Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#268 Mike Scott

Card thoughts: Scott looks like he’s going to fall over.

The player: Mike Scott was a mediocre pitcher with a great fastball and no good secondary pitches. That is until he discovered the split-finger fastball (and/or started scuffing the ball, as was rumored). A high draft pick by the Mets in 1976, Scott has some success in the win column in the Minors (14 wins at Jackson in 1977; another 10 at Tidewater the next year), but despite a blazing fastball he didn’t strike out a lot of guys.

This inconsistency plagued him the majors as well. In the early 80s, the Mets were horrible, and Scott certainly wasn’t a savior for the team, as he went 5-10 in 1981 and 7-13 in 1982, when he walked (60) almost as many as he struck out (63). 

The Mets gave up on Scott, and in what turned out to be a terrible deal, traded him to the Astros for fourth outfielder Danny Heep. In the more pitching friendly Astrodome, Scott had his first winning season, going 10-6 with a career low 3.72 ERA. But he regressed to the mean in 1984, sporting a terrible .313 winning percentage (5 wins against 11 losses).

Clearly, Scott was at a career crossroads. Desperate for help, he took the advice of teammate #197 Enos Cabell, who had seen what the Tigers pitching coach Roger Craig had done for Jack Morris. The secret was the split-fingered fastball, and as Craig was between coaching gigs in the winter of 1984, he taught it to Scott.

The change in effectiveness was dramatic. Scott was one of the more dominant National League pitchers when this card was issued, even surpassing teammate #100 Nolan Ryan. In the first of what would be five straight star campaigns, he went 18-8 with a 3.29 ERA. He still wasn’t striking out a lot of batters, more often getting players to pound the ball into the ground.

That would all change in Scott’s Cy Young award winning 1986 campaign. Although he once again won 18 games, the improvement in his other statistics was dramatic. He led the league in ERA with 2.22, and strikeouts with 306 (in 275 innings pitched). Scott struck out an extraordinary 4 batters for every one he walked. The most dramatic moment was when he pitched a no-hitter against the Giants to clinch the division (radio call here).

Scott’s dominance continued in the playoffs he completely dominated the Mets in Games 1 and 4, psyching them out by either scuffing or pretending to scuff the ball. He did not get a chance to do it three times, as the Mets won the pennant in 16 innings in Game 6.

Although Scott would never again have as dominant of a season, he still won 16 games in 1987, 14 in 1988, and a league leading 20 in 1989. By this time, Scott was 34 and age and injuries took their toll. After his 20 win season, he only pitched one more full season (9-13 in 205 innings in 1990), before retiring a few months into the 1991 campaign. His number has been retired by the Astros.

While the split-finger fastball was one of the most popular “new” pitches (although it developed out of the older forkball) in the 1980s, it has rapidly gone out of favor, as many pitching coaches suspect it effects the speed of the pitcher’s fastball over time. Only 13 pitchers today throw the pitch regularly.

Rear guard: Jimmy Wynn (1970 card here), also known as "The Toy Cannon" (awesome nickname!), was one of the early stars of the Astros franchise. He hit 33 home runs in 1969 and 223 (out of 290) for the Astros, 4th all time. Denis Menke (card) on the other hand, had occasional power, but his forte was driving people in. He drove in over 90 in 1969 and 1970. 

It's worth a short paragraph about the inning these guys both hit grand slams in. It was an 11-run ninth inning against two hapless Mets pitchers, Cal Koonce and Ron Taylor. 14 players came to the playte (both Wynn and Menke batted twice, with Wynn scoring first on Menke's grand slam, and later on his). There were 4 walks, 7 hits, and one passed ball. Nobody was left on base. 

To add insult to injury, this was only the first game of a doubleheader, and Astros scored 11 more runs in the second game to sweep it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

#267 Paul Molitor

Card thoughts: Exciting shot of Molitor throwing out a runner from third base in spring training. It's not often you see an infielder lose his hat when making a play, so it is most likely Molitor had to dive for the ball (or came running in) before making the play. Since Molitor was a below average fielder (at every position) but an above average hitter (to say the least) it is interesting that Topps picked a picture of Molitor fielding. But that's probably because it makes the card exciting.

