Posts Tagged ‘topps’

h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: David West/Frank Viola


And I thought the grammar on the back of the Topps cards were bad. Man, Upper Deck, which was so hot in 1990, really flubbed this one. There are so many missing words in this that it’s ridiculous. How hard would it be to write: “West was key part of 5 pitcher deal to the Mets for Frank Viola. He was drafted #4 by Mets in June ’83.” And, by #4 they mean a fourth rounder, not that he was the fourth overall pick.

So he wasn’t as big of a bust as you would surmise. He did spend 10 seasons in the majors, finishing with a 4.66 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 1.41 K:BB rate in 569.1 innings. He had one decent year for the Twins, in 1991, when he started 12 games and finished with a 4.54 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He really helped the Twins get to the World Series that year, as he threw 5.2 innings in relief in the ALCS without allowing a run. Of course, his World Series was terrible, as he finished with an ERA of infinity (he allowed four runs without recording an out).

Two years later, he had arguably his best season (2.92 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 1.71 K:BB) for the Phillies. Thanks to Mitch Williams, his utter relief failures are not as heavily remembered. In the NLCS, he allowed five runs/four earned in 2.2 innings and in the World Series, he allowed three earned runs in just one inning of work. He made well over $2.5 million in his career, tasted victory and defeat and even played in Japan. Still, he was by no means the key part of the Frank Viola trade (at least in hindsight).

In addition to West, the New York Mets sent Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummon and Kevin Tapani to the Twins.

Adding in those elements makes this not a particularly astute move by the Mets (but what else is new). While West was worth -0.3 WAR for the Twins, Aguilera was worth 16.1 WAR, Drummon was worth 0.7 WAR and Tapani was worth 17.5 WAR. At the time of the deal, Aguilera (who has an awesome beard) was 27 and owned a career 3.58 ERA and 1.29 WHIP for the Mets over 473 innings. Aguilera was especially valuable in 1991, posting a 2.35 ERA with 42 saves and a 1.07 WHIP – heck he even received some MVP votes. He also threw 8.1 innings in the play-offs, earning five saves and allowing just one earned run.

Tapani also turned in a banner season in 1991: 34 starts, 244 innings, a 2.99 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 3.38 K:BB rate. He finished seventh in the CY Young voting, but you could make the argument that he deserved to be top four, at least. Tapani didn’t fare so well in the 1991 ALCS, getting shellacked by the Toronto Blue Jays. But he redeemed himself in the World Series: he started two games, pitched 12 innings and went 1-1.

That’s a blueprint for building a championship there. The Twins gave up one decent starting pitcher who was near 30 for a bunch of younger cheaper pieces.

So what about Viola? At the time of the deal, Viola was 29 and would be worth 9.6 WAR for the Mets. He was effectively done after 1993, just four years after the deal.

Still, he had a fantastic career. He gave up the 3,000th hit to Rod Carew in 1985. When it was all said and done, Viola started 420 games, the 27th most in baseball history by a southpaw. He won 176 games of those games, the 43rd most by a lefty. Of course he also lost 150 games, tied for the 34th most by a southpaw (with Hal Newhouser and Ken Hotlzman). Viola finished with 1,844 Ks, the 26th most all-time by a lefty. Not bad.

I always love looking at these types of deals – it seems that giving tons of young cheap talent for near-30s “stars” comes back to bite the team giving the young talent more often than not. Still, you have to give the Twins credit for dealing Viola who had just helped them win a World Series two years before.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Bob Montgomery

Montgomery had a long tenure in professional baseball. He was signed as an 18-year-old and started at the D level (which is akin to Rookie ball in today’s nomenclature) in 1962 for Olean of the New York-Pennsylvania League. He played remarkably well, hitting .273/.426/.380 and found himself in A ball for Waterloo the following year.

