Saturday, March 8, 2008

#232 Bob James

Why this card is awesome: Because James made looking like the Unabomber cool before the Unabomber even existed.

Cool stat: In 1985, James had one of just 13 seasons for a reliever with 100 IP, an ERA+ of at least 200, and a K/BB ratio over 3. Unfortunately, that was his only great season, and this card was the last of his career.

Friday, March 7, 2008

#231 Pirates Leaders

Why this card is awesome: Because although Bonds and Bonilla have both had their share of controversy in their careers, it's hard not to appreciate this card, featuring two very young players who'd eventually become stars. Many of the other Leaders cards in this set feature young players who amounted to very little as MLB players. But not this card.

Cool stat: The 1988 Pirates are one of three teams in history having 2 players with exactly 100 RBIs. Bonilla and Van Slyke did it. Guess how many RBIs Bonds had that year? You'll be surprised.

Someday, Bonds will probably be in the HOF, although it's likely to be a long and difficult road for him. We can't add him to the HOF count here yet, though.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

#230 Pat Tabler

Why this card is awesome: Because, Tabler's constipated facial expression aside, I like the blatant advertisement for Coca-Cola here. As if we couldn't recognize that cup in the background. This cars is COLA WARS PART TWO: REVENGE OF THE COKE.

Tabler was not good enough to deserve a card ending in zero.

Cool stat: Most people know that Tabler was awesome with the bases loaded. Check out his splits, scroll down, and you'll see his career OPS of 1.198 with the sacks full, as compared to .724 overall.

#229 Jeff Musselman

Why this card is awesome: Because there's a speckle on Musselman's face that looks the same as the speckles on the wall behind him. So, did somebody shoot a bunch of spitballs at both Musselman and the wall, or did Topps get some dirt on the film, or does Musselman just have a mole?

This is the second Topps All-Star Rookie in this set so far.

I seem to recall that Jeff Musselman had a fairly serious brain tumor at one point. Does anybody remember? These days he works for Scott Boras.

Cool stat: Musselman allowed a hit per inning for his career, but he walked a lot of guys too. From 1986 to 1990 (his entire career), he cracks the top 25 for highest WHIP among pitchers pitching at least 200 innings over that period. Recent cards Freddie Toliver and Ed Correa make the list too.

Trade wanted: Chien-Ming Wang

Hey, I'm looking to trade for some Chien-Ming Wang cards. I don't care which cards--rare ones or common ones. Just any. (At the moment I have none.)

I'm willing to trade you 100 cards for 2-3 Wang cards. Here's an offer you can't refuse: tell me your favorite team, and I'll send you 50 cards from that team, plus a SASE for you to send me the Wang cards back. The only catch is this: I want to do it as soon as possible. I'll send out your stuff on Monday, and I ask that you send back the Wang cards as soon as you can after that.

Interested? Email me at 88topps at gmailDOTTTcom.

#228 Wallace Johnson

Why this card is awesome: Because, hot damn, doesn't Johnson look cool coming out of the box here? You can just tell he's a speed demon. (He did have tons of stolen bases in the minors.)

Cool stat: Johnson ended up with just 19 steals in the bigs, but still had two games with 2 SB. That first one is probably his best major league game, with 2 RBI as well.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

#227 Ed Correa

Why this card is awesome: Because, Topps, way to go getting a shot of a middle infielder adjusting his junk. Was this the best photo you had of Correa? Really? REALLY? I think that's either Jerry Browne or Curtis Wilkerson, as they were the only middle infielders of color that the Rangers had in 1987 and 1988 who played more than 1 or 2 games.

Cool stat: First of all, check out this weirdness. 19 guys with the last name Correa have played professional ball, but as of now, Ed Correa is the only one to make it to the majors. That's really odd. Anyway, from 1985 to 1987, Correa had the 5th-highest walk rate among pitchers with at least 200 IP. He never pitched in the majors again after 1987.

#226 Dave Lopes

Why this card is awesome: Because of another poor card number choice. I realize that Lopes wasn't playing much (or very effectively) toward the end of his career, but I probably would've tried to give him a little better card number than 226. I also find calling him "Dave" weird. I've never heard of him called anything other than "Davey."

Cool stat: Lopes had more seasons of 40 SB and 10 HR than all but 5 other guys. Not bad. Can you name the 5 ahead of him? I bet you miss at least one. Here's the list.