The player: If you were the pick the most likely young hitter to make the hall of fame in 1985, I doubt Molitor would be on your list. But the Hall of Fame is made up both of hitters who were spectacular for, say, a decade and those who had isolated years of greatness, but many more years of consistent work. Molitor is of the latter category.

That’s not to say that Molitor was not considered at least a very good player for most of his career. A first round pick by the Brewers, he placed second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1978 on the strength of his .273 average, 54 runs scored, and 30 steals. The next two seasons, Molitor became the Brewers leadoff hitter, hitting over .300 each year and playing all over the field, mostly at second.

Jim Gantner took over at second in 1981, moving Molitor to outfield. He also gave up heavily using cocaine and marijuana that year. In 1982, Molitor had his first really great year. Arguably the MVP of the Brewers pennant winners, He led the league with 136 runs, and contributed to the “Harvey’s Wallbangers” image of the team by hitting 19 home runs (he would only top this one more time).

In 1983, Molitor’s numbers were not quite as spectacular, but he still scored 95 runs and had 41 steals. But the next year, he injured his elbow in spring training, and eventually had to have season ending surgery in May. When this card appeared in packs, Molitor had come all the way back from his injury, and had a year almost identical to the one he had in 1983, as he made the all-star team for the second time. 

The 1987 season was important in many ways for Molitor. It was the first season that he played the majority of his games at designated hitter (the Brewers wanted to try Earnie Riles at third), and although he only played only 118 games, he still led the league with 114 runs and 41 doubles. But the highlight of the year would have to be his 39 game hitting streak, the fifth best in history. This helped push his batting average up to a career high .353. In 1988, Molitor was voted in as the starting second baseman in the all star game for the first time (this confuses me: Molitor only played one game at second that year. Why was he listed as a second baseman on the ballot?). He didn’t get a hit, and struck out one in three at bats. He almost set a record that season by stealing 20 straight bases without being caught.

The Paul Molitor pattern was established: Several years of consistently good production, interrupted by isolated years of spectacular numbers. One such year was in 1991, when he once again led the league in runs scored (133) hits for the first time (216) and triples (13). This was also the point when Molitor became almost exclusively a designated hitter, which led to a late career renaissance. 

When the Brewers wanted to cut his pay after a down year in 1992, Molitor signed with the Blue Jays. He had one of his spectacular seasons in first Blue Jay season. With his speed declining, Molitor was moved from the leadoff spot, and ended up leading the league in hits (211) and for the first time drove in 100 runs (111). He came in second to Frank Thomas in MVP voting, and was spectacular in the playoffs, winning the World Series MVP award by hitting .500 in the series. Look at these stats: 10 runs scored, 12 hits, half of which were for extra bases (2 each of doubles, triples, and home runs).
One more spectacular Molitor season was in the works. Now with the Twins, at age 39, Molitor once again led the league in hits with 225 and hit .341. Even more impressive, he drove in 113 runs while only hitting 9 home runs. Molitor ended his career 1998 while still a productive hitter (75 runs scored, 69 batted in, .274 average).  He immediately became the Twins bench coach, a position he held for the next three years.

In all, Molitor amassed 3,319 hits (9th all time), 1,782 runs scored, 605 doubles (11th all time), and .306 average. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2004.

Rear guard: Topps was not very predictive when it came to Molitor, not even deigning him a card ending in a "5" (should have been a zero). Here's Molitor's first Topps card, one of the better multi-rookie cards, as #130 Alan Trammel is also included (Molitor came up as a shortstop). #113 U.L Washington was still playing when the 1986 set was issued. His career is discussed earlier on this blog. The unfortunately named Mickey Klutts is included here on the strength of his 14 homers and 65 RBIs at Syracuse in the International League. He was never more than a reserve shortstop in the majors.

Molitor's 5 hits were against the Cardinals in the first game of the World Series that the Brewers won 10-0. All the hits were singles, and he would go on to hit .355 the rest of the series.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

#266 Keith Moreland

Card thoughts: A lot of the in game Cub card shots seem to be taken at this park. Let’s see: Astroturf, black background. I’m guessing Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati.

