Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Baltimore Orioles, 1985 Fleer Stickers

You’ve probably noticed that I use player birthdays as a convenient topic for a blog entry whenever I’m lacking for inspiration. If it seems like it’s happening a lot lately, well…let’s just say that baseball season can’t start soon enough. So I was stunned to pull up Baseball Reference’s birthday page for today only to find that there has not been a single Oriole player who was born on January 31! When you stop and think about it, it’s nothing too unusual. Since 1954, 910 men have suited up for the Birds, and there are of course 366 possible birth dates on the calendar. The rest of baseball picks up the slack for Baltimore, however: Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, and Nolan Ryan were all born on this date. I wouldn’t mind claiming any one of those men as Orioles, but it doesn’t quite work that way.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Daniel Cabrera, 2006 Fleer #234

Pop quiz: Is Daniel Cabrera still an active player? I consider myself fairly plugged in when it comes to baseball news. I'm subscribed to Hardball Talk and Baseball Nation's blog feeds, I follow baseball writers and fans by the dozens on Twitter, and MLB Network is frequently on my TV. Yet somehow, I was surprised by the news that Baltimore's favorite erratic 6'7" pitcher had recently signed a minor-league contract with the Pirates. I did know that Cabrera hadn't been seen in the major leagues since 2009, when he walked 42 batters and struck out only 23 in 51 innings for the Nationals and Diamondbacks. I had a vague memory of the White Sox giving him a go, but Ozzie Guillen and company set him adrift in the middle of spring training in 2010. He didn't catch on with another team until that June, when the Angels picked him up. He appeared in 11 games between AA and AAA with sufficiently awful results (0-3, 7.09 ERA, 20 K/16 BB in 26.2 IP). Baseball Reference has no record of Daniel playing anywhere in 2011, which brings us to the present day. Even considering the lowly state of the Pirates, Cabrera has to be considered the longest of long shots to return to a big league mound in 2012. If he does, I have one friendly suggestion for baseball fans in Pittsburgh: duck.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brooks Robinson, 1987 Hygrade Baseball's All-Time Greats #36

Thoughts and prayers to Brooks Robinson, who is recovering in a Florida hospital after falling six to eight feet off the back of a stage at a charity event in Hollywood on Saturday night. He broke two bones in his rear shoulder area, but is reported to be "doing fine". Let's hope so.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Eddie Murray, 1988 Jiffy Pop Discs #13

Forgive the wonky scan. I guess my scanner isn't very keen on round items. Anyhow, this is the most outta-sight card to come from a package of various O's cards that Max recently sent. Nothing beats a surprise mailing, especially when it arrives on Friday afternoon! Once again, Eddie Murray proves his standing as King of Badass Mountain by appearing in a logo-free airbrushed picture on a goofy circular card that was manufactured by the folks who sell you popcorn kernels in an aluminum pouch...and still looking like a boss. 25 years later, Eddie still keeps you on your toes.

P.S.: Sorry about the "outta-sight" thing. Trying to switch things up from "interesting, "cool", etc. That one might not do it for you.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Vintage Fridays: John Lowenstein, 1980 Topps #287

I'm counting on you, dear readers, to keep me honest on this blog. When I go nearly two years between John Lowenstein posts, someone has to tell me! Fortunately I can use today to set things to rights, as it is Brother Lo's 65th birthday. Unreal, isn't it?

Speaking of unreal, there's a fair chance that you don't remember how good Lo was in 1982. To set the stage, this was his age 35 season, his 13th in the major leagues. To that point, he had been thoroughly average: .245 AVG/.326 OBP/.375 SLG. A 99 OPS+, if you swing that way. 69 career home runs in 2,548 at-bats, a rate of 37 at-bats per homer. Granted, he'd been more productive since coming on board as a lefty batter in Earl Weaver's most notable platoon, putting up a .271/.361/.426 triple slash and a 119 OPS+ in the previous three seasons. Still nothing that would set the baseball world aflame. It's also worth noting that over that 1979-1981 span, he totaled just 21 home runs in about a full season's worth of trips to the plate (582 at-bats/676 plate appearances), which breaks down to a big fly every 27.7 times at bat.

