Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2005 Yankees


2005 was the last time I saw a regular season game at the old Yankee Stadium. Esteban Loaiza was pitching. It was really damned hot. I think the Yanks won.

This was another Torre team that tried to recreate the 90s success and couldn't, though we certainly tried. More importantly, after the Tony Womack signing was kind of a flop, 2005 was the first year of Robinson Cano's ascent to 2nd. And while the PED charges have tainted the once extraordinary career for the hard-hitting 2nd baseman, you have to admit that his rookie year was still pretty refreshing. 22 years old, hitting .297 with 62 RBIs and 14 homers in an 132 game rookie season, and finishing second in the ROY voting to Huston Street.

More from Ruben Sierra. 2005 was Sierra's last year of bench-DH work in New York. In 61 games, the 39-year old former Rangers phenom hit .229 with 29 RBIs and only 4 homers. With Giambi and Tino switching off at DH, Sierra mostly was a bench bat, and a kinda shoddy one at that. Minnesota would be next. 

How rare is this? A year after being a crucial member of the Red Sox team that knocked off the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS and won the Series, Mark Bellhorn was cut by the Sox in August and picked up by the rivals. A prelude to Johnny Damon, I suppose, but with shakier results. Bellhorn's stuff had dissolved since his Boston heyday, and he only hit .118 with 2 RBIs in 9 games for the Yankees before getting cut again. 
And former Cubs infielder and frequent MLB traveler over the late-90s and early 2000s Rey Sanchez gave his last MLB numbers as a member of this Yankee team. After a strong defensive season in Tampa, Sanchez handed in negative defensive totals, and hit a decent .279 over 23 games. Bit of a whimper to go out on.

Tomorrow Uncustomed Heroes begins!!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Two Hanger Boxes of 2021 Topps Update

 I rounded the aisle to check for gift cards for the holidays and I had to triple-take.

The Target stock clerk. METICULOUSLY CURATING THE CARD AISLE SHELVES. Immaculately organizing the Update, the Archives boxes, the assorted basketball stuff. In a way I had not seen since before I left for college. I was floored. Not only was there product at a retail store, but there was LOTS of it. I couldn't believe it.

As I grabbed my hanger boxes, I thanked him. "It's good to see product back here. It's been a long few months." And I went on my way.

I grabbed a blaster of Archives, which I've already broke a box of for here, and this one didn't yield much else [I did get a Brian Anderson silver parallel #'d to 99, which...of course I would]. I also grabbed two hanger boxes of Update, because, HEY, IT'S DECEMBER AND I HAVEN'T BROKEN ANY UPDATE YET. GADZOOKS.

Here are the results. I'll do what I usually do and point out which players changed uniforms again by the end of the season, because the deadlines for this set are unreasonably early now.