He made stops in Seattle, Winston Salem, Pittsfield, Toronto and Louisville over the next eight years, amassing 3,061 minor league plate appearances and a .276/.323/.406 line – not bad for a catcher in the 1960s.

He was called up to the Boston Red Sox in 1970 and never looked back. Still, the Sox had a fella by the name of Carlton Fisk, so Monty didn’t see a whole lot of playing time. He didn’t see a whole lot of green either, as he apparently sold Red Sox tickets in the winter months. What does that even entail? Did he go from sandlot tosandlot hawking seats for mid-summer Orioles tilts? More than likely he went to businesses and the like, but it’d be pretty cool to buy tickets to a game from an actual player. I would certainly pay more for that experience. It takes players putting butts in the seats to a whole new level!

Any who, Montgomery played for Boston from 1970 – 1979 and got in a total of 387 games, that’s just 38.7 a year. He finished with a .258/.296/.372 line – totally serviceable for a back-up catcher in the 1970s. Oddly enough, he hung them up after one of his most successful campaigns:  he hit .349/.374/.419 in 1979 in 92 plate appearances.

That said, as this card accurately points out, Monty, who was known as “The Hammer,” made his presence known on June 6, 1973 by slamming two homers in one game. Those homers directly contributed to his best year in the bigs: .320/.353/.563 and 1.5 WAR. He amassed just 1.9 WAR for his career.

Still you can’t take those sideburns away from him – he could get some mean shooting stars in there! You also can’t take away that June 6 game. He hit both homers off Doug Bird (who went 4.2 IPs in relief of Ken Wright). The Hammer’s second home run came in the bottom of the 10th to give Bill Lee the complete game victory. Baseball use to be crazy.

Lastly, someday, somewhere, Montgomery will be the answer to a trivia question as he was the last Major League player to bat without a helmet. Maybe that’s why he retired – the game had passed him by. Craig MacTavish anyone?

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out on the Flip Side: Hoyt Wilhelm (via Candy Maldonado)

Before the summer of 1991, when I was just 9, I thought I knew everything about baseball – and, if not everything about baseball, everything about the Baltimore Orioles. I grew up going to games with my family. I also tagged along with my father and some of his college friends, one of which played “fantasy baseball.” This particular friend was astounded at my ability to recall statistics, trades, etc.

What changed that summer? I rode in a car driven by my father to Cooperstown, New York. We had an old Volkswagen Rabbit (I think) without A/C. I had purchased Pocket Full of Kryptonite (holy crap what a video) before the trip and we listened to it on repeat the entire way – my father must have hated the Spin Doctors.

Anyway, the whole city is amazing, baseball card stores, memorabilia abounds – and that doesn’t include the awesome history-rich spectacle that is the Hall of Fame. On this trip, I opened a 1989 Upper Deck pack and received a Ken Griffey, Jr. card. Magic.

Getting to actually go into the Hall was a special thrill. I got my picture taken in-between the plaques of Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson. Then we wandered around and I saw Hoyt Wilhelm. I had no freaking clue who Hoyt Wilhelm was. I had never studied my Candy Maldonado cards apparently (probably because I hated Maldonado even though I sort of liked the Blue Jays teams from the early 90s…Maldonado always seemed to make errors and lollygag. But, I’ve already written about Maldonado so there’s no reason to dwell).

Wilhelm, who pitched as a 48-year-old, had a career that spanned 21 seasons and 2,254 innings and he racked up a bunch of records on the way.

Wilhelm appeared in the fifth most games in history by a pitcher: 1,070, which trails only Dennis Eckersley, Mike Stanton, John Franco and Jesse Orosco – modern day relievers. He also owns the 30th best ERA (2.52) by a pitcher with at least 1,500 IPs. He owns the most career victories in relief: 124 – a record not likely to ever be broken. He also pitched the most innings in relief in MLB history: 1,871.

