Topps Baseball Card Of The Day

"Everyone has a plan...til they get punched in the mouth.'" -- Mike Tyson (the boxer, not the ex-baseball player)

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I own every Topps baseball set since 1985. For years I thought long and hard how I could put these cards "to use" aside from sitting in their binders until the end of time. The Card Of The Day was born.

I'd hoped to introduce a new card every single day but that quickly proved impossible under the weight of a regular job and fatherhood—now I'm aiming for 4-5 per week.

 

For years we only profiled Topps cards, but in November 2020 I decided to finally profile Score cards as well; click here to revisit that late, great company. Otherwise, please enjoy randomly-selected Topps cards from 1987-present (No 1985 and 1986 Topps in this feature—not only didn't I see a lot of those players, but I DID see blogs on both sets that would affect my writing.)

A = Alternate Card  B= Bonus Factory Set Card  F = Factory Team Set  G = Giveaway Set  T = Traded Set  U = Update Set

 

Click on images for larger views.

Topps Kelly Downs
Topps Kelly Downs

11/30/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #629 Kelly Downs, Giants

More Kelly Downs Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1990 1991 1992

In the late 1980's, it could be argued that Kelly Downs was the most talented of the Giants' starting pitchers. He threw hard and possessed a good curve along with a tough splitter. And though Downs never became a star, he did give San Francisco a couple of quality seasons before injury robbed him of his high velocity...more on that below.

Here, Downs has contributed 12 wins to the 1987 Giants' successful postseason push. He opened the year in the rotation, but spent most of the final weeks working out of the bullpen after San Francisco traded for veteran SP Rick "Big Daddy" Reuschel.

THIS CARD: Downs' motion was compact with little fuss. He became more of an over-the-top thrower following his 1990 arm surgery.

That's #44 Willie McCovey honored behind Downs at old Candlestick Park.

More from Downs' 1987 season: he was jarringly inconsistent, literally throwing a shutout in one start followed by a seven-run demolition the next. After a month in the bullpen, Downs started on 9/29 and 10/3, winning both while allowing one total run in 11 combined innings!

(flip) You're likely familiar with Al Oliver. the former Pirates/Rangers All-Star. George Riley was a lefty pitcher who got in five games (four starts) for the 1984 Giants after that trade; ten games with the 1986 Expos ended his MLB career. Renie Martin was a righty pitcher who appeared in 78 games for the 1982-84 Giants; the nine games he pitched for the '84 Phillies were his last in MLB.

 

I can't wrap my head around how, in the Year Of The Hitter, the Giants were able to take a pitcher who'd thrown THREE SHUTOUTS that year and just dump him in the bullpen because they got somebody better. Yeah, Downs was inconsistent, but still.

That is indeed an UER (uncorrected error) you see between the 83 and 85 columns. We hadn't had one in COTD for a while.

AFTER THIS CARD: Downs went 13-9, 3.32 in 26 starts for the 1988 Giants, but that would be his peak. He underwent rotator cuff surgery in early 1990 and when he returned, his fastball didn't have quite the same zip. Downs continued to serve as a swingman for Roger Craig and was for the most part decent, at least statistically, until being cut in June 1992. 

Picked up by Oakland, Downs had a decent go down the 1992 stretch (5-5. 3.29 in 18 games including 13 starts) for the eventual division champions, even pitching in the ALCS that year. After a rough 1993 (5.64 in 42 games for Oakland), Downs made his final two pro appearances for AAA Salt Lake (Twins) in 1994.

Kelly Downs appeared in 1987-92 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, San Francisco Giants

More November 2021 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Gene Garber
Topps Gene Garber

11/1/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #351 Gene Garber, Braves

More Gene Garber Topps Cards: 1988

Younger TSR visitors: remember Paul Byrd? Remember Pat Neshek?
Well, merge their unique deliveries into one and you'll have Gene Garber's.

Garber was the co-closer for the division-winning 1976-77 Phillies, and the primary closer for the division-winning 1982 Braves. Though he's perhaps BEST known for being the pitcher to end Pete Rose's NL-record 44-game hit streak in 1978—much to Rose's chagrin—don't get it twisted: Garber was much more than a trivia answer.

The man saved 218 games in an era where closers were not turned to nearly as much as they are now. He pitched 100+ relief innings six times. And in 1982, he pitched 119 innings and allowed a grand total of FOUR home runs. Again, that was 1982, not 1968.

Here, Garber has just wrapped his eighth full season with Atlanta. Though 1986 was a rough year for the Braves, Garber had a fine personal season, finishing 7th in the NL in saves in place of the injured Bruce Sutter. In the first half, Garber was 4-1, 1.57 with 10 saves; he allowed just one ER in all of May!

THIS CARD: Though the likes of Garber, Sutter, Glenn Hubbard and others might have one believing beards were required on the 1980's Braves, that was not the case.

Obscured is Garber's #26. Since his time, no notable Brave wore that number for over 20 years, at least not for long. Braves All-Stars Dan Uggla (early 2010's) and Mike Foltyniewicz (late 2010's) would later claim #26. Reserve C Stephen Vogt wore it in 2021.

More from Garber's 1986 season: He entered September with a 1.65 ERA, but a six-run outing 9/10 helped swell his final mark (which was a still-impressive 2.54). Between 5/31 and 6/11, Garber notched a pair of three-inning outings, earning a save in the first and a win in the second. 

(flip) Since there's no blurb, I'll add one: Garber ended 1986 with nearly twice as many saves as any other Brave in history.

Check out Garber's 1973 stat line: he made eight starts and completed four of them! For a lil' contrast, Hall-of-Famer-in-waiting Max Scherzer has made 398 starts and completed 12 of them.

Check out Garber's 1979 stat line: it takes a quality reliever to get enough opportunities to lose 16 times, as Garber did that year (if that makes any sense). Among NLers, only Phil Niekro lost more (20) that year.

AFTER THIS CARD: With Atlanta out of contention and the Royals still within striking distance in the AL West, Garber was traded to KC (for a PTBNL, C Terry Bell) in August 1987. With incumbent CL Dan Quisenberry mired in the Royals' doghouse, Garber saved all eight of his opportunities, though the Royals still missed the playoffs.

Garber returned to Kansas City for 1988, but despite decent numbers, he and Quisenberry were both cut on the same July day, ending Garber's career at 40. He retired as Atlanta's all-time saves leader (though John Smoltz and Craig Kimbrel have since passed him) and with the 5th-most appearances in MLB history (now 23rd).

Gene Garber appeared in 1974-1988 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Atlanta Braves

Topps Maicer Izturis
Topps Maicer Izturis

11/2/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #87 Maicer Izturis, Angels

More Maicer Izturis Topps Cards: 2000T 2006U 2009U 2010 2011 2012U 2013 2013U 2014 2015

Who was Maicer Izturis?

One of baseball's busiest utility infielders from 2006-13, that's who. During that time, Izturis never started more than 105 games in a season, but he still averaged 99 games and 370+ PA over that span for the Angels and Blue Jays. Once the Angels stopped moving Chone Figgins all over the field in 2007, they needed versatility off the bench, and Izturis—while not AS versatile as Figgins—helped in that regard.

Originally an Indians prospect, Izturis was moved to Montreal in a trade for RP Scott Stewart in January 2004, later joining Los Angeles via another trade. Here, the 27-year-old has wrapped his third season spent primarily with the Halos—across the board, Izturis posted nearly identical numbers to those from his impressive 2006, though he didn't run as much. He also started all three ALDS games.

THIS CARD: What the hell, Maicer? Did you sign while holding the pen like a cigarette? I can't even come up with anything funny this signature MIGHT say because it's literally just a couple of squiggly lines. Hopefully Izturis was more legible with his contracts.

Even without the random Yankee in the dugout, Yankee Stadium II (and maybe even III) was the only stadium I instantly recall featuring Bank Of America in the dugouts. If only I could identify ALL ballparks so easily...

More from Izturis's 2007 season: he would have played even more had hamstring injuries not cost him 38 games in two DL stints (early May and late May/entire June). Izturis closed July with a stretch of five multi-hit games out of seven, and on 8/21 he enjoyed his first three-hit game of the year and scored four times in a blowout of the Yankees—kicking off an 11-game hit streak!

(flip) Though Izturis opened and closed 2007 as the Angels' primary 3B, he also got extended run at 2B, enough to where he should have been listed as both in my humble opinion. The blurb even mentions his time at the keystone...oh, well.

One of those three August homers was a grannie off Minnesota's Scott Baker, helping LA to another blowout win.

Check out Izturis's run with the Expos, which I'd completely forgotten about. He was the penultimate former Expo to retire from MLB; only Bartolo Colon, a 2002 Expo, lasted longer (2018).