Box 1-
225- Corey Knebel
28- Manuel Margot
231- Travis Blankenhorn
167- Juan Lagares. Thrilling stuff
179- David Phelps
79- Tatis/Cronenworth combo. So...the combo cards aren't checklists. They're set filler...in a set where the ASG cards are now inserts? WHY?
314- Liam Hendriks. 
22- Maikel Franco. The amount of goodwill wasted on this guy by Phils fans, has to be through the roof.
264- Jonathan Loaisiga. Thank god they did this guy
52- Kluber no-no CL. Yes, there were so many no-hitters that Topps had to do combo cards aside from them. On the bright side, this card exists.
282- Lance Lynn
246- Brent Honeywell. Has been traded, but after the season.
190- Rony Garcia
224- Steve Cishek. They've...done pretty well so far.
305- Bryan Garcia
287- BoSox combo card featuring the city connect unis
255- Jake Lamb. THERE WE GO. Outdated Update #1, finished the season with the Blue Jays
103- Kyle Finnegan. Annoyed with all these rookie listings for people who had substantial 2020 numbers
36- Wade Miley no-no CL.
13- Chance Sisco. Outdated Update #2, waived by the Mets IN JUNE. WE'RE THAT EARLY??
249- Jarred Kelenic RD. Okay, at least this exists
242- Dillon Tate
51- Roel Ramirez, the guy who gave up 4 straight home runs in 2020. SEEMS RIPE FOR 2021 UPDATE.
163- Spencer Turnbull no-no CL
278- Chris Rodriguez
34- Tyler Naquin
93- Corey Ray
328- Yu Chang
84- Bailey Ober.
238- Trevor Rosenthal ORANGE #'d to 299. That's right, a parallel base card of a player who didn't even play for the team depicted in 2021, due to injures. Thanks, Topps.
ASG Insert of Jake Cronenworth. Yes, an insert...of an ASG base card...of a player depicted NOT in the ASG. The deadline is too damned early.
Topps Cards That Never Were insert of Alex Rodriguez from 1994. I like the concept of this one. Hope it doesn't render my Should Have Been set too moot
86T insert of Jonathan India
92T insert of Randy Arozarena, the [sigh] ROOKIE OF THE YEAR.
92T insert of AARON JUDGE
92T insert of GIANCARLO STANTON. Double Yankee fun,
92T insert of Christian Yelich
33- Marcus Semien. Not outdated by the construct of this.
194- Miguel Castro, a good, smart relief choice by Topps
88- Victor Caratini
25- Chi Chi Gonzalez
316- Patrick Wisdom, thank god. NOT A ROOKIE CARD THOUGH.
61- Marvin Gonzalez. Outdated Update #3, finished the season with Houston
178- Ryan Weathers RD
283- Sergio Romo. 
174- Mario Feliciano
164- Andrew Knapp
41- Alex Kirilloff RD. Thrilling stuff
18- Billy Hamilton. GOOD. HE GETS A BASE CARD. GREAT!
26- Taijuan Walker, also printed upside down on the back
166- Chris Gittens. [loud sigh]
171- Matt Moore
105- Chad Kuhl, yeah, the Bucs' Opening Day starter didn't make Flagship
20- Josh Staumont
66- James Paxton
117- Hirokazu Sawamura
92- Tyler Stephenson RD
228- Dylan Moore, who, thanks to Adam Frazier, is now out of a job
19- Chase Anderson
67- Angel Rondon
120- Seth Brown
138- Will Harris
136- Nate Lowe
75- Kyle Funkhowser
236- Ross Stripling. Also should have been in Flagship
131- Jon Berti. Ditto

Box #2-
6 dupes
23- Jake Cave. Why wasn't HE in Flagship?
113- Aaron Civale. Okay. Another person who was definitely relevant enough in early 2021 to be featured in flagship. Why leave people out? Because it's easier to just do a Series 3 than actually do an Update Series? CHANGE THE NAME.
147- Luis Torrens
245- Gilberto Celestino
158- Darin Ruf. I'm just glad they remembered to make a Darin Ruf card at all
326- Aaron Fletcher
311- Jake Arrieta. Outdated Update #4, finished with San Diego
268- Geraldo Perdomo
189- Jeff Hoffman
260- Owen Miller RC. Oh yeah, he made his debut this year, forgot about that
139- Jake Odorizzi
250- Alec Bohm RD. DON'T...REMIND...ME.
90- Joe Kelly
63- Casey Mize RD
3 dupes
273- Mike Minor
148- Daniel Vogelbach. He was...he was with the team in January, why's he in Update? This set frustrates me.
175- Ha-Seong Kim RD
211- Luis Patino
140- Andrew Vaughn RD
196- Akil Baddoo RC. Okay, at least they got him
ASG insert of Fernando Tatis Jr.
70 Years of Topps insert of Christian Yelich in the 87T design
86T insert of Mookie Betts
92T insert of Ian Anderson
92T insert of Kyle Lewis
186- Sixto Sanchez RD
128- Rich Hill. Outdated Update #5, ended the year with the Mets
144- Mariners combo
172- Giovanny Gallegos
58- Austin Dean
12- Nick Gordon RC
243- Lane Thomas. Outdated Update #6, traded to the Nats
46- Ryan McKenna
89- Brad Hand. Outdated Update #7, ended year with Mets
35- Joe Musgrove no-no CL
54- Yoshi Tsutsugo. Outdated Update #8, waived by the Pirates in July.
149- Travis Shaw. Outdated Update #9, ended year with Red Sox
218- Connor Brogdon
43- Franklyn Kilome
160- Erik Gonzalez
253- Steven Duggar
325- Chris Archer

Man this set's a mess. A few cool things here, some actual needed cards, but a lot of making up for flagship while also failing as an Update set. This set has been flawed since 2019, ever since the deadline for this set was moved up to June, and ever since MLB laws have made rookies not count after then. This set needs to be seriously rethought, though it probably won't seeing as Fanatics isn't far off.

