Classic Combo Carlos Delgado and David Wright 2007 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 26, 2017

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I dug up this card with Carlos Delgado and David Wright from 2007. I already wrote about Delgado, but it seemed appropriate that Wright is paired with someone in a card.

Wright is best as a supporter instead of a lead. As a baseball player, David Wright is Dan Aykroyd, and I say that with all due respect to them both.

Both Wright and Aykroyd are respected, and have the talent and aura of being a star. But both shine brightest when surrounded by stars rather than carrying the load on their own.

And both saw their career trajectories dip when they were not surrounded by the right supporting cast.

Dan Aykroyd’s early career seemed like he was a comedy super star. But really, think of his successes. On the original Saturday Night Live, he was probably the most talented pure actor, and got the most out of each sketches. His main talent seemed to be getting the most out of his co-stars. Whether it was being a Wild and Crazy Guy with Steve Martin, or a Conehead, or whichever character he played, he worked perfectly in the ensemble as John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray broke out to stardom.
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When did Belushi’s star shine brighter than when teamed with Aykroyd on the screen and on records as The Blues Brothers? Which Bill Murray vehicle is more iconic than the Aykroyd written Ghostbusters? And in that film, the best lines (including the “Dickless” exchange) were set up by Aykroyd and brought home by Murray.

And while Eddie Murphy exploded onto the scene with 48 Hours, it was when he starred opposite Aykroyd in Trading Places that his comedic genius was cemented.

Aykroyd made his presence known in many comedy classics, but never had to carry one on his own.

Likewise, when teamed with hitters like Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes, David Wright put up big numbers and shone. He won his Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers, was a legit MVP candidate and looked like he was the durable superstar the Mets were searching for.

Essentially, Wright was going to be their answer to Derek Jeter.

But when the supporting cast around him weakened and he was asked to carry the load of leading the team, the Mets slipped into irrelevancy. Wright’s durability went away as he spent more time on the disabled list. His numbers took an alarming dip. And since the Mets arrived in CitiField as Wright’s squad, they have yet to finish at .500, let alone be a legit contender.

Sure he had the terrific World Baseball Classic that earned Wright the nickname “Captain America.” But nobody cares about the World Baseball Classic. They are spring training games. And his dramatic game-winning home run defeated the Italian team. Seriously. The baseball power house of Italy was his great conquest.
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Wright got hurt and sat out the final games of the WBC, as Team USA was eliminated. Once again, he played best with stars surrounding him.

Yes, Wright will be at the top of most of the Mets’ records by the time his career his done. But when Jeter sets Yankee records, he passes names like Gehrig and DiMaggio and Ruth. When Wright became the All-Time Mets hit leader, he passed Ed Kranepool. See the difference? It is subtle.

He could never carry the franchise when he was dubbed the captain, but Wright will be paid like a team leader until 2020 (with money deferred until 2025.)

Likewise, when Aykroyd took the lead in movies, the results were not pretty. Dr. Detroit should have warned us that asking him to carry a film was going to be an uphill battle. When the likes of My Stepmother is an Alien and Dragnet disappointed, we should have gotten the message loud and clear.

His directorial debut, Nothing But Trouble, was a notorious disaster. The Coneheads movie is almost unwatchable, save for a charming Chris Farley performance. His starring role in the S & M comedy Exit to Eden is cringe-worthy at best, and run-screaming-from-the-room at worst.

And to drive the point home, Aykroyd attempted to recreate the magic of The Blues Brothers on his own without Belushi. The result was Blues Brothers 2000, one of the worst studio films made in the last few decades and the movie that basically ended John Landis’ career in Hollywood.

The fact that Ghostbusters 3 has never been made is a wonderful gift to film-goers everywhere, especially in the wake of Harold Ramis’ death.

Now this is not to say that Dan Aykroyd is without talent. He is still quite capable in an ensemble cast. Put Aykroyd in Grosse Point Blank or Behind the Candleabra in a supporting role and he will shine. He was practically the lone highlight in 2001’s Pearl Harbor, a dramatic role which he played to perfection.

