Saturday, March 29, 2008

88 Topps Cards - Greatest hits

I just wanted to link to a few of my favorite cards that we've seen so far. If you're new to the blog, this is a nice quick introduction for you.

#294 Al Pedrique

Why this card is awesome: Because Pedrique ends up as the worst member of the 1988 Topps All-Star Rookie team. He never amounted to much as a player, but has found a better career as a coach/manager in recent years. By the way, one thing I really like about the 88 Topps set is how the All-Star Rookie cup fits nicely on the card. On so many of the other sets, the cup just kind of floats in a weird spot on the card. But on this design, extending the banner color (in the case of Pedrique's card, it's red) all the way to the corner and putting the cup there was genius. Simple and beautiful.

Cool stat: Pedrique had one walk-off plate appearance. Can anybody remember what happened? A fly-ball single to the second baseman? WTF?

Friday, March 28, 2008

#293 Doug Jones

Why this card is awesome: Because seeing this card in 1988, you'd think that Jones was just about done. Around since 1978, a cup of coffee with the Brewers in 1982, and already 30 years old in the 1987 season. But, surprise surprise, he became the best closer in baseball from 1988 to 1990, and posted other great years in 1992, 1994, and 1997.

Cool stat: Man alive, did Jones have great control. For pitchers over the age of 40, check out this list of highest K/BB ratio, minimum 70 IP. Jones holds 4 of the top 14 slots, including the top 2!

#292 Carney Lansford

Why this card is awesome: Because of peaks and valleys. This card makes it look like Lansford was way past his peak, winning a batting title in 1981 with a .336 BA. Little did we know in 1988 that he'd hit .336 again in 1989, helping Oakland win the World Series (though narrowly missing out on the batting title to Kirby Puckett.)

Cool stat: Lansford is the 4th most-recent player to hit .336 or better in any season among his last 4, minimum 502 PAs.

#291 Astros Leaders

Why this card is awesome: Because this is one of the few leaders cards in this set that actually features two of the best players for the team in Kevin Bass and Billy Hatcher, although I'd prefer a card of Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott. Or, heck, Larry Andersen and a bag of balls.

Cool stat: The 1988 Astros had the most players age 35 or older for an NL team.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

#290 Tony Fernandez

Why this card is awesome: Because this card captures what we forgot--just how great Fernandez was at the beginning of his career. Sure, we know he had a solid career, but he was pretty awesome 1986 & 1987.

Cool stat: What does Fernandez have in common with Tris Speaker, Tony Gwynn, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Honus Wagner, Hank Aaron, Rod Carew, and a bunch of other fantastic players? They're all in the top 20 of all time for highest batting average across seasons aged 36 ad 37, minimum 1000 PAs.

#289 Dave Bergman

Why this card is awesome: Because at the time he lived in Grosse Pointe Woods. Why, I ask, not Grosse Pointe Woodse? Also, his eyebrows and mustache look exactly the same.

Cool stat: Bergman hit 16 career triples. 6 came in Tiger stadium, but 3 came in the Royals' home park. He got only 7 RBIs on those 16 triples, and only 6 of them came with any runners on base.

#288 Pat Pacillo

Why this card is awesome: Because the background of this card is truly spectacular. There are FIVE, count 'em, FIVE different Reds in uniform in the background, all doing different things. Sometimes you see clusters of players in the background all doing one thing, but here they are all on their own. And that must be 1988 NL ROY Chris Sabo right behind Pacillo (it's the glasses, man.)

Also, this is our second and final Reds pitcher in the PEE PEE club.

Cool stat: Pacillo gave up 9 career homers, including 2 to Dale Murphy. This was his last card as he stuck in the bigs for just 2 seasons.

#287 Manny Trillo

At long last, Manny Trillo Day is here!

Readers of this blog know that Matt from The Ugly Baseball Card Blog has made a lot of comments here about Manny Trillo. If you read his blog, you know that he's a very funny guy.

