Wednesday, February 29, 2012

RBI (63) More 365 TTM goodness...

Yup the replies have slowed a bit but they're slowly making their way back as I send them out. This time I was able to get a reply back from from Tigers catcher Mike Heath.

Mike was drafted in the second round of the 1973 draft by the New York Yankees at only 18. The high level prospect was given time to develop and made his debut for the Yankees in 1978. Heath was included in the trade that brought Dave Righetti to the Yankees and sent to Oakland for a substantial portion of his career. While he was with the Oakland A's in 1983 he caught rookie Mike Warren's no-hitter on his final start of the season.

He eventually moved again via trade and eventually caught on with the Detroit Tigers. While he was with the Tigers he was part of their banner 1987 season where they advanced to the ALCS after a 98-64 season. As a Tiger Heath was known for his strong arm and defense that helped the club as well as a reasonable bat that kept him fighting his way on base. After the Tigers Heath went on to play a final year of baseball for the Braves.

When he retired Heath had played for 14 season in the MLB across 5 clubs. He had appeared in 1325 games and crossed the 1000 hit mark. With only 86 Home Runs and 469 RBI, Heath still maintained a respectable .252 average to go along with a .300 OPB. What's surprising is that as a catcher not known for too much pop Heath ended his career with an impressive 27 Triples.
Mr. Heath was nice enough to sign this 1987 Topps card sent to his home address and get it back to me after only 14 Days.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Balk 8 - This guy is kinda famous...

I've always thought it would be really cool to end up in the background of a player's trading card. I'm kinda in the background of Bobby Abreu's 2012 Topps card seeing as I was at the game sitting 6 seats to the left 15 rows back, but the crowd isn't in the actual photo. I know I was there though seeing as Abreu made 18 appearances in left field all season and the photo may look cool, but he almost missed the catch AND after he made the catch almost fell down into the bullpen wall. Hence his very not so confident face in the picture. So yeah. I was there for Bobby Abreu's 2012 Topps photo. Cool.

Anyways. My friend David was on TV for the Albert Pujols press conference and is pictured on Yahoo's fantasy summary of the 2012 Angels AND is in Sports Illustrated. Did I mention he got Pujols to sign his ball too? Some guys get all the luck. David has a blog that many of you are already reading, but those not reading can find it see his goodies at David's Autograph Signings.

I guess since he was in SI I should get his autograph too. Just another thing to put on the to do list.

Oh and ps. Moneyball was robbed at the Oscars. Billy Beane was there though to see it happen supposedly. I wonder if he went to check out the remnants of Mannywood too.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

RBI (62) More 365 TTM inbox goodness...

Yup that's right folks another reply for the challenge, and it's an especially cool one. With spring training just beginning one of the big 2012 story lines has been a fairly regular one, who's healthy. This is especially true for the San Francisco Giants who hope Buster Posey will hold up through the season and Brian Wilson will as well. Did either reply to me TTM? Nope, but the photos of Brian Wilson dominating the blogosphere made me "fear the beard" 1989 style a la the original beard, Jeff "Terminator" Reardon.

Reardon was a amateur free agent signed by the Mets in 1977, and eventually broke into the bigs with them in 1979. He was very consistent for the Mets and they ended up trading him to the Montreal Expos where he would make a name for himself as a dominating closer. For 11 consecutive years of his career Reardon would Save at least 20 games and twice hit the 40 Save mark. For the next 16 seasons he would be a linchpin closer for several clubs such as the Twins, Red Sox, before slowing down in the end of his career with the Braves, Reds, and Yankees.

When he finally walked away from the game Reardon was at the time the All Time Saves leader with 342 career Saves before his record was broken and eventually shattered by others along with Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. He was a 4-time All-Star, World Series Champion with the Twins, and was the NL Rolaid's Relief Man of the Year. His career line in 880 appearances would be 73-77 with 877 Strikeouts and a 3.16 ERA.

Jeff Reardon autographed this 1989 Topps card sent to his home address and return it to me quickly after only 10 Days.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

RBI (61) The 365's 8th TTM reply...

