Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Billy Klaus, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #242

On Christmas Eve, I've gotta go with Klaus. As always, I'd like to wish my readers a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season spent with friends and family. Be good to one another and remember to be kind and generous for the rest of the year as well. I'm hereby giving you a break from your daily reading for the next week or so. I'll be back in the new year...year number seven for this little endeavor. Where does the time go?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Jeff Robinson, 1991 Upper Deck #796

I'd like to give the devil his due and thank Upper Deck for including Jeff Robinson's middle initial on this card. As someone who meticulously catalogs every card in his collection in an obnoxiously large Excel file, I'm always annoyed when I have to tab over to Baseball Reference to find middle names to distinguish between the righthanded Jeff Robinsons of the junk wax era. Yes, that's a very particular first-world problem, but with Upper Deck's help, maybe I'll finally remember that it was Jeffrey Mark Robinson who pitched for the Tigers and Orioles. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Daniel Robinson toiled for the Giants, Pirates, and three other teams. I don't have this problem with the Greg Harrises, you know.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Phil Huffman, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #207

Phil Huffman wasn't just a guy who looked like Ron Howard in a fright wig. He was also the American League leader in losses as a 21-year-old rookie, going 6-18 with a 5.77 ERA for the 1979 Blue Jays. In 173 innings, he allowed 220 hits, 25 homers, and 68 walks, and struck out only 56 batters. That was enough to banish him to the minor leagues until 1985, when the Orioles plucked him from a decent season at AAA Rochester (10-10, 3.49 ERA) for one relief appearance in July and a spot start in October. He gave up four earned runs in each game, totaling 4.2 innings, for a sparkling 15.43 ERA. That was enough to cap his major league career, poor devil.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Melvin Mora, 2004 Upper Deck Vintage #191

The Orioles finally have their new hitting coach, and it's...not Melvin Mora, though his name was discussed by team management before they ultimately went in another direction. Nope, the O's hitters will be instructed in 2015 by this guy:
Aside from his excellent name and his presence on a handful of junk wax cards in my collection, I don't know much about Scott Coolbaugh. I see that he played third base for the Rangers, Padres, and Cardinals from 1989 through 1994, batting .215/.281/.310 with eight homers and 41 RBI in 167 games. Despite his own lack of performance at the big league level, he has been a respected presence in the Arizona and Texas organizations for the past 15 years, including a 2011-2012 stint as the Rangers' major league hitting coach. And according to Buck Showalter, Chris Davis thinks that Coolbaugh "hung the moon". I think that's a good thing. Welcome to Baltimore, Scott, and hopefully you can coax a bit more discipline out of the Oriole hitters without sacrificing much power.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tom Niedenfuer, 1989 Fleer #613

The black puffy Orioles pullover with elastic black-and-orange cuffs and waistband is...not the best piece of team apparel I've ever seen. Tom Niedenfuer is modeling it with an uneasy sort of grimace that brings to mind someone who's faking enthusiasm for a tacky Christmas gift.

Speaking of which, I just returned from a last-Saturday-before-Christmas shopping excursion. A few last-minute gifts for family, some foodstuffs for holiday parties, and some liquid reserves for myself. Sweet merciful crap, I hope I don't have to go anywhere near a retail establishment in the coming week. There's a lot of people out there, though I am happy to report that I didn't see any vehicular collisions or fistfights. If you've still got some presents or grub to buy, please be safe. And stay away from the puffy pullovers with elastic.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Harry Dorish, 1956 Topps #167

Sy Berger passed away last weekend at age 91. If the name doesn't ring bells, just know that Sy was the driving force behind Topps baseball cards in the 1950s. The New York Times had a lovely obituary talking about his impact on the hobby. For my part, I'd just like to say that the 1956 Topps set is everything that is beautiful and good about little cardboard rectangles. Harry "Fritz" Dorish and his devilish grin know I'm right. He seems to be enjoying the fact that Topps chose an action shot of a relief pitcher running the bases. If that image was taken from a 1955 game, it came before the White Sox traded him to Baltimore in early June. He was 1-for-13 with one sac bunt in his limited plate appearances that season, and 0-for-10 with the O's. Things went better on the mound, at least; he went 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 48 total games, and 3-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 35 games as an Oriole.

