Thursday, April 30, 2009

Red Sox tickets

I've got two seats in a right field box (box 4-90) for Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays, Friday May 8th, 7:05 start time. Face value is $100 and I'll sell them for that. If interested, email me at 88topps at gmail dot com.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #66: Jeff King

Jeff King

PHOTO: I like the action running shot, although King doesn't look to be legging it out. Looks more like he's running half-speed on a groundout.

STAT: Since 1989, King is one of just 4 guys to play at least 400 games at both first base and third base. If you can name the other three, you are truly awesome at baseball trivia.

CAREER: 4/10

King is viewed as a disappointment for a few reasons:
  • He was not the kind of big masher fans like to see at either 1B or 3B.
  • He was a part of the Pirates' tams that lost three straight NLCS series from 1990 to 1992 and didn't play well in the post-season (although he was injured in 1991 and didn't play at all that October.)
  • Despite being a fan favorite, Sid Bream was the same kind of guy at 1B, so King was viewed as "more of the same" when he moved there.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #65: Dave Justice

David Justice

PHOTO: I love the photo with all the red, yellow, and blue, not to mention all the autograph seekers in the background. Back in 1989, Justice was called "Dave" before he started using his full first name all the time.

STAT: Just 4 times in history has a player hit 40 HR in a season during which he played for more than 1 team: Greg Vaughn in 1996, Mark McGwire in 1997, Justice in 2000, and Adam Dunn last year.

ANAGRAM: Possible proof that Justice used steroids later in his career: Dave Justice = Juiced as vet

CAREER: 7/10

Justice was a great player who benefited from being in the right places at the right times. He was with Atlanta as they rose from the ashes, then went to Cleveland just in time for their second World Series appearance on the 1990s, then caught on for the tail end of the Yankees' great run, and finally sniffed another post-season appearance with Oakland at the end of his career. In 21 post-season series Justice batted only .224 but did drive in 63 runs in 112 games, an excellent rate for the playoffs.

Kentucky Derby

I'm not a huge fan of horse racing, but I have a personal connection to one of the horses running in the Kentucky Derby this weekend--one by the name of Musket Man. I would love to see this horse win!

1989 Topps Major League Debut #64: Terry Jorgensen

Terry Jorgensen

PHOTO: Any baseball card collector's eye should be immediately drawn to the writing on the knob of the bat. In this case, it's a safe and ordinary "TJ", the initials of the batter.

STAT: Jorgensen's lone big-league homer came in this game, a 9th-inning 3-run shot that unfortunately just made the lopsided score a little less lopsided.

CAREER: 2/10

After a cup of coffee in 1989, Jorgensen disappeared in the majors until 1992, when he was a pretty disused and ineffective batter.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #63: Mike Huff

Mike Huff

PHOTO: What is with the weird airbrushing on the card? Look down by Huff's right foot (that's the one on the left of the photo.) Looks like Topps covered a bunch of stuff with black and left a weird sort of green area. Hmm.

STAT: Huff ended up with 9 career homers in 804 AB, and they were kind of interesting. Every last one was a solo shot and one led off a game.

ANAGRAM: Mike Huff = Hike muff. [Insert pornographic joke here.]

CAREER: 2/10

Huff didn't get too much playing time and didn't do a lot with the time he got. He was a decent part-time player in 1994 with the Blue Jays.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #62: Dann Howitt

Dann Howitt

PHOTO: Not a bad photo although his uniform looks airbrushed, even though I'm sure it's not.

STAT: Only Howitt and Rob Ducey appeared in every season from 1989 to 1994 and had fewer than 100 PAs each season (pitchers excluded.) If you're curious, 152 pitchers accomplished the feat.

ANAGRAM: Dann Howitt = Do want hit!

CAREER: 2/10

Do want hit, indeed. He finished with 264 career plate appearances and managed just 47 hits and 17 walks, for a .194 BA and .243 OBP. Ouch.

Monday, April 27, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #61: Shawn Holman

Shawn Holman

PHOTO: A fairly boring photo except for that weird scaffolding at the top.

STAT: Since 1970, Holman has one of the worst strikeout-to-walk ratios for any pitcher with an ERA+ of 200 or better. Try to wrap your head around his career stats. He finished with a career ERA less than half of league average--excellent--and yet had more career walks than strikeouts--terrible. This is consistent with his career minor league numbers, where his walk total was high and his strikeout total was low (although he did at least have more K's.)

