Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Jose Mesa, 1992 Fleer Ultra #305

In my first blog post of the year, I may have been a little harsh in my criticisms of the Orioles' somnolent winter. After all, Dan Duquette claimed not one, not two, but three pitchers in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft last month. It's been a running joke for a while now that the O's top front office exec treats this draft like his own personal Christmas; after all, he acquired eight players total in his previous six go-rounds. Many of them have been shoehorned onto the team's roster the next season (Ryan Flaherty, T. J. McFarland, Jason Garcia, Joey Rickard, Anthony Santander). But to draft three guys in one fell swoop? That makes it seem like Dan is actively trolling the die-hards among us. The three 2018 hopefuls are 23-year-old lefty Nestor Cortes, 24-year-old righty Pedro Araujo, and 24-year-old righty Jose Mesa, Jr.

Yes, that's right. The Birds are going to take a long look at the son of the 19-year big league veteran who got his start in Baltimore. The elder Mesa didn't do so well in parts of four seasons here, posting a 13-24 record with a 5.41 ERA in 47 starts (and two relief appearances). He walked 131 men and struck out only 127 in 269.1 innings, and in 1992 the O's traded him to Cleveland for a AA outfielder. Two seasons later, the Indians had the good sense to move Jose to the bullpen, and he never looked back. Junior was a 24th-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2012, and has pitched to a 2.86 ERA in four minor league seasons. He's topped out at AA so far, where he allowed three runs in 34.1 innings for Trenton last year. He's whiffed 226 batters in 176 pro innings, a rate of 11.6 per nine IP. It still seems like Jose is a long shot to make (and stick with) the Orioles this season. Nestor Cortes is getting most of the buzz, on account of being a southpaw and having had AAA exposure, but we all know that the O's aren't exactly bubbling over with pitching depth...

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Jeff Ballard, 1992 Donruss #74

I've been listening to Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan's Effectively Wild podcast for the past year, but today was the first time that I'd heard Jeff Ballard's name mentioned on the show. With Sullivan on vacation, Lindbergh was interviewing Forbes contributor David Seideman about his experiences reporting on baseball memorabilia. Seideman offered some details on his latest article, recounting Ballard's recent reunion with a memento from his big league career.

The lefty had long prided himself on his hitting prowess, having eschewed the DH in his college days at Stanford. Obviously he never got to show off his offensive chops during his five seasons in Baltimore, but he never lost the knack. When he joined the Pirates in 1993, Jeff took batting practice reps with the position players instead of joining up with his fellow pitchers. Working primarily in relief during his two years in Pittsburgh, he didn't get many in-game chances to hit, but still made the most of them. Thanks to five hits in thirteen tries, Ballard owns a .385 batting average for his MLB career.

On September 16, 1993, he even struck a ground-rule double off of Marlins reliever David Weathers for his first (and only, as it happened) big league extra-base hit. An unknown fan in Miami caught the ball after it popped over the wall, and for some reason happened to inscribe it with the date and other relevant details. Years later, it was obtained by Gary Stilinovich, a devoted Pirates collector from Texas. He decided that it might mean more to Ballard, and managed to track down the ex-pitcher's home address in Billings, Montana. As you can imagine, Jeff was pleased to have the physical proof of his lone two-base knock, and to share it with his eight-year-old son Kyren and his five-year-old daughter Kennley, both of whom were born well after his playing days.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Todd Zeile, 1997 Score #257

Zach was the first to comment on my initial blog post of the year, so I have fulfilled his request to feature Todd Zeile. As you can see, his 29-game stint with the Orioles in 1996 (38 if you include the postseason) was not long enough for the folks at Score to bother depicting him in orange and black in the following year's card set. Instead, he is pictured with the Phillies, who shipped him and Pete Incaviglia to Baltimore on August 29 of the previous season. In return, the Phils received minor league pitchers Calvin Maduro and Garrett Stephenson. Stephenson, incidentally, was a 16-game winner for the Cardinals in 2000, which I certainly could not have told you before looking it up just this moment.

