Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, 2013 Topps Orioles Team Set #BAL-17

We drove back home from Ocean City yesterday afternoon and barely had time to unpack our bags before heading downtown for the Orioles-Yankees game. As my sister and I took our usual place in Section 340, we grimaced as we watched scores of navy blue-clad New York fans filled up the seats around us. There's nothing worse than obnoxious Yankee rooters taking over the ballpark and taunting the local fans as a game slips away; I'm still a bit scarred from Jim Johnson's ninth-inning meltdown on May 20.

I turned to Liz and wished out loud for an O's blowout win. I wouldn't say that I was confident in such a result, but there were some positive signs. The Zach Britton-David Phelps pitching matchup gave the home team a fighting chance, and the Yanks lineup has cratered. Jayson Nix batting second? Vernon Wells cleanup? $200 million doesn't buy much depth these days. We also took solace in the presence of fellow Birds fans immediately to our left and right.

Of course, the Orioles granted my wish in the first inning by hammering Phelps out of the gate. Five batters in, they had a 4-0 lead, courtesy of an Adam Jones RBI single and a towering three-run homer to the Baltimore bullpen by (all together now) Chris Davis. Two innings later, it went from a comfy lead to a laugher, as Chris Dickerson singled in a pair of runs and Ryan Flaherty knocked Phelps out with his own three-run clout to the flag court. The "Let's Go Yank-ees!" chants had been stifled almost before they could begin.

I spent the middle and late innings bonding with a boisterous fan sitting to my right. He was wearing an Adam Jones t-shirt, and had made a rare trip east from Frederick with his wife to see the game. They reserved a hotel room in the city in order to drink and be merry without worrying about getting back home safely. As my new pal treated me to a 16-ounce can of Natty Boh, he told me about his hazy memory of the Orioles' 1983 World Series win. He was only eight years old at the time, and didn't fully comprehend the reason for his mother's excitable dancing in the living room. October 16 just happened to be his mom's birthday, and he assumed that she got a really nice present. I guess she did, actually.

The Yankees got frisky enough to chase Britton and plate a couple of runs in the sixth inning, but when  Davis stepped to the plate with Nick Markakis on first base and two outs in the bottom of the inning, the guy to my right assured the New Yorkers (and wannabe New Yorkers) in our vicinity that it would be 11-2 in a moment. Chris made good on that boast by launching a moon shot over the right field scoreboard for his 30th home run of 2013. Yep, it's still June.

Pedro Strop made his now-customary garbage time appearance in the ninth, but even he proved incapable of coughing up a nine-run lead so late in the game. The Yankees settled for one more run and an 11-3 loss. For me and my sister, vacation lasted a few more hours.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Dave May, 1969 Topps #113

Dave May was born in New Castle, Delaware. I won't quite make it that far north tomorrow, but in 12 hours or so I will be seeing many of the scenic sights of coastal Delaware as I travel to Ocean City (Maryland) with my family. I've been looking forward to our annual week at the beach for a long time, especially since it will be my fiance's first trip "downy Ocean, hon!". I'm sure that you can get along just fine without me for the rest of the month while I get some recreational reading, dining, sunbathing, and swimming under my belt. See you in a week!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brady Anderson, 2001 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia #66

Chris Davis is on pace for 58 home runs this season. Sure, "on pace for" is a load of hooey. It's a long season, and it's full of variables. But I've seen enough wondrous things from Crush over the past calendar year that I'm not going to discount the possibility. He's certainly well on his way to knocking Brady Anderson from the top of the Orioles' single-season leader board for home runs. It was a real bizarre thrill to watch the Birds' sideburns-sporting leadoff hitter blast 50 homers in 1996. Brady was on a team that featured Cal Ripken, Jr., Chris Hoiles, Bobby Bonilla, Roberto Alomar, and Eddie Murray...and HE was the headline-grabbing power hitter.

But Brady's had his fun. It never seemed quite right that he was the team's record holder, especially since he displaced Frank Robinson's legendary 1966 Triple Crown season from the top spot. So I'm unofficially starting the countdown. Chris Davis needs 25 home runs in the next 89 games to get the job done. I like his odds.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

J. J. Hardy, 2013 Topps Orioles Team Set #BAL-5

Today was a momentous day for the Orioles: J. J. Hardy stole his first base in two and a half years with the team.

