Jeff Kaiser – 1989 Fleer

January 13, 2011

There Were Way Too Many Cards Per Set In The Junk Wax Era, Vol. 7

Jeff Kaiser, lefthanded pitcher.

Pitched from 1985-1993 in the bigs, and 1982-1993 in the minors.

One trade – from Oakland to Cleveland for Curt Wardle. Yes, THE Curt Wardle.

Released once. Waived once.

Signed five times as a minor league free agent.

A journeyman’s journeyman.

No problem there, except…

He pitched in 50 games in his big league career. Yes, 50 games from 1985-1993.

When he was immortalized by Fleer on cardboard in wax with stickers, he had pitched five total games for the Indians in two seasons. Yes, five total games.

He first saw action in Oakland in 1985,  making the team out of spring training. I didn’t go well. He was yo-yo’d a couple of times, and by the end of the year appeared in 15 games. In those 15 games, he pitched 16 2/3 innings, giving up 25 hits, 20 walks, six home runs, 32 runs and 27 earned runs. That’s a tasty 14.58 ERA.

During the disaster that was 1987 for Cleveland, he pitched in two August games, giving up six runs in 3 1/3.

In 1988, the stats on the back of this card said he pitched in three games, 2 2/3 innings. He gave up no earned runs, but allowed two of the four inherited runners to score. His last action was June 3.

Fleer, in their infinite wisdom, decided to give him a card.

He did pitch for Cleveland in 1989 and 1990. In 1989 it was in September and in 1990, it was mid-season. He threw some innings for Detroit in 1991 and then for Cincinnati and New York in 1993. But all were brief encounters. And all were rather unsuccessful.

Normally, he wouldn’t get cards. He really wasn’t a prospect; he was an emergency lefty. Just break glass and create room on the 40-man roster. In fact, it’s a wonder he was called up to begin with – he didn’t have what you would call dazzling numbers in the minors – no insanely low walk totals or ERA that would trigger a call-up. He pitched OK in AAA, not outstanding.

Now, I love commons. That’s why I collect. But there’s commons and then there’s watering down the set. Fleer wasn’t the only culprit; heck Topps gave him a traded card in 1990, a base card in 1991 and a Stadium Club card in 1992 (the 900 card set…). But he’s definitely a AAA player and my friend with the CMC blog would normally have exclusive rights to him. But here he is.

He obviously wasn’t as bad of a pitcher as he was for Oakland in 1985. But you’d think that over time, even in his short bursts of major league time, things would even out. They really didn’t. His overall pitching line looks like a nightmare season in Colorado for a garbage time reliever.

In 50 games, he went 0-2 with two saves, two blown saves, no holds. His WAR was -2.6 in his brief time. The rest:

52 innings

68 hits

60 runs

53 earned

46 walks

38 strikeouts

12 home runs

.318 / .433 / .565 – .998 OPS against

Lefties hit .355 / .484 / .566 – 1.050 OPS against.




Dream Team?

More like a nightmare!

Sure, 1988 was a weak year for rookies in the AL. Walt Weiss won with a OPS of .633. The best rookie performance was either Don “The Guns Of” August or Jody Reed. Bryan Harvey did some good work as the Angels’ closer.

But Espy?

He got a third place ROY vote. His OBP was under .300. His K/W ratio was 4/1.

He also played LF more often than not.

The Rangers were 12th in the AL in runs, mostly because they gave offensive sink holes like Espy plenty of at bats.

The “Dream Team” set highlighted 11 rookies from 1988 and 11 NL and AL rookies from the past decade.

For some reason, Topps didn’t put Harvey, August or Reed on the card. But they had Dave Gallagher, Espy and…

Paul Gibson.

Again, I ask…Dream Team?

Bill Bene – 1989 Topps

December 30, 2010

Yes, It Is Hard To Hit When You Duck & Cover

I remember getting this card in my last fling of card collecting. It also coincided with starting my Baseball America subscription.

Bene makes Robbie Beckett look like Tom Seaver.

The back of the card said that they had beaucoups scouts at a JV game in his junior year at Cal State Los Angeles.

