Thursday, May 28, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Twenty-One (1987 Season Edition): The Rookies are Pitching In

Baltimore Orioles Victory #21: 10-6 over the Oakland A's

2018 Bowman Chrome Prospects Alex Wells Purple Auto #138/250

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

The home runs are getting all of the press. The Orioles shook off a loss to Seattle to come back and beat the Oakland A's by bashing a couple more home runs. That gives them big flies in 14 straight games. Dave Schmidt picked up his sixth win of the season (all in relief) while Ken Dixon picked up another save. He might not like being in the bullpen, but he's been way more effective in that role than he was as a starter.

Dixon was charged with the loss against Seattle in his previous outing after a rough 2/3 of an inning in which he gave up 3 runs and 4 hits. Rookie John Habyan had started the game and meandered his way through 5 innings before departing in favor to Dixon. Habyan was called up when Mike Flanagan went on the injured list with a sore elbow. For the first time since 1976 the Orioles had three rookies in their starting rotation (Flanagan was one of those rookies back in '76 along with Scott McGregor, and Dennis Martinez).

The Orioles would love to get similar production out of Habyan, Eric Bell, and Jeff Ballard (spoiler: they wouldn't). So far in the season, they've held their own, combining for a 5-1 record (Bell has 4 of those wins) and giving the ballclub steady innings, something that Flanagan and McGregor hadn't been doing on a consistent basis in 1987. 

While the youth are carrying their weight in rotation, the bullpen has gone in the opposite direction. After starting the season with a couple of rookies in Mark Williamson and Tony Arnold and adding Mike Kunninen, the club has leaned to veterans in recent days. Williamson was sent to Rochester prior to the game against Oakland after the Orioles acquired veteran reliever Tom Niedenfuer from the Dodgers in exchange for John Shelby and Brad Havens. Niedenfuer gives the club another right-hander who has experience in closing out games. It gives manager Cal Ripken, Sr. another option with Don Aase still not 100% due to his arm issues. 

In hindsight it would probably have been better for the club to fully commit to the rebuild, but their home run barrage had propelled them back into the pennant race (at 21-20 they were 5 games behind the Yankees). Instead they brought in another veteran (although they only sacrificed a couple of pieces that weren't in their future plans) and tried to hang on to their glory for a little longer.

As a side note, the trade might have been the best thing to happen to Shelby. The opening day starter for the Orioles had struggled mightily and had been whiling away in Rochester. With the emergence of Ken Gerhart and Larry Sheets hitting every ball he sees into the light towers, the Orioles outfield was extremely crowded. With the Dodgers Shelby was immediately installed as the every day centerfielder and he excelled in the California sunshine. In 1987 he slashed .277/.317/.464 in 120 games (his line was .188/.212/.281 with the O's).  The next season he would celebrate his second World Series victory. Not a bad trade off. Havens put up replacement level numbers in 35 appearances in 87. He was released by Los Angeles in May 1988 and spent a few seasons in Minnesota.

When baseball returns in 2019 the Orioles rotation will probably be a mishmash of veteran journeymen and John Means, but by 2020 the rookies like Alex Wells may start making appearances. There's nothing like a string of rookie starters to give fans hope for the future. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Twenty (1987 Season Edition): Catching up with a trade Post

Baltimore Orioles Victory #20: 15-4 over the Seattle Mariners

1987 Ralston Purina Eddie Murray

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

I am not great at keeping to a schedule. Just when I was caught back up with this series I abandoned it for a few days right in the middle of another Orioles winning streak. For the record, the Orioles 20th victory of 1987 happened on May 19th. I'm writing this on May 26th, so I'm only a week behind, which is better than I thought. I'm not going to lie, dates are a little hazy for me right now. That's a side effect from not working for almost two months.

We also decided on an impromptu trip down south this weekend. The walls of the apartment were closing in a bit and with travel restrictions easing up out west we decided to hit a state park during the holiday. The state just happened to be in Nevada. Hotel rates (I still get a discount despite being furloughed) were pretty outstanding so we hopped in the car and drove to Las Vegas.

It was kind of sad to be in the town and not have the chance to gamble (the casinos were still closed), but at the same time it was nice and relaxed. We wandered around Valley of Fire State Park for the better part of the day and enjoyed being in a different town for roughly 48 hours.

I'm not sure we could have socially distanced more if we tried. Aside from a few lizards we had the entire 8 mile trail to ourselves. I guess people didn't feel like wandering around in a canyon for four hours during their holiday weekend. 

Making the trip even better was that upon our return, I had a couple of non-machinable envelopes waiting in the mail. The trade machine is in full working order and I've been averaging two or three trades a week. 

In this case I worked out a deal with user rsemu in order to bump up my Eddie Murray collection by one. In exchange for a potpourri of base cards (including a couple of checklists), he sent back the wonderful Ralston Purina card above along with some other needs.

Whenever I see a Ralston Purina card it makes me think of Cookie Crisp cereal. I believe as a little kid that would have been the delicious, nutritious breakfast of choice when I wanted to pull some cards out of a box of sugar. I really wish Topps would get back into the cereal / baseball card partnership game again. It's been ages since I've seen a baseball card in a box (although I know there are some MLS cards on the back of certain boxes). 

As for the Murray card, that marks the 301st different Eddie Murray card I have recorded. According to TCDB that ranks me 8th among Murray collectors. Not bad, but moving up the list from here will take some time. I need another 45 different cards to get to 7th, and over 100 to get 5th. The top collector has 1,148 of the 4,540 cards in the database so I don't think I'm catching him this year. 

Personally, Murray is the player I have the most different cards of, which is good because I do label myself a Murray collector. In second place, at no surprise, Cal Ripken, Jr. What may be a surprise is that I've put no real effort into picking up his cards and I have 289 different Ripken cards.

