Monday, April 29, 2013

RBI (132) Hanley Ramirez...

Yeah no fancy title or clever turn of phrase for this one. Why? Well honestly Hanley doesn't deserve one in my opinion. I went to get Hanley's autograph during his rehab stint with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and was less than pleased with the experience.

The obligatory Hanley Ramirez career stats so far. He was signed by the Red Sox as a international free agent and debuted in September 2005. He was traded to the Marlins as the center piece with Annibal Sanchez for the Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota. He's a 3 time All-Star, won 2 Silver Sluggers, was 2006 NL Rookie of the Year and was the '09 NL Batting Champion.
I wasn't very pleased with the experience I had getting this Hanley Ramirez autographed baseball. There were about 15 people waiting for him in Rancho and when he showed up he seemed less than happy that we were waiting for him. Sorry you have fans? He walked over and said he wasn't going to sign for everyone while he took a pen and grabbed a baseball. Originally I had printed 8x10's for him but when I saw him run with the pen I pulled out a baseball and he signed it. He then did another ball and started to walk off stopping only to sign one for a kid and a girl.

He was standoffish, refused to sign my friends jersey, and I'm not really understanding why he only signed about 7 autographs when there were only a handful more people. If you're not in the mood to sign for a while I understand that, but doing one per is fine with me and everyone would have left happy instead of plenty of disappointed faces. He was honestly the only star I've heard of going to Rancho who wasn't very pleasant to deal with. I'm not saying all the others are over the moon happy to see people wanting their autograph but they're at least less surly than Hanley was. Andre Ethier normally earns tons of a fans when he has to make a rehab appearance being pretty pleasant and funny to those who hang around for him. Even Dan Haren who was notoriously difficult to graph at Angel Stadium was more pleasant during his minor league rehab stint.

At least there were some fun moments hanging out with David, Benson, Matt, and Matt C.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

RBI (131) Ryan Howard, The Angels, and Charity...

I went to the Angels' 2013 Yard Sale at the stadium in Anaheim. Unlike the previous year I had gone it was not held under the hats, and instead was within Gate 3 of the stadium. The usual items were available for sale ranging from jerseys (I got one of Jean Segura's authentic team issued jerseys) bats (picked up a used Kendrys Morales)  helmets, hats, t-shirts, and autographed items including baseballs.

There were an assortment of autographs available and as I perused through the items I can across a weird signature that seemed out of place. Whose was it? None other than Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. I didn't believe it and the Angels representative nodded saying that the different charities traded autographs with each other. In the selection there were balls autographed by Adrian Beltre, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Webb, Joe Mauer and the Ryan Howard ball I bought.

Howard is a 3-time All Star, '05 NL Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger winner, the 2005 NL MVP, 2008 World Series Champion, and the fastest hitter to reach the 100 and 200 Home Run milestone. He's a hitter who knows what he wants to do regardless of the other team running an extreme shift when he comes up to bat and of his so far 1,100 career hits he's hit over 300 home runs. He's a great hitter and has even made a pretty funny appearance on It's Alway Sunny In Philadelphia as himself.
Needless to say I was beyond thrilled to pick up a certified autograph of his even though I bought it at Angel Stadium. Who's going to complain about a $20 certified autograph? Not this guy. To make matters even better there is a sweet COA sticker on it from Howard's foundation authenticating the ball. Definitely a sweet pick up that I'm very happy to add to my collection.

Monday, April 22, 2013

RBI (130) Mad Max, A Strikeout Artist...

Starting pitcher and strikeout master Max Scherzer was kind enough to sign an autograph for me.

Scherzer was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks 11th overall in the 1st round of the 2006 MLB draft. He made it through the minors and debuted for Arizona in 2008 and since then has stuck around as a reasonably successful starter. He was a key piece in a three way deal that sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks and moved Scherzer to Detroit. It's definitely been a successful trade for all parties involved since all three teams have made strong playoff runs with each piece of the deal being key components for their team.

