Topps Baseball Card Of The Day

"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.'" -- Ben Franklin

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I own every Topps baseball set since 1987, and every Score baseball card ever made. 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 2-3 per week.

 

I initially planned to include Score cards here, but decided they would over-saturate the 1990's and make it tougher to pull modern players—we don't want to be TOO nostalgic. So please enjoy randomly-selected Topps cards from 1987-present.

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 Joe Borchard
Topps Joe Borchard

9/19/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #310 Joe Borchard, Prospect

More Joe Borchard Topps Cards: 2003 2006U

If you're from the San Francisco Bay Area, like I am, at the very least you may know Joe Borchard's name. Not only was he a baseball star at Stanford University (among their Top 10 all time in HR/RBI), he was also the school's backup quarterback who shined brightly when the starter's injury thrust him into action.

Those skillz got the attention of, well, everybody, but it was the White Sox who picked Borchard 12th overall in 2000 and signed him for a then-record bonus of $5.3M.

THIS CARD: Beginning with 2002 Topps, multi-player Prospects cards were set aside; youngsters were now depicted solo. Borchard's card is part of a 38-card Prospects subset that also included "name" players such as Jason Bay, Marlon Byrd and Hank Blalock.

 

Borchard didn't debut with the White Sox until 2002, so this is either an airbrush job or a Spring Training pic. 

(flip) This could well be the first time "Drafted" was spelled all the way out on a Topps card.

Panorama City is, according to Wikipedia, a community within Los Angeles.

As the numbers show, Borchard wasted almost no time mashing the baseball upon reaching the pros. He led 2001 Birmingham in all three Triple Crown categories, with the 98 RBI placing first in the Southern League and the 27 homers ranking second.

Borchard's facial expression suggests "What the HELL is that freak wearing?"

AFTER THIS CARD: The 2002 White Sox made Borchard (who broke his foot with a foul ball that Spring) a September call-up, and he homered in his first game! He got a handful of at-bats the next year before receiving his first real extended look in July 2004, after Magglio Ordonez injured his knee.

Unfortunately, the kid only registered a .174/.249/.338 slashline in 63 games that year.

Borchard, by way of another September call-up, did receive a World Series ring with the 2005 White Sox, but they moved on from him the following March (via trade with Seattle for RP Matt Thornton). Shortly into the season, Florida acquired Borchard off waivers; he'd get in 108 games with the 2006 Marlins, swatting 10 home runs.

In 2007 all his numbers plummeted, however, and he spent the next three seasons buried in the minors for the Atlanta/San Francisco organizations; during this period he also underwent UCL surgery. Borchard gave the Independent League a shot in 2011 before walking away from pro ball.

 

Here is a good article catching up with Borchard in retirement, and here is Borchard's most impressive MLB feat..

Joe Borchard appeared as a Prospect in both 2002 and 2003 Topps, then returned as a Marlin in 2006 Topps Updates & Highlights.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Prospects

More September 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Travis Hafner
Topps Travis Hafner

9/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #487 Travis Hafner, Indians

More Travis Hafner Topps Cards: 2001 2001T 2003T 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2010 2011 2012 2013U

In the mid-2000's, there weren't many more dangerous run producers in the game than Travis Hafner, a giant of a man who could whack baseballs a long way. Jim Thome's departure as a free agent after the 2002 season left a gaping hole in Cleveland's lineup...for a short time, thanks to the big kid from North Dakota.

Hafner's one weakness—after turning 30, he just could not stay on the field for any sustained length of time. After averaging .308/.419/.611 with 34 HR and 111 RBI 2004-06, Hafner's numbers dipped across the board in 2007; despite this, the Indians gave him a 4Y/$57M extension that summer and watched his numerous health problems devalue the deal from the start.

Here, the 31-year-old is coming off a 2008 season ruined by a shoulder injury that sidelined him from late May into September (and required off-season surgery). Hampered by the bum shoulder, Hafner was batting just .217 on the year and had homered just once in the month of May before hitting the DL.

THIS CARD: Travis Hafner is not a person I'd want bearing down on me at second base.

This is probably the best front image of Hafner's Topps run; only his 2012 Topps card might rival it (he's depicted celebrating after a walk-off). Most of his front images depict him ho-hum mid-swing.

