Billy McCool – 1970 Topps

December 28, 2011

Yeah, That’s Right, McCool, Private Eye…

Rummaging through the LCS, I found this card. For 1970, I was concentrating on Pilots and Expos but this card sang to me.

McCool was a flame thrower that made the Reds after one minor league season, but arm trouble caused his performance to falter. His strikeouts went down, his walks went up, and his usefulness was limited. But he had a name and that made him a perfect fit for the nascent San Diego Padres.

All in all, he didn’t have such a bad year for the Padres, considering. Yeah, he had a negative WAR and an ERA+ of 83. It could have been worse, though. His name could have been Reberger or McBean.

Names are one thing – performance is another. After he had arm problems, McCool had problems throwing strikes, but still had some teams that wanted him. So early in 1970, those wonderful Padres sent him to St. Louis, a team that had pitching issues. After a 6.23 ERA in 21 2/3 innings, he was down to Tulsa. He hadn’t played in the minors since 1963.

I wonder if he wore his hat like that for the Drillers…

 

Creepy!

I was in a LCS while I was back in Minneapolis and rummaging through some cards from the 70′s. This is one of the cards I needed from the great 1972 set.

Yikes!

I think everything is airbrushed here. Everything. George Hendrick didn’t exist in this photo…

Gary Serum – 1979 Topps

December 22, 2011

Part Of The Bounty

During my recent (and still continuing) madcap days (daze) I received a nice haul of cards from Bo, who blogs on this great site. Of course, every package from Bo is stellar. I’m going to send his return package tomorrow before I fly back to Minnesota to see my girls for Christmas.

BTW, it takes a lot more suitcase space to pack winter clothes than my Florida garb.

So I leave you with this, a player signed out of a tryout camp, and somehow made the bigs (and pitched one full season and parts of two others) despite being undrafted AND amassing an 8.10 ERA in Rookie League with just two strikeouts and five walks in 10 innings.

Serum now owns a wings and beer joint in Anoka. Sounds like a good life.

Jeff Conine – 1994 Pinnacle

December 19, 2011

Mr. Marlin? That’s ME!

Attention intarwebs.

I applied for and was accepted by the scholars and fine gentlemen at Bugs & Cranks to be their Marlins scribe for 2012. In fact, my first post for them is up. All Smitty asked me to do was ‘pay attention’ and that is what I will do. Someone has to down here.

Right now it’s snow bird season here in South Florida. It’s so fun driving in Palm Beach (and Broward) County trying to get from point “A” to point “B” during the mad convergence of quitting time, Christmas shopping, and the ending of the early-bird specials. That leads to plenty of time for scanning the radio, and at times I subject myself to sports talk radio down here.

I’ve got five sports yakkers on my AM presets. There is definitely a Noo Yawk vibe to them and during the fall it was all about firing Tony Sparano and the NBA lockout.I couldn’t listen to the yakkers and the minions that called in because it was inane prattling. I knew the Dolphins would stink – and they did. They could have dug up Bill Walsh to call the offense and Vince Lombardi to call the defense and they’d still stink.

Well, Sparano has been fired and the NBA is back (and the Heat-slurping by the local media has begun in EARNEST), which could have led to some talk on the local yakkers about the Marlins, but I really don’t think the Marlins big splashes have moved the needle.

Heck, the Panthers are probably the best (at least most improved and exciting) club in their conference and no one gives them a mention.

So after the signings? Zzzzz…

South Florida is more excited about Tebow than the Marlins. Which may be a good thing. Being all excited for a team that may finish 4th would mean the yakkers would be all over the ‘problems’ with them.

Much like the Dolphins, the problem is simple – they’re not that good.

However, I don’t think anyone here will notice until the Heat ends its playoff run. Which should be in the fourth quarter of the season…heh.

 

 

 

Joe Pettini – 1984 Topps

December 17, 2011

The Lifer

Joe Pettini was Tony LaRussa’s bench coach forever. In fact, he was the interim manager in 2011 when LaRussa was down with his shingles.

When Mike Matheny was named manager, Pettini wasn’t retained on the staff. But he’s still employed by the Cards. Because what else would Joe Pettini do? He’s been in pro baseball since he signed with the Expos as a NDFA out of Mercer back in 1977.

Pettini was and is an organizational solider, a utility infielder, a minor league coach and manager and a trusted lieutenant in the majors.

He just wasn’t a good major league ballplayer.

