Tag Archives: Toronto blue Jays

I Was a Teenage Prospector: Juan Guzman

Guzman Auto

Juan Guzman was one of the first baseball players that I ever saw up-close-and-personal-like. I guess it was summer of 1994, and a friend had somehow scored AMAZING tickets, right down the first base line, behind the first base dugout at Camden Yards, and like three rows up. I’ve never been so close to a game, and it spoiled me for years afterward. Anyway, I kind of remember Guzman coming over and signing autographs, but I DEFINITELY remember watching him warm up so close to us. I was amazed at how close the mound was to home plate. It seems a whole lot closer when you’ve got some flamethrower out there, let me tell you.

It took a lot of digging, and I thought it had gone down before the year of my high school graduation, but apparently not – July 31st, 1994, was the first time Guzman pitched at Camden. He didn’t exactly pitch a gem, but he got the win against a decent Baltimore lineup. Looking at that lineup, I feel pretty honored to have seen some of those guys: Devon White, Robbie Alomar, Paul Molitor, and John Olerud (my second time seeing my hero in action). Not to mention, of COURSE, Cal Ripken, Harold Baines, and Rafael Palmeiro, who I liked a lot at the time.

I also remember this game as a big deal for the neighborhood rivalry – Ben McDonald versus John Olerud – the ultimate answer to who was better. The victor? Well…Olerud went 2 for 3 with a homerun and a triple. McDonald? 6 ER in 5 innings. Olerud supremacy!

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I Was a Teenage Prospector: Derek Bell

Bell Score

1990 Score Rookie and Traded

I covered Delino Deshields’ 1988 O-Pee-Chee card on my other site today, and as much as I’d love to write about Derek’s here, I think it’s better to offer some variety, so it is that we behold Derek’s 1990 Score Traded, his first mainstream card. Derek was one of the prospects that I first learned about in 1988, with his name mentioned in the same breath as Joey Belle when it came to being troubled. As a burgeoning Blue Jays collector, I was intrigued, especially by the Eric Davis comparisons that were being drawn; I was also really into Davis at the time.

Of course, finding the OPC card sent me over the moon, but I had to endure a few years’ wait after that for another Derek Bell card. It was an incredibly pleasant surprise to pick up the 1990 Score Traded set at a small coin shop in my hometown in 1990 (a coin shop that was the go-to-source for traded sets). 1990 Score had such a cool design, and though I was disappointed with the color scheme, I treasured all the random rookie cards in the set, including this Bell card.

This was also my first exposure to the conundrum of XRCs. I was confused at the time. Did the OPC card count as his rookie, or did this? Or would his 1991 cards count as rookies with both of these as oddities? I’m dismayed that this answer is just as, if not more, confusing than ever these days. I thought for sure it would eventually be answered. It makes me glad I got out of this rookie business.

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The 1989 Project Day 9 – Junior Felix

1989 Donruss Baseball's Best

In 1989, I was beginning my love affair with the Toronto Blue Jays. To be honest, rather than being drawn to any one player, as John Olerud was not yet with the team, I was most drawn to the team’s uniforms and logo. Now come on, you have to admit that’s one badass logo, and it would be great if they’d go back to it. Anyway, I was excited to find out the Blue Jays had a cool new rookie that seemed to have five-tool stuff; that guy was Junior Felix.

1989 Donruss The Rookies

Side note: I immediately noticed that this photo and the previous photo are obviously from the same at-bat, same photographer and everything. I mean, not only same at-bat, but seconds apart. I did a double-take when I saw it, but noticed that the flex of the arms is slightly different, and the guy in the background has moved a bit. Still, wow. 1989 Baseball’s Best was a tremendous improvement over the 88 series when it came to photography, but this was one of those choices that showed that the series was still a “B” product at best.

1989 Fleer Update

Junior rose through the Blue Jays system pretty quickly, becoming known for his quick wrists, which produced a lot of power despite his scrawny size, and his speed on the basepaths. I get the impression he wasn’t expected to make the team in 1989, but had a scorching Spring Training, wrapping up with a .314 batting average. The team was forced to send him down at the end of Spring Training, but recalled him at the beginning of May when Manny Lee went on the DL. He debuted on May 5th and became the 53rd player to hit a home run in his major league at-bat, a solo homer off of Kirk McCaskill.

