Which One Was He, Kid Or Play?

Good question.

Thanks to hats and helmets, you never really get to see the nuances of a baseball players hair unless it’s to the extreme.

Oscar Gamble circa 1975 is one thing – Smith’s do was another.

Lonnie’s hairstyle fit snugly into a hat or helmet, and only reveal it’s wonder when the lid came off.

Skates, of course, was the goat of the 1991 series after being deked by the Twins middle infield during a hit-and-run play.

His fielding was comedic, yet believe it or not he was a plus fielder and had an outstanding defensive season in 1989 to go along with his best offensive season (168 OPS+, 21 home runs). Had the Braves had anyone else that could have played the game, Smith would have had triple digits in runs and RBI.

He hung on as a regular through 1991 and finally ran out of steam in 1994. But he was always a fun player, an underrated player, and could hit for average, run, and get on base. Had not Raines and Henderson been around, he could have been remembered as a great lead-off hitter.

But now, everyone will remember his adventures in left field and that gaffe in the 1991 Series. Oh, and now, that hairdo.

You know, hairstyles do come and go…thank goodness!

 

I’m Conflicted

I’ve always been programmed to dislike the Mets. Of course, since I’m a recovering Cubs fan, it wasn’t so hard after the Mets got good in the mid-80’s.

It was actually easy to hate the Mets. Gooden, Strawberry, Hernandez, Knight, Dykstra, Backman, all of ‘em. Something about their attitudes and cockiness and, well, they won more than the Cubs.

And I’ve carried that over since then, even though the Mets have stumbled more than often than not. It’s just a knee jerk reaction. How I’ve laughed when big money free agents signed by the Mets have gone astray.

But what’s there to hate about David Wright? Can you find anything?

I’m not talking about jealous hate. Sure, Keith Hernandez had talent, but it was easy to hate his “I’m Keith Hernandez” attitude. Is it rational? No, of course not. It’s sports fandom. Like that’s rational.

David Wright, though, is a good guy without being a goody-two-shoes. He’s a humanitarian, he works hard, likes pets and animals by all accounts he’s a good teammate and he never wants to come out of the lineup.

So how can I hate him? It’s not his fault he was drafted by the Mets, so I can’t even hate him for signing with them as a free agent.

Face it, I can’t. I’m going to have to resign myself to liking one Mets player.

To be honest, I do still like Santana, and I liked Pedro and since I like knuckleballers I do dig Dickey. I do kind of feel sorry for Ike Davis, being Ron Davis’ son and all.

But Piazza? Nah. Ventura? Hell, naw! Rey Ordonez? Get that slappy away from me.

David Wright, though, is one that I can’t be on the fence about. Maybe he’s got a secret dark side. Perhaps there’s a lair in his suburban Jersey home and he dresses up in women’s clothes and has women in a pit putting lotion on themselves.

It doesn’t seem plausible, but you know, it’s either that or I truly like a Mets player.

 

 

Mark Eichhorn – 1989 Score

February 26, 2011

Sling It Sidewinder!

Many times, become a sidearm or submarine pitcher is akin to becoming a knuckleball pitcher. It’s the last resort before an exciting career in insurance sales or customer service for a siding contractor.

Those who can master the funky delivery get another life in baseball.

Eichhorn was a second round draft pick (albiet in the January draft) and he advanced rapidly up the chain one step at a time. Medicine Hat in 1979, Kinston in1980, Knoxville in 1981 and Syracuse in 1982.

It was after a 10-11, 4.54 mark as a 21-year old in AAA that Eichhorn was promoted for the September cup o’ Joe. Actually, he was called up in late August, but he was very much a typical “we’re out of it, let’s see what we got with these kids” callup. The Jays were on the rise, finishing at 78-84 and finally rid of the expansion garbage pitchers they carried for a few years.

Eichhorn struggled in the majors in 1982. He was 0-3 with a 5.45 ERA. But, he was a 21-year old kid, and four of his seven starts were ‘quality starts’. He was in the mix for the 1983 rotation behind Stieb, Leal and Clancy.

A funny thing happened on the way to Toronto. He didn’t make the club (Jim Gott was the 4th and later the Jays signed Doyle Alexander when the Yankees released him), and went into a funk. Or something. For two years.

