Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Ol' DH Switcheroo

 


As I was going through photos for one of these I caught a photo from the Dodgers-Padres game in Az, and it was Ron Roenicke, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and another coach...four of them in Dodgers colors, one of them in Padres brown...all of them being Red Sox staples like 4 years ago.

And then after I had a good laugh at Chaim Bloom shitting his team's best players away, I thought about it for a second. Yes, we laugh about all the 2018 Red Sox on other rosters right now, but this season will feature Cody Bellinger in LA, Corey Seager in Arlington, A.J. Pollock in Seattle, Joc Pederson and Alex Wood in San Francisco, and all of Kik√© Hernandez [note the accent, Boston fans who are mad at Chaim Bloom right now], Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner are in Boston. 

So as much as it feels natural to laugh at the Dodgers for having all these Red Sox people now, the Sox have all these Dodgers people now. And Chaim Bloom, like Theo Epstein before him, knows how to swing a good Japanese import. 

And so the image of J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner DHing for each other's teams is, while initially novel, more than simply a 'hey, they swapped guys'. There's been several well-publicized swaps of two relatively equal players at one position, like Troy Glaus for Scott Rolen, Troy Tulowitzki for Jose Reyes, Francisco Lindor for Amed Rosario for that matter, and Josh Donaldson for Brett Lawrie [which, as Billy Beane will tell you, seemed like a good idea at the time]. But this is just two deals that conveniently happened at once to look like a straight trade. The closest thing to this I can think of is something like The Cubs signing Eric Karros and the Dodgers signing Fred McGriff after they had played for the other team. 

The funny part is that the team that is trying the hardest to rebuild, Boston in this case, got the older player here. Justin Turner is 38 this year, and while he still had some nice seasons in his late 30s, he's not really a defensive asset anymore, and his contact abilities are expected to decline further this year. Look, he might get something done, he might be a decent piece, but it's not a move where the Sox are thinking about the future of the team. If anything, Turner's a handy guy to have around, he'll be great with the veteran demographic of the fanbase, and he'll fit just on the basis of being a contact hitting bearded guy. Most teams have a Hall of Fame, the Sox have a Hall of Contact-Hitting Bearded Guys. Johnny Damon, Kevin Youkilis, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, etc etc. And now Turner. 

Martinez, on the inverse, is 35, and while his numbers have declined since the beginning of his Boston run, he is still somewhat in a decent spot in his career. His last two seasons he's made All-Star teams as a DH, he had 99 RBIs in 2021, and while he didn't lead the league in doubles last year [as he did in 2021], he did hit one more double than his league-leading 42 from the previous year. 

The guy's hit 130 homers in his 30s, he's only 35 and he's suiting up for a lineup that's still considered one of the best in the league. Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, Max Muncy and now David Peralta are crucial pieces of this lineup, and you still have people like Will Smith, Chris Taylor and Miguel Rojas who can pop in as often as they'd like. Martinez fits really well into this lineup, even if this does feel like a pared-back, lower-stakes Dodgers team compared to not only past variations but also the Padres' souped-up lineup.

I'm thinking this will ultimately work out in LA's favor, but it's very much an early assessment. For now, I'll enjoy how odd it is for these two to be in each other's jerseys. That novelty will wear off soon, I reckon.

Monday, February 27, 2023

A Four Dollar Milkshake from the Online Dime Box

 

I've sporadically gotten cards from baseballcardstore.ca in the last few years. I haven't always posted about it, but I've kept using them. They're a very small business but they do great work, and their wide variety of 90s and 00s cards, from commons to genuinely awesome inserts, has been a treasure trove for tons of bloggers over the past few years. Plus, continuing to price these cards at 10 cents a pop, even while  encouraging people to pare down individual shipments, has made it very reliable for people like me who are trying to budget accordingly.

It had been a while since my last order, so I went with a 40 card shipment, and there was a lot of really cool stuff that I didn't expect to find. 

For instance- I'd found Baseball Heroes cards of Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, but somehow none of the Johnny Bench ones yet. This one was welcome here.

