Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dylan Bundy, 2013 Topps Making Their Mark #MM20

The Orioles had a weekend of firsts in Cleveland, and ultimately they're headed home with a series win.

On Friday night, Dylan Bundy earned his first major league win with an inning and a third of scoreless relief behind starter Mike Wright. Bundy entered in the fifth inning with two outs, two on, and the scored tied at three, and got the powerful Mike Napoli to pop out to end the inning. After allowing only a single in the sixth, Dylan was the beneficiary of Chris Davis' RBI double and Mark Trumbo's two-run homer; the O's went on to win 6-4.

Yesterday's game was much more of a downer for the Birds, as Ubaldo happened and the team was creamed 11-4. So we'll skip to today's game, another 6-4 win for the good guys. Early on, it looked like the Orioles might cruise, as they had a 4-0 lead after the top of the fourth inning. But Chris Tillman surrendered three home runs in his last three innings of work, allowing Cleveland to tie the score after six. With two outs in the top of the seventh, Hyun Soo Kim hit an absolute laser to the right field corner for his first MLB home run to put Baltimore back on top, 5-4. He got the customary silent treatment in the dugout and responded with some pantomimed high-fives before his teammates belatedly mobbed him to offer their congratulations.

Tomorrow begins a four-game series with the first-place Red Sox, as crucial as a set of games at the beginning of June can possibly be. The O's are just one game off the pace (and tied in the loss column), so if they manage to take three out of four they'll be back on top. Let's go!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Vintage Fridays: Pat Dobson, 1971 Topps #547

Here we see a barely-conscious Pat Dobson proudly wearing the uniform of a team that is TOTALLY NOT the San Diego Padres. I mean, just look at his logo-less black cap with its orange-like brim! I'm sold. I also appreciate the scuffing in the bottom right corner that gives the appearance of a camera flash. No wonder Pat can't keep his eyes open.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Harold Reynolds, 1993 Studio #129

I don't have much time to chat tonight, so I'll point you to the archives of Fire Joe Morgan for a reminder that no, Harold Reynolds' baseball "analysis" has never made sense, not even a decade ago.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Brian Matusz, 2012 Topps Mini #84

If you need to know how far Brian Matusz has fallen, just look at yesterday's transactions. The Orioles traded the former number four overall draft pick to the last-place Braves along with a competitive balance draft pick, netting two minor league pitchers in return. Atlanta immediately designated Matusz for assignment, so they effectively paid the O's the $3 million left on the lefty's contract just to get the extra draft pick.

Brian has been something of a whipping boy for Baltimore fans, including yours truly. I may or may not have dubbed him "Sad Giraffe". But although he never lived up to his initial potential, Matusz did start off promisingly enough: 15-14 with a 4.37 ERA (97 ERA+) and 7.4 K/9 IP in 40 starts in 2009-10. Then, from late 2012 through 2015, he was a decent lefty specialist. Brian also famously held David Ortiz to four hits and one walk in 30 plate appearances, while striking him out 13 times, for a batting line of .138/.167/.241. But something about Matusz allowing 18 base runners in six innings across seven appearances this year caused Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette to lose faith in him, and now he's a free agent. Hopefully he lands on his feet elsewhere.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Matt Wieters, 2013 Panini Pinnacle #59

Can we talk about what Matt Wieters did on his 30th birthday Saturday night? Things looked pretty dire for the Orioles offensively all night, as Angels starter Matt Shoemaker and his 8.49 ERA shut them down into the eighth inning on just three hits. The O's whiffed 12 times against Shoemaker, didn't draw any walks, and put nobody on base until Wieters doubled with two outs in the fifth inning. It looked like Kevin Gausman would be saddled with a hard-luck loss after the O's righty gave up a two-out single to Yunel Escobar in the home half of the seventh for the game's only run. Angels closer Joe Smith quickly notched two outs in the top of the ninth, but the Birds clung to life as Chris Davis grounded a single through the middle of the infield and Mark Trumbo drew a full-count walk. That brought Wieters to the plate, and he jumped on the second pitch he saw from Smith. Earl Weaver Special, Orioles take a 3-1 lead, and that would be the final score despite an unusually wild performance by Zach Britton in the bottom of the ninth. It's always a special thrill to pull out a victory at the last possible moment.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Vintage Fridays: Benny Ayala, 1980 Topps #262

Things you might like to know about Benny Ayala:

-His birth name is Benigno.