And that knuckleball was devastating, resulting in the eighth lowest opposing batting average – people hit just .216 off him – a mark better than Randy Johnson. Hell his knuckleball was so good, the Baltimore Orioles created a bigger mitt so catchers could handle it.

And, really, it wouldn’t be until he joined the Orioles that his career would take off. He spent eight seasons with the New York Giants, St. Louis, and Cleveland, until the Indians gave up on him and Baltimore claimed him off waivers. He pitched for parts of five years for the Orioles, amassing 14.7 wins above replacement player, a 2.42 ERA and 2.28 K:BB walk rate. Eventually he would be part of a trade that brought the Orioles Luis Apiricio.

Still, Wilhelm is probably most remembered for September 20, 1958 when he threw a no-hitter against the hated Yankees and Mr. Perfect, Don Larsen. The Yankees wouldn’t be no-hit for another 45 years.

Then, the following year, on August 6, 1959, Wilhelm almost pitched a no-hitter in relief. Entering the game at the start of the ninth inning, Wilhelm held the White Sox hitless for 8⅔ innings before finally surrendering a hit in the 17th.

Wilhelm also fought in Europe during World War II and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. He received the Purple Heart.

I’ve found my way to a number of Hoyt Wilhelm cards over the years (all pictured here). I realize he’s a borderline Hall of Famer, at best, but his career remains terribly fascinating to this day. I stumbled upon his life much the same way I stumbled onto this topic – just cruising through baseball history looking to soak up knowledge. Who knew something good could come from Candy Maldonado?

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h2h Corner ~ Check you out on the Flip Side: Tony Oliva/Cal McLish

This could be the most confusing card ever and it has nothing to do with grammar.

First, why is the trivia question about Cal McLish’s real name? He never played for the Twins. He finished up playing in 1965 (meaning his career and Oliva’s barely overlapped). He was a pitcher but they never even faced one another. In short, I can’t find a single thing he has in common with Oliva

Granted, the name Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish is pretty darn cool. He was obviously named for a president, a Caesar and a town in Oklahoma. What’s more, a guy with that many names actually had a nickname and it had nothing to do with any of his given names. He went by Bus or Buster according to his Baseball Reference page.

And, according to Wikipedia, his name was so long because his father was given the honor of naming him and he didn’t want to waste the opportunity. Sounds like a good strategy for never getting to name a child again.

I can’t really see anything, other than his name, that would make McLish an overly important or interesting player though. The only person on his similarity score I know is Bill Swift – although, through his 34th birthday, he was most similar to Mike Bielecki. He was purchased or traded six times, but the only notable player involved would be Billy Martin. He finished with 6.1 WAR with more than half coming in 1958, when he came in 14th in MVP balloting. He had a 4.01 career ERA and 1.29 K:BB ratio. In short, there was nothing special about him that would inspire his namesake to be on the back of Tony Oliva’s baseball card.

An additional confusing thing about the card is that I didn’t realize Tony Oliva went by Pedro or “(Lopez)”. Of course, he went by Tony (he signed the front card as such) and it is listed as his first name…not Pedro.

Oliva was, in fact, born Antonio Oliva Lopez Hernandes Javique, according to Wikipedia. So I can understand where the Lopez came from. But where did Pedro come from? If you go to the Tony Oliva official website, there is an entire section on his real name. Apparently, when Oliva initially tried out for the Twins, he was 21 and they thought he was too old. So a friend told the club Tony was, in fact, his younger brother Pedro, who was only 18. The real Pedro did not come to the United States until 2002.

So, when you get down to it, both McLish and Oliva have quite distinguished and long names. I bet McLish hopes their careers were more similar, as Oliva was worth 42.4 WAR over his career. Oliva also lead the league in hits five times, won rookie of the year and finished second in MVP voting twice.

Maybe the trivia question should have been: what is Tony Oliva’s full name?