There are lots of 90s sets that go up in full on the site [in between lots and lots of 1988 Topps sets], and so I'll go for guys I collect in sets I may not have a ton of. The top two are from 1993 Ultra Update I believe, while the bottom two are just 93 Donruss releases. 

All four of these for ten cents surprised me. Huge star cards from the first 5 years of Upper Deck, 10 cents. I rarely find affordable 
The one thing I don't see often, or the one thing that honestly most bloggers don't report on, is Upper Deck from 1994 to 1997. These sets rarely get talked about, and a lot of them aren't very interesting. I don't like the 1994 design because of how it's oriented, but there were some good photos. 1997 UD is pretty cool, though. 

One very cool 95 Pinnacle base card in Puckett's, and a couple of very thick 97 Pinnacle Zenith cards. Not 98 Zenith, no, the cards are too small for that. 

As it's the mid-90s, lots of opportunities for Hideo Nomo cards, including that very cool 1996 Topps insert, which I hadn't seen before.

1999 UD Ionix. Not a great set, but occasional cool moments and a Colon sighting.
 
Some 90s Ultra base. Kinda odd that in some gold medallion parallels they had to print it on the card. Lofton's one year in Atlanta ended up missing the Indians' World Series run. 

Some 2000s fun, like a 2005 ESPN card [I used to see these a lot as a kid] of Miguel Cabrera, and a 2008 Heritage insert of Troy Tulowitzki. 

They also had a nice amount of Panini stuff, which I do have a soft spot for despite the lack of logos. This also gave me another all-too-rare Dodgers J-Rol card.

Modern Mosaic, modern Select. I don't have enough Hendriks As cards, and it's always nice to find MadBum cards since Topps doesn't seem to be able to make them anymore.

A few Bowman rookies. Brett Anderson was a D-Backs farmhand before he was involved in the deal that sent Dan Haren to Arizona. That Peraza Bowman isn't the XRC 2020 one, but it's a 2021 one and it still might end up being pretty cool.

There was also some set needs, which I wasn't quite expecting. Both these cards knick off some long-gestating Stadium Club base sets. I am down to 5 left to complete the 1994 set and 11 left to complete the 1995 set. I'm pretty surprised I have less to collect for these sets than I do for 1993. 

However, the biggest set need I was able to procure from baseballcardstore.ca....

Not only is this a really cool Expos Larry Walker card, but this was the last card I needed to complete my 1991 Stadium Club set. I'd been looking for this card for a while, and had been trying to find the last few 1991 SC cards for a while. And this means my like 9 year endeavor to collect all the Stadium Club sets, which I later revised to, like, the 1991 to 1996 run, has resulted in another completed set. So that makes me feel good.

So yeah, accomplished a lot with this Online Dime Box order. Might do another one in a little while. 

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Pen & Preller [and 2023's First Custom]

 


The last time I gave my first custom card to the San Diego Padres it was 2015, and A.J. Preller had just pulled off a gambit, landing three of the biggest free agents on the board, namely James Shields, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, while also landing Derek Norris, Wil Myers, Will Middlebrooks and Craig Kimbrel in copious trades right up until Opening Day. It was an exercise in excess spending and bold moves unrivaled by anyone not named Cohen, and it was a risky statement from a team that hadn't competed in around a decade.

The strategy wouldn't pay off. Kemp, Kimbrel, Upton and Norris were all gone by the following year, and while Myers did stay as late as 2022, he wasn't quite the backbone the team needed to stay relevant. Thankfully, however, Preller would improve his aim over the years, and build a team starring big names like Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, as well as unsung surprise heroes like Jake Cronenworth, Trent Grisham, Ha-Seong Kim and Austin Nola. The Padres have been postseason competitors in two of the last three seasons, and had a genuine shot at a World Series last year. 

Preller, having gotten his big guns, has now begun moving to the next stage of his plan, which is refining the juggernaut. While initially only one player was extended further than 3 or 4 years, that being Fernando Tatis Jr., ironically arriving in a trade for James Shields, Preller has spent the past few months handing out extensions like packets of cotton candy. Not only have worthy candidates like Darvish and Musgrove been locked down for another 5 or 6 years, but even key relief pieces like Robert Suarez are getting longer-term deals.

