Saturday, June 30, 2012

#191 Joe Price - Cincinnati Reds

I must say this is a rather blah picture of Joe Price considering most cards in this set have an action shot.  What’s the deal anyway?  Price appeared in 59 games in 1982 giving Topps ample time to capture him on the mound.  Price and his million dollar smile never seemed camera shy, so I’m sure he ate up the attention that this pose afforded him on his third Topps card.
Player:  Joe Price made his debut with the Reds in 1980 and split his time almost evenly between the bullpen and rotation.   He logged 111 innings and completed two of his thirteen starts with a slightly better than average 3.56 ERA.  The Reds former 4th round pick appeared in 100 games over the next two seasons (with one start), saved seven games, and posted sub three ERA’s both years.   He struck out almost a batter per inning as his easy motion made his fastball deceptively quick. 
Price joined the rotation in ’83 and although he missed time in May with a sore elbow and Septemeber with tendonitis in his rotator cuff he was 10-6 with a 2.88 ERA (132 ERA+) in 21 starts.  He made 30 starts in ’84 but he was not as effective as his ERA rose to 4.19 (90 ERA+).  He pitched his only career shutout on 7/27 against the Dodgers and his 171.2 innings would prove to be a career high as he was mainly a reliever-spot starter from this point forward.
Price worked out of the pen and made a handful of starts with a 3.90 ERA in ’85 followed by a dismal 5.40 mark in his free agent year in ’86.  Price signed with the Giants in ’87 and spent a chunk of the season at AAA Phoenix.  He was successful when he was called up and recorded a 0.914 WHIP in 35 frames.  Price was the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Cards and he totaled 5.2 scoreless innings in the series.  The next year was a bit of a letdown (84 ERA+) as he pitched 61.2 innings in middle relief with three starts mixed in.
After several rocky outings in April of ’89 the Giants cut ties with Price and he signed with the Red Sox in May.  He did slightly better in Boston but finished the year with a 4.59 ERA in 38 games.  He pitched for Baltimore in 1990 (3.58 ERA in 65.1 innings), spent ’91 in the minors, and then retired.  Price finished his career with a 45-49 record and 13 saves in 906 innings of work. 
Stuff:  86-90 mph fastball, curve, slider, change 

Flipside:  That one start in ' was a decent effort as Price went six innings, allowing one run on five hits and a walk.  He fanned eight batters but was tagged with the loss.

Oddball:  My handy-dandy copy of The Scouting Report: 1983 reports in Price's profile " often accused of making dates with women during his warm-up time in the bullpen."
You can't find scouting reports like that anymore.

History:  As kids and collectors were pulling this card in '83, Price was in the midst of his finest season.  His career year netted him 3.6 WAR which is nearly half his career total of 7.8.  He won a playoff game for the Giants in '87 but never played in the World Series. 
After his playing days Price stuck around Cincinatti and is now is a big-shot with a local realtor.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

#190 Cecil Cooper - Milwaukee Brewers

Topps shows Cecil Cooper in a nice following through with his powerful swing on his 11th Topps card.  It looks like the guy on the left in the dugout is wearing an Angels satin jacket so this was probably taken in Anaheim or the Angels spring training home.

Player: Cecil Cooper is best know for his days with the Brewers, specifically the Harvey Wallbanger '82 pennant winning squad.  But Cooper started his career as with the Red Sox.  A sixth round pick in '68, he had some success in the minors and was selected by the Cardinals in 1970 Rule V draft but they returned him to the Red Sox organization the following spring.  (Here's young Coop in a Cardinal uniform).

Later in the '71 season Cooper made his MLB debut as a September call up for Boston.  He played well in his short stint with a .310/.388/.452 line in 49 trips to the plate.  Boston was deep in first basemen and Cooper had trouble cracking the Red Sox roster so another late season call up yielded just 19 plate appearances in '72.  The next year he was recalled in August and played regularly the rest of the way but batted just .238 in with three homers in 30 games.

Cooper got his chance to play and started against right handed pitching the next three years for the Red Sox.  He was not regarded as a good glove man early in his career and split his time equally between DH and first base.  He didn't do anything extraordinary in'74 as he batted .275/.327/.395 in 454 plate appearances.  He was much better in '75 as he increased his slugging to .544 and got on base at a .355 clip.  After four hits in ten at bats in the ALCS he struggled in the Red Sox World Series loss with a 1-19 showing.  Cooper was good but not great in '76 as he hit .282 with 15 HR in '76.