That Trade With Expos was the necessary deal to move the highly (and irrationally) disgruntled OF Jose Guillen out of Anaheim. The Angels also received OF Juan Rivera, who was just about as talented as Guillen without any of the headache.

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2008-09, Figgins returned healthy and reclaimed 3B for the Angels, leaving Izturis to fill in at SS/2B when needed. The 29-year-old signed a 3Y/$10M deal in early 2010—only to watch much of that year ruined by three DL stints. Izturis bounced back in 2011 with a career-high 105 starts (at four positions) and a team-high 35 doubles! Izturis finished 2012 hot and stole a career-high 17 bases, parlaying that into a 3Y/$9M deal from Toronto in November 2012.

Izturis's first year as a Blue Jay went poorly, and ended in August with an ankle sprain. Then the veteran infielder missed practically all of 2014 with a torn knee ligament suffered in April. Piling on, Izturis opened 2015 on the DL (groin), then wrecked his shoulder while rehabbing and never took the field for Toronto that year.
Despite getting almost nothing from their initial investment, Toronto re-signed Izturis to a MiLB deal for 2016, but he retired at 35 in early March.

Maicer Izturis debuted way back in 2000 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base and/or Update set 2006-15, except 2007.

CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, Los Angeles Angels

Topps Brady Anderson
Topps Brady Anderson

11/3/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #258 Brady Anderson, Orioles

More Brady Anderson Topps Cards: 1988T 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002

Ander​son, one of the American League's best two-way players for most of the 1990's, enjoyed a solid but unspectacular 1995 season (Year Two of a total 4Y/$14.25M deal he signed in early 1994).

Playing mostly LF until Bobby Bonilla's mid-season acquisition led to some extended run in CF, Anderson led Baltimore in at-bats (yes, four more than Cal Ripken), runs, doubles (tie), triples, steals and walks. The 31-year-old fell to .213 against LHP (178 AB) in '95 after two years of improvement, however.

THIS CARD: I'd LOVE to know if Anderson still has the 'burns, and if so, will he wear them into old age like Rollie Fingers has done with his mustache...

Anderson is keeping his eyes squarely on the ball as he swings here. He batted mostly leadoff for Baltimore until September, when young Curtis Goodwin was auditioned in the #1 spot, dropping Anderson to second.

More from Anderson's 1995 season: he opened the year 0-for-9 with five K, then promptly went 18-for-his-next-38 (.474). On 9/5 against California, Anderson registered his only multi-homer game of '95, then on 9/30 his five RBI against the Tigers included his first of three career grand slams!

(flip) Today, the AL record holder for consecutive steals is Ichiro Suzuki (45, from 2006-07). And Anderson still shares the SB% record; Kansas City's Carlos Beltran matched Anderson's 31-for-32 effort in 2001.

In the 5th inning of that 7/3/1995 affair, Anderson was drilled by Minnesota's Kevin Tapani. He soon stole second, but was eventually erased by C Matt Walbeck trying to take third (as 2B Manny Alexander took a walk, no less).

Those 111 K in a shortened 1995 season seem rather high for the times, but to my surprise Anderson didn't even crack the AL's Top Ten in that category. The 87 BB in 1995 ranked 9th, however.

AFTER THIS CARD: As everyone knows, Anderson absolutely exploded in 1996 (.297, 50, 110);

he also led off four straight games with a jack which set a MLB record. After making his second straight All-Star team in '97, Anderson reached free agency but was re-signed by the O's for 5Y/$31M. The 35-year-old hit .282 with 24 HR in '99 but by 2001, he'd sunk to .202 with but eight HR in 131 games split among all three OF positions. The Orioles released him in November '01 with a year left on his deal.

Cleveland snapped Anderson up for '02 but he was through by then, lasting 80 AB before being cut. A minors deal with the Padres for '03 led nowhere.

Brady Anderson debuted in 1988 Topps Traded as a Red Sock, then appeared annually in the base set 1989-2002 (the final card as an Indian).

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Baltimore Orioles

Topps John Hicks
Topps John Hicks

11/5/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps #593 John Hicks, Tigers

More John Hicks Topps Cards: 2016 2018U

Hicks was, once upon a time, a damn good Mariners catching prospect.​ But after he went 2-for-32 in his first Seattle trial (2015), the M's waived him (all I have to say is, good thing my Giants didn't part with Buster Posey after his uninspiring 2009 cup of coffee). After passing through Minnesota, Hicks wound up with the Detroit Tigers via more waivers in April 2016.

But it wasn't until 2017 that Hicks received extended run in Detroit; that year, he got in 60 games as a C/1B/DH and fared far better with the bat than in his introductory season. Here, Hicks has wrapped a 2018 campaign spent entirely in the majors—sort of; after Miguel Cabrera was hurt in late April, Hicks took over at 1B for all of May and most of June. But he was back in a part-time role when a nagging groin issue finally required August surgery.

THIS CARD: According to Getty Images, we're viewing Hicks on 4/8/18 at the White Sox. While he went 0-for-3 with a pair of whiffs that day, he guided SP Mike Fiers and four relievers to a 1-0 victory. (Cabrera's sac fly in the T1st held up.) Defensively, Hicks also turned a strike-him-out/throw-him-out double play in the B3rd!

Hicks is correctly listed as a C/1B; he started 20 games at the former and 56 games at the latter in 2018. Hicks didn't challenge anybody for the Gold Glove at either spot, but he was capable.

More from Hicks' 2018 season: he batted .300 at home and enjoyed an 11-for-23 stretch in early June. On 4/18, Hicks brought down the house with a go-ahead three-run HR in the B8th off Baltimore's Darren O'Day, setting up a Tigers walk-off win. 

(flip) See Hicks' squeeze, and the JaCoby Jones triple that set it up, here.

 

Prior to his acquisition by the Tigers, Hicks had 28 games of MiLB experience (spread across six seasons) at 1B. Detroit wasted little time re-acquainting him with the position, and the rest is history.

Of those nine homers Hicks smoked in 2018, seven came on the road. (We mentioned one of them above; the other was hit off Seattle's Felix Hernandez during a 5/12 doubleheader.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Hicks' role continued with the 2019 Tigers, for whom he cracked 13 homers and went errorless in 55 games behind the plate! But he only batted .210. struck out over 33% of the time, and was non-tendered that fall. Arizona brought Hicks aboard on a MiLB deal for 2020, but he never escaped the alternate training site.

In 2021, Hicks spent three weeks of July with Texas, going 8-for-31 with four homers in 10 games. That wasn't enough to keep him from being outrighted back to AAA Round Rock, however.

John Hicks has appeared in 2016 and 2019 Topps, as well as 2018 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps, Detroit Tigers

Topps Brad Ausmus
Topps Brad Ausmus

11/6/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #127 Brad Ausmus, Padres

More Brad Ausmus Topps Cards: 1992 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001T 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009U

Younger fans may remember Brad Ausmus as the manager of the late-2010's Tigers and (very briefly) Angels, but before that he was an excellent catcher for four teams covering 17 big league seasons. Ausmus, who beat long odds just to even reach MLB (more on that below), took home a trio of Gold Gloves during his career and was a 1999 AL All-Star.

Here, however, the ex-Yankees farmhand is fresh off his rookie season with the Padres. Called up in late July, Ausmus quickly assumed regular catching duties for San Diego (whose duo of Kevin Higgins and Bob Geren wasn't cutting it). Ausmus notched a pair of three-hit games within his first seven MLB starts.

THIS CARD: Ausmus with what looks like a quality swing. He was not a great hitter by any means, but in his prime he'd finish up between .260-.270 with a little pop. Put it to you this way: during Ausmus's heyday, he was closer to Buster Posey than to Jeff Mathis.

I cannot identify the road ballpark, but I can tell you Ausmus struggled away from "The Murph" as a 1993 rookie (.188). He did hit .325 at home, however.

More from Ausmus's 1993 season: though he only hit .256 overall, Ausmus batted 20-for-his-last-60 (.333) including a pair of additional three-hit games. On 8/25, his walk-off single in the 10th off Lee Guetterman downed the Cardinals.

(flip) For his career, Ausmus threw out an excellent 35% of opposing basestealers. He led the NL with 49% in 1997, and topped 40% three other times! (RIP Pacific Coast League.)

That Trade was a disastrous one for the Rockies. They gave up prospects Ausmus, SP Andy Ashby and RP Doug Bochtler in exchange for Padres SP's Greg Harris and Bruce Hurst. While Ausmus and Ashby became solid contributors for San Diego—and even Bochtler had his moments—Harris stunk up the entire state of Colorado and Hurst only gave the Rox eight so-so innings.

No misprint: Ausmus drew six walks in 49 games/160 at-bats as a 1993 Padre. Made more interesting because A) he did walk in each of his first two games, and B) he batted 8th almost exclusively, but nobody felt the need to work around him and face the opposing pitcher.

