Posts Tagged ‘play-offs’

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Kerry Wood

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I must admit that I’ve always scoffed at Kerry Wood — especially when he came to the big boy league. However, when he was traded to the New York Yankees and I pulled the above card, I simply had to write about him.

In baseball, there are revered names — one of the biggest in George Herman Ruth – otherwise known as the Babe and a litany of other sandlot nicknames. Outside of boozing and chasing skirts, if you are linked to the Babe you are linked to baseball immortality. Quite simply, legends never die.

Anyway, it was shocking to me that, in the history of baseball, Wood and Ruth are the only two players with at least 1,200 innings while allowing fewer than 1,000 hits. Of course, like Wood’s career, all good things must come to an end. If you look at the card closely, you’ll realize that Wood finished the 2009 season with 995 hits allowed. And sure enough, he allowed a few more hits this year to inch over the 1,000 threshold to give the Babe back another solo record.

Regardless, Wood was a real good pitcher for a few years – the heir apparent to Roger Clemens who was the heir apparent to Nolan Ryan. In three of his first five healthy seasons in the majors, Wood had a K/9 rate in double digits. In the 2002 and 2003 seasons, Wood would post a 3.34 ERA, 483 Ks and a 1.22 WHIP. Not bad.

Will his career resemble a glorified Kelvim Escobar? Sort of – but so what. For a couple of years he was absolutely unhittable and he happened to share a record with one of the most hallowed names in all of sports.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Terry Harper

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As previously noted, mining the 1986 Topps set for interesting tidbits hasn’t been overly fruitful — at least I pulled a Ripken All-star card, Clemens, Eddie Murray and Mike Schmidt recently.

Anyway, the Terry Harper card above fits the “stringent” parameters that would allow for a Flip Side posting. I’m a huge baseball fan, in case you couldn’t tell, but I never knew Hammerin’ Hank Aaron had a brother – let alone one who made it to the majors. Heck the internet barely knows – if you search for “Tommie Aaron baseball ref”, Hank’s page comes up first.

Tommie was signed by the, then, Milwaukee Braves as a free agent in 1962. That was eight years and 298 HRs into hank’s career. Tommie would do some decent things in the minors — posting a .285/.333/.439 slash line and stealing 33 bases in 45 tries. The majors would be a (sort of) different story, as Tommie would not succeed (.229/.292/.327) and steal just nine bases in 17 tries.

For his career, Hank would steal 240 bases in 313 tries. He’d steal 28 bases in the 1968 season and never more than nine in a season during the rest of his career. Tommie would steal three bases in 1968 and never another for his career.

Regardless of HR or SB totals, you have to think that one of the greatest memories the brothers have is of September 24, 1968. With Tommie on first and Hank on third, the duo would execute a flawless double steal. Hank, after scoring and wiping the dirt and dust from his uniform, must have looked into the sun across the diamond to see Tommie knocking the dirt and dust from his uniform and smiling back. Outside of back-to-back HRs, a double steal by brothers would be pretty special.

As for Terry Harper? He was just as bad a hitter (.253/.321/.371) and base stealer (37/65) as Tommie. Both would also go 0-1 in their only post-season at bat and achieve a negative WAR for their careers. If only Terry had a brother like Hank…

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Ozzie Virgil

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I’ve never flown a model airplane – unless we are talking the paper variety in second grade religion class. I made some model airplanes, but mostly got bored when I had to glue all the little pieces together — logistics weren’t my thing. Still, I can think of two scenes that involve flying model airplanes and I imagine you can think of more.

The first is in Rushmore when Max first meets Margaret — maybe I’ve seen that movie too much – but it’s a poignant and understated scene. The second is from the hilarious Modern family when Jay rams Phil in the face — good comedy includes violence — trust me.

Anyway, I feel like Virgil would have enjoyed the later. He’s a stout dude (6’1 180) who caught for part of 11 seasons in the majors (mostly for the Philadelphia Phillies) and was a two-time all-star. Over a two-year span (from 1984-1985), he’d catch 272 games, post a respectable slash line (.254/.330/.433) and hit 37 HRs. In 1987 he hit 27 dingers for the Atlanta Braves.

He would finish his career as a more productive player than his father, Ozzie Virgil, Sr. who would finish his nine-year career with a .231/.263/.331 slash line. Regardless, here’s hoping they shared a few chuckles about the pitchers they caught while flying model airplanes.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Max Venable

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As you likely know, this series started because I bought a bunch of cheap 1987 Topps packs off the internet, opened them and found good cards but, more importantly, interesting nuggets of info on the backs. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I didn’t start with the 1986 set. Man it is totally George Blanda — if there is info, it is usually such-and-such ballplayer collected his first hit on such-and-such date – yuck.

Occasionally there are some “Talkin’ Baseball” sections which seem to be the precursor to SCOOTER, i.e., they are inane. The one you see on the back of Venable is actually not the only one to reference player’s names and palindromes – apparently that was a set-wide motif.

