Thursday, January 31, 2019

Jackie at 100

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.

On his 100th birthday, the impact of Jack Roosevelt Robinson on American Life is immeasurable.

His impact on the game of baseball can be seen in the lineups of every major league team.

When Jackie was a Rookie, there were no other Black players to commiserate with, no veterans to set the tone or to prepare him to the challenges that would be unique to him. 

Today there are no shortage of challenges for athletes- the smallest soundbite can be magnified 1000s of times over the matter of a few minutes. Robinson's tactful and measured approach to the indignities of daily life in the 1940s facing African Americans, showing how to navigate a world filled with people rooting for him to fail.

With the support of his wife Rachel, Robinson was able to endure what few men would dare face alone. Together, they blazed a trail that would widen to a flood of talented athletes and eventually men and women in all sectors finding doors open for them that had previously been closed.

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives. Jackie Robinson showed all of us how important one life can be.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Blogging Burglary

I'll be the first to admit that when I'm in a collecting rut or a blogging rut, I go back and read through some of my favorite blogs for inspiration. This time I didn't go very far back in time - as soon as I read this post from Nick at the Dimeboxes Blog, I headed straight for COMC to do what all great artists do -- steal.

One of my favorite cards from the 1965 Topps/OPC set was the rookie card of Masanori Murakami. When I saw on Nick's blog that there was a Japanese insert set of Murakami cards from 1993, I had to get in on the action.

The subset included cards of Murakami in Japan with the NPB, as well as a few different cards in San Francisco.

As long as I was on the site, I figured I should stay a while and find some more bargains. I looked for some new additions to my "players at the bat rack" mini collection, and some 90s superstars. Hard to believe that Vlad Guerrero's son is going to be the #1 Prospect this season and quite possibly be even better than his dad was.

I do love horizontal heroes. I think I saw this Manny Ramirez card on Nick's blog at one point as well. Denard is a Player Collection guy for me, and the other two I just couldn't pass up.

I can't say that I actively collect the Expos, but all four of these guys are favorites of mine, and I try to never pass up the opportunity to pick up some more.

Some of the prospect guys I picked a few years back are still working their way towards the majors, and those that have made it have had some mixed levels of success. Nothing wrong with stealing a good idea!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Rose, With Any Other Team, Makes More Sense - The 1984 Topps Traded Set

I'm a traditionalist- when I think of Rose, I think Reds. But that makes this card all the more interesting - Rose was determined to catch and pass Ty Cobb, and he would wear any uniform to get it. The Expos in 1984 had Dawson, Raines, Gary Carter, and Tim Wallach. The didn't have the best options at first base, however, with 25 year old Terry Francona and 32 year old Dan Driessen. Rose was 43, but fresh off a NLCS / World Series appearance where he hit .344 over all 9 post season games.

Rose was just 10 hits shy of 4,000 - and it only took until the Expos home opener for Rose to reach the milestone. Love the 1984 Topps backs, by the way, with the big team logo in the corner.

Rose is not in the Hall of Fame, but these 7 guys are. Gossage would be a key acquisition for the Padres, shoring up the bullpen and providing the necessary leadership and fire to help San Diego make their first World Series appearance. Yogi was replacing Billy Martin with the Yankees  - Tony Perez was returning to the Reds after a tour with Rose in Philadelphia.

This set was loaded with rookies- here are just a handful of the pitchers. No Roger Clemens in the set, but there was Mark Langston, Mark Gubizca, and Ron Darling.... But the real star was Gooden.

I mean.... come on! 300 strikeouts in 191 innings. 6 shutouts. How did he lose 4? Gooden was a revelation. The Mets were set in their rotation for their World Series run in '86.

There were some good rookie hitters as well - Topps missed the boat on Kirby Puckett, but they had the real Gary Pettis!

No Kirby, but there were a trio of Twins. Smithson would still be around to help the Twins in 1987. Butcher, part of the same trade that brought Smithson over from Texas, was probably the Twins best starter in 1984. Teufel was on the '86 Mets squad, traded to New York for Billy Beane!

There were plenty of star players in the set, right on the fringes of Hall of Fame consideration, but undisputed stars of the game.

And Mustaches. Lots of Mustaches.

Sorry, I'm nine years old.