The player: Moreland was part of the great migration of former Phillies to the Cubs in the early 80s, a migration which included key components of the 1984 division winners including Warren Brusstar, Gary Mathews, #188 Bob Dernier, Larry Bowa, #19 Rich Hebner, #98 Dick Ruthven, and, of course, Ryne Sandberg. Other than Sandberg, Moreland was one of the few players to have consistent success with the Cubs after that season.

Nicknamed “Zonk,” Moreland was a two-way star at the University of Texas, playing football for legendary coach Darnell Royal, and on a baseball team that won the College World Series. Moreland was drafted by the Phillies and came up in their system as a catcher. He was the primary backup to #62 Bob Boone in the 1980 and 1981 seasons. When Greg Luzinski came down with a stomach virus in the 1980 World Series, Moreland stepped in for three games as the designated hitter and hit .333. The Phillies wanted to groom #95 Ozzie Virgil for the catching job because they felt Moreland’s defense wasn’t up to snuff (although his bat was). In one of the first of many raids on his former team, new Cubs GM Dallas Green acquired Moreland and pitcher Dickie Noles for Mike Krukow. 

The Cubs shifted Moreland to the outfield, and he spent 1982 at all three positions, while contributing 15 home runs and 68 RBIs. Although he was never a great fielder, his bat kept him in the lineup. Moreland finally became a regular (right field) the next year and responded with his first +.300 campaign and a career high .838 OPS. He was a fiery team leader, but I won’t resort to the old cliché that it was because he had red hair. In one incident, Moreland, a former college football star, tackled Expos pitcher #52 Chris Welsh after the latter had plunked him in the neck with a fastball.

1984 was not as good for Moreland as Mel Hall took his spot in right to start the year. But Hall was later traded for Sutcliffe, and Moreland went back to right, although he also filled in at first and third. Still, his power numbers and on-base percentage dropped drastically. But he drove in 80 runs and hit .333 in the playoffs. You can see some of his highlights of that season at the 23:00 mark of this video

When this card was issued, Moreland was in the midst of his best season. Although he only hit 14 home runs, he was mister clutch, driving in 106 (4th in the league) and hitting .307. After another solid year in ’86, the Cubs made the idiotic decision to move Moreland permanently to third base. This was because they signed Andre Dawson, a premier right fielder, in the off season. But anyone who watched the 1987 season on WGN remembers the numerous balls Moreland booted or failed to get to. He led the league in errors, and posted a poor .935 fielding percentage. But it didn’t affect Moreland bat, as he hit a career high 27 home runs and drove in 88 that homer happy year.

No longer really having a place for Moreland on the club, awful #231 Jim Frey did what he knew best: traded a productive player for a washed up reliever (Goose Gossage). Unfortunately for the Padres, Jack Murphy Stadium sucked all the life out of Moreland’s bat, and he hit a measly 5 home runs (but still drove in 64). That was enough to get him sent to the Tigers for Walt Terrell after the end of the season. With the Tigers, Moreland was the team’s primary designated hitter, and he hit .299 in that role. But the Tigers were not in contention that season, so he was shipped to the Orioles down the stretch. A .215 average off the bench led to his exit from pro baseball.

Moreland returned to Texas and spent time as a mentor and color man for the University of Texas baseball and football teams (he had played on both). After filling in for years for Ron Santo or Bob Brenly when they were away, Moreland was named full time radio color man for the Cubs in 2011, a role he continues to fill.

Rear guard: Here's Moreland's first Topps card. So innocent! His first major league home run came offhall of fame pitcher Tom Seaver, who at that time was pitching for the Reds.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#265 Ron Davis

Card thoughts: That's quite a picture flaw, with that line cutting Ron's leg off at the knee. But also a good illustration of Davis' three-quarters motion. Most likely, he's throwing a 90+ fastball.

The player: Ron Davis is a perfect example of the relief pitcher who shines for a time, but can’t keep up the consistency over time.
Davis was originally drafted by the Cubs (who would later acquire him when he was no longer effective—typical Cubs), but was traded after three mediocre minor league seasons as a starter to the Yankees for veteran pitcher (and former Cubs star) Ken Holtzman. 

