Friday, March 30, 2012

RBI (73) A graded slugger's hit...

This week I've gotten 0 replies in the mail and to be honest with the start of the season coming around it's kind of bummed me out. Lucky for me I needed to pick up a few things and strolled through the card aisle of a chain store that will remain secret seeing as all my awesome retail hits are from there and I'm going to protect my spot like a fisherman hiding his favorite fishing hole.

I picked up a blaster of Gems of the Game and cracked it open when I got home. What could be inside this box filled with repackaged packs? Well just an interesting little gem that goes along with the Hank Aaron relic I opened up the day before. This Barry Bonds 1988 Score and Game Used Jersey graded 10.
Oh Barry. I'm not sure how I feel about you. As a Southern California native and him quite literally being a home town guy I suppose I support him being one of the top sluggers of the game. But there's the asterisk. Once again, literally the asterisk that goes along with his name in the record books, in Cooperstown...and the court documents.

I'm not sure how the Baseball Writers Association of America will respond to his first year of eligibility in the 2013 vote. On one hand he is a 14-time All-Star with 7 NL MVP's earned by 756 home runs. On the other...yeah. There are relics from his career in Cooperstown, but I'm not really sure if this has a permanent place in my collection. Offers will be listened to if anyone is interested.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

RBI (72) Another Cooperstown hit....

Well today I decided to prepare for the coming season with a quick trip to my local collectibles' show to stock up on a few supplies. I didn't do anything too crazy, just a few specialty balls that I've got specific players in mind for and some card protectors. But while I was wandering around browsing for a few singles, I unexpectedly saw one of my friends at one of the card dealers. While we chatted I couldn't resist breaking open a box of 2011 Topps Lineage that was just calling my name as the lone box not neatly stacked with the others.

What was in it? Well there was a redemption for a Ian Kinsler autograph, which is pretty cool seeing as I'm never able to get him to sign at the stadium and he's not a reliable TTM'er. What else was in it? Oh just 2011 World Series Champion closer Jason Motte, which I'll probably do a separate post for later.

Those of you who have cracked open a box of Lineage know there are 2 autographs and 1 relic inside. The relic was a Game Used Jersey swatch from Cooperstown resident Hank Aaron. Yup, that's right. Hank Aaron.
The card is currently residing next to my Jason Heyward pull, which will hopefully help him bounce back from last season and fulfill his potential this season. I'm not really sure if I need to do a full player bio for one of the greatest baseball players of all time, so here are a few highlights. He is a 25-time All Star with 755 Home Runs and 3,771 hits. He won a World Series in 1957 with the Braves and was inducted into Cooperstown in 1982 with 97% of the vote.

Awesome. Best impulse box buy ever.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

RBI (71) A Cooperstown TTM for the 365...

I'm sure by the title some of you who read the batch summaries I post before I mail out the 365 letters can guess who responded. Hall of Famer and Red Sox legend Bobby Doerr was kind enough to sign TTM for me.

Of all current players for the Red Sox, second baseman Dustin Pedroia is without a doubt my favorite. He's intense, and leaves it all out on the field and in the batters box. He continues a tradition of excellence at second that Bobby Doerr instilled in the position for the franchise after first appearing for the club in 1937. A tradition recognized by the Red Sox who retired his #1 in 1988 for his service as a player and coach.

Doerr was a generational talent who played 14 seasons exclusively for the Red Sox, though it could have been 15 if he had not been called away to serve in WWII. The 9-time All-Star while being one of the top defensive second basemen in the league, was also a dangerous hitter. When he retired in 1951, his career average was .288 and his On Base Percentage stood at .362. He had assembled more than 2,000 hits, 223 home runs, and 1,247 RBI's. Legendary hitter and teammate Ted Williams asserted Doerr was the "silent captain" of the team, a great tip to Doerr considering Williams' fickle nature about speaking to the public.

After retiring reasonably young at 33 due to injury, Doerr remained around the game as a scout and hitting coach. He is credited along with Ted Williams as being a strong influence in Carl Yastrzemski's evolution mid-career into more of a power hitter. After leaving the Sox he was the first hitting coach for the expansion Toronto Blue Jays from 1977-1981.