CAREER: 1/10

Just 5 major-league games for this fellow.

Traded Sets Baseball Challenge: Week 4

OK, it's Week 4 of the Challenge, but we're doing something new.

Instead of picking pitchers and HR hitters, we're going to pick which teams win the games.

Here is the full slate of games for Saturday May 2. All you need to do is pick the winning team for each game.

These are projected starting pitchers that might change. Check out here for possible updated info about each pitching matchup.

A few rules about how I'll score this:
  • Pick the straight up winner. We're not considering any type of odds here.
  • If a game is rained out on Saturday, I'll count the makeup game if played on Sunday. If played after Sunday, then it's dropped from the weekly challenge.
  • If there is another game played on Saturday that is a makeup (such as from a Friday rainout) it doesn't count for the challenge. Only the game that starts at the time listed above counts.
  • Ties will be broken by the time of your post: earlier posters win
Please post your guesses in the comments below, and please keep your games in the following order. I suggest you copy and paste the text below, and erase the name of the team you think will lose.

Game 1: Angels at Yankees
Game 2: Marlins at Cubs
Game 3: Cardinals at Nationals
Game 4: Orioles at Blue Jays
Game 5: Astros at Braves
Game 6: Indians at Tigers
Game 7: Mets at Phillies
Game 8: Rockies at Giants
Game 9: D-backs at Brewers
Game 10: Reds at Pirates
Game 11: Red Sox at Rays
Game 12: Royals at Twins
Game 13: White Sox at Rangers
Game 14: Athletics at Mariners
Game 15: Padres at Dodgers

The winner will be the person who correctly guesses the most victors.

The bonus jackpot continues on. For this week, I'll award it to anybody who guesses at least 13 out of the 15 games correctly.

Here's what's in the jackpot:
  • 1988 Score Rookies & Traded set
  • Two packs 2009 Topps Heritage baseball
  • Six packs 2009 Upper Deck Series 1 baseball
  • NEW: Five packs 2008 Topps Series 1 baseball
Come on the bonus and you get 13 unopened packs plus the 1988 Score traded set...

RESULTS: Traded Sets Baseball Challenge: Week 3

Changes are coming to this competition, so be sure to check out the new contest post coming today or tomorrow.

In the meantime, let's see who won for Week 3!

White Sox Cards: 0
night owl: 0
RoofGod: 1
Raoul: 0
Dave: 0
gcrl: 1 (I did not count your changes as that would not be fair to others)
Don: 0
Marcus T: 0 (I also did not count your changes)
Captain Canuck: 0
Dan: 0
Andy: 1

So, wow, this was a damn tough week for everybody. I am going to make some changes to this game to improve things.

gcrl, you've got a few more Dodgers on the way, and RoofGod, please email me at 88topps at gmail dot com and tell me your favorite team and address so I can send some stuff out to you.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #60: Chris Hoiles

PHOTO: I'm not crazy about photos that don't allow the reader to identify anything about the player. In other words, this is the type of photo usually given to a pitcher, and it would be fine if Hoiles were a pitcher. But as a catcher, I'd rather see a photo of him wearing some sort of catching gear or at least swinging a bat so we know he's a position player.

STAT: Hoiles was part of the first team ever (the 1996 Orioles) to have 7 players hit at least 20 homers. It's since been done twice. The Orioles were a good team that year until little Jeffrey Maier came along.

CAREER: 4/10

Hoiles was a good offensive player, posting the 4th-highest OPS+ for a catcher from 1992 to 1998 (minimum 1000 PAs.) I'm not sure why his career ended so abruptly after the 1998 season, when he was still a good offensive player.

It's also surprising to me that Hoiles was never an All-Star.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #59: Glenallen Hill

Glenallen Hill

PHOTO: This is one of the best photos in the set. It's a nice closeup with a lot going on in the photo, including the dangling bat.

STAT: My instinct is that Hill got a lot of extra-base hits. Checking out all the players with 4000 to 4100 career plate appearances, he was indeed #1. That's sort of unfair, though, because most of those players played in much earlier periods in the game when there was less offense.