After the '76 season Cooper was dealt to the Brewers in a trade that returned former Red Sox Bernie Carbo and George Scott back to Boston.  Cooper was able to start everyday for the Brewers in '77. with mixed results.  Although he batted .300 he walked only 28 times and struck out 110 times.  He hit 20 homers but drove in only 78 runs as he hit .253 with RISP. 

A broken leg in June of '78 derailed that season but over the next five years (minus the '81 strike year) Cooper could be counted on to bat .300, hit 35 doubles, 25 to 30 HR and drive in over 100.  He was brilliant in 1980 with a .352 average, 122 RBI, and 17 steals.  He posted a career best 6.6 WAR and now regarded as a plus defender won his second Gold Glove.  He struggled in the '82 ALCS with a 3-20 series but did manage a HR and .286 average in the '82 World Series.

Cooper started to decline in '84 as his average slipped to .275, his home run total swooned to 11, and his OPS+ dropped under 100 for the first time as a Brewer.  He bounced back somewhat in '85 with a .293, 16 HR effort, but his best days were behind him.  He played another year and a half but Cooper's gap power and on base ability were greatly diminished.  Cooper was released after the '87 season and he retired

Flipside:  Cooper's grand slam capped off the one-sided affair against the Red Sox.  Already ahead 10-5, Cooper's blast off Tom Burgmeier drove in the last four runs.  Strangely the BoSox used just two pitchers as Mike Torrez started and gave up the first 9 runs with Burgmeier mopping up.

Oddball:  No wonder the Brewers traded for Cooper.  As a Red Sox the young left handed hitter with the sweet stroke hit .364/.397/.576 in 181 plate appearances against Milwaukee. 

History:  Cooper was a feared hitter in the late 70's and early 80's.  He was on two pennant winners but never won a championship.  His final stat line shows a .298 average, 241 HR, 1,125 RBI and a 121 OPS+.  He didn't hit as many HR as some firstbasemen and he walked over 41 times just once in his career.  Still he finished with 32.6 WAR, two Gold Gloves, a pair of Silver Sluggers, five AL All-Star berths, and he finished top-8 in MVP voting every year from '80-'83.

Cooper has coached and managed in his post playing days and was at the helm of the Astros for parts of three seasons from 2007-09. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

#189 Dan Schatzeder - Montreal Expos

Hey, who turned out the lights?  It looks like Topps pulled Dan Schatzeder out of bed and took his pic in a dark room.  Ok, ok, I see a portion of the reddish orange in the back-ground which looks like the same colors visible in the inset shot.  This is a pretty cool night card and maybe just the second one in the set so far.  This is Schatzeder's sixth Topps card and sometimes it's very difficult not to mention the mustaches these guys are sporting and this one is pretty epic. 

Player: The Expos drafted Dan Schatzeder in the 3rd round in '76 and he was in the big leagues just a year later.  He pitched in six games with three starts including a complete game shutout over the Cardinals on Sept 22.  He started the '78 season in the minors, was recalled in May, and after pitching effectively in long relief joined the rotation on June 28.  In 143.2 innings Schatzeder showed the ability to miss bats often, allowing only 108 hits.  He posted a 3.08 ERA (115 ERA+) but struck out just one more than he walked (69/68) and finished with a 7-7 record. 

Despite his early success in his first two seasons, Schatzeder was unable to crack the Expos starting rotation in '79 and was used a in long relief with a few starts before joining the rotation mid-season.  He excelled down the stretch with the Expos winning nine of his last eleven starts.  His K/BB ratio improved greatly (106/59) and with exactly 162 innings he snuck into third place in the ERA race with a 2.83 mark (130 ERA+).

After the '79 campaign the Expos traded the young lefty to the Tigers straight up for speedster Ron LeFlore.  Although Schatzeder started the year as the #2 starter, he struggled and was banished to the pen for a month during the middle of the season.  He finished with a 4.03 ERA and a 11-13 record.  Things really turned south in '81 and he posted a 6.06 ERA with a 1.444 WHIP.  The Tigers frustrated by Schatzeder's performance traded him and prospect Mike Chris to the Giants for Larry Herndon.

Schatzeder wasn't effective for the Giants (7.29 ERA) and was sold to his original team in Montreal in June of '82.  Pitching in middle relief he rebounded (3.50 ERA, 1.361 WHIP) and got his career back on track.  He worked the middle inning for the Expos in '83 and did well posting a 3.21 ERA (112 ERA+) in 87 frames of work. 

