Sunday, November 30, 2008

Home stretch

My apologies for the complete lack of posts in the past week. Thanksgiving vacation started a bit earlier than anticipated. Sometimes, life gets in the way.

But I'm back and ready for the home stretch of 2008! New stuff tomorrow (Monday, if you're keeping track) for sure.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

1992 Upper Deck

As part of a project for my other site, I've purchased a few boxes of unopened packs in search of Darryl Strawberry cards. But after opening a few packs, I realize that these cards are bad. Really bad. So what better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon than sharing the results of a pack from 1992 Upper Deck? I won't post every single pack I open, but from time to time a pack might be too bad to pass up. Lets start with the first one:



I'm glad Upper Deck went with an exciting new design for 1992, and they chose one that seems to have aged well. I still think it's a nice looking set, with color photos on both the front and back. Collector's Holograms are always nice; everybody loves futuristic technology on a piece of cardboard. "Random sequencing" seems odd to point out. Was there ever a time when cards weren't randomly sequenced in packs? And would it even really matter? The tamper resistant pack is nice; I can be assured that all of my packs are unsearched. I'd happily pay extra for that kind of security! And they're counterfeit deterrent, too. Just in case somebody felt like making copies of those fancy team checklists, I guess. Though counterfeiting a '92 Upper Deck card would be like faking a $1 bill: not worth the effort.

Now for some the highlights... let's see if I can find a Williams! (2,500 Ted Williams autographs are randomly inserted in packs, which is a ton by today's standards. Unfortunately, approximately three bazillion sets of '92 Upper Deck were produced, so the odds are against me.)



A drawing of Shawon Dunston. Kinda cool, except turn the card over and you realize it's a team checklist in disguise. Not cool.



Sweet, a Griffey! Too bad it's not the younger, more talented one. I really liked those old Mariners caps.



Let's see what Upper Deck wrote about this Kurt Miller character on the back:

The Oakland Athletics considered Miller a better prospect than Todd Van Poppel, but Miller was already drafted when Oakland's first pick came in the '90 draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates took Miller with the fifth overall pick, and he went 3-2 with a 3.29 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 65.2 innings for Class A Welland. Last season, he had a 6-7 record despite having a only a 2.50 ERA in 21 starts for Class A Augusta, fanning 103 batters in 115.1 innings. Towards the end of the '91 season, Miller joined a growing list of talented Pirates prospects who have been traded when Pittsburgh traded him to Texas for Steve Buechele. Miller, an exceptionally hard thrower, will arrive in Arlington soon. "He has a perfect delivery," one scout said. "The only way he's going to hurt his arm is if he's run over by a semi."

If I'd read 16 years ago that Miller was going to be better than the great Todd Van Poppel, I definitely would've put this card in a plastic holder. But he must've gotten run over by a semi, because I've never heard of him.



Calderon's haircut is the sole reason baseball never worked in Montreal.



Remember Albert Belle? Heh...

Well, this pack sucked. I'd put them all back in and try to resell it for nickel, but it's impossible. Damn tamper resistant packs...

Friday, November 21, 2008

The end of an era


Though admittedly not an era many people cared about. World #2 LPGA golfer - and one of the best of all time - Annika Sorenstam finished the final tournament of her storied career by missing the cut at the ADT Championship.

A bit anticlimactic, eh?

Sorenstam has made it known for the past six month that she planned on retiring at the end of the 2008 LPGA season to pursue business interests (re: cashing in on endorsements) and to get married and start a family.

Sorenstam has won 72 times in her career.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One game playoff? How about one day?!


Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff has an idea to shorten baseball's ever-expanding season... shorten the play-offs. Not a horrific idea at first glance; maybe he means do away with the excessive amount of travel days, or shorten the time between two series, right?

Wrong.

Wolff's idea is insane: Make the first round, the divisional series, a best of one. As in, winner take all. Hmmm...

I'm not so sure this is the best idea. People have actually been clamoring for a longer first round, making it best of seven like the League Championship series. And there are other ways to help the season end earlier, like shortening spring training.

But in these days of fan interaction, I've got a better to create excitement in baseball's post-season that'll rival college basketball's March Madness. Hear me out...

We've already taken any credibility out of the All-Star game by letting fans vote for the starters, so why not keep that going in October? Rather than play all 162 games, why not play just a couple months, for fun, and let the fans vote for the eight teams they want to see in the playoffs? And forget actually playing the games... B-O-R-I-N-G! The first round of the playoffs will be a home run derby! Each of the eight playoff teams will be represented by one player with the top two "teams" making the World Series. Yeah!

But of course, this will make the nine inning final showdown, the World Series itself, seem slow and anticlimactic. So we'll take a cue from 2008's series: a three inning game!

This level of excitement will put baseball back in to the undisputed role of America's Pastime. TV ratings will be sky high, and best of all, they could knock the entire post season out in one day! The season would finish by the time the hot summer months roll around and nobody likes going to games anyway.

