1990 Record Breaker Carlton Fisk 1991 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 13, 2017

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Carlton Fisk played more games with the Chicago White Sox than he did with the Boston Red Sox.

Doesn’t that sound strange. I mean unless you are Jimmy Pardo or grew up on the South Side of Chicago, when I say Carlton Fisk, you think of the Red Sox. His hat on his Hall of Fame plaque is a Red Sox hat. His lasting image in baseball history is that of him waving the ball fair in the 1975 World Series.

He was born in New England, grew up in New England. He idolized the Red Sox. He was one of us.

And if someone coldly looked at his stats, they could make the case that the hat on his plaque should have read S-O-X, as in Chicago.

It would be a tough argument to have him wear the curly Q C hat that he wore with the totally forgettable White Sox uniforms shown on this record breaker card issued in 1991. The card commemorates when he homered off of Charlie Hough, another old timer, to pass Johnny Bench for most homers ever by a catcher.

How did that happen? How did a New England legend spend so much time in Chicago when he should have been breaking records and playing in the post season with Boston for his entire career?

The answer is simple. I have often criticized the Red Sox management at the time for being racist and immoral. But let’s not discount how stupid they were either.

It had to do with a postmark.

Fisk was born in Vermont and grew up in Charlestown New Hampshire. Already he was the perfect Red Sox star. He could represent 3 New England states right out of the gate. He was a basketball and baseball star and wound up being drafted by the Red Sox in 1967.

After making cameos in the big leagues in 1969 and 1971, he was up for good in 1972. He won the Gold Glove, smashed 22 homers, led the league with 9 triples, batted .293 and had an OPS of .909 as the Red Sox contended for the AL East until the final day of the season. He made the All Star team and was named Rookie of the Year.

A star was born.

Along with the Yankee’s Thurman Munson, he had a not so friendly rivalry among the AL’s best catchers. He also faced his share of injuries but excelled when he was on the field. Between 1972 and 1980, all of his full years with the Red Sox, he missed the All Star Game twice.

Ironically one of the years he wasn’t an All Star was 1975, the year of his immortality.

The Red Sox had an offensive nucleus of Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Jerry Remy, Rick Burleson and Carlton Fisk in 1980. My favorite player, Butch Hobson, was wonderful but injury prone. It was an All Star team that needed a few pitchers to win the East.

Guess what? They wanted to get paid. It was the era of free agency and the Red Sox were a team that had money. Hey! Why not keep the team together?

Well this was the Red Sox, who felt compelled to shell out big dough for Bill Campbell, Mike Torrez and Tony Perez but suddenly got cost conscious when it came to their own star players.

Fisk wanted a significant raise. Haywood Sullivan (no relation to me), the GM of the team balked and a stand off took place. Eventually the Red Sox mailed him a contract.

There was one problem. The post mark was a day after the free agency deadline. Now there are two explanations of what happened: The Red Sox management intentionally mailed it a day late to create the optics that they tried to keep Carlton Fisk while actually letting him walk… OR… they stupidly forgot to put it in the mail.

EITHER ANSWER makes the Red Sox look stupid. Do you know what also made the Red Sox look stupid? The fact that Carlton Fisk continued to produce like an All Star as a member of the White Sox.

He signed with Chicago before the 1981 season and always seemed to homer against the Red Sox when he returned.

In 107 career games against Boston, he batted .310, had an OPS of .967, homered 27 times (appropriately his number with Boston).

He made four more All Star teams, finishing third in the 1983 MVP vote when he helped lead Chicago to the ALCS. His 37 homers in 1985 earned him a Silver Slugger Award. He was a Silver Slugger in 1988 as well, finished 15th in the MVP vote in 1990 and made the 1991 All Star Team.

The Red Sox did develop another home grown native New Englander All Star catcher with Rich Gedman. But Free Agency derailed his career, specifically collusion. The Red Sox could have resigned Fisk, but declined to because they were one of the colluding organizations.

So, when Fisk’s career wrapped up in 1993, he played 1078 games over 9 plus seasons in Boston and 1421 games in 13 seasons for Chicago.

214 of his 376 career homers were as a White Sox catcher.

He should have been a Red Sox catcher for life. He should have been on the 1986 pennant winner and the 1988 and 1990 Division Champs, teammates with Evans for all three and Rice in 1986 and 1988.

Instead a contract was put into the mail a day late and we had to see Fisk wear all sorts of crappy looking White Sox jerseys.

So we’ve all seen the Fisk homer in the 1975 World Series. Let’s see him homer in his return to Fenway, putting the White Sox up in the game late. It was a huge middle finger to Red Sox management as he got a standing ovation from the Boston fans.

Bobby Valentine 1990 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 1, 2017

IMG_2336I am going to say something that might surprise you when you consider that I am a Red Sox fan.

I LOVE Bobby Valentine. No, I am not being sarcastic. I really do. I think he is great. I have warm feelings about him.

I am not even mad about his one disastrous season as manager of the Red Sox. That horrible season, 2012, set up the magic of seeing my Red Sox win it all in 2013. There was no prolonged agony of the Bobby Valentine year.

The great Boston collapse of 2011 and the insanity and futility of the 2012 Bobby V Sox were the prologue for the Red Sox stunning triumph the next year.

Titles heal all wounds. Yeah, he managed the single worst season in Red Sox history since the 1967 pennant and the beginning of Red Sox Nation. That made 2013 sweeter and made John Farrell look like the second coming of Earl Weaver by comparison.

So thank you Bobby V.

It is a shame that so much of Bobby V’s reputation is tied to that one horrible year. Truth be told, he lived a wonderful baseball life and has a job that he SHOULD be doing right now.

Bobby V belongs on television. He used to be on ESPN. He was WONDERFUL on ESPN. He has a great look on TV, a unique sounding voice and a know it all smirk that can be funny and condescending all at once.

