Ron Gant 2000 Fleer Tradition

Cards On The Table: Right Guy, Wrong Time

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I used to think the darkest days of the Phillies since I started following them was the period between 1984 and 1990.

I was very, very wrong.

The entire decade of the ’90s, other than 1993’s odd flash-in-pan miracle season, was far more ghastly.

Those ’90s teams had it all; minor league players who couldn’t hit a 3-1 fastball if it was slowed down to half-speed, veterans who wanted no part of the organization (Rolen, Schilling), and middling-to-horrible starting rotations and bullpens that even the Kansas City Royals would laugh at today.

But what made the 1990s extra special was the reek of desperation emanating from the general manager’s office.

I say desperation because of the unusual trend in the ’90s of the Phils’ brass signing players who were once stars but whose games had long since left their aging bodies. Players trying to recapture their glory days in red pinstripes, only to pee their pants once they arrived in Philadelphia.

In other words, the Phillies specialized in grabbing players 5-10 years past their usefulness.

And they had a very special talent for knowing exactly who was cooked.

I’d call it more of a gift, actually.

Dale Murphy 1990-’92

Dale Murphy 1991 Topps Stadium Club (one of the best designed cards of the 1990s)

Dale Murphy was one of the premier sluggers of the 1980s, winning two MVP awards with the Atlanta Braves and routinely challenging Mike Schmidt for the NL home run crown.

I stress 1980s.

Once the ’90s rolled around, the humble Mormon’s game had completely abandoned him, which made him just a perfect fit for the Phils.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Awards
1976 20 ATL NL 19 72 65 3 17 6 0 0 9 0 0 7 9 .262 .333 .354 .687 91
1977 21 ATL NL 18 76 76 5 24 8 1 2 14 0 1 0 8 .316 .316 .526 .842 112
1978 22 ATL NL 151 583 530 66 120 14 3 23 79 11 7 42 145 .226 .284 .394 .679 80
1979 23 ATL NL 104 429 384 53 106 7 2 21 57 6 1 38 67 .276 .340 .469 .809 113
1980 24 ATL NL 156 634 569 98 160 27 2 33 89 9 6 59 133 .281 .349 .510 .858 135 AS,MVP-12
1981 25 ATL NL 104 416 369 43 91 12 1 13 50 14 5 44 72 .247 .325 .390 .716 100
1982 26 ATL NL 162 698 598 113 168 23 2 36 109 23 11 93 134 .281 .378 .507 .885 142 AS,MVP-1,GG,SS
1983 27 ATL NL 162 687 589 131 178 24 4 36 121 30 4 90 110 .302 .393 .540 .933 149 AS,MVP-1,GG,SS
1984 28 ATL NL 162 691 607 94 176 32 8 36 100 19 7 79 134 .290 .372 .547 .919 149 AS,MVP-9,GG,SS
1985 29 ATL NL 162 712 616 118 185 32 2 37 111 10 3 90 141 .300 .388 .539 .927 152 AS,MVP-7,GG,SS
1986 30 ATL NL 160 692 614 89 163 29 7 29 83 7 7 75 141 .265 .347 .477 .824 121 AS,MVP-21,GG
1987 31 ATL NL 159 693 566 115 167 27 1 44 105 16 6 115 136 .295 .417 .580 .997 157 AS,MVP-11
1988 32 ATL NL 156 671 592 77 134 35 4 24 77 3 5 74 125 .226 .313 .421 .734 106
1989 33 ATL NL 154 647 574 60 131 16 0 20 84 3 2 65 142 .228 .306 .361 .667 89
1990 34 TOT NL 154 629 563 60 138 23 1 24 83 9 3 61 130 .245 .318 .417 .735 99
1990 34 ATL NL 97 394 349 38 81 14 0 17 55 9 2 41 84 .232 .312 .418 .731 96
1990 34 PHI NL 57 235 214 22 57 9 1 7 28 0 1 20 46 .266 .328 .416 .744 105
1991 35 PHI NL 153 599 544 66 137 33 1 18 81 1 0 48 93 .252 .309 .415 .724 103
1992 36 PHI NL 18 63 62 5 10 1 0 2 7 0 0 1 13 .161 .175 .274 .449 26
1993 37 COL NL 26 49 42 1 6 1 0 0 7 0 0 5 15 .143 .224 .167 .391 1
18 Yrs 2180 9041 7960 1197 2111 350 39 398 1266 161 68 986 1748 .265 .346 .469 .815 121
G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Awards
ATL (15 yrs) 1926 8095 7098 1103 1901 306 37 371 1143 160 67 912 1581 .268 .351 .478 .829 125
PHI (3 yrs) 228 897 820 93 204 43 2 27 116 1 1 69 152 .249 .304 .405 .709 98
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/27/2012.

