Todd Burns 1990 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day For August 15, 2017

IMG_1686I may have mentioned this in one of my previous Card of the Day posts. Forgive me, I have written hundreds of them so far, so a detail or two might have slipped through the cracks. But during the post season, I keep track of which players have played and which players haven’t.

I guess it stems from my own lack of playing time in high school that I want everyone to get it. I personally find it sad if someone plays for a team in the World Series and you see their entry in the Baseball Encyclopedia or baseball-reference.com and see no games played in the post season.

There is a little thrill I get when the last player on the bench or in the bullpen get into the game. There was a moment in the 1988 World Series where Tony LaRussa thought similar to me regarding getting the players in. And that moment turned out to be the last observation one of the great voices in baseball history made in a World Series telecast. And it involved Todd Burns.

The 1988 A’s had an embarrassment of riches. They had a deep outfield, more infielders than they can start, their bullpen was legendary and the rotation, led by Dave Stewart and Bob Welch, was solid.

On June 18, the A’s were 42-34, already 5 games ahead of the defending World Champion Twins and 11 ahead of the Rangers, who were coming into Oakland.

That day, the A’s had recalled Todd Burns from Triple A. The former 7th round pick from Oral Roberts University had made one relief appearance earlier in the year and was basically an unknown quantity for a spot start.

He went 8 innings against a solid hitting Rangers team, allowing 1 run. He didn’t get the decision as the game went into extra innings. (Gene Nelson, who I wrote about a few days ago threw 3 1/3 shutout innings for the walk off win.) But it was quite an impression for Burns.

His next appearance he threw 10 innings. Once again did not get the decision but set up another walk off win.

A week later, after getting no decisions on extra inning wins, karma helped him. HE came into a game in the 12th, threw 4 2/3 innings of shutout relief and got the win.

July also saw him threw a complete game victory against Cleveland followed up by a 7 inning scoreless start for another win over the Tigers.

By August 12, he was 5-0 with a solid 2.71 ERA. The deep A’s had stumbled across an innings eating stud who could do it all. He followed up a September 15 complete game win with a September 23rd save.

As the A’s swept my Red Sox in the ALCS, Burns didn’t get into a game. LaRussa opted to start Dave Stewart twice, Storm Davis once and Bob Welch once. Hard to argue with the results.

His fate was similar in the stunning World Series against the Dodgers. If any game looked like a possibility for him to get in, it would have been game 2. Storm Davis was hit hard and lifted in the 4th. But Gene Nelson, Curt Young, Eric Plunk and Rick Honeycutt got the call, not Burns.

As the A’s were losing Game 5, Hershiser was dominating and it was clear one of the biggest upsets in baseball history was about to be complete, Eric Plunk was pitching in the top of the 9th and Oakland was down 5-2.

With 2 outs and nobody on and light hitting Alfredo Griffin coming to the plate, LaRussa went to the pen. Todd Burns came in to face Griffin.

It was clear that it would be the only chance for Burns to pitch in the 1988 World Series and who knows? Maybe would be his lone chance in his career. He had been a valuable pitcher for the second half of the year and now he got to at least be in a box score.

I remember watching that game and putting a check mark next to Burns. I hated that A’s team. They beat my Red Sox. But I was thrilled for Burns.

Griffin grounded out and the A’s went quietly in the 9th and the Dodgers were champs.

As announcers Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola were signing off, they were making their final thoughts.

The combination of Scully and Garagiola was in retrospect a great one. But at the time I found Scully to be grating. Mainly because his voice reminded me of the 1986 World Series.

Garagiola was leaving NBC. (Was he being pushed out? Remember this was the same time they were trying to get rid of Johnny Carson. Out with the old in with the new.)

As he said good bye, he made time in his final sentence to make an observation. It wasn’t about Kirk Gibson’s homer in Game 1 still fresh in everyone’s mind. It wasn’t about the masterful performance by Hershiser.

He brought up LaRussa’s “touch of class” for bringing Todd Burns into the game in the 9th.

Joe got it. He always did.