This sweet Joe Orsulak 1989 Upper Deck was also part of the deal. Nothing beats seeing Joe standing around the batting cage waiting his turn. I only have about 55 of the inaugural Upper Deck cards in my collection (almost half of those are Orioles cards) at this point so it's always fun to see a new one come into my life. It really is a perfectly designed card. 

Most importantly he finished off my 1991 Upper Deck needs. The best card of the lost?

Upper Deck loved throwing these triple-exposure cards in their base sets and it broke up the routine of normal exposure cards. 

Now, I see it completed my set, but according to my records I have 799/800 of the base set. The one "missing" card - the Chipper Jones rookie card. Which really pisses me off because I know I have that card somewhere. I also know it's not where the bulk of my collection is because every time I stumble across it I think, "Wow, I should really put that with my other cards." 

Such is the joy of moving twice in two years. Things get jumbled up in different boxes. I have a vague idea of where it may be and I'll dig through the box tomorrow to see if it's there. I really hope it is because I know if I trade or buy another copy I'll immediately find the original. 

All in all, not a bad weekend considering the circumstances.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Nineteen (1987 Season Edition): Of prospects past

Baltimore Orioles Victory number 19: 6-0 over the Seattle Mariners

2001 Fleer Ultra Prospects Carlos Casimiro / Ivanon Coffee

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

It was another ho-hum win for the Orioles against the Mariners. Terry Kennedy and Eddie Murray hit home runs while Mike Boddicker went the distance giving up only three hits. If your bullpen is a little shaky, it's always nice when the starter goes the distance. For Boddicker it was his third win of the season, the second via shutout. On the season he's worked into the seventh inning in seven of his nine starts and he O's are 7-2 in games he's started. He should have more than three wins, but the fact that he's feeling healthy and throwing well is good enough for him at this point.

With Fred Lynn sitting the game out after re-injuring his left shoulder against the Angels the O's went with a slightly reconfigured outfield. Alan Wiggins made his debut in left-field, Ken Gerhart was in center, and Lee Lacy was in right. One thing that's noticeable about the 1987 team is how many players in the line-up weren't brought up through the Orioles system.

The only players drafted and developed by the Orioles that started in the field that day were Gerhart, Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray, and Mike Young. That pales in comparison back to the days when the Os were winning pennants. It would also mark a trend that would continue for the better part of the next 30-40 years - the O's struggling to develop multiple prospects at the same time.

There always seems to be one or two players coming through the system - Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Zach Britton, Erik Bedard, etc. They just never managed to string a bunch together at the same time. The late 1990's to early 2000's was a particularly bad time. There wasn't much in the cupboards, which when you're looking for rookie cards of your favorite team, is pretty depressing.

Carlos Casimiro was signed as an international free agent by the Orioles in 1994. He progressed through the system showing a little power in his bat - he had 18 home runs in Bowie in 1999, but nothing too showy. He got a brief call-up in 2000, appeared in 2 games, picked up 1 hit in 8 plate appearances, but did manage to drive in 3 runs. He was released by the Orioles after the season, kicked around in the minors for another year and then played internationally for a few years.

Ivanon Coffie was another international free agent signing and would be the first of three players from Curacao  to play for the Orioles (Jair Jurrjens and Jonathan Scoop as the others). Much like Casimiro, he slowly worked his way up through the system and saw his career peak with a call-up to the majors in 2000. He had a few more appearances than Casimio as he hit .217 in 67 at bats for the O's that season. We would be traded to the Cubs for future considerations that winter.

Hopefully, the current ownership has set up a system that will develop players a little bit better than previous regimes have. As a mid-market team they can't buy championships through free agency, they have to groom the majority of the players that are going to contribute in the future. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Eighteen (1987 Season Edition): The Iconic Cards..some thoughts

Baltimore Orioles victory number 18: 3-2 over the California Angels

1982 Topps Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie card (and a couple of other guys)

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

The other day, a collection of writers, editors, and a select group of outsiders (sadly, I was not invited) over at The Athletic got together and put together a list of the 25 Most Iconic Sports Cards in history. Their panel got together with a list of cards, rated every card on a scale of 1-100, tallied the results and kicked out a list. 

To save you some time (although I recommend you read the whole thing if you are able) and for those that aren't subscribers (though you should be, with the decimation of newspaper sports departments it is now the best place to find constant quality sports writing) I will spoil their list and give you the top five:

5. 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle

4. 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan

3. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth

2. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle

1. 1909-11 T206 White Border Honus Wagner

I'm pretty sure anybody putting together a similar list would have some combination of those five cards sitting at the top. In all, the list was pretty good. There were some cards I didn't agree with, but isn't that half of the fun of putting a list like that out there - hearing people bitch about what was left off?

The word "iconic" that is by its very nature a subjective word. This isn't a list of the most valuable cards or the rarest cards. The writers were looking for cards that, "through the decades, from generation to generation, there have been certain cards that help define the industry."

The 25 that they put together pretty much do that, but there is a heavy influence on pre-war and 1950's-60's era cards. Everybody loves vintage! In fact, the 1986 Jordan, the 1986 Upper Deck Griffey (7th), the 1979 OPC Gretzkey (10th), and the 1980 Topps Bird/Johnson/Erving  (20th) cards are the only ones that have been released during my lifetime, and I'm rapidly moving towards old on the age spectrum.

As another new generation moves into collecting I'm wondering how lists like this are going to evolve. Generation X is overtaking the Boomers when it comes to "nostalgic" collecting. While we appreciate a good Willie Mays rookie (14th) or a 1954 Hank Aaron (9th) these aren't the cards we grew up collecting. They weren't the ones our mom's threw out when we left home. 