And it's a pretty good reply from a durable player. Former Tiger's pitcher Mark Thurmond was nice enough to still be a consistent performer, but this time as an autograph signer.

The Houston native Thurmond was taken in the 5th round of the 1979 draft by the San Diego Padres. He would eventually make his debut in 1983 for the club, finishing in the top ten for the NL Rookie of the year. He was a pretty consistent starter for the Padres but eventually traded to Detroit for Dave LaPoint. With the Tigers he was part of the 1987 bullpen that had the Tigers put up a banner year 98 Wins and advance to the ALCS. After his time with the Tigers he went on to play for the Orioles, Astros, and Giants.

When he finally retired from baseball he had a respectable career line after his 8 seasons. After 97 starts in 314 games he finished with a 40-46 record, 3.69 ERA, and 320 Strikeouts. Thurmond's time in the bullpen also gave him 21 Saves as an occasional closer in the later part of his career. Interestingly despite playing in 314 over 8 seasons and being shuttled repeatedly between the rotation and the bullpen Thurmond never spent time on the disabled list. Besides his time in the MLB Thurmond was also a member of the 1978 Amateur World Series where his team took the Silver.

Mr. Thurmond was nice enough to put a really nice signature on this 1989 Topps card sent to his home address after 8 days. He added the inscription "Romans 1:16" under his pretty interesting but very legible signature.

4th batch of the 365

With baseball season right around the corner I started to think back to all the great milestones and games I saw the past season. A few highlights I was there to see CC Sabathia collect his 2000th strike out, Jordan Walden tie the franchise record for saves by a rookie, and Dan Haren reach 100 wins. I'm excited to see what sort of milestones and accomplishments I'll be there for this year.

Thinking about 2011 made me think about the big stack of 1987 Topps cards and what went on that year. I started to research the season and found out the '87 Tigers had a huge season and powered their way to a MLB best 98 Wins. '87 was their last post season until the 2011 season. I decided to write a few letters to key guys from that team.

  1. Jack Morris, Morris was a linchpin in 3 World Series Championship teams and one of the dominating pitchers of his era. I'm thinking he's advancing to Cooperstown in the next year or two after drawing 67% of the vote this year.
  2. Mike Heath, Pitching was a big part of the Tigers success that year and Heath caught 90 games while batting a strong .280 I'm curious as to how he saw the club that season.
  3. Mark Thurmond, a consistent piece of the bullpen that helped the club grind through the season as an occasional closer and late inning guy.
  4. Justin Masterson, Today is when pitchers and catchers reported across the league and I wanted the first current player I write to during the beginnings of 2012 baseball to be one I have a connection to. I was at Masterson's first career start and am really big on him. I wear his player shirt to every game of his regardless of it being a Sox tee and him being on the Indians. Really hope he write back.
  5. Jerry Dipoto, I'm not really sure why, but I felt really inspired today an wrote a fairly lengthy letter to the Angels GM.
  6. Mike Cameron, Cameron just announced his retirement and I wanted to send a letter offering him my best wishes for his life after baseball.
  7. Brandon Morrow, I've wanted to write to Morrow for a while after seeing him for so long with the Mariners, but was always hesitant about sending a letter to Toronto. Now that he's in the States for spring training I want to get him.
  8. Jaime Moyer, My thoughts about Mike Cameron and Tim Wakefield's retirement made me think about the old guard moving on, and Moyer is trying to fight father time and do the opposite of his peers attempting a comeback at 49. 
  9. Ron Roenicke, While writing the letter to the Mr. Dipoto I started to think about the previous championship of the Angels and an unsung hero in their performance former 3rd base coach turned manager chasing his own ring Roenicke.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

RBI (60) More 365 TTM letter responses...

I was pleased to open my mailbox and see a quick reply from former Angel pitcher T.R. Bryden. I was pretty excited to see the reply from his as it's another step closer to working on the 1987 Angels team set. I think the most difficult person to get from the '87 Angels team will be Reggie Jackson which could prove to be ironic.