So thanks, Sy, for leading me down this path.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Craig Worthington, 1991 Leaf #298

I was thumbing through some 1991 O's cards this evening when my inner child told me that I'd been neglecting Craig Worthington. It's been 20 months since I featured the former Oriole third baseman on this here blog, and really, how many Cal Ripken and Adam Jones cards can you see? I strive for variety in this trifling little enterprise. While we're here, I'd like to call attention to the fact that Craig drove in 105 runs in 132 games for the Hagerstown Suns in 1986, batting .300/.399/.471 with 35 doubles at age 21. Nobody in the Carolina League drove in more runs, though Ron Gant came close at 102. If only that batting prowess could have translated to the major leagues.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chris Davis, 2014 Topps Heritage Chrome #475

Good news! Chris Davis has regained his therapeutic use exemption for Adderall, which should have several positive implications for the 2015 season. Firstly, after he sits out Opening Day, completing the 25-game suspension he received this past September, the first baseman will be free to play for the Orioles without the threat of an additional 80-game ban hanging over him for any further positive tests for the stimulant. Second, if you aren't cynical enough to believe that Davis is gaming the system (and in his favor, Ken Rosenthal reported that the slugger has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD), then he should be back on track with his treatment. One could assume that he'll be better equipped to rebound from 2014's on-field struggles, and in fact if he wasn't getting regular and proper treatment for his disorder prior to this point, that could help explain his dropoff from the prior season. At any rate, I'm just glad that the O's will have one less off-field worry next year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Billy Ripken, 1990 Donruss #164

Guess who turns the big 5-0 today? No, it's not me, and I'm greatly offended by your presumption. It's not 2032 just yet, thank you very much. Nope, the second-best Ripken to ever play for the Orioles was born on this date in 1964. So here's wishing a hap-hap-happy birthday to Billy, the man who gave my 22-year-old self a nonsensical nickname and was generally a tough act to follow. But it's not fair to dwell on unpleasantries on such a momentous occasion, so I went and tracked down the box score from little brother's first career home run: July 19, 1987. It was an Earl Weaver special off of Bud Black in the top of the fifth inning in Kansas City, giving the O's a 4-0 lead in a game they'd eventually win 5-1. For one day at least, Billy snatched the spotlight from Cal, who had a measly double...and three walks...and a stolen base.

What a showoff.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mike Mussina, 1999 Bowman Chrome #60

Should you be curious, the "C" in "Michael C. Mussina" stands for Cole. Former outfielder Alex Cole went 1-for-7 with three strikeouts in his career meetings with Mike Mussina. That probably means something, even if that something is "I've been awake for too many hours".

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Brady Anderson, 2000 Pacific Omega #17

Is Brady Anderson in the middle of a headfirst slide into third base, or is he on an invisible hang glider? It's just another one of life's mysteries.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Don Aase, 1987 Fleer Star Stickers #1

This is quite a festive card/sticker, with its green border, red and white banners, and stars. It's hard to believe that we're only 12 days away from Christmas, but it must be true. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is on my television, and holiday greetings continue to arrive in the mailbox. Today I reaped one of the special benefits of being an Orioles season ticket holder, as my favorite baseball team sent me a little something:

So what do you think - should I send them a card?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Camilo Carreon, 1966 Topps #513

That's some good hustle by Topps to get Cam Carreon on a card in an Orioles uniform, considering that the O's didn't acquire him from Cleveland until March 10, 1966. The player they gave up? A young outfielder named Lou Piniella. This card is also something of an oddity because Carreon went on to play just four games for Baltimore, going 2-for-9 with three walks and spending most of the year at AAA Rochester. When he returned to the minors for the duration of 1967 as well, he decided to retire to spend more time at home with his family in Tucson. Though the minor league Toros coaxed him back for one season as a player and a few more as a coach, the team was based out of Tuscon, so he was still around for much of the year. One of his sons, Mark, went on to enjoy a ten-year career as an outfielder with the Mets, Tigers, Giants, and Indians. On one last note, here's a scan of the card back, featuring a great cartoon about Cam's favorite hobby.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chris Gomez, 2007 Topps Heritage #154

I have thousands of Orioles cards in my collection, but I can safely say that this one is the orangest. Heck, the PhotoShop filter that Topps used even gives Chris Gomez's skin a carroty glow. If he were wearing an orange practice jersey, he might be completely camouflaged.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jimmy Key, 1997 Fleer Ultra #356

On this date in 1996, the Orioles signed Jimmy Key to a two-year contract for nearly $8 million. The free agent deal paid immediate dividends, as the veteran lefty tied Scott Erickson for the team lead with 16 wins in 1997, tossing 212.1 innings with a 3.43 ERA that was second on the staff to ace Mike Mussina. He was especially strong prior to the All-Star Break, posting a 12-4 record and a 2.55 ERA as the O's charted their course for a wire-to-wire division lead. By the postseason, Key seemed to be running out of gas. He failed to complete five innings in either of his playoff starts, though he did provide three innings of crucial shutout relief in Game Five of the ALCS. In allowing just one walk and no hits, he carried the Birds' slim two-run lead from starter Scott Kamieniecki to closer Randy Myers and helped Baltimore stave off elimination.