So, he wasn’t in a Division 1 program, and pitching JV as a JUNIOR?

And he was a first round draft pick??

Bene was Steve Dalkowski without the booze, though the photo above looks like he was roused from his bed the day after a raucous affair.

Bene actually had to throw to dummies because he broke the wrists of two teammates during simulated games.

Here’s the beginning of Bene’s career after a brief short-season stint in 1988.

1989 – 0-4, 10.33, 27 IP, 56 BB, 24 K, 5 HB, 18 WP

1990 – 1-10, 6.99, 56 2/3 IP, 96 BB, 34 K, 6 HB, 23 WP

1991 – 1-1, 4.15, 52 IP, 65 BB, 57 K, 2 HB, 21 WP

Did he hit the Bull?

He was getting better. In 1992, he pitched decently and in 1993, in AA San Antonio, it looked like he had it put together. Sure, 5-6, 4.84 wasn’t great, but in 70 2/3 innings he walked just 53.

Then came 1994. He started at San Antonio again, and was promoted to Albuquerque. That was his undoing. A 10.12 ERA in 13 1/3 innings with 16 walks and 5 WP. The Dodgers let him go after that season.

The Reds took a chance in 1995, but seven hits and nine walks in four innings was the end of that. Bene later pitched some in the independent leagues and then resurfaced in 1997 in the Angels’ system.

His line in AA and AAA – 0-4, 6.68, 68 2/3 IP, 70 H, 66 BB, 70 K, 21 WP. Right back where he started from.

Perhaps if he wasn’t a Top 5 pick, there wouldn’t have been pressure on him to perform right away, and he could have been in extended spring training just trying to figure it out.

But of course, scouts may have said to themselves, “I’m watching a guy pitch in a Division II Junior Varsity game. Why am I here??”

As for Topps, featuring #1 draft picks was a good idea – too bad the cast of characters weren’t so hot:

Mark Lewis


Monty Fariss

Willie Ansley

Ty Griffin

Five of the top 13 in that draft never made the majors, and two others had a negative WAR. Lewis had a -3.7 WAR in almost 1000 major league games.

You know, I think I’d rather go play roulette than try to draft in the first round of the major league draft.

Scott May – 1989 Donruss

December 12, 2010

There Were Way Too Many Cards Per Set In The Junk Wax Era, Vol. 6

Scott May…Scott May…Let me see….

9 1/3 innings for his career – 11 ER – for a tasty 10.61 ERA. Three games in 1988 for Texas and two in 1991 for Chicago.

Drafted by the Dodgers, traded to the Rangers (as shown above) then to the Brewers. Signed a free agent deal with the Cubs.

Had a 4.22 career MINOR league ERA.

So, I got nothin’ except these factoids that may only interest me (with apologies to Peter King):

  • Shirley Temple’s daughter Lori played bass for the Melvins in the late 80’s / early 90’s.
  • Slovenia was the first former Yugoslav republic to declare independence from that federation. It’s capital is Ljubljana.
  • People around the world play Angry Birds for 200 million minutes a day.
  • There was only one Iron Chef Chinese – Chen Kenchi – the Sultan of Sichuan.
  • Wild bananas have many large hard seeds in them. The bananas we buy were domesticated and cultivated by humans.
  • Maurice Evans, who played Dr. Zaius, was the neighbor who tried to warn Rosemary about the Casavets. He also was Samantha’s father in Bewitched.
  • Major Frank Burns from M*A*S*H was from Fort Wayne, Indiana – same as Major Taylor in the Planet Of The Apes.
  • The male anglerfish are very tiny. When mature, they must find a female to attach to quickly. Once they do, they attach to the female, and slowly dissolve into her, leaving just his testes. Ladies, don’t try this at home.
  • Scott May, father of former Tar Heel Sean May, was the power forward and emotional leader of the mid-70’s Indiana Hoosiers. Had May not broken his arm in 1975, Indiana would probably have won two back-to-back NCAA titles with unbeaten seasons.

That’s all I got. But it’s more than I had about Scott May, the pitcher.


