Saturday, March 31, 2012

2012 Topps Heritage #139 Carlos Ruiz

Blue Jays 8, Phillies 5
Spring Training Game 31 - Saturday Afternoon, March 31st in Clearwater
Record - 12-16-3

One Sentence Summary:  The Phils fell yet again as the Blue Jays rode three home runs to an 8-5 victory.

What It Means:  In his final tune-up before Opening Day, Roy Halladay threw just 45 pitches over two innings in an outing cut short by rain.  Halladay finished the spring with a 1-2 record and a 5.73 ERA.  Those stats are completely meaningless.  Bring on the regular season.

What Went Wrong:  The Jays just had more timely hitting than the Phillies.  In a bit of good news, John Mayberry, Jr. hit his first home run of the spring, breaking an 0 for 19 skid for Mayberry.  Hector Luna, who is doing everything he can to make the club, had two more hits.

Featured Card:  Spring Training stats mean nothing.  Still, it's great to see Carlos Ruiz put together a strong offensive spring.  He's now hitting .512 with 2 home runs and 9 RBIs, and 7 of his 21 hits are doubles.  With Chase Utley and Ryan Howard out of the line-up for at least the first few months of the season, the offense will need all the punch it can get and hopefully Chooch is able to continue his hot hitting once the season starts.  This is his 1963 Topps-inspired card from this year's Topps Heritage set.

Facebook:  If you're hip to the new-fangled social media scene, as the kids call it nowadays, I've set up a page on Facebook for The Phillies Room.  If you're so inclined, you can now "like" the page, Facebook-style, and get your Phillies Room updates along with the hour-by-hour status updates of your friend from high school who feels the need to use Facebook as her own personal diary.  At the rate I'm adapting to social media, I should be on Twitter by 2014.

1983 Donruss #189 Bob Dernier

Yankees 13, Phillies 9
Spring Training Game 30 - Friday Night, March 30th in Tampa
Record - 12-15-3

One Sentence Summary:  The Yankees won a slugfest in Tampa, banging out 15 hits and downing the Phils, 13-7.

What It Means:  It was a very long, and at times a very boring game.

What Went Wrong:  It was a bullpen game from the outset for Phillies, as they trotted out seven different relievers to face the Yankees in the only exhibition night game the team will play in Florida this year.  Jonathan Papelbon got knocked around by the Bombers, allowing four runs in his 2/3 innings of work.  The last three pitchers used by the Phils, Julio Rodriguez, Lisalberto Bonilla and Colton Murray, are all slated for Single-A this year.

On the bright side, Juan Pierre had four hits and Carlos Ruiz had a three-run double in the third.  The Phillies offense actually outhit the Yankees, 16-15.

Featured Card:  I started this here very blog three years ago last night.  At the time, I had no idea how much I'd enjoy this three-year journey as I've followed the Phillies and shared a large part of my Phillies baseball card collection.  As promised in my State of The Phillies Room Address in February, I'm going to keep at this thing until it's no longer fun, and I'd like to think that day is a long ways off.

The first baseball card I featured on this blog was of my favorite all-time player, Bob Dernier.  In honor of my three-year blogoversary*, here's one of Dernier's few Phillies cards I haven't yet featured on the blog.

Thanks again for reading.  I sincerely appreciate it.

*This word was my wife Jenna's contribution to this post.

Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 Topps Heritage #16 Juan Pierre

Phillies 2, Rays 1
Spring Training Game 29 - Thursday Afternoon, March 29th in Clearwater
Record - 12-14-3

One Sentence Summary:  Cole Hamels struck out seven in 5+ strong innings of work and Hector Luna's walk-off RBI-single in the ninth won it for the Phillies, 2-1.

What It Means:  Hamels looks ready for the season to start and Luna only improved his chances of making the club.

What Went Right:  Hamels pitched very well, with his only blemish being a fourth inning home run to Evan Longoria.  Juan Pierre went two for two with a stolen base.

Featured Card:  The Phillies officially purchased Pierre's contract yesterday, placing him on the team's 40-man roster and possibly signaling the end of the line (for now) for roster hopeful Scott Podsednik.  This is Pierre's only 2012 baseball card so far.  I'm hopeful that his first Phillies card is featured within the team issued postcard set, which I'll be purchasing at some point during the team's opening home series against the Marlins in a few weeks.

Camp Headcount:  35

The big news yesterday was that Pierre has made the club, but four more players were told to pack their knives and go.  Officially, catcher Erik Kratz was optioned out and utility player Tim Kennelly was reassigned yesterday, reducing the camp head count to 35.  Unofficially, catcher Tuffy Gosewisch and outfielder Lou Montanez were told they haven't made the team, but they'll continue to travel with the Phils until Opening Day.  So the unofficial headcount is 33, which can be further reduced to 29 when you consider that four players will open the season on the disabled list.  (Justin De Fratus, Ryan Howard, Michael Martinez and Chase Utley.)

It looks as if the battle for the final bench spot could come down to Pete Orr vs. Luna.  And the final bullpen spot could come down to Joe Savery, David Herndon, Michael Stutes (who might also be DL-bound) or Raul Valdes.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

2011 Chachi #71 Checklist 1-71

Twins 11, Phillies 7
Spring Training Game 28 - Wednesday Afternoon, March 28th in Fort Myers
Record - 11-14-3

One Sentence Summary:  Vance Worley was pounded by the Twins, allowing five earned runs on eleven hits, as the Twins downed the Phillies, 11-7.

What It Means:  Worley got roughed up, but at least the offense looked lively, scoring seven runs on 15 hits.