The biggest pieces of Preller's plan were confirmed today. In addition to Xander Bogaerts being signed for 11 years...as of this morning, the team's centerpiece third baseman, Manny Machado, has also been signed for 11 years. Weeks after saying he was thinking of leaving San Diego.

So to recap, that's shortstop and third base sorted out for the next decade, and with Tatis moving to right field, that's another crucial position down for the rest of the 2020s. It's also looking like they have Ha-Seong Kim for another 2 years [possibly 3] and Jake Cronenworth til either side wants to get greedy, so that's the infield for another few years, and that's great. And while it's currently a long shot that Juan Soto or Josh Hader will stay with the team...you also can't quite count out A.J. Preller if he wants this team to keep winning.

My bold opinion for the NL West going into 2023 is that the Padres are a clearer favorite than the Dodgers. Unlike the 2022 offseason, pretty much every move the Padres made has been a big move that puts them in the direction of making a World Series. They got Bogaerts, locked up 4 or 5 players, got two handy DH-types in Nelson Cruz and Matt Carpenter, and supplanted their already-strong rotation with Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha. I see little to no flaws in this team. 

The Dodgers, meanwhile, feel like too many of their roster positions are settling. Chris Taylor, Trayce Thompson and this Ryan Pepiot kid that the organization seems obsessed with are looking at major starting roles, and too many offseason moves were used on guys in their thirties who seem to be exiting their prime [Peralta, Syndergaard, Martinez, Rojas] or seem to have already exited it [Heyward, Shelby Miller]. 

The Padres aren't the first team to start giving extensions to great players, as the Braves had been doing that last year, but they are using this as a way to not only keep their preexisting talent straight but also to procure free agent talent that may stray from their plan otherwise. Right now it's looking like chess-player-style strategy, and I sincerely hope it pays off for San Diego. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Stars are Out: The Rest of 2022

 

This is how disorganized I've been in the last few months: the 2023 customs are almost hitting the blog, and I still haven't posted some of the rest of the 2022 ones. 

Might as well wrap these up now, while we're here. Biggest one first- the Mets made a very big deal about getting Australian brass instrumentalist Timmy Trumpet, famous for lending his horn to a song that has become Edwin Diaz' legendary entrance music, to come to Citifield. The first night they had him, as he threw out the first pitch, it was a blowout for the Mets, so...no Edwin. Timmy enjoyed the game, and they just figured 'hey, let's, uh...let's keep him around til Edwin shows up'. Sure enough, he attends the following Mets game, it's a closer game and Edwin warms up in the pen. The moment that Timmy gets to play on Edwin made the rounds online, as it should have.


Kyle Kuzma won a ring with the Lakers, was traded for Russell Westbrook and wound up on the Wizards. Currently, the Wizards are mediocre, despite also having Kristaps Porzingis. But the Nationals are also mediocre, even bad at times, so with the exchange it all works out. Kuzma is wearing the City Connect uniform design here, which is cool if you like things that are different. 

[Note: do you think we would have been fatigued by the 1999-era Turn Forward the Clock unis if they appeared in triple the games and on quadruple the Topps cards? Discuss]

The White Sox had some unusual First Pitches this year. Tom Lennon was in The State, and eventually Reno-911, which had a new season this year that the network forgot to advertise. Lennon is also responsible for writing most of the Night at the Museum films. He's an underrated humorist, so it's good he got to throw one out.

...lead singer of hard rock group Ghost, known to fans as Papa Emeritus IV, also threw out a first pitch in Chicago. I feel like if you're not into Ghost this is gonna be weird to you. Ghost is pretty much a parody of all the over-the-top metal bands of the past 15 or so years, their lead singer dresses up as like an undead Pope onstage, the music's pretty cool. Most people in the crowd must have been confused.

And then around playoff time some former players did some. The Mariners made it to October, so Felix Hernandez came back. Obviously he still gets a warm welcome in Seattle. They're seriously gonna look hard at his stats in a few years as the HOF ballot comes around, as he's got one hell of a case, even if it isn't a surefire. In his prime, Felix was the best in the game. 