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2008 White Sox


People have forgotten about this due to the actual outcome of that season, but the White Sox won the division in 2008. Like, they made the playoffs, had a strong team, and had some of the strongest pitching energy of the season. Between John Danks, Javier Vazquez, Gavin Floyd, Mark Buehrle and Bobby Jenks, the pitching in Chicago was enough to make this team truly formidable.

However, because Topps is Topps, a few pieces of this team didn't make the cut in Flagship or Update, and I'm gonna go over those today.

The biggest omission is Matt Thornton, one of the more consistent relief pieces of this era of White Sox baseball. Thornton is the most utilized Sox reliever in 2008, and he had a great year, with a 2.67 ERA and 77 Ks in 67 innings, as well as the lowest WHIP on the pitching staff. It's a year that sets him up for a great career, and a 2010 ASG gig.

Scott Linebrink was known to me in 2008 for his 2007 Topps card on the Padres, which features an almost nostalgic bit of ugliness on a baseball card. Linebrink, if you'll recall, was damn near unhittable mid-decade with San Diego, and was a chief relief asset on those teams. In 2007 he's traded to Milwaukee, and in 2008 he signs with the White Sox on a 3 year deal and does well enough for himself. His first year in Chicago, he has a 3.69 ERA in 46 innings, and was his last truly great season before a career downturn.

Oh, brother, this guy again. Before moving back to LA and being mired in a potential wife-killing scandal [ALLEGEDLY], Esteban Loaiza is cut by the Dodgers in mid-2008 and signs with his old team, the Chicago White Sox, where he had his breakthrough in 2003. In three brief appearances, in relief, Loiaza had a 3.00 ERA, with 1 strikeout and 2 runs. These would be the last numbers of his career, and he'd instead try his hand at...y'know...cutting fuel lines [ALLEGEDLY]. 

And as for the spring training attempts, we have former Expos and Brewers starter Tomo Ohka, who had gone a bit downhill since his early-2000s heyday. In between stints with Toronto and Cleveland, Ohka suited up for the White Sox in Arizona to attempt to make the team, but, as discussed, the rotation was stocked, and Ohka wasn't gonna cut it. So he sat the year out.

Tomorrow we wrap up this month of should have been's with some 2005 Yankees.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2006 Twins


A lot of this coverage of the 2006 Twins is made up of 'why bother making a card now' guys that I've already showed 2007 cards of. One of these is actually a startling omission. Kyle Lohse has a card in 2006 Update as a member of the Reds, but Topps failed to make one of his starting team, one he'd been with for years, the Minnesota Twins. In 22 games he had a 7.07 ERA, with 5 losses, and only 8 starts, being moved to the pen afterwards. He's sent to the Reds in a deadline deal, improves his velocity, and slowly becomes a favorite in St. Louis and Milwaukee.

I talked about Tony Batista and his paltry Nats numbers a week or so ago, but in 2006 he was coming off a year where he was supposed to be a National but was injured the whole time. Even if he was healthy in 06, his career was rapidly going downhill after his stellar 2002, and the Twins were left with some meh numbers. In 50 games, Batista hit .236 with 21 RBIs and 5 homers. Not terribly interesting. 

And after a few seasons being a bench/DH for the Yankees, Ruben Sierra played his last 14 MLB games as a member of the Twins, trapped behind Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. The 40 year old hit .179 with 4 RBIs and no home runs. As discussed, he'd try the Mets in '07, and it wouldn't go much better.

Tomorrow, we go to 2008 to catch up with some unsung pitching White Sox.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2007 Tigers


The Tigers' year in 2007, as strong as it may have been playoff-wise, or post-WS-wise, will always be known as 'the year right before Cabrera enters the mix'. As stacked as this team could feel with Ordonez, Polanco, Guillen, Verlander and Granderson, it was always missing a little something, and that something turned out to be Miguel Cabrera, who may last long enough to see another playoff run in the next few years [maybe. We're not quite sure yet].

In the heat of August, the Tigers brought up a rookie starter named Jair Jurrjens, direct from Curacao, to help things out. In 7 starts, Jurrjens would post 3 wins, a 4.70 ERA and a 1.141 WHIP. As nice as he was during the season, the Tigers' conquests in 2008, including bringing on Edgar Renteria, would result in Jurrjens being traded to Atlanta, and becoming a crucial starter for the next 3 or 4 seasons.