As a starter for Detroit he's paired with ace Justin Verlander to give the Tigers a serious 1-2 punch. He competed for the Strikeout title in 2012 against Verlander and finished second with 231 on the season, but had the AL best 11 K/9. He's already compiled more than 800 Strikeouts and if he keeps up with his obscene K/9 rate he'll finish the season with more than 1,000 career punch outs.
I got this Max Scherzer autographed baseball during a 2013 Tigers vs Angels series at Angel Stadium. I'm very happy to have gotten the ball signed by Scherzer since he's having a great season and not only was named an All Star but is the starting pitcher for the 2013 MLB All Star game in New York. He's got a great record and tons of strikeouts so getting Scherzer to sign my ball this year was an awesome decision so far.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

RBI Collecting Custom Baseball Bat

As you've seen in previous posts I took advantage of a sale to get a custom bat from the Orange County based Trinity Bat Company. Trinity is a great bat company used by tons of pros in the Majors. If you've ever wondered what bat Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Skip Schumaker, Carlos Gomez, Everth Cabrera, Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, Cameron Maybin, Tony Gwynn Jr.,  Howie Kendrick, Hank Conger, and Chase Headley hit with. Well know you know they swing Trinity Bat wood.

I had the bat cut to the same specifications Mark Trumbo uses.

Basically this is going to be an evolving piece with players who accomplish something special in my eyes added to it. There are no firm rules for what it takes to make it on the bat, but I definitely have to have taken a shine to them.

First I had Mark Trumbo autograph the bat and he inscribed "All Star" under his name for me. I asked him to check to see if I got the specs right and after holding it and taking a half cut he said it looked like I got it right, which is definitely something I used to be happy about.
Steve Garvey autographed the bat and he inscribed "'74 NL MVP" for me on his bat. I know he played before my time but Garvey is one of those slick players that survived LA and I grew up hearing about every time a Dodger player made an error in the field.
Tony Gwynn autographed the bat and inscribed "HOF '07" for me above his former teammate Garvey. Gwynn really needs no explanation for why I had him added to the bat. Hall of Famer who played in Southern California his whole career and was always great to watch play. Easy add. When I had him sign the bat I told him it was the same brand his son used and cut to Mark's specs. He started checking out the bat and told me he wondered how Trumbo could hit with such a monster. I was later told getting Gwynn on the bat was a great pickup as previous attempts to graph him on a bat have had him shoot graphers down if it wasn't his brand of bat.

RBI (129) A Kansas City Star...

Sometimes it's interesting to see how different teams and fan bases take in certain personalities. Former pitcher Mark "Gubi" Gubicza is an example of that.

Gubicza was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 2nd round of the 1981 draft. He worked his way through the minors and at age 21was debuting for the Royals in 1984. He was a stalwart piece of the Royals rotation and for 13 seasons was a consistent starter for the team. He was named to the All Star team 2 times and was part of the Royals' 1985 World Series Championship team. He left the Royals to go on to the Angels for only 2 starts in 1997 before his career came to a close.

When he retired his record stood at 132-136 with a 3.96 ERA and 1371 Strikeouts. He threw 42 Complete Games, 16 of which were Shut Outs out of his 329 Games Started. I'm always amazed at the number of Complete Games the studs of the 80's and 90's have compared to the starters who play now. Even the current workhorses are pretty outmatched when looking at going the distance with 8 year veteran James Shields having 20 career completes so far.

Gubi is a pretty popular broadcaster with the Angels, but he's not as consistently mobbed for an autograph after his broadcast as home grown Angel on air talent Tim Salmon is. If they worked for the Royals though I have the feeling the 2006 Kansas City Royals Team Hall of Fame inductee would be the one who had to worry about crowds of fans wanting his signature.
I was able to get Mr. Gubicza to sign this 1990 Fleer card for me at Angel Stadium.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

RBI (128) Not Since Babe Ruth...

Has there been a player like this, though not for the reason why you think. I was able to get outfielder and former pitcher Rick Ankiel to sign for me. While Ankiel's stats may not jump off the page in either of those roles he has carved out an interesting role in baseball history.

Ankiel was drafted by St. Louis Cardinals in the 2nd round of the 1997 MLB draft as a pitcher having been one of the top high school pitching prospects in the country. He flew through the minors debuting in 1999 for the club and sticking around full time in the 2000 season when he came second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Rafael Furcal. However during the 2000 NLDS during his start of Game 1 of the series Ankiel had a mysterious breakdown in his ability to throw strikes. He was not only plagued by a lost command of the strike zone but he threw an astonishing number of wild pitches that had no chance of being caught. In 2001 the Cardinals gave him another shot as a pitcher in the MLB but to the same result so they began to shuttle him around the minors hoping he would recover from his struggles. He took another attempt at things in 2004 with a few brief relief appearances but the strike zone continued to evade him.