Well LaRussa’s fears of Burns not getting into another World Series game were unfounded. He pitched in the 1989 and 1990 World Series with the A’s, earning a ring in the Earthquake Series.

With the addition of Mike Moore in 1989, Burns was no longer needed in the rotation so be became an effective long reliever and picked up 8 saves when Eckersley was hurt for a stretch in 1989.

In the end, Burns made 5 World Series appearance. Oddly never once appeared in the ALCS. But appearing in the World Series is cooler.

Sean Doolittle 2016 Topps Chrome – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for August 11, 2017

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Last night Sean Doolittle earned his 7th save as a member of the Washington Nationals. He was aided by a circus catch by left fielder Andrew Stevenson.

The Nationals acquired Doolittle in July to fill their holes in the bullpen and push them past the Division Series for the first time since the team was called the Montreal Expos.

In fact here is an odd fact. There have been three major league franchises in Washington DC. The original Senators who existed from 1901 to 1960, the expansion Senators who existed from 1961 to 1971 and the Nationals who have been there since 2005.

Not once in the history of Washington MLB has a pitcher thrown a clinching out in a post season series. The only post season series ever won by a Washington team was the 1924 World Series. The Senators beat the Giants in the 12th inning of Game 7 on a walk off double by Earl McNeely.

So basically the Nationals are asking Sean Doolittle to do something no other Washington pitcher has ever done.

Doolittle is a talented pitcher who excelled in the 2014 season when Grant Balfour’s defection and Jim Johnson’s ineffectiveness opened up the closer role. Doolittle, who had been a middle reliever for the 2012 and 2013 AL West champs saved 22 games to an ERA of 2.73 in 62 2/3 innings. He struck out 89 and walked only 8 and helped the A’s into the Wild Card game.

It also got him a multimillion dollar contract and an All Star game berth. Injuries have hampered his 2015 and 2016 seasons but he is back as an effective reliever and one the Nats need.

Now if you follow the podcast and the blog, you know that I know Sean Doolittle.

Are we so close that we have sliced our hands, pressed our palms together and said “Our blood with flow in both of our veins”?

No. But only because it creeped him out when I asked him to do it.

Do I know him well enough to send a text of the Lego Ghostbusters Ecto-1 my kids built at Christmas? Sure. He’s a cool guy who loves movies, got my kids autographed hats and took a few selfies with my cousin Jack who is a huge baseball fan.

His fiancee, Eireann (sic) Dolan is a very funny writer and TV personality who stumbled across my podcast. She introduced Sean to my podcast and the rest is history.

When I was at their place recording a podcast, Eireann offered me lemonade with mint in it. I told her I didn’t like mint in my lemonade. She gave it to me anyway. I drank it because I am a good guest. But I swear to GOD if she ever offers me lemonade with mint in it again, there will be hell to pay.

Both Eireann and Sean are goofballs. Sean got dressed up as Chewbacca for the opening of Force Awakens and is quite funny in the A’s commercials he would appear in. Eireann was a regular on CSN California with her hair that changed color more often than a mood ring.

They are also good people. They raise awareness and money for veteran issues, making sure brave men and women who serve our country have access to the health benefits. Their work with Operation Finally Home gets many vets into housing while Swords to Plowshares helps get them jobs.

The two have done work with Syrian refugees, sponsoring a Thanksgiving dinner for 17 families in Chicago. And they were instrumental in making the A’s first LGBTQ Pride Night an unqualified success.

Good people who are goofballs. One happens to throw the ball very well with his left hand. You can guess which one.

OK, here is Sean on my podcast talking about Unicorns and Juggling.

Here is Eireann talking about the trade from Washington.

Here is Eireann as a guest on my 1,000th podcast.

And here is me and Sean because… why not?

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Dusty Baker 1986 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 31, 2017

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With Hall of Fame Weekend over, we get back to the business of baseball. Now I am a Red Sox fan and I am still hoping they can win this year. Although I am getting less and less confident of their chances.