Like most of his teammates, Jimmy's fortunes took a downturn in 1998. Shoulder problems limited him to 25 games that year - 11 starts and 14 relief appearances. He went 6-3 with a 4.20 ERA in 79.1 innings, and retired at age 37 with a career record of 186-117 and a 3.51 ERA in 15 seasons.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cal Ripken Jr., 2011 Topps Lineage #194

A couple of things:

1) I appreciate the nod to the original 1960s All-Star Rookie trophy, which was so much more majestic than the 1980s Rookie Cup. Still, it chafes me that it says "1981 All-Star Rookie". While Cal Junior debuted in 1981, he appeared in just 23 games and maintained his rookie status into 1982, when he won the Rookie of the Year award.

2) I didn't realize that Cal Ripken ever batted barehanded. I hope he didn't use the Moises Alou technique.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Eli Marrero, 2005 Topps Updates and Highlights #UH49

Hey, do you remember when Eli Marrero was an Oriole? Nah, probably not. The former Cardinals' utility player came to Baltimore in the journeyman phase of his career, as he suited up for six different teams in his last four years in the majors. He batted just 56 times in 22 games for the O's in the summer of 2005, but managed to slug .540 despite a .220 batting average. Of his 11 hits in orange and black, eight went for extra bases - three doubles, two triples, and three home runs. But Eli sprained his thumb in late July, and spent the rest of the season on the disabled list as the team went down the tubes. The following January, he wound up in Colorado on a minor league deal. Easy come, easy go.

FYI, the blue wristband Eli is wearing in the photo above gives this away as a snapshot from Father's Day: June 19, 2005. Marrero started in left field against the Rockies that Sunday afternoon and had two singles in three at-bats, scoring one run in the club's 4-2 win. B. J. Surhoff pinch hit for him in the seventh inning. Hayden Penn earned the second of his four career MLB wins. Exciting times.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Nick Markakis, 2008 Topps 50th Anniversary All-Star Rookies Chrome #ARC19

Well, now that we're closing the door on Nick Markakis' career as an Oriole (for the time being, at least), we might as well take a look at where he stands on the team's all-time leader boards. Onward!

  • 1,547 hits, sixth place
  • 1,365 games played, tenth place
  • 749 runs scored, eighth place
  • 316 doubles, sixth place
  • 141 home runs, 13th place
  • 658 RBI, ninth place
  • 553 walks, ninth place
  • .290 batting average, 11th place
Not bad for nine years' work.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Doyle Alexander, 1974 Topps #282

Those are some pretty choice sideburns on Doyle Alexander, but I still prefer him with the 'stache.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nick Markakis, 2009 Topps Allen and Ginter Mini #31

Yes, I got the news about Nick Markakis last night, but I decided to sleep on it in case it was some elaborate hoax. But no, it's true: for the first time since 2005, someone besides #21 will be starting in right field for the Orioles next Opening Day. Markakis signed a four-year, $45 million contract with the Atlanta Braves after the O's balked at a fourth year. The historically cautious Orioles were reportedly concerned about a herniated disc in Nick's neck, and I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt on that. After all, I haven't forgotten the sad saga of Brian Roberts' health-related decline, and I'm sure Dan Duquette and company haven't either. So in one sense, I'm relieved. Baltimore's soft-spoken outfielder has given us steady competence and numerous great moments over the past nine seasons, and those memories won't have to be tarnished by watching him slide into irrelevance in his thirties. There have already been signs that Nick is slowing down, and in the cutthroat American League East nobody can afford to make personnel decisions for sentimental reasons.

This might sound like sour grapes, but I'm just trying to examine the pros and cons of life without Nick Markakis in orange and black. On the "con" side, the O's are already a team with deficiences in on-base percentage, and jettisoning a guy with a .358 career OBP isn't exactly going to help matters. At the moment, the Orioles don't have firm starters on the outfield corners or at designated hitter. They'll have to find some workable combination of Steve Pearce, Alejandro de Aza, David Lough, and maybe eventually Dariel Alvarez, a 26-year-old Cuban outfielder who had an impressive 2014 at Bowie and Norfolk. There aren't many attractive options on the free agent market, since it's hard to see Duquette throwing money at Melky Cabrera after taking a hardline stance on Nelson Cruz and Markakis.