So, I contacted Matt about guest-writing the copy for Trillo's card, which he did (see below.) I asked him how he wanted to be credited on this post, whether as "Matt" or "The Ugly Baseball Card Blog" or something else. He replied:
"It does't really matter, though I suppose 'Matt' wouldn't mean much to anyone besides my mom. (And she's busy making and MTDay cake.) Ugly Baseball Card is fine."
I looked at that for a while before realizing that MTDay meant "Manny Trillo Day," a day Matt's apparently been looking forward to here at 88 Topps Cards for quite a while. :)

Anyway, I really appreciate Matt's contribution, and without further delay, let's get on with it:

Why this card is awesome: On Dec. 25, 1950, Jesus Manuel Marcano Trillo was born in Venzuela. Was it a coincidence he was born on the other Jesus’s birthday? It seems to be.

Manuel was an average baby: two arms, two legs, one head. And all in the right order.

But soon, Jesus Manuel became a man. And then he became a Manny.

By the time he debuted with the Oakland Athletics on June 28, 1978, he was a legend. He proceeded to take the world of Major League Baseball by storm.

In a May 15, 1977, in the first half of a double header against the Expos, Trillo recorded every out of the game when each Montreal batter lined out to him.

On July 24, 1985, in a game against the St. Louis “Cardinals”, Trillo killed four female fans with his dashing good looks.

Finally, on June 29, 1987, in the game pictured here, Manny Trillo scored an unassisted quadruple play by dropping the called third strike on a ball that he threw, then chasing the batter down and tagging him as he rounded first, before finally doubling up the runners on second and third. (He also pinch-bunted a home run.)

Unfortunately, this card is awesome for none of those reasons. This card is awesome because without a doubt it is the only card in the set that features a cyborg. There’s no way that is Manny Trillo. That has to be a robot taking his place. He doesn’t really look like that - does he?

If that’s really him, I apologize and I may have to adjust some of my earlier comments. Like the one about him carrying a human head in a bowling bag.

Cool stat: Manny Trillo had three index fingers. That’s why he bunted like that - he had plenty to spare.

Thanks again to The Ugly Baseball Card Blog!

Thanks Lance at 1530 Homer

I just wanted to give a quick shout out to Lance McAlister at 1530 Homer, a Cincinnati-area sports radio station. Apparently he mentioned 88 Topps Cards on his radio show yesterday, and we got a ton of hits from that.

Welcome, Reds fans. Some past Reds cards that have been posted here so far:

Reds Leaders

Barry Larkin

Buddy Bell

Eric Davis

Lloyd McClendon

Paul O'Neill

#286 Chuck Crim

Why this card is awesome: Because whereas Freddie Toliver just looked sad, Crim looks totally crestfallen.

Cool stat: Mop-up leaders 1988-1991: most games finished with fewer than 30 saves over that span. Crim is 3rd.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

#285 Jim Presley

Why this card is awesome: Because he was signed by a scout who should have been a batting coach - Rip Tutor. (Think about it...)

Cool stat: Presley's 1986 cracks the top 10 for most strikeouts in a season with 27 or fewer homers.

#284 Larry Bowa

Why this card is awesome: Because if you like the combo of brown & orange (which I do) then this card is for you.

Cool stat: Normally I comment on the team for manager cards, but I wanted to give you a little Larry Bowa knowledge. For a guy with a career OPS+ of 71, he had a lot of big hits. For example, he had 8 walk-off plate appearances. I especially like the last one, a bunt single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 14th!

#283 Phil Lombardi

Why this card is awesome: Because I just love this photo. He looks even more "hardcore catcher" than Floyd Rayford, who is coming up shortly. He's got the knee pads and the mask, although he's missing the chest protector. But, hey, he's Phil Lombardi. He don't need no stinkin' chest protector.

Cool stat: Of his 102 career plate appearances, just one put his team in the lead. That was one of his 3 career homers.

#282 Pat Perry

Why this card is awesome: Because Perry is standing in front of something weird...a barn? An airplane hangar? Also, he's the first of two quick cards coming up featuring Reds in the PEE PEE club, i.e. first and last initials both "P." (Let me assure you that the PEE PEE club has nothing to do with...oh never mind.)

Cool stat: Perry didn't have a long career, but he wasn't bad. Spanning 1985 to 1990 (his entire career), he makes the top 25 for fewest hits per 9 innings among pitchers with at least 100 IP. Go, PEE PEE, go!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

#281 Jerry Hairston

Why this card is awesome: Because of more crazy glasses. Seems like half the White Sox (or ex-White Sox in Ron Kittle's case) in this set have weird glasses.

