Tuesday, December 31, 2013

#132 Preston Wilson

About the Front: Hey, another pick who panned out! Preston Wilson is swinging that sweet Easton aluminum bat for Bamberg Ehrhardt High School in Bamberg, SC.

About the Back: No games played, steals, walks, or strikeouts? That's some shoddy records-keeping...and gathering.

Triple Play:

1. Preston is the nephew and stepson of former Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson. Clear as mud?

2. Wilson debuted with the Mets in 1998, but appeared in just eight games before heading to the Marlins in the blockbuster trade that brought Mike Piazza to New York.

3. In 2003, he led the National League in RBI, driving in 141 in his only full season in Colorado while also achieving career highs of 43 doubles, 36 homers, a .282 average, and a .537 slugging percentage.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I also used Easton bats around this time, while playing corner outfield for the Essex Yankees for two short seasons. Those bats had a grand total of six hits in them for me, none of them leaving the infield.

Bill James Said: N/A. An 18-year-old Wilson with 74 games of rookie-ball experience was not yet on Bill's radar.

On This Date in 1993: December 31. On the last day of the year, MLB's collective bargaining agreement with MLBPA expires. There is no new agreement imminent. The storm clouds gather.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

#131 Dave Winfield

About the Front: This may be one of my favorite photos in this set: Dave Winfield in...Minnesota? Anyway, Winfield is watching his drive with a hopeful sort of grimace, and he is taking up a lot of space as he lunges out of the batter's box. He was always impossibly big, tall, and powerful.

About the Back: At age 40, Dave had just had a throwback season for the World Champion Blue Jays, posting his best all-around numbers since 1988 and earning a Silver Slugger and a fifth-place MVP finish.

Triple Play:

1. Winfield was always an excellent athlete, and chose baseball despite being drafted by clubs in the ABA (Utah Stars), NBA (Atlanta Hawks), and NFL (Minnesota Vikings). He never played a single game in the minor leagues.

2. Dave signed a then-record 10-year, $23 million free agent contract with the Yankees in December 1980. Despite living up to the deal on the field, the outfielder was often a target of owner George Steinbrenner's wrath, taking blame for the team's downturn in the standings throughout the 1980s and being derisively referred to as "Mr. May" after a 1-for-22 struggle in the 1981 World Series. George earned himself a temporary banishment from baseball after paying mob-connected gambler Howie Spira $40,000 to dig up dirt on Winfield.

3. The Padres retired his number 31 jersey in 2001, the same year that he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember borrowing a book from the library that went into great detail about the dysfunctional Winfield-Steinbrenner relationship. It was fascinating and tawdry stuff to my young eyes.

Bill James Said: (In reference to Dave collecting his 3,000th career hit with the Twins in 1993,) "Here's a prediction for you: between 1990 and 2010, the number of players with 3,000 hits will double." Hey, let's check the numbers! In 1990, the 3,000 Hit Club numbered at 16. Today there are 28 members, but Derek Jeter didn't reach the milestone until 2011. I guess a few of the top hitters of the era let Bill down.

On This Date in 1993: December 24. It's Christmas Eve! That calls for another Calvin and Hobbes strip.

Monday, December 23, 2013

#130 Jeff Montgomery

About the Front: Magenta lettering on the Royals' cards? Whose bright idea was that?

About the Back: I wonder if Jeff Montgomery took any ribbing over his comp-sci degree in the clubhouse. Baseball has not traditionally been peopled with enlightened minds.

Triple Play:

1. The Reds traded Montgomery to the Royals for outfielder Van Snider, who batted .200/.194/.314 in 19 career games. Cue the "game over" horn from The Price Is Right.

2. On April 29, 1990, he dispatched the Texas Rangers on nine straight strikes in the eighth inning after also turning in a perfect seventh. He became the ninth American Leaguer and 23rd pitcher overall in MLB history to strike out the side on nine pitches, and earned a win to boot.

3. Had a 3.20 ERA as a Kansas City Royal, third-lowest in franchise history behind Dan Quisenberry (2.55) and Steve Farr (3.05 in 338.1 fewer innings than Montgomery). Had the best hits-per-nine-innings-pitched ratio for any K.C. player at 8.05, and his 304 saves are also a club record.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: At the time I first laid eyes on this card, I couldn't have told you where Marshall University was located. Thanks to a passing familiarity with college sports, I now know that it's in West Virginia, and is more renowned for the football players it's produced (Chad Pennington, Randy Moss, etc.).

Bill James Said: "For five straight years has pitched 63 to 73 games, 83 to 94 innings, with four of his five ERAs below 2.40."

On This Date in 1993: December 23. French actress Sylvia Bataille, who was active in film from 1930 to 1950 and had been married to writer and Western philosopher Georges Bataille, died in Paris at age 85.