He spent the '84 and '85 seasons in and out of the rotation.  He was particularly effective in '84 with a 2.71 ERA (128 ERA+) while making 14 starts and 21 relief outings. Schatz struggled with injuries in '85 but posted a 3.80 ERA in 104 innings.

Schatzeder pitched effectively in relief for the Expos and Phillies in '86. He was traded to Philly in July in a four player deal.  He finished the year with a 3.26 ERA and 1.313 WHIP in 88 innings but had a notable year at the plate.  He batted 31 times with a .385/.486/.654 line and had five pinch hits, the most by a pitcher since Don Newcombe in 1956.

Again traded mid-season Schatz went from Philly to Minnesota.  He struggled with the Twins and despite allowing 83 batters in 43.2 innings they kept him on the postseason roster.  The veteran southpaw hurled 4.1 frames of scoreless relief over three ALCS games and pitched in games 3, 4, and 6 of the World Series and earned the win in Game 6 over the Cardinals.  He won his only ring when the Twins won Game 7.

Schatzeder spent the next four seasons bouncing around the majors.  He was with Cleveland in '88, but was released and picked back up by the Twins.  He spent '89 with Houston but did not perform well.  He pitched much better in 1990, as the 35 year-old Schatz recorded a 2.39 ERA and 1.313 WHIP in 64 innings and was dealt to help out the Mets in September.  He threw 5.2 scoreless innings but the Mets finished four games back of the Pirates.  He was ineffective with the Royals in '90 and finished his career in the minors at AAA Tidewater.

Stuff: Mid 80s fastball, tight curve, slider, change up

Flipside:  I always though Schatzeder was taller than 6'0". Maybe it was the long name and big 'stache that made him seem bigger.

Oddball:  Schatzeder was never noted for his durability as he never started more than 26 games in a season and logged over 162 innings just once.  Despite this he had two 10-inning outings in his career.  The first was a six hit, one run effort in a no-decision against the Cards on 9/15/79.  The second was a brilliant eleven strikeout, four hit shutout over the Cubs on 8/9/84.

History:  Schatzeder was one of those guys who had decent stuff but was never able to last an entire year in the starting rotation.  He was a decent swing man in his two stints with the Expos and won a championship with the Twins.  He finished his career with a 69-68 record and a 3.74 ERA (100 ERA+) in his career. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

#188 Rick Miller - Boston Red Sox

Rick Miller looks like he is getting ready to lay a drag bunt down during a bright spring training game.  This is Miller's 11th Topps card. 
We have back to back card of players with reddish colored mustache's who have brown hair.  The dad of a friend of mine had a similar hair / beard combo going on (probably still does), when I was a kid and I thought it was very unusual.  Even though it is not that rare, these cards made me think of Mr. Taylor.

Player:  Rick Miller was a 2nd round pick of the Red Sox back in 1969.  The left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder debuted with Boston in September of '71.  Miller had 11 hits in 33 at bats with a home run and impressed manager Eddie Kasko with his defensive range. 

He made the opening day roster in '72 but played only three games in April.  By July he was deployed often as a defensive replacement for Tommy Harper in centerfield. Miller played in 89 games but had only 98 at bats.  He hit three homers with a .214 average.  Miller played all over the outfield in '73 and due to injuries and ineffectiveness by his teammates he played in 143 games.  He hit 261/339/372 with six home runs, a total that would hold as a career high over his long career.

Miller platooned in '74 with similar results as '73 but with less at bats.  With the emergence of rookies Jim Rice and Fred Lynn, along with Dwight Evans' improved play there was little room for playing time in '75.  Miller hit .194 in 131 plate appearances and hat two hitless at bats in the World Series loss to the Reds. 

With Lynn banged up, Miller received increased playing time in '76 and responded with a .283 average.  He returned to the bench in '77 and left for the California Angels as a free agent after the season.

Miller was used as the Angels starting CF the next three years, sitting out against lefties about 50% of the time.  He .263, .293, and .274 and won a Gold Glove in 1978.  He had four hits in 16 trips to the plate in the '79 ALCS loss to the Orioles.  Following the 1980 season he was traded with Mark Clear and Carney Lansford back to Boston for Rick Burleson and Butch Hobson.

