Roberto Kelly

Catching a UFO without even looking at it. Or dumbfoundedly playing catch with a rosin bag. I really don't know.

Why we like him: For the better part of my adult life, and everyone else's I know, the Yankees have always been a perennial powerhouse of a ballclub, contending for a World Series championship year after year.  Despite popular belief, they continuously have a good mix of home-grown talent (Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Bernie, etc.) coupled with marquee free agent signings that only they could afford (A-Rod, Mussina, Teixeira, etc.). However, when I was a kid, the Yankees were anything but a contender.

During the better part of the late 80s and early 90s, the Yankees were a struggling mess. After the Bronx Zoo era of the late 70s and early 80s, the Yankees were hampered mainly by just bad luck. Their marquee hitters, Dave Winfield and the home-grown Don Mattingly, possibly my favorite player ever, were both extremely injury prone and not-so-proud owners of bad backs. The prospect line still seemed, on the surface, to be somewhate productive, churning out semi-promising youngsters Kevin Maas (who will definitely be on this blog at some point), Deion Sanders, Hensley Meulens, and Pat Kelly. And of course there was also Roberto Kelly.

In all honesty, Kelly was probably the most promising outfield prospect the Yanks had in their system during that era until Bernie Williams showed up. He played four full, pretty productive seasons in the Bronx until being traded at the end of the 1992 season to the Reds for Paul O'Neill, another one of my favorite players ever. After he left the Big Apple, he bounced around all over the league with stops in Cincinnati, Atlanta, Montreal, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Seattle, and Texas before winding up right back where he started with the Yankees in 2000. After failing to win a solid roster spot during the season, he was granted free agency after the 2000 season. He was then picked up by Colorado, but he retired before ever playing another game.

Kelly's final statline: 14 seasons, 8 teams, a semi-surprising .290 average, 124 homers, 585 RBI, 235 steals, and 2 All Star appearances ('92 and '93). Supposedly a guy who was destined to be a part of the Yankees' championship puzzle, he never really blossomed into the player scouts or fans thought he was going to be, and he never earned the opportunity to contribute for the World Series-winning Yankees teams of the late 1990s we all remember so well. Unless you count him being traded for Paul O'Neill, then he totally helped.

Ladies and gentlemen, Roberto Kelly, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Roy Face

Elroy's face.

Why we like him: When you think about the game's greatest closers, you probably think about Rivera, Eckersley, Lee Smith, Wagner, Hoffman, Gossage, Fingers, and Sutter. The guys you don't think about are the ones who actually revolutionized the game, essentially invented role, and basically defined the job of the closer for future generations. Long before Eric Gagne was saving a shady 84 consecutive games and John Rocker was sprinting onto the field to Twisted Sister, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Elroy Leon Face was making a name for himself by finishing ballgames.

Face laid the groundwork for the closer role in the league in the late 50s.  After finding little success as a starter, he made the move to the bullpen and found other ways he could help his team. Through the development of a forkball, which he picked up from Yankee bullpen specialist Joe Page, Face would come on late in games and secure wins for the Pirates by shutting down opposing lineups for one to two innings. From 1958 to 1962, Face was easily the best in baseball at what he did, which was save ballgames. He made three straight All Star appearances from '59 to '61, and was even a legitimate factor in the MVP race in '59.

Roy Face played 16 seasons in the majors, 15 of which were spent in Pittsburgh. He saved 193 games during an era when the save was really an insignificant statistic. Despite a pretty ugly postseason ERA, he even became the first pitcher to save three games in a single World Series during the legendary Fall Classic of 1960 against the Yankees. 

When you think about it and look at the numbers, Roy Face is probably not worthy of a place in the Hall in Cooperstown, but when you consider the impact the man made on the game and closer's role, in particular, it might be worth it to give the guy his own wing. Let's put it this way. If you've ever gotten pumped up because your club is headed into the ninth inning with a lead, and you're excited about your closer coming in to shut it down and wrap up a save, thank Roy Face.

Ladies and gentlemen, Roy Face, Ballplayer.

Delino DeShields

Greatest. Cap. Ever.

Why we like him: Sometimes I remember players because of the way they played the game, statistics they compiled over their career, or even just because of the way they looked.  Then there are players you remember because of all of that as well as the fact that they were a piece of one of the most ludicrously stupid trades in baseball history. Meet Delino Lamont DeShields.

DeShields was a pretty good player by any standard, a pesky lefty slap hitter that always seemed to find his way on base and steal second, third, and shortstop's wallet.  In his first year in the league, 1990, DeShields batted .289 with 42 steals for a young Expos team that had a certain buzz about them. They were competitive within the division always seemed like a threat to sneak up on anyone in the National League.  DeShields was part of the Montreal's youthful foundation that centered around himself, Larry Walker, Rondell White, and Marquis Grissom, all of which had enough veteran leadership around them in guys like Tim Wallach, Tim Raines, and Andres Galarraga to make them legitimate contenders in the future.

At the end of the 1993 season, DeShields' stock had never been higher.  He was coming off a .295 season with 42 steals and looked like the prototypical, consistent leadoff hitter of the future.  He even finished 16th in MVP voting in 1992.  The Expos were loaded with young talent and looking to make a run for the division in 1994 (and I like to think they would have won the Series too, you know, if there was one).  They just needed a little more firepower in the pitching department to send them over the top.  The Montreal brass dangled DeShields on the trade market looking for any takers.  The Los Angeles Dodgers were willing to part ways with a young pitching prospect of their own named Pedro Martinez in return for the pesky DeShields. No, really. Straight up. Needless to say, the rest is history.

Pedro Martinez went on to win his first Cy Young Award in Montreal in 1997 on his way to becoming one of the best pitchers the game has ever seen.  DeShields played three seasons for the Dodgers and batted .241 before walking away to St. Louis as a free agent in 1997.  DeShields' final career stats include 13 big-league seasons, a .268 average, and 463 steals.  And an involvement in one of the single dumbest, head-scratching-est trades in baseball history.

Ladies and gentlemen, Delino DeShields, Ballplayer.

Milt Thompson

Nice stance.

Why we like him: Milt Thompson was passed around more times than a needle in the '88 Oakland clubhouse. Over the course of his 13-year career, Thompson played for 6 different teams, all of which were in the National League.  What's so perplexing, though, is that he always seemed like the type of productive player that was coveted around the league, yet he never stayed with the same club for more than four consecutive seasons.

Thompson was indeed a productive player who could play wherever his manager needed him to play in the outfield, and usually performed best when pinch hitting or part of a platoon, such as splitting time playing the corner outfield spots with Felix Jose and Bernard Gilkey in St. Louis in the early 90s.  He batted .274 for his career with just 47 home runs.  He even played in the World Series in 1993 with the Phillies, batting .294 with a home run and 6 RBI (5 of those RBI came in Game 4 alone).  Perhaps Thompson was best known during his career for his defensive play, showing off his range and snatching balls from over the fence pretty regularly during the pre-Web Gem era.

In 1997, Thompson was hired as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' outfield and baserunning coordinator, which I'm not sure is somethign he's necessarily proud of.  After two years of hanging around the Devil Dogs, he moved to Philadelphia for assorted base coaching and position jobs with the Phillies.  He even finally won a World Series ring with the Phillies in 2008 as their hitting coach.  He's now the outfield and baserunning coordinator for the Houston Astros' farm system.