A brief note: For the rest of the month, my posting schedule will be even more sporadic than usual, as I get caught up in the traditional hustle and bustle of the holidays. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and any other December holiday blessings that may apply to you!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

#129 Joe Grahe

About the Front: There's a lot of fans disguised as empty orange seats. It looks as though the Angels were not a hot ticket in '92.

About the Back: Joe Grahe had a more productive career than the player the Halos picked ahead of him, pitcher Kyle Abbott. But both were dwarfed by the next player California grabbed after Grahe...Tim Salmon.

Triple Play:

1. Joe capped his rookie season with a winning effort against Oakland, October 1, 1990.He held the Athletics to only three hits, but lost his shot at a complete game when he walked Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, his sixth and seventh free passes, and departed with one out in the ninth. Trailing by a pair of runs, the A's fizzled against closer Bryan Harvey. Canseco was picked off of second base as Carney Lansford waited on a full-count pitch, and Lansford ultimately whiffed to end the game.

2. Two arm surgeries in a three-year span made it seem as though Grahe had thrown his last big-league pitch in 1995. But he made it back after a stint in independent ball and an unsuccessful open tryout with the Phillies. Philadelphia gave the righty a spring training invite in 1999, and he eventually appeared in 13 MLB games with a 3.86 ERA.

3. Pitcher Joe Grahe is now Florida RE/MAX agent Joseph Grahe.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: How the heck does "-ahe" make the same sound as "-ay"? Are you sure I'll be an English major some day?

Bill James Said: "Grahe opened and closed the year as the Angels' closer; in between he had tendonitis in his right rotator cuff, which gave about a dozen other people a shot at the role." This is slight hyperbole, as four pitchers other than Grahe earned at least one save for the Angels.

On This Date in 1993: December 19. Michael Clarke, drummer for The Byrds, dies of liver failure at age 47 after years of heavy alcohol abuse.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

#128 Kal Daniels

About the Front: It's probably a trick of perspective, but the number on the front of Kal Daniels' jersey looks almost as big as the number on the back.

About the Back: It's been awhile since I've seen Game-Winning RBI (GW-RBI) cited as a stat. Back in the late 1980s, Topps put it on the back of every card.

Triple Play:

1. Knee injuries brought an end to Kal's career before the age of 30, as he had undergone six surgeries by the end of 1989.

2. Daniels led the National League with a .397 on-base percentage in 1988, and had a career batting line of .285/.382/.479.

3. In 1989, Kal and notoriously tight-fisted Cincinnati owner Marge Schott settled a salary dispute with a coin flip. Daniels won himself an extra $10,000 to $25,000, based on varying reports. Marge called heads, but it came up tails.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember seeing Kal's birth name (Kalvoski Daniels) on the back of one of his Donruss cards. It sounded exotic, and maybe Russian.

Bill James Said: Not a thing, since Daniels didn't play in 1993.

On This Date in 1993: December 18. Top Yankee prospect Brien Taylor, the #1 overall pick in the 1991 amateur draft, hurts his shoulder in a brawl near his North Carolina home. He will have surgery and miss the entire season following.

#127 Carney Lansford

About the Front: This is the last of Carney Lansford's 15 annual entries in the Topps base set. At least he left behind a sweet-swinging action shot.

About the Back: That's a league-leading .336 average and a paltry 28 strikeouts in 399 at-bats in 1981. What a luxury for the Red Sox to trade him and free up third base for Wade Boggs!

Triple Play:

1. Carney was the leadoff hitter and starting right fielder for Santa Clara, CA in the 1969 Little League World Series finale, which the Americans lost 5-0 to Taipei.

2. He had a cameo role as Kit "Hit or Die" Kesey, a White Sox player who whiffed against pitcher Mel Clark (played by Tony Danza) to clinch the pennant for California in the 1994 film remake of Angels in the Outfield.

3. Lansford has coached for the Athletics, Cardinals, Giants, Blue Jays, and Rockies.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: "Carney" always struck me as an odd name; indeed, he's the only Carney ever to play in the major leagues.

Bill James Said: Nuttin', honey. Lansford played his last game in 1992.

On This Date in 1993: December 17. Rickey Henderson returns to Oakland for a third go-round, signing a two-year deal for $8.6 million. The A's had traded the future Hall of Famer to Toronto last July for prospects Jose Herrera and Steve Karsay.

Monday, December 16, 2013

#126 Bob Ayrault

About the Front: I can't tell whether Bob Ayrault actually has a double chin or if this is just an unflattering action photo.

About the Back: Yep, it's a double chin.

Triple Play:

1. Bob was drafted by the Pirates in the 26th round of the 1987 amateur draft, but chose not to sign. Two years later, he went undrafted and had to start his pro career with the unaffiliated Reno Silver Sox of the California League before the Phillies took a chance on him.

2. After spending the 1994 and 1995 seasons stuck at AAA, he finished his pro career back where it had started: in Reno, this time with the Western League's Chukars. He pitched in 66 games total in 1996 and 1997.

