Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Steve Pearce, 2014 Orioles Postcards

The Orioles are a game out of first place, and it's thanks in large part to Steve Pearce. The former Pirates prospect has been acquired by the O's three times in the past three years, which of course means that they've also parted ways with him twice. Coming into 2014, he'd batted .238/.318/.377 in parts of seven big league seasons, never exceeding 61 games in a year and peaking with 13 doubles, four homers, and 26 RBI. With a pair of two-run home runs in tonight's 7-1 win over Texas, Pearce now has 12 doubles, nine homers, and 25 RBI in 44 games thus far. His batting line is .327/.385/.592, and he's had eight multi-hit games in his last 12. Steve Pearce may be a warlock.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Evan Meek, 2014 Orioles Postcards

This has been a bowling-shoe ugly weekend of Orioles baseball, but I did have a good time yesterday afternoon at the pre-game autograph session for season ticket holders. Janet and I left Ocean City at 8:30 AM to ensure that we'd be at Oriole Park when the gates opened for the signings at 12:30 PM. We made a beeline for Steve Pearce's group, which also included Darren O'Day and Evan Meek, the latter of whom was filling in for Ubaldo Jimenez. You can imagine our disappointment when we learned that we'd be missing out on Ubaldo...ahem. All three were as friendly as could be. Meek, one of a handful of relievers who has been on the shuttle back and forth to Norfolk all season, even noticed that I was wearing a FitBit and asked me if I liked it. He'd just purchased one himself. The highlight was when Janet handed Steve Pearce an All-Star ballot and explained that we'd written him in on dozens of ballots. He grinned, said "awesome", and signed above the write-in slot where we'd scrawled his name. There was such a short line for that session that I was also able to get autographs from Bud Norris, Brian Matusz, and J. J. Hardy. Bud was by far the most animated, offering fist bumps to many fans (particularly the younger ones), and even asking me where I got my angry Oriole bird cap. In his expert opinion, it was "sick". So that was the highlight of my day. I also learned that Hardy has his wife's initials tattooed on his finger. Makes sense, since he probably doesn't want to wear his wedding band on the field. There was also a "State of the Orioles" Q-and-A session with Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette, but that wasn't particularly enlightening. I did enjoy listening to Buck be his usual folksy, charming self. He says that his favorite baseball movie is "The Sandlot", by the way, which makes me wonder if he ever came out to the mound to yank an ineffective pitcher and greeted him with, "You're killin' me, Smalls".

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Larry Bigbie, 2005 Topps #572

No blog post tomorrow, since I'm going straight from work this afternoon to Ocean City to catch the tail end of my family's week at the beach. In my warped, circuitous little mind, I tend to associate Larry Bigbie with Ocean City. Nine years ago, we were vacationing there in the last week of July. There was an English teacher from my high school with whom I was friendly, and I'd taken the bus into nearby Fenwick Island to hang out at her condo with a group of her friends and coworkers over a few drinks. The Orioles were hosting the White Sox, and the game was on the TV in the condo. It was Saturday, July 30, and the bottom was rapidly dropping out for the fast-starting O's. They'd peaked on June 21 at 42-28, 14 games above .500 and clinging to a two-game advantage in the AL East (their advantage had been as many as 4.5 games in late May). A 1-8 stretch followed, or 2-11 if you want to drag it out further, but then the Birds won three of four from Boston and kicked off a nine-game road trip with two straight wins in Seattle. Then came a fatal stretch in which they dropped 16 of 18 games, including three wrenching walkoff defeats in the span of five games. This night's game was in the midst of that skid and was typically brutal. It took four Baltimore pitchers to make it through six innings, but the team clung to a 6-4 entering the eighth. Chris Ray came in and torched the field, surrendering four runs with the help of back-to-back homers from A.J. Pierzynski and Jermaine Dye. Just for an extra kick in the teeth, disgruntled lefty Steve Kline allowed an insurance run in the ninth and the Birds fell 9-6 to drop below .500 at 51-52. There was buzz around the game because of the upcoming trade deadline. The O's, attempting feng shui on a sinking ship at this point, parted ways with injury-prone former first-round pick Larry Bigbie, trading him to the Rockies for spastic outfielder Eric Byrnes. Byrnes made his Oriole debut that night and had an RBI double in his second at-bat, but was promptly picked off by Jose Contreras. He went hitless in his other four trips to the plate, setting the stage for a short and underwhelming 52-game stint in Birdland (.192/.246/.299).