After a trade, he made the bigs in 1980 as a Giant, mainly because he wasn’t Johnny LeMaster or Roger Metzger. But he was Joe Pettini and over his career amassed a negative WAR. His OPS+ was just 46, he never had an OBP or SLG over .300 and his defense was adequate at best.

He was out of the bigs for good when this card came out.

But he had ONE day in  the bigs that he’ll remember.

It was against the Cubs (of course), and it was a 14-6 Giants win. Pettini hoisted his only big league home run against Willie Hernandez.

He blasted his only big league dinger against a future MVP!

But then again, he blasted his only big league dinger in the seventh inning of a laugher where the future MVP left with a 5.10 ERA and came into long relief after Doug Capilla was found wanting (of course). And he never really replaced Johnny LeMaster.

Still, how many big league home runs have I hit?

One less than Pettini!

Ron Pruitt – 1978 Topps

December 16, 2011

The Bloodclots. Never A Good Look.

You know, I like the hat, and I like the font a bit.

But I could never deal with the all-red uniforms. The bloodclots, as it were.

How much weed were they smoking in the Indians front office when they decided to wear THOSE?

And notice that Pruitt is also wearing red spikes, though I wish he’d have red stirrups as well. Red tops are just never a good look, though, and all red uniforms are even worse.

Pruitt was probably happy to don those bloodclots, though. He was happy to don any major league uniform, because while he could hit singles and get on base, he was defensively challenged at catcher (-0.9 dWAR as a catcher in 1978) and didn’t have enough power to be a corner outfielder. He probably would have been best served as a pinch hitter and third-string catcher / fifth outfielder in the NL during an era where he could thrive doing that. But he didn’t get to the NL until the very end of his career.

The Indians, of course, were mostly to blame. They couldn’t decide on whether Rick Cerone, Alan Ashby, Gary Alexander, Bo Diaz or Ron Hassey was their catcher of choice and by the time they settled on a catcher he was already on his decline. And Pruitt was insurance for whoever the catcher du jour was.

Ah, well, he got his mug on some cards and made some nice coin for a while. I don’t think he’s got the blood clots still hanging in his closet though, unless they’re Halloween costumes.

 

 

Clay Parker – 1991 Topps

December 15, 2011

The Pride Of Pistol Thicket, Louisana

The back of this card offers this scintillating prose:

“A football fan growing up, Clay’s favorite team was the Miami Dolphins. His favorite player was Larry Csonka. His favorite entertainer is Randy Travis”.

Larry Csonka!

ROWSDOWER!

(Had to do that! No, I had to!)

James Clayton Parker, you should be ashamed though. You’re Louisiana born and bred, and you rooted for the Dolphins! I know the Saints were horrible, but c’mon man!

 

 

 

Cory Snyder – 1991 Fleer

December 13, 2011

I’ve Had Better Days…

So why not post one of the most infuriating players in history?

Time and again, fans, managers and fantasy players relied on Snyder to be a big dog!

His versatility was appealing. His arm was supposed to be terrific. His power potential, awe-inspiring. His mullet, classic.

Yet, he never progressed.

His defense was always problematic. Yes, he could play right field. He could play shortstop. But technically, I could play shortstop, and that’s going to be a problem. His lifetime DWAR was -4.7.

Many players can’t field, and a -4.7 DWAR over a career isn’t a dealbreaker. If you can hit.

If you can hit.

Technically, he could hit – that’s what scouts said. As a rookie in 1986, he had an OPS+ of 115, which for a 23-year old rookie isn’t so bad. In 1988, his OPS+ grew to 122 and his WAR was 2.5 (including defense). And in 1992, for the Giants, his OPS+ was a very respectable 118.

Technically, he could hit. Practically, he didn’t.

1987 – He hit 33 bombs, but walked just 31 times against 166 strikeouts, and didn’t even slug .500 (or even .475) with those 33 dingers. An 89 OPS+ and with his defensive issues, he was sub-replacement in WAR. How odd was that? Only seven seasons have a war less than 0.0 with over 30 home runs. (The leader in the clubhouse? Dante Bichette’s -2.8 WAR for 34 HR and 133 RBI in 1999. Thank you pre-Humidor Coors).

1989 – Snyder hit a whopping .215 with a .251 OBP and just 18 home runs.

1990 – He improved (?) to a .672 OPS, but had just 14 home runs. Cleveland said, ‘Goodbye To You’.

He was traded to the White Sox for Eric King and Shawn Hillegas. The winner of that trade were the agate type junkies, other than that…

The White Sox soon tired of him, and flipped him to Toronto for immortals Shawn Jeter and Steve Wapnick.