3. Ayrault may have returned to the independent leagues in part because of his role as a "replacement player", the brand given to minor leaguers who reported to MLB spring training when the players' strike carried on into the early months of 1995 and the owners attempted to start the season with non-union athletes. These players were blacklisted from future membership in the MLBPA. Ayrault had gone to camp with the Pirates, before ultimately working out of the bullpen for the team's AAA Calgary affiliate.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I've never heard his name pronounced aloud, but I've always assumed it was "A-rawlt", with a strong vowel at the beginning. Does anybody know for sure?

Bill James Said: "A survivor, a non-prospect who signed with an independant (sic) team several years ago, moved into the Phillies system, drifted slowly to the top, and earns occasional major league looks when everybody else around has had their shot."

On This Date in 1993: December 16. The Brazilian Supreme Court rules that former President Fernando Collor de Mello may not hold public office again until 2000 as a result of political corruption.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

#125 Pete O'Brien

About the Front: Pete O'Brien looks like he hasn't bought a new pair of glasses since 1977.

About the Back: The Mariners paid $7.5 million for four years of O'Brien, and were "rewarded" with a batting line of .237/.304/.371. That they signed him to that deal with Tino Martinez waiting in the wings tells you everything you need to know about why Seattle was so lousy for so long.

Triple Play:

1. Hit his first career home run off of future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry on September 10, 1982.

2. O'Brien had a reputation as a smooth-fielding first baseman with the Rangers.

3. Pete and his wife Donna live in Coleyville, Texas and own and operate AtPeace Floatation and Massage.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never saw Pete O'Brien play a single game, as the Mariners released him on July 21, 1993, just as my baseball love was reaching its fever pitch. I'm sure one of you readers would tell me if I'd missed out on anything great.

Bill James Said: "He was released by the Mariners in July, having struggled through three-and-a-half years of a four-year contract, signed by a GM who must have been taking happy pills."

On This Date in 1993: December 13. Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell resigns as the head of the country's Conservative Party. Quebecois politician Jean Charest will step in as the party's new leader.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

#124 Franklin Stubbs

About the Front: This has got to be one of the first "backwards-cap" photos on a card, not counting old-timey catchers. The same types of people who spend time today grousing about players who admire their own home runs too long used to give Ken Griffey, Jr. the business for wearing his hat backwards during pregame drills. Baseball doesn't need to be protected and coddled, fellas.
About the Back: Check out Franklin Stubbs' Grand Slam Quarterly. The opposing pitchers for those three salamis, in order of mention: Kenny Rogers, Todd Worrell, Scott Erickson. Not a bad trio of arms.

Triple Play:

1. The Dodgers had high hopes for Stubbs after he hit .280/.398/.587 with 32 home runs at AAA Albuquerque in 1985. But in parts of six seasons in L.A., he posted a subpar .695 OPS (94 OPS+).

2. Franklin looked to be out of the majors in 1993, spending the season at AAA Pawtucket in the Boston farm system. He played in Mexico the following year, but made it back with a career-closing 62-game stint with the Tigers in 1995. He batted .250/.358/.397 in Detroit with just two home runs.

3. He's been in coaching since retirement, first in the Braves organization and currently with the Dodgers. He was on the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes staff in 2013.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Stubbs is the first player that I remember seeing in a #0 jersey.

Bill James Said: Diddly squat.

On This Date in 1993:  December 12. In a pair of big free-agent deals, Rafael Palmeiro officially leaves the Rangers to sign with the Orioles for five years and ex-Oriole Dennis Martinez takes a two-year deal to jump from the Expos to the Indians.

Monday, December 9, 2013

#123 Moises Alou

About the Front: I always got the impression that Moises Alou was giving a thumbs-up here, but only now do I see that he's actually gripping the Rookie Cup.

About the Back: Unfortunately, 1991 wasn't the last season that Alou would lose to injury. A torn ACL suffered while working out in the offseason cost him the entirety of the 1999 campaign.

Triple Play: 

1. In keeping with the recent family theme, Moises is the son of former outfielder Felipe Alou, who also managed his son in Montreal and San Francisco. His uncles, Jesus and Matty, were also big league outfielders. Moises and his cousin, pitcher Mel Rojas, teamed together with the Expos.

2. Alou's name is forever linked with that of Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan whose attempt to catch a foul pop hampered the outfielder's own bid to snatch the ball at a pivotal moment in Game Six of the 2003 NLCS. Moises' petulant reaction helped ensure Bartman's infamous legacy when Chicago proceeded to blow a three-run lead en route to losing the game, and (the following day) the series.

3. Moises famously eschewed batting gloves throughout his career, and caused a stir when he disclosed in a 2004 interview that he urinated on his hands to toughen them.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Sure, one man managing both his son and his nephew on the same major league team is impressive...but it doesn't beat Cal Ripken, Sr. managing two of his sons on one team. (I had Baltimore provincialism instilled in me at an early age.)

