Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Melvin Mora, 2005 Skybox Autographics #8

Thursday night, while I was indulging in some silliness about Leo Gomez's baseball equipment, news leaked out about Melvin Mora's retirement. Of course, as I wrote back in July when the Diamondbacks released him, the writing was already on the wall. Still, I've been glad to read some favorable remembrances of his career from both O's-centric blogs and national blogs in the past few days. Here in Baltimore, we had the unhappy task of witnessing Melvin's decline, as his power dried up and he began grousing about attempts to drop him lower in the batting order and/or give him days off. But that shouldn't lessen his significant contributions to the team in his nine and a half seasons in Charm City.

His truly is an incredible story, as he signed with the Astros as a teenager in 1991 and played all over the field without much distinction before finally reaching the majors with the Mets in 1999. After a few seasons as a utility player with a passable bat in New York and Baltimore, he suddenly had an All-Star season with the Birds at age 31 in 2003, when he had a triple slash (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .317/.418/.503. Some second-half injuries limited him to 96 games and kept his counting stats down, but his .921 OPS was the highest among regulars on the team by a full 100 points. (The runner-up was the great Larry Bigbie...yeesh.) He was healthy enough to see action in 140 games in 2004, and the result was a career year: personal bests of 111 runs scored, 187 hits, 41 doubles, 27 home runs, 104 RBI, and a batting line of .340/.419/.562. That on-base percentage led the American League, and although he missed out on the All-Star Game, he did win the Silver Slugger in his first season as a regular third baseman. Looking back, it's almost inconceivable to me that Mora reached base nearly 42% of the time in those two seasons, especially since his OBP settled back into the .340s immediately afterward. But even at that lesser level of performance, he remained a solid offensive player for the next four seasons and a true member of the community, settling in Fallston with his wife and six children.

He left after 2009 with the most career games at third base for any Oriole not named Brooks Robinson, and is still ranked eighth in team history in Offensive Wins Above Replacement (26.0), tenth in games played (1,256), ninth in runs scored (709), tenth in hits (1,323), eighth in total bases (2,073), seventh in doubles (252), ninth in home runs (158), eighth in RBI (662), tenth in walks (465), eleventh in steals, surprisingly (82), second in hit-by-pitches (107)...well, you get the idea. Melvin Mora is a big part of Orioles history, and he's earned a happy and peaceful retirement.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Dave McNally, 1964 Topps #161

Here we are: the final Vintage Friday of 2011. I've provided this crooked scan of Dave McNally's first solo Topps card as a reminder that we're all imperfect but we have the power to improve...not tomorrow, but today. The Orioles learned their lesson quickly in the mid-1960s, dumping these so-so black caps with the orange block "B" a year after debuting them as their home caps in 1963. New Year's resolutions are all well and good, but we shouldn't have to resort to gimmicks to reach our goals.

Also, I was too lazy to rescan the card in perfectly centered form. Shh.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Leo Gomez, 1993 Leaf #155

Today just d-r-a-g-g-e-d. It was 27 degrees when I sat my frozen tuchus behind the wheel of my car this morning, just so I could drive to work at my half-empty office. One of my contact lenses must have had some extra dirt or debris on it, because my right eye was bothering me all day, but I never did succeed in dislodging the offending particle. (Update: I was wearing the lens inside-out. That'll do it.) It wasn't a bad day, it wasn't a good day, it was just there, and it stayed there well past the sell-by date. I need something to snap me out of these winter doldrums...

...A Leo Gomez card should do the trick! Hey, stop laughing and look at Leo's ass. Whoops, I mean his back left pocket. It looks like he's got a glove tucked in there. However, he's wearing his batting gloves. So what's the extra glove for? Baserunning only? I mean, it takes the right kind of gear to go 4-for-14 on attempted steals for your career.

Jokes about Leo Gomez's rear end don't do it for you? I'm just trying to make something out of a dull situation.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Alex Ochoa, 1994 Upper Deck #538

Alright folks, get your Epsom salts and Life Alert bracelets handy, because I'm about to make you feel really old. Last week, Alex Ochoa was named first base coach for the Boston Red Sox. Yes, that Alex Ochoa. HardballTalk's Aaron Gleeman beat me to the punch, so I can only echo his sentiment. When my Oriole fandom was at its freshest and most fervent, Alex was the "it" guy in the O's farm system: a multi-tool prospect who was flashing power, speed, and a fair amount of plate discipline at AA at age 22. He peaked at #35 in the Baseball America prospect rankings in 1995, the year that the Birds sold high and made him the centerpiece of a deal that brought Bobby Bonilla over from the Mets. He was in the majors from 1995 through 2002, peaking with consecutive strong years as a reserve outfielder for the Brewers in 1999 and the Reds in 2000. Obviously I know that I'm getting older, though I'm still young enough to treat it with the right amount of detached bemusement. 29 is not a bad age to be, and from here, I'm willing to bet that 30 isn't much different. But after a while you just stop thinking about fresh-faced future star Alex Ochoa, and then BOOM, he's a 39-year-old coach for one of your hated divisional opponents. Craziness.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kevin Hart, 2004 Upper Deck SP Prospects #275

In my ongoing quest to confound and annoy you, I present another fine gentleman who never suited up for the Orioles. Hart was expertly airbrushed out of a Maryland Terrapins uniform for this card, as he'd pitched and played first base for the Terps before the O's took him in the 11th round of the draft in June 2004. In the entire 58-year history of the Birds, pitcher Lou Sleater (who played high school ball at Mt. St. Joseph's in Baltimore) is the only UMD product to log time in Baltimore. He finished his career as an Oriole in 1958.

Hart could not snap the drought, as he was traded to the Cubs in December 2006 for not-so-useful utility player Freddie Bynum. The righty didn't do much to distinguish himself in two-plus seasons in the O's farm system, but made some hay in a September 2007 callup with Chicago after splitting the year between AA and AAA. In 8 relief appearances totaling 11 innings, Kevin allowed a single earned run and had a 13-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was not nearly so masterful in longer looks as a reliever in 2008 and a starter in 2009 for the Cubs and Pirates, and he last pitched at AAA Indianapolis in 2010, where he put up a 6.75 ERA in only 5 games. If he's out of baseball, he'll leave with a 6-11 big league record and a 5.26 ERA. However, that's worth a little something; he's one of just 4 players chosen in his draft round to get the call to the majors. See? It's all relative.

Monday, December 26, 2011

B.J. Surhoff, 1996 Skybox Emotion XL#10

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you got what you wanted. Santa and/or my lovely family provided generously, with a new iPhone 4S, a slow cooker with lid security (so that I might not spill chili in my new car...again), a few desired baseball books, and of course some nifty new O's merchandise: orange and black flannel pajama pants, some utility gloves with the now-retro "serious bird" logo, and a couple of wine bottle stoppers. My latest Christmas was indeed a good one.

If you were one of the folks responsible for the Emotion cards, I hope you got a dictionary bookmarked near the word "emotion". B. J. Surhoff is indeed tracking the flight of his ball in the above photo, but that's not so much an emotion.

Ray Knight, 1988 Donruss #108

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good Knight!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Darnell McDonald, 2000 Upper Deck SP Top Prospects #87

I grabbed up the Orioles cards in Thorzul's el cheapo December box break. He bought a whole mess of assorted cards off of one of his favorite eBay sellers and divvied up the cards by team for a small price. As fortune would have it, I received my haul in the mail yesterday, just in time for Christmas. While blindly buying into a lot of cards is always a delicate balance of risk and reward, I got a fair share of O's that were new to me, mostly from the mid-to-late 1990s. I also got 44 copies of the same Cal Ripken, Jr. card from 2006, which I'll have to keep separate from my 50 copies of Rob Dibble's 1989 Topps card.