You Got Me Out Of Bed For This??

Oh, my, Ron has serious bed head and bed face here.

Or something.

He was 36 when this photo was taken, and yet, he looks younger now.

Well, maybe just as old, and less creepy-looking.

Weather update – 14-16 inches and it keeps coming down!


Ron Kittle – 1989 Topps

November 4, 2010

“Mr. Kittle, May I Have A Hall Pass?”

Briefly, he was one of the more feared sluggers in the AL.

But man, he looks like a history teacher who doubles as the JV wrestling coach.

He got old in a hurry. Bill James wrote about players like Kittle, who when they are young have ‘old hitter’ skills – low average, power, high walk totals, no speed.

They don’t age well. Ron didn’t either. He got hurt a lot and was out of the game less than 10 years after his major league debut.

But he’s still beloved by the White Sox fans. And he makes benches and gives motivational speeches.


Todd Simmons – 1989 Fleer

October 29, 2010

There Were Way Too Many Cards Per Set In The Junk Wax Era, Vol. 5

Todd Simmons. Go to Go ahead. Type in his name.

What pops up?

His minor league stats.

This guy never made it.

Of course, he’s not the only one to get a card that never made the bigs, but most of those may have been on ‘rookie prospect’ cards, ‘#1 draft pick’ cards or ‘Team USA’ cards. Not just a regular ol’ common with no special mention of anything about his rookie-dom.

Let us see what I can put together.

Simmons was a 4th round pick in 1984 by the White Sox from Cal State Fullerton. He pitched well in the NY-Penn league but got rocked in the Midwest League. In 1985, he was in the Padres organization. He was part of the huge Lamarr Hoyt trade that netted the Padres a fat slob with a drug problem, Simmons and another minor leaguer in exchange for Ozzie Guillen, Bill Long, Luis Salazar and Tim Lollar.  (Hoyt did have a good year in 1985, but he was out of baseball after 1986 thanks to being arrested three times.)

Simmons pitched well in Reno in 1985. He moved to the pen and was lights out in AA Beaumont in 1986, and then was promoted to Viva Las Vegas and struggled a bit in the high desert altitude. But ERA in the ‘old’ PCL were something to ignore.

He pitched fairly well in 1987 and 1988 in Las Vegas. I don’t know if he was called up and didn’t play (I’d love to find the list of players on a roster that never got into a game…I keep searching…) but he never made it into a big league game.

But obviously Fleer thought he had a chance, so they gave him a for-real big league style card with no indication that he was a ‘prospect’ on the front.

That off-season, the Padres went to work re-tooling themselves after cratering in 1987 and rebounding in 1988 under Jack McKeon. They jettisoned Stan Jefferson, Jimmy Jones, Lance McCullers, Chris Brown, Keith Moreland, Andy Hawkins, Ed Vosberg, and Dickie Thon from their 1988 team. When Fleer went to production, Simmons may have still been a ‘contender’.

Right before Spring Training, the Padres sent Simmons and Jim Austin to Milwaukee for Dan Murphy. Murphy pitched 6 1/3 innings for the 1989 Padres. Austin made it to the bigs and had a one-hit wonder year in 1992 before injuries (I gather) got the best of him.

So what happened to Todd Simmons? Why was he on a single card? Remember, Fleer had ‘prospect’ cards as well.

(Gotta love the name “Brad Pounders” – too bad he never made the bigs. In fact, he didn’t play at all in 1989 after being part of the purge of 1988 – traded to the Mets for Rich Rodriguez and didn’t even make their minor league squads.)

Jerald Clark had 15 at bats for the 1988 Padres – and he just got this card. Simmons got a for real card. Wha? Simmons was on a prospect card himself in 1988. Only one prospect card to a customer?

Anywho, the staggeringly mediocre Brewers didn’t keep Simmons in the majors and sent him down. On June 29, though, he was packaged with Lavel (I hit .395 in El Paso once, so I have to be good, right? Right?) Freeman and sent to the Rangers for Scott May (not the hoopster, IU fans) and minor leaguer Mike Wilson.

