Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Aubrey Huff, 2009 Topps #45

I picked a card at random tonight, hoping for a little inspiration. Be careful what you ask for, right? Nowadays, when I think of Aubrey Huff, I think of his frequently incomprehensible Twitter feed. It's probably true that nobody should ever tweet, but that goes double for ol' Horseshit Huff.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1998 Donruss Elite #123

It's been a while since I've highlighted a butt-ugly 1990s Cal Ripken card, and it's the extremely foily Donruss Elite to the rescue! To be fair, this card doesn't scan well. In person, you can see a blue-to-purple gradient in the background, with a speckled effect that is reminiscent of stars in the night sky. But the overbearing Elite logo that takes up all of the space between Cal's legs is an eyesore, and the less said about the "GENERATIONS" wordmark running down the right side of the card, complete with unnecessary horizontal lines between each letter.

The writeup on the back of the card is no great shakes, either. And I quote:

"Cal might not have put up the best numbers of the 90s-although his stats speak for themselves-he has earned the title of Mr. Baseball of the decade."

What the hell? If Cal's stats really do speak for themselves, then why are you downplaying his performance right out of the gate? Also, the grammar is abysmal. There's a conjunction missing somewhere, i.e. "but he has earned the title...". And that aforementioned title. "Mr. Baseball of the decade"? That's not a thing. Come on, guys.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Vintage Fridays: Bill Wight, 1956 Topps #286

This is another of the 1950s cards that I picked up from COMC's Amazon store last week. I keep chipping away at the 1956 set, picking up lesser names and creased-up cards here and there, because it's just a great-looking design. Here we see Bill Wight bathed in a halo of light, as the smaller Bill shows off his lefthanded pitching form...which looks oddly pigeon-toed. Anyhow, Bill Wight was a true journeyman, squeezing in stints with eight teams in a 12-year career: Yankees, White Sox, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians, Orioles, Reds, and Cardinals. His three-year stay in Chicago was the longest that he ever stayed with one club. It was also with the Pale Hose that Wight had his best season, when he went 15-13 with a 3.31 ERA and 14 complete games in 1949. But he also pitched quite well for the Indians and O's in 1955, with a 6-8 record that belied his 2.48 ERA. He started 14 games and relieved in 22 that year, with all of his starts coming after being traded to Baltimore in mid-July. His 154 ERA+ in 141.1 innings was a career best. Bill continued in a swingman role for the Birds in 1956 and 1957, with middling results. He hung up his spikes after the 1958 season, finishing with a 77-99 record, a 3.95 ERA, and eight saves. He completed 66 of his 198 career starts.

Wight had a notable second act in baseball, serving as a scout for Houston and Atlanta for 37 years total. He signed Joe Morgan, Dusty Baker, Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, and David Justice, among others. Bill died of a heart attack at age 85 in 2007, while vacationing with his wife of 60 years.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Chris Smith, 2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres #56

I'll cut to the quick: Chris Smith never made it to the major leagues. In an era of top draft pick misfires for the Orioles, the stocky lefty from Cumberland University in Tennessee was one of the most glaring busts. The O's selected Smith with the seventh overall pick in 2001, pegging him as a pitcher despite his strong track record as an outfielder in college. He'd batted .375 with 14 homers and 66 RBI as a sophomore at Florida State, earning second-team All-American honors. He'd taken the mound sparingly, totaling 16.1 innings in two years at FSU. When Seminoles coach Mike Martin rebuffed his request to focus on pitching going forward, he jumped to Cumberland and struck out 115 batters in 84.1 innings. As a hitter, he posted a .414 average, 17 homers, and 67 RBI.

Those 84.1 innings that Chris pitched as a collegiate junior were more than he would total in the Orioles' organization. A left shoulder tear derailed his progress, and he had a cumulative 7.52 ERA in 24 games in the minors. The Birds cut their losses in 2005 after Smith allowed 25 runs in 26.1 innings of relief with the Delmarva Shorebirds. He finished the season - and his pro career - in the independent Atlantic League with the Long Island Ducks, putting up a much more reasonable 4.14 ERA in 25 appearances. The southpaw spent several years as the hitting and outfield coach at SUNY College at Old Westbury, though my Google-fu shows that he's no longer with the school. Meanwhile, the only real success story for Baltimore in the 2001 draft came in the form of fifth-round pick Jim Johnson, a right-handed pitcher from Union-Endicott High School in New York.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Chris Tillman, 2015 Panini Donruss #58