Bryden was signed by the California Angels in 1981 as an amateur free agent, but didn't make it to the show until 1986. The Washington native's career only lasted through the '86 season in which he appeared in 16 games. While with the club he posted a 6.55 ERA with a 2-1 record, but was then returned to the minors for 2 final years in baseball.

Mr. Bryden was kind enough to sign this 1987 Topps card for me in only 10 days from his home address. I think he has a great signature, and considering how short his cup of coffee in the bigs was I really appreciate him taking the time to sign with such care and promptness. He was also nice enough to answer the questions in my letter and share about his MLB experiences:

How did you find out you were being called up in '86?
I probably should have checked his lone season's game log before I asked this question, but I think it's a testament to his abilities that he "Made the team out of spring training!" especially when looking at his minor league stats you see Mr. Bryden was productive, but not dominant before making the team. He must have given the club quite a dominant spring to earn his roster spot.

What was it like pitching to Bob Boone?
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Boone through the Angels 50th Anniversary celebration, and it was great to meet the 7-time Gold Glover. It's easy to understand why he was so well regarded as a catcher when you add how he called games since Bryden admits "I shook him off 1 time!"

What was it like to collect your first win?
Considering he was only able to collect 2, I'm sure each one was special to him especially since he came into the game as a reliever so he never knew what the result be besides "Shock!"

Did any player especially try to help you adjust to life in the MLB?
"Reggie M. Jackson" Needless to say I was a little shocked when the sure Hall of Famer was the player named to welcome the career Minor Leaguer into the bigs, but it only adds to what it means to be a man of Hall quality.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

RBI (59) My foray into 2012 Topps was a hit...

That's right folks. I went to my local card shop and bought 2012 Topps. I highly doubt I'll buy any more now that I've wet my taste buds and have been pleasantly surprised but honestly not all that interested in the set.

Not only did I buy 2012 Topps, but I invested in a hobby box of 36 packs. I know some of you may be surprised seeing as the pack hits I've always shown were blaster, jumbo, or even rack pack hits, but I decided to live a little. With 2012 being so mixed and me already being able to secure a few Angel cards to work on this season I decided if I were going to get a taste I may as well invest in something that would leave me happy. The major selling point for me though was not only the Gold Rush Wrapper Redemption going on, where I was pretty intrigued in the design and autograph possibilities, but my card dealer offered to give me the final 14 hobby wrappers I'd need to finish my required 50 for FREE.

I scored a fair amount of parallels to try and get in person or mail out and went right on the average with the redemption cards online. I was able to get a nice pair of cards out of the box.

A Detroit Tigers Ryan Rayburn black parallel number 57/61.
And more importantly a Jordan Zimmermann Golden Moments autographed card. I'm big on Zimmermann in general and I think the card is a pretty nice looking one as far as the inserts go. Jordan is a key part of the Nationals' resurgence into relevance providing a strong 1-2-3 punch with Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Last year was his first season back from Tommy John surgery and he posted a respectable 8-11 record with  3.18 ERA before he was shut down to watch his innings. I'm looking forward to big things from the former second round pick.
Not a bad pair of items to find in my box. I'm pretty pleased with them both and fairly sure I'm done buying series 1 of 2012.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

RBI (58) The 365's 6th TTM signer has been busy...

Oh yes A's General Manager and partial owner Billy Beane has been quite busy this off season. The popular General Manager and former player is credited as one of the driving forces for modernizing the game of baseball into it's current incarnation of stat and metric savy front offices.

Beane's story is a famous one in part due to his unusual transition from player to successful front office member and the bestselling book turned film Moneyball. Billy was taken with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 1980 Draft by the Mets who also drafted Daryl Strawberry in the first round. Despite receiving a full scholarship to Stanford Beane signed with the Mets. Believing Beane to be an advanced player the Mets put him in Class-A ball while Strawberry got to take a slower approach to develop into a more complete player. Beane struggled with the level of competition, and would never be given the opportunity to fully develop before being forced into the Majors.

