Tuesday, March 31, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #26: Steve Cummings

Steve Cummings

PHOTO: That's a fine posed shot, but I'm wondering what the thing on Cummings' necklace says. I can't quite make it out...

STAT: Despite pitching 33 innings in the majors, Cummings didn't register more than 4 at-bats against any one batter. Thus, all of the batting averages against him are 0, .250, .333, .500, .667, or 1.000.

CAREER: 1/10

You read it above. Thirty-three innings. I like that the back of the card mentions another Blue Jays flameout we just saw, Kevin Batiste.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #25: Scott Coolbaugh

Scott Coolbaugh

PHOTO: Wow, not a great photo. Shadows on the face, caught in a nasty sneer, and a bit blurry to boot. Pretty major suckfest.

STAT: Coolbaugh is the only guy in history to have 2 homers in each of his first 4 seasons. I'm willing to be he's also the only player to hit the same number of homers in every year of his career, for a career of at least 4 seasons and a number of homers above 0 or 1.

CAREER: 2/10

Coolbaugh was a highly-regarded prospect but didn't hit much at the major league level in the relatively few chances he got.

Monday, March 30, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #24: Pat Combs

Pat Combs

PHOTO: This is another photo that makes good use of the border colors. The Phillies away jersey coloring closely matches the main card colors. I don't kno why they used that pea green for the name banner, though.

STAT: Since 1989, Combs is one of just 12 guys to throw at least 3 shutouts in his first 37 career games.

CAREER: 2/10

1989 was a bad year for the Phillies. They were at perhaps their franchise's lowest point, fallen completely away from the team that had gone to the World Series in 1980 and 1983 and were perhaps the worst team in baseball with the smallest amount of talent. HOFer Mike Schmidt retired during the year too.

And then along came Combs. He had a great first start (mentioned on the back of the card) and followed that up with a 7 inning, 1-run performance against the Expos and then a shutout of the Cardinals. He finished that season at 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA and 5 out 6 starts were very good.

I was an ardent Phillies fan at the time, and this guy was the first ray of hope the team had seen in a long time. In 1990, Combs pitched a number of excellent games and also a bunch of stinkers. By 1991 he was out of the rotation and by 1992 he was done in the big leagues. But by 1993, the Phillies had gotten out of that terrible hole.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #23: Steve Carter

Steve Carter

PHOTO: If you've been reading my blogs for a while, you know that I love this type of photo, with the player's name and number visible on his jersey, but still a decent shot of his face. Very nice.

STAT: Carter's only big-league homer was a 3-run first-inning bomb off Don Robinson that helped the Pirates steamroll the Giants 11-1.

CAREER: 1/10

Just 21 big-league at-bats for Carter. However, he was drafted 5 times and traded 3 times in his very short career.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #22: Jose Cano

Jose Cano, don't ya know?

This guy is the dad of current Yankees' 2B Robinson Cano, which shocks me because I had no idea until I wrote this post. Of course, the younger Cano had such a crap year in 2008 that the Canos might become altogether forgotten soon enough.

PHOTO: These crazy borders actually work with this card, because we have all of the Astros rainbow colors reproduced on the cards.

STAT: Cano had such a short major league career that I'm not even going to bother looking for a stat. But check out his minor-league numbers. After fizzling out of the Astros system in 1990, he pitched in Taiwan 8 years later at age 36. Wow!

CAREER: 1/10

The guy pitched in only 6 major-league games.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #21: George Canale

George Canale

I actually saw Canale play in a minor-league game in Denver, back when the Zephyrs were the AAA affiliate of the Brewers. He hit 1 or 2 homers in the game I saw, actually.

His last name is pronounced sort of like "finale" in the sense that the "e" at the end is not silent.

PHOTO: I hate wad-of-tobacco shots.

STAT: Canale is 1 of just 6 guys to have 10+ RBI in a season with no more than 34 AB.

