 Twins, meaning this image has to be from the 2020 postseason (the kid made his big league debut in October, as is the recent trend). Thanks to GettyImages.com, I can tell you this pic was shot during Game 2 of the Wild Card round vs. Houston, 9/30/2020—also known as Kirilloff's debut game.

(flip) Pensacola was Minnesota's AA team in 2019. It is now defunct.

If I'm Kirilloff, I'm admonishing anybody who mentions me in a sentence with Mauer, especially in Minnesota. Then I'm going out of my way to compare myself to a less revered ex-Twin like...Ben Revere. There's a lot less pressure trying to live up to Revere comparisons.

The Twins made Kirilloff the #15 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, out of Plum High School in Pittsburgh. OF Kyle Lewis, SP Cal Quantrill and SP Ian Anderson are among the notables taken ahead of him.

AFTER THIS CARD: Kirilloff returned to the Twins 4/23/2021 and received extensive run at the corner outfield spots as well as 1B. He was hitting .259, 8, 34 in 59 games when a torn wrist ligament that he'd been playing through for weeks finally forced him to the operating room in July. Minnesota remains eager to see what Kirilloff can do over 400+ healthy at-bats.

Alex Kirilloff has appeared in 2021 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2021 Topps, Minnesota Twins

 
Topps J.C. Ramirez
Topps J.C. Ramirez

9/27/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #568 J.C. Ramirez, Angels

More J.C. Ramirez Topps Cards: 2017 2019

For a few days, at least, J.C. Ramirez was one of the more talked about players in the game. You see, the then-Mariners prospect was part of Philadelphia's return when it swapped star SP Cliff Lee to the Mariners in December 2009. Then, as news of the trade died down, Ramirez' name faded back into the shadows.

Eventually, in 2013, Ramirez reached the majors with Philly, making 18 relief appearances before being let go that winter. He resurfaced with the 2015 Diamondbacks and moved through the Mariners and Reds bullpens—with limited success—before being acquired by the Angels off waivers in June 2016.

THIS CARD: Ramirez is about to attack with either his 95-MPH fastball, his slider, his splitter, or the curve he reintroduced for his return to starting in 2017.

Ramirez also wore #66 during his Phillies stint before adopting #56 at his next two MLB stops. He reverted to #66 as a 2016 Red and kept it with the Halos. Surprisingly, he's the third Angel (Jose Arredondo and Edgar Ibarra, the latter of whom I'd never heard of) to wear #66 during the regular season; a fourth, SP Janson Junk, claimed it in 2021.

More from Ramirez's 2017 season: he resumed full-time starting for the first time since 2011 with AA Reading (Phillies). Ramirez paced Los Angeles in wins and finished second on the (perennially pitching-starved) club in starts and innings despite opening the year in the bullpen and closing the year on the DL with an elbow strain suffered 8/19/17.

(flip) The blurb rehashes everything I just said. Or I rehashed everything the blurb said. Depends on what you read first, obviously.

As you see, Ramirez put up good numbers after joining the Angels in 2016, and being out of options helped him make their 2017 roster almost as much as his quality arm did. He made three RA during 2017 Opening Week and racked up two of those 11 wins.

The J.C. stands for Juan Carlos, FYI.

Of those 105 K in 2017, 25 of them came during a late April, three-start, 17.2-inning rampage through the AL West during which Ramirez blew away nine Astros, seven Athletics and nine Rangers. Only once did he register as many as seven K in a start all season.

AFTER THIS CARD: Sadly, after two ineffective starts to open the 2018 campaign, Ramirez underwent UCL surgery and didn't return to MLB until July 2019. The 31-year-old made five relief appearances for the Angels, with diminished velocity, before being outrighted to AAA in mid-August 2019. He's been out of the majors since, though he spent 2021 pitching professionally in Taiwan and Mexico. 

J.C. Ramirez has appeared in 2017-19 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Los Angeles Angels

 
Topps Mike Cameron
Topps Mike Cameron

9/29/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #702 Mike Cameron, Gold Glove Award

More 2004 Topps Awards Cards: n/a

Over the past two seasons, baseball fans—specifically those of the Tigers—have watched CF/RF Daz Cameron make a fine play or two in the outfield. Sparkling defense is literally in his blood; Daz's papa Mike was one of MLB's best defensive outfielders across his 17-year major league career. In fact, Mike, who was primarily a CF, won a trio of Gold Gloves in the '00's and was generally a menace defensively.

THIS CARD: Though Topps screwed up here and used a photo of Cameron's Mariners teammate Randy Winn, the senior Cameron could make the shoetop catch (as Winn is seen making here), the sprawling catch, the running off-balance catch, and he could climb the wall and bring one back with relative ease (ask Derek Jeter). He did not have a GREAT throwing arm, but it was good enough to keep most opponents honest.

Can I identify the park by the distance font on the wall? The answer is...no. There are surprisingly few online close-up photos of major league outfield walls.

Along with Cameron, teammate Ichiro Suzuki and Twins CF Torii Hunter earned AL outfield Gold Gloves in 2003.

(flip) The 2003 MLB runner-up to Cameron in outfield putouts? Tampa Bay's rookie CF Rocco Baldelli, with a "meager" 437. 

A CF with an unassisted DP? WTH?

Okay, here's what happened: with Minnesota's Jacque Jones on 2B in the T7th, Cameron charged in to secure Christian Guzman's pop fly to shallow center. Jones was closer to home than 2B by that time, so Cameron kept running until he'd doubled Jones off.

If that weren't enough, in the T1st of that same game, Cameron robbed Hunter of a home run! (Shout-out to theintelligencer.com for that tidbit.) Gold Glove stuff all night from the respected veteran.

I personally had forgotten about Cameron's B3rd robbery of Magglio Ordonez's would-be slam on that historic night in '02. Seattle led 12-0 at the time, so Cameron was protecting SP James Baldwin's ERA more than anything else.

AFTER THIS CARD: Cameron won his final Gold Glove as a 2006 Padre, one year after having his face literally rearranged by a vicious outfield collision with Mets teammate Carlos Beltran. He again led his league in putouts in 2009 (strikeouts were on the rise, so it took "just" 404 to top the NL) and finished his career in 2011 with exactly 4,700—good for 12th all-time!

Mike Cameron received Gold Glove Award cards in 2002, 2004 and 2007 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Awards