More from Hafner's abbreviated 2008 season: while his extended absence played no small role in Cleveland's failure to repeat as division champs, there was at least one highlight. Facing Justin Speier (Angels) in the T9th with Cleveland down 3-2, Hafner ripped a two-run homer that held up as the game-winner.

(flip) Thornton played for Cleveland 1977-87 and racked up 459 RBI as a DH. Hafner had already broken Thornton's single-season Indians record for DH RBI in 2006, upping it from 110 to 117.

That Trade With Rangers was a steal. Hafner (who kind of had to be moved; Mark Teixeira and Rafael Palmeiro played his positions) and P Aaron Myette joined Cleveland, with Texas receiving C Einar Diaz and P Ryan Drese. Diaz lasted one forgettable season in Texas, while Drese turned in a decent 2004 but was out of baseball two years later.

That is not a misprint: Hafner was a 31st-rounder. Meaning teams placed some 1,000 players in the 1996 draft ahead of him.

At the conclusion of Hafner's career, his highest OPS against belonged to...someone. I'm not forking over cash to research.

AFTER THIS CARD: Many, many injuries despite becoming an exclusive DH. From 2009-12, Hafner averaged 93 games and 13 homers per year as he battled myriad physical setbacks, too many to list here. When his contract expired after the '12 season, Cleveland did not move to re-sign him, but the Yankees did (for 1Y/$2M plus incentives).

Unfortunately, Hafner never got hot in New York, as his right shoulder (specifically the rotator cuff) continued to affect him. He was disabled on 7/26/13, and other than one late September dip, never played again.

Travis Hafner debuted in 2001 Topps on a shared Prospects card, then appeared annually in the base set 2004-12. He's got 2001 and 2003 Traded cards as well as a 2013 Update card as a Yankee.

CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Cleveland Indians

Topps Tom Seaver
Topps Tom Seaver

9/3/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #425 Tom Seaver, Red Sox

More Tom Seaver Topps Cards: n/a

When a player from "my era" passes away, we typically acknowledge said player with a Special Selection Topps Card Of The Day within a couple of days. But then again, it's not every day that we lose a legend of Tom Seaver's caliber—with that in mind, barely 24 hours after receiving the news of Seaver's passing, TSR is presenting his 1987 Topps card in remembrance. (It is the only Seaver card I own.)

Seaver needs no introduction to baseball fans; he was the face of the Mets (including the 1969 Miracle Mets) for over a decade and also starred for the Reds for five-and-a-half seasons. Later on, he spent two-plus years with the White Sox as he charged toward 311 lifetime victories.

Here, Seaver has just wrapped his final major league season; dogged by personal and professional issues, the Hall-of-Famer-in-waiting welcomed a trade from Chicago. He got it, finishing 1986 as a member of the infamous AL champion Boston Red Sox.

THIS CARD: Topps gives us a great look at Seaver's classic motion. You may have heard about the current Mets, in their first game after Seaver's death, dirtying up their right knees in tribute to him—Seaver's knee often collected mound dirt during his delivery.

I can't identify the road ballpark, but I can tell you Seaver went 3-4, 3.58 on the road with Boston, including a CG 6-1 win at Detroit 8/8.

Seaver reaches back to throw the high-80's heater, curve, slider or changeup. According to Seaver himself in the book Inside Corner: Talks With Tom Seaver, he threw multiple versions of each pitch except the slider, at least early in his career. I imagine as a 42-year-old in 1986 he needed the variations more than ever.

(flip) The Trade sent Steve Lyons (yes, that one) to Chicago straight up. Before you laugh, remember Seaver was near the end, had made no secret of his desire for a trade (lowering his value), and that Lyons once upon a time was a former #19 overall pick.

If you're perusing the stats, know that Seaver was bad in 1982 because of multiple Spring Training maladies, including the flu, which threw his mechanics off and led to shoulder pain.

Yes, that's a sunset card for Mr. Seaver. 61 shutouts is a lot of shutouts; they rank 7th all-time (tied with Nolan Ryan).

Wondering why a talent like Seaver was signed and not drafted in 1966? This summarizes it.