One of my favorite cards in the bunch was this shiny-tastic card of former #1 draft pick and current Red Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald. Not only is he wearing the uniform of the Frederick Keys, but he appears to have a jump rope draped around his neck. How many players still incorporate jump roping into their training routines?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Mike Blyzka, 1954 Topps #152

Today is as good a day as any to write about Mike Blyzka, one of the few Orioles with a December 25 birthday. I hope his special day didn't get lost in the shuffle, which seems to be a common complaint for those born this time of year. At this moment, I don't know a single other thing about Mike, so let's give him the Fun Facts treatment!

1. He was actually born Michael Bliska, according to Baseball Reference. I don't know why or when the name change came about. If his family joined the witness relocation program, they were probably too subtle about it.

2. His birthplace was Hamtramck, MI, an oddly-named locale five miles north of Detroit. Four other Hamtramckers (Hamtramckites?) have played in the major leagues, the most recent being 1970s-1980s journeyman catcher Bill Nahorodny.

3. Mike, like many players of his era, served in the U.S. military during the Korean War. This explains the gap in his playing career from 1951-1952.

4. He debuted with the Browns in 1953 at age 24, going 2-6 with a 6.39 ERA in 33 games (including 9 starts). His totals of 56 walks and just 23 strikeouts indicates that his record was well-earned.

5. Blyzka followed the team to Baltimore in 1954, and made 37 appearances out of the bullpen. He had a 1-5 record, a single save, and a 4.69 ERA. With 51 walks and 35 strikeouts, he still wasn't fooling many batters.

6. His lone win as an Oriole came on June 8, 1954, when he relieved Bob Chakales in the seventh inning of a 3-3 game at Fenway Park and allowed a run on 5 hits over the final 3 innings. The O's bats boosted him with a pair of runs in each of the final two innings. He also singled off of future Oriole Hal "Skinny" Brown in the ninth inning for one of his two career hits.

7. After the 1954 season was through, the Birds sent Blyzka to the Yankees as part of the massive 17-player trade that delivered Gus Triandos, Gene Woodling, and Willy Miranda to Baltimore and Bob Turley and Don Larsen to the Bronx. Mike spent the next two seasons in the Yankee organization without getting the call back to the majors, and finished his pro baseball career with the Giants' AAA Minneapolis club in 1957.

8. His minor league record was 63-60 with a 4.18 ERA.

9. He lived in Denver for some time, and spent the last 32 years of his life in Cheyenne, WY. For several years he was the manager and bartender of a VFW post in the area.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Matt Riley, 2000 Upper Deck Pros and Prospects Future Forces #F9

I'll be honest with you: I have not exactly given this blog my undivided attention over the past few weeks. Oddly enough, the roundabout reason is fantasy football. I'd played for fun and bragging rights for several years, even though the condensed schedule and catastrophic injuries made it a maddening hobby. But this year was the first time I ever played for money, filling a slot in a 12-team NFL.com league with my uncle and his coworkers. I rode Michael Vick, Darren McFadden, Jahvid Best, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Dez Bryant, and the Ravens defense (as well as a good dose of luck) to an 8-0 start that included two head-to-head wins with the closest opponent in my four-team division. At the midway point of the season, it looked like the division title and the attendant share of the prize money was as good as mine.

Of course if you follow football, you can probably look at the names above and guess how the rest of the season went. My quarterback and my entire stable of running backs all suffered significant injuries, helping me sputter to four straight losses and a final winner-take-all head-to-head showdown with the second-place guy in Week 13. With a patchwork lineup that included Miami QB Matt Moore and rookie Redskins RB Roy Helu, I eked out the victory and the spoils by five points. Then I promptly got creamed the following week in our league's opening playoff round. Oh well, I'd already made back my entry fee 2.6 times over.

With that money burning a hole in my pocket, I bought an XBox 360 and a bundle of games off of somebody on Craig's List. Now, I've never been a hardcore gamer, but every once in a while I stumble across a game that's got an enjoyable premise and a low enough learning curve, and I dive in headfirst. Such has been the case with Fallout: New Vegas, a post-apocalyptic role-playing game that has grabbed me and won't let go. The first weekend I had it, I stayed up until 4:00 AM on consecutive nights wandering through the fantastic virtual wasteland, shooting mutants and warring rogues and salvaging found materials. It would be bad enough to be addicted to one game, but I also gave in to temptation and bought the newest wrestling game, WWE '12. As someone who's been playing WWF/WWE games since 1998 (WarZone for the original PlayStation), I am dumbstruck by the scope and customization options in this one. Thank goodness I've maintained enough sanity to avoid trying out the other couple of XBox 360 games I now own.

As the holidays approach, it's a slow enough time for baseball news that I've been able to scrape by with some news-light offerings. And now, here I am droning on about fantasy football and video games. At least I'm not talking about ponies...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cesar Izturis, 2009 Upper Deck #991

Cesar Izturis is the newest former Oriole after signing a minor league contract with the Brewers. He'll likely back up Alex Gonzalez at shortstop, giving Milwaukee a tandem of defensively gifted infielders who happen to be historically inept with the bat.

Gonzalez at least has enough pop in his bat to keep him hovering around a league-average OPS+ in his best years. He's peaked at 23 home runs twice, most recently in 2010. But he doesn't hit for a high average (.247 career), and doesn't walk enough to bridge the gap. His on-base percentage has not cleared .300 since 2007, and is down to .291 for his career. At age 35, it's not likely to improve.

But Cesar's so-called offensive numbers make Gonzalez look like Honus Wagner. The 5'9" Venezuelan has a career OPS+ of 64, and his high-water mark was 88...in 2004. With a career average of .255 and OBP of .295, he's actually slightly ahead of Alex. But a complete lack of power is his ultimate undoing. In 1,185 games spanning 11 seasons, he's hit a total of 15 home runs. That would match the total that Gonzalez hit in 149 games for the Braves last season. Izturis, too, is no spring chicken, as he'll turn 32 before Opening Day. He's also something of a health risk, having missed 48 games in 2009 and well over 100 last year with injuries.