As someone who's followed Topps for years, Zach Miner seems like the exact type of pitcher that'd warrant a 2007 Topps card. He had some starts in 2006, was a crucial member of a World Series team, and made the playoff roster in his rookie season. A 'tribute to 2006' kind of set like 07 Topps Series 1 could have used someone like Miner, but alas. Perhaps they knew something, because Miner was shifted to the bullpen in 2007, with a 3.02 ERA in 34 appearances, acting as a long man most of them. He'd start a few more games in 2008, but would never find the prevalence of his rookie year.

Okay, back to Jose Mesa. The other day I was talking about his insanely strong Rockies numbers in 2006. The Tigers saw that and thought Mesa a great addition to their bullpen, they sign him. Mesa is now 41 and beginning to lose his better abilities, and pitches a disastrous 12.34 ERA in 12 appearances before being cut. Mesa's old team, the Phillies, would take advantage of this, and bring Mesa on for the playoff run, where he'd do a bit better and make the postseason roster.

Tomorrow, we flashback to 2006 with some intriguing exclusions from Topps' Twins output.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2007 Royals


We go to a transitional year for the struggling Royals. 2007 would be the last for mainstays like Mike Sweeney and Angel Berroa, and would be the first for future Royals legends like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Joakim Soria. While there'd be a long way before the 2014-2015 runs, this team was beginning to try some new things.

Ironically, a few of their tactics would be better suited in other markets. Former Boston farmhand Jorge de la Rosa got some starts for the Royals, but went 8-12 with a 5.82 ERA and 82 Ks in 23 starts. After the season, De La Rosa would be swapped to the Rockies, where he'd become one of their more trusted starters of the 2010s.

Similarly, Leo Nunez continued his quiet run of being a well-regarded relief option for the Royals in this era, with a 3.92 ERA in 12 appearances, SIX OF THEM BEING STARTS, as the Royals were pretty starved for starting pitching. But Nunez would become a more prevalent reliever in 2008, and after a trade to Miami, would become a closing option until 2011ish. 

One of the more forgotten all-stars of his era, former Dodgers starter Odalis Perez had some great years in the early 2000s before he began to lose his footing, and was handed to the Royals in 2006. In 26 '07 starts, Perez would notch a 5.57 ERA and 64 Ks. He'd have one more year of starting in '08, for Washington, before hanging 'em up.

As for Spring Training attempts, Alex Gonzalez, the one I call Alex Gonzalez v1 as he debuted earlier than the other one, was still kicking in the mid-2000s after his Toronto heyday. After a weak year with Philly he tried going out for a corner infield spot for the Royals, losing to Mark Teahen. Gonzalez would end his MLB career after this.

Coming Tomorrow- A trio of 2007 Tigers, including one I was just talking about the other day.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

A Birthday Blaster of 2021 Topps Archives: A True Bullseye


So...I'm not collecting Archives this year.

I've made it a point to collect the base sets of every Archives set Topps has put out, mostly because I like the concept and the relative collectibility. For years I've begged Topps to take away the needless SPs that make the set even harder to complete, and for the 2021 set they finally did.

However, it's 2021, and it's impossible to find affordable cardboard anywhere, especially on retail shelves. I'm collecting the 2020 set, but I got a cheap enough hobby box of it last year, and attacked singles online. I don't think I can do that this year, so I'm just gonna collect what I can. I'm getting my Yanks and Phils thanks to a recent group break, that'll be the extent, I guess. 

This has nothing to do with hell occasionally freezing over, though.

My dad was in Target the other day and he found a blaster of Topps Archives...just sitting there. Unattended. No gun-toting southerners, no mandated abstinence. You could just...buy a box of Topps product at a Target. Imagine!

So he got it for me, cause I had a birthday coming up, which is tomorrow. And he figured that'd be a good enough pick me up. The man had no idea what lay inside this retail blaster. And I was very grateful once I found out what was.

Of course I'm showing this off to y'all, you deserve to see it. We've got 7 packs of 8, and a few packs of 9. Let's eat 'em up.

