Tuesday, May 31, 2011

RBI (15) No longer green with envy...

And now I'm sparkling with diamonds. The past few weeks I've seen people posting up some of the cooler cards they've gotten from Topps Diamond Giveaway and I have to admit I was always a little jealous of the Diamond Die Cuts fellow bloggers have gotten. Well I've finally been able to score my own when I was out picking up another few top loaders I couldn't resist the blaster sitting by itself on the top of the shelf.

It may not be a Red Sox or Angels card, but hey I'll take it. Especially since Jair is currently sitting with a 7-1 record and 1.51 ERA. Batters are only hitting .234 against him and he has 38 punch outs versus only 11 walks. If he keeps it up he could be this years All-Star selection taking up Tim Hudson's selection from last year. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Weekly Rundown 4- Angels Summary 5/16-5/29

Well due to an afternoon game I wasn't able to post a Weekly Rundown last week. I'll try to make up for it now.

Since the 16th of May the Angels have gone an unfortunate 6-8 between a 7 game home stand and 7 games spent on the road. Of those losses the Angels played the A's 6 times and only won twice. The Angels are currently a game behind the Texas Rangers for the division lead and sit at 28-27, constantly flirting with a .500 record.

 The offense has not been able to really get going for the past two weeks and as a result Angel aces Haren and Weaver continued to look for their first win in the month of May.

On the 28th Jered Weaver went 9 strong innings giving up no runs but received no run support at all for a game that eventually was settled in extra innings. In six May starts Weaver took 4 losses and 2 no decisions. Dan Haren finally received his first win since April 17th to finally hit the 5 win mark.

In injury news Angel starter Scott Kazmir made his first rehab start in AAA Salt Lake and was only able to last 1 2/3 innings. He continues to search for his best stuff and return to top of the rotation form. Outfielder Vernon Wells has increased his workout regimen to return to the Angels batting order and could be back in action in a week and a half. Second baseman Howie Kendrick hit the DL retroactive to May 20th due to tightness in his hamstring and has not played since May 19th.

I'll go more in depth with some of this news later this week when I post the Angels Monthly Summary.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sac Fly (1) The first contest...

Well seeing as I've been able to have a little bit of luck pulling cards this week and in person at the stadium I think it's time to spread some of the luck and host my first contest.  I'll get more complicated and random fun with my contests as you can tell by this one.

The first contest I'll admit is a little self serving. For only having the blog up for about a month I've gotten a fair number of hits and am glad people have found interest in the stuff I'm putting up. So to continue working my way into this great community I need the word spread about what I'm doing on this blog. So here's the prize and the rules:

-2 unopened packs of Topps Heritage 2011 OR Gypsy Queen OR 1 of each. Winner's choice.
-Additional cards from my collection of your selected team.

How it works:
The Oakland A's were in town this last home stand and I was able to get a few in person autographs of members of the team. So here's the contest 3 different A's players signed autographs for me. Guess who I was able to get and you win the prize. Also in your guess leave which packs you would prefer if you win.

The winner will be the person who gets the most players guessed correctly. If there is a tie I will use a random number generator for all valid correct entries. If no one guesses any of the players correctly I will use a random number generator for all entries to determine the winner.

How to enter:
Like I said, I'm self serving in this contest. Mainly because as it stands now there will most likely only be 2 entries in the contest if I didn't add this part. All you have to do to enter is comment your guess. You can leave a second guess as a valid entry if with your second entry you post a link to your own site announcing/linking this contest (2 entry max).

Contest will close Friday June 3rd at 11:59 PM PST, and the winner will be announced Saturday June 4th.

Balk 2 - TTTM

But not the TTM you're thinking of. These would be some Trades Through The Mail that I've been pretty delayed talking about.

First off Tom from The Angels, In Order per usual set me up with some great cards to have signed by some Angel alumni. I'll put up photos from these as they get signed.

A while back ago The Lost Collector of The Lost Collector needed a lone Russell Martin card from the 2011 Topps Heritage collection. I sent it out and he was nice enough to quickly stock me up with my first Gypsy Queen card, a nifty Kendrys Morales and some additional team card goodness that I needed.

I took part in the Cardboard Heaven group break and was pleased to get some nice Gypsy Queen, Upper Deck, and Topps cards of the Angels and Padres (California bias) sent out to me very quickly. I was really happy taking part in the group break and will definitely be on the lookout to take part again.

Today was an especially joyous day as Colbey of Cardboard Collections sent me out a nice selection of base cards and inserts I needed for my Topps 2011 Series 1. To say I was happy was a serious understatement as I love this anniversary set and these inserts are taking me forever to get through packs. I was more than happy to send some Topps 2011 Heritage and 2011 Opening Day over for the cards that made a serious dent in my want list.