But hey, those days are ancient history, and I'm going down the Ocean, Hon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Daniel Cabrera, 2007 Upper Deck SP Authentic #55

My wife Janet and I are going to tonight's Orioles game, and I'm approaching it with a deeper sense of foreboding than usual. Buck Showalter was kind enough to shuffle the rotation to ensure that I'm saddled with a second consecutive start from the highly-compensated and monstrously inefficient Ubaldo Jimenez. The lanky ex-Rockie has 15 erratic games under his belt for the O's, and he's 2-8 with a 4.63 ERA and a league-high 51 walks in 81.2 innings (5.6 free passes per nine innings). He's yet to win a game at Camden Yards. When the Birds gave Ubaldo a four-year, $50 million deal, I'm sure they weren't expecting to get Daniel Cabrera with better composure. What exactly they did expect, given that he spent 2011 through the first half of 2013 scuffling along before beefing up on a soft slate of opponents in the later months of last season, is another matter. Anyhow, nothing is forever, and this evening's rubber game against the White Sox and crummy righthander Hector Noesi is as good an opportunity as any for Jimenez to pick up his first 'W' in front of the home crowd. Pretty please?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Larry Sheets, 1989 Topps #98

24 hours ago, Chris Davis was sitting on the Orioles' bench, given a night off because, in his own words, "I've been sucking lately". A 4-for-36 slump and a tough matchup in White Sox lefty Chris Sale gave Buck Showalter all of the motivation he needed to start red-hot Steve Pearce at first base and slide Delmon Young into the lineup at DH. A few hours later, Davis was called upon to pinch hit for Young (who had gone 3-for-4 in his stead) against Chicago's righthanded closer Ronald Belisario. What he did next was something that no Oriole pinch hitter had done in nearly 26 years: hit a walkoff home run.

Crush's blast to right field came with one out, two runners on base, a full count, and the O's trailing 4-3.  As he rounded third base, the slugger took off his helmet and bowled it into his teammates, who were waiting at home to mob him. Surprisingly, the Birds hadn't gotten a game-ending homer from a pinch hitter since August 24, 1988, when Larry Sheets batted for Rene Gonzales and turned a ninth-inning, 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 victory over Mike Schooler and the Mariners.

Chris Davis took a very good shot at unsucking last night.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Luke Scott, 2009 Topps #331

Topps photographer Sean McMillan's body was never found, but police were able to recover his camera a few blocks away from Nationals Park. This image of Luke Scott bending over was the only photo stored on that camera.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Baltimore Orioles, 2013 Topps #317

Friday night's crushing walkoff loss notwithstanding, the Orioles just finished up a pretty satisfying road trip. Two out of three in Tampa, followed by two out of three in New York. Today Chris Tillman and T. J. McFarland combined to shut out the Yankees on four hits, and the O's hitters scraped together three runs against ace Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka before piling on some insurance runs against the Yanks' pen to take the rubber game, 8-0. They handed Tanaka only his second loss in the past two years. Combined with their 2-1 series win in Texas earlier this month, the Birds have now won three consecutive road series for the first time since the summer of 2012. That's a pretty good season to emulate, as illustrated above. The O's may be without Matt Wieters for the rest of 2014, they might be holding their breaths every time Ubaldo Jimenez throws a pitch, they are almost certainly wondering when Manny Machado and Chris Davis will return from oblivion...but they are even in the loss column with the Blue Jays and Yankees, and well ahead of Boston and Tampa Bay. They've got 88 games left to do some damage and create some separation. It shouldn't be a dull summer.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

J. J. Hardy, 2014 Topps Heritage #410

J.J. Hardy's long, powerless nightmare is over. In the eighth inning of today's 6-1 victory over the Yankees, the Orioles' shortstop finally hit his first home run of the 2014 season. It came in his 65th game of the year, but it's also worth mentioning that he didn't go deep in the final 23 games of 2013. All told, that's an 87-game, 361-plate-appearance drought that has been mercifully ended. Since Hardy's last longball on September 5, 2013, the O's have enjoyed multiple homers from such luminaries as Delmon Young, Ryan Flaherty, and David Lough. Now the Birds are within a game of second place and only trail the first-place Blue Jays by two and a half (one in the loss column). It's shaping up to be an interesting summer.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Andy Etchebarren, 1973 Topps #618

Happy 71st birthday to Andy Etchebarren, the George Clooney of the Orioles. But Etch is more than just a pretty face. He was an All-Star in each of his first two full big league seasons (1966-1967); while he hit just .218/.295/.344 in that span, offense was at such a league-wide low that his OPS+ of 86 was only 14% below league average. Back then, catchers weren't held to a high offensive standard, generally. His defensive marks were pretty strong as well. The 39 runners he tossed out on the basepaths in 1966 were the most in the American League.