Yikes. From SI cover boy to Steve Wapnick.  Oh, and he asked for over a million in arbitration from the White Sox before the season. Back when a million was a million, you know.

The Jays released him and the Giants took a flier. It paid off, and then the Dodgers took him on.

The Dodgers got a right fielder who slugged less than .400 in over 570 plate appearances in 1993. In 1994, he came off the bench and performed just as poorly. After a brief appearance in Pawtucket in 1995, that was that, as it were.

But in his ‘hey day’ (as it were) – the fantasy bidding wars for Snyder were fierce. THIS IS THE YEAR!

Cleveland was always convinced. THIS IS THE YEAR!

The Dodgers, of course, were buoyed by his year in San Francisco. THIS IS THE YEAR!

It never really was the year.

(Note: Since I read Bill James’ books religiously before the Rotiss drafts, I never bid Snyder unless to bid him up for some sucker. Trust me! Honest!)

I think the most telling comment was on the back of this here card:

“Long heralded savior of the Indians, has yet to reach full potential.”

Ouch babe!

Does it make me feel better to laugh at Snyder’s failings? Well, kinda. Those wacky Germans and that schadenfreude, they knew what they were talking about. I do feel better.

But just maybe it was the pizza, too. Mmmm…pepperoni!

Terry Puhl – 1978 Topps

December 9, 2011

Presence

I’ve been thinking a lot about tunes lately. Music is kind of a big deal in my life. My iPod runneth over (it really does, I have about 40GB too many songs for my classic, not counting the stuff on my Jazzpod (my nano with my jazz).

Recently, for some reason, I found myself wanting to listen to the one Led Zeppelin album that no one remembers. You know it – I guess:

Presence.

It was an album that came after the huge double album. It was the album that they couldn’t tour to support because Robert Plant was injured in a car accident. It was an album that didn’t spin any huge radio songs (well “Achilles Last Stand” probably would have been a huge radio hit had it not been 10 minutes long). And sure, none of the songs hit the peak that Zep had to offer.

But it’s pretty darn good – not a clinker cut in the bunch. There aren’t any indulgences or wayward noodling or detours into hippy-dippy land. Just solid rock-and-roll from start to finish and a very underrated album.

Underrated is an over-used word though, especially when describing baseball players. Terry Puhl, before he got waylaid by hamstring and ankle injuries, was underrated, even moreso than his more famous underrated compadre, Jose Cruz.

Puhl was a Canadian hitting machine that unfortunately played for the Astros when the Astrodome sucked the offense out of everyone. He wasn’t extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination. But he always was a solid player that never seemed to disappoint.

I remember that I never wanted to see Puhl hit against the Cubs in the late innings, because inevitably he’d line something over the second baseman’s head and the Cubs motley collection of outfielders would play it into a double, or worse – and the rally would be on.

He definitely was a Presence.

Kevin Elster – 1989 Topps

December 4, 2011

Does This Count As Game Action?

First, I just noticed, as I was looking for this card, that the Baseball Card Cyber Museum has added more than just Topps to it’s repertoire as I saw some of Elster’s Fleer cards in there. Check it out!

Second, I’m going through my doubles to sort them for some trades and have put some of those doubles into a bag. Yes, a bag. It’s the usual junk wax suspects, really that I had way too many of. But what I can do is go to the bag, pull out a card, and, write about it. Why not!

Third, I’m going to be emailing some of yas for trades during December. Be afraid, you know what that means!

But now I gotta write about Kevin Elster.

Well…

You’d think that he’d be a defensive wizard, but no. His dWAR was -2.0 for his career.However, he had one of the flukiest seasons ever.

After his Mets career ended after the 1992 season, he was a vagabond. In 1993, he was property of the Dodgers and Marlins but saw no big league time. He was signed and released by the Padres for spring training 1994. The Yanks picked him up and discarded him quickly, as did the Royals and Phils. The Rangers signed him for 1996.

He had 101 big league at bats in 1994 and 1995, but the Rangers made him the regular in 1996. On paper, it paid off. He was an improvement over Benji Gil, he socked 24 home runs and knocked in 99 runs and Texas won the AL West.

However, his OPS+ was only 90 even with those home runs, and his defense was less than stellar. Texas decided Gil was ready again and Elster was allowed to become a free agent.

He was a pennant-winning shortstop who hit 24 home runs and almost knocked in 100. What did that get him?

A ticket to Pittsburgh. Joy.

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