Sunday, July 28, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 35: It's officially a winning streak!

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 35: 8-7 over the Los Angeles Angels

1981 Donruss John Lowenstein

Look, with all these wins in a row, I'm running out of things to write about. So lets just enjoy the majesty of this card.

Hopefully, I'll be back with an actual post sometime soon.

In the meantime here's my updated trade rankings. Mychal Givens enters the picture while Renato Nunez moves up a spot thanks to his recent hot stretch.

The Hopeful Chase Top Five Six Trade Candidates:

1. Andrew Cashner
2. Mychal Givens
3. Jonathan Villar
4. Renato Nunez
5. Paul Fry
6. Trey Mancini

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 34: Where they just keep winning

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 34: 9-3 over the Los Angeles Angels

1991 Score Craig Worthington

I'm not going to lie, I'm going to have to start scanning another batch of cards pretty soon. My pre-scanned photos folder is starting to look a little bare. Who knew that Asher Wojciechowki was the answer to the rotation issues? For the second straight start he did a fantastic job of mixing his pitches and working ahead. He had a bit of a wobble in the fifth inning when he struggled with his control a bit, but other than that he was on target.

With Andrew Cashner in Boston, John Means on the IL, and Dylan Bundy possibly on his way out the door it was important that some of these mid-season pick-ups have a little success on the mound.I'm pretty sure that Brandon Hyde would be satisfied if Wojciechowski, Tom Eshelman, and Aaron Brooks made it to the fifth inning in each one of their starts, so back-to-back seven inning outings by Woj is just icing on the cake.

As the season wears on expect some of the prospects to slowly work their way into the mix as well. With Means on the IL it looks like Dillon Tate, acquired in the Zack Britton trade last year will get a shot at a start. It wouldn't be shocking to see Keegan Akin get a turn as well sometime in the next two months.

In the meantime the Os just keep finding ways to win. As opposed to Thursday night, the offense didn't wait to get going. Taking advantage of Nick Tropeano's inability to throw his offspeed stuff for strikes, a patient Baltimore offense tagged him for six runs in the second inning. The big blow was Renato Nunez's three-run home run, but the Orioles also scored thanks to some aggressive baserunning and Angels' miscues.

Jace Peterson singled with one out. He stole second and advanced to third on a bad throw. After a Chris Davis walk, Peterson broke on contact when Stevie Wilkerson grounded a ball to first base. Matt Thaiss had to hurry to make the play at the plate and couldn't get the ball out of his glove. Peterson scored without a throw.

It was his first stolen base of the season (he would add another in the third) and the team's fifty-second. While they're not quite the Runnin' Redbirds of St. Louis fame, it does mark a certain change in philosophy over some previous Orioles teams. Just two years ago they were dead last in stolen bases with a season total of 32. Right now they are 10th in the major leagues and their 78.64% success rate is fifth.  In two games against the Angels they have seven stolen bases (Jonathan Villar - 4, Peterson - 3).

I, for one, welcome a team that steals bases. It puts more pressure on the defense and helps to distract the pitcher when runners are on base. As long as they keep doing it successfully (anything above 75% is generally seen as beneficial) it makes them a tougher team to play against.

Since the all-star break the Orioles have been playing some pretty good baseball. They've been getting better pitching, Nunez and Trey Mancini are mashing, and they are taking advantage of other team's mistakes. They may not catch the Yankees, but at the rate they're going, they won't be picking first in the draft either.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 33: Even out west, that win went late into the night

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 33: 10-8, 16 innings over the Los Angeles Angels

2011 Topps Diamond Anniversary Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara had 13 saves in his 3 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. Steve Wilkerson is now only 12 behind him.  After three chances, the Orioles finally held on to a late lead as Wilkerson, originally an infielder, now an outfielder by trade, retired the Angels 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 16th inning to preserve a 10-8 lead. With a steady diet of 50-ish mile-an-hour "fastballs" he got Brian Goodwin (who had homered in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game) to fly out to center. He then enticed a ground ball from Cole Calhoun for out number two. He then had future hall-of-famer Albert Puljos fly out to shallow centerfield for the final out.