Philly had a ton of legends throw out first pitches this fall, but one cool one who showed up was Ryan Howard. Even with his career decline in mind, Howard's first 6 or 7 years were wonderful, as he mixed insane power hitting with well-rounded play. Once the achilles went, that all kinda went out the window, but his home runs and power hitting made these teams worthwhile. Howard also has his own southern comfort place at Citizens Bank Park, complete with fried chicken. I have not tried it, but according to a friend who has, you're better off getting Bull's BBQ. 

And we'll end with Hall of Fame legend and Cardinals hero Ozzie Smith, who got to throw out a first pitch before the Cards were unceremoniously eliminated from playoff contention by an errant Phils team. I may not love the Cardinals, but I can't help but enjoy Ozzie Smith. 

That does it for the Stars are Out customs for 2022. And, honestly, customs from 2022 in general.

Maybe I'll post the first custom of 2023 tomorrow...

Friday, February 24, 2023

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2001 Tim Raines

 


In 2001, Topps managed to make a card of Tim Raines upon his return to Montreal, a team he hadn't played for in over ten years. Unfortunately, it was not a base card. It was a relic card. Raines, like another recent Hall of Famer [who I'll be getting to shortly], has a relic card in 2001 Topps Traded & Rookies but not a base card.

Even more ironically, by the time of this product's release, Raines was already playing for a different team that only Fleer would produce a base card of him with, but thanks to photo scarcity we won't be talking about that today.

Anyway. Tim Raines' return to Montreal, a return voyage that...Topps neglected to mention during the 2001 calendar year.

Raines hadn't played in the majors since 1999, where he suited up for the Athletics in a bench role. The legendary base-stealer was 41, and had missed all of 2000 after not making the majors for the Yankees. Seeing as a return voyage home worked for fellow base-stealer Rickey Henderson, Raines signed a deal with the Expos prior to the 2001 season, and was lucky enough to make the team, perhaps thinking he'd end his career in a full circle way.

In 47 games, Raines batted .308 with 24 hits and 5 RBIs, leading to a 0.5 WAR in that period. Most importantly, Raines stole the final one of his 808 career stolen bases. Unlike Rickey, who stole well into the last legs of his career due to the mythology of it all, Raines started running out of steam in the speed department in his mid-30s, and at the very least strived to keep performing well at the plate.

Though one would suspect Raines' career to end quietly there, he was dealt to the Orioles with a week left to go in the regular season, in order to match the Griffeys with some games played alongside his son Tim Jr., who'd been a Baltimore prospect for a year or so. Even there, Raines managed 3 hits and 5 RBIs in 4 games for the O's, making his son mighty proud.

And you'd think THAT would be the end of his career...but even still, Raines finishes up as a member of the 2002 Miami Marlins, a stint that, somehow, Topps ends up depicting. Here's a fun fact about that 98-game run: Raines has 170 career home runs, and 808 career stolen bases. He hit more homers than he stole bases in 2002. How about that?

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2010 Matt Stairs

 


Of the many players during the era I'm most interested in covering in this Should Have Been series that played for 10+ teams over a long period of time, the one that Topps had the least amount of holes in depicting was Matt Stairs, surprisingly. Of the 11 teams Stairs suited up for between 1996, when he started getting card releases, and 2011, when he retired, there were only 2 of them that he never got an official Topps card with. 

One of them is the 2006 Texas Rangers, and finding an image of him with that team that's worthy of a custom is extremely difficult. So, naturally, I'm doing the other one.

Yes, after being a postseason hero for the Philadelphia Phillies during their colossal 2008 and 2009 runs, Matt Stairs found his way to the last Padres team til Machado showed up to actually have a shot at the playoffs. Although people like Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada would join the team at the deadline, the well-traveled Canadian power hitter Stairs was with the team from the start, and played a bench bat role with them all year. In 78 games, the 42-year-old hit .232 with 16 RBIs, 23 hits and his final 6 homers. Far from his 100-RBI years with Oakland, yes, but still formidable enough to stifle defenses. 

