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)

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

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

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

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

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

COTD Archive 2019: January  February  March  April  May  June  July​  August  September  October  November  December

COTD Archive 2020: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December

COTD Archive 2021: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  Current Month

 

 

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 Scott Proctor
Topps Scott Proctor

8/31/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps Update #117 Scott Proctor, Yankees

More Scott Proctor Topps Cards: 2004T 2007 2007U 2008B

From 2006-07, Scott Proctor was the busiest reliever around, getting in exactly 83 games in each of those two seasons (and another three in the 2006 postseason). A #5 pick of the Dodgers in 1998, Proctor had grown into a decent starting pitching prospect when he was switched to relief in 2003. That July, he was one of two youngsters acquired by the Yankees in a trade for 3B Robin Ventura.

Proctor made his MLB debut in 2004, but needed more minor league seasoning. Here, the 29-year-old is well into his first full major league season after winning a spot on the 2006 Yankees roster in Spring Training. Not until his 18th appearance did Proctor allow multiple runs in a game, and his ERA was below 2 as late as 5/20.

THIS CARD: We see Proctor about to deliver his then-100-MPH fastball, or his slider, curve or changeup. Proctor later added a sinker, and much later, a splitter, as he lost some heat.

I was surprised to find Proctor only appeared in one Topps set, though he did pop up in three Traded/Update sets. His big league splendor was far shorter than I remembered.

More from Proctor's early-mid 2006 season: in April, he threw a lot of long relief and piled up several 40+-pitch outings. In time, manager Joe Torre began to trust him later in games, but leading up to the All-Star break Proctor's effectiveness waned (9.00 in the final 10 games of the first half). Still, he struck out five of the final nine batters he faced.

(flip) Since there's no blurb, we'll tell you that Proctor won a job in New York's 2006 bullpen with a 1.06 ERA in Spring Training, with seven hits allowed in 17 innings.

Instead of that bloated career ERA, Topps could have used the Stat Box to highlight Proctor's career 9.7 H/9. Which, obviously, isn't good, but the truth is, none of Proctor's early stats were bragworthy.

Check out Proctor's decent numbers as a starter for 2001 Vero Beach and 2002 Jacksonville. I'm not sure precisely why he was sent to middle relief in 2003, but the move seemed to accelerate his promotion to MLB.

AFTER THIS CARD: Proctor's early 2007 season was certainly eventful—he was suspended four games for throwing behind a hitter, later burned his equipment in the Yankee dugout following a rough outing, and was traded back to the Dodgers in July. Battling a bad elbow that eventually required surgery, he did not fare well for the 2008 Dodgers and signed with Florida for 2009.

Proctor's elbow continued to act up, however, and he underwent UCL surgery in May. But in 2010 Spring Training, there Proctor was, already firing away for the Braves 10 months after surgery! He was not quite crisp yet, and the team held him over at AAA Gwinnett until September. 

The 34-year-old returned to Atlanta for 2011, but posted a 6.44 ERA in 31 games before being let go in August. Proctor returned to the Yankees for what would be his final 11 major league innings...over which he allowed a staggering six home runs. Proctor spent 2012 pitching in Korea and attempted comebacks with the 2013 Giants and Orioles, but neither club promoted him.

In 2013, Proctor admitted drinking likely curtailed his career.

Scott Proctor appeared in 2004 Topps Traded, 2006 Topps Update, 2007 Topps, 2007 Topps Update and a Factory Bonus 2008 Topps set.

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps Update, New York Yankees

More August 2021 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Eddie Rosario
Topps Eddie Rosario

8/1/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #334 Eddie Rosario, Twins

More Eddie Rosario Topps Cards: 2015U 2016 2017 2019 2020 2021

It took at least 2-3 years before I could differentiate Twins OF Eddie Rosario from Twins IF Eduardo Escobar. Every few years, a pair of dudes reach MLB with names and games so similar until I have trouble remembering which one is which, especially if they're on teams I don't regularly see.

It happened to me in the mid-2000's with Jeremy Reed and Jeremy Hermida—and they weren't even on the same team! It's happening to me now with the Tigers' Willi and Harold Castro. 

Around the time this card was released, I binge-watched Rosario and Escobar highlights until I could definitively identify one from the other. It was a blessed day, because both have since become very, VERY good—albeit different—players, and I'd look like a fool if I ever mistook one for the other.

Here, Rosario is fresh off his third major league season, all with Minnesota. In 2017 he set career highs in just about everything except triples, and more than doubled his power output while dramatically reducing his K rate somehow...that's rarely done at the major league level, folks.

THIS CARD: We see LF Rosario charging in for the catch as SS Jorge Polanco wisely stays out of his way. According to Getty Images, this pic was shot 5/18/2017, in Game 1 of a doubleheader with Colorado. Wasn't able to get any other deets such as inning or batter. but we CAN tell you Minnesota lost 5-1.

Rosario started 126 games in LF, five games in CF and 11 games in RF for the 2017 Twins. He's never been regarded as a plus defender, but he's made some plays over the years. 

It is a bit weird profiling an active player, since the Randomizer has been spitting out so few of them in recent weeks. In fact, the last active player profiled in COTD was Brandon Woodruff on May 19.

(flip) That is still Rosario's Twitter handle today. I'm not sure what the 09 represented, since he only wore #20 with the Twins, but it must mean something to him because he took #9 upon joining the Indians for 2021.

That three-homer game went down 6/13 vs. Seattle's Christian Bergman, Casey Lawrence, and Carlos Ruiz (yes, that one); Rosario's five RBI powered a 20-7 victory. Rosario would also blast three homers in a mid-2018 game.

As you see in the stats, the three-base hit once so prominent in Rosario's game has given way to the four-base hit. He's only hit eight triples from 2016-present after those league-leading 15 in 2015.

AFTER THIS CARD: Rosario's 2018 was very similar statistically to his 2017, but the Twins failed to return to postseason play. In '19, Rosario homered 32 times with a team-high 109 RBI, helping Minnesota to 101 wins and an ALDS berth. But the Yankees dispatched them from the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Now making $7.5M—pre-virus, anyway—Rosario's average fell to .257 in 2020 and he went hitless in the Twins' Wild Card Series loss to Houston. Likely due for an arbitration raise, the Twins opted to non-tender their longtime LF that winter.

Cleveland signed Rosario for 2021 (1Y/$8M), but after a half-season featuring poor luck and amazing luck, he was swapped to the Braves at the Deadline for 3B/PH Pablo Sandoval. At present, the 29-year-old Rosario is recovering from an oblique injury and won't debut with Atlanta for a while.

Eddie Rosario debuted in 2015 Topps Update before appearing in 2016-2021 Topps. Each of his past four commons are of the horizontal variety; his 2019 Topps card is one of my favorites.

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Minnesota Twins

Topps Roger Clemens
Topps Roger Clemens

8/3/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #340 Roger Clemens, Red Sox

More Roger Clemens Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 1999A 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2007U 2008

I gotta tell the truth: teen me all but worshipped Roger Clemens for a time.

In those days and even today, I've always been a fan of big, durable pitchers who pile up a lot of innings. And during my youth, nobody fit that description better than the "Rocket". He was good for 18+ wins, 240+ innings and 200+ K every year until his mysterious dropoff in 1993. But before long he was back to his ridiculous standard—after Red Sox GM Dan Duquette essentially called him washed up and let him walk to Toronto.

Of course, those post-Boston years are now shrouded in mystery. Clemens has never admitted to using PEDs, but a former trainer—with much to lose and nothing to gain by lying—testified under oath that Clemens did indeed 'roid up for a long time. It's why, despite seven Cy Young Awards, 354 career wins, an MVP award and the third-most strikeouts in history, Clemens has never come close to Cooperstown enshrinement.

Now all I feel toward the guy is indifference. Not that he gives a flying f--- about my approval, but still.

Here, however, Clemens is the untainted, unquestioned best pitcher in the land, the driving force behind the Red Sox' 1986 AL pennant. That year he posted a ridiculous 0.97 WHIP, won 24 of 28 decisions, claimed that MVP award, and for good measure, Clemens also struck out a record-setting 20 Mariners on 4/29!