1983, he was up and down between Knoxville and Syracuse to the tune of 6-17, 5.06. In 1984, it was Syracuse for 5-9, 5.97. Something had to be done, or Eichhorn would be out of the organization. So in the Instructional League he tinkered with a sidearm delivery.

It clicked.

He split time in 1985 with Knoxville and Syracuse but with better results. (7-6, 3.46). However, there still was skepticism whether Eichhorn could make it or not.

He made it. In 1986 he was one of the most valuable pitcher in the AL with a 6.4 WAR. He was third in ROY voting and sixth in Cy Young. He probably should have been the ROY, as he had double the WAR of Jose Canseco. Ah, well.

He never hit those heights again. He pitched a lot in 1987, which affected his arm in 1988. From then, he was a good, not great, relief pitcher for several years.

But he had a long career that would not have happened had he not been acting in desperation in the Instructional League in 1984 and decided to try a sidearm / submarine delivery.

 

 

Harry Spilman – 1988 Topps

February 26, 2011

He’s Always Ready With The Eye Black

The top photo is rare because Spilman played first base in just nine games and only three starts in 1987. Only two of those appearances were at home – so I think it was May 25th against the Mets, where he played first for a third of an inning then moved to third base when Mike Aldrete came into the game.

The thing is that I think it’s Candlestick but I can’t tell for sure.

The bottom game is from one of his rare starts, at Wrigley Field.

But notice the eye black. It’s quite consistent. So he was always ready to go either as a starter or a bench player. That’s a true professional.

Tom Seaver – 1987 Topps

February 25, 2011

This Just Doesn’t Look Right

First, props to Nachos Grande (one for me, please, with taco meat) for helping me almost complete my 2010 A & G set of base cards and got me within double digits of 1991 Topps.

And mad, bad, and dangerous to know props to Cards On Cards for a big ol’ box helping me hugely on several sets, completing one for me (1990 Fleer) and jump starting me on three sets that I’m about ready to roll out on my want list page (as soon as I consolidate my holdings, as it were). My want list is updated for the damage he did on my spreadsheets.

So now on to the main feature…

I’ve noticed since I’ve gotten back into collecting (one year this coming May) that I have forgotten where some players wound up in their career. I mentioned Vince Coleman as one example, since I totally whiffed on his time with the Mariners even though he was on the 1995 team that beat the Yankees in the ALDS.

Icons, though, like Tom Seaver, seeing him in a uniform other than the Mets or the Reds is weird (and even the Reds is a bit odd because Seaver is so identified with the Mets).

Just something is just jarring about it – seeing a player like Seaver in irregular colors.

This is why we have cardboard like this, though, to provide a lasting document of the game and the players’ movements within the game.

There has been some talk on other blogs around regarding players changing teams. My thoughts are these:

1. People remember the stars like Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle all staying in one place. But the non-star regulars weren’t really afforded the luxury.

2. Teams on good financial footing throughout history kept their stars. But teams like the Browns, Senators, Phillies and A’s had a revolving door. It was all about the $$ even then.

3. Don’t be fooled by the ‘old fogeyism’ where today’s players were ‘all about the money’ and ‘we would play the game for free’. I read something in a historical tome where they documented such talk in the 1860’s! The 1860’s!! And each generation of players after that thought they were the ‘glory days’ and the current players are just greedy bastards.

4. Also don’t be fooled about the ‘loyalty’ card thrown out there by players of the past. It was known that before the reserve clause, players went where they got paid. The reserve clause was put in place to control salaries. So don’t give me that bullpuckey about the loyalty of players. If the reserve clause wasn’t in play – they’d be all playing for the next contract for the highest bidder.

5. Some players are loyal, yes. But loyalty has a price. Joe Mauer wanted to stay with the Twins, but if they didn’t give him a good contract he wouldn’t be up here.

6. And while it may be easier not to have to remember a new second baseman every year or two, if that second baseman is sub-standard then fans would be complaining about not doing anything to become competitive.

So yeah, Seaver looks weird as a Red Sox pitcher. But Harmon Killebrew looked very strange in Royals blue, and Ty Cobb looked very odd in the whites of the Philadelphia A’s.