Milt Thompson might not have been the best at anything, but he was always fun to watch in the outfield and a guy pitchers never wanted to see at the plate in big spots. You'd think that some team somewhere would have kept Milt for the long haul, using him as an integral piece of the puzzle instead of trading him or letting him walk as a free agent.  But then again, that's sort of what made him who he was.  He could definitely play for my team any day.

Ladies and gentlemen, Milt Thompson, Ballplayer.

Pat Listach

The bat broke when it hit that golden chalice.

Why we like him: Iin 1992, Pat Listach (pronounced: liss-STASH) looked like a promising big-league talent.  He was just 24 years old and won the starting job at shortstop on a strong Brewers squad that finished second in the AL East in 1992 behind an excellent Blue Jays team.  That season Milwaukee's lineup featured the aging legends, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, productive young guys beginning to find their niche in the league like Greg Vaughn and Dante Bichette, and steady veteran guys like Kevin Seitzer and B.J. Surhoff.  They even featured a sneaky-good pitching staff full of guys who all had career years at the same time.  If Toronto hadn't been so good that year, the Brewers probably would have been the World Series favorites.

Listach's '92 season wasn't necessarily the most productive rookie season ever (See: Pujols, Albert), but it definitely felt like this guy was going to be here for the long haul. He started the season on fire from the nine hole, and had worked his way into the Brewers' leadoff spot by May. He batted .290 in his first major-league season, and showed good speed with 54 steals in 149 games.  He had become such an asset to a very good team that people around the game were overlooking some pretty glaring weaknesses, like a propensity for striking out, even as a leadoff hitter (124 Ks in '92).  Nonetheless, Listach took home the 1992 Rookie of the Year trophy, narrowly beating out Kenny Lofton, and even finished 18th in MVP voting.

The following year, the league started to figure out how to pitch to Listach, as his batting average fell to a pedestrian .244, and he continued to strikeout at an alarming clip.  He did pick it up a little in 1994, batting .296 in just 16 games, but in 1995 Listach only managed a lame .219 average.  He was traded to the Yankees in a waiver trade in 1996, but never played a single game for the Bombers.  After being granted free agency at the end of '96, Listach signed on with the Astros where he batted .182 through 54 games in 1997 before being released on July 1.  He then bounced around and downward like a Plinko disk through a couple of minor league organizations, but never played another major-league game.

Pat Listach was a flash in the pan in its purest form, but he was just lucky enough to take home an award for it.  His final line: 6 seasons, .251 average, 5 homers, 338 Ks, and one trophy.  Since his retirement from playing ball, he's served as a pretty successful manager in the Cubs minor league system before working his way back to the majors as the Nationals' third base coach in 2009. If you're just dying to see Pat Listach right now, take a look in the Cubs' dugout.  He became their bench coach in 2010 and still coaches benches to this day.  If Donny Baseball looks like he could still hit .280 right now at 50, Listach looks like he could hit .130 and destroy a buffet at 43.

Ladies and gentlemen, Pat Listach, Ballplayer.

Razor Shines

Yes, really.

Why we like him: Get ready, because it's about to get ridiculous.  I know what you're thinking, and yes, that is his real name, and no, he was not a Harlem Globetrotter.  The legend of Anthony Razor Shines is pretty preposterous.  His listed nickname is actually Ray, but in all honesty, if you have an opportunity to call a man Razor Shines, you're going to.  He might seem like just another Expo of yesteryear wandering through baseball obscurity wishing he was anywhere but Montreal, but with a name like that, you're destined for great things.  You'd think.

Anyway, his career spanned only 4 seasons in the majors, all of which were with the Expos, and yielded some of the most pitiful stats ever to grace a Baseball Reference page.  With only 81 at-bats in 68 games spread over 4 seasons, he was a career .185 hitter with no home runs, 5 RBI, and one sweet extra-base hit (a double).  That's not even the best part.  He also pitched one "who-cares" inning in a blowout loss to the Phillies in '85, giving up just one hit and surrendering no runs.  That's right.  Razor Shines, proud owner of a .185 career average and 0.00 ERA.

Shines is actually somewhat a cult hero in minor league lore.  He definitely served his time, playing 16 minor league seasons in places like Indianapolis, Memphis, Buffalo, and he even played a little bit in Mexico.  Of course, no one can spend that much time in the minors and not figure out ways to help groom younger players and manage games. After his playing career came to an end in 1987, Shines began coaching and eventually managing minor league teams in Birmingham, Alabama, and Clearwater, Florida, and he is the proud owner of over 500 minor league wins as a manager.  He also served as a base coach for the White Sox in 2007 and also for the Mets in 2009 and 2010.

So just how awesome is Razor Shines?  Awesome enough to have an honorary Razor Shines Night while he was managing at a minor league stadium...of the opposing team.  He was just a classic ballplayer, a man grinding out season after season in the minors for a shot at living the major league dream, and he did live it, if only for a little while.  I'm glad the game got to experience Razor Shines, and it's stories like his that make this the greatest game in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, Razor Shines, Ballplayer.

Felix Fermin

Hittin' and grinnin'.

Why we like him: Felix Fermin was just one of those guys. A pesky middle infielder who always managed to find a way to make it difficult for a defense to get him out.  His career spanned 10 seasons with stops in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Seattle, and Chicago (NL), where he batted a lame but respectable .259 with 4 home runs. In addtion to being a usable hitter, Fermin also played pretty good defense at shortstop as well as second base, which made him a valuable late inning substitute.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about his career, statistically anyway, was the fact that he struck out 147 times and walked 166 in 2,767 at-bats. First of all, any time a guy can strike out fewer times than he walks, I'm impressed.  Look at a decent player from today, the Mets' Angel Pagan.  He's already struck out 260 times in his career in 1400 at-bats.  Fermin made you work.  However, what I like about stats like his is that when Felix "El Gato" Fermin strolled to the plate to hit, he was going to hit.  It's like he knew that you only get so many ABs in life, so you might as well hack away and put it in play.

I probably remember Fermin best for his 1994 strike-shortened season with the Mariners.  He was the everyday shortstop for an up-and-coming Mariners team that was starting to get it together.  He batted career-best .317 that season with the best slugging percentage of his career (.380).  Fermin provided a spark near the bottom of the Seattle lineup all season long, and just as everyone thought he was turning the corner and becoming a valuable asset to the M's, the strike happened.

The following year was the beginning of the end for Felix.  He batted .195 with just six extra-base hits.  He was released in April of 1996, but was picked up a month later by the Chicago Cubs who hoped he could regain his 1994 form.  But 1996 was even worse, as he batted .125 through 11 games and was released by the organization in August, never to play again.  Fermin has since become somewhat of a legend as a manager in the Dominican Winter League, winning five championships for the not-so-easily-pronounced Águilas Cibaeñas in eight seasons.

Ladies and gentlemen, Felix Fermin, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Hector Lopez

In foul territory and in anonymity.

Why we like him: According to my dad, Hector Lopez is the Yankee that nobody remembers, and it's actually kind of a shame.  Statistically, this guy had, for lack of a better word, an interesting career.  He started out in the late 1950s in what was essentially the New York Yankees' feeder system at that time, the Kansas City Athletics. He actually put together four pretty decent seasons there, and even led the league in grounded into double plays and sacrifice flies in the same season (1958), which is truly amazing when you think about it.  He was apparently always willing to sacrifice himself as well as another baserunner for the good of the team.  Bizarre.