Don't get me wrong, no one is ever going to hold a 1986 Jose Canseco Donruss in higher regards than the 1952 Mantle, but at some point hearing our fathers or grandfathers talk about putting those Mantle cards in their bike spokes doesn't mean as much to us as it did to them. 

If I had veto power over the list, there are probably two modern cards I would add as icons of the next generation of collecting. Sadly, I have never, nor do I plan on ever owning either of these cards, but to me they represent the post-Junk Wax era of collecting (which I guess would be the "Big Hit Era").

1. The 2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols Autograph /500

lifted this image from 

 In my post-college, finally have disposable income return to the hobby, this was the Big Kahuna of cards. Time and injury may have dimmed the impact that Pujols had on the hobby during his prime, but when he exploded onto the scene this was the card to have. It also transformed the Bowman brand, especially Chrome, from being a nice place to do some prospecting into the big hit, must-have rookie cards of the latest superstar. 

In the February copy of Beckett 16 of the 20 cards on their Hot List are some version of Bowman Chrome Autograph products (either Draft or Prospect). I don't have a copy of a 2001 Beckett laying around, but I'm going to guess that wasn't the case in 2001. Yes, part of that is due to Topps/Bowman having a monopoly on the baseball market, but even if Upper Deck or Fleer were churning out cards, I doubt they would be able to compete with the demand for Bowman Chrome product. 

In the era of chasing the big hit (the Pujols card was a redemption, so sorry if you pull one now) this was the card everyone was chasing in the early 2000's.  With my veto power I replace the 1911 T3 Turkey Red Cabinets Ty Cobb card with this Pujols card. Sorry, love the Turkey Red design, but this card should be on the list.

2. 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout RC

Yeah, I got this photo from as well. Please don't sue me.
That copy of Beckett that I mentioned earlier? Guess what the number one card was - yup, Mike Trout's rookie card. I have a feeling that in another 20 years, my generation will be talking about this card the way my dad's talks about the 52 Mantle. 

The beauty of this card, besides being the rookie card of the best player in baseball, is that it didn't take thousands of dollars or the best luck in the world to own it. In 2011 you could have wandered into a Target, your local card shop, some Wal-Greens, or Wal-Marts, picked up a couple of packs of a basic product and pulled a pretty pristine copy of this card for a few bucks. Unlike the Pujols card which is limited to only 500 copies, there are most likely tens of thousands of Trout rookie cards floating around and god knows how many still in their packs. 

Will you be able to get your hands on any of those unopened packs? Well, there's always a chance that a rummage through a Goodwill or a yard sale may produce a box or two (the equivalent of finding a Honus Wagner in the attic) chances are you'd have to pay a pretty penny for the chance. A quick check of eBay shows that an unopened hanger pack of 2011 Update sold for $1,205. That's right, just the chance to pull one is going for four figures. Granted, there is a chance to get your money back if you happen to pull one of the Cognac or Diamond Anniversary parallels, but I think that $1,200 would be better spent on buying a couple of ungraded but clean looking copies of the regular card.

With my veto power I'm removing the 1915 Sporting New Babe Ruth (16th) and inserting the Trout card at number 12, bumping all those behind him down a few notches.

Like I said, I think overall the list is pretty good and it will be interesting to see what it would look like in ten years or so. I have a feeling that the 1986 Jordan will move up into the top two or three and interest in Babe Ruth cards may fade a little. Maybe Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin find their rookie cards sneak onto the list. 

Sadly, as iconic as it is to me and other Oriole fans, I don't think the Ripken rookie makes the list at any point.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Seventeen (1987 Season Edition): This one is on the internet!

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 17: 4-2 over the California Angels

1999 Upper Deck Retro Albert Belle

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

One of the outcomes during this current sports pause is that a lot of folks have been hammering old games either through streaming services, network tv, or YouTube. Often those games are important games like Stanley Cup Finals, World Series games, or huge milestone games. What would be nice to watch are random midseason games where you may or may not remember the outcome.

Enter the May 16th game between the California Angels and Baltimore Orioles which is available on YouTube.

Why is this game on YouTube? Who the hell knows. It is the NBC Game of the Week which means we get an added bonus - Vin Scully calling the play-by-play!  [Extreme Barefoot Contessa Voice] How great is that? There was no real milestone achieved in this game (unless you count Jack O'Connor's first save as an Orioles as a milestone).

Joining Scully in the booth was Joe Garagiola who, for me, was always the voice of NBC's Game of the Week. Whether it was with Scully or Bob Costas, Garagiola seemed to always be there to provide insight. Scully was his usual sublime self, effortlessly weaving in the play-by-play with the occasional story, such as his digression about Ken Dixon and Mike Mason (aka the "Mason Dixon Line") facing each other on April 9th - the anniversary of the end of the Civil War. He was the best.

It's always fun to watch games from previous decades just to see how the coverage has changed. The most noticeable feature is the lack of things on the screen. No logo, no strike zone, no score, nothing. It's just the action on the screen. There aren't as many replays (although early in this broadcast they do show the collision between Ray Knight's head and Buddy Biancala's knee that knocked the Orioles' third baseman out of the line-up for a few games). There almost no stats shown and seemingly fewer camera shots. 

Neither team was especially was especially good, the Orioles entered 16-19 while the Angels were 19-16. Nice an symmetrical, but not really worthy of a national broadcast. Baltimore was a tiny bit of a national story due to their recent home run barrage (spoiler, they hit two more) and Cal Ripken, Jr. having recently moved up another rung on the consecutive games played ladder. The Angels were notable only because their pitching staff had been decimated. Their rotation was Don Sutton, Mike Witt (who made the start in this game), and three rookies. 