#225 Mike Scioscia

Why this card is awesome: Because what in the hell is going on in the dugout? We see an Astros batboy of the left, a Dodgers person between Scioscia's legs, a camera man on the right and somebody else seated. So many people in one dugout? Makes me think that this photo is totally posed, and not taken even during a live spring training game.

I also really question giving Scioscia card #225. He was a good player, sure, and has been an even better manager. But as of 1988, there is no way he deserved this number more than, say, Paul Molitor or Robin Yount. And I'm not even a Brewers fan.

Cool stat: Boy oh boy did Scioscia own Don Robinson. He hit more homers off him (4) than he did off anybody else, and had an OPS of 1.308 across 51 PAs. Yowch.

#224 Tom Trebelhorn

Why this card is awesome: Because of classic underappreciation. When you look at that roster on the back, two players stick out: HOFers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. Two fantastic players who made it easily into the HOF, and yet they both have fairly crappy card numbers assigned to them. Could we get even one of them onto a card ending in zero? Please?

Cool stat: Trebelhorn is among the minority of managers who never played Major League Baseball. (A number of managers never did, but the majority have.) So, here's a quick question for you. The teams that Trebelhorn managed never finished better than 4th, except for the 1987 Brewers who were 3rd. Wouldn't you have to think that Trebelhorn had a losing record as a manager? He didn't. 471 wins and 461 losses, and just one full season under .500, in 1990 with Milwaukee. (He also managed the Cubs for all of the 1994 strike-shortened season and they finished under .500.)

#223 Stan Jefferson

Why this card is awesome: Because of that trade we all remember mentioned on the back. Abner was a #1 draft pick bust. Mitchell had done some nice things with the Mets but didn't pan out, nor would he until 1989 with the Giants. McReynolds was a semi-star who went on to be a good player for the Mets and Royals, but many felt he didn't play up to his potential.

Cool stat: So, I was noticing Jefferson's very low career OPS+ of 66 and I wanted to see where that ranks historically for non-pitchers with at least 900 PAs. Jefferson comes in around 200th worst all-time, but I noticed that a guy we just saw, Rafael Belliard, is 12th-worst all-time with a 46 OPS+. As for Jefferson, he hit 16 career homers, but managed two off one guy: the late Rick Mahler. Both homers were pretty important, too.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

#222 Steve Farr

Why this card is awesome: Because he signed with the Pirates in the mid 1970s?!?!? And didn't make the bigs until 1984? Wow.

Cool stat: Farr's minor league numbers were not that good, especially if you discount his Omaha numbers from 1985. Farr's 1990 was a bit of an oddity. He started only 6 games, and yet won 13. Not many pitchers have won 13 or more games when starting 6 or fewer and pitching in fewer than 60 overall.

#221 Rafael Belliard

Why this card is awesome: Because of the weird stuff on the ceiling of the Mets' dugout. Who knows what that is? Looks like a big number 11.

Cool stat: Belliard had just 2 career homers, and they came more than 10 years apart. Since 1901, nobody has gotten at least 2500 PAs without hitting at least one homer. Belliard is among 16 players to have just 1 or 2 homers with that many PAs.

Spring Training photos

Well this has nothing to do with 1988 Topps, but to get you baseball fans excited for the upcoming season, here are some photos from the Orioles-Cardinals spring training game I went to today. Click on any image for a larger version.

For those of you who've never been to spring training, here's what the front of Fort Lauderdale Stadium looks like:

This is it--the only real entrance to the stadium for the general public. This stadium is home to the Orioles, and we went here because it's by far the closest to Miami, where my wife and I are staying on vacation.

This is what you see inside the gate. What you see are about half of the total concession stands in the stadium. I love the orange flowers--a nice Oriole touch. (The colors are washed out from my cell phone, but they were nice and bright.)

Here's the name and press area of the stadium, although I managed to cut off the first letter.

Here's the view from our seats. These are about in the middle, in terms of distance from the field. (In other words, there were about 15 rows in front of us and 15 rows behind us, and that's the whole seating area.)

Here's a bit more of the stadium, plus the outfield wall and scoreboard. (It is electronic, not manual.) In the distance, that's Ft. Lauderdale / Hollywood airport.

Here's a shot of the Cardinals taking batting practice. I'm in the front row, which is easy to get to. That photographer is just about 15 feet or so away from me, so you can get an idea of how close you get to the players.