THIS CARD: For whatever reason, each of Clemens' first three Topps front images are just him  slightly turned, staring into the distance. The uniforms and locales differ, but there was definitely no true redundancy check done back in the mid-1980's. (The company made up for it with his 1991 Topps front image, one of its best ever.)

Clemens also has a Record Breaker card in 1987 Topps (Card #1), shouting out his 20-K masterpiece.

More from Clemens' 1986 season: he began the year 14-0 after 15 starts, with a no-decision at Oakland 5/9 the only interruption. In those 15 starts, he threw at least eight innings 13 times, which would get a manager tarred and feathered today.

(flip) I will never get used to "O" as an abbreviation for "Ohio". Or the thought that an adult Clemens ever weighed 205 lbs. And no, we didn't pick this card to acknowledge Clemens' 59th birthday tomorrow; its selection was a total coincidence.

Now, 241 K in 275 IP certainly isn't shabby, but I'd have expected at least 50 more from a pitcher of Clemens' caliber. Of course, things were different in the 1980's—there was shame associated with striking out.

Reuss was a very good pitcher, but nowhere near Clemens' level. Still, he achieved something The Rocket never quite could...that's baseball for ya.

AFTER THIS CARD: We mentioned the seven Cy Youngs and the MVP. There was also that second 20-K game (in 1996), five more 20-win seasons, the mega-contract with Toronto, the trade from Toronto to the Yankees of all teams, the bizarre conflict with Mike Piazza, the will-he-or-won't-he-pitch saga throughout his Astros tenure, and of course, the introduction of the word "misremember" into the lexicon.

It was never dull with Roger Clemens, who appeared annually in Topps 1985-2008, including twice in 1999. (BTW, even though I've owned it for over a decade, I was surprised to confirm Clemens received a 2008 Topps sunset card. I'd long thought he'd gotten the Barry Bonds treatment.)

CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Boston Red Sox

Topps Carlos Guillen
Topps Carlos Guillen

8/4/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #526 Carlos Guillen, Tigers

More Carlos Guillen Topps Cards: 1999 2002 2003 2004 2004T 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2011

Carlos Guillen was a three-time All-Star infielder for the Mariners and Tigers over a 14-year career, and as good as a player as he was, he never received a whole lot of national pub. In fact, if you randomly asked ME, an over-obsessed baseball sponge, to name all of the All-Star shortstops of the 2000's, I can't guarantee Guillen would quickly come to mind.

But for several years, he was right there in that second tier of American League shortstops. He hit for some power, showed some speed, and displayed versatility without complaint. The only real knock on Guillen was his penchant for injuries—he averaged 152 games in 2006-07 but was otherwise a regular visitor to the disabled list.

Here, the 34-year-old has just wrapped his sixth season in Detroit. Guillen was asked to switch positions for the second straight year (to LF from 3B), but in the end almost half of his run came as a DH anyway. He missed nearly three months (5/5 through 7/23) with right shoulder inflammation and a sore Achilles tendon. 

THIS CARD: I'm not sure Guillen got the bat head around on this one. If so, he probably got it around too fast and yanked it foul. Oh, well, nobody's perfect.

Uniform #9 has been pretty good for the Tigers during my fandom. Before Guillen, 2B Damion Easley had some good years for Detroit wearing #9, and more recently, 3B/OF Nick Castellanos enjoyed even better years with #9 on his back. Today, IF Willi Castro wears it after switching from #49.

More from Guillen's 2009 season: he opened the year 6-for-38 (.158) before warming up towards the end of April. Then he was injured in early May, but promptly hit in seven straight games after returning in late July. On 8/31 Guillen went 4-for-5 with two homers, four RBI and three runs, followed by a 3-for-4, two-homer, four-RBI effort on 9/23.

(flip) It's not accurate to list Guillen as solely a DH. He played more LF in 2009 (42 games to 36 at DH) and was playing almost exclusively LF down the stretch for the Tigers (though he DH'd in the classic Game #163).

That Trade With Mariners sent IF Ramon Santiago and a prospect to Seattle, who wasn't interested in giving Guillen an arbitration raise and signed FA SS Rich Aurilia that same day.

No blurb, so I'll supply one: Carlos boasts a .301/.373/.486 slashline in 721 games with the Tigers. On 9/23/09 he homered from both sides of the plate for the fourth time in his career.

AFTER THIS CARD: Guillen opened 2010 as a LF/DH once more, but by May he was back at 2B. Hamstring, calf and knee injuries limited him to 68 games, however, and microfracture surgery on said knee kept him out until July 2011. After more aches (wrist, calf) and an omission from Detroit's postseason roster, the Tigers moved on from the 34-year-old.

Seattle signed Guillen to a MiLB deal in February 2012, but he retired a month later.

Carlos Guillen debuted in 1999 Topps as a brand-new Mariner, then appeared annually from 2002-11. He's also got a 2004 Traded card.

CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Detroit Tigers

Topps Tom Goodwin
Topps Tom Goodwin

8/5/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps Traded #86 Tom Goodwin, Royals

More Tom Goodwin Topps Cards: 1993 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003T 2004 

My main "memory of" Tom Goodwin is stubbornly insisting upon platooning him in CF for the Giants in my old EA Sports Triple Play Baseball Playstation game. It was either that or play Tsuyoshi Shinjo against lefties and righties—I didn't want to deal with the complications involving trading for Kenny Lofton as the real life Giants did that year.

If memory serves, Goodwin batted somewhere around .230 with absolutely no pop at all.

There's a reason why I haven't won a video game World Series since 1994.

Here, Goodwin has just earned his first regular MLB playing time with the 1995 Royals. Claimed off waivers from the outfield-rich Dodgers in January 1994, Goodwin spent virtually all of that year in AAA before taking over for the traded Brian McRae as the Royals CF.

THIS CARD: With the mitt, Goodwin was good, but not great. He could run down most anything, but his arm wasn't anything to brag about.

This is either a 1994 photo or a Spring Training 1995 photo, because Goodwin switched to #42 for the 1995 regular season; I'm not sure why. (He'd also worn #47 with the Dodgers.) In Royals history, #47 has been worn by mostly no-names and journeymen, although 2015 trade acquisition Johnny Cueto helped the Royals win the World Series wearing those digits.

More from Goodwin's early 1995 season: he recorded a hit and a walk in three of his first four games of '95. On 5/28 he went 3-for-4 at Milwaukee, then on 5/30 he went 3-for-4 again, this time against Texas. Those performances raised his average 52 points!

(flip) Those two 1994 Royals games? Goodwin, who opened the year on KC's roster, pinch-ran against Baltimore 4/6, then played the final three innings of a 22-11 loss to Boston 4/12. He was then optioned to AAA Omaha for the season's duration.

Goodwin played for Team USA in 1988, but does not have a card in 1988 Topps Traded like most of the rest of the team.

Goodwin was not a #2 pick in June 1989, he was a #1 pick, 22nd overall in fact. That error also appears on his 1993 Topps card, but is corrected on his 1996 Topps card.

AFTER THIS CARD: Goodwin remained a Royals regular in CF/LF through mid-1997, when he was traded to Texas for 3B Dean Palmer. He stole 166 bases 1995-97, an average of 55.3 per year! 

Goodwin enjoyed a solid 1998 for the Rangers but slipped in 1999 and was not re-signed. The Rockies inked Goodwin for 3Y/$10.75M in December 1999, but traded him to the Dodgers in July 2000 (for OF Todd Hollandsworth and two failed prospects). Slowed by a bad hamstring pull in 2001, the 33-year-old batted just .231 with 22 steals and was waived in April 2002.

That's when my Giants swooped in. Goodwin wasn't terrible as a Giant, but his lasting memory there might be his insertion as a PH for Reggie Sanders—a cold, but monumentally superior hitter—in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. As he'd done in five of his seven postseason at-bats to that point, Goodwin struck out.