Ankiel wasn't able to recover his abilities as a consistent pitcher and instead opted to switch to the outfield full time since he had a strong bat. He was called back up by the Cardinals in 2007 after years of redeveloping him as an outfielder and he carved himself a role as an outfielder with a cannon of an arm and some boom in his bat. Here's where he made history to match Babe Ruth. Not since the bambino has a pitcher won at least 10 games while also hitting at least 50 career home runs as a position player. He may not be that high on the all-time Wins or Home Runs list, but where he ranks on both of those lists in the MLB is pretty historic and awesome to me.
Considering the latest player to seriously split time between being a position player and a full starting pitcher was top prospect Casey Kelly (who was forced by his club to eventually decide on one or the other while still in the low minors) I doubt there will be anyone to match Ankiel and Ruth for quite some time if ever again. That makes his autograph one that should be appreciated a lot more than I think it is and definitely an interesting note within my collection.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My Struggles With Topps Customer Service

This is a summary of my attempt to resolve a redemption with Topps regarding an Ian Kinsler Lineage reprint autograph.

On July 12th 2012 I received a late notify that the card would not be ready within the 15 week target. Oh well it happens, I'd wait.

I sent an email on October 9th about being unhappy with the delay of not only my product but of receiving any sort of update about something I had purchased and they already received payment for but I had received no product or information.

They responded October 11th telling me to call customer service.

October 16th I did. The customer service representative did not identify themselves, looked up the product said it was weeks out and essentially said tough luck the product will be shipped when its ready. I was unhappy with how the issue was handled, the tone of the representative, and the lack of information offered. Being told I can wait for a random card of "equal" value determined by a 3rd party with no input by myself and a wait as long as the expected delay is not an actual resolution to the issue.

The operator had me so frustrated with the way I was dismissed that I called the Director of Logistics and Customer Care at the corporate office that day . My message was never returned.

I went to twitter and tweeted at the Topps Company twitter that I needed assistance. After multiple tweets the response was they'd have  the Director of Logistics and Customer Care check his voicemail and to contact the customer service twitter. He never responded, and I did message the support twitter.

The conversation started on October 16th. I was responded to on the 17th and was told they would call me if I was still needing to discuss something. I responded with my phone number that night. No response.

I messaged the service twitter again on October 26th. No response.

I messaged the service twitter again on November 1st. No response.

On November 6th I was told the hurricane closed the office. and I would be contacted when the office reopened.

I messaged them December 17th. No response.

I messaged the twitter and sent an email to the website support on December 27th.

Finally got some help the 7th of January speaking to the Director of Logistics and Customer Care on the phone. I was told I'd be called back within 24 hours to finish resolving my situation.

The 16th of January I sent an email after having left numerous voicemails from the 10th-15th saying I wanted the situation resolved as I was told it would be. I was sent an email saying someone would call me.

The 21st of January I sent an email requesting they did what they said they would and resolved the issue. I was told the customer service rep who would resolve my situation was sick and would respond when he was back to work.

On January 24th Topps called me and said they'd sub my Kinsler autograph out, but to be aware the 2 week standard time was running behind and it'd be an additional 1-2 week wait, and they apologized for the wait so they'd send me something else as well.

On the 5th of February I got a package in the mail from Topps. What was in it? A Bowman Sterling autograph of Pierce Johnson. Really Topps? Not to sound ungrateful, but come on. All this didn't even get me wrappers to rip, a random autograph from a no name prospect from one of the worst clubs in baseball right now. Awesome.

March 24th emailed topps again asking what happened to my sub out. Apparently it's Topps policy to ignore a sub out request if the card being subbed out is completed within X amount of time of the sub out being processed.

April 2nd/3rd? I was sent the exact Ian Kinsler card I had pulled. Not even an upgrade. I've emailed Topps again saying I'm not happy with the situation and they responded they were pleased with how the situation was resolved. I emailed them again asking to speak on the phone. No response.

Thank you Topps for nothing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

RBI (127) Who dat? An NFL Hall of Famer...