Of course, the Orioles' 2003 first-round pick is leaving a void off of the field as well. By all reports, Nick is also well liked in the clubhouse, and his charitable contributions in the Baltimore area will also be missed. It sucks that he's gone, but it could be worse. Can you imagine being an Athletics fan? I'd be afraid to form any kind of attachment to any of their players.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Paul Gilliford, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #156

Today I was in the mood to blog about a card from my All-Time Orioles set, one of the cornerstones of my team collection. If I ever get serious about collecting at least one card of every player who's ever passed through Baltimore, this gas station premium gives me a leg up on the first 38 years of team history. I scanned the checklist and stopped on Paul Gilliford. The O's have occupied my thoughts for more than two decades, and still I sit here puzzling over that name. Who in the heck is Paul Gilliford?

For starters, he's a lefty pitcher from Bryn Mawr, PA. He played collegiately at Randolph Macon, in Ashland, VA. Paul was 20 years old when the Orioles signed him in 1965, and he performed impressively in the low minors. With the Miami Marlins (no, not those Miami Marlins) of the Class A Florida State League, he went 16-3 with a league-best 1.27 ERA in 1966. He allowed only 30 earned runs (40 runs total) in 213 innings. The southpaw split the 1967 season between another A-ball team in Stockton and the AA Elmira Pioneers, holding his own with a 12-10 mark and a 3.07 ERA.

The Birds rewarded "Gorilla" (his nickname, if Baseball Reference is to be trusted, and I don't see why not) with a September callup, and he debuted in the back end of a September 20 doubleheader at Washington. Manager Hank Bauer entrusted the rookie with the seventh and eighth innings of a tie game, and he held the line with two scoreless innings, allowing a walk and a single and closing out his day with a double-play grounder off the bat of Hank Allen. Paul was formally removed from the game in the top of the ninth, as Frank Robinson pinch hit for him with the go-ahead run on second base and received a free pass. There's one for the memory banks. The Orioles put together three runs in the tenth to win that day.

The lefty's second (and as fortune would have it, final) big league appearance was less auspicious. With the O's trailing the postseason-bound Red Sox 7-3 in the top of the ninth on September 24, it appeared to be a lower-leverage situation for the young Gilliford. He relieved Eddie Fisher to become Baltimore's fifth pitcher of the game, and he recovered from back-to-back singles to lead off the inning by striking out opposing pitcher Bucky Brandon and getting a forceout at second base on a Reggie Smith grounder. But then the lead runner, Jose Tartabull, scored on the front end of a double steal. Dalton Jones followed with a double to plate Smith, and George Scott walloped a two-run homer to increase the Boston lead to 11-3. After a Rico Petrocelli single, Paul finally escaped the nightmare ninth courtesy of an Elston Howard comebacker. The Oriole offense rallied for four runs of their own in their final at-bat to really twist the knife; if not for Gilliford's difficulties on the mound, it could've been a tie game. As it was, he was saddled with a 12.00 ERA in his three innings in the majors.

Paul returned to AA Elmira in 1968, and had a 7-7 record for Cal Ripken Sr.'s Pioneers. His 2.34 ERA in 131 innings was right in line with the team's overall 2.36 number. He landed in the Athletics' organization the following year, but was battered to the tune of a 9.39 ERA in 23 innings at AAA Iowa, and that's where his pro baseball record ends. That's everything that I could dig up with a cursory Google search, and it's enough to shine the smallest bit of light on one of the shortest-tenured players in Orioles history.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Jerry Hairston Jr., 2004 Bowman Heritage #4

Jerry Hairston thought it was odd that the photo shoot was scheduled for 7:00 AM, but he didn't want to make waves. It was only when he showed up to the completely empty stadium that he realized he'd been had.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Albert Belle, 2000 Upper Deck Legends #52

You've probably heard by now that Nelson Cruz is officially an ex-Oriole, having flown the coop for a four-year, $57 million contract with the Mariners. I certainly can't begrudge him for taking the security and the money where he could get it, just like I can't blame the Baltimore brass for blanching at a four-year commitment to a 34-year-old player with a checkered injury history whose best position is designated hitter. So Nelson, thanks for what is likely the best one-and-done performance in team history; I enjoyed every one of your 42 home runs in the regular season and postseason.