If you're looking for a single-game example of Andy's positive contributions to Baltimore, there's July 27, 1973's 5-2 win over Cleveland, when his bases-clearing double provided the margin of victory in a game that featured the O's being outhit 11-6. Or maybe his career-best effort on September 28 of that year, when the unibrowed catcher went 4-for-4 with a walk, three RBI, and three runs scored in an 18-4 thrashing of Cleveland. Have a cold one for the best pre-Ripken #8 tonight.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chris Davis, 2013 Topps Update All-Star Stitches #ASR-CD

Sometimes I feel like the ups and downs of a 162-game baseball season are going to give me whiplash. Mere hours after I lamented Steve Pearce's inability to deliver a timely grand slam in Monday night's loss to the Rays, Chris Davis blasted an 0-2 pitch from Erik Bedard (remember him?) that clanked off of the left field foul pole for a grand slam, giving the Orioles a 5-0 lead in the third inning of last night's game. Of course, the O's rarely make things easy (and fine, I guess their opponents get some of the credit), so within three innings Tampa Bay had whittled that big lead down to 5-4. Enter Pearce himself, who parked a Brad Boxberger pitch over the left field fence in the seventh inning for two big insurance runs. Ultimately the Birds won 7-5 thanks in large part to a grand slam and a Steve Pearce home run. You can't always get what you want, but when you do, it sure is wonderful.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dwight Evans, 1992 Fleer #6

Another frustrating loss for the Orioles last night. An early deficit, some struggles with runners on base, a late hiccup by the bullpen...it's a pretty familiar template already this year. But I guess you know it's not your night when the game plays right into Buck Showalter's hands like it did in the top of the eighth - bases loaded, two outs, tie game, Steve Pearce available to pinch hit for David Lough - and the game-breaking move doesn't work out. Pearce, who's surprisingly been the most valuable depth guy for the O's in 2014, worked the count to 2-2 before hitting a grounder to shortstop. Force at second, inning over, Rays take the lead in their next ups with a pinch two-run home run by the anonymous Jerry Sands off of sad-sack Brian Matusz. Just for the extra twist of the knife, Delmon Young swats a pinch homer of his own with one out in the ninth to ensure the one-run loss. Sigh.

Obviously, the best-case scenario for the Pearce at-bat would have been a game-breaking grand slam. I figured this sort of thing would be a rare occurrence, but I had no idea how rare. With a tip of the cap to Roch Kubatko, the Orioles haven't had a pinch-hit grand slam since July 26, 1991. It was Dwight Evans, batting for Sam Horn in the bottom of the seventh inning against Gene Nelson with the O's trailing Oakland 9-5. There were two outs, two runs already in for Baltimore, and Nelson had just replaced Rick Honeycutt as the third pitcher of the inning (Dave Stewart had been pulled earlier for Honeycutt). On a 1-1 count, Evans drove a ball deep down the left field line in Memorial Stadium for the equalizer. Sadly, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson conspired to allow three A's to score in the top of the ninth and the Birds lost 12-9. I guess that's just a good reminder that baseball retains its ability to frustrate and disappoint us through the years.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2007 Upper Deck Road to the Hall #CRTG29

I am not at all ready for great players from my childhood to start leaving us. But that's the reality that comes with today's sad news of Tony Gwynn's premature death; he was only 54, and lost a four-year struggle with salivary gland cancer stemming from his longtime use of smokeless tobacco. Gwynn's career paralleled Cal Ripken's pretty neatly. Each was born in the summer of 1960 and played solely for his hometown team: Gwynn with the San Diego Padres from 1982-2001, and Ripken with the Orioles from 1981-2001. Cal's O's won the World Series in 1983, and Tony's Padres won the N. L. pennant in 1984 but lost the Series to the Tigers. Both men had to wait until 1996 to return to the postseason, and each of them reached the 3,000 career hits milestone in 2000. In 2007 they went into the Hall of Fame together in their first year on the ballot. But now Tony Gwynn is gone, much too soon. I'd like to offer something profound, but such words are escaping me. I'll just say that he'll be missed.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cal Ripken, Sr. and Cal Ripken, Jr., 1985 Fleer #641