From 1984-1989 Beane was essentially a quad-A player for the Mets, Twins, Tigers, and A's. Being brought to a higher level of play each season only to falter and be sent down to the minors where he would show he was starting to harness his abilities and be rushed back up to the Majors for a few games where he wouldn't be able to stick. Finally Beane walked out of the clubhouse and into the front office where he became an advanced scout for the A's and never left eventually becoming General Manager and a part owner.

As GM Beane helped popularize "Moneyball" throughout baseball. Using metrics to determine players' true values based on statistics such as OBP, SLG, and advanced defensive statistics. With one of the smallest payrolls in baseball Beane found success in the early 2000's setting the American League record of 20 consecutive Wins and 4 strong appearances in the playoffs. Since his success other front offices such as the Red Sox, Angels and the Blue Jays have strongly invested in the principles of sabermetrics and the landscape of the game has rapidly been changing.

Beane signed this 1987 Topps card sent to his office at the Oakland Coliseum in only 7 days. Interestingly it was postmarked and sent back at the same time Beane is to have been signing Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. I guess since Beane got Cespedes' autograph on his contract he decided to give out a few of his own.

Monday, February 13, 2012

RBI (57) 5th TTM return of the 365 and it's a nice one...

I know part of the first wave of 365 send outs were current players, but I did reach back a bit for this one. I wrote to former Mets pitcher Craig Anderson, a member of the inaugural 1962 Mets team. Having secured Eli Grba's autograph the first player ever to be an Angel, I thought it was important to recognize baseball's other child of the 60's the Mets.

Craig Anderson was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent before the 1960 season and made his MLB debut for them in 1961. Anderson was then taken by the Mets as their 8th selection and the 16th selection overall in the 1961 Expansion Draft. Anderson played in the MLB for 4 seasons before leaving baseball behind. He would retire with a 7-23 record, 5 Saves, and a 5.10 ERA.

What Anderson does have is a special place in Mets history beyond just being a member of their inaugural team. Anderson collected the first Save ever for the Mets franchise. He was also the losing pitcher for the last baseball game played at the Polo Grounds.

Mr. Anderson was kind enough to not only autograph this 2011 Topps Heritage News Flashback card but also answer a few questions:

How did you learn you were taken in the 1961 Expansion Draft?
In todays digital world it's pretty easy for teams to communicate with players and agents, but occasionally you still find a story with Twitter breaking news of a trade before the player is even told. In the 60's players found out they were being shipped out in the draft at the same time as everyone else by picking up a "St. Louis newspaper".

What was your favorite memory playing in the Mets inaugural season?
With only 7 career Wins every one must have been special but Anderson was remarkable by picking up a pair by doubling down and "Winning a doubleheader on 5/12/62" over the Milwaukee Braves.

What was Red Ruffing like as a pitching coach?
During the Golden Era of the Yankees Red Ruffing was a pitching stalwart and for the first year the crosstown rival Mets existed they reached for an ace to teach their staff to set the tone. It wasn't quite effective but the players all got to learn from a Hall of Famer who was an, "Easy going, nice man".

How do you think the game is different now from when you were in the League?
Playing in the 60's is definitely different than now in many regards but in Anderson's view the biggest difference is, "more speedy players".

Mr. Anderson was kind enough to autograph my card and reply to my letter sent to his home address after only 11 Days.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Balk 7 Fantasy Baseball preseason thoughts

Today was a big day for me in the world of imaginary baseball, today I made my selection of players for my 2nd season in a keeper league. Seeing as I won the league last year I'm feeling big pressure to repeat my ring. I'm not sure how the pros do it, because it's the off season and I'm already wondering about my selections and draft strategy.

Anyways, I'm now in the mood to talk a little fantasy baseball.