In 1959, Lopez was a throw-in piece in the deal that brought Ralph Terry to the Bronx from Kansas City in return for three has-beens/losers, a practice that was used and abused to perfection by the Yankees during that era.  At the end of the '59 season, the Yanks even snatched up Roger Maris, the eventual back-to-back MVP winner in '60 and '61, away from KC for Don Larsen ("But he threw a perfect game in the Series! Forget about the rest of his crappy career!") and the corpse of Hank Bauer.

The early part of his career was a nightmare for Lopez defensively.  In 1955 and 1956, he led the league in errors committed by a third baseman, and led the league in errors committed by a second baseman in 1958 in just 96 games.  Just looking at the stats sheet, it looks like Hector was a player being played woefully out of position in the infield when he clearly lacked confidence in himself to perform at those positions.  After arriving in the Bronx, Casey Stengel obviously recognized that Lopez possessed clearly usable skills at the plate, but needed a change of scenery at his position to alleviate the pressures of being an everyday infielder in place like New York.  Lopez sort of made the vast Yankee Stadium left field his own over the next few seasons, even splitting a little time with an aging Yogi Berra after his switch of positions.

Though not as well-known as some other Panamanian Yankees, Hector Lopez deserves just a little more love and recognition.  After all, he was the left fielder for some of the best and most memorable Yankee squads of the 1960s.  His final stat line: 12 seasons of near anonymity, .269 with 136 homers and 591 RBI, .286 postseason average, a heap of errors, and the label of "the Yankee that nobody remembers."  Well nobody except for my dad, and now me too, I guess.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hector Lopez, Ballplayer.

Mike Greenwell

This probably didn't end well.

Why we like him: When I think back to Red Sox players of my childhood, I first think of Wade Boggs, Professional Hitter, then I think of that turd in the punchbowl, Roger Clemens, and then I think about Mike Greenwell.  Greenwell was and still is a very underrated player from an era chock full of underrated players.  He was a sweet-swingin' lefty and a career .303 hitter during a time when .315-ish at least got you in the hunt for a batting title every year.  On top of everything else, his nickname was "Gator," and he just looked like a ballplayer.

Greenwell spent all 12 seasons of his major-league career with Boston, which speaks volumes about his loyalty to the city and the organization.  I don't even like the Sox, but I have to admire Greenwell for his character as well as his abilities.  Greenwell's 1987 and 1988 seasons were very productive for any era, but in the offensively devoid late 80s, his stats made him seem like a sure Hall-of-Famer and the second coming of Ted Williams.  He finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting in 1987, and came in 2nd in MVP voting in 1988 behind only a 'roided up Jose Canseco.

Greenwell stayed in Boston until the end of the 1996 season when he was just 32.  He then decided to take his talents to South Beach...of Honshu.  He signed on with everyone's favorite Japanese squad, the Hanshin Tigers, for $2.5 million (that's 150 kajillion-zillion yen!) in the spring of '97, but lasted only a few days before returning home after fracturing his left foot on a foul ball. He retired that year to the surprise of fans, teammates, and coaches alike.

Looking back, I think the only thing that separates Greenwell from the greatness he only just started to achieve (and probably ultimately deserved) was the weight of the expectations. As a kid that was still new to the game, I don't think I really understood what that must have been like for him.  He trotted out to the same patch of grass in left field in Boston in front of the legendary Green Monster everyday where Teddy Ballgame, Yaz, and Jim Rice used to play.  The Boston fans just assumed that this little Greenwell guy was going to be the next in the lineage, and while he impressed, he was never the legend those other guys were.  But Greenwell was good.  Really good. At least for a little while.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mike Greenwell, Ballplayer.

Ricky Jordan

I assume he's holding a bat.

Why we like him:  This story is just further proof that all that glitters is definitely not gold.  In 1989, a pretty big portion of the Philadelphia Phillies' future rested in the hands of a young, talented first baseman named Paul Scott Jordan. I have no idea how you get "Ricky" out of that. He was coming off a 1988 season where he made his debut and batted .308 with 11 homers and 43 RBI in 69 games for the Phils while playing a pretty good first base.  His first full season in the bigs, 1989, saw Jordan bat .285 with 12 home runs and drive in 75 runs.  The Phillies seemed to have a very good, greatly talented young first baseman that could serve as an integral part of a budding baseball powerhouse in Philly.

Then 1990 happened.  The league had seeminly figured Ricky out.  His average dropped to .241 as he posted the lowest slugging percentage of his career at .352.  The Phillies began having their doubts whether or not Jordan could be their everyday first baseman, much less a cornerstone of their organization.  Left fielder John Kruk was getting heavier, to put it nicely, and could no longer track down fly balls anymore, so the Phillies decided to move him and his superior left-handed bat to first and give the leaner, more athletic Jordan a try in left field in 1992.  Though it wasn't a complete disaster like many other defensive moves, Ricky Jordan the outfielder didn't really impress either.

Jordan knew he had to find some type of role with the squad, and simply decided to become the best pinch hitter he could  be.  From 1992-1994, Jordan experienced some of his most productive years as a hitter, and did the most he could with what few at-bats he was given.  When the strike of 1994 happened, Ricky Jordan was one of the hottest assets in baseball, a 29-year old trustworthy pinch hitter who could give you innings at first or in left.  Believe it or not, a guy like on the bench that was extremely valuable in the time before steroids made every player in the league a threat to produce offense.

When baseball started again in 1995, Jordan was inexplicably nowhere to be found.  He was granted free agency by the Phillies in late 1994, and signed by the California Angels in the spring of '95, but never played a game for the Angels.  His contract was purchased by the Mariners during Spring Training in 1996, and he went on to play 15 games for the M's, batting a ho-hum .250 with 28 at-bats.  At the end of the '96 season, he was released by Seattle and never played again.  To paraphrase Def Leppard's Joe Elliot, it's better to burn out in 1989 than to fade away as just another bench warmer in the steroid era.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ricky Jordan, Ballplayer.

Otis Nixon

It's close to miiiiid-niiiiiiight...

Why we like him: Some players just look like they were meant to play this game (Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly, etc.).  Some players look like they were born to be computer programmers but were good at this game anyway (Tom Henke, Vance Law, etc.).  Otis Nixon looked like he was born to be the "after" picture on a just-say-no-to-crystal-meth poster.  Even when this guy was young, he looked like he had just pried open his own casket and crawled out onto the diamond to steal bases, catch fly balls, and eat brains.

Otis, whose middle name, not suffix, was Junior, didn't possess any particular baseball skill of note other than the fact that he could run as fast on the basepaths as he could run away from law enforcement.  Had he been a little bit better from the plate, Nixon probably could have at least made Tim Raines sweat for his fifth spot in the all-time steals list instead of settling for sixteenth behind Kenny friggin' Lofton, who nobody likes, not even Kenny himself.

Nixon played for what seemed like half the league (Yanks, Tribe, 'Spos, Braves, Red Sox, Rangers, Jays, Dodgers, Twins, and Braves again) over the course of his 17-year career.  The biggest issue for him during his career was his cocaine habit, which started in the 80s like every other cocaine habit in history, and he was even arrested in 1987 while playing for Cleveland.  Late in the 1991 season with the Braves, Otis failed a drug test for apparently snorting the third base line at Fulton County Stadium which earned him a 60-day suspension and caused him to miss the 1991 World Series.  This oft-forgotten detail may have even cost the Braves a title that year, seeing as Nixon had the best season of his career, batting .297 with a career-best 72 steals.