Stairs would play one more season with Washington, then upon his retirement would join the Phillies' broadcast booth. ESPN magazine, upon his Nats run, did a whole spread of all of his uniforms over the years, from Montreal to Toronto to Kansas City to Washington. Players like that, who play everywhere and still keep pounding away, are essential to this series, and I'm glad I get to document short-term stints like this one. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: The Rich Hill Chronicles

Of all people from when I started collecting in 2007 to still be active in the MLB, I never would have guessed Rich Hill would be one of them. I mean, there's not a ton of people left who were around in 2007. Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright, Nelson Cruz, Zack Greinke. And then, uh...and then Rich Hill.

Y'know, the guy who got injured in 2008, struggled with Baltimore in 2009, and we all sorta figured would never fully recover. 

Now, let's play that game for a second. Rich Hill, Cubs prospect who becomes a young fireballer for them in 2006 and 2007, making up for the lack of Mark Prior, and then gets injured and has a tough time coming back. 2009, Topps does make a card of him with the O's, he doesn't do well. 

Prior to the 2010 season he's signed to a minor league deal with the Cardinals. A rare sight for Hill for this post in that it is an NL team. Hill is grouped with the starters, and competing against Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Jeff Suppan, Brad Penny and eventually Jaime Garcia proves to be an uphill battle. Hill does not make camp with the team, and is cut prior to the season. I've covered a lot of careers in this series, and that can usually mean the end of the line as far as MLB service is concerned.

Wellll...not in this case...

I think one of the defining factors in Hill's continued success into the 2010s is that he's very much a Boston resident. We don't have a ton of MLBers from the Northeast that really wear their region on their sleeves anymore. You can argue we have Todd Frazier, the Jersey Shore native, or New York natives like Marcus Stroman or Andrew Velasquez, but Hill is very much a Bostoner, and I think that's what drew the Sox to bring him on. Y'know, local boy, lives locally, let's bring him on. So they did. Hill was used in bit relief roles, gave up no earned runs, 5 hits, and notched a win. The Sox kept him on going forward.

Hill's 2011 season was slightly more productive, but he still only had 9 appearances. Here he struck out 10, gave up 3 hits and still zero earned runs. The Sox kept bringing him back year after year, including 2012, which I've already done a custom of.

The Cleveland Indians beat Boston to the punch for 2013, and signed Hill knowing they'd be in need of bullpen help. 2013 was Hill's fullest year as a reliever, making 63 appearances and facing the most batters he'd had since starting in Baltimore. Granted, he left the year with a 6.28 ERA and only 53 Ks, but it told teams he could be a reliable relief piece again.

Prior to the 2014 season he was actually signed to another minor league deal by the Red Sox, as they figured it'd be easy enough to bring him back. This time he would not make camp, and would be waived over to the Angels, where he'd appear in two games and finish with an infinite ERA. Eventually he made his way to a very unfamiliar setting for a lifelong Boston resident:

Yes, Rich Hill, the man famous for getting in a fight in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium, had to suit up for the New York Yankees in 2014. I have no idea how he went through with it. He did a pretty decent job in the Bronx, finishing the season with a 1.69 ERA [very fitting for a man nicknamed Dick Mountain], and striking out 9 in 14 appearances.

Hill actually attended camp in 2015 with the Nationals, but, again due to the breadth of both their rotation and their bullpen, he didn't end up making the team. He stayed on as a minor leaguer for a bit but was cut midway through the year. And then, as the 2015 season rolled to a close...Boston once again came calling.

The Red Sox, thanks to injuries to Clay Buchholz and too many unfamiliar arms like Henry Owens, Steven Wright and late-career Justin Masterson failing to keep runs down, were low on starters. As usual, Rich Hill was local and stayed in shape with a few games playing for the Long Island Ducks, so they signed him and had him come up through Worcester, where he notched a 2.78 ERA in 5 starts. Once he made it back to Fenway, he started 4 games in September, and turned the heads of the entirety of the league, posting a 1.55 ERA, 36 strikeouts and a 2-1 record. The man that everyone thought was cooked was officially back.

Hill would use this incredible end to the season to sign with Oakland for 2016, make his was to LA via a trade, and become a very steady low-rotation arm for Minnesota, Tampa, the Mets, and, yes, the Boston Red Sox, who he started 26 games for last year at the ripe old age of 42.