The question of the moment is how the Birds go about replacing Cruz's 74 extra-base hits and 140 OPS+. Hopefully their next move works out better than their wheelings and dealings on this date in 1998. On that troublesome December first, Rafael Palmeiro turned down a more lucrative deal in Baltimore to return to Texas. That same day, the O's inked Albert Belle to a five-year, $65 million deal (over $83 million in 2014 money); he lasted two years and 60 home runs before retiring with an arthritic hip.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Al Bumbry, 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes #73

Here's an unusual card that's part of Upper Deck's 225-card All-Time Heroes set, released in 1994. It highlighted retired players, and not just the same couple of dozen Hall of Famers that we're used to seeing by now. For instance, the checklist features Al Bumbry, Lee May, Boog Powell, and Paul Blair. Though Bumbry is listed as an Oriole (he played 13 of his 14 big league seasons in Baltimore, save for a 68-game career-ending stint in San Diego), and the primary card photo depicts him in an O's uniform, the inset photo shows the outfielder wearing a Boston Red Sox cap. Presumably Upper Deck grabbed a picture of Al from his tenure as a Red Sox coach, which lasted from 1998 through 1993. I have the rest of the Orioles from this set, and all of them have inset photos with Oriole caps. What gives?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Frank Robinson, 2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes #195

The card design might be pretty dull and lousy - in fact, I'm almost certain that is - but there's still something cool about seeing three guys with a combined 1,646 home runs all on one card. As the back of the card notes, Mike Schmidt, Ernie Banks, and Frank Robinson are all multiple MVP award winners. Schmidt was a three-time NL MVP, Banks a two-timer, and Robinson was the first - and still the only - player to be named Most Valuable Player in both the National and American Leagues. That's why Frank gets to anchor the card.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Tommy Harper, 1977 Topps #414

Things to appreciate about this card:

-The abbreviation of Tommy Harper's position as "des. hitter". It's hard to squeeze "designated hitter" into that tiny pennant.

-Harper's impressively fancy signature. Much more legible and aesthetically pleasing than that Derek Jeter scribbledygook.

-It's the final card of Tommy's 15-year big league career. He was a two-time American League stolen base champ, swiping 73 bases in 91 tries for the one-and-done Seattle Pilots in 1969 and going 54-for-68 in thefts for the Red Sox in 1973. In between, he was an All-Star for the 1970 Brewers, when he batted .296/.377/.522 with 35 doubles, 31 home runs, and 38 steals. He finished up with a 46-game stint in Baltimore in 1976, but started only 17 of those contests.

-I also have Harper's 1965 Topps card. Aside from the wide grin, he looks quite different. (No, I don't know why the scans are appearing in black and white. Photobucket is weird.)

-The fuzzy crowd scene behind Tommy looks painted on...very impressionistic. Plus, the fans are restrained by a chain-link fence. Pretty swanky!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Paul Carey, 1993 Fleer Final Edition #F-158

I'm featuring a #88 today because it's my great uncle Bill's 88th birthday. I'm not much of a mathematician, but I'm pretty sure he was born in 1926. If you want to put that in context, there were only 16 MLB teams back then, and the Orioles still existed as the St. Louis Browns. The Cardinals outlasted the Yankees in a seven-game World Series. In the decisive game, 39-year-old pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander earned the save by stranding the bases loaded in the seventh inning and staying on to get the last seven outs. With St. Louis clinging to a 3-2 lead, Babe Ruth unexpectedly made the last out by getting caught stealing at second base with Bob Meusel at bat. We've come a long way. Happy birthday, Uncle Bill!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Harold Baines, 1994 Leaf #84

Yesterday news broke that Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley was stepping aside for personal reasons. So far, the news is less about who might be the next man to take the job, and more about who's not interested. That star-studded list includes:

-Former Indians and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel
-Jim Thome, who hit the final three of his 612 career home runs as an Oriole
-Harold Baines
-B. J. Surhoff
-Brady Anderson
-Raul Ibanez (BOO HIS 2012 NEVER FORGET)

Most of the above were uninterested in committing to the daily grind and travel of the 162-game season, which is their prerogative. Baines was content to stay in Chicago, and that undead creep Ibanez doesn't plan on taking a lowly coaching role if he doesn't get the Rays' managerial job (he's one of three finalists).

But the O's could still wind up hiring a familiar face - or promoting one, for that matter; current minor league hitting instructor Jeff Manto was the first candidate interviewed. He's not Jim Thome, but then, none of us are.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Corey Patterson, 2007 Topps #22

Remember the days when baseball dugouts weren't plastered with advertisements and logos? Today I posted Tim Hulett's card on my 1993 Topps blog, and I was almost surprised by how bare the visitors dugout looked in the background. Compare that to the Corey Patterson card above, which seems to be sponsored by New Era. I guess this is the way of things. Two decades ago, rotating signs on the backstop were an affront to the eyes, but at some point we probably stopped noticing them. Eventually, there will be ads on player uniforms, and we'll all adjust to it, or else feebly complain to nobody in particular. There's money to be made.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Javy Lopez, 2005 Playoff Prestige #18

A few thoughts on a Sunday afternoon:

-Need a unique, dynamic photo for your baseball card? Why not go with a power-hitting catcher jogging back across the infield after making an out? (At least that's what this looks like. Wouldn't be my first choice.)

