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!!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The newest-ish Blue Jay, Omar Vizquel.

When I first heard of the signing of Omar Vizquel by the Blue Jays last night, my immediate thought was “Oh boy, brace yourself for the tidal wave of old man jokes on your twitter feed”.

My second thought was, oh shit I think I actually have an Omar Vizquel card. Of all the cards I have in my possession ranging from the years 1987-1993, there are probably 3-4 players still playing today, Vizquel being one of them.  Jamie Moyer, Tim Wakefield and possibly Darren Oliver being the others.  I’ll have to go through them all and maybe do a post of cards that I have of players that are still playing today.

This Omar Vizquel card is a 1992 Upper Deck.  Just like the Upper Deck baseball trading card company, 1989 was the first year Omar Vizquel and Upper Deck made its Major League Baseball debut. 

The then 25 year old Vizquel, rounding second base making his way to third shows a gritty, scrappy, gutsy, spunky, spirited (which I’m sure all of these adjectives will be used by Blue Jays broadcasters and writers if he makes the team) young looking Vizquel.

The back of the card shows a very brutish, modelesque looking Vizquel which looks like it could have adorned the pages of GQ magazine back in the day.  This photo was taken after Vizquel just struck out and a fan is yelling at him “You’re a bum Vizquel. You’ll be outta this league in 2 years”.  He looks back with that menacing glare, lasering in on that fan saying nothing. He doesn’t have to say anything because that glare says it all “Oh yah you piece of shit, I’ll show you. Just for that comment I’m going to stick around and play in the majors for the next 20 years. Suck on that.” (In my mind, Omar Vizquel is saying all this in a Tony Montoya voice, a-la Scarface).

Not sure what defensive stats Upper Deck was using back in 1992, but the little blurb on the back of the card states that, even though Vizquel just finished his 3rd season as a major leaguer (and not a full 3 seasons as he only played 143, 81 & 142 games respectively) he was the third highest rated fielding SS in the A.L. in 1991 behind Cal Ripken Jr. and Greg Gagne.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pedro “Petey” Martinez

When the Hall of Fame voting for the 2015 class comes up, Pedro Jaime Martinez will assuredly be voted in his first year of eligibility (which should be a 100% slam dunk ballot but undoubtedly there will be some douche who doesn’t vote for him thinking he’s not worthy of being a 1st time ballot inductee due to his tossing of then 72 year old Don “out of control rhino”  Zimmer to the ground during that bru-ha-ha with the Yankees in Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS playoffs…which by the way was spectacular).

In this 1993 Pinnacle card "Rookie Prospect" edition, Pedro Martinez had just made his major league debut during the 1992 season at the tender age of 20 with 1 start and 1 relief appearance going 0-1, 2.25ERA, 8.0IP/2ER/1BB/8K’s.

Of course we all know what happened afterwards, when “Petey” pitched the next 17 seasons accumulating 3 Cy Youngs (also finishing in the top 4 in four other years); 2004 World Series Champ with the Boston Redsox; career record of 219 Wins & 100 Losses, 2.93ERA, 46 complete games, 17 shutouts, 3154K’s in 2827IP, 1.05WHIP, a career 10K’s per 9 innings (yowza!) and a career WAR of 75.9, which ranks him 23rd all time amongst pitchers.

In summation, Pedro Martinez was a fucking awesome pitcher!  He was 1 of the very few pitchers that I would specifically want to watch the game just to see him pitch.  He was only 5’11” and 170 pounds and not one of those behemoth, freak of nature kind of baseball players.  There was something special about watching a baseball player that looked like your typical scrawny teenage kid that would go up there and totally dominate like he did. Especially during the “steroid era” where every other batter looked like Lou Ferrigno with a batting helmet (Hulk smash baseball).

My favourite part of this card is the back photo of Pedro. I’m pretty sure it’s his high school graduation photo “Ok Pedro, turn your body slightly to the right and look straight at me and 1-2-3 click”.  He definitely has the mandatory teenage boy upper-lip peach fuzz working for him.  


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Old man Fisk vs Big Daddy freight train

Seriously, this is one of the best baseball cards I have. There is so much going on in this card that in order for Topps to capture the essence of this action sequence, they had to print it in landscape form instead of the traditional portrait form. Even though this is a Carlton Fisk 1991 Topps card, it contains 2 Detroit Tigers players.

The first thing I notice when I look at this card is Cecil "Big Daddy" Fielder's badonkadonk barrelling down the 3rd base line with poor Old man Fisk in his sights.

Now it might seem like the 2nd Tiger in this photo (I believe its Dave Bergman but hard to tell) is signalling for Fielder to slide. But I like to believe that Bergman felt pity and utter fear for Fisk's life and was yelling "STOP CECIL. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE STOP!!! YOU'RE GOING TO  PULVERIZE FISK INTO AN UNRECOGNIZABLE PILE OF CATCHERS EQUIPMENT, BLOOD AND BAD KNEES. OH THE HORROR!!".  (Yah I know, highly unlikely someone would yell such a long, well thought out sentences in what would be only a matter of mere seconds. But hey my blog, my theories.)

I'm sure Fisk's life was flashing before his eye's but you couldn't tell by looking at his face. Dude has a determined workmanlike look on his face as if thinking "No way this 26 year old, 6' 3" 220lbs tub of goo is going to score on this play. Over my dead body. I sure hope MLBPA has good medical coverage."

In 1990 Fisk was a 42 year old catcher who had played nearly 2,300 games (Can you believe Fisk finished 15th in AL MVP voting in this year? The votes were most likely given to him solely for the fact that he survived this play).  Fielder was playing his first season with the Tigers after spending all of 1989 in Japan and ended up leading the league with 51 home runs. *Fielder Smash*

As a Jays fan and the upcoming free agent decision of Cecil's equally as plump son, Prince Fielder looming, if I close my eyes I can picture a 2013 baseball card of Prince in a Jays uniform rumbling down the 3rd base line with Jason Varitek's being on the receiving end of a vicious untimely death at home plate. (What?!  It could happen.)


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Man, The Myth, The Legend.....The Mullet

So for my first card post, I chose Kelly Gruber (1987 Topps).  Who else did you expect?  As can be seen, his mullet is in the early stages of its future glorious golden lock awesomeness. 

Gruber is poised and ready in this photo to snag a screamer to the hot corner and gun em down at first base.  Either that or its spring training and he’s trying to catch his breath while thinking to himself “I gotta lay off those Texas ribs and rodeo nachos in the offseason”

As the back of his card states, Kelly was a District Qualifier in track competition. It doesn’t say which track event, but I’m guessing the high jump.  His mullet gave him an advantage by acting like wings while soaring over the high jump bars….pretty sure that gave him an extra 2-3 inches of vertical.