Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Amos Otis TTM Success

Sent: 12/16/2019 | Received: 12/30/2019 | 14 days
2/2: 1975 Topps - [Base], 1981 Fleer Star Sticker
Address: Home (Palm Desert, CA) from SportsCollectors.Net
Marvel at those sideburns, gents.

Otis blossomed into one of the best outfielders of the decade after being dealt from the New York Mets to the Kansas City Royals before the 1970 season. Otis meshed with the team’s speed and defense philosophy and rewarded the Royals with All-Star nods in each of his first four seasons. He led the AL with 52 stolen bases in 1971. He won three Gold Gloves. Otis hit .478 with three home runs and seven runs batted in the 1980 World Series.

In a 17-season career, Otis posted a .277 batting average, with 193 home runs and 1,007 RBI in 1,998 games while stealing 341 bases. He twice led the league in doubles.

On the flip side of the coin, Otis later admitted to using a corked bat during his career.


Monday, December 30, 2019

Breaking 2019 Archives Signature Series – Retired Player Edition (x4)

My wife successfully got the word out this year; I’m back into card collecting. My parents and brother-in-law each gifted me two of this year’s Signature Series boxes.

I am well aware that these are rarely worth the money, but I love these as a gift; it’s the antidote to buyers’ remorse. They're game: slow reveal and guess the player based on the card design and other clues. They're a lottery ticket: however remote the possibility, you could pull something really good.

So… how’d I make out?

Box #1: Mike Lieberthal

I guessed this one straight away based on the year (2006), the team, and the top of the catcher’s helmet.

Lieberthal isn’t a world beater but is unfairly overlooked. His 1999 season was arguably the best ever for a Phillies catcher. He slashed .300/.363/.551 with 31 home runs and 96 RBI. He won the Gold Glove to boot.

Over his 14-year big league career, he compiled a .274 career batting average with 150 home runs and 610 RBI. He was a two-time All Star (1999, 2000). He caught Kevin Millwood’s no-hitter on April 27, 2003 versus the Giants.

Box #2: Rick Honeycutt

Another easy guess as a top-to-bottom reveal gave me year, design, and a southpaw.

Honeycutt pitched for six different teams over his 21-year career, though I tend to remember him best with the A’s where he pitched from 1987 to 1993 and won a World Series (’89). He gave up zero runs in the 1988 and 1990 post seasons.

Another two-time All Star (1980, 1983), had a 3.72 ERA for his career. In 1983, with Texas, he won the ERA title with a 2.42 mark.

Box #3: Jimmy Key

The best of the bunch so far. Jimmy Key was a five-time All-Star, won an ERA title, and finished second twice in the AL Cy Young voting. Not only that, but his was the first jersey that I owned.

After the Yankees settled for Key as a free agent from division-rival Toronto before the 1993 season, I was gifted a Key jersey. I remember wearing it in a K-Mart when a voice behind me said, “Jimmy Key? That guy sucks.” The dude that said it was middle aged. Why he was picking a fight with a 10-year-old is beyond me.

Anyways, Key was a reliable hurler for Toronto for nine seasons. I said “settled” above because Plan A was Greg Maddux. After losing out to the Braves, New York signed key and traded for Jim Abbott. Key was excellent over his first two seasons in New York (18-6 with 3.00 ERA in 1993, 17-4 with a 3.27 ERA in 1994), and less so over his last two seasons. That said, he bested Maddux in the deciding game of the 1996 World Series.

(Sorry for that Yankees-centric write up).

Box #4: Troy Percival

I’ll be honest: this one stumped me, even though Percival the most recent of the bunch.
Percival, of course, gained fame as the flame-throwing closer for the California/Anaheim Angels. He and young Francisco Rodriguez paired to lock down games in the Angels’ 2002 championship run (bouncing my Yankees en route).

Percival missed all of the 2006 season with a degenerative hip condition and a right forearm injury, but returned in 2007 with the Cardinals. He posted a 1.80 ERA over 49.2 innings. He’d finish his career with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Percival amassed 358 career saves and was a four-time All-Star.