AFTER THIS CARD: Ausmus remained San Diego's primary C until mid-1996, when he was traded to the Tigers essentially for fellow C John Flaherty. That winter, Ausmus was part of a nine-player trade between the Tigers and Astros, for whom he'd catch through 1998 before returning to Detroit in a seven-player trade.

As we mentioned, Ausmus made the All-Star team as a 1999 Tiger and was even better in 2000. But once again, the Tigers traded him to Houston after the 2000 season—no, their teams were not being run by six-year-olds; their respective GM's were very familiar and, up to this point, everybody seemed to want Ausmus until they had him.

This time, the veteran backstop remained with Houston for eight seasons, helping the 2004 Astros to the NLCS and the 2005 Astros to their first ever World Series! By 2008, however, the 39-year-old was ceding time to youngsters J.R. Towles and later, Humberto Quintero.
It seemed he'd retire after that campaign, but instead...Ausmus resurfaced as a backup with the Dodgers for 2009-10. In April 2010, he hit the DL for the first time ever (back surgery).

Again, it seemed he'd retire post-surgery, but instead...Ausmus returned in July and got in 20 more games before finally stepping aside after the season, age 41.

In 2014, Ausmus took over for Jim Leyland as manager of the Tigers, guiding them to a first-place finish in the AL Central. Detroit was swept by Baltimore in the ALDS, then finished last in two of the next three seasons...see ya, Brad. He resurfaced as the Angels' skipper in 2019, but a 72-90 record and Joe Maddon's sudden availability made Ausmus's Los Angeles stay a very short one.

Brad Ausmus debuted in 1992 Topps, returning for the 1994-2000 and 2002-08 sets. He's also got a 2001 Traded card and a 2009 Update card.

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, San Diego Padres

Topps Dwight Gooden
Topps Dwight Gooden

11/7/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #480 Dwight Gooden, Mets

More Dwight/Doc Gooden Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1991 1992 1993 1994 1997 1999 2000 2000T

Here, we catch up with the Mets superstar after his fourth major league season. At this point in his career, Gooden was still at or near the top of his game (73-26, 2.45 lifetime) even though he missed much of 1987 after testing positive for cocaine in the Spring and entering treatment. 

THIS CARD: Gooden makes his third Topps Card Of The Day appearance here; we presented his 1997 Topps card in November 2014, and his 1994 Topps card in April 2020.

I don't know if it's my scanner or what, but this pic seems a bit underexposed. This may be the closest I've ever come to being blinded by a pic's background features...sorry, visitors.

This was the last time Topps referred to Gooden as "Dwight" for nine years. His 1989-94 Topps cards call him "Doc", but after a two-set absence he returned in 1997 Topps as "Dwight" once more.

(flip) When I look at J.R. Richard's career stats, I think about what could have been and get sad. When I look at Gooden's stats through four seasons, I just get MAD. Wasted talent rankles me like little else, and unlike Richard, Gooden did himself in.

Lynchburg was a Class A affiliate; Gooden never pitched in Classes AA or AAA until a 1994 rehab assignment.

Carlos Pascual was (former Senators/Twins star) Camilo Pascual's big bro; Carlos pitched briefly for the 1950 Senators before embarking on a long MiLB career. He scouted for the Twins and Orioles before joining the Mets; as far as I can research Gooden was his one big splash. Carlos Pascual died in 2011 at 80.

AFTER THIS CARD: Let's see: a shoulder injury in 1989, a 132-53, 2.91 career line through 1991, more drug issues in 1994 leading to a suspension through 1995, a comeback with the 1996 World Champion Yankees featuring a no-hitter, a pair of up-and-down years with the 1998-99 Indians, retirement in Spring Training 2001, enshrinement in the Mets Hall of Fame in 2010, continued substance abuse and legal problems.

Dwight "Doc" Gooden appeared annually in Topps base from 1985-94, then again in 1997, 1999 and 2000 Topps. He's also got 1984 and 2000 Topps Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, New York Mets

Topps Derek Lowe
Topps Derek Lowe

11/9/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #491 Derek Lowe, Red Sox

More Derek Lowe Topps Cards: 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

Now ​that Lowe's career has been over for approaching a decade, it's easy to forget (at least for me) that before he was a workhorse starter for the Red Sox, Dodgers and Braves, he was a nasty closer for the Red Sox. Remember how Wade Davis spent two full seasons starting for Tampa before being converted into a filthy reliever in Kansas City? Well, Lowe was basically Davis in reverse.

Here, Lowe has wrapped up his second season as Boston's primary closer, although he was supplanted by Deadline acquisition Ugueth Urbina in mid-August. The 28-year-old made three effective starts to close the 2001 season.

THIS CARD: This image is almost like a video to me; I can literally see Lowe's distinctive windup/delivery play out right on the card. Topps did a very good job on Lowe's front image variety through the years, save for his final two cards (2012 and 2013) which have nearly identical front images save for the uniform.

Lowe is in his home whites, but this is obviously NOT Fenway Park. Similar RF wall, though.

More from Lowe's 2001 season: he was brutal to open the year, allowing earned runs in eight of his first 11 games (7.41). Lowe then saved 21 of 22 with a 2.63 ERA. But when he had the audacity to blow a save 8/14, Lowe was demoted by new manager Joe Kerrigan. Still, on 6/12, Lowe earned his 70th career save with Boston, moving him into 5th place in team history. (He's now 7th.)

(flip) So THAT'S what Lowe looked like minus long hair and scruff. ​That must be how he looked during his partial Yankee season (2012), but I don't remember seeing him in action that year.

You remember the trade: Boston receives then-prospects Lowe and Jason Varitek, while Seattle receives erratic CL Heathcliff Slocumb. Woody Woodward made a few good deals in his decade-plus as Mariners GM...but within a year it was clear this was NOT one of them.

Uh...that blurb is largely false, Topps. After Boston acquired Urbina, Lowe continued to close for two weeks, then he moved into setup relief for a month, THEN he made those season-ending starts. They did get the part right about his future, though.

AFTER THIS CARD: After being an All-Star closer in 2000, Lowe emerged as an All-Star starter in 2002; the man won 21 games and finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting! He continued to pile up wins in 2003-04 despite not being nearly as effective.

 

But in October 2004, Lowe was absolutely masterful during Boston's historic march to their first World Series title in 86 years, starting and winning the ALCS and WS clinchers! The Dodgers rewarded Lowe with a 4Y/$36M deal in January 2005.

Lowe averaged over 13 wins, 32 starts and 200 IP annually for the Dodgers 2005-08; he then joined the Braves on a 4Y/$60M deal in January 2009. During Lowe's Atlanta stint, more and more of his induced grounders began to find holes and he led the NL in 2011 losses (17). The Indians, convinced he still had something left, nabbed the 39-year-old for 2012 via trade. ​

Lowe started very strong (7-3, 3.06 entering June) but won only once more over the next two months as his ERA soared into the mid-fives. He was cut after 21 starts, finishing out '12 as a Yankee reliever before winning a job with the '13 Rangers. They released him in May after nine outings, and Lowe—careful to not use the "R" word—announced his career was over that July.

Derek Lowe appeared annually in Topps 1999-2013.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Boston Red Sox

Topps Ivan Nova
Topps Ivan Nova

11/10/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps #535 Ivan Nova, Yankees

More Ivan Nova Topps Cards: 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016U 2017 2018 2019 2020

Since the dawn of baseball over 150 years ago, it's been drilled into every pitcher's head that throwing strikes is the key to success. Some pitchers, however, could stand to throw a few less strikes—at least hittable ones. Ivan Nova is (was?) one of those pitchers. 

Nova had great stuff, especially early in his career, but far too often he'd bite off huge chunks of the plate. This led to inflated hit/homer totals and prevented him from ever repeating his breakout 2011 performance over a full season.

 

Overall, however, Nova's enjoyed a very good career. After a wildly inconsistent 2012, Nova was one of baseball's best starters in the second half of 2013 (7-4, 2.59, just under seven innings averaged over 15 starts). Not bad considering he'd missed much of the first half while either on the DL or demoted to AAA.

In 2014, Nova was knocked around in four starts before undergoing UCL surgery. Here, he's fresh off his 2015 return campaign; there were bumps, but overall Nova's comeback was encouraging. He went five or more innings in 13 of 15 starts, and he won his first three starts after the All-Star break.

THIS CARD: Topps did a pretty good job mixing up Nova's front images, even though nearly all of them depict him mid-motion. This front image is a tad similar to Nova's 2015 front image, but varies enough to avoid a "mark" from me.

Nova rears back to fire either his vaunted low-to-mid-90's sinker, his slow curve, his slider (added in 2011) or his steady changeup. 