In the end, the Otis Nixon saga along with anything regarding Dwight Gooden is a prime example of how drugs can derail a semi-promising baseball career.  I hate to bring a player's personal life into relevance with the game, but with Nixon, it was always a black cloud that followed him wherever he went.  At least he wasn't on steroids.

Ladies and gentlemen, Otis Nixon, Ballplayer.

Tom Henke

This man needs to be in Cooperstown. No, seriously.

Why we like him: Though he looked like a über-nerd, Tom Henke was a beast out of the bullpen.  He recorded 311 career saves, and was just the seventh pitcher to reach the 300 save plateau.  Henke was always a difficult pitcher to hit, likely because batters were befuddled by his looks and blinded by the glare of those wire-rimmed Coke bottle bottoms on his face.  If that wasn't enough, Henke also featured several stalactites hanging from his upper gum line when he smiled that was sure to incite raucous laughter from the opposing dugout.

Seriously though, Henke was a prototypical closer.  He was 6'5" and pushed the scale to 215.  His squinty eyes behind those thick, dorky glasses made him that much more intimidating, making batters ponder whether he could see the inside of his own glove, much less the plate.  He pounded the strike zone with a heavy low-to-mid-90s fastball to set up hitters to swing and miss at his forkball, and he was as close to automatic as it got in the late 80s/early 90s.  His performance even earned him the nickname the "Terminator," which I feel is a bit on the lame side and could have been much cooler.

His job, as well as all other closers' jobs in the game back then, was grossly under-appreciated.  Henke was also well ahead of his time as a reliever in general.  He pitched in a time before Rivera, Gagne, Smoltz, Wagner, and Papelbon made the closer's role a well-known and understood necessity.  Tom Henke was shortening games by 1+ innngs long before those guys, and doing it just as well.  When Henke came into the game, opposing hitters, teammates, fans, GMs, coaches, and Henke himself knew the game was as good as over.

The Henkenator pitched for 14 seasons in the majors.  He started out in Texas 1982 and never really impressed.  He moved to Toronto in 1985 as a free agent compensation pick and had most of his best seasons north of the border before heading back to the Rangers in 1993 as a free agent.  In 1995 at the age of 37, however, free agency saw Henke land in St. Louis.  All he did was save 36 games (2nd in the NL), post a 1.82 ERA, earn his second All Star spot, finish 22nd in MVP voting, and walk away from the game he loved. Yes, you read that right.  He hung up his spikes after what was arguably the best season of his career. In all honestly, Cooperstown is missing a sweet bespectacled bronze bust of a great pitcher.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Henke, Ballplayer.

Alvaro Espinoza

Nerd Glasses + Eye Black + Mullet + Mustache (That Stance) = .254

Why we like him: This guy was actually the Yankees' shortstop of choice before that Jeter guy got there.  He was a decent enough player, but everyone from George Steinbrenner all the way down to the guy who spanks the bat boy knew he wasn't going to be something to build around from the day he arrived.  Though he wasn't much to worry about offensively, if nothing else, his goofy looks at least made us all question the effectiveness of eye black behind spectacles.  Did the lenses magnify the sunlight onto the eye black where it was absorbed, or did his face get really hot?  We'll never know.

Espinoza managed to play 12 nerd-a-rific seasons in the league, beginning in 1984 with the Twins, moving to the Bronx in '88 after a year in another dimension apparently, signing on with the Indians in '94, and then bouncing around from Queens to Seattle to his couch at home during the span of his last 3 years.  He never did anything particularly well at any of his stops, but he was always a guy you could count on to give you a good effort at shortstop, lay down a bunt, or at least keep guys like me smiling because of his looks and how fun it was to say his name.

Espinoza was also one of six players in the history of the game to hit a fair ball that got stuck in a stadium obstruction.  The other five were Ruppert Jones, Ricky Lee Nelson, Dave "King Kong" Kingman, Jose Canseco, and Kevin Millar. Honestly, if you have anything in common with Jose Canseco that doesn't involve a dirty needle and a night in jail, you're probably a fun player to remember. Espinoza was a career .254 hitter with little to no power (career slugging percentage of who stayed consistent until his final season with the Mariners where he didn't just flirt with the Mendoza Line, he redrew it (at .181) and called it the Espinoza Line.

Espinoza was a great player.  Not because he was good at anything or made memorable plays, but because he was just a guy who was always fun to watch because he looked like a guy who would get wedgies in the clubhouse before becoming a serial killer.  He never did anything that amazed me, but I'll always remember that name and that mustache.  And the specs.  And the inexplicable eye black behind them.

Ladies and gentlemen, Alvaro Espinoza, Ballplayer.

Joe Orsulak

Orsulak is Polish for "mock turtleneck."

Why we like him: If, for some reason, you're looking to complete your outfield platoon and you're only using players from the 80s and early 90s, Joseph Michael Orsulak is your guy.  Everything the guy did on the diamond, whether it was legging out a triple or taking the donut off the bat in the on-deck circle, looked difficult because he did it with so much hustle.  He even admittedly likes watching minor leaguers more than the majors just because of the passion and love for the game.

Orsulak's 14-year career was both underwhelming and under-appreciated.  He was a career .273 hitter who managed a total of 57 homers and 405 RBI.  Despite some decent seasons, he was never close to making an All Star squad, but he did finish 6th in Rookie of the Year voting in 1985.  He was the kind of guy you wanted in the dugout and the clubhouse.  He was willing to do whatever it took to put his team in the best situation to win, which is really all you can ask of him.  Whether it was starting in left field, pinch hitting, pinch running, or just finishing up on defense in a blowout, "Joe O" was there to do whatever needed to be done.

Joe Orsulak is especially highly revered in Oriole lore, as he was the first player to make a putout in the then-new Camden Yards on Opening Day in 1992, catching a fly ball off the bat of Kenny Loafin' Lofton.  Also, fittingly, he was the first player to emerge from the dugout that day, sprinting to his position in right field like any real ballplayer would.  I'm willing to bet he was already dirty too.  If you're wondering, Orsulak was 0-for-3 on April 6, 1992, but I'm fairly certain every out was productive.  His O's and Rick Sutcliffe beat the Indians and Charles Nagy 2-0.

A player like Joe Orsulak probably wouldn't have a chance in the league today.  He's too much of a man.  He'd be replaced by some heartless bench-warmer with the potential to hit 20 homers.  Players don't show pride in the smallest things anymore, but when you see it, you know it, and you love it.  Next time you see a guy jog out a grounder to second or walk the last 40 feet to his position, think about Joe Orsulak, a man of pride and a rarely-seen love for the game.

Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Orsulak, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Guy Hecker

No glove, sporting capris, wearing a turban, and pitching from the edge of a cliff.

Why we like him: I think Guy Hecker might have started games Jesse Orosco finished, and dueled Jamie Moyer on occasion.  The surprisingly nickname-less Hecker played 8 seasons as a pitcher, first baseman, and outfielder for the American Association's Louisville Eclipse, which should be, in retrospect, the name of a WNBA franchise, and then one season for the NL's Pittsburgh Alleghenys before retiring in 1890 at the age of 34, probably due to the fact that his arm turned into gelatin.