Let's book-end this set with another Montreal Expos player. Breining was a solid bullpen arm for the Giants . . .  and for 6 games in Montreal. No wonder they couldn't find a photo of him with the team...

Monday, January 28, 2019

The 1986 Topps All-Star Rookie Team

Here they are - the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1986 season and featured in the 1987 Topps set. 

I have completed the run of these up through 2018, specifically all regular issue cards that bear the All-Star Rookie Trophy.

First Base - Wally Joyner
California (A.L.) 1986 - '91, 2001; Kansas City (A.L.) 1992 - '95, San Diego (N.L.) 1996 - '99, Atlanta (N.L.) 2000

Wally Joyner was a standout in college at BYU, hitting .462 with 23 homers in 64 games as a Junior. He entered the MLB draft following the season, and the Angels made him their 3rd round selection. Joyner made steady progression through the minors, earning a promotion each year. Angels great Rod Carew retired following the 1985 season, leaving a vacancy at 1st Base. Joyner had just finished a solid season at AAA Edmonton. Joyner sensed the opportunity and he spent the winter playing in Puerto Rico- he spent the short season building muscle and developing his skills as a hitter. He won the Triple Crown in the PR Winter League with a .356 average, 14 home runs, and 58 RBI. His manager in Puerto Rico, Jose Manuel Morales, focused Joyner's efforts on weight training and changing his batting stance to generate more power. The extra work paid off in 1986, Joyner's rookie season. He was already the presumptive favorite to inherit the starting job at first, but he ran away with the job in Spring Training. Joyner was a fan favorite in California, and was dubbed "Wally World" by fans of the young star. He would make the All-Star team as a starter, elected by the fans over superstars Don Mattingly and Eddie Murray. He came in second in the AL ROY voting, hitting .290 with 22 homers and 100 RBI. He followed it up with an even better second season, scoring 100 runs, hitting 34 homers, and driving in 117. Despite the gaudy power numbers those first two seasons, he would develop into a gap to gap doubles hitter. He played 16 seasons in all, including a World Series appearance with the Padres in 1998. Following his playing career, he invested in movies- appearing in several films he co-wrote and co-produced about Mormon life, possibly inspired by bit parts he garnered in Hollywood films like Little Big League (playing himself). He returned to baseball as a hitting instructor for MLB International, working with players in Europe while serving as an ambassador for the game.

Wally's Rookie Card is in the 1986 Topps Traded Set, card #51T.

Outfield - Cory Snyder
Cleveland (A.L.) 1986 - '90, Chicago (A.L.) 1991, Toronto (A.L.) 1991, San Francisco (N.L.) 1992, Los Angeles (N.L.) 1993 - '94

Snyder was a teammate of Wally's in 1983 with BYU, one year behind. As a Junior in 1984, Snyder hit .462 with 27 homers in 56 games. He also was a member of Team USA, helping the team to a Silver Medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics. He was the 4th overall pick in the 1984 draft by Cleveland. He impressed scouts with his power at the plate, but also an impressive throwing arm. Unlike his BYU teammate, Snyder was known to be a little strikeout prone, whiffing 123 times as a rookie in 1986. But he balanced it with 24 homers and 21 doubles. He would hit at least 20 homers in each of his first three seasons. Snyder appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with teammate Joe Carter before the 1987 season, and it is often cited as support of the "Curse of the SI Cover." Cleveland was considered a contender leading up to the season, but quickly found themselves near the bottom of the standings. Snyder did his part, hitting a career high 33 homers, and driving in 82. Injuries limited Snyder following the 1990 season, and he was used in more of a utility role when he was healthy enough to be on the field. He would end up in LA with the Dodgers in 1993, and had some bright spots including a 3 homer, 7 RBI game (which came on the return from another DL trip). He would go on to a long career coaching internationally, including managing a championship club in the Mexican League in 2016. He has also coached in China as well as in the U.S. with the Seattle Mariners' AAA squad.

Cory's Rookie Card is in the 1985 Topps Set (as a member of Team USA), card #403.