CAREER: 1/10

After seeing his great game in the minors, I was a fan of Canale and I sure wish I could give him higher than a 1. But he had only 73 AB in the majors, and even though he had a couple of homers that helped out the Brewers, I can't justify anything higher than this.

Friday, March 27, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #20: Francisco Cabrera

Francisco Cabrera

Holy crap, when we saw Geronimo Berroa's card just a few back, I had no idea we'd see this card of the guy I confuse him with. But here is Cabrera!

PHOTO: This is a nice posed photo, but I'm more interested in what's behind Franky. I see what looks like a bed of flowers, and behind that I think it's a paved road. Further behind, that looks like a football field with a goal post on the right!

STAT: Cabrera has the 4th-most homers all time for a guy with fewer than 400 career ABs. (He's 6th on that list, but #3 and #4 are still active and will pass 400 AB, I assume.)

CAREER: 4/10

How does a guy with fewer than 400 career ABs get a score of 4/10? Easy. He was the guy that got this hit.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #19: Brian Brady

Brian Brady

PHOTO: This is an odd photo for an outfielder but I guess it was taken while he was tossing on the side before a game. I don't know WHAT is going on in his pants. Maybe he's playing catch with Morgana.

STAT: You can see Brady's entire major league batting career right here. He started with a pinch-hit double at the end of a blow-out game, and ended with a pinch-hit strikeout. Two games, two at-bats, career BA of .500. Not bad.

CAREER: 1/10

Still, two at bats is two at bats.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #18: Mike Blowers

Mike Blowers

PHOTO: Interesting to see Mike wearing #13 in the photo. I wonder who wears #13 for the Yankees now? Hmmm....

STAT: Seven of Blowers' 78 career homers were grand slams, and five of them tied the game or put his team ahead.

CAREER: 3/10

Blowers had one very good season in 1993 as a part time player, a few other decent seasons, and didn't play much else otherwise.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #17: Geronimo Berroa

Geronimo Berroa

PHOTO: I dig this photo, a nice action shot at Shea Stadium. It almost looks like he's engaging in a hammer throw.

STAT: In 1996, 21 different players hit 30 HR with 100 RBI and 100 runs scored. If you guessed forever, you'd probably get the other 20 guys before naming Berroa. (Some other toughies on that list, though, are John Jaha and Bernard Gilkey.)

CAREER: 3/10

Berroa bounced around a lot and played as many as 140 games in a season only 3 times in his career. He did post the aforementioned 30-HR, 100-RBI season with Oakland in 1996 but couldn't keep up that power.

For some dumb reason, I often confuse Berroa with Francisco Cabrera. Their first names both have multiple syllables and sound a tad similar, while their last names are both heavy on the "r"s. They also both came up with Atlanta in the same era.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #16: Mike Benjamin

Mike Benjamin

PHOTO: The photo immediately reminded me of a couple of Giants from the 1988 Topps set that also had entirely green backgrounds: Matt Williams and Jose Uribe. Benjamin was obviously photographed in the same general area of (probably) their spring training facility.

STAT: Guess which pitcher Benjamin faced the most in his career? How about the guy whose card we just saw?

CAREER: 2/10

Benjamin was never a full time player but did stick around for 13 seasons so he must have had something going for him. A couple of oddities about his career: he pitched one inning for the Red Sox in 1997, closing out a game with a scoreless frame. He got his most PAs in a season in 1998 and hit a career-best .272, leading the Red Sox to start him in all 4 of their post-season games as they lost the ALDS to the Indians. Looking at Benjamin's career stats, you'd never think he would have been good enough to be a post-season starter.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #15: Andy Benes

Andy Benes

PHOTO: That's a weird washed-out photo of Benes.

STAT: In the 1990s, Benes had the most seasons with at least 10 wins and 10 losses.

CAREER: 5/10

The stat tells you all you need to know about Benes. He was reliable, sure, but was reliably average. His ERA+ was within 10 points of average just about every year of his career, but he did that while posting 200 innings or close to it most of the time, which is definitely valuable in this day and age.