Doerr was inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame in 1986 by the Veterans Committee. He was inducted along with Willie McCovey who received 81% of the vote and Ernie Lombardi, also another Veterans Committee inductee.
 Mr. Doerr signed this 2001 Upper Deck Legendary Cuts card for me signed "Bob Doerr HOF 86"
It took me a while to find that legendary cuts card and ironically the day after I bought the card at a card shop I swung through the card aisle at Target. What was sitting at the top of the $4 pack of randomly assorted cards in a clear plastic hanger? Yup. This 1989 Topps commemorating the 1988 All Star Game.
Also signed "Bob Doerr HOF 86"

Mr. Doerr was kind enough to sign these two cards for me from his home address in only 14 days.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RBI (70) A controversial 365 TTM from Spring Training...

Well I'm not sure how much actual controversy there is about this, but I did find it interesting to get a pretty awesome reply from Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mat Latos.

Latos was taken in the 11th round of the 2006 draft by the Padres after falling significantly due to maturity concerns. He attended college for a year before signing with the Padres days before he would have re-entered the 2007 having been deemed matured. The time paid off as Latos breezed through the minors reaching the MLB in 2009 for the Padres.

His call up resulted in making the rotation in 2010 for a breakout year where he solidified himself as a front of the rotation pitcher with ace potential. 2011 was a slight regression year for him, but there was still excellent top of the league stuff. So much so that the Reds paid a minor fortune for him in Edison Volquez, and top prospect Yonder Alonso among others.

In 3 seasons in the MLB Latos has supplied himself a 27-29 record, 3.37 ERA, and 413 Strikeouts. In both full seasons he appeared in he made a strong 31 starts, marking himself as a reliable workhorse in the rotation.

As many of you know there was a recent blog post on Reds' pitcher Mat Latos' wife's blog regarding the autograph collecting hobby. It's been discussed at length by the autograph community so I won't really get into that. Interestingly enough don't you know I had actually mailed Mat a TTM request just prior to the now infamous post.

It was a success. Not only was it a success, it was a really cool success. Not only did Mat send his autograph, but also took the time to answer the letter I mailed him. Why's this awesome? Because it's the first time a current player responded to my letter, let alone while at Spring Training:

During your 15 game streak of 5 innings and 2 or less runs did you feel added pressure or feel comfortable?
Showing the ice cold blood in his veins that made the Reds pay a king's ransom for the ace he responded, "Comfortable!"

What was it like to get your first Win?
Even though he debuted the week before, the Virginia native was able to top the local Washington Nationals in 2009 for his first win, "Felt good. Was in my hometown."

What did you see to the key to your 1 hitter of the Giants?
Even though he was only in his first full season in the Majors, he was able to display his stuff against the eventual World Series winners with a 1 hitter supported by him "Hitting my spots."

What was it like to play in the 2009 All Star Futures Game?
I'm a big fan of the game as it highlights the prospects coming up and recognizes their hard work pushing themselves through the minors to get to the show. I'm sure many of the guys who make it agree with his sentiment that "It was Great."
I had sent the 2011 Gypsy Queen as the card I'd like signed and included the 2012 Topps mini with a sticky note that said he could keep it. The Gypsy Queen smeared, but Latos didn't keep the 2012 mini and instead autographed it clean and sent it back to me after only 29 days c/o the Reds at Spring Training.

Monday, March 19, 2012

RBI (69) An Angel Hall of Famer...

And I quite literally mean the Angel's franchise Hall of Fame as the franchise has no members in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. But it doesn't make getting pitcher Chuck Finley's autograph any less awesome. As many of my fellow bloggers have reported Finley recently did a free autograph signing at Living Spaces. I went with my family and was able to get a slew of things signed by the reliable lefty.

The Louisiana native was the Angels' 1st round pick in 1985, taken 4th overall. The highly polished prospect made his debut in 1986 and stayed in the Majors for 17 seasons. His time in the MLB was well regarded across baseball as he was a 5-time All-Star. When he finally retired in 2002, Finley's 3.85 ERA supported a 200-173 record and 2,610 Strikeouts. He did improve that record in my mind to 201 as he was the winning pitcher at Angel Stadium of the 2010 Celebrity Softball All Star Game.

Though he was dropped of the ballot in his first year of candidacy for Cooperstown, Finley was inducted into the Angel Hall of Fame in 2009. He's been on hand for plenty of important Angel events such as the All Star festivities in 2010, and being there to celebrate Jered Weaver's 2011 contract extension.