Maybe Lew Wolff is on to something...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The price of success


It has happened for years. "It" being raising ticket prices before each new season, especially after one in which the team in question wins a championship, or at least competes in one.

And why should the Rays handle their success any differently that every other team always has?

Yeah, the Tampa Bay Rays are raising ticket prices $1-$5 each, including $16 starting prices for what they're calling "prime" games (i.e. the Yankees or Red Sox, I'm assuming) and entry level fees of $13 for key giveaway days or post-game concerts.

Usually I can understand the concept of raising ticket prices. Championship titles create increased interest levels in a team, which generally mean more people want to pay for a ticket. It's supply vs. demand at its most basic. But I can't say I agree with the Rays decision in this case.

Sure, they made the post-season for the first time ever, making it all the way to the World Series. But not only was 2008 their first post-season appearance, it was their first everwinning season since their inception in 1998. Why can't they string together another winning season or two before asking the fans to pay a little more for admission?

Speaking of fans...

They hardly had any before August of last year, and broadcasts were embarrassing to watch. Other than a few sections around the infield, the seats were mostly empty. And it's not as if the stadium itself sells tickets (a la Wrigley Field or Camden Yards). Catwalks under the ceiling are in play, wreaking havoc on outfielders. It's a mess.

And even though the Rays are reportedly looking to increase their payroll to the $50 million range, they certainly aren't struggling to write paychecks. As a small market team who struggles to fill seats as it is, mixed with today's struggling economy and financial hardship for Americans everywhere, I think the Rays are out of line here.

Repeat as champs of the AL East, and we'll talk.

15 Minutes


I know that plugging a computer with a 110v power supply into a 220v outlet will create magic smoke… I know that the Last Accessed time on a Macintosh computer’s Trash Bin is updated when a USB drive is attached… And I know that the attribute identifier for the Standard Information Attribute in a Master File Table record is 10 00 00 00. Why do I know these things? Because it’s my job… It is what I’ve done for most of every day since I turned 24 (which is about 8 years), and as a professional in my field it is expected that I know these things. Well, Eagle QB Donovan McNabb is in his 10th year as a professional in the NFL but is evidently still learning his job.

The Eagles-Bengals game on Sunday ended in a 13-13 tie, pursuant to a rule that has been in effect in the NFL since 1974; Sunday’s game marked the 17th time since the rule’s implementation that an NFL regular season game has ended in a tie (3 of which involved the Eagles – albeit before McNabb’s tenure). But, this is not newsworthy… What is newsworthy is what McNabb said in the postgame press conference: ``I never even knew that that was in the rulebook,'' he said. ``It's part of the rules, and we have to go with it. I was looking forward to the next opportunity to get out there and try to drive to win the game.''

In a league where the QB is the undisputed field general and leader of his team, and where we evaluate so much of a QB’s greatness on how he leads his team in the final period (see Favre or Elway or Montana), McNabb really dropped the proverbial ball on this one. Donovan… YOU ONLY GET 15 MINUTES! You are the QB of a team fighting for its playoff life in one of the best divisions in football with only a handful of games left to go and YOU ONLY GET 15 MINUTES! McNabb’s statement implied that he did not feel a sense of urgency when he was out on the field trying to skipper his offense to get at least within field goal range. I know you’re supposed to play every play the same way, with a sense of ferocity and determination that comes from that ultimate desire to be the best. However, I am realistic enough to know that is a utopian ideal and not reality, AND I am smart enough to know that when the game is on the line and the pressure is on, great players make plays. I think McNabb is a great player… So why he was ignorant of the fact that his playoff hopes could all but disappear if he failed to help his team score in the 15 minutes allotted for overtime and did not rise to that greatness, I do not know.

When all is said and done, despite the fact that his ignorance directly contributed to the Eagles failing to get a “W” on Sunday, his worst mistake was admitting it.

-RP

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good news, bad news

I'll start with the good. Jay Howell obliged my autograph request and returned my '92 Topps card with a nice looking autograph. Must've been a while since he'd receieved any requests; it looks like the marker didn't work well with the "J". Howell was a three time All-Star, which I didn't even realize until two seconds ago when I looked him up on Baseball Reference. He also won a World Series with the 1988 Dodgers.



Unfortunately, Lou Piniella was not as accommodating as Howell. It's technically not my first "failure", since the card I sent to Mark Leiter was returned because a bad address. But "REFUSED BY ADDRESSEE"? Ouch, how degrading! I've decided that he has become my least favorite current manager. Take that, Lou!

I've heard that Lou is hit-or-miss with requests, so perhaps I'll refuse his refusal and send the card right back to him.



Another success and an unfortunate failure. Oh well. I've got addresses and reported successes from Arnold Palmer, which would be neat, and also one for Anna Kournikova. Any ideas what I could send for her to sign?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Breaking Down the DH


This article appeared on ESPN.com today, based on an interview Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz gave to Boston's WEEI radio. There's nothing noteworthy in it; he pretty much just states that he "knew" Manny Ramirez was on his way out of Boston (who didn't?).

