Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

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.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mark Williamson, 1993 Upper Deck #722

This is the first card I can remember seeing that tears down the fourth wall. For some reason, the Upper Deck photographer perched over the shoulder of another photographer and captured the process of Mark Williamson posing for that other shutterbug. Very meta, huh? I'll say this for Upper Deck; they were never afraid to try something new. We're talking about a baseball card featuring a middle reliever. You might as well break the mold a bit.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

B.J. Ryan, 2004 Topps Total #532

On the list of things you don't expect to see in your email, "Dan Duquette is now following you on Twitter!" is right up there. But it's true. New Orioles GM (okay, VP for Baseball Operations) Dan Duquette is subscribed to my tweets. His username is @danduquette (go figure), if you'd like to check him out. I'm sure it was as much a courtesy as anything else; he does follow 1,678 others. But on the off chance that Dan is actually reading my tweets, and maybe checking in on the blog, just allow me to say: please don't give any multi-year, high-dollar contracts to free agent relievers. Don't forget about B.J. Ryan, Danys Baez, Mike Gonzalez, Kevin Gregg, and the rest of the Bullpen Chambers of Horror. I'm sure you're smart enough to know that already, but I thought the same of Andy MacPhail. Enjoy your time in Baltimore!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Doug DeCinces, 1979 O-Pee-Chee #217

I'm always hesitant to skimp on the commentary on Vintage Fridays, but I spent the day outlet shopping in Lancaster and I can barely keep my eyes open. Since it's 11/11/11, here's a Canadian import featuring one of the best #11's in team history. At the time this card was hitting stores, Doug DeCinces was coming off of a 1978 season that proved to be his best in Baltimore. Despite missing 20 games, the third baseman led the O's with 37 doubles and 28 home runs, as well as a .526 slugging mark (third-best in the American League). He also drove in 80 runs and batted .286. According to Baseball Reference, his total of 6.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) made him the fifth-best overall player and third-best offensive player in the A.L. Not bad for somebody who was given the unenviable task of replacing Brooks Robinson at the hot corner.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Adam Jones, 2011 Topps 60 #T60-36

Once again, Orioles pitcher and Netherlands native Rick Vanden Hurk has spearheaded an offseason promotional tour of Europe by major league players. Accompanying him are teammate Adam Jones, as well as Roger Bernadina, Mike Stanton, Dexter Fowler, Greg Halman (who is also from the Netherlands), and Prince Fielder. Oddly enough, ex-big leaguer Bobby Bonilla is along for the trip as well, which I learned when A.J. tweeted this photo from Prague:

From left to right, that's Prince, Adam, Dexter, and Bobby Bo. Yes, the three active players are "Tebowing". Ugh. No idea what Bobby's up to, but he certainly looks like he's enjoying himself. The tour started in the Netherlands and will conclude in Italy this weekend. If you 're bilingual, you can find out more at europeanbigleaguetour.com.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mike Boddicker, 1986 Fleer #269

Some bizarre yet encouraging news came out today about former Orioles pitcher and broadcaster Mike Boddicker. The native Kansan was diagnosed with cancer recently, but it was confined to his tonsils. I've never heard of something like that, but a little Internet research tells me that tonsillar cancer affects more than 8,000 Americans per year. It seems that Mike was fortunate to receive his diagnosis early. Three weeks ago, the tonsils were removed. A follow-up biopsy of the lymph nodes came back negative, but he will still undergo localized radiation treatments as a precaution. Roch Kubatko reports that Boddicker is feeling fine and looks forward to a hunting trip this week. I wouldn't be game for that kind of activity even in perfect health, so I hope and think that Mike will be alright.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Brad Havens, 1987 Fleer #472

During baseball season, I often take for granted the daily glut of Orioles news. Whenever I need a quick idea for a blog entry, I can turn to the day's game results, or discuss the recent performance of a player (good or bad), or even take a look back at memorable O's occurrences on that particular date in team history. But more often that not, there's just nothing going on in the winter months. There's only so much hot stove rumor-mongering to be done, especially when the hometown team doesn't seem likely to be throwing around free-agent dollars. What's a workaday blogger to do? Stare off into the distance in an empty stadium like Brad Havens, waiting for a long toss that won't come for five more months?

Tonight, I'll fill the void by telling you what I plan to do in these long and lonely months until April 6.

I've already turned my rooting energies toward the Ravens. Thought they haven't won the Super Bowl since 2001, I certainly haven't taken their regular-season and early-round playoff success for granted. Baltimore's football organization is as professional and competent as its baseball team once was. With Sunday's heart-stopping win in Pittsburgh securing a season sweep of the hated Steelers, I'm optimistic that the Ravens will have another strong chance at the Lombardi Trophy.