Finley signed for fans at Living Spaces and was kind enough to sign multiple items for everyone as well as a photo that was provided. And don't worry folks I didn't roll up and hand him a huge stack of cards. My family and I split up the cards so we all got the chance to meet him, but my family was nice enough to give me the autographed cards.
 Finley was nice enough to personalize "To Ryan Good Luck Chuck Finley 31" on the free 8x11 he gave me.
 He signed this 1989 Fleer.
 Signed just perfectly on this awesome '96 Score.
 He inscribed "5x All Star" on my 1987 Topps.
And autographed this 1990 Topps.

It was awesome to meet Finley and see him being so fan friendly. He really didn't have to sign multiples or take photos with fans but he did. When some people even got in line more than once he graciously signed for them and if they wanted another 8x11 he checked the size of the line to make sure he'd have enough for everyone. It was great to prepare for another season of baseball with this signing.

Oh yeah, and this was my 100th post. Wooo

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Big League Interview (4) Kenny Powers

That's right folks, the Shelby Sensation took some time to do an interview with us. Those of you who don't know who Kenny Powers is...well you obviously haven't been watching the best show on baseball since baseball and cameras came together Eastbound & Down. It's a pretty hilarious show based on the life of former star closer Kenny Powers and highly highly for mature audiences only. Kid's don't go flipping through for it, because it's on HBO and rated Mature.

Those of you who think Logan Morrison is offensive but funny haven't seen anything yet if you haven't seen Danny McBrides' Kenny Powers twitter. It's like comparing a glass of water thrown on you to someone beating you in the face with a fire hose filled with salt water. Twice.

Anyways on to the interview and once again for Mature audiences only:

1) If you could hit any player in the batters box past or present who would it be?
Cal Ripken Jr.

2) Popping Macworthy's eye out, how many times have you watched it on Youtube?
It replays in my dreams.

3) What city has the best baseball groupies?  

4) Your World Series ring from Atlanta, what'd you do with it?
It didn't double as a **** ring so I pawned that s*** for a new hot tub.

5) What's the first thing you bought with your signing bonus?
Gold bars.  

6) One thing you want to get back to the Majors to do?  
The legal steroids.

Thanks for the time KP, best of luck getting back to the Majors.  You can find Kenny Powers on twitter if you're interested in more.

RBI (68) More 365 Spring Training TTM...

I can't even begin to say how excited I was to get this response. It had been a slow mail week besides the awesome Jerry Dipoto letter, I hadn't been able to get anything else back. But when I saw the Arizona postmark I got a little excited. When I opened up the envelope I was thrilled to see Indians' pitcher Justin Masterson had autographed my card.

I am a huge Justin Masterson fan. I was there at Fenway for his MLB debut in 2008 and immediately saw the talent and possibility that summer. Even now when he's on the Indians I still wear my Red Sox Masterson player t-shirt when he's going to make a start despite the boo's I get around the stadium. When he was traded by the Sox to the Indians, they realized his potential and value that most had underestimated in being worth All-Star hitting catcher Victor Martinez. Years later with Masterson at the front end of the rotation for Cleveland and V-Mart hurt in Detroit it looks like the Indians got the better end of the deal with the former 2nd round pick.

So far into his promising career Masterson has a 28-38 record with a 3.92 ERA and 485 Strikeouts across 4 seasons with the Red Sox and Indians as a starter and reliever. Coming off a career year in 2011 Masterson is posed to help the on the cusp Indians challenge the powerhouse Tigers for dominance of the AL Central. I'm sure he will continue on his success and build a long lasting career.
Justin was kind enough to sign this 2011 Topps card for me c/o the Indians at Spring Training in 27 days. Justin inscribed the card "Phil 4:13" as he is very well known for his faith and has even led the Pentagon's weekly prayer breakfast. I was able to get a Justin Masterson autographed jersey since then.

Friday, March 16, 2012

More 365 batches

Spring Training is always about new beginnings. A new season, new teammates, new parts of a player's career. But every new beginning comes from an ending, either of a player's career with a team or the whole career itself. I decided to write to some of the veterans starting their career over or bringing it to a close.