In 1989, Aykroyd received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor in Driving Miss Daisy. He was marvelous in that film, but he did not have to do the heavy lifting. It was Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman who carried that film.

And likewise, Wright had a terrific 2012 when he stayed healthy, and finished 6th in the MVP vote despite playing for a non-contending Mets squad.

Yes he had his great individual moments with a big NLCS game in 2015 and a World Series homer. But in the end, he was not the October star. He was a supporting player.

This can not be stressed enough. I am both a fan of David Wright and Dan Aykroyd. They are both talented and should be beloved. But if you disagree with what I am saying, ask yourself these two questions:

Which season did David Wright carry the Mets to greatness?
What is your favorite Dan Aykoyd star vehicle?

 

An earlier version of this post was written for The Scoop Sports in 2014.

Oscar Gamble 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 25, 2017

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One of these days, I will write a roster of former Yankee players who had terrible luck. These would be the Don Mattinglys, Bobby Murcers, Mike Mussinas and Mike Stanleys of the world. They are all players who had long careers in the Bronx and yet somehow never got a ring as a player because they happened to play in the years where they did NOT win.

Oscar Gamble would be on that squad.

I associate Gamble most closely with the Yankees and he did indeed play 6 1/2 seasons as a Yankee. But 1977 and 1978 were not seasons he played with them, ergo he didn’t get the ring.

Maybe it is appropriate that this poorly airbrushed photo has him in Yankee Stadium but wearing the hat of another team.

Gamble was a highly praised prospect in the Cubs organization. He was discovered by the legendary Buck O’Neill and he shot through the Chicago farm system.

In 1969, as the Cubs were trying to prevent a freefall in the divisional race with the Mets, Gamble was pressed into duty as the starting centerfielder. The Cubs failing to make the playoffs wasn’t his fault, but he did not exactly light the world on fire in his 24 games in Wrigleyville. Granted he was only 19 years old, but he didn’t get a chance in Chicago in his 20’s.

By 1970, he was with the Phillies, but there he struggled to get playing time and stay in the starting lineup. In 1973, he had already logged 4 seasons in the bigs but was only 23 years old. He was sent by the Phillies to the Indians in a deal involving Del Unser and his career took off.

Gamble launched 20 homers in 432 plate appearances for Cleveland in 1973 and in 1974, his average went up and his power numbers stayed steady. He was purely a platoon player, getting his at bats against right handers. But he made the most of it.

He also made the most of his afro, which grew to outrageous proportions. Gamble’s hat and helmet would fly off his head  when he ran, exposing his enormous head of hair. Some fans called him Bozo based on how it stuck out from the sides of his cap.

Gamble wore flashy outfits befitting the 1970’s to and from the stadium and was a reliable quote for the Cleveland sports writers. Shortly before he was to sign an endorsement deal with an afro hair care product, he was traded to the Yankees.

His first year in the Bronx was 1976, the opening of the remodeled Yankee Stadium. Owner George Steinbrenner had strict grooming rules for his players and the Gamble fro did not cut mustard. He was required to shave it down, much to the dismay of Gamble’s wife. It also ended any hope of his endorsement deal, but Steinbrenner reimbursed him for what he would made from the ad.

In 1976, Billy Martin used Gamble as a platoon outfielder and he responded with 17 homers and the Yankees went on to win the pennant. They were clobbered by the Reds in the World Series but the foundation was in the Bronx for a solid team.

They were left handed heavy with their power. Nettles, Chambliss and Gamble all aimed for the right field porch. They needed more balance in their lineup. So naturally Steinbrenner signed Reggie Jackson, another left handed slugger.

With Roy White, Mickey Rivers, Lou Piniella, Paul Blair and Reggie Jackson all on the team, there was no room for Gamble. He was sent packing to the White Sox for shortstop Bucky Dent.