Pack 1- Eight designs instead of 3. That kinda threw me off. And they're not evenly cut in the base set as well. It's kinda tricky. Hey, whatever they want.
It's Archives, so it should be a well-oiled machine by now. The 83s work, the 91's are excellent likenesses, and the 73s are slightly flawed, but work. Plus, cool pulling a New York Giant in 2021.
I think they did a good job with the 62s, and both the 2001s and 2011s are recent enough to look cool. Especially the 2011s. But mostly it's just cool to pull new cards of Ozzie and McCovey.

Pack 2- The 57s are a bit too minimalistic imo. But the occasional cool photo selection, like Cain's can save it. Great to see Molitor as a Blue Jay in between his many Brewers modern issues. 

Inserts! Pache's is a Pop Up insert, which they had in Heritage a few years back. Could have used someone who could stay up in the majors, but hey, still cool. And Story's is a retail-exclusive 89 Big Foil, which is a nice design homage with some requisite shininess. 

Three more HOFers. Always great to pull a Clemente. Killebrew's is a Topps 2091 subset, a very silly idea that's cooler than one might expect. It honestly looks like a lost Topps Bunt design, if that set hadn't turned into Topps Big League [sidenote, when is 2021 Big League releasing? Next decade?]. 

Pack 3- Business as usual, aside from Votto's look of seduction. Adames is proof of updated uniforms in this set, something that not even Topps Update could muster. 

Three Hall of Famers and a Mariners rookie. Carew and Murray look awesome on the 2001 design.

Pack 4- Deivi Garcia may never pitch like we wanted him to, which is sad. Dallas Braden became such a fan favorite as a baseball personality and broadcaster that he landed in this base set, which is cool. Do Phil Hughes next. Always a joy pulling a Michael Jack, especially an early-70s one.

So we hit a parallel in this pack. Yes, it's a Cardinal, which...my luck, of course it is. But it's at least a respected, long-standing veteran Cardinal in Paul Goldschmidt. It's a green parallel, #'d to 125. Not bad at all. Those come 1:62 retail packs, so I beat the odds. Which would have been nice enough. 
And my second 89 Big Foil was someone who I respect less than Goldy, and that's Alex Bregman.

A HOFer and two rookies that barely played this year polish off the pack. 

Pack 5- Three retired stars, and also a very awesome photo of Lourdes Gurriel and his blue hair. Lincecum's inclusion in this set I can see, but this is 2012-era, post-awesome Lincy, rather than shaggy haired Lincy. Maddux and Chippah in the same pack feels right.

There was an insert here, a 91 Shining Stars of Andrew Vaughn, but it's not exactly a huge hit. So I looped it with the rest of the base from this pack, including a cool Dale Murphy. 

Pack 6- Vaughny shows up again, alongside some standard picks, and also the Iron Horse, fitting pretty well in 91T.

They made the Posters inserts rather than SPs, which works, though they're now multi-player, and therefore harder for me to collect. This was a cool one for the 80s Cubs, though. And my 3rd and last 89 Big Foil was Brooks Robinson, a great subject for one.

Some pedestrian choices to round out the penultimate pack. 

Pack 9- Easy ones. I like the India, and the Moran choice, but these were the kind of cards I expected out of something like Archives.

...and then,


I mentioned sometime last year how rare it is for me to not only pull autos out of retail, but to pull autos out of retail of people who play for my teams and are actually good, well-tested players. Pulling a Hoskins auto out of 10 out of Stadium Club last year fell into this category. I pulled a Joe Pepitone auto out of Archives a few years ago, and a Polanco auto last year.

This...is a little different.

Greg Luzinski isn't just a Phillies hero, he's a Phillies legend. Played for some epic Phils teams back in the day behind Mike Schmidt, hit a ton of homers for us, nearly got an MVP in 75. Legendary. He has his own BBQ stand at Citizens Bank Park, Bull's BBQ. Admittedly never had any. Boog's I've had, but not Bull's. 

So pulling a Bull auto, in the Philly area, being a Phils fan...that's just nice. And for my birthday. AND out of a blaster my dad found when he wasn't expecting to.

There's a 1:73 chance of pulling an auto out of a blaster of Archives. Combine that with the green parallel means that this blaster was a 1:4526 find. Not quite the one in one and a half million SC box from last year, but still really damn good. One heck of a hit, and something that made it all worth it.

Oh yeah, rest of the pack,

Trio of rookies. Of the three, I think Weathers might have the longest career, though I'm still holding out for Mickey Moniak to be anything like what we drafted him for.

