Tuesday, February 27, 2018

#500 Jose Canseco

About the Front: It must have been really strange to see Jose Canseco in a Rangers uniform when this card was released. He'd been traded the previous August after an eight-year stay in Oakland that included a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP, and three straight trips to the World Series.
About the Back: The aforementioned MVP season was 1988, when Canseco became the first member of the 40 HR/40 SB club. His OPS+ that year was 170, meaning that he was 70% better than the league average hitter.

Triple Play:

1. Arriving in Texas kicked off the itinerant phase of Jose's career. From 1992 through 2001, he played for the A's, Rangers, Red Sox, A's again, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Yankees, and White Sox. He also had Spring Training stints with the Angels and Expos.

2. He finished his big league career with a batting line of .266/.353/.515, 462 home runs, and 1,407 RBI. Even with the overall home run spike of the last few decades, he's still 35th all-time in round-trippers.

3. Canseco has achieved infamy as a fame-chasing bonehead, from the release of two "tell-all" books that accused several of his peers of steroid abuse, to his forays into reality TV, to moonlighting in mixed-martial arts and boxing, to...I'll just link to this summary of his various legal troubles.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: The major story with Jose Canseco in 1993 was his disastrous relief appearance for Texas in a 15-1 loss in Boston on May 29. In one inning, he threw 33 pitches (12 for strikes), gave up three runs on two hits and three walks, and blew out his right elbow, necessitating Tommy John surgery. I didn't realize until looking it up just now, but this happened three days after Cleveland's Carlos Martinez hit a fly ball that bounced off of Jose's head and over the Cleveland Stadium wall for a home run! Talk about a long week.

Bill James Said: "His chance to be a star now is to be Cecil Fielder, to hit 50 home runs and drive in 130, but he has to stay healthy to do that, and he needs to grow up to stay healthy." I think we all know how that turned out. Canseco topped 113 games played one more time in his career, when he clouted a career-high 46 homers in 151 games for the Blue Jays in 1998. By the way, James lists his position as "Right Field/Relief Pitcher". Har har!

On This Date in 1993: February 27. The Rangers sign pitcher Allan Anderson as a free agent. Anderson led the American League with a 2.45 ERA for the Twins in 1988, but lost effectiveness over the next few seasons. He would split the 1993 season between the Texas and Cleveland AAA affiliates, posting a 5.79 ERA in 26 games, and then retire.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

#499 Chuck Crim

About the Front: Chuck Crim is one of 31 Angels players to wear #32 to date. Most notable among them is Hall of Fame outfielder Dave Winfield, who directly preceded Crim.
About the Back: To this point in his career, Chuck had averaged 65 games and 103 innings pitched per season in six years in the majors. His right arm might have been hanging by a thread.

Triple Play:

1. He earned the win in his big league debut on April 8, 1987. He tossed two perfect innings of relief, which included a strikeout of the first batter he faced - Hall of Famer Jim Rice.

2. Crim excelled as the setup man for Milwaukee closer Dan Plesac in 1988 and 1989, posting an ERA+ of 137 in each season while leading the American League in games pitched.

3. Chuck recently worked for the Dodgers for ten years in various roles, starting as a scout before spending four seasons as a minor league coach. He was also L.A.'s bullpen coach from 2013 through 2015.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Chuck Crim looked like he was holding his breath in this photo.

Bill James Said: "When Plesac lost his effectiveness Crim got a shot at the closer, but was burned out by then, and never could solidify the job."

On This Date in 1993: February 25. The Chicago Bulls edged out the Orlando Magic, 108-106, in Orlando. Leading scores were Michael Jordan, with 36 points for the Bulls, and rookie Shaquille O'Neal, with 30 for the Magic.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

#498 Bud Black

About the Front: That's one unflattering photo of Bud Black. In general, I think he's better-looking now than he was in his playing days. Some guys just age gracefully.
About the Back: Daughter Jamie went on to attend Oregon State University and is now an interior designer. Daughter Jessie was a collegiate gymnast at the University of Maryland, and graduated in 2014 with a degree in math and kinesiology.

Triple Play:

1. Bud had a knack for historical moments. He surrendered Reggie Jackson's 500th career home run, and Mike Piazza's first.