Hanley, how you burned me last year Mr. Ramirez. For being my first round pick last year your production left me less than pleased. With Jose Reyes joining the Marlins and Hanley being slid over to 3rd will this be a bounce back year? I'm hopeful but not quite so sure. Hanley's a historically fickle player and there are no reports that he's in love with Reyes being on the team and taking his position. The Marlins hitting coach has already said Hanley looks healthier but there is still room for improvement. The advent of Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison do however make this a sneakily good line up. The trick to Hanley will be determining his true value. If he was a pure 3rd baseman I'd probably have him in the top 8, but as a shortstop eligible he's still top at either position. I'm predicting a .293 90 Run 95 RBI 20 Home Run 25 Steal year from him. Not a bad year but I'm going for Tulo before Hanley, but Hanley still above Reyes.

There are a few players I'm going to be trying to target this season and am expecting nice years from.

Gio Gonzalez is someone I've always been high on but never been able to snag. With him out of Oakland I'm thinking people will be less confident in him but essentially his numbers are the same on the road. Leaving the AL and going to the NL where his career starts are essentially lights out I think is going to make him an undervalued ace to steal.

Josh Reddick formerly of the Red Sox and now of the A's is someone I'm going to be keeping my eye on. He's being given the starting job in right for the A's due to the complete lack of other options and he has a history of struggling in his previous looks, but last year he was more than serviceable with the Sox. With no other real challenges for a high batting order spot and Coco Crisp and Jermile Weeks hitting ahead of him, I think Reddick has the chance to be a sneaky pick up for some cheap rbi numbers and a little pop. I'm not sure about his year long numbers being spectacular but I can see him being an undervalued Hunter Pence still in Houston type player.

Casey Kotchman with the Indians. The Indians are a solid club with good young players that play for a team expecting bounce back years from several key players so he should come cheap. Even better the revival Kotchman had in Tampa is supposedly due to him having a corrective eye surgery. I'm not seeing it as a fluke and if Jason Kipnis, and Grady Sizemore can be even marginally productive the contact hitting Kotchman should find a nice spot to drive in the runs. I'm not thinking he's going to be top of his position because of his lack of power, but when the DL bug bite or you have an extra utility spot needing use I'm reaching for Kotch.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

RBI (56) 365 Returns are rolling on in now...

I was able to get another score in the mail this week, though I was kind of sad when I opened up the return envelope. I have a good mental track of what areas I send cards out to, and typically I try to avoid sending cards out to the same area so to help my organic organizer. I actually thought the post mark meant it was a certain pitcher I'd been hoping to get but instead it was a excitingly fast reply from Second baseman Danny Espinosa.

Danny is another local talent from Southern California who was taken in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft by the Washington Nationals. He sped through the minors and was a September call up for the Nationals in 2010, and became the regular starting second baseman in 2011. Espinosa is part of the Nationals hopefully less expensive homegrown core that will provide run support for Strasburg, Zimmerman, and Gio. If he follows up his rookie campaign with another solid season it's not unreasonable for him to put up a 20/20 season.

Despite a .232 average between the season and his 2010 call up, he crushes the ball when he makes contact with 27 Home Runs and 33 Doubles in only 186 games. When on the base paths due to a remarkably steady eye that has given him a .323 OPB despite the low average he's proven to be a surprising nuisance to opposing pitchers with 17 steals. He's actually proved to provide a reasonable glove though I'm not sure he will be winning any Gold Gloves anytime soon.

Espinosa signed this 2008 Razor Signature Series card for me from his home address in only 5 Days. I think it's an awesome card and especially like that he signed across the light part of the card though I think it would have been beautiful in blue.

You can find Danny Espinosa's twitter here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

3rd batch and a theme for the 365

That's right folks I was hit with some inspiration this week as I pondered over what letters to write. As I was browsing through the blogs I saw the first few breaks of 2012 Topps. Don't worry I know the controversy the set has caused and am far from pleased with the gloss' effect on test autographs, but there was a little inspiration in it.

I'm sure some of you have already guessed it. The 1987 mini inserts just look too sweet, so I went to a local card shop and bought an unopened complete 792 card 1987 Topps set. I won't be sending out the 1987 set exclusively, but I will be including a fair amount of them in my mailings and saving some for in person attempts this coming season. The cast of characters in the '87 set is just right and the tie to the 2012 release is too good to pass up.