Sorry for the lack of photos in today's post but I spilled a soda earlier today and am letting the USB cable dry but really wanted to make up for my lacking trade posts.

Thanks for the great trades guys,  you're all top notch in my book.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

RBI (14) Bringing the wood...

And I don't mean figuratively. The other day I converted some credit card bonus points into gift card credit for a store that won't receive free publicity unless I become sponsored by them (Target) and turned the gift card into a Topps 2011 blaster. The cards were all pretty generic but I was able to get a few needed cards from the base set and I think two inserts I needed.

Buried within the box though was a pack that felt a little funny. Of course within that pack there was a wonderful little goodie. An Aramis Ramirez  2011 Topps wooden bat relic! This was my first relic from the 2011 Topps Series 1 so I was pretty excited. I'm not a fan of the Cubs, but I'm a fan hits and the Topps 60 insert set. Looking at the relic and grain on the wood I feel like it's from the base of the bat, but could be wrong.

Ramirez started his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1998 but since 2003 has been a fixture in the Cubs clubhouse. A two time All-Star he has been a fairly consistent 3rd baseman capable of putting up pretty impressive numbers. He has a .282 career average and in 6 out of 8 seasons has hit at least 25 home runs with plenty of RBI to go around. 

With 1,046 career RBI 1,029 have been knocked in as a member of the NL Central Division ranking him 5th all time in division history. I'm not sure if the product of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic will ever catch the men ranked 3rd and 4th seeing as that is Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman, both of whom are still in the division and having a strong season. 

This season Ramirez has continued to be passably consistent with a .290 average in 44 games but with only a lone homer to go with his 17 RBI, if he wants to catch Pujols and Berkman to be top man over Sammy Sosa's 1,296 he will need to pick up the pace. With the Cubs sitting 6 1/2 games back in the division with a 22-26 record I'm sure they would appreciate him bringing some more wood, maybe I'll have to send him back part of his bat.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

RBI (13) A halo original...

Or maybe I guess I should say the halo original. As I've made you all aware of the Angel 50th Anniversary and said autograph promotion I thought I'd put up a much delayed post. It was actually my first in person baseball autograph from the first Angel ever Mr. Eli Grba.

Eli Grba was the first selection in the 1960 MLB expansion draft, making him the first charter player of the Angels organization after being left unprotected by the Yankees. During his second season with the Yanks he posted a 3.68 ERA in 24 appearances with 9 starts. The Angels predicted good things out of him and he began the Angels inaugural season as a member of the starting rotation, and has the distinction of throwing the first pitch in the franchise's history.

Grba posted respectable but not outstanding numbers in his 3 seasons with the Angels (only 2 full seasons) and by 1963 his major league career was over. With the Angels he posted a 4.40 ERA with a 20-24 record in 92 appearances, 60 of which were starts.

Though never an All-Star, Cy Young Winner, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, MVP, or the countless other awards given out throughout baseball Grba will forever have his name in the annals of baseball history. He may not have been a franchise cornerstone, but he was still the first piece of foundation for the Angels franchise to be built up from into it's current and future incarnations. For that I'm sure Angel fans everywhere will always be grateful.

Mr. Grba signed this Angels commemorative 2011 Opening Series baseball for me at the home opener of the Angels 2011 season celebrating the franchise's 50th anniversary. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Balk 1 - Halo Heroes

If anyone has a card of any of these Angels (preferably from their Angel playing days) I'm very interested in making a trade. The years the player was a member of the Angels is listed so you have an idea of where to look if you think you may have a card. Let me know if anyone can help me out tracking down these guys and I'll see what kind of deal we can make. If you can help leave a comment or send an email to RJWritings At Gmail Dot Com

Jay Johnstone - (1966-1970)

Dean Chance - (1961-1966)

Rick Reichardt - (1964-1970)

Bob McClure - (1989-1991)

Mark Gubicza - (1997)

Dan Ardell - (1961)

Mike Fitzgerald - (1992)

Fernando Valenzuela - to Scioscia - (1991)

Clyde Wright - (1966-1973)

Scott Spiezio - (2000-2003)

Frank Tanana - (1973-1980)

Fred Lynn - (1981-1984)

Buck Rodgers - (1961-1969, 1991-1994)

Bobby Knoop - (1964-1969, 1979-1996)

Rudy Meoli - (1971, 1973-1975)

Brendan Donnelly - (2002-2006)

Ken Forsch - (1981-1986)

Jeff DaVanon - (2001-2005) & Jerry DaVanon - (1973)

Mick Keller - (1982)

Joe Rudi - (1977-1980)

Bill Stoneman - (1974, 1999-2008)

Jim Eppard - (1987-1989)

Tom Satriano - (1961-1969)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

RBI (12) Some crosstown action...