You may remember Todd Zeile showing off his acting chops as "Mullet" in the 2005 Adam Sandler movie "Mr. Deeds", or as "High Roller" in the 2011 comedy "Zookeeper". I certainly don't, but to each his own. Todd also dabbled in film production, and had a few guest starring spots on the Kevin James sitcom "The King of Queens". Because you asked (yes, you did), Zeile's Kevin Bacon Number is 2. He was in "Zookeeper" with Donna Glee Reim, who was in "R.I.P.D." with Kevin Bacon.

So...if you have a problem with seeing guys in Phillies unis on this O's blog, or reading about awful Adam Sandler and Sandler-adjacent movies in this space, take it up with Zach.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

B'More Boppers, 2017 Topps #36

I'm brushing off the dust for the first blog post of 2018, some ten years and two days since I began this little adventure. At the very least, I want to say I've had a more active offseason than the Orioles. Well, I actually don't want to say that at all, but I may as well clear the below-sea-level bar that Dan Duquette and Co. have set for me.

I'm trying to live a more purposeful life in some ways in this new year, prioritizing methods of self-care and day-to-day living that have gotten lost in the shuffle. That includes my writing, so here I am for as long as I can stick to it. Today's card came from my stocking, because my wife (and Santa Claus) knows what I like. So, how have you all been? As for me:

-First and foremost, I'm currently the father of a very active and curious 18-month-old. I can barely believe it myself. Finn is growing and learning every day, and he makes us laugh and melt and throw up our hands in frustration all at the same time. We brought him along to seven games at Camden Yards last year, and he ran up an impressive 6-0 mark before Dylan Bundy and a snoozy O's offense let him down in a 7-4 loss to the Yankees on September 4. But he seems to love the sights and sounds of the ballpark. When we rolled the dice and took Finn to his first night game on August 5 (my birthday, don'tcha know), he quite pointedly stayed awake and mostly alert throughout the club's 5-2 comeback win over Detroit. Staying up three-plus hours past bedtime and cheering for a three-homer outburst from Adam Jones, Tim Beckham, and Welington Castillo took its toll, of course...the kiddo was out cold in his car seat before we made it onto I-95 for the trip home.

I don't know if Finn will have a consistent love for baseball throughout childhood, but the early signs are good. One of his newest words is "hat", and he'll point to his bitty Oriole Bird cap on its perch by the kitchen door. When we take it down for him, he'll wear it around the house as he plays.

-My wife Janet has now officially been cancer-free since her surgery in September 2016. She finished radiation just before Christmas 2016, and wrapped up a clinical trial of an oral chemo drug last May. Her oncologist's preferred target is three years from the initial diagnosis - March 1, 2019 in this case. It seems so far away, but we will get there.

-As I alluded to above, it's as frustrating to be an Oriole fan right now as it has been in...five or more years, easily. The Birds just had their first losing season since 2011, and they truly earned it with some putrid starting pitching and a handful of lame offensive performances (paging Mark Trumbo). As the Yankees begin loading up on big names again, Baltimore...stands pat. They've already missed their window to trade Zach Britton for anything of value, and now he's out until at least July with an Achilles tear. They fielded offers for Manny Machado (who, to my frustration, they did not manage to extend at any point in the past six seasons, during which time it should have been priorities #1-10 on their list), unsurprisingly couldn't find anyone willing to part with two MLB-ready starting pitchers for a one-season rental, and backed off from declarations of Manny's availability. So, if you're not tearing down and rebuilding, what are you doing? Reloading for the season ahead? Forget that. Here's the list of pitchers that the Orioles have signed this offseason who project to join Bundy and Kevin Gausman in the rotation, addressing the screaming need for a team whose starters barfed up a 5.70 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and .837 OPS allowed in 2017:

...Oops. C'mon, guys. Get creative, get aggressive, get...somebody. Mike Mussina isn't walking through that door, and if you don't wake up, even the likes of Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, and Jaime Garcia will be off limits.

-I don't want to end on a down note. Otherwise, life is good. We are rolling with the punches and doing what we can to make our world a little bit better. I hope you are too. As always, thanks for reading. Welcome back.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Caleb Joseph, 2016 Topps Orioles Team Set #BO-2

I swear that I wasn't going to do the baby thing again tonight, but then Caleb Joseph tied a career high with four hits in as many at-bats, helping spoil Matt Wieters' return to Baltimore as the O's beat the Nationals, 6-4. That's five straight wins, folks.