What Went Wrong:  Other than the shellacking of Worley, not much else went wrong.  In total, Worley surrendered eleven runs, but only five were earned due to a costly error from second baseman Miguel Abreu.

Hector Luna had three more hits, including a home run, to raise his spring average to .286.

Featured Card:  There wasn't anything too remarkable about yesterday's game, so it seems as good a time as any to post a checklist.  I like checklists.  Checklists are an absolute necessity to a baseball card collector, and unlike a lot of collectors, I was never too bummed whenever I pulled a checklist from a pack of cards back in the day.  "Cool," I always thought.  "Now I know what I'm looking for."  Admittedly, with checklists available on-line nowadays, pulling a checklist from a pack of 2012 Topps Heritage is a bit of a downer.

The checklist featured here marks the end of yet another Chachi set.  (You'll have to take my word for it that cards numbered 62 through 71 are on the back.  Honest.)  The 2011 Chachi cards borrowed the design of the 1983 Topps set and the set, just like the Phillies season, ended prematurely.  For a look back at the season that was, here's a gallery of all 71 cards.

A week from today, I'll debut the first cards from the 2012 Chachi set, which will use the 1979 Topps design.  As explained here, the 1979 Topps set strikes up a sense of nostalgia for me.  I  already have cards created for most of the team, although as is the case every year, some players' photos are proving to be more elusive than others.  (I'm looking at you, Chad Qualls.)

The 2012 baseball season is almost upon us, and this is an exciting time for baseball fans.  No matter what the experts say, no one knows how the season will play out.  Every team has a glimmer of hope, no matter how faint.  Just like the 2012 Chachi checklist right now, the season is a blank slate.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2012 Topps Classic Walk-Offs #CW-13 Scott Podsednik

Phillies 5, Pirates 4
Spring Training Game 27 - Tuesday Afternoon, March 27th in Clearwater
Record - 11-13-3

One Sentence Summary:  Cliff Lee threw six scoreless frames and the Phils won on a walk-off home run from Scott Podsednik.

What It Means:  We're getting even closer to meaningful baseball.

What Went Right:  Lee looked great in his penultimate start of the spring, scattering three hits and striking out three.  Jim Thome, playing at first again, had an RBI-double and he's now hitting .296.  Podsednik played the hero, hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Featured Card:  It wasn't exactly a classic walk-off yesterday, but Podsednik is doing his best to stick around once the team heads north.  He's now hitting .362 this spring with five steals and he's in direct competition with Juan Pierre for the final outfield spot.  Pierre, who has hit .289 this spring, has an out-clause in his contract that stipulates the Phillies have to release him if he's not on the Major League roster by the end of March.  Podsednik has a similar clause, but it doesn't go into effect until the end of May.  For that reason alone, Pierre may have the edge over Podsednik.

Camp Headcount:  37

With a little more than a week to go until Opening Day, the Phillies trimmed three pitchers from the roster yesterday.  Brian Sanches and Scott Elarton were both reassigned to minor league camp and lefty Jake Diekman, who left a very favorable impression this spring, was optioned out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 Topps Heritage #136 Jonathan Papelbon

Red Sox 6, Phillies 0
Spring Training Game 26 - Monday Afternoon, March 26th in Clearwater
Record - 10-13-3

One Sentence Summary:  Jon Lester and the Red Sox shut out the Phillies as Joe Blanton struggled in one of his final appearances of the spring.

What It Means:  I liked the outcome from these two team’s previous meeting much better.

What Went Wrong:  The Phils managed just three hits – a double from Freddy Galvis and singles from Pete Orr and Lou Montanez.  Nobody on the team has more than two home runs this spring, and this marks the fourth time the Phils have been shut out.  But they’ll turn it on once the season starts.  (Right?)

Lester struck out 10 in his seven innings of work.  Blanton gave up five runs on seven hits (including two home runs) in his five innings of work.

Featured Card:  This is ex-Sox and current Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon's first official Phillies baseball card.  The Topps graphic design team did a decent job Photoshopping him into Phillies uniforms for the two photos featured on the card.

I'm still trying to figure out this guy.  He made some ill-advised remarks a few weeks ago about Phillies fans knowing the game better than Red Sox fans.  Why would he say something like that?  And then he had this to say about facing off against his former team in Philly in late May:
"I don't want to hear no texts.  I don't want to get no texts.  I want to be the texts.  You know what I'm saying?"
2012 Topps Heritage #341
Actually, no.  I have no idea what you're saying.  Here's the thing about Phillies fans, though:  If you're going to be a hot dog, you need to back it up.  You can dance jigs and call out your former team's fans all you want, but you'll need to perform on the field.  Finish the year with 40 or so saves and help us reach the promised land, and you'll have won me over.

Get Well Soon:  Best of luck to former Phillies closer Ryan Madson.  He'll miss the entire 2012 season and undergo Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow.  Madson had signed a one-year contract with the Reds.  This is a tough, tough break for a guy who meant so much to the Phillies over the past five years.

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 Topps Opening Day #27 Chase Utley

Phillies 3, Orioles 3 (10 Innings)
Spring Training Game 24 - Sunday Afternoon, March 25th in Clearwater

Tigers 6, Phillies 3
Spring Training Game 25 - Sunday Afternoon, March 25th in Lakeland
Record - 10-12-3

One Sentence Summary:  The squad split again, tying in Clearwater and losing in Lakeland.

What It Means:  We're entering the final full week of exhibition play.  The games start counting a week from Thursday.

What Went Wrong:  The Phils took a 2-2 tie against the Tigers into the seventh when Tigers prospect Tyler Collins broke the game open with a three-run home run off reliever Joe Savery.