This has been a long-winded way of saying that no one could have expected John Lowenstein to hit the way he did in the year of my birth. No matter how you slice it up, the left fielder was red-hot. He started off with a .318/.375/.591 April, then exploded for 8 home runs, 19 RBI, and a 1.193 OPS in May. June brought a season-low .222 average in 36 at-bats, but he still reached base at a .349 clip. He batted at least .296 in every subsequent month that season, and put up identical 5-HR, 11-RBI tallies in July and August. His OPS was .971 at home and an astronomical 1.059 on the road, with a bit more road power making the difference there. Without further ado, the 1982 season totals:

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/27/2012.

You're not seeing things; that's a 176 OPS+. Frank Robinson had exactly two seasons with a higher number than that. Among all O's players with 300 or more plate appearances in 1982, Brother Lo was the team leader in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS+. He doubled his previous career high in home runs, and topped his previous best RBI total by 18. He came within one double of his personal best, and set new benchmarks in runs scored and total bases. Once again, he did it all playing part-time. That home run rate I've been blathering about? One every 13.4 at-ats. Eddie Murray, who led the Birds with 32 homers that year, went deep once every 17.2 at-bats...a personal best.

Now maybe I'm assuming too much, and many of you remember 1982 as a great year for Lowenstein. But I can't recall ever hearing much about it. Even though I know I've looked at his numbers before, they were kind of hiding in plain sight, maybe because his platoon status kept the counting stats down. On a 94-win team with its share of stars (Eddie, Cal, Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan, the Martinez boys), Brother Lo was an indispensable piece of the puzzle.

One last tidbit to play us out: 11 of John's 24 homers in 1982 either tied the game or gave the O's the lead. Perhaps none was bigger than the two-run walkoff shot he hit off of Jack Morris on Monday, September 20. The 3-1 win helped the Orioles stay within a couple games of first-place Milwaukee, which was crucial when the Brewers came to town a few weeks later for a season-ending, division-deciding four-game set.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gary Roenicke, 1985 Topps #109

Gary Roenicke had a big game earlier this week.

No, I haven't gone completely out of my gourd. I'm referring to the game results from the Statis Pro 1984 blog, a new project from Rob, a fellow O's fan. He's replaying the entire 1984 season using a computer game from his childhood, and posting the results along with scans of 1985 Topps cards of the star players. You'll be glad to know that the Orioles took it to the White Sox on Opening Day by a score of 9-1, with Mike Boddicker going the distance and Gary Roenicke contributing a pinch grand slam. Go give it a look, and tell Rob that Kevin sent you! Or not. I just felt like saying that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jerry Hairston, Jr., 2002 Topps Gallery #111

I've done my share of mockery when it comes to Topps Gallery, so it's only fair that I commend the cards that got it right. This is a photo-realistic portrait of Jerry Hairston, Jr. gunning a throw to first base, with just enough artistic touches to keep it visually interesting. I'd like to tip my cap to Stephen Gardner, an England-born artist. According to his bio on the back of this card, Gardner's portrait of Joe DiMaggio hung in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I love his take on Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World", which can be found at his website.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jack Voigt, 1994 Fleer Ultra #10

I still love seeing the distinctive 1993 All-Star Game sleeve patch on Orioles cards from that era. It especially stands out on the black alternate jersey that Jack Voigt is modeling. This seems timely, since the O's have thrown their hat in the ring to be considered as host to the 2016 All-Star Game. They want to celebrate the 25th season of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in style that year. They've got to have a pretty good chance, since I think Major League Baseball will have run out of shiny new taxpayer-funded stadiums to show off by then. Of course, we'll just have to play the waiting game for now, if we can stand it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jake Arrieta, 2010 Topps Chrome Refractor #213