Davis didn’t win Rookie of the Year honors in 1979, but he probably should have as he went 14-2 and led the league with an .875 winning percentage. He also was the first pitcher to be used as the exclusive set-up man for a closer, in this case Goose Gossage. Davis pitched in his role effectively until 1981, with ERAs under 3, and making the all star team in 1981 after having an 0.80 ERA in 33+ first half innings.

You can probably mark the ending of Davis’ effectiveness in the 1981 World Series. After not giving up a run in the previous two post season series (in the strike-shortened 1981 season, there was an ALDS), he imploded in the Yankees loss to the Dodgers. Davis walked 5 and gave up 6 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Perhaps seeing something worrisome in this performance, the Yankees traded him with #162 Greg Gagne to the Twins after the season for Roy Smalley. He immediately drew stingy owner Calvin Griffith's ire after he won an arbitration case that earned him $750,000 for the 1983 season. The skinflint threatened to trade him saying his win "made me so sick I almost vomited", but instead signed him to a lucrative contract that had the interesting clause that he could not be traded until after Kent Tekulve and Goose Gossage had signed contracts in early 1984.  

He was installed as the Twins closer for the next several years although his save totals were impressive (1982-22; 1983-30; 1984-29; 1985-24), he was nicknamed “Boom-Boom” for his propensity to blow saves in spectacular fashion, often seemingly coasting to an easy save before walking the bases full and then giving up the big hit.  Davis’ 14 blown saves in 1984 (remember, he saved 29 that year) still stands as a record, and I think as an indicator of how poor the save statistic is for measuring a reliever’s effectiveness.

The Twins were willing to put up with his high wire act until early in the 1986 when, after recording two quick saves, Davis blew another two, in both cases loading the bases with walks after two were out. They found a sucker in the Cubs (always a sucker in these situations) who gave the Twins two of their own disappointing relievers, Ray Fontenot and George Frazier. I recall really hating Davis, and a look at his Cubs stats that season (7.65 ERA in 20 innings) and the next (5.85 ERA in 32 1/3) reminds me why. After spending a bit of time with the Dodgers at the end of the 1987 season, he finished his career with 17 1/3 innings pitched for the Giants the following year.

Davis runs a sort of Little League skills combine, and his son, Ike Davis the starting first baseman for the Mets, is one of the graduates.

Rear guard: Most people forget that former Yankees and Padres star third baseman Graig Nettles started his career with the Twins. But here's the deal: Were they really a combo if they never played together on the team?

Graig was the more successful brother, having hit over 300 home runs and over 2,000 hits. But Jim was less successful, bouncing up and down from the majors to the minors for 11 years. He hit only 16 career home runs and had 129 career hits. Here's Graig's first card as a Twin, and the same for Jim.

Monday, October 22, 2012

#263 Darren Daulton

The player: Darren Daulton is one of the more popular ex-Phillies, perhaps because he was the clubhouse leader for several winning Phillies teams in the early 90s. This is his rookie card.

Daulton, nicknamed “Dutch,” spent several years backing up Ozzie Virgil and Lance Parrish, finding it hard to dislodge the veterans. He did not hit well as a backup, struggling to hit over .200 between 1985 and 1988. The trade of Parrish to the Angels opened up the starting role for Parrish, but initially he hit only .201, but with 8 home runs and 44 RBIs.

Daulton turned it around in 1990, hitting .268 and slugging .414. After a year beset by injuries (but still productive as he hit 12 home runs in 285 at bats), he exploded with a career year in 1992. He would lead the league in runs batted in with 109, and also contribute 27 home runs and 80 runs scored. The next season Daulton put up similar numbers with 24 home runs, 105 driven in, and a career high 90 scored. His 117 walks made up for his fairly average, (.257) average. 1993 also was the first time Daulton would be in the post season, and he hit .263 in the NLCS to help the Phillies win the pennant.

Knee injuries would curtail the rest of Daulton’s career (not helped by having to play his home games on an artificial surface). He had a .929 OPS in 1994, before going down with the injury, and only managed to play in 98 games in 1995, and 5 in 1996, before being traded to the Marlins midway through the next season for reserve outfielder Billy McMillon. 