A little action from the crosstown boys in blue came through the mail. Well if you saw the earlier post this week you know that I've applied for some fan pack action from a few teams. I sent an email to the Dodgers requesting a fan pack and this was the nice little package I got in return today.

First up with a Dodger Line Drives magazine. The neat little mag has a listing of different ticket plans and giveaways the Dodgers have running this season.

There was also a nice little pamphlet that had a listing of the stadium tour details. I may have to go see one on an off day.

There was a nice Hiroki Kuroda post card. Not a bad posed photo I must say.

I don't know if I bleed Dodger blue, but someone can definitely wear a little with these temporary tattoos.

The coolest little bit was this pin. "The Streak" refers to 84 consecutive saves done by Eric Gagne between August, 2002 and July, 2004 before he finally blew a save opportunity. Definitely a nice little addition to the collection of random baseball tidbits. Not as awesome as Fenway Dirt, but definitely up there.

Monday, May 16, 2011

RBI (11) Double header madness...

Well I'm just so excited I probably should keep this for tomorrow, but I won't. Today in the mail I got my very first fan pack response. Many of you are probably aware of the fan pack challenge going on at JT's blog The Writer's Journey and his great number of responses from various teams. Well I thought I'd get in on the goodness and try my hand at requesting a few packs of my own. I thought I'd start off with the best team ever, The Boston Red Sox. Here's what I got in the mail.

Yup inked right on the outside of a very large envelope was some great news from oddly enough Florida. I'll be keeping the envelope as a keepsake plus the stamp was just awesome. The envelope itself has a return to Yawkey instruction printed on it too. 

Inside tons of goodies fell out. Such as:

2 Pocket Schedules with Lester on it.

Awesome Wally the Green Monster promotional post card.

Josh Beckett about to hurl some heat post card.

Classic Sox logo sticker.

Some of the ever popular Fenway dirt to make home feel more like Fenway.

A full size 2011 wall calender?!?!?! Seeing as I'm addicted to drinking Coke (sipping one as I type) I was happy about the sponsor. This was definitely a great score!!

ANDDD a non pictured goodie because it refuses to scan very well because of it's circular nature. The fan pack included a "Live Strong"-esque rubber bracelet that was Red Sox red and says "Red Sox Nation" with the classic Sox logo on either side of the words. Needless to say I'll be proudly wearing it around starting tomorrow. 

Moral of the story. Fan packs are awesome. And the Red Sox are even awesomer.

RBI (10) The Angels could knock these Sox off...

Or at least couldn't knock them off Chicago White Sox reliever Sergio Santos. As mentioned in Weekly Rundown 3- Angels Summary 5/9-5/15 the Angels lost on May 11th to the White Sox after Santos came in for 2 shut out innings in relief.

Santos was drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a shortstop out of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California. He eventually worked his way up through the Diamondbacks' farm system upto Triple-A Tuscon. After reaching AAA ball in 2005 Santos stalled and was bounced around through trade and free agency before finally landing with the White Sox only to be shipped off again. However, only two weeks after being sent in a trade he was brought back to Chicago with the plan to be converted into a pitcher.

Throughout 2009 he pitched his way across the White Sox system and made the 2010 Opening Day roster as a reliever, winning the final bullpen spot in Spring Training. In 56 appearances he held batters to a .261 average and 2.96 ERA.

His 2011 campaign has built off his 2010 success and batters are only hitting at .161 clip with a 0.00 ERA in 15 games. Though not formally named the closer for the team manager Ozzie Guillen has used Santos effectively and he has collected 2 Wins and 5 Saves. If he continues to use his arsenal of off speed pitches with his 90's fastball Santos will continue to rack up the K's already having 22 against 9 Walks. So long as balls keep missing batters' bats Santos will prove to be an important part of the White Sox pen.

Sergio signed this White Sox team card after throwing a bullpen session at Angel Stadium before joining the other relievers in shagging flyballs during batting practice. It was really nice of him taking a minute to sign on his way out to join the other players even though the signature is a little tough to read since he signed in the black of the card with my sharpie.  At first I thought he wrote two numbers but realized it's three "S"s for Sergio SantoS.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekly Rundown 3- Angels Summary 5/9-5/15

Well it'll be an abbreviated rundown this week. The Angels won 2 games but dropped 4 between the home stand and beginning of a long road trip.

The Angels lost 2 of 3 to the Chicago White Sox, who ended the struggles they had coming into the series by thoroughly thumping the Angels twice. Edwin Jackson started the series with a 8-0 win. Joel Pineiro continued his successful 2011 campaign picking up the win over John Danks who continues to be a tough luck loser with his record now 0-6. The bullpen was put into action yet again taking another loss after Fernando Rodney and Jordan Walden combined to blow a 3 run lead in the 8th and 9th.

