Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#396 Rich Sauveur (Gold)

About the Front: The piping down the sides of Rich Sauveur's pants is juuuuust a bit thinner than his stirrups, which is probably driving the type-A personalities among you crazy.
About the Back: If Topps' most recent career highlight for you is a seven-year-old minor league shutout, that strikes me as the definition of "damning with faint praise".

Triple Play:

1. He debuted with the Pirates on July 1, 1986, pitching into the seventh inning against the Phillies and allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks. Philly prevailed 5-4 in 12 innings.

2. Rich had a bizarre major league career. He pitched in six different seasons for six different teams, often years apart: Pirates (1986), Expos (1988), Mets (1991), Royals (1992), White Sox (1996), and Athletics (2000). He totaled 46 innings in 34 games with a 6.07 ERA, and had a record of 0-1. Of all of the winless pitchers in MLB history, the lefty holds the record for having pitched for the most teams.

3. He's been a minor league pitching coach since 2003, working for the Oakland and Boston organizations.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never saw this card as a middle schooler, but I would've wondered why somebody who had debuted in 1986 couldn't get a rookie card until 1993.

Bill James Said: El Zilcho. Sauveur only pitched five games in 1993, all for Cincinnati's AAA Indianapolis club.

On This Date in 1993: March 25. The "Spring Break Quake", a 5.7 earthquake, hits the state of Oregon. The epicenter is just outside of Scotts Mills along the Mount Angel fault line.

Note: I'll return with the first post of Series Two on Tuesday, March 31. See you then!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#395 Jim McNamara (Gold)

About the Front: I wonder how much that eye black helps when you're looking straight up into the sun, without even the brim of a cap to deflect the rays.

About the Back: Prior to his scouting career, Jim Fairey was an outfielder for the Dodgers and the Expos (1968-1973), batting .235/.279/.317.

Triple Play:

1. On April 17, 1992, McNamara went 3-for-3 with a walk, a home run, and four RBI in just his third career game. It was his only three-hit game and his only round-tripper in the major leagues.

2. He collected one hit in four career at-bats against Greg Maddux. That's more than Felix Jose, Greg Colbrunn, Matt Franco, and Bob Melvin can say, and they each faced Maddux at least ten times.

3. Jim is now a player agent, having founded the McNamara Baseball Group.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Like Bernardo Brito before him, Jim's only Topps card is a parallel insert. I probably would've thought that was as cool when I was a kid as I do today.

Bill James Said: "McNamara, who wouldn't be considered a good-hitting pitcher if he was a pitcher, is a backup catcher at Phoenix who somehow got into a few major league games." Indeed, Jim had a .591 OPS in nine minor league seasons, and his four-game cup of coffee with the Giants in 1993 (1-for-7 at the bat) was the coda on his MLB experience.

On This Date in 1993: March 24. The comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 is discovered. In July 1994, it will break apart and collide with Jupiter.

Monday, March 23, 2015

#394 Bernardo Brito (Gold)

 About the Front: So here we are, the first of the fringe players who had the honor of replacing the checklist cards in the Gold parallel set. Bernardo Brito looks every bit the 28-year-old rookie he was, having endured a dozen pro seasons and over 1200 minor league games before getting his first taste of the big leagues.

About the Back: Bernardo seemingly spent more time in Portland than Clyde Drexler, logging five straight seasons with the Twins' AAA club (including 1993).

Triple Play:

1. He won six minor league home run titles, leading the New York-Penn League (1984), Midwest League (1985), Eastern League (1986, 1987), and Pacific Coast League (1990, 1991). In all, he hit 295 home runs in 16 minor league seasons.

2. Brito hit four of his five big league homers in a 27-game stint in Minnesota in 1993, including two in consecutive at-bats against Oakland's Mike Mohler on August 15.

3. Bernardo spent half the 1995 season and all of 1996 with Japan's Nippon Ham Fighters, blasting a total of 50 home runs in 182 games and batting .272/.353/.525.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never saw this card as a kid. When I was first getting back into collecting in 2007, I bought some bargain-priced early 1990s packs from a hobby store on my way home from work one day and grabbed a pack of 1993 Topps for old time's sake. I certainly didn't expect to find Bernardo, but there he was, filling a long-forgotten hole in the set.