Bill James Said: "He's a Gary Matthews-type player - a little power, a little speed, can hit .280 to .300, can help a team win if they get enough guys around him having good years." If you're curious, Alou batted .303/.369/.516 in parts of 17 seasons with a 128 OPS+. Matthews batted .281/.364/.439 in parts of 16 years with a 118 OPS+. So even accounting for era, ballparks, etc., Moises was a bit better.

On This Date in 1993: December 9. Randy Johnson, fresh off a 19-8 season with a 3.24 ERA and a league-leading 308 strikeouts, re-ups with the Mariners for three years and $20.25 million.

Friday, December 6, 2013

#122 Joey Cora

About the Front: This is like an inaction photo. Has anyone coined that term yet? Joey Cora's flipping the ball to someone, probably either the shortstop or the pitcher. It looks like it's between plays.

About the Back: Check out the 3-D effect with Cora's right hand coming up out of the inset frame and partially covering the name banner. Shades of 1964 or 1988 Topps...or 1993 Upper Deck. Oops.

Triple Play:

1. This is our third straight player with a younger sibling who also played in the majors! Alex Cora, ten years Joey's junior, was a glove-first infielder for the Dodgers and five other teams between 1998 and 2011.

2. While playing with the AA Beaumont Golden Gators in 1986, Cora got involved in an argument with a few opposing fans while waiting outside the team bus. The men came back with reinforcements and Cora was stabbed once in the stomach and once in the arm. He was rushed to the hospital and made a full recovery, spending six weeks on the disabled list.

3. After retiring as a player, Joey spent a few years managing in the Mets and Expos farm systems before joining ex-teammate Ozzie Guillen's coaching staff in Chicago. He served as third base coach, then as bench coach. He also hired on as Guillen's bench coach with the Marlins. He's since been picked up by the MLB Network as an analyst.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always liked Joey Cora. He was just a scrappy little guy who looked kind of like an easily-startled puppy.

Bill James Said: "If he stays healthy, will hold his job for several years, and will score more than 100 runs in his best seasons." Right on the mark - he started at second base for the White Sox, Mariners, and Indians for the following five seasons, and crossed the plate 105 times in 1997 and 111 in 1998. In the former season, he was named to the All-Star team and also batted .300/.359/.441 with 40 doubles

On This Date in 1993: December 6. Elian Gonzalez is born in Cuba. He will be at the center of a heated custody and immigration battle around the turn of the century after attempting to defect to the United States with his mother.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

#121 Todd Worrell

About the Front: It looks like Todd Worrell was on a one-man crusade to keep the mullet alive as a hairstyle.

About the Back: Lee Smith busted past Worrell's newly-realized team record the very next year, saving 43 games with the Cardinals to bring his own total to 160. Jason Isringhausen left them both in the dust eventually, finishing with 217 saves in St. Louis.

Triple Play:

1. Todd was the near-unanimous winner of the 1986 National League Rookie of the Year award, with Kevin Mitchell receiving a lone first-place vote to act as spoiler.

2. Worrell had a late-career renaissance with the Dodgers, making a pair of All-Star teams in 1995 and 1996 and saving a league-high 44 games in the latter season.

3. His younger brother Tim spent 14 years as a reliever for the Padres, Giants, and seven other teams. He debuted with San Diego in 1993.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Again, I get the sense that I never looked at the backs of these cards as intently as I'd always assumed. It's rare to see a player miss two straight years in total due to injuries, and that should have left a greater impression on me.

Bill James Said: "."

On This Date in 1993: December 5. Rafael Caldera Rodriguez is elected President of Venezuela for a second time, unseating interim leader Ramon Jose Velazquez. He had previously governed the country from 1969 to 1974.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

#120 Ramon Martinez

About the Front: Here's another good example of a photo fit for its horizontal orientation. Ramon Martinez looks like he's bent down low so he doesn't hit his head on the top border of the card.

About the Back: I have a vague notion of 1990 as a rare pitcher-dominated season in its decade, but I'm still surprised to see 20 wins and 223 strikeouts for Martinez.

Triple Play:

1. Today Ramon is perhaps best known as Pedro's big brother. The younger Martinez will be appearing several hundred cards from now.

2. On June 4, 1990, Martinez struck out 18 Braves in a three-hit shutout.

3. Ramon is currently a senior advisor in Latin America for the Dodgers.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: He was so skinny, with long arms and legs, that he appeared even taller than his listed height of 6'4".

Bill James Said: "Pitches substantially better with long rest than on four days rest." In 1993, this holds true: 1-6, 4.02 ERA with four days rest; 9-6, 3.15 ERA with five or more days rest. His overall career stats don't indicate strong splits, though.

On This Date in 1993: December 4. A sad day for music fans, as Frank Zappa died at age 52 of prostate cancer.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#119 Pedro Munoz

About the Front: Really, Twins? No tilde on "Munoz"? Poor form.