-Javy Lopez is wearing a mid-1970s throwback uniform, though it always bugged me when the Orioles didn't bother with throwback batting helmets. Go all-out or don't do it at all.

-I didn't realize how much I liked the orange jerseys until the O's finally brought them back a few years ago. I don't think it's a coincidence that Baltimore's return to respectability went hand-in-hand with the revival of orange jerseys and the cartoon bird. I'm only half-joking.

-Look at this dull-as-dishwater card design and tell me why Donruss (who oversaw the Playoff brand) went belly-up.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Radhames Liz, 2008 Bowman #201

Radhames Liz hasn't pitched in the major leagues since he managed to cough up 10 runs while getting four outs in a pair of disastrous relief appearances with the Orioles in 2009. That left him with a career ERA of 7.50 in 28 total games. Since then, he's pitched in the minors for the Padres and Blue Jays for a season each, bookending a three-year stint with the LG Twins in Korea. Overseas, he posted a 26-38 record with a 3.51 ERA. Now Liz is 31, and he's hoping to be the Pirates' latest rehab project. Last year, they went dumpster-diving and came up with solid returns from Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, and Vance Worley. Pittsburgh apparently saw enough promise in the right-hander that they gave him a spot on the 40-man roster and a major league contract. Can a pitcher with three quality starts in 21 tries become a key contributor to a contender? Stranger things have happened, I guess.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Don Buford, 1972 Topps #370

Whoops, the night has gotten away from me. So here's Don Buford, giving us all the side-eye. I don't know what you did, but he looks pretty pissed off.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Omar Daal, 2003 Topps Total #623

There's laughably bad Photoshop, and then there's this half-assed attempt to digitally change Omar Daal from a Los Angeles Dodger into a Baltimore Oriole. Is that the tiniest jersey wordmark you've ever seen? That's without even mentioning that he appears to be wearing road grays, and yet "Orioles" is in black lettering, as per the Birds' home uniforms at that time. This image doesn't portend great things, and so it went for the 31-year-old lefty in Charm City, the final destination of his big league career. You've got to fail on a grand scale to be the worst starter in a rotation featuring a sophomore-slumping Rodrigo Lopez (7-10, 5.82 ERA, 1.57 WHIP) and a past-his-prime Rick Helling (7-8, 5.71 ERA, 1.41 WHIP). Heck, even Damian Moss (1-5, 6.22 ERA after arriving from the Giants in the Sidney Ponson deadline deal) wasn't appreciably worse than Omar. He went 4-11 in 19 appearances with a 6.34 ERA and a 1.75 WHIP. He allowed nearly 13 hits per nine innings. Then poof, he was gone. You can see why I still shake my head when I hear or read that the current Orioles have a surplus of starting pitchers. It's been a long time coming.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mike Moriarty, 2002 Upper Deck 40 Man #226

Look, I know that I didn't follow the Orioles as closely during my college years, when the funk of their eventual 14-year streak of irrelevance was truly taking root. Still, I have a hard time believing that there ever was such a person as Mike Moriarty. I know for a fact that I didn't see any of his eight big league games in 2002. (Boy, did I miss out: 3-for-16 with a double.) I'm always confusing him with Mike Mordecai, the fungible Braves, Expos, and Marlins utility man of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then there's Mike McCoy, another mostly anonymous utility guy who batted .190 for the Rockies and Blue Jays from 2009 through 2012. In my mind, they could all be the same guy. No, I find it more plausible that Upper Deck, knowing that they didn't have a full 40 players for the O's anyway (there are 34), had somebody's brother-in-law pose in full uniform and included him in the set under a fictitious name as a sort of inside joke. Or is that more of a Topps thing?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Maximo Heredia, 1999 Multi-Ad Sports Bowie Baysox #15

It's a shame that Maximo Heredia never made it to the major leagues. The six-foot-tall righty from the Dominican Republic could have been the first "Maximo" in MLB. As it is, he's one of 36 Maximos to play minor league ball, and the wait continues for a Maximo - any Maximo - in the bigs.