What's interesting about Hecker is the fact that he was probably one of the best pitcher/hitter combos of "ye olden era."  He won a spiffy 52 games during the 1884 season, sporting a 1.80 ERA to go along with that sparkling-ish 52-20 record.   He pitched a league-leading 670.2 innings that season, which is enough for third most all time, and a downright frightening 72 complete games.  He also booked the seventh-most strikeouts in a season that year with 385, which beats Nolan Ryan's superhuman 1973 total by two, though the Express pitched less than half the innings.  His 1882 WHIP (if anybody even cares about that stat) of 0.77 was the lowest for over a century until it was bested by Pedro Martinez's 0.74 in 2000.

Hecker's career was about more than just pitching, though, as he was a fairly productive hitter as well.  He batted .282 for his career, and (I'm sure) legged out 19 homers.  We'll never know about his RBI or steals totals since statisticians of that era couldn't chisel the stats tablets fast enough to record them.  He even posted the league's highest batting average in 1886 with a .341 mark. In yet another interesting feat for the man, he also still retains co-possession of the coveted title of most homers in a game by a pitcher with 3 on that fateful day of August 15, 1886 (Jim Tobin equalled the mark in 1942 with the Braves).

Was this guy deserving of a look from the Hall of Fame?  No, but his mustache was beyond epic, and his overall look, beyond ridiculous.  Go ice that arm, Hecker, right after you reattach it.  You're pitching again tomorrow.

Ladies and gentlemen, Guy Hecker, Ballplayer.

Mickey Tettleton

There is an entire oriole in his cheek.

Why we like him: Any kid who likes baseball even a little bit has, at some point, impersonated all the goofiest hitting stances he's ever seen.  We've all looked like idiots portraying Craig Counsell, Tony Batista, and Chuck Knoblauch.  We've pulled hamstrings pretending to be Jeff Bagwell or Moises Alou.  But anybody with the ability to stand, hold a bat, and look completely indifferent could look like Mickey Tettleton.

He always just stood there motionless in the box with a massive hunk o' chaw in his cheek and bat hanging lifelessly at a shallow angle to the ground.  Pitchers didn't know if he was ready to hit, daydreaming, trying to strikeout, or dead.  Then as the pitcher made his delivery to the seemingly dumbfounded Tettleton, his weight would rock back, his hands would get back and ready, he'd step, and swing as if he was trying to kill a charging rhinoceros. Most of the time, if he made an offer at it, he'd hit it.  Sometimes, it would even disappear over the Tiger Stadium roof.

Tettleton spent 14 seasons in the majors with the A's, Orioles, Tigers, and Rangers and wore a different number with each team, oddly enough.  He spent most of his career behind the plate before natural wear and tear forced him to take up roles in the outfield and and first base, which is common for any catcher who probably swallows gallons of tobacco juice every day and has very few decent teeth left.  He was a two-time All Star in 1989 and 1994, and his patience helped him rack up 949 walks for his career.  Though not a very good defensive catcher, he was certainly one of the best power-hitting catchers of his era too, amassing 245 home runs at a time when a catcher hitting 25 home runs in a season was compared to Johnny Bench.

I think any kid who saw Tettleton play has to remember him fondly.  He was a true dirtbag who just oozed baseball and Red Man juice.  You probably would too if you stuck an entire acre of Amazon rainforest in your cheek every inning.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to grab a broom, stand like Mickey, and swing for the roof in Detroit in the driveway.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mickey Tettleton, Ballplayer.

Ivan Calderon

Not sure what happened on this swing, but I bet it he wasn't on base after it.

Why we like him: Every young boy has a player that is the bane of his existence while opening a pack of baseball cards.  Ivan Calderon was that player for many kids.  He retired after the 1993 season, but I'm convinced if I ever bought a pack of 2011 Topps, he'd be lurking inside.  With my luck, it wouldn't just be a card either.  It would contain a piece of a game-used bat and jersey, signature, fingerprint, beard hair follicle, and blood sample from Calderon himself.  Not the bad guy from Miami Vice either.

Calderon was the very definition of a journeyman, or hombre de viaje in his native Puerto Rican Spanish.  He spent a 10-year career bouncing around from coast to coast with stops in Seattle, Chicago (AL), Montreal, and back to the White Sox for 9 games in 1993 before retiring early at the age of 31.  He was released twice and traded thrice, even serving as the always-fun "player to be named later" in a trade from Seattle to Chicago.

He wasn't a great player, but he wasn't that bad either.  Sometimes he could even be described as being pretty good.  When he got to play and got his at-bats, he was generally a fairly productive bat for some pretty bad teams.  He was a career .272 hitter who was selected to the All Star team in 1991 during a .300-19-75 campaign with the Expos, and was somewhat of a threat to steal a base at one point, swiping 32 and 31 in back-to-back seasons ('90 and '91).  He even managed to swat 28 homers in 1987 for White Sox, which was 9 more than his next best power season.  How do you say steroids in French?  Is it "Lance Armstrong?"  I kid.

So what was it that Ivan Calderon did that made him memorable?  I have no idea.  Maybe it was the super sweet earring or the fat face and poofy hair crammed into an ugly 1980s MLB cap. Or maybe it was just the fact that he was so inconspicuously decent for a decade. Either way, he always seemed to show up in a pack of cards.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ivan Calderon, Ballplayer.

Jose Lind

Captain Lind of the Seven Seas and Three Rivers pictured with entire hog leg in lower lip.

Why we like him: Ahoy, matey!  I be the great Pirate o' Pittsburgh, Captain Jose Lind, sailer of the oceans blue and the Monongahela brown. For some reason me shipmates call me Chico which should be enough to put me in Ye Olde Random Nickname Hall of Fame.  I was always willin' to make sacrifices fer me hearties, whether it be layin' down the bunt or steppin' into the slow up-an'-in changeup to get to drop anchor at first base.  Now, I know what you're thinkin' too.  What's a fine pirate like me doin' in Pennsylvania?  Well there's 25 of 'em there ev'ry year, see!  And they usually ain't good at baseball.

I spent just 9 seasons on the high seas o' the majors from 1987 to 1995.  Six of me years I spent in Pittsburgh before bein' sent to Davey Jones' Locker in Kansas City fer two and a half years.  Maybe it was just David Cone's locker.  Anyway, for me career, I ended up hittin' .254 with a scurvy-ish 9 homers. Not many steals either, seein' as I got a wooden peg from me left knee down.  Don't think I ever got close to an All Star selection either, 'less me wench tried to stuff a ballot box in '91.

I was one o' the best defensive second basemen in the league though.  I recieved a treasure called the Gold Glove in 1992 fer me abilities, but I buried it on a secluded bank of the Allegheny and lost me map.  Spent 15 games shipwrecked with the California Angels in 1995 tryin' to figure out where I left it.  Maybe it started shrinkin' 'til it disappeared like that scallywag Barry Bonds' "treasure" did back in the 90s.   Shiver me Drabeks, that sounds horrible.  But I digress.

I had me a chance to fight fer the World Series treasure three times, but walked the plank ev'ry time in the NLCS.  Career .205 hitter in the postseason, I am.  Useless as a barnacle on a fungo.  A sharp-breakin' slider be a harsh mistress.  But avast, matey.  I gave it all I had fer 9 years of me life.  An' I think me barrel of pirate cliches is startin' to run dry.  Yo ho, yo ho, a 6-4-3 fer me.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jose Lind, Ballplayer.