About the Back: The Twins acquired Pedro and infielder Nelson Liriano when they dealt John Candelaria to Toronto prior to the 1990 trade deadline. The 36-year-old Candelaria went 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA in 13 appearances with the Jays.

Triple Play:

1. On August 31, 1993, Munoz ended a 22-inning marathon between the Twins and Indians with his solo home run against Jason Grimsley.

2. More an oddity than anything else - Pedro was successful in each of his first six stolen base attempts as a major leaguer. For the rest of his career, he was just 5-for-15.

3. Munoz drove in seven runs in Minnesota's 21-7 thrashing of the Tigers on June 4, 1994. His outburst included a pair of home runs and a sacrifice fly.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I had this vague sense of Pedro Munoz as a power bat, but his career slugging percentage was .444 with a single-season high of 18 home runs.

Bill James Said: "No star potential now; will have to move his slugging percentage up from .400 in order to increase his playing time." He slugged .489 over the next three seasons, but didn't play again after that due to knee injuries.

On This Date in 1993: December 3. Diana, Princess of Wales, whose marriage to Prince Charles is nearing its end, announces her withdrawal from public life.

Monday, December 2, 2013

#118 David Hulse

About the Front: "Alright, bat." David Hulse whispers. "I don't like you and you don't like me. But get a hit right here, and the next Bud's on me." I would also like to point out that David's last name is neatly printed on his left batting glove at the very least.

About the Back: Hulse appears to have a green-screen backdrop behind him.

Triple Play:

1. David still appears in blooper reels for his actions on October 3, 1992. Facing Joe Grahe of the Angels, the rookie outfielder fouled four straight balls into the same spot in the California dugout, sending Halos players and personnel scrambling.

2. In 1993, Hulse hit 10 triples but only one home run, victimizing Chicago's Alex Fernandez for his first career roundtripper.

3. Here's a juicy trivia morsel: David Hulse hit the only inside-the-park home run that Mariano Rivera allowed in his legendary MLB career, circling the bases against a rookie Rivera on August 1, 1995.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I took one look at David's superficially good .290 average in 1993 and assumed he'd be around for a while. The very next season, Rusty Greer supplanted him as the Rangers' homegrown outfielder of choice.

Bill James Said: "...His positives are his speed and the possibility that he could hit .300; his negatives are his lack of power, his lack of plate discipline, a just-fair arm and a long history of hamstring pulls." When you put it that way, you start to see why he was out of the majors after 1996.

On This Date in 1993: December 2. NASA launches the Space Shuttle Endeavour on a mission to repair an optical flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope.

Friday, November 29, 2013

#117 Eddie Taubensee

About the Front: This is an incredible action photo of Eddie Taubensee tossing his mask and springing forth out of his crouch to snag a popup. His eyes track the ball, the sheen of his helmet shows a reflection of the mask, and the batter is forever both safe and out.

About the Back: Taubensee would reach his eighth big league season before hitting his only career walkoff home run. It was a ninth inning tiebreaker against Philadelphia's Darren Winston on April 27, 1998.

Triple Play:

1. The hilarious content of Eddie's B-R Bullpen Wiki entry in its entirety: "Nicknamed "The Model" because of the way he strutted his stuff on the runway when the Astros revealed their new uniforms in 1994."

2. Even Taubensee's turn on the catwalk couldn't ease the sting felt by Houston fans who saw him as the losing half of a trade that sent fleet center fielder Kenny Lofton to Cleveland.

3. He nearly doubled his previous career high in homers in 1999, when he belted 21 for the 96-win Reds. He also reached new heights with 87 RBI and a .311/.354/.521 triple-slash.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Taubensee was always a fun name to say. "Taw-bin-see". Together with "Eddie", it's purely lyrical.

Bill James Said: "Taubensee throws a little better, but (Scott) Servais is probably a better defensive catcher."

On This Date in 1993: November 29. If you wish to catch a movie, your in-theatre options include Mrs. Doubtfire and Addams Family Values.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

#116 Mark Lemke

About the Front: My only regret is that we can't get a clearer look at what I'm almost certain are Rec-Specs on Mark Lemke's face. The better to safely see and hit the ball, my dear!

About the Back: That 1991 World Series recap sums up the strangeness and unpredictability of a best-of-seven series pretty well. Lemke had 15 career triples in 3,664 regular-season plate appearances; he never had three in a month, much less a four-at-bat span.

Triple Play:

1. Mark holds the record for most career plate appearahces without being hit by a pitch. I guess he wasn't a big target.

2. In May 1998, he collided with runner Chad Kreuter while trying to turn a double play and suffered a concussion that brought about the end of his major league career. The following season, he joined the independent New Jersey Jackals as an infield coach and...knuckleball pitcher. The results were not encouraging: 5-1 with a 6.68 ERA in 33.2 innings in 1999, and a dozen runs allowed in a single 2.2 inning appearance in 2000. He had 37 walks and only 20 strikeouts total.