With John Candelaria on the DL due to his second DUI in four weeks (he blamed his first one a teammate) the Angels did call up a young flamethrower with a history of arm problems by the name of Brian Harvey. If that name sounds familiar to O's fans it's because he is the father of a young flamethrower with a history of arm problems by the name of Hunter Harvey. The elder Harvey does make his major league debut in this game.

Other than that not much happens. It's a pretty routine 1987 baseball game.  Well, it did feature a slight delay when former Oriole Doug DeCinces, who was manning third base for the Angels, went throat first into a safety railing while chasing a foul ball. He stayed in the game briefly before being relieved by Jack Howell. Angels' manager Gene Mauch showed the level of concussion awareness that was prevalent in the late 80's when he told he L.A. Times after the game, 

"He got hit right in the Adam's apple. He'll be all right. But he had some dizziness and blurred vision afterward, and that's when it's time to go."

Scott McGregor bounced back from a rough start and worked into the 7th inning while only allowing two runs. Ken Dixon came in to work that inning while Jack O'Connor finished off the final two innings to pick up his first save in an Orioles uniform. It was the lefty's third appearance since being called up and the first where he didn't allow a run. He hadn't been bad in his previous two outings, just making a couple of bad pitches. He had racked up 10 K's in 5 2/3 innings which would make teams super happy in 2019.

The offense came via home runs from Fred Lynn and Jim Dwyer. For the veteran Dwyer it continued a pretty amazing offensive turnaround from April. In that opening month he had 12 at bats with no home runs or RBIs. His name came up as a possible demotion or trade piece. Then he started hitting. Through 14 games in May he's slugged 5 home runs, driven in 9 runs, and played pretty much every game (mostly as a DH). 

For the Orioles the two home runs marked the 9th game in a row that they have hit multiple home runs which is one off of record at the time, held by the 1962 team from Cleveland. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Sixteen (1987 Season Edition): Slugging their way to victory

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 16: 4-3 over the Kansas City Royals

1996 Upper Deck SPX Holo Roberto Alomar

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

"This ballpark is the worst to pitch in. I'd rather pitch in Fenway. It's ridiculous. In any other ballpark maybe it's a single, double, or an out. I can't see how anyone likes this park. If I played here, I could hit 10 home runs."

It doesn't sound like Brett Saberhagen is happy about pitching at Memorial Stadium. His attempt at going 7-0 to start the season died at the bat of Orioles catcher Terry Kennedy. The first-year catcher's 4th home run of the year broke a 3-3 tie and put the Orioles back in the win column.  It also showed signs that Kennedy (who had been booed in the previous game after striking out four times) might be emerging out of his recent 5-for-42 slump.

If so, then he'll join the rest of the line-up that, as the weather has turned nicer, has started launching balls over major league fences. Earlier in the game, Cal Ripken, Jr. had hit his league-leading 11th home run off of Saberhagen. 

While his dad had preached a dedication to pitching and defense as a return to the Orioles winning ways, it's been the long ball that has juiced the recent run of success for the Birds. Heading into the series with the Royals, the Orioles had hit a major league leading 47 home-runs (they hit another 5 in the series). Not only that, but 47% of the 163 runs Baltimore has scored have come via the long ball. 

Ripken, Jr. (11) and Eddie Murray (9) were leading the way, but following the win against Saberhagen and the Orioles, every player on the current roster with the exception of the newly reactivated Mike Young had gone yard at least once.

On the flip side their pitching staff wasn't exactly inducing a ton of ground balls. As a staff they'd surrendered 44 home runs with Ken Dixon giving up 8 in just 35.1 innings. It's not even June yet and the ball is leaving the park at a frantic pace.

Granted, this wasn't just a fluke thing happening in Baltimore. Around the league the balls were leaving stadiums at a historic pace. While everyone likes to talk about the balls being "juiced" or being wound tighter in Haiti there were probably a multitude of factors that led to the boom of big blasts like increased physical training or just a bad year for pitching.

Now, there was a physical issue in Baltimore that did lead to a few more home runs leaving Memorial Stadium. In 1985 the team installed a new "Diamond Vision" scoreboard in right-center field. According to Baseball References "Ballpark Factors" Memorial Stadium went from a pitching friendly rating of 94 in 1984 to a slightly less friendly 97 in 1985. By 1987 it was a neutral 100. 

Along the way, the Orioles pitching staff had also gotten worse while their philosophy in position players had changed as well. Defense first players like Rich Dauer, Al Bumbry, and Rick Dempsey were gone and replaced by free agents like Fred Lynn (who may have had 450 career home runs if he'd been healthy) and trade acquisitions like Kennedy. Even their prospects like Larry Sheets and Jim Traber were more known for their offense than their defense.

For now the Orioles offense was allowing them to outhit some of their pitching woes, most notably in their once-again realigned bullpen. Don Aase was back and Jack O'Connor replaced Mike Kinnunen as the lefty in the pen. Ken Dixon was working his way into a set-up/closer hybrid while Dave Schmidt was humming along as the long-man (9 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings). Mark Williamson was still working in relief as well, having settled down a bit from a rough early stretch. 

They were still finding their stride. Previous to this victory, Mike Boddicker had worked a tidy 7 innings against the Royals and left the mound in the 8th with a 4-1 lead. O'Connor blew the save by allowing a three-run homer in that inning, Aase gave up a run in his 1.1 innings of work, and then Williamson lost the game by allowing two runs in the 12th inning. 

Still, the O's were winning and crawling their way back to a .500 record.  An West Coast trip is in their immediate future. Can they keep the long ball going? We'll find out!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Fifteen (1987 Season Edition): The complicated Alan Wiggins

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 15: 10-7 over the Minnesota Twins

1987 Fleer Update Alan Wiggins

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

Before I started this project there were a couple of things I knew about Alan Wiggins. He was fast, he had a tendency to get picked off, he was suspended for drug use, and he was one of the first professional athletes to die from complications of the AIDS virus.  That pretty much summed up my Alan Wiggins knowledge.

