Chase Utley 2010 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for June 9, 2017

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My wife hates Chase Utley.

Granted, there is no shortage of people who hate Chase Utley. Not a single New York Met fan has any trouble hating Chase Utley. But my wife hating him is kind of strange.

My wife doesn’t follow baseball… which makes her marriage to me seem a little bizarre I will admit. But often a baseball game is on in our house. And whenever Chase Utley is up to bat, my wife will mutter “Utley!” the way that Seinfeld would say “Newman!”

This has been going on for a while now. There isn’t a really rational explanation for it. It is just something that is there.

She says his name just sounds like a jerk she wouldn’t like.

Met fans agree.

Now to be sure, he very well might be a Hall of Famer or at least a borderline candidate.

Utley was born in Pasadena (right down the street from the house where my wife mutters UTLEY! when he comes to the plate.

Everything about Utley (UTLEY!) is Southern California. He grew up in Long Beach and went to UCLA where he was a star. The Dodgers drafted him out of high school, to complete the LA picture but he stayed in college.

In 2000, the Phillies used the 15th pick overall to bring in Utley. 7 players picked ahead of him never made it to the majors. In fact of the 14 players picked ahead of him, only Adrian Gonzalez (1st overall) and Rocco Baldelli (6th overall) posted a career WAR above 1.

The pick paid off for Philadelphia. By 2003 he was on the Major League roster. By 2005, he was the starting second baseman. By 2006, he was an All Star. He hit for a high average, put up big home run totals and led the league in runs scored in 2006.

Along with Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, he was part of one of the best home grown infields baseball has seen since the Dodgers of the 1970’s. Rollins and Utley (UTLEY!) had the knack for hitting streaks. Rollins had a 38 game hitting streak in 2005 and Utley nearly matched it with a 35 game streak.

By 2007, he helped the Phillies stick a knife in the hearts of Mets fans by leading Philadelphia to the NL East crown aided by the Mets epic collapse. He didn’t contribute much in the post season, which saw Philadelphia getting swept by Colorado, but the championship seeds were planted.

2008 saw another big Utley season and another Met late season collapse. After a poor Division Series, Utley made up for it with a 1.169 OPS in the 5 game NLCS victory over Los Angeles, hitting a home run for good measure. In the World Series, he homered twice and made a great fake throw that decoyed a runner to come home only to be nailed. The Phillies won the World Series, only their second in team history.

Over the years, he continued to slug big and help the Phillies into October. He matched Reggie Jackson’s 1977 World Series total with 5 homers in the 2009 loss to the Yankees. The Phillies won the Division in 2010 and 2011, with Utley batting .438 and an OPS of 1.259 in the 2011 Division Series loss to the Cardinals.

As the Phillies hoped for one more title with the core group, the team got old and their fortunes faded. Utley was still productive but his MVP candidacy was no longer a factor.

The Phillies finally decided to rebuild in 2015 and Utley was dumped to the Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers. Finally back in Southern California, he helped the Dodgers win the NL West.

Then came the infamous slide into Ruben Tejada. Yeah it was dirty. Yeah it sucked. It might have been legal but it still sucked.

And yeah, there is a strange poetry that the picture on this Topps card is of a player sliding cleanly towards him.

UTLEY!

Either way, he seems to be winding down his career in LA. He had a terrible April of 2017 but rebounded with solid numbers in May and June that will probably mean he gets a spot on the Dodgers playoff roster.

Is he a Hall of Famer? Certainly he is a borderline case, having similar numbers to Hall of Famers Bobby Doerr and Joe Gordon. Also being a power hitting World Champion second baseman who will log at least 15 years in the bigs can’t hurt.

But do you know what can hurt? The legions of people who don’t like him.

Leading that pack? My wife.

UTLEY!

Lance Parrish 1991 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for June 1, 2017

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Lance Parrish was once so good and was so well regarded that he actually beat collusion.

And he was ahead of the curve of lifting weights before juicers ruined everything.

A pair of the biggest scandals in baseball history kind of squirted past him.

Plus his bio includes Tina Turner.

Chances are, the name Lance Parrish brings up images of playing for the blue collar fans of Detroit. The fact that he was born in Clairton Pennsylvania, you would think he came from a rough and tumble region where the Tigers would be a perfect fit.