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h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Gary Gaetti

I write a lot for a living and for fun. So I get caught up in wording – both incredibly awesome turns of phrases and the unsuccessful. So, I ask, is it possible Topps got a computer to write the anecdotes for the backs of the 1993 cards? I’ve never heard of anyone enjoying the distinction of something – it sounds like one of those auto-Fantasy team name generators.

Regardless of how the card was worded, it’s a pretty cool footnote on a career to score the 20,000th  run in a franchises’ history.

But it’s just a footnote, because what a career Gaetti amassed. When it was all said and done, he appeared in the 43rd most career games (2507) in baseball history – just behind Bill Buckner.

He finished with the 36th most doubles by a righty, oddly 36 more than Barry Larkin, Steve Garvey and Luke Appling. He also tallied the 42nd most RBIs by a righty — more than Mike Piazza, Hank Greenberg, Hugh Duffy, and others.

Of course, the bane of longevity is the GIDPs – Gaetti created two outs from one hit the 32nd most times in MLB history. He put in play a twin killing 236 times – one more than George Brett. He also swung and missed a lot – the 21st most times in MLB history. Still, with great Ks, comes great power: he has the sixth most HRs by a 3b in MLB history.

In all those games, he ended up participating in the 15th most losses in MLB history and ended 116 of the 1314 games he lost.

In addition to his milestone run scores, Gaetti was part of the seventh most triple plays in MLB history and was part of two in one game!

Still, he is most known for the 1987 post-season. He was the MVP of the American League Championship with a .300/.348/.650 line with two HRs, which happen to be the first time in MLB history that a player hit homers in his first two postseason plate appearances.

Gaetti had a long meandering career worth 37.9 WAR. Hey, he was even used as a reliever twice, by two different teams. He finished with a 7.71 ERA and one strikeout in three appearances.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out on the Flip Side: John Wasdin

Sometimes when I read the backs of these cards, I am like, WTF, what the what, the ladylike, just like me? Yeah I don’t get my brain sometimes either.

I’m not even real sure where to start with this. I’ll go ahead and get the obvious typo out of the way – I don’t think Wasdin “hel opposing hitters…” I’m guessing he held them, held them tight with his clarineting and saxaphoning.

But, let’s dig into the massive factual inaccuracies on the back of the card. I really believe the narrative on the back was written about someone else and they simply assigned it to Wasdin.

I can find no evidence that Wasdin was a classically trained saxophonist or clarinetist. In addition, it’s hard for Wasdin to be a mound Maestro in 1995 given he appeared in just 5 games (and 17.1 IPs) for the Athletics. He didn’t even pitch particularly well: 4.67 ERA and 6.10 FIP. Moreover, he didn’t record a single save in the majors until 1999 and only recorded seven in his major league career and just four in the minors. He might have ranked among the save leaders of those pitchers who appeared on June 11, 1999 – but that’s it.

The actual vignette had to be written about one of a select group: Randy Myers, Tom Henke, Heathcliff Slocumb, Todd Worrell, Roberto Hernandez or John Wettland – as they finished in the top 10 in saves and all had K rates near nine. I couldn’t find any references to Myers, Henke, Slocumb, Worrell or Hernandez. Then, I hit pay dirt (I mean you had to assume it was Wettland, given his first and last name, right?).

Googling John Wettland’s 1996 Topps card leads to this link: http://mikekenny.blogspot.com/2010/07/classic-card-of-week_08.html. So we’ve got a culprit.

Poor John Wasdin, not even good enough to have the anecdote on his rookie card right. And it’s not as if John Wasdin was some career journeyman…yet. He was the 25th overall pick in 1993 and progressed nicely in the minors: before the 1995 season, he was the #53 prospect. The following year he was the #84 prospect.

Unfortunately he could never pitch like Wettland and crisscrossed the country during a 12-year career. In 1997, Wasdin (and cash!) was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Jose Canseco. He played four years for the Red Sox, earned $1.5 million and was worth 1.7 WAR. He was bitten by the Green Monster a lot: 1.4 HR/9, leading to the nickname “Way Back Wasdin” a riff off Jerry Trupiano’s signature homerun call.