In Clearwater, Roy Halladay pitched into the seventh inning, allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out nine.  Jim Thome made his 2012 Grapefruit League debut at first base and he knocked in a pair of runs with an RBI-double.

Featured Card:  The big news yesterday was that Chase Utley would be available prior to the game to address the media regarding his chronic knee problems.  Speculation swirled that the All-Star second baseman may even be announcing his retirement.  Fortunately, the informal gathering was no more than a Q&A session with the media and there were no major announcements.  Unfortunately, Utley set no timetable for his return.  Although he feels confident that he'll play in 2012, you have to wonder if he'll be physically capable of going all-out like he did in the photo on his Topps Opening Day card.

Other Stuff:  It was cool to watch this game on TV yesterday and catch an interview with my all-time favorite Phillie, Bob Dernier.  Dernier was in town to provide a little instruction to the Phillies minor leaguers and to play golf with former teammate and current Phillies announcer, Gary Matthews.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

1998 Topps Phillies

1998 Topps #25, #123, #351 and #341
This post has proved to be one of the hardest in this series to compose so far.  Looking through the 1998 Topps set conjures up bitter memories of the summer I packed up and left home to go and work in Raleigh.  Nothing against the city of Raleigh, but I was homesick even before I made that fateful journey down I-95. I missed my family.  I missed going to Phillies games and watching the games on TV.  I missed Wawa.  I resented every single time I was referred to as the "yankee" from the North by my co-workers.  The years covered by these next few Topps Phillies posts will not be fun to revisit - both from a personal perspective and from the perspective of a suffering Phillies fan.  But as I've pointed out several times on this blog, it's living through and learning from the bad times that make the good times all the more sweeter.

1998 Topps #123 (Back)
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  Topps was creeping back up to a respectable set size with 503 cards in its 1998 set.  That's an odd number of cards for a complete set isn't it?  There were 282 cards in series one and 221 in series two.  Once again, there is no card #7 in the set in honor of Mickey Mantle.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  For the first time since 1990, Topps went with non-white borders and it works well.  Unfortunately, Topps was still on overdrive with its gold foil machine, and the player's names on the cards can be a bit tough to read at first glance.  The mini team logos behind the player's name make the card look a little busy too.  
Notable competition:  If I recall correctly, the most highly sought after baseball card set in 1998 was the Leaf Rookies and Stars set, which featured short-printed cards in the actual base set.  This is an idea that the card manufacturers would run with over the next decade.  My 1998 Phillies binder contains a ton of Pacific cards and although the cards are a bit garish, at least they were trying something new.  I referenced the necessity of tracking down the Pacific Online set in the 1998 Phillies Missing Links post a few days ago.  Overall, the baseball card manufacturers seemed baffled by what their consumers wanted.  We had cards issued inside a can (the appropriately named Pinnacle Inside), cards with coins inserted into them (Pinnacle Mint), numbered cards in base sets (SPx) and more bells, whistles, foil, and confusing set configurations than ever before.

1998 Topps #94, #412, #219 and #156
1998 Phillies
Record and finish:  The good news is that the Phils climbed out of the cellar, finishing in third place behind the Braves.  The bad news is that they finished 31 games out of first, with a record of 75-87.
Key players:  Third baseman Scott Rolen once again led the offense, hitting .290 with 31 home runs and 110 RBIs.  Rolen also won his first Gold Glove.  He was supported by first baseman Rico Brogna (.265, 20 home runs, 104 RBIs) and new right fielder Bobby Abreu (.312, 17 home runs, 74 RBIs).  Left fielder Gregg Jefferies (.294) also played well before his trade to the Angels in August.  With his 300th strikeout in his final start of the season, Curt Schilling (15-14, 3.25 ERA) became just the fifth pitcher in history with back-to-back 300-strikeout seasons.  Mark Portugal came back from arm injuries to record 10 wins.  The bullpen was anchored by a trio of work horses - Mark Leiter (23 saves in 69 games), Wayne Gomes (71 games) and Jerry Spradlin (69 games).
Key events:  Ed Wade took over the General Manager duties following the 1997 season, and his first order of business was to swap Mickey Morandini to the Cubs for new center fielder Doug Glanville and to send Kevin Stocker to the Devil Rays for Abreu.  (The Devil Rays had selected Abreu in the expansion draft from the Astros.)  Both deals paid off for the team.  Picking first in the annual amateur players' draft in June, the Phillies selected third baseman Pat Burrell from the University of Miami.

1998 Phillies in 1998 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are only 12 Phillies cards in the 1998 Topps set, which represents the lowest total since there were only 10 Phillies cards in the 206-card 1955 Topps Phillies set.  Given the team's poor performance and the lack of any star power outside of Rolen and Schilling, I'm willing to forgive Topps for the low tally.
Who’s in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 5 cards
#94 Mike Lieberthal (c), #123 Rico Brogna (1b), #25 Scott Rolen (3b), #341 Gregg Jefferies (lf), #351 Bobby Abreu (rf)

Center fielder Glanville and new second baseman Mark Lewis appear with their former teams in the set. Rookie shortstop Desi Relaford was left out of the set, but he did earn a card within the 1998 Bowman set (along with a bunch of other 1998 cards from the other card manufacturers.)
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 1 card
#332 Curt Schilling

For the second year in a row, Schilling is the sole representative of the pitching rotation.  Tyler Green, Portugal, Carlton Loewer and Matt Beech were all left out.