The Marlins were World Series bound, and Daulton’s final major league at bats were in the series. He hit an astonishing .389 and scored 7 runs in 7 games while earning a World Series ring. Deciding to go out on top, Daulton retired after the final out.

Daulton has been arrested several times for DUI (in 1988, 2001, and 2003), and seems to be a bit of a reckless driver in all events, having had his license suspended several times for other moving violations. An odd bird, Daulton believes in ESP and the occult (including numerology—not surprising as a former big leaguer), and has authored “If They Only Knew” about the subject, a book not very favorably reviewed. He also spends time with his foundation, and running Darren Daulton Enterprises (although I’m unclear how Daulton has expertise on energy and telecommunications, the focus of the company).

Rear guard: Lot to digest here, so I'll pick a "first" at random. Well, Daulton's first (and only) hit in the 1983 season came off Pirates reliever Cecilio Guante. He later came around to score on Jeff Stone's triple.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

#262 Mario Ramirez

Card thoughts: This is seriously one of the weirdest cards in the set. Even as a kid, I found it hilarious. I mean, what the hell is Ramirez looking at? Does he think the camera is to the right of him? Or is he just a real goofy guy?

This Ramirez' last Topps card. He looks pretty strange on his 1985 card as well.

The player: Ramirez was drafted by the Mets in 1976, and it soon became apparent that the man simply could not hit. He never hit above .240 in the minors with the Mets, and was prone to the strikeout. Ramirez was such an excellent fielder, however, that he started the 1980 season with the Mets, despite hitting only .218 the year before. Sent down in the late spring, he hit only .208 the rest of the year in the minors.

This didn't dissuade the Padres, who drafted him in the Rule 5 draft in 1981. He still had a hard time hitting in the majors, as evidenced by his .071 and .174 averages in the next two seasons (although he at least got above .250 at AAA Hawaii those years). Ramirez finally became the full-time defensive replacement for #90 Garry Templeton in 1983 and he had a career high 136 at bats . . . and he hit a meager .196, but with a decent .634 OPS, considering his low average.

In the Padres' pennant winning 1984 campaign, Ramirez was even more horrific, hitting .119 (only 7 hits in 59 at bats!), but at least getting on base at a .278 clip. (Amazingly, Ramirez was on the major league club the entire season for the only time in his career).

Despite hitting a career high .283 the season represented by this card, the Padres realized that it was a bit of a luxury carrying a guy on the roster whose only real role was to backup one guy and who couldn't really hit. The 38 games Ramirez would play in 1985 would be his last in the majors.

Rear guard: Here's Gaylord Perry's card from that season. Perry would go on to pitch until he was 44, ending his Hall of Fame career with the Royals pitching 5 innings and giving up 3 runs in a loss to the Angels.

Friday, October 19, 2012

#261 Bobby Valentine

Card thoughts:  How is this for coincidence? The previous post mentioned that the player was in the running to replace Bobby Valentine as manager of the Red Sox. This is a testament to how small the fraternity of baseball really is, and how young (35) Valentine was when this picture was taken.  Little known fact: His wife’s father was pitcher Ralph Branca. 

I believe that Valentine is joshing with Don "Sluggo" Slaught.

The player/manager: Valentine was just one of many hotshot hitters coming up in the Dodgers system in the late 60s and early 70s. It seems like every year, one would win the Pacific Coast League MVP award. Valentine was no exception, winning the award as a 20 year old in 1970. 

Valentine spent most of his career as a utility infielder for the Dodgers, Angels, Padres, and Mets. His career ended prematurely at the age of 29 due to the lingering effects of a compound fracture on his leg suffered years earlier. He coached for the Mets in the 80s before he was named on my 10th birthday to be the manager of Rangers, who led the Rangers to a slow 9-23 start. He would manage the team until midway through the ’92 season, finishing over .500 five times, and coming in second in the AL West in 1986. With the Rangers, Valentine was loud, brash, and willing to try unorthodox things to get his players motivated. He was fired by future president George W. Bush, who owned the team at the time.