Having lived out his welcome in Boston (after two miserable post-season performances against the Indians in 1998 and 1999), Wasdin (along with Jeff Taglienti, Jeff Frye and Bran Rose) was shipped to the Colorado Rockies for Rolando Arrojo, Rich Croushore, Mike Lansing and cash.

He stumbled around from there, pitched a perfect game for the Nashville Sounds that only 750 people saw, and ended up in Japan.

It’s odd to think that the most memorable aspect* of Wasdin’s career is the erroneous back of a baseball card. I certainly never would have investigated his career had I not been initially stunned by the verbiage.

*As Bill Parker, who writes awesomely and uncommonly for the Platoon Advantagepoints out:  John Wasdin’s change-up in one of the late 90s version of Triple Play was randomly clocked at 120 MPHs. If I knew this, I forgot, if I didnt, I’m ashamed. 

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out on the Flip Side: Ruppert Jones

I’m pretty sure I picked this card out of the thousands I go through because I thought Ruppert was misspelled (it isn’t) and the name makes me chuckle. It probably makes me chuckle because of Family Guy, but, in my head, Ruppert is really Higgins from Magnum PI – the mind does funny things.

I figure I also liked the rather mundane factoid as well. He enjoys both karate and racquetball (presumably not at the same time). I don’t really like either. Karate wasn’t my thing and I’m not a fan of Martial Arts movies (unless it is Mortal Kombat or stars JCVD). Racquetball I enjoyed a little, but it reminds me of old fogies with short shorts and smelly socks. I also hate squash (the game, not the food, acorn squash soup is delicious).

Anyway, the reflexes and agility required by both enjoyed activities must have helped Jones during his career. In 1977, he made 465 putouts, the 27th most in a season ever. In a game on May 16, 1978, Jones recorded 12 putouts, thereby tying the major league record for putouts by an outfielder in an extra-inning game. He batted fourth in the contest, went 1/6 with two Ks and his average stood at .213. Former flip-sider Shane Rawley took the loss.

The following year, 1979, Jones recorded 453 putouts, the 44th most ever in a season. The man could track down balls (even though his defensive abilities seem suspect – 2.2 dWAR for his career).

Even before all that, Jones was the first pick in the 1976 expansion draft by the Seattle Mariners, after being selected in the third round of the amateur draft by the Royals in 1973.

His 1977 season made the Mariners look like geniuses. He went .263/.324/.454 with 24 bombs – he was worth 3.3 wins above a replacement player.

However things wouldn’t progress. Aside from his record setting put-out game in ‘78, his season was a disaster. But he bounced back and played well for the Mariners in ’79, finishing his career there worth 6 WAR.

He’d spend one year with the Yankees and then three with the San Diego Padres. He played his best ball for the Padres (7.5 WAR), but they granted him free agency after the 1983 season. He signed with the Detroit Tigers.

He appeared in just two games for the Tigers in the postseason that year, didn’t contribute much, but was part of a win in the World Series against the Padres.

The majority of his post-season experience came the year before this card was printed. He went 3/17, but walked 5 times for the Angels against the Boston Red Sox. And that would wrap his last real season in the majors.

He came back in 1987 but couldn’t buy a base hit. He played another year in Japan before hanging it up and focusing on Karacquete, a new sport that never quite caught on.

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h2h Corner ~ Check you out on the Flip Side: Jaime Cocanower

Hi, it’s me, Jaime.

Hi you!

Get it?

Ok, maybe not.

Let’s just say it’s a very good thing Cocanower was a numbers guy – as the numbers you see on the back of his card would be the last he ever compiled in major league baseball.

Oddly enough, he finished with a 3.99 ERA in 365.2 innings – seems like a usable pitcher, no?