They don’t have the splits for the 1989 American Association, so I don’t know how well they did in respective places, but I tell you this was a non-trade if you ever had a non-trade.

Simmons was a combined 4-8 with a 5.58 ERA as a reliever in the AA, which was NOT a hitter’s league (except in Denver). He was gone from organized ball after 1989.

Freeman, just two years after his .395 season, hit .238, which INCLUDED Denver. In 1990, he hit .214 for Toledo and that was that for him.

Mike “Tack” Wilson was at the end of a long minor league career. He hit .267 combined for Denver and Oklahoma City, then hit .220 for AA Hunstville in the Oakland chain in 1990, and that was it except for a year in independent ball.

May lasted until 1991 in the Brewers minor league organization, then made it back to the bigs briefly for the 1991 Cubs.

Still, that doesn’t give me any reason as to why Fleer gave a real, honest-to-goodness card to Simmons and left Clark on a prospect card.

The only reason I can see was that Fleer was playing a numbers game – needing to fill the set and Simmons had a photo of him taken during a Padres spring training game. That and no other company thought he was worthy of a card, so Simmons would have been an ‘exclusive’ or something.

Heck, who knows. All I know is that it…





Bob Welch – 1989 Topps

October 27, 2010

“Sentimental Gentle Wind, Blowing Through My Life Again”

Much like the musician Bob Welch, the pitcher Bob Welch is much better than you remember.

Bob Welch, musician?

Yes, he was in Fleetwood Mac pre-Lindsay Buckingham, and had a hand in some of their finest work (that no one heard, of course). “Sentimental Lady” was the big tune, and he re-did that for his first solo record. That record also featured:

Ok, it’s kind of a stretch, but Bob Welch isn’t someone who jumps out at you anymore – not as musician or pitcher.

He did win 27 for the 1990 A’s, but of course I could go out there every five days and break even with that offense (he got 5.1 runs per game to work with).

I think a lot of it comes from his time with the Dodgers. He seemed to be the hard luck story.

In 1983, he had a 2.65 ERA, a WAR of 4.5 and went 15-12 thanks to LA scoring 3.3 runs per start.

In 1986, he went 7-13, even though his ERA was 3.28 and his WAR was 4.5 as well. The Dodgers scored 3.2 runs per start.

He also didn’t shine in the post season – where you can undo a great season with one bad start. Well, undo in the mind of the public and the wags. Baseball’s post season is somewhat like the top 8 finishers of a marathon running a series of sprints right after they finish.

But he won 211 games, had an ERA+ of 107 (that would have been better had he not spent those last two seasons in Oakland), and was a quality pitcher for almost all of the 80’s.

I don’t know if he could sing or play guitar. That’s this one:


What, No Airbrush??

Kevin Coffman was traded from the Braves to the Cubs in the Jody, Jody Davis deal in very late 1988. I don’t know if the Braves catchers were drunk, stoned or dead (but it being a Chuck Tanner managed team…odds are…oh, wait Russ Nixon managed the team in the last part of the year – but it wasn’t like he was Billy Martin or even Larry Bowa), but it’s not normal to trade someone like Davis for two quasi-prospects in late September during a season where both teams were going nowhere fast.

Ozzie “My Dad May Be Why I Have A Job” Virgil and Bruce “Eggs” Benedict were the catchers for the 1988 Braves, a robust and stalwart squad that gallantly won 54 games while losing 106. But hey, two were rained out! So there’s that! Davis was traded on September 29, and he started for the Braves on September 30 and October 1, leaving Benedict to start October 2.

It may have been an injury to Virgil, but he finished the game on September 29 behind the dish and pinch hit twice. So maybe the Braves were scrambling for something or other to change their trajectory?

After the season, the Braves got rid of Virgil, along with  Juan Eichelberger, Rick Mahler, “Dead” Jim Morrison, Jerry Royster, Chuck Cary, Ed Olwine, and Albert Hall. Many of those filed for free agency, but I don’t think the Braves foamed at the mouth sign them.