Two seasons (2003-04) as a Cubs reserve OF/PH/PR followed, but when Tampa Bay cut Goodwin in Spring 2005, his MLB career ended at 36. He went on to manage in the minors briefly before resurfacing as a coach, first with the 2013-17 Mets, and since 2018 with the Red Sox.

Tom Goodwin debuted in 1993 Topps, then appeared annually 1996-2004 (except 2003). He's also got 1995 and 2003 Traded cards, but NOBODY produced a card of Goodwin as a Giant—leading me to believe I'm wrong and he was actually so awful in SF no one would preserve the memory...

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps Traded, Kansas City Royals

Topps Colin Moran
Topps Colin Moran

8/7/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps #214 Colin Moran, Pirates

More Colin Moran Topps Cards: 2016U 2018U 2020 2021

(No known relation to Erin.)

My top memory of Pirates IF Colin Moran is one he undoubtedly would extract from his own memory if he could.
Back in 2017, when still feeling his way as a new Astro, Moran joined the dubious list of major leaguers to foul a ball off of his own face. This was no glancing blow, either—the unsteady infielder was carted off the field and hospitalized, never to play for Houston again.

Here, however, things have improved greatly for Moran—he's just completed his first season with the Pirates, who acquired him in the Gerrit Cole trade of January 2018. Moran, who would not have gotten much run behind Alex Bregman in Houston, served as Pittsburgh's primary 3B during the first half of 2018 before essentially platooning the final two months.

THIS CARD: I promise you, you would not recognize "RedBeard" from his clean-shaven Houston days.

No, your eyes do not deceive you: the Randomizer has chosen a 2019 Topps card, only the 5th in the 20 months I've owned the set. A welcome selection, as 2019 Topps is one of my favorite sets.

Moran appears to be tracking a ball just hit in the air. His reputation as a third baseman was not a particularly good one, and these days he mans first base.

(flip) FYI, Corey Dickerson was Moran's Pirates teammate 2018-19. Dickerson is a very good player, but not to the point he needs no introduction.

Only two Pirates (Starling Marte and Josh Bell) played more games than Moran's 144 in 2018.

That is still Moran's Twitter handle, though his last visible original post is from September 2019. Just a bunch of retweets since.

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2019, Moran started 106 games at 3B for the Bucs but also found time at 1B, 2B and even LF! Still, he struck out too much and didn't show enough power (13 HR in 466 AB) to fully compensate. Pittsburgh shifted Moran to 1B/DH for 2020, and he was their lone player to reach double-digit home runs.

At present, Moran has recently returned to the lineup after an errant pitch from Colorado's Kyle Freeland broke his left wrist 6/28/2021. He's at .273, 4, 23 in 51 games this season.

Colin Moran debuted in 2016 Topps Update, returned in 2018 Topps Update, and then appeared in the 2019-21 base sets.

CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates

Topps Brayan Pena
Topps Brayan Pena

8/8/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #28 Brayan Pena, Tigers

More Brayan Pena Topps Cards: 2004 2006 2009U 2011U 2012 2013U 2014U 2015

Hardly anybody remembers he ever even played, but for several years Brayan Pena was one of the better backup catchers in the game. He eventually became a regular catcher, which he was IMHO not quite suited for. But Pena could be pretty effective if used twice a week or so. He was a switch-hitter with a little pop and a good arm, and he could put the bat on the ball.

After four years on the minor league shuttle with Atlanta, Pena secured Kansas City's #2 catcher position, backing up the likes of Miguel Olivo, Jason Kendall and a very young Salvador Perez 2009-12. Here, however, Pena's wrapped up his lone season with the Detroit Tigers, who brought him in to back up Alex Avila. Pena started 52 games for the Tigers in 2013—11 of which went to extra innings!

THIS CARD: Pena graces our COTD presence for the second time; we profiled his 2009 Topps Update card back in April 2019.

The website identifies the ballpark for us in this case, Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium. In 2013 Pena batted 3-for-10 with three RBI in three games at Kauffman, his home park of the previous four seasons.

Catchers are taught to haul in popups with their back to the mound, as Pena demonstrates perfectly here. In my amateur league, I once failed to follow this protocol and sure enough, an easy popup fell to the ground. True story.

(flip) For his career, Pena hit 32 points better off RHP than LHP, so his 2013 performance against them wasn't totally uncharacteristic.

Pena was signed to a 1Y/$875K deal by Detroit after the Royals attempted to outright him to AAA Omaha after the 2012 season. In hindsight, it was a very sound decision for both Pena and the Tigers.

Expanding on the Rookie Fact, Pena's hit was a 2nd-inning infield single off Kaz Ishii of the Mets (good LORD that's going way back) that was thrown away, sending Pena to 2B. He soon scored on a three-run triple by Rafael Furcal, helping Atlanta to an 8-6 win!

AFTER THIS CARD: The Reds signed Pena for 2Y/$2.275M in November 2013, initially to back up Devin Mesoraco. But Pena wound up topping 100 games played both years, as he subbed at 1B for the injured Joey Votto in 2014, then subbed for the injured Mesoraco behind the plate in 2015.

Signed to a 2Y/$5M deal by St. Louis in November 2015, Pena's career came to an abrupt end. Knee cartilage surgery delayed Pena's 2016 debut by three months; he soon endured inflammation in said knee and was shut down until September. Having received 14 PA for their investment, he Cardinals cut him that off-season, and Pena never made it back to MLB (he officially retired to become a MiLB manager in 2018). 

Brayan Pena debuted in 2004 Topps as a First-Year Player, then returned in 2006, 2012, 2014 and 2015 Topps. He also shows up in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps, Detroit Tigers

Topps Carl Everett
Topps Carl Everett

8/9/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #267 Carl Everett, Red Sox

More Carl Everett Topps Cards: 1991 1993T 1994 1996 1998 1999 2001 2002 2002T 2003 2003T 2004 2004T 2005 2006

Carl Everett and the Boston Red Sox may be the most mismatched player/team marriage in sports history—I can't recall any other pairing quite like it. I also can't imagine any circumstance in which the franchise would ever invite Everett back to Fenway Park other than maybe an actual dinosaur buying the team from John Henry.

As best as I can remember—I was a teen with very limited Internet/cable access—Everett hadn't been a distraction during his earlier days with the Mets and Astros. But those are, with all due respect, a couple of expansion franchises. Playing in Boston is a whole different animal, and Everett was not suited for it, plain and simple.

Here, the Sox have just acquired Everett from the Astros in a trade sending the unrelated SS prospect Adam Everett and career minor leaguer Greg Miller back to Houston.

THIS CARD: Who knew when this photo was shot, presumably early in Spring Training 2000, the two-year s---storm that would follow. Everett seems so calm and, well, normal here. Just a guy ready to play ball. There's even sunshine and blue skies in the background...

Yes, the Red Sox hosted the 1999 All-Star Game (with 79-year-old Ted Williams memorably present). Not sure at all why a patch commemorating that would belong on a 2000 uniform. 

More from Everett's 1999 season: the 28-year-old enjoyed arguably the best year of his career batting mostly 4th/5th and playing CF for Houston. Unfortunately, he endured a second straight stinky October; Everett finished his Astros career 4-for-28 across the 1998-1999 postseasons.

(flip) Everett would go left-on-left a handful of times most seasons. According to BaseballReference.com, he batted left-on-left 62 times in his career, with 13 hits (.210).
 

In the Avery game at Cincinnati, Everett ripped a two-run bomb in the T3rd, which proved the difference in Houston's 5-3 win. (It was a fun series for Everett, who produced an inside-the-park homer at Cincinnati two days prior.)

That Trade was executed because in those days, the Astros operated within a budget and weren't willing to double Everett's pay in arbitration—especially with young Richard Hidalgo waiting in the wings.

Everett's .325 AVG in 1999 led the Astros, and that .571 SLG and 108 RBI ranked second to Jeff Bagwell. All despite missing 39 games, mostly due to hamstring and groin injuries in the second half.