2. His father Harry was a minor league hockey player.

3. He spent several seasons as the Angels' pitching coach before the Padres hired him to be their manager in 2007. His San Diego clubs peaked with a 90-72 season and a second-place finish in the NL West in 2010, earning him Manager of the Year honors. He was fired in mid-2015, but in 2017 guided the Rockies to a surprise Wild Card appearance in his first season as their skipper.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I loved the book Lords of the Realm by John Helyar, which detailed the long and contentious labor history between baseball players and ownership. Still love it, actually. Anyway, there was an anecdote about the supposedly exorbitant four-year, $10 million contract given by the Giants and GM Al Rosen to mediocre veteran Bud Black prior to the 1991 season. He was considered the poster boy for runaway player salaries, and that offseason was referred to sarcastically as the "Bud Black Market". If you're curious, that translates to $16.75 million in today's economy. Still seems comparatively tame to me.

Bill James Said: "Helped put the Giants in front with an 8-1 record through the All-Star break, but went out with tendonitis (which sportswriters for some reason spell "tendinitis") in his elbow." Yeah, why DO they spell it like that?

On This Date in 1993: February 22. The United Nations Security Council votes on Resolution 808, deciding to establish a tribunal to prosecute international law violations in Yugoslavia.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

#497 Matt Petersen and Willie Brown

About the Front: Many of these Marlins and Rockies "future stars" cards feature photos that wouldn't be out of place on Little League trading cards. This one is a prime example. Matt Petersen and Willie Brown even have wispy adolescent mustaches!
About the Back: Willie Brown was drafted in the 55th round by the hometown Braves in 1989, but didn't sign. In 1992, the Marlins took him in the fourth round. That'd be a bit of an upgrade. Matt Petersen, meanwhile, was a 27th round pick, but led the Erie Sailors in innings pitched in his first pro season. By the way, that Erie club was managed by future Marlins and Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez, who was already in his third season as a minor league manager at age 28.

Triple Play:

1. Willie Brown lasted four seasons in the minors, progressing to high-A Brevard County in 1995. He finished his career with a batting line of .225/.320/.400, 42 homers, and 146 RBI.

2. Matt Petersen was also in pro ball for four years, with AA stints in the Marlins and Cubs organizations. He won 32 games and lost 30, with a 4.35 ERA.

3. Brown played collegiate baseball at Florida A&M University. This HBCU also produced Hall of Famer Andre Dawson and star players Hal McRae, Vince Coleman, and Marquis Grissom.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I was a lot more credulous 25 years ago, but even then I probably would've looked askance at the "Future Star" label for a guy who batted .200 in the low minors.

Bill James Said: Zippo. These guys weren't within sniffing distance of the majors.

On This Date in 1993: February 20. The New York Islanders retire goalie Billy Smith's uniform number 31.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

#496 Reggie Jefferson

About the Front: Reggie Jefferson is intently focusing on his pine-tar duties.
About the Back: If you're like me, you probably don't think of Reggie as a triples hitter. He led the rookie-level GCL with his five three-baggers in 1986, but didn't hit his fifth major league triple until his 287th career game.

Triple Play:

1. The Baseball Reference Bullpen Wiki claims that Jefferson "would literally drag the entire top side of his foot with every step". We're going to classify that as a big ol' "citation needed".

2. The Indians made a savvy trade in December of 1993, sending Reggie and shortstop Felix Fermin to Seattle for shortstop Omar Vizquel. The duo played a total of 237 games for the Mariners, while Vizquel won eight Gold Gloves in 11 seasons in Cleveland.

3. He had a strong stint with the Red Sox in the late 1990s, primarily as a DH. In 1996, he batted .347/.388/.593 (143 OPS+) with career highs of 19 home runs and 74 RBI in 418 plate appearances.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Heh. That camera lens is pointing right at his butt. (Let's be honest, 35-year-old me is probably more responsible for this thought.)

Bill James Said: "I've never believed he had star potential, and since he is now competing for playing time with Manny Ramirez, who does have star potential, it may be a couple of years before he becomes a full-time player."

On This Date in 1993: February 13. Ah, what the heck, let's indulge my wrestling fandom. The regular Saturday morning airing of WWF Superstars featured Tatanka defeating Shawn Michaels and Giant Gonzalez squashing three "enhancement talents" (including Louie Spicolli) in an 81-second match. The Steiner Brothers, Lex Luger, and Crush were also featured.