Now having read roughly 3 1/2 months worth of newspaper articles about the 1987 Baltimore Orioles a much more complicated picture of Alan Wiggins the person and Alan Wiggins the ballplayer have emerged. This would be the final season that the former first round pick (8th overall) of the Los Angeles Dodgers would play and it would be a tumultuous one.

The Baltimore Orioles experience with Wiggins began in 1985. With the second base combination of Rich Dauer and Lenn Sakata struggling and no true leadoff hitter on the roster the Orioles were looking for an upgrade. Meanwhile in San Diego, Wiggins had gone from a key part of a 1984 Padres team that made it to the World Series to persona non grata.

Things looked pretty good to start the 1985 season. He signed a new, four-year deal with the Padres that was worth almost $3 million making him one of the highest paid second baseman in the league. The drug issues that had led to him missing two months of the 1982 season seemed to be behind him and he was excelling on the field. He was a spark plug at the top of the Padres line-up whose speed (70 stolen bases in 1984) kept pitchers occupied and led to a lot of fastballs to the number two-hitter in the San Diego line-up: Tony Gwynn.

Then, as spring training was nearing its climax, a hard slide at second base by Brook Jacoby upended Wiggins and led to a knee injury for the Padres infielder.  He returned in mid-April, but the results were not there. In 10 games he mustered only 2 hits and 2 walks and he was thrown out in his steal attempt. Then on April 25th, he didn't show up for a game against the Dodgers. For two days the team didn't know where he was. When they were finally able to contact him, they found out that he had re-entered a rehabilitation clinic.

While he was in rehab, the Padres brass made the decision that Wiggins would not play for them for the rest of the season. The players union was less than amused by that unilateral decision. Under the league's new drug policy he was considered a first-time offender and not subject to a suspension since he had gone through rehab. The union's position was that as long as he was cleared by doctors to play, he should be allowed to play.

Things got acrimonious and the Padres declared at one point that he would never play for them again. Thus began the trade negotiations. The Orioles quickly emerged as a leading trade partner but were wary of his contract and the possibility that he could relapse again*. The Padres weren't happy with the offers they were getting. In the end, a deal was reached.

Wiggins was traded to the Orioles for Roy Lee Jackson and a player to be named later. That player ended up being Rich Caldwell, a minor league player who never made it to the majors. In 85 games for the O's Wiggins hit .285, led the team with 30 stolen bases and scored 43 runs. Exactly what they needed from him.

The numbers went down in 1986 as the Orioles coasted into last place for the first time in franchise history under the less-than-motivated tutelage of Earl Weaver. Wiggins drew the ire of his manager who reportedly called him the "absolutely the worst ballplayer I have ever seen" (at least according to a column by Tom Boswell in August). Wiggins was sent down to Rochester in the summer before being recalled in September for a late-season appearances after the Orioles had faded from the playoff race.

With Weaver comfortably back on the golf course in 1987 and new skipper Cal Ripken, Sr. manning the helm it seemed that Wiggins was down to his last chance in Baltimore. Rick Burleson had been signed to play second base full time and the outfield was full of other players. Wiggins had no position and wasn't especially well-liked in the clubhouse.

He did the one thing he could do - played his way onto the team. He hit over .400 and had a .524 on-base percentage. There was no way Ripken, Sr. could justify leaving him out of the line-up so he made the unorthodox move of naming him DH and installing him at the top of the order.

The move paid off early in the season. At this point in the season (May 12th) Wiggins was slashing .322/.380/.407. His production, coupled with a lack of offense from Burleson had allowed the manager to move Wiggins back to second base full time and insert slugger Larry Sheets into the DH spot.

Unfortunately, this would be a high-water mark for Wiggins. As the season moved on, his production stalled, his offense disappeared and the work he had done to get along with his teammates seemed to be unwinding.

By the end of the summer he would be suspended from the team following a batting practice scuffle with Jim Dwyer and a disputed altercation with his manager. Ripken, Sr. alleged that Wiggins grabbed his uniform following a shouting match that Wiggins suggested was started after the manager uttered a racial slur.  Both parties denied the other's allegations but the die had been cast and Wiggins was suspended for three games.

He returned to the line-up and dropped a grievance that he had filed against the club, but knew his days were numbered. Then on September 1st he was suspended by the league. Details at the time were scarce, but reports came out that he had failed at least one more drug test. After the season ended the Orioles in essence bought him out of the remainder of his contract paying him $586,242 of the $938,372 he was owed.

If we stopped there with the narrative it would do a grace injustice to understanding who Alan Wiggins was. For all the reports of him being a menace in the clubhouse there were the stories from his friends that painted a different story. They talk about a man who was deeply intelligent: a story circulated at the time of his depth that during his stint in Baltimore the organization administered an I.Q. test to the team and the only person that scored higher was Earl Weaver.

He also loved to argue, not just because he was stubborn or confrontational, just because he found it fun to debate other people or, as he once said, because he was "tired of talking about sliders and putting". His humor slanted to the sarcastic. For example, the incident that touched off his skirmish with Dwyer resulted from a "hit him in the head" wisecrack directed at the batting practice pitcher while Dwyer was in the cage.

Unfortunately, sarcasm and aloofness can be misconstrued in a baseball clubhouse. Especially in one that isn't winning a lot of games. Wiggins had few friends in baseball, Lee Lacy is mentioned as one of the few he had in Baltimore. The fact that he replaced a popular player in Rich Dauer may have spoiled his relationships with some key veterans from the very get go.