Of course, Cesar did bring some value to the O's in his two-plus seasons with the team. His glove skills at shortstop were a breath of fresh air following the range-challenged tenure of Miguel Tejada and the bumblings of Miggi's various would-be replacements in 2008. And I'll always remember witnessing his wall-scraping two-run homer that put the exclamation point on a 10-5 Opening Day win over the Yankees. It was an improbable way for Izzy to debut in Baltimore, especially considering that he would hit only 2 more home runs in 281 subsequent games with the O's. Speaking of which, the last of those longballs came against Cliff Lee in July 2010! As a popular blog often says, you can't predict baseball.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1988 Sportflics #152

I've had this card for a few months, but I'm just now looking closely at it. If you peer into the field-level seats behind Cal Ripken, Jr., you'll be able to see the Toronto Blue Jays' mascot shift from side to side while Junior takes his hacks. I'm guessing that it was an unsporting attempt to distract the Orioles' shortstop. Judging from the strength of the swing that's captured in the photo sequence, I'm going to optimistically assume that this dirty bird failed in his task. Nasty creatures, those blue jays.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Glenn Gulliver, 1983 Donruss #131

Glenn Gulliver is more than just a funny name. His major league career consisted of 73 games with the Orioles in 1982 and 1983. In that time, he hit only one home run. It came on Sunday, October 3, 1982, in the final game of the season. Though the game at large was a disappointment, as Jim Palmer was thrashed and the O's failed to unseat visitor Milwaukee for the American League East crown, it was undoubtedly a thrill for the 27-year-old rookie Gulliver to hit a third-inning solo homer against the great Don Sutton. Glenn assured himself a spot in the record books. According to Raphy at High Heat Stats, Gulliver is one of only 65 players in the entire history of MLB to hit his only career home run off of a Hall of Fame pitcher. Though Sutton pitched for an incredible 23 seasons and generously allowed 472 longballs to opposing hitters, the only other man to victimize Sutton for his lone career homer was a journeyman catcher by the name of Rick Stelmaszek. Oh, and in case you're curious, Glenn's big fly was the 326th that Sutton surrendered.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Curtis Goodwin, 1995 Bowman's Best Mirror Image #10

As often happens when you're banking on the future, the comparison between Curtis Goodwin and Kenny Lofton is not a flattering one for the younger man. Goodwin's big league career lasted all of 5 seasons, 431 games total. He put together a batting line of .248/.307/.302 with 3 home runs, 56 RBI, and 66 stolen bases (28 caught stealing). Lofton, on the other hand, stayed around for 17 years and 2,103 games. He batted .299/.372/.423 with 130 home runs, 781 RBI, 622 stolen bases, and 160 caught stealing. This year, he's eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time. He probably won't make it in, but he's got better odds than most of the first-time members of the current ballot.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1992 Upper Deck Team MVP Holograms #44

Holograms are a decades-old technology, but that doesn't make them any less cool. Needless to say, this scan does not begin to do the card justice. At least you can see a clear view of the foreground image, in which Cal Ripken, Jr. is uncharacteristically squaring around to bunt. He totaled 10 sacrifices in his career, never more than 3 in a single season. The background image, which looks 3-D up close, has a much more customary image of Cal following through after a big swing in a road game in Anaheim. There are two other Orioles cards in this 54-card set: another Ripken card and Gregg Olson. I'll be keeping an eye out for them.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Mike Flanagan, 1980 Topps #205

I'm writing today's entry with a heavy heart, as this would have been Mike Flanagan's 60th birthday had he not taken his own life this past August 24. In the subsequent months, there have been no enlightening discoveries to help his family, friends, and fans make sense of Mike's suicide. We know that he was disappointed by his uneven tenure as the de facto general manager of the Orioles and distraught over reported financial problems, but these things will never satisfactorily explain such a drastic act of despair. My deepest sympathies go out to his loved ones as they are faced with their first Christmas without him.

This card focuses on Flanny in the prime of his life and his career, having just won the American League Cy Young Award for a superlative 1979 season. He topped the junior circuit with a 23-9 record and 5 shutouts, notched a career-low 3.08 ERA, and had personal bests with a 2.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 6.4 strikeouts per 9 innings. He helped lead the O's to their first World Series since 1971, topping the Angels in Game Two of the ALCS before going the distance in a 5-4 win over the Pirates in the Series opener. Here he shares the spotlight with the great, knuckleballing Niekro brothers, who tied for the National League lead with 21 wins apiece. Sadly, Joe Niekro has also left us too soon; a brain anuerysm caused his death in 2006 at age 61. It's all just another reminder that life is short, and we should be good to one another in the time that we are given.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Juan R. Guzman, 2000 Topps Traded #T74

Yep, that's Juan Ramon Guzman, a 6'2", 180-pound righthanded pitcher who was born in 1977 in the Dominican Republic. He is not to be confused with Juan Andres Guzman, the 5'11", 190-pound righty who was born in 1966 in the Dominican and pitched for the Orioles in 1998-1999 after a successful stint in Toronto. This Juan Guzman was originally signed as a catcher and converted to the mound at Rookie-level Bluefield in 1998. He garnered some attention the following year at Delmarva, where he struck out 134 batters and walked only 44 in 124.1 innings. But he hit a speed bump at Bowie in 2000 (4.64 ERA, only 57 strikeouts in 97 innings) and missed all of 2001 with an injury. Two years later he was out of the Baltimore organization, and by 2005 he was out of pro ball altogether without ever having reached AAA, much less the majors.

There are five other Juan Guzmans who have played minor league baseball without getting even a cup of coffee in the big leagues. One of them, Juan Alejandro Guzman, is yet another righty pitcher from the Dominican. He is 20 years old and has played in the low levels of the O's organization for the past two seasons. Last year he put up a 1.09 ERA in 33 innings in the Gulf Coast League, with 33 strikeouts and only 7 walks. He's a long way from the majors, but he's the next challenger to ex-Blue Jay/Oriole/Red/Devil Ray Juan "The Highlander" Guzman.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kurt Ainsworth, 2004 Topps Total Silver #599

Major case of writers' block today. I decided to reach into a box of cards and pull one out at random. As a result, you are looking at Kurt Ainsworth posing in Fort Lauderdale with his personalized Nike glove, which has three distinct Swoosh logos visible. Very subtle, Nike. What you can't see is the duct tape that is undoubtedly holding Kurt's right shoulder and elbow together. By 2005, that stuff gave out for good. Such is the life of the endangered species known as the pitching prospect.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Koji Uehara, 2009 Topps Allen and Ginter #43

Here's something I wasn't expecting to discuss this week: a new free-agent acquisition! The ongoing failures of the Orioles have finally given me a jaundiced view of the Hot Stove, one where I assume that any individual free agent worth having (i.e. Prince Fielder) will a) be too expensive and too discerning to sign with the O's and b) wouldn't fix the myriad problems with the team anyhow. It took years to mess up the team this badly, and it will take years of moves both big and small to fix it again. During the winter meetings, I found myself just holding my breath and hoping that the Orioles wouldn't repeat past mistakes, like signing another reliever to a multi-year deal or giving millions of dollars to a musty designated hitter type.

Pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, recently of Japan's Softbank Hawks, figures to become Baltimore's second-ever Far East player in 2012. He reportedly agreed to a two-year, $8.15 million deal today and should be in line for a spot in the ever-questionable starting rotation in 2012. Even after tamping down the expectations created by his eye-popping NPB stats (16-5, 1.51 ERA, 168/40 K/BB in 2011), I think there's a lot to like. He'll be 31 next year, so he should have plenty left in the tank. The O's didn't overpay greatly in years or dollars, and GM Dan Duquette showed that he intends to be a bit more proactive in the international market than Andy MacPhail. In fact, "Duke" also made an offer to Korean reliever Chong Tae-Hyon, who chose to stay in his home country, and the Birds are going after Taiwanese pitcher Chen Wei-Yin and have shown interest in Cuban outfielder Yoennis Cespedes. While Wada doesn't have the raw velocity to challenge big league hitters, he clearly has impeccable control, and he wouldn't be the first soft-tossing lefty to baffle opponents with a more cerebral approach. (Paging Jamie Moyer.) Heck, Koji Uehara is a righty, and he's done pretty well for himself without throwing in the 90s.

At the very least, look at it this way: with all of the young pitchers that the Orioles stockpiled in the MacPhail era, they gave a combined total of 32 starts last season to the following pitchers: Alfredo Simon, Chris Jakubauskas, Jo-Jo Reyes, Mitch Atkins, and Rick VandenHurk. Ugh. For a few million dollars, they've gotten an important piece of insurance against that happening again in 2012.