The Orioles signed Heredia as a teenager, and his age 20 season was a good one. Pitching for the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds in 1997, he went 10-5 with a league-leading 2.13 ERA in 114 innings. He walked only 20 batters, and picked up three playoff wins for the South Atlantic League champs. But his initial success didn't translate to higher levels, and he topped out at AA Bowie in 2000. By 2001 he was pitching professionally in Italy. That's the last record of Maximo Heredia at Baseball Reference.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nick Markakis and Adam Loewen, 2004 Topps #691

Here's proof positive that Nick Markakis has been an Oriole for a long time. The O's grabbed him with the seventh overall pick in the June 2003 amateur draft. That year, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took Delmon Young with the first pick. Eleven years later, there's no such team as the Devil Rays, and Delmon is probably en route to his sixth team after spending this past season as Baltimore's pinch hitting ace. Later in the first round of that 2003 draft, the Montreal Expos spent the 20th overall selection on pitcher Chad Cordero. That one's a two-fer: a defunct team and a player who's out of baseball altogether despite making the All-Star Team in the Nationals' inaugural 2005 campaign. Just to hammer the point home, Markakis shared his rookie card with the Birds' previous first-round pick, Canadian junior college pitcher Adam Loewen. In the last decade, Loewen has switched from a pitcher to an outfielder/first baseman and back to pitcher again. As the longest-tenured member of the Orioles, Nick Markakis has enjoyed a level of stability that is foreign to Loewen, Young, Cordero, and scores of other baseball players.

Today, Nick celebrates his 31st birthday in an odd sort of limbo. The O's have bought out the $17.5 million option on his contract for 2015, paying $2 million for the privelege of making their senior player a free agent. Rumors and whispers make it seem like all but a foregone conclusion that #21 will stay in Baltimore, with a four-year contract in the $40-48 million range. But if it were so cut and dry, why would it take several weeks and counting to put it to paper? I know that the Orioles typically move at their own pace, but it seems like they're leaving things to chance. I'm sure some fans panicked when word leaked that Markakis' agent was meeting with other teams last week, though you'd have to chalk that up to due diligence.

I expect Nick Markakis to patrol right field in Camden Yards in 2015, just as he has ever since 2006. But until he signs on the dotted line, he is not officially on the team. He is still an Oriole, and yet he isn't. If I'm impatient and anxious about it, I can't imagine how Nick himself feels.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Frank Robinson, 1990 Baseball Wit #48

Is anyone in the mood for some trivia? The three questions on the back of this Frank Robinson card should be a piece of cake:

1. Name the only player to win the Most Valuable Player award in both leagues.

2. What was the Impossible Dream?

3. Who was the manager of the team from Question 2?

Pencils down.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mike Devereaux, 1990 Score #232

I chose this card today for the simplest of reasons. I like that the photographer captured the baseball in a blur of motion, presumably just after Mike Devereaux made contact with his bat. Maybe this picture depicts one of the four home runs Devo hit at Memorial Stadium in 1989. This is pretty clearly a day game, so we can rule out his walkoff two-run shot against California's Bob McClure on July 15. Ditto his solo shot off of Minnesota's Allan Anderson on Friday night, April 21. That leaves a pair of round-trippers hit at home that can't be ruled out: another game-winner, this time against Rangers reliever Jeff Russell in the tenth inning on Sunday, August 6; alternatively, it could be the two-run blast off of Toronto's Dave Stieb in the fourth inning of a 7-2 win over the Jays on Sunday, August 20.

It could also be any old routine fly ball out, but what's the fun in that?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Gus Triandos, 1958 Topps #429

Here is Gus Triandos, proving that loose-fitting uniforms are not a recent development. I can't even tell if he's wearing a belt. Of course, I've been looking at this card for so long, I'm having a hard time seeing anything. It's never a good idea to incorporate this much yellow in a card design. It's still there when I close my eyes. But at least now I know what it would look like if ol' Gus took his hacks in front of the world's largest lemon.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Eddie Murray, 1986 Donruss Pop-Ups #13

I can't tell you just how badly I want to pop this Eddie Murray card from its frame and let two-dimensional Eddie exist in three dimensions...or two and a half at least. He deserves to loom over the dingy, empty Metrodome. Maybe if I get another copy, I can sacrifice the unaltered condition of this one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Craig Lefferts, 1993 Donruss #1

Late Monday night, Dan Duquette was announced as the recipient of The Sporting News' Executive of the Year Award. "Duke" tops Buck Showalter's decade-long wait between awards, as he was last honored as MLB's top executive in 1992, when he was a young upstart in charge of the Montreal Expos.  You may remember 1992 as the year that Camden Yards opened and Craig Lefferts was the big trade deadline acquisition for the Orioles. I'm not sure that anybody would've expected Dan to break through where his predecessor Andy MacPhail could not, bringing three straight years of competitive baseball to Baltimore, including a pair of trips to the postseason. He's been tinkering on the margins almost since the moment he arrived here, teaming with Buck Showalter to create the most fluid 40-man roster in baseball. Meanwhile, I myself owe Mr. Duquette an apology. Check out this breathtaking gripe that I typed up in February, highlighted by the following sentence:

"I want to be proven wrong, but I just don't think that a Grapefruit League roster that reads like a "Who's Who" of "Who's That?" is going to pass muster in the cutthroat American League East."