I'd say that the Orioles are getting the band back together, but technically Chris Tillman never left. All the same, I spent much of this offseason figuring that the righty's decade in the Baltimore organization had come to an end. Tilly's 2016 was as disastrous as it gets for an impending free agent. A lingering shoulder injury cost him the first month-plus of the season, and his return on May 7 doubled as his only win of the season. He went 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA, allowing 81 earned runs in 93 innings. Every number you can find was hideous: 24 homers allowed, 51 walks against just 63 strikeouts, 125 hits. Opposing hitters batted .324/.406/.575; essentially, Chris turned every opposing batter into Mike Trout.

But I'm in danger of belaboring the point. Tillman was a 16-game winner with a 3.77 ERA as recently as 2016, he won't turn 30 until April (which I was surprised to learn), and the O's are not exactly flush with strong starting pitching options, even after picking up Andrew Cashner last week. So I don't see the harm in giving Chris a guaranteed $3 million to see if he can return to good form and health in 2018. I won't necessarily be expecting anything like that, but I think it's better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Vintage Fridays: Bob Turley, 1954 Topps #85

Last week, I had some credit card rewards money that was burning a hole in my pocket, so I decided to tick a few boxes on my vintage checklist. I went to the Check Out My Cards storefront on Amazon and came away with six 1950s Topps cards (three Orioles and three one-time O's) for $25 bucks, including shipping. The key pickup was this rookie card of "Bullet" Bob Turley, who started, completed, and won the first game in Memorial Stadium, a 3-1 victory over the White Sox on April 15, 1954. The 23-year-old scattered seven hits and five walks while whiffing nine Chicago batters. In his lone season as an Oriole, Turley was the club's de facto ace, leading the team with 14 wins (against 15 losses), 247.1 innings pitched, and 185 strikeouts (against 181 walks...yikes). He also completed 14 games and posted a 3.46 ERA. Bob finished strong, going 5-1 with a 2.53 ERA in his last seven starts of the season.

I'll share the card back, since it relays a story that's pretty amusing in hindsight. Turley was from Troy, Illinois, and that led him to sign with the St. Louis Browns rather than the Yankees, so that he could pitch close to home. But by the time he reached the major leagues for good, the Browns were bound for Baltimore and the East Coast! As we now know, the Birds sent him to the Yankees prior to the 1955 season, which probably left him feeling like a plaything of fate. In the end, things worked out pretty well for Bob in New York. Two All-Star selections, a Cy Young Award in 1958 (21-7, 2.97 ERA, 19 CG), and two World Series rings qualifies as "pretty well", I think.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Tito Francona, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #143

Some somber news this week, as 15-year MLB veteran John Patsy "Tito" Francona passed away at age 84. Most fans today probably know Tito best as the father of current Indians manager Terry Francona, who himself is affectionately known as "Tito". But the elder Francona made his name as a corner outfielder and first baseman for nine big league teams, most notably having a six-year stint with the Indians. In 1959 he batted an astounding .363/.414/.566 (171 OPS+) in 122 games for Cleveland, finishing fifth in AL MVP voting behind the Hall of Fame White Sox trio of Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, and Early Wynn, as well as Tito's teammate Rocky Colavito. The following year, Francona led the league with 36 doubles, and in 1961 he made his lone All-Star team while batting .301 and driving in a career-best 85 runs.

Tito actually started his major league career in Baltimore, serving as the team's primary right fielder in 1956. His batting line of .258/.334/.378 with nine homers and 57 RBI wasn't amazing, but fair enough for a 22-year-old novice. He only appeared in 97 games with the O's in 1957, slumping to a .233 average before being dealt to the White Sox in a seven-player trade that briefly made future Hall of Famer Larry Doby an Oriole. (Doby was swapped again to the Indians on the eve of the 1958 season in a five-player transaction.)