AFTER THIS CARD: In Spring Training 2000, Everett signed a deal worth up to 4Y/$30.15M with Boston (including 2003 option). Despite some, well, tumult, he made the All-Star team in 2000, but except for busting up Mike Mussina's near-perfect game in September, little went right for Everett on or off the field in 2001 and Boston couldn't dump him fast enough that winter.

Except for 2003, a year split with the Rangers and White Sox, Everett was never a consistent impact player again, though he did hit .251, 23, 87 for the World Champion 2005 White Sox. Seattle inked Everett for 1Y/$4M for 2006, but in July—three weeks after mixing it up with manager Mike Hargrove—he and his .227 average were let go.

 

Following two seasons in the Independent League, Everett's pro career ended (but his troubles didn't).

Carl Everett debuted in 1991 Topps as a Yankees draft pick. He returned in 1993 Traded as a new Marlin, then appeared in the 1994, 1996 and 1998-2006 sets. Everett can also be found in 2002-04 Traded.

CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Detroit Tigers

Topps Juan Morillo
Topps Juan Morillo

8/11/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #647 Juan Morillo, Rockies

More Juan Morillo Topps Cards: n/a

Morillo was a VERY hard-throwing prospect for the late-2000's Rockies who, despite his powerful right arm, only made nine major league appearances across four seasons largely due to—wait for it—trouble finding the strike zone. Originally a starter as a Rox minor leaguer 2003-06, Morillo did enjoy some success before being called up to Colorado in September 2006.

THIS CARD: Morillo made one appearance for the Rockies in 2006 and I strongly doubt this image is from that game. (It wasn't; Morillo wore #52 in that game so this must be a Spring Training pic.)

That is one clean, easily discernable signature. Unlike many previous 2007-08 Topps Cards Of The Day subjects, Morillo seemed to actually sign with his hands rather than his feet.

More from Morillo's 2006 season: he was given the ball against Atlanta 9/24, walked or hit the first four batters he faced, then gave up a grand slam to Brian McCann. Ultimately, Morillo lasted four innings and allowed 12 baserunners—including a second home run to McCann—and seven runs. He never started another pro game.

(flip) As you can see, Morillo had a decent-ish 2006 campaign for AA Tulsa. Along with the high walk total, his eight HBP and 12 WP contributed to the unimpressive ERA.

2007 Topps marked baseball's second year with the new Rookie Card format and rules. In Series 2 of this set, rookie cards (including Morillo's) were clumped together as cards #621-649, rather than distributed across the set as they are today.

According to an April 2009 piece from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Morillo eventually broke 100 MPH thrice in 2008. No word on if those pitches were anywhere near the strike zone, however.

AFTER THIS CARD: Morillo made four September relief appearances for the 2007 Rockies, going unscored upon in the first three before being battered in the fourth (including another grand slam). He then threw one scoreless inning for the 2008 Rockies before being let go in April 2009.

Minnesota brought Morillo in soon after, watched him post a 22.50 ERA in three April appearances, and banished him to AAA Rochester for the season's duration. Though Morillo played a year in Japan and returned to the States for stints with the Philadelphia and Baltimore organizations, he never returned to MLB.

Juan Morillo appeared in 2007 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Colorado Rockies

Topps Nate Bump
Topps Nate Cornejo

8/12/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #440 Draft Picks Bump, Cornejo

More 1999 Topps Draft Picks: n/a

How ironic that we randomly select this card on the same day I catch up with my longtime pal Nate after many months. Is there anything the Randomizer ISN'T privy to?

Nate Bump was a talented RHP out of Penn State who, though drafted by San Francisco, spent his entire MLB career with the Florida Marlins. He even took the mound for them in the 2003 NLCS!

Like Bump, Nate Cornejo spent his entire MLB career in one uniform (Tigers). He also had an eventful 2003 season, spending the entire year in Detroit's rotation and leading the team in IP and CG. 

THIS CARD: In our many years of COTD, we've selected multiple Prospects cards from near the end of the 1999 Topps checklist, but this is our first Draft Pick duo from the set.

See how Rookie Cards used to be designated? There was no official universal symbol prior to 2005 and somehow, some Draft Pick cards were not classified as Rookie Cards. I never quite figured that out and gave up trying around 2000 or so.

This may be the only instance of Bump wearing the San Francisco Giants uniform. He and fellow youngster Jason Grilli were traded to the Marlins for SP Livan Hernandez in mid-1999, barely after the year had passed making him trade-eligible (as per rules of the day).

(flip) In four years, Wellington High School couldn't convince anybody to take three hours of their Friday and record statistics...

Cornejo, the 34th overall pick in the 1998 Draft, was a supplemental pick for Detroit's loss of free agent P Willie Blair.

I'd never heard of Salem-Kelzer before now. Evidently, it was San Francisco's low-A team from 1997-2020—and I call myself a Giants fan—before becoming an Independent League team for 2021.

AFTER THIS CARD: Bump posted a 4.68 ERA across 113 appearances (two starts) for the 2003-05 Marlins before undergoing shoulder surgery. He kicked around in pro ball through 2012 (including a 2008 return to the Giants system) but never returned to the majors.

Cornejo, possibly the worst strikeout pitcher of his time (103 in 313 career MLB innings), made 19 combined starts for Detroit across the 2001-02 seasons before earning a permanent spot in 2003. He went 6-17, but so did just about every starter for the 119-loss Tigers. Cornejo then made five starts in '04 before being sidelined with a bad shoulder that eventually required surgery. The 27-year-old retired in '06 without a return to the majors.

Nate Bump appeared in 1999 and 2006 Topps, as well as 1999 Traded. Nate Cornejo appeared in 1999, 2002 and 2004 Topps as well as 1999 Traded.

CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Draft Picks

Topps Rheal Cormier
Topps Rheal Cormier

8/13/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps Update #71 Rheal Cormier, Reds

More Rheal Cormier Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1994 1995 1995T 1997 2001T 2004 2006 

Here, we catch up with Cormier as he arrives to what would be his final major league stop. Cincinnati, battling St. Louis for NL Central supremacy, acquired Cormier from the Phillies (who were 13 games out in the NL East) at the 2006 Trade Deadline. The veteran reliever, who hadn't pitched in almost a week when traded, saw action in four of the next five Reds games.

THIS CARD: Cormier in that pinstriped Reds uniform shouldn't look so strange considering he just spent the past few years in the Phillies pinstripes...but it does. (Cincy retired this look the following season.)

According to BaseballReference.com, which is usually reliable, Cormier only wore #37 as a Red and never wore #36 at any point in his MLB career, but I've found multiple photos and at least one other baseball card of him wearing #36. 

In recent Reds history, #36 has been frequently passed around since 1980's star Mario Soto retired, and its most notable wearer since then is probably Edinson Volquez, who made the 2008 All-Star team with #36 on his back. Pitching coach Derek Johnson has worn it since 2019.

More from Cormier's 2006 Reds stint: he wasn't all that effective (.350/.391/.617 against) but somehow he and/or fellow Reds relievers limited the damage to his ERA (4.50). Cormier last pitched 9/18; according to Rotowire.com, he battled a pectoral muscle injury in late September 2006.

(flip) That Trade With Phillies sent then-prospect Justin Germano to the Phillies. Germano, a pitcher with some MLB experience prior to the deal, finished with a 10-30, 5.40 line across 96 major league games—including all of ZERO with the Phillies—2004-14. So the Reds won this trade...but only by default.

Cormier makes his fourth COTD appearance here, tying him with Alfonso Soriano for the all-time TSR lead. We previously presented his 1993 Topps card (June 2017) his 1995 Topps card (March 2020) and his 2004 Topps card (March 2021, recognizing his death).

Whenever I hear the expression "can of corn", I'm taken back to the old EA Sports Triple Play Baseball series in which announcer Buck Martinez made sure to explain the origins of the phrase at least once per ballgame. (I kept waiting for his partner Jim Hughson to strangle him, but he never did.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Very little. 40-year-old Cormier didn't impress in early 2007, and was cut in May. He quickly signed with the Braves but retired three weeks later; though done in MLB, we did see Cormier pitch in the 2008 Olympics for his native Canada. He passed away in March 2021, age 53 (cancer).