His score would have been higher except for the fact that he was pretty bad in just about all of his 9 post-season starts. He was 1-1 in those games, but with a 5.47 ERA.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #14: Joey Belle

Albert Belle

This is one of the most interesting cards in the set, as it shows Belle called "Joey," the name he went by before he supposedly grew up and went back to his real first name of Albert. Turns out, he didn't grow up so much as he had more than his share of problematic situations arise in the years to come.

PHOTO: This is just a fantastic photo that captures exactly what Belle looked like on the field. He was always glaring like that, and he was a tough son of a gun.

STAT: Belle is the only guy ever to hit 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same season. He's also one of just 16 guys in history with at least 2 seasons with 375 total bases.

CAREER: 7/10

Belle was totally robbed of the 1995 AL MVP. He's a tough guy to rank given that he lost the last third of his career to a degenerative hip. Before the injury surfaced in 2000, he never posted an OPS+ below 116 in any full season while averaging 38 HR. His career OPS+ of 143 is absolutely astonishing. And although he batted only .230 in the post-season, he had 6 HR and 14 RBI in 18 career games and was a big part of the Indians' post-season success.

It's interesting to note how his injury hurt the Orioles' franchise. I remember that there was a claim from Lloyd's of London that the nature of Belle's injury wasn't covered by the insurance policy that the Orioles had purchased on Belle's contract. I don't know how that turned out. But even if the Orioles got reimbursed for Belle's salary, losing one of their biggest free agent catches of all time definitely hurt their team for years to follow. I don't think they've yet recovered from that misfortune.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #13: Juan Bell

Juan Bell

PHOTO: For some odd reason, I didn't know until after Bell retired that he is the younger brother of George Bell, which is pretty obvious from the above photo as they bear quite a resemblance to each other. Want to see? Check out the elder Bell's 1988 Topps All-star card.

STAT: The Baseball-Reference PI is down right now as 1954 and 1955 are being added to the database, so I can't search on this. However, I noticed that Bell began his career with two seasons where he didn't get on base at all and produced an OPS+ of -100. True, he appeared in only 13 games total, but it's still pretty impressive.

CAREER: 1/10

Bell had a very disappointing career, especially as one of the star prospects the Orioles acquired when they traded Eddie Murray to the Dodgers. Bell was fairly unusual in that he was really bad with both his bat and his glove.

Monday, March 23, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #12: Stan Belinda

Stan Belinda

Whew, Stan Belinda comes to the rescue to end the streak of fringe players.

PHOTO: Not a bad photo. I like the scowl.

STAT: Belinda was sort of a part-time closer early in his career, as you can see right here. He was the only guy to have 10 to 19 saves every season from 1991 to 1993.

CAREER: 4/10

Belinda was an above average relief pitcher, although he had only two great years (1995 with the Red Sox and 1998 with the Reds.) He was used as a closer sometimes although never totaled as many as 20 saves in a single season. He was an important part of the Pirates' bullpen in their 3 consecutive division-winning teams 1990-1992.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #11: Blaine Beatty

Blaine Beatty

PHOTO: Holy overexposure. The colors on Beatty's face and jersey are almost washed out due to the flash photography. This should have been a pretty sunny day. What's the deal?

This card also exposes a flaw in the set from this year. Have you noticed the two colored frames immediately outside the photo? On this card, one is orange and one is blue. That's perfectly nice. Topps picked those colors on each card to match the team colors. But there are just too many damn colors on the borders of these cards when you consider the 2 frames, then two different shades of gray on the corners, all the red, and all the dots.

STAT: In his career, Beatty struck out 10 different guys, each once. The list incldues Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Delino Deshields, and Marquis Grissom.

CAREER: 1/10

Beatty appeared in just 7 major-league games, and he cost the Mets Doug Sisk to acquire. Sisk had almost outlived his usefulness by that point, but not entirely. The price was too steep in any event.