-He made his major league debut on August 27, 1974 with the New York Mets, and hit a home run against Astros pitcher Tom Griffin in his first career at-bat. He was the first player in Mets history - and the first native of Puerto Rico - to perform that feat.

-Benny never played more than 76 games in one season, and topped out at 191 plate appearances, reaching both milestones in 1980 with the Orioles. That year he posted a 127 OPS+ on the strength of a .265/.335/.500 batting line, as he popped 10 homers and drove in 33 runs in a limited role.

-He batted only twice in the 1983 postseason, and drove in a run in each plate appearance: in the Game Four clincher in the ALCS, he had a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the tenth inning to bring home the Orioles' third and final run. Ayala also batted for Jim Palmer in the top of the seventh inning in Game Three of the World Series, and delivered a game-tying single against Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. He also scored the eventual winning run on an error by Phillies shortstop Ivan de Jesus.

-In recent years, Benny has focused on helping his fellow Puerto Rican ex-big leaguers as part of the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT). He helps former players to acquire pensions, health insurance, instructional jobs, and more.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Brooks Robinson, 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes #178

You know what they say: you only turn 79 once.

What, you've never heard that one? Oh. Well, anyway, happy birthday, Brooksie! It's been a pleasure to have you in our lives for another year. Thank you for helping to make Baltimore the town that it is.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jon Knott, 2007 Topps Chrome Xfractor #282

This is an Xfractor, which translates to "shiny cubes amounting to a whole lot of nothing". Imagine forking out your money for a pack of Topps Chrome, pulling one of these parallels (one per three packs), and realizing that it's a 28-year-old journeyman rookie. It seems like ancient history now, but I swear I can remember there being some buzz around Jon Knott in the spring of 2007. That tells you all that you need to know about those bad old days. Knott was a corner outfielder who signed with the Padres as an undrafted free agent in 2001 after hitting 51 home runs in four years at Mississippi State University. He had cups of coffee in San Diego in 2004 and 2006, and in the latter year led the AAA Pacific Coast League with 32 homers and 113 RBI for the Portland Beavers. It was his third go-around in the league, of course. The Padres let Jon walk as a free agent that offseason, so his stock wasn't exactly high. After signing with the Orioles, Knott batted .289/.341/.579 in 41 Grapefruit League plate appearances. He had three short stints in Baltimore throughout that season, and started with a bang, bashing a pinch-hit three-run homer in his O's debut on April 17, 2007. That earned him a start in left field the next day, and he had two singles and a walk in four trips to the plate, scoring twice. But then he was sent back to AAA Norfolk until late June. He played only five games spanning his next two callups, going 0-for-10 with three walks and a sac fly. That concluded his big league career, as Knott spent 2008 in AAA with the Twins and Phillies and bounced around three professional leagues in 2009 (Atlantic, Mexican, and Pacific Coast) before calling it a career. But hey, that is one shiny card.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Kevin Gregg, 2012 Topps #326

On September 14, 2012, the Orioles lost to the Athletics, 3-2. That left them with an 81-63 record, and the quest for their first winning season since 1997 was delayed for another day. Though they were tied with the Yankees for first place in the American League East, the O's were still fighting for their postseason lives. That day, the team made a wise and long-overdue move, cutting ties with failed closer Kevin Gregg. With that meathead in their rear view mirror, the Birds finished strong at 12-6 and clinched a wild card. They upended the defending AL champion Rangers in the playoffs before losing a closely-contested ALDS to New York, and haven't had another losing season in the ensuing years. There was an AL East crown and an ALCS berth in 2014, and the O's are again on top as they near the quarter mark of the 2016 season. I'm sure they owe most of this good fortune to their divorce from that meathead Gregg. After all, correlation equals causation, right?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Leo Gomez, 1991 Fleer Ultra #16