Something that didn't register to me as an 10-year-old kid following the team at the time was how dysfunctional the Orioles clubhouse was in those years.  Players (and managers) didn't really care for the way the club operated. Ken Dixon voiced his displeasure at his bullpen demotion, Floyd Rayford was considering filing a grievance against the club as they had sent him down days before he reached his five-year major league service anniversary which would have guaranteed his salary. Later in the year Rick Burleson would make his displeasure with the way he was treated known as well.

Cal Ripken, Sr. may have been the model of the Oriole Way as a coach, but he strikes me as one of the original hard-asses to play for. If he didn't agree with you, you were in for a difficult time.

Reading the report of his actions,and the peaks and valleys of his moods, makes it sound like he battled depression, especially after being traded to Baltimore after spending most of his life in California. He was raised by a single mother who developed Alzheimer's when he was in the Padres organization and some close to him says that greatly affected his personality.

The way his big contract was paid out shows that he did plan for the future and life after baseball. According to reports at the time, $1.6 million of the $2.8 million deal was deferred. Portions of the salaries he was paid in 1985, 1986, and 1987 were placed in an account set to earn 8% interest. From that account he would be paid $100,000 every year for the first 10 years following his retirement, with the rest of the money paid out in the 11th year.

Despite marital troubles he remained with his wife as he didn't want his children to grow up without a father like he did. While they may not have known him, his kids did alright. His daughter Candice Wiggins attended Stanford and played in the WNBA. His son Alan, Jr. and other daughter Cassandra also played college basketball.

Had he played in a different era, perhaps his story is different. Maybe with some of the services available today he doesn't walk away from the game at the age of 29. Alan Wiggins stands as an example that players aren't robots. They may be blessed with extraordinary talent to run, throw, or hit a baseball, but they are human and that can affect the way they play the game.

* From an article about the trade: "They did agree to pick up his entire four-year, $2.8 million contract, but in the event of a relapse, they can release him and not be fully responsible for his salary. First, he'd have to use up his last 25 days of protection under the Joint Drug Agreement (each player is covered by the agreement for 60 days), and then, if the Orioles don't want him, they could release him while Wiggins would give up one-third of his salary.

The rest of the money would be paid partly by the Padres and partly by the Orioles. If the relapse occurred in Wiggins' first year in Baltimore, San Diego would pay about 50% of his remaining contract. In the second year, San Diego would pay about 25%. In the third year, it'd be 10%. In the fourth year, the Padres would have no obligations."

Friend, T. (1985, Jun 28). Wiggins' trade to orioles is finally completed: [home edition]. Los Angeles Times (Pre-1997 Fulltext) Retrieved from

Friday, May 15, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Fourteen (1987 Season Edition): Update on the current season

Baltimore Orioles victory number 14: 6-4 over the Chicago White Sox

2009 Topps Finest Nick Markakis Blue Rerfractor

Nothing like a six-game road trip to raise the spirits of a team. The Orioles finished off their sweep of the White Sox with a 6-4 win in Chicago. They hit 3 more home runs which brought their total in the series to an impressive 12. The bats, especially the middle of the order ones, have heated up. The pitching staff has been good enough to pick the wins, but other than Scott McGregor's outing against Minnesota, there hasn't been much consistency. The bullpen still has its ups and downs, but hopefully some relief is on the way.

So things seem to be stabilizing in 1987, how about 2020? How are things going right now.  Well, not much has changed. Sports are still on pause. At least leagues are starting to be in a position to talk about restarting competition. The owners have agreed amongst themselves on a plan to get through these weird times.

Of course, agreeing amongst themselves is the easy part. Getting the players to agree to it is another thing. Meetings are underway, but don't expect a lot of positive news in the next week. The big sticking point is likely to be the 50/50 split of any revenue generated whenever the season starts back up.

The players have already agreed to a reduction in their salaries back in March when the lockdown's began. Their salaries were set to be paid on a pro-rated basis based on the number of games played. So you can imagine that they might be a bit disgruntled to be asked to sacrifice even more of their salary. 

With the CBA coming up for renewal in 2021 they are wary of giving the owners any leeway in regards to how salaries are arranged. They can ask their hockey brethren about how well a 50/50 revenue split goes. If you're not familiar with how the hockey world works, just type "NHL escrow" into your Google Machine and enjoy.

I'm sure if asked, the owners will say that it's a temporary thing and that it's the "only way" they can survive moving forward, especially if fans aren't allowed to attend games at any point of the season. They do have a point. Without ticket revenue their bottom lines do take a hit, but why should the players just take their word for it?

The only way the players are going to agree to a revenue split is if they know the owners are being truthful about their finances. They have zero trust built up with the players union and if the players aren't sure exactly what revenue is being divided up, how do they know that they're getting their fair share? It's not like the owners have the best history when it comes to being truthful about business relations with the players (seeL collusion and free agency). 

Will not having fans in the stands hurt the owner's pocket books? Yes, but, according to Statista ticket revenue as a percentage of the league's overall revenue has been declining since 2009. IN 2019, it only accounted for about 30% of the total revenue. As long as games are being played money will still roll into the coffers from their deals with ESPN, Fox, and their streaming partners. You can't forget about their "official gaming" partnership with MGM.

That being said, the players do have to realize that a pro-rated salary may not be enough. The owners are footing the bulk of any financial losses and they are interested in getting things going as soon as possible. They can't dig a line in the sand and become overly rigid in negotiations. They may have to accept some terms that they feel are uncomfortable if they are to come to an agreement. After all, isn't the best compromise one that leaves both parties feeling a little uneasy?

All of this is just empty theorizing if the health aspect of this issue isn't solved. Until they get approval from state and federal officials to restart the season and can assure the players that all precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus without affecting the non-baseball world in a negative way, what's the point?