I WILL one day replace my 2016 Topps set with an un-stamped edition; it was worth the $25 discount at the time.

(flip) Nova's 6.2 shutout innings came at the expense of the visiting Phillies. Nova scattered three hits and struck out one as the Yankees won 10-2.

Until this very moment, I'd never noticed a player's acquisition listed by Topps as "Returned by..." No, Nova was not being held hostage; he went to the Padres via Rule V draft in December 2008. As you may or may not know, any such players drafted must remain on the new team's roster/injured list for the entire upcoming season or be offered back to their original team. In hindsight, San Diego might want this one back.

As the numbers indicate, Nova was not a huge strikeout guy; in 2015 his season-high for K was seven, accomplished three times. His career-high was 12 against the Reds 5/19/2012.

AFTER THIS CARD: Nova began 2016 in New York's bullpen before rejoining the rotation in May. Up and down as a starter, Nova (as part of the Yankees' semi-fire sale) was dealt to Pittsburgh at the Deadline and promptly entered Dominator Mode (5-2. 3.06, 1.098 WHIP in 11 Pirates starts), earning a new 3Y/$26M deal. Two so-so seasons followed (combined 20-23, 4.16 in 60 starts for Pittsburgh), then Nova was traded to the White Sox for 2019.

Nova recovered from a horrific beginning to 2019 (8.33 ERA after six starts; 3.99 ERA in final 28 starts) but was not brought back by Chicago. He signed with Detroit for 2020 but hit the IL (right triceps tendinitis) after four starts and hasn't pitched in MLB since, having failed to win a job with the 2021 Phillies out of Spring Training.

Ivan Nova appeared annually in Topps 2011-20, and also has a 2016 Update card as a new Pirate.

CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps, New York Yankees

Topps Frank White
Topps Frank White

11/11/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #479 Frank White, Royals

More Frank White Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991

From the mid-1970's into the 1990's, if your life depended on one man cleanly fielding 10 grounders in a row, you'd want Frank White to be that man. Defensively White was Pac-Man before Pac-Man even existed, and in time he became a legitimate threat with the bat as well. Kansas City made six postseasons from 1976-85 and White's prowess at second base was a major reason why.

White went undrafted because his HS didn't field a baseball team. But (long story short) he signed with KC in 1970, was in the majors by 1973 and was playing regularly by 1975. Though he hadn't fully blossomed as a hitter yet, White made four All-Star teams between 1978-82 as the Royals grew into a power in the AL West.

In the mid-80's, White even developed into a home run threat, finishing second on the team to Steve Balboni (29) in 1986. As late as 1988, the 37-year-old reached 150 games played! Here, White is coming off a 1989 season that saw him officially bat just 418 times—his lowest in an uninterrupted season since 1975. Over his first 43 games of 1989, White was charged with exactly one error.

THIS CARD: For a man who won eight Gold Gloves, including six in a row at one point, White was depicted batting quite a bit on his Topps front images. It was a different era, though—action shots were just gaining steam in the 1970's, and today the split would probably be closer to 50/50.

If I've ever noticed a Topps logo in the bottom right corner of a card front, it's not presently coming to mind.

More from White's 1989 season: he hit safely in the first three games of the year and batted .400 (10-for-25) during a seven-game hit streak in late April. On 6/20, White broke an 0-for-10 skid with three hits and two RBI in an extra-inning victory at Milwaukee.

(flip) I have never heard of Lee's Summit in my entire life, and I know more U.S. geography than the average person. If White is still living there, I sincerely hope he's comfortable.

As you see in the stats, at the end of the '89 campaign White needed just 46 hits to reach 2,000. He still barely made it, achieving the milestone 9/11/1990 with a two-run double off Toronto's Frank Wills.

At gunpoint, 2021 Skillz could have never guessed White put together successive 22-homer seasons, despite owning Topps cards with that information for 31 years. 1990's Skillz (the virgin childless edition with no other interests besides MLB) would have easily guessed that, however.

AFTER THIS CARD: Despite being less than a year from age 40 and undergoing knee surgery, Kansas City brought free agent White back for 1990 for $1.15M. He did not have anything close to a good season (save for the aforementioned milestone) and youngsters such as Terry Shumpert gobbled into his playing time. The Royals, understandably, did not re-sign White for 1991, ending his playing career.

What followed was an icy-hot relationship with the franchise and its longtime star. Following a mid-90's coaching run with Boston, White re-joined the Royals organization and served in multiple capacities before being dismissed in 2011. Though at that time he vowed never to set foot in Kauffman Stadium again, over time the relationship thawed, and White has since returned to the ballpark he literally helped build multiple times.

White's #20 remains one of just three numbers retired by the Royals (though one day, Salvador Perez and possibly Alex Gordon will grow that list).

Frank White appeared in 1974-1991 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Kansas City Royals

Topps Greg Olson
Topps Greg Olson

11/13/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #708 Greg Olson, Braves

More Greg Olson Topps Cards: 1990T 1991 1992 1994

Not to be confused with the former Orioles closer or the former Seahawks tight end.

Because of his game-winning hit in the 1992 NLCS, Francisco Cabrera may be the most famous of the early 1990's Braves catchers, but Olson was the busiest. He was an, uh, unexpected selection for the 1990 All-Star Game as a rookie, then in 1991 Olson started 113 games for the worst-to-first Braves, whose other catching options weren't very good.

Here, Olson has wrapped a serviceable 1992 season. He split time behind the plate with former Cub Damon Berryhill until being creamed at home plate by Houston's Ken Caminiti on 9/18; the resulting broken ankle ended Olson's season.

THIS CARD: Topps: "Hey, Greg? We wanna take your picture. Can you try to look happy to be in the majors and five seconds away from eating me all at once?"

I assume Olson's helmet reads "10" because his Braves uniform number was #10. Note Chipper Jones would not debut in MLB until late the following season, wearing #16. Also note that Atlanta signed the reliever Gregg Olson for 1994 and issued him #10, which I want to believe was because the equipment staff didn't know it was a different guy.

More from Olson's 1992 season: in 94 defensive games (85 starts), he erased 39% of opposing base thieves and committed just one error. And on 5/23, Olson missed the cycle by a triple in a loss to Montreal. 

(flip) Prior to his signing by the Braves, Olson was a longtime Mets farmhand who joined Minnesota as a MiLB free agent in November 1988.

Holy Ted Simmons, a catcher who walked more than he struck out in 1992. (And did so again in 1993.)

At last check, Olson was up to three children.

That two-run homer stunned 20-game winner John Smiley (who lasted just two frames) and helped make a winner of John Smoltz. Atlanta, of course, won that series in seven games—all of which were started by Olson, who hit .333!

AFTER THIS CARD: Olson returned to Atlanta for 1993, but he slipped a bit with the bat and glove; with Javy Lopez waiting in the wings, Olson was not re-signed for 1994. He auditioned for the Mets in Spring Training '94, but didn't make the team and subsequently retired at 33.

Greg Olson debuted in 1990 Topps Traded, then appeared in the 1991-94 Topps base sets.

CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Atlanta Braves

TeamLeaders319_06ToppsUFront.jpg
TeamLeaders319_06ToppsUBack.jpg

11/14/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps Update #319 Rangers Team Leaders

More 2006 Topps Update Team Leaders: n/a

 

Back when I first began collecting Topps cards, Team Leaders appeared on the back of Manager cards. Eventually they went away, but every few years a Topps or Update set restores them in some form. In 2006 Topps Updates & Highlights, Team Leaders received their own subset.

However these Team Leaders were not a comprehensive list as in years past. Rather, two random categories were highlighted—sometimes pitching, sometimes hitting, sometimes both. The format was basically an avenue to further showcase the game's brightest stars, as card companies are known to do here and there.

Here, we've got the 2006 Rangers hits and runs leaders.

THIS CARD: In the mid-2000's, Topps Updates & Highlights was released later than it is now, allowing the company to produce Team Leader cards from that season. If they tried to do so today, it would require an incredible rush job. Or a delayed release date.

Michael Young, with all of his 200-hit seasons, must've led the Rangers in hits quite a few times. But I'm not going to look them all up. Matthews was second with 194, 73 more than he had in any other season.

Matthews' 102 runs were also a career high by far. No other Ranger reached the century mark, although 1B Mark Teixeira tallied 99.

(flip) Matthews: "Hey, why do I get a recycled pic but Mike gets a different one???"

It's strange whenever Young is listed as a shortstop; I always think of him as a second baseman. As is known, various trade/free agent acquisitions by the Rangers led to Young bouncing all over the infield during his career.

2006 was Texas's final year led by Buck Showalter. The Rangers held sole possession of first place in the AL West as late as 6/14 before skidding to that final record of 80-82.