Mariano Rivera, the last batch I sent to Jamie Moyer and Mike Cameron so I decided to mail the elder statesman of the Yankees as he approaches another season.
Buster Posey, Buster is definitely one of my favorite catchers to watch work because he makes the Giants staff look even more dominant. Here's hoping to him restarting his career after his bad luck injury last season.
Mat Latos, is the kind of front end starter that I've always tended to like. Strong stuff with an attitude to go along with it, and an interest in maintaing his team's rivalries to keep them pumped up. Starting up with the Reds this year it'll be interesting to see what he does with some offense behind him, but being away from Petco.
Carl Pavano, Latos was a pick up I made his rookie year in fantasy and it's always made me kind of favor him as I got to see each stat line of his career develop. Pavano was also another pick up I made his first year with the Twins where he has restarted his career after the poor results with the Yankees.
Austin Romine, Speaking of the Yankees with the trade of slugging superstar prospect Jesus Montero some playing time unexpectedly has opened up for top defensive prospect Romine this year behind Russell Martin. 3/7
Bobby Doerr, Everyone who has collected TTM knows the story about Mr. Doerr. He's a Hall of Famer both literally and for collectors. As a Red Sox fan I'm excited at the prospect of him reading my letter and hope to have him in my collection.
Logan Morrison, Lomo. Rebel with a cause, being awesome while crushing home runs. Awesome awesome awesome.
Aaron Hill, I've been pretty interested in the career of Mr. Hill since his breakout campaign in 2009. His career has had some ups and downs since then, but I think he's going to play a big part in the continued rise of the D'backs.
Keith Mitchell, when I got the Bobby Doerr card I also picked up one for Keith Mitchell. Reading the back of his card he seemed like an interesting prospect and I decided to ask him about his MLB career.
Paul Goldschmidt, After looking through the rest of this batch I thought about who else is on the D'backs and going to be key to their continued success pushing the Giants for top of the division while the Dodgers still recover and Padres continue to rebuild.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

RBI (67) A letter from Jerry Dipoto...

No witty title or twists today folks, just some amazing correspondence from current Angels GM and former  MLB player Jerry Dipoto. Yeah that's right, Jerry corresponded with me, and by that I don't mean filled in a few blank lines on the page I sent him. I mean Jerry took two pages of Angel letterhead and wrote me a nice note in response to my own letter to him.

I didn't scan the letter seeing as it's a letter completely from him and to me it didn't sit quite right to scan it. I will however provide a transcription of said letter:

I'd like to thank you for your recent letter and continued support of the Angels. Like you, we are very much looking forward to the 2012 season and the challenges it will bring. 

I appreciate both your thoughts and insights regarding the game in general, as well as the ways in which our club might improve. You can be assured the we will continue to explore every avenue in seeking the right opportunities. We are presently preparing for the start of the regular season and very much looking forward to watching it play out on the field. 

As it pertains to my history as a student of the game, fan and collector - It's been a lifelong passion, one I'm sure you share. This is a great game with great's to the coming season and the hope that the Angels will add to a rich history!

All my best, 

Here is Jerry's signature on the bottom of the letter. I think it's kind of cool he just wrote Jerry instead of his full name. It gives it a very personal feel, like he took the time to not just say thanks for the letter but some genuine thought from one baseball guy to another. 

My mind is blown that he took such care and time. It's not often I even expect responses let alone a hand written letter by the GM of a MLB team during Spring Training. This may be one of the true highlights of my collection for the rest of my life, regardless of where the club is lead as it's such a unique piece. For those of you who don't know Jerry is also an avid collector so I'm sure he knows what it means to fans and collectors to receive something like this. Virgil Trucks and Bobby Doerr are in the Hall of Fame for TTM for their kindness and generosity, and I've got the feeling Jerry Dipoto is the kind of guy who will one day earn his way alongside them in the hearts of fans.

Jerry was kind enough to write back to me after only 20 days care of the Angels at their Spring Training facility.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

RBI (66) Completing a 365 TTM pair...

Well I suppose they don't mean to be a pair, but since one of their biggest claims to fame involves one another they're stuck as one as far as I'm concerned. Catcher turned science project/first baseman Scott Hatteberg responded to my TTM request and is a nice addition I've slotted next to my Billy Beane card.

Hatte was a 1st round sandwich pick for the Red Sox going 43rd overall in the 1991 amateur draft. Hatte would get a minor taste of the bigs in 1995 and 1996, but became the primary catcher for the Sox in 1997. After '97 though he began to split time before eventually being relegated to backup status due to the arrival of catching sensation and future franchise hall of famer Jason Varitek. An injury in his elbow during his final season with the Sox was expected to end his career as he could no longer throw a baseball.

One thing Hatteberg continued to do despite the catching job going to Varitek was find a way on base when he was given at-bats. This skill was the key to his career surviving as Oakland A's GM Billy Beane was looking for just that ability to rebuild his team in 2002. Hatteberg became a leading symbol of Beane's "moneyball" era and use of statistical analyses to find diamonds in the rough. Hatte became a first baseman for the A's and is most remembered for his walk off home run in the 11th inning against the Kansas City Royals to give the A's their American League record 20 game winning streak.