3. Mark's still involved with the Braves, participating in the pregame show for the Braves Radio Network on WCNN-AM.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I can add Mark Lemke to the list of players much smaller than yours truly.

Bill James Said: "(A) Gold Glove-type second baseman who hits .250, has a little power and draws 65 walks...Well, that's a winning player."

On This Date in 1993: November 27. Joe Montana, sidelined for the past three weeks with a hamstring strain, declares himself ready to start at quarterback for the Chiefs in tomorrow's game against the Bills.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

#115 Robby Thompson

About the Front: Here's my take. Robby Thompson just hit a weak dribbler to the right side of the infield. He's attempting to use Darth Vader's Force Choke to render the opposing second baseman unable to make a play on the ball.

About the Back: Those were the only two grand slams of Robby's career, even though he played into the 1996 season. Baseball, man.

Triple Play:

1. His career year came in 1993, when he batted .312/.375/.496 with 19 home runs and 65 RBI, all career highs, and won his only Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. He was already troubled with back problems, and appeared in only 193 games over the next three seasons before walking away from the game.

2. Thompson was born on May 10, and over the course of his career he enjoyed six consecutive multi-hit games on his birthday. In five of those games, he had an extra-base hit.

3. He has worked in various capacities for the Giants, Indians, and Mariners since hanging up his glove and bat. Most recently, Robby spent three seasons as Seattle's bench coach under manager Eric Wedge.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I could have sworn that Thompson was an Indian late in his career. Apparently Cleveland invited him to spring training in 1997, but he ultimately retired instead.

Bill James Said: "The best second baseman the Giants have had since they came to the Bay, probably the best they have had since they traded Frankie Frisch in December, 1926."

On This Date in 1993: November 26. The Velvet Underground releases Live MCMXCIII, an album compiled from concert recordings in Paris.

Monday, November 25, 2013

#114 Mel Hall

About the Front: Between his toothy grimace and one-handed follow through, it sure doesn't look like Mel Hall got all of that ball.

About the Back: Despite being "only" 32 at the end of the 1992 season and putting up above-league-average numbers, Hall went to Japan for the 1993 season. He spent a couple of years with the Chiba Lotte Marines and a single season with the Chunichi Dragons, and returned to the U.S. in 1996. An unsuccessful 25-game stint with the Giants (.120/.148/.120 in 27 plate appearances) put an unsatisfying capper on his big league time.

Triple Play:

1. Mel feasted on the pitching of Mark Gubicza (.434/.483/.585 in 58 PA), but had his share of trouble against Roger Clemens (.188/.233/.232 in 73 PA).

2. He was a better ballplayer than a human being. He mentored a young Bernie Williams by continually referring to him as "Mr. Zero", and shouting him down every time the outfield prospect attempted to speak. The soft-spoken Williams was reportedly near tears from this abuse. In hindsight, only one of this pair of players has zero World Series rings, zero All-Star selections, and zero Gold Gloves, and it ain't Bernie.

3. Need more proof of Hall's bona fides as a creep? He is currently serving a 45-year prison sentence for raping two underage girls while coaching their basketball team in the late 1990s. He will not be eligible for parole until the early 2030s.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I didn't grow up watching the likes of Mel Hall and Alvaro Espinoza on the forgettable Yankees squads of the early nineties, but my college roommate (a Yankee fan from central Jersey) did. He often name-checks Mel Hall as proof that he stuck through the bad times before enjoying the team's later run of success.

Bill James Said: Jack squat, since Mel was playing in the Far East in 1993.

On This Date in 1993: November 25. Burgess "Whitey" Whitehead, a reserve infielder from the 1934 Cardinals' "Gashouse Gang" team, dies of a heart attack at age 83. He was the last surviving member of that World Series-winning club. Later in his career, he was a two-time All-Star at second base for the New York Giants.

Friday, November 22, 2013

#113 Thomas Howard

About the Front: Thomas Howard is going full extension for a fly ball in the Cleveland Municipal Stadium outfield. Hopefully he doesn't open his glove too late.

About the Back: Howard was born in Middletown, OH. Also from Middletown: pitcher Charlie Root, who won 201 games for the Cubs in the pre-WWII years.

Triple Play:

1. Thomas was a three-sport athlete at Valley View High School, as he also quarterbacked a league champion football team and played power forward for a league champion basketball team.

2. While serving as the fourth outfielder for the 1995 National League Central-winning Reds, he batted .302 and stole 17 bases, but was caught eight times.

3. On April 11, 2000, Howard hit the first grand slam at Enron Field (now known as Minute Maid Park), erasing a three-run St. Louis deficit with one swing of the bat. It was one of eight pinch-hit homers in his career, and his only grand slam.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: When I looked at this card back in 1993, I probably noticed the clear-as-day white Nike swooshes on Thomas Howard's cleats. I had no way of knowing that Nike (and its competitors) would soon splash their trademarks all over every part of the uniform. Cherish the relative lack of logo creep, young Kevin!