After managing at AAA for a year, Valentine went to Japan to manage for a year. He was recalled to the states by the Mets, who believed they needed a manager who would not be walked on by the players. After a year grooming him AAA, Valentine was installed as the manager for the 1996 season. He worked wonders with a talented, but previously under-motivated team, guiding the Mets to five straight winning seasons, the highlight being the 2000 Subway series with the Yankees (which they lost).

By now a familiar pattern, Valentine’s outgoing ways were lauded when the team responded with a winning record. But eventually the act (wrestling Carl Everett, fighting with Rickey Henderson, and (amusingly) sneaking back into the dugout in disguise after being ejected), became too distracting when the Mets were losing, so he was fired in 2002. The Mets organization probably never forgave him, after he made disparaging remarks (along with some insider gossip) about some his players to an audience at the Wharton School of Business.

Valentine then did something unprecedented. He went back to Japan and became the first non-Japanese manager to lead his team to a Japan Series title. Valentine did this despite his reputation of questioning some of Japanese baseballs long standing traditions.

He came back to America and worked as an analyst for ESPN for awhile. The Red Sox picked Valentine, who had the reputation as a quick fixer for troubled but talented teams, as their new manager for the 2012 season. Unfortunately, Valentine wore out his welcome a lot faster than ever had before. Public feuding with players, controversial comments in the media, and a team mutiny spelled his doom. 

Valentine will now have more time to devote to his role as the Director of Public Safety in Stamford, Connecticut a role which he treats more seriously than its honorary designation would bear out. He also owns a sports bar/restaurant in town.

Rear guard: I must have gotten this card late in the year, because lots of the players are checked off. 

No glaring omissions, although I don't remember Dave Stewart having a Phillies card in this set. Between the Rangers and Phillies he pitched 85 innings, however he pitched only 4 with the Phils at the end of the year. They could have issued a Rangers card and put one of those "Traded to the Phillies" messages on it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

#260 Tony Pena

Card thoughts:
Alright! Back to the exciting catcher action shots. Here, Pena goes after a pop up right in front of home plate. Apparently, Topps thought Pena was the real deal, as he lands the coveted card number ending in a zero.

The player: Pena was generally acknowledged to be the premier defensive catcher of his day. Nobody was better at blocking pitches in the dirt. His most distinctive feature was when he would extend his left leg outwards while in a crouch in order to give the pitcher a better low target.

Pena was converted to catcher after playing a variety of positions in rookie ball. By the time he got to AAA in the late 70s, Pena was raking the ball, hitting 34 homers and driving in 97 one year. In the strike shortened season of 1981, Pena would come in 6th in the rookie of the year balloting by hitting .300 and coming in third in percentage caught stealing.

Pena started his prime years in 1982 when 11 home runs, 63 RBIs, and a .293 batting average got him an invite to the all star game. Pena would have similar offensive numbers until 1986. Defensively, from 1982 to 1986 Pena led all catchers in putouts twice (1983 and 1984); assists twice (1984 and 1985); caught stealing twice (1984 and 1985, again); and errors one (1986-more a factor of the number of chances he had behind the plate that year). For his efforts, Pena won the gold glove from 1983-1985, and went to the all star game three more times (1984-1986). 

Despite his accomplishments, many of his Pirate teammates felt Pena was a selfish player. As the “face of the franchise” when the team was pretty terrible, it was probably inevitable that there could be some sour grapes in the clubhouse. Apparently, when Pena was traded before the 1987 season to the Cardinals for Andy Van Slyke, Mike Dunne, and Mike LaValliere, many players refused to shake his hand when he left, and openly stated it was one of the best trades the Pirates had ever made— which turned out to be correct. Perhaps some of the animosity stemmed from Pena demanding a trade the previous year, saying he didn’t want to play for a loser.

Whatever the reason for the trade, 1987 a broken thumb caused by being hit by pitcher Brian Fisher prevented Pena failed from catching at least 130 games for the first time in five seasons. He had a terrible year even when healthy, hitting only .211 with 44 RBIs. He made up for this in the post season, hitting .381 in the NLCS and over .400 in the World Series. 1988 was a bounce back year for Pena, as he hit 10 home runs and drove in 51, similar to the numbers he put up in his prime. Despite driving in a career (full season) low 37 runs in the following year, Pena appeared in his last all star game where in his 2 at bats he didn’t get a hit and ground into a double play. 