Rheal Cormier—by the way, it's pronounced RE-AL COR-ME-AY—appeared annually in Topps 1992-95, dropped by in 1997, and made a comeback in 2001 Traded before two final appearances in 2004 and 2006 Topps. 


He also has a 1995 Traded card with Boston and this 2006 Topps Update card with Cincinnati. 

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps Update, Cincinnati Reds, Now Deceased

Topps John Baker
Topps John Baker

8/15/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps Update #216 John Baker, Marlins

More John Baker Topps Cards: 2009 2011F 2014U

I almost feel like I know John Baker, thanks to his regular post-retirement interviews with a local radio host who happens to be his friend. Obviously I do not know him, but if I did, I'd know a pretty smart guy who was the first Cubs position player to ever be credited with a pitching win.

Here, however, Baker is into his third season with the Marlins, and a few months removed from serving as the Marlins' primary catcher. In 2009 he started 99 times for Florida, who got through the entire 162-game season using only two catchers! (Ex-Pirate Ronny Paulino started the other 63 games.)

THIS CARD: Pretty exciting front image for a catcher; Baker is beginning a hot pursuit for somebody's popup at the former Joe Robbie Stadium. Catching gear can make dudes appear bulkier and slower than they actually are, but Baker—while no Jason Kendall—moved pretty decently.

Viewing this card emphasizes that the Marlins should have never retired their teal look. At least today it's been (partially) restored.

Baker was a tougher foe than he should have been in my old MLB 11: The Show game; I had an easier time pitching to "Mike" Stanton and Hanley Ramirez than Baker sometimes.

More from Baker's early 2010 season: he started 20 of Florida's first 34 games but had only managed a .218/.307/.282 slashline when a strained flexor tendon put him on the DL. It turned out to be a season-ending injury, and he underwent UCL surgery that September.

(flip) I tried to find out more about Cesar Gracie, but Wikipedia only links to the training facility named after him. And that's as far as my interest goes.

You can't really tell here, but with longer hair and smiling, Baker strongly resembles the longtime Ranger P Derek Holland.

That Trade With Athletics sent minor leaguer Jason Stokes west. This is after the A's and Marlins played two rounds of waiver tag with Baker over the 2005-06 winter.

AFTER THIS CARD: Baker healed in time for some late run with the 2011 Marlins, but they decided to deal him to San Diego that November (for SP Wade LeBlanc). As a 2012 Padre, Baker backed up Nick Hundley early and shared time with Yasmani Grandal after Hundley got hurt. Baker barely played in early '13 and was eventually DFA'd, finishing that season with AAA Albuquerque (Dodgers).

Baker won a job with the 2014 Cubs and got in 68 games—including the historic game mentioned above. On 7/29 vs. Colorado, using mid-70's "heat", Baker threw a scoreless T16th, then walked and scored the winning run in the B16th!

But when the 34-year-old failed to win a job with the 2015 Mariners, he returned to the Cubs as a special assistant; at last check, he currently holds a kind-of-similar role with the Pirates. Baker ended his career having gone homerless in his final 565 regular-season at-bats.

John Baker appeared in 2009 Topps, 2010 and 2014 Topps Update, and the 2011 Topps Marlins Factory Team Set.

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps Update, Florida Marlins

Topps Brian Sackinsky
Topps Brian Sackinsky

8/16/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #647 Brian Sackinsky, Draft Pick

More Brian Sackinsky Topps Cards: 1995

This should be brief.

In the 1992 Draft, Baltimore selected Sackinsky #2 out of Stanford, three years after they selected him #39 out of high school. His first stop was High-A Frederick, where he was battered, but he recovered nicely after a demotion to Bluefield (Rookie).

THIS CARD: How ironic—Sackinsky only received two Topps cards, and we wound up profiling them both within two months of each other.

That looks like the changeup grip to me. Sackinsky, once described as "a great big, strong brute" by Orioles roving pitching instructor Tom Brown, still knew how to pitch according to the multiple articles I read about him.

(flip) If 4.13 was the LOWEST ERA among Stanford's starters, then they really made a mistake letting Mike Mussina get away. (For God's sake, people, that was tongue-in-cheek.)

The U.S. Olympic Festival was a multi-sport event held in the U.S. annually from 1978-1995 (during non-Olympic years). It was a big deal in Oklahoma City, its 1989 host city.

AFTER THIS CARD: As a full-time starter across three minor league levels 1993-94, Sacinsky went 20-19, 3.28. The Orioles called him up from AAA Rochester in late April 1996 to sub for injured RP Armando Benitez, and the rookie allowed two earned runs and six hits across 4.2 innings covering three games.

But according to the 4/26/1996 edition of The Baltimore Sun, O's manager Davey Johnson was hesitant to use Sackinsky on consecutive days following his 1995 elbow surgery, so he was sent back down to AAA when roster needs changed.

After being limited to 10 appearances (all in the minors) in 1997-98, Sackinsky's pro career ended at 27, with all signs point to recurring elbow problems as the cause.

Brian Sackinsky appeared in 1993 and 1995 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Draft Picks

Topps Luis M. Castillo
Topps Luis M. Castillo

8/17/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps Update #139 Luis M. Castillo Reds

More Luis M. Castillo Topps Cards: 2018 2019 2020 2021

Hooray! Another active player!

These days, there aren't many young guys capable of being the 200-inning horse of a major league staff (in part because they aren't allowed to be, but still.) However, Luis Castillo of the Reds didn't take long to become one of those guys. He had a ghastly start to 2021, but I'd bet my card collection that 29 other general managers would trade for him today.

Here, Castillo is just a puppy. Acquired via trade from the Marlins in January 2017, Castillo entered Cincinnati's rotation that June and was at times brilliant over his 15 starts (though the last-place Reds could only reward him with three wins). He especially shined after getting over some early issues with the home-run ball.

THIS CARD: Castillo has an excellent changeup that can act like a two-seam fastball, and it looks like we're seeing it here. He also features an actual two-seamer, a four-seamer that reaches 100, plus a lesser-used mid-80's slider. 

Not visible: Castillo's uniform #58. In Reds history, he's easily the best of their 21 players to wear that number, with RP Hector Carrasco coming in second.

More from Castillo's mid-2017 season: he allowed five home runs in his first three starts, but only two more in his next five starts (covering 31.2 innings). On 7/30, he scattered three hits over eight innings and added an RBI on a squeeze for the victory in Miami!

(flip) 2017 Topps Update did not include individual players' social media handles. Castillo does have an Instagram (@luis58castillo), though his most recent post is four months old.

I wouldn't describe Castillo's slider as "powerful", at least in 2021. Perhaps it was when this card was released? In any event, it's better than mine, I'll grant you that.

That Trade With Marlins sent Castillo and two other then-prospects (one of them being RP Austin Brice) to the Reds in exchange for Dan Straily. Yes, it was Straily in exchange for three dudes. Granted, he'd been a 14-game winner in 2016, but that's still a grossly lopsided trade. (Before that, my Giants gave up the 22-year-old Castillo in a deal for 3B Casey McGehee.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Castillo endured a very uneven 2018 season, but still made 31 starts and won 10 of them. Named the Reds' 2019 Opening Day starter, the 26-year-old broke through with a 15-8, 3.40, All-Star campaign and was just as tough in the shortened 2020 season despite going 4-6.

In 2021, Castillo caught fire after a baffling 1-8, 7.22 start; since the start of June he's 6-4, 2.73 and has gone at least six innings in 12 of 15 starts for the 2nd-place Reds.

Luis M. Castillo debuted in 2017 Topps Update, and has since appeared in 2018-21 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps Update, Cincinnati Reds

Topps Kim Batiste
Topps Kim Batiste

8/19/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #514 Kim Batiste, Phillies

More Kim Batiste Topps Cards: 1993 1994 1995

Here, we meet the future Phillies postseason hero as he takes his first sip of major league coffee. The September call-up wasted no time getting in the hit column, singling off Houston's Ryan Bowen in his first MLB at-bat.