AFTER THIS CARD: Seaver kicked off a comeback for the 1987 Mets when injuries hit their staff, but aborted said comeback after a rough go in the minors. He took his place in Cooperstown in 1992 with 425 of 430 votes (98.8%, a record a the time and now 4th-most ever). You may remember Seaver closing Shea Stadium with a final pitch to fellow Mets great Mike Piazza back in 2008, then opening Citi Field with a first pitch to Piazza in 2009. 

The Mets retired Seaver's #41; both the Mets and Reds inducted him into their Hall of Fames.

Seaver died 8/31/2020 from Lewy Body dementia and COVID-19 complications, age 75. RIP to one of the game's all-time greatest pitchers. I wish I'd seen him in his prime.

Tom Seaver appeared annually in Topps 1967-87.

CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Boston Red Sox

Topps Steve Sparks
Topps Steve Sparks

9/4/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #88 Steve Sparks, Tigers

More Steve Sparks Topps Cards: 1996 2002 2003

It didn't matter if Sparks won the 59 major league games he did win, or 259. Once he tried ripping that phone book in half in early 1994 and dislocated his left shoulder—costing him a potential roster spot in Milwaukee that year—he ceased being just Steve Sparks, baseball pitcher.

 

From that point forward, the young right-hander would jointly identify as Steve Sparks, Foolish Injury List-Topper. 

Sparks and his knuckleball would eventually reach Milwaukee in '95. After one decent year, he lost his touch in '96 and returned to the minors. Injury wiped out his '97 season—more on that below—and Milwaukee let Sparks go.

Sparks resurfaced in mid-98 with the Angels, going 9-4 in 20 starts, but was let go after the '99 season when his ERA bloated to 5.42. As a 2001 Tiger, he was reunited with old Brewers manager Phil Garner and emerged as one of the better pitchers in the league, which he led with eight compete games to go with 14 wins. 

Here, the 38-year-old has just wrapped his first and only MLB season spent solely in the bullpen. Unable to crack Detroit's 2003 rotation, Sparks worked in relief until being let go in August; Oakland picked him up four days later.

THIS CARD: It's a shock to even find Sparks in this set, considering he was just a so-so middleman on a historically bad team for most of '03. It's even more of a shock to find Sparks still in his Tigers getup, without so much as a "Now With Athletics" on the front. In any event, he's a welcome surprise.

Ironically, Sparks toils here at the Oakland Coliseum, which would become his home park for the final month. As a 2003 visitor to Oakland, Sparks pitched a scoreless 7th on 4/24. And on that date, Milwaukee did play Florida and Arizona did play Montreal, so this is indeed a 2003 pic.

Sparks wore #37 as a Tiger and Athletic in 2003.

(flip) Sparks was injured and did not play in 1997 because of UCL surgery—during Spring Training, as Sparks whipped around to make a throw home, C Mike Matheny signaled "no throw". Sparks held up so hard that he tore his UCL. That's about the only way a knuckleballer could suffer that injury, isn't it?

Yes, Sparks was once a #5 pick, but back then he pitched conventionally. Not seeing major league stuff in his arm, the organization converted Sparks to knuckleballer in 1991.

Sparks went six or more innings in relief against the White Sox 4/4 (6.2) and the Yankees 6/1 (7.2 extra innings). He also made a pair of four-inning relief outings, and saved contests at Baltimore and Cleveland in May. So yeah, he qualified as valuable. Until he didn't. 

AFTER THIS CARD: Starting and relieving, Sparks chewed up 120 innings for the 2004 Diamondbacks, albeit with an ERA clearing six. MiLB deals with the Padres and A's in 2005 led nowhere, and Sparks' career quietly ended.

More recently, he's worked as a (popular) broadcaster for the Astros. In late 2019 he was victim of a heart attack, but recovered and returned to work.

Steve Sparks debuted in 1996 Topps, then returned for the 2002-04 sets. Want a card of Sparks the Angel? Tough; nobody produced one.

CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Detroit Tigers

Topps Jeremy Hernandez
Topps Jeremy Hernandez

9/6/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #388 Jeremy Hernandez, Padres

More Jeremy Hernandez Topps Cards: 1992 1994

A #2 draft choice by the '87 Cardinals, Hernandez established himself as a fair-to-decent starting pitcher in the low minors over the next three seasons. By 1991, he'd reached AAA and was converted to stopper—the results were mixed, but the Padres saw enough to promote him that September! How did he fare? How about a 0.00 ERA and two saves in nine appearances?