Okay, that's not the headline. The O's won their league-best 16th series of 2013 by demolishing the Central-leading Tigers, 13-3. The Baltimore bats pounded out 17 hits, with the big blows coming from (shock of shocks) Chris Davis, who had a double and a pair of towering two-run homers, his 25th and 26th of the season. Taylor Teagarden added a three-run shot, giving him more runs batted in than hits. Nate McLouth chipped in with three hits and his career-best 24th stolen base, Adam Jones knocked in three runs...it was truly a group effort.

But back to Hardy. He had a single and a sacrifice fly and played his usual impeccable shortstop. He may still be basking in the glow of last night's game, when he hit his third home run of the season against 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Justin Verlander. Overall, J. J. is rebounding nicely from a subpar offensive effort in 2012. After a slow start, he's gotten his average up to .271 on the year with 14 home runs and 43 RBI.

Thanks to the absence of Derek Jeter and the Orioles' recent success and increased fan interest, Hardy is one of four O's who would be slated to start the All-Star Game if voting ended today. Even in the Davey Johnson glory years of the late 1990s, I've never seen the Birds enjoy such popularity in Midsummer Classic voting. Jones is leading all AL outfielders in votes (even that Mike Trout guy), and seems primed to make his third All-Star appearance. Hardy's lone trip to the showcase game was back in 2007 as a Milwaukee Brewer. The other two Orioles sitting in prime position are Davis, who is holding off Prince Fielder at first base, and Nick Markakis, who is something of a surprise would-be starter. Nick was a victim of the O's long fallow period, as his superior early-career performances were largely unrecognized. He doesn't drive the ball like he once did (.488 slugging % in 2007-08, .417 to date in 2013) and has lost some zip on his throwing arm in right field, but it would be nice to see his teammates push him toward Citi Field in early July after he had to carry the weight for so long.

It's mid-June. The O's are in the thick of the American League East and Wild Card races, they're 11 games over .500 and have a whole handful of key players dotting the statistical leaderboards, and it seems like things are as they should be. This is why I hung in there for so many years.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Zach Britton, 2012 Topps Heritage #19

Jason Hammel caught a nasty virus from his kid, and it's thrown the Orioles' starting rotation all out of whack for this week's series in Detroit. Last night, the O's took the path of least resistance and handed the ball to the confoundingly hittable Jake Arrieta, on the basis that he 1) was rested; b) had minor league options; and iii) was already on the 40-man roster. That's how far Jake has fallen. After he predictably failed (5 R, 10 H in 4.2 IP), he was on a plane back to Norfolk before most of the team was done showering. No fuss, no muss.

Tonight, the team's second consecutive spot start goes to another wayward young pitcher, Zach Britton. Though healthier than he was in 2012, when he made only 12 appearances for the Birds with a 5.07 ERA, Zach has spent all of the current season (other than one rocky start in Seattle) in AAA. The prospect of the 25-year-old lefty facing the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in hostile territory isn't nearly as terrifying to me as the thought of Arrieta doing the same. Britton has a 3.28 ERA with the Tides this year, and has allowed only a pair of home runs in 60.1 innings. He's been even better as of late. Still, with Justin Verlander starting for the Tigers, the odds are lopsided. For my part, I'd just like some sign that the Orioles have legitimate pitching depth, instead of "plenty of guys who suck and a few who are usually okay".

UPDATE: Zach pitched into the sixth inning and left with a 5-1 lead thanks to home runs from J. J. Hardy and Adam Jones. That'll play.

Monday, June 17, 2013

David Hernandez, 2009 Topps Updates and Highlights Chrome Rookie Refractor #CHR2

This is one of the cards that I acquired in Thorzul's May card draft. There was a 55-card chrome refractor insert set in 2009 Topps Updates and Highlights, featuring a bunch of that season's notable rookies. In addition to David Hernandez, there are also shiny rookie cards of Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen, and Nolan Reimold elsewhere in that set. Anyway, I wrote a post last month explaining how the card draft worked and how enjoyable it was to come away with a variety of unusual cards. You can read that here.