The blown save was Walden's second but the rookie continues to hold a solid lock on the closer position especially with Rodney continuing to be ineffective.

The Angels began a long road trip in Texas and lost 2 of 3 games to the Rangers. Jered Weaver took a shelling from the Rangers giving up 4 runs over 6 innings taking his 3rd consecutive loss. Over this time Weaver has a 5.50 ERA and 12 K's against 20 hits in 18 innings. Weaver's fastball is just failing to get the movement it needs and he is unable to use his secondary offerings. Dan Haren is also continuing his woes and sits at 4-2 still unable to get his 5th victory, not winning a game since April 17th.

The Angels also lost off season acquisition outfielder Vernon Wells to a groin strain. Wells is batting only .183 with 13 RBI's so the time on the DL could prove to give him the time he needs to find his swing. Losing wells has caused the Angels to move Howie Kendrick into left field on occasion and given a slight influx of playing time to the Angel infielders Macier Izturis and Alberto Callaspo. The return of outfielder Reggie Willits has given the Angels a solid defensive replacement for Wells though his bat has yet to register a hit.

The Angels play two games in Oakland followed by two in Seattle before returning home for the start of inter-league play against Atlanta. With a 22-19 record and tied with the Rangers for first following the two losses in Arlington the Angels will need to take advantage of the National League Braves and hope their lack of an ordinary DH will help them retake the sole lead of the AL West.

Friday, May 13, 2011

RBI (9) Since I missed a few days I better go big...

As far as I'm concerned this is one of the biggest little superstars in the game. Now announcing...the starting second baseman for the Boston Red Sox....Dustin Pedroia the Destroyahhhhhhh. Yes the cornerstone second baseman who Jason Varitek has stated as being such an influence on the Red Sox that he would be worthy of wearing the "C" on his chest after "Teks" eventual retirement.

Dustin Pedroia is a California native from a place called Woodland. After leaving Woodland Senior High he went on to Arizona State University where he played with Andre Ethier and Ian Kinsler.

2004 was a great year for the Red Sox. After a prolonged and famous streak of championshipless years the Sox finally broke the Curse of the Bambino and won their first World Series of the 2000's. Not only did they win some shiny rings, they struck gold when they took Pedroia in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft.

After working his way through the minors as a tough little second baseman/shortstop he finally made his way into the Red Sox lineup as the regular second baseman in 2007. The Sox went on to win their second World Series of the decade with Pedroia also claiming the AL Rookie of the Year award.

Pedroia continued his grab for hardware taking the 2008 AL MVP award with a .326 average, 17 home runs, 83 RBI, and 20 steals. He tied for the lead in the majors for number of hits with 213. He became just the 3rd player to take the MVP award the year after being named Rookie of the Year.

2011 has been tough for the second baseman as he currently is only batting .237 with 2 home runs. Despite his hitting woes he has continued to get on base at a solid .355 OBP and named 5 steals. He is fighting his way on base like that spark plug he is known to be.
I bought this Dustin Pedroia autographed Topps Finest moments card while at the All-Star Fan Fest in Anaheim, California. It was my main souvenir to remember the fun day and I'm glad I was able to make the purchase.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

RBI (8) Plenty of action from a certain...

Edwin Jackson. Yup the Angels got a little too much action from Edwin Jackson last night. Jackson pitched 7 shut out innings giving up only 5 hits and a walk while punching out 5. The Angels went on to lose 8-0 with Ervin Santana and Trevor Bell getting shelled.

Jackson was was drafted by the Dodgers in the 6th round of the 2001 draft and has been consistently inconsistent throughout his career. His solid potential and promise has caused multiple teams to take a chance on him when he begins to slump causing him to have been traded from every team he's been on. The Dodgers sent him to the Tampa Bay Rays, Rays to Detroit Tigers, Tigers to Arizona Diamondbacks, and finally Diamondbacks to his current Chicago White Sox.

The various teams and leagues have had Jackson accumulate a 51-55 record, 4.60 ERA, with 692 career strikeouts.

In 2009 he was selected as an All-Star after a solid season in Detroit. After being shipped off to Arizona he went on to reach his career's biggest highlight so far, pitching the franchise's second no hitter against his former team the Rays on June 25, 2010.

2011 has been marked ups and downs for Jackson sitting at a 3-4 record with an 4.29 ERA. Despite racking up 39 Ks he has issued 19 Walks and batters are hitting .278 against him. In 8 starts he has been able to work his way out of jams giving up 3 or fewer runs 4 times but being shelled for 4, 6, and 7 runs in his other starts. Despite the flashy 39 strikeouts he racked up 13 against Tampa Bay and has only averaged about 4 strikeouts. He definitely has front of the rotation stuff, but allowing so many base runners will continue to cause him problems.

