Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Zach Britton, 2016 Topps Archives #137

The Orioles' newest pitcher will need to find a new uniform number, because Zach Britton already has a strong claim to the #53 that Alex Cobb wore in Tampa.

That's right. A week after I groused on this blog about the Birds' apparent plan to play musical chairs with their fifth slot in the starting rotation, the team was sufficiently unimpressed by the prospects of Mike Wright Jr., Nestor Cortes, Gabriel Ynoa, and Miguel Castro that they promised four years and $57 million to Cobb. Somehow, some way, one of the best free agent pitchers on the market stayed unsigned until mid-March, and it was the O's who landed him.

In Alex Cobb, Baltimore gets a pitcher who lost all of 2015 and most of 2016 to Tommy John surgery. Post-surgery, he's struggled to use his split-finger changeup effectively, which had been his best pitch prior to injury. That helps explain his career-low 6.42 K/9 IP last year, and his dip to a 3.66 ERA (113 ERA+). Nevertheless, he also walked a career-low 2.2 batters per nine innings last year, and you probably don't need me to tell you that his BB/9 and ERA were better than any of the O's starters in 2017. The better news: if Cobb regains the feel for his split change, these were his combined numbers in 49 starts in 2013 and 2014: 21-12, 2.82 ERA (134 ERA+), 8.2 K/9 IP. As someone who's spent his whole career with the Rays, he's even used to pitching in the pressure cooker of the American League East. You can scale his performance down a bit with the switch from Tropicana Field to Camden Yards as his home ballpark, but the rotation will still look a hell of a lot better with him than without.

Welcome to Birdland, Alex. Thanks for making our starting pitching exponentially less terrible.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Earl Weaver, 2015 Leaf Heroes of Baseball #18

Boy, you'd never know that Leaf (or parent company Panini) had to scrub the Oriole Bird off of Earl Weaver's cap and the Orioles script off of his jersey, would you? What lack of MLB licensing? In all seriousness, I am quite fond of this card for a handful of reasons:

1. C'mon. It's the Earl of Baltimore, and he has an all-time great smirk.

2. The palm trees. The spring training aesthetic is charming, especially from the late 1960s/early 1970s. (Also, we're expecting MORE SNOW here in Maryland over the next couple of days. I better at least get some time off for it.)

3. Paul Blair is just straight-up photobombing over Earl's left shoulder. Also, his stirrups are on point.

4. Leaf just plain didn't bother editing out the logo on Blair's cap. I guess they figured that the image was small and blurry enough that nobody would care.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Vintage Fridays: "Rod" Hendricks, 1969 Topps #277

There are a few things that I love about this card. First things first, it's Elrod Hendricks' rookie card, and it's incredible to think that a man who spent 37 years in an Orioles uniform was ever a rookie. As fresh-faced and wide-eyed as the longtime O's catcher and coach looks here, he was 27 when he debuted in the majors. He'd been in pro ball since 1959, with minor league stints with the Braves, Cardinals, and Angels, and a swing through Mexico. But what's more, Hendricks is billed simply as "Rod". I've done my homework, and Topps was pretty indecisive when it came to his name. In 1970 and 1971, they went with "Elrod", which is probably the variation on his name that comes to mind for most Baltimore fans. In 1972, 1975, and 1976 (his only other Topps cards), they shortened it to "Ellie". Pick a lane, guys!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Jonathan Schoop, 2015 Topps Chrome #32

Are you ready for Opening Day? (Two weeks to go!) Here in my humble home, we're doing our level best. Season tickets arrived on our doorstep on Tuesday; for the sixth consecutive season, my sister and I have two seats on a 29-game plan. That means we'll be at Oriole Park at Camden Yards when the O's face the Twins on March 29th. We bought two extra tickets for the opener, so that Janet and my dad can join us as well...and naturally, Finn will be there too, since he's still young enough that he won't need his own seat.

Nobody is doing more to gear up for the 2018 season than our near-21-month-old. Finn's vocabulary has been exploding lately, and some of his favorite new words and phrases are: baseball ("BEEBAW!"), Orioles (and "Oriole hat" - he always wants to wear one of his caps or our replica batting helmet), and "Let's go O's!". That last one comes out sounding like "oh-oh-O's!", but he'll get the hang of it. Any time he sees a piece of Birds memorabilia, he excitedly exclaims one or more of the above phrases. It doesn't even have to include the cartoon bird logo; as long as it's orange and black, he knows the deal. We've indoctrinated - I mean, taught - him right.