There I go again, damning the O's with faint praise.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rafael Palmeiro, 1994 Score Select #317

It's hard to believe that it's been exactly 18 years since Rafael Palmeiro signed a 5-year, $30 million contract with the Orioles. I remember it fondly because it was the team's first marquee acquisition since I had become a fan the previous summer. As I recall it, there was a lot of to-do about Raffy's college teammate Will Clark earlier in that offseason, despite the fact that Palmeiro had been healthier and much more productive in the just-concluded 1993 campaign. "Will the Thrill" was the household name, but he displaced Palmeiro by signing a similar five-year deal around Thanksgiving. I was still in the midst of a crash course in baseball fandom, but I knew enough to be excited by big numbers like a .295 average, 37 home runs, and 105 RBI. For the first time since trading away Eddie Murray five years earlier, the O's had the big bat (and a nifty glove besides) that they craved at first base. They could officially turn the page from Glenn Davis' disastrous chapter in club history.

Raffy more than lived up to his contract, with a pair of Gold Gloves, an All-Star appearance, and a batting line of .292/.371/.545, 182 home runs, and 553 RBI. He was a member of the 1996 squad that won the American League wild card and upset the Indians in the Division Series before mumble mumble something Yankees mumble ALCS. He was also a steady force on the 1997 wire-to-wire A.L. East championship team that dispatched the Johnson-Griffey-Rodriguez-Martinez Mariners in the ALDS before grumble grumble Indians cough ahem ALCS.

Of course, the rest of the story isn't so textbook. Davey Johnson leaves, the free agent-heavy O's tumble in 1998, Palmeiro returns to a chastened Rangers club in free agency and continues knocking the cover off the ball for the next five years, then returns to Baltimore to finish his career and collect his 3,000th career hit but winds up retiring in disgrace after a positive test for the steroid stanozolol. Despite his continued insistence upon a bizarre alibi involving a tainted B-12 shot borrowed from Miguel Tejada, I've concluded that life is too short for harboring animosity. I think Rafael Palmeiro belongs in the Hall of Fame, I'm grateful for all of the positive contributions he made to the Orioles during his career, and I think he's suffered for the mistakes that he made.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Felix Pie, 2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee #97

I hope you're sitting down as I tell you that Felix Pie and the Baltimore Orioles have parted ways. Luke Scott's favorite teammate/whipping boy signed a minor league deal with the Indians, and could earn up to a million dollars by making the big league roster. Adios, Felix. I'll always remember your goofy celebrations, your adventurous play in left field, and the inexplicable experience of watching you hit for the cycle against the Angels.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mike Hargrove, 2003 Topps #264

So what's more disturbing: the fact that Mike Hargrove's jersey is clearly untucked, or the realization that we can't tell whether he's even wearing pants?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Billy Klaus, 1960 Topps #406

Today would mark the 83rd birthday of former Orioles infielder Billy Klaus, who passed away in 2006 due to lung cancer. It's pretty fitting that a guy named Klaus has a birthday in the middle of December. This is one of those years in which I've had a more difficult time getting into the the usual throes of Christmas joy and excitement. I've watched a few of my favorite holiday specials (Blackadder's Christmas Carol, Futurama, etc.), but I'm way behind on that count. I haven't put up my small artificial tree, because I haven't fully formulated a plan of attack for keeping the cats off of it. (I'm particularly concerned about Homer, who is fascinated by shoelaces, to say nothing of shiny dangling baubles.) I still have a few gifts to buy for family, I haven't had my first glass of egg nog or bite of a festive-looking cookie, and my holiday mix CDs haven't been transported to the car. That's not to say that I'm feeling Scroogey, it's just that December 25 is sneaking up on me this year. It's still far and away my favorite holiday; I'll just have to do some major yuletide cramming over the next two weeks. That shouldn't be a problem for a procrastinator like me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lenny Webster, 1999 Fleer Tradition Warning Track #572W

As much as it hurt me, I had to take a pass on the latest Philly Card Show, which was held last weekend. My partner in crime Ed had invited me to ride shotgun with him, but I was still trying to shake a cold as of Friday, and waking up at 6:00 AM and spending half the day in an enclosed convention center with hundreds of other fine folks didn't seem like the best medicine. Moreover, it is the Christmas season and all of those attendant expenses are causing me to tamp down the card budget. So I passed along my regrets to Ed, and asked if he'd keep an eye out for good deals based on the two vintage sets I'm close to completing: 1965 and 1975 Topps.

As I should have expected, he went above and beyond the call of duty. The want list for the '65 set has been whittled down to 9, as he picked up the Sandy Koufax/Don Drysdale NL ERA leaders card as well as higher-numbered cards of Curt Flood and Dick Smith. All three were in quite good condition. He also came up big with a half-dozen '75s, including Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, and Carlton Fisk. 12 more to go before I've got all 660 of those brightly-colored wonders. Ed also grabbed my 1982 Topps wantlist. I've still got many more of those cards to obtain for a complete birth-year set, but now I can tick off a few big names like Ozzie Smith and Gaylord Perry. There were also a pair of Orioles needs satisfied: a 1969 Topps Andy Etchebarren (never can have enough Etch cards!) and this offering from the 11 Most Wanted list you see on the left of the screen.

This is the now the one and only card in my O's collection of Lenny Webster, who may be my favorite Baltimore backup catcher. He's neck-and-neck with Sal Fasano, who has a reputation as a wonderful person with grand facial hair but graced us for only one season. Lenny was of course the last Oriole to regularly wear #42, as he sported that number from the time he arrived in 1997 and was grandfathered in when Bud Selig retired it across baseball to honor Jackie Robinson. He practically split time behind the plate with Chris Hoiles in 1997-1998, as the erstwhile catcher's hip problems were bringing about the end of his career. Webster wasn't much defensively but held his own at bat, with a line of .265/.318/.394, 17 HR, and 86 RBI in 660 plate appearances as an Oriole.

Highlights of his tenure in Charm City included a game-winning two-run homer off of Braves closer Mark Wohlers in the tenth inning of a June 15, 1997 game in Atlanta. In all, 8 of his 17 home runs in orange and black either tied the game or gave the Birds the lead. His only walkoff shot came in the bottom of the ninth on July 23, 1998, as he broke a 7-7 tie with Oakland by going deep to left field off of Mike Fetters with Joe Carter on first base. It capped a momentous day for Lenny: 4-for-5 with a double, a homer, and a career-best 6 RBI.

Not a bad way to spend $17 without leaving the house.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Erik Bedard, 2002 Upper Deck 40 Man #1034

When news broke today that Erik Bedard signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Pirates, my first thought was, "that poor bastard". After all, Pittsburgh is baseball's Siberia, a remote, desolate land where nothing grows. The Bucs have famously been the only team to out-bumble the Orioles for the past two decades, running up a string of 19 consecutive losing seasons. But on closer inspection, Pittsburgh is actually a more favorable destination for a ballplayer than Baltimore. Consider:

-After flirting with .500 into midsummer in 2011, a late swoon still left the Pirates with a 72-90 record, 3 games better than the O's. With breakout seasons from young players like Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata, the team could climb a little higher this year.

-The National League is widely acknowledged as being more favorable to pitchers than the American League, due in no small part to the absence of the designated hitter. Bedard had a career ERA of 3.70 in the A.L., and could certainly improve on that mark in the senior circuit.