Last Saturday marked the third consecutive year that I've attended Orioles FanFest. Why would I do such a thing, wondered nobody in particular? It's simple. Winter is long and cold and gray. It's about to get a lot duller, what with football season drawing to a close. I get a momentary respite from that baseball-lacking void that runs from November into February, and I allow myself to push aside just a bit of the abundant cynicism that allows me to cope with being an O's fan. In January, everyone is healthy, in shape, and 100% focused on having their best year ever...well, except for Brian Roberts, I guess. But I'll admit to being just a little encouraged by things like Mark Reynolds being 15 pounds lighter and determined to improve his comical defensive play at third base. I'm willing to believe that Brady Anderson has the magic formula to fix Brian Matusz when the new assistant GM asserts that Matusz is "like a different human".

Most of all, I get pumped up when I hear how strong Jake Arrieta feels after having large bone chips removed from his elbow. Given that Arrieta had knowingly been pitching with the chips for years, there's a good possibility that we've never seen what he can do at full strength. He acknowledges that anything beyond five innings was a physical struggle for him, and that this shouldn't be the case any longer.

Look, my football team just missed a spot in the Super Bowl in harrowing fashion. I need a little happy juice today.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brooks Robinson, 2001 Upper Deck Decades: 1970s #125

Let it never be said that Brooks Robinson couldn't grow himself a pair of sideburns.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Buck Showalter, 2011 Topps Heritage #121

I'm back home and resting my tired bones after putting in five hours at Orioles FanFest. You might remember that I had bought a voucher for an autograph session with Troy Patton, Buck Showalter, and Brian Roberts. Of course, Roberts is still struggling with the post-concussion symptoms that have sidelined him since last May, so he was unable to make an appearance. His chances of playing again just keep getting worse, and at this point I just hope his personal life isn't impaired in the coming years. The O's made up for Roberts' absence by adding pitchers Alfredo Simon and Jim Johnson to the session. While I waited in line for the 2:00 start time, my sister took a seat behind the stage and did some reading. She sent me a text message to let me know that the O's manager and players were waiting back there while the Nick Markakis/Matt Angle/Al Bumbry/Mike Bordick session finished. Buck even jokingly made a dash for the emergency exit. Everyone was very gracious, and Patton in particular seemed to enjoy interacting with the fans. An older woman in line ahead of me had clear pockets on her bag with pictures of several Orioles on display. Troy told her, "You're missing the best-looking dude on the team". I've already shown off Buck's autograph above. The other three cards I got signed were ones that I've previously featured on the blog, so I'll show off the autographed versions in this same blog post. Enjoy!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Gene Stephens, 1961 Topps #102

Don't even act like you didn't know that today was Gene Stephens' 79th birthday. I poke fun, but the Arkansas native hung around the big leagues for a dozen seasons as a part-time outfielder, primarily with the Red Sox. He spent 364 days as an Oriole, arriving on June 9, 1960 from Boston in exchange for outfielder Willie Tasby and departing for Kansas City on June 8, 1961 in exchange for the supremely flaky "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry.

At first blush, his O's tenure was underwhelming. Gene batted .238/.327/.373 with 5 homers and 11 RBI in 227 plate appearances in 1960, and dipped to .190/.347/.224 with a pair of RBI in 72 trips to the plate the following year before being traded. But the five homers he hit in his first half-season in Charm City are more than he hit in all but one full season elsewise (9, 1958). Stephens had one of his biggest hits as an Oriole just a week after joining the team. On June 17, 1960, Detroit's Frank Lary had blanked the Birds for 6 innings and was protecting a 1-0 lead when Brooks Robinson led off the seventh with a triple. The runner had to hold on a grounder to first base by pinch hitter Bob Boyd, which brought up the pitcher's spot in the order. Manager Paul Richards called upon Gene to pinch-hit for Jerry Walker, and the outfielder responded with a go-ahead two-run home run. The O's pushed across another run and held on for a 3-1 win. It was the third and final pinch homer of Stephens' career. Incredibly, his first longball as a pinch-hitter also came off of Lary, on August 28, 1956. Even better, it was an inside-the-park job! Frank Lary was probably not a Gene Stephens fan; in their 28 meetings, the outfielder batted .308 and slugged .731, adding a pair of doubles and a third home run to his couple of pinch homers. Not bad work for someone with 37 career home runs.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Brady Anderson, 1999 Skybox Premium #120