Bobby V could take the role that Howard Cosell once did so wonderfully on his many roles in ABC Sports. You might not agree with him, but he is usually right.

He would reach back from a fertile spring of knowledge. A former first round pick and college star, Valentine played in the Dodgers organization before moving to the Angels and Padres.

In 1977, he joined the Mets as part of the controversial Dave Kingman deal.

Eventually, his career wound down as a player only to become a solid manager in three very different places. He took over as manager of the Rangers in 1985 and by 1986, they had a contender on the field. They finished second to the Angels with an 87-75 record. The team had talented and colorful stars like Ruben Sierra, Oddible McDowell, Mitch Williams, Pete Incaviglia, Jose Guzman, Greg Harris and Bobby Witt.

The team looked like they could contend in a soft AL West but fell short in a disappointing 1987 season and then were frequently buried by the A’s.

But Valentine managed solid All Stars like Rafael Palmeiro and Julio Franco as well as the return of Nolan Ryan to the American League. The Rangers didn’t go to any Octobers under Bobby V, but they were fun to watch.

When Rangers owner and future President George W. Bush let him go, Bobby V eventually found himself in Japan.

He managed the Chiba Lotte Marines to their best record in years in 1995 but clashed with management and was fired.

In 1996, he returned to America and while managing the Mets Triple A team, he was called up to take over the major league squad from Dallas Green.

The Mets were a disaster and just 3 year removed from arguably the least likable team in franchise history. Under Bobby V, however, the team won 88 games and contended in 1997. In 1998, the team was a Wild Card contender down the stretch again.

In 1999, the Mets won a one game playoff against the Reds to win the Wild Card, stunned Arizona with a walk off homer to clinch the Division Series and took the Braves 6 games in one of the wildest and most dramatic NLCS ever played.

In 2000, the Mets topped the Giants and the Cardinals to win the NL Pennant before losing the Subway Series to the Yankees in 5 hard fought games. Bobby V and Joe Torre were a pair of Italian American managers from the Northeast. One was a smart aleck, the other was a gentle grandfather figure. It was a fabulous compare and contrast.

While Torre had a stern but loving paternal quality to him, Valentine would get ejected and then put on a mustache as a disguise back in the dugout. The remains one of the funniest moments in baseball history.

Bobby V’s Mets were instrumental in the healing post 9/11 and Mike Piazza’s homer against the Braves still resonates in the city. He won the Branch Rickey Award for his charity work. But eventually he and GM Steve Phillips clashed too many times and he was let go in 2002, just 2 years after delivering the fourth pennant in Mets history.

He returned to the Chiba Lotte Marines and led them to the 2005 Japan Series championship, making him a hero for the locals and capping a wonderful managerial career. Bobby V clashed with management again, but when the Marines tried to smear him publicly, the fans were all on the manager’s side.

He returned to America and ESPN. He should never have left or even wanted another managerial job. He should have been like John Madden and let people think “If he got another gig, he’d be great.”

Instead he had the disastrous year in Boston. It would be like remembering Michael Caine only from Jaws The Revenge.

Bobby V had the baseball life to BE a know it all on TV. That should have been his American legacy. He would always be the smartest guy in the studio.

Just ask him.

Kevin Cash 2016 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for October 21, 2017

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Ever since high school, when I’ve watched the baseball postseason, I have a printout of the active roster of each team.

When each player played, even for an at bat or a pinch running appearance, I would highlight them. Ideally each player would play in each round but at least get in once. It almost seems unfair to be on a postseason roster and not get your name into an October box score.

In 2007, the Red Sox were in the post season. They decided to carry an extra catcher for the Division Series. They had Jason Varitek starting and Doug Mirabelli catching for Tim Wakefield. Just in case of emergency, Kevin Cash was put on the roster.

I wanted to see Kevin Cash get into the game.

Now my desire to see that had little to do with seeing a beloved Red Sox legend get his due. Cash had only played in 12 games for the Red Sox that year. We went 3 for 27 for a .111 average. It was hard to argue that Cash was the difference in the AL East race.

But I loved seeing that page highlighted from top to bottom. Maybe it had to do with my time riding the bench in high school. It meant so much just to get into a game that when I did, I was on a high.

I can imagine it was so much more for the players on the bench.

It was clear that Cash would not be on the ALCS roster if the Red Sox got that far.

Boston took the first two games of the Division Series from the Angels and looked to make quick work in Game 3.

The Red Sox rallied and were up 9-1 in the top of the 9th. David Ortiz’s spot came up. Terry Francona went to the bench and called for Eric Hinske, whose name I highlighted.

In the bottom of the 9th, Varitek was still the catcher. I remember thinking “Too bad for Kevin Cash. He could have pinch hit or caught the last inning.”

He didn’t. He was indeed taken off the roster. The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series. His page on Baseball Reference does not show him playing in the post season. The same fate fell for Kyle Snyder, a reliever who did not get into a game.

The next season, Cash took over Mirabelli’s role as Wakefield’s personal catcher. In the post season, Cash made an appearance in the Division Series and hit a homer in the ALCS. That made up for his exclusion in 2007 a little bit in my eyes.

He joined his Boston manager Terry Francona in Cleveland as a coach. Then, after the 2014 season, he was named Tampa Bay manager.

He received a 5 year contract which seemed off because he had never managed at any level when he had the impossible job of replacing Joe Maddon. The Rays finished barely under .500 in 2015 his first year, 80-82. A 94 loss season his second year reflected a depleted team.

But they contended for the Wild Card for much of 2017. The Rays have young talent and a bright young mind leading the team.

Who knows? Maybe he will MANAGE his way to the World Series and I won’t have to worry about that time I couldn’t highlight his name.