Here, the kid is coming off a somewhat disappointing 1992 season. Off to a poor start, he was sent back to AAA Las Vegas for two tune-ups before stringing together several solid outings later in the year.

THIS CARD: Good horizontal action shot of Hernandez firing off either his 92-MPH gas, hard slider or plus forkball.

In these days Hernandez was thought of as a potential closer-in-waiting, which is probably how he finagled a spot in 1993 Topps despite spending so much of the year in AAA.

We've featured a lot of Padres from the original "Brown Era", but this may be our first from the immediate post-brown era (Fire Sale Era?). San Diego sported this look from 1991-2003, retiring it for the move to Petco Park.

(flip) Steve Flores is not related to current Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores, but he is related (son) to Jesse Flores, the third Mexican-born major leaguer.

We've previously discussed ex-big leaguer Marty Keough, whose son was ex-A's pitcher Matt.

That Trade sent OF Randy Byers to the Cardinals. Byers had 21 games of MLB experience with the 1987-88 Padres, but never got in any regular-season games for St. Louis.

AFTER THIS CARD: San Diego management supposedly told Hernandez he'd have a shot at closing in 1993, and they were right...sort of. While the Padres wound up going with Gene Harris at closer, the Indians traded for Hernandez and used him in a variety of roles—he piled up over 111 combined relief innings that year!

The Marlins traded for Hernandez in April 1994 and used him as stopper when Bryan Harvey went down. But nine saves in, Hernandez himself fell victim to a herniated disk in his neck and was lost for the year. 

Sadly, that just about did it for Hernandez in MLB. He did return in 1995, making five June and two September appearances for the Marlins. But he was not effective, and spent 1996 with Class A Visalia (Tigers) and 1997-98 in the Independent League before fading away.

Jeremy Hernandez appeared in 1992-94 Topps. 1994 Fleer Update and 1995 Donruss feature Hernandez the Marlin, if you're interested.

CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, San Diego Padres

Topps Jimmy Gobble
Topps Jimmy Gobble

9/7/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #88 Jimmy Gobble, Royals

More Jimmy Gobble Topps Cards: 2002 2004 2005 

Gobble was once a top prospect of the Royals at a time they really needed their top prospects to pan out. Two different times in Gobble's career, it seemed he would indeed pan out, or at the very least be a solid contributor to KC's staff.

Both times, he crashed and burned the following Spring. A lot can derail a major league career; in Gobble's case, it was off-seasons.

Here, Gobble's just completed a 2006 season spent mostly in the Royals bullpen; KC seemed to have junked the idea of Gobble regularly starting for them by that time. Being out of minor league options helped secure Gobble's '06 roster spot, it should be said.

THIS CARD: Gobble reaches back, preparing to fire either his low-90's heat, effective curve, or what was possibly his best pitch, the changeup. The unmistakable Kauffman Stadium center field backdrop towers behind him.

Gobble wears #41, the same as recently-deceased legend Tom Seaver and current Royals ace Danny Duffy.

Good signature, except the "G" looks like an "M". Jimmy Mobble.

(flip) Our second card #88 in three random selections, and the third selection was #388. The Randomizer is going through a Luis Robert phase, it seems. Or Rene Gonzales.

I'm not down with Gobble's logic. Why not try to look meaner as a starter, if it means you might be more effective? All 27 outs matter.

That is no misprint; Gobble only whiffed 49 dudes in 148 innings in 2004. Remember: he didn't have facial hair then.

Did the W and L have an argument? Why else would they be so far apart?

AFTER THIS CARD: Gobble would set a lefty team record for appearances in 2007 (74) and post a career-best (by far) 3.02 ERA. He re-upped for 2008 at $1.31M, but never got it going and was in fact lit up for 10 runs in one July outing. Then he missed over a month with a stiff back.

Surprisingly, despite his 8.81 ERA in 2008, Kansas City brought Gobble back for 2009 at $1.35M, but he failed to make the team out of camp. The Rangers signed him for about a week, then the White Sox gave him a look in May/June 2009. Gobble was actually decent for Chicago, but two bad outings bloated his ERA and he was released in July, never to return to MLB.

Jimmy Gobble debuted in 2002 Topps as a Prospect, then appeared in the 2004, 2005 and 2007 sets.

CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Kansas City Royals

Topps Frankie Montas
Topps Frankie Montas

9/9/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps #505 Frankie Montas, Dodgers

More Frankie Montas Topps Cards: 2019U

Big Frankie Montas bounced around a LOT early on. Originally signed by the Red Sox, he was moved to the White Sox in the 2013 three-team Jake Peavy trade. Two years—and two Futures Game selections—later, he landed with the Dodgers in another three-team swap, the one sending Todd Frazier from the Reds to the White Sox. I'm not sure why the two Sox clubs gave up on the talented Montas so soon, but their loss eventually became Oakland's huge gain (no pun or disrespect intended).

Here, Montas is hoping to kick off his second MLB season, and first with the Dodgers. A busted rib had other ideas.

THIS CARD: As you see, Montas is not a small fella. He prepares to fire off either his triple-digit heat, sinker, slider or changeup, the latter of which has since been substituted for a very effective splitter.

Obscured is Montas's uniform #44, same as the man he'd eventually be traded for, Rich Hill. Nobody looks right in it except Darryl Strawberry.

More from Montas' Dodgers stint: he never pitched for them in the regular season. Rib surgery kept him out for months and while he rehabbed, he aggravated the injury and was sidelined once more. Then LA included Montas in the August 2016 swap for Hill and Josh Reddick.

(flip) I don't want to insult Montas, but 185??? Who came up with that? Today Montas is listed at over 250 lbs.

Chicago originally called Montas up for a 7/17 doubleheader with Kansas City.

More on that debut: Montas pitched the 8th inning of a 3-0 loss to the Twins, striking out Miguel Sano (who'd homered earlier in the game) looking. 

Of those 23 MiLB games in 2015, all were starts. Obviously, he was handled VERY carefully to only accumulate 112 innings.

AFTER THIS CARD: With healthy ribs at last, Montas got in 23 games as an A's reliever in 2017, then spent much of 2018 in their rotation, putting up a solid 3.88 ERA in 11 starts and two RA. Montas opened 2019 in the A's rotation and thrived, but on the heels of a brilliant outing against the Rays in late June, he was hit with a 80-game PED suspension.

Montas featured a 1.57 ERA after four 2020 starts, but has since hit a wall.

Frankie Montas has appeared in 2016 and 2020 Topps, as well as 2019 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers

Topps George Bell
Topps George Bell

9/10/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #390 George Bell, All-Star

More George Bell All-Star Topps Cards: 1987

For several years entering 1987, George Bell had been a top run producer for the Blue Jays, leading the team in HR in 1984-85 and finishing second to Jesse Barfield in 1986. In '87, however, he took his game to previously unreached heights, blasting 47 homers (second in the league to Mark McGwire) and driving home a league-high 134 runs for second-place Toronto.

Overlooked by All-Star voters in the past, there would be no snubbing Bell in 1987.

THIS CARD: Reminder: in this era, Topps All-Stars were not necessarily MLB All-Stars—Bell received 1986-87 Topps All-Star cards as well despite not being named to either the 1985 or 1986 All-Star teams. This time around, however, Bell was "legit".

Bell made the (MLB) All-Star team after batting .293 with 29 HR and 76 RBI in the first half alone! In one four-game stretch in early June, he smoked five homers with 14 RBI...no misprint. The Dominican bopper enjoyed three separate games with five RBI or more.

(flip) Game-Winning RBI was a very flawed stat that TSR does not recognize; it was discontinued in 1988. I either forgot, or never realized, GW RBI leaders actually appeared on a Topps card.

Bell's two-run homer at Chicago was served up by RP Bob James. Two days later, he took SP Jose DeLeon and RP Bobby Thigpen deep.

All those baseballs make me want to...play baseball.

AFTER THIS CARD: Bell, who was named AL MVP after the '87 season, would make two more real All-Star teams: as an AL reserve in 1990, and as an NL reserve in 1991 (which blew me away; I seemed to recall Bell struggling as a 1991 Cub). His career ended after the 1993 season.

George/Jorge Bell received All-Star Topps cards 1986-88.

CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, All-Stars

Topps Jose Vizcaino
Topps Jose Vizcaino

9/12/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #297 Jose Vizcaino, Indians

More Jose Vizcaino Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1994 1994T 1995 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Jose Vizcaino was a good, solid middle infielder for over a decade in MLB—much of it as a regular. He came up with the Dodgers but was swapped to the Cubs prior to the '91 season. By 1993 he was playing regularly; the Cubs started Vizcaino 135 times across the 2B, 3B and SS positions that year.

Though he hit .287 with speed and defense, Vizcaino was short on power, which factored in the Cubs' decision to deal him to the Mets for 1994. He started at SS for the 1994-95 Mets before sliding over to 2B for 1996.

Here, after spending his entire career with middling ballclubs, Vizcaino has just wrapped up a stint with the AL Central champion Indians, who traded for him in July 1996.

THIS CARD: It's possible we've caught Vizcaino immediately following a bunt. If so, it's one of three Topps cards to depict him laying one down (and the second in a row).

Vizcaino replaced the man he was traded for, Carlos Baerga, at second base in Cleveland. It was a stunning trade at the time—Baerga was a former All-Star in his prime who had spent virtually his whole career with the Indians. That year, however, he'd been slowed by a wrist injury and a few extra pounds.

More from Vizcaino's 1996 season: he hit in nine of 10 games to open the year, and was batting .343 on 6/10. A 12-for-58 skid brought his numbers back down to earth.

(flip) More than one card in 1997 Topps made reference to off-season transactions in the blurb; the company had never done that before in my collecting era. Of course, without a Traded set in production, 1998 Topps began featuring players with their new teams.

Vizcaino was traded to the Giants along with IF Jeff Kent (again) and RP's Julian Tavarez and Joe Roa for 3B Matt Williams and OF Trenidad Hubbard. It worked out well for both franchises, although the Giants got more mileage.

Jerry Grote (1970) and Keith Hernandez (1985) had been the Mets' previous record-holders for consecutive hits with eight. I was unable to find any evidence of anyone breaking Vizcaino's record.

AFTER THIS CARD: Vizcaino moved back to SS for the '97 Giants and helped them to a division title. He then signed with the Dodgers for 3Y/$9.5M to be their new SS, but an ankle injury cost him half of the '98 season. Mark Grudzielanek took over as the LA shortstop, much to Vizcaino's chagrin.

Vizcaino remained stuck in a bench role until the Yankees traded for him in mid-2000; the 32-year-old delivered the biggest hit of his career in Game 1 of that year's World Series, a 12th-inning walk-off single against the Mets.

Moving on to Houston for the '01 season, Vizcaino lasted five years in a part-time role with the Astros. He would again emerge as a postseason hero in the 2005 World Series, belting a two-run, game-tying single with two outs in the 9th inning of Game 2!

I have no memory of this, but evidently Vizcaino returned to the Giants for the first half of the 2006 season (ZERO memory) before finishing the year—and his career—with the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

At last check, Vizcaino remained in baseball, working in the Dodgers' front office after retiring as a player. He appeared annually in Topps 1992-2003, with a 1994 Traded card as well.

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Cleveland Indians

Topps Omar Ortiz
Topps Omar Ortiz

9/13/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps Traded #72 Omar Ortiz, Padres Prospect

More Omar Ortiz Topps Cards: 2000

This will be brief.

The 1999 Padres, through free agent defections, owned six first-round picks in the draft. Just what any low-budget team needs to build for the future, no? Problem is, the best of them turned out to be Mike Bynum. 

Repeat: the best of those six draft picks turned out to be Mike Bynum, he with the lifetime ERA nearing eight spread across three MLB seasons. (To be fair, one of the picks died before getting his shot, but still.)

Pick #3 that year (and #29 overall) would be the Texan pitcher Omar Ortiz.

THIS CARD: One of several reasons I disliked the "Rookies" portion of the "Traded & Rookies" series: many players—such as Ortiz—would appear on standard commons one year, then get a draft pick card the next. Does that make any flippin' sense to you? 

Ortiz peers in for the sign from his catcher, who is likely imaginary. According to his Bowman cards, Ortiz threw 95-MPH heat along with a curve, slider and straight changeup.

(flip) Is that enough "P" alliteration in the blurb? Sufferin' succotash.

Ortiz, for any other flaws he may have had, was a handsome dude. Had he made it to the bigs, he'd have been very popular with the gal fans. (He probably still got plenty attention while in the minors.)