There you have it. Four breaks. No Hall of Famers/no lottery wins, but again, I find these entertaining (and they were gifts).

Nick Anderson TTM Success

Sent: 12/10/2019 | Received: 12/30/2019 | 20 days
1/1: 2019 Topps Update - [Base]
Address: Home (Brainerd, MN) from SportsCollectors.Net
Nick Anderson split his rookie season between the Marlins and the Rays, traded at the deadline (along with Trevor Richards) in exchange for Jesús Sánchez and Ryne Stanek. Of course, like seemingly everything Tampa touches, he performed much better while playing meaningful games for a contender.

After joining the Rays, the 29-year-old Anderson posted a 2.11 ERA (and a sterling 0.656 WHIP) over 21.1 innings.

Anderson's journey has not smooth. In 2010, he was charged with driving drunk. A year later, he
served eight days in jail for alcohol-fueled felony assault charge in which he hit another person over the head with a baseball bat. Anderson was placed on probation and ordered to attend AA and anger management classes. He has since stayed out of trouble.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Stocking Stuffer: Curated Team Packs for the Kiddos (Red Sox Edition)

Yesterday I displayed – Show 'n Tell style – a stack of Yankees cards I stuffed in my son Luke's stocking this Christmas. Today, let's do the same thing with Nate, my younger boy, who like his mom aligns with the Red Sox.

Nate's a Mookie Betts fan, so let's start there...
Don't trade him Dombrowski.
More of Boston's young stars: Benintendi, Bogaerts and Devers.
Speaking as a Yankees fan, I hope Pedroia can get healthy enough for a proper send off. He's annoying as hell, and that hairline is ghastly, but he's earned the right to leave this game the on the field.
Nomar and Pedro - Mom's favorite players.
Ortiz and Manny - dudes gave me a lot of headaches.
Boggs, Clemens and Fisk. Seriously, how great is that Upper Deck Masterpiece card? I adore this set.
Teddy Ballgame and Yaz.
Mo Vaughn was the man. 'Tek and Youk.
Hodge podge.

On to "The Hits"...

As a 5-year-old, Nate gets a bigger kick out of relics than autographs. So a trio of jersey relics brought a smile to his face.

So that's that.

Tomorrow, I'll share a few things that I received this Christmas.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Stocking Stuffer: Curated Team Packs for the Kiddos (Yankees Edition)

For the third consecutive year, I put together little team packs to include in my sons’ Christmas stockings. They had a few fresh packs to tear open too, but I wanted to feed their Yankees and Red Sox binders.

I thought I’d share what I put together for them, starting with the Yankees fan – my eldest, Luke.

First, a hodge podge of current Yankees (pic above) – heavy on Aaron Judge, who now that Didi Gregorious has signed with the Phillies – is my man’s runaway favorite player.
Sabathia started his first live MLB game. We’ll miss CC. Luke was impressed he got a pinstripe on the relic card.
 My Yankees. A smattering of the guys I grew up with.

With the Captain.
A couple pretty good lefties.
Reggie and Thurman (I love that Upper Deck Masterpiece set, by the way).
The M&M Boys.
More legends (more UD Masterpiece).
The Babe.
And anticipating the next player collection in his binder, a Gerrit Cole jump start.

But what about the hits?

That's all. This was overshadowed a bit by his new Nintendo Switch, but we got these into his binder today. He was quite pleased. 

Hope everyone had a great holiday.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Steve Garvey TTM Success

Sent: 11/20/2019 Received: 12/23/2019 | 33 days
2/2: 2004 Fleer Greats of the Game, 1981 Fleer Star Sticker
Address: Home (Palm Desert, CAfrom SportsCollectors.Net

“Mr. Clean” returns two-of-two (at $5 per card). Whether or not Steve Garvey was in the 1981 Fleer Star Sticker set that I’m working, I’d have sent to the former NL MVP.