Sure, that was written before the O's landed Nelson Cruz for a low-risk, $8 million deal. But it still comes across as an unearned dig at a front-office guy who had just helped put together the first back-to-back winning clubs the city had seen since Pat Gillick's tenure. So, to Dan Duquette, Executive of the Year for 2014, I offer up an apology and a pledge to think before I second-guess. Thanks for bringing Steve Pearce, Nelson Cruz, Nate McLouth, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Kevin Gausman, and Andrew Miller to town. Thanks for locking up guys like Adam Jones and J. J. Hardy to extended deals. Thanks for tuning out loud no-nothings like me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Buck Showalter, 2014 Topps Heritage #323

Buck Showalter, who looks completely at home on a 50-year-old card design, is now a three-time Manager of the Year. The O's manager has done it in his own quirky style, of course, by winning each of his MOTY honors a full decade after the last: the first came in 1994 with the Yankees, the next in 2004 with the Rangers, and now the 2014 Orioles. He joins Tony LaRussa as the only managers to ever win the award with three different teams. There's something about Buck pulling 96 wins out of a team that got a combined 235 out of a potential 486 games played from Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and Chris Davis that resonated with the voters, who put him atop 25 of the 30 ballots cast. He's the first Baltimore skipper to be named tops in the American League since Davey Johnson, whose personality clashes with owner Peter Angelos led to his hasty exit after piloting the club's last American League East Champion in 1997. Luckily, Showalter seems to have a much more complementary relationship with the big boss. The Orioles were a few fortunate bounces away from a World Series this year, and I have a lot of confidence that they'll get another shot at it in 2015. I'd forgotten that such a feeling was possible.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Jerome Walton, 1997 Fleer Ultra #493

Congratulations to Jose Abreu and Jacob deGrom, the newest Rookie of the Year award winners. They join a long and varied list of top rookies from seasons past, a roll call that includes Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson...a dozen Hall of Famers in all. Of course, there are also plenty of guys who peaked with that first-year honor, the Joe Charboneaus and Jerome Waltons of the baseball world. There's a lot of story yet to be told.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Boog Powell, 2004 Maryland Lottery #43

I'm already going through baseball withdrawal, so much so that I found myself half-watching Arizona Fall League games on TV this weekend. That's how I learned that the Athletics have a minor league outfielder named Boog Powell. Well, he goes by "Boog", anyway, but his given name is Hershel Mack Powell IV. He's no relation to the 1970 American League MVP and pit beef maven, and at 5'10" and 10 pounds, he doesn't bear much resemblance to #26 either. But his grandfather went by Hershel, his father went by Mack, and the family began calling the younger Powell "Boog". It stuck. Whether the 21-year-old sticks in the big leagues remains to be seen. Through 177 pro games, he's batted a strong .317/.412/.384, but so far he's untested at the AA level or higher. The younger Boog also served a 50-game suspension in 2014 for amphetamine use, and he's certainly not the first to make that mistake. If Powell does land in Oakland some day, I don't know that I'll ever get used to hearing the announcers talk about "Boog Powell".

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Brady Anderson, 1997 Pinnacle Inside #20

I'm posting this card tonight because it may feature the least flattering photograph I've ever seen of Brady Anderson. I don't make this claim lightly; I have 205 distinct Brady cards in my collection. I know there have been whispers and snide comments about the former O's outfielder ever since he seemed to pull a 50-homer season out of thin air in 1996, but even at the time I don't remember him ever looking so...bulky. The goatee isn't a great look either, but we've all been there at one time or another. Personally, I just find it encouraging to know that even Brady Anderson has days when he's not looking his best.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Mark Belanger, 1974 Topps #329

Mark Belanger wonders why all of the old Topps photos from Yankee Stadium were shot on the third-base side. He also probably wonders why they snapped so many pictures of him holding a bat, when his glove is what kept him gainfully employed in the major leagues for 18 seasons. There's no accounting for the quirks of Topps, I suppose.