I’ve Been Away

Sorry I’ve been silent a bit:

A. That work thing. It’s going to get intense soon. With that comes some dialoging with our friends in Bangalore. 7AM conference calls, hello!

B. I’ve been thinking hard about re-tooling my collection to see if I can get some money from some of it (my Bowmans and maybe my Opening Days) and scaling back purchases for a while thanks to temporary budget crunches thanks to some increases in costs and an upcoming trip back to Minnesota.

C. The Bugs & Cranks writing thing, which led to a re-broadcast on the Huff Post. (Yay for me!)

D. Just contemplating the meaning of life, liberty and pursuing my happiness.

So I give you the Opening Day starter for the 1993 Marlins, and more wackiness will ensue.

Anthony Young – 1993 Topps

February 25, 2012


First, I value traders such as Nachos and Dimwit, as I received some great cards that allowed me to complete two sets (well, as complete as I want ’em). Hurray!

Second, I had a lesson in value. I auctioned off the 2011 set that I received from Topps as a redemption for the Diamond Giveway. The price I received wasn’t that great. Now, I didn’t publicize it with you all, just slipped it on eBay, but I wonder if the set was really as exclusive as you would think or that a 2011 set isn’t so valued anymore.

Third, some collectors wonder why I don’t get into shiny, autos, relics, etc. Well, I don’t value them enough to chase them. I value trying to collect base sets (and a few others that look kind of neat) with a big mass of every day ordinary players. Like major league baseball players are truly every day and ordinary.

Again, it’s all about value.

I’m sure that kidlets and others that pulled this card in their packs in 1993 we’re going, “Anthony Young? BUM! No value!”

Well, his perceived value was low, mainly due to his 1916 Philadelphia A’s-esque record In 1992, he went 2-14 and while this card was out in stores he was on his way to a 1-16 record in 1993, leaving his ML record at 5-35 for his career.

Holy Jack Nabors and Tom Sheehan!

Of course, W/L record for pitchers is a very skewed way in looking at a player’s value. Young’s career ERA at the end of 1993 was 3.82. His ERA+ was 98. He did give up 20 un-earned runs in 1993 so his WAR was negative. However, he wasn’t as hapless as 5-35 would seem.

You have to have some value to a team, some talent, something, to allow you to go 5-35 over a 2 1/2 seasons. The Mets were pretty awful on many levels, so Young was the least of their worries, bad record and all.

His 5-35 mark was a symptom, sort of like a runny nose. And those Mets didn’t have many Kleenex much less antibiotics.



Expansion Explosion!

Ah, I remember the 1993 expansion. I remember watching the coverage of the expansion draft on ESPN with Keith Olbermann hosting. It was much like the NFL Draft…”Developing! Sources say that the drafting of Kevin Reimer was as a request of the Brewers to trade him for Dante Bichette…”

While I wasn’t collecting at the time, I see the aftermath of the draft in my current collection. Chuck sent me some 1993 cards to help me out, and this was one of them.

These guys weren’t in the draft – they were signed by the Marlins before they were an official major league team. MLB did these expansion teams right by allowing them to build a farm system before becoming a major league team after seeing how long it took some expansion teams (notably the Mariners and Padres) to get their collective stuff together.

Topps expanded their card set from 792 to 825 cards. Well, these cards gotta feature someone. So why not a couple of Marlins farmhands?

Well, that’s all well and good, but the Marlins’ farmhands were from rookie league and short-season A ball, not AA or even high-A teams where they could have been readily identified.

Christian played for the GCL Marlins and Stafford for the Erie Sailors in the venerable NY-Penn league. They did ‘a’ight’ – Christian led his squad in RBI. Stafford compiled a 2.49 ERA in 43 1/3 innings. Not bad, but these are guys down in the low minors. Normally they wouldn’t get cards at all, not even in Bowman, as they weren’t high draft picks. Christian was a 16th round pick from Long Beach St. and Stafford a 13th rounder from San Diego State. But here they are.