1998 Topps #332, #60, #163 and #192
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 1998 - 3 cards
#60 Mark Leiter, #163 Ricky Bottalico, #192 Garrett Stephenson
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1998 - 2 cards (with new teams listed)
#156 Kevin Stocker (Devil Rays), #219 Mickey Morandini (Cubs)
  • Phillies appearing on '97 Season Highlights cards - 1 card, #476 Curt Schilling
1998 Topps #37
Who’s out:  As already mentioned, Relaford and 4/5 of the pitching rotation were left out.  
Phillies on other teams:  Newcomers Glanville (#37 with the Cubs), and Lewis (#412 with the Giants) appear with their former teams.
What’s he doing here:  Given the low number of Phillies cards in the team set, there aren't any strange inclusions.
Cards that never were candidates:  I'll limit this to ten cards, although I could list twice that many - Lewis, Relaford, Glanville, Portugal, Green, Loewer, Beech, Gomes and utility guys Kevin Jordan and Kevin Sefcik.
Favorite Phillies card:  I'll pick Lieberthal's card by default, which shows him making contact at the Vet and features a nice shot of the Jackie Robinson commemorative patch that all teams wore during the 1997 season.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  Topps would reuse this design, but with a silver border, for its 1998 Topps Chrome set and its inaugural Topps Opening Day set.  There was also a 1998 Topps Superchrome set, which features an over-sized Rolen card.
Blogs/Websites:  There aren't many bloggers waxing nostalgic about the 1998 Topps set that I could find, so here's a self-serving link to a past post on one of my favorite baseball cards from 1998 - the 1998 Topps Stars Reprint of Mike Schmidt's rookie card.
Did You Know?:  As of this writing, I have 517 different Phillies baseball cards in my collection from 1998.  212 (roughly 41%) of these cards feature Scott Rolen while another 97 (roughly 19%) feature Curt Schilling.  The next most featured player is catcher Bobby Estalella with 42 (roughly 8%) different cards.  So perhaps the reason I spend so little time enjoying my 1998 Phillies binder is because almost three-quarters of the cards belong to Rolen, Schilling and Estalella - three players who aren't going to win any Phillies popularity contests any time soon.

1998 Topps #476, 1998 Topps Chrome #25, 1998 Topps Opening Day #18 and #159

Saturday, March 24, 2012

2012 Topps Opening Day #196 Cole Hamels

Phillies 10, Red Sox 5
Spring Training Game 23 - Saturday Afternoon, March 24th in Fort Myers
Record - 10-11-2

One Sentence Summary:  The offense came alive against a split squad Red Sox team, downing the Sox by a score of 10-5.

What It Means:  The Phils scored a spring-high 10 runs while banging out 13 hits against a bunch of pitchers who most likely won't be on the Postseason roster come October when the Phils and Sox face off in the '12 World Series.  (You read that right.)

What Went Right:  Shane Victorino reached three times and scored three runs.  Pete Orr, Freddy Galvis and Carlos Ruiz each had home runs.  Juan Pierre and Laynce Nix enjoyed multi-hit games.  The offense looked alive today - a rare occurrence so far this spring.

Cole Hamels allowed two runs and four hits in his four innings of work.  Jake Diekman extended his spring scoreless streak to five innings in five appearances.

Featured Card:  Hamels will start the season as the fourth pitcher in the team's rotation in order to allow him to start the team's home opener.  It's a nice little gesture by Charlie Manuel to the 2008 World Series MVP as Hamels begins what could possibly (but hopefully not) be his final year with the Phillies. This is his Opening Day card, which is identical to his card in Series 1, less the distracting foil.

2011 Topps Heritage Chrome #C54 Vance Worley

Yankees 5, Phillies 3
Spring Training Game 22 - Friday Afternoon, March 23rd in Clearwater
Record - 9-11-2

One Sentence Summary:  The Yankees jumped on Vance Worley for three quick runs in the first and they held on to win, 5-3.

What It Means:  Worley got roughed up early, but he settled in to pitch a decent ballgame.  He struck out seven in his six innings of work.

What Went Wrong:  The Phillies managed only three late runs against the Yankees.  They're hitting .278 as a team so far this spring, which isn't that bad.   Problem is, they're having trouble scoring runs.

Erik Kratz hit another bomb of a home run in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out two.

Featured Card:  I received a nice package in the mail yesterday from the heart of Red Sox Nation, located in Section 36.  The package featured an assortment of Phillies cards from 2011 and 2012 that Ron (the section's proprietor) had been setting aside for me.  Ron was kind enough to finish off my 2012 Topps Series 1 team set and he sent a bunch of parallels that I'll gladly add to my collection, including this shiny Worley card from last year.  I have a small stack of 2012 Red Sox cards already set aside to send to Ron shortly.

It's nice to receive a random package of Phillies baseball cards in the mail, and it's nice to know that the Red Sox cards I pull from packs are going to a good home.  If there are any other team collectors out there who would like to set up an arrangement similar to what I've got going on with Section 36, let me know.

It's simple really - I'll set aside cards I pull from packs from the team you collect, and you set aside Phillies cards for me.  A few times a year, we send packages to each other containing the cards we've gathered.  If done right, like how Ron and I do it, everyone wins.

2011 Multi-Ad
Reading Phillies #16
Camp Headcount:  40

Outfielder Domonic Brown was optioned out yesterday.  Brown was a long-shot to make the team's opening day roster, and this way he can gain more experience in left field while earning regular at-bats as an IronPig.  The Phils also made the unusual move of adding a player to their list of non-roster invitees when all-around utility guy Tim Kennelly was moved from the minor league camp over to the major league camp.  With the announcement that Michael Martinez will miss 6 to 8 weeks with a broken foot, the team will give Kennelly an audition over the last few weeks of exhibition play.  Kennelly has played regularly at first, third and catcher in the minors.

