Score Baseball Card Of The Day, October 2022
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10/30/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Score #331 James Austin, Brewers
James, aka "Jim" Austin, enjoyed one fantastic year for the early 1990's Brewers, one so-so year for those same Brewers, then POOF! was gone from MLB just like that. So it goes for major league middle relievers, who usually at least struggle mightily or get hurt before being vanquished from the bigs.
Austin, who debuted in MLB with the 1991 Brewers, won a job with the 1992 squad out of Spring Training and was effective pretty much all year long. Used in short, long and middle relief by manager Phil Garner, Austin ran off a streak of 18 games and 21.2 innings without allowing a run from 7/21 to 9/20. Only twice in 47 outings did he allow multiple runs in an outing.
THIS CARD: BLASPHEMY! It is so freaking strange to see anybody, especially a white player, wearing #42 in the pre-Jackie Robinson Day era.
We see Austin working at Milwaukee County Stadium, where he went 2-1, 1.11 across 25 games in 1992.
More from Austin's 1992 season: on 7/12, after SP Bruce Ruffin was bombed in the T1st without getting an out, Austin threw four relief innings and allowed just one run. But the damage was done and the Brewers fell to Kansas City anyway. Austin allowed just two homers all year—one to Baltimore's Cal Ripken Jr. 6/23, and one to Oakland's Mike Bordick—Ripken's successor as Orioles SS—on 10/3.
(flip) Well-seasoned is a nice way of saying Austin didn't debut in MLB until age 27 and didn't stick until age 28. He battled neck issues as a prospect, per The Scouting Report: 1993.
The only AL relievers with more "sizzling" 1992 ERAs than Austin (50+ IP):
Steve Farr, New York, 1.56
Jeff Russell, Texas/Oakland, 1.63
Roberto Hernandez, Chicago, 1.65
Derek Lilliquist, Cleveland, 1.75
Along with minor league RP Todd Simmons, Austin joined Milwaukee in a February 1989 trade with San Diego. RP Dan Murphy went to the Padres; he made seven appearances for them in '89 before apparently being beamed up to parts unknown. (He is NOT to be confused with the Daniel Murphy who starred for the Mets and Nats in the 2010's.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Austin returned to Milwaukee's bullpen in 1993, but got off to a very ugly start and hit the DL in late April with shoulder tendinitis. Upon healing, he posted a 2.18 ERA over the next two months, but slipped enough in July that the Brewers demoted him to AAA New Orleans. No one knew at the time he'd never pitch in MLB again.
The Brewers, citing age and health, cut Austin after the '93 campaign, and he landed with the Yankees on a minors deal for 1994. But injury struck again, and Austin sat out all of the '94 season recovering. From there, he spent time in the Boston (1995) and Cleveland (1996) organizations, as well as China (1997) before ending his pro playing career at 33.
James "Jim" Austin appeared in 1992-93 Score.
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10/5/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Score #17 Gregg Jefferies, Royals
Yes, Gregg Jefferies played for the Royals.
Blink and you missed it.
Jefferies, the much-maligned infielder who once resorted to this in an effort to reduce the maligning, was traded to—or rescued by, depending on your viewpoint—the Kansas City Royals after the 1991 season.
Here, the 25-year-old is coming off a very good 1992 season. While the Mets regularly shuffled Jefferies between second and third base, the Royals appointed him their 3B and left him there all year. Jefferies responded with career bests in hits and RBI, although his defense lacked (26 errors). He missed a week in June with tightness in his right hip.
THIS CARD: Jefferies fires one presumably to first base; all but one of the 1,289 defensive innings he played in '92 came at the hot corner. He played one inning at 2B on 7/20 against Boston. which I'm guessing was an emergency situation.
Jefferies retained his #9 upon moving from New York to Kansas City; he'd spend most of the rest of his career with #25 on his back. Other notable #9's in Royals history include failed megaprospect Clint Hurdle in the 1970's, longtime C/coach Jamie Quirk in the 1980's and 1990's, and OF David DeJesus in the 2000's. In 2022, 1B/DH Vinnie Pasquantino enjoyed a fine rookie season wearing #9.