CAREER: 4/10

By all accounts, Hill was pretty much an asshole who got dumped by his team quite often in his career. But the guy could hit pretty well, especially for power.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #58: Mark Higgins

Mark Higgins

PHOTO: That number 66 tells you right away that this guy was probably not a major-league star. Well that plus the fact that you've never heard of him...

STAT: Higgins' only major-league hit came in this game. He hit for decent power in the minors.

CAREER: 1/10

Just 11 major-league plate appearances.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #57: Greg Hibbard

Greg Hibbard

PHOTO: This is another fairly rare card from this set with good color unity. Lots of reds and blues.

STAT: Among pitchers throwing at least 750 innings from 1989 to 1994, Hibbard cracks the top 25 for best BB/9 rate.

CAREER: 3/10

Hibbard started his career with two strong seasons but fell off to a little below average that. He was selected by the Marlins in the expansion draft but was traded to the Cubs that same off-season for Gary Scott and Alex Arias, the latter of whom became a useful player for Florida.

Friday, April 24, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #56: Eric Hetzel

Eric Hetzel

PHOTO: I really like this photo because of the extreme upward angle, yet the photographer managed to keep some stuff on the ground in frame in the background. Fluffy white clouds are nice.

STAT: Like many pitchers, Hetzel walked too many batters, including Wally Joyner 5 times in 8 career plate appearances.

CAREER: 2/10

Hetzel was so flexible during pre-game stretching that he was nicknamed "Hetzel the Pretzel."

OK, I just made that up.

21 career games and an ERA+ of 67.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #55: Xavier Hernandez

Xavier Hernandez

PHOTO: Wow, what is up with those caterpillars on his face!

STAT: Hernandez was one of the top relievers in baseball in 1992-1993 with, among guys with no games started, the 3rd-most games, 2nd-most innings pitched, and 5th-best ERA+ among guys with at least 100 IP and who were not full-time closers.

CAREER: 3/10

Hernandez had those 2 great years in 1992-93 and a few other decent years but ended up with average numbers over a somewhat short career.

He's one of three major-leaguers with the first name of Xavier, the others being Nady and Rescigno.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #54: Scott Hemond

Scott Hemond

PHOTO: That's quite an odd, overexposed photo, not to mention the weird net with nearby trees in the background.

STAT: Take a peek at the pitchers Hemond faced most often in his career. No wonder he didn't put up much in the way of offensive numbers. The top 20 guys are all among the better pitchers of his era.

CAREER: 2/10

Hemond was a pretty good prospect coming up but totaled only about one full season of plate appearances in his 7-year career.

The crazy world of blogging

In my email this morning, I had a message from Sean Forman of As most of you know, I contribute to the blog on that site (formerly known as Stat of the Day.) Sean had forwarded me an email from Alan Schwarz, baseball writer extraordinaire, thanking him for the mention of Juan Lara on the blog that inspired him to write a story for the New York Times, published a few days ago.

I'm both embarrassed and gratified to have been some small help to somebody of Schwarz's stature. He's the author of The Numbers Game, in my view essential reading for any fan of baseball statistics. It is primarily a historical account of the development of statistics in baseball both in terms of what was recorded from game results as well as what fans and teams paid attention to. Hard to believe there was a time when a stat like RBIs wasn't even counted, but you can read all about it in that book.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #53: Mike Hartley

Mike Hartley

PHOTO: Wow, this is a rarity. It's pretty unusual to see entire trees in card backgrounds that are not palm trees.

STAT: Hartley has one of the most recent seasons with at least one shutout and one save while pitching no more than 80 total innings.

CAREER: 2/10

Hartley was late to the bigs, not appearing until age 27. Despite pitching pretty well in his last few years, he was done by age 33.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #52: Gene Harris

Gene Harris

PHOTO: Very nice color unity with the card border. Harris looks a bit like Fred McGriff, too.

STAT: Guess what? McGriff is also one of just 2 players to hit multiple homers off Harris.

CAREER: 2/10

Harris was a decent reliever for parts of his career and was the Padres' closer in 1993 when Trevor Hoffman came over in a trade from the Marlins. He's best remembered as one of the players the Mariners acquired when they traded Mark Langston to the Expos (the two others being much more successful at the major-league level.)

1989 Topps Major League Debut #51: Jack Hardy

Jack Hardy

PHOTO: Nice umpire playing statues in the background. I can only assume this was a warm-up pitch.

