Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Garret Anderson - happy 37th birthday

As Garret Anderson celebrates his 37th birthday as an Atlanta Brave and not an Angel- he is in the middle of his 16th year in Major League Baseball, having played in 2068 games.

While his on-base percentage sits at only .327 and his slugging percentage at .467 - GA has stuck around long enough to rack up 2423 hits, 501 doubles, 276 home runs and 1319 RBIs.

There plenty of moments when GA was considered a disappointment during his Angels’ career – and he was playing every day, putting up some solid numbers, et al. Back in the late 1990s, he was viewed as a complimentary player who was not as good [maybe rightfully so] as Tim Salmon or Jim Edmonds [perhaps].

Angels fans can say how much GA was loved by the Anaheim faithful and give him a token nod of our appreciation now - but if you asked Angels’ fans [not just the bandwagon types who came along after 2002] about GA’s Angel career, the knee jerk reaction was to label him a lazy player [regardless of whether the perception was reality or not].

GA was a guy indicted for his style of play - which seem to border in-between passive and lazy, even to longtime Angels' fans. It appeared, GA never showed the grit of a Darin Erstad or the desire of an David Eckstein.

It wasn’t until after 2002 did GA get any sort of respect from Angels’ fans - and post championship season, GA was still sort of an ‘acquired taste,’ especially when he started to break down and his numbers started to dip in his last several years with the organization.

In 2009, GA is still doing his thing, even though it seemed like he was done early in the season - hopefully he heats up in the second half and if he decides to hang them up after this years, goes out with a bang.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Featured autograph - Sean O' Sullivan

I was there for Sean O'Sullivan's first career start at Angel Stadium[second overall in the bigs] - he was pitched a solid game, but was looking for a point where he would kind of crack.

Former Long Beach State star Troy Tulowitzki hit two home runs off O' Sullivan and overall - O'Sullivan he gave up three earned runs in five innings pitched, allowing six hits, while walking three and striking out three.

Fiddling with camera [batteries were dying] as key moments were happening - the crowd got electric when the Angels were mounting a comeback Tuesday night.

Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez was dominant for most of the game [seems like a young, athletic horse out there] - the Angels broke through and Bobby Abreu had a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie and give the Angels the lead.

Thankfully former Rockies closer Brian Fuentes was able to come in an close the game out - as the Angels won 3-2.

This 2008 Donruss Threads was signed in-person during spring training - O'Sullivan and Freddy Sandoval signed autographs at a card show last off-season, but I didn't think too much of him, then.

2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee baseball rips

I finally got my hands on some O-Pee-Chee packs [$1.59] - off a gravity feed at the Tarjay 10 minutes from my house.

There is some grumbling that since 2009 O-Pee-Chee is a 'set-collector' product - there are not enough base cards per pack and six 'measly' cards is just not going to cut it for the price point.

However a 600 card product with a packs going for $2 or less - isn't bad if you are a casual baseball card collector looking for something other than base brand Topps or Upper Deck to bust.

One gripe is there are too many studio shots and mug shots - need more action shots or cheesy posed on-the-field shots with the stadium's features visible in the background.

The wrinkles Upper Deck have thrown into this product [black bordered parallels, non-shortprint SPs, inserts] make opening packs a little fun for the younger collectors -I'm totally obvious, are there anymore of those or are they all into gaming cards?

The old-school card stock was a junky, but retro feel to it - which I suppose is the point.

Let me grab maybe 10-15 more packs [maybe a blaster] to see if this is a product I like - I'm thinking this is the type of product that can be $25 at the end of the year, maybe less because each box isn't guaranteed any token hits.

