Joe Girardi 1992 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 23, 2017

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I hope Joe Girardi eventually leaves the Yankees as their manager. The reason I want this to happen is because I think he is a fine manager and would have a Hall of Fame resume if only he leaves the Yankees.

It is funny how we all associate Giardi with the Yankees. But he was an Illinois guy who was a Cub. He could have been one of the great Cub figures of all time had he won a World Series in Chicago.

He was an industrial engineer student from Northwestern, again with the Illinois connection, when he the Peoria native was drafted by the Cubs in 1986 draft. The only way he could have been more Chicago would be if he slept in a deep dish and had dialogue written by David Mamet.

Giardi made it to the majors in 1989. When the Cubs made the NLCS that season, Girardi and Rick Wrona split the starting duties in place of the injured Damon Berryhill. He played with the Cubs through 1992 when he joined the expansion Colorado Rockies in 1993. He was a solid defensive catcher and decent hitter, once again seeing post season play with the Blake Street Bomber Rockies in 1995.

Then he became a REALLY unpopular Yankee. Remember that? Girardi was replacing popular Mike Stanley for the 1996 season and was looked upon as fans as a light hitting lightweight.

He won over some fans by catching Doc Gooden’s no hitter on May 14, 1996. Then in the World Series launched the triple against Greg Maddux in the clinching Game 6 that led the Yankees to their first title since 1978.

He remained with the Yankees for the 1998 and 1999 titles, mentoring young Jorge Posada and looking like a manager in waiting.

But he is an Illinois boy and when Posada took over the full time duties, Girardi returned to the Cubs and was named to the 2000 All Star Team. After a cameo with the 2003 Cardinals, he retired.

Did he get folded back into Cubs life? No. The Yankees came calling. He was a color commentator for YES and later a coach on Joe Torre’s staff.

He got his chance to manage in 2006. He took over a Marlins squad that was gutted shortly after his arrival. The team had a payroll of $15, less than several players on the Yankees. They finished with a losing record but were in Wild Card contention, improbably, through the end of the season. But Girardi clashed with Jeffrey Loria and despite winning Manager of the Year for the NL, was fired.

Then came the great crossroad. Joe Torre and the Yankees were losing patience with each other and another Division Series exit did not sit well with the front office. Lou Piniella’s name was floated about as a potential manager to replace Torre.

Meanwhile Dusty Baker and the Cubs management had had it and there was an opening to manage the Cubs.

The Washington Nationals also had a managerial spot open. Girardi found himself as the most valuable managerial commodity going into the 2007 season.

Which team did he manage in 2007?

NONE of course!

Torre agreed to one more go with the Yankees. Piniella went to the Cubs and Manny Acta went to Washington.

Girardi joined the YES broadcast booth and all 2007 looked like the manager in waiting in case Torre called it quits.

As it turned out the Yankees were another Division Series and out team in 2007 and Torre and the Yankees parted ways. The managerial job was going to go to either Don Mattingly, Torre’s bench coach, or Girardi. The Steinbrenner kids picked Girardi and Mattingly went off to LA where Torre replaced Grady Little.

In his first season with the Yankees, which would be the final one in the original Yankee Stadium lot, the unthinkable happened: The Yankees, whom everyone assumes buys every World Series, failed to make the playoffs. Injuries and disappointing pitching kept the Yankees behind the eventual pennant winning Rays and the 2007 World Champion Red Sox. Not a great start to his Yankee career as manager.

In 2009, fresh off a spending spree that brought in CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett, the Yankees stumbled into the new stadium with a weak start. But soon they righted the ship and won the Division. By sweeping the Twins in the Division Series, the Yankees won their first post season series since being stunned by the Red Sox in 2004.

Then they beat their tormentors from 2002 and 2005, the Angels. Finally in the World Series, the Yankees overcame an early hole against the defending World Champion Phillies to win the 27th title in team history.

Girardi changed his uniform number to 28 as a reminder that he is in pursuit of title 28 for the 2010 season.

It is still his number.

The Yankees, as of this writing, have not been to the World Series since 2009. If they fail to win the pennant in 2017, 2018 or 2019, this will be the first decade since the 1910’s to not feature a Yankee team in the World Series.

Now that is not a reflection of Girardi’s ability as a manager. Sure he sometimes goes by the book too much and wears out his bullpen. Sure he seems a little prickly, especially when compared to the media savvy Joe Torre. But he also seems like a decent man who many times plays well with a bloated aging team.