There's Tony LaRussa talking to one of the young players.

This guy named Pagnozzi (son of Tom Pagnozzi perhaps?) was very friendly with kids and other autograph-seekers. I also noticed that he warmed up the pitcher during the game when Yadier Molina was changing his gear after batting.

Here's a nice shot of my beautiful and very pregnant wife, and my father-in-law in the front. The real point of this photo is to show you the luxurious leg room in between all the rows. For tall people, it's awesome.

Here's the last photo I'll share today, taken during the top of the first inning. See the on-deck hitter? Yep, it's Juan Gonzalez. He got a hearty "boo" from the crowd, along with numerous shouts of "STEROIDS!"

I'll post more photos next week when I download them from my good camera.

Hope you enjoyed this!

#220 Tom Henke

Why this card is awesome: Because of those sweet glasses. Do you think it was worth it to the Rangers to lose Henke in exchange for Cliff Johnson in 1985?

Cool stat: Henke was an absolute stud. He had a rough 28 innings in 1984, but otherwise the rest of his career was stellar. After 1984, the lowest ERA+ he posted was 127, and he finished at 156 for his career. Here is the full list of all pitchers in history with at least 700 IP, a WHIP under 1.1, and ERA+ over 150. Just four guys. The other guys are all HOFers, probably.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

#219 Mike Stanley

Why this card is awesome: Because of that weird glowing guy in the red shirt on the left. WTF?

I'm not sure but I think the trade of Stanley from the Yankees to the Red Sox in 1997 is the most recent trade between those two teams. Does anybody recall anything more recent?

Cool stat: Stanley once hit 3 HRs in a game for the Yankees, and yet they still lost. Check out the box score. Mariano Rivera was the starting pitcher!

#218 Dan Schatzeder

Why this card is awesome: Because Schatzeder doesn't know it, but he's about to be beamed up by a UFO. See that bright light behind him? Next stop, anal probe!

Cool stat: Schatzeder gave up more homers to George Foster than to anybody else. Foster hit more homers off a bunch of other folks, though.


Sorry I was so slow to get the first card up today. That's because I am down in Florida, getting ready to go to a spring training game tomorrow!! I will post a few pictures on this blog for your viewing pleasure.

#217 Harry Spilman

Why this card is awesome: Because what in the world is that in the background? It looks like a cheapo cityscape backdrop for an off-Broadway play.

Cool stat: Spilman was the very definition of "part-time player." He's got the second most career seasons with 101 or fewer at-bats among non-pitchers. Only Tom Prince has more, and that's because Prince was a backup catcher his entire career.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

#216 Jerry Reuss

Why this card is awesome: Because can you believe Reuss was only 36 when this photo was taken? He only LOOKS 55.

Cool stat: Reuss, in my opinion, was overrated. He finished with an ERA+ of 100, actually a tad over league average for his career. His actual career record of 220-191 drops to 204-196 when neutralized. What made his career was his awesome peak performance in 1980 and 1981 with the Dodgers. Over those two years, Reuss had the third-best ERA+ for pitchers with at least 300 innings.

If you take out 1980 and 1981, Reuss had a 3.78 career ERA, instead of his actual 3.64 for his career, an ERA+ of about 96.

#215 Von Hayes

Why this card is awesome: Because although Hayes' facial expression is pretty funny and would normally be enough, this card features an Expos player in the background who is either picking his nose or nodding off. AWESOME!

Cool stat: I think Hayes was a significantly better player than he's remembered as. In 1989, Hayes posted the 5th-lowest RBI total for a player with an OPS+ of 140, 100 walks, and 25 homers. That Phillies team was bad, and that's why nobody was ever on base for Hayes to knock in, and why he got walked so often. With a little more lineup support, he might have had 30 HR and 100 RBIs.

#214 Dave Schmidt

Why this card is awesome: Because while he was one of two Dave Schmidts to break into MLB in 1981, this one was still around in 1987 to get a card in the 1988 set. The other one didn't make it past 1981.

Cool stat: Schmidt had two careers. He ended up looking very average, with a 54-55 record and 103 ERA+. However, if you look at just his first 8 years, he was 41-38 (as a reliever, so record is not that telling) with an ERA+ of 123, 407 Ks, 183 BBs, and 692 hits in 689.2 innings. He had an ERA below league average every single year, and batters had an OPS+ of 90 off him.