Pack #1
#264 Mike Adams

#65 Alexei Ramirez

#HM 3 Melvin Mora - 2008 Highlights and Milestones insert

#390 C.C. Sabathia - black parallel
#529 Los Angeles Angels team card - sorta mojo
#433 Adam Lind

Pack #2
#274 Scott Feldman

#75 Chase Utley

#MM2 Hank Blalock - Midsummer Memories insert

#68 Phil Hughes - black parallel

#548 Adrian Gonzalez - Moments subset
#286 Carlos Ruiz

Pack #3
#344 Mike Napoli
#9 John Grabow

#536 NL RBI Leaders featuring Ryan Howard, David Wright and Adrian Gonzalez - black parallel
#540 NL Wins Leaders featuring Brandon Webb, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Dempster
#447 Kelly Shoppach
#248 Willy Taveras

Pack #4
#100 Albert Pujols
#297 Luis Castillo
#202 Brett Gardner

#FF4 Roy Halladay - Face of the Franchise insert
#339 Garret Anderson - black parallel
#565 Josh Geer

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2009 Topps II Fat Pack

A Tarjay stop to look for 2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee proved to be unsuccessful and a waste of money - as I spent $4.99 for a Topps Series II Fat Pack and $2.99 for a pack of 2009 Bowman. The Bowman pack was useless since the corners on all the cards were dinged.

I need to stick to singles - retail is a trap!

2009 Topps Fat Pack, blister one
#439 Spilborghs
#347 Ruiz
#353 Jeter
#527 Isringhausen
#629 Overbay

#415 Beckett - one can spend hours thinking up a caption for this card.
#463 Wilson
#417 Marquis
#431 Hernandez
#430 K-Rod
#TTT 40 McLouth
#591 Andrus

#479 Nelson - he's a guy who was absolutely buried by guys like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, yet was in the Milwaukee Brewers' organization until earlier this season when they had to designate him for assignment. The Seattle Mariners then picked him up to play in AAA.

#631 Rasmus - it would basically be nice if this was a true rookie card.
#495 Chavez
#645 Maholm
#372 Weeks

#422 Blalock - though he is more of a designated hitter these days, on his 2009 Topps card, he is shown trying to make a 'do-or-die' play on the field.

#491 Bako - what symbolizes the common card more than a longtime journeyman catcher's card.

2009 Topps Fat Pack, blister two
#607 Washburn
#636 Galarraga
#609 Rivera
#573 Wainwright
#490 Chamberlain
#628 Upton/Young
#351 Snyder
#LG-MR Rivera
#637 Veal
#499 Moreno
#593 Kawakami
#580 Kazmir
#492 Ethier ?
#394 Zito
#366 Casilla
#635 Soria
#559 German

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Alex Rodriguez may never be a true Yankee dandy

As a fan of Major League Baseball in general - I still care about A-Rod the player and would pay to watch him because the drama never ends with the guy.

After he finally decided on surgery on his ailing hip and was out out six to nine weeks - he came back in May and is having a wonderful June with a .153 batting average, a .315 on-base percentage and a .288 slugging percentage in 18 games.

It seems like after years of being a rock, it has gone downhill fast and he is facing baseball mortality for the first time - he is 34 years old and may literally need to find a new way to juice up his career.

So, through his rough season so far, can A-Rod ever be considered a true Yankee [?] - what does his season of discontent do for his legacy in New York and as a national star?

Yankees' fans pick and choose who they annoint as true Yankees - there is no real talk of Jason Giambi and Mike Mussina not being able to win a championship in their time in New York, but then it irks people when a 'carpetbagger' like A-Rod has come in, but hasn't been part of any championship run.

I doubt A-Rod or A-Fraud will ever be considered a true Yankee, unless he wins at least one, two or three championships in a way where he puts the franchise on his back - leading the way from Game 1 of the regular season to the World Series championship clinching game.

On the other hand, players in pinstripes who don't win championships can be true Yankees - if their name is Don Mattingly for example. There is a sentiment that if you don't win, you fell short. Still, even without a championship, people wonder if a particular player was the face of the franchise during his time as a Yankee. Did he grow up in the organization? Did he put up the numbers? Did he go about things the right way on the field?

It is an arbitrary label to be considered a 'true Yankee' and the label doesn't matter for rank-and-file players who wore the Yankees uniform - was current Angel Bobby Abreu, a true Yankee? What about Jaret Wright or Carl Pavano? Jose Canseco, Ed Whitson or Cody Ransom?

No one really cares about Alvaro Espinoza - but it weighs in as far judging particular star players legacy in their time with the New York.

Guys who really had so-so playing careers [basically rank-and-file guys] - but did something like star in the pennant race and/or postseason can be accorded the label of being a 'true Yankee.'