STAT: Oh the humiliation of giving up just one big-league homer to Billy Ripken. At least among his 4 career strikeout victims were a couple of good players and one superstar.

CAREER: 1/10

Six Five major-league games, mostly mop-up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I made a boo-boo in my list for the Week 3 challenge. If you already made your guess, please go check it out as you might want to correct it. If you haven't yet guessed, the coast is clear to do so now.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #50: Chip Hale

Chip Hale

Here's our second Twin in a row, this time a far less successful one.

PHOTO: This is also kind of a worthless photo of Hale, but I'm curious about that banner in the background. Does anybody know what it says or which stadium it's from?

STAT: Of Hale's 7 career homers, 4 came off guys who played for the Yankees, although only Scott Kamieniecki was a Yankee at the time of the homer.

CAREER: 2/10

Hale has the distinction of being traded from one team to another team after his final major-league appearance. Obviously he was trying to make it back to the big leagues, but after being released by the Dodgers and signing with the Angels, the Angels traded him to the Cardinals in 1998.

Also, not too many guys in history have their two leading positions as DH and 2B.

Not to much else to say about Walter William Hale.

Traded Sets Baseball Challenge: Week 3

Let's spin up Week 3 of the challenge. For all the rules, please refer back to the Week 1 post. Quick version: pick the winning pitcher and ONE player you think will homer for each game listed below.

You guys SUCKED last week as I mopped the floor with everybody. Let's see if anybody can manage to compete this week. (Heh!)

Another week, another addition to the jackpot. Here's what we've got for you:
  • 1988 Score Rookies & Traded set
  • Two packs 2009 Topps Heritage baseball
  • NEW: Six packs 2009 Upper Deck Series 1 baseball
Be the first to post a perfect score of 6 and you win the jackpot!

Here are this week's games along with projected starters. Post your guesses here. Reminder that tie-breaker is whoever posted his or her comment first.

All games are Saturday April 25th:

Game #1:
Giants at Diamondbacks (T Lincecum vs M Scherzer)
Winning pitcher: ?
HR hitter: ?

Game #2:
Braves at Reds (J Vazquez vs B Arroyo)
Winning pitcher: ?
HR hitter: ?

Game #3:
Yankees at Red Sox (AJ Burnett vs J Beckett)
Winning pitcher: ?
HR hitter: ?

1989 Topps Major League Debut #49: Mark Guthrie

Mark Guthrie

PHOTO: This is a fairly crap photo, but I also can't shake the feeling that Guthrie looks a lot like Terry Francona.

STAT: Not too many people think of Guthrie, but the guy does make the top 50 since 1901 for most games pitched.

CAREER: 5/10

Guthrie hung around for a long time because he was a lefty and he was pretty good. Most of his seasons were a little above or a little below league-average, but he posted a few great years in 1992 and 1996, as well as his final 2 seasons of 2002 and 2003. (He probably could have kept on pitching if he had wanted to.)

He was in lots of trades involving good players: Kevin Tapani, Rod Beck, Dave Martinez, Steve Trachsel, David Justice...

Monday, April 20, 2009

RESULTS: Traded Sets Baseball Challenge: Week 2

Scores for Week 2:

RoofGod: 2
night owl: 2
Dave: 2
White Sox Cards: 1
Marcus T: 2
Don: 2
gcrl: 0
Luke: 2
Andy: 3

Hot damn! I beat everybody!

No winner this week, but the jackpot continues to build. Check back tomorrow for this week's contest. I am going to pick games with some more mainstream pitchers...


I fell behind with my scans and don't have any cards to post today. So I thought I'd rant instead about the MLB playoffs.

I find it very frustrating that MLB is the only of the major professional sports that has a playoff format that doesn't follow the regular-season format. What am I talking about? Look at this:

In baseball, there are 162 regular-season games and the conference championship round of the playoffs is decided by a 7-game series. That playoff series is, then, about 4.3% of a regular season. (Don't get me started on the 5-game divisional series, it's even worse.)

In football, there are 16 regular-season games and the first round of the playoffs is decided by a single game, or about 6.3% of a regular season.

In basketball, there are 82 regular-season games and the first round is a 7-game series, or 8.5%.

Hockey is similar to basketball.