The next year was another heinous year in Braves land, but except for the stalwart Dale Murphy (though he had a bad OPS+ of 89), Lonnie Smith (OPS+ of 168 and a WAR of 8.7. Who knew?), Benedict, Davis and the Zombie Darrell Evans, at least it was a younger team of suck.

The rotation was Smoltz, Glavine, Lilliquist, Pete Smith (all 22 or 23), and either Zane Smith (traded to Montreal after a tough luck 1-12 record) or Clary. So perhaps Davis and Benedict were helping the pitchers along – and Blankenship and Coffman (the alleged subject of this essay) were expendable.

The Cubs, meanwhile, needed pitchers. They have needed pitchers since Miner Brown, Ed Ruelbach, Orval Overall and Jack Pfiester retired. So why not grab Blankenship and Coffman?

They did give up a folk hero (thanks to Harry! Caray!) but thanks to four years of abuse in the mid-80’s Davis was a mere shell of his old self, and Damon Berryhill was the new kid on the block. They also had these kids in the minors – Rick Wrona and Joe Girardi (heard of him?) that could easily replace Davis and Jim Sundberg. So, for whatever reason, the Braves dangled Blankenship and Coffman, and the Cubs said, “WTF? What do we have to lose now?”

It’s not like the denizens of Wrigley Field would boycott the place.

Blankenship didn’t pan out – he pitched just 22 2/3 innings for the Cubs from 1988-90. He did start a late season game in 1988 – in place of Mike Harkey.

Coffman didn’t pitch for the Cubs in 1988, nor in 1989. He did show up in 1990, and was rather much a disaster from stem to stern.

He then drifted through the  minors for a while.

And the few readers I have left, are screaming “GET TO THE POINT!”

Well, the point is this:

I would have thought that a late September trade was enough notice for Topps to get their airbrush artists off of the bong and back to work to paint Coffman in Cubbie Blue and not Braves…um….gray with red and blue.

I mean, they’ve DONE WORSE! I sent Cards on Cards a whole bunch of airbrushed wonders, and they wuss out with Coffman?

For shame, Topps, for shame.

As far as Kerry’s challenge, maybe Juan Pierre 2007? The back of Brad Mills’ 2010 Astros card?


Neal Heaton – 1989 Topps

October 21, 2010

Better Than I Thought, Still Not Good

You never drafted him, did you?

Whether you played APBA, Strat-O-Matic, or Rotiss in the 80’s, you stayed away from Neal Heaton.

Many times, it was warranted. He pitched for Cleveland, when Cleveland was awful without hope. (As opposed to this year, when they were awful but had young players with hope.) Even if Heaton was victimized by poor run support, poor defense, and lethargy, you didn’t want him on your team.

But he wasn’t that bad.

He had a great pedigree, coming out of the University of Miami, and didn’t spend much time in the minors. Of course, he was in the Cleveland organization which could have used any pitcher that could actually get major league hitters out on occasion.

And Neal could get guys out, on occasion. But not often enough.

He was moved to Minnesota first, and then traded  to the Expos that netted the Twins Jeff Reardon.

But freed from Cleveland, he didn’t do so hot in Montreal. Cool leg kick and all, he was 3-10 with a 4.99 ERA in 1988. So Montreal sent him to Pittsburgh for a warm body.

There he seemed to find himself. He was a valuable swingman in 1989, and in 1990 had a great start. On June 24, he was 10-2 with a 2.89 ERA. He was named to the All-Star Team.

But by the end of 1990, he was out of the rotation. He collapsed to a 12-9, 3.45 slate. After June 24, he had a 4.30 ERA, and with the Pirates back in the pennant race he was put in the bullpen. He didn’t appear in the playoffs. He was in the pen in 1991, and then traded for Kirk Gibson.

He was out of the majors by 1993.

I never really remembered Heaton as an Expo (until I got this card again this year), and not as a Pirate. He was always an Indian to me. An Indian during one of the awful eras of the Indians, and kind of the poster child of the bad Indians.

But he wasn’t THAT bad.

And, as you can see, he wore his stirrups the RIGHT way. So there’s that then!