Aaron Boone
Scott Brosius
Bucky Dent

Luis Sojo
Shane Spencer
Jose Vizcaino

Becoming a true Yankee doesn't mean you have to start your career in the Yankees' organization - otherwise Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson, Paul O'Neill, Goose Gossage, Roger Maris, David Cone and countless others are excluded from the discussion almost immediately.

On the other hand, with all things considered, strong consideration is given to a player developed in the Yankees' system and became franchise/national legends/icons - like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Derek Jeter, et al.

World Series championships won are obviously the most important aspect to consider - how many rings did a particular star player earn during their time with the franchise?

Will C.C. Sabathia be a true Yankee [?] - time will tell.
Will A.J. Burnett be a true Yankee [?] - time will tell.
Will Mark Teixeira be a true Yankee [?] - time will tell.

Is A-Rod a true Yankee [?] - no way in hell.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sammy Sosa - no one really cares

1990 Leaf rookie card #220 - I bought one just like the one pictured for $30.

So Slamming, Corking Sammy Sosa tested for a performance enhancing drug back in 2003 and really no one really cares anymore - it is like Michael Jackson supposedly accused of molesting another kid.

All sorts of home run hitting sluggers juiced and Major League baseball fans are sort of desensitized to it - it is kind of sad that the people [outside of probably the Dominican Republic] who have strong feelings and care to talk about him, blog about him or Tweet about him are the only ones left to really care about his legacy.

As far as his Hall of Fame chances now, he is probably going to have to wait a year longer than Jim Rice did and I think Rice was voted in his last year - so I'm implying he may not ever make it in.

However, I'm not here to pass judgement - I was on the bandwagon, just as I was on the A-Rod's, Manny's, Barry's and Big Mac's among other prominent Steroid Era sluggers.

I would have thought I'd won the lottery back in the spring of 2002 at HoHoKam Park - when I was able to toss my ball over to some lady by Sosa's car and have her get Sosa's autograph for me among the 50-100 people who'd gathered to wait for him to leave during a spring training game.

Sosa was an exciting figure to watch and follow the exploits of - no matter how much you thought of his 'baseball has been berry, berry good to me' crap.

There was a point Sosa got too big [maybe literally] for his own good - where he couldn't be touched or approached, signed for just the cameras [basically signing when everyone is taking your picture to show you are 'fan friendly' when you could care less] and his image was nothing more than a crummy act.

In his latter years as a 'superstar,' Sosa still put up dominant numbers, but also corked a bat and also left a Cubs game early, during a regular season game - maybe if he didn't become such a douche in the years following the 1998 season, maybe wouldn't have such a big target on his back.

While I still kind of think it was a classless move when Rick Reilly challenged Sosa to pee in a cup - it seems Reilly's middle-age angst over this one particular Major League player and the particular era he played seems more than justified now and it is kind of sad if you think about it.

Jose Canseco was right again - Major League Baseball is a mafia that works to glorify players in their prime and tosses them out when the league has no need for them. Leak all the names now if you must.

I think if Major League Baseball outs A-Rod and Sosa as having tested positive for PEDS - then the rest of the names of the other players should come out. Let the hammer fall.

Fan reaction at Bleed Cubbie Blue - where those interested in the Cubs gather online.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Angel down in the outfield and in the bullpen

A three-game sweep of the AAA Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres over the weekend and a win against the San Francisco Giants Monday night doesn't necessarily inspire confidence - the Angels are far from a good team, despite a record over .500[33-29].

Now, Angels' centerfielder Torii Hunter will likely be out a several games - he bruised his ribs after slamming into a wall Monday night in San Francisco.

If he is out for a prolonged period of time - it will be a major blow to the team.

'Spiderman' has earned his keep as the face of the Halos franchise in 2009 - making spectacular catches and it looks like he is having a career year at the plate.

I tend to think participating in the World Baseball Classic maybe a curse for pitchers in the Major Leagues - just look at Jake Peavy [out for a month], Roy Oswalt [down year], Joel Hanrahan [lost his job as a closer], Matt Lindstrom [not very good so far], J.J. Putz [out with an injury], et al.