Bill James Said: "Has poor plate discipline and is a butcher in the field, but could help a team as a righthanded DH or pinch hitter if he got a manager who could pick his spots and live with the strikeouts."

On This Date in 1993: March 23. Indians pitchers Tim Crews and Steve Olin are killed in a boating accident on Little Lake Nellie in Clermont, FL, as Crews strikes a pier at dusk. Fellow pitcher Bob Ojeda suffers major lacerations to the head, but survives and recovers.

Friday, March 20, 2015

#396 Checklist 3 of 6

About the Front: Here we have it, the anticlimactic final card of Series One. Three Hall of Famers on the front of the checklist - Andre Dawson, Tom Glavine, and Cal Ripken. Rafael Palmeiro and Edgar Martinez are out in the cold. Darryl Kile regrettably adds to the deceased tally.

About the Back: Wade Boggs saves us from a Hall of Fame shutout right at the end. I suspect that Ivan Rodriguez will join him in the next few years. Mike Flanagan is the last dearly departed member of the first series. So the totals thus far are 20 Hall of Famers and seven deceased.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This checklist doesn't acknowledge the three fringe players that Topps inserted in the Gold parallel set in place of the checklist cards. I wasn't lucky enough to pull any of those three back when, but I've tracked them down since and will post them next week.

On This Date in 1993: March 20. Sloane Stephens is born in Plantation, FL. She will go on to become a pro tennis player in 2010. To date, she has ranked as highly as 11th in the world, and in 2013 she scored upset wins over Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

#395 Checklist 2 of 6

About the Front: Three Hall of Famers in Frank Thomas, Dennis Eckersley, and Greg Maddux, with Ken Griffey, Jr. almost certainly making a fourth next year. Steve Olin is the only now-deceased player to appear.

About the Back: Four more Hall of Famers on the back - Kirby Puckett, Gary Carter, Paul Molitor, and Carlton Fisk. Jeff Bagwell is a notable snub who will hopefully get the call soon. Puckett and Carter are also two of the three deceased players on the card back, along with Jose Uribe. So now we're up to 16 Hall of Famers in the set and five deceased players.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I assume they used the Cubs color scheme for the name bar at the bottom because those were the colors of the card packs. Series 1 was blue, Series 2 was red.

On This Date in 1993: March 19. The unemployment rate in the United Kingdom falls for the first time since May 1990, but there are still 2.97 jobless in the UK.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

#394 Checklist 1 of 6

About the Front: The good news is that we've finally reached the end of the first series, but the bad news is that the rest of this week's content are these fairly dull checklists. At least they're easy to read. It's probably a good time to review Series One of 1993 Topps. The front of the first of our three checklists for this series contains seven Hall of Famers, and that doesn't include Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who absolutely belong in Cooperstown.

About the Back: Cards 58-132 include only two Hall of Famers - Barry Larkin and Dave Winfield. But Derek Jeter is a shoo-in, and you could make a case for Larry Walker. Sadly, this list also includes the first two now-decased players in the set, Carlos Martinez and Russ Swan.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: You'd better believe that I filled in the boxes on my original copies of these checklist cards, in some combination of blue, red, and black ink. (Whichever color pen was handy at the time.) If the originals weren't buried in boxes of duplicates, I might show them here.

On This Date in 1993: March 18. The FBI's standoff with cult leader David Koresh at his Branch Dividian compound in Waco, TX is now in its third week. The FBI broadcasts a message to Koresh's followers, promising that they will be treated fairly if they come out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

#393 Ron Gant

About the Front: I almost feel sorry for the baseball that Ron Gant is preparing to hit. That's a strong-looking dude.

About the Back: Gant batted .277/.372/.529 with the Durham Bulls in 1986 and slugged 31 doubles, 10 triples, and 26 homers with 102 RBI. He was 35-of-44 in stolen bases to boot.

Triple Play:

1. In the second game of the 1991 World Series, Gant was tagged out at first base on a controversial play; he lost a wrestling match with Kent Hrbek. The Twins won the game (and eventually the World Series) by a single run.