So why did I choose this one out of the myriad of boring palindromes captured forever in the 1986 set? Because Max just happens to be Will Venable’s father. Will got his first full-time action this year for the San Diego Padres in his age-27 season and performed kind of well. In fact, I believe he had a truly bizarre, yet effective season. Sure his 0.1 WAR would suggest otherwise, but he did hit 13 HRs and swipe 29 bases. Maybe he is more of a roto, specifically h2h, player, then real-life, but I see a guy who, if he could stay healthy for 162 games, would put up a 20-30 season. His average and OBP aren’t great, but they aren’t as bad as some other regulars people trot out there.

Still Will will likely have a shorter major league career than his pops. Max played in parts of 12 seasons, finishing with a .241/.302/.345 slash line predominantly for the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. He only once played in over 100 games and would hit just 18 HRs in his career.

The oddest thing about the father/son combo? They both drew the attentions of the Baltimore Orioles but never played for the organization. In February of 1988, the Orioles signed Max, but released him in March of the same year. On June 7, 2004, the Orioles drafted Will in the 15th round, but would not sign him.

As for old palindrome Eddie Kazak? He’d play parts of five seasons, mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals before being traded to the Reds along with Wally Westlake for Dick Sisler and Virgil Stallcup. Talk about some interesting (old-timey) names. Kazak would appear in just 13 games for the Reds and bat .067. Those were the last hacks he took in the big leagues. Oddly enough, Dick is the son of baseball legend George Sisler.

Baseball is often described as the great bridge between fathers and sons. It’s also a game where just showing up can land you in the (obscure) record books…just ask Kazak who was a Red for 13 games.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Dale Murphy

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This card reminds me of that annoying, yet funny, GEICO commercial with Andres Cantor. I know people like chess, gamble on chess, play chess, etc. but to be enthusiastic about chess? That’s usually reserved for hoity toity intellectuals, not professional ballplayers.

Then again, Dale Murphy was a heckova special ballplayer. Murphy won back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983. From 1980-1987, Murphy averaged 100 runs, 161 hits, 33 HRs, 96 RBIs and a .284/.374/.517 slash line. That’s a pretty darn good peak. Of course, starting in 1988, he would never bat over .245 for the rest of his career, which ended with a whimper in 1993.

If only he would have petered out like an Eddie Murray, we’d be looking at a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, he didn’t. Through 1987 he accumulated 40.7 WAR, he’d finish his career with 44.2 – tied with Carlos Delgado. He isn’t that far behind Nellie Fox or Kirby Puckett and is ahead of Thurman Munson and Phil Rizzuto, but his peak precluded something greater.

That’s the thing about baseball, you never really know. Murphy did make nearly $20 million in his career. Here’s hoping that bought a really nice chess set that can take his mind off of what might have been.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: CJ Wilson

CJ Wilson backCJ Wilson frontTypically I poke fun at the inaccuracies, poor grammar and just weirdness on the backs of these cards. However, I can’t do that with C.J. Wilson’s – it is that spot on.

Wilson has a phenomenal twitter and blog presence. He has also done a ton of stuff with the creators of Lost – a show that got as esoteric as any show in history. He is also into racing. By the way, I wrote this entire paragraph from memory – that is how (scarily) well I know Wilson.

Well whatever Wilson is doing, I’m cool with it. He was a pretty out-of-this world reliever last year – way beyond LOOGY status. He pitched 73.2 innings and posted a 10.26 K/9 rate. He actually had a better K/9 rate against righties (10.96) than lefties (9.11). Adding those innings, k-rate and ability to work against righties and lefties made him a super valuable reliever in 2009.

But that wasn’t enough.

In 2010, C.J. would transition to starting. How would that go? He’d pitch 199 innings, post a 7.51 k-rate and a 3.35 ERA. Sure he benefited slightly from a .271 BAbip and a lower HR/FB% than he normally does, but we’re still looking at a 3.60 FIP guy.

In short, C.J. is one of (if not the most) interesting starters in all of baseball. Hat tip to Topps for identifying the interesting aspects of Wilson in his 2010 card.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Dan Schatzeder

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Of all the interests in all the world, Mr. Schatzeder’s numero uno would be home video. I get that video cameras were a big deal back then, that’s not what surprises me.

I just think it is bizarre that this dude is super into shooting home videos. To be honest, that mustache makes me wonder what kind of home videos Mr. Schatzeder was making.

While his hobby might be a bit weird, there is nothing weird about his career. He played 15 seasons in the majors, basically becoming a psuedo-LOOGY. However, while he would post a 2.31 K:BB against left-handed batters and 1.40 against righties, he’d actually be more successful, over his career, against righties. For his career, lefties would bat .270/.322/.382 against him and righties would bat .247/.317/.392. He’d finish with 1,317 IPs, a 3.74 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Not too shabby at all.

What will be most remembered about his career is game six of the 1987 World Series. He entered the game in the fourth inning, allowed one run and pitched two innings to pick up the victory for the Minnesota Twins as they clawed back into the series against the Cardinals. Ultimately, the Twins and Schatzeder would win that Series. Here’s hoping he had a video camera going during their celebration!

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.