Murphy was released shortly before the NL championship season of 1993. But for parts of three years in Philadelphia, Murphy depressed us all with his slogging gait in the outfield and his slider-speed bat at the plate.

Fernando Valenzuela 1994

Fernando Valenzuela 1995 Upper Deck

Fernandomania invaded Philadelphia about seven years too late, long after his ability to pitch in the Major Leagues had left him.

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO ERA+ WHIP Awards
1980 19 LAD NL 2 0 0.00 10 0 0 0 17.2 8 2 0 0 5 0 16 0.736
1981 20 LAD NL 13 7 2.48 25 25 11 8 192.1 140 55 53 11 61 4 180 135 1.045 AS,CYA-1,MVP-5,RoY-1,SS
1982 21 LAD NL 19 13 2.87 37 37 18 4 285.0 247 105 91 13 83 12 199 122 1.158 AS,CYA-3,MVP-21
1983 22 LAD NL 15 10 3.75 35 35 9 4 257.0 245 122 107 16 99 10 189 96 1.339 AS,SS
1984 23 LAD NL 12 17 3.03 34 34 12 2 261.0 218 109 88 14 106 4 240 116 1.241 AS
1985 24 LAD NL 17 10 2.45 35 35 14 5 272.1 211 92 74 14 101 5 208 141 1.146 AS,CYA-5,MVP-23
1986 25 LAD NL 21 11 3.14 34 34 20 3 269.1 226 104 94 18 85 5 242 110 1.155 AS,CYA-2,MVP-19,GG
1987 26 LAD NL 14 14 3.98 34 34 12 1 251.0 254 120 111 25 124 4 190 101 1.506
1988 27 LAD NL 5 8 4.24 23 22 3 0 142.1 142 71 67 11 76 4 64 79 1.532
1989 28 LAD NL 10 13 3.43 31 31 3 0 196.2 185 89 75 11 98 6 116 100 1.439
1990 29 LAD NL 13 13 4.59 33 33 5 2 204.0 223 112 104 19 77 4 115 80 1.471
1991 30 CAL AL 0 2 12.15 2 2 0 0 6.2 14 10 9 3 3 0 5 36 2.550
1992 Did not play in major leagues (Mexico)
1993 32 BAL AL 8 10 4.94 32 31 5 2 178.2 179 104 98 18 79 2 78 91 1.444
1994 33 PHI NL 1 2 3.00 8 7 0 0 45.0 42 16 15 8 7 1 19 145 1.089
1995 34 SDP NL 8 3 4.98 29 15 0 0 90.1 101 53 50 16 34 2 57 82 1.494
1996 35 SDP NL 13 8 3.62 33 31 0 0 171.2 177 78 69 17 67 2 95 110 1.421
1997 36 TOT NL 2 12 4.96 18 18 1 0 89.0 106 61 49 12 46 0 61 81 1.708
1997 36 SDP NL 2 8 4.75 13 13 1 0 66.1 84 42 35 10 32 0 51 83 1.749
1997 36 STL NL 0 4 5.56 5 5 0 0 22.2 22 19 14 2 14 0 10 76 1.588
17 Yrs 173 153 3.54 453 424 113 31 2930.0 2718 1303 1154 226 1151 65 2074 104 1.320
162 Game Avg. 13 12 3.54 35 33 9 2 227 211 101 89 18 89 5 161 104 1.320
W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO ERA+ WHIP Awards
LAD (11 yrs) 141 116 3.31 331 320 107 29 2348.2 2099 981 864 152 915 58 1759 107 1.283
PHI (1 yr) 1 2 3.00 8 7 0 0 45.0 42 16 15 8 7 1 19 145 1.089
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/27/2012.