Millionaires (the players) vs billionaires (the owners) is never a great look when the unemployment rate is over 20%, but seeing those two groups snipe back and forth is a bit of a return to normal. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Thirteen (1987 Season Edition): Eddie Murray sets a record

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 13: 15-6 over the Chicago White Sox

1988 Topps Eddie Murray Record Breakers (error and corrected version)

I guess all Eddie Murray needed was to get out of Baltimore for a little while. With talk radio and the newspapers talking about his slow start and desire to play elsewhere, Murray quietly made a couple of change to his swing.  They seemed to have paid off.

In the Orioles route of the White Sox the future hall-of-famer homered twice. It was the second game in a row where he's hit a brace of home runs. Just like the night before he hit one from the left side of the plate and one from the right side of the plate. It was the eighth time in his career that he had done that, and the first time in major league history that someone had done it in back-to-back game.

On the whole, Murray is 11-for-22 on the road trip with 5 home runs, 2 doubles, 6 runs scored, and 8 RBI. He had a pretty good month in the last week. To foreshadow a little, he's not quite done either. Whatever lingering injuries were bothering him to begin the season seem to have healed and the negative press hasn't affected his performance or, more importantly, his standing in the clubhouse.

Following the game Larry Sheets (whose home run in this game hit the roof of Comiskey Park, told the press, "It never mattered what anyone else said about Eddie because the people in our clubhouse knew. He's the best player there is in the game, and one of the best people. No one in this clubhouse ever doubted him."

That echoed a sentiment that his manager, Cal Ripken, Sr. had earlier in the week, before the offensive outburst began, "Eddie Murray is going to be fine. If all I had to do was worry about Eddie Murray, I wouldn't have any worries."

At the beginning of may the skipper was even more confident, stating: "Eddie is going to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs. If there's anything certain in this world, it's that Eddie is going to hit. No, I'm not worried about Eddie. All a manager has to do with Eddie is keep writing his name in the lineup."

His belief in Eddie's steadiness was rewarded as the 31-year-old perennial All Star drilled line drive after line drive around the ballparks in Minnesota and Chicago.

With their clubhouse leader showing them the way, the rest of the bats responded as well. Jim Dwyer, Lee Lacy, Ray Knight, and Sheets all homered in the game. Alan Wiggens tripled and scored while Fred Lynn had two hits, his second multi-hit game in a row.

Granted, the offense came in handy as Jeff Ballard's major league debut was a little rough. The 23-year-old rookie lasted just two innings and surrendered six runs (four earned) on seven hits. He walked one and didn't strike out a single White Sox. It was an abrupt reminder that major league hitters are just a tad bit better than the ones in AAA.

Dave Schmidt came into the game in the third inning and shut down Chicago the rest of the way, scattering four hits over seven scoreless innings to pick up his third win of the season. If he keeps pitching like that he'll find himself in the rotation.

A rotation that with Ballard now features four left-handed pitchers and Mike Boddicker.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number 12 (1987 Season Edition): Ch-ch-ch-changes are finally on the way

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 12: 7-6 over the Chicago White Sox

1987 Topps Floyd Rayford

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

After dropping the series final to Minnesota (another loss for Mike Flanagan) the long rumored line-up shake-up finally got under way. The first player to be dispatched to Rochester was catcher/third baseman Floyd Rayford. It was a bit of a surprise that Rayford was sent down despite his numbers. He was the back-up catcher and reserve infielder. Unfortunately he wasn't producing. The numbers at the time of his demotion - .077/.077/.308.

His one hit was a home run off of future hall-of-famer Steve Carlton, which for a singular highlight was pretty good. His two errors in limited action (including one that cost the team a win in his last start) didn't help his cause. What did the GM think about the start to Rayford's season?

"We've reached the point where we didn't think he could contribute anything to this ball club".

Harsh, man...real harsh.

In his place the Orioles called up rookie prospect Jeff Ballard to take a spot in the rotation along with catcher Dave Van Gorder who wasn't exactly lighting things up in Rochester having gone 1-for-14 in four games with the Red Wings. Ballard had been scorching in AAA posting a 5-0 record and a 1.18 ERA.

Other moves would come before and after the win against the White Sox. Reserve infielder Jackie Gutierrez was sent down prior to the game to make room on the roster for Lee Lacy who returned from the disabled list after missing 21 games. Unlike most players on the roster Gutierrez hadn't been struggling, mainly because he hadn't played. He'd only appeared in 3 games, all as a defensive replacement.

With Lacy's return the Orioles had an extra outfielder and so they sent John Shelby to Rochester following the game. His dismissal was the Orioles brass acknowledging that they had made a mistake in naming Shelby the starting right fielder at the beginning of the season. Despite a spring training where he failed to hit, he got the starting nod primarily because of his defense.

Unfortunately his defense wasn't enough to justify his lack of hitting. At the time of his demotion he was slashing .188/.212/.281. Granted he played an errorless outfield, but with Lacy returning and Larry Sheets .317/.420/.415 sitting on the bench, it was pretty much a no-brainer to send him down.

Did the roster shake-up motivate the Orioles? Who knows, but it did help that it appears Eddie Murray was finding his swing again. It was his two-run home in the ninth that gave the Orioles the lead. For Murray it was the second big fly of the game (he hit one from the left side and one from the right side in the game) and his third during a four-game hitting streak that has raised his average from .174 to .213 (I have a feeling he's not done yet).

It's nice to see one of the big guns in the line-up start to warm up, but the key to the Orioles getting back into their winning ways would be their pitching. Ballard would hopefully give them some innings and take the pressure off of the beleaguered bullpen. The team was also expecting Don Aase back in the next few days as well which would allow them to reorder things in the 'pen.