Wilkerson entered the history books as the first position player to earn a save (a feat that earned him a baseball card) on what was surely one of his more interesting nights. He was 1-7 at the plate, but drove in a run. He misplayed a flyball into a double that gave the Angels an early lead and then came in to earn the save.

The Orioles themselves had an interesting night. Mychal Givens came in the 8th inning and struck out the world's best player, Mike Trout, looking - with the goahead run on base. Trey Mancini planted a fastball in the right field bleachers in the top of the ninth and it looked like the Os may pull it out. Givens started the ninth by making Shohei Ohtani look foolish on a change-up for a strikeout. Then Goodwin blasted a fastball into the seats.  First lead blown.

In the fifteenth, the Orioles scratched some runs across the old-fashioned way. Jonathan Villar reached on a fielder's choice and then stole second. He advanced to third on a wild pickoff throw. Dwight Smith, Jr. walked and then stole second. Jace Peterson justified his call-up with a 2-run single. He then stole second and scored on Hanser Alberto's single.

With a three-run lead and a runner on second, Tanner Scott forgot how to throw strikes walking three in a row. Trout then got his revenge by lashing a double down the left field line. Two runs scored to tie the game but David Fletcher was ruled out at home on a close play. Second lead blown.

In the sixteenth inning, with the east coast starting to wake up for work, Jonathan Villar blasted a two-run shot off of Griffen Canning to give the Orioles yet another lead. Wilkerson shut it down from there. Just your normal 16-inning, 6-hour 19-minute, 20-pitchers used, 18 runs scored, 10-8 victory.

Wins like this are the fun parts of a mostly dark season. They really don't mean much for the Orioles (although they did pick up a game on the division-leading Yankees), but do provide some fun for the club and the fans.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 32: I just really like this card

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 32: 7-2 over the Arizona Diamondbacks

1994 Score Burger King Cal Ripken Jr. Gold

While surfing through COMC a few weeks ago I stumbled across this card. I didn't know it existed, but it was cheap and I didn't have it so I added it to my cart. Now, of course, I need to complete the set.

In 1994, Score partnered with Burger King to honor Cal Ripken Jr. with a nine-card set available at Burger Kings around the Baltimore and Washington, DC area. If you purchased a large drink, then for a quarter you could buy a pack of three cards. According to baseballcardpedia each pack contained two base cards and one gold parallel.

Featured above is card number 7 and is named "The Ironman". The back details a streak that was more remarkable than his consecutive games streak. On September 14th, 1987 (two days before my 11th birthday) his father, then Orioles manager, told Ripken to stay on the bench in the bottom of the eighth inning. That broke a streak of consecutive innings played that had started in 1982 and lasted for 8,243 frames.

The fact that the Orioles were losing 18-3 to the Toronto Blue Jays and Ripken, Jr. was in a bit of a slump made it easy for Senior. to make the call. According to the Washington Post article following the game,

"[T]onight worked out to be a perfect time to do it. I wanted to take that monkey off his back . . . I wanted to get everybody to stop writing articles about the consecutive-inning streak . . . Playing games wasn't wearing on him, but all those articles were."

As for Junior, he felt a little strange:

"It's a long time since I sat on the bench. I came in {the dressing room} and then I went back out and watched. It was a weird feeling and I need time to reflect on it."

He had been in a bit of a meandering slump that summer, seeing his average slowly drop from a high of .281 in the beginning of July to around the .250 mark when he was benched. Overall, 1987 was the first year he had a bit of a lull in his offense as he slashed .252/.333/.436 for the season, all career lows at that point. He still hit 27 home runs and drove in 98 so it wasn't like he was in a Chris Davis-esque free fall.