In fact, his pitching was so mediocre that the good people at Upper Deck couldn’t even be bothered to show him doing his day job in his 1995 card.

You know, actually pitching a baseball. Although, it does look like he got a hold of that one.

Fernando finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting in four of his first six years, but his body eventually broke down, probably due to his rotundness, rendering him utterly useless for our purposes. Which, once again, meant he was perfect for the Phillies of the mid-’90s.

Andy Van Slyke 1995

Andy Van Slyke 1996 Topps Stadium Club

The Phils were somehow able to outbid every other Major League team for the services of Andy Van Slyke, whose game had abandoned him only two years earlier.

Hey, that’s actually a pretty brief time period for the 1990s Phillies! Usually they’d wait until a player was five to seven years past their prime before acquiring them.

It’s called bargain shopping, people.

Van Slyke had a great six-year stretch from 1988-’93, when he was one of the top center fielders in the game and part of that tremendously talented Pittsburgh Pirates squad that won three straight NL East titles in the early ’90s.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB Awards
1979 Did not play in major leagues (Injured – Hand)
1983 22 STL NL 101 364 309 51 81 15 5 8 38 21 7 46 64 .262 .357 .421 .777 114 130
1984 23 STL NL 137 430 361 45 88 16 4 7 50 28 5 63 71 .244 .354 .368 .723 106 133
1985 24 STL NL 146 475 424 61 110 25 6 13 55 34 6 47 54 .259 .335 .439 .774 116 186
1986 25 STL NL 137 470 418 48 113 23 7 13 61 21 8 47 85 .270 .343 .452 .795 118 189
1987 26 PIT NL 157 632 564 93 165 36 11 21 82 34 8 56 122 .293 .359 .507 .866 127 286
1988 27 PIT NL 154 660 587 101 169 23 15 25 100 30 9 57 126 .288 .345 .506 .851 144 297 AS,MVP-4,GG,SS
1989 28 PIT NL 130 532 476 64 113 18 9 9 53 16 4 47 100 .237 .308 .370 .677 97 176 GG
1990 29 PIT NL 136 569 493 67 140 26 6 17 77 14 4 66 89 .284 .367 .465 .832 132 229 MVP-27,GG
1991 30 PIT NL 138 577 491 87 130 24 7 17 83 10 3 71 85 .265 .355 .446 .801 126 219 GG
1992 31 PIT NL 154 686 614 103 199 45 12 14 89 12 3 58 99 .324 .381 .505 .886 150 310 AS,MVP-4,GG,SS
1993 32 PIT NL 83 354 323 42 100 13 4 8 50 11 2 24 40 .310 .357 .449 .806 116 145 AS
1994 33 PIT NL 105 431 374 41 92 18 3 6 30 7 0 52 72 .246 .340 .358 .698 82 134
1995 34 TOT MLB 80 315 277 32 62 11 2 6 24 7 0 33 56 .224 .309 .343 .652 72 95
1995 34 BAL AL 17 68 63 6 10 1 0 3 8 0 0 5 15 .159 .221 .317 .538 37 20
1995 34 PHI NL 63 247 214 26 52 10 2 3 16 7 0 28 41 .243 .333 .350 .684 82 75
13 Yrs 1658 6495 5711 835 1562 293 91 164 792 245 59 667 1063 .274 .349 .443 .792 119 2529
PHI (1 yr) 63 247 214 26 52 10 2 3 16 7 0 28 41 .243 .333 .350 .684 82 75
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/27/2012.