The Angels uniform he is wearing in this Topps card might seem out of place.

The fact of the matter is he became a California kid. He spent his adolescence in Diamond Bar, which is basically in between LA and Anaheim. He thought he was going to be drafted by his hometown Angels or maybe accept a scholarship to UCLA.

But in the 1974 draft, the Angels passed on him but the Tigers used the 16th pick overall to gobble him up.

The Tigers might not have been Parrish’s first choice, but it turned out to be a great blessing for the timing in his career.

Parrish shot up through the Tigers farm system where he was teammates with future big leaguers like Jack Morris, Alan Trammell and Tom Brookens, all of whom would be his teammates in the World Series eventually.

By 1977 he was in the big leagues. By 1979, the 23 year old Parrish was putting up big numbers for manager Sparky Anderson. In 1980, he made his first All Star Game, smacking 24 homers and posting an .825 OPS.

By 1982, being on the All Star team was old hat for Parrish. He was a Gold Glove winner defensively, a Silver Slugger offensively and surpassed Carlton Fisk as the best catcher in the American League. He crushed homers, drove in runs, hit for a solid average and gave the Tigers a legit star.

When the Tigers went wire to wire in 1984 to win the AL East, Parrish clobbered a career high 33 homers and handled the super deep rotation and bullpen. He caught Jack Morris’ no hitter and delivered big hit after big hit.

In the first game of the ALCS, Parrish homered, driving home 2 and helped the Tigers win 8-1 over Kansas City. He also homered in the World Series clinching Game 5 against San Diego.

Beloved by his teammates and Detroit fans, he did clash his manager Sparky Anderson. Lance Parrish was an avid weightlifter. At the time, he was considered one of the bulkier and muscular players in baseball in the mid 1980’s.

Sparky Anderson did not care for his players pumping iron. He felt that having too many muscles would hurt flexibility and increase injuries. Parrish continued lifting, ignoring his manager’s request.

Of course by the end of the decade, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire would overshadow Parrish’s physique. No word on what Anderson would think of the Bash Brothers and their workout regiment.

After the 1986 season, which was another All Star and Silver Slugger campaign for Parrish, his contract expired. The Tigers did not sign him and off Parrish went to free agency.

But this was at the height of collusion. His teammate Jack Morris also tried free agency but oddly got no offers. Neither did batting champ Tim Raines and many other elite players.

Many teams could use an All Star catcher with power, Gold Gloves and a World Series ring. The offers were non existent until the Phillies came calling. The negotiations were slow and dragged into spring training, as clauses were added to keep him from suing for collusion. Nothing suspicious about THAT!

He joined Philadelphia but flopped in his first season in the National League. His numbers dropped and only played 130 games, not exactly winning over Phillies fans.

Meanwhile the Tigers won the AL East with a combination of Mike Heath and Matt Nokes behind the plate.

Parrish got off to a solid start in 1988 and got an All Star Game selection, his first and only in the National League. But his second half saw a huge drop in his numbers and he had his worst season overall.

After the 1988 season ended and before the playoffs were done, the Phillies dumped him to the Angels for David Holdrige. Better late than never, he finally was heading to Anaheim.

He struggled in his first season in California but in 1990, he crushed 24 homers and made his final trip to the All Star Game.

After 1990, the 35 year old Parrish became a journeyman. Between 1991 and 1995, he bounced between the Angels, Mariners, Indians, Pirates and Blue Jays. He even had a chance with the Dodgers but didn’t make the team due to the arrival of Mike Piazza.

With his career done, Lance Parrish became a staple on minor league coaching staffs. He went to the Royals, Dodgers and Tigers organizations. He was a coach on the big league squad. Eventually he became the manager for the Erie Seawolves.

Always a fan favorite, he knew to pump iron before steroids took over and had a resume that even collusion couldn’t deny.

And at one point, that bulked up Parrish acted as the body guard to Tina Turner. Now THAT is a life well lived!

Juan Samuel 1990 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 30, 2017

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By all accounts, Juan Samuel has had a great baseball life.

He played 16 years in the major leagues. He won the Silver Slugger Award. He was named to three All Star teams and played in the 1983 World Series.

Later he was a major league coach and was briefly the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Twice he led the league in triples and was a durable players who had the most at bats in the league three out of four seasons.

