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 Brian Fuentes
Topps Brian Fuentes

8/5/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #581 Brian Fuentes, Rockies

More Brian Fuentes Topps Cards: 1998 2007 2008 2009 2009U 2010 2011 2012U 2013​

The 2020 Colorado Rockies are off to a scorching start (some of it at the expense of my Giants) in spite of injuries to high-priced CL Wade Davis and his would-be replacement, Scott Oberg. So far, Jairo Diaz has received the post-Davis save ops and is 2-for-2 as of 8/5/20.

The 2005 Colorado Rockies also had a closer go down early in the year, one Chin-Hui Tsao. Fortunately for them, erstwhile middleman Brian Fuentes was up to the task of replacing Tsao, finishing 31-of-34 in save ops and making the 2005 All-Star Team.

THIS CARD: You're looking at basically Fuentes' entire "windup"; the sidearmer basically went from being set to releasing the ball with just a little leg lift in between. The dude was very effective for a long time pitching that way.

Not enough for me to identify the road ballpark, though I think I see red jackets in the dugout.

This is Fuentes' second COTD appearance; we profiled his 2008 Topps card back in January 2019.

(flip) Topps could have used that space to give you a non-redundant 2005 stat, such the stifling .218 batting average against Fuentes.

As for the toon, Fuentes still holds this record. The previous Rockies lefty save record belonged to Bruce Ruffin, who converted 24 saves in 1996.

Fuentes did not actually pitch in the 2005 ASG. In fact, of the four total All-Star teams he was named to, Fuentes only pitched in one (2006).

AFTER THIS CARD: For two-and-a-half seasons, Fuentes shined as Rockies closer, but a mid-2007 slump led to a demotion. Fuentes reclaimed his stopper role in mid-2008 and threw well enough to secure a 2Y/$17.5M deal from the Angels. Year One was excellent (48 saves, All-Star berth), but Year Two was not and Fuentes heard the boos at home.

The veteran was traded to the Twins in August 2010, then signed by Oakland for 2Y/$10.5M after that season. He was shaky in 2011 and awful in 2012; Oakland cut ties in July 2012. St. Louis dropped Fuentes a line, but he soon left the team for personal reasons and ended his season—and career—on the restricted list.

Brian Fuentes debuted in 1998 Topps on a shared Prospects card, returned in 2006 and appeared annually through 2011, with one last dip in 2013 Topps. (He's also got 2009 and 2012 Update cards).

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Oakland Athletics

More August 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps John McNamara
Topps John McNamara

8/1/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #549 John McNamara, Indians

More John McNamara Topps Cards: 1987 1988

Though generally regarded as a decent guy, John McNamara embodied the look of every crusty, aging manager in every baseball movie you ever saw. That's probably unfair, but it's not untrue. McNamara ran a lot of teams for a lot of years, leading six major league clubs (one of them twice) off-and-on from 1969 to frikkin' 1996.

Though he never won a title, McNamara did come within an out of the 1986 championship as manager of the Boston Red Sox, but his own failure to sub out 1B Bill Buckner helped quash that (plus he and Roger Clemens differ on the latter's usage in that World Series). Prior to that infamy, McNamara helmed the A's just before their streak of five division titles in the early 1970's, followed by a forgettable four-year run with the mid-70's Padres.

McNamara's 1981 Reds had the best overall record in MLB, but lost out on postseason play due to the split season. He then took over the Angels in the wake their infamous '82 ALCS collapse before moving on to Boston. Here, he's completed Year One in charge of the rebuilding Indians after short-term predecessor John Hart returned to the front office. 

THIS CARD: You can't really tell thanks to my smooth scanning skillz, but trust me: this card is in nowhere near mint condition.

We at TSR specially selected this card in memory of McNamara, who passed away 7/28 at the age of 88. But let's be real for a moment: in this 30-year-old photo, doesn't he already look close to 80? Managing in the big leagues is stressful, and like Jim Leyland, McNamara looked Social Security-eligible almost from the beginning of his career.

RIP Chief Wahoo, though I completely understand why you were retired.

McNamara appears to have just heard the news that Joey Belle is now Albert Belle, and is reacting with the proper confusion.

(flip) Cole stole those 40 bags in 63 games from 7/27 on.

That's a lot of runs for "The Guv'nor" Jerry Browne; he did it on just 137 hits (but walked 72 times).

McNamara shares a birthday with my momma! (Though she was born in 1953.) Hopefully she lives to at least 88 as well.

The young Indians finished 77-85, but were 19-16 at one point in May and over .500 in mid-July until closing that month 4-14, which pushed them under for good. Cleveland did head into the off-season with three straight wins though.

AFTER THIS CARD: During the '91 season, the second and final year of his deal, McNamara was fired by the 17-27 Indians (what skipper wasn't fired that year?) and replaced with Mike Hargrove, who did pretty okay in the role. We next saw 64-year-old Mac as an interim manager of the '96 Angels, going 10-18 in his second stint with the team (which was interrupted by a blood clot that required hospitalization.)

That was it for McNamara in MLB; he finished up 1167-1242.

John McNamara received his own Topps cards in the 1970, 1984-88 and 1991 sets (Topps didn't issue manager cards during the second half of the 1990's.) He also appeared on a host of shared Field Leaders and Team cards in the 1970's and early 1980's.