The camp headcount of 40 is more realistically 36, as the following players will begin the season on the disabled list - Ryan Howard (Achilles), Chase Utley (knees), Martinez (foot) and Justin De Fratus (elbow).

Friday, March 23, 2012

2012 Topps Opening Day #183 Cliff Lee

Blue Jays 2, Phillies 0
Spring Training Game 21 - Thursday Afternoon, March 22nd in Dunedin
Record - 9-10-2

One Sentence Summary:  The Phils managed only four hits en route to being shut out by the Blue Jays, 2-0.

What It Means:  With the exception of a few hard hit balls from Jose Bautista, Cliff Lee looked pretty good.  Lee allowed one run on five hits while striking out seven in his six innings of work.

What Went Wrong:  My fear's of a lackluster offense are being realized, albeit in non-meaningful Spring Training games.  The bats were quiet against Brandon Morrow and three Blue Jays relievers.  Carlos Ruiz had a few hits in the loss, but the offense looked sluggish throughout the ballgame.

Other than Lee's fine performance, the only other good news from yesterday was that Ryan Howard appeared without his walking boot for the first time all spring.  Howard is coming back from a nasty ruptured Achilles injury suffered in his final at-bat of the 2011 season.

Featured Card:  This is my favorite card from the 2012 Topps Opening Day Phillies team set.  The photo is perfect for a horizontal lay-out, and there's a good chance this is exactly what Lee's card will look like in Topps Series 2.

Phungo 5:  I'm honored to be the subject of the debut 2012 edition of Phungo 5.  Check it out here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

1998 Phillies - The Missing Links

1998 Pacific Online #569, 1998 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons 10th Anniversary (#15),
1995 Topps #254 and 1998 Q Cards Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons #9
This post adds two more unfortunate souls to the list of players who appeared with the Phillies during the mostly lost decade of the '90s, yet never appeared on cardboard with the team.

40 players suited up with the Phillies during the 1998 season.  Without checking Baseball Reference, I would have pegged that number a little higher, but 40 it is.

3 Cards or More
35 Players

Relievers Jerry Spradlin, Yorkis Perez and Billy Brewer all made the cut with exactly three Phillies cards.  Each of those guys were featured in a few Phillies Team Issue sets and the 1998 Pacific Online set.  When I was trying to create my Phillies Wall back in the late-90s, the 1998 Pacific Online set was a necessity.  Weighing in with 780 different cards, the set featured middle inning relievers and back-up catchers during an era when the other card manufacturers were ignoring those guys.  It's not a pretty set, but it definitely served its purpose.

2 Cards
Darrin Winston (7 games in 1997 and 27 games in 1998) - 1998 Pacific Online #576 and 1998 Phillies Team Issue #58

Winston already made the list in 1997.

1999 Sports Illustrated #61
1 Card
Mike Welch (10 games in 1998) - 1999 Sports Illustrated #61
Jon Zuber (30 games in 1996 and 38 games in 1998) - 1998 Phillies Team Issue (Special Edition)*

Welch had to share his sole Phillies card with Marlon Anderson and Gary Bennett.  Welch, a right-handed reliever was acquired from the Mets in December 1997 for minor leaguer Hector Mercado.

*See the comment after this post from reader Steve F. for more information.

0 Cards
Matt Whiteside (10 games in 1998)
Robert Dodd (4 games in 1998)

Pitchers Whiteside and Dodd join the infamous list.  Whiteside had been a mainstay in the Rangers bullpen for the better part of the '90s before the team unceremoniously released him in Spring Training 1998.  The Phils signed him a few days later.  He spent the bulk of the '98 season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, although he does not appear in the Red Barons team set; most likely because he actually opened the season on the Phillies active roster.  So Whiteside is the classic case of a player caught in the middle - he was acquired too late to be included within the team issued postcard set, and he was still with the Phillies when the Red Barons were compiling the checklist for their team set.

Dodd does appear in the Red Barons set, and he took Whiteside's spot in the bullpen when the team designated Whiteside for assignment in late May.  Dodd appeared in four games with the Phillies in late May/early June, winning a game, but allowing four earned runs in five innings (7.20 ERA).

Past Missing Link Posts

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2012 Topps Opening Day Opening Day Stars #ODS-10 Roy Halladay

Phillies 4, Orioles 1
Spring Training Game 20 - Tuesday Afternoon, March 20th in Sarasota
Record - 9-9-2

One Sentence Summary:  Roy Halladay enjoyed his best outing of the spring as the Phillies defeated the Orioles, 4-1.

What It Means:  See?  I wasn't worried about Halladay at all.  Not even a little bit.  (Maybe just a little.)

What Went Right:  Halladay allowed just one run and struck out five in his six innings of work, earning his first win of the spring.  Freddy Galvis added his second RBI-triple in as many days.  Ty Wigginton and Pete Orr, who both might be joining Galvis in the Phillies starting infield, had RBI hits and Erik Kratz hit a ninth inning home run.

Featured Card:  Halladay's start was bumped back a day presumably in order for him to be lined up to start opening day on April 5th against the Pirates on regular rest.  This is Halladay's 3-Dish card from the recently released and redundantly named Opening Day Stars insert set.

Camp Headcount:  40

Five more players were voted off the island on Tuesday.  Pitchers Phillippe Aumont and Michael Schwimer were optioned out while pitchers David Purcey and Jeremy Horst and infielder Kevin Frandsen were all reassigned.

