Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Matt Albers, 2008 Topps Updates and Highlights #UH62

I've been tapping away in this little corner of the Web since 2008. I've published 2,377 posts, some without any words at all, some with very many words. But I don't think I've ever posted an entry that was just one word long. I've also never posted a card of husky ex-O's reliever Matt Albers, who is now a free agent after the Astros declined a $3 million option on his contract. In his return to Houston, Albers allowed a single run in ten innings in April, then missed the rest of the season with a bum shoulder. Might the Orioles give him a look? I wouldn't count on it, since competition is always stiff in the Baltimore bullpen and he's a 32-year-old middle reliever who doesn't typically strike out a lot of guys. Then again, if you thumb back through my archives, you'll find that I'm a pretty poor prognosticator.

Okay, so I mark off the imaginary "Matt Albers" box on my blog checklist. But it's safe to say that the one-word entry will have to wait for another day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nick Markakis, 2014 Topps Opening Day #161

The Orioles had three Gold Glove winners again this year, tying the Royals (argh) for the most honorees in 2014. Adam Jones and J. J. Hardy each won their third straight, and Nick Markakis became a two-timer. Jones was tabbed as the American League's top defensive center fielder for the fourth time overall, tying Jim Palmer, Bobby Grich, and Mike Mussina for third place in team history. Only Brooks Robinson (16), Paul Blair (8), and Mark Belanger (8) can top that. The O's extended their margin over the rest of the American League with 70 total Gold Gloves, and closed the gap with the Cardinals (85) for the overall lead. This is three straight years with three Gold Gloves for the Birds, which may not mean much in the grand scheme of things...but it's better than not winning them.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Josh Bell, 2010 Bowman Topps 100 Prospects #TP55

Could this insert set name be any more unwieldy? With 21st-Century baseball cards, it doesn't take much prodding to bring out my inner Abe Simpson. But as a dedicated team collector, I just, like, needed this card, dagnabbit, so much so that I included it on a wish list that I then prominently displayed on the left sidebar of my blog, and thoughtful fellow collector GCA sought out that card and bought it for me, and sent it through the mail along with the 1999 Fleer Tradition Update Mike Figga card that's listed two slots down from Josh Bell, and here we are, and I seriously need to update that blasted "Coveted Cluster" list, and maybe find a better name for that list, and definitely bring this absurd run-on sentence to a close.

Hey, where am I? Where did everybody go?

To sum up: 1) Thank you, Greg. 2) New and improved "most wanted" list in the works, scheduled date TBA. 3) Was it really less than five years ago that the Orioles and their fans were doing mental gymnastics to convince themselves (ourselves) that Josh Bell was the answer at third base in a post-Melvin Mora world?

At the very least, I can answer the Josh Bell question. Because he looked so abysmally overmatched in his failed trials in Baltimore in 2010 and 2011 (cumulative .200/.221/.264, 32 OPS+, 6 BB, 78 K in 282 PA), my current perception of Bell's past promise has been unfairly colored. In 2009, his age 22 season, the hulking third base prospect batted .295/.376/.516 with 35 doubles and 20 homers in 127 games in his first (and as it happened, only) tour of AA. He walked 61 times and struck out 98, which is worlds more discipline than he showed in the majors. There were questions about his defense and his ability to switch-hit, but he was a legitimate power hitter in the minors who could even take a few walks. Baseball America tabbed him as the 37th best prospect in all of the minor leagues prior to the 2010 season, when this card was in the works. That same year, Baseball Prospectus ranked him 39th overall, so another group of knowledgeable folks saw the upside that Bell had. He just didn't make it there.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Brooks Robinson, 2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions #86

Upper Deck's Goodwin Champions set may not have been a hot item, but at least they went with the School Photo Day "clouds" backdrop for a good chunk of the cards. I'm also amused by the sentient old-timey baseball glove hovering over Brooks Robinson's left shoulder. I'd like to think it's whispering helpful bits of advice in Brooksie's ear, like "Take your time and set up for your throw; Lee May runs like a wounded bison". Also, my eyes could be playing tricks on me, but that glove doesn't appear to be golden. I did notice that the glove on Number 5's left hand is clearly stamped with the Rawlings logo, which is a sneaky advertisement for the company that sponsors MLB's Gold Glove Awards. Pretty smooth.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Jay Payton, 2008 Topps Orioles Team Set #BAL7

Gee, don't look so happy to be here, Jay. You weren't exactly our first choice either.