I'll be getting my money's worth out of Netflix. I finally broke down and subscribed to their wireless streaming service earlier this fall, and it's given me a chance to see plenty of movies I should have gotten to sooner - everything from Shutter Island to Being John Malkovich. I've got a few dozen more waiting in my Instant Queue, and that's before I get to their selection of TV shows. I don't have the patience to follow many television series, especially when it comes to playing catchup on top-rated shows that I didn't latch on to at the beginning. I've nearly finished with Arrested Development, and it's bittersweet knowing that I only have three new-to-me episodes left. Next I'll probably take on Mad Men, to see what all the fuss is about. If you've got other recommendations, drop 'em in the comments.

Maybe I'll do some long-overdue home improvements. Finally get around to hanging pictures in the bedrooms, finishing up the last of the trim work...all that stuff that I put off indefinitely once I finally moved into my house last year. I was hoping that if I waited long enough, the cats might chip in and do their share...I guess I adopted a couple of freeloaders though.

For the next few months, the holiday hub-bub will keep me busy as well. I'm already giddy for a rare Friday off for Veteran's Day, and I'll be celebrating with either a shopping trip to Lancaster or a visit with friends a bit farther north in Philadelphia. Maybe both, depending on how things unfold. Thanksgiving as usual at my aunt and uncle's up in the sticks of Harford County, probably followed by a  journey to M & T Bank Stadium that night to root on the Ravens with my sister. As for Christmas...I may have mentioned before that I am a Yuletide sap. So that'll keep me going throughout December. By the time New Year's Day gets here, it'll be mere weeks until pitchers and catchers report!

Oh, and I shouldn't need to tell you that I'll still find time for buying, trading, cataloging, and organizing baseball cards. There is no offseason for that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rodrigo Lopez, 2002 Leaf Rookies and Stars #351

I've been avoiding talking about the infuriating and humiliating circus that was the Orioles' general manager search, because I don't like to type angry. If you put something on the Internet, it has a way of sticking around and cropping back up. So I'll confine my opinions to the man who finally accepted the job over the weekend, former Expos and Red Sox GM Dan Duquette. I'm relieved, honestly. Considering all of the highly qualified candidates who lined up to turn down the job, and the anonymously-quoted executives who clucked about Peter Angelos' heavy-handed tactics, I'm just glad that the O's tabbed someone with a resume as impressive as Duquette's. They could've wound up with an Angelos toady like John Stockstill, or a Dark Ages-bumbler like Ned Colletti; both were linked to the job at various times.

The primary concerns with the new GM (other than the ever-present specter of Angelos' interference) are his reputation as a brusque, impersonal man and the fact that the hasn't been employed by a major league team since 2002. As Camden Chat's Andrew Gibson pointed out in his own take on the hire, that was the year that Rodrigo Lopez was a Rookie of the Year hopeful. It's been awhile. But Duquette built winners in Montreal and Boston and had a knack for savvy trades. He acquired Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields (while with the Expos) and Carl Pavano and Tony Armas, Jr. (with the Sawx). He turned Heathcliff Slocumb into Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek, a deal you've probably heard about before. While he's not an Andrew Friedman-esque wunderkind, his resume is progressive enough that I'm not overly fearful of any Kevin Gregg-type roster catastrophes.

Oh, and the famous "in the twilight of his career" remark that Duquette made after letting Roger Clemens leave Boston as a free agent in 1996? I can forgive the guy for not predicting that his former ace would pump himself full of steroids in order to return to dominance for another decade.

So welcome to Baltimore, Dan. Do the best you can with whatever authority you're actually given.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Manny Alexander, 1992 Topps #551

It's true, I finally got the White Whale of my 1992 Topps Oriole team set. It was one of about 40 cards sent to me by fellow O's fan Paul last week. Just yesterday, Ed spotted some of my other set needs at a card show and picked them up on the cheap. After the dust settled, I consulted my want list, and I now need one stinking card. The last man standing is Ryne Sandberg, who occupies card number 110. So if anyone has ol' Ryno hanging around and just taking up space, I'd be glad to take him off of your hands. Shoot me an email.