However, Frandsen may be back sooner rather than later.  The Phillies lost another infielder yesterday when Michael Martinez was hit by a pitch in his right foot in the seventh inning.  Martinez broke a bone in his foot and it's expected that he'll open the season on the disabled list.  The infield is starting to look scary.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2007 Choice Williamsport Crosscutters #8 Freddy Galvis

Phillies 4, Tigers 3
Spring Training Game 19 - Monday Afternoon, March 19th in Clearwater
Record - 8-9-2

One Sentence Summary:  On the day he was named the team's probable opening day second baseman, Freddy Galvis paced the offense with a two-run triple, leading the Phils over the Tigers, 4-3.

What It Means:  This was a nice little come from behind win for the Phils.  They needed the pick-me-up given the bad news on Chase Utley's knees (see below), and Galvis delivered on queue.

What Went Right:  After starter Scott Elarton was roughed up in his start, allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings, the leftys in the bullpen shut down the Tigers over the next six innings.  Particularly impressive were the performances of Raul Valdes (two strikeouts, while lowering his ERA to 1.35) and Jake Diekman.  Diekman, who has an outside shot of making the team, has yet to allow a run over four appearances.

2012 Chachi Almost #2
Featured Cards:  The news was grim out of Clearwater yesterday as it was announced that Utley had left camp to meet with a knee specialist.  Utley has yet to see any time on the field, in game action or otherwise, so far this year.  GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. admitted that it's "doubtful" Utley will be ready by opening day.  This means that Galvis, an infield prospect who has never played professionally at second base, is most likely the team's opening day second baseman unless Amaro can swing a deal between now and then.  This is the oldest Galvis card in my collection, featuring the Venezuelan infielder as an 18-year-old in his first year of professional baseball.

My biggest fear with Utley?  What if he can't come back at all?  What if his damaged knees have had enough and he can never return to the All-Star form he displayed from 2005 through 2010?  And what if I have to include Utley in the 2012 Chachi Almost insert set as a result of him missing the entire season?

The Chachi Almost set added its second member yesterday when the team announced the release of pitcher Joel Pineiro.  Pineiro made it into three games this spring, allowing seven hits and three earned runs in six innings pitched.  He didn't pitch poorly, but with little chance of making the Opening Day roster, the team released him to allow him time to try to catch on elsewhere.

Camp Headcount:  45

Monday, March 19, 2012

2012 Topps Heritage Phillies vs. 1963 Topps Phillies

1963 Topps #455 and 2012 Topps Heritage #455
Blue Jays 10, Phillies 2
Spring Training Game 18 - Sunday Afternoon, March 18th in Dunedin
Record - 7-9-2

One Sentence Summary:  Cole Hamels struggled in his latest spring start as the Phils fell to the Jays, 10-2.

What It Means:  I listened to most of this game on the radio, and the announcers were quick to point out that although Hamels surrendered eight hits in 3 1/3 innings, none of the hits were necessary a result of hard-hit balls.  So I'm going with a glass half full approach on this one.

What Went Wrong:  On the other hand, Jose Contreras was lit up in his spring debut, allowing four runs in 1/3 of an inning pitched.  The offense managed runs in the first and ninth and they were generally quiet throughout the bulk of the ballgame.

The red-hot Lou Montanez added three more hits to his spring tally, raising his average to .448.

Featured Cards:  Once again, the cards featured here have absolutely nothing to do with yesterday's game.  I'm still digesting my first packs of 2012 Topps Heritage, and I've enjoyed comparing and contrasting the set to the original - the 1963 Topps set.

1963 Topps #341
So how did Topps do with matching up the 2012 Phillies with their counterparts on the original 1963 cards?  Based on my very scientific analysis - they did good.  As the chart below shows, the folks at Topps did a nice job of matching up the modern Phillies with their counterparts from yesteryear, with the exception of only a few cards.  It may be a stretch to say that Vance Worley matches up with Jim Brosnan, but I'm throwing the card into the "Hit" column.  I also considered the guys who switched teams during the offseason as "Hits," such as Jonathan Papelbon, Jim Thome and Ryan Madson.  Their 1963 counterparts are guys from their former teams.

The Jack Baldschun card featured here has a white slash running across the black and white mini-picture, which I believe could have been caused by a printing mishap.  Back in 1963, Topps attempted to correct the error by releasing a Baldschun card with black dots filling in the white slash and the "slash repair" variation was born.  With its 2012 Topps Heritage release, Madson's card pays homage to this variation by being available in three versions - the regular no slash version, the super short print white slash variation and the crazy super short print red slash variation.  For the record, had Madson stayed with the Phillies, I would have felt zero desire to pursue these variation cards for my Phillies collection.  I would have obtained the "normal" Madson card and stopped there.

Given the fact that the Diamondbacks, Mariners, Marlins and Blue Jays (along with a few other teams) didn't exist in 1963, it's only natural that players on these teams would have to replace players on the teams that did exist back in 1963.  And as far as I can tell, Topps stayed true to each card's color combination no matter which team was featured.  So nice job with this, Topps.  Even though the short-prints will keep me away from collecting the set, I can appreciate that at least some thought went into creating the set.

Well, except for this nonsense.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

1997 Topps Phillies

1997 Topps #268, #56, #64 and #302
I graduated from college in 1997 and spent my last, true career-free summer working at a t-shirt store on the Promenade in Sea Isle City.  I made just enough money to pay for food, sunscreen and a few books, but not enough money to buy many baseball cards.  The 1997 season for the Phillies was another disappointment, but I was thrilled to be able to watch or listen to the games again on a nightly basis after being away from home for the past few summers.