It is a total coincidence we're presenting this card two days after Ortiz's 43rd birthday.

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2000, Ortiz made 21 starts split across the A and High A levels, with a 6.36 ERA—he had a very tough time throwing strikes. After that season, he was moved to the Marlins in a trade bringing OF Mark Kotsay to San Diego. By 2002, Ortiz was working extensively out of the bullpen for AA Portland.

The next year, Ortiz found himself in the Texas system for a time; by year's end he was pitching (well) for Edinburg of the Independent League. He then faded from pro baseball.

Omar Ortiz appeared in 1999 Topps Traded and 2000 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps Traded, San Diego Padres

Topps Joey Hamilton
Topps Joey Hamilton

9/15/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #54 Joey Hamilton, Padres

More Joey Hamilton Topps Cards: 1994T 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002

"Upside." "Upside." "Upside!" There was so much talk about Joey Hamilton's upside at various points in his career, it's a wonder he didn't end up upside-down.

He entered the league guns blazing in late May 1994, handling the Giants in his first start. Then came a win over the Cardinals, a strong no-decision at Florida, and another victory over my Giants (bastard). Just like that, Hamilton was 3-0 and on his way.

THIS CARD: That doesn't look like the fastball Hamilton is throwing here. It's gotta be either his curve, slider, or even possibly the changeup.

I commented earlier this month about never presenting a COTD from this era of Padres uniforms. Now we've done three in about six or seven selections.

Hamilton joined the likes of Ryan Klesko, Manny Ramirez and Raul Mondesi on the All-Star Rookie team.

(flip) Hamilton may have been the NL's top rookie pitcher of 1994, but John Hudek and Steve Trachsel received more Rookie Of The Year votes. 

Only on 7/10 vs. Montreal (7) and 8/6 at the Cubs (4) did Hamilton eclipse three earned runs allowed in 1994.

Hough faced Hamilton 6/6/94; both men received no-decisions in Florida's extra-inning win. Hough's MLB debut took place about a month before Hamilton's birth.

AFTER THIS CARD: Hamilton would be a mostly solid pitcher over the next four years with San Diego, throwing between 192 and 217 innings each year and winning 15 times in 1996. Though his ERA climbed into the 4.00's and he led the NL in walks in 1998, Hamilton helped the Padres reach the World Series. He was used mostly out of the bullpen that postseason.

Dave Stewart, Hamilton's pitching coach in 1998, joined the Blue Jays front office for '99 and suggested the team acquire Hamilton. They did, and extended him for 3Y/$17M. But Hamilton, who suffered an early shoulder impingement, was never quite right in 1999; he'd undergo rotator cuff surgery that September. 

Hamilton pitched mostly well in 2000 after returning to MLB that August, but by August 2001 he'd been cut by Toronto after going 5-8, 5.89 in 22 starts. He spent the next 20 months with the Reds trying to rediscover his touch, but it never happened. San Diego released Hamilton from a MiLB contract in 2004, ending his career.

Joey Hamilton debuted in 1994 Topps Traded, then appeared in the base set 1995-2002.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, San Diego Padres

Topps Joe Nathan
Topps Joe Nathan

9/16/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #632 Joe Nathan, Rangers

More Joe Nathan Topps Cards: 2000 2001 2002 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2013 2014 2015

Here, we catch up with the longtime Twins relief ace Joe Nathan as he leaves snowy Minnesota behind for the high temps of Texas. Nathan had been with the Twins for eight seasons, the first six of which were very, very good (and led to four All-Star berths). 

Then came UCL surgery that wiped out his 2010 season. Nathan returned in April 2011 with three saves in three opportunities, but asked to be demoted from closing after two blown saves; he missed a month with elbow inflammation and wouldn't save another game until mid-July.

 

From that point Nathan was 11-for-11 in (spread-out) save ops, but Minnesota still declined his $12.5M option.

THIS CARD: Nathan fires one at The Ballpark In Arlington, or whatever it was called at this time. At this point in Nathan's career he was throwing the fastball, sinker, slider and curve; the fastball velo had been down 3 MPH in 2011 and his slider was giving him problems...to be expected after such a quick return from major surgery.