-There are no Yankees or Red Sox in the Pirates' N.L. Central. 2011 division champ Milwaukee has reportedly given up on retaining free agent slugger Prince Fielder, and also may be reduced to resigning the awful Yuniesky Betancourt for their vacant shortstop position. The defending World Series winners in St. Louis seem likely to retain Albert Pujols, but they only barely scraped into the playoffs with 90 wins and a significant collapse by the wild-card frontrunners from Atlanta. The Cubs are rebuilding, the Reds are inconsistent, and the Astros are hot garbage. There are plenty of wins to be had in the division.

-For someone with Bedard's introverted personality, Pittsburgh is probably a good place to stay out of the headlines.

-Lastly, there's no reason to cry for a guy who averaged less than 100 innings over the past three years when he's getting four and a half million clams guaranteed. I don't think he'll be looking deeply into the bathroom mirror tonight, wondering what has become of his hopes and dreams.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Brady Anderson, 1993 Triple Play #166

Over the past few years, Brady Anderson has gradually taken on a greater importance to the Orioles organization. In 2010, he began offering training tips and baseball instruction to outfielder Nolan Reimold, and when the young player finally found an opening back into the O's lineup late in the 2011 season, he looked much healthier and more focused than he had in a miserable 2010 campaign. Brady also did some offseason work with Mark Reynolds last year, and the slugging infielder's numbers improved across the board in his debut with the Birds. In spring training, the Orioles asked Anderson to drop by Sarasota as a special instructor. This winter, he's taken on pitcher Brian Matusz for some tutleage and conditioning work. Earlier this week, the team announced that Brady will have an increased role in scouting as well as instruction throughout the organization. I'm glad that the higher-ups have seen the value in having former O's players around who can actually make valuable contributions. For now, I just want to see on-field results from Brady's newest pupil.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Brooks Robinson, 2005 Upper Deck Origins #139

I’m always happy to share good news about Brooks Robinson. Today he was in attendance at MLB’s winter meetings in Dallas, where he was one of 16 voters on the Veteran’s Committee that finally elected Cubs great Ron Santo for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Brooksie was a contemporary of Santo, who was kept out of Cooperstown for decades despite a .362 on base percentage, a 125 OPS+, 342 home runs. He hit 337 of those as a third baseman, which was second only to Eddie Mathews at the time of his retirement. He was also an excellent defensive player by all accounts, and it seems as though his candidacy suffered due to his comparatively short career (15 seasons) and his association with the perennial losing efforts on the North side of Chicago. I'm glad that Robinson had some part in righting this wrong, although it sadly came one year too late for Santo to enjoy it with his friends, fans, and family.
In news more directly related with Brooks, he reports that his health is improving all the time. He still needs to have hernia surgery this winter, but Roch Kubatko confirms that #5 looks much stronger and more robust than he did six weeks ago when his new statue was unveiled in Baltimore. He's also clearly taken a great interest in the on-and-off-field fortunes of the Orioles, and particularly in the front office shakeup, remarking: "I think we need some new blood there. This has gone on long enough."
Amen to that.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chad Moeller, 2010 Upper Deck #82

I just can't turn away from 2010 Upper Deck. They're responsible for the only documented proof that Chad Moeller was a Baltimore Oriole, at least as far as baseball cards go. His 30-game stint as a water-carrier for Gregg Zaun and Matt Wieters is forever immortalized in this Spring Training action shot and an indistinguishable black-and-white inset portrait. Of course you won't find the "Orioles" name or any of their copyrighted logos on this card, per legal mandates after Upper Deck lost their MLB license. UD's self-censorship was notably slapdash, perhaps willfully so, with cap logos and jersey wordmarks peeking out on dozens of cards in what's looking to be the last-ever Upper Deck baseball set. It's as though they hoped that no one would pay attention to the photos at all if the other design elements were sufficiently dull. That makes Moeller an apt subject, as his .258/.313/.438 performance in 100 trips to the plate for the O's makes him forgettably acceptable as a backup catcher, forever fated to recede into team history alongside Craig Tatum and Lenny Webster and Jeff Tackett, on down the line.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lee Smith, 1994 Leaf Limited #6

Happy 54th birthday to Lee Smith...a day early! Yep, the closer that I rooted for as a middle-schooler in 1994 is nearly eligible for AARP benefits. Well, that's just ducky.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Hobie Landrith, 1963 Topps #209

Yep, we've gone from Drungo to Hobie. Regrettably, Hobie is just a nickname. On the plus side, it's short for "Hobart". A few fun facts about Hobie:

-He was one of seven brothers to play catcher for Northwestern High School in Detroit.

-At age 15, he sometimes worked out at Briggs Stadium, helping Tigers pitchers warm up. He also helped Hank Greenberg get back in playing shape once the slugger returned from military service.

-The Mets made him their first pick in the expansion draft, with Casey Stengel rationalizing in his own inimitable way: "You have to have catchers or you're going to have a lot of passed balls."

-Hobie played only 23 games as a Met, but did deliver the team's first walkoff win with a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off of Milwaukee's Warren Spahn.

-His place in Mets lore was secured on June 7, 1962 when he was sent to the Orioles as the player to be named later in the May 9 trade that made Marvelous Marv Throneberry a Met.

-Landrith hit four home runs as an Oriole, but one of them was a game-winner off of Boston's Dick Radatz with one out in the ninth inning on June 22, 1962. It came with one out and Jerry Adair aboard, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 victory.

-Despite his 1962 heroics, Hobie wasn't much of a hitter. He retired in 1963 with a .233/.320/.327 batting line (75 OPS+), 34 home runs, and 203 RBI in parts of 14 seasons.

-At last check, he was residing in Sunnyvale, CA.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Drungo Hazewood, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #189

To a generation of Orioles fans, this is a lyrical name. Drungo LaRue Hazewood, of Mobile, AL. The 6'3" outfielder was Baltimore's first-round pick in 1977 out of Sacramento (CA) High School, and he flashed serious power and on-base ability in the minors. At age 19, he batted just .231 but posted a .378 on-base percentage at AA Charlotte in 1979. He tied for the team lead with 21 home runs, earning him a spring training invite the following year. Drungo was eventually sent back to the minor-league camp despite a .583 batting average in the Grapefruit League. Earl Weaver undoubtedly knew that the youngster was still too green, but he told reporters with tongue in cheek that he sent the outfielder out because he was making everyone else look bad. Hazewood repeated AA in 1980 and improved to .261 with 28 homers and even added 29 steals, but his OBP dropped to .355 and he struck out a staggering 177 times. It had become obvious that he had trouble with curveballs, and that proved to be a fatal flaw for his career. A September callup to the O's saw him go 0-for-5 with 4 strikeouts in what wound up being his only major league exposure. After three more seasons of diminishing results in the Baltimore farm system, Drungo Hazewood was an ex-baseball player.

Hazewood was one of the players profiled in Dan Barry's book Bottom of the 33rd, an excellent blow-by-blow account of the longest game in professional baseball history, which took place in 1981 between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox. The outfielder explains the origins of his unusual name: he was the ninth of ten children born to Leonard and Catherine Hazewood. When Drungo was about to be born, his mother told his eight older siblings that whichever of them won a footrace to the hospital would name the new baby. Her son Aubrey was the victor, and named his new brother after the surname of a friend. Barry caught up with Hazewood and found out that he'd kept busy with a number of blue-collar jobs in the 30 intervening years, going from construction to a moving company to commercial trucking for Sara Lee.