Before Leo Gomez settled on his customary uniform number 10, he wore #11 briefly with the Orioles. In an awkward segue, 11 is also the number of chemotherapy treatments that my wife Janet has remaining. Two days ago, she had her first treatment of the second round of chemo drugs - Taxol, in this case. So far, the side effects are significantly less harsh than they were with the first combo of A-C meds (Adriamycin and Cytoxan). So hopefully she won't face too many additional hardships as we prepare for the birth of our child and those intensive early weeks of parenthood. There has been one excellent piece of news in the meantime: at Janet's pre-chemo checkup on Friday, the physician's assistant couldn't find any traces of the tumor in her breast by touch. We are winning this fight.

It's been about two and a half months since Janet was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, and I'm still trying to take stock of everything. I poured out a great deal of my thoughts in a post over at Janet's blog, and if you'd like to read that sort of thing, you can do so here. Thanks once again for your support, prayers, and positive thoughts and words.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Jonathan Schoop, 2013 Bowman Platinum Prospects Purple Refractor #BPCP100

The Orioles have won seven straight games for the second time this season, after managing two seven-game streaks total in the previous 16 seasons. Does that mean anything? Probably not, but it's fun. I was at tonight's game, and you can't ask for much more than seven innings of two-run, three-hit ball from Mike Wright, topped off with four O's home runs over the last three innings. Jonathan Schoop went deep twice, including his second career grand slam. Somebody pinch me.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Vintage Fridays: Stu Miller, 1963 Topps #286

1963 Topps #286 Stu Miller Front 
It's been a good couple of nights in Birdland. Last night Janet and I treated our unborn child (six more weeks!) to its second O's game. A rare RAIN-FREE game, to boot! After Ubaldo Jimenez did his best to send us screaming toward the exit, somehow allowing "just" five runs on 14 base runners in five-plus innings, the Orioles reacquainted themselves with the ever-adventurous Detroit bullpen. A two-run spurt in the bottom of the sixth set the stage for a fantastic five-run seventh. The Birds swatted five singles in the span of six batters, with Pedro Alvarez's single squirting under Miguel Cabrera's first baseman's mitt and into right field to score Adam Jones with the tying run. Jonathan Schoop followed with the coup de grace, a line drive into the right field corner for his first career triple, plating Chris Davis and Alvarez with the go-ahead runs. From there, it was the tried-and-true formula of O'Day in the eighth and Britton in the ninth, 7-5 final. Baby B is 2-0.

Tonight the Orioles made it six wins in a row with a 1-0 squeaker, and they're a season-best 10 games over .500 at 22-12. Chris Tillman continued his strong recent work with seven innings of five-hit, two-walk, seven-strikeout ball, and Adam Jones made a tough-luck loser out of Justin Verlander by crushing a solo homer into the Baltimore bullpen in the sixth inning. It was Adam's 200th career home run. When Tillman departed, O'Day and Britton again put up their customary zeroes in innings eight and nine. Zach's flawless ninth earned him his tenth save of the year and number 83 of his career, tying everybody's darling Jorge Julio for fifth-most in team history. Up next on the leaderboard is Stu Miller with 99, and Tippy Martinez isn't much farther ahead at 105.

Oh! And the Red Sox FINALLY lost, 7-6 to the Astros. So the O's are alone in first place again. It's better than the alternative, I'll say that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Adam Jones, 2013 Bowman Chrome Refractor #159

After the O's failed to defend their American League East crown in 2015, needing a hot finish just to break even at 81-81, I harbored some hope that the team would be able to siphon off some of the "even year mojo" that has famously allowed the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014 despite the team failing to even reach the postseason in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015. Some sort of orange and black solidarity, you know?

32 games into 2016, the even year phenomenon has been a blessing for the Birds. They're in first place with a 20-12 record and a league-best 49 home runs, including the four they blasted in today's 9-2 laugher over the Twins. They're setting all sorts of fun team records, including a seven-game win streak to start the regular season, a first-ever extra-inning shutout win over the Yankees, and their active streak of three straight games featuring back-to-back home runs.