He left the Cardinals as a free agent and signed with the Red Sox, where he had three straight seasons of catching over 130 games, despite being in his mid-30s. Pena was still effective defensively, winning his last gold glove in 1991 by leading the league in caught stealing, putouts, and range factor at catcher. He was still effective at the plate as well, although his power had declined significantly, as still hit fior a decent average and drove in a fair amount of runs.

1993 would be his last as a starting catcher, and Pena would play the last 4 years of his career as a backup catcher for the Indians (1994-1996), White Sox (1997), and Astros (1997). He managed to make the post season three of those years, but his well only in the 1995 ALDS and ALCS.

Pena's brother Ramon had a cup of coffee in the majors and his son, also named Tony Pena, was once a starting shortstop for the Royals. Inability to hit after the 2007 season convinced him to switch to pitching. 

In 2002, Pena pere became the manager of the Royals, winning the Manager of the Year award the following season as he led the team to a surprising 83-79 record. After 100+ loss season in 2004, and an 8-25 start in 2005, Pena quit as manager. He was snapped up almost immediately by the Yankees, where he had coached for the last 6 seasons. Pena is currently under serious consideration for the vacant Red Sox managerial post.

Rear guard: Brother batteries? Very boring. *Sigh*. Johnny Riddle caught 7 years in the majors between 1930-1948, never more than 25 games in a season. At age 42, Riddle caught 10 games and hit .200. His career average was .238. Elmer Riddle was really inconsistent, winning in double digits only three times, but once leading the league in ERA (2.24 in 1941) and wins (21 in 1943). In 1948, he was an al star for the first time, despite a pedestrian 12-11 record.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

#259 Dan Pasqua

Card thoughts:  One thing you notice if you are lucky enough to get a box seat at baseball game is what the player’s stance looks like from the side, something that is not usually seen with the camera angle used on TV. If the goal of a baseball card is to give a collector a more intimate look at a player, mission accomplished with this card, which is Pasqua’s first for Topps. His rookie card was issued by Donruss the previous year.

The player: The Yankees were enamored with this type of the player in the 80s: The DH-1B lefty who could reach the short left field fence at Yankees stadium. These players generally hit about 20 homers, but rarely hit for high average or drove many in (#34 Ken Phelps and Kevin Maas are players similar to Pasqua that came after him).

After his rookie year, Pasqua spent a year as the regular leftfielder, hitting .293 with 17 home runs, and another as a reserve outfielder and designated hitter, putting up identical home run numbers, but only 8 other extra base hits out of 74 hits.

Pasqua regained his starting leftfielder position after he was traded to the White Sox after the 1987 season with Mark Salas and Steve Rosenberg for pitchers Richard Dotson and Scott Nielsen. Although he hit a career high 20 home runs, and played a reliable left field, his home runs only produced 50 RBIs and he hit only .227. Pasqua was limited to 74 games after he broke his wrist early in the 1989 season. He bounced back in 1990 as the primary designated hitter for the Sox, slugging .493, with almost half of his 89 hits going for extra bases. 

With incumbent first baseman Carlos Martinez testing the free agent market, Pasqua became the starting first baseman in 1991 and responded by setting career highs in runs scored (71) and runs batted in (66). But this would be his last effective season as Pasqua was moved to right field the next year but hit only .211 with little of his customary power. On the bench in 1993, Pasqua’s poor .205 average signaled the end was near. His .217 average in 1994 in 11 games pushed him out of major league baseball for good. Pasqua’s career rate of 1 home run for every 22.39 at bats is better than hall of fame sluggers Dave Winfield and Andre Dawson.

Pasqua, unlike many former players, looked to distance himself from the game after retirement, and he started LDP, a single-family home construction company that built lots of homes in the Kankakee, Illinois area. The housing market bust claimed LDP as a casualty, and he began work as a community representative for the White Sox.

Rear guard: Pasqua won the MVP in the International League the season represented by this card, despite only playing 78 games. 

Fritz Maisel had led the league in steals the season previous to this feat with 74. He was nicknamed "Flash" for his speed, which must have been prodigious since this was the dead ball era and everyone was stealing bases.