Read it, it really just states the obvious: Manny didn't like Boston and he wanted out. But the twisted, unorganized and difficult to understand quotes make for some interesting reading, if not a mid-day brain teaser.

"The Manny situation was a tough situation for the team, for us the teammates, for him as a player. He was trying to get to be out, everybody knows, it's not news, for the past few years and it was something that it was getting worse and worse and worse every year."

So it was a tough situation for the team, and the teammates? And Manny himself? Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but doesn't "teammates" cover all the bases? Nice to know from an insider that the Manny situation was getting "worse and worse and worse" with each passing year. They're must've been some serious tension in the clubhouse if Ortiz felt the need to say "worse" three times.

And thanks for reiterating that this is not news and that nobody should be listening to you or reading the article. ESPN should've just cut it off right there.

Ortiz also told Manny to "...pull yourself together and start getting connected with the media because that's how you express your feelings and people get to know more and Manny's good things, that people don't know about Manny."

I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around the end of that sentence, but I think he's telling Manny to be nice to people, because then you get offers to endorse anything and everything.

And then this, when asked about Ramirez quitting on the Sox last season: "Well, to tell you the truth, it was something going down between the Red Sox and Manny Ramirez that I can never really break that down for you because there's some personal reasons that he has with our owners and I never got to the bottom of it, and [he's] got his feelings. You know, Manny was, he got to the point that he really wanted to get to play for someone else."

Seems like a polite way of saying, "Yeah, he quit."

But my favorite line: "...the media is our family."

Nice! I'm kinda sorta media, so I'll be asking cousin Papi for tickets the next time the Red Sox travel to Anaheim.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Off season project, Another 'graph!


Other than Mike Mussina and possibly Lou Piniella, Sparky Anderson is arguably the biggest name of the cards I've sent out for signatures (though I've acquired more addresses in the past week). And looky here, ol' Sparky returned my 1992 Topps card, making him the second former player/manager to respond to my request. He's in the Hall of Fame - as a manager - so he's got that going for him, which is nice.

It's a bit sloppy, almost as if Sparky wasn't paying attention to how small the baseball card was. Or maybe the card slipped on the table he had it on, which would explain the odd slope of his name. Oh well, at least I managed to find a use for one of those dreaded manager cards.

Unfortunately, I've also gotten my first "return to sender" from Mark Leiter. Not that he was anything special, but he's from Toms River, New Jersey, the same town where my mom is from. I thought it'd be a neat autograph to secure, but I guess it wasn't meant to be.

I've received a third autograph as well, so stay tuned!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse


Ryan Leaf, considered by many to be the biggest NFL bust of all time, has hit a new low.

He failed miserably with the San Diego Chargers, lasting just two years before one last shot with the Dallas Cowboys before being run out of the league. Today, he has been asked to leave Division 2 West Texas A&M University where he has held positions as both the quarterbacks coach and the golf coach.

No idea why they'd hire him to coach their QBs, most likely a publicity thing I'd guess, or perhaps a favor. But that's besides the point...

Leaf has been relieved of his duties after asking one of his players for a painkiller.

Since this is resulting in the termination of his job, it had to have been something stronger than a simple, over-the-counter pill, don't ya think? Leaf obviously has questionable decision making skills on the field, but who knew he had those same problems off the field as well? Even if it the request for pain killers was actually related to an NFL injury (which he claims, as reported here), there were better ways to go about getting them. Surely Leaf was on West Texas A&M's full time payroll, so he had to have had health benefits. Any reasonable person would go straight to an actual doctor for a solution, not a D2 quarterback.

That's how I'd handle it, anyway.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Success!


That was quick. I received my first autograph back in the mail yesterday, this particular one of Gregg Olson; more on him in a minute.

Although I've just begun this project, I've been enjoying it immensely. I know that Gregg Olson's signature (or the other autograph I've already received) doesn't mean much to the average collector. While he was once a first round pick, I know that his career eventually ended without much fanfare, just like many hot prospects before (and after) him. But writing brief index card notes thanking the players for their time brought me back to the days of being a little kid, writing to every address I could find, telling each athlete how they were my "favorite player" and that I'd "love to add their autograph to my collection." And thinking back, I only received one, a signed photo of Don Mattingly. I probably would've had more success if I included something to sign, or at least a self-addressed stamped envelope, but someone with the Yankees had Mattingly sign a picture and paid for the postage themselves (no big deal to them, I guess!). Very cool, especially to a seven year old.

Anyway...

Check out the scan above for my Gregg Olson hand-signed 1992 Topps #350. Some fun notes about Olson:

* He registered a save in a no-hitter (7/31/91)
* He was the first reliever to win the AL Rookie of the Year award (1989)
* He intentionally walked Barry Bonds with the bases loaded (5/28/98, with the Diamondbacks)
* He is a card carrying member of the Orioles Hall of Fame
* His only major league hit was a home run.

Stay tuned for more updates... and thanks, Gregg!