Short Stop - Andres Thomas
Atlanta (N.L.) 1985 - '90

Thomas wasn't a BYU graduate, sorry fans, it won't be a clean sweep. He was signed in 1981 by the Braves as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic, and made a climb to the majors with speed and a great glove. His rookie totals in 1986 weren't eye popping - he hit .251 with 81 base hits. He followed up that season primarily as a defensive sub, but then shocked everyone in 1988 with an unexpected power outburst. He slugged 13 homers, when that was an impressive number for short stops not named Cal Ripken, then repeated it the following season. The only drawback to this free swinging approach was that Thomas was not making consistent contact. He struck out at an alarmingly high rate, and Braves' color commentator Don Sutton was quoted saying "Why would you even throw him a strike?" during a telecast. By 1990, the Braves found another solution at short in the form of Jeff Blauser, who would be the team's main SS through the early part of their 1990's dynasty. Thomas would return to the Dominican Republic and was a coach in the Dominican Summer League, helping out players linked to the Tigers' organization as recently as 2006.

Andres' Rookie Card is in the 1986 Topps Traded Set, Card #111T.

Catcher - Andy Allanson
Cleveland (A.L.) 1986 - '89, Detroit (A.L.) 1991, Milwaukee (A.L.) 1992, San Francisco (N.L.) 1993, California (A.L.) 1995

Allanson had a unique profile among catching prospects- at 6'5", he was very tall for a Catcher. In 1985, he swiped 22 bases in the minor leagues for Waterbury, making him very fast for a Catcher. He was regarded as a great game caller, respected by the pitching staffs he was tasked with receiving. He stole 10 more bases as a rookie in 1986, and hit .225 over 101 games. His bat would need a little more seasoning, and he started 1987 back in the minor leagues. Cleveland leaned on veterans Rick Dempsey and Chris Bando as Allanson took time to develop. He was the primary Catcher in 1988, catching 133 games and hitting a respectable .263. His defense was never in question, and scouts compared him to Bob Boone behind the plate. His bat would never fully develop at the major league level, however, and he would bounce around the league as a defense-first backup Catcher.

Andy's Rookie Card is in the 1986 Topps Traded set, Card #1T.

Right Handed Pitcher - Todd Worrell
St. Louis (N.L.) 1985 - '89, 1992; Los Angeles (N.L.) 1993 -'97

The 1986 NL Rookie of the Year led the league in Saves with 36, finishing 60 games and sporting a 2.08 ERA in a shade over 100 innings pitched. Worrell was a fireballer, mixing a mid 90s fastball with a wipeout slider. He made a tremendous first impression in the 1985 playoffs, saving a game in the World Series, and striking out 9 batters in 11 innings of work. He would be back in the postseason again in 1987, saving 2 more World Series games against the Twins, striking out 9 more batters. The stress on his shoulder would come to a head in 1989, after 3 straight seasons of 30+ saves and an All-Star appearance. He missed all of 1990 and 1991 to injury, then made a return to the Cardinals bullpen in 92 as newly minted Hall of Famer Lee Smith's set up man. Coming all the way back from a serious injury was impressive enough, but Worrell went above and beyond. Moving from St.Louis to the Dodgers, Worrell would surpass his career high in Saves with 44 in 1996 to once again lead the National League. When he retired, he was the Dodgers' All-Time Saves leader, and ranked 2nd in Cardinals history as well. He's served as a pitching coach since his playing days ended, and also owns and operates a hunting lodge in South Dakota.

Todd's Rookie Card is in the 1986 Topps Traded Set, Card # 127T.

Outfield - Danny Tartabull
Seattle (A.L.) 1984 - '86, Kansas City (A.L.) 1987 - '91, New York (A.L.) 1992 - '95, Oakland (A.L.) 1995, Chicago (A.L.) 1996, Philadelphia (N.L.) 1997

Danny Tartabull might be best known in Gen-X circles for his appearance on Seinfeld, but he was hyped almost as much as outfielders Jose Canseco and Bo Jackson when he first came up. Tartabull came to the Mariners from the Reds as a free agent compensation pick, and displayed light tower power early on. As a rookie, he launched 25 homers and drove in 96 runs. The Mariners inexplicably shipped Tartabull to Kansas City following his rookie season for Scott Bankhead, Mike Kingery, and Steve Shields. Tartabull showed Seattle what they'd be missing by improving his average to .309 to go with 34 round trippers and 101 RBI. He would crack 100+ RBI 5 times in his career. Arguably his best season came in 1991, his only All-Star campaign. He hit .316 and led the AL in slugging with a .593 mark. It was his contract year, and the Yankees pounced on the chance to add his bat to their lineup in 1992. His 4 seasons in New York were a step down from his Kansas City output, but he still put up some solid numbers. He finished his career bouncing from team to team, providing occasional power out of the DH spot or a corner outfield position.