THIS CARD: I see a slight resemblance to former Brewers/Giants outfielder Mike Felder. Which is a compliment.

Since Batiste—and before Batiste—uniform #7 made the rounds in Philadelphia, with former 3B Maikel Franco being the most notable wearer in terms of length and accomplishment. Batiste switched to #5 for the rest of his four-year Phillies tenure.

More from Batiste's 1991 season: he notched three hits in his first eight at-bats, but only three more in his next 19. This is presumably because opponents realized Batiste had almost no plate discipline and would frequently get himself out.

(flip) Good lord, check out Batiste's 1991 Phillies line: one walk in 29 plate appearances would get dudes assassinated today. Or at the very least, benched.

Of those eight strikeouts for Philadelphia, four came in the 10/6/1991 season finale against the Mets. But Batiste wasn't alone that day—David Cone struck out 19 Phillies.

For the record, "Kim" is not short for "Kimberly". His full name was Kimothy Emil Batiste.

AFTER THIS CARD: Batiste lasted with the Phils as a reserve infielder through 1994, with his key moment being his 10th-inning walk-off double vs. Atlanta in Game 1 of the 1993 NLCS (which atoned for a previous critical error). That season was Batiste's best, as he batted .282 with five homers in 156 at-bats.

Out of the majors in 1995, Batiste resurfaced with my Giants in 1996 (which I have zero memory of, even as I perfectly recall the likes of Dax Jones and Desi Wilson). He batted .208 in 54 games and never played in the majors again (though he was an Independent Leaguer 1998-2003).

Batiste finished his career with exactly 14 walks in 684 major league plate appearances...things were different in the 1990's, kids.

Batiste sadly passed away from kidney surgery complications in October 2020, age 52.

Kim Batiste appeared in 1992-95 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies

Topps Chuck Cary
Topps Chuck Cary

8/20/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #359 Chuck Cary, Yankees

More Chuck Cary Topps Cards: 1987 1989T 1990

In 2021, the Yankees have gotten strong contributions from journeyman lefty SP Nestor Cortes after inserting him into their depleted rotation.

In 1989, the Yankees got strong contributions from journeyman lefty SP Chuck Cary after inserting him into their unimpressive rotation.

It's yet to be seen what the future holds for Cortes, but Cary's effort put him in line for a job with the 1990 Yankees. Here, he's just wrapped up his first and only season spent entirely in the majors, and despite some bumps—both figurative and literal—Cary had a decent 1990 campaign, finishing a close second on the team in K and winning four of his first six decisions.

THIS CARD: As this pic indicates, Cary was tall and long; a lot of limbs came flying toward the hitter when he threw. If that weren't enough, he featured a screwball—that combo is how you strike out a lot of guys without blazing stuff.

Cary makes his second appearance in COTD; we reviewed his 1987 Topps card back in March 2020.

More from Cary's 1990 season: he had four especially rough outings that swelled his ERA, which would have been 3.16 otherwise! On 9/16 at Detroit, Cary concussed himself against the knee of teammate Steve Balboni as the two pursued a Darnell Coles popup near first base; Cary was unconscious on the field briefly and has no memory of the pitch or pursuit. (Balboni made the play.)

(flip) Not knocking Topps here, but it's not really bragworthy to lead a minor league in games, since that means you likely weren't promoted to MLB at any time that year. Somewhere out there, somebody holds the minor league Iron Man streak and for all we know it could be 3,000 games. But we don't know for a reason. (Nashville was Toledo's predecessor as Detroit's AAA team.)

Check out Cary's 1989 line; he went 4-3, 3.25, 1.058 in 11 starts to close the year. He also made 11 relief appearances with a near-identical 3.28 ERA.

There are no April 1990 stats because Cary was recovering from bone chips in his elbow that, as far as I can tell, were not surgically removed.

AFTER THIS CARD: Cary's overall 1990 success, despite the raves of Yankee coach Mark Connors, did not carry over into 1991—Cary was even demoted back to AAA for a time. After a short run in Japan in '92, Cary returned stateside to make his final 16 MLB appearances with the '93 White Sox.​

Chuck Cary appeared in 1987, 1990 and 1991 Topps, as well as 1989 Topps Traded.

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, New York Yankees

Topps Greg Litton
Topps Greg Litton

8/21/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #111 Greg Litton, Mariners

More Greg Litton Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 

When I first began following the Giants, Greg Litton was their backup utility infielder, if such a thing exists. Veteran Ernie Riles usually got first dibs when a infield glove was needed off the bench, but eventually Litton found himself playing more and more—even in the outfield!

Litton got in nearly 300 games for the 1989-92 Giants, and though he only hit .230 with 10 bombs, his versatility was essential, especially after Riles departed after the '90 season.

Eventually, Litton himself changed addresses, trading the Golden Gate Bridge for the Space Needle. We catch up with the 29-year-old after his lone season with Seattle (1993).

THIS CARD: Litton returns to Topps after a one-year absence; it's anybody's guess why he was omitted from the 825-card 1993 set despite spending most of '92 with San Francisco.

Litton had worn #15 his entire Giants career, but in 1992 he also cycled through #17 and #29. It's not clear why, since no incoming Giant took over #15 at any point that year. As you see here, he's now an answer to the trivia question "Name Any Mariner Who Wore #15 Before Kyle Seager."

More from Litton's 1993 season: his stunning .299 average was second among the 17 Mariners with over 100 AB (Ken Griffey Jr. hit .309). He slashed .347/.448/.551 in 22 September games, and on 7/11 he went 3-for-6 with a homer and walk-off 1B—while playing three positions!!!

(flip) Litton stroked a two-run homer off Oakland RP Gene Nelson in the B7th of Game 4, but by then SF trailed big. Litton started at 2B that day, moved to 3B in the T8th, then moved back to 2B three batters later. (Regular 2B Robby Thompson was slumping and battling a sore shoulder.)

Not shown: in each of those five major league seasons, Litton also spent time in the minors. That includes 1993, when he hit .318 in 49 games with AAA Calgary.

Of those 13 doubles in 1993, six were hit in July, and three others came in a five-day September burst.

AFTER THIS CARD: Almost nothing. After being cut by the Rangers in Spring Training 1994, Litton signed with Boston, who stashed him at AAA Pawtucket much of the year and presented him with all of 22 big league plate appearances.

Litton returned to the Mariners organization for 1995 but spent the entire year with AAA Tacoma (which had replaced Calgary as Seattle's top affiliate). He did not resurface in pro ball after that.

Greg Litton appeared in 1990-92 and 1994 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Seattle Mariners

Topps Steve Reich
Topps Steve Reich

8/23/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps Traded #85 Steve Reich, Team USA

More Steve Reich Topps Cards: n/a

No known relation to Frank.

I initially expected this write-up to be especially brief, since Reich's pro baseball career lasted all of two games and I couldn't have told you who he was even after owning his card for some 15 years now.

But then I learned a little more about Reich.

That is, Army Major Stephen C. Reich.

That is, the late Army Major Stephen C. Reich.

THIS CARD: Reich pitched four years for Army before suiting up for Team USA in the 1993 World University Games. Online information surrounding this tournament is conflicting and confusing, and I can't determine with certainty how Team USA fared even after checking and re-checking multiple sources.

Reich, according to a teammate, did feature a splitter as he's seen gripping here. He also threw a high-80's fastball; I'm assuming he had at least one other mystery pitch.

For Team USA in that 1993 competition, Reich posted a 2.48 ERA in 17 games. In 36.1 IP, he struck out 38 and walked three!

(flip) For Army, Reich amassed 259 strikeouts, but that record was later broken by Nick Hill (2004-07). Reich, who boasted a 19-10 career record, still holds the program's single-game seven-inning K record (17).

I have no idea what ECAC abbreviates and I'm not going to research. Let's all collectively assume it's honorable and prestigious.

Excuse the red blotch on Reich's photo; I assume my scan was corrupted. Will investigate (and repair if possible) next time we pull a 1993 Topps card for COTD.