A career .294 hitter who notched 2,599 hits, 272 home runs and 1,308 across 19 seasons, Garvey is one of those fringe Hall of Fame candidates that we hear about seemingly every year (I don’t mind). In 15 years on the BBWAA ballot, he failed to reach the 75% threshold, maxing at 42.6% in 1995. He’s since been considered by the Expansion Era (2011, 2014) and Modern Baseball Era Committees (2018, 2020).

Garvey was the 1974 NL MVP, a two-time NLCS MVP (1978, 1984), a 10-time All-Star (twice winning All-Star Game MVP), and holds the NL record for consecutive games played (1,207).

He finished his career with five seasons with the Padres – San Diego has retired his #6 – though I struggle to think of him in anything but Dodger blue. He ranks among the all-time Los Angeles franchise leaders in hits (1,968; second), doubles (333; first), home runs (211; third), RBI (992; first) and games played (1,727; third)


Monday, December 23, 2019

Blaster Box Break: 2019 Topps Holiday

Last week I opened two pharmacy boxes noting that it was unlikely I’d get to tear into any new cards before Christmas. Well, I stopped in Walmart to pick up a few stocking stuffers, and lo and behold they had a couple boxes of Topps Holiday. I grabbed both: one for stocking stuffers and one as an early gift to myself.

Reader, you’ve no doubt seen the design already. I can’t express how much more I like this year’s design to previous versions, which never coaxed me into purchase.

I’ve heard the design described as tacky. Sure, in the same way that ugly Christmas sweaters are tacky. Whether or not they appeal to your sensibilities, there is certainly a market. I am unashamed to say, I am that market.

Having already resigned myself to a relic “hit,” I was hoping for one of the many fun short prints in the set.[Odds: SPs 1:7 packs, Rare 1:20, Super Rare: 1:161] So how’d I do?

Pack 1: Vladimir Guererro Jr. (rookie)
Alright, not a bad start. Nabbing one of the Big 4 rooks in pack one had me feeling nice and festive.

Also: Austin Meadows, Noah Syndergaard, C.C. Sabathia, Griffin Canning (R), Derek Dietrich, Charlie Blackmon, Stephen Strasburg, Tim Beckham, and Corbin Martin (R).

Pack 2: Nolan Arenado (metallic snowflake)
The metallic snowflakes are fine. Arenado is a fine subject. He’s not one of my player collections (yet) but could be. I do seem to pull his cards often.

Also: Anthony Rizzo, Nate Lowe (R), Kirby Yates, Yasmani Grandal, Max Scherzer, Josh Donaldson, Hunter Renfroe, Trevor Bauer, and Xander Bogaerts.

Pack 3: Aaron Judge
Not a particularly strong pack. Judge, I suppose, is the highlight.

Also: Khris Davis, Jon Duplantier, Thairo Estrada (R), Freddie Freeman, Nicky Lopez, Evan Longoria Zack Grienke, Josh Hader, Charlie Morton, and Jorge Soler.

Pack 4: Joc Pederson (relic)
There it is: the blaster’s hit. As expected, it’s a relic. As expected, it’s a player without a lot of appeal (to me). He did have a heck of a HR Derby though – going toe-to-toe with Guerrero – and slugging 68 home runs in a losing effort.

Also: Miguel Sano, Corey Seager, Ryan Pressly, Matt Chapman, DJ LeMahieu, Blake Snell, and Luis Arraez (R).

Pack 5: Felipe Vazquez (metallic snowflake)
Well that’s a real lump of coal. Vazquez’ inclusion in the set is… unfortunate. The Pirates’ All-Star hurler is facing multiple charges stemming from allegations of statutory sexual assault and other crimes.

Also: Tyler O'Neill, Justin Smoak, Shohei Ohtani, Giancarlo Stanton, Brendan Rogers (R), Max Kepler, Max Muncy, Masahiro Tanaka, and Wilson Contreras.

Pack 6: Fernando Tatis Jr. (short print – rookie)
There we go. Notice the garland on the fence in the background. It’s a short print. Tatis Jr. is a very worthy subject. Alright, hit of the break (so far).