Danny's Rookie Card is in the 1985 Donruss set (Sorry Topps), card #27. 

Left Handed Pitcher - Bruce Ruffin
Philadelphia (N.L.) 1986 - '91, Milwaukee (A.L.) 1992, Colorado (N.L.) 1993 - '97
Rookie Card

Bruce Ruffin, similar to Todd Worrell, had a two part career. He came up to the big leagues as a Starter, and he later converted into a closer for the Colorado Rockies. Ruffin had some big shoes to fill, he took the spot of one of the greatest Left Handed Pitchers of all time, Steve Carlton. He wasn't quite that good, but going 9-4 with a 2.46 ERA as a rookie was still impressive. After his rookie season, the league adjusted and Ruffin struggled to do the same. By 1991, he even found himself demoted back to the minors, though he would rebound nicely upon his return to the MLB rotation. He was traded before the Phils' World Series run to the Brewers, and after a dismal season coming out of the bullpen, found himself with the expansion Rockies. By his second season in Colorado, he became the team's closer, saving 16 games in 1994 with an impressive sinker. The move to the closer role suited Ruffin, and he increased his K rate to more than a batter per inning including a 24 save season in 1996.

Outfielder - Pete Incaviglia
Texas (A.L.) 1986 - '90, Detroit (A.L.) 1991, 1998; Houston (N.L.) 1992, 1998; Philadelphia (N.L.) 1993- '94, 1996; Baltimore (A.L.) 1996 - '97, New York (A.L.) 1997

Pete Incaviglia was the #8 Overall Pick in the 1985 draft by the Expos, but was traded to Texas for Bob Sebra and Jim Anderson. That head-scratching move came before Incaviglia had even played a single minor league game. It was so strange, in fact, that Major League Baseball made a new rule following the trade stating that draft picks could not be traded until one year after the draft. The thought was that the Expos were having a hard time signing the slugging outfielder, so they traded him rather than lose him for nothing. Whatever the reason, Incaviglia made an immediate impact in Texas, skipping the minor leagues completely, and debuting in April of 1986 for the Rangers. He was a free-swinger like Cory Snyder and Andres Thomas - in fact, he led the AL in Strikeouts in 1986 (and then again in 1988). He was also a bit of a butcher in the field, leading the league in errors twice. But the power was legit, hitting 20+ homers 6 times. He would appear in the World Series with the Phillies, and hit a homer in the NLCS that season. He spent 1995 in Japan, and later appeared in the Mexican League as well. He finished his MLB career with over 1,000 hits and 206 homers in his 12 year career.

Pete's Rookie Card is in the 1986 Topps Traded set, Card # 48T.

Outfield - Jose Canseco
Oakland (A.L.) 1985 - '92, 1997; Texas (A.L.) 1992 - '94, Boston (A.L.) 1995 - '96, Toronto (A.L.) 1998, Tampa Bay (A.L.) 1999 - '00, New York (A.L.) 2000, Chicago (A.L.) 2001

Canseco was the AL Rookie of the Year, hitting 33 homers and stealing 15 bases. By 1988, he was a Superstar, becoming the AL MVP and the game's first player to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in the same season. Along with Mark McGwire, he assaulted the record books with towering home runs for the A's in the late 80s, taking the team to three straight World Series, including a 1989 victory over the San Francisco Giants. Through his age 27 season, he had an MVP, 3 Silver Slugger Awards, and 5 All-Star Appearances. It was at the waiver deadline in late August 1992 that Canseco was traded to Texas in a cost-saving move (and to inject some pitching help into the A's playoff run), which stunned the baseball world. In many ways, Canseco was never the same. He would have a flyball carom off his head and into the stands; an ill-advised pitching appearance would result in an elbow injury that ended his 1993 season; he would return in 1994 and win Comeback Player of the Year after hitting 31 homers in the strike shortened season. He would become a mercenary, moving from team to team hitting his 30 or so homers, then moving on to a new team. After his playing days, he released a tell-all book Juiced which chronicled his relationship with steroids throughout his career. What could have been a Hall of Fame career became instead a cautionary tale of the dangers of performance enhancing drugs.