And if anyone has an old shot of Honus Wagner as a Louisville Colonel, then that would be the oddest of them all.

 

He Knew When It Was Time To Leave

Carney Ray Lansford (for some reason I always used to hear announcers say that) had a good, long career, and after 1992, at age 35,  he said it was time.

Now he may have received a quiet jolt of reality from the A’s since Craig Paquette was around (and LaRussa seemed to like him). But at age 35, he had an OPS+ of 100, a WAR of 2.5, and was average defensively at third.

He could have played another three or four years, easily. Or at least tried.

But he didn’t. He hung ‘em up at 35, on his own terms and in his own way.

That’s so rare in baseball. Most of the time, baseball tells YOU when you’re done.

 

 

Dave Martinez – 1988 Topps

February 24, 2011

Pretty Boy?

No wonder the bleachers squealed when Martinez played. He was definitely looking like a boy toy in Cubbie blue.

Um, why am I noticing this?

Anyway, Martinez rebounded from a wretched rookie season (4 OPS+…yes…4) to become a pretty solid, steady major league player. Usually, he was best as a fourth outfielder when all was said and done but he wasn’t totally over-matched as a regular, especially in center.

One thing that I am wondering about is how and why Martinez got MVP votes in 1991. He had a nice season for the Expos (111 OPS+, 1.2 WAR) but nothing super-spectacular. But he finished 20th in the MVP voting. He got a 10th place vote for some reason.

It’s a mystery as to why. His counting stats weren’t so hot. Calderon and Walker were much more valuable. The Expos were 71-90. Who voted Martinez for 10th place MVP when he was the third or fourth best position player on a bad team?

Maybe someone’s 13-year old daughter liked the cut of his jib…

 

Mike Maddux – 1990 Topps

February 24, 2011

“He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother.”

So on we go..

You know, Greg may have a lot of things. Cy Youngs, Gold Gloves, MVP votes, All-Star appearances, a World Series Ring, 355 career wins, accolades and laurels.

But I’ve got something he ain’t got.

A bitchin’ ‘stache. Greg couldn’t grow a mustache if you pumped 3,000 liters of testosterone and Rogaine into him.

Look at that mustache on me, boy…

Smooooooth. He’ll be singing this song until he dies…

 

Terrmel Sledge – 2007 Topps

February 23, 2011

A Member Of The All-Name Team

It’s a shame now has taken his talents to the Yokohoma Bay Stars, since I don’t know if they appreciate what a great name Terrmel Sledge is. I wonder if they even call him “Sister” (too easy) or “Hammer” (again, too easy) or “Brenda’s Iron” (way too obscure).

(See below for Robyn Hitchcock and you’ll get that reference…)

I am quite pleased that Sledge has found a nice career in Japan, since baseball was not too kind for him here in the States.

Terrmel was a ROY candidate in 2004 for the Expos, but that was also his age 27 year.

But it wasn’t his fault he wasn’t up earlier. He was in the Expos chain.

It could have been possible in 2002 and probable in 2003 that Sledge could have been called up, however, the Expos weren’t allowed to add more payroll by calling up minor league players.

He was injured in 2005, then traded twice in the 05-06 off-season. Both were blockbusters – the Soriano deal sent him to Texas and then the Adrian Gonzalez deal sent him to San Diego. Ok, the last is a retrospective blockbuster. Steal, actually – Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young and Sledge for Adam Eaton (ouch), Akinori Otsuka (good but hurt) and a minor leaguer.

Sledge, for whatever reason, didn’t get much of a chance in San Diego in 2006 (but he still got a card). He was the fourth outfielder in 2007 but didn’t hit much. And then, the Bay Stars called and he answered.

Sledge may not have been a star, and some breaks went against him, but you know, I can forgive all of that.

Because Terrmel Sledge’s don’t come around that often. There’s been a few Jeters, some Rodriguezes, anda couple of Pujolses.** But no other Sledge.

That’s cool.

**NOTE: Jeter – Derek, Johnny, Shawn. Pujols – Albert, Luis. Rodriguez – Way too many.

Bruce Hurst – 1987 Topps

February 23, 2011

A Great Day For Baseball Here In Beantown

Why, it’s almost 40 degrees!

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