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps Update, Team Leaders

Topps John Franco
Topps John Franco

11/15/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #155 John Franco, Mets

More John Franco Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1990T 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

 

Franco, the LONGTIME Reds/Mets closer, is coming off another quality season. His 1995 save percentage (81%, 29 of 36) was a bit lower than ideal, but he finished very strong, with 18 saves in his final 19 chances accompanied by a 2.00 ERA. Franco finished the year just five saves shy of 300, a very small club at the time.

THIS CARD: This is a front image almost never seen on a Topps card—a pitcher tossing the ball in the outfield. Excellent photo choice, especially since Franco didn't wind up wrecking his knee and missing the whole year like Mariano Rivera would later do.

If Shea Stadium still stood today, that 371' distance to left-center would be the fourth-shortest in MLB, behind Tropicana Field, Wrigley Field and (the renovated) Comerica Park.

More from Franco's 1995 season: after a week layoff, he was asked to throw three innings and 44 pitches in a close 10-inning loss at St. Louis 7/26. Proving there were no ill effects, Franco then went unscored upon with a .107 BAA in 10 August outings! 

(flip) Funny Sandy Koufax is mentioned here; just 24 hours ago I learned a close friend shares his birthday.

Wilpon, a part-owner of the Mets when this card was released, later became their sole owner in 2002 until 2020. You may recall Wilpon making news as one of Bernie Madoff's many victims.

Despite Franco's early challenges, those 29 saves in 1995 ranked eighth in the NL. He advanced his club saves record to 147, 40 more than Jesse Orosco.

AFTER THIS CARD: Though his ERA climbed each year, Franco racked up 102 saves for the Mets from 1996-98 before missing a portion of '99 with a finger injury—young Armando Benitez picked up his slack, and Franco's days as a full-time closer came to an end. The 40-year-old nearly jumped to Houston after the 2000 season, but returned to the Mets as a situational reliever. Franco sat out 2002 after UCL surgery; he returned to the Mets in May 2003 and was effective over 38 outings that year.

In his age-44 season, Franco was not effective in 2004, and the Mets parted ways. He signed with the Astros for 2005, but after being released mid-season, his career finally ended. Franco did not come close to election to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite being MLB's all-time lefty saves leader (424), but he was inducted into the Mets Hall Of Fame in 2012.


Only fellow ex-Met lefties Orosco and Mike Stanton have pitched more games than Franco's 1,119.​

John Franco appeared annually in Topps 1985-2003. He's also got a 1990 Traded card.

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, New York Mets

Topps Julio Lugo
Topps Julio Lugo

11/16/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #520 Julio Lugo, Rays

More Julio Lugo Topps Cards: 1999T 2002 2003 2003T 2004 2006 2006U 2007 2008 2009U 2010

 

We present this card in memory of the former SS for the Astros, D-Rays, Red Sox and more.​ Lugo passed away from a heart attack 11/15/2021, one day before his 46th birthday. A solid player for several playoff teams, Lugo was Houston's regular SS from 2000 until being cut in May 2003 after misbehaving off the field.

He landed with the lowly Devil Rays, who in those days couldn't always afford to turn away talent based on character. Lugo immediately took over at SS for Felix Escalona (who'd taken over for the washed-up Rey Ordonez) and wound up third on the club in home runs that year.

Here, Lugo has closed the book on his second season as Tampa's regular SS. In 2004, the 28-year-old endured a horrific defensive slump at year's end (10 errors in September), but set career-highs in at-bats, hits and doubles (41, then the second-most in franchise history).

THIS CARD: Of Lugo's eight Topps base cards, this is one of only two front images depicting him batting. He's shown throwing four times, which has to be an unofficial record.

If you're curious why we presented a Lugo card and not one of Pedro Feliciano, the ex-Mets RP who also passed recently, it's because Feliciano only had one Topps base/Update card and we presented it back in December 2020.

Isn't #23 Carl Crawford's number? Wasn't Carl Crawford ON the Devil Rays in 2004? (Upon research, Crawford wore #13 and my baseball memories are evidently vacating Kelly Bundy-style in favor of geology, geometry and Native American history—my kid is in 6th grade.)

More from Lugo's 2004 season: he started 142 games at SS for Tampa (and eight more at 2B in August). On 5/14 Lugo banged out three hits and five RBI—including a game-tying two-run bomb in the 9th—in an eventual loss to Cleveland. And on 6/24, he went 5-for-7 with three RBI in a very wild 19-13 win at Toronto!

(flip) I know managers have to build players up, but there's just no way Julio Lugo was the Rays' "heart and soul" in the year 2004. He hadn't been there long enough, first of all.

Lugo was able to notch 75 RBI in 2004 because the Rays batted him mostly sixth well past the All-Star break. He even hit fifth a few times and fourth twice. Yes, Julio Lugo—who in most years might have batted eighth or ninth for other teams—started at cleanup for the Rays twice in 2004. There MUST have been circumstances because, by all accounts, Lou Piniella was not trying to get fired that year.

I never knew Lugo was a #43 pick who made good. As you might imagine, he was the only draft pick of six signed that round who reached MLB.

AFTER THIS CARD: Lugo batted .295 with 39 steals for the Rays in 2005 and was hitting .308 with 12 homers when dealt to the Dodgers at the 2006 Deadline. LA used Lugo as a part-time 2B/3B, then watched him walk to the Red Sox as a free agent (4Y/$36M) in December 2006.

Playing regularly at SS again, Lugo fell to .237 in 2007, but that didn't prevent Boston from winning its second championship in four years. A quad injury wiped out half of his 2008 season and he underwent Spring 2009 knee surgery that sidelined him until late April.
Finally, after too many defensive lapses and a missed mandatory workout, the Red Sox cut their losses and DFA'd Lugo in mid-July 2009.

The 33-year-old soon landed with the Cardinals via trade (for OF Chris Duncan), then served as a UT for the 2010 Orioles (93 games, including this one) and 2011 Braves (6-for-44 in 22 games). Lugo sat out 2012, then retired in early 2013 at 37.

Julio Lugo debuted with a 1999 Traded card as a prospect, then appeared annually in the base set 2002-10 (except 2009). He's also got a 2003 Traded card as a new Devil Ray, a 2006 Update card as a new Dodger, and a 2009 Update card as a new Cardinal.

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Now Deceased

Topps Adam Eaton
Topps Adam Eaton

11/17/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #555 Adam Eaton, White Sox

More Adam Eaton (OF) Topps Cards: 2013 2014U 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021

 

Not to be confused with the ex-Padres pitcher of the same name.

This Adam Eaton is a hard-nosed outfielder who, when healthy, can do a bit of everything well and is a weapon near the top of the lineup. What I specifically remember him for ON the field: lots of hustle and aggressiveness, with some fine play during the 2019 postseason.
What I specifically remember him for OFF the field: validating my irrational dislike of veteran 3B Todd Frazier, his former teammate. (Jake Arrieta later offered further validation, though he's not exactly up for a Nobel Prize himself.)

Here, Eaton has just joined the White Sox after trials with the Diamondbacks the past two seasons. In Spring Training 2014, he batted .368 with three steals in 19 games, securing a spot on Chicago's Opening Day roster.

THIS CARD: Considering the release date of 2014 Topps Series 2, there's a good chance this pic is airbrushed. Let's take to GettyImages.com for possible confirmation...

...yes, it's an airbrush job. This pic was originally Eaton the Diamondback from 9/22/2013 at Coors Field. At least they got the incoming uniform number correct.

"Future Stars" returned to Topps in 2014 after a long hiatus. The company was very generous with the label; Eaton became a solid regular for several seasons but never quite a star.

(flip) That Trade With Diamondbacks was more complicated than that. The Los Angeles Angels were also involved, with OF Mark Trumbo the biggest name changing teams (LA to Arizona). This is also how the Angels acquired SP Tyler Skaggs (from Arizona).

There goes Topps, assuming its younger collectors know who Lofton and Dykstra are. For the record, they were two of the game's top CF's in the 1990's, and hopefully Eaton follows Lofton's post-career path and not Dykstra's.

I'm not aware of any subsequent Diamondbacks to achieve Eaton's feat, and though I COULD research it, that time would be best spent catching up the TSR backlog.

AFTER THIS CARD: Eaton soon became Chicago's regular CF (and later RF), leading the league in triples in 2014, adding untapped power to his game in 2015-16 (14 jacks both years after just one in 426 AB in 2014) and earning a 5Y/$23.5M extension in early 2015.
In fact, Eaton's statistics were eerily similar in 2015-16, part of why the White Sox dealt him to the Nats in December 2016 (JOKING; the deal was made because the win-now Nationals really wanted Eaton; future ace SP Lucas Giolito was part of Chicago's return).