The Yankees missed the post season in 2013, 2014 and 2016, playing in a single Wild Card Game in 2015 which the Astros blanked them. 4 times, a Yankee team led by Girardi played golf in October with a high payroll. But many times that was the fault of fat contracts and past their prime stars.

Now with a young cast and virtually nobody left from 2009 save for Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia, Girardi has the team in first place again.

And if they win with him, he will have ring number 2 plus his Manager of the Year award from Florida.

But here is the thing. He will never get credit for anything he gets done while managing the Yankees. People will point to the payroll and the years they missed the playoffs as blemishes on his resume.

If he took over a small market team, like how Terry Francona turned around the Indians, and wins there, suddenly his October resume padding in New York will enhance his Cooperstown case.

Instead he is with the Yankees where he stinks if he doesn’t win it and people point to payroll if he does.

At one point the job of Yankee manager was one of the least secure positions in the country. As it stands now, in the last 21 seasons, only 2 people have held that title: Joe Torre and Joe Girardi.

Girardi has the 5th longest managerial tenure in Yankee history, following Joe McCarthy, Joe Torre, Casey Stengel and Miller Huggins.

All four of those managers are in the Hall of Fame.

In order to join them, Girardi might have to leave New York.

Bruce Bochte 1980 Kellogg’s 3-D Super Stars – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 22, 2017

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Ever get sick of trying to explain what you are doing to friends you haven’t seen in a long long time? I guess it is less of a problem now with social media and everything. But more than once in my life I have been in a situation where an awkward conversation starts with someone I haven’t seen in a decade.

The question “What are you up to?” is brought up and I would feel the need to crawl into the fetal position.

Former Mariners All Star Bruce Bochte evidently feels that way about Seattle and their fans. At least for a while he would decline the chance to join reunions because he was tired of being asked the question “What are you up to?”

Now let me get one thing out of the way. His name is pronounced “BOCK-TEE.” It sure looked to me like there was a Bruce Bochy and a Bruce Bochte playing at the same time with the same pronunciation, but they were different.

The graduate of Santa Clare University was picked 34th over all in the 1972 draft by the Angels. The left handed hitting first baseman shot through the Angels system and made it to the big leagues in 1974.

He was a solid hitter with California, hitting for a .285 average and a .738 OPS in 1975. He didn’t have much power nor speed but held his own with the bat.

In 1977, he was traded to Cleveland and batted .304 in 112 games. At the end of the season, he tried out the brand new free agency route and found himself joining the Seattle Mariners in their second year of existence.

In 1978, Bochte hit a career high 11 homers and remained a solid contact hitter. Then in 1979, as this Kellogg’s 3-D card would denote, he took it to the next level.

He homered and drove in 2 runs on opening day 1979 against his former team, the Angels. Later that week he homered again against Oakland (a team he would eventually play for.)

Bochte had a .941 OPS in April, but nobody knew that then. He did bat .342 for the month, which raised some eyebrows.

He kept his production up in May, batting .352 with 3 more homers and a .973 OPS. By comparison, June was mild, slashing .330/.370/.477. He had 9 homers by the end of June, just 2 behind his career high. On July 13th, he matched his career high with his 11th homer in a 16-1 win against the 2 time defending World Champion Yankees.

At the All Star Game in the Seattle Kingdome, Bochte was the Mariners’ representative. He got a warm hand and in the game drove in a run against defending Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry.

He would finish the season batting .316 with 16 homers and an eye popping 100 RBI. He became a fan favorite for a Seattle fan base that didn’t have much else to cheer for.

He remained consistent for double digit homers and a decent average before injuries erased his 1983 season. He would find his way to Oakland and managed one more good season in 1985 before ending his career after the 1986 season.

After he left baseball, he focused on bigger topics, like the universe.

No really.

An environmentally conscious person while a player, he donated his time and effort to ecological causes and read about astronomy and nature.

In his post baseball life, he began to understand man’s relationship to the cosmos and frankly shares many of my own thoughts on the origin of life and purpose.

He has worked with the Bay Institute of San Francisco to help preserve Northern California baylands. He has also contributed to the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and has stressed the concept of healthy living, physically and spiritually.