But then, get this. Later, the Mets traded Beatty away for Jeff Barry, another guy of whom you've probably never heard. Then they traded Barry away for Pedro Martinez. Not this Pedro Martinez, the other one. Martinez never actually appeared for the Mets, though.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #10: Kevin Batiste

Kevin Batiste

PHOTO: This is a very strange staged over-the-shoulder shot. Given that Batiste had 8 major-league at-bats, I wonder if this is from the media guide.

STAT: Well the guy only had two hits in the big leagues, one off Mark Knudson and one off Chuck Finley. He had five strikeouts, though.

CAREER: 1/10

I can't give him a zero because he did actually appear in the majors. But he's as close to a zero as you can get. Don't confuse this guy with Kim Batiste, no relation, an awful player in his own right who did appear in the postseason with the 1993 Phillies and even got a big hit for them.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #9: Billy Bates

PHOTO: That's a nice fielding action shot of Bates, although he doesn't look terribly confident. the background, though, just looks like an empty stadium. Blah.

STAT: Bates' only career extra base hit was a double in this game. It led off an inning against Rob Murphy, and Bates ended up scoring the go-ahead (and eventual winning) run of the game. Bates certainly did not have a notable major-league career, but at least he did that much, which is more than the rest of us can say.

CAREER: 1/10

48 career at-bats in the big leagues....ho hum.

Friday, March 20, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #8: John Barfield

John Barfield

PHOTO: Now this looks for sure like a spring training shot, judging by the light stanchion in the back. But I'm surprised to see him wearing #27 as a spring training rookie.

STAT: John Barfield, known as "Barf" for short, is no relation to Jesse or Josh, as you might have guessed from his appearance. I guess he didn't last too long in the big leagues because none of his 11 career starts earned a game score higher than 60. He was better as a reliever, though, earning a 4.15 ERA over 84 innings.

CAREER: 2/10

Not much to say about a below-average, but certainly not terrible, pitcher.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #7: Larry Arndt

Larry Arndt

This card starts a string of guys who barely appeared in the majors, and that's one of the reasons why this set is so cool. Without this particular set, many of these guys might never have had a major league baseball card. But here they are, starting with Larry Arndt.

PHOTO: Not much to say about the photo except that Arndt appeared in just 2 games in the majors, so it's surprising that Topps has this photo. I wonder if it's from spring training?

STAT: Arndt's major league debut came on June 6th, just like the card says, and then on June 7th, he got his first and only major-league hit, a single off Frank Viola. That was his last game in the bigs.

CAREER: 1/10

Two games in the big leagues, although he played one at 1B and the other at 3B.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #6: Kevin Appier

Kevin Appier

Now we're cooking with gas, as Appier is one of the many excellent rookies in this set.

PHOTO: I assumed when I saw the photo that #55 was another spring training number, but on this page you can see that Appier wore 55 for several years with K.C. before switching to #17. When Appier returned to the Royals in 2003 after a 5-year absence, he went back to #55 even though nobody else on the team was wearing 17.

STAT: Other than Carlton Fisk, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken, Appier pitched very well against HOF batters. Check out Dave Winfield: 26 at-bats, 3 singles, no RBI. Ouch. In fact, nobody held Winfield to fewer hits with at least 25 plate appearances.

CAREER: 7/10

Appier was one of the best pitchers of the 1990s, but many people don't know this because the Royals were so bad. His actual career record was 169-137 (.552) but his neutralized record was 183-117 (.610) with a 21-win season in 1993 (a year he actually won only 18 games.)

It must be mentioned, however, that the Royals made a dismal trade when they shipped him to Oakland at the trading deadline in 1999. In return, they received three guys who did very little in the majors. (Jeff D'Amico, Brad Rigby, and Blake Stein.)

1989 Topps Major League Debut #5: Eric Anthony

Eric Anthony

PHOTO: This has got to be a spring training photo, just mainly by the fact that his cap appears to have #63 written under it. Anthony might want to think about closing the Velcro on his batting gloves before taking a hack.