Dan Gladden

Choke up enough, there Danny?

Why we like him: Dan Gladden at one point, had one of the most stunningly perfect blond mullets/skullets in all of Major League Baseball.  He was also one heck of a ballplayer.  Gladden played 11 seasons with stops in San Francisco, Minnesota, and Detroit, and with a mustache like his, you know he was destined to be a Tiger.  He was a career .270 hitter in the era of anorexic offense, and he didn't possess very much power, like everyone else in the league before steroids.  He was also a threat to swipe 20 to 30 bases in a season before his body began breaking down in 1991.  Most importantly, he was the regular left fielder for two, count 'em two, World Series Champion Twins teams in 1987 and 1991.

Despite his mullet winning consecutive MVP awards in 1990-1991, Gladden was never an All Star, but he did finish 4th in Rookie of the Year voting in 1984 behind Dwight Gooden, Juan Samuel, and Orel Hersheiser.  He was never a guy that you even thought about being in an opposing lineup until he was being a nuisance on the basepaths and scoring the winning run in an important ball game.

Gladden's performance in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series against Atlanta pretty much wraps up the best parts of his career into a nice tidy Homer Hanky.  He was 33 years old, on the downslide towards the ending of his career, and the Twins needed him.  He was in the leadoff spot, starting in left field, just like every other game of the Series. All he did was go 3-for-5 with two doubles, the second of which led off the 10th inning, where he made it to third on a Chuck Knoblauch bunt, and eventually scored on a Gene Larkin single.  But will we remember Dan Gladden from the 1991 World Series?  No.  We will remember Kirby Puckett and Jack Morris.

My favorite thing about Dan Gladden was, of course, the way he looked playing the game. He had that flowing blond mullet and that sweet soup strainer on his upper lip. Plus, I can't ever recall him jogging out a grounder to first or loafing after a shot in the alley.  He played the game at that rarely seen Pete Rose effort level, and, for that, I adored him.  It always seemed as if he got to the ballpark, rolled in the dirt, put pine tar on himself, and bathed in Red Man before the first pitch.  He was born to play this game.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dan Gladden, ballplayer.

Jesse Orosco

An elderly man's pristine pitching mechanics.

Why we like him: What came first: the chicken or the egg?  Jesse Orosco.

Jesse Orosco pitched for 237 major league seasons.  Well, not really.  He only pitched for 24 seasons on 9 different teams, and was one of the best relief pitchers I've ever had the joy of watching or making fun of.  Not only did the guy hang around until the tender age of 46 years young, proving that if you're left-handed, you can pitch forever (right, Jamie Moyer?), but he was actually effective for most of them.  He started a couple of games, saved a lot of games, pitched long relief a bunch, set up a closer sometimes, and mopped up when he was bored over the course of the career that started in 1979.  

In 1983 at the age of 26, he put together an impressive campaign, posting a 13-7 record and a tidy 1.47 ERA for the Mets.  It was good enough to earn the first of his two All Star appearances and a third place finish in Cy Young voting.  However, this guy wasn't just good for a couple of seasons from a long career.  He was very good for what seemed like an eternity.

It would be easier if we just did it this way.  Jesse Orosco is so old...
  • he regularly threw BP to Abner Doubleday
  • in his rookie year, bases were called I, II, III
  • he pitched his first game against the Indians...real Indians
  • his first win came against Carthage
  • the ancient fourth-dynasty hieroglyphic symbol for save is a Mets #47 jersey
  • Julio Franco
  • his first indoor game was in a cave
  • he thought astroturf was made from real Astros
  • when he came in from the bullpen, his music was played by Bach on a tuba
  • his rookie card was a stone stele made by Fleer in 1056 BC
  • his first hanging curve hitting the bat caused the Big Bang
  • he thought the first televised game he saw was stealing players souls
  • his first glove was made of iguanodon
  • he would calculate his ERA using an abacus
  • he once hit a batter causing the benches to clear and form phalanxes
  • he pitched a rain-shortened one-hitter against the Hittites
  • he once made a diving catch at the wall...of Troy
Do you get it yet? The man is a legend.  At least he is to me.  Nobody in their right mind would ever pitch until they were 46 if they didn't love the game.  Jesse Orosco loved the game.  And clearly the game loved Jesse back.  And we love him too.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jesse Orosco, Ballplayer.

Tom Pagnozzi

That mitt is the size of his torso.

Why we like him: The late 1980s and early 1990s was an era when a catcher's defensive ability was valued much more than their offensive production.  Catching (or "hind-ketchin'" if you're 8) was a dirty, thankless job that was both necessary and difficult, and it was especially tough during those years. Rickey Henderson was still swiping bases at record-shattering pace, Tim "Rock" Raines was in the midst of a very impressive yet relatively obscure career in Montreal before escaping to Chicago in 1991, Vince Coleman was turning singles into doubles and triples via steal, and even Willie Wilson was a threat to steal a bag at his advanced age.  This was the era that saw the last wave of the great base-stealers.  Catching a good game and controlling the basepaths was imperative.

From 1990 to 1994, Tom Pagnozzi was a guy who kept that that vicious National League kleptomania on the bases under control.  That five-year stretch saw him win three Gold Gloves and and receive an All Star spot.  He never batted .300 or even .290, but anything Pagnozzi did at the plate was a bonus for the Cardinals.  All the runs that he couldn't produce at the plate he saved behind it.  He was a team player that did his job and didn't worry about anyone else's.

Pagnozzi spent 12 seasons in the majors, all of which were spent in St. Louis.  The Cardinals never really contended during his career except for 1996, when they lost to the Braves in the ALCS, and 1987, when he was rookie backup to Tony Pena and part of the team that lost the World Series to Minnesota.  A big reason for the lack of St. Louis success was that Pagnozzi never caught a pitcher better than John Tudor or Bob Tewksbury, but a lot of the guys he caught, especially Tewksbury, overachieved with the Cards simply because of Pagnozzi's ability to call a game and handle a pitcher. I vividly remember the commentators on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball gushing over his ability do those things.  Those skills are invaluable and yet overlooked by many of today's clubs.  There's a reason that Greg Maddux pitched to Charlie O'Brien, Paul Bako, and Eddie Perez.  He had a relationship and trust with those guys and knew Javy Lopez couldn't call for a pizza, much less a changeup.

It's a shame that guys like Tom Pagnozzi have disappeared ever since catchers like Mike Piazza, Jorge Posada, and Victor Martinez came into the league.  The position has become another lineup spot to fill with a big bat, and defensive quality has become the bonus instead of the other way around.  Personally, I miss the days when a catcher's job was just to control the basepaths and make his pitchers better than they really were.  Tom Pagnozzi did both.  He even sprinkled in the occasional RBI single.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Pagnozzi, Ballplayer.

Jose Offerman

Make me an offer, man, and I'll probably chuck it into the stands.

Why we like him: I wouldn't say I like Jose Offerman, but I do like to think about him.  As far as my memory goes, Jose was undoubtedly the single worst defensive shortstop from my childhood.  He managed to hang in there and boast a career that spanned 15 seasons and 7 different clubs.  You didn't want seats down the first base line with this guy at shortstop unless you had a hardhat, kevlar vest, and proof of insurance.  As the old joke goes:  How do you spell 'Offerman?'  An 'O,' two 'Fs,' and 230 'Es.'