This dude seriously completed 24 of 31 career starts. Max Scherzer has something like 10 career complete games. Granted, Navy and Air Force lineups aren't as difficult to navigate, but still.

AFTER THIS CARD: Reich initially chose to pursue his military career over baseball, though he did eventually sign a contract with the Orioles. But after two unimpressive 1996 appearances in Class A, the Army called Reich back. He wound up serving four tours of duty in Afghanistan, where he was one of 16 soldiers killed when his helicopter was shot down in June 2005. Reich was 34.

In 2006, Reich was posthumously elected to the Army Sports Hall of Fame.

I'll leave you with words from the Orioles scout who signed Reich, Earl Winn:

"He was the most impressive young man I have ever dealt with. He was a marginal prospect, but a well-grounded one with great work habits, desire and strength of character."

- courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

Steve Reich appeared in 1993 Topps Traded.

CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps Traded, Team USA

Topps Victor Zambrano
Topps Victor Zambrano

8/24/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #473 Victor Zambrano, Devil Rays

More Victor Zambrano Topps Cards: 2004T 2005 2006

For a guy who lasted just seven major league seasons and made all of 100 career starts, Victor Zambrano was one of the most talked-about pitchers of the mid-late 2000's. And not for anything he did on or off the field...more on that later.

Throughout his minor league pitching career, Zambrano was almost exclusively a reliever and at times, a closer. Tampa Bay called him up in late June 2001, and after a rough start, Zambrano became a generally dependable bullpen arm for the rest of that year.

 

However, that success didn't carry over into 2002, and Zambrano found himself demoted back to AAA for a time. Upon returning to MLB, Zambrano was knocked around some more, prompting the Rays to...make him a starter? The unconventional move worked out, as Zambrano turned in several quality outings down the stretch.

Here, Zambrano has completed a 2003 campaign spent mostly in Tampa Bay's rotation. He led the team in most key categories and at one point, completed seven innings or more in seven of eight starts!

THIS CARD: Yankee Stadium, perhaps? It's either there or Toronto; I don't feel like confirming at the moment. I will tell you that on the road in 2003, Zambrano was only 5-6, 4.85 compared to 7-4, 3.56 at The Trop. 

Zambrano wore #60 in his first two D-Rays seasons before switching to #47 in 2003-04. A bunch of middle relievers have since worn those digits in Tampa Bay, with five-year Ray Brandon Gomes the most notable. RP Oliver Drake currently claims it, though he's been hurt all of 2021.

More from Zambrano's 2003 season: he combined to allow zero runs in 14 innings in his first two starts at Yankee Stadium before being lit up for seven runs in 4.1 innings there 9/12. From 6/4 to 8/4, Zambrano went 8-2, 3.35 in 12 starts.

(flip) Those six 2003 relief appearances? Zambrano opened the year as a starter but was demoted to the bullpen in late April with a 6.91 ERA. He returned to the rotation in late May and never left.

In addition to those league-high 106 BB in 2003, Zambrano hit 20 batters and unleashed 15 wild pitches—both of which also led the league. You could say he was "effectively wild" that year.

Zambrano was signed in 1993, so why do his stats only go back to 1996 on this card? Because through 1995 Zambrano was an infielder, one who hit .205 with no homers in 77 games. (In the majors, he went 9-for-73, a .123 average.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Now to follow up on the opening paragraph: in mid-2004, Zambrano was traded to the Mets along with RP Bartolome Fortunato in exchange for RP Jose Diaz and 20-year-old pitching prospect Scott Kazmir. Kazmir quickly became one of the best pitchers in the American League, while Zambrano's career hung by a thread after the 2005 season.

After five starts in 2006, Zambrano underwent Tommy John surgery for the second time (1997). The Mets—who traded for him knowing he had flexor tendon tendinitis—did not re-sign him for 2007, and Zambrano's MLB career ended after short, forgettable runs with Toronto and Baltimore that year. Whenever a "Worst MLB Trades Ever" discussion starts, the Zambrano/Kazmir swap always ranks near the top, and only Kazmir's own struggles (much later) keeps it from ranking first.

Victor Zambrano appeared in 2004-06 Topps, as well as 2004 Topps Traded & Rookies.

CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Topps Greg Colbrunn
Topps Greg Colbrunn

8/25/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #601 Greg Colbrunn, Diamondbacks

More Greg Colbrunn Topps Cards: 1991 1993 1994 1994T 1995 1996 1997 2002 2003T

Colbrunn was originally a top catching prospect for the Montreal Expos, but they converted him to 1B following major elbow surgery that wiped out his 1991 season. The Marlins acquired Colbrunn off waivers after the '93 season, and he spent the next two seasons as their full-time 1B—his only two full seasons as a major league regular. (In early 1996, Colbrunn famously stayed in after a beaning by Pedro Astacio of the Dodgers that eventually led to discord.)

After that, the former college football recruit kept his bags packed. In a part-time role, he split the 1997 season between the Twins and Braves, then split the 1998 season between the Rockies and Braves (again). Arizona, during their flurry of acquisitions in the 1998-99 winter, signed Colbrunn next, and he rewarded them with a .326 average (much of that off the bench).

Here, the 31-year-old has completed his second season in the desert. In 2000, Colbrunn saw his most playing time in four years and responded with a .313 average in 82 starts; his .523 SLG ranked third on the team behind boppers Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley.

THIS CARD: I've already talked about the Topps Home Team Advantage stamp at least twice on previous 2001 Topps COTD.

Colbrunn had several uniform numbers in his long career, but #28 was easily the most common. He was the first #28 in team history and remains its longest-tenured Diamondbacks wearer. (More recently, you might recall J.D. Martinez having quite a run wearing #28 in the second half of 2017.)

More from Colbrunn's 2000 season: on 4/29 at the Cubs, he stroked four hits—missing the cycle by a double—drew a walk, and scored twice to lead Arizona's win. And from 8/28 to 9/6, Colbrunn went 16-for-34 (.471) with a pair of homers and seven RBI...all against former teams (MON, FLA, ATL)!

(flip) When a player is among the few who could pinch-hit at Colbrunn's .340 level, he's also doing himself a disservice because many teams deem said player too valuable off the bench to play full-time. I suspect that's at least partially why Colbrunn didn't play regularly for almost four full seasons.

Colbrunn took over 1B in August after original 2000 primary 1B Erubiel Durazo succumbed to a nagging wrist injury in August. Minor league masher Alex Cabrera got some mid-season run there, as did Travis Lee before being traded, but ultimately Colbrunn was the last man standing.

That free-agent deal was for 2Y/$1.8M, easily making Colbrunn one of the NL's best bargains in 2000. He got a nice raise that winter.

AFTER THIS CARD: Though Mark Grace was brought in for the lion's share of playing time at 1B, Colbrunn re-upped with the Diamondbacks for 2001-02, earning a 2001 World Series ring. The next year, he batted .333 in 72 games and completed the second cycle in the Diamondbacks five-season history.

Seattle signed the free agent for 2Y/$3.6M plus incentives in January 2003, but oblique and wrist injuries pretty much erased him after mid-June and he was traded back to Arizona in December. By then, however, the Snakes were a mess and Colbrunn went 3-for-27 before undergoing wrist surgery in July. After a herniated disc cost him any real shot with the 2005 Rangers, Colbrunn's playing career ended at 36.

From 2007-12, Colbrunn worked as a MiLB coach and manager before joining the Red Sox staff as hitting coach for 2013. You may have caught wind of the brain hemorrhage he suffered prior to a June 2014 game; Colbrunn soon returned from that malady but was let go after the season. At last check, he was working as a hitting coach in the Yankees organization.

Greg Colbrunn debuted in 1991 Topps, appeared in the 1993-97 Topps sets, went on hiatus, then returned for 2001-02 Topps. He's also got 1994 and 2003 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks

Topps World Series
Topps World Series

8/27/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #283 World Series

More 1998 Topps World Series Cards: #278

 

Didn't we just do this???