More from Jefferies' 1992 season: he led or co-led the Royals in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, steals, average and even RBI—which is a testament to their lousy offense as much as it is to Jefferies' quality play. On 7/31 vs. Oakland, Jefferies led off with a homer, missed the cycle by a double, and drilled four hits overall—including a walk-off single against Jeff Parrett!
(flip) Oh, yeah, somehow I missed the total bases. I think my head was still spinning from the RBI.
That 18-game hit streak took place from 5/13 thru 6/1; Jefferies also enjoyed a 16-gamer from 6/18 to 7/5, as well as a 10-gamer near July's end.
On 6/19, Jefferies' five RBI helped KC destroy eventual champion Toronto 11-4; a three-run homer off SP Todd Stottlemyre contributed. And as for that Player of the Week award? Jefferies opened August with eight multi-hit games in his first nine! (That gave him 12 multi-hitters out of 14 games dating back to late July, FYI...homeboy was hot.)
AFTER THIS CARD: With George Brett still occupying the DH spot and KC uninterested in another year of Jefferies' mediocre 3B defense, they dealt the latter to St. Louis in exchange for OF Felix Jose in February 1993. Jefferies emerged as an All-Star that year (.342, 16, 83, 46 steals) and in 1994 despite a position switch to 1B; he was rewarded with a 4Y/$20M deal from Philadelphia in December 1994—though I'm not sure how that happened with a strike going on.
The Phillies briefly auditioned Jefferies as their LF in early 1995, but by season's end he was back at 1B (he'd eventually move to the outfield full-time in mid-1996, however). Though Jefferies did not match his All-Star level of production in Philadelphia, he still nearly completed his four-year deal there—but the Phils dealt him to Anaheim in late 1998 (where he batted .347 in 19 games).
Jefferies then joined the Tigers on a 2Y/$5M deal in December 1998; they primarily used him as a DH in 1999 but he had trouble with the "H" part and was also DL'd twice in what amounted to a lost year. Back in the infield for 2000, the 33-year-old's career ended with a torn hamstring in late May.
Gregg Jefferies appeared in 1988-98 Score.
10/10/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Score #453 Tony Phillips, Tigers
Tony Phillips, the longtime A's jack-of-all-trades, always played a lot for Oakland—he thrice accumulated 500 PA during his time there.
But Phillips didn't truly reach everyday status until signing with the Tigers in December 1989. For all of you fans of Ben Zobrist, Chone Figgins, or more recently Adam Frazier and Jeff McNeil, just know that Phillips was the first (and best) full-time player without a full-time position of my 32-year MLB fandom.
I don't know offhand of any other such players before Phillips—everyday players who could, and often did, start regularly at four or more different positions each year. But given the fanfare Phillips got during that first year in Detroit, there couldn't have been many, if any at all.
Did I mention he was also Detroit's leadoff hitter for nearly all of the five seasons he spent there???
Here, Phillips has just wrapped Year Two of his 3Y/$3.25M deal with the Tigers. Following his so-so 1990 campaign, Phillips increased his average 33 points and more than doubled his homer total in 1991, helping the Tigers improve by five games in the standings. In fact, they shared first place in the AL East with Toronto as late as 8/26!
THIS CARD: Switch-hitting Phillips executes a lefty swing that produced a .256 average and six of his 17 homers in 1991. The man was an absolute terror from the right side that year, slashing .357/.466/.617 and homering 11 times in just 154 official at-bats!
As a card numbered between 441 and 550, Phillips' 1992 Score front graphics fell in the "green bar" category. In early Score sets, the graphic colors changed every 110 cards, which made sense when the sets consisted of an even 660 cards (as they did 1988-90). But even as the set size grew to 893 cards in 1991-92, the "tradition" continued.