What made me think of Drungo today? The Birds traded for a new backup catcher, acquiring Taylor Teagarden from the Rangers. While it's no Drungo LaRue Hazewood, Taylor Teagarden is still a pretty fantastic name.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Javy Lopez, 2004 Bowman Chrome #74

The Hall of Fame ballots for 2012 have been released, and this looks like the last breath of fresh air before things get really messy. All of the first-time candidates are mega-long shots for Cooperstown, and that includes Javy Lopez and his .287/.337/.491 line, 260 home runs, and 864 RBI. Ol' Jav didn't have the longevity, having played for 13 full seasons, and he was never much of a defender. The only newbie who projects to get any support is Bernie Williams, and that's only because of the rings he has at home. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Barry Larkin getting into the Hall this year, but probably not anyone else. I wish I could have faith in the voters to give a thumbs-up to Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and maybe even Alan Trammell, but I know better. I don't hold out any hope for Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, because there are a lot of writers still on their high horses. That means that next year is going to be a real headache. Take a look at the list of players who retired in 2007 and will be eligible in a year's time: Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa. That's not even getting into interesting names like Julio Franco and Kenny Lofton. I already feel a headache coming.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pete Harnisch, 1991 Donruss #181

Without much warning, I've been waylaid by a monster cold. I believe in sharing, so you all get to suffer. These 1991 Donruss cards could make you ill just by looking at them. I'll keep it brief, so you don't have to stare too long. Look away...now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chris Hoiles, 1994 Pinnacle #112

I never really gave it much thought before, but one of my favorite themes in my team collection may be cards picturing Chris Hoiles making a play at the plate. This is the fifth such card I've posted on the blog, and if you don't believe me you can click the "chris hoiles" tag at the foot of this entry. Considering that future Oriole Eric Davis played only 23 games with the Tigers in the 1993 season, we shouldn't have a hard time figuring out when this photo was snapped. The ever-valuable Baseball Reference tells us that E.D. and the Tigers visited Camden Yards for a three-game set spanning September 24-26. In the opener, Eric singled once but was stranded on first base. In the second game...well, we've got something.

It was the first half of a doubleheader on Sunday the 26th, after rained washed things out the day before. Arthur Rhodes got the start for the O's and was hammered, allowing back-to-back home runs to Davis and Alan Trammell in the second inning and a three-run shot to Cecil Fielder in the third to earn an early exit. The Birds chipped the Detroit lead down to 6-3 by the seventh inning, but Mike Oquist and Todd Frohwirth ran into more trouble. Travis Fryman and Fielder chased Oquist with back-to-back hits, and Davis greeted Frohwirth with a walk. After Trammell went down swinging, Mickey Tettleton scored Fryman and pinch runner Skeeter Barnes, with E.D. moving to third. Rookie Danny Bautista lofted a fly ball to right field, and Mark McLemore's throw home gunned down Davis for an inning-ending double play. Unfortunately the Orioles still lost, 9-4. Davis earned a partial game off in the nightcap, pinch hitting in the seventh and moving to center field in the next half-inning.

But Chris Hoiles knows who's boss.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lee Lacy, 1985 Fleer Update #U-67

It's really super-neato that Lee Lacy (presumably) made contact on the pitch, but that sure wasn't a very sporting way to dispose of his bat. Carelessly turning your equipment into a hard wooden projectile could have some serious consequences, such as catastrophic injury to the home plate umpire, the Angels catcher, an on-deck teammate, or even a paying customer at Anaheim Stadium. A quick check of the box scores from 1985 shows that Jim Dwyer and Cal Ripken, Jr. were the two men that batted behind Lacy in the Orioles' road games vs. the Angels. You heard it here first: Lee Lacy nearly ended Cal Junior's consecutive-games-played streak in its developmental years. This is what happens when you sign past-their-prime members of the 1979 "We Are Family" Pirates.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bob Grich, 2009 Tristar Obak #63

For today's regular installment of OCOTD, we have an unconventional card depicting a young Bobby Grich in the threads of the AAA Rochester Red Wings. It's so odd to see him without his classic mustache, which weighs in at 1.5 Sellecks. The photo would have been taken in 1970 or 1971, the infielder's age 21 and 22 seasons. In the former season, he played only 63 games at Rochester due to a big-league promotion in late June. But in that half-season with the Red Wings, Grich hit .383/.503/.570 with 9 homers and 42 RBI. He spent nearly all of 1971 at Rochester, batting .336/.439/.632 with 32 home runs, 83 RBI and 124 runs scored. He topped the International League in runs and homers, as well as slugging percentage and OPS. His 299 total bases were 29 more than runner-up Leroy Stanton. Unsurprisingly, he never played another game in the minor leagues after that monster season.

Vintage Fridays: Scott McGregor, 1980 Topps #237

This is the second weekend in a row that I've been derelict in my posting duties. With yesterday being Black Friday, the more masochistic among you might not have missed me anyhow. I was fortunate enough to spend the day not fighting the retail hordes, but sharing food and laughs with friends and family. I had a calorie-rich IHOP breakfast with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law, followed by our traditional holiday-themed afternoon at the movies. This year's selection was Arthur Christmas, a surprisingly hilarious and heartfelt animated story about the forgotten member of the North Pole's first family. I had just enough time to come home and feed the cats before driving up to Towson to enjoy some Thanksgiving leftovers at my friend Kerry's apartment. At 10:00 last night, about a dozen of us relocated from Kerry's place to the Hunt Valley movie theatre to see the new Muppets movie. If you're reading this, I suspect and sincerely hope that you grew up with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, and the rest. You owe it to yourself to see this movie. It was fun and clever and absolutely in the spirit of the classic Jim Henson Muppets. So I didn't make it home until nearly two in the morning, which is why you're getting your fill of Vintage Friday on a Saturday.

There's no great rationale for going with Scott McGregor for this blog entry. I just wanted to call attention to the fact that Eddie Murray is lurking at his post at first base in the background. You could improve upon any Orioles card by slipping Steady Eddie into the mix.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sam Horn, 1992 Studio #125

I think I'm going to have to work terrible Sam Horn puns into every holiday I can. I already went with an Uncle Sam reference last year on July 4. Here on Thanksgiving, we have a Horn o' Plenty. (Please hold your groans until the end of the blog entry.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, wherever you might be and whatever you might be doing. I'm going to stop in early in the afternoon to visit with my brother-in-law's family, and then head north to Harford County for a proper holiday dinner at my aunt and uncle's house. Then this evening, because I'm a crazy person, my sister and I will be going downtown to M & T Bank Stadium to root on the Ravens against the NFC West Champion (I'm going to go out on a limb and award them the division) San Francisco 49ers. I'm incredibly excited to attend my first prime-time football game. I'll see you back here tomorrow, though I'll probably be a little hoarse.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mickey Tettleton, 1990 Topps Glossy Send-In #57

In my aimless television wanderings last night, I came across a MAC Conference college football game between Miami of Ohio and Ohio University. The starting quarterback for the Ohio Bobcats is one Tyler Tettleton, a redshirt sophomore from Norman, OK and the son of Mickey. Tyler passed for 203 yards and 3 touchdowns and also led OU with 126 rushing yards in a 21-14 win. The team finished the regular season 9-3 overall with a 6-2 conference record. They'll face either Northern Illinois or Toledo in the MAC championship game in Detroit on December 2. For the season, Tettleton completed 64% of his passes for 2,868 yards with 26 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He was also the team's second-leading rusher with 576 yards on the ground, a 4.4 yards-per-attempt average, and a team-high 8 touchdowns. That's a pretty impression effort for a first-year starter. Could Tyler follow his father into professional sports? Let me put it this way: a couple of guys named John Skelton and Richard Bartel played QB for the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday. I wouldn't bet against him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Brian Roberts, 2011 Topps Cognac #443