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there, especially my own. I have nothing but love and respect for the man who took me to my first Orioles game, passed along his goofy sense of humor, and freely gave his time, love, and support whenever it was needed. My father has been there for me for 32 years now, and I know that he'll be a fantastic grandfather when the time comes. Thanks, Dad.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Bruce Chen, 2006 Upper Deck #525

I know that Bruce Chen is from Panama, but I'm still not certain how he came to be holding a large Panamanian flag on the field. Anyhow, I'm glad it was captured for posterity.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wei-Yin Chen, 2014 Topps Heritage #86

Okay, no home run for J. J. Hardy last night, and he committed yet another error. Apparently I don't have mystical jersey-relic-related powers. Duly noted. But I did have a grand night at the ballpark with my wife and my sister, thanks in large part to Wei-Yin Chen. The 28-year-old southpaw turned in his best start of the year and one of the best in his two-plus seasons in Baltimore thus far, combining with Darren O'Day and Zach Britton to shut out the Red Sox for the second time in three games.

Chen retired the first 11 batters he faced before Dustin Pedroia laced a hit into the right field corner. But Boston's scrawny second baseman had the nerve to test Nick Markakis' throwing arm and was gunned out at second base to end the fourth inning. In innings five through seven, Chen allowed a single per frame but coaxed three double play grounders to keep the Beantowners from mounting any serious threats. He also struck out a season-high seven Red Sox batters in earning his seventh win, already matching last year's victory total in ten less starts. Meanwhile, the O's offense gave Wei-Yin an early cushion with a three-spot in the first off of young Rubby de la Rosa. A Steve Pearce walk, an Adam Jones RBI double, and a Chris Davis two-run homer did the trick. Nick Hundley chipped in with a two-out single in the fourth to plate Hardy, as the newish Oriole catcher had his first multi-hit game since arriving in a trade with the Padres last month.

After six and a half innings played under threatening skies, a thunderstorm arrived emphatically during the seventh-inning stretch. We waited out half of the ensuing one hour and 40 minute rain delay, enjoying some 1983 World Series highlights (narrated by Mel Allen!) on the center field video board. But with the clock pushing past 10:00 with no announced restart time on a Wednesday night and the Birds comfortably ahead, we decided to head home. I caught the end of the game on TV, including run-scoring walks by Jonathan Schoop and Markakis to push the advantage to 6-0 in the eighth inning. One flawless inning from Britton later, and the Orioles were in the win column, closing to within 4.5 games of first-place Toronto just in time for the Blue Jays to arrive for a four-game weekend series.

All that, and I got this excellent "Oriole Way" promotional giveaway tee!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

J. J. Hardy, 2013 Topps Update All-Star Stitches #ASR-JH

I've been holding onto this one for a while, but I'll post it for the sake of goofy superstition. J. J. Hardy is having an odd sort of season. After hitting 30, 22, and 25 home runs in his first three seasons in Baltimore, the Birds' All-Star shortstop has yet to go deep in 2014. It's not like the hits aren't falling for Hardy; he's batting .287, comfortably above his career average of .261, and his 14 doubles are nearly halfway to his career high of 31. Nonetheless, J. J.'s suffering a power outage reminiscent of Cesar Izturis. He's also had a rough week with the glove, committing a total of four errors last Thursday and Friday, leading to a pair of close losses. So I am offering up a piece of blue fabric that was supposedly part of an article of clothing worn by Hardy himself during last year's All-Star festivities in Queens. Look upon it and send your positive, power-hitting, clean-fielding vibes to #2.

"Think it'll work?"