Bill James Said: "I don't remember what I wrote about Mike Felder, but whatever it was, it probably applies here too."

On This Date in 1993: November 22. I'm really enjoying following the player movement of the winter of 1993-1994. Today, Will Clark made headlines by signing a five-year, $30 million contract with the Rangers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

#112 Brian Barnes

About the Front: The back of Brian Barnes' jersey looks like it says "Barves". He was 20 years ahead of the trend!

About the Back: My eye is drawn to Brian's stats at AA Jacksonville in 1990. 213 strikeouts in 201.1 innings is no small feat at any level. Moreover, the days of a pitching prospect throwing 200 minor league innings in a year are well behind us.

Triple Play:

1. Fresh off his great year with Jacksonville, Barnes made four starts with the Expos in September of 1990. He earned his first big league win in his season finale, tossing a complete-game three-hitter against the Phillies on September 29.

2. Brian played college ball at Clemson University, just as Jimmy Key, John Curtis, Kris Benson, and Billy Koch did. That's the beginnings of a decent pitching staff.

3. Barnes threw his last big league pitch at age 27 in 1994, but continued pitching in the minors through 2000. He logged time in Albuquerque, Charlotte, Pawtucket, Jacksonville, Toledo, Memphis, Greenville, and Calgary.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Did young Brian Barnes ever get teased because of the alliteration in his name? I wonder only because my parents considered naming me Brian, until my father decided that he didn't like the double-"B" sound.

Bill James Said: "A starter in the minors, he has been hit hard in the majors after passing the 60-pitch mark." Montreal used him mostly in relief in 1993 (44 of his 52 appearances), but he was only so-so in a role that you'd expect to limit his pitch counts (4.45 ERA in 60.2 IP).

On This Date in 1993: November 21. Hot stove! The Giants sign free agent pitcher Mark Portugal to a three-year contract. He will go 15-13 with a 4.03 ERA in one and a half seasons in San Francisco before being dealt to the Reds in an eight-player trade in July of 1995.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

#111 Bruce Hurst

About the Front: Bruce Hurst has the hairiest forearms this side of Justin Verlander.

About the Back: The end came quickly for Bruce. After one season with an ERA over 3.85 from 1986-1992, he only made it into 13 games in 1993 and 1994 combined with a 7.24 ERA. He'd torn his rotator cuff and labrum in late 1992 and was seemingly never the same.

Triple Play:

1. Hurst was the seventh and penultimate Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher to appear in the famed longest game in organized baseball history, a 33-inning affair with the Rochester Red Wings that began on April 18, continued into the wee hours of April 19, and was concluded on June 23. The lefty shut out the Red Wings from the 28th inning through the 32nd.

2. Bruce starred for Boston in the 1986 postseason, winning all three of his decisions and tossing a pair of complete games, including the Red Sox' 4-2 victory in Game Five of the World Series. He allowed three runs in six innings in the decisive seventh game, but the Mets pulled away late against the Beantown bullpen.

3. He was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2004. Dixie State College, located in Hurst's hometown of St. George, UT, has named their home field after him.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Bruce pitched a fine game on my tenth birthday, allowing one run to the Giants in seven innings in a 4-1 Padres win. He was stuck with a no-decision, as San Diego put up a three-spot in the eighth. I've said it before and I will again: the younger me would have been in baseball geek heaven with Baseball-Reference.com at his disposal.

Bill James Said: "...was traded to the Black Hole of Calcutta, also known as Mile High Stadium." Pre-humidor Denver was a death sentence to many a pitcher's career.

On This Date in 1993: November 20. As part of the Savings and Loan Crisis, the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee (how's that for an oxymoron?) issues a stern censure of California senator Alan Cranston for his association with S-and-L executive Charles Keating.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

#110 Barry Larkin

About the Front: We are on a roll with some top-notch card photography! This is a less-common angle of a hitter. It looks like the photographer was sitting right in the on-deck circle to capture Barry Larkin as the shortstop intently waits for his pitch.

About the Back: Those are some nifty stats, but Larkin still had some of his best ball ahead of him. In the proceeding dozen years of his career, he earned three Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers (bringing his total to nine), made eight All-Star teams (of 12 total in his career), and was the 1995 National League MVP. So yes, he's a worthy Hall of Famer.

Triple Play:

1. Barry became the first shortstop to have 30 home runs and 30 steals in the same season in 1996 (33 HR, 36 SB).

2. Larkin managed the Brazilian team in the 2012 World Baseball Classic. They were a suprise qualifier after beating Panama, but went winless in the tournament's opening round and were eliminated.