Ironically, the varied colors did not return for 1993 Score...which once again consisted of 660 cards.
More from Phillips' 1991 season: he started 138 games for the Tigers split between LF, CF, RF, DH, 3B, 2B and SS. He started the most at 2B (35 games) and the least in CF (six games); despite all the shuffling, Phillips was charged with a total of just nine errors all season—a lot of dudes would be frequently pulling Aubrey Huffs if asked to do what Phillips did. On 4/18, Phillips smacked four hits, including a three-run homer, and missed the cycle by a double in a 16-0 thrashing of the White Sox.
(flip) Phillips looks pretty happy here; he could be intense on the diamond, but according to pretty much everyone who knew him and spoke about him after his 2016 passing, the man absolutely loved playing baseball. So much so that he played long after his MLB career ended and into his mid-50's!
Upon Phillips' signing with the Tigers, Anderson penciled him in at third base. But stuff happened, some Fryman dude emerged, and the next thing you know Phillips is the king of versatility.
The eighth of those 17 homers in 1991 was a walk-off, B9th solo shot off Texas RP Mike Jeffcoat on 7/15. It stood as the second of three walk-off jacks Phillips hit in his 18 MLB seasons (1989, 1994).
AFTER THIS CARD: Phillips continued to shine for Detroit over the next three seasons; he was the AL runs leader in 1992 (114), walks leader in 1993 (114) and plate appearances leader in 1994 (538), a year he clubbed 19 homers while continuing to serve as the Tigers' leadoff man. But by 1995, the team needed a full-time CF and traded Phillips—who was entering the third year of a 3Y/$10.6M deal signed in early 1993—to the Angels in exchange for Chad Curtis that April.
Playing almost exclusively LF and 3B for the 1995 Angels, Phillips sent 27 baseballs over the wall that year, which prompted the White Sox to ink him for 2Y/$3.6M in January 1996. One month later, Phillips retired from baseball, but continued playing anyway and batted .277, 12, 63 for Chicago while drawing a league-high 125 walks.
10/15/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Score #442 Luis Polonia, Yankees
The first Luis Polonia non-Topps card I remember owning was his 1991 Donruss "Grand Slammer" insert card; the 14-card set highlighted sluggers who'd smoked key grand slams during the 1990 season.
Even in 1991, 11-year-old Skillz thought it strange to find power-challenged Polonia in a club featuring Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Andres Galarraga, Jay Buhner, Cecil Fielder, Matt Williams, etc. There HAD to be some catch with Polonia's grand slam—his bat was corked, the wind was blowing WAY out...SOMETHING.
I was right! Polonia's "blast" was a liner to right that Yankees OF Jesse Barfield unsuccessfully dove for. I felt so...vindicated, even though I had not been trying to prove anything to anyone except myself. But as Dale Gribble of King Of The Hill would later prove, sometimes you aren't even your own best supporter.
Here, Polonia has just finished up the 1989 campaign as a member of the Yankees, who acquired him from Oakland in the blockbuster June 1989 deal for OF Rickey Henderson. Polonia hit .313 as a 1989 Yankee, but he "scored" one time too many and landed in hot water after the season.
THIS CARD: C'mon, Luis. That bat looks like it weighs more than you do.
If I had to bet, I'd say Polonia was swinging away at the SkyDome in Toronto; his Yankees played an early-August series at the Jays and he was able to get in two of the games. Polonia took an 0-for-4 on 8/4, but came back 8/6 with two hits, including a triple, and drove home New York's lone run.
More from Polonia's 1989 season: prior to the trade, he had been Oakland's primary LF, starting 48 of their 70 games. On 6/13, Polonia produced his first four-hit game of the year at Kansas City, though he also was caught stealing with Oakland down by three in the T5th. And on 7/5, Polonia—by then a Yankee—ripped four more hits, including a homer, and drove home three to aid a 9-0 win over the Tigers.