A few weeks ago, we even bought Finn his first player tee shirt. It features Jonathan Schoop's name and number six, and it fits him just right. Here he is wearing it in tandem with Janet's adjustable O's cap last weekend, when we met Janet's sister for dinner at Heavy Seas Ale House. He is ready for some beebaw.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Luis Garcia, 2002 Fleer Box Score #137

One of the benefits of rebooting this blog after a lengthy period of inactivity was reconnecting with some familiar folks. One of those folks is Max, a fellow lapsed blogger who has recently returned. He had a brick of about 35 Orioles cards earmarked for me, and once we touched base, he put it in the mail. The cards arrived with a note assuring me that it was a true random assortment, and much to my delight, that was definitely the case. There were shiny parallel cards from recent Topps sets, a few Cal Ripken minis, and even a pair of 2009 O-Pee-Chee cards I didn't have. I made a halfhearted attempt to collect that set at the time of its release, but I'm still only at 59% complete. So it was nice to tick off a few boxes on the ol' checklist without any effort on my part. But for sheer randomness, this card right here takes the cake.

Luis Garcia was a 19th-round draft pick of the White Sox in 1994 who spent four years in the minors and topped out at high-A. He then returned to his native Mexico and put up some eye-popping numbers for the Mexico City Tigres. Garcia batted .354/.399/.558 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI in 120 games in 2000. In 2001, he batted .332/.396/.582 with 19 homers and 82 RBI in 98 games. That prompted the Orioles to sign him, and he got a couple of cups of coffee with the big league club in 2002. He appeared in six games with the O's, all as a late-innings replacement. In three pinch-hit chances, he reached on an error, struck out, and singled. In 89 games that year for AAA Rochester, Luis did not distinguish himself. The 26-year-old batted only .242/.260/.330 with four home runs and 31 RBI. He went back to the Mexican League in 2003, and played there (and in winter ball) through 2011, though never matching the lofty stats of his first few seasons with the Tigres.

It's strange enough that Luis Garcia was featured on a card in this set, but it makes sense in light of the Orioles' lack of roster depth at that time. You could look at his numbers in Mexico from the previous two seasons, squint, and hope for the best. What's more inexplicable is that Fleer put out a set with serial-numbered base cards; the back of each card is given a number from one to 2,499. (This one is 1,776 of 2,499, for you fans of William Daniels and Howard Da Silva.) There was apparently a parallel "first edition" insert set, with only 100 serial-numbered copies of each card. I hope you can hear my eyes rolling. Anyhow, thanks, Max! Most of these random cards were new to me, and all are appreciated!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Jake Arrieta, 2012 Topps Heritage High Numbers #H588

Jake Arrieta is a wealthier man than he was last week. After waiting out an unusually slow and austere free agent market, the 2015 NL Cy Young signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies. While the 32-year-old had an impressive four and a half year stay in Chicago (68-31, 2.73 ERA, 147 ERA+), there is still cause for concern. Firstly, he's a pitcher; they're designed to break. More to the point, in the last two seasons his walks and home runs allowed have risen while his cutter has been less effective. Obviously, he was so absurdly unhittable in 2015 that the backslide of 2016-2017 still saw him pitch better than, say, any Orioles starter. (Grumble grumble groan.) But the pessimist in me was sure that if hell froze over and the O's and Jake agreed to reunite, he would've immediately fallen apart. So I'm perversely relieved that he's staying in the National League. We'll see how I feel in June when the Birds are back to shuffling the likes of Mike Wright, Jr. and Gabriel Ynoa in and out of the rotation.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

J. J. Hardy, 2016 Topps #233

One of the troubling realities of being a baseball fan is that you can form attachments to players, only to see them leave your favorite team. Guys get hurt, they decline, they're released or traded or just sign elsewhere as a free agent. It seemed like a foregone conclusion for a while that J. J. Hardy would not be an Oriole in 2018, but in some ways I'm just coming to terms with it nonetheless. Pedro Alvarez recently re-signed with the O's on a minor league deal, and was assigned jersey number two. As shown above, that was J. J.'s number for the past seven years. But he hadn't topped 115 games played since 2014, and hadn't been even league-average as a hitter since 2013. So at age 35, it's not really surprising that Hardy is no longer in Baltimore. In fact, he hasn't signed anywhere.

But J. J. Hardy will be fondly remembered by O's fans. He contributed to three playoff teams, and was a Gold Glover at shortstop for three straight years (2012-2014), for what that's worth. For me, I'll remember that he scored the go-ahead run on Delmon Young's bases-clearing double in the second game of the 2014 AL Division Series, and I'll remember shouting along to Camden Yards PA announcer Ryan Wagner's distinctive call: "J! J! HARDY!" If his 13-year MLB career is truly over, J. J. should feel a real sense of pride. He totaled 188 home runs, with a 30-homer season in 2011. In addition to the aforementioned Gold Gloves, he was a two-time All-Star (2007 and 2013) and a 2013 Silver Slugger awardee. I hope he can find something else to keep him busy after baseball.