Of course, by the time he reached Philadelphia, he’d become a slightly more quotable version of Ricky Otero. The Phils were the last team he would ever play for, retiring from the game after just 63 games with the Phillies after the 1995 season.

Sid Fernandez 1995-’96

Sid Fernandez 1996 Topps

Not only were these players in the ’90s horrible, the card designs were pretty awful, too. Dude, Topps, what were you thinking, here?

Anyway, it’s pretty clear what the Phils’ strategy was during this time period. Acquire as many fat pitchers as humanly possible.

Fernandez was a very effective starter for the Mets during the 1980s, and had a career revival in ’92 with New York. But by the time he reached Philadelphia in ’95, he was an overweight 32-year-old pitcher running on fumes.

Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO ERA+ WHIP Awards
1983 20 LAD NL 0 1 .000 6.00 2 1 0 0 6.0 7 4 4 0 7 0 9 64 2.333
1984 21 NYM NL 6 6 .500 3.50 15 15 0 0 90.0 74 40 35 8 34 3 62 102 1.200
1985 22 NYM NL 9 9 .500 2.80 26 26 3 0 170.1 108 56 53 14 80 3 180 125 1.104
1986 23 NYM NL 16 6 .727 3.52 32 31 2 1 204.1 161 82 80 13 91 1 200 102 1.233 AS,CYA-7
1987 24 NYM NL 12 8 .600 3.81 28 27 3 1 156.0 130 75 66 16 67 8 134 100 1.263 AS
1988 25 NYM NL 12 10 .545 3.03 31 31 1 1 187.0 127 69 63 15 70 1 189 106 1.053
1989 26 NYM NL 14 5 .737 2.83 35 32 6 2 219.1 157 73 69 21 75 3 198 115 1.058
1990 27 NYM NL 9 14 .391 3.46 30 30 2 1 179.1 130 79 69 18 67 4 181 109 1.099
1991 28 NYM NL 1 3 .250 2.86 8 8 0 0 44.0 36 18 14 4 9 0 31 129 1.023
1992 29 NYM NL 14 11 .560 2.73 32 32 5 2 214.2 162 67 65 12 67 4 193 129 1.067
1993 30 NYM NL 5 6 .455 2.93 18 18 1 1 119.2 82 42 39 17 36 0 81 137 0.986
1994 31 BAL AL 6 6 .500 5.15 19 19 2 0 115.1 109 66 66 27 46 2 95 97 1.344
1995 32 TOT MLB 6 5 .545 4.56 19 18 0 0 92.2 84 51 47 20 38 2 110 96 1.317
1995 32 BAL AL 0 4 .000 7.39 8 7 0 0 28.0 36 26 23 9 17 2 31 65 1.893
1995 32 PHI NL 6 1 .857 3.34 11 11 0 0 64.2 48 25 24 11 21 0 79 126 1.067
1996 33 PHI NL 3 6 .333 3.43 11 11 0 0 63.0 50 25 24 5 26 2 77 125 1.206
1997 34 HOU NL 1 0 1.000 3.60 1 1 0 0 5.0 4 2 2 1 2 0 3 120 1.200
1998 Did not play in major leagues (Did Not Play)
1999 Did not play in major leagues (Did Not Play)
2000 Did not play in major leagues (Did Not Play)
15 Yrs 114 96 .543 3.36 307 300 25 9 1866.2 1421 749 696 191 715 33 1743 111 1.144
W L W-L% ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO ERA+ WHIP Awards
NYM (10 yrs) 98 78 .557 3.14 255 250 23 9 1584.2 1167 601 553 138 596 27 1449 113 1.113
PHI (2 yrs) 9 7 .563 3.38 22 22 0 0 127.2 98 50 48 16 47 2 156 126 1.136
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/27/2012.