2. He broke his leg in a dirtbike accident and missed the entire 1994 season, with the Braves releasing him that spring. He eventually signed with the Reds and was the 1995 National League Comeback Player of the Year, as he hit .276/.386/.554 with 29 home runs and 88 RBI in 119 games.

3. Ron is now an in-studio analyst for the MLB Network, and has also appeared on Braves telecasts.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It seemed so strange to me that Gant had played second and third base when he first came to Atlanta. I was so used to him as an outfielder.

Bill James Said: "Most-similar season ever: Dale Murphy, 1982." The tale of the tape has Murphy in the first of his back-to-back MVP years batting .281/.378/.507 with 113 runs, 23 doubles, 36 HR, 109 RBI, and 23-of-34 in steals. Gant was the fifth-place finisher in the 1993 MVP race, and had a line of .274/.345/.510, 113 runs, 27 doubles, 36 HR, 117 RBI, and 26-of-35 in steals. Murphy had the better year by virtue of his high OBP and his value in center field, but the offensive stats are quite cosmetically similar.

On This Date in 1993: March 17. Actress Helen Hayes, "The First Lady of the American Theatre", dies in Nyack, NY at age 92. She was one of 12 people to date to win an Emmy, Oscar, Grammy, and Tony Award (EGOT).

Monday, March 16, 2015

#392 Travis Fryman

About the Front: The orange "D" on the Tigers' road caps and helmets (as opposed to white on their home duds) was always a neat little design touch.

About the Back: It's been a while since I fact-checked Topps' wonky draft information. In this case, Travis Fryman was Detroit's third pick in 1987, but thanks to free agent compensation, he was still taken in the first round (30th overall). Sheesh.

Triple Play:

1. He hit for the cycle in a 12-7 loss to the Yankees on July 28, 1993, going 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles, a triple, a homer, and five RBI.

2. Fryman had his best season in 2000 with Cleveland, batting .321/.392/.516 with 38 doubles, 22 home runs, and 106 RBI. He made the All-Star team for the fifth and final time in his career, and won his only Gold Glove at third base.

3. Travis has been managing and coaching in the Indians' organization since 2008.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Fryman being one of the seeming dozens of power hitters assembled by the Tigers. Even today, I was shocked to review his career stats and see that he never had a 30-homer season.

Bill James Said: "One of the best players in baseball over the next five years." I guess I wasn't the only one fooled by Travis. He averaged 21 home runs and 93 RBI over the following five seasons (1994-1998), batted .274/.334/.452, and his OPS+ was a middling 101.

On This Date in 1993: March 16. Kid Rock releases his second album, The Polyfuze Method.

Friday, March 13, 2015

#391 Derrick May

About the Front: I like the contrast-colored uniform numbers that appear on the front of the Cubs' road jerseys. This is a look that's largely associated with the Dodgers, whose red front numbers are the only break from blue in the team's entire color scheme.

About the Back: Dave May was an outfielder for the Orioles, Brewers, and three other clubs, 1967-1978. He was an All-Star for Milwaukee in 1973, when he batted .303/.352/.473 with 25 homers, 93 RBI, and a league-best 295 total bases. The following year, he was famously traded to the Braves for Hank Aaron.

Triple Play:

1. Derrick's best big league season was 1993, when he played a career-high 128 games and batted .295/.336/.422 with 10 home runs and 77 RBI.

2. May finished his career in Japan, playing for the Chiba Lotte Marines (2001-2003) and batting .274/.343/.496 with 59 homers in 298 games.

3. He has coached in the Cardinals' farm system since 2005, including his current position as the club's minor league hitting coordinator.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Derrick was born on July 14, so sadly he couldn't follow in the footsteps of 1970s outfielder Carlos May (born May 17) and wear his birthdate on his uniform.

Bill James Said: "The Cubs have many fine young outfielders, and May's secondary offensive skills (speed, power, walks) are very limited."

On This Date in 1993: March 13. Federal elections in Australia result in the Labor Party holding onto power despite the country's poor economy.