Thorzul is currently accepting entries for another card draft, and this one is purportedly more vintage-heavy, so I threw my hat in the ring after a bit of dithering. But the fate of this draft is now in jeopardy. After two open calls for entrants, six of the ten draft slots remain unclaimed. Thorzul's giving folks one last shot to sign up before he scraps the draft and refunds the entry fees. If you've got $18 to burn and you want to join the fun, sign up here. In return, you'll get 15 cards. Will you land some nifty relic cards or autographs or even some 1959 Topps? That depends on where your priorities are. I got a lot of the cards I wanted the most in May, because each collector has his or her own idea of what makes a great and/or desirable card. So come on, don't leave us hanging!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Brian Roberts, 2002 Upper Deck MVP #64

As I've mentioned before, my father shares a birthday with Brian Roberts, who remains a favorite player of mine despite his ongoing maladies and misadventures. As Brian enters his mid-30s and faces the looming expiration of his current four-year contract with the Orioles, a lot of people are wondering if he will see the writing on the wall and retire. My dad, who is Roberts' senior by 23 years, just retired on his own terms after four-plus decades of hard work, which includes the ten years he just put in as a teacher in Baltimore County Public Schools. On his first Father's Day as a free man, I'd like to wish my dad many years of leisure to come.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Scott McGregor, 1985 Topps #550

On this date in 1976, the Orioles and Yankees completed a massive ten-player trade that stocked the O's roster for the next decade. Going to New York: Grant Jackson, Doyle Alexander, Ken Holtzman, Jimmy Freeman, and Elrod Hendricks. Coming to Baltimore: Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, Rudy May, and Dave Pagan. Dempsey claims that Ron Guidry was originally supposed to be sent to the Birds as well, but he's never let facts get in the way of a good story, so who knows? As it was, the O's came out on top in this swap, as Rick, Scotty, and Tippy combined to play parts of 36 seasons in Charm City. All were contributors to the 1979 American League Champions and the 1983 World Champions, and kept the Orioles competitive in most other seasons as well. Even Rudy May won 29 games in a year and a half in Baltimore. I don't say this often, but thank you, Yankees!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Dave Duncan, 1975 SSPC #383

Tonight the Orioles had a pitching performance worthy of longtime pitching guru (and onetime O's catcher) Dave Duncan. Chris Tillman earned his seventh win by working around four walks in six scoreless innings. He limited the Red Sox to three hits, and this season's Big Three relievers (Darren O'Day, Tommy Hunter, and Jim Johnson) faced nine batters and got nine outs. Throw in another Chris Davis home run and a run-scoring infield single by Adam Jones, and you've got all the ingredients for a 2-0 Baltimore win. The last time the Orioles blanked Boston was September 13, 2006, when Erik Bedard, Todd Williams, and Chris Ray combined for a 4-0 shutout. Tonight was a great night to be at Camden Yards, and the topper was a lively fireworks display after the game.

One and a half games out of first place.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Albert Belle, 2001 Topps Gallery #82

I have had it up to here (placing my hand at eye level) with these monkey-loving spammers leaving junk comments on my syrup-blasted blog posts!

Sorry to swear, but it's really annoying. I've been writing and scanning and posting and whathaveyou for five and a half years here, and for most of that time, this blog has been relatively unmolested by those faceless lowlifes with their baffling snytax, often-unpronounceable screen names, and highly dubious hyperlinks. (Except for this Rick Helling post...for some reason, it draws spammers like flies to a bug zapper. Is it because I used "dirtier" and "suck" in the same paragraph?) But more and more blatant spam comments are cropping up on my recent entries. I'd already added that super-irritating word verification, which doesn't seem to slow them down. Now I've gone and switched comment permission from "anyone" to "registered users". I hope it doesn't keep any of you from commenting, but a little extra security goes a long way. Still, I know that even this isn't foolproof. My 1993 Topps blog is already registered-user-comments only, and there are still barnacles that manage to open a Blogger or Google account and leave their slime trail on the bottom of my posts. Why even bother? Orioles Card O' the Day tops out at 300 page views a day. 1993 Topps hasn't cracked 70 in a single day. Is there such a hunger for low-hanging fruit?

All I know is that if these spammers don't leave me be, I'm gonna turn Albert Belle loose on them. Nobody wants that.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Armando Benitez, 1995 Pinnacle Zenith #112

Ah, Armando Benitez. Forever my stand-in for combustible, hard-throwing relievers. Let me just say that Pedro Strop should climb aboard a rocket and go away to outer space. Forever.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2007 Fleer Ultra Iron Man #UIM-6

I had tickets to tonight's game, a tense 3-2 pitcher's duel that was probably one of the finest games Miguel Gonzalez has ever pitched. The O's held on for their second straight win over the Angels...and I watched from my couch, because the strep throat I was diagnosed with last week is resistant to penicillin. Hooray.