(flip) Not only did Polonia hit in 16 of his first 20 Yankee games, but he also drove in at least one run in three of the first four!
Dallas Green managed Polonia for all of 53 games in mid-1989 before being fired in August and replaced with ex-Yankee great Bucky Dent. Polonia, with all his "juice", doesn't seem like the type of guy a hardened baseball man like Green would compliment...but what the bleep do I know?
The game being referred to at blurb's end took place at Kansas City 9/9/1988; Polonia also drove in three runs and swiped two bags in a 14-6 A's win. I'm gonna wager those five runs in a game still sit atop the Oakland record book.
AFTER THIS CARD: Polonia remained a Yankee until late April 1990, when the Angels acquired him via trade. Used at LF, CF and DH by the Halos, Polonia hit .336 in 109 games and finished at .335 overall—but fell some 70 PA short of qualifying for the AL batting title (which he would have won).
Polonia spent the next three seasons locked in as the California LF—save for 46 starts at DH in 1992—averaging over 51 steals per year while minimizing the defensive follies which once plagued him and (narrowly) avoiding further legal trouble. The Yankees took notice, re-signed their onetime catalyst to a 2Y/$3M deal in December 1993, and watched him bat .311 with a career-high .414 SLG in 1994 (though he was only successful on 20 of 32 steal attempts).
From there, Polonia split the next two seasons with the Yankees, Braves, Orioles and Braves again—serving the latter three stops in a part-time role. The 33-year-old ventured to the Mexican League for 1997-98, returned out of the blue to bat .324 for the 1999 Tigers, then returned to the Yankees—again—as a free agent after Detroit cut ties in August 2000.
Polonia helped New York to World Series glory two months later and then retired (with a lifetime .293 average and 321 steals) at 37.
Luis Polonia appeared in 1988-96 Score.
10/20/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Score #215 John Jaha, Brewers
Jaha, the slugging-but-brittle first baseman for the 1990's Brewers, enjoyed an amazing 1996 season in which he set career-highs in basically everything and was among the league leaders in some key categories.
In the early weeks of 1997, the big fella was on pace to perform even better...but left shoulder inflammation had other ideas. It was the second year out of three that Jaha—on a 1Y/$3.38M deal—spent extensive time on the disabled list.
THIS CARD: Jaha waits patiently while a mound conference takes place, or something along those lines. If this were an Anthony Rizzo card, however, we'd have to broaden the possibilities—I've seen Rizzo return to first base on pickoff throws standing like this.
Since Jaha, #32 has been worn by MANY in Milwaukee, with RP Jeremy Jeffress being the most notable in terms of success—he made the 2018 NL All-Star team in his second Milwaukee stint. P Jose Urena wore it for about an hour in 2022 before being dumped on Colorado.
More from Jaha's 1997 season: aside from striking out three times on Opening Day, he got off to a hot start, homering six times in April—including twice at Cleveland on 4/19. On 4/17, Jaha walked off the Yankees with a B9th base on balls off future teammate David Weathers. Jaha's season ended 5/31 as the aforementioned shoulder injury wound up being worse than initially believed.
(flip) Jaha is listed as a 1B, but nearly half of his 1997 run came as a DH (26 starts to 19).
Jaha was indeed Signed Through 1998; Milwaukee re-upped him for another 1Y/$3.38M deal in November 1997—his final year of arbitration.
Those 34 homers, while still impressive, now rank much lower than sixth. You can think dudes like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Christian Yelich for that.
Jaha's Brewers grand slams record is now held by Ryan Braun (eight). But his stolen bases co-record (Larry Hisle, 1976) still stands, although it's since been matched by Scott Podsednik in 2004 and Nori Aoki in 2012.
AFTER THIS CARD: Jaha endured a nightmare 1998 season (.208, seven homers in 73 games) as foot and hamstring injuries along with a debilitating flu battle, of all things, worked against him. The Brewers didn't think twice about letting him walk to Oakland on a MiLB deal for 1999.