Following that benching, he didn't take another inning off until September 25th when umpire Tim Welke ejected him in the first inning of a game against the New York Yankees for, according to Welke, "He argued balls and strikes, screamed in my face and his helmet hit my mask."

(It would be his second career ejection, in 1989, where the umpire he ejected him, Drew Coble, would refer to it as like "throwing God out of Sunday school")

Still in between those rests, Ripken played 9 complete games, including both ends of double headers on September 18th and September 20th. Luckily, in the case of both ejections, Ripken had done enough to qualify for an appearence and keep his consecutive games steak alive. He had cracked the 900-in-a-row mark earlier in 1987 and was just started to garner talk about how he might be able to make a run at Lou Gehrig's record.

As for the Burger King set, I'll probably get around to completing it on my next order with COMC. The base cards go for about a buck a piece while the gold variations can be up to $3.00 per card. The only real difference is his name is in a gold script on front as compared to a white font.

It's a shame they don't sell cards through fast food restaurants any more (Tim Horton's does partner with Upper Deck for hockey cards in Canada). It was always fun to be able to grab some bonus cards while wolfing down a Big Mac or a Whopper.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 31: Not a bad little weekend

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 31: 5-0 against the Boston Red Sox

2017 Topps Archives Eddie Murray

Not only did I originally get the number of wins wrong last week, I also got the prediction for this weekend wrong. The Orioles didn't get swept, in fact they took two of three games (let's not talk about Saturday night's performance) and damaged the Red Sox's post season chances even further.

With the O's victory Sunday Baltimore picked up a game on the division leading Yankees (they're only 33 back now), but more importantly they kept the Red Sox from gaining ground (you're welcome Tampa Bay). With the loss, Boston leaves the weekend, one they probably thought they would sweep, 11 games behind the Yankees and 9 games behind the Rays. They are also now three games behind in the wild card race. It's not an insurmountable deficit, but they're going to have to chase down the Rays now.

It was odd to see Andrew Cashner pitching for the Red Sox as well. Even though he had only spent a season and a half with the Os, he seemed like an important part of the organization. He had, despite Red Sox fans complaints, a typical Cashner start - six inning, four runs, seven strikeouts and a 100+ pitches.  Not bad for a fifth starter.

It just wasn't enough to beat Asher Wojciechowski. On a day when Mike Mussina was inducted into the hall-of-fame, Wojciechowski turned in a Mussina-esque performance while picking up his first win in an Orioles uniform. He struck out 10 while allowing only one hit. Woj racked up most of his strikeouts with a sharp breaking slider. The spin rate on it must have been outstanding because all day long Boston hitters had trouble identifying it as they flailed wildly at pitches in the dirt.

Since the hitters were on guard against the breaking stuff, they were also behind on the fastball. His 93-mph looked about 5 mph faster than normal. It's amazing how much more effective pitchers can be when they work ahead in the count. Those letter-high fastballs are swung at a lot more on 0-2 and 1-2 counts. The same can be said of the sliders in the dirt.

Will we see anymore starts like this from Wojchiechowski? Probably not, but it was nice, that at least on one steamy summer afternoon, he was able to live up to the potential that made him a high draft pick all those years ago. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 30: That was unexpected

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 30: 11-2 over the Boston Red Sox

1997 Fleer Ultra Roberto Alomar/ Cal Ripken Double Trouble

On this Hall of Fame induction weekend, how about a card featuring two of the Orioles best? Roberto Alomar may have been in Baltimore for only three seasons, but he was most likely the best double play partner Ripken ever had (including his brother).

As for the team on the field now, what a nice win over the Red Sox. John Means bounced back from a bad start with six solid innings of work. Anthony Santander continued to prove that Rule V pickups belong in the majors and Richie Martin showed the potential that intrigued the Orioles over the winter.