Miller started in CF the next two years with mixed results as he batted 291/349/377 in '81 but then fell back to 254/323/325 in '82.  He hit fairly well in '83 (286/356/363) playing as a fourth outfielder. His playing time decreased as he batted just 141 times in '84 (.260 average).  By '85 the 37 year-old Miller started just two games all year.  He pinch hit in 36 of his 41 games played and did well.  He hit 333/392/378 in 51 plate appearances and retired at the end of the year.

Flipside:  Miller never hit for power with just 28 career homers.  He did have a good eye with walks in over 10% of his plate appearances.

Oddball: Miller won his Gold Glove in 1978 as a California Angel despite starting just 120 games.  He had made a name for himself as a defensive specialist with the Red Sox earlier in the decade.  In '75 he played only 286 innings in the outfield yet recorded 1.0 dWAR according to and 12 fielding runs according to  Strangely he recorded 0.0 dWAR in '78 which may indicate that all things considered that defensive stats need a larger sample size than one season to be relevant.  

History:  Miller was a popular player during his days roaming the outfield pastures at Fenway Park with the late innings nicknamed "Miller Time" for the time he would enter as a defensive sub.  For his career he hit 269/346/350 with a 93 OPS+ in 15 seasons in the majors. 

I realize the blog posts have become pretty sparse lately.  I have had a difficult time finding time for it with increased demands of coaching Little League (My 9 year-old son made the 9/10 tournament team, and I was picked to coach!), working 48+ hours a week, family life and this blog.  Please stick around, I'm not giving up on the blog nor losing interest.   

Sunday, June 10, 2012

#186 Whitey Herzog - St. Louis Cardinals

Topps must have known from the beginning that Whitey Herzog was destined to be a manager.  As a player he appeared on seven cards and six of them were head shots like this one.  Pictured here on his third card as a manager and first as a Cardinal, Whitey's powder blue jersey blends in well with the sky.
Player:  White Herzog the player was a reserve outfielder for four different teams from '56 to '63.  Originally signed by the Yankees, his trip to the majors was delayed for two years while he served in the military.  Shortly after he got out,he was traded to the Senators.  His rookie year of '56 would be the closest Herzog would come to being a regular as he batted .245 in 465 plate appearances.

Herzog spent most of '57 in the minors and was dealt to the Kansas City A's in '58.  He got a brief chance to play every day at the start of the '59 season when Roger Maris was sidelined with an appendectomy.  Herzog was hitting 293/446/390 through 38 games when he suffered a season ending leg injury.

The left handed hitting Herzog spent one more year in KC and the next two in Baltimore assembling decent seasons as a fourth outfielder and pinch hitter with OPS+ between 110 and 117.  He spent one final year in Detroit as a rarely used pinch hitter and retired after the season.

ManagerHerzog started his post-playing career as a scout for the A's in '64.  He then joined the coaching staff for the '65 season.  He moved over to the Mets in '66 to be their third base coach for a year.  He then spent the next six years as the Mets director of player development and was partially responsible for assembling the '69 Miracle Mets.

Feeling slighted by Mets ownership when he was passed over for the vacant manager position after Gil Hodges' death, Herzog readily accepted the Rangers offer to run the Texas team.  Herzog took over a talent starved team and clashed with eccentric Rangers owner Bob Short, especially over the handling of 18 year old pitcher David Clyde.  Still it was a surprise when Herzog was fired in September with a 47-91 record.

Herzog joined the Angels' staff in '74 and was interim coach for four games between the tenures of Bobby Winkles and Dick Williams.  Midway through the '75 season the Royals hired Herzog after they terminated Jack McKeon.  Herzog inherited a good Royal team that has hovering just over .500.  With Whitey at the helm, the Royals won 41 of their last 66 games and finished in 2nd place. 

Herzog's Royals would win the next three division crowns with 90, 102, and 92 win seasons.  Each time though they fell to the Yankees in the ALCS.  Herzog and the Royals were stung hard by the repeated shortcomings with Whitey blaming management for failing to sign free agent bullpen help.  After an 85 win season KC slipped to second place in '79 and Herzog was canned.   

Whitey wasn't out of work long as he moved across state to be the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.  After an 18-33 start, owner Gussie Busch axed skipper Ken Boyer and Herzog took over.  The team won 38 of the 73 games he managed before he stepped down as field general in favor of Red Schoendienst who finished the bizarre year as the Redbirds manager.  Herzog decided to return to the dugout in '81 and the Cardinals finished second in both halves of the strike shortened season and finished with a 59-43 record. 