Speaking of touching 'em all, Adam Jones is finally showing signs of life after a slow and injury-marred start to the year. He blasted a towering homer for the second game in a row this afternoon, and went 6-for-10 in the abbreviated two-game set in Minnesota with four runs scored and five RBI. It's early enough in the season that he's boosted his triple slash (AVG/OBP/SLG) from .200/.269/.274 to .238/.298/.362 with a pair of strong showings. If he's righting the ship, Machado/Jones/Davis/Trumbo is a brutal gauntlet for opposing pitchers to navigate.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Kevin Gausman, 2014 Bowman #179

If you're counting on the Orioles being American League East contenders throughout the 2016 season (and if you're not, what fun are you?), then Kevin Gausman's performance is a big part of the equation. In the early going, the signs are promising. Tonight is Gausman's fourth start since coming off the disabled list, and he has allowed a total of five runs (four earned) on 13 hits in 23 innings. He's walked four hitters and struck out 20. Of course, the O's have given him bubkes in the way of run support: no runs in either his first start at Tampa Bay or his most recent start vs. the Yankees (though that one produced the team's first-ever extra-inning shutout win over New York). They scored a total of seven runs in his other previous start against the White Sox, including five while he was still in the game, but Darren O'Day picked a bad night to finally cough up some runs and Kevin got no decision. Tonight he settled in nicely after allowing a run on two first-inning hits, but...hold the phone, Manny Machado and Adam Jones went back-to-back while I was typing this up and now they've given their pitcher a 3-1 lead. I guess I just hadn't been complaining enough!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mike Mussina, 1999 Upper Deck #48

Mike Mussina is acknowledging the crowd at Camden Yards with a wave, but he could just as easily be shielding his eyes from the sun. We'd nearly forgotten what sunlight looked like here in Baltimore; all last week, it was gray, chilly, and damp. Yesterday we finally had bright, clear skies, so naturally the O's flew up to Minneapolis for a three-game series with the Twins. Tonight's opener was rained out. Enough already!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Nick Markakis, 2004 Bowman Signs of the Future #SOF-NM

I hope that everybody had a great Mother's Day. I've been fortunate to have several excellent mother figures in my life, from my mother and my dearly departed grandmothers to my mother-in-law. Of course I have to add my wife Janet to that list, as we're about seven weeks away from welcoming our little one to the world. Watching her balance home life and work while throttling breast cancer and going through the usual aches and pains of pregnancy has left me in awe. My kid is going to have an uncommonly strong, bright, funny, and kind mom; as I've told Janet, I'm just going to be trying to follow her lead.

There's some very encouraging news on the health front, while we're talking about it. Janet has completed the first of her two courses of chemotherapy, and the tumor has already shrunk significantly. It started out with a circumference of 3.4 cm, roughly the size of a golf ball, I'd say. Now it's maybe the size of a blueberry, and even the oncologist was having a hard time locating it by touch! If you are interested in keeping closer tabs on our experiences throughout this challenging time, Janet has been keeping a blog (and even trusting me to contribute occasionally). So hop on over to Janet versus the Titmonster...and yes, I'm to blame for the name. No apologies.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Vintage Fridays: Bob Johnson, 1967 Topps #38

Whew, I'm back! I wasn't expecting to take a week off from blogging due to burning up a laptop charging cable, but if I've learned any lesson in recent months (over and over and over again), it's this: life is not tidy.

As an example, I give you this woebegone card specimen, featuring former Orioles sub Bob Johnson. Those yellowish bars criss-crossing the front of the card are from decades-old strips of tape, which I'd guess were used by another collector to affix the card to an album of some sort. Card enthusiasts in the 1960s and 1970s didn't have Ultra-Pro binders and pages and penny sleeves at their disposal, so they muddled through as best they could. It's all any of us can do.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Technical Difficulties...

...Please stand by.

I have managed to fry my laptop charger, hence the most recent hiatus on this blog. I shall be back soon! In the meantime, the O's have started their week by handing the Yankees their sixth straight loss. Music to my ears.