I pulled this Topps 2011 Heritage chrome out of a pack I got in one of the Topps 2011 Value packs. This is #1924/1962 and was a pretty cool pull. I'm definitely left wondering what he he's looking at.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weekly Rundown 2- Angels Summary 5/2-5/8

Well the first thing of note during the Angel summary for this week would have to be the record. The Angels went 4-3 with 4 games on the road against the Red Sox and 3 at home against the Indians. The Angels took revenge on the Sox for the 4 game sweep in Anaheim and split the series in Boston 2-2. At home the Angels beat the American League leading Indians twice with only one loss making their record against the Indians 4-2.

Angel ace Jered Weaver took his first loss of the year on the road in Boston giving up 3 runs in 6 innings in his first start since missing his previous scheduled start due to illness. When the Angels returned home Weaver again took the mound but was issued his first home loss lasting 6 innings giving up 4 runs. Weaver failed to strikeout a single batter for the first time in his Major League career having gone at least 6 innings.

With his next expected start to be against the Texas Rangers at Arlington Weaver will need to regain the movement on his fastball or could take his 3rd consecutive loss in the hitter friendly park.

Fernando Rodney picked up a pair of wins in relief work against the Indians but still did not leave fans happy this weekend. Rodney was credited with the win Friday off a bases-loaded single by Torii Hunter in the 11th inning. However, on Sunday Rodney entered in the 8th inning with a one run lead to hold onto. He proceeded to be credited with Blown Save number 2 after giving up 3 hits to the Indians, giving them a 1 run lead. His grasp on the set-up role is tenuous at best at the moment with free agent acquisition Scott Downs becoming healthy and pitching well out of the pen.

The Angels countered the Indians with their own 3 run rally lead by the youth movement again with Peter "Gorgeous"Bourjos driving in the tying run on an infield chopper to the pitcher and Erick Aybar continuing his hot hitting streak to double the go-ahead runs in. Rookie Jordan Walden entered the game, giving up a run but his only save in a week number 6. The game's starter Dan Haren remains stuck at 4 Wins with his last win coming against the Chicago White Sox on April 17th.

The Angels improved to 20-15 leading the AL West by 2 games. With the Angels win on Sunday, manager Mike Scioscia collected his 1,000 win. Mike "Sosh" is the 56th manager to hit the 1,000 win plateau and only 23rd to reach the milestone with a single team. During his tenure the Angels won their first franchise World Series, and he won the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2002 and 2009.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

RBI (7) A shortstop who came up short...

So today I went to the Living Spaces furniture store in Irvine for an autograph signing by Erick Aybar. Unfortunately the speedy little shortstop did not make his way over to the signing quickly...or at all. That's right, despite the Angels and the store advertising for more than a week that he'd be signing he no showed and no one called the store to inform them he wouldn't be able to attend. By 11:10 more than an hour after the scheduled start the store managers called it quits and officially informed the crowd it was canceled. I was more than disappointed to not have the opportunity to get Erick's Spring Training Jersey signed that I had bought a few weekends ago at the Angel's Yard sale.

While Erick may be having a hot month with some multi hit games, he burned through some fan respect and is not a hit with us at the moment. Rumor has it that he had previously no showed for the same event in a prior season, and Juan Rivera agreed to sign as a replacement. It's pretty disappointing that he didn't show up for the event, but it's even more disappointing no one from the Angels team or Erick's representation contacted the store to let the fans know.

So on the flip side I'll talk a bit about a consistent signer for the Angels. That'd be former Angel pitcher Clyde "Skeeter" Wright who was taken by the Angels in the 6th round of the 1965 Draft.

Wright pitched for the Angels from 1966-1973 and accumulated an 87-85 record with 3 Saves. With a 3.28 ERA and 571 strikeouts Wright proved to be a reliable Angel arm after the 1969 season when teammate Jim Fregosi convinced him to play winter league ball and develop a screwball and changeup.  As mentioned before, Clyde was an All-Star in 1970, the same year he threw a no-hitter. Finishing the season with 22 Wins set the Angels franchise win record for a left hander, only tied once by Nolan Ryan in 1974. His efforts earned him the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1970.

Since retiring from baseball Clyde opened the Clyde Wright Pitching School in Anaheim, California and he is a fixture at Angel Stadium.

As an Angel Alumni, Clyde took part in the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Angels franchise. The Angels have former alumni coming to each game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch with a golden ball embossed with the anniversary logo. After the pitch the alumni proceed to sign an autograph for some lucky fans. I was lucky enough to get his autograph and it's a beauty.

Thanks "Skeeter" for being so consistently great for signing autographs to Angel fans. It's nice to know some players/alumni appreciate the fans and will sign.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

RBI (6) I better keep the blog from going wayward...