With Mike Young also expected back soon following the thumb surgery that had kept him out all season, more changes were in the O's future.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Eleven (1987 Season Edition): Rip is on fire

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 11: 6-0 over the Minnesota Twins

2013 Topps Tribute Cal Ripken, Jr.

Two wins in a row! It's amazing what happens when you finally get some starting pitching from someone other than Mike Boddicker. After getting swept at home by the White Sox, the Orioles have taken the first two games of their six game road trip. The Minnesota Twins have been baffled by soft-tossing lefties on back-to-back nights.

First it was Eric Bell taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning and then needing four relievers to hold onto a 5-4 win (sounds like a modern game). Then it was Scott McGregor, yes the one with zero wins on the season, tossing a 6-0 shutout on the following night. The veteran lefty scattered three hits, walked three, and struck out only one hitter (Dan Gladden on a 78-mph "fastball") to pick up the win and bring a little life to a team that had been beat down by three weeks of bad play.

Perhaps McGregor and Bell were sparked by all of the talk of a roster shake-up following the sweep by the White Sox. Owner Edward Bennett Williams, GM Hank Peters, and manager Cal Ripken, Sr. had a closed door meeting to discuss the status of the team. Following the meeting Peters was asked if he was angry, his response was positively Yoda-esque: "Am I disappointed or angry? I'm disappointed, and disappointment leads to anger."

As of the beginning of the series there were no roster changes, but with a long stretch of games ahead of them and a couple of veterans coming off of the injured list, a shake-up was all but inevitable. Despite the struggles, there was one constant - Cal Ripken, Jr.

Now into his sixth season in the major leagues, the rock-steady shortstop was off to a career-best start. With no support behind him in the line-up Ripken was still hitting .333 with 9 home runs, 30 RBI, and a .706 slugging percentage. That percentage had been boosted over the last couple of games as his last nine hits were all for extra bases.

Coming off what some considered a sub-par 1986 where he still slashed .282/.355/.461 with 25 HRs and 81 RBI a subtle change to his batting stance was fueling a raucous start to the season.  Even his outs were loud at this point as he was ripping line drives all around the park. In typical Ripken fashion he downplayed his success since it wasn't leading to team victories.  He also didn't consider the fact that his dad was manager as having any influence on his hot start to the season.

His early season surge was even more impressive considering the rest of the heart of the order was floundering. Fred Lynn was hitting just .198 and nursing a bruised rotator cuff in his left shoulder that he suffered on opening day. Eddie Murray was also hitting .198 with just 3 HRs.

In the field he was his usual self. Oddly enough, during this stage of his career he wasn't exactly a defensive whiz. His fielding percentage for 1987 (.973) was about average for the position (.970) and he was making about 20 errors a season. His 740 chances in 1987 was third in the majors, trailing only Ozzie Smith and Ozzie Guillen. The fact that he played almost 80 innings more than the second place shortstop (Smith) is more indicative of the struggles of the pitching staff than Ripken's range.

Of the 20 errors he made that season, none of them came on throws. Which is a testament to the consistency and strength of his arm. Having watching his entire career it's still somewhat odd to think that he booted 19 ground balls (his other error was on a dropped throw) as it seemed that he fielded everything that ever was hit in his direction.

No one was talking about him being worn down yet despite the fact that he was still in the midst of his consecutive innings played streak and had just moved into the top-10 in regards to consecutive games played all time. Granted, that talk would rear its later in the summer as things cooled off for him as the season went on. For now, he was one of the lone bright spots during a gloomy start for the Orioles.

2019-20 Upper Deck Allure Hockey. I think I like it...

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a box of Upper Deck Allure. It's one of two new releases from Upper Deck that have hit the shelves in the last couple of months.  I'm not going to lie....I had a really good box.

This is a quick video I made showing off the entire break. Was happy when I pulled a Jack Hughes Jersey card in the first pack. Was even happier when I saw the 1/1 midway through the break.

My full thoughts are over at Raw Charge. Let me know what you all think about this product.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Orioles Victory Card Number Ten (1987 Season Edition): I've fallen behind

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 10: 5-4 over the Minnesota Twins

2020 Topps Heritage Anthony Santander

Yeah, the Orioles finally start winning and I miss posts. I'm not going to lie, for the last week or so I've been tapped out when it comes to actually writing stuff. All my energy has been going to getting just a couple of posts up over at Raw Charge and when it comes to this series, I just haven't found the motivation to do it. 

Time surely isn't an issue as I still have more than enough to write a couple of hundred words on the Orioles. I just let myself get distracted when I sit down and log into the computer.  Who knew you could check Twitter 75 times in a two-hour stretch?

Flipping around on the Topps Bunt ap hasn't helped things either. Pulling off almost 200 trades in roughly two weeks probably isn't something I should be proud of. After a month or so of having it, it might be time to delete it off the phone just so I can get back to being slightly more productive with life.

The good news is that I've been getting outdoors more over the last two weeks as the weather has improved. Settle down, I live in Utah and there are roughly 50 people in this state. I can comfortably social distance on a nice hike or two.

I've also entered about 97% of my card collection into TCDB and I'm down to just two boxes of unsorted cards that I have to find homes for. That means trades a plenty have been conducted and I'm inching closer to actually reducing the collection a bit. That didn't stop me from buying more cards, which I'll post about tomorrow (that my friends, is called a tease).

Other than that it's just a daily challenge to find a routine without knowing when I'll be back at work. The temporary layoff runs until the end of May, but I honestly don't think I'll be back at the office until July at the earliest.  Yea!

I am looking forward to posting a little more as the 1987 Orioles are on a bit of a winning streak this week.  Hopefully I'll be caught up by this weekend. Till then....have a great day.