"It would take a miracle."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Adam Jones, 2010 Topps Attax Code Card

Guess what? Adam Jones is on fire right now. Over the past seven games, he's collected 14 hits in 29 at-bats with one double, four home runs, and nine RBI. He's only struck out twice, and has a batting line of .483/.500/.931. He started the O's offense on the right foot last night with a first-inning solo homer off of Boston starter Jake Peavy, and it just so happened to be the 150th longball of Adam's career and the first of his three hits on the evening. With 147 of those home runs coming in an Orioles uniform, the incumbent center fielder is only four away from cracking the team's all-time top ten leaderboard. I think the Erik Bedard trade just might pan out for the orange and black.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Alan Mills, 1993 Fleer Ultra #143

After spending the past two seasons as the pitching coach at short-season Aberdeen, Alan Mills seems to be settling in nicely after his 2014 move to the Delmarva Shorebirds. The Orioles' Single-A South Atlantic League affiliate, who plays its home games in Salisbury, had the lowest team earned run average of all full-season affiliated clubs across minor league baseball in the month of May. That's a 2.11 team ERA, and if I'm not mistaken, that's all farm systems, not just the Baltimore organization. The Shorebirds feature 2013's first-round draft pick, righthander Hunter Harvey (3-4, 2.31 ERA, 67 K/58.1 IP), as well as the fantastically-named Sebastian Vader (7-3, 3.26 ERA, 3.4 K/BB). I'm sure that Mills has plenty of pitching wisdom to offer his charges, but I can't help but wonder if he's also able to motivate them through fear. After all, would YOU want to make that guy angry?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Kevin Gausman, 2013 Topps Update Series #US274

I asked Kevin Gausman for a good performance last night, and he was equal to the challenge. With a sellout crowd of 44,202 in attendance (including your intrepid blogger), the 23-year-old finally got his first big league win as a starter in his seventh try by pitching seven strong innings. Gausman held the high-octane Oakland offense to one run on a solo homer by Coco Crisp, who magically becomes Rickey Henderson whenever he faces the Orioles. The O's young starter allowed four hits total along with one walk, and struck out six. When he needed to bear down, he did it in a big way. After run-scoring hits by Caleb Joseph, Nick Markakis, and Adam Jones handed him a 4-1 lead in the top of the sixth, Kevin allowed a pair of singles and a wild pitch to put two runners in scoring position with one out and the heart of the A's order due up. He responded by whiffing Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss back-to-back. The strikeout of Moss was particularly impressive; the powerful right fielder was dispatched on three pitches, the last of them hitting 99 on the radar gun. David Lough provided some insurance with a two-run homer off of Jim Johnson (welcome back, Dirty Jim), which proved crucial when Brian Matusz put a couple of runners on base in the eighth inning and Darren O'Day allowed them to score on a single by pinch hitter Kyle Blanks. O'Day snapped back and finished out the game by retiring five of the next six batters, notching three strikeouts of his own. I had a fine night at the Yard; it's just a shame that the Orioles didn't play today.

No, there was no game today. Certainly not an 11-1 blowout loss. Nope. You dig?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Kevin Gausman, 2013 Topps Making Their Mark #MM39

Okay, Kevin Gausman. It's up to you to play the stopper tonight against Oakland. The O's are on a two-game skid, Miguel Gonzalez and Johan Santana are injured, and most importantly (selfishly), I'd like to see a win up close this evening. Sure, you've still only got 191 innings as a pro under your belt, but it's never too soon to start living up to your potential as a fourth-overall draft pick. Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson? They're nothing but chumps compared to you. Leave them wondering what they've just seen, Goose. Do it for all of the Kevins.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Merv Rettenmund, 1974 Topps #585

Today is Merv Rettenmund's 71st birthday. Though I've featured a handful of his cards on my blog, I've written next to nothing about Merv himself. Mervin Weldon Rettenmund (there's a mouthful) is one of only three "Merv"s in major league history, and the only one to play in the post-World War II era. A Michigan native, he turned down a contract offer from the Detroit Tigers after high school and attended Ball State University on a football scholarship, breaking the school's single-season rushing record. Though he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, baseball was his preferred sport. He hit .321 at Ball State, and also earned a bachelor's degree in education. When the Orioles came calling in 1964, Merv signed on for a $15,000 bonus.

Rettenmund battered minor league pitching for four seasons before making it to Baltimore to stay. In 1968, he was the International League MVP. Competing at AAA for the first time, he hit .331 with an astounding .459 on-base percentage and a .588 slugging mark. He scored 104 runs and had 25 doubles and 22 homers in just 114 games with Rochester. His first major league home run was also the only walkoff blast of his career: a tie-breaking, pinch-hit two-run shot off of Oakland's Warren Bogle on August 27, 1968. The heroic feat came in his eighth career game and the fourth appearance in his second stint with the club that season.