Since I had 20 minutes to kill in Target while my new prescription was filled, I cheered myself up by blowing some cash on a 10-pack Fairfield repack. Much to my relief, there were only two junk packs: 1988 Fleer (I don't have much of that set) and 1991 Donruss Series One (I could wallpaper my house in that ugly, stripey blue crap). But the rest of it was a decent variety from the past seven years. I even got an O's card for my collection, and you're looking at it. I now have four of the 50 cards from Fleer Ultra's 2007 Cal-only insert set. This one, for those of you with mortal eyes that cannot read foil-on-foil, celebrates his outburst on September 3, 1983. On that day, Ripken went 5-for-6 with a pair of doubles, a pair of homers, and four RBI as the Orioles pounded the Twins 13-0. Of course, the photo is clearly from the mid-1990s, and that bugs the hell out of me, but we've been down that road before.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Adam Loewen, 2005 Donruss Career Stat Line #104

Boys and girls, it's time for Stupid Card Manufacturer Tricks! Today's participant is Donruss, who put lipstick on the pig that was foil parallels and called it "Career Stat Line"! In 2005, Donruss randomly inserted these parallels in packs of their flagship set, serial-numbered to a selected one-, two-, or three-digit number for each featured player. That serial number corresponded to, you guessed it, one of said player's career statistics. The only one of these cards I have features Adam Loewen, who had been the Orioles' first-round draft pick in 2002 and didn't even sign a contract until well into 2003. He wouldn't make his big league debut until May of 2006. So Donruss took a gander at his fledgling minor-league stat line and went with 116, his total number of innings pitched in pro ball. The card you see above has a serial number of 114/116 stamped on the back in silver foil. Pretty wild, huh?

Stop yawning, I can't hear myself think.

In doing 30 seconds of hack research for this post, I discovered that there were also SEASON Stat Line parallels. The mind boggles. How did this company lose its MLB license the very year that they came up with such an ingenious idea?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Manny Machado, 2013 Panini Triple Play #8

It's pretty damned fun watching Manny Machado play every day. He won't be able to legally buy his own beer for another month, and yet he's batting .317, leading the league with 27 doubles, and playing highlight-reel defense at third base. Manny is even running second in American League All-Star voting at his position, although it looks like Miguel Cabrera will run away with the contest. No worries; soon enough Machado will be back in his natural position of shortstop, where the competition will be less stiff. There could be lots of Midsummer Classics in his future.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Gary Matthews, Jr., 2003 Topps Heritage #377

Aw, chin up, Gary! There's no need to be so glum! Sure, the O's are having a rough weekend down in Tampa St. Petersburg, but they're still a much better team then they were in your time. That probably has something to do with their nucleus of young stars such as Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado. It's nice to not have to rely on schmoes like Gary Matthews, Jr., Marty Cordova, and Tony Batista, you know? Oh, right. You wouldn't know.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Vintage Fridays: Mark Belanger, 1973 Topps #253

This card pretty well epitomizes the 1973 Topps set: increased focus on action photography via action photos where the focus seems to be...nowhere at all. As near as I can tell, Mark Belanger isn't turning a double play against the Indians. If he were, that'd be the world's worst takeout slide attempt by the runner. Maybe the batted ball squirted through the infield and the Blade is trying to deke the mystery Triber by faking receiving a relay throw. Or maybe he's jumping back to the bag on a whirlaround pickoff attempt. Whatever it is, this is a compelling and thoroughly confusing photograph.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Jayson Werth, 1999 Just Minors #47

The last time the Orioles drafted 22nd overall in the first round of the MLB draft, they took a high school catcher named Jayson Werth. That was 1997. Werth has had a solid big league career, but it came 1) as an outfielder and b) with non-Oriole teams. Tonight the O's drafted another high-schooler, a righty pitcher from North Carolina named Hunter Harvey. I remember seeing his father Bryan pitch for the Marlins in 1993 and 1994. Grumble grumble, something something...passage of time. Anyway, welcome to Birdland, Hunter. May your career trajectory be closer to Manny Machado than Matt Hobgood.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Adam Jones, 2011 Bowman #79

The Orioles notched their first-ever win in Houston last night, and Adam Jones had a lot to do with it. Sure, he went 0-for-4 at the plate, but he made an excellent pair of running catches in center field to end the second and eighth innings. I can't imagine how hard it is to judge deep fly balls, especially when having to account for that goofy hill in front of the center field fence at Minute Maid Park. A few days ago we learned that Adam is an early leader in All-Star balloting, and he's close to last year's career-best pace with a .307 average, .512 slugging percentage, 17 doubles, and 11 home runs. He's even 9-of-9 on stolen bases to boot. If Dr. Jones makes his third career Midsummer Classic, you won't hear me complain.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Scott Erickson, 2001 Topps Heritage #343