With a brand of ball later dubbed Whiteyball, which favored fast runners who could take advantage of the Busch Stadium artificial surface, the '82 Cardinals had seven players steal 10 or more bags but only two with double digit home runs.  The Cards swept the Braves in the NLCS and won a hard fought World Series over the Brewers in seven games.

The next two years Whitey's team was stuck in neutral with 79 and 84 win seasons.  Led by rookie Vince Coleman's 110 steals the '85 squad was the first in 70 years to steal more than 300 bases.  After defeating the Dodgers in the '85 NLCS the Cards lost the All-Missouri World Series against the Royals.

After a disappointing 79 win season in '86, the Cardinals won 95 games in '87 and made it back to the World Series but lost to the Twins.  Herzog guided the Cards to third and fifth place finishes in '88 and '89.  Herzog was fired during the 1990 season when St. Louis won only 33 of the first 80 games. 

Flipside:  Do they still list manager's weight on the back?  Not sure, but I'm willing to bet Herzog's actual weight was a bit north of 187 lbs at the time this card was issued. 

Oddball:  In 1986 Herzog was interested in becoming President of the National League.  Bart Giamatti who got the gig instead.  Giamatti, who later took over the job of baseball's commissioner, left Yale University for the job.  After Giamatti's hiring was announced, broadcaster Marv Albert asked Herzog if he would be interested in the Yale University job.  Herzog, not in playful mood replied:
"I get the idea you're trying to be funny, and that's not funny at all."

History:  Herzog's teams finished in first place six times and he won a World Series with the Cards in '82.  After his manging career he spent the first half of the '90s working for the Angels including two years as their general manager.  He  was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

#185 Tim Lollar - San Diego Padres

Geez, Tim Lollar sure has a creepy gaze in the inset picture.  The action picture looks like it was taken at Shea Stadium.  If so, this was taken on 7/11/82 the only game Lollar pitched in New York in '82. 
Player:  Tim Lollar was a 4th round pick of the Yankees in 1978.  The University of Arkansas product often DH'ed in the Razorback lineup when he wasn't pitching and the Yankees were unsure of his future position.  In his first two seasons in the minors, Lollar pitched in 30 games and batted in 63 others.  In 211 plate appearances he hit 7 HR and batted .237.  His pitching was better with a 3.72 ERA in 150 innings and the Yanks and Lollar eventually agreed to concentrate his efforts on the mound. 

Lollar was used out of the bullpen in 1980 and was called up to New York in June.  He pitched mainly in long relief and had a 3.34 ERA in 32 innings with two saves.  On the verge of the '81 season he was dealt to San Diego in a six player deal. 

The Padres used the young lefty as both a starter and reliever in '81.  Although better as a starter, he was hit hard in both roles and finished with a 2-8 record and 6.10 ERA in 76 frames. 

Lollar was plugged into the Padres starting rotation in '82 and he responded with a fine 16-9 season.  He had a 3.13 ERA (111 ERA+) and a pair of shutouts in 232 innings.  He won only 18 games over the next two years as his ERA ballooned to 4.61 in '83 before returning to a more respect-able 3.91 in '84.

Lollar started game Game 4 of the '84 NLCS but got a no decision after allowing three runs in 4.1 innings.  As Game 3 of the World Series approached Padres skipper Dick Williams considered letting Lollar bat for himself since their options at DH consisted of Kurt Bevacqua and Champ Summers.  At this point in his career, Lollar a .231 hitter with 8 HR would not have been terrible choice.  Bevacqua squashed that talk by going 3-4 with a big HR in Game 3.  In the end, it didn't matter much since Lollar gave up four runs in 1.2 innings and was hung with the loss.

After the season the Padres sent Lollar packing in a seven player swap to the White Sox.  He had trouble finding the plate and was dealt to Red Sox in July.  He pitched no better for Boston and finished the year with a 4.62 ERA and 98 walks in 150 innings.  He was used in a mop up role in '86 and often left a mess of his own.  In 43 innings he allowed 84 runners with 35 coming around to score.  Not surprisingly Boston didn't use him in the playoffs or World Series.

Lollar spent the '87 season in the minors for the Tigers and Cardinals but never returned to the big leagues. 