Stafford was done with the Marlins after 1994 and spent one year in St. Paul in independent ball before living his life. Christian made it to AA in 1994 before washing out, played independent ball in Long Beach in 1995, then became an organizational soldier for the Angels and Mariners. He put up high batting averages in AA and AAA but didn’t have another secondary skill for those teams to get excited about and left the game after 2000 after another stint in independent ball.

Topps didn’t do that great of a job with the other Marlins’ prospect cards – of course projecting rookie league and short season players is always risky. But Florida did have some guys that made the bigs that were in the GCL in 1992. (No one on the 1992 Erie team made the bigs.)

So besides Stafford and Christian, Topps waxed up Todd Pridy, Don Lemon, Willie Brown, Matt Petersen, Mark Skeels, Ryan Whitman, Daniel Robinson, Clemente Nunez, Gavin Baugh, Pat Leahy (not the old Jets kicker), Ken Kendrena, Mike Veneziale, Dan Roman and Reynol Mendoza in its 1993 set as two-image prospect cards for the Marlins.

None of ’em made it.

But five of Christian’s teammates in the GCL did make it – Andy Larkin, Vic Darensbourg, Tony Saunders, Chris Clapinski…and…

Edgar Renteria. Gavin Baugh got a card, but Renteria did not. This was even after Baugh hit .249 with a .614 OPS at age 18 in the GCL and Renteria hit .288 with a .679 OPS at age 15. Yes, age 15.

Prospecting is hard for everyone, but especially for baseball card companies.

You don’t need a better example than that.


I Need Some Sort Of Secondary Talent…

My pitching won’t keep me employed until retirement age, I might as well see if I can do some other sort of act. Because it beats working for a living, doesn’t it?


Three Wins From 200!

Not bad for a player whose career has been counted out many times before.

Let’s count:

1988 – Drafted in the 8th round out of Florida Institute of Technology. Hit .189 with 57 K’s in 54 games at Watertown in the NY-Penn League. Night Owl was unimpressed.

1989 – Playing first and third for Augusta in the Sally League and Welland back in the NY-P, he hit .216 with 35 K’s and 4 (count ’em) walks in 102 at bats. Converted to pitcher because, well, who would want to get a real job at age 22, had success, saving his minor league career.

1993 – After being the darling of the national media following his outstanding rookie season (as a mid-season call-up he almost single-handedly stabilized the rotation for the Pirates) and winning two games in the NLCS (the Sid Bream / Francisco Cabrera series – but no one remembers Jose Lind’s error on a grounder by David Justice, which after Doug Drabek walked Bream forced Leyland to bring in Stan Belinda – if Lind fields that grounder then I bet the Pirates lose to the Blue Jays in the series…but I digress) Wakefield learns about the life as a knuckleball pitcher.

Specifically, if you lose the feel of it, you’re going to get creamed. He was 6-11, 5.61 and that was with throwing 2 straight shutouts to end the year. At Carolina in the Southern League he went 3-5, 6.99. The Pirates gave him one more chance because of his 1992 success and the two straight shutouts.

1994 – The good news was that he didn’t miss any paychecks because of the strike. The bad news was everything else about 1994. 5-15, 5.84 and more walks than strikeouts at Buffalo. He was probably lucky the majors went on strike.

1995 – The Pirates released him in spring training, and the Red Sox took a flyer on him. Six days later the Red Sox signed him. Four starts in Pawtucket, and he was called up, and it was 1992 all over again. But it took six days for a team to sign him and I can only imagine what it was like during that week for him.

1999 – The good times couldn’t last, and by 1999 he was struggling as the fifth starter (5-9, 5.86 in starts). Had he not switched to the bullpen rather seamlessly, he was probably a goner even though he went 17-8 the year before (with a relatively high ERA).

2000 – Pitchers in their mid-30’s that post a 5.48 ERA in their walk year are usually toast. Somehow, someway, the Red Sox re-signed him. At a $1.5 million pay cut, yes, but they re-signed him. Believe it or not that’s the last transaction listed on his B-R page.