In Chicago as one of the South Side Hitmen, Gamble had his career year. He slugged 31 homers and drove in 83 and posted an OPS of ,974 over 470 plate appearances. The White Sox contended but faded out while the Yankees, without Gamble, won the World Series.

He cashed in after the 1977 season and signed with the Padres. San Diego was a good fit monetarily but not for his swing. He hit only 7 homers and the OPS fell by over 200 points. The Padres went nowhere in 1978. The Yankees won the World Series again.

He found himself in Texas in 1979 and his swing returned. Showing his value as a platoon hitter, he batted .335 and had an OPS of .979 in 201 trips to the plate in Arlington. Then a mid season deal involving Mickey Rivers had him back in New York for the end of 1979.

Between 1979 and 1984, Gamble was, for the most part, a solid platoon performer. He would frequently crush double digits in homers despite usually playing in fewer than 90 games a year.

The Yankees went to the post season in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1981. Gamble was on all of those teams EXCEPT 1977 and 1978, the two years they won it all.

He finished his career with the 1985 White Sox. Gamble remains a fan favorite in New York and is frequently asked about his super human afro.

But man, his luck could not have been worse for winning a ring.

Tony Armas 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 24, 2017

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I always liked Tony Armas.

He was a classic swing from his heels right handed slugger that when he got a hold of one, it would go a mile.

I liked it when he took his hacks. Twice he led the league in homers and twice he led the league in strikeouts. All or nothing mashers are fun.

Armas had one major obstacle in his career: His health. When he was healthy, Tony Armas was one of the elite home run hitters in the American  League. He just couldn’t stay healthy.

He was still a teenager when he was signed out of Venezuela by the Pirates in 1971. Armas was part of the most colorblind organization who was at the forefront of developing talent from Latin markets in the 1970’s. Armas made his big league debut in September of 1976 with Pittsburgh. But he was not to be a part of their “We Are Family” years. He was shipped off to Oakland in part of their tear down of their great years.

A deal that involved Phil Garner sent Armas to the A’s along with Mitchell Page. While Page made headlines with his stellar rookie year, Armas evolved into a dangerous slugger,  albeit one with health issues. The young Armas reached double digits in homers twice in injury filled seasons in front of thousands of empty seats in Oakland.

When Billy Martin arrived in Oakland, Armas put together his first injury free season. He rewarded the A’s over 158 games with 35 homers and 109 RBI. Along with Dwayne Murphy and Rickey Henderson, Armas was a valuable cog in a dynamic outfield.

The Sporting News named Armas the player of the year in the strike shortened 1981 season. He shared the home run title and helped the A’s win a surprising AL West title.

After the 1982 season, he was dealt again, this time to Boston. The Red Sox sent Carney Lansford to Oakland to help make room for Wade Boggs. Armas would be placed in centerfield between Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. He wasn’t a prototypical centerfielder defensively and he caught the wrath of the boo birds in Boston with his .218 average in 1983.

But in 1984, he won over those fans (including me) with his league leading 43 homers and 123 RBI.

Once again, injuries reduced his playing time in 1985. In the Red Sox pennant winning year of 1986, he had a few highlights, including a two homer night against Cleveland in August. But his defense and health became such a liability that they needed to acquire Dave Henderson for the stretch drive to spell Armas in the late innings.

It was an injury to Armas crashing into the wall in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS that led to Dave Henderson being inserted into the game. Later, Henderson famously homered off of Donnie Moore. Armas never played in the field again in the post season and his World Series contribution was a single pinch hitting appearance.

He finished his career with three seasons as a part time DH and outfielder for the Angels. Even with his reduced playing time, he managed double digit homers in 1988 and 1989. His career ended then and has been a coach for the Venezuelan National team ever since. His son pitched for several different organizations in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

For a stretch between 1980 and 1985, Tony Armas his more homers than any other American League hitter. If not for nagging injuries and disabled list trips, he would have amassed a lot more than the 251 homers he put up.

Either way, he had a fine career and as a fan, his all or nothing approach at the plate was very fun to watch.