It wasn't easy to crack the O's lineup in those days, so Merv was something of an outfield super-sub, rotating at all three positions and pulling pinch hit duty as needed. He was at his best for the 1970 World Champion Orioles, with a batting line of .322/.394/.544 and 18 home runs in 338 at-bats. Those numbers were boosted by a torrid second half in which he put up a .373/.452/.559 triple-slash. Despite those lofty numbers, he started only twice and had one other appearance as a pinch hitter in the 1970 postseason. Undaunted, the outfielder reached base five times in 11 tries overall and drove in two runs in the Birds' title-clinching 9-3 romp of the Reds in Game Five of the World Series.

In 1971, the Orioles were the class of the American League for a third straight year, and Rettenmund had a big hand in that. Playing in a career-high 141 games, he batted .318, trailing only Tony Oliva and Bobby Murcer for the AL crown. He drew 87 walks to boost his on-base percentage to .422, scored 81 runs and drove in 75, and earned a few down-ballot MVP votes. This time he appeared in all ten of Baltimore's postseason games and started nine of those. Although he batted just .200 (7-for-35) with an uncustomary lack of walks, his three-run homer off of Dock Ellis was the key hit in a 5-3 win in Game One of the Fall Classic.

Merv would never again reach the height of those prime years in Charm City, with injuries and batting struggles marking his final two seasons in orange and black. At age 30 he was traded to the Reds in the deal that brought Ross Grimsley to Baltimore. But the outfielder spent the latter years of his career as a pinch-hit specialist with the Padres and Angels, and in 308 trips to the plate over the 1977-1978 seasons he reached base at a .432 clip. After retiring in 1980, Rettenmund got right into coaching, embarking on a quarter-century of work as a highly-regarded batting instructor. The Oakland A's won the 1989 World Series under his tutelage, and during nine seasons as the Padres' hitting coach he worked with multiple-time batting champ Tony Gwynn. Currently Merv is enjoying a well-deserved retirement.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Arthur Rhodes, 1995 Topps #289

Unbeknownst to most fans, Arthur Rhodes wrote reminders and inspirational tips on the underside of the bill of his cap. When he was in a jam on the mound, he'd be able to take a peek at the cap and give himself a little boost. On this particular day, he stepped aside, pulled off his hat, and read his own handwritten words of wisdom:

"Eggs, milk, 1/2 pound sliced ham, Lucky Charms, grapes, orange juice-"

Damn! He'd been unable to find a piece of paper the night before and had grabbed the nearest flat surface while putting together his shopping list. It would be a long game...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Jim Palmer, 2001 Topps Stars Progression #P6

There are so many weird things about this card, the least of which is the fact that it combines an Orioles legend, a former one-year Oriole, and a future Oriole. The writeup on the back begins, "Palmer and Brown earned reputations for their good looks and hard heat"...have you ever in your life heard someone fawn over Kevin Brown's physical appearance? Lastly there's the hindsight weirdness of touting Kurt Ainsworth as a potential future Cy Young Award winner. The righty's injury-shortened career ended with a 6-8 record, a 5.19 ERA, 90 strikeouts, and 61 walks in 126.2 innings across four seasons. But he's probably more pleasant to be around than Kevin Brown.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Chris Davis and Adam Jones, 2014 Topps Heritage #5

I'm still enjoying this year's Topps Heritage offering, so much so that I finally sucked it up and bought a hobby box today. Chris Davis sitting in the top RBI spot on the American League Leaders card offers a nice parallel to Brooks Robinson's top billing on the 1965 Topps AL RBI Leaders card. Adam Jones drops in to make it a two-for-one deal.

Still, there's something funky about this picture of Crush. I think they just went a bit too crazy with the Photoshop filters. Davis looks blocky, like a computer-generated image of himself. I'm guessing that's the batting cage behind him that looks like an inky black wave rising up to swallow the first baseman. Run, Chris! Run!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Manny Machado, 2012 Bowman Platinum Prospects Refractor # BPP23

I never thought I'd be relieved to see the Orioles salvage a four-game series split in Houston, but the baseball season is long and trying. Manny Machado, still struggling to regain his pre-injury form, made the difference today with his first career grand slam in a 9-4 victory. It came on the heels of an intentional walk delivered to Nick Markakis, and it also provided some measure of retribution against Astros starter Scott Feldman. The ex-O's pitcher had previously knocked Nelson Cruz out of the game after plunking him on the hand with a fastball. Fortunately x-rays were negative, and the league's leading slugger is considered day-to-day, just like the rest of us.