Means shook off a second inning home run by Sam Travis to log another quality start. He only struck out one, but he limited the Red Sox offense to just four hits. He's still a few innings short of qualifying for the league leaders, but with Cashner in Boston (well technically Baltimore but in a Boston uniform) and Dylan Bundy nursing a sore knee, the rookie is now the undisputed ace for the the beleaguered Orioles pitching staff. 

A rough first start post-all-star break led some to think he might regress a bit after a surprising first half, but Means got back to doing what had led to his first seven wins - pumped strikes and worked ahead in the count. That allowed him to keep the hitters off balance and off the scoreboard.

After going 0-for-20 Richie Martin now has a two-game hitting streak. His 2-for-4 against the Red Sox was his first multi-hit game since June 25th and showcased what he might be able to do in the future once he gets comfortable against major league pitching.

In the second inning, after the Red Sox climbed back into the game, Martin saw a fastball from David Price and laced it off the scoreboard in right field. JD Martinez misplayed the ball off the wall and then fumbled it some more. Martin never stopped running and easily scored. Even if Martinez had picked it up cleanly, Martin may still have been able to score standing up.

In his next at bat the shortstop laid down a perfect bunt and stole a base. He may not have scored, but he showed the skills that could cause havoc in the future. That's what the rest of this season is all about. It's not about contending, it's about figuring out which players are going to be part of the future. Everyone in the line-up has a chance to play for their future and some, like Santander, are taking advantage of the chance.

The Orioles won their 30th game of the season (half way to paying out my wager) and moved out of the major league cellar for the first time in a long time (Detroit is now behind them). With a ton of games against contenders they can settle into their role as a spoiler if they continue to put up efforts like they did on Friday night. They end the season against the Red Sox, a team chasing the Yankees and Rays in the AL East. That brings to memory 2011, aka Game 162. Could the Orioles spoil the Red Sox's post-season dreams once again?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 29: Not much to say today

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 29: 9-2 over the Washington Nationals

2007 Upper Deck Brian Burres

Not going to lie, we're at the point of the season where I'm wondering why I'm still doing this. It's July 18th and the Orioles have 29 wins. Looking at the schedule it looks like they may not crack 30 for awhile. The Red Sox are up next and other than the novelty of possibly facing Andrew Cashner there really isn't much to look forward to.

So there's that. Life is also playing it's part in the lack of motivation. The heat of summer (who knew Salt Lake City could pump out the 100 degree days on the reg?) and a busy week of work has sapped my energy and inspiration. Things crop up that make sports seem irrelevant as well. If you think this portion of the internet has slowed down, on the hockey side it's even worse. Not much motivation to write about the Lightning or the Crunch at this point in the summer. There is a break coming up in a couple of weeks where I will detach from the digital world for a good four or five days so hopefully that helps.

In the meantime, let's ponder the possibility that Brian Burres (13-18, 5.88 ERA, 5.00 FIP in 79 games with the Orioles between 2006 and 2008) would probably be the number two starter on the Os rotation at this point.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 28: The Trade Season is Underway

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 28: 2-1 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2019 Topps Gypsy Queen Jonathan Villar

The Orioles made their first real move of the trade deadline as they sent Andrew Cashner to their divisional rival, the Boston Red Sox. In exchange for their most consistent starter this year they received two 17 year-old prospects currently playing in the Dominican league. Welcome to the 2019 Trade Deadline!

Let's face it, the Orioles really don't have the trade pieces that they had last year so the returns they get back aren't going to be overwhelming. If they do make any additional moves, and GM Mike Elias gave the impression that there wasn't much going on, it'll be for similar returns. Don't expect any top-100 prospects to be joining the Orioles this summer. This organization is hurting for depth throughout and so it's just about stockpiling as many assets as possible.