Rich Hill is currently in camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and thanks to the dilution of that organization, he is a favorite to make a rotation spot this year. I hope he keeps pitching for as long as he wants to, a guy like him is really good for baseball. 

Monday, February 20, 2023

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2011 Mike Hampton

 


We've unwittingly entered a theme of Spring Training recruits that didn't exactly pan out, so why don't we check out this...odd sight from 2011?

The odd thing about this Topps Card That Should Have Been is that it would have been an accurate sunset card. Mike Hampton, after years of solid work for the Astros, Mets, Rockies and Braves, pitched in 10 games for the Diamondbacks in relief late in the 2010 season. There weren't any photos for me to make a 2010 custom of him from, but he did pitch for them in 2010. By this logic, though, Topps would have made a card for them in the initial series of 2011. You know, if they were actually good at keeping up with great players.

The factor that dulled Hampton's appeal after some excellent seasons around the turn of the century was his injuries. Hampton did not play at all during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and played shortened campaigns for Atlanta in 2005 and 2008. Hampton did have a fuller year with Houston in 2009, but had a 5.30 ERA and a 7-10 record. The D-Backs took a flyer on him in 2010, he had a 0.00 ERA in 10 relief appearances, though he was usually used to get the last out of an inning. 

The D-Backs brought Hampton back for Spring Training in 2011, and from what I can gather the veteran starter didn't seem to have much left. After giving it his all in camp, Hampton was being faced with a late Spring cut and another year of free agency, so he voluntarily retired, ending his 16 year career with dignity. 

Even if a lot of people have forgotten Hampton's impact during the early 2000s, he was a truly underrated starter, and one that deserved a healthier second act. I think Topps should have made a card to commemorate his final season, but...you know, they did their thing. 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2011 Brandon Webb

 


February and March can give you impressive mirages in terms of baseball. Amazing things can happen when it's February and March, and then April has to happen and sad realities set in. Going into the 2011 season, Rangers fans, who had just won a World Series, thought about the possibility of their homegrown, low-key rotation supplanted by a free agent signing like Brandon Webb, one of the best pitchers of the 2000s, and a guy who's helped the Diamondbacks stay relevant after the departures of Schilling and Johnson. 

Sure enough, as the Spring Training season began in 2011, Webb was taking reps as a Ranger, and gearing towards another year of dominance. There was just one problem: Webb hadn't pitched since 2009. 

After becoming a strikeout artist and lineup-killer in the mid-2000s, for some strange reason his shoulder started giving him issues. Maybe it was something hereditary, maybe it was some home injury, maybe it was the fact that he was throwing really hard for 34 games five seasons in a row, we may never know. But by 2011, he'd had multiple surgeries and sat out the remainder of his Diamondbacks deal recovering from them. The Rangers signed him for 3 million to see if he had anything left. Remember, the Yankees did this with both Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon prior to the 2021 season, and it seemed to go well for both of them.

Brandon Webb, however, had cooked his pitching shoulder, and as workouts progressed it became clear there was still issues that needed to be addressed medically. The former Cy Young winner would never pitch for the Rangers that year, and would never pitch in the majors again. It's an insanely sad ending to a promising career, and one that acted as a cautionary tale for many fireballers that'd crop up in the years to come.

I'd always wanted a 2011 Topps card documenting his Rangers stint. Now I have one.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2006 Nationals

 

I've unwittingly become a chronicler of the early years of the Washington Nationals organization thanks to this Topps Cards That Should Have Been project. I already detailed the end of the Expos through cards Topps didn't find it in themselves to make, and I've gone over the initial 2005 incarnation of the team. I figure we should keep this going if it's worked this well, so on we go to 2006.

We start with Royce Clayton, a journeyman defensive shortstop that had bounced around in the 2000s, with two previous years that Topps failed to document with expansion teams. Clayton, at 36, became the starting shortstop for the Nats, and hit .269 with 82 hits and 27 RBIs in 87 games, an impressive start from a guy the team had essentially taken a flyer on. Ultimately, he would be collateral damage in the deal that netted the Nats Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner from the Reds, and wouldn't reach numbers this consistent again.