1997 Topps #368 (Back)
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  We got 55 more cards than the prior year in the 1997 Topps set, as the complete set included 495 cards - 275 from the first series and 220 in a second series.  (Note this was the first year Topps "retired" card #7 for Mickey Mantle, so while the set is numbered to 496, there are only 495 cards.)  For the second year in a row, there was no traded set.  I would imagine baseball card sales were still down as a result of the 1994 strike, and it would take a steroid-fueled home run barrage in 1998 to start to bring the collectors back.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  I first mentioned the concept of adding color to borders a few posts back when I was discussing the design of the 2012 Topps cards, and this concept holds true for the 1997 Topps set.  Like the 1996 set, the design is very simplistic - name in block letters across the bottom and a team logo.  How much better would the cards look had Topps color coded the cards based on team colors?  Topps assigned green to all National League base cards and red to all American League base cards and they stopped there.  (Why not blue for all National League base cards?  I think that simple change would have vastly improved the design as well.  Everyone knows that the color blue is associated with the National League.  Right Night Owl?)
Notable competition:  Flipping through my 1997 Phillies binder, I definitely get the sense that the card manufacturers were grasping for any way to possibly connect with their consumers.  There's a lot of foil and gloss and some on-card autographs, but there's no set from 1997 that really distances itself from the herd.  Honestly, my favorite cards from that year were the reprints of older cards which were inserted into packs of Topps Stars.  Topps must have realized that collectors were yearning for more "classic" cards - be they reprints or otherwise - as they would soon start experimenting with various releases featuring vintage designs and themes.  The first Topps Heritage set was only four years away at this point.

1997 Topps #384, #289 and #229
1997 Phillies
Record and finish:  New manager Terry Francona guided his team to one more win than the previous year, as the Phils finished with a 68-94 record and in last place (again).
Key players:  This was the first year of the Scott Rolen Era, as the eventual National League Rookie of the Year hit .283 with 21 home runs and 92 RBIs.  Mike Lieberthal became the team's every day backstop and while his average was low (.246) he managed 20 home runs and 77 RBIs.  New first baseman Rico Brogna also had a decent year (.252, 20 home runs, 81 RBIs) as did Mickey Morandini (.295).  Brogna also provided stellar defense at first.  Curt Schilling re-established himself as a premier pitcher, going 17-11 with 319 strikeouts (a new club record) and a 2.97 ERA.  He'd finish fourth in the National League Cy Young voting.  Other than Schilling's fine performance, the pitching was a complete debacle.  Only Ricky Bottalico's 34 saves merits mention, although he blew 7 saves. And if I recall correctly, a few of those blown saves were recorded in spectacular self-imploding fashion.
Key events:  The Phils drafted J.D. Drew in June, but they were unable to come to terms with the Scott Boras client and Drew eventually signed with the Cardinals.  (Booo!)  Darren Daulton was the team's regular right fielder until a July trade sent him to Florida for Billy McMillon.  Daulton would earn a World Series ring wearing the teal and black of the Marlins.  Interleague play began and the Phillies swept a thrilling three-game series against the Yankees at the Vet in early September.  And sadly, long-time Phillies player and announcer Richie Ashburn passed away on September 9th.

1997 Phillies in 1997 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 18 Phillies cards needed for a complete 1997 Topps team set.  That matches the low tally from 1996, meaning that the 1996 and 1997 Topps sets have the least amount of Phillies cards since 1955.
Who’s in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 5 cards
#56 Mike Lieberthal (c), #64 Mickey Morandini (2b), #384 Kevin Stocker (ss), #268 Scott Rolen (3b), #229 Gregg Jefferies (lf)

Regular first baseman Brogna is featured in the set with the Mets.  Center fielder Midre Cummings and right fielder Daulton were omitted from the set completely.  What a quick descent for Dutch.  Daulton was a baseball card force in 1994, and just four short years later he finds himself completely left out of the Topps set.
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 1 card
#368 Curt Schilling

This is probably an all-time low as well.  The Phillies used 15 different starting pitchers in 1997.  Schilling is the only one of the top five on that list to merit a card.  Mark Leiter, Matt Beech, Garrett Stephenson and Tyler Green were all left out, although Leiter does appear on a card with the Expos.  Have I mentioned lately how much I truly appreciate the current Phillies starting pitching rotation?

1997 Topps #368, #327, #14 and #242
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 1997 - 5 cards
#14 Ricky Bottalico, #106 Ricky Otero, #144 Ken Ryan, #242 Mike Grace, #302 Wendell Magee, Jr. 
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1997 - 4 cards (with new teams listed)
#82 Benito Santiago (Blue Jays), #161 Jim Eisenreich (Marlins), #299 Sid Fernandez (Astros), #413 Lenny Dykstra (injured)

This would be Dykstra's last Topps baseball card as an active player.  Following his wonderful 1993 season, the Phils extended Dykstra's contract, paying him $24.4 million for the 1995 through 1998 seasons.  (The team held a club option for 1999.)  The oft-injured Dude played in 84 games in 1994, 62 games in 1995, 40 games in 1996, and then he was done.  Unfortunately, it's been downhill ever since for Dykstra.
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player Prospects cards - 2 cards
#205 Bobby Estallela, #492 Ron Blazier

Both actually appeared with the Phillies during the 1997 season, so I have no problem with their selection for these cards.
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player Draft Picks cards - 1 card
#479 Adam Eaton

Spoiler alert - This is going to be my pick for the "What's he doing here" segment of this post.  