And get back to talking about a cards with one from Heyward. That's right folks today as I was getting ready to leave for work I heard a few rings on my doorbell. I went to the door to see who it was, and it was my friendly neighborhood spider...I mean mailman. I was a bit surprised to see him as I hadn't ordered anything that I could think of when he handed me a small bubble package to sign for. I signed, went to the counter and popped it open it by pleasantly surprised.

If you've been keeping up and remember my very first pack ever was a Bowman Platinum that contained a wonderful Mike Trout autographed refractor. Well the second pack was pretty nifty too, you see it contained this weird little card inside.
I logged onto the Topps site and filled out the redemption information and proceeded to mainly forget about it since the site informed me it expected delivery in mid-June. Well here we are in the first week of May and the mailman delivered this!
Yup that would be an Jason Heyward autographed refractor with a game worn Jersey relic numbered 53/740. I'm not very well versed in Braves gear so I'd appreciate anyone who could help me identify what it came off of. Jason Heyward's autograph is definitely a crown jewel within my collection. To say I got lucky with my first blaster of Bowman Platinum is an understatement.

Heyward is a talent very similar to the other outfielder I pulled in the blaster, by that I mean a future franchise cornerstone. Named the 2009 Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America and USA Today, and was the consensus number one prospect in all of baseball coming into the 2010 season.

Heyward was known for strong plate discipline and delivering towering home runs and demonstrated both when he joined the major league club.  During the Braves 2010 Spring Training a Heyward homer broke the sun roof of Braves Assistant GM Bruce Manno and David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Manager Bobby Cox said the Braves would most likely install nets to protect the cars from $3,400 dollar damage estimates like Manno's.

When he began the season as the starting right fielder for the Braves he was assumed to be a lock for National League Rookie of the Year honors. He further fanned the flames of hype when he homered in his first Major League at bat off Carlos Zombrano. For his efforts he was elected a starter for the 2010 All-Star game, but due to a thumb injury that began to hamper his season did not play. He finished the season with only a .277 avg but a staggering .393 OBP in 142 games. His power numbers flashed with his 18 Home Runs, 5 Triples, and 29 Doubles with his 11 steals. Despite his strong numbers he was out shined for NL Rookie of the Year honors by fellow Georgian Buster Posey who ran away in the second half leading a resurgent Giants club to steal the NL West from the Padres in the final game of the season and eventually win the 2010 World Series.

In 2011 Heyward started the season the same way as 2010 and went deep off Livian Hernandez in his first at bat of the season and is helping the Braves stay in the hunt for the NL East title. In 32 games he is batting only .241 but again with a high on base percentage reaching at strong .346 clip. When he is connecting he's muscling the ball very well and has 7 Home Runs, a triple, and 4 Doubles.  While he isn't hitting for average so long as he keeps being a constant long ball threat and taking walks, it's highly unlikely many in the Braves organization will complain about having a Gold Glove All Star in the organization.

You can follow Jason Heyward @JasonHeyward on twitter at http://twitter.com/jasonheyward

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

RBI (5) At a trading post like a gypsy...

So today is a bit off track from the format the blog is going to normally follow. Mainly because I was out picking up shaving cream after running out this morning and seeing a "Gems Of the Game" box off to the side of the checkout stand as if some kid couldn't convince his parents to buy it, but didn't want to take it back to the rack. While waiting in line I picked it up to see what it contained and was intrigued by the prospect of a graded card being inside along with a plethora of random packs. Needless to say I added it to my purchase. So instead of the normal summary I give I'll just be posting some of the cooler cards, and no offense to the cards but they're all up for trade.

First up is the card that first intrigued me to buy the box. The graded card.

It's a 2006 Topps Mantle Home Run History Card, Home Run #170. And it's graded to be a 9 by Global. I think it's a fairly cool looking card of Mantle, and it being graded is just kinda nifty. Not exactly what I was hoping to pull, but I could have done far worse.

One of the packs inside was a weird one I hadn't heard of yet, a Goodwin Champions 2009 pack. Inside was a cool looking Justin Morneau, an Upper deck insert featuring Alex Rodriguez, and these two minis. I'm a big fan of minis so personally the money spent for the minis and Mantle was worth it just so I could get it out of my system.

The Manning is a black border with Gypsy Queen on the back. With the current Gypsy Queen set dominating the blogosphere I was wondering what all the hype was about. Reading about the price practices some hobby shops and internet retailers were using didn't really have me running around trying to track them down. Landing one randomly while out on some errands was pretty nice and I've got to admit now I understand the hype. I wish the Manning mini had been maybe baseball related, but if I had to get a non-related card his isn't one I mind.

Sometimes when I read about the other local team, the Dodgers, I forget how young Clayton Kershaw actually is. It was easy to see though considering this 2007 Tristar isn't very old and he doesn't look all that much different now than then. It may be a bit Loon-y but I think it's a nice addition (bad joke I know). 