Also: Ryne Harper (R), Aaron Nola, Javier Baez, Patrick Corbin, J.D. Hammer (R), Alex Verdugo, David Peralta, Josh Bell, and Jorge Alfaro.

Pack 7: Kevin Cron (metallic snowflake – rookie)
Meh. He does come from baseball stock though: his father, Chris Cron, played for the Angels and White Sox. His brother, C.J. Cron, has played for the Angels, Rays, and Twins. He’s a free agent. The Crons are cousins to former catcher Chad Moeller.

Also: Lorenzo Cain, Taylor Clarke (R), Jeff McNeil (R), Yoan Moncada, Scott Kingery, Joc Perderson, Dee Gordon, Mookie Betts, and Pedro Avila.

Pack 8: Francisco Mejia (metallic snowflake)
A former top prospect and presumptive part of the San Diego Padres future, Mejia just turned 24. He has a cannon for an arm. Could be a good one.

Also: Albert Pujols, Hyun-Jin Ryu, J.T. Realmuto, Luis Castillo, Tommy LaStella, Alex Bregman, Byron Buxton, Nick Anderson, and Eddie Rosario.

Pack 9: Eloy Jimenez (rookie)
Alright three rookies down (with all due to respect to the Senzels and Hiuras of the world) and one to go. 31 home runs as a 22 year old; that’s pretty good. It’s not Pete Alonso good, but good. Speaking of Alonso… on to the last pack.

Also: Clint Frazier, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Yastrzemski (R), Justin Verlander, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, Kyle Schwarber, Aroldis Chapman, and Pablo Sandoval.

Pack 10: George Springer (metallic snowflake)
(Imagine The Price is Right overbid sound effect). Three rookies but no Alonso. Darn. As a Yankees fan, I have a few strong feelings about the Astros these days. Of that lot, Springer is one of the more likeable heels.

Also: Harold Ramirez, Mitch Haniger, Hunter Dozier, Yasiel Puig, Bryan Reynolds (R), Michael Chavis (R), Paul Goldschmidt, Nick Senzel (R), and Hunter Pence.

And that’s that. I’m feeling the Christmas spirit. Bring it on (and with it, more cards).

Friday, December 20, 2019

Ron LeFlore TTM Success

I’m on a bit of a TTM cold streak of late. Today I received a RTS from Joe Torre and a note from someone connected to Casey Blake informing us that he’s stopped signing. So it goes.

So let’s look at another recent, but pre-blog TTM success…
Sent: 11/25/2019 Received: 12/3/2019 8 days
1/1: 1981 Fleer Star Sticker
Address: Home (Pinellas Park, FL) through PastPros.com         

Point of order: I haven’t yet seen One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story, a 1978 movie starring LeVar Burton. It’s on the 'To Do' list. As you might suspect of the subject of a made-for-TV movie, LeFlore’s story is a fascinating one.

A school dropout and heroin user, LeFlore was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for his January 1970 role in an armed robbery of a local bar (he was carrying a rifle). Incarcerated in April of that year, he gravitated to baseball in prison. A fellow inmate convinced a friend, who co-owned a Detroit bar frequented by sports celebrities, to speak to his good friend Tigers manager Billy Martin about LeFlore.

Martin visited the prison on May 23, 1973, then helped LeFlore get permission for day-parole to a tryout at Tiger Stadium. LeFlore impressed at his workout and was signed to a free-agent contract upon his release from prison – having served 3 ½ years.

LeFlore played six seasons with the Detroit Tigers before being traded to the Montreal Expos. He retired with the Chicago White Sox in 1982, a career .288 hitter with 455 steals in 1,099 MLB games.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

One Card: 1989 Score – [Base] #645 – Rookie Randy Johnson (PSA 9 Mint)

I’m going back to the well for my second entry in my “One Card” series. This time, I thought I’d select one of the few slabbed, graded cards in my collection.

I’m not a big graded card guy. I appreciate them, but I’ve never sought them out and I’ve never been motivated to pay the graded-card premium. The few that I have, are exclusively those that were priced to move. I picked up today’s card for $1.
Should I be embarrassed that my appreciation for Randy Johnson only materialized after the release of the movie Little Big League in 1994? I was eleven.