Offerman came up with the Dodgers in 1990 where he didn't exactly light the box score on fire, posting a .155 average in 29 games in 1990 before finding his crap-tastic groove in 1991 and hitting .195 in 52 games.  I can honestly say I have no idea what Tommy Lasorda was thinking by keeping him around.  He was a shortstop that couldn't hit sand if he fell off a camel, he couldn't catch the swine flu, and he was a candidate to hit an elderly fan in the thorax with an errant throw on any given play, and somehow he made the All Star team in 1995.

Watching a routine grounder to shortstop with Offerman out there was like watching a 1990 Honda CRX with racing slicks try to navigate an icy road near a crowded playground.  There was a possibility that everything would be fine at the end, but there was also the possibility of something horrible happening.  Bleeding bystanders crying all the way to the Dodger Stadium exits, carnage so epic that Brett Butler would swallow his chaw, you name it.  He was that bad.

After six seasons of that caliber of play, anyone would be headed for Kansas City, and that's exactly what happened in 1996.  Offerman spent three seasons in the world's barbecue capital where his coaching staff had the revelation that maybe a guy who can't catch or throw probably should be at shortstop.  The Royals played him all over the field--second base, in the outfield, first base--and his defense was convincingly less horrible.  When the Red Sox took a flyer on him for the 1999 season, he was at least a productive batter, posting near-.300 or better averages from 1995 until 1999.  By the time his career was winding down in the early 00s, he had settled into his role as an emergency first baseman/outfielder/designated hitter who did what he could and didn't worry too much about his glove.

So what was Jose Offerman's appeal?  I think it's about respect.  You don't make 230 errors by accident.  You make 230 errors by giving it your best shot every time out, only your best is just slightly terrible.  We salute you, Jose Offerman, and give you 230 Es for effort.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jose Offerman, Ballplayer.

Dave Hansen

Dave Hansen didn't have time to shave.  He only had time to hit...once a game.

Why we like him: The coolest thing about Dave Hansen is that when you look at his career profile on Baseball Reference, his position is listed first as "Pinch Hitter" and then his defensive positions are shown.  I honestly can't remember a single defensive he play ever made. That's because David Andrew Hansen is a pinch hitter.  But he'll hit more than just pinches.  He'll hit anything.  However, that PH you'd see in the box didn't just stand for "Pinch Hitter."  I give you Dave Hansen: Professional Hitter.

Back in the late 90s/early 00s, Dave Hansen was a valuable weapon to have in your dugout late in a tight ballgame.  He was the ultimate role-player and had the ability to step out of the dugout ice cold and face some of the game's most effective relievers of that era.  He was never considered for the All Star team, and he was never even remotely close to an MVP race, but if I was putting together a team from scratch, I would want Dave Hansen in my dugout.  I especially wouldn't want to see him in the other team's roster.  Every time he emerged from the dugout, you just knew he was going to patiently wait for a pitch to hit, and then he was going to rip something somewhere.

Statistically, Hansen had a pretty lame career.  Sure, he was a .260 lifetime hitter and managed only 35 home runs in a 15-year career, but he never really amassed significant totals of anything simply because of his known prowess for pinch hitting.  His managers knew he was best used off the bench. He averaged just 1.5 at-bats-per-game-played if that tells you anything.  Hansen always made the most of his opportunities as a pinch hitter, though, and that is what made him such a cool player. In 1993, Hansen batted .362 in 105 at-bats and followed that up with a .341 average in 1994 in 44 at-bats. He was just a hitting machine that played the game one at-bat at a time.  After a .311 season in 1997 with the Cubs, randomly, he spent the 1998 season with our favorite Japanese team, the mighty Hanshin Tigers, before returning for a second stint with the Dogers in 1999.  He even co-owns the record for most pinch-hit home runs in a season, hitting 7 in 2000 with the Dodgers.  Despite the fact that he was a suspect fielder, it's amazing this guy was never given more opportunities as a starter.

Like many other players, Hansen spent the last few years of his career bouncing around the league from team to team, thankful for whatever at-bats he was given.  Will we ever see Dave Hansen in Cooperstown?  Definitely not, unless they open a wing of underappreciated pinch hitters, in which he'd be a charter member alongside Lenny Harris and Matt Stairs.  Until then I'll just remember the good times when Dave Hansen was wandering aimlessly through the Dodger dugout, happy-go-luckily pondering if he'd get a chance to bat against Robb Nen with a runner on second later that night.  And I like to think he did get that chance. And singled to left-center.  Because he's Dave Hansen: Professional Hitter.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dave Hansen, Ballplayer.

Vance Law

Take your base.

Why we like him: When I think about Cubs third basemen from the 80s, I always think about Vance Law, which is weird because he with the Cubs for just two years, 1988 and 1989.  He was never particularly good at anything, but it was always fun to hear Harry Caray slobber all over the microphone when he said his name.  Law is also the proud owner of the single lamest nickname in all of sports, "Long Arm of the Law."  Wow.  The guy was 6'2" and weighed a buck-85.  If anything, he could have been "Average Length Arm of the Law."

The part about Law that I'll always remember, is the fact that he just didn't look like a ballplayer.  He wore glasses, his hair was groomed, he shaved, he didn't have a mullet.  He definitely didn't fit the mold of the 80s ballplayer. He looked like a stock broker.  Or maybe a chemistry teacher.  Or a proctologist.  Anything but a major league third baseman.  He even got to show off his LensCrafters at the All Star game in 1988, a season which saw him hit .293 (which was good enough for 8th in the NL that year.  Really, 8th!) with 11 homers and 78 RBI. I think the thing that I remember him doing best was just making contact. 

Vance Law spent 11 seasons in the majors with five different clubs in 12 years, which should be a red flag that the guy was either injury prone or just not very good.  He never played more than three consecutive seasons at any of his stops, and his tour of duty included two seasons in beautiful Pittsburgh, three with the White Sox, three more with the extinct Expos, and finally two years at Wrigley with the Cubbies.  And just to remind everyone of his mediocrity and that he wore stock-broker glasses, he came back in 1991 with the A's and batted .209 in 74 games.

When he was at his best, Vance Law was decidedly average but with the potential to be a borderline All Star.  When he was at his worst, he would probably make fans a little angry after making an out in a big spot until they remembered that he wasn't Ryne Sandberg. But then again, Vance Law wasn't a tough out, but he wasn't an easy out either, and I think that was his appeal.  Or maybe it was just the fact that he was a nerd with a giant face windshield that happened to be a major league third baseman.  Sort of, anyway.  He was a Cub.

Ladies and gentlemen, Vance Law, Ballplayer.

Scott Erickson

Blurry batters always give pitchers trouble.

Why we like him: Scott Erickson was one of my favorite pitchers from my early teenage years.  He'll always be a Twin to me, but he also had stints in Baltimore, New York (AL & NL), Texas, and Los Angeles.  His delivery had more awkward hitches and uncomfortable moments than a British soap opera, and that's probably a considerable factor that allowed him to achieve some early success.  When he first broke into the league 1991, Erickson was as effective as any starting pitcher in baseball.  He didn't throw exceptionally hard or have a dynamic, sharp-breaking off-speed pitch, but he was a just big, bulky guy (6'4" 220 lbs.) that could eat innings and get a lot of batters out by not giving them anything on the fat part of the plate.