1997 Topps #106, #492 and #413
Who’s out:  The entire bench, save Otero and Magee got left out.  Outfielder Ruben Amaro, Jr. appeared in 117 games.  Infielders Kevin Jordan (84 games) and Kevin Sefcik (61 games) saw significant playing time, as did outfielders Derrick May (83 games) and Tony Barron (57 games).  I mentioned above how four-fifths of the pitching rotation didn't receive Phillies cards, but the bullpen wasn't well represented either.  Jerry Spradlin (76 games), Reggie Harris (50 games) and Wayne Gomes (37 games) went without Topps cards.
1997 Topps #78
Phillies on other teams:  There are six members of the 1997 squad featured in the Topps sets on their former teams - #33 Mark Portugal (Reds), #78 Danny Tartabull (White Sox), #206 Billy McMillon (Marlins, on a multi-player Prospects card), #254 Rex Hudler (Angels), #289 Rico Brogna (Mets) and #327 Mark Leiter (Expos)
What’s he doing here:  Adam Eaton.  I feel this needs no explanation.
Cards that never were candidates:  There were no manager cards in the set, but I'd come up with something for Francona's first year.  I came up with nine players from 1996 who should have cards, so I'll do the same for 1997 - Brogna, Cummings, Daulton, Leiter, Beech, Stephenson, Spradlin, Amaro and Jordan.
Favorite Phillies card:  It's Rolen's card.  Philly fans were absolutely in love with Rolen and his style of play back in 1997.  A few short years later, we learned that Rolen was actually a fairly grumpy guy who would rather play elsewhere.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  As far as I know, Topps hasn't re-used its 1997 design for any recent releases.
Blogs/Websites:  A little over a year ago, Capewood ran a nice post featuring a few of his favorite cards from the set on his Capewood's Collections blog.
Did You Know?:  Perhaps as a cost cutting measure, the Phillies released their 1997 Yearbook as an insert within its Phillies Magazine publication.  This really bothered me back in 1997 and it still bothers me today.  I have a nice collection of Phillies Yearbooks dating back to 1969, and the 1997 "Yearbook" throws off the whole feng shui of the collection.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

1981 Fleer #7 Tug McGraw

Phillies 4, Blue Jays 3 (10)
Spring Training Game 17 - Saturday Afternoon, March 17th in Clearwater
Record - 7-8-2

One Sentence Summary:  Hector Luna drove in two of the team's four runs, including the game-winner in the tenth.

What It Means:  In honor of St. Patrick's day (and indirectly Tug McGraw), the Phillies won in their green jerseys.

What Went Right:  Vance Worley pitched four shutout innings, lowering his spring ERA to 1.80.  Former Phillie Brian Bocock hit a home run in the ninth off Michael Stutes to give the Blue Jays the temporary lead, but Freddy Galvis countered with a solo home run in the bottom of the inning to send the game to extras.

Jimmy Rollins started the game with a lead-off homer.

Featured Card:  If I had any more of Luna's cards, other than the one I've already featured, he'd be featured in this post.  Instead, since I'm all Luna'd out, I'll pay tribute to the man who first started the whole green jersey tradition back in the early 1980s.  Paul Hagen wrote about it last year, and more recently Tug's original green jersey was referenced in a tribute post over at Dick Allen Hall of Fame.  I can't help but smile whenever I see a Tug McGraw baseball card.

St. Patrick's Day Posts from the Past:
2010 - Mike Schmidt and the entire 1986 team go green.
2011 - Chase Utley models the green jerseys worn during Spring Training 2006.

Halladay Goes Green (AP)

2012 Chachi Almost #1 Dontrelle Willis

Pirates 3, Phillies 2
Spring Training Game 16 - Friday Afternoon, March 16th in Bradenton
Record - 6-8-2

One Sentence Summary:  Cliff Lee surrendered two home runs and the Phillies bats were quiet (again) as the Bucs downed the Phils, 3-2.

What It Means:  We've reached that point in the spring where I start to worry a little.  Happens every year.

What Went Wrong:  The Phillies offense, still without Ryan Howard (for a while yet) and Chase Utley (for who knows how much longer) managed just two hits through the first six innings.

Lee got hit around a little (5 hits, 3 runs in 4 2/3 innings), but Kyle Kendrick pitched 3 1/3 innings of no-run, no-hit ball while striking out five.

Featured Card:  The Phillies released left-handed reliever Dontrelle Willis yesterday.  I didn't see it coming, but in retrospect it's not really shocking.  Willis appeared in three spring games with the Phillies, allowing 9 of the 16 batters he faced to reach base.  His ERA after only 2 2/3 innings was 16.87, and he missed a week of action with arm fatigue.

2012 Topps #89
This leaves me with a collecting dilemma.  One of my collecting quirks is that I collect cards of Phillies players for the years they play with the Phillies, whether or not they actually appear as Phillies on their cards.  (Got that?)  In Willis' case, his 2012 Topps card, featuring him with the Reds, was already reserved a space in my 2012 Phillies binder.  So what should I do?  My collecting logic dictates that this card should not appear within the binder, since Willis will not be a member of the 2012 Phillies.  But I've never actually  pulled a card from its spot before.  I shall have to ponder this further.

In any event, Willis becomes the first card in the returning Chachi Almost insert set, which pays tribute to those players who got close to becoming official Phillies during the year, but they didn't quite get there.

Camp Headcount:  46

Lost in the news of Willis' release was the announcement that catcher Steven Lerud was reassigned to minor league camp.  Also, watching highlights of Thursday's game, I realized that Freddy Galvis has switched his uniform number from #71 to the more big-leagueish #13.