Now set-up ace and WBC participant Scot Shields is out for the year and with his prolonged struggles two years ago, his implosion this year and the number of innings he has pitched – it isn’t unreasonable to think he may done as the lights-out set-up guy Angels fans expect to see on a regular basis.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Featured autograph - Juan Rivera

Juan Rivera is not a Major League player who has been a star - but when healthy, he can hit for power, he can hit for average and carry a team during a hot streak.

After Torii Hunter had tied an Angels club record by hitting three home runs in a Saturday 9-1 win against the San Diego Padres of the AAA Pacific Coast League - Rivera followed up with two home runs of his own on Sunday in a 6-0 win against the same AAA squad.

Rivera's future was sort of in the air this past off-season - but then the Angels reached out and re-signed him to a three-year contract to basically replace Garret Anderson in left field.

Despite being a righty, I think Rivera is comparable to someone like Raul Ibanez - a player who may not had a clear path to becoming a regular but beginning in his early 30s, strung together four or five good years, culminating with an all-star caliber season in Philadelphia this season.

The 2007 Topps Allen and Ginter base card was signed by Rivera at a public appearance last Saturday - the Angels are my home team, but during the regular season, the only times I typically get autographs of Angels is through public appearances.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Featured autograph - Scott Podsednik

I don't know if he was doing this earlier in his Major League career - but I saw him on TV a few weeks ago against the Angels in Anaheim and it was interesting to see him actually walk up in the batter's box to hit the ball. I don't think I'd ever seen that and maybe the closest player who sort of has the 'freakish' hand-eye coordination to do such a thing would be Ichiro.

Given another opportunity to be a contributor with the Chicago White Sox after a couple of 'down' years with the Colorado Rockies, 'Juan Pierre Lite' is off to a good start in 2009 with a .298 batting average - if nothing else, he has his World Championship ring from 2005 and Lisa Dergan by his side.

I got this 2007 Topps Allen and Ginter signed in-person
- this past season. I'm trying to get as many Allen and Ginter cards signed [2006, 2007, 2008 and probably 2009], though last year's set is the only complete unsigned set I have [no shortprints] to use for my autograph endeavors. The cards I have collected from the other years form partial or otherwise incomplete sets.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Qualifying Major League Baseball players' careers - the decent and the very good

From my first post on this subject:
When flipping through players' cards, it seemed important to figure out who was destined to go straight to the commons box - without a care for cards of players who may deserve a second look.

Over the last five years, I've been more exposed to the sentiment there is more ways to view players besides saying whether a guy is a star or a scrub - it is interesting to redefine my perceptions of players as part of understanding the game more as a fan.

Decent - are Major League Baseball players who have had up-and-down careers. Maybe I'm focusing on players who have gained some prominence, but this label also applies to players who are everyday players, but hardly perennial all-star performers.

Milton Bradley - injuries and his temper have always seemed to prevent him from getting legs under his Major League career.
Travis Hafner - he was putting up some very good numbers, but he really started his Major League career late and it seemed like age has caught up during the past two seasons.
Bo Jackson - on his ability alone, he was more than a decent player, but the hip injury he suffered in football derailed more than just his professional football career.

Trot Nixon - was a first round, Top 10 overall pick back in 1993, was a productive player and a Boston Red Sox fan favorite. However, it wasn't like he was a 10-time all-star.

Chris Sabo - decent career, was a fan-favorite because he seemed to be a grinder. He also wore those goofy goggles.

The distinction between the decent and the very good players was for the most part
- there was some consistency enjoyed by the very good players.

Very good - players who enjoyed long, productive careers, were considered as possible all-star performers and/or players who were longtime franchise stars but may fall sort of being considered national stars.

Bobby Bonilla - he was a budding star in Pittsburgh, was the big free agent scapegoat for the New York Mets in the post-Darryl Strawberry early 1990s, but then had some productive years in Baltimore and Florida among stops before eventual retirement in 2001.
Will Clark - Will the Thrill starred as a budding all-star performer early in his career, left San Francisco, played hard but was never the same in his 30s as he was in his mid 20s.
Kent Hrbek - maybe the criteria for evaluating 'good' players was they were able to star for a prolonged period of time. For 1980s through the early 1990s, Hrbek fit the bill in a regional sense.
Wally Joyner - I don't think he ever lived up to the hype generated by his Wally World rookie campaign of 1986, but he played a long time as a slick-hitting, slick-fielding, once-experimented with roids first baseman.