I knew of Randy Johnson. I had his infamous (and still hilarious) showdown with John Kruk in the 1993 All Star game. But I didn’t seek The Big Unit out at the card store until after Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr. denied 12-year-old Billy Heywood’s Twins in Game 163.

I’ve owned a 1989 Score Randy Johnson rookie since around that time. This slabbed version is a more recent addition. The card has been a favorite.

Partial to Score designs of the era – instantly recognizable, even if most are valueless – I’ve always liked the baseball field symbols at the bottom featuring team and position. The yellow “1989 Rookie” banner at the top leaves no doubt. And to boot, we’re treated to that aqua-colored uniform (and a fine action shot).

Too little is said of 1989 Score’s backs. What more can you ask for?
Head shot, vitals, stats and a write up. Upper Deck, eat your heart out.

I can’t imagine that anyone reading this blog or making it this far in the write up needs a summary of Johnson’s 22-year Hall of Fame career. Instead, a few notes on his 1989 rookie season.

Johnson struggled out of the gate for the Expos, with an 0-4 record and a 6.67 ERA through seven appearances. On May 25th he was dealt to the Mariners with Brian Holman and Gene Harris in exchange for All-Star pitcher Mark Langston and Mike Campbell.

With the M’s he would post a 4.40 ERA over 22 games. He would strike out 104 and walk 70 over 131 innings.

Johnson would serve notice to the league his potential in his sophomore season. On June 2, 1990, he tossed the Mariners’ first no-hit game, blanking the Tigers, 2-0, at the Kingdome. He was a five-time All-Star and a Cy Young winner while with Seattle, a huge part of transforming the franchise into a playoff team.

Of course, that was only the beginning. But more on that in another post. The Big Unit had a lot of cards.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

About that Max Muncy post...

Within these hobbies – card collecting and through-the-mail autograph collecting (I’m a member of both groups) – there’s a lot of discussion, and some very ugly takes on the following Max Muncy post:
That is an absurd amount of autograph requests. Somewhere in the stack of envelopes, there’s one from me.

A few quick thoughts:

Muncy is absolutely within his right to not sign from home. Since his post, many TTMers have taken a “disrespectful to his fans” view or have posted that Muncy is ungrateful. That’s nonsense. It only fuels the narrative that we’re entitled harassers.

TTM senders are not stalkers. The more popular sentiment is – in defense of Muncy – that mail to an athlete’s home is a gross violation of privacy; with some, like social media lunatic Aubrey Huff, going as far as to liken TTMers to stalkers.
I wouldn’t dream of harassing a famous face in public. And the senders didn’t have to shadily sleuth for Muncy’s address.

This was very avoidable. Most of that stack of fan mail – certainly my own – was sent because Muncy was responding to TTM requests to his home. If I had an athlete’s home address, but he didn’t reply to other TTMers, I would respect his clear desire not to be bothered and not send. But that’s not the case here: Muncy had been signing through the mail for a solid month after the season. My Twitter and Facebook feeds have showcased many successful returns.

That seems to me like a clear Opt In; an invitation to others. If Muncy doesn’t want to be bothered outside the stadium – as it’s his right – he can simply not reply to requests made to his home. Take Huff’s advise and toss them in the trash. TTMers will get the message.

(According to SCN, Huff too used to sign through the mail via his home).

This is why we can’t have nice things. Back to the Muncy’s original post… that is an absurd amount of requests.

I was excited when I saw Muncy returns coming back. It was an opportunity to get one of my favorite cards of 2019 signed.
Alas, we took advantage of a nice thing and ruined it. Even while Muncy was signing I see on SCN people sending 3+ cards. We bombarded him with an absurd number of requests. We deserve to lose him.

It’s unfortunate. I’ll have to replace that Muncy Stadium Club card. Then again, the first rule of TTMing is not to send anything you might not get back.

May I suggest a second rule: don’t abuse the athletes that make this hobby possible.