Here's the 3rd batch:
  1. Bill Buckner, That's right. A Red Sox fan writing to Billy Buckner and I don't even mention the World Series. Buckner wether you forgive him or not put a big stamp on the franchise so I had to try.
  2. Billy Beane, Since I wrote Hatte I decided to write the guy who signed him and is making so many high profile moves this offseason. With his latest extension it seems like he's going to see if he can outlast Pujols in the AL West.
  3. Terry Francona, Most people send Tito things related to the Sox and the World Series championships, but I wanted something from his playing days. As fas as I'm concerned 2011 collapse or not Tito can do no wrong and will be great in the booth this coming season.
  4. T.R. Bryden, I've actually got a fair amount of the '87 Angels cards signed from the 50th Anniversary events the Angels ran so I decided to keep working on the team set.
  5. Marty Barrett, the '86 ALCS MVP who was a fixture in the Red Sox lineup throughout the eighties as a scrappy contact hitter with strong defense I like to think of him as Pedroia without the pop.
  6. Jeff Reardon, I think Reardon was one of the original closers of the eighties to make you fear the beard...and his pitches. Anytime your card is the lone image for a almost 800 card set on Wikipedia you know it's a pretty sweet card that needs to be sent out.
  7. Charlie Leibrandt, With George Brett in the news recently, I decided to look through his teammates from the lone World Series Championship he won in '85 and Leibrandt was a key name that caught my attention.
  8. Turner Ward, I'm not really a fan of just card searching but while looking at all the 2012 Topps inserts I browsed my '91 Donruss and saw the "Rated Rookies" inserts. Ward caught my interest as a rookie worth making an insert with who eventually made his way through the Majors to a Minor League Managing position. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A VERY puzzling 365 challenge return

I'm going to break my normal format and ask a question to you fellow collectors. Today I was thrilled to come home and see on my table one of my return envelopes post marked from Massachusetts. I knew the only letter I currently had out from that area was to Jim Rice. Needless to say I was incredibly excited to have a return from him, especially since he was the first letter I wrote for the challenge.

I grabbed the envelope only to see it had already been sliced opened. I found that curious and spilled the card out from it. My correct card was there. With no autograph. No letter. No notecard. Nothing.

I'm not really sure what happened. Here are some scenarios running through my head, what do you think happened.

Did he open my envelope, read the letter I wrote, decide I didn't deserve an autograph but decided to mail my card back? Did he mail it back in my envelope even after accidently slicing the return envelope to open the letter? Did he have no tape if he had cut open my envelope? I honestly have no idea how he'd expect an open envelope flying across the country to manage not to having the card fly out.

Did he read my letter and answer my questions but not autograph my card? Did the letter fly out during the mailing process instead of the card if he had cut the envelope by accident?

Did he answer my letter, mail back the card unsigned, and someone opened my mail but left the unsigned card but took my letter?

Did someone open my mail and see the card was unsigned so they left it?

I feel like if Jim Rice didn't feel like answering he would have just sent it back RTS on the original envelope. Why open the envelope if that's the case?

Does this mean he actually reads all his mail and I fell short of the mark? Nice try, thanks for playing kid but hit the bench.

If that's the case I feel horrible. Horrendous and crushed. I wrote a full page, down to the last line, sincere letter to him explaining my passion for the sport and the Red Sox. I was proud of the finished product, the only letter that may have been more meaningful would be the letter to Pedroia explaining I worked hard and took extra shifts at my job in college specifically to afford his jersey when I was in Boston, and how much it meant to make it to Game 1 of the 2007 World Series to see him play in it. I'm tempted to write him again and ask what happened. If Jim Rice, a member of the pantheon of my Red Sox idols decided my sincerity and thoughtfulness wasn't worthy of his autograph...well I may as well just give up this hobby all together because I don't know what else I have to offer in my letters.