It's been a big week for Brady Anderson. Yesterday was the former outfielder's 48th birthday (that's not a typo), and today he's been officially named Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations. Whew, that's a mouthful. Anyhow, it sounds like he'll have a lot of the same tasks that he'd already been doing, just on an organization-wide basis: player relations/development and conditioning. The Sun's Dan Connolly speculates that this places Brady pretty high on Dan Duquette's chain of command. I'm very much in favor of it. The career trajectory and injury history of most of the team's young pitchers certainly suggests that the Baltimore philosophy on conditioning could use an overhaul, and they could do much worse than this guy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1993 Kraft Singles Superstars #12

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid it sure was a drag to see cards like this, with any hint of team logos and wordmarks scrubbed clean to avoid copyright violations and threats of legal action by Major League Baseball. While it's plenty reasonable for MLB to protect their intellectual property by stopping any old Tom, Dick, or Harry from making a buck off of likenesses of their teams and players, there are wonderful laws in this country concerning things like "fair use" and "due process". These legal precedents could be thrown right out the window if our beloved United States Senate votes in favor of SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act). It's not hard to imagine Topps or Upper Deck deciding one day that I'm violating their copyrights by posting scans of their cards. If that happened, this blog would be shut down immediately and I would be considered a felon. This isn't hyperbole: the bill as currently written is so ridiculously broad and undefined that nearly anything is possible. So contact your senators and make your voice heard. Tomorrow I'll get back to saying silly things about goofy photos and summarizing old box scores.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dwight Evans, 1992 Upper Deck #248

Here's a fun little trifle from the High Heat Stats blog: on July 16, 1991, the Orioles played a road game against the Angels. Dwight Evans (age 39 years, 255 days) started in right field for the O's and batted cleanup. He went 0-for-4. Dave Winfield (age 39 years, 286 days) started in right field for the Halos and batted cleanup as well. He went 0-for-3. Combined, they were the oldest pair of starting right fielders in any game in baseball history. It was actually the fifth time they played that season, so that was the game that established the mark. If you're wondering (and haven't clicked the link to the box score yet), Jeff Robinson held the Angels to two hits in seven innings but took a 2-1 loss. Mark Williamson inherited two runners in the eighth and coughed up a scant 1-0 lead. Mark Langston went the distance for the home team, striking out seven and permitting six hits. A Leo Gomez home run in the second inning accounted for the lone Baltimore run, and came one batter after David Segui singled and was thrown out trying for a double. Thanks, David.

Ah, I never get tired of finding new reasons to beat on David Segui, I said nervously, while wondering about the kinds of things people will throw in my face 20 years down the line.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Doug DeCinces, 1981 Fleer Star Stickers #90

Here's one for the previous generation of O's fans: how many of you owned this exact jacket? I distinctly remember my uncle wearing one for much of my childhood in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was a nice-looking jacket, plenty of color without being too loud. Looked comfortable, too.

This ends tonight's installment of Jacket Talk. Join us again next week!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mike Bordick, 2002 Upper Deck Victory Gold #108

Orioles fans will be seeing and hearing a lot more of Mike Bordick in 2012. The former shortstop, who returned to the Baltimore organization as a minor league instructor last year, has replaced the late Mike Flanagan as a TV analyst for roughly 80 games on MASN. He still hopes to do some coaching for the O's on his down time. Meanwhile, I will continue using my downtime to watch Netflix and play video games.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mike Oquist, 1995 Collector's Choice #343

Today is a very Mike Oquist day, wouldn't you agree? I mean, yesterday was downright Steve Kline, but at least it wasn't as Radhames Liz as Tuesday. All in all, it was a pretty Mark Williamson week. But today is perfectly Mike Oquist, and it already looks like tomorrow will be quite B. J. Ryan. Have a good night, folks, and always keep it Tippy Martinez.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Frank Robinson, 1966 Topps #310

Thirty years ago today, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson were both elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Talk about your no-brainers. At the time, they were #1 (Aaron) and #4 (Robinson) all-time in career home runs, which is to say nothing about their barrier-breaking roles as black superstars in the 1950s and on through into the 1970s. Robby was even the first black manager, and had unrealized dreams of being a general manager as well.