The Florida Marlins, all of five seasons old, made an improbable run to the 1997 postseason. Okay, it wasn't all that improbable, considering all the high-salaried All-Stars dotting Florida's roster, but as the 1980's Yankees proved time and time again, high salaries don't always result in winning teams—the squad still had to perform, and they did so well enough to ride a Wild Card berth all the way to Game Seven of the 1997 World Series.

Their opponent: the Cleveland Indians, who had a few big names of their own even after OF Albert Belle defected to the rival White Sox prior to the 1997 season. Cleveland fans, sitting on a 49-year championship drought, no doubt craved the championship more than Florida fans, but the actual task of winning it belonged to Sandy Alomar, Jim Thome, Mike Hargrove and the bunch.

THIS CARD: Just last month, we selected the 1998 Topps card recapping Game 2 of this very World Series for COTD; it seems the Randomizer wants to relive some of the Indians' finer hours before they become the Guardians in 2022. I suppose I can live with this, so long as '98 Topps—one of my favorite sets ever—gets some attention.

In addition to Game 7 hero Edgar Renteria (center), we see injured SP Alex Fernandez (#32) pitching coach Larry Rothschild (#47; yes, the same Rothschild fired by the Padres this season) and 3B coach Rich Donnelly (#45), among others.

(flip) This would be Leyland's lone World Series title, though he reached two others with the Tigers (who fell to the Cardinals in 2006 and my Giants in 2012).

The 1997 Marlins are now the second-youngest team to be crowned champs, thanks to the 2001 Diamondbacks. They beat the Yankees in eerily similar Game 7 walk-off fashion in their fourth season of existence. 

Hernandez was all of 22 at the time of his MVP; as far as I can research only Kansas City's Bret Saberhagen in 1985 was younger. Hernandez won despite a composite 5.27 ERA in the Series.

AFTER THIS CARD: As you may know, Florida immediately tore down its championship roster and rebuilt a younger version that won the 2003 World Series as well. But despite drafting and rearing some of the game's biggest stars, the franchise has made just one postseason appearance since (2020) and won't be back in 2021.

Since 1997, Cleveland has put together several strong teams but returned to the Fall Classic just once; the 2016 team fell in seven games to the Cubs in an instant classic. But most of that roster has moved on, leaving the Indians hovering around .500 in their final season under that name.

CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Subsets

Topps Gregory Soto
Topps Gregory Soto

8/28/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps Update #94 Gregory Soto, Tigers

More Gregory Soto Topps Cards: n/a

 

Washington's Juan Soto may be one of the biggest stars in all of baseball, but at least in Motown, hard-throwing reliever Gregory Soto—no relation—has turned a few heads.

Throughout the first four years of Soto's pro career (2013-16) he was shuffled between the rotation and bullpen, showing promise in both roles. But in 2017 he was left to start full-time and went 12-2, 2.25 in 23 starts across two levels of Class A. With a Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year award now in hand, Soto seemed on his way.

But he backtracked at Class A in 2018 and opened 2019 on the suspended list for conduct detrimental to baseball—no details were ever given, so for all we know Soto mooned Rob Manfred during Spring Training on a dare from Michael Fulmer.

Despite these setbacks, Soto was promoted to AA, AAA, and finally MLB during that 2019 season.

THIS CARD: Soto has retained the #65 to this day. He is one of three Tigers to ever wear the number during the season (Blaine Hardy, 2014-16, and Myles Jaye, who I'd never heard of but apparently appeared five times in 2017).

Little mystery what Soto is coming with here: either his 100-MPH sinking two-seamer, or his very tough slider—I'm still not able to identify non-changeup grips, sadly. Soto also occasionally features a four-seamer that reaches high-90's.

More from Soto's 2019 season: called up in early May, seven of his first eight appearances were as a starter. But after posting an 8.14 ERA and maxing out at four innings, Soto was shifted to relief, where he fared better but not exactly well. From 7/24 through 9/8, however, the kid posted a 2.05 ERA in 16 appearances.

(flip) In that 5/11 debut (a start), Soto found out he needed more than just gas to succeed at the major league level (4 innings, 9 hits, 7 earned runs and exactly ONE strikeout.)

23 of those 25 appearances for AA Lakeland in 2018 were starts, but as you see, Soto didn't even approach a five-inning average. Judging by the high BB/K totals, high pitch counts were the likely culprit.

Some of Soto's numbers from the 2018 AFL: 1-0, 3.10, 1.172 WHIP in seven starts. He walked "only" 14 in 29 innings while whiffing 25.

AFTER THIS CARD: Soto was second on the 2020 Tigers in appearances (27) and saved two games. New manager A.J. Hinch started giving Soto save ops in early 2021; he ended up on the All-Star team and subsequently received even more save opportunities. Save for a gruesome mid-August outing against the Angels, he's been solid as the closer for upstart Detroit.

To date, Gregory Soto has only appeared in 2019 Topps Update, but chances are we'll see him in 2021 Topps Update as well come October.

CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps Update, Detroit Tigers

Topps Justin Bour
Topps Justin Bour

8/29/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #499 Justin Bour, Marlins

More Justin Bour Topps Cards: 2014 2015 2016 2017 2019

 

One minute, Justin Bour was one of the better lefty sluggers in the NL.

The next minute, he was out of the league and off to Japan.

I'm not sure Will Craig's exile to Asia went down this fast...

Originally called up in June 2014, Bour swung a cold bat and was sent back down in mid-July. But he hit .319 upon returning in September, and after a brief minor league refresher in April 2015, he held down 1B for Miami for the next 3½ years when healthy. In 2015 Bour led the Marlins with 73 RBI, but he lost two months of 2016 with an ankle sprain.

Here, Bour is fresh off the finest year (2017) of his MLB career (though it was largely overshadowed by the performance of teammates Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, who combined for 96 HR and 256 RBI that year). Batting mostly 5th or 6th for the Marlins, Bour slashed .289/.366/.536, and his 25 home runs included 11 in May and one in four consecutive September games.

THIS CARD: Bour packed a lot of power into that swing; he didn't have to always be balanced to wallop a ball 400 feet. He seems far slimmer in this pic than he actually was/is.

Can I pinpoint the date of this pic? The background looks like the Oakland Athletics dugout; Miami played in Oakland 5/23-24, with Bour going off (5-for-9, HR, four runs). According to Getty Images, this image is from 5/23.

There exists a short-print variation of this card, with a grinning Bour chillin' in warmup gear.

More from Bour's 2017 season: his performance in the Home Run Derby had people buzzing. Bour smacked 22 longballs, including a 464-footer, in the first round, but still lost to eventual champion Aaron Judge of the Yankees. On 6/19, Bour's B3rd grand slam against Washington's Tanner Roark helped Miami erase a 6-0 deficit, and they went on to win 8-7.

(flip) On Bour's first Topps card (2015 Update), he's listed at 250 lbs; on his last (2019 Update) he's up to 270 lbs. I don't know the circumstances behind Bour's pinch-running appearance 5/7/2017, but at 265 lbs. he's got to be among the five heaviest PR's in MLB history.

At the time, hoping for an uptick in Bour's home run production didn't sound so silly. No one thought he'd blast 59 as Stanton had in 2017, but 35-40 seemed within reach. Briefly.

Wow. This is a big part of why COTD exists, people—I had no idea Bour was a Cubs draft pick.

Both of those handles are still active, although Bour's last public IG post was in December 2020. The #41 represents his (second) Marlins uniform number.

AFTER THIS CARD: Not surprisingly, Miami collapsed after trading away Stanton and others during the 2017-18 winter, and Bour himself was dispatched to Philadelphia in August 2018. For the year, Bour homered 20 times but batted just .227, and signed with the Angels for 1Y/$2.5M in December 2018. But he batted just .163 in 52 MLB games in 2019 and was demoted to AAA twice.

Bour took his big stick to Japan for 2020 before signing a MiLB deal with the Giants for 2021. They released him in June, and at last check Bour was again playing in the Far East, this time in Korea.

Justin Bour appeared in 2016-19 Topps, sandwiched by cameos in 2015 and 2019 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Miami Marlins