This is telling us that baseball has a playoff series that is a smaller sample size relative to its regular season than for any other sport. This means that upsets are more likely in baseball than in any other sport. Think about it this way--in football, the favored team (not using a point spread) very often wins. They might get outscored in any given quarter, but less rarely do they get outscored in an entire game. But in baseball, because there are so many fewer games in the post-season series, the odds that the worse team will win are greater.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the difference between the best and worst teams in baseball is far less than the teams in other sports. In the NFL, every single year a team goes 13-3 or 14-2 That would be equivalent to a baseball team winning 130 or 140 regular-season games, which never happens. In basketball, teams win 60 games all the time and 65 fairly often, which is the equivalent of a baseball team winning 120 or 130 games, which nearly never happens. This means that in baseball, the two teams in any given game are more evenly matched than in other sports, and therefore the lesser team is more likely to win any single game. Add to that the playoffs constitute a smaller sample size, and the underdog is given a huge advantage.

To be more consistent with other sports, playoff rounds really need to be more like 11 or 13 games, which I know sounds preposterous. The playoffs already drag on forever since the wild card was introduced.

But this is only half the discussion. The other problem is the schedule. In the NFL, teams play once a week during the regular season and once a week during the playoffs. In the NBA, teams usually play a game once every 2 days or occasionally on back-to-back days and the playoffs are the same way. Same deal with the NHL. In baseball, teams play just about every day until the playoffs, when suddenly it's common to have 1 or 2 days off in between individual games. During the regular season, it would be unthinkable to use the same 2 starting pitchers in any 7-game period. However this happens in the playoffs fairly often, such as with the Red Sox in 2004 (Schilling and Pedro.) Why on earth would anybody think that this is a good idea? Why does the determining factor in getting to the playoffs (namely being able to amass a lot of wins during the regular season by playing just about every day) suddenly get discarded in favor of a totally different schedule in the post-season? It seems to me that in the ALCS and NLCS, we should want to see matchups of each team's #3 starters and #4 starters at least. I realize these guys aren't the big names and big money pitchers, but they were just as important during the year. Another example is the 2001 Mariners. They had just 5 starting pitchers make all 162 starts and finished 116-46, only to be easily dispatched in the playoffs. If each team had had to use their entire starting staff, they probably would have won the World Series that year.

In the playoffs, one complication is the travel. Teams can play every day in MLB because they need travel only every 3 or 4 days when on the road and not at all when at home. In the playoffs, it's currently necessary to switch cities every 2 games, or sometimes every single game.

We can eliminate all of these problems with one simple change. Let's make the post-season series 11 games. First 3 games in one city, next 3 in the other city, next 3 back in the first city and the final 2 back in the second city. No off days. Getaway games are day games to allow for travel. First to 6 wins takes the series.

The series will end up taking just about as long as the current 7-game series take with all the off days, will generate more gate revenue, and the better team will win more often. This is win-win-win for the fans, the teams, and for baseball.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Julio Franco bat card

I know they exist because I once saw one on eBay. I'm trying to find a Julio Franco came-used bat card to add to my collection. I think Bazooka had one in the early 2000's.

Does anybody have one to trade? Drop me an email at 88topps at gmail dot com.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #48: Marquis Grissom

Marquis Grissom

PHOTO: Oh, what a great photo! Looks like Grissom just roped a double down the line at Wrigley. Oh and there's a busty lady in a green dress in the background.

STAT: Over 1991-1992, Grissom had by far the most stolen bases in the big leagues. He's also one of just 10 players since 1901 to have multiple seasons with 75+ stolen bases.

CAREER: 6/10

Grissom is pretty overrated, actually, although he was a heck of a lot better in the big leagues than the majority of the players in this set. He had an OPS+ of 100 or better with a minimum of 140 games in just 4 seasons although his career OPS+ of 92 is certainly not terrible. To his credit he did hit well in the post-season, with an .800 OPS. In 231 career PAs in the post-season he drove in 20 runs (great) and scored 34 runs (fantastic.)

Grissom was traded in a number of big deals with or for some very good players including Roberto Kelly, David Justice, Kenny Lofton, Mike Fetters, and Devon White.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Red Sox tickets

I have some tickets for Tuesday (4/21) game against the Twins. Is anybody interested? I will sell them at face value ($100 for a pair of seats in sec 4 box 90.) I have more tickets for games later in the season as well. Email me at 88topps at gmail dot com if you are interested, ASAP.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #47: Jason Grimsley

Jason Grimsley

PHOTO: This is another nice-looking card, thanks in large part to the fact that the Phillies spring training jerseys nicely match the border used for this set.