But look at the voting results from that 1982 ballot. Hammerin' Hank, despite being the all-time home run king and owning all of the sorts of big numbers that have long made baseball writers ooh and aah (3,771 hits, .305 AVG, 2,297 RBI), was left off of NINE ballots, settling for 97.8% approval. That's bad enough, but you can chalk it up to the tiny, moronic cabal that insists that "Babe Ruth didn't get 100%, so no one else should". If we were all bound to the poor decisions of our ancestors, Hank and Frank would never have even gotten the chance to play in the major leagues, so...way to miss the point, fellas.

Look at the next line of results. Frank Robinson got 89.2% of the vote. 370 out of 415. There were 45 clowns that didn't think that big, mean, driven Frank Robinson, with more career homers than anyone not named Hank, Babe, or Willie, with a Rookie of the Year, two MVP awards (one from each league, which had never been done before), a dozen All-Star seasons, the 1966 A.L. Triple Crown, a pair of World Series rings, a .926 career OPS, etc. etc. etc., was either a) worthy of Cooperstown or b) a "first-ballot player" (a fallacy almost as stupefying as the 100% rule). It makes my temples throb just to think about it.

Further down-ballot, we see a full dozen eventual enshrinees who failed to collect the 75% necessary to join Messrs. Aaron and Robinson in the Class of '82. Some are on the outer fringes of Hall-worthiness (Don Drysdale, Red Schoendienst), and surely there were tough choices to be made in filling no more than ten slots on one's ballot, but the notion that it took Juan Marichal three years and Harmon Killebrew (59.3% in 1982!) four years to pass the test is still galling to me. The lesson here is that the BBWAA at large may be creating its biggest mess ever with all of the steroid posturing, but their membership has always acted curiously. It just seems to be snowballing now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alan Mills, 1992 Fleer Update #U-2

He's BAAAAAACCCCCCKKKKK. Alan Mills is the new pitching coach of the New York-Penn League's Aberdeen IronBirds, working for former teammates Billy and Cal Ripken, Jr. I sure hope he's still rocking the horseshoe mustache, especially now that Ravens QB Joe Flacco has brought it back to prominence in Baltimore.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Luke Scott, 2009 Topps 206 Bronze #152

Goodbyes never get any easier. When a bum shoulder limited Luke Scott to 64 games and a cruddy .220/.301/402 batting line last year, it didn’t bode well for his return in 2012*. He was still arbitration-eligible, so renewing his contract would have cost something close to the $6.4 million he made in 2011. Dan Duquette acted prudently by non-tendering Luke, but I was mildly surprised that he never seemed close to re-signing the 33-year-old power hitter at a lower price. I’m not going to fault the O’s front office for not paying a premium to roll the dice on a hitter of that age coming off of major shoulder surgery, though I did feel a twinge of dread/envy (drenvy?) when I heard that he’d signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. If the most intelligent and innovative team in the division wants Scott, chances are good that a) he’s still got plenty left in the tank and b) he’s not costing them much money. At least he’s not a Yankee.

*As a quick aside, for Luke Scott to be named Most Valuable Oriole in 2010, only to follow up with a shortened and injury-impaired campaign that sealed his departure from the team, just seems so poetic. It’s the recent history of the Orioles in a nutshell.

