1992 Topps 91 Debut
Tony Scruggs was part of the Rangers’ late 80s/early 90s minor league outfield trifecta – playing in the same outfield as Sammy Sosa and Juan Gonzalez. Scruggs was seen as the speedster with a good glove, who might eventually develop into a 20/20 type guy. Tony’s early minor league numbers were very encouraging: .337 with a .512 SLG at two levels in 1987. Unfortunately, his numbers would plummet as he climbed the ladder; .282 with a .429 SLG in 1988, and .245 with a .342 in 1989. While Sosa and Gonzalez were being heralded, Scruggs was slowly falling out of favor. He only played five games in the majors, in 1991, and ended up with a -100 OPS. Wow. Poor guy. He stuck around in the minors until 1993, but soon was gone. He was an actor for a bit, but no idea what he’s up to these days.
The card itself is pretty ugly, though. Typical spring training shot, covered in sweat, looking all hopeful. Sad, really.
1984 Topps Traded
Wow, I had no idea Jose Rijo was 16 when he began his professional career. Utter madness. He actually pitched pretty well as a 16-year old in the GCL in 1981, going 3-3 with a 4.50 ERA. Not stellar, but he was basically a kid. He really hit his stride as an 18-year old, going 18-7 with a 1.88 ERA across A and AA. I guess with how the Yankees were doing in the early 80s I’m not surprised he got the call in 1984, though he didn’t exactly set the world on fire, settling for an 80 ERA+. I guess he was seen as the Yankees’ answer to Doc Gooden that year? Either way, we know which one had the greater skills, though Rijo was a pretty good pitcher. As a matter of fact, I have to admit he was one of my favorite pitchers of the early 90s.
Unfortunately, he ruined that reputation with the Esmailyn Gonzalez scandal and the skimming scandal. From Wikipedia:
Rijo used to work as a special assistant to general manager Jim Bowden of the Washington Nationals baseball team. Starting in February 2009, he took a leave of absence from his position after it was discovered that one of Rijo’s scouting finds, Dominican shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez was actually named Carlos David Alvarez Lugo and was four years older than the Nationals believed when they signed him. On February 25, Rijo was dismissed from the Nationals’ organization and his Dominican baseball academy closed down.
As for the card itself, what can you say? 1984 Topps is not one of my favorite designs, but I do like the picture. And man does Rijo look young and thin!
Man oh man, there was a time when a card like this would draw high acclaim from my friends. I picked it up a few years ago for a couple of dollars, which was a steal, as far as I was concerned. Can you really put a price on making your inner child happy every now and then?
If you don’t know Gregg’s story, he was a friggin amazing closer for the Orioles. I got to see him pitch in his rookie season in Baltimore, closing out an amazing game against the Blue Jays (my first major league game). He had a hell of a curveball, and though closers are generally overrated, I was always excited to see him come out of the pen. Unfortunately, his knee-bending curveball, as it often does, led to a torn elbow ligament, and he was never quite the same after that (a la Kerry Wood). He had a decent comeback year in 1998 with the Diamondbacks, then finished up his career with the Dodgers as a setup guy. Sad ending for a promising career.
1991 Stadium Club
I always felt like Chris was vastly underrated, both as a prospect and a major league player. He was a super catching prospect back in 1990, and from 1992 onward, he had an above-100 OPS+, and yet only lasted until 1998, which baffles the hell out of me. I was so excited for him to finally make the majors and show the Orioles what he could do, as I was a big O’s fan at the time. When he made the leap I followed his exploits closely, figuring that he would become another Orioles superstar in the mold of Cal Ripken and, like I said, he was a hell of performer for a catcher, but never got the acclaim I think he deserved, but hey, he did get into the Orioles Hall of Fame, so there’s something.
Wikipedia has a good entry about his grand slams:
On August 14, 1998, at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Hoiles became the 9th player ever to hit two grand slams in one game.
On May 17, 1996, Hoiles joined the list of 23 major league players who have hit an ultimate grand slam when he hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth with the Baltimore Orioles down by three runs against the Seattle Mariners. But besides being simply an “ultimate” grand slam, Hoiles’ homer may be considered the “ultimest” grand slam of all time, as he hit his home run on a full 3-2 count with 2 outs, the only time in major league history this has ever been recorded.
1984 Topps Traded
Hahaha, check out that portrait photo. Is that the fakest smile you’ve ever seen or what? Still, this was one of my more sought-after cards later in my collecting “career”. I know Langston wasn’t overwhelming, but he was a pretty good pitcher who I think escaped mainstream attention until he jumped to the California Angels in 1990. Unfortunately, the back half of his career took care of him being much above league average, but I still think he was an asset to his teams.