Monday, February 12, 2018

#495 Ken Hill

About the Front: Somebody tell Ken Hill that his black glove clashes with all of that royal blue.

About the Back: That ground ball single in the June 8, 1992 game stings even more because it was struck by opposing pitcher Anthony Young. The offending Montreal shortstop was Tom Foley, a 32-year-old utility infielder who had a career OPS+ of 79, so...you'd assume he was in the lineup for his defense?

Triple Play:

1. Ken was runner-up to Greg Maddux for the 1994 National League Cy Young Award, as the two tied for the league lead with 16 wins. The Expos righty also posted a 3.32 ERA and walked just 44 batters in 154.2 innings in his lone All-Star season.

2. He helped the Indians tie the 1995 ALCS at two games apiece with seven scoreless innings in a 7-0 victory in Game Four.

3. His son Kenny has quarterbacked for the Texas A & M Aggies and the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs. In his first collegiate start, he broke Johnny Manziel's A&M record with 511 passing yards and threw for four touchdowns.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: As a kid, I probably didn't realize how unusual it was for a pitcher of Hill's prominence to have gotten his start as an undrafted free agent.

Bill James Said: "He missed some time with a groin injury, which prevented him from pulling near his 16-win season of '92." Ken was just 9-7 with 90 strikeouts and 74 walks in 184 innings in 1993, though his 3.23 ERA wasn't too shabby.

On This Date in 1993: February 12. The beloved romantic comedy Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, debuts in theatres. "I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life."

Thursday, February 8, 2018

#494 Kevin Young, Adell Davenport, Eduardo Perez, and Lou Lucca

It's about time to reboot this blog, now that time has marched on and we're a full quarter-century past the release of 1993 Topps. I'll try not to disappear for another two years and change this time.

About the Front: That is one stylish shirt that Adell Davenport is wearing.

About the Back: Eduardo Perez was, of course, born in Cincinnati while his father Tony Perez was in the prime of his Hall of Fame career with the Reds.

Triple Play:

1. Kevin Young spent 12 seasons with the Pirates and Royals, batting .258/.324/.438. His best performance came in 1999, when he batted .298/.387/.522 (128 OPS+) with 41 doubles, 26 HR, 106 RBI, and 22 steals in 32 tries.

2. Adell Davenport had just batted .288/.340/.510 in his first full season at AA Shreveport, with 19 homers and 88 RBI. His 14 games at AAA Phoenix in 1993 proved to be the former 18th-round pick's ceiling as a pro; he was out of baseball after a stint with the Sioux Falls Canaries of the independent Northern League in 1995.

3. Eduardo Perez had a 13-year MLB career with the Angels, Reds, Cardinals, Devil Rays, Indians, and Mariners. He batted .247/.326/.431 with 79 homers and 394 RBI. Since retiring, he's worked for ESPN as a Baseball Tonight analyst and broadcaster, and had brief coaching stays with the Marlins and Astros. He's had some success as a manager in the winter leagues, winning in Puerto Rico and Venezuela in consecutive seasons.

3a. A 32nd round draftee out of Oklahoma State University, Lou Lucca climbed steadily through the minor league ranks before stalling out at AAA. He spent six-plus seasons at that highest rung of the minors, batting .274/.318/.434 with 71 homers and 342 RBI. From 2002 through 2007, he made stops in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Italy, and a number of American independent circuits. In the winter of 1999-2000, Lou was one of the leading hitters of the Roberto Clemente League in Puerto Rico, topping all hitters with 10 homers, 37 RBI, 32 runs scored (tied with Felipe Crespo), and 15 doubles (tied with Alex Diaz).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: For some reason, I thought Lou Lucca looked a lot like Luke Perry. In hindsight, not so much.

Bill James Said: Young: "The under-achiever of the year; he's a .280 hitter, but fell into a slump, put pressure on himself, and didn't start to hit until September." Kevin batted .236/.300/.342 in 1993, his worst performance in a full season.

Perez: "Should hit .250 or better with double-figure homers, still learning at third but could be OK." He pretty much pegged the homer total. Eduardo had four seasons of double-digit homers despite never being a full-timer, and spent the biggest chunk of his time in the field at first base.

On This Date in 1993: February 8. General Motors sues NBC for a misleading report that aired on Dateline NBC that claimed that GM's pickup trucks could easily catch fire in collisions. The TV network settled the lawsuit the next day.