If they can’t win, I hope the Washington Nationals can. There are many reasons for that. Friend of the podcast Sean Doolittle is now on the team. The city of Washington has not had a pennant since 1933 nor a World Series champ since 1924 when the Senators were there. The fact that I have to phrase that so specifically makes me want to simplify it.

It would be the franchise’s first title, including the time as the Montreal Expos.

And oh yeah, I believe it will put Dusty Baker into the Hall of Fame. And Dusty Baker being enshrined as a Hall of Fame manager will be great for the game and wonderful is seeing all the people it will drive crazy.

Johnnie B. Baker Jr. is a California native who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1967. In 1968, the 19 year old Dusty made his debut in the majors. He had brief cameos in 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971 in Atlanta before finally becoming a regular outfielder in 1972. He batted .321 with an OPS of .888 in 503 plate appearances, swatting 17 homers along the way.

Throughout the mid 1970’s Baker was a solid offensive performer for Atlanta, being a 20 homer and 20 steals man in 1973. He was on deck when Henry Aaron his home run number 715.

As good as he was in Atlanta, he became a star in Los Angeles when he arrived as a Dodger in 1976. He went to the Dodgers in a trade involving Lee Lacy, Tom Paciorek, Jim Wynn, Ed Goodson and Jerry Royster.

In 1977, he smoked 30 homers, batted .291 and had an OPS of .876. In 1980, he finished 4th in the MVP vote. He made the 1981 and 1982 All Star Teams, winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 1981.

He excelled in October. Over his 4 NLCS appearances, he batted .371 with an OPS of 1.047 in 17 games He was less successful in the World Series, posting only a .579 OPS over 18 games. But he was part of the 1981 World Championship team.

The end of his career saw him bounce between the Giants and the A’s. His final manager was Tony LaRussa, a skipper with whom he would clash later in his career.

After his career ended as a player, he found himself in Roger Craig’s coaching staff for the Giants.

Eventually he would be named manager. With the arrival of Barry Bonds, he would win 103 games in his first year at the helm. It would be the first of three Manager of the Year awards he would win in San Francisco.

The Giants would win the 2002 pennant as well as Division Titles in 1997 and 2000 under Dusty. They would also play to the final weekend or sometimes the final day in 1993, 1998 and 2001.

Since then, he has brought the Cubs, Reds and Nationals to the post season. There is no denying that teams have played well under him. If he wins a World Series, then this amazing resume will be prologue.

Of course there have been some collapses in his career. I do not count 1993 as a collapse. The Giants played winning ball down the stretch and won 103 games. The Braves simply won so many games that there was no stopping them. Plus Atlanta should have never have been in the West.

But the Giants did indeed collapse in the 2002 World Series. And the image of Dusty Baker giving the game ball to Russ Ortiz in Game 6 when the Giants had a 5-0 lead was embarrassing premature celebrating.

Forget Steve Bartman. His handling of the Cubs pitchers and his bullpen management with a Cubs pennant on the line in 2003 was borderline insane.

The Reds blew a 2-0 lead going back home in the 2012 Division Series. They would end the 2013 season with a 6 game losing streak and fall in the Wild Card Game. Also his pitching management in last year’s Division Series loss to Los Angeles was, um, interesting.

And oh yeah, he puts together a lineup evidently by throwing darts at a dart board. Baker dismisses the importance of on base percentage by saying he doesn’t want to clog the bases. This has made him a target for the sabermetrics crowd.

While Baker has won playoff spots everywhere he has managed, talk to the fans of those teams. My dad, a rabid Giants fan, has his face blanch when I mention his name. We agree that letting his 3 year old son run onto the field during the 2002 World Series was nowhere NEAR his dumbest decision that October.

And with all that in mind, I want him in the Hall of Fame. Dusty Baker is a great character and beloved by his players. And all of those things that make him a POOR manager in so many people’s eyes makes me want to have fun and get him a plaque.

So Go Nats! If the result will be Dusty Baker is in the Hall of Fame and people everywhere shake their heads and think “Oh man, I can’t believe it”, then it will all be worth it.