And despite all of that, he will always represent the shockingly misguided change of direction of a major franchise based upon his half season he spent in New York.

It wasn’t his fault. He was a nice player who had a good career. Just don’t tell that to Mets fans.

The Phillies signed Samuel as a free agent in 1980. A native of the Domincan Republic, he attended the Licey high school in Puerto Rico.

In the Philadelphia farm system, he put up huge numbers in the home run department, was stealing over 50 bases a year and batting over .300. He had star written all over him and was called up in 1983 in time to be on the post season roster.

The Phillies had an aging roster in 1983 with many members of the Big Red Machine having their last hurrahs. One of those players was Joe Morgan, who got some big hits in the 1983 NLCS and World Series. Samuel was a role player in those series, biding his time.

After the World Series, Morgan went to Oakland and room was made for the young Samuel who did not disappoint. OK fine, he led the league in strikeouts in 1984 (he would in 1985, 1986 and 1987 as well.) But he hit for power (36 doubles, 15 homers and a league leading 19 triples) and he could steal (72 bags swiped.)

He was an All Star his rookie year and only the brilliant Dwight Gooden kept him from being named the Rookie of the Year.

The Mets and Cardinals took over the NL East as the Phillies drifted away from contention. But it was not the fault of Samuel, who continued to be the best offensive second baseman NOT named Ryne Sandberg in the National League.

In 1987, he became the first player in MLB history to reach double digits in doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases in each of his first four seasons. His defense was sometime suspect and he did not walk much. But the famous line “You don’t walk off the island” is attributed to Samuel.

In 1989, he got off to a slow start in Philadelphia and the team was in flux with the retirement of Mike Schmidt and all connections to the championship years seemingly cut. The 28 year old Samuel looked like he could be trade bait for a Phillies rebuild.

The team shifted him to the outfield where his speed could be utilized and his defensive issues minimized.

Then in July, the Mets called. The team was trying to reshape their image of a wild and crazy party house. They had already pushed out Kevin Mitchell and Wally Backman. But Lenny Dykstra, the hard nose and grind it out centerfielder, was one of the most popular players on the team. He seemed to represent the never say die quality of the Mets that the fans loved. But his act seemed to be wearing thin with management.

Dykstra and colorful reliever Roger McDowell, another fan favorite were shipped off to Philadelphia, a division rival, for Juan Samuel.

The trade was shocking to fans, who also saw another beloved 1986 Met, Mookie Wilson, traded a few days later.

The entire personality of the team seemed to be gutted in a series of moves. In return was a player seemingly playing out of position and whose production plummeted in his 86 games in Queens.

As a lead off hitter, he batted .228 with a .299 on base percentage with an OPS of .599. He stole 31 bases but Met fans did not care. What Samuel represented seemed to supercede anything productive he did on the field.

Ripping beloved players like Dykstra, McDowell and Wilson out of the Mets seemed to take the brash fun out of the team. The intangible swagger was gone and soon the winning was as well. Samuel, along with other less exciting new comers inserted into the team, did not excite the fans nor produce on the field.

What looked like a young dynasty of cocky guys winning and not caring what you think and endearing themselves to New Yorkers, the Mets were a mismatch patchwork of players who didn’t fit. And soon they didn’t win.

It didn’t help matters that Lenny Dykstra helped lead the Phillies to the 1993 World Series and Samuel was long gone with the Mets by then.

Samuel played only a half season in New York. After 1989, he was traded to the Dodgers for Alejandro Pena and Mike Marshall. Essentially, a reliever and an outfielder… almost exactly what he was traded for with the Phillies.

Samuel made the 1991 All Star team with the Dodgers. who bore no ill will to him. He would play until 1998, sometimes as a part time player, and other times starting.

Eventually he would become a coach for the Tigers, a manager in the Mets system and a member of the Orioles coaching staff. In 2010, he served as the interim manager for the Orioles. He managed 51 games, going 17 and 34 along the way before being replaced by Buck Showalter. Since 2011, he has been a coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, who inducted him to their Wall of Fame at Citizens Bank Park.

Samuel is a beloved Phillies player with a resume and baseball life most would envy. But what he represents to Mets fans is a misguided rebuild. It isn’t fair. But neither is baseball.