Injuries derailed Eaton's 2017 season (knee surgery) and much of his 2018 season (ankle bruise), but he returned healthy in '19 and helped Washington to its first ever World Series title. After a down 2020, Eaton was not re-signed and returned to the White Sox (1Y/$7M), who surprisingly released him in mid-2021. The 32-year-old was signed and cut by the Angels soon after, and at last check remains a free agent.

Adam Eaton has appeared in 2013-21 Topps, as well as 2014 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps, Chicago White Sox

Topps Mike Cameron
Topps Mike Cameron

11/18/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #41 Mike Cameron, White Sox

More Mike Cameron Topps Cards: 1997 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2009A 2010 2011

 

It's a former White Sox CF for the second straight COTD selection, albeit one with a few more accolades. Mike Cameron was one of the most gifted outfielders of his time, and he was certainly no slouch with the bat, either. Cameron became known to the nation in 2005, when his horrific outfield collision with teammate Carlos Beltran​ literally rearranged his face. But the veteran recovered to play five more productive seasons in MLB, while many "regular" guys would have milked the workman's comp.

 

Here, Cameron is fresh off his first extended run in MLB after two short trials with the 1995-96 White Sox. Chicago gave him the keys to CF in early May, and he started 107 of the final 129 games (although eight of those starts were as a RF). In the first five-plus weeks, Cameron homered once...but then blasted four in three games 6/23-26. 

THIS CARD: Though not exceptionally large, Cameron, as you can see, was built like a football player. Next to Matt Holliday, he's probably the guy I'd least want bearing down on me at home plate.

We see Cameron at was then fairly-new Comiskey Park. He hit .273 at home in 1997, with 10 of his 14 home runs.

That patch you see on Cameron's sleeve commemorates 50 years since Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. I don't know if it was worn all season or just for April 15.

(flip) Cameron sure became more than just a glimpse of talent. He won three Gold Gloves and hit four homers in a 2002 game!

For his career, Cameron finished 297-for-380 in steals (78%).

Check out those numbers for 1994 Prince William (A+). They are not misprinted; Cameron did indeed smoke more triples than doubles. That's like ordering a small fry and four large sodas from Wendy's—they're both positive, but need a proper ratio to make sense!

AFTER THIS CARD: Prior to his injury and his four-homer game, Cameron was best known for being part of Seattle's return when they traded OF Ken Griffey Jr. to the Reds (who'd acquired Cameron from Chicago via trade for 1B Paul Konerko in November 1998). Cameron remained with Seattle 2000-03, winning a pair of Gold Gloves and enjoying his only All-Star campaign in 2001 (25 HR, 110 RBI).

The 31-year-old moved on to the Mets for 2004 (3Y/$19M), sliding over to RF when they signed Beltran for 2005. Cameron was dealt to San Diego for 2006 in part to allow him to return to his natural CF position; he had a fine comeback year and his option for 2007 was exercised by San Diego.

Next came two seasons with Milwaukee, who signed Cameron knowing he'd miss the first 25 games of 2008 (PED suspension). The newest Brewer continued to do what he always did: sparkle in center field, belt 22-25 homers, drive in 70-80 runs, and strike out a lot. Cameron's last deal was a 2Y/$16M pact with Boston that went poorly due in part to an ongoing abdominal injury in 2010; the Sox sold the ice-cold veteran to Florida, where he played his final 49 MLB games, in July 2011.

Cameron joined the Nats for 2012 but retired during Spring Training. Today his son Daz is making his name with the Detroit Tigers.

Mike Cameron appeared annually in Topps 1997-2011. He's also got a 1999 Traded card and 2008, 2010 and 2011 Update cards, giving him representation in Topps with all eight of his teams.

CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Chicago White Sox

Topps Alex Avila
Topps Alex Avila

11/19/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps #522 Alex Avila, White Sox

More Alex Avila Topps Cards: 2010U 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2017U 2018 2019 2020U 2021

 

I best remember Avila for being bloodied by a foul tip in 2012 (yes, he was wearing his mask), and for missing two of the final three World Series games that year against my Giants thanks to a foul tip off his exposed right arm. Both games Avila missed were close, and one has to wonder if his presence might have made a difference.

Avila also was knocked out of postseason games in 2013 and 2014 by foul tips off his mask; the dude took a worse beating than average catchers and eventually had to reinvent his catching technique just to survive. I watched Buster Posey's whole career up close, and he took quite the punishment through the years, but he had nothing on Alex Avila.

Here, Avila has moved on to the White Sox after seven seasons in the Motor City, where Avila's repeated physical problem led Detroit to not re-sign him for 2016. Chicago brought Avila onboard for 1Y/$2.5M with the idea of an Avila/Tyler Flowers timeshare behind the plate.

THIS CARD: This image is probably airbrushed. Let's visit GettyImages.com...

...yes, this original pic came from Avila the Tiger 7/7/2015 at Safeco Field in Seattle. But Topps did get his new uniform number correct.

Avila is listed as a C, but he also got in 23 games (13 starts) at 1B, his first extended MLB run there.

(flip) For his career, Avila erased 30% of enemy thieves, usually alternating good and bad percentages annually.

As you see in the stats, Avila's breakout 2011 season was followed by four years of plummeting offensive production. I mean, it's hard to hit when you're dizzy and/or bruised half the time as Avila was...mad props to him for lasting 13 MLB seasons.

As you can also see in the stats, Avila was on a three-year stolen base drought that showed no signs of ending when this card was released. He WOULD steal again, however—once in 2019.

AFTER THIS CARD: Two hamstring injuries cost Avila over two months of 2016, and he hit just .213. Now 30, he returned to Detroit for 2017 and enjoyed his finest year since that All-Star 2011 campaign, prompting the defending champion Cubs to trade for him at the Deadline.

From there, Avila finished his career as a part-timer for Arizona (2018-19) Minnesota (2020) and Washington (2021), batting between .165 and .207 all four of those seasons. Avila announced late in 2021 that he'd retire at season's end; the respected veteran received a standing ovation from the home crowd and both dugouts as he left the field for the last time.

Avila finished up at .233, with 105 HR in 1,052 major league games.

Alex Avila appeared annually in Topps or Topps Update 2010-21.

CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps, Chicago White Sox

Topps Logan Allen
Topps Logan Allen

11/21/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2020 Topps #228 Logan Allen, Indians

More Logan Allen Topps Cards: 2021U

 

Allen has moved a little bit since being drafted #8 by the Red Sox in 2015. He was moved to San Diego in the December 2015 Craig Kimbrel trade, then joined Cleveland in a three-team deal we'll discuss below.

Here, Allen has closed the book on his debut MLB season. He opened his career with two brilliant starts for the Padres before some bumps and the trade to Cleveland (for whom Allen appeared once).

THIS CARD: Cleveland has long had a rule that there must be two dudes named "Allen" on the roster at all times. Cody, Greg and now Logan can attest to that. Or maybe I'm just taking a coincidence and running with it for humor.

We see Allen gearing up to fire either his 92-94 MPH sinking fastball, his solid changeup, or his curveball. Allen also has a "revamped" slider, according to several sources, but I'm not sure I've seen it.

More from Allen's 2019 season: he lost out on a Spring rotation spot to Nick Margevicius, but was called up in mid-June after San Diego's rotation was pounded at Colorado. We mentioned Allen's excellent first two starts, but for some reason one poor outing got him sent to the bullpen. He never fully got back on track with the Padres, but did make one scoreless RA (2.1 IP) with Cleveland. 

(flip) Allen was/is listed at 200 pounds here and on his current MLB.com page, but he entered Spring Training 2021 down 35 pounds. Meaning he must have blown up during the early months of the pandemic.

That Trade With Padres was a three-teamer with the Reds; the Indians wound up with Allen, OF  Franmil Reyes and OF Yasiel Puig, while the Reds got SP Trevor Bauer and the Padres got to rent prospect Taylor Trammell for a while.

Those seven shutout frames came at the expense of visiting Milwaukee; Allen walked two, struck out five and threw 90 pitches.

AFTER THIS CARD: Allen only got in three games for the 2020 Indians, spending most of the season at the Alternate Training Site. But he won a rotation spot for 2021, for the first month anyway. Allen's struggles soon put him on the season-long shuttle between AAA Columbus and Cleveland; he finished with a 6.26 ERA in 50 innings. But at 24, he has time to turn things around.

Logan Allen has appeared in 2020 Topps and 2021 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2020 Topps, Cleveland Indians

Topps Johnny Damon
Topps Johnny Damon

11/22/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #5 Johnny Damon, Athletics

More Johnny Damon Topps Cards: 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2001T 2002T 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012U

 

Johnny Damon had four distinct stages of his long career:

  • Stage 1, when he was still finding his way as a young Royal

  • Stage 2, when he found his way with the Royals and Athletics

  • Stage 3, when he joined Boston and adopted the Jesus look, and

  • Stage 4, when he played for several clubs and briefly flirted with 3,000 hits.