Erickson possessed a repertoire of pitches that included a so-so low-90s fastball with pretty good control, a a slider/curve thing that could be best described as "spinning sort of sideways and moving slower than the fastball," and a hard sinker that produced a ton of ground ball outs.  From what I remember, that hard sinker was his bread and butter pitch.  He wasn't a strikeout pitcher (he only got close to 200 Ks once - 186 in 1998 when he faced a whopping 1102 batters in 251.1 innings), but he was really good at letting a hitter get himself out with good pitch locations and keeping the ball down and away.  He also led the majors in double play balls five times. It's amazing what a young guy can learn from a legend like Jack "Why-am-I-not-in-Cooperstown?" Morris in the clubhouse.

Despite having decent stuff and the ability to pitch well enough to hang around the league for 15 seasons, the best part of watching Erickson pitch wasn't necessarily the pitching, but just how different the guy looked on the mound.  His freakishly wide and angular jaw mixed with his craggy, Ted Danson-esque brow made him look like some kind of ancient inhabitant of Easter Island. His wardrobe was equally fascinating.  His cleats were as black as a Spinal Tap album cover by design, going so far as to paint all the white trim on his cleats black for reasons I can't fathom.  In any event, the all-black cleats with the all-black socks always gave him the appearance that he was pitching in his socks. His mullet was also a treasure to behold.  It was always inexplicably sweaty on TV close-ups, even in the first inning, and was a great addition to those torturous yet hilarious faces he made while throwing every pitch.

Erickson finished 1991 with a 20-8 record and came in second in Cy Young voting behind everyone's favorite 'roided jerk, Roger Clemens.  Just two years later, however, he piled up 19 losses on a pretty lousy Minnesota team, and his ERA was becoming more bloated than Andruw Jones at Denny's.  He was traded to Baltimore for garbage midway through 1995 and stayed in the organization until 2003, finding moderate success there by winning 16 games twice and even leaving town with a winning record (79-68). He also batted .400 in 2000 (2 for 5), so make room, Teddy Ballgame. Scott Erickson is joining the .400 Club! He bounced around for the next three seasons as a mop-up man/emergency starter for the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, and Rangers and ultimately called it a career in 2006 at the ripe old age of 38, settling down with his wife, renown sideline reporter Lisa Guerrero.

Scott Erickson was a pitcher's pitcher.  He knew the value of a groundball was far higher than the value of a strikeout. He also knew that the blacker your cleats were, the better you pitched.  He wasn't the greatest, but he wasn't the worst either.  He was just a man.  A pitcher.  One who could eat inning after inning and get a groundball when he needed it.  A pitcher's pitcher.

Ladies and gentlemen, Scott Erickson, Ballplayer.

Glenn Davis

This man knows something you don't.

Why we like him: Glenn Davis and his flowing blond upper lip locks impeccably matching that gnarly psychedelic jersey was probably my favorite memory of the Astros of the late 80s/early 90s.  Red, yellow, and orange have no business being worn together unless you're Glenn Davis.  Davis spent seven years of a decently productive and remarkably consistent 10-year career in Houston before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 1991 in exchange for Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch, and Curt Schilling.  No, seriously, all the Orioles asked for in exchange for a two-time All Star centerfielder, a two-time 16-game winner, and Curt friggin' Schilling was Glenn Davis.  In a related story, the Orioles have not been seriously relevant for the vast majority of my lifetime.

In 1986 at the age of 25, Davis had his best season, finished with 31 home runs and driving in 101 runs while batting .265, which, in that era, was basically the equivalent of a .290-40-120 season now.  He finished second in MVP voting behind Mike Schmidt in 1986 and continued to be an offensive threat for the next three seasons, finishing eighth in MVP voting in 1988 and seventh in 1989.  Glenn Davis was actually a guy you didn't want to face in a tough spot for the better part of a decade.  He personified consistency at the plate.  In other words, he was as good at being Eric Karros as Eric Karros was.

Sadly, Davis never quite panned out as the mega-productive first baseman he could have possibly become if he had played in the steroid era.  His career was over at 32 years old. Even worse, he never played well enough to earn himself a cool nickname.  His mustache, however, is named Hans and could also serve as eyebrows.  Glenn's major league career ended in 1993 after he was released by the Orioles after a bar fight resulted in a broken jaw, which I guess he must have used for a bat since the 1993 season saw Davis post a pretty ugly .177 average and half as many home runs (1) as Rafael Belliard hit in his career (2, for the mathly challenged).

Even more bizarre than career-altering bar fights, Davis tried to resurrect his career in, of all places, Japan with the Hanshin Tigers, whose current cap is even uglier than the 'Stros caps of the 80s.  Needless to say, he failed worse than the Bill Buckner School of Fielding Routine Grounders.  Davis apparently lives in and works as a city councilor for the city of Columbus, Georgia, so if you're thinking of going somewhere to fight someone in a bar, that's your town, and that's your man.

Ladies and gentlemen, Glenn Davis, Ballplayer.

Chris Sabo

Chris Sabo trips over an animated chalice.

Why we like him: In 1990, every baseball fan in America was convinced that Chris Sabo was the next superstar third baseman.  After all he had just won Rookie of the Year honors in 1988, and why shouldn't he have?  He batted .270 and cranked out 11 homers and 44 RBI in 137 games.  Mark Grace probably should have won it instead (.296-7-57 in 134 games), and Ron Gant (.259-19-60 as well as 46 foul balls yanked at a right angle to the third base line) needed to be in the conversation at least. When the 1990 World Series rolled around, Sabo dominated batting a cool .563 with a pretty much ridiculous 1.000 slugging percentage as his Reds swept the defending champion Oakland Athletics as they failed to show up for a single game due to their relentless search for syringes in the Bay Area.

This is when I recall thinking Chris "Spuds" Sabo was a can't miss superduperstar third baseman.  In my humble opinion, and I was a nine-year old kid, Sabo was somewhat robbed of World Series MVP honors by Jose Rijo.  The moral of the story: if your four-letter name ended in O, 1990 was your year.

The Greek God of Goggles was a can't-miss star in the making.  The only problem, and it was a pretty big problem, was that in 1991, the pinnacle of his rise to stardom when he batted a career best .301 and swatted 26 homers, Sabo was 29.  Half his career was spent slaving away, I assume, in the minors trying to find the right pair of glasses that would stay on his squinty, bull terrier face before settling in with a pair of prescription racquetball goggles so he could be a flash in the pan that I liked to emulate in my front yard.

Spuds never managed to regain his form from the 1990 and 1991 seasons.  The Reds let him walk as a free agent after the 1993 season where he was snapped up by the Baltimore Orioles, signing a 1-year contract for $2 million.  He showed his gratitude to the O's by busting his butt in 68 games in the 1994 season and batting .256.  Sabo spent the 1995 bouncing around from Chicago (AL) to St. Louis like a Plinko disk before coming back to Cincy in 1996, presumably to finish his career with the Wee Red Machine.  He was 34.

Spuds finished his career with a .268 average and 116 home runs, and he can even boast about having the NL's best fielding percentage in 1988 and 1990 if old players even do that, but he will undoubtedly go down in the baseball record books as the greatest goggled superstar third basement that wasn't quite.

Ladies and gentlemen, Chris Sabo, Ballplayer.