Meanwhile, how cool is it that Chipper Jones is still playing? (Not very cool, if you're a Mets fan. Otherwise, it's quite nifty.) This isn't even his first Topps card. He had a draft pick card in the 1991 set, since the Braves chose him first overall out of high school in June 1990. I was in the second grade in 1990, so I'm grateful to guys like Chipper for sticking around in the major leagues to make me feel a little less old.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ken Singleton, 1981 Kellogg's #39

I wish that Kellogg's had put cards like these in their cereal boxes during my childhood. The ethereal blur of the background image really makes the player's portrait pop. It's more visually interesting to me than the lenticular "moving" images that Kellogg's used on the cards that were inserted into cereal boxes when I was a kid. There were also 66 cards in the 1981 set, as opposed to the scant 15 released in 1991. Of course, there's something puzzling me about Ken Singleton's card. I have no idea what is floating in the background over Ken's right shoulder. Is it the top of a batting cage? A construction crane? A skywalk to nowhere? Your thoughts?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Vintage Fridays: Carl Warwick, 1966 Topps #247

Carl Warwick was an Oriole just long enough to get his face on this card. The six-year major league veteran made his mark with a 3-for-4 pinch hitting performance for the Cardinals in the 1964 World Series, and also hit 17 home runs in 1962 for St. Louis and Houston. In July 1965, the O's acquired him from the Cards but got little production. In 9 games, he was 0-for-14 with 3 walks. The following spring he was traded to the Cubs for backup catcher Vic Roznovsky. Carl spent most of the year in the minors, hitting .227 in 16 games in Chicago. Those were the final big league games of the 29-year-old's career. Considering the context, it's kind of impressive that Topps captured Warwick's fleeting time in orange and black instead of using one of those lame close-up portraits with no hat. It's the small stuff that makes me happy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Jeff Tackett, 1993 Topps Gold #6

Plain and simple, I dig this card. I've always felt that it was a pretty unique action shot, with Jeff Tackett flipping the ball up in the air after a play at the plate. It just hovers there as Jeff wears an expression of slack-jawed disappointment. There appears to be a player or coach (Royals?) applauding in the visitors' dugout in the background. There's a lot going on here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nick Markakis, 2009 Upper Deck SP Authentic #70

If you're already as starved for baseball as I am, maybe you watched Jeremy Guthrie pitch three shutout innings last night in the MLB All-Stars' rain-shortened 7-0 win over a team of Taiwanese stars. After that was over, maybe you even flipped over to ESPN2 to watch the unveiling of the 2011 Gold Glove Awards. If so, you know that catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis each won their first Gold Glove. Former Orioles center fielder and eight-time Gold Glover Paul Blair was even in the studio to announce the American League outfielders that received the hardware, which was a neat moment. Obviously, the O's haven't received a ton of laurels in recent years; the last time they had multiple Gold Glovers was 1998, and the honorees were the long-gone trio of Mike Mussina, Rafael Palmeiro, and Roberto Alomar.

The great news is that not only did Wieters and Markakis win, but they were deserving. In particular, it's been a pleasure to watch Matt develop into an elite defensive backstop in just three years. After enduring the creaky Javy Lopez and the sluggardly Ramon Hernandez, it's nice to have a lean, mean 6'5" badass to gun down baserunners, smother wayward pitches, and form an impenetrable wall against homeward bound opponents. As for Markakis, the advanced defensive metrics aren't sold on him, but it seems to me that he's memorized every nook and cranny of the right field territory in Camden Yards, and there's no denying his expertise when it comes to punishing runners who are foolish enough to try for an extra base. He's gotten lost in the shuffle playing for some bad teams, and it's nice to see him get a bit of attention.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1989 Donruss All-Stars #5

I vaguely remember a time in the mid-1990s when Cal Ripken, Jr. went several days without shaving. Maybe he was trying to break out of a slump and had already tried altering his batting stance for the 52nd time. Perhaps the team was on a long summer road trip and he was too worn down to bother with a razor. I guess it could have even been his evil twin, Hal Ripken, hellbent on ruining Cal's clean-cut image. Whatever the case, I just remember that the thick, visible stubble looked out of place on the Iron Man's cheeks.

I'm prepared to go in the opposite direction. I'm hardly ever seen without facial hair, misleading sidebar photo notwithstanding. At present, I'd say it's been nearly two years since the last time I was clean-shaven. Even then, I had been planning to grow a full beard and just needed a fresh canvas. Similarly, I won't be smooth-cheeked for long this time. But it's for a good cause. I've decided to participate in Movember, a fundraising and awareness campaign for men's health. There is a particular focus on prostate cancer and other cancers affecting men of all ages. Basically, I'll spend November growing and grooming a mustache and collecting sponsorships for having done so. This is the ninth annual Movember event, and there's a tall mountain to climb in order to top last year's total of $80.7 million dollars raised. If you would like to sponsor me, or even register yourself, every little bit would help. You can make a donation at my MoSpace page, where I will post updates on my mustachular progress. Thanks in advance for your generosity!

With that out of the way, I hereby promise that I will keep this blog here free of facial hair discussion for the rest of the week.