And while I'm talking about random I finally was going through my Topps 2011 Heritage and was trying to figure out what was a short print. Now if I'm right and know how to read the annoyingly confusing 2011 Heritage SP guidelines these are the #473 and #478 short prints. I know there are a few readers who collect the set and I thought I'd post these two as long as I was in a Gypsy trading mood while writing. And needless to say the cards look cut on the side, they aren't it's just how they lined up on the scanner. I'll send perfect scans if anyone is interested.

 It wouldn't take much to get pretty much any of the cards posted today. To be honest I'm starting to get a lot of Upper Deck and I'm not overly in love with them and prefer Topps. Perhaps I'll post the lot of them sometime soon so someone can take them off my hands. Leave a comment and/or shoot me an email at RJWritings At Gmail Dot Com

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

RBI (4) A speedy return from a speedy Petey

Well while the Angels are on the road in Boston I think it's a good time to bring up my first TTM success. On April 19, 2011 I popped a few letters in the mail, but I was most anxious over the one to my favorite Angel on the roster. This is a player with not only more nicknames than the average player, but pretty awesome ones. I'm referring of course to Peter Bourjos aka "Gorgeous Bourjos", "Speedy Petey", "PB n' J", and "Peter Rabbit".

Bourjos was the Angels' 10th round selection in the 2005 draft and has proven to be quite the prize for the Angels scouting department.

When he initially came up with the club in 2010 some were concerned over moving 9-time Gold Glover Torii Hunter to right field, but Bourjos' play is absolutely stellar and he has quieted all those concerned. Baseball America has ranked Bourjos as the Angels "Best Defensive Outfielder" as well as "Fastest Baserunner" and he has already accumulated an impressive highlight reel of would be doubles turned into outs. Despite being known mainly for his speed, Bourjos proved his arm is also an asset and has provided 10 Outfield Assists.

In 2010 Bourjos played in 51 games and had only a .204 avg over 181 at-bats with 40 strikeouts. However he showed signs of making the proper adjustments toward the end of the season and his average began to climb while he used his speed and surprising power to hit 6 Home Runs, 6 Doubles, and 4 Triples with 10 Steals.

Despite the addition of Toronto Blue Jays Gold Glove center fielder Vernon Wells the Angels kept Bourjos with the Major League club as the starting center fielder. I decided that my first batch of TTM attempts would have to include the speedy youngster and I sent a letter as well as two cards to him. Bourjos kept with his fast play and in only 8 Days I was opening my mailbox to find the 2010 Bowman Platinum Rookie Card I sent signed "Pete Bourjos 25".

Building off the 2010 success Bourjos is batting .297 with 2 Home Runs,  5 Doubles, and 4 Triples with 3 Steals in only 29 games. In the April 26, 2011 game against Oakland, Peter tied the Angels franchise record for triples in a game with 2. Despite a few errors initially as he adjusted to being flanked by two Gold Glovers he is learning to field the position well at the Major League level and continues to add to his reputation as one of the best new out fielders in the game. Without a doubt he's going to be a top competitor for the Rawlings Gold Glove in Center Field for years to come. Here's one image of his slick fielding on the second card he signed, his 2011 Topps card.

Peter Bourjos signed these two cards sent to him at Angel Stadium along with a letter asking him a few questions, which wasn't included in the return envelope. I just mailed out my thank you letter to him, sorry Pete, but I wasn't able to pick up stamps quite as fast as I wanted to but I appreciate your autograph.  

You can follow Peter Bourjos @pbourjos on twitter at http://twitter.com/pbourjos

Monday, May 2, 2011

RBI (3) Before the Buzzer?

Okay okay, there's no buzzer in baseball (unless Joe West is calling your game and you play for the Red Sox), but I had some technical difficulties and almost wasn't able to make a post today.

Continuing with the goodies found at the Angel Yard Sale I'll switch gears a bit and go to a subject very familiar to the readers of this blog, cards. I was able to purchase 2 Topps 2007 Series 2 Bonus Boxes with 11 packs of 6 cards, and 2 Upper Deck 2008 Series 1 boxes with 75 cards per box PLUS a 3 card superstar pack. The grand total for all four nifty little finds? 4 dollars. While I'll likely put up some of the cards I like from the packs, there is one that absolutely must be highlighted.

Buried for 4 years in the storerooms of Angel Stadium was this ironic beauty.
I'm going to have to take it as a continued blessing by the Angels for this blog despite the slight reservations Tom of The Angels, In Order has due to the purity of my support to the Angels as a Red Sox fan. And to answer a question a few people have already asked, yes I did take the photo used as my header at the 2010 All-Star Game, and I did so in a Dustin Pedroia jersey. But to be fair I wore my Angels jersey to the Celebrity Softball Game/All-Star Workout Day.