Fernandez actually performed pretty well for the Phils when he was healthy. The problem is that he was rarely healthy, starting only 11 games for the Phillies in both ’95 and ’96.

It’s all about timing, people.

Danny Tartabull 1997

Danny Tartabull 1998 Pacific

Until today, I had no idea there was a baseball card company called Pacific. You live and learn.

In what was certainly one of the three worst free agent signing in Phillies history, Tartabull’s arrival before the ’97 season was met with some excitement initially. After all, Tartabull hit 27 HRs and 101 RBIs for the White Sox in ’96, so it was reasonable to see why the Phils wanted him.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB Awards
1984 21 SEA AL 10 24 20 3 6 1 0 2 7 0 0 2 3 .300 .375 .650 1.025 181 13
1985 22 SEA AL 19 69 61 8 20 7 1 1 7 1 0 8 14 .328 .406 .525 .930 153 32
1986 23 SEA AL 137 578 511 76 138 25 6 25 96 4 8 61 157 .270 .347 .489 .836 125 250 RoY-5
1987 24 KCR AL 158 667 582 95 180 27 3 34 101 9 4 79 136 .309 .390 .541 .931 142 315 MVP-17
1988 25 KCR AL 146 593 507 80 139 38 3 26 102 8 5 76 119 .274 .369 .515 .884 145 261
1989 26 KCR AL 133 515 441 54 118 22 0 18 62 4 2 69 123 .268 .369 .440 .809 128 194
1990 27 KCR AL 88 352 313 41 84 19 0 15 60 1 1 36 93 .268 .341 .473 .814 128 148
1991 28 KCR AL 132 557 484 78 153 35 3 31 100 6 3 65 121 .316 .397 .593 .990 171 287 AS,MVP-12
1992 29 NYY AL 123 526 421 72 112 19 0 25 85 2 2 103 115 .266 .409 .489 .898 153 206
1993 30 NYY AL 138 611 513 87 128 33 2 31 102 0 0 92 156 .250 .363 .503 .866 134 258
1994 31 NYY AL 104 470 399 68 102 24 1 19 67 1 1 66 111 .256 .360 .464 .823 115 185
1995 32 TOT AL 83 328 280 34 66 16 0 8 35 0 2 43 82 .236 .335 .379 .714 89 106
1995 32 NYY AL 59 230 192 25 43 12 0 6 28 0 0 33 54 .224 .335 .380 .715 87 73
1995 32 OAK AL 24 98 88 9 23 4 0 2 7 0 2 10 28 .261 .337 .375 .712 93 33
1996 33 CHW AL 132 541 472 58 120 23 3 27 101 1 2 64 128 .254 .340 .487 .827 111 230
1997 34 PHI NL 3 11 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 4 .000 .364 .000 .364 6 0
14 Yrs 1406 5842 5011 756 1366 289 22 262 925 37 30 768 1362 .273 .368 .496 .864 133 2485
PHI (1 yr) 3 11 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 4 .000 .364 .000 .364 6 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/27/2012.

Unfortunately, Tartabull proved to be more woman than man, playing in only three games for the Phillies after fouling a ball off his foot in his first at bat with the team.

I’m amazed a baseball card was even created for this waste of space. Every time I see him on that Seinfeld episode, I want to throw a paperweight through my TV. But it’s a very expensive TV, so instead, I throw feathers. It’s far less satisfying.

Ron Gant 1999-2000

Yup, this is where baseball card makers went off the rails. Fleer Tradition? What about regular Fleer? And what happened to Fleer Ultra? I need answers on things like this.