Well, unfortunately, Cocanower was all wild thing (NSFW link)and no Vaughn. He finished second in wild pitches in the AL in 1984 and 1985 and second in hit batsman in ‘84 and sixth in ’85. He didn’t strike anyone out either – just 139 in his CAREER. He had a 0.69 K:BB rate.

Aside from the lesson on how to pronounce Cocanower’s first name on the back of this card, what stood out was the poor phraseology of the last sentence. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. There is a scant amount of space on the back of a baseball card, you’d think the goal would be an economy of words. Yet, instead of enjoying deep sea fishing, he “enjoys outings of going deep sea fishing.” I’m no accountant but that seems like three words too much.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Bob Shirley

Man, I just don’t know where to start. I should probably get some housekeeping out of the way  because “I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.”

I imagine that was thrown around dugouts throughout the 80s, the heyday of Shirley’s career. Certainly the early 80s was the greatest time to be a ballplayer…named Shirley (what with the wife swapping, amphetamines, cocaine, etc.). So, it’s no shock that Shirley likes watching Bill Murray movies. I mean it’d be shocking if someone didn’t like watching Bill Murray movies, he’s awesome. StripesRushmoreCaddyshackWhat about BobLost in Translation! GhostbustersGhostbusters IIAnd others!

In fact, Shirley was such a funny guy (and apparently baseball’s most ardent lover of alliteration) that he named his kids Charles, Clinton and Clayton. Could be a law firm or the starting receivers for the Rams.

For such a dominant personality (more on that later*), Shirley’s career was somewhat pedestrian. After being drafted three times from 1972 – 1976 by the Dodgers, Giants and Padres, Shirley started 35 games for the Padres in 1977. He wasn’t bad (3.70 ERA) but wasn’t very good either (1.46 K:BB rate, 4.17 FIP). He pitched pretty mediocre (mostly
in relief) for the Padres until 1980. At that point, he was traded along with Rollie Fingers and Gene Tenace to the St. Louis Cardinals for a slew of guys I’ve barely heard of (Terry Kennedy, John Littlefield, Al Olmsted, Mike Phillips, Kim Seaman [seriously], Steve Swisher and John Urrea). No shit.

He pitched one mediocre year for the Cardinals, then another for the Reds. Then it was 1983 and the Bronx Bombers and Donnie Baseball wanted him. Sandwiched between two bad years, Shirley was pretty useful from 1984-1985 for the Yankees. He was worth about 4.2 WAR. While his 1986 campaign was mediocre, he logged an impressive 105.1 IPs in relief. Then, in 1987, he pitched just 41.1 IPs.

Why, you ask?

Well, he was involved in a bit of boring, boys will be boys, clubhouse roughhousing with Don Mattingly. Mattingly, like Apollo Creed, was unable to deal with a southpaw and ended up on the DL as a result of the fracas. *Shirley, surely, was released shortly thereafter. Presumably he has spent the rest of his days with Charles, Clinton and Clayton quoting Bill Murray.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Greg Minton

Here is where my “city boy” roots come out. I hate horses. They scare the beejesus out of me. My tiny girlfriend (who grew up in the country owning horses) thinks it’s hilarious that I wont go near a horse (and don’t get me started on donkeys).

I imagine riding a horse hurts. Occasionally, at the dog park, an eager young pup will jump on me as I stand there. Occasionally a paw will strike a testicle. That really hurts. Why would I want to pogo up and down on my testes while traipsing through nature on the back of a horse? I’ll use my own legs thank you very much.

Sure horses are beautiful, but god invented glasses so I can see a horse from a few feet away, ideally with some sort of fence between us.

So what is there to like about a horse that I can’t enjoy from afar? They snort (scary), they kick (scary), they neigh (or whatever it’s called when they get up on their hind legs) (also scary), and they fill in the blank: “Wild ___.” Unless it’s 80s “mental,” I don’t like anything wild. Continue reading

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