Dwight Evans 1979 Hostess Card – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 28, 2017

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Remember Hostess baseball cards? On the bottom of the boxes of Twinkees and Cup Cakes and Big Wheels, there would be three baseball cards.

My brother and I would check the bottom of the boxes before my mother bought them to try and find a player we liked. Evidently sometime in 1979, we found a box with Dwight Evans.

After plowing through the Twinkees, we would bust out the scissors and cut out the card and add it to the pile.

Here “Dewey” is posing with his bat in an empty Oakland Coliseum. (It tended to be empty in 1978 and 1979.)

I remember once I was trying to trade baseball cards with some kids who lived near my grandparents in Connecticut. I enthusiastically told them I had a Thurman Munson card which they coveted. When I revealed it was a Hostess card, I was rebuffed.

“We mean a REAL baseball card” I was told. I was incredulous. Don’t tell me a Hostess card is not a real card!

Of course they are real.

It is still in this shoebox, so clearly it is real.

Dwight Evans had a wonderful career and one that might very well eventually get him into the Hall of Fame if a Veterans Committee looks at his numbers with a modern set of eyes.

The California native emerged with the Red Sox along with Carlton Fisk and just a few seasons before his teammates Jim Rice and Fred Lynn would join him in the greatest homegrown outfield in modern baseball history.

Lynn was the flashiest player and Rice was the more feared slugger. But it was Evans who had the most complete and consistent game year in and year out. The best defensive outfielder in the American League, Evans had a cannon that no base runner would dare challenge.

In the 1975 World Series he showed off his power, with a game tying 9th inning homer in Game 2 and his glove. In the top of the 11th with a runner on, Joe Morgan launched a shot to right field. It was clearly going to be at least a double and possibly a homer. Either way, the Reds were about to take the lead and be 3 outs away from a title.

But Evans made a leaping grab to snag the ball. And then for good measure threw back to the infield to double off Ken Griffey Senior who was trying to score.

Throughout the late 1970’s and all the 1980’s, Evans quietly was one of baseball’s most consistent sluggers. In the strike shortened 1981 season, he tied for the league lead in homers and had the highest OPS in the league. In 1982, his on base percentage led the AL and three times led the league in walks. He was a slugger getting 20 to 30 homers a year while driving in runs and walking at an eye popping rate and playing stellar defense.

He would have been one of the most coveted players in baseball today. In his day he was a solid, respected player but only sporadically thought of as elite.

4 times he did finish in the top 10 for the MVP vote. 8 times he was a Gold Glove winner. Twice he was the Silver Slugger. In 1986, he socked 3 post season homer and had a 1.015 OPS in the World Series.

After a few more stellar and somewhat under the radar seasons, he was unceremoniously dumped by the Red Sox to make room for Jack Clark after the 1990 ALCS. He played his final year with the Orioles in 1991.

A Red Sox Hall of Famer and to this day a fan favorite, Evans is part of an agonizing “What If.”

As it was, Evans appeared on three Cooperstown ballots. In 1997 he got 5.9% of the vote. In 1998 he peaked at 10.4%. In 1999 he got 3.6% and fell off the ballot.

Now let’s imagine something.

If the Red Sox got that final out in the 1986 World Series, a lot would have been different in Boston history. Jim Rice would have been elected on the first ballot instead of the 15th. The narrative would have been “They didn’t win with Yaz or Ted but they won with Jim.”

Evans would have been swept into the riptide as a valuable contributor to a Red Sox title. And maybe with a little more scrutiny to his career, he could have survived on the ballot long enough for the advanced metrics supporters to make a compelling case for his Hall of Fame inclusion.

I am not saying he would have been elected, but it would have been at least a prolonged debate.

He was one of my favorite players. He was also one of my brother’s favorite players, so I am posting this on his birthday.

I wonder which one of us cut out this card.

One thing I do know… it is a REAL card.

 

 

Rawley Eastwick 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 27, 2017

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In 1975, the Cincinnati Reds had a bullpen for the ages. Clay Carroll, Pedro Borbon and Wil McEneaney all gave manager Sparky Anderson unbelievable depth.

It was rookie Rawley Eastwick who led the league in saves and was the nominal closer.

By 1977 that bullpen was totally dismantled.

By 1981, they were all out of baseball.

It is kind of humbling.

The wonderfully named Rawlins Jackson Eastwick was born in New Jersey and selected by the Reds in the 1969 draft. While Carroll and the rest of the big league squad were becoming regular participants in the playoffs, Eastwick was struggling in the minors. In 1971, he began working with coach Brooks Lawrence who taught him a slider. Eastwick’s confidence was restored after some prolonged slumped and the organization realized he was best suited for relief. He began to progress through the farm.

By 1974 he made the club and in 1975, after a quick trip to the minors, he was an anchor in the Reds bullpen as a rookie. He was a master at painting the corners and by July was unhittable.

From July 2 to the end of the 1975 season, Eastwick posted a 1.15 ERA and saved 20 games. The Reds coasted to the Division title and had the best win loss record for any National League team that decade.

He pitched 3 shutout innings to save game 2 of the NLCS. Manager Sparky Anderson gave Eastwick a chance to close out the pennant in Game 3 but he blew the save in the 9th. The Reds rallied in extra innings, giving Eastwick the win but it was Pedro Borbon who got the save.

In the World Series, he was the pitcher of record in Games 2 and 3, going 2-0. To be fair, he blew another save in the World Series, allowing a game tying homer to Dwight Evans in Game 2. After saving Game 5, he was brought into a tough situation in the classic Game 6.

Entering the game in the 8th with the Reds up 6-3, Eastwick faced the tough Boston lineup with 2 on and nobody out. He retired the next two batters but Bernie Carbo launched a dramatic game tying homer to straight away centerfield. It was his third blown save of the post season. In the end, the Reds won Game 7 with Will McEneaney closing out the finale.

In 1976, Eastwick was the Rolaids Fireman of the Year, once again leading the league in saves. In the postseason he got another win based on a blown save and did not appear in the World Series. Again, McEneaney saved the finale against the Yankees.

The Big Red Machine wobbled in 1977. Pete Rose was gone and the pitching staff was being dismantled. Eastwick got into a contract squabble with the front office and by mid season was sent packing to the Cardinals for Doug Capilla. The result was this awkwardly airbrushed hat on his Topps card.

McEneaney, Carroll and Gary Nolan were also gone from the staff by then. Borbon would last until midway through the 1979 season before he was shipped off.

In 1978, Eastwick signed a million dollar deal to join a crowded Yankees bullpen that already included Rich Gossage and Sparky Lyle. In the end there was not enough room for him on the team and he was dealt to the Phillies, where he made his final post season appearance.

After bouncing around between the Royals and Cubs, he called it quits after 1981.

How fast things in baseball can change. A young World Champion bullpen dominated baseball for 2 seasons and was quickly broken up. Could they have won more if they stuck together?

We will never know.

I DO know that if they did, Eastwick would have picked up a few more wins based on his blown saves.

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.