So here’s one last tip of the cap to LUUUUUKKKKEEEEE!, a Baltimore favorite for the past four years. I wish you would’ve let your bat do all of the talking, but I do respect your right to voice your opinions, no matter how ill-informed I believe them to be. (Check me out, exercising my own freedom of speech!) As time passes, all of that off-field crap will fade into the background and I’ll be left with the memories of your 84 home runs in orange and black and those wonderful weeks and months during every season when you just terrorized opposing pitchers and carried the Oriole offense on your back. Some of my most joyous experiences at Camden Yards involve you and your feats of strength, like your five RBI with two swings of the bat on Matt Wieters Day or the home run you deposited within a few rows of my seat in the bleachers during a nondescript Friday night game against the Nationals. I wish you health and success, but I hope you save the latter for your non-Oriole opponents.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eddie Murray, 1997 Fleer Golden Memories #6

A quick check of the archives tells me that it's been nearly three months since I posted an Eddie Murray card. This will not stand.

Fortunately, Eddie's name is sorta in the news. (As if I needed a concrete excuse to feature #33 on this blog.) Orioles GM Dan Duquette is still hard at work sculpting the front office in his own image, and his latest hire is Ray Poitevint, who will serve as Executive Director of International Baseball. Ray has a lengthy and distinguished resume. For example:

-Played low-level minor league ball in 1949-1950 for the Medford (OR) Nuggets and the Riverside (CA) Rubes. They just don't name teams like they used to.

-Served in the U.S. military during the Korean War, as did my dearly departed grandfather.

-Began his scouting career with the Orioles in the early 1960s, working his way up the ladder to a supervisory position. His two biggest signings during his 12 years with the O's were Eddie Murray and a skinny kid from Nicaragua named Dennis Martinez.

-During a 15-year stint with the Brewers, Ray signed pitchers Teddy Higuera and Juan Nieves, and catcher B.J. Surhoff. He also first worked with Duquette in Milwaukee, and made enough of an impression that Dan hired him to oversee Boston's international scouting efforts in the 1990s.

Sure, you're probably doing the math and realizing that ol' Ray is pushing 80. But just because Syd Thrift was well into his dotage when he oversaw the Birds a decade ago, that doesn't mean that there aren't some sharp octogenarians out there. More importantly, the O's actually have the makings of an international staff, rather than just one guy. Baby steps.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Javy Lopez, 2005 Fleer Patchworks #28

Javy Lopez will not be returning to the Hall of Fame ballot in 2013, but some misguided soul gave him one lonely vote. Let's not miss out on those kind of important details in the midst of the foofaraw about Jeff Bagwell failing to convince some grandstanding columnists that he never did steroids even though he hit oh so many home runs. I can't wait to watch the thought police of the BBWAA work themselves into logical pretzels next year when Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Sosa, and Schilling all crash-land on the ballot. The Hall of Fame is about to go full laughingstock, and I'm morbidly curious about the whole thing.

Oh, and congratulations to Barry Larkin, who is a deserving honoree who should rightfully have some more company on the dais this coming summer. Oh well.

P.P.S.: If you come to this blog for your baseball news for any reason, you should know that Rafael Palmeiro stays on the ballot, having seen an incremental gain from 11% to 12.6%. Tim Raines jumped to 49%, which bodes well eventually. Lee Smith was just ahead of him at 50.6%, but he's standing pat.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Armando Benitez, 1995 Upper Deck Collector's Choice #4

I've actually owned this card for several years, but never looked at it closely enough to notice what Tim observed when he included a copy in the package he sent last week. From the angle shown in the photo, it looks as if Armando Benitez's right arm is missing from the elbow down. Obviously Armando was not actually an amputee, but that sort of thing would be a distinct psychological advantage for a pitcher.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Jim Palmer, 1983 Fleer #69

Someday I'll get Jim Palmer's autograph.