2004 – A late 30’s pitcher going 12-10, 4.87 could be a contender for the Jeff Suppan / Aaron Sele mercy buy-out.

2006 – A late 30’s pitcher with a 7-11, 4.63 mark could be contender for the Carlos Silva take him out back and shoot him mercy buy-out.

2010 – A 43-year old pitcher with a -0.7 WAR should probably hone his golf game.

Yes, 10 times during his career Wakefield could have seen it all end. But he persevered and now at age 44 is pitching well and again has stabilized a rotation after the implosions of Lackey and Dice-K.

Thank God for the knuckleball, seen here in his 1993 Fleer card in all of its glory.

One last note on Tim, who makes me wish I stuck with my knuckleball back in the day.

75 major league pitchers debuted in 1992. Miguel Batista and Wakefield are the only ones who are still active (though Batista just was DFA’d if I am not mistaken).

Russ Springer’s last year was 2010. Pedro Martinez, Doug Brocail and Alan Embree made it to 2009. Bob Wickman to 2007. Pedro Astacio and Jeff Nelson to 2006, and Paul Quantril, Steve Reed, Buddy Groom and Matt Whiteside lasted until 2005. (Matt Whiteside???)

Only 25 pitchers starting in 1992 made it to 2001 – and Patttt Rapppp and Ken Bottenfeld hung ’em up after that season.

Those who started in 1992 that didn’t pitch in the new millennium? Guys like Roger Pavlik, Steve Cooke, Jim Bullinger (yes, Virginia, he was an Opening Day Starter, and that’s why the Cubs are who we thought they were), David Nied, John Doherty, Ben Rivera, Butch Henry, and a bunch of failures and flameouts like Hilly Hathaway, Dennis Moeller, Matt Maysey, Steve Shifflett,  Todd Revenig, Kerry Woodson, Victor Cole and Mike Rackza.

Beat the odds? I think Wakefield re-defined the term.




Still Hanging On…

One can never accuse Matt Stairs of not getting his money’s worth out of baseball.

Specifically, hitting the baseball.

He’s always been a hideous fielder, but he’s still active, and ironically with the same organization that he started in long, long ago.

He wasn’t drafted, as baseball didn’t draft international players at the time (he’s from New Brunswick). So he signed with the Expos in 1989. Soon he was their hot prospect, advancing rapidly through the system. He had an outstanding year in 1991 in the Eastern League, and while his raw numbers were down in AAA in 1992 he had a great OBP.

But believe it or not the Expos were in a mode where they didn’t have the luxury to develop another hitter, so they sold Stairs to Japan in mid-1993. He was brought back by the Expos, but Boston purchased his contract. Stairs was in AA all of 1994, at Pawtucket most of 1995, and then signed as a minor league free agent with Oakland for 1996. From mid-1996 onward he’s been in the big leagues for the most part, providing patience and power and no doubt a good clubhouse presence.

How many careers started in 1996 and have already ended?

Stairs is really struggling this year. Last season he didn’t hit for average at all but when he connected he crushed (Matt SMASH!) but this year may be the end of the line, for keeps. But he’s going down with a fight, for sure.

What drew me to this card was not just the fact it’s Matt Stairs, but that there’s a quote on the back from another baseball lifer.


If you can’t read it, the quote at the end says: “He’s a great natural hitter, a God-given talent,” said Harrisburg manager Mike Quade.

Yep, the Mike Quade that finally has his chance to manage full-time in the bigs this year – and he’s saddled with the Cubs. Thankfully, the Cubs have no delusions of grandeur this year thanks to a starting staff that should mostly be toiling in Iowa.

I don’t think Matt Stairs has any delusions of grandeur either. MATT SMASH!

You Make The Call…

First, thanks to Cardboard Junkie and For Card’s Sake for sending me stuff for my Spring Cleaning. I swear to God one day I’ll get these things out!