Here, Damon is in the midst of Stage 2, when his pending free agency prompted Kansas City to swap him to Oakland in January 2001. Though he played almost every day, Damon's numbers fell across the board from 2000 to 2001, most notably his 71-point batting average drop.

THIS CARD: Damon races around third at the Coliseum. Anytime I see this card, I can't help but remember Damon's 2001 A's teammate Jeremy Giambi rounding third and being erased by Derek Jeter's flip in the Division Series vs. the Yankees.

Other notable A's to wear #8 for any length of time? Do Kurt Suzuki and Jed Lowrie count?

 

More from Damon's 2001 season: it was a down year, but highlights included six consecutive multi-hit games in June, a four-hit, two-homer game at Arizona 7/7, and his 1,000th career hit at Cleveland 8/1. 

(flip) Pretty sure by now, we can go back through the pre-1975 boxscores to see if anybody else has matched Damon's feat. Either way, that's pretty damn noteworthy.

That Trade was a three-teamer with Tampa Bay; OF Ben Grieve, RP Roberto Hernandez (the closer), 2B Mark Ellis and SP Cory Lidle also changed locales.

Interesting line. A .256 average, just 61 walks, just 27 steals and yet Damon managed to score 108 times! I'd like to look up anybody else who's done that.

AFTER THIS CARD: Damon signed with the Red Sox for 4Y/$30M in December 2001, suffered a bad concussion after a collision in the 2003 ALDS, then helped Boston to the 2004 World Series title including a huge Game 7 of the historic ALCS against New York. He then signed with those same Yankees in December 2005 (4Y/$52M), sacrificing his trademark "Jesus" look.

Damon reached a new career high in bombs in '06 (24, later matched in '09) and earned his second World Series ring in 2009, a year he moved from leadoff to the #2 lineup spot. Still, the Yankees traded for Curtis Granderson after that season, so Damon took his old spot on the Tigers for 1Y/$8M.

Following a 2011 season spent with the Rays, Damon entered 2012 without a job but hooked up with Cleveland in April. However, the 38-year-old hit just .222 and was part of an August roster purge—though he didn't officially retire, and expressed a desire to continue his career, Damon never played in MLB again. He has unfortunately made news for the wrong reasons in 2021.

Johnny Damon premiered in Topps on a shared 1995 Prospects card. He returned as a 1996 Topps Future Star, then appeared annually 1997-2011. Damon also appears in 2001-02 Topps Traded, as well as 2012 Topps Update as an Indian.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Oakland Athletics

Topps Greg Cadaret
Topps Greg Cadaret

11/23/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #187 Greg Cadaret, Yankees

More Greg Cadaret Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1992 1993 1994

 

Greg Cadaret was one of those pitchers who did a little of everything and was very useful to a staff despite not having great stuff or velocity. Originally an Oakland Athletic, Cadaret worked multiple relief roles for the A's until being traded to the Yankees at the 1989 Deadline.

Here, Cadaret is fresh off a 1990 season spent shuffling between the rotation, middle relief and late relief for the Yankees. He broke his career-high for innings, tied his career-high in K, and on 7/29 he saved both ends of a doubleheader vs. Cleveland!

THIS CARD: Cadaret threw with a clean, quick motion, making his good fastball seem a little bit quicker. He also could be throwing the curve or the forkball here.

I can't identify the road ballpark, but I can tell you Cadaret was nearly twice as bad statistically away from Yankee Stadium in 1990 (5.43 vs. 2.78 at home), although all three of his saves came as a visitor.

More from Cadaret's 1990 season: he was 1-3, 6.11 in six early-season starts, and worked exclusively out of the pen from mid-May on. On 6/20 Cadaret threw four shutout relief innings at Milwaukee, and on 8/20 he earned the win with 7.2 innings of shutout relief in an 11-inning win vs. Toronto!

(flip) Al Kaline, in case you didn't know, played for Detroit from 1953-74, accumulating 3,007 hits and 399 home runs. He passed away in April 2020.

See that low K total for July 1990. In eight of his 13 appearances that month, Cadaret didn't whiff anyone...odd considering his August 1990 reversal.

That Trade was, of course, the Rickey Henderson trade; Rickey went back to Oakland in exchange for Cadaret, RP Eric Plunk and OF Luis Polonia. Did Steinbrenner want him gone THAT BAD?! The Boss got a better return (Paul O'Neill) when he traded Roberto frikkin' Kelly two years later.

AFTER THIS CARD: Cadaret continued as a Yankee swingman through 1992, then transitioned into full-fledged journeyman reliever 1993-98. He suited up for the Reds, Royals, Blue Jays, Tigers, Angels and Rangers during that period, and that's not including 1995-96 when he was relegated to MiLB with the Padres, Cardinals, Indians and Pirates organizations. 

Since his playing days ended, Cadaret has managed or coached in various independent leagues and also for Simpson University. For a short time, he did studio work for the Athletics as well.

Greg Cadaret appeared annually in Topps 1988-94.

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, New York Yankees

Topps Doug Jones
Topps Doug Jones

11/24/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #495 Doug Jones, Phillies

More Doug Jones Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1992T 1993 1994 1994T 1995T 1996 1998

 

Doug Jones had to be on the way out of MLB at least four different times during his career. Which apparently is the proper recipe for lasting 16 seasons in the majors spanning 18 years.

Jones was a closer, but other than tossing a lit match on his charcoal grill, the guy was as far from flamethrower as a big leaguer could get. Jones survived on the changeup, and several variations of the changeup that were even slower. It worked for a long while in his early days with the late-80's Indians, for whom Jones wrapped up 112 victories 1988-90 (making the All-Star team each year).

Jones struggled and lost his closer's job in 1991, but bounced back with an All-Star 1992 campaign with the Astros. Here, the 37-year-old has enjoyed yet another All-Star season with the 1994 Phillies, who acquired him from Houston when they mercifully traded embattled CL Mitch Williams following the 1993 season.

THIS CARD: We present this card in memory of Jones, who passed away from COVID 11/22/2021, age 64. That really needs to go away soon.

Whatever Jones is throwing here, I promise you it came in at about 71 MPH.

More from Jones's 1994 season: he really only had two truly bad outings: 5/10 at Atlanta and 6/30 at Los Angeles. In those games Jones allowed a combined seven earned runs in ⅔ of an inning; subtract those outings and his 1994 ERA was 1.01!

(flip) Jones was "dismissed by some" practically his whole career because he didn't throw hard, as we referenced above. This is why you keep fighting, people. There's haters on every corner.

San Francisco's Rod Beck was the 1994 NL Rolaids Relief Award winner. He (28) and John Franco (of the Mets, 30) finished ahead of Jones in NL saves.

In that ASG (played in Pittsburgh), Jones threw a scoreless T10th inning, then watched Moises Alou double home the winning run in the B10th.

AFTER THIS CARD: Jones served as Baltimore's closer during a shaky 1995 season, spent 1996 setting up for the Cubs and Brewers, then re-emerged as a lights-out stopper in 1997 (36 saves, 2.02 ERA for the Brewers). That magic didn't carry over into 1998, and Jones was dealt back to the Indians at mid-season. Once again, it seemed he might be through, but Jones spent the next two seasons (1999-2000) as a serviceable bullpen piece for the Oakland Athletics.

After his Oakland stint, Jones finally retired (on his own terms) at 43. Later on, he worked in the Diamondbacks organization and was a minor league pitching coach for the Rockies in the mid-2010's.

Doug Jones appeared annually in Topps 1988-98, except 1997. He's also got 1992, 1994 and 1995 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies, Now Deceased

Topps Elias Diaz
Topps Elias Diaz

11/25/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2021 Topps Update #281 Elias Diaz, Rockies

More Elias Diaz Topps Cards: 2016 

 

We present Elias Diaz's card days after he signed a 3Y/$14.5M extension with the Colorado Rockies, for whom he enjoyed a superb 2021 season. Diaz received small sips of coffee with the 2015-16 Pirates before establishing himself in a part-time/backup role 2017-18.

In 2019, Diaz started 75 games behind the plate to lead Pittsburgh, but had a poor defensive year and was non-tendered that winter; Colorado swooped in soon after.

Here, Diaz is shortly into his second Rockies season. He started on Opening Day and despite a frigid offensive start to 2021, Diaz eventually warmed up, smoking homers in four consecutive starts just before Independence Day.

THIS CARD: In 2019, Diaz gearing up to throw carried promising potential...for the opposition (26% CS, 12 errors). In 2021, that changed dramatically, as he gunned an NL-best 42% of enemy thieves.