Raise your hand if you knew Ron Gant played 17 years in the Majors. I sure didn’t. And wouldn’t you know it? The Phillies were one of the teams that were lucky enough to snag him on the back end of that career.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Awards
1987 22 ATL NL 21 86 83 9 22 4 0 2 9 4 2 1 11 .265 .271 .386 .656 69
1988 23 ATL NL 146 618 563 85 146 28 8 19 60 19 10 46 118 .259 .317 .439 .755 112 RoY-4
1989 24 ATL NL 75 285 260 26 46 8 3 9 25 9 6 20 63 .177 .237 .335 .571 61
1990 25 ATL NL 152 631 575 107 174 34 3 32 84 33 16 50 86 .303 .357 .539 .896 139 MVP-14
1991 26 ATL NL 154 642 561 101 141 35 3 32 105 34 15 71 104 .251 .338 .496 .834 127 MVP-6,SS
1992 27 ATL NL 153 602 544 74 141 22 6 17 80 32 10 45 101 .259 .321 .415 .736 102 AS
1993 28 ATL NL 157 682 606 113 166 27 4 36 117 26 9 67 117 .274 .345 .510 .854 126 MVP-5
1994 Did not play in major leagues (Injured)
1995 30 CIN NL 119 493 410 79 113 19 4 29 88 23 8 74 108 .276 .386 .554 .940 146 AS,MVP-11
1996 31 STL NL 122 500 419 74 103 14 2 30 82 13 4 73 98 .246 .359 .504 .862 126
1997 32 STL NL 139 562 502 68 115 21 4 17 62 14 6 58 162 .229 .310 .388 .698 83
1998 33 STL NL 121 438 383 60 92 17 1 26 67 8 0 51 92 .240 .331 .493 .825 114
1999 34 PHI NL 138 605 516 107 134 27 5 17 77 13 3 85 112 .260 .364 .430 .794 97
2000 35 TOT MLB 123 487 425 69 106 19 3 26 54 6 6 56 91 .249 .335 .492 .827 106
2000 35 PHI NL 89 384 343 54 87 16 2 20 38 5 4 36 73 .254 .324 .487 .811 101
2000 35 ANA AL 34 103 82 15 19 3 1 6 16 1 2 20 18 .232 .379 .512 .891 122
2001 36 TOT MLB 93 292 252 46 65 13 3 10 35 5 1 35 80 .258 .345 .452 .797 95
2001 36 COL NL 59 199 171 31 44 8 2 8 22 3 1 24 56 .257 .345 .468 .813 92
2001 36 OAK AL 34 93 81 15 21 5 1 2 13 2 0 11 24 .259 .344 .420 .764 103
2002 37 SDP NL 102 353 309 58 81 14 1 18 59 4 6 36 59 .262 .338 .489 .827 125
2003 38 OAK AL 17 44 41 4 6 0 0 1 4 0 0 2 9 .146 .182 .220 .401 6
16 Yrs 1832 7320 6449 1080 1651 302 50 321 1008 243 102 770 1411 .256 .336 .468 .803 112
ATL (7 yrs) 858 3546 3192 515 836 158 27 147 480 157 68 300 600 .262 .326 .466 .793 115
PHI (2 yrs) 227 989 859 161 221 43 7 37 115 18 7 121 185 .257 .348 .453 .801 99
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/27/2012.

Noticing a pattern here, friends?

Gant was a nice player for Atlanta in the early ’90s until an injury sidelined him for the entire 1994 season. He was never the same player again, which made him a prime target for the Phillies of the 1990s.

What I’ll always remember about Gant was his abysmal showing against the Phils in the 1993 NLCS. That dude almost single-handedly killed every single Atlanta rally in that series. I hope the Phillies gave him a playoff share that season.

***

In the following years, the Phillies would have a little more success with guys like Kenny Lofton in 2005 and Juan Pierre last year. But those are the outliers.

For the most part, during the Phils’ bargain shopping days, the franchise tried to find old stars at low-low prices, hoping their All-Star level games would return.

The lesson, as always, it’s good to have money to purchase players with actual futures.

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