Jose's Rookie Card is in the 1986 Topps Traded Set, Card #20T. 

Second Base - Robby Thompson
San Francisco (N.L.) 1986 - '96

The Giants found a cornerstone of their franchise for a decade when they drafted Robby in the first round of the 1983 draft. He finished 2nd in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting in 1986, hitting .271 and stealing 12 bases. He provided solid defense at second for ten seasons. His best year was 1993, when he won a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, made the All-Star team. He posted career highs in batting average, homers, RBI. Winning the Gold Glove was especially sweet for Thompson, who spent the bulk of his career in shadow of Ryne Sandberg. Thompson retired as the Giants' leader among 2B in almost all categories.

Robby's Rookie Card is in the 1986 Topps Traded Set, card # 113T.

Third Base - Dale Sveum
Milwaukee (A.L.) 1986 - '88, 1990 - '91; Philadelphia (N.L.) 1992, Chicago (A.L.) 1992, Oakland (A.L.) 1993, Seattle (A.L.) 1994, Pittsburgh (N.L.) 1996 - '97, 1999; New York (A.L.) 1998

Lest we forget the 3rd baseman from the 1986 All-Star Rookie Team, here's Dale Sveum! He was the other half of the trade that sent Bruce Ruffin to Milwaukee. 

Dale's Rookie Card is in the 1986 Topps Traded set, card #106T.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Busch Leaguers - The 1956 Topps St. Louis Cardinals Team Set

One of the fun things about a completed set is deciding how you want to organize it. I have the 1956 Topps set in a binder, sorted by team, in the same order that the teams finished in the 1955 Standings. In 1955, The St.Louis Cardinals finished 68 - 86, good for 7th place in the National League. 

The Cardinals were purchased in 1952 from Fred Saigh by the Anheuser-Busch Company, keeping the Cardinals in St. Louis. The St. Louis Browns' owner Bill Veeck owned the stadium shared by both teams, the intimate (and dilapidated) Sportsman's Park. Facing financial pressures from keeping up the stadium and pressure from Major League Baseball to behave himself, Veeck was forced to sell the stadium to the Busch family to hopefully keep the Browns and to stay solvent. In the end, it was a good deal for the Cardinals, and a good deal for the stadium, which was renamed Busch Stadium and began to see the improvements and renovations started by a cash-strapped Veeck come to fruition.  

The Cardinals, of course had a rich history of success by this time, particularly in the 1930s and 40s. The 1950s had seen the team start to fall on hard times. Branch Rickey had built the farm system that was the envy of baseball, but the team now lagged behind other squads that had invested more fully in scouting the new pipelines of talent in the Negro Leagues and in Latin America. It was not until Gus Busch became owner and purportedly asked "Where are all the black players?" that the team became integrated. They had already missed out on local talent Ernie Banks, a mistake that would cost them for the balance of the decade.

The 1954 Rookie if the Year in the NL was none other than Wally Moon! Moon followed up that season with a strong sophomore campaign. He hit 19 homers and drove 76 runs in 1955, compiling a WAR of 2.8. The Cardinals best hitter of course was Stan Musial. In 1956, Musial was under contract with Rawlings, and the cost of getting Rawlings to waive their exclusive rights combined with the cost of signing Musial to a separate card contract was too high a price for Topps to pay.

Wally would go on to have a solid 12 year career with 2 All-Star appearances and a pair of World Series victories with the Dodgers.

The Cardinals' best pitcher in 1955 was the team's fifth starter, Willard Schmidt. He only started 15 games, but led all St. Louis starters with a 2.77 ERA. He limited walks and hits allowed to a minimum, and won 7 games for the Redbirds. His ERA+ was 146, by far the best on the team.

Schmidt did not ultimately blossom into the starter that the Cardinals had hoped he would be, but he did convert himself into a competent relief pitcher - - in Cincinnati.

The lone Hall of Famer in the set is the great middle infielder, Al "Red" Schoendienst. Red was in his 32 year old season, and was named to his 8th straight All-Star game. He was a decent hitter, but a superb defender. He led the NL in fielding pct in 1955, as he did in 5 other seasons dating back to 1949. His hitting slumped a bit in 1955, and as a result of his age, the Cardinals felt he was a tradeable asset the following season.