But back to the card. It's a nice Angels team card Gold Parallel #1374/2007 that has me smiling for a few reasons. The location I purchased the card from makes it pretty cool already, but I like the little things about baseball. For instance while waiting in line to go to the sale a few people noticed some John Lackey left over items being set up for sale, and the employees were booed for bringing them out by the crowd. Who led the team in ERA in 2006 according to this card? Current Red Sox pitcher John Lackey.

Keeping with the Red Sox theme, apparently if you look closely to the back of the card, the Angels finished in the same division. Yup, just for Topps/to confound my loyalties even more, the Angels finished 2nd in the AL East.

This incarnation of the Angels went on to win the AL West with a 94-68 record only to be swept in the American League Division Series by....yes readers, you guessed it. The Boston Red Sox. Here's a photo I took at the series clinching ALDS Game 3, and yes once again I was in Red Sox gear. It was nice to see one of my favorite pitchers ever, Curt Schilling, pitch a gem, while Jered Weaver took the loss after a pair of homers given up to David Ortiz and Manny Rameriz.

If memory serves me right, after sweeping the Angels the Red Sox went on to win the 2007 World Series. I'm fairly certain that happened, but I'll have to double check the photo I took while at Game 1 of the World Series where the Rockies were trounced by the Sox before eventually being swept.

But I'm getting away from the real purpose of this post. The card. It's a pretty nifty pull especially coming from Angel Stadium itself so many years later, so it's pretty gratifying to add it to the collection. It's nice to see a few players still with the team pictured such as a young Weaver pictured next to Lackey in the top row, and Erick Aybar wearing his old number 32. I sure do love having team cards, perhaps I should include a few future posts with a little more about them...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Weekly Rundown 1- Angels April Summary

Well April is officially over and today is the first day of May. Angel fans happily are winding their weekend down with the knowledge that their team starts the month tied for 1st in the American League West while the Red Sox remain in the AL East cellar at 5th.

The Angels went 14-12 with a 6-6 home record and a 8-6 road record. Jered Weaver and Dan Haren led the club with 5 and 4 respective wins, while rookie Jordan Walden took over closing duties from Fernando Rodney and went a perfect 4 for 4 in Save opportunities.

Rodney ended April with the same woes as he began it with taking the Loss against Tampa Bay to drop his record to 0-1 with a 3.09 ERA after opening the month with a Blown Save against Kansas City. Despite picking up an errant Save and 3 Holds, Rodney continues to allow too many base runners with 8 Walks and 6 Hits given up in 11 appearances.

The Angel line up continues to have massive ups and downs with Maicer "Mighty Mouse" Izturis leading the club with a .314 average over 21 games followed by Peter Bourjos at .309 in 27 games. Howie Kendrick is hitting a robust .306 with a club leading 6 Home Runs in 27 games. Kendrick is tied for 2nd in RBI's behind rookie Mark Trumbo's 13, but even more importantly Kendrick is not only hitting homers but also has 11 walks good for 3rd on the club giving him an outstanding .380 OBP.

While the youth movement is helping the club rack up the wins Angel veterans continue to struggle. Torii Hunter is ending the month with some signs of life in the last week but sits on a .214 average going 22/103 for the month with 10 Walks vs 26 Strikeouts. Hunter's problems are only slightly lessened when compared to teammate Vernon Wells who is batting .171 after going 18/105 with only 5 Walks and an alarming 21 K's. With both veterans batting in the 4-6 hole the Angels will need Hunter/Wells to figure out someway to improve their approach at the plate if the Angels are to maintain their success.

Catcher Jeff Mathis is hitting only .180 while rookie Hank Conger continues to provide offense with 2 Home Runs and a .273 average in 14 games apiece. If not for the success of the pitching staff and manager Mike Scioscia's preference for his experience handling them Mathis could feel a serious pinch to his playing time.

Kendrys Morales the slugging first baseman has still yet to see playing time and has seen yet another specialist in his rehab on his journey to return to active playing time. Morales would provide a much needed power threat to the line up, but his return could provide some issues as far as keeping hitters in the line up with rookie Mark Trumbo performing well at first and DH Bobby Abreu leading the team in walks and OBP at a .400 clip.

The Angels travel to Boston and then return home for Cleveland this week and will have a serious test to their position atop the AL West after being swept by the Red Sox at home and the Indians sporting the American League's best record at 19-8. With ace Jered Weaver losing 9 pounds due to a stomach virus and missing his first scheduled start of May, the Angels will need their veterans to provide steady leadership and hope the return of Joel Pinero will provide the boost needed to pull away from their tie with the Rangers.

Big Thanks to Tom from The Angels, In Order for the cards featured in this post.