STAT: Anthony had 78 career homers, including 4 games with 2 homers each. Interestingly, in 3 out of 4 of those games, both his homers were solo shots and he had no other RBIs in the game. His team lost 2 of those 4 games, too.

CAREER: 3/10

After some big homer years in the minors, Anthony was a fairly highly-regarded prospect, but I'm not sure why. His performance in the big leagues was pretty much in line with usual projections based on minor league performance. He was a pretty decent part-time player who put together some decent seasons.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Blaster disaster

I just ripped a blaster of 2009 Topps Heritage. I got two numbered chrome cards--Dustin Pedroia and Kevin "Whiny Baby" Youkilis. What's weird is that I live in Boston, and this is not the first time that the insert cards in locally-bought blasters have been from the Red Sox.

Is this kind of thing normal? And BTW does anybody want to trade for these particular cards?

1989 Topps Major League Debut #4: Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

PHOTO: Wow, this is a great shot! I'm not so sure about Anderson's bunting technique, but I like that we can see the positioning of both of his hands so clearly, including the two-fingered approach he's going with. The away Angels uniform also has colors matching the red-and-gray color theme used for this set, so overall this is a beautiful card.

STAT: Anderson had 15 extra-base hits in his career but did manage to get 2 in one game, a 4-0 victory for the Angels. The winning pitcher in that game? Jim Abbott.

CAREER: 1/10

Anderson didn't hit much in the minors but did manage a .308 BA and 115 OPS+ over 49 games in 1990 with the Angels. Sadly he never made it back to the majors after 3 unimpressive years in the minors in 1991-1993.

Kent is the brother of former major-leaguer Mike Anderson.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #3: Wilson Alvarez

PHOTO: I think this type of photo, seen occasionally on baseball cards, is from the team media guide or somesuch. I don't like use of these photos on baseball cards. But thinking about it, Topps sort of backed themselves into a corner with this set. By definition, they almost certainly had no stock shots of these players in hand, unless they happen to have a spring training photo (assuming the player appeared in spring training.) That means that unless they had a photographer at the game where the guy debuted (or thereafter in 1989) it was pretty much impossible to get a photo for the card. Alvarez made just one appearance in 1989 (a horrible one, as you can see on the back of the card--no IP and 3 ER) and thus getting a photo of him would have been damned near impossible.

STAT: Another no-hitter stat. Alvarez pitched one in 1991 with the White Sox, and it wasn't even his best career game score. His no-hitter registered an 89 but he pulled off a 91 two years later by pitching a 3-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts.

CAREER: 6/10

Alvarez was a big part of the White Sox' return to competitiveness in the early 1990s, helping to form the core of those teams along with Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura, Jack McDowell, and Alex Fernandez. He was a big part of two interesting trades, first going from the Rangers to the White Sox along with Sammy Sosa in exchange for Harold Baines, and later being part of the White Sox' "surrender" trade when they gave up Alvarez, Danny Darwin, and Roebrto Hernandez despite being only a few games out of a playoff spot. That ended up as a good trade for Chicago, though, as they got a number of players, including Keith Foulke and Bobby Howry, that ended up bringing them some value later.

Monday, March 16, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #2: Beau Allred

Well just two cards into the set, we get the first guy I've never heard of before.

PHOTO: The photo is a ho-hum posed shot. I do note how Topps put Allred's cap overlapping the box with his debut date, but not his bat. That's kind of odd. I like the overlapping as it gives the cards a nice 3D sense. Topps did this with the regular 1989 and 1988 issues as well, allowing the top of a player's photo to overlap some of the text at the top of the card.

STAT: Allred had just 4 career homers, but HOLY SMOKES look who they came off of. Bob Milacki is the worst guy he homered off of, and that broke a 6th-inning tie. Before that, he put the Indians ahead against Roger Clemens, tied the game off Dennis Eckerlsey as the Eck blew a save, and hit a fairly meaningless homer off another good pitcher, Bill Swift. Pretty impressive stuff.

CAREER: 2/10

For those great homers, I give Allred a 2 instead a 1, despite appearing in just 65 major league games.