David Ortiz - like Hafner, age has caught up with him, but Ortiz has been seen as a pivotal figure in helping a prominent franchise exorcise postseason demons. Papi may suck these days, but there is no denying the impact he has had in Boston. Put him on a lagging franchise and he maybe just a 'decent' player.

I started following Major League Baseball as a fan from the early 1990s to today -depending on when one started following the game and/or collecting cards, they can have their own set of players they consider decent [and/or very good players] that may differ from someone else.

Featured card: 1989 Fleer Randy Johnson #381

I don't know if I'll write a fawning prose dedicated to the Big Unit because he won his 300th game - he intimidates, has always been a 'heel' of sorts who has never really been 'beloved.' However, fans, peers and other interested people do respect the numbers the Big Unit has put up through his Major League Career.

I will say it did seemed like he was a little more gracious than he normally is - and it almost seemed he wanted to share his milestone win with his family, teammates and fans who had shown up in Washington Thursday night.

My only question is whether or not he is the most feared Major League pitcher pitcher to step on the mound - does he trump Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale? When the light clicked for Johnson [he was talented, but seemingly was a late-blooming Major League project] and when he had it going on six, seven, 10, 15 years ago, he had the ability to put the ball wherever he wanted and intimidate opposing hitters like no one had seen in a long time.

His line in a milestone night where the San Francisco Giants won 5-1 represented a diminished, but refined and still capable Big Unit - 6 innings pitched, 2 hits allowed, 1 run [unearned], 2 walks and 2 strike outs.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Khalil Greene's fight for his Major League Baseball playing career

If we can judge professional athletes by what we see - there is a point where St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Khalil Greene has to suck it up and be a professional.

He has stunk up the joint through the beginning of the 2009 baseball season - and is now supposedly getting help for having some sort social anxiety disorder.

I feel strongly that average baseball fans identify more with Greene and show a lot of sympathy towards him, because he is the moppet who looks like a surfer dude - it isn't such a bad thing to show compassion, but someone is paying him millions to play a game and if he can't handle failure, he is in the wrong job.

If he didn't like the attention - he should be a librarian instead of a baseball player.

However, maybe Greene likes playing baseball because he is good at it - good enough to be a regular Major League shortstop for several years. Good enough to be sought after by one of the most historic franchises in baseball. He may not have lived up to the expectations, but he clearly had shown spurts of talent.

Playing baseball was the only thing keeping him sane - however the fact he can't go out and be left alone is really what is eating him up inside. The fact he has struggled so bad does the one thing he can't stand, which is being scrutinized by people whom he could probably care less about like the media and the fans.

He is under some scrutiny and maybe for the first time in a long time - is being held accountable for something he is not doing right in a game he loves.

It just seems kind of weird, you have guys like Ryan Braun, Dustin Pedroia and Evan Longoria, who are among the young stars in the game - they are baseball players first, but still have sort of the 'face' to present themselves to the media and to fans.

Then you have players like Greene, who have enjoyed some success, but somehow is really introverted and sort of aloof - I assume for him, the attention was 'bad enough' when he was having some sort of success or when he was even the star of his team in college.

But now he can't go out and just play the game.

Time will only tell if Greene can bounce back and hopefully he puts himself back together - so he regains the confidence to become a competent professional.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Random baseball card dream

In my dream, I had about $18 dollars of spending money for food but come across this box of cards [marked $2 each] at some card show - I figure I wouldn't find anything, but there was a Mike Piazza certified autograph card [it was an ugly card with a sticker auto, but it was still Piazza!], various patch cards and other cards which I wanted. I didn't know how much it was going to add up to or which cards I would regretfully have to leave behind.

In my dream there was at least a Jim Thome patch card I was thinking of picking up - among others that caught my eye.

I guess the closest these 'fantasy cards' would resemble are the cardboard jersey/bat displays - that come you can purchase at a retail shop like Walmart or Target i.e. like the one pictured, except the cards in my dream where horizontal and had multiple windows for several patch pieces.

As I flipped through the cards, I realized I was probably dreaming - there was a realization as this was too good to be true. No matter how I tried to prolong the experience of finding all these cards, when I woke up, they wouldn't be in my hands.