1989 Score Rookie and Traded

And hey, he did have a lot of speed…but unfortunately no clue on how to harness it. While he stole 18 bases in his rookie year, a rather good total, he was also caught an atrocious 12 times. At that point, his stolen bases are a net loss, and after that rookie year and his second year, his SB totals dropped like a rock. I’m guessing that once the Angels acquired him and saw what a lousy base stealer he was, they stopped running him.

1989 Topps Traded

Overall, though, he didn’t have a terrible rookie campaign, especially for a 21-year-old at the major league level.  He hit .258/.315/.395 (the OBP was particularly worrying), with 9 homers, 14 doubles, and a great 8 triples. That right there is where his speed really should have shone. And hey, a 105 OPS+ for a rookie outfielder isn’t bad. His defense wasn’t very great, though, which would be another problem. Oh, and he got to the postseason for the first and only time that year, as the Blue Jays played the A’s in the ALCS. He went 3-for-11 in the series, with a double, nary a walk, and two strikeouts. In retrospect, it’s clear that he had glaring flaws in his game, and they would become more and more exploitable as time went on.

1989 Upper Deck High Numbers

I didn’t care about all of that stuff at the time, though. Felix was another player revealed to me via the Upper Deck High Numbers, and I was excited the more I read about him. I had learned about why it was important to buy in on players who make the majors at a young age, as they have more of a chance of making the Hall of Fame, so I thought he had a shot for sure, and when he hit even better in 1990, I was ecstatic. Then came the trade to the Angels in the 1990 offseason, and I was confused. Were Devon White and Willie Fraser really worth a budding superstar in the making?

Whoops. Yeah, they were. Or at least Devon White was. He would help the team win back-to-back championships, while Felix fell off significantly in California between 1991 and 92 (to be fair, he was stricken with a calf injury for most of 91), then landed with the Marlins in their inaugural season. I’ll let this stuff go for a bit, though, because I’m sure we’ll see more of Junior in future iterations of these projects. Suffice it to say, his career would not live up to the expectations.

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John Olerud 1989 Topps Traded

My first custom card is a 1989 Topps Traded card of John Olerud. I know it’s not perfect, but I was getting tired of trying to perfect some of the finer details on this (1989 Topps was probably not the ideal set to start with), so I figured this was good enough for a first try. If I had one dream card to pick out for existence, it would have been this or a 1989 Upper Deck high numbers Olerud card. In fact, that may have been an easier card to go with, but…well, here we are. Olerud made his debut in September 1989, and like all late-season call-ups didn’t have time to make a set, but I was wistful about the possibility.

The base is a combination of an Alex Sanchez and a Junior Felix 1989 Topps card with an early photo of Olerud.

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The 1988 Project Phase 2 Day 9: Toronto Blue Jays

So we have here Pat Borders, Sil Campusano, Mike Flanagan, and Todd Stottlemyre. Borders is one of three rookies in this crop, and he had a pretty good 88, all things considered, especially for a rookie catcher. He hit .273/.285/.448 with 5 homers, a 103 OPS+ and a 0.7 WAR. It was a good start to a respectable career. Campusano was one of many touted Blue Jays outfield prospects, but he managed only a .218/.282/.359 line with a 79 OPS+ in his rookie campaign, and didn’t play much more in the majors after that. Stottlemyre, the son of Mel Stottlemyre, made his debut in April of 88, having made the team out of Spring Training. He had a lousy year, going 4-8 with a 5.69 ERA and a 69 ERA+. Thankfully, he would improve.

Our only veteran is Mike Flanagan. Flanny was nearing the end of his career here. He went 13-13 with a 4.18 ERA for the Jays, a 93 ERA+, but he had some good years left in that arm still.