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Cleveland Indians

Topps Cris Carpenter
Topps Cris Carpenter

8/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #99 Cris Carpenter, Rangers

More Cris Carpenter Topps Cards: 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994

Carpenter, 1987's 14th overall pick by the Cardinals, originally reached MLB as a starting pitcher. In fact, in his debut, he threw the first six innings of an infamous 19-inning clash between the Cards and Braves—Carpenter's childhood team—that concluded with IF Jose Oquendo pitching four innings! (St. Louis lost, 7-5)

In 1989, Carp was converted to closer for AAA Louisville; he'd get in 36 games with St. Louis that year before converting back to starting for 1990 Louisville (where he spent most of the season).

Finally, in 1991-92, the Cardinals left Carpenter in the bullpen full-time and watched him blossom into one of the finer middlemen in the league. He was taken by Florida in the '92 Expansion Draft and traded to the Rangers (for the young, enigmatic Robb Nen) during the '93 season. Here, Carpenter has wrapped his first, and only, full season down in Arlington (1994); it veered way off-course after a promising start.

THIS CARD: I will miss the distinctive Ballpark In Arlington hill of grass that served as a hitter's background, especially the young fans swarming it after home run balls.

Carpenter inherited Nen's #31 following the trade; Francisco Cordero is the only subsequent Ranger to don #31 for any period of time since '94.

More from Carpenter's 1994 season: after a quality beginning to the year during which he closed several games in Tom Henke's absence, Carp posted a 7.08 ERA from 5/4 to 7/30, allowing 59 hits in 40 IP. Ouch indeed. (Making matters worse: while this went on, Nen developed into a fine closer for Florida.)

(flip) Carpenter did indeed reach MLB less than a year after being drafted. He was originally taken by the Blue Jays #7 in '86 but opted for his senior year at Georgia.

In 1975, the great Al Hrabosky piled up 13 relief wins (and 22 saves) for St. Louis.

This is a much better close-up of Carpenter than from his first Topps card (1989), which could have legit passed for a mug shot.

AFTER THIS CARD: Carpenter spent all of 1995 back at AAA Louisville, returning to MLB in April '96 for the Brewers. His performance was wobbly, and after blowing a lead vs. Seattle 4/26, Carpenter was demoted to AAA to finish '96. He never pitched professionally again.

Cris Carpenter (NOT to be confused with 2000's Cardinals standout Chris Carpenter) appeared annually in Topps 1989-95.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Texas Rangers

Topps Jose Herrera
Topps Jose Herrera

8/3/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #338 Jose Herrera, Athletics

More Jose Herrera Topps Cards: 1997

From A's GM Sandy Alderson on 8/22/1996:

"He's played himself off the team. I don't think he's a very good defensive outfielder. He has tools. He hasn't put them together. He may never put them together." (SFGate.com)

The "he" in question is onetime hot A's prospect Jose Herrera, after he inexplicably allowed a routine fly ball to right field (his position) to drop untouched, setting off a rally. Alderson ultimately didn't boot Herrera off the Oakland roster, but it was clear to all he'd compromised his future with the Athletics—that mistake was just his latest of many. It was quite the stunning fall for a dude once traded for a Hall-of-Famer near his prime; more on that later.

Here, however, Herrera is still Oakland's potential center-fielder-of-the-future. Summoned (rushed?) from AA Huntsville in August 1995 when Mark McGwire's back acted up, the 22-year-old started 15 games for the A's over the final two months.

THIS CARD: 1996 Topps was...different. It was smaller than any other Topps set in forever, plus you had that "AAA Stars" subset, "Star Power" cards replacing All-Star cards, and then this: "Now Appearing". Fifteen players who debuted in 1995-96 received this designation, including Herrera (but not including several "name" newbies such as Jason Isringhausen.) Ironically, "Now Appearing" disappeared after 1996.

Say what you will about Herrera; he looked like a ballplayer. Lean, strong and athletic, but he had the baseball instincts of a sheep.

Not visible: Herrera's uniform #44. That was Reggie Jackson's number during his 1987 A's farewell, and Isringhausen's number during his tenure as A's closer. Today, superprospect Jesus Luzardo has it.

(flip) Check out Herrera's numbers for 1995 Huntsville—they're fairly ordinary. I'm not sure why Oakland opted to call (rush) Herrera to MLB to replace McGwire, Herrera's complete opposite, when they did. In the long run, it surely did more harm than good.

You ever seen one of those shinguards actually work? The ball always hits the top of the foot or the middle of the shin.

Herrera was the player to be named later in a 7/31/93 trade that sent superstar Henderson to the Blue Jays. (P Steve Karsay also joined Oakland in that deal.) Those singles came against the washed-up Dave Righetti of the White Sox, who went on to lose 8-2.

My question is: why even have the Dominican Summer League row listed at all?

AFTER THIS CARD: Herrera did not make the '96 A's roster out of Spring Training but was recalled in early May. He poked five hits in his first 11 AB and hit .269 overall, but there were too many fielding gaffes to overlook and he returned to the minors for 1997. No one knew it at the time, but Herrera had already played his final major league game.

 

The 26-year-old re-joined the Blue Jays organization for 1998 and spent some time in the Baltimore system as well before taking his bat and glove to the Korean League. Herrera returned stateside and starred for the Independent League's Newark and York clubs for several years until his career ended in 2011, age 39.

Jose Herrera appeared in 1996-97 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Oakland Athletics

2009 Topps #116 Omar Infante, Braves