Last night the Orioles announced the autograph session schedules for the FanFest convention, which takes place two weeks from today. Because I'm just that hard up for baseball activities, I'm planning on attending. So I looked over the signers, and decided that the session with Kevin Gregg, Adam Jones, and Jim Palmer would be my preference. As Meatloaf famously sang, two outta three ain't bad. But I woke up this morning at 10:30 - half an hour after the tickets went on sale. I guess an autograph panel with one of the O's only current stars and their greatest all-time pitcher was in high demand, because it was already sold out by that time. So I settled on the session with Troy Patton, Buck Showalter, and Brian Roberts. My favorite current Oriole (he may be perpetually injured, but he's still an Oriole) is a decent fallback option.

Is anyone else going to FanFest? Come on, what else are you going to do on a Saturday morning?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Tommy Davis, 1974 Kellogg's #43

One of the great things about getting packages of Orioles cards in the mail is that I have a much easier time sifting through a small stack for material for this blog, rather than digging through the much larger boxes that house the rest of my O's collection. I can get a couple weeks' worth of fresh material out of them before I go back to the drawing board.

Yesterday I told you about the generous belated Christmas gift that Tim sent me, and today's card was undoubtedly the coolest of the bunch. In general, I just go ga-ga for the old-school Kellogg's 3-D cards, and in my opinion Tommy Davis was one of the most happenin' players the Birds had in the 1970s. Why? Why not? Consider:

-His otherwordly 1962 season, when he led the National League with a .346 average and 153 RBI for the Dodgers.

-He played for 10 different franchises in 18 years. Who doesn't love a journeyman?

-The guy just looks cool, with his classic 70's afro, sideburns, and mustache, and that intimidating glare. It's a nice balance for his big grin in the 1975 Topps set.

-After he retired, Tommy admitted that he used to shave, read, and otherwise occupy himself in the clubhouse between at-bats when DHing.

-He was a feature player in Jim Bouton's book Ball Four, as the veteran pitcher considered Davis to be one of the leaders of the short-lived Seattle Pilots due to his sense of humor and his relaxed demeanor.

Case closed. Tommy Davis is the boss.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jose Mercedes, 2001 Upper Deck Vintage #72

When I got home from work today there was an unexpected - and much appreciated - package waiting for me on my porch. It was from Tim, who comments frequently around these parts as Rounding Thirty 3rd. Inside this box, as you may have guessed, was a stack of Orioles cards and some unopened wax packs from those glorious years of mass overproduction (1988-1993). Quite a few of those cards are new additions to my collection, including this one. A dozen years after he debuted in Baltimore, I finally have my first Jose Mercedes O's card.

Jose's tenure in Birdland is hard to figure. He'd spent parts of each season from 1994-1998 with the Brewers, without much success. He was released three times in the next year, which brought him to the Orioles. Mercedes was on the big league club throughout the 2000 season, starting 20 games and relieving in 16 more. On a staff that still included Scott Erickson and Mike Mussina, the 29-year-old journeyman from the Dominican Republic led the team in wins, going 14-7 with a 4.02 ERA. He seemed to get better as the year wore on, posting an 11-3 record and a 3.03 ERA. But looking at the raw stats, I'm not sure how he did it. Jose had an underwhelming 4.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2000, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was just 1.09. He allowed 1.47 walks + hits per nine innings, so he wasn't keeping opponents off the bases. All he did was win baseball games, including a two-hit gem against the Tigers on August 30.

Mercedes got a harsh reality check in 2001. Though his WHIP of 1.53 was a bit higher, he improved his K/9 to 6.0 and his K/BB to 1.95. It looks like Jose's luck just changed for the worse. He spent the entire season in the O's rotation, going 8-17 with a 5.82 ERA to lead the American League in losses. That he made 31 starts with such poor numbers should tell you all you need to know about the quality of the 2001 Orioles. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball is not a forgiving enterprise. Aside from five scoreless relief appearances for the Expos in 2003, Jose's ugly 2001 campaign spelled the end of his big league career.