Elias has indicated that he doesn't have any other deals in the works (even if he did what good would it do to release that information at this point?). However, a lot can change in the next two weeks that changes a contender's thoughts about what they need to add and the Orioles do have a few pieces that may help someone out. Let's go through the active roster and see what the O's might be interested in parting with that could net them some more international bonus pool money or low level prospects:

These guys could have been had for nothing so don't expect them to be traded for an actual asset:

First off the players that the Orioles have claimed off of waivers just in the last few months:

Tom Eshelman, Asher Wojceichowski, Aaron Brooks, Tayler Scott. So technically the Orioles traded for Eshelman and Wojceichowski, but still they would have been waived by their other teams. Nont of them have exactly lit up the league to the point where someone would want to put them on a pitching staff that was in contention.

Well, anything is possible, but anyone making this deal should be required to talk to a doctor about a possible concussion.

Chris Davis. For someone who started the season 0-for-ever he's not having that bad of a season. He has power and plays an ok firstbase, but man oh man that contract.

If you had pitched a little better your name would be more popular.

Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Mychal Givens, Jimmy Yacabonis, and Gabriel Ynoa.  Let's face it, the bullpen has not been great. Casto and Givens may have had some interest and despite a few improved outings prior to the All-Star break, they just aren't getting enough people out on a consistent basis to generate interest.

Someone has to make it through the rebuild

John Means, Chance Cisco, Anthony, Santander, Stevie Wilkerson, and Richie Martin. They probably aren't the core of the next great Orioles dynasty, but they are young and can help bridge the gap until the other prospects prove they belong in the majors.

Future considerations? Like a Christmas card? Sure, we'll make a deal.

Richard Bleier, Shawn Armstrong, Pedro Severino, Keon Broxton, and Hanser Alberto.  Alberto and Severino may have been my favorite players not named Trey Mancini this season. They are still having fun out there despite the long summer and may add a little something to a team looking for depth. Broxton has struggled at the plate, but his defense and speed could add a longer bench to a team during the expanded roster portion of the season.  Alberto flat out is raking against left-handed pitching (.398/.408/.517 as of publication.  Not a bad platoon option for a team.  The same goes for Severino, he has shown some pop in his bat and can control the running game.

Y'all need some back-ups who could be starters if you're beset by injuries? Or maybe a guy who can get an out or two?  Well do we have some deals for you. All it will take is a little cash or some guy playing in Single-A ball.

Paul Fry, Renato Nunez, Rio Ruiz, and Dwight Smith, Jr. They have all had some decent runs but tend to have a fatal flaw that prevents them from being an every day starter.

Ok.  I'm going to need at least someone that was at least considered a prospect at one point. At least he's one of your top 30 prospects.

Trey Mancini - This was going to originally be entitled "You can pry him from my cold, dead hands" but lets face it, Mancini is the one player on the roster who could also start on a contender. He's a righthander with power who makes a lot of contact and can play either corner outfield spot or first base. He's also the face of the franchise and young enough that he could be a cornerstone during the transition. 

The Hopeful Chase Top Five Trade Candidates:

1. Andrew Cashner
2. Jonathan Villar
3. Paul Fry
4. Renato Nunez
5. Trey Mancini

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 27: USA! USA! USA!

Baltimore Orioles Victory 28: 8-1 over the Toronto Blue Jays

1991 Topps Traded Jeffrey Hammonds

In November of 1991 the United States women's national team won their first FIFA Women's World Cup. In July of 2019 they beat the Netherlands to win their fourth World Cup. That's pretty damn impressive. 

Congratulations on over two decades of dominance at the highest level.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 26: A lefty getting a save against the Jays sparks a memory.

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 26: 4-1 over the Toronto Blue Jays

1987 Topps Tippy Martinez

The Orioles picked up their second win in a row with the help of Dylan Bundy's strong start and Chris Davis' three runs driven in. What is this 2016? With the win the Orioles creep within two wins of not being the worst team in the league. The Detroit Tigers have 28 victories and have not been playing well of late (2 wins in their last 10 games).