Much like Scott Erickson from 2000 onward, I'm on the disabled list. After spending a week coping with a scratchy throat, bouts of achiness, and other nagging ailments, I found out today that I have strep throat. It must be a mild case, since all of my previous experiences with this illness flat knocked me on my rear. Anyway, I'm taking it easy for a day or two and forcing myself to drink water. Be healthy, all.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Nick Markakis, 2008 Upper Deck A Piece of History Red #12

It's been a good week for Orioles' comebacks.

First there was last Wednesday's raucous 9-6 victory over the Nationals, which I witnessed in person. Chris Tillman handed Washington a 6-2 lead, which their excellent starter Jordan Zimmermann carried into the sixth inning. A Nick Markakis solo homer trimmed the margin to three, which is where things stood as of the seventh-inning stretch. At that point, I changed from the gray Orioles tee that I worn to the park to the bright orange Chris Davis "Crush Power" giveaway shirt that I'd received on my way through the gate, jokingly declaring the change to be for rally purposes. Things escalated quickly, with four straight Baltimore hits tying the game and chasing Zimmermann. The big blows were Steve Pearce's two-run homer to make it 6-5 and Manny Machado's league-leading 24th double, which knotted the score and sent J.Z. to the showers. Suddenly a largely pro-O's crowd of 39,129 was on its feet and replicating the "Seven Nation Army" chant that is more widely associated with the town's other pro sports team. The noise didn't stop when Markakis gave the Birds the lead by grounding a single through the middle, and things got really wild when Davis added some insurance by belting a two-run homer to cap his own 4-for-4, two-homer game. Steve Johnson, Tommy Hunter, and (exhale) Jim Johnson kept the Nats at bay with 4.1 innings of hitless relief, and I shouted myself hoarse. Five days later, I think I'm finally back at full volume.

Friday night, Tiger pitcher Max Scherzer seemed to have the O's figured out after some early stumbles. An Adam Jones two-run bomb gave the home team a 3-2 lead in the third inning, but he was the last Oriole to reach base off of the Detroit starter. Meanwhile, a rocky night for Miguel Gonzalez meant that the Birds were staring at a 5-3 deficit in the bottom of the night. But with Scherzer's pitch count at 119 on a muggy night, manager Jim Leyland went to his closer, the always-bombastic and often-shaky Jose Valverde. The O's bats woke up, with a Markakis home run and back-to-back singles by Jones and Davis putting the tying and winning runs on the corners. But consecutive pop-ups by Matt Wieters and J. J. Hardy left the team's fate in the hands of Chris Dickerson, who had been limited to one plate appearance in the previous week due to wrist soreness. Starting his first game since May 23, the reserve outfielder and DH had been 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts against Scherzer. But Valverde was no Scherzer. Dickerson belted a no-doubt Earl Weaver special: a walkoff three-run homer to right-center field that sent a capacity crowd at Camden Yards into hysterics. 7-5.

Yesterday's 4-2 win wasn't quite as dramatic, but again the offense seemed to come out of nowhere in the late innings. Rick Porcello held the Birds to three singles and a walk in the first six innings, and it looked like a solid Camden Yards debut for rookie Kevin Gausman (1 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 4 K, 6 IP) would be wasted. The Tigers picked up a second run off of Brian Matusz in the top of the seventh, but Chris Davis (naturally) touched off another rally with a leadoff homer in the bottom half of that frame. Singles by Dickerson and Hardy put the tying and go-ahead runs on the corners...sound familiar? Porcello was done, and Leyland called upon Phil Coke to put out the fire. That didn't work out so well for him. Danny Valencia tied the game with a pinch single on an 0-2 pitch, and one out later, Nate McLouth put the Orioles ahead with a broken-bat grounder that cut through the middle of the infield. The O's tacked on a bonus run in the eighth via an Alexi Casilla RBI double, and again the Baltimore 'pen held strong. 4-2.

We'll see if the Orioles can hold on to a bit of that home-field magic as they open a road series in Houston tomorrow night. Of course, I wouldn't mind a few wire-to-wire victories either. They're a little easier on the nerves.