Monday, February 27, 2012

The Big Cat swats at a Bip

With news of the passing of Gary "The Kid" Carter earlier this month, I started to rifle through my card collection to see if I had any Kid cards. Sadly I didn't have any.  But when I started to think back to when I started getting into baseball, one of the first Expos players that came to mind was Andres "Big Cat" Galarraga. Or as he was known in his native Venezuela,  "El Gato".

Yerrrrrrr OUT!!...Wait a minute. 
This card is another great action sequence captured in landscape form (the only other landscape card in my stash is this Carlton Fisk/Cecil Fielder card ). I really wish baseball card companies had made more of these landscape cards.  They're quite unique looking and when it's of a "baseball play" taking place, it's pretty magical. Much more interesting and memorable than your prototypical pose of player X standing with bat on his shoulder looking off into the distance...zzzzzzz.

At first glance, the photo seems to capture a successful pick off move, with the umpire looking on in the background, to nab Bip Roberts of the San Diego Padres trying to scurry back to first base.  But if you look closely to where the top of Galarragas' glove and Roberts armpit meets, you can see the ball is clearly in the dirt. It's possible that Andres was able to snow cone the ball (he was regarded as  a superb defensive 1B during his time with the Expos winning 2 gold gloves awards in '88 & '90) but in my opinion, dropped ball.

This Upper Deck card with Galarraga in a Montreal uniform would be the last one as an Expos (until a brief return to Montreal in 2002). With Andres about to turn 31 years old, a bad knee and his outright shitty 1991 season (107GP/.219BA/.268OBP/9HR/33RBI/-1.7WAR) Montreal felt his best days were behind him and traded the the old cat during the 1991 off season to the St. Louis Cardinals straight up for pitcher Ken Hill.

1992 Upper Deck

Whenever I come across Andres Galarraga's name I immediately think of him as a Montreal Expos. And yes, he did play the majority of his 19 major league seasons with the Expos (8 seasons) but statistically speaking his best and most productive years were the 5 seasons he spent with the Colorado Rockies.

After another craptacular season in 1992 with St. Louis (mind you he was going through some knee injuries that required surgery), Galarraga signed a free agent contract to man 1B in the inaugural season of the Colorado Rockies.  During that first season of the Colorado Rockies in 1993, Galarrage played along side with now New York Yankees manager Joe Giradi and former Blue Jays Nelson Liarano and Willie Blair.

It was in Colorado, where the Big Cat rejuvenated his career and put up some impressive numbers during his 5 years there. In particular, 1996 when he led the league with 47HR and 150RBI. Even though he played nearly 300 games less with the Rockies than with the Expos, he was able to accumulate more Runs, Homeruns (172 to 115), RBI's and post nearly 50 points higher batting average while with the Rockies.

He last played in 2004 at the age of 43 when he played a grand total of 7 games for the Anaheim Angels. He ended his career just 1 home run shy of 400. But the most impressive stat I found was that Galarraga is only the 4th player in MLB history to rack up over 2,000 strikeouts (2,003).  He lead the league in strikeouts in 4 years (3 years straight while with the Expos from 1988-90) and finished in the top 10, six other years (so yah, you can say the Big Cat loved to take his hacks). The 3 players that saw a 3rd strike more often than Galarraga did was Reggie Jackson, Jim Thome and Sammy Sosa.

But in the end, I'll always remember El Gato as an Expos.


Monday, February 20, 2012


Spring is nature's way of saying, "Play Ball"

As spring training is literally around the corner (go ahead take a look...I’ll wait...see, told ya, it’s right there), hope springs eternal for baseball teams and prospects alike.  Spring training is where a prospect can make his mark and open the eyes of his team and fans on what could be in store in the future. 

This Geronimo Berroa 1989 Score rookie card is a great example of a rookie on the brink of taking the majors by storm. From what my memory allows me to recall, Berroa seemed to have been the “Next big star” in the Jays system that would allow the Jays to make that next big step into being playoff contenders.  The Toronto Blue Jays signed the 18 year old Berroa as an amateur free agent in 1983. He spent the next 5 years in the Jays minor league system, debuting in the rookie Gulf Coast League and working his way up to the AAA Syracuse Chiefs.  But sadly, with all that time spent in the Jays system, he ended up being taken in the rule 5 draft by the Atlanta Braves in 1988.

You might be asking yourself “Geronimo Berroa a highly touted prospect?! Really?”  This is true. How do I know? Cause the back of this Score card told me so. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my lifetime, it’s that the blurbs written on the back of baseball cards never lie (NEVER!).

It clearly says, in black ink that Berroa has “upper deck power” (prospect drooooool) and “is the best of the Blue Jays’ crop of fine young outfield candidates” (That’s all I need to know. No need for advanced stats on this guy. He’s the real deal). But seriously though, Berroa did put up some powerful stats in 1987 for the AA Knoxville Blue Jays where he put up 36 HR, 108 RBI in 134 games.

Interestingly enough, when all attention seemed to be on Berroa as the next great Jay, right in front of their eyes, playing on the same 1987 Knoxville team was a future World Series MVP (and at the time 2 years older than Berroa at 24 years old) Pat Borders.

Berroa eventual did play with the Blue Jays, albeit 16 years after he signed that contract with the Jays in 1983.  He played a memorable 22 games for the Jays in 1999 (ah....good times).

The only other Geronimo I know is the famous Native American Geronimo, the leader of Apache Indian tribe who fought against Mexico and the United States over the Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars. Geronimo Berroa last played professional baseball (per Baseball reference) for the 2003 Monterrey Sultanes in the Mexican league at the age of 38.  (See what I did there...a very weak attempt in trying to find a correlation between a mediocre baseball player to a legendary Apache warrior. *slow clap*)

The most interesting thing I found from doing this post wasn't from the card itself but while looking at his baseball reference page noticed he's most similar to Jason Kubel.  Hey Jason, hope you know how to speak Spanish. If not, you still have about 9 years to learn. Adios!


Friday, February 3, 2012

A 1990 Kyle Drabek rookie card?!?!

There are many things to like about this 1990 Doug Drabek Topps baseball card.  First and foremost, the mullet. It's beautifully hanging out from the back of his Pirates cap, as if saying "Yes, Doug is all business right now pitching but remember it's still a party back here, y'all".   Also, can't discount the Burt Reynolds Cannonball Run moustache along with the elastic band pants and the Pirates no-button, pull-over jersey (which I love and wish MLB teams would use more often).

Of course the mullet and the all too cool looking uniform probably was 85% of the reason why he ended up winning the Cy Young award the following year. The other measly 15% was his 22-6 record, 2.76ERA, 1.06WHIP, and only 56BB's in 231IP.  (Pfft....i still say it was the mullet and stache that propelled him to greatness). 

But what I like most of this card is seemingly the very first appearance of current Jays prospect, Kyle Drabek (at which he was at a the prospect prime age of 3 years old).

As noted on the back of the card, Kyle's name is mentioned in the small tidbits blurb about his dad Doug.  "He and his wife have two children, Justin and Kyle".  I'd like to think this is officially Kyle Drabek's rookie card but have a hard time finding it anywhere in the Becketts Guide to see its value. 

Either way, as a Jays fan, lets hope Kyle ends up having a career anywhere near like his dads, which included a Cy Young award in 1990 and 3 trips to the postseason. 

Personal plea to Kyle: Grow that party in the back and slick looking stache. Can't hurt...oh yah and throw that damn curve ball!!