You can probably guess from the title that I was able to get the autograph of a Hall of Famer who shined for the New Orleans Saints. I had the opportunity to meet former offensive lineman Willie Roaf and was able to add him to my collection. I was very excited to add an autograph of a NFL Hall of Fame tackle who will reside in Canton.

Roaf was drafted in the 1993 NFL draft 8th overall by the New Orleans Saints. The rest is history as he went on to play for the Saints from 1993-2001 and then the Kansas City Chiefs from 2002 until his retirement in 2005. Of the 189 games he played in, he started them all earning recognition from his colleagues almost every season. He was a 11-time Pro Bowler, 6 time First team All Pro, 3 time Second Team All Pro, 8 time All-Conference, and named to the All Decade team for 1990 and the 2000's.

He was elected into Canton in his second year of eligibility in 2012.

Willie Roaf autographed this photo of him unveiling his bust to be enshrined in the Hall Of Fame in Canton at his induction, he inscribed "HOF 2012"
The tackle they nicknamed "Nasty" was kind enough to sign this 8x10 of him playing for the Saints against the San Francisco 49'ers about to lay down a block, and he inscribed "N.O. Saints" under his name and number 77.
It was great to add these Willie Roaf autographed photographs to my collection. Now that I've brought him into my collection I've gotten the autograph of a Hall of Famer from the MLB and NFL. I'll need to go out of my normal comfort zone to add an NBA and NHL player to my collection so that I'll have someone from each major U.S. professional sport to display proudly.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

RBI (126) Hall Of Famer Tony Gwynn...

And definitely one of the more meaningful ones to me to add to my collection. I was able to get Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn's autograph at a free autograph signing in San Diego before the 2013 season started, and I was pretty excited to finally add him to my collection.

Tony Gwynn was taken by the San Diego Padres in the 3rd round of the 1981 MLB Draft and flew through to the Majors debuting for them in 1982. Gwynn was one of the few players to enter the Hall of Fame having played his entire career for a single team. His career stats are obviously impressive seeing as they got him into Cooperstown. He was an 8-time NL Batting Champion, 15-time All Star, won 7 Silver Sluggers, and 5 Gold Gloves. His career .338 average knocked in 1,138 RBI's with only 135 Home Runs coming out of his 3,141 hits. 

Gwynn received plenty of knocks through his career for his lack of home run numbers but he was a consistent doubles hitter with 543 in his career. Teammates who accused him of being only worried about his own stats didn't have the luxury of Baseball Reference which said with Runners In Scoring Position he batted .349 which is absurdly high and beneficial to his team. 
Gwynn was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, coming a mere 13 votes short of an unanimous induction. At the signing I got this Tony Gwynn autographed baseball inscribed"HOF '07" on the sweetspot. He's definitely a great signature to add to the collection and I also got Gwynns autograph on my RBI Collecting Bat.

I had a lot of fun hanging out with David and Al before the signing at the San Diego Ford dealership Tony Gwynn was signing at. There was a pretty decent sized line because Gwynn is so popular a player in Southern California and who is going to turn down a Hall of Famers autograph? Definitely a reasonably well run event that I had fun at.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

RBI (125) Matt Kemp, Beast Mode...

I was finally able to get one of my favorite player's autograph to start 2013 at Angel Stadium. Matt Kemp is quite possibly a Dodger for life after having signed a 8-year extension in 2012 and definitely a Southern California fan favorite.

Kemp was taken in the 6th round of the 2003 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers and debuted for them in 2006. He's a remarkable blend of power and speed having over 150 Home Runs and 150 Steals. His counting stat totals are impressive with both 500 Runs and RBI's and he should cross 1000 hits this season. He uses both of his tools to lead the league both defensively and offensively already having earned multiple All Star selections, Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger awards. Personally I think Kemp was robbed of the NL MVP award in 2011 which went to Ryan Braun instead. Now that Braun is embroiled in his second PED scandal, I'm even more set in thinking Kemp deserved the MVP even though his Dodgers missed the playoffs. I think a healthy Kemp with the new look Dodgers around him should be able to win his own MVP award in the near future.
I was able to get this Matt Kemp autographed baseball at Angel Stadium. He didn't sweet spot it but it's still a nice Kemp and pretty large rather than a small scribble that I wouldn't be able to see. It still made my display case, and I'm happy with it being in my collection.