Stuff:  Low 90s fastball, slider, change

Flipside:  The '82 season on the back is easily Lollars best.  He recorded 3.1 WAR during his best season and only had one other year over 1.0.

Oddball:  Lollar pinch hit twice for the Red Sox.  He grounded out in his lone at bat in '85.  In '86 he was summoned to bat for Rey Quinones with two outs in the ninth inning against the Royals' Dan Quisenberry.  The Red Sox had a runner on first, and with the score 6-5, Lollar represented the go ahead run.  With a 2-0 count he drove one up the middle for a single, extending the game for arguably the best pure hitter of the era.  Wade Boggs however grounded out and the game was over.

History:  Lollar had one very good year but never matched the success of his '82 season.  Control was always a problem for the hard throwing lefty as we walked 4.8 batters per nine innings.  He played just seven years in the major leagues but was on two pennant winners.  Lollar retired with a 47-52 record and a 4.27 ERA (86 ERA+).
Lollar is now a golf pro in Colorado.

Monday, June 4, 2012

#184 Bobby Clark - California Angels

Topps captures Bob Clark taking a whack a pitch in a decent action shot.  This is his third Topps card. 
You can see in the inset that his mom was nice enough to label his helmet so it was easier to find when the veteran Angels hid it on him.

Player:  Bob Clark was pegged as a future star after hitting for power and average at AA El Paso and AAA Salt Lake.  Drafted by the Halos in the January draft four years earlier, he debuted in August of '79.  He got off to good start by batting 296/356/463 in 60 trips to the plate.  Clark showed showed decent defensive ability and was deployed at all three outfield spots.  He got a taste of the postseason but went 0-3 in ALCS action as the Angels lost to the Orioles.

Clark spent the first two months of the 1980 season tearing up AAA pitching at a .345 clip.  Called up in June, he started regularly in center and left, but was unimpressive. Clark hit .230 with only five home runs in 275 plate appearances. 

The right handed Clark was on the Angels all year in '81 but was rarely used.  He hit .250 with four home runs in 88 at bats.  In 1982 he started only 19 games, 17 of them in CF against lefties giving Fred Lynn an occasional day off.  He got into 83 other games usually as a defensive sub for Brian Downing in LF or Reggie Jackson in RF.  Clark came to the plate only 93 times and hit .211.  Carrying his defensive role over to the playoffs, he appeared in two games but did not bat against the Brewers.

Perhaps wanting to see what he could do with regular playing time the Angels gave him a chance but Clark failed to deliver in '83.  He batted 231/261/354 in 225 plate appearances and spent part of the year in the minors.  At least he had one thing going for him as he hadn't made an error since 1980.

Clark was traded to the Brewers for Jim Slaton in December of '83.  In a part time role for Milwaukee, Clark hit .260 and .236 over the '84 and '85 seasons.  He spent the '86 and '87 seasons in the minors before hanging up the spikes.

Flipside:  That zero in BB column stands out.  He hit .211 in '82 but had a .209 on base percentage (thanks to some sacrifices).   

Oddball: 9 of Clark's 19 career home runs came against Boston (5) or Baltimore (4).

The Scouting Report: 1983 quotes Reggie Jackson as saying that Clark  "has one of the top five pure home run swings in the American League". 

History:  Clark hit 239/281/347 in seven major league seasons.  He had a niche as defensive replacement for a while but couldn't deliver offensively when he was given the opportunity to start.  He saw action in two postseasons however the Angels were knocked out of the ALCS both times. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

#183 Ed Vande Berg - Seattle Mariners

This is Ed Vande Berg's rookie card.  I love the old Mariner uniforms, I just wish Topps had used a blue instead of hot pink for the border of the Mariner cards.
Player:  A 13th round pick of the Mariners in 1980, it only took Ed Vande Berg two years to crack the Seattle roster.  Converted to a reliever in '81 he made a name for himself in '82 when he pitched in an AL leading 78 games which set a record for rookie hurlers (since broken).  With a nasty slider, he held opposing batters to just 7 hits in 73 at bats with runners in scoring position.  He won nine games, saved five others, and finished with a 2.37 ERA.  Vande Berg finished fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Vande Berg filled a similar role in '83 with 64.1 innings in 68 games.  His ERA jumped up a run but he was still effective setting up games for closer Bill Caudill while saving five games on his own.