It seems like it's been forever since I featured a recent addition to my unofficial Brian Roberts collection. It's hard to find the enthusiasm to talk about my favorite player when faced with the grim reality that he is now 34 years old and has missed 226 games over the past two seasons. But this shiny (you'll have to take my word for it) cognac parallel is too good to ignore. I like it even more because the baseball blog cognoscenti have dubbed these cards as "liquorfractors". Hey, Topps, if you don't want to get tweaked, you probably shouldn't name your inserts after booze. Anyway, this was the incoming half of my contribution to Thorzul's fifth annual Trade Me Anything! series. Looking to take full advantage of the "anything" concept, I sent Milwaukee's favorite teacher/blogger a couple of duplicate Brewers stickers (Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart) and a homemade mix CD featuring classic rock hits from 1970, the year the Brew Crew debuted in the major leagues. If the video he posted on Thursday was any indication, my musical choices were wise. As for Brian, there might be hope yet. After all, Sidney Crosby just had a successful return to the ice for the Penguins after sitting out since January with concussion symptoms. If Roberts were subjected to a similar timetable, he'd be ready for action by Opening Day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Aubrey Huff, 2008 Topps Co-Signers #58

I took a look at the final vote totals for the American League MVP. Congratulations to Justin Verlander, who I've had the pleasure and the pain of watching in person as he made my Orioles look foolish. But as I peered down-ballot, I saw no pity votes for any Baltimore players. Matt Wieters didn't get tossed a tenth-place vote for his otherworldly defense and improving offense. No one scribbled in Kevin Gregg in eighth place on a drunken dare. I don't really think the O's deserved any love in the MVP discussion, but when David Freaking Robertson gets named on an MVP ballot AND a Cy Young ballot, you've got proof that some BBWAA members are strange creatures.

Really, the lack of Orioles in the MVP race is just another signpost of how far off-track the club has been recently. Aubrey Huff's fluke 2008 season earned him a 16th-place finish in that year's MVP vote, making him the only Oriole in the last five years to be so honored. Miguel Tejada's fifth-place finish in 2004 was the last time the Birds had a serious candidate, and even then he received no first-place votes. The last time any voting member of the BBWAA considered an Oriole to be the most valuable American Leaguer, it was 1991; 15 of them boosted Cal Ripken, Jr. to the top of the heap. I'd check and see how long it's been since a Baltimore pitcher was included on a Cy Young ballot, but I'd like to finish writing this post some time before Thanksgiving. Team success will breed more individual recognition, and I can't wait for the day when we don't have to drum up pride from obligatory All-Star selections and occasional Gold Gloves or Player of the Week nods. I long for a roster that even casual fans in other cities can identify by name and by face, and not just because they were good for another team a couple of years earlier.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jeff Stone, 1989 Upper Deck #486

This is the kind of intense action photo that sells baseball cards. Jeff Stone, bat still rested on his shoulder, has already watched the ball travel all the way from the pitcher's hand to the catcher's mitt. Now he stares dolefully at the home plate umpire, hoping that he'll call the pitch a ball and thus give him new life. Of course, Upper Deck probably didn't have much of a chance to photograph Stone as he performed feats of strength in Baltimore. After batting .291 as a part-timer for the Phillies in the mid-1980s, the outfielder was one of many players to crater out with the 1988 Orioles. In 26 games in April and September, he went 10-for-61 (.164) with a double and an RBI. It was the beginning of the end for Jeff as a major leaguer, as he totaled 50 games over the subsequent two seasons for the Rangers and Red Sox. But he is the second-best Stone to ever play for the O's, and that and a dollar will buy you a Snickers bar.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Billy Rowell, 2007 Tristar Prospects Plus Protential #TP-BR

Due to some poor time management, I didn't get yesterday's card posted before I left for a day trip to Chestertown for some Washington College alumni events. So you'll get a rare doubleheader today.

Friday was the deadline for teams to add minor league players to the 40-man roster, thereby protecting them from being claimed in the Rule 5 draft. Unsurprisingly, Billy Rowell was left off of the Orioles' 40-man. There is zero chance that another team grabs the infielder, which tells you all that you need to know about one of the club's biggest draft busts. In 2006, the O's selected Billy out of Bishop Eustace High School in Gloucester, NJ with the ninth overall pick in the first round. Six seasons later, he's played a whopping 41 games at the AA level, hitting .227/.304/.244 at Bowie last year. He's slugged .389 for his minor league career, and it took him three tries at single-A Frederick to crack double digits in home runs. He's even started venting his frustration with the organization, which is a great idea when you're presumably on thin ice already.

If you're playing the Hindsight Game, the two players chosen immediately after Rowell in 2006 were Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer. Not a great day for the Orioles' personnel department.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Hoyt Wilhelm, 1959 Topps #349

Today is the 49th birthday of former Oriole Jamie Moyer. After missing the 2011 season with Tommy John surgery, the veteran of 24 big league seasons intends to pitch again in 2012, and has already worked out for scouts from several teams. Nothing would make me happier than to see someone 20 years older than me on a major league roster next year. In honor of Jamie Moyer, here is a brief history of players who suited up for the Orioles in their forties.

1957: Dizzy Trout makes a brief comeback, pitching twice in relief for the O's at age 42, his first big league action since 1952.

1960: First baseman Bob "Rope" Boyd bats .317 in 88 trips to the plate at age 40. The club reacquires Dave Philley (also 40) in September and he bats .265/.342/.471 in 14 games.

1961: Philley bats 157 times in his age 41 season, struggling to the tune of .250/.293/.361.

1962: Knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm turns 40 on July 26. In his final season in Baltimore, he goes 7-10 and leads the club with a 1.94 ERA and 15 saves. Traded to the White Sox the following winter, he sticks around for another decade and sets a record with 1,070 games pitched.

1970: Reliever Dick Hall earns a win with three spotless innings on his 40th birthday, September 27. It runs his record to 10-5 for the year with 3 saves and a 3.08 ERA. He adds seven scoreless frames during the postseason, helping the Birds to their second World Series win in five years.

1971: Hall slips to 6-6 with a 4.98 ERA and retires at season's end.

1977: The end of an era. Brooks Robinson hits the big 4-0 in May and hangs up his spikes later that summer, capping 23 seasons in orange and black. In 52 at-bats he ekes out a line of /149/.212/.255. He does give the fans one final thrill with a pinch-hit, walkoff three-run homer on April 19.

1992: Mike Flanagan had a memorable 1991 season, returning to the O's as an effective reliever and finishing the last game at Memorial Stadium. Camden Yards didn't treat him as well. At age 40, Flanny allowed 31 earned runs in 34.2 innings for an 8.05 ERA. Rick Dempsey made a surprise curtain call at age 42, appearing in 7 games in June and July and one more in September when the team was short-handed behind the plate. He had a hit and a pair of walks in 11 plate appearances.

1996: In another homecoming, the Orioles reacquire 40-year-old Eddie Murray in a midsummer trade with the Indians. He hits 10 home runs, including the 500th of his career, to help the team capture the A.L. Wild Card. The Birds bow out in the ALCS despite a .333/.429/.467 postseason batting performance by Eddie.