3. His younger brother Stephen was an outfielder/first baseman who played pro ball for 12 years. The Reds called him up in September 1998, whereupon he started at first base on September 27 and batted right behind his brother in the three-hole. That was Stephen's lone major league game. Incidentally, the other two infield positions were manned by Bret and Aaron Boone, giving Cincinnati two pairs of brothers in one infield!

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I don't remember watching Larkin play much during his career, probably because he spent all of his time in the National League. I can't help but think that he was overshadowed in the early years by Ozzie Smith.

Bill James Said: "Since his first full season, 1987, Larkin has missed 21% of the Reds' games, or 34 games a year, with various injuries." If Barry had been a little luckier with injuries, he probably wouldn't have had to wait until his third year on the ballot to make the Hall of Fame. Of course, with the way baseball writers vote, who knows?

On This Date in 1993: November 19. Avert your eyes, Dodgers fans! Los Angeles looks to bolster their infield by trading for Expos second baseman Delino DeShields. In return, Montreal receives a skinny young right-handed pitcher named Pedro Martinez.

Monday, November 18, 2013

#109 Sam Horn

About the Front: This has long been one of my favorite cards in this set. How often do you see a player captured in a moment of deep reflection? Or maybe he's just thinking about what he'll have for dinner that night. I never claimed to be a mind reader. Anyway, two thoughts: 1) Dig the girl in the plastic neon sunglasses in the first row. 2) Sam Horn is a big, big, big dude.

About the Back: Sam didn't have enough plate appearances to qualify for any batting rate stats in 1991. But as a point of comparison, Jose Canseco was the official American League leader with one home run per 13.0 at-bats.

Triple Play:

1. Horn still has a cult following in Boston because of his hot start in a 46-game trial in 1987, when he set a record for the most home runs by a player appearing in less than 50 games. He also homered in each of his first two career games. A popular Red Sox fan site and message board is named "Sons of Sam Horn".

2. Sam had a knack for first impressions. On Opening Day of the 1990 season, he made his Orioles debut and went 4-for-5 with a pair of three-run homers to spur Baltimore to a 7-6 win over the Royals in 11 innings.

3. Horn also achieved a more dubious feat on July 17, 1991, striking out six times in a 15-inning loss to Kansas City. Former O's pitcher Mike Flanagan was credited with dubbing the feat as a "horn", a la the "hat trick" (3 K's) or "golden sombrero" (5 K's).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Sam Horn was one of the few Orioles whose name pierced the bubble of my personal baseball ignorance in the early 1990s. That probably has something to do with his considerable power (a rarity on those O's clubs) and the lyricality of his name. "Sam Horn" just sounds like a heroic athlete.

Bill James Said: "I know I've said this before, but Horn is pretty much the same player as Cecil Fielder; he's just lefthanded and can't catch a break."

On This Date in 1993: November 18. In South Africa, 21 political parties approve a new constitution, expanding voting rights and ending white minority rule.

Friday, November 15, 2013

#108 Jose Lind

About the Front: The deeper I delve into this set, the more I realize that I've taken the horizontal cards for granted. Look at this action-packed scene: Jose Lind blocking the bag, preparing to slap a tag on would-be base thief Delino DeShields as the Expos' speedster slides in head-first in a cloud of dirt. A vertically-oriented card wouldn't be able to capture that moment just so. Anyway, was he safe or out? I checked the box scores from 1992, and "Bop" only attempted one steal with Lind covering second in games at Pittsburgh that year. It was June 21, 1992, and he made it safely against the battery of Jeff Robinson and Mike LaValliere. Just going by the photo, I would have assumed DeShields was out, but I guess Jose still had the ball at eye level while Delino's momentum was carrying him ever-closer to his destination. Or he could've dropped the ball while trying to put down the tag.

About the Back: Lind's three home runs in 1991 constituted a power surge for him, but it was fleeting. In the remaining four seasons of his career, he had only one homer in 1,433 plate appearances.

Triple Play:

1. He was awarded the Gold Glove for his play at second base in 1992, breaking Ryne Sandberg's decade-long death grip on the prize. Ironically, it was Jose's misplay of a David Justice grounder that helped spur the Braves' ninth-inning comeback in Game 7 of that year's NLCS.

2. Lind was an unusual character who kept a set of big knives in his locker in Pittsburgh and would pretend to stab at teammates to startle them. He had problems with alcohol and cocaine that expedited the end of his major league career, but has reportedly been clean since 1997.

3. He managed the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League from 2003 through 2005, winning 200 games and losing 192.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Lind being referred to often by his nickname "Chico", a moniker that was probably not given to him by WWF wrestler (and Tony Montana knockoff) Razor Ramon.

Bill James Said: "He's a fine second baseman, fairly good range and turns the double play as well as the next guy, but is a complete cipher with the bat." I assume that Bill's going for the archaic definition of cipher, which is a zero.

On This Date in 1993: November 15. Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera join the cast of The New Mickey Mouse Club, a series on the Disney Channel. And thus the Seventh Seal was opened.