It's time once again for that weekly tradition here at the Rundown, the Baseball Card of the Week. We have scoured the globe in order to bring you the very best in tradable goodness. And by scoured the globe, we mean we've allowed you to do the legwork for us while we enjoy a beer and possibly a sandwich of sorts.
This weeks' Card comes to us from Daniel R., of Springfield, Illinois. This one is a true blast from the past, a 1984 Andres Galarraga rookie card from Topps.
First off, I have to confess: Galarraga was one of my all time least favorite Cardinals. 'The Big Cat', as he was known, had been a holy terror for teams to contend with for several years with the Montreal Expos. In 1991, Galarraga had an injury plagued and ineffective year, playing in just 107 games and struggling to a .268 OBP. That's not a typo; do not adjust your computer screen. That's a two six eight. Yikes.
So, of course, what do the Cardinals do? Well, they go right on out and get him. Buy low, right fellas?
There was plenty to like about the Cat, of course, even coming off such a down year. From 1987-1990, Galarraga had slammed over 20 home runs each year, despite playing in the cavernous confines of Montreal's Le Stade Olympique. The guy had some injuries, hey, maybe it was just a down year. The Cardinals, as was pretty much always the case during those years, were in dire need of offense, and they undoubtedly thought that they could get an undervalued player like Galarraga coming off a bad season to provide that offense for less than market value.
Well, they were wrong.
In 1992, the Big Cat's only year with the Cardinals, he played even less games than he did in 1991, and performed even worse. In just 95 games, Gallaraga managed to post an OPS of .673 while playing less than the stellar defense he had previously been known for at first base. It looked as if the Cardinals had simply managed to bring in a player who was done at an unusually young age.
Of course, that's not how it worked out. After his abbreviated slog through St. Louis, Galarraga went to the Colorado Rockies and their hitter's paradise known as Coors Field. To say the change did him some good would be a rather marked understatement.
In the five years that Galarraga played for Colorado, he failed to slug over .500 only one year, in 1995, the year that baseball returned from the player's strike. He slugged .511 that season, which was easily his worst in a Rockies uniform.
After his tenure in the mountains, Galarraga went to the Atlanta Braves and continued to put up huge numbers. One would have expected his production to fall off badly after leaving Coors Field, but that simply didn't happen. He hit over .300 both years he played for the Bravos, posting OPS's of .992 and .895, respectively. Those bad days in St. Louis never seemed so far away.
After he left the Braves, Galarraga began to decline. Injuries started creeping in again, limiting both his availability and his effectiveness. He split time between the Giants and the Texas Rangers in 2001 and struggled to an overall batting mark of .247. In 2002, the Big Cat found himself back in Montreal, trying to help his original team make a playoff run under the cloud of possible contraction. He hit only .260 and slugged only .394. Galarraga was becoming a platoon player.
The Cat had a bit of a renaissance with San Francisco in 2003, putting up an OPS of .841 in 272 at bats for the eventual National League champs in part time first base and pinch hitting duty. It was his last hurrah, as the 2004 season was Galarraga's last. He played in only seven games for the Angels that year before getting hurt and calling it quits for good. By that time he was 43 years old, and it was time to hang it up.
Galarraga finished with 399 career home runs, which always seemed a terrible shame to me. Some young guy couldn't have grooved just one to him that last year to get him over the hump to 400?
Thanks to everyone who sent in contributions this week, and every week. As always, if you have a submission for the Card of the Week, please send it to me at [email protected].