1997: Ah, Jesse Orosco. The Jurassic lefty appeared in 71 games, going 6-3 with a 2.32 ERA that was his lowest since 1989. At 40, he was just getting warmed up.

1998: Orosco strolled in from the bullpen another 69 times, posting a 4-1 record, a 3.18 ERA, and 7 saves. Nothing to see here.

1999: At age 42, Orosco showed some signs of wear. In 65 games, he had a 5.34 ERA. Of course, he only totaled 32 innings (19 ER), so earned run average isn't the most telling stat. He also struck out 35 batters, a rate of 9.8 per 9 innings. He broke Hoyt Wilhelm's record for games pitched, and went on to obliterate that mark by continuing to take the mound through 2003, his age 46 season. His record now stands at 1,252 games. Designated hitter Harold Baines is an All-Star at age 40, hitting .322/.395/.583 with 24 HR and 81 RBI in 104 games for the O's before a late-season trade to Cleveland. He slumps with the Tribe, but still finishes with his best power numbers in 15 years.

2000: Back for a third tour of duty, the 41-year-old Baines hits .266/.349/.437 with 10 home runs in 72 games. At midseason, he's traded to the White Sox, and retires a year later with his original team. Cal Ripken, Jr. blows out 40 candles in August and finishes an injury-plagued season at .256/.310/.453 with 15 HR and 56 RBI in 83 games.

2001: A lost season for the Orioles (98 losses) becomes a farewell tour for Ripken, who slumps to .239/.276/.361 with 14 HR and 68 RBI. A late-season diversion arrives in the form of 42-year-old Tim Raines, who is acquired from the Expos in October to play alongside his son, an O's rookie. Tim Sr. goes 3-for-11 with a home run and 5 RBI.

2004: Rafael Palmeiro turns 40 on September 24, and goes 0-for-4. It is part of a subpar season for the mustachioed one, as he bats .258/.359/.436 with 23 HR and 88 RBI. Fellow prodigal Oriole B.J. Surhoff also turns 40 in 2004, and produces a season of .309/.365/.420 with 8 HR and 50 RBI while missing over a month due to injury.

2005: Raffy doesn't make it to his 41st birthday in Charm City. Something about a B-12 shot, mumble mumble. Before all of that goes down, he does collect his 3,000th career hit, and finishes his time in the majors at .266/.339/.447 with 18 HR and 60 RBI in 110 games. Surhoff wraps up his career in 2005 as well, with a tad less infamy. In another injury-truncated season, he has a line of .257/.282/.356. Sidearmer Steve Reed gives the Orioles a third 40-year-old, but also sees his long career run aground with a 6.61 ERA in 32.2 innings of relief.

2006: 40-year-old Jeff Conine has a nondescript time of it in Baltimore: .265/.325/.401 before a late August trade to the Phillies.

Unsurprisingly, the O's haven't suited up a quadragenarian in the past five seasons, as they make a more concerted youth effort. I wouldn't expect them to break that streak this year, as much fun as it is to imagine Jamie Moyer rejoining the Birds 16 years after they last parted ways.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mark Reynolds, 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen #231

Hey, an Oriole is the best at something! As reported by Lewie Pollis at Beyond the Boxscore, Mark Reynolds had the highest power factor in the major leagues in 2011. Great! So what's power factor? It's just extra bases per hit: subtract the player's hits from his total bases and divide the result by his hits. It's a slightly more reliable measure than slugging percentage, in that it doesn't penalize sluggers who make less contact overall. As Pollis points out, somebody who went 1-for-4 with a home run would have the same slugging percentage as a player who went 4-for-4 with all singles. Reynolds, who had 27 doubles, a triple, and 37 home runs, totaled 65 extra-base hits of his 118 total hits. That's 258 total bases on 118 hits, giving him a power factor of 1.186. That's pretty far ahead of runner-up Curtis Granderson and his PF of 1.105, and nearly double the league median of .621. O's shortstop J.J. Hardy also cracked the top 25, slipping in at 23rd with a PF of .824. Of course their infield-mate Robert Andino had the ninth-worst number in baseball at .308, but who's counting?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jim Palmer, 2004 Upper Deck Timeless Teams #227

This is turning out to be an eventful week for Orioles news after all. Today the Sun reported that the team will soon be honoring all six of their Baseball Hall of Famers - Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken, Jr. - with individual bronze statues at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. These sculptures will be situated beyond the bullpens in left-center field. The O's will make an official announcement at a later date, including the timing of the dedications. I don't know what poses will be chosen for the statues, but I certainly hope that Jim Palmer's trademark high leg kick will be captured for all of Baltimore's baseball fans to see.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rich Dauer, 1983 Donruss #455

After months upon months of speculation, or maybe two and a half weeks, the Orioles finally revealed the full details of their uniform tweaks for the 2012 season. Check it all out at Roch Kubatko's blog, and then you come right back hear so I can tell you what I think about the new duds.

Welcome back! First, I'll get the piddling dislikes out of the way. I've never been a fan of the white-panel hats. They're just not my style, and I think they pale in comparison to the solid black look. I also still don't like the "O's" hats, but I don't feel as strongly about them as did when they first appeared last decade. That's just as well, since they don't seem to be going anywhere any time soon.

I'm indifferent to the Camden Yards 20th anniversary patch. It's not very exciting to look at, but it's not a Citi Field-esque catastrophe either. The brick pattern in the background is a nice enough touch, but the black box around the orange-and-white Oriole Park at Camden Yards text looks a bit off to me. The color I most associate with the ballpark is green. Did they think it would clash too much? Eh.

A minor thumbs up to the slightly tweaked "Baltimore" script on the road jerseys. The old tapered wordmark didn't bother me too much, but the new uniformly-sized letters do look cleaner. The orange Saturday special jerseys are right in my wheelhouse. Orange is my favorite color, and it'll be nice to see it back in the rotation for the first time since 1992. It's loud without being an eyesore in my opinion. Lastly, a big thumbs up to the new-old Oriole bird. I know it's a fierce topic of debate in Baltimore, but the stodgy ornithologically-correct bird had a couple of decades to do his thing, and it's time to have a little fun with a familiar smiling face. As I mentioned previously, it looks especially great on the black and orange road caps. And although I don't much care for the "O's" cap logo, it's a solid addition to the bird's cap. It's at least an improvement over the indiscriminate blob of color on the cap of the bird's 1960s-1980s predecessors.

Of course, as many other Orioles fans have suggested amid the buzz of the new uniforms, these threads will look a lot better if the guys wearing them are able to win 15 or 20 more games.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1988 Donruss #26

If you're feeling generous, you might classify this card as a work of art. But it pales in comparison to the custom creations of that crafty San Diegan (Diegon?) Travis Peterson, the man behind PunkRockPaint. Travis has been doing his thing on his own blog for the past three years, but he's really outdone himself with his submission to Thorzul's fourth annual Nightmares on Cardboard Contest. He Photoshopped and printed an entire pack of 1986 Fleer/"Fear" cards, complete with ghastly team logo stickers and "Baseball's Famous Frights" fun fact/player cartoon cards. Given my Charm City provinciality, I especially enjoyed the Baltimore Poe Boys logo sticker and the card featuring the Poe Boys' young shortstop, Cal Raven, Jr. You owe it to yourself to check out Travis' masterpieces. I'll just state for the record that I would absolutely pony up several American dollars for a Poe Boys shirt.