Now, onto the star of this here post…

Isn’t it weird to see Lance Parrish tagging out Lou Whitaker?

Before Parrish left the Tigers, Parrish and Whitaker had been teammates since they both had a cuppa joe for Le Tigre in 1977, so any tags by Parrish to Whitaker were in intrasquad games early in spring training. And then, only when they were young and hungry.

Parrish was a darn good catcher and an underrated (or overrated) hitter, depending on if you drank Sparky’s Kool-Aid (Menthol flavored) or not. But the end of the line is cruelest for catchers – one day you’re on top and the next you’re scuffling among five teams in four seasons.

The Mariners were one of those teams, of course. After a couple of so-so years the Angels released Parrish in mid-June 1992  even though that meant the catching would be in the hands of Ron Tingley and Mike Fitzgerald, and the Mariners picked him up because they needed a backup for Dave Valle and the first base combo of O’Brien and Martinez.

Or something.

Those 1992 Mariners were pretty hapless – led by Bill Plummer – who was shown to be a bit out of his league managing in the AL. Plummer got a lot of heat for using 11 pitchers in a game in September, but I think there was more than that which caused Plummer’s exit.

What intrigues me is how the Tiger fans reacted when Parrish appeared in their hallowed ground. It wasn’t like Parrish had been a Tiger just the past season, but he was still a figure from the great 1984 team. Over the July 4 weekend, the Mariners traveled to Detroit for a five-game series, including a July 3 doubleheader.

Shall we see when Parrish tagged / tried to tag  Whitaker?

Sure, why not – it’s what I do best. Well, not really, but I’m good at it.

July 3 – Game 1 – Parrish didn’t play. That was easy.

July 3 – Game 2 – Parrish played. The Mariners won 11-0 and Whitaker never made it past second.

July 4 – Parrish played first base.

July 5 – Parrish moved to catcher in the fourth after starting at first. Both managers made platoon moves very early in the game after pitching changes. Whitaker was on base a lot but didn’t have a play at the plate when Parrish was catching. He was pinch hit for and removed late in the game.

July 6 – A 14-inning affair and Parrish catches each inning. This has to be the game. Whitaker is on base a lot. Let’s see.

  • In the bottom of the third, Parrish made a throwing error during a Milt Cuyler steal of third allowing Whitaker to move to second (and Cuyler scores). Travis Fryman hit a grounder to Dave Cochrane at third. It’s an error and Whitaker scores. Could that be the play?
  • In the bottom of the seventh, Whitaker scores from third on a single to right. That’s not it.
  • But we have the winner in the bottom of the 12th. Russ Swan is on the hill for the Mariners. Whitaker walks and is sacrificed to second by Fryman. Swan throws a wild pitch, and with a runner on third and one out Plummer orders Swan to load ’em up intentionally. You know the scene – the outfield in as shallow as they can – the infield in at the corners and halfway up the middle so they can try to turn two. More often than not, this alignment leads to a winning single on any ball hit to the outfield. Except…
  • Dan Gladden hits a fly to short right. Whitaker tags. Jay Buhner is in right and as Frank Costanza says “He has a rocket for an arm.” Even if Whitaker’s foot may have grazed the plate, Parrish has the ball, and seems to have counted the seams and verified the signature before tagging Lou. Yer OUT! 9-2 DP! Buhner’s second DP on an attempted sac fly of the game!

Alas, all was not sunshine and unicorns for the Mariners, as they lost in 14. But the game produced a heck of a baseball card, didn’t it?

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

A. Kruk is well-groomed – shaven and his mullet is under control.

B. His uniform is too clean. No dirt or other stains.

C. His chaw, if it is in his mouth, is under control.

D. The Phillies’ pitching staff is actually retiring someone easily.

E. Kim Batiste is actually in proper fielding position.

F. The Phillies’ fans aren’t booing. Of course you can’t hear them boo on a baseball card. Or can you?

This is yet another card that will be sent away during Smed’s Spring Cleaning. More details to follow, of course.