STAT: How the hell did Grimsley give up 2 hits and 3 walks while recording only 3 outs in the 2000 ALCS without giving up a run? Well in this game he gave up 1 of each with 2 out sin the ninth and then recorded the final out. And then there was this game, from Bizarro world. Grimsley comes in with one out after Denny Neagle gives up a run-scoring single and back-to-back homers. He proceeds to go single, fly ball out, wild pitch, walk, walk to load the bases, and then gets pulled. Then, in a strange parallel universe, Dwight Gooden comes in to strike out Rickey Henderson, playing for the Mariners. Weird.

CAREER: 4/10

Oh Jason, Jason, Jason...

First, let's talk about his actual playing career. He was not a very good starter from 1989 to 1996, but then disappeared for a few years and resurfaced as a pretty darn good reliever from 1999 to 2004, mostly with the Yankees and the Royals.

But Grimsley has always been better known for his off-the-field explots.

First it was something totally innocent: getting traded from Houston for Curt Schilling, a total steal for the Phillies.

But then he was implicated in a scandal involving Albert Belle's bat, which he allegedly removed from the umpires' changing room (where it had been placed after confiscation over suspected corking) by climbing through ductwork in the clubhouse.

That seems almost funny by comparison to his later naming in the Mitchell report as a main user of illegal drugs.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #46: Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr.

PHOTO: I like the photo except that his cap is washed out by the light.

STAT: Rather than including a stat I wanted to recall something amazing that happened. Back in this 1990 game, Griffey and his father hit back-to-back homers off Kirk McCaskill. I was watching the game on Friday Night Baseball on ESPN. It was completely astounding and incredible. The fact that a father and son could play together on the same team was amazing enough, but this feat is something that, odd are, we'll never see happen again. (For a brief period, it looked possible with Tim Raines and his son.)

This kind of event is the thing that makes fans fall in love with baseball.

CAREER: 10/10

Griffey might be the only surefire Hall of Famer in this set (not sure because I haven't looked ahead at the cards...)

This guy completely reenvigorated baseball when he came on the scene in 1989. His dad was a great player but everybody expected Jr. to be even better, and they were right. Injuries have hurt him for sure but he's currently 5th in career homers and has a (very slight) shot at passing Willie Mays.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #45: Tommy Greene

Tommy Greene

PHOTO: This is the cleanest-cut look I have ever seen Greene sport, yet he also looks about 40 years old in this photo, when he was actually about 22.

Greene was a thrown-in in the Dale Murphy trade and was huge for the 1993 Phillies.

STAT: Greene is one of just 9 guys to issue at least 7 walks in a no-hitter.

CAREER: 3/10

Greene had one very good year with the Phillies in 1993. It wasn't as good as his 16-4 record indicates and he also pitched poorly in the post-season that year.

The above-mentioned no-hitter was caught by Darren Fletcher, as mentioned by a commenter.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #44: Goose Gozzo

Mauro Gozzo

PHOTO: Somehow, Gozzo got Topps to put "Goose" as his first name on the card even though he was known by his given name of Mauro throughout his career. I'm sort of wondering if that white line is actually going in one ear and out the other.

STAT: Gozzo's major league debut game, mentioned on the back of his card, was his best career start in the big leagues.

CAREER: 2/10

Probably the most impressive thing about Gozzo was being involved in trades for two good starting pitchers: David Cone and Bud Black.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #43: Juan Gonzalez

Juan Gonzalez

Starting last card with Girardi, we're in an amazing string of players here, with Gonzalez as the first bona fide superstar of the set but more to come shortly.

PHOTO: Not much to say about this photo. Gonzalez is not an ugly guy but he never looked good in posed head shots. He's also got a crazy gap in his mustache. Sort of the opposite of a unibrow, I guess.

STAT: Only 5 guys including Gonzalez have ever had a season with at least 50 doubles and 150 RBI. The other guys are all super-duper-stars including the underrated Chuck Klein.