Farewell, Tito Francona. See you in a better place.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rafael Palmeiro, 2005 Bowman #23

Ah, spring training. Florida sunshine, Arizona warmth, and...100 or so unsigned veteran free agents still looking for jobs. That's not even counting Rafael Palmeiro, who has spent the winter insisting that he's primed for a comeback at age 53, some 13 years after his long and accomplished career ended unceremoniously in the aftermath a positive steroid test. As was the case back in 2005, when his drug suspension was announced shortly after he collected his 3,000th base hit and mere months after he famously pointed his finger at members of Congress in a hearing and denied ever using any illegal performance enhancers, his timing just couldn't be worse.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Rick Sutcliffe, 1993 Topps #274

My posting frequency on this blog may have left something to be desired over the past few years, but compared to the activity on my 1993 Topps blog, I've been downright prolific in this space. Before I finally got around to posting card #494 from the base set last weekend, I hadn't touched that blog since October 14...of 2015. In other words, the last time I updated my other blog, we hadn't moved into our current house, we didn't even know that we were going to be parents, and we were still a year away from asking WHY THE HELL BUCK DIDN'T USE ZACH BRITTON IN TORONTO AUUUUUGGGHHHH. But I had a lot of fun collecting that set when I was 11 years old, and in revisiting the blog last week, I remembered that I'd had a lot of fun retrospectively diving into the set on a card-by-card basis. For instance, in doing a little quick research for my post on this Rick Sutcliffe card, I learned that Sut held Barry Bonds homerless in 51 career meetings between the two. That's the most plate appearances that Bonds had against any pitcher without going deep. If you're interested in more tidbits like this, go ahead and check out my other recently-revived writing project. It's a breezy look at a bunch of cards that I can't believe were released 25 years ago.

Oh, and FYI...today's 1993 Topps blog post was number 500. (It's card #495 in the base set, but I've also done a couple of general announcement posts and the three Gold card parallels that replaced the Series One checklists. But I digress.)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Austin Hays, 2018 Topps #62

I'm sitting down at the end of a long day of dad duty, since my wife has been waylaid by a horrendous ear infection and sinus infection to boot. Thankfully, Finn was in good spirits all day, even when I took him out early in the evening to run errands. While we were picking up medicine at Target, I'm pretty sure my son pointed me towards the trading card aisle and instructed me to treat myself to a couple 36-card packs of 2018 Topps. He drives a hard bargain.

The kid must be good luck, because I pulled five O's cards in total: base cards of Mark Trumbo, Austin Hays, Jonathan Schoop, and Chris Tillman, and a Topps Salute insert of Hays. I'm not crazy about the design of this year's base set, and I'm not the first to note that the layout of Topps' flagship cards has been stagnant for the past decade or so. That said, this "Surf's Up" look is at the very least an improvement from last year's diagonally-lined monstrosity.

Meanwhile, Austin Hays was one of the brighter spots in what was largely a disappointing 2017 for the Orioles. The team's third-round pick in June 2016 had a meteoric rise through the minors. After putting up a batting line of .336/.386/.514 in his 38-game pro debut at Aberdeen two years ago, the product of Jacksonville University began the 2017 season at high-A Frederick. Halfway through the season he was promoted to AA Bowie, and had remarkably similar numbers on both levels:

Register Batting
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/11/2018.

Austin's 32 homers were the second-highest total in the minors last year, trailing only Houston's A.J. Reed, who bashed 34 round-trippers in the hitters' haven that is the AAA Pacific Coast League. The Birds called him up in September when rosters expanded, making him the first player from his draft year to reach the majors. He had some growing pains, batting .217 with two walks, three doubles, and a home run in 63 trips to the plate as an Oriole, but 20 games at age 22 aren't the be-all and end-all. It's no sure thing that Hays will start 2018 with the O's, but it certainly looks like he's on the right track.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Brady Anderson, 1995 Fleer Flair #1

Okay, I gave Blogger a week off to think about what it did to my pictures, and now that it seems to be behaving I'll post the rest of my photo diary of FanFest.

Naturally, Finn LOVED the special Chris Davis-riffic MTA bus.
 The Bird swapped caps with Finn.
 This was the only picture we got where Finn was actually facing forward.
 I snapped a candid shot of Brady Anderson at one of the autograph stations. I think he drinks stem cell smoothies for breakfast each day. Seriously, he is 54! That's Miguel Castro partially visible on Brady's right, and on the end (not pictured) was Roger McDowell.
 Here we were strolling down the Eutaw Street concourse en route to the clubhouse tour.
 "You, there! Hit a home run!"
 I'm sure Earl Weaver made that same face in the dugout all of the time.
 Love this picture.

 I can't believe how great the field looked in January. I could probably get a good night's sleep on that grass.
 Walking past the warehouse on the way back to the car. See you in March, Birds!