Seattle tried Vande Berg as a starter in '84 but it didn't work out.  He had a 5.68 ERA in 17 starts and 2.29 ERA in 33 relief outings.  Back to his familiar role in the Mariner pen in '85, he was not as sharp as the previous years and posted a 3.72 ERA with a WHIP over 1.5.  He pitched in 76 games which was good for second in the AL.

After the season Seattle traded Vande Berg to the Dodgers for veteran catcher Steve Yeager.  Although he had a 1-5 record Vande Berg sported an ERA of 3.41 (102 ERA+) across 71 innings.  Used in middle relief he did not register any saves in '86. 

The Dodgers released him and he signed with the Indians.  Vande Berg did not fare well in Cleveland as his ERA inflated over five during the '87 season.  After he was cut by the Indians he was signed by the Rangers.  He was up and down between Texas and AAA all year.  With a 4.14 ERA in 37 frames of work he saved two games for the parent club.

Vande Berg spent the next four years at the AAA level but never made it back to the majors. 

Stuff: High 80s fastball, slider, curve

Flipside:  In Vande Berg's rookie year he pitched 76 innings in 78 games. His season marked the first in MLB history in which a pitcher logged more than 60 innings with less than an inning per game. He may have been the first heaviliy used LOOGY as he faced just one batter 19 times.

Oddball:  Vande Berg was very sucessful in college.  He mainly worked in long relief while at Arizona State with ERA's of 8.00 as a freshman and 4.56 as a sophomore. 

Even as a rookie Vande Berg was too cool to ride in the Mariners new bullpen car called the Tugboat.  When summoned to the game he would run to the mound with the Tugboat trailing behind him.  They finally gave up when they realized Vande Berg wan't going to ride in the goofy looking cart.

After being out of pro ball for three years, Vande Berg was a replacement player for the Giants during spring training in '95. 

History:  Vande Berg got off to a good start to his career and was an effective reliever for a while.  He retired with a 3.92 career ERA (105 ERA+) in 519 innings with 22 saves.  He hung around for a while trying to get back to the majors but never made it. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

#182 Mike Fischlin - Cleveland Indians

Mike Fischlin is shown here on his second Topps card.  He first appears in a Topps set on one of those ill conceived black and white rookie prospect cards four years earlier in the '79 set.  He had played in the majors as early as 1977.

This is a great view of Fischlin's batting stance.  Beleive it or not, he actually carried his bat this low as he waited for the pitcher to go into his motion.  Another look at his crouched stance can be seen on his '84 card.

Player:  Mike Fischlin was drafted by the Yankees in 1975 and later sent to the Astros with two others in a three-for-one deal for Cliff Johnson in '77.  He was a late season call up for Houston in '77 and mainly used a defensive sub, registering three hits in fifteen at bats. 

In '78 Fischlin was part of the revolving door at shortstop for the Astros.  Playing in 44 games he batted just .116 and had a .928 fielding percentage for -1.6 WAR.  A poor year at AAA kept him in the minors for all of 1979. 

An improved '80 season at AAA Tucson got him a September look for the Astros but he struckout in his only at bat.  Before the '81 season he was traded to the Indians but spent most of the year in the minors.  When he was called up to Cleveland he batted .233 in 48 plate appearances.

The '82 season would be Fischlin's first complete season in the majors.  He started out in a utility role but ended the year as the starting shortstop.  He played good defense (0.7 dWAR) and showed improved hitting.  Thanks to his new batting stance he batted .268 with a .351 on base percentage. 

He spent the next three years as a reserve hitting .209, .226, and .200 as his role gradually was reduced from 266 plate appearances in '83 to just 69 in '85.

After the '85 season he was dealt to the Yankees and filled in as a defensive sub at second and short.  He made 116 plate appearances and batted .206.  Following the season he signed with the Braves as a free agent but other than one game in '87, he spent the rest of his playing career in the minors. 

Flipside:  You see Fischlin hadn't hit a home run through 1982.  He would get off the schneid with two dingers in September of '83.  The first would be off John Tudor to lead off the fifth inning on 9/9Eleven days later he took another lefty deep when he knocked a grand slam off Mike Caldwell.
Fischlin added a third career homer the next year when he went yard on southpaw Floyd Bannister on 7/7/84.  Those are Fischlin's three career homers...he never did take a righty deep.