Cool stat: Papa Hairston has two boys in the bigs right now: Jerry Jr. and Scott. From 1970 to 1990, Hairston tied for second (6) in most seasons with 20-something RBIs. Only Rick Cerone Dave Collins had more (7.)

#280 Pete Incaviglia

Why this card is awesome: Because of the unusual card back, since Incaviglia didn't play any minor-league ball until the downside of his career. So they had only those ML seasons in 1986 and 1987 to put on there. So then we got not one, not two, not three, but four facts about Pete's career. Surprisingly, they don't mention anything about his first steroid injected.

Cool stat: Incaviglia's 1986 was the second-worst season (ranked by OPS) for a player with at least 185 strikeouts.

#279 Randy St. Claire

Why this card is awesome: Because this is an uncorrected error card. Based on this photo, clearly this guy's name is Randy St. Glare.

Cool stat: St. Claire has the 12th-most IP in a career with exactly one hit allowed per inning. Totally meaningless, but absolutely cool.

#278 Jose Cruz

Why this card is awesome: Because I like how Cruz and most of the crowd are tracking the flight of a fly ball. I like to imagine it's a game-winning homer.

Cool stat: Perhaps it was one of his 6 walk-off homers. By the way, Cruz pinch-hit in this game on April 19th, 1974. Perhaps he was distracted, though, since his son (major leaguer Jose Cruz Jr.) was born that day.

Monday, March 24, 2008

#277 Alejandro Pena

Why this card is awesome: Because for those of us who remember Pena as a member of 3 World Series teams, it's weird to see that in 1984, he tied for the league lead in shutouts. His 2 full years as a starter are a distant memory.

Cool stat: Pena cracks the top 10 for relievers since 1980 with at least 1000 IP ranked by fewest hits per 9 innings.

#276 Luis Salazar

Why this card is awesome: Because of another weird background. Sure there are a couple of Cubs there, but there's also a chubby guy wearing a white shirt and khaki shorts.

Cool stat: Salazar was a pretty poor basestealer, and he had one game where he got caught stealing twice. The Padres lost by one run, and Salazar was CS after getting on base to lead off the game, and CS again the 8th during a potential rally. In his career, he had 117 SB, but only a 69% success rate.

#275 Kevin Seitzer

Why this card is awesome: Because of a funny misread on my part. 1988 Topps was the first set I ever collected, and I wasn't that familiar with the players when I started buying packs in the offseason before the '88 season. For some reason, I misread this card as "Kevin Seltzer." I thoroughly embarrassed myself in a group of friends by referring to him several times as "Seltzer." This is a nice card and another great selection for the All-Star Rookie team. Topps did a great job this year picking All-Star Rookies. So far we've had Devon White and Ellis Burks as great selections, and Jeff Musselman as a bad pick. Coming up, if memory serves, we've got Al Pedrique and Mike Dunne as bad choices, but also Matt Nokes and Mark McGwire. Not sure if I've got that right, but stick with the blog and time will tell!

Cool stat: Seitzer had 4 games with 2 homers, and this one was for the ages. Six-for-six, two homers, a double, 4 runs scored, and 7 batted in. Nice.

#274 Junior Ortiz

Why this card is awesome: Because I think Ortiz (for many years the most famous Ortiz in major league history) was a real fan favorite, despite never putting up huge numbers. For one, he's loved in Minnesota for being part of the 1991 championship team.

Cool stat: Ortiz hit just five career homers, but 3 of them came against the Phillies. Of course, if you check his splits, you'll see that he more PAs against the Phillies than he did against anybody else.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

#273 Garth Iorg

Why this card is awesome: Because, look everybody, it's Birdman! If you ignore the ball in Iorg's hand, he looks like he's flapping for his life.

Cool stat: Iorg had one game with two triples, but the Blue Jays still lost.

This was Iorg's last card.

#272 Steve Ontiveros

Why this card is awesome: Because so soon after Billy Bean, we get another player who had the same name as another major-leaguer. And in the case of the two Steve Ontiveri, their names are even spelled the same! And they aren't related!

Cool stat: In the last 50 years, there have been 165 seasons where a pitcher had a WHIP no higher than 1.032 while pitching at least 100 innings. Almost without exception, these are good-to-great pitchers. Ontiveros had such a year in 1994 but had the 11th-worst K/BB ratio on the list.