When this card came out, he was coming off of a 1983 minor league season in which he went 14-9 with a 3.59 ERA and a…1.460 WHIP? Yikes. His strikeout numbers for that campaign aren’t available, but he K’ed 161 in 177 innings in 1982. So he wasn’t overwhelming in the minors. I’m curious as to what situation in Seattle necessitated his addition to the rotation in 1984, but he went 17-10 with a 3.40 ERA that year, good for a 118 ERA+. Not bad work for a rookie.
1984 Topps Traded
I thought this would be fun…here’s a failed prospect from the early 80s with whom I’m completely unfamiliar. Garbey started his minor league career relatively late, at age 23 in 1980. I kind of wonder what the story is there, but he had a relatively empty .364 BA that year, which is not the greatest sign for a 23-yaer old in A-Ball. He was moved to AA and AAA in 81, and did okay but not great in AA, while stumbling miserably in AAA. He spent a year in AA in 82 and seemed to figure out AA, which you would expect from a 25-year old. His OBP was a paltry .336, but he smacked 17 home runs, which probably caught Detroit’s attention with the different standards of the day. He spent 83 in AAA, hitting .321 with 14 homers. Again, by those day’s standards, he looked like a pretty good prospect, even if he was a bit old.
So he made his ML Debut in 1984, where he hit .287 with 5 home runs. Not too bad for a rookie, right? Well, not so fast. He had a lightweight .716 OPS and 98 OPS+. that presaged his 1985 campagin, where the wheels came off. He managed to improve to 6 home runs, but OPSed only .685. He wouldn’t return to the majors until a 30-game trial with the Rangers in 1988, and then he was gone forever.
The lesson? You need to take a closer look at a minor leaguer’s peripherals before awarding them a starting job (or investing them in). Had he been a rookie in 1990, I would have shied away from him for his age, but there were other, stronger indicators of where he would end up.
1991 Topps Traded
Oh, the ballad of Darren Dreifort. It’s one I’m sure Dodgers fans would rather forget. Darren was one of those rare players who jumped straight to the majors, and looked pretty awful doing it at first. He sucked in 1994, then got injured and missed a lot of time before coming back as the Dodgers setup man. I was only vaguely aware of this at the time, as I was pretty much out of being a baseball fan at that point. I remember Dreifort as a highly-regarded college prospect, but “THE CONTRACT” is what I, and I imagine most baseball fans, remember him for. From Wikipedia
A free agent after the 2000 season, Dreifort re-signed with the team, and received a five-year, $55 million contract in 2001, a large contract in spite of the fact that he had had a career record of 39-45, and a history of arm trouble. But, in 2001, with a limited free-agent pitching market, Dreifort’s agent Scott Boras sold the Dodgers on the right-hander’s future potential, hinting he might sign with a National League West rival. The Dodgers responded with the big contract.
Dreifort went on to get injured:
Dreifort’s health shut him down during the very first season of the deal; he was finished in early July when he was forced to undergo elbow reconstruction surgery that kept him out until the end of 2002. With continuing arm and shoulder trouble, plus additional knee and hip trouble, Dreifort actually pitched in only three of the five years on the deal, also missing the entire 2005 season and parts of two other seasons during the life of the deal.
What a life, huh?
Following up on manager day, here’s Don Wakamatsu. Unlike Eric Wedge, Don was never really seen as a prospect. He always something of an organizational filler kind of guy – never impressive with the bat, marginally impressive with the glove. I hadn’t even heard of him before he made his ML debut in 91, and if you look back at his stats, you can see why. But I am glad the guy got a cup of coffee – it probably made his path to ML manager much easier.
He looks so young here…I don’t even remember him looking this young back then. Looking at him today, however, I can see that he’s generally just a young-looking guy. Here he is:
Today is manager day here at IWATP. Sure, Wedge is known as a manager now, but he was once a highly-regarded Red Sox prospect, up in the same echelon as Jeff Bagwell. Looking back at his numbers, though, I have to say I don’t really understand why. His minor league numbers were never that impressive, and he never managed to stick for long at the major league level. I guess he might have been a case of “tools”.
This card kind of leaves me flat. It’s a standard spring-training shot, and his 1991 year wasn’t that impressive (nor was any other). I really only remember a handful of Wedge cards from over the years, in fact.
I thought I’d leave you with a shot of him today…
1991 Topps 1990 Debut
I’m trying to remember when I first read about Rich Garces. I can’t remember exactly…but I know that my first actual glimpse of the player was in the 1990 Classic set. I had read somewhere that he was expected to anchor this amazing Twins rotation with Willie Banks and Alan Newman. The group looked like they were going to set the world on fire back then.
Of course the reality was nowhere close to that. Oh, Garces ended up with a decent enough Major League career, even if he was a bit of a laughingstock by the end of it, but yeah…none of those guys lived up to the perception. It just shows how far the scouting of pitchers has come in recent years. I don’t think Garces would ever have been hyped these days – his peripherals just wouldn’t justify it.