R. I. P.

Some of you may not remember March 22, 1993. I do.

On Little Lake Nellie in Florida, an off-day for the Cleveland Indians turned into a heinous tragedy. Tim Crews, Bob Ojeda and Steve Olin were relaxing with their families when Crews, Olin and Ojeda went out for a twilight boat ride. Crews and Ojeda were new to the Indians. They were added to the club to help stabilize a very young team that was soon to gel into one of the powers of the AL Central in the 1990s. Olin used a funky delivery to become one of the top relievers in the AL. Drafted in the 16th round in 1987, he made his big league debut in 1989 and stuck for good in 1991. In 1992, he had 29 saves, a 3.0 WAR, an ERA+ of 169 and allowed only 22% of his inherited runners to score (and unlike now, then a closer routinely inherited runners).

There was some alcohol drunk during the day but Crews was familiar with the lake.  However, he was not familiar with a new dock that was put up by neighbors. And in the darkness, the boat hit the dock, killing Crews and Olin and severely injuring Ojeda.

The crestfallen Indians went through the motions of the 1993 season, finishing 76-86 again. In 1994, they were 66-47 when the strike occurred and continued their run through the 90’s. Amazingly, even though his scalp was almost taken clean off in the wreck, Ojeda started seven games for the Indians later in the year.

It was a tragedy for sure. To have two young men with families snuffed out at an early age is always a tragedy, regardless if they’re baseball players or snowplow drivers.

However, the sadness and doom of the Indians fans (especially the younger ones) were no doubt compounded by the inclusion of the cards of the trio in the 1993 baseball card sets.

Olin was in all of the base sets, as befitting an up-and-coming star. Ojeda was in most base sets, and in late season updates by Score Select and Upper Deck. Crews only had a base card in Fleer as a Dodger and Pinnacle, and his Pinnacle card he was listed as an Indian but in a Dodgers uniform.

More information here on the accident. By all accounts, it took the life of two outstanding young men and basically ended the career of a third.


Work It! Show Me Your Claws, Kitten!

A. Say what you want about Duran Duran, but this is a hella-funky song. Isolate on the guitars, bass and drums (all Taylors, none related) and see how they really dig in and get a groove going.

B. Wrona is the only player to make the big leagues whose name began with “Wro”.

C. Maj. Richard A. Wrona is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. This ain’t him.

D. In 1992, when this photo was snapped, Wrona played in 11 games for the Reds and 40 games for Nashville. For that, he was paid over $100,000. Nice work if you can get it!

E. His last major league game in 1994 was quite memorable. He was catching for the Brewers as they played host to the Twins. In a 13-inning thriller, Wrona went 3-4 with three doubles, a walk, and a sacrifice. He didn’t score any runs, though and had just one RBI. The Twins won 6-5 in 13 as the Twins couldn’t stop Wrona, but they did contain him. The Twins trotted out the army against him in that effort. Eddie Guardado started, and then came Mike Trombley, Kevin Campbell, Erik Schullstrom, Mark Guthrie and Rick Aguilera, who as the CLOSER pitched 2 1/3 for the win. Mike Fetters blew a 2-run lead in the ninth and Jamie Navarro got the loss. (SHOCK! Navarro with the loss!)

F. He never played 100 games in a season for a team until his final stop, in 1998, for the Oklahoma Redhawks, where he played an even 100.

G. His lifetime minor league BA was .239 and from what data they have, his lifetime minor league OBP was .272. See, this is why it’s good to be a member in good standing of the Backup Catchers’ Union.

H. He’s been everywhere. He played for Winston-Salem, Peoria, Pittsfield, Iowa, Tulsa, Nashville, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Louisville, Scranton / Wilkes-Barre, Birmingham, and Oklahoma City in the minors, and the Cubs, Reds, White Sox and Brewers in the majors.

I. Wouldn’t you rather be on a card like this, or one like Carl Nichols where you’re just scowling?

J. I can’t believe I got this far on a post about Rick Wrona…