I've brought up Robert Fick in this series quite a bit, mostly because after his breakout with the Braves and Tigers he never really challenged the mainstream of baseball again, so all his stops wound up being left off by Topps. After a few years in San Diego, Fick wound up in Washington as a bench man, and hit .266 with 9 homers in 60 games. He'd actually have a larger role in the 2007 team, but as a bench guy he did the trick.
Luis Matos played nearly his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles, having a smash hit 2003 and becoming a contact favorite. Unfortunately, his 2003 season was one he'd never match up to, and after a few more years of alright work, he was cut by the O's in July 2006. The last 14 games of Matos' MLB career would be played on the other side of the state, in Washington. There, he'd hit .200, with 3 hits in 15 at-bats. He'd try to make camp with multiple teams in 2007 to no avail.

Pedro Astacio had been around since 1992, and had hung in there long enough to see the Nats appear and sign him. Previously known as the guy who got Eric Young out of Colorado, Astacio was an extremely steady starting pitcher for some mid-range teams, and by 2006, at age 37, he was still starting games. In 17 starts with the Nats, he won 5 games and had a 5.98 ERA. Decent enough for filling innings, but you can tell these would be Astacio's last career numbers.

Relief man extraordinaire Mike Stanton had partial season stats for the first two years of the Nats' existence. He was dealt there in 2005 by the Yankees only to finish with Boston for a game, and then started the season in Washington yet again. At 39, Stanton still had some stuff left, with a 4.47 ERA and 30 Ks in 56 appearances, but his year would improve upon a midyear trade to San Francisco. Stanton would have a mediocre age-40 year in Cincinnati and eventually call it a career in 2009, at age 42.

Not sure where I'll go tomorrow, but I wanna try and keep these consistent. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2007 Rockies

 

It occurred to me that not only have I been very sporadic posting recently, but I still have a great deal of Topps Cards That Should Have Been that I haven't posted. So I'll try to unspool a few between here and the start of the season.

The 2007 Rockies, a lot of people forget, made a World Series and could have won it had it not been for the strength of the 2007 Red Sox. The Rockies had Matt Holliday in peak shape, Brad Hawpe and Aaron Cook in their prime, bit players like Willy Taveras and Kaz Matsui on hand, and the kind of piecemeal power core that doesn't feel as genuine anymore. 

Even if Chris Iannetta would take the job eventually, the Rockies' initially gave the catching position to former Giants backup catcher Yorbit Torrealba, who'd spend his entire career as a serviceable replacement-level backstop. Given the starting job, Torrealba hit .255 in 113 games, surpassing 100 hits for the first time and becoming a helpful presence in the postseason, with 8 RBIs, 10 hits and a homer against Arizona. Topps, for some reason, decided to turn a blind eye to this.

Elmer Dessens began the decade as one of the best pitching tools a power-heavy Reds team had to offer, but spent the remainder of the 2000s as a journeyman middle reliever. He'd split 2007 between Milwaukee and Colorado, eventually settling back in the rotation for the Rockies. In 5 starts, he'd have a 7.58 ERA with 10 Ks and a win. Thankfully, a return to the bullpen with the Mets would set his career straight.

Also in the category of people who caught for the Rockies before Chris Iannetta got the starting gig, former Orioles catcher, and fellow countryman of Dessens, Geronimo Gil played his last games in 2007 for the Rockies. He only played 5 games, and mustered 1 hit, but at the very least his defensive numbers were still what they were in Baltimore.

And now we come to the strange one I'd always wanted to document. Steve Finley...in Denver. Finley had already spent the decade as a late blooming hero for the Diamondbacks, Angels, Dodgers and Giants. By 2007, he was 42 years old, and most of the magic had worn off. In 43 games at Coors Field, Finley only hit .181 with 17 hits, 2 RBIs and 1 home run. On one hand, it's typically a lot to ask for peak perfection from someone over 40, even in the steroid era, but Finley didn't have much left to prove, and even with the easier air to hit long balls, Finley still petered off quietly. Heck of a career, but not exactly the starriest finish.

I might try and do these either daily or every other day, cause there's quite a bit left.