More from Nathan's 2011 season: he carried a 7.63 ERA before the DL stint and a 3.38 mark afterward. Also, his road WHIP was more than double that of his home WHIP (1.67 to 0.83)

I'd predicted the Rangers signing Nathan would not turn out well—he was 37 and had struggled in 2011. It is among the "wrongest" I've ever been about anything; Nathan was a force out of the Texas bullpen.

(flip) None of those save totals are bold or italicized. Topps has omitted league-leading totals before, but not in this case—as good as Nathan was with the Twins, he was never an AL saves leader there.

Nathan was indeed drafted by the Giants in 1995...as an infielder. He converted to pitching in 1997, reluctantly.

Since there's no blurb, we'll provide a mini one: Nathan passed Rick Aguilera for first place on the Twins all-time saves list August 10, 2011. He retired all three Red Sox faced for save #256 as a Twin.

AFTER THIS CARD: Nathan saved 80 of 86 regular-season games for the 2012-13 Rangers and made both All-Star teams, earning a 2Y/$20M deal from the Tigers. Year One in Detroit was shaky, and Year Two lasted one-third of an inning as Nathan underwent a second UCL operation.

Just about everyone thought Nathan was done except Nathan himself—he returned to make three scoreless appearances for the 2016 Cubs before finishing the year with seven scoreless outings for the Giants. That's right: 10 games, 0.00 ERA for 41-year-old Nathan in 2016.

That would be it for the veteran righty; he did not make the 2017 Nationals out of Spring Training and retired later that year (on a one-day contract with the Twins). He was elected to the Twins Hall of Fame and ranks eighth in all-time saves (377).

Joe Nathan appeared annually in Topps 2000-15, except 2003.

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Texas Rangers

Topps Trevor Plouffe
Topps Trevor Plouffe

9/18/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #325 Trevor Plouffe, Twins

More Trevor Plouffe Topps Cards: 2010U 2011U 2012 2013 2015 2016 2017 2017U

Plouffe was approaching the middle of his five-season run as Minnesota's third baseman when this card was released. As we previously discussed, the former first-rounder found limited run at SS, 2B and the OF for the 2010-11 Twins; Plouffe was installed at 3B in late May 2012, quickly got hot, and stayed in the lineup most of the year's duration. 

Here, Plouffe is coming off an up-and-down 2013 season. He started for Minnesota on Opening Day, but made two visits to the DL during the year (concussion, calf). But he finished strong, batting .330 in September with the third-most hits in the AL that month (34).

THIS CARD: And I thought Randy Winn raised his elbow up high...

As we pointed out on Plouffe's previous COTD, he shares #24 with Twins semi-legend Tom Brunansky. Today, Josh Donaldson is making news while wearing the number, and getting Twitter love from Plouffe.

A variation of that sleeve logo was once Minnesota's primary logo, in the '70's and '80's. The Twins tweaked it and brought it back to the home uniforms in 2002; it always reminds me of times gone by. And the Metrodome.

(flip) Going inside TSR for a moment: the Randomizer originally selected card #649 Jordan Danks for this date, but we've already presented that card. What to do? Halve the card number and use that card instead.

Plouffe was indeed a first-round pick in 2004, #20 overall in fact. He'd been a pretty big deal in high school as a SS and P.

Plouffe's other nine games in 2013 came at DH. He also played a couple of innings at 1B.

More on those doubles: from 9/20-24/11, Plouffe doubled five times in five games. On 9/3/11, his three-run double contributed to a then-career-high four RBI (he'd drive home five runs in a May 2015 contest).

AFTER THIS CARD: Overall, Plouffe's 2014 season wasn't all that, but he did smack the 10,000th homer in Twins franchise history.

A year later, Plouffe was homering 22 times and driving home 86 runs for the Twins, very respectable production which earned him a raise up to $7.25M for 2016. But an intercostal strain, cracked ribs and an oblique strain limited him to 80 starts that year; with Miguel Sano looming, Plouffe was let go that winter.

He split 2017 with the Athletics (.214) and Rays (.168) and got a brief look with the 2018 Phillies (3-for-12 in seven games). That stands as Plouffe's most recent professional action.

Trevor Plouffe first showed up in 2010-11 Topps Update, then appeared annually in the base set 2012-17. He's also got a 2017 Update card as a Ray.

CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps, Minnesota Twins