Oddball:  Fischlin was pressed into service as a catcher on 5/1/82 after Chris Bando (who had earlier pinch hit for starter Ron Hassey) broke his finger in the seventh inning.  The gangly 6'1" 165 lb Fischlin must have been quite a sight in the catchers gear. 
The aggressive A's already up 7-2 in the game, stole three bases off the emergency receiver. 

History:  Fischlin hit .220 in his ten year career and never saw the postseason.  After his playing career he managed for two years in the Blue Jays farm system. 
Fischlin was a high school teammate of uber-agent Scott Boras and one of his first clients.  These days Fischlin works as his Vice President of player development. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

#181 Terry Felton - Minnesota Twins

This is Terry Felton's one and only Topps card.  The very bright background makes his right forearm blend in and disappear.  The tough luck that accompanied Felton's career seems apparent in his solemn gaze in the inset.

Player:  Terry Felton was a second round pick of the Twins in '76.  The hard throwing righthander advanced to AAA by '78 and debuted for the Twins late in September of '79 with two scoreless innings.

Felton made the starting rotation in 1980 but after a no-decision, three losses, and a three run inning in relief he spent the rest of the year at AAA Toledo.

Felton was in and out of the rotation with Toledo in '81 but pitched well enough to get a brief look at the tail end of the season.  Unfortunately he got rocked for six runs while recording just four outs. 

The Twins were terrible in '82 losing 102 games and going 3-26 in the month of May.  Felton worked middle relief and was a spot starter  for the last place team.  While the '82 campaign would be Felton's only full year in the majors, he labored through it with a 0-13 record.  Although his record wasn't an accurate reflection of his talent, Felton did have his shortcomings.  He had a live fastball but was wild (76 BB in 117 innings) and had a propensity for giving up the long ball as evidenced by his 18 home runs allowed.  Still with a 4.99 ERA (85 ERA+) he deserved better than a winless season.  He did manage to save three games along the way.

Felton now 0-16 on his career, pitched two more years in the minors but never got back to the show.  He holds the major league record for most career losses without a win.

Stuff:  Fastball, curve, slider, change

Flipside:  I used to stare at the back of this card and wonder how a pitcher could be so bad.  As I got older and knocked around in a few little league games, I felt sorry for the guy.

Oddball:  Felton shot and killed the family dog in 2004 when it attacked his two year old daughter.  By now a Captain with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, he pulled his gun after he was unable to get the rottweiler off his daughter.  According to this article, the dog inflicted enough damage that his daughter needed plastic surgery.

History:  Certainly there have been worse pitchers than Felton and he easily could have had a few wins.  Although he was used many times when the Twins were already down, amazingly they only won 6 of the 55 games he pitched in.  So what were Felton's closest calls to getting a win? 

Felton's first career start 4/14/80 was decent.  He allowed three runs in seven innings and the Twins defeated the Angels 5-3 but the Twins didn't score until after he left the game.  He would make nine more starts in his career but would never top his 55 game score in his first start.

On 4/21/82 he came on in the 5th inning down 5-2 to the A's.  Maybe Felton could "vulture" a win?  He pitched four innings of scoreless relief with the only runners reaching on two walks.  While his outing was nice, it did little for his stat line but drop his ERA to 4.32

Five weeks later Felton started a contest against the Yankees and left in the 6th inning with a 2-1 lead.  Reliever Brad Havens was unable to hold the fort and the Twins eventually lost 6-4.  This is also the game mentioned on the back in which he participated in this triple play.

In an August 15 game against the Mariners, Felton was cruising along with a 1-0 lead heading to the 6th.  After the M's hit back-to-back singles in the top of the 6th, he misplayed a comebacker to the mound and a run scored to tie the game.  A ground out put the Mariners up 2-1.  Felton then issued an intentional walk and left the game.  The game got out of hand and the Twins ended up losing 10-2.

On 9/12, Felton entered with two outs in the bottom of the 4th inning with the Twins on top of the Royals 7-4.    With Twins starter Brad Havens unable to go five innings, perhaps this would be Felton's day.  Felton gave up the lead and no one else the Twins ran out there was any better. Incredibly, in a game in which the they were up 7-1 the Twins lost 18-7. 

Finally on 9/28 the Twins jumped on Blue Jays starter Jim Gott and staked Felton to a 3-0.  The lead and Felton were both gone by the fourth as Toronto knotted the score at three each before winning it in the tenth

Felton was a product and representation of the hapless Twins teams of the early 80's.  He would be quite forgettable if he had won a game or two.  At least this way he is the answer to a trivia question.