Personally, the triumph puts me within 33 victories of at least pushing on my Orioles over 59 wins bet. Which, after double checking the ticket the other day, I still can't believe I'm not getting better odds than -110.

Luckily for my bank account the other two baseball futures bets I put in are looking a little better. While the Cardinals haven't been lightning the world on fire, they have crept within a game and a half of the division lead in the NL Central. It's going to be a dog fight to the end as St. Louis, Chicago and Milwaukee battle it out over the next couple of month. Here's hoping to a return to the top for the long-suffering "Best Fans in Baseball".

Finally, we have the Pittsburgh Pirates. After flirting with decency over the first couple of months of the season, they have begun a gradual descent in the NL Central. As of publication they sit at 42-45, which projects to 78 wins. I'm holding a ticket that says if they win less than 79 games, a casino in Las Vegas will give me money. Let's keep that mediocrity going!

Getting back to the Orioles. After Bundy's 6.2 innings of solid work, the bullpen came in and shut down the Blue Jays the rest of the way. Lefthander Paul Fry worked the ninth, induced a couple of ground balls before striking out Justin Smoak to pick up his second save of the season.

Could Fry be the next in a relatively short line of left-handed closers for the Baltimore Orioles? With Brandon Hyde as his manager his chances are as a good as anyone's. the last great left-handed closer for the Orioles was Zach/Zack Britton who closed out 139 games successfully after being converted from a starting role. However, the first of the fireman southpaws was the man pictured above, Felix Anthony "Tippy" Martinez.

Martinez joined the club in 1976 as part of the blockbuster 10-player trade between Baltimore and New York that saw the Orioles also acquire Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor, Rudy May and Dave Pagan. He would stick with the team for a decade and rack up 105 saves, good for fourth all-time in Baltimore history. A prototypical crafty lefty, Martinez leaned heavily on a huge breaking curveball to keep hitters off balance.

His most memorable moment, at least to most Orioles fans, took place on August 24th, 1983. The second-place Orioles entered the ninth inning trailing by two runs. After a flurry of moves they tied the game when Al Bumbry slapped a single that drove in Lenn Sakata. Once again a little Orioles magic had paid off on a hot summer night. The only problem, manager Joe Altobelli had emptied his bench in order to get the game tied (the most shocking thing from the boxscore to today's fan would be that Altobelli had SIX position players on the bench that he used as pinch-hitters or pinch-runners).

In order to get the game tied he had also sacrificed both catchers. So Sakata, normally a utility infielder, put on the tools of ignorance and got behind the plate. For even more fielding fun, platoon outfielder Gary Roenicke lined up at third base for the first time in his life. The guy he usually substituted in for, John Lowenstein, well he played second base.

On the mound, Tim Stoddard (57 career saves as an Oriole) looked to shut down the Blue Jays offense. He didn't. The first batter he faced, Cliff Johnson, promptly homered to give Toronto the lead. After a single by Barry Bonnell, Altobelli pulled Stoddard in favor of the left-handed Martinez.

You're the Blue Jays. You see a catcher that as far as you know has never played the position in his life. You saw his warm up throw to second base, which most likely wasn't that impressive. All you want to do it get on first base and run, run, run.

Now you're Tippy Martinez. You're in a close game in the middle of a pennant race. You're third baseman is an outfielder and you're catcher can't catch your most effective pitch. So what do you do? How about record all three outs with pick-offs?

First up was Bonnell who was already on base when Martinez entered the game. The outfielder took a little too aggressive of a lead and Martinez picked him off. The lefty then walked Dave Collins. No problem, picked him off too.  The next hitter, Willie Upshaw, singled past Lowenstein. What happened next - Martinez picked him off. Two hitters faced, three outs recorded without a fielder other than first baseman Eddie Murray getting involved.

Cal Ripken homered in the top of the tenth to tie the game. Then Sakata, perhaps sparked by the desire to never have to put on a catching mask again, singled in the winning run. Not a bad way to win a ball game.