Despite being a big league semi-regular since 2017, Diaz had been absent from all Topps sets since 2016—even Heritage, which is very liberal with player inclusion. Makes me wonder if there were licensing issues a la Bumgarner.

More from Diaz's 2020 season: he opened the year at the Alternate Training Site, only starting five times for the Rox in August before getting regular playing time behind the plate in September. On 9/15 against Oakland's Sean Manaea, Diaz's 5th-inning, go-ahead two-run homer set up a Colorado win.

(flip) Never heard of the Captain's Catcher Award. Not going to look up past winners at this time.

Diaz has lived up to his reputation IF you throw out that ugly 2019 campaign we mentioned above.

As you see in the stats, Diaz got a load of run 2018-19. But NOBODY printed cards of him in that period. Personally, I'd be upset about that; I'd like to think Diaz used that as fuel for his breakout 2021 season.

AFTER THIS CARD: As Colorado's primary C in 2021, Diaz finished with a .246,18,44 line after the aforementioned icy start. From 6/28 thru 8/6 he was especially tough, slashing .318/.362/.739 with 11 bombs and 19 ribbies! Looks like he'll be handling catching duties in Denver for the foreseeable future.

Elias Diaz has appeared in 2016 Topps and 2021 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2021 Topps Update, Colorado Rockies

Topps Postseason Highlights
Topps Postseason Highlights

11/26/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #730 Postseason Highlights, WS Game 4

More 2004 Topps Postseason Highlights Cards: #354

The 2003 World Series was certainly one of the most shocking ever. The 101-win Yankees who led the AL East from start to finish were pitted against a 91-win Marlins team that had to recover from a  19-29 start just to claim the NL Wild Card.

The Series had all the potential to be anticlimactic, what with the Aaron "Frikkin" Boone home run and Steve Bartman's "interference" headlining the two Championship Series. But these Marlins proved to be anything but a group of intimidated pushovers...

THIS CARD: You're seeing Marlins SS Alex Gonzalez after he led off the 12th inning of Game 4 with a walk-off homer off New York's Jeff Weaver. Gonzalez had been exactly 1-for-13 in the Series before that decisive blow.

That's a dejected Jason Giambi in the background. Giambi had two hits on the night but also struck out with the go-ahead run on 2B to end the T10th.

"GW (Game Winning) Walk-off HR" is more than a little redundant, Topps.

(flip) Don't be shocked by much-maligned Carl Pavano's Game 4 excellence; he was really good for Florida in 2003, and the obviously-impressed Yankees signed him for 4Y/$39.95M that winter. Only then did Pavano become a punchline. 

For some time, this was thought to be the final start of Roger Clemens's major league career; he was 41 and hoping to reach Cooperstown while his ailing mother was still alive. Clemens wound up pitching four more seasons, isn't close to reaching Cooperstown, and his mother passed in 2005 and would have missed the HOF induction even if he retired after '03.

There's something disconcerting about those one-digit ERAs in the boxscore. Just...no.

AFTER THIS CARD: The Yankees qualified for each of the next four postseasons, but did not reach any more World Series under manager Joe Torre, who was replaced by Joe Girardi for 2008. The team won the 2009 championship under Girardi, but after three missed postseasons in four years he was replaced by Boone for 2018. While New York has not endured a losing season since 1992, they have gone 12 seasons without a World Series appearance—which is a lot for them.

The Marlins did not sell off all their stars immediately following the 2003 World Series, but within a few years they were mediocre anyway. Despite their 2012 spending spree coinciding with their new ballpark, the Fish—who would purge their roster of stars yet again after their 2017 sale—didn't return to October baseball again until reaching the expanded 2020 postseason. They bowed out in the second round and promptly returned to mediocrity in 2021.

CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Postseason Highlights

Topps Huston Street
Topps Huston Street

11/27/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #549 Huston Street, Padres

More Huston Street Topps Cards: 2004T 2005U 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2014 2014U 2015 2016 2017

I remember watching a Giants game in 2006 where highly-paid-but-disappointing closer Armando Benitez blew a(nother) save in spectacular fashion. Later that night, I tuned in to the Athletics game, which their closer Huston Street wrapped up in like eight pitches. I'm not sure I've ever felt envy quite like that in my adult life.

A reliable closer who wastes little time getting the job done. What a luxury...

Street began his fine career with Oakland before moving on to Colorado, but here, he's just completed his first season with the San Diego Padres. Street was a well-deserved 2012 All-Star, but he missed much of the second half with a calf injury suffered while covering first base.

THIS CARD: This is Street's lone Topps card with a horizontal front image, though his 2014 Update card also presents the wide view.

The #48 patch is in honor of late pitching coach Darrel Akerfelds, who died in June 2012.

San Diego has long worn the camo jerseys for Sunday home games, though my sources differ as to exactly HOW long. ESPN's Jim Caple famously took heat for bashing their appearance in 2012.

(flip) In addition to the six weeks of 2012 Street missed with the calf injury, he also sat out most of May 2012 with a shoulder strain.

That scoreless streak lasted from 6/20/2012 to 8/10/2012, spanning 22 games and 13 converted saves. Opponents hit .045 against Street during that stretch!

At least THIS Career Chase had a chance of a Top 10 finish. Street finished up with 324 saves, good for 20th all-time.

AFTER THIS CARD: Street, who in 2012 was completing a 3Y/$22M extension issued by the Rockies in January 2010, inked a 2Y/$14M extension with San Diego in July 2012. He continued to excel for the Padres—making the 2014 All-Star team—until being dealt to the playoff-bound Angels in July 2014.

Street put together a strong 40-save season for the 2015 Angels, but in '16 he struggled badly between oblique and knee injuries. A March 2017 lat strain disabled Street until mid-season, and after four games he returned to the DL with a groin injury. During that recovery, Street was found to have a rotator cuff strain and never returned to the mound again; he officially retired in March 2018 at 34.

Huston Street debuted in Topps with a Draft Pick card in 2004 Traded & Rookies. He next appeared in 2005 Updates & Highlights, then showed up annually in Topps 2006-17. He's also got a 2014 Update card as a new Angel.

CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, San Diego Padres

Topps Johnny Damon
Topps Johnny Damon

11/29/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #196 Johnny Damon, Royals

More Johnny Damon Topps Cards: 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2001T 2002T 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012U

Hey, Johnny. Long time, no see!

Here, the future Red Sox standout is fresh off his first full major league season. The rebuilding Royals gave Damon the keys to CF to open 1996, although by season's end he'd spent almost as much time in right as center. He had four three-hit games in July alone, all won by Kansas City. 

THIS CARD: Damon with perhaps one of the least interesting swings ever displayed on a baseball card. I always remember a publication from 1997 describing Damon as still in his "cocoon" offensively. By 1998, he was among the better (if not best) leadoff hitters in the game and never looked back.

Yes, we JUST profiled Damon's 2002 Topps card last week. It's not the first time one player has come up twice in a month—shoot, a few years ago Lenny Dykstra came up on consecutive days! We have no COTD rule against players being selected multiple times close together, provided we haven't presented the specific card before.

More from Damon's 1996 season: he batted almost exclusively leadoff for Kansas City and was second on the team with 25 steals and eight bunt hits (to Tom Goodwin's 66 and 14, respectively). From 6/27 to 7/18, Damon did not whiff even once (61 AB)! In fact, he batted .302 in June/July before sliding a bit.

(flip) In that huge August game at California, Damon's T1st slam victimized the beleaguered Jim Abbott; he later added an RBI groundout in the 4th and a two-run single in the 6th as KC destroyed the Angels 18-3. (The former Cy Young candidate Abbott dropped to 1-15, 7.79 with the loss and was quickly demoted to AAA for a month.)

Fun fact: Damon never once played in AAA, not even on a rehab assignment.

Other notable #18's in Royals history: MVP runner-up Al Cowens in the late 1970's, former Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen in the late 1980's, and OF/DH Raul Ibanez in the early 2000's.

AFTER THIS CARD: We just went over this last week, so I'm giving this the ol' Disgruntled NBA Star Treatment—only the bare minimum effort. Damon was a Royal through 2000, then spent a year with Oakland before signing with Boston for 2002-05. Then came four years with the Yankees 2006-09, one with Detroit, one with Tampa, and a partial run with the 2012 Indians to end his career. Damon finished at .284 with 2,769 hits, 408 steals and 235 HR—an excellent career by anyone's measure.

Johnny Damon premiered in Topps on a shared 1995 Prospects card. He returned as a 1996 Topps Future Star, then appeared annually 1997-2011. Damon also appears in 2001-02 Topps Traded, as well as 2012 Topps Update as an Indian.

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Kansas City Royals