And that's the blaster. One heck of a find, right? A killer parallel, an AWESOME auto, and lots of fun base things. Worth everything. Might not find an Archives blaster as good as this one.

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2006 Rockies


Happy Thanksgiving to all out there! Hope you're all someplace warm and inviting for the holiday. I'm heading to my cousin's in North Jersey later for the festivities. Will the Lions lose yet again? Signs point to yes.

While I'm here, though, I might as well continue the Should Have Been November series, and do the 2006 Rockies that Topps dared not touch. The big one, Troy Tulowitzki, I can sort of understand, as he came up in late August, and would still qualify as a rookie in 2007. Tulo's 2006 numbers weren't much to note, as he hit .240 with 23 hits and 6 RBIs in 25 games. Thankfully, his better contact numbers would come eventually.

Jose Mesa did technically have a Rockies card in 2006 Topps, but it was a card that pasted a Rockies logo over a Pirates card. No real flagship card actually showed the veteran receiver in Denver, so I made one. Huzzah. Mesa's usual solid setup work carried over excellently to the Rockies, delivering the last truly great season of his decades-long career. In 76 games, Mesa had a 3.86 ERA with 39 Ks and a 1.3 WAR. Not bad for a 40-year-old. Mesa would split 2007 between Detroit and his old stomping grounds in Philly, the latter of which would help him end his career in October.

Choo Freeman was a Rockies farmhand for the better part of the 2000s. Fun fact, Freeman was my guaranteed auto in my box of 1999 Topps Traded. I could have gotten Sabathia, Soriano, Dunn, Burrell...and I got Choo Freeman. Freeman had his most prevalent, and last, season in 2006, with 88 games, a .237 average and 18 RBIs. He'd be cut after the season and would attempt camp with the Dodgers for a few years.

Eli Marrero was only a few years removed from being a catching option for the Cardinals as his career began to wind down, becoming a backup/utilityman with several teams. Marrero split 2006 between Denver and Queens, and in his 30 games with the Rockies, he hit .217 with 10 RBIs and 4 homers. Unfortunately, Yorvit Torrealba and Chris Iannetta rendered him kind of moot, and he'd be off to the Mets.

Finally....Topps really could have spoiled us with this one. Come on. Vinny Castilla, a Rockies legend, returning home to end his career? Nothing on that, Topps? Fine. Castilla only played 15 games with the Rox after being cut by the Padres, but they'd be 15 strong games back where he was beloved. He'd only register 4 hits, but one would be his 320th and final home run. So that's gotta count for something. 

Tomorrow, we go to 2007 for some dispatches from the Royals team.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2007 Reds


2007 was a transitional year for the Reds. We began to wind down the era of Ken Griffey, Adam Dunn and Aaron Harang, and we began to see some new heroes emerge. For instance, despite his rookie being a 2008 Topps card, Joey Votto played his first games in 2007. In 24 games, he gave Reds fans a sharp preview of how awesome he'd be for them over the next decade and a half, hitting .321 with 27 hits, 17 RBIs and his first four home runs. By the time the 2008 season would start, the 1st base position would basically be his, and he'd be in position for a long, prosperous HOF-quality career.

Still pitching in 2007 was former Braves and Yankees relief specialist Mike Stanton. Stanton had played for a bunch of teams since leaving the Yanks, with his best post-Bronx season clearly being 2004 with the Mets. For his final MLB numbers, he'd be the most relied upon non-closing reliever for the Reds, and he'd hand over a 5.93 with 40 Ks in 69 innings. I think I have one or two spring training stint customs for him after this season in waiting. 

Speaking of spring training stints, Mark Bellhorn was coming off an insanely weird 2006 season. The former Sox infielder and mid-lineup bat had a -11 batting WAR, but also a 11 FIELDING WAR, so he still managed to turn in decent numbers despite hitting below the Mendoza line. So there wasn't a TON of suitors lining up for Bellhorn for 2007. Bellhorn signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati, made it to the majors, and hit .090 in 13 games, with only 2 hits and one RBI. The Reds had better options at 2nd and 3rd, so he was cut fairly soon after and never played in the majors again. Meanwhile, in 2007, a lot of his old teammates would win their second rings with Boston. 