When he finally retired after a stint with the Cincinnati Reds Hatteberg had managed to extend his once presumed dead career from 7 seasons to 14. He was a .273 hitter with an impressive .361 OPB despite his limited slugging abilities. His line stood at 1153 hits, 106 of which were Home Runs. While most catchers are assumed to be players who are slow and knock guys in, his 527 RBI are actually fewer than his 538 Runs Scored.
Scott Hatteberg was nice enough to sign and return this 2008 Topps card for me after only 41 days from his home address.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

RBI (65) 1st 365 Spring Training TTM response...

And I'm sure this guy has seen his fair sure of fan mail over the decades. That's right decades. I sent a request to none other than pitcher Jamie Moyer as he attempts to break camp after a year lost to Tommy John surgery.

Moyer was the 6th round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1984 and made his MLB debut in 1986 for the Cubs. Since being brought up to the show in 1986 Moyer has played consistently besides missing the 1992 and 2011 season due to injury and being sent to the minors. He has played for the Cubs, Rangers, Cardinals, Orioles, Red Sox, Mariners, and Phillies while he is attempting to comeback again to the MLB with the Rockies.  He was an All-Star in 2003, World Series Champion with the Phillies, and won the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award in 2003. 

Though his career isn't finished and he apparently has been crisp in camp so far these numbers are pretty impressive. Through his 24 year career, Moyer enters Spring Training with an astounding 267-204 record across 4020.1 innings and 33 Complete Games. His career 4.24 ERA is supported by 2405 Strikeouts. 
Mr. Moyer was nice enough to sign this 2007 Topps card for me in only 14 days sent c/o the Colorado Rockies at their Spring Training facility. I like how you can see there are still strong characteristics in his signature years later like on the "J" and the "Y".

Monday, March 5, 2012

RBI (64) The 11th 365 response...

I was happy to see a response sitting in my mailbox with a familiar postmark. Florida. Oh Florida, how many letters are sitting somewhere in a clubhouse waiting for your response? Oh well I guess not this letter because it's actually from retired outfielder Mike Cameron.

Cameron was taken in the 18th round of the 1991 draft by the Chicago White Sox. I've got to say whoever signed him had a great eye for talent and every other team definitely missed because the man played the game for 17 seasons in the MLB. Cameron made plenty of teams realize their mistake though by causing the Reds, Mariners, Mets, Padres, Brewers, Red Sox, and Marlins acquire him after his time with the White Sox.

During his tenure in many center fields, Cameron was a reliable underrated player. Through the course of his career he won 3 Gold Gloves, and nabbed an All-Star appearance. He hit only .249 for 1700 hits, but drove in 968 RBI's with 278 Home Runs. While hitting for pop and his .444 SLG he was able to get on at a .338 OBP and harassed pitchers with 297 Steals to score 1064 Runs.

Players like Cameron are definitely my favorites. They play amazing defense that saves their team runs. Get on base to force their way to second without being thrown out very often. And if you decide to not respect their bat, you get punished for a double or homer. Guys like this are what you have to surround your superstar player or you won't get the production you need. I hope he enjoys his decision to retire and finds success in his life after baseball.
Mikw Cameron was nice enough to sign this 2011 Topps card sent to his home address in only 8 days. I think he actually has a pretty cool full signature. If you ever decide to google yourself now that you've got some time Mr. Cameron thank you for signing my card, I really appreciate getting your autograph.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A nice Gold Rush haul...

I was pleased to come home to a little registered envelope in the mailbox from Topps. I cracked open the seal in the hallway and out slid a nice silver pack of cards. To be honest there was a little bit of worry for me considering the Gold Rush checklist isn't exactly guaranteeing an awesome set of cards.

I cracked it open and out came these golden beauties.

Yup, I got some nice pulls. Not an autographed hit, but considering I have 81 games to try to get Weaver and hopefully a few Kemp public appearances, games, and signings I'll count this as a possible two golden autographs. The Kemp is normal but my scanner is on the fritz for some reason. Even the players I'm not super big on are at least a slugging second baseman and one of the best pure DH's in baseball. Couldn't have asked for a better pack minus the Willie Mays actually being autographed.

Like everyone else it seems it took about a week for Topps to get these out to me. Great turn around for this years redemption program.