There's no quit in Jose Mercedes, though. Since bowing out of the majors for good in 2003, he's been plying his trade in Mexico. Last year, he pitched in 21 games for Saltillo at age 40. His stats were not pretty (5-8, 5.51 ERA, 4.6 K/9), but he's kept at it, nearly a decade after his last game in the bigs. Go figure.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

David Segui, 2001 Topps Gallery #77

There are weird baseball cards, and then there are ugly baseball cards. There are even plenty of horrifying cards out there. But this is that rare card that is just so unsettling that my first instinct is to kill it with fire. David Segui isn't my favorite player, but I don't quite remember him being a gargoyle. Woof.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Scott Erickson, 1998 Topps #416

It’s a Tuesday that feels a little like a Monday. Link roundup time!

-Bill at The Platoon Advantage paid brief tribute to each of the 42 MLB veterans who retired in 2006 with at least a decade of experience and did not make it onto this year's Hall of Fame ballot. It features plenty of Oriole retreads: Manny Alexander (with a funny one-line anecdote), Mike DeJean, current Bowie coach Einar Diaz, Jason Grimsley, Rick Helling, Tim Laker, Eli Marrero, Chris Widger, Tim Worrell, and Esteban Yan. If you wake up in a cold sweat one night this week, it probably means that you read that list out loud. Sorry about that. Also on the non-ballot list is Scott Erickson, who was no Hall of Famer, but certainly more worthy of a vote than ballot members Tony Womack or Jeromy Burnitz.

-My blogging brother from another mother, Night Owl, has started not one but TWO new card set blogs. He’s taking the lid off of two of his favorite sets, 1971 Topps and 1985 Topps. One post in on each, and they’re already looking like fun reads. Particularly the ’71 set, which pays homage to Shaft. I can dig it. I’m also learning things, such as this: Brooks Robinson does not appear in the Orioles team photo that kicks off the 1971 set. What gives? (As a side note, it’s a good thing for Night Owl that he doesn’t make any money off his blogs, or else he might owe me a cut for the dozens of readers I send his way.)

-This brilliant Orioles Decision Making Flowchart, courtesy of Tumblr user “Billy”, started making the rounds last weekend. It’s hilarious and sadly too true. But if you’ve been an Orioles fan for this long and haven’t figured out how to laugh at yourself, then there truly is no hope for you. I’m nodding knowingly at this path: Are we winning? -> No -> lol idk let’s get some players -> Sign -> Reliever -> He sucks -> Play him anyway -> Blame McPhail.

-Lastly...The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly makes it as painfully clear as he can: Prince Fielder is not coming to Baltimore, so stop asking already.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2006 Topps Rookie of the Week #14

This card was part of a weekly hobby giveaway from 2006, and I'm not so hot about it. While the design is meant to mimic Cal's 1982 rookie card, the photo is clearly from the 1989-1991 era. Oh well, it's not like Topps has an enormous photo archive and thousands of hours of manpower to rely on for oversight. That's even a lackluster photo, with Cal looking dazed and wearing a mighty unfashionable black turtleneck with double orange stripes. As I mentioned several days ago, I now have over 40 copies of this lovely card at my disposal, thanks to an odd draw from Thorzul's cheapo lot break. I'm thinking about fastening them all together in a single sheet to make the world's most unappealing and uncomfortable quilt. That is, unless you have any better ideas.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reggie Jackson, 2010 Topps National Chicle #299

Happy 2012, one and all! I hope you were all safe and smart last night. I had a low-key evening at a friend's place, complete with a viewing of The Princess Bride. It seemed like a good excuse to celebrate Peter Falk, who left us in 2011.

The beginning of another year also brings about the fourth anniversary of this blog's founding. Now, now, you didn't have to get me anything. But I got something for you: a nifty portrait of Reggie Jackson in a modern Oriole uniform...or should I say, a conglomeration of modern O's uniforms. Obviously, the black-and-orange Serious Bird helmet was current as of 2010, but the "Orioles" script looks a bit small and there's no tail underneath, making it look more like the wordmark the team used throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It's kind of fun to play a little "what-if" by putting Reggie in a 21st-century Birds uniform 25 years after his lone season in Baltimore. But I do wish artist Paul Lempa had paid a little more attention to detail. Still, it's nothing to get apoplectic over.