CAREER: 8/10

First I need to mention my strongest memory of Gonzalez. It was from the 1996 divisional playoffs against the Yankees. In 4 games, Igor had 4 HR, 9 RBI and 3 walks, for a line of .438/.526/1.375. The dude was on fire.

Gonzalez was one of the very best offensive players of the 1990s. He had an inexplicably bad year with Detroit in 2000, and after a single great bounceback year with Cleveland in 2001, the guy was never healthy again. After the age of 32, he played fewer than 200 career games. There has been lots of speculation that he had steroids-related injuries. I have no idea. What I do know is that if he had played in more like 800 games after the age of 32 and hit closer to his typical production, he would have finished with 550 to 600 HR and would be a Hall of Fame candidate.

It's tough to know what to think of Gonzo these days. The Rangers teams from that era have come under heavy scrutiny as being one of the biggest juicing teams thanks in large part to Jose Canseco. I have no idea if that's true or, even if so, whether it's appropriate to single that team or specific players from that team out. Given that we know that many, perhaps half, of all players were using steroids, it still leaves the fact that Gonzalez was immensely talented. I wish he had remained healthy enough to play several more years. Even now, he is only 39 and could potentially be winding up his career just now.

Traded Sets Baseball Challenge: Week 2

Here we go with Week 2 of the challenge. For all the rules, please refer back to the Week 1 post. Quick version: pick the winning pitcher and ONE player you think will homer for each game listed below.

In addition to the regular weekly prize, I am adding something new to the bonus jackpot: two unopened packs of 2009 Topps Heritage baseball. So now you've got those 2 packs and the 1988 Score Rookies & Traded set.

Here are this week's games along with projected starters. Post your guesses here. Reminder that tie-breaker is whoever posted his or her comment first.

All games are Saturday April 18th:

Game #1, in memory of Harry Kalas:
Padres at Phillies (S Hill vs C Park)
Winning pitcher: ?
HR hitter: ?

Game #2, in memory of Mark Fidrych:
Tigers at Mariners (E Jackson vs E Bedard)
Winning pitcher: ?
HR hitter: ?

Game #3, in memory of Nick Adenhart:
Angels at Twins (S Loux vs K Slowey)
Winning pitcher: ?
HR hitter: ?

The day I met Harry Kalas

The death of Harry Kalas is tough to take. All Phillies fans know what I mean, as do all the folks who listened to his national NFL radio broadcasts. I'm finding it very difficult to accept that he's gone and rather than attempt to eulogize him, I will simply share the story of the day I met the man face-to-face.

As a teenager in the late 1980s, I went with some friends to a Phillies-Mets game at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. It was this game, on July 25, 1988, when Kevin McReynolds and Darryl Strawberry hit back-to-back homers. One of my friends, Eric, and I stayed after the game to try to see some of the players leaving the stadium. Indeed, we watched the Mets file out of the stadium and onto their team bus. I mentioned this back on my 88 Topps Cards blog about when Howard Johnson nodded at me from the bus. After the bus took off, Eric and I were standing around and figured we'd head back to the car to go home. Just then, Harry Kalas came out of the stadium and we rushed over to him, asking for his autograph. He was exceptionally polite and asked if he could just go over to his car and put his things down first. I remember getting chills hearing his voice in person--easily one of the 5 most distinguishable American voices of our era. We followed him over to his Cadillac, he opened his door and put his bag down, and then proceeded to sign one autograph for Eric and one for me as well. We thanked him and said good night, and he got in his car and drove away.

I still have the baseball that Kalas signed for me. I always knew that he wouldn't call Phillies games forever but I never imagined that his time would end so quickly. He will be sorely missed.

1989 Topps Major League Debut #42: Joe Girardi

Joe Girardi

PHOTO: Not a bad photo of Joe, but who is the guy next to him?

STAT: Since 1989, Girardi has the 6th-most stolen bases among catchers although I suspect Russel Martin, already #5 with many fewer plate appearances, will top that list within 6 or 7 years. Of course, it should be mentioned that Girardi is also among the leaders in caught stealing for the same period.

CAREER: 4/10

Girardi didn't hit much but was on a bunch of playoff teams, including the Rockies' first-ever such appearance in 1995 and the Yankees championship teams of 1996, 1998, and 1999.

If we add in his career as a manager, I'd probably bump him up to 5 thanks mostly to what he did with the Marlins in 2006. Wait and see on his Yankees tenure...