When it comes to baseball cards, there's really nothing as consistently entertaining as an action shot of a pitcher in mid-throw. The sheer concentration and exertion involved in hurling a baseball at speeds of 80-100 miles per hour can cause some pretty ridiculous facial expressions, as it so happens. Former Orioles lefty Arthur Rhodes is responsible for some of the funniest faces in my collection.
Though Arthur was considered a prospect in 1992, he spent his first five years in the major leagues floundering in the O's starting rotation and battling injuries. His won-lost record was 17-24, and his ERA 5.70. Still, he had a powerful left arm, a valuable commodity in baseball. In 1993, he was even considered the centerpiece of a potential trade with the Padres for slugging first baseman Fred McGriff.
When Davey Johnson took over as manager in 1996, one important decision he made was to use Rhodes solely as a reliever. In a middle-innings "vulture" role, the pitcher thrived. He won 9 games against a single loss for the Wild Card winning Orioles. In 53 innings he struck out 62 batters. Rhodes was even better the following year, going 10-3 with a 3.02 ERA and 1.05 WHIP and striking out 100 batters for the only time in his career. Arthur even received minor consideration in the MVP voting due to the vital role he played for a Baltimore team that led the American League East from Opening Day on through the end of the season. Though the Birds once again fell short of a World Series, you couldn't blame Arthur Rhodes, who did not allow a run in his three postseason appearances.
Rhodes has had a lengthy and often successful career as a reliever, although it looks like the end may be near. He struggled with the Phillies in 2006 (5.32 ERA), and missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery. Arthur is now in camp with the Seattle Mariners on a minor-league contract. At age 38, he might be running out of chances.
But in baseball, anything is possible.