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John Olerud 1992 Cards #3

1992 Topps Stadium Club

1992 Stadium Club was a huge letdown for me. Bright, colorful photos had been replaced by photos that had a more drab, dark palette, and while the logo was even less intrusive than the 1991 version, the black square made for an even darker card. I’ve considered going through and scanning every card I have from this set and color-correcting them to be brighter, but it seems like a lot of work for not a lot of reward. Besides, I color-corrected this version, and it’s still dark as hell.

1992 Studio

On the other hand, 1992 Studio was a vast improvement. I’ve already expressed my displeasure with the 1991 issue, and it was nice to see a card that had a posed, color photo to go with a black-and-white action shot. Studio would eventually go on to be even better, but I give 1992 a thumbs-up for taking the idea and improving upon it.

1992 Topps

1992 Topps Gold

1992 Topps Gold Winner

I’ll admit, I’m still not clear on the difference between the standard gold and the “winner” gold; all I know is I’ve had all three variations of this card from way back when. Like Studio, 1992 Topps was a huge improvement on the way to better things, but this card bored the hell out of me for obvious reasons. The gold was an interesting touch, but didn’t bowl me over.

1992 Triple Play

Triple Play was the first attempt at a “kid’s” set in a hobby that was rapidly growing out of the reach of kids. I was 16 when the set was released, and my budget was probably more the set’s target, but I considered it ugly and not really worth my consideration past the Olerud and Orioles cards. And this…yeah, ugh. Why use a photo where he’s called out? I guess it is a change from all the fielding and batting pictures, though.

1992 Upper Deck

And we finish up 1992 with another fielding shot, but at least this one is different. I appreciate the photo a lot, even if I generally don’t like 1992 Upper Deck (way too much white space on the border). Alex Cole still carried some weight in the hobby at the time, and it was good to see an action shot like this, even if it has the infamous 92 Upper Deck effect. Check out Cole’s face if you’re wondering what I mean by this.

And that gets us through 1992. On to 1993 very soon!

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John Olerud 1992 Cards #2

1992 Leaf

1992 Leaf Black

Okay, on we go. Do you know how badly I wished that Black Gold design would be the real Leaf design? I think the history of Leaf might have gone very differently if they had gone with that design as the base. Or a world where they jump from the 1990 design straight to the black border design. I know lots of people either don’t like gold leaf or are sick to death of it, but I like it when it’s used correctly, and I feel this is the correct application. Now, as for the card itself, I would’ve preferred a better shot than his back, but I guess it’s interesting, especially in the context of the numerous fielding cards we’ve seen so far.

1992 Pinnacle

I’m so torn on this set. I really like the design, the black borders, the coloring…but there’s something that always made the set feel “cheap” to me, and I can’t put my finger on it. I suspect it’s because it’s a throwback to a little different school of design, where the design is the centerpiece and the photograph plays second fiddle. I just can’t help but wonder what that picture would look like if it was allowed to fill that entire black space to the upper right-hand corner. Although it is another average picture. Ho-hum.

1992 Pinnacle Team 2000

Now THAT is what I’m talking about. Why couldn’t they have made the Pinnacle design look like that? I love it; the design elements are neatly placed on the left-hand side, with a full-bleed to the top and right of the card. The photograph becomes of far more importance, and you get the nice black borders with gold leaf. It’s a win-win decision. I like this card so much I’ve purposefully bought multiple copies with an eye toward filling a page with them. I may try to put the set together one day; watch this space.

1992 Score

You know, I had never made the connection between the 92 Score and Pinnacle designs, but they have a lot in common. You have the design elements taking up 3/4″ of the card, to the point where they become the main focus rather than the photo. The lines are similar, from the lines at the bottom to the top. Hell, the photo on this card is even similar. Obviously, the colors are different, but it does make me wonder if the same guy who designed this designed Pinnacle that year.

1992 Score Impact Player

And here we have an example of what I like about the Team 2000 card all over again. Design elements are relegated to the lower left corner (though lifted a bit off of the picture, allowing for the photo to bleed to that edge), leaving the rest of the card for the photo. And it’s actually a well-constructed photo. This card is a darkhorse favorite of the early 90s for me, and I’d never put together why until I saw it side-by-side with the Team 2000 card. Again, same designer? We may never know.

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