Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Just Your Average Major Leaguer

Baseball history will always remember a couple greats from each generation. Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio and Williams, Mantle and Mays, Fisk and Bench, Brett and Ryan, Griffey and Bonds, Jeter and A-Rod. Sure, there's more, and those of us who follow baseball can name off hundreds more, most of whom are either in the Hall of Fame or headed that way.

And then you have your local heroes, the day-to-day players who filled a position for years or were a part of a championship team, like Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell, Sid Bream and Otis Nixon, Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell. These players may make the Hall of Fame, but even if they aren't headed to Cooperstown they're remembered in local Hall of Fames and stories.

And then there are the never-weres. Thousands of players who may have had a sip of coffee, or maybe saw the Starbucks from the interstate but never got to stop. While most are never even noticed by anyone other than the most studious farm-following fans, a couple become big names. This is where players like Todd Van Poppel and Brien Taylor land. Every once in a while, flipping through an old stack of cards or newspaper articles, you come across a name and say, "Hey, I remember that guy. He was supposed to take over for George Brett. I wonder what happened to him." Maybe you do a little research on the former rookie star and find he later worked as a groundskeeper in the Mets minor league system for a couple years.

Somewhere in between the day-to-day players and the ones who barely get a chance to dig in at the plate are the forgotten scrubs. The guys who work their way onto a team, work hard every day, and maybe sit on the bench, hoping to step in at a moment's notice. These are the utility players and backup catchers. The platoon players who see a game once or twice a week. The players who are just filling a spot because there's no one better. These are the middle relievers - not groomed to be the closer, maybe not even the set-up man, but still needed when things go bad.

These players can be considered to be your average major leaguer. Somewhere between good and bad - the players who get a chance, earn a spot on the roster, but never hold a permanent spot on a team or with its fans.

One of these players is Geoff Geary.
Drafted in 1998 by the Phillies, Geary toiled through the minor leagues before being awarded Phillies Minor League Player of the Month in June 2003, where in AAA he worked as set-up man, starter, and closer. Called up at the end of the year, he saw action in five games. He saw occasional action throughout 2004 and 2005, with a 2.70 ERA after the '05 All-Star Break. Geoff's best year with the Phillies came in '06, with an ERA of 2.96 in 91 innings. After the 2007 season, he was traded to the Astros in the deal that sent Brad Lidge to the Phillies.

His best year was 2008, with an ERA of just 2.53 in 55 games. 2009 would be the last time he saw action in the major leagues, as he posted an ERA of 8.10 in 16 games before going on the DL with tendinitis. He would spend the rest of the season with the Triple-A Round Rock Express. Geary spent 2010 in the Rangers and Dodgers minor league systems, and signed a minor-league deal with the Padres earlier this year. Geoff Geary was released on March 26.
Through his seven year major league career, Geary compiled a 16-10 record with a 3.92 ERA, striking out 230 in 351 innings. Most people probably don't remember him.

But Geary is one of my favorite players. This is a strange thing for me. I'm not a Phillies or Astros fan. He isn't from my hometown and I'm not related to him. We didn't go to school together. I didn't bump into him on the street (if I did I probably wouldn't know it). I think I only saw him pitch once - seven pitches to one batter (a strikeout). I don't remember him for his pitching skill, though. I remember him from batting practice.
It seemed like half the Braves games I went to in the mid to late '00s were against the Phillies. I always go to the park early to watch batting practice and maybe snag a ball. The pitchers are always out shagging balls, and they fall into one of two categories - ignorers or interactors. Ignorers may toss a ball into the crowd, but they rarely look at the stands. Geary was an interactor, talking back to the fans who would yell at him for free little souvenirs. He would banter with them, and get on their case when they didn't catch one of the balls he'd toss to them. I'd seek him out at every game just for the show. Instead of some guy with a two-digit number on his back, he had a personality, he was unique.

Geoff Geary was never a star. For seven years he had a job, and he got the job done. He may have been just your average major leaguer, but he had class.

Never labeled as a hot prospect, and never put in a standout role, Geary has a very small number of cards for a recent player. His cards start in 1998, with releases through 2010. As far as I can tell, he has a total of 53 releases. Sixteen are 1/1 printing plates (eight from 2005 Topps Total, a card he shares with another player). Ten cards are minor league issues, most issued before 2005. Only one of his cards is a team issue. This leaves 26 cards issued by major manufacturers. Three of these are autographs (all parallels from 2004 UD Diamond Pro Sigs). Only eight of his cards (including the base autograph) are base card issues, with the rest being parallels.
Thirty-seven cards. I want them all. None of the cards have a print run less than 10, so I think it's possible. The list of his cards is located here. This will be my first full player collection since an attempt at Tony Gwynn and Nolan Ryan in 2003. If you have any Geary cards I don't have (check the spreadsheet, I have all his major release base cards but need the minor leagues, team issue, and parallels), feel free to send them my way!


  1. This is something I have thought about as well. And it makes the perfect type of player collection because it is one that has a chance at being completed. You could have thousands of dollars and never get close to a complete Ryan or Gwynn collection, but a Geoff Geary could probably be done for a couple of hundred (including the 1/1s).

  2. Yeah, the only real trick for Geary will be getting the plates - even finding them will be tough.