So what does this have to do with my first-born? Well, two weeks ago, Caleb made a Saturday afternoon appearance at Point Breeze Credit Union in Westminster. Janet, Finn, and I jumped at the chance to say hello to our favorite person on the team. (Well, maybe Finn was mostly just along for the ride.) As it turned out, we arrived at 12:15, just as the shuttle showed up to deliver Joseph. It was pretty cool to see a good-sized crowd already lined up inside the bank, cheering for the team's backup catcher as he made his slightly belated entrance. He apologized for being late, and jokingly blamed the team rep that had accompanied him.

When we got to the front of the line, we introduced Caleb Joseph to our Finn Caleb, and told him that we'd even debated naming him Caleb Joseph...but Janet "thought it would be weird". Caleb's well-reasoned response was that "everyone has to be named for somebody".

At the time of our meeting, #36 was 0-for-12 on the young season and famously had not driven in a run since September 11, 2015. My sister and I had tickets to the game later that night (April 22, 2017), and wouldn't you know it? Caleb Joseph started that night and went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored in the Birds' 4-2 win over Boston; he hasn't looked back since. I'm not saying that my kid is a lucky charm or anything, but Caleb is now batting .316 (12-for-38) with a home run and four RBI since their meeting. Yep, the long dry spell is over. You're welcome.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Joey Rickard, 2016 Topps Update Series #US105

I'm still floundering about trying to re-establish blogging as a routine, but I love showing off photos of my ridiculously photogenic son (not that I'm biased or anything), so that's the angle tonight. Earlier today, the Orioles played the 2,000th game in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and it also happened to be Finn's first. He must have brought them luck, because #2,000 resembled #1: a shutout win for the O's.

I wouldn't have guessed the outcome from the way the game started. Chris Tillman got the call after missing the first month of the season with an ouchy shoulder, and started by throwing nine balls in his first ten pitches. But the White Sox squandered a bases-loaded opportunity en route to an 0-for-7 performance with runners in scoring position. Tillman seemed to discover his command as the game wore on, allowing three singles and three walks in five scoreless innings. Alec Asher bridged the gap to the ninth inning, scattering five hits in three and a third frames. After he yielded back-to-back singles with one out in the ninth, Brad Brach came on to earn the save. The first batter he faced, Leury Garcia, hit the ball right back to the mound, and Brach started the 1-6-3 double play.

All of the scoring happened in the first two innings against Chicago ace Jose Quintana, who was uncharacteristically wild. Adam Jones and Manny Machado drew back-to-back walks in the bottom of the first, and Mark Trumbo followed with his specialty, an infield single. A Chris Davis sac fly put the Birds on the board, and rookie Trey Mancini knocked in Machado with a single to right field. The O's put up another two-spot in the second, thanks to base hits by four of the first five hitters in the inning. Jones and Machado each drove in a run. Joey Rickard, everyone's favorite doe-eyed Royal Farms spokes-outfielder, was named Player of the Game on the strength of a 3-for-5 performance with a double, a run scored, and a stolen base.

I won't pretend that Finn paid rapt attention to the game; he is ten months old, after all. He was far more interested in grabbing the cap off of my head and the sunglasses off of Janet's face, when he wasn't staring at the other fans in the rows behind us. He was also quite enamored of Janet's Dippin' Dots, and once he started fussing in the late innings, she was fortunately able to cover him with a blanket and get him to sleep. But we did get his "first game" certificate from Fan Assistance, and we have these excellent photos to remember the day.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Vintage Fridays: Ken Singleton, 1979 Topps #615

Time flies, and it flies, and it flies. Adam Jones is in the midst of his tenth season in Baltimore, and it seems like every day he's leapfrogging notable names from Birdland's past on the franchise leader boards. Just nine games into the 2017 season, he's attained the following ranks:

-11th in games played (1330), passing Brian Roberts (1327)

-7th in base hits (1458), passing Roberts (1452) and Ken Singleton (1455)

-9th in doubles (245), passing Boog Powell (243)

-5th in home runs (224), passing Rafael Palmeiro (223)

Oh, and by the by, the O's are a league-best 7-2, which includes a perfect 4-0 mark against the 1-9 Blue Jays. I can live with that.