There, Jaha rediscovered health—DH'ing full-time surely helped—and put together his best all-round season for the upstart 1999 Athletics (35 HR, .414 OBP and .556 SLG were all career highs). The A's re-upped Jaha for 2Y/$6M in October 1999.
Unfortunately, a bad shoulder hindered him in 2000; the ensuing operation ended his season in July. Two more DL trips followed in '01, and Jaha wound up retiring in July—his body simply couldn't withstand the rigors of Major League Baseball.
John Jaha appeared in 1993-98 Score.
10/25/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Score #429 Rey Sanchez, Cubs
Sanchez, a power-starved but otherwise very steady SS/2B for well over a decade in MLB, completed his sixth season with the Cubs in 1996. Sanchez was the team's primary 2B in 1995, but in '96 he filled the gap at SS caused by Shawon Dunston's free agent departure to San Francisco. At least, until a broken bone in his hand sidelined him for nearly two months during the year.
Troubled by the hand all season, Sanchez never resembled the career .275 hitter he was entering the '96 campaign, and he committed six errors in April alone. But it wasn't all struggle for the veteran infielder, who hit a game-tying homer on Opening Day and set new career-highs with seven steals (in eight tries) and 22 walks.
THIS CARD: Is that a SNO CONE?! Shame on whoever hit that ball to Sanchez, whose infield glove was one of the most reliable of his time—not quite on Rafael Belliard's level but not far behind.
I know, without looking, that we're seeing Sanchez at the 6—the only position he played in 1996 after much shuffling around the Cubs infield 1991-95. Most of his run came as a SS, however, and from 1999-2001 Sanchez was able to exclusively hold down shortstop for the Royals and Braves.
More from Sanchez's 1996 season: he was on the DL from 6/4 to 7/20 with a hamate bone fracture in his left hand, and again from 8/11 to 9/1 with something called "left hand synovitis", which I'm assuming is a bad thing. Though he struggled with the bat for practically all of 1996, Sanchez was hot from 7/21 thru 7/26 (8-for-24, five runs, only two strikeouts).
(flip) Saying Sanchez was more known for defense than slugging is like saying Matt LeBlanc is more known for Friends than Vinnie & Bobby.
That aforementioned homer off Ashby tied the game at two in the T5th; the Cubs would go on to win in 10 innings. Sanchez—as you can see in the stats—did not homer again in 1996, at least not with the Cubs. Don't know and don't care about his minor league rehab assignment.
"vs. San Francisco's Francisco Oliveras"??? There had to be a better way to word that.
That Trade from Rangers sent minor leaguer Bryan House back to Texas. Despite a decent enough 1990 season for AAA Oklahoma City, 27-year-old House disappeared from pro ball after that season, with no online indication that he was ever found.
AFTER THIS CARD: With Dunston returning to the Cubs for (most of) 1997, and the great Ryne Sandberg still manning 2B, Sanchez returned to part-time duty—first for the Cubs, then for the Yankees, who traded for him in August. In January 1998, the 30-year-old joined the Giants (1Y/$600K) and batted .285 in 109 games (71 starts) as depth behind 2B Jeff Kent and SS Rich Aurilia that year.
Kansas City brought Sanchez on board in December 1998 (1Y/$1.1M). There, he resumed regular shortstop duties, batted .294 in 1999, earned a new 2Y/$4.6M deal, and committed all of four errors in 143 games in 2000! KC dealt Sanchez—and his .303 average—to the Braves at the 2001 Trade Deadline, but he only managed a .227 average for Atlanta and was not re-signed.
From there, Sanchez served as the primary 2B for the 2002 Red Sox before moving between the 2003 Mets and Mariners, the 2004 Devil Rays and the 2005 Yankees. Though he finished up with just 15 home runs in 1,490 MLB games, one of them was rather special.
Rey Sanchez appeared in 1993-97 Score, fielding in all but one of his front images.