He is careful to not be labeled as a flake or some kind of hippie. Bochte is interested in the science of the natural world. His wife is the director of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. (Wasn’t that from Star Trek 4?)

But according to this Seattle Post Intelligencer article written by Jim Moore, he has kept an arm’s distance from baseball. He turned down the chance to join the Mariners in a All Star Game reunion in 2001. One reason? He didn’t want to keep explaining what he was up to.

Baseball is a chapter in his life. For some, reaching the level of Major League All Star would be an achievement that would mean the world to them.

Perhaps it does for Bochte. But he is thinking about something a little bigger than just the world now.

Glenn Davis 1989 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 21, 2017

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I once made Robert Wuhl, the guy who created and played Arli$$, laugh and say “Oh my God, Glenn Davis!”

It is a specific baseball reference but then again, Robert Wuhl is a huge baseball fan who got it.

I will set the stage. It was 1996. I was a brand new comic, doing it for about a year, and trying to get any stage time in New York. I brought enough paying customers to get a spot at Catch a Rising Star one night in October. (It was before Game 2 of the World Series between the Braves and Yankees.)

I remember that detail because the game was on at the bar. The cool thing about Catch a Rising Star, especially for a wide eyed 24 year old Sully, was that some well known people in comedy would sometimes just show up.

This night Robert Wuhl was there. We both were watching the game and I struck up a conversation with him. We started talking about baseball teams and some of the worst trades each made.

Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell was brought up. Bob Sykes for Willie McGee was bandied about.

I brought up Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley being traded from Baltimore to Houston for Glenn Davis.

Wuhl’s huge grin got wider and he just said “GLENN DAVIS!” really loudly.

The trade was a horrible one for the Orioles. But like all trades, there was a reason to make it.

The Orioles drafted Davis out of high school in 1979 but didn’t sign. Maybe the team coveted him since then. Oddly he grew up with Storm Davis, who is not a relative despite the last name. They played on the same high school team and was close with his parents. Davis would eventually join the Orioles.

While Storm went to Baltimore, Glenn went to Manatee Junior College and was drafted by the Astros.

In 3 1/2 seasons in the minors, Glenn showed he could be a solid home run hitter and an all around hitter. The 23 year old Davis made his big league debut with the 1984 Astros. After spending time in the minors in 1985, he made it back to Houston, this time to stay, and hit 20 homers in just 390 plate appearances.

Now keep in mind, his home park was the Astrodome. That was a BRUTAL park for a home run hitter. But the Astros were appearing to emulate the Cardinals model that worked so well in 1985.

Basically, St. Louis had a bunch of speedsters and line drive hitters who could take advantage of the carpet and artificial turf that was all around the National League. And in the middle of all the jack rabbits, speed and stolen bases, there would be one masher in the middle of the lineup.

Jack Clark played the role of that masher in 1985.

The Astros found their man in Glenn Davis. He made the All Star team in 1986, launched 31 homers and drove in 101 and helped the Astros into the post season. His solo homer was the only run in Houston’s 1-0 Game 1 victory in the NLCS.

In 1987, 1988 and 1989, he continued to play in the cavernous Astrodome and smack homers. An injury plagued 1990 season kept him to only 93 games but he still hit 22 homers in that span. He was the first Astro to hit 20 homers in 5 straight seasons.

The common wisdom was he played for the wrong team. If he played in the American League in a more hitter friendly ballpark, he could flourish. With the Astros fortunes falling, Houston dealt Davis to Baltimore.

Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling and Steve Finley would all go on to be named to the All Star team. Davis would become a punchline that made Robert Wuhl laugh.

Injuries derailed his 1991 season, the first one in Baltimore. He only played in 49 games and didn’t hit well when he did.

In 1992, he played 106 games but was a nonfactor.

In 1993 he was a total bust, batting .177 in 30 games, breaking his jaw in a bar fight and battled his manager along the way.

He was cut from the team in 1993 and never played in the majors again. After stints in the minor leagues and Japan, his playing days were over after the 1996 season.

Unbeknownst to me while I was sitting with Robert Wuhl, Glenn Davis’ career was wrapping up in Japan.

Since he stopped playing, he got into the hotel business, began charities and got elected to the City Council of Columbus Georgia.

All fine accomplishments to be sure. But the trade was a bust to Baltimore and worth a laugh between your pal Sully and the dude who was Knox in Batman.