Tomorrow, we feature a similar schematic of youth and winning down heroes, this time with the Rockies in 2006. This one features a missed opportunity that I'm sad that Topps never delivered on.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2012 Red Sox


A year before the Red Sox would win a World Series against the Cardinals, during one of the most infuriating World Series matchups of my lifetime, they were still trying to form their legacy without the bulk of the Francona players. Heck, 2012 was the dreaded Bobby Valentine year, which was an unsettling bridge between the strong Francona years and the brief-but-starry John Farrell years. Also, it is kinda funny considering that Valentine was the only Sox manager from '04 to '18 not to win a ring, as Francona, Farrell and Cora all got theirs. 

Anyway, the players, the ones that Topps were unaware of in 2012.

First off, Jose Iglesias, who did get a rookie card in 2011 Update, made a few more starts in 2012 than he did the previous year, but with a spottier average of .118 over 25 games. Iglesias would have better numbers the following year, so good, in fact, that he'd be traded for Jake Peavy [in a move that would ironically get Frankie Montas out of Boston]. 

There were two big figures in 2010s baseball hiding in Boston this year. Andrew Miller, having been shipped to the Sox the previous year, finally settled into a relief role in 2012, with a 3.35 ERA and 51 Ks in 53 appearances, also delivering a 0.7 WAR, his best tally to date, which would be dwarfed by his 2014 numbers both in Boston AND in Baltimore. All this before becoming a fixture with the Yankees and Indians. Basically, this is where the killer second act for Miller began.

And you can also say that 2012 is where Rich Hill started HIS career second act. The Sox had let Boston native Hill pitch a few games in relief the previous years, and while he did go scoreless in 12 innings, he wasn't completely trusted yet. Well, in 2012, the Sox gave him 25 appearances, and Hill responded with a 1.83 ERA. And when the next 2 years would be turbulent for the former Cubs prospect, the Sox would appear again in September 2015 to give Hill four breathtaking starts that would put him on the A's radar and jumpstart his career to the degree it's at this year. It's a career reclamation story you love to see, and it couldn't have happened without Hill's hometown team.
Another former starter used in relief by the 2012 Sox was [checks notes] FORMER PHILS STARTER VICENTE PADILLA? Really?? I knew that he was a late-season star for the 2009 Dodgers, and that he kicked around there as his career wound down, but I'd forgotten that Padilla was a Sox relief piece in 2012. He did fairly well, too, with a 4.50 ERA in 56 appearances. As someone brought up by Phoenix as a relief piece, it's kinda fitting that his career would end in relief as well. 

Speaking of mid-2000s All-Stars still kicking in 2012, this season also delivered the last career numbers for former Brewers and White Sox talent Scott Podsednik. Podsednik had ebbed and flowed since his World Series year in '05, but he made the most of 63 games as a bench bat by hitting .302 with 60 hits and 12 RBIs, a pretty solid run. He'd attempt to make the 2013 Phillies, but would lose the spot to Juan Pierre, and call it career.

Most surprising in this Sox team is the fact that Aaron Cook, former Rockies starter extraordinaire, was a major candidate for a starting role. He was in his early 30s, a lot of his Denver mojo had worn off, but he was called up in May, and after an injury, permanently in June, as a rotation piece. Cook did have some nice starts in July, but struggled with opposing offenses. This was also an era of baseball that was beginning to embrace strikeout artists and one-dimensional hitters, and crafty, low-K starters like Cook were dying off. After a 5.65 ERA over 18 starts, Cook tried to make the 2013 Phillies but was denied, a lot like Podsednik. 

After a strong rookie campaign in 2012 with the Twins, Danny Valencia's role with the team lessened, to the point where he was cut mid-2012 and wound up as a late addition to the Sox's roster. In 10 games he hit .143 with 4 RBIs and a home run. Thankfully, this would be a precursor to stronger years with Baltimore and Seattle. 

Similarly, Marlon Byrd was cut by the Cubs, who he'd made an ASG team with a few years prior, after 13 games and a poor .070 average. The Sox were happy to make a spot for him, as Byrd hit .270 with 27 hits and 7 RBIs in 34 games. While this season would lack the power numbers he'd become known for in Philly and Cincinnati, it would definitely pave the way for the stronger 2013, where he'd become a fan favorite in Queens.

Tomorrow, we'll join the 2007 Reds, and find players at opposite ends of long careers.