Martinez was a key part of the bullpen that year as he appeared in 65 games, won 9 and saved 21 as the Orioles went on to win the World Series that year. The second stat that might wow today's fan - of the 21 saves he had that season he pitched more than an inning in 16 of them. Quite a change from today's closer role.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 25: The O's turn the tables

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 25: 9-6 over the Tampa Bay Rays

1989 LJN Toys Baseball Talk Collection Eddie Murray

For what seems like the first time this season the Orioles were the team that kept the game close and then blew it open late. After surrendering a 3-1 lead, Baltimore teed off with six runs in the top of the ninth against the Rays and then held on in the bottom of the inning to walk away with a 9-6 win.

John Means, he's an All Star you know, had another strong outing as he went 7 innings and gave up 3 runs. Mychal Givens made a nice run-saving play at the plate to pick up his first win of the season while Shawn Armstrong put the fire out in the ninth to pick up his 2nd save of the season. He is now tied for second on the team in saves with Miguel Castro and Richard Bleier as manager Brandon Hyde continues his search for someone to take the role as closer on the team.

On offense it was Rio Ruiz and Renato Nunez banging 3-run home runs to provide the bulk of the offense. The Orioles, for once, were the ones who took advantage of miscues to pull away with the win. The Rays provided a wild-pitch, a dropped throw at home plate and an ill-advised diving attempt in centerfield all in the final frame that keyed the Orioles victory.

Means' strong start came on the heels of a couple of debuts earlier in the season. Recently acquired pitchers Tom Eshelman and Asher Wojciechowski started the first two games of the season and did alright. Both went at least five innings, but weren't able to find the win column as the Rays pulled away in the later frames of both games. With the starting rotation in turmoil don't be surprised if both hurlers get another chance at a starting a game before the season (or month) is over.

As for the card at the top of this post. It isn't often that I find a Murray card from his playing days that either I don't have or haven't seen before. That goes double for 1989 cards. Yet, here we are. I was flipping through putting an order together and this "card popped up".

It's made by Topps and is styled after the 1989 base collection but uses a photo that isn't from the base set. For his regular card, Murray is hitting from the right side in the gray road uniform. Asyou can see from the photo above in this one he's at home against the Brewers. It's most likely a photo from 1987 as I believe that is Bill Schroeder doing the catching for the Brewers.

Schroeder only appeared in one game in Baltimore that year and it was a replacement. While Murray was did hit in the game, he most likely would have been swinging from the right side of the plate as Dan Plesac, a lefty would have been on the mound. Schroeder, who wore number 21, did play in the entire April series in Baltimore in 1987, so it's most likely that the photo was taken during that series.

So what the hell was the LJN Toys Baseball Talk? It was a 164-card "set" that included cards of players and, current and past, that had a plastic "record" on the back. The cards are a lot bigger than a regular trading cards. According to baseballcardpedia, they measure 5.25 inches by 3.25 inches. When inserted into the Baseball Talk player it would play 2-3 minute of audio, usually recounting a famous moment in that player's career.

Back in the day, this would have been an awesome toy to have just for the audio. Look, we didn't have the internet in 1989.  We couldn't just dial up Hank Aaron's historic home run or "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" on YouTube  Usually, the only time I heard old radio broadcasts was during rain delays or during some sort of retrospective show. You might be able to get a VHS from the local video store that had some highlights on it, but that was about it. It was truly the dark ages.

I have no idea what highlight is used for Murray because I have never seen a player live in person. I vaguely knew about this as a kid, but since it wasn't an actual baseball card as I pictured it, I ignored it. I wasn't a bright kid.  If you have a working player and the complete set of 164 cards you can probably get $150-$200 out if it. Most of the cards will set you back a buck or two, but there are a few (like Babe Ruth) that might cost $10 or more if you can find them.

Not a bad addition to the Murray personal collection if I do say so myself.