When Schoendienst was shipped to the Giants, he proved that there was still some gas in the old Gashouse Gang after all. He boosted his batting average back above .300, then found a spot on the Milwaukee Braves roster in time for the 1957 pennant race. He had a career high 200 hits in the regular season, and added 5 more in the World Series, which Milwaukee won over the Yankees.

Following in Wally Moon's footsteps, Bill Virdon became the Rookie of the Year in 1955, playing center field and hitting at roughly a league average clip. Sauk Rapids, MN - born Rip Repulski hit 23 homers, 2nd on the team behind Stan Musial.

The 1956 Season preview for the Cardinals in Sports Illustrated places a lot of hope on the return of Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell from his stint in the military, and he did contribute the most innings of anyone on the staff and had a league average ERA. The veteran pitcher Ellis Kinder was just what the team needed, providing 25 innings of sparkling relief and a season of wisdom in the bullpen.

The team's fortunes would improve in 1956, with their record improving to 76-78, good for 4th place in the NL. Their new manager Fred Hutchinson brought a brand of baseball that emphasized a conservative approach on the basepaths, but patience at the plate to get on to allow Musial, Repulski, and Moon to drive the runners in.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Rocco's Managerial Life

After four years serving as a special assistant in the Rays' minor-league system, Rocco Baldelli joined the major league club and spent a pair of seasons as the team's first base coach. In 2018, he was named the Rays' Field Coordinator, working alongside Manager Kevin Cash and the other Rays coaches on player development, with an emphasis on outfield play. This off-season, the Minnesota Twins hired Baldelli to be the team's 14th Manager since moving to the Twin Cities in 1961. 

Baldelli was the 6th Overall pick in 2000, five spots after Adrian Gonzalez. Baldelli was a speedy, athletic outfielder who was poised to combine power and speed at the big league level. He was a standout in High School in Rhode Island, though his Senior Year was truncated by a mixture of bad weather and injuries.

Baldelli was also a great student, drawing the interest of Ivy League schools before being drafted into major league baseball. His minor league career was brief- a rare talent combined with a team just 2 years removed from expansion made his path a short one. After rookie ball, he spent a season in Single A, stealing 25 bases and hitting 8 homers. The next season he toured the Rays' minor league system shooting up the ranks and finishing in AAA. He hit 19 homers and stole 26 more bases. He would be the Devil Rays' Opening Day Center Fielder in 2003.

Baldelli finished 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2003, behind Angel Berroa of the Royals and Hideki Matsui of the Yankees. Baldelli was 21 years old his rookie year, 8 years younger than Matsui, and 4 years younger than Berroa. He had a higher average and more hits and stolen bases than both of those guys in 2003, finishing above both in WAR as well. And of course, he was a Topps All-Star Rookie!

Baldelli's career began with a 13 game hitting streak. He led the AL in outfield Assists his rookie season, and was near the top of the league in fielding chances and putouts. His 2nd season was a continuation of the excellent play he exhibited in the field and at the plate. He was once again #1 among AL outfielders in Assists. He stole another 17 bags and increased his homer total from 11 as a rookie to 16 in his 2nd season. In his first two seasons, he drew comparisons to Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, and even Joe DiMaggio (though that may have been as much about a passing resemblance as a tall and lanky Italian American outfielder as it was about his performance on the field).   

What happened next has been well documented - a freak injury in the offseason resulted in torn ligaments in his knee, then he injured his elbow in Spring Training, resulting in Tommy John surgery. He would miss the entire 2005 season. In 2006 and 2007, Hamstring injuries limited him to just 92 and 35 games, respectively. Beginning in 2008, Baldelli began to suffer from a condition that left him feeling very weak after even limited exercise. He put his playing career on hold, seeking a diagnosis. Was it Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS)? Multiple Sclerosis? While the exact issue was not identified, Baldelli was cleared by his doctors to resume his career, and was a hero for the Rays in the ALCS in 2008- hitting a 3 run homer in Game 3, helping seal the victory over the Red Sox. He also had an RBI in the deciding 7th Game of the ALCS, propelling Tampa to the World Series.

He would join the Red Sox as a reserve outfielder in 2009, and played in 63 games. He retired after the 2010 season, following another year in Tampa, and another playoff appearance. His sharp baseball mind was valued highly by the Rays, and immediately moved to make him part of the orgs' team of outfield instructors.