I went to Target today to get groceries, essentials, and things that were not baseball cards, so...you all shouldn't be too shocked that I ended up getting a hanger box of Heritage anyway. I can't not. It's still kinda fresh in my mind. This hanger box, as it happens, yielded some pretty nice stuff.
201- Martin Maldonado, a much better choice at catcher for the Angels.
219- Pedro Alvarez. I saw him take some Spring Training reps, as the O's don't have a ton of other full-time DH options.
220- Joe Mauer. Not a Hall of Famer, but a legend. Glad I nabbed a shirt of his.
Phillies Rookies- Jake Thompson and...sigh...Roman Quinn, the guy my dad kept insisting about during the Spring Training
252- Ender Inciarte, who'll probably do better given a slightly better Braves roster this year.
355- Anthony Rendon, finally back to his old tricks.
251- Victor Martinez. Tigers could really use a season like his 2014, though last year wasn't too bad.
40- Jordan Zimmerman. Interesting to see what he does with a full season in Detroit.
1770 Mets Rookies of...two guys who aren't terribly impressive.
381- Matt Carpenter, who's somehow moving to first this season.
163- Brett Wallace
95- Eduardo Escobar. Nabbed his autograph a week ago.
382- Red Sox team card
60- Carl Edwards Jr., Topps' favorite rookie from last year.
248- Peter Bourjos. I forget if anyone signed him this season.
New Age Performers of...DELLIN BETANCES! Hooray, it's someone I collect, and a Yankee at that.
410- Short Print of Anthony Rizzo, another awesome person I collect.
Annd...Clubhouse Collection GAME-USED of...Rougned Odor.
Say what you will about his right hook, but I'm pretty impressed with this one. He had a nice season last year, and it's better than a game-used of someone I've never heard of. Plus, the swatch is blue.
359- Sonny Gray, who A's fans are hoping can be healthy in 2017.
269- Michael Brantley, who INDIANS fans are hoping can be healthy in 2017.
75- Brandon Finnegan, one of the few good pitchers in Cincinnati.
265- ASG- Josh Donaldson. I still love these.
226- Jed Lowrie
340- Jose Ramirez. Indians just gave him a nice contract. Deserves it, too.
230- Adam Duvall
362- Mookie Betts ASG
244- Hanley Ramirez. He's still looking pretty impressive for Boston.
152- WS highlights- Kyle Schwarber's insane Game 2
356- Huston Street. Hoping for a fuller season from this guy
45- Scott Kazmir. Unsure of how much playing time he'll get this year.
15- Logan Morrison
92- RA DICKEY on the Braves. Great stuff.
82- Leonys Martin
Game used aside, this was still a pretty nice box, and I got a lot of nice stuff out of it.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Sunday, March 19, 2017
The middle portion of the trip was...well, that. Middling.
The Rays' Spring Training stadium is nice, but nowhere near as nice as the Twins'. It felt like a minor league field (and it was one in the offseason), and even if the Twins stadium was as well, the Twins' stadium felt a bit larger, with more going on. The Rays' was marketing to smaller part of the state, in Fort Charlotte. Additionally, there weren't any backfields or practice fields that were open to the public, like in the Twins' field, so there weren't any autographs to be had.
However, the one thing that made this game sort-of worth it, at least initially:
The pitching matchup between Justin Marks and Jerad Eickhoff...was exactly that, a pretty apt matchup. Marks only lasted a few innings, but the Rays bullpen helped him out a bit, as through eight innings the Rays were COMPLETELY dominating the Phillies, with perfection going for a while. My uncle was rooting for a perfect game, and I was rooting against seeing my Phillies humiliated.
My dad, on the other hand, had other rooting interests- he'd recently picked up the Phils' center fielder Roman Quinn in his local strat-o-matic league, and was rooting for him at every chance he got, with every insane catch in center and every hit that looked gone but ended up in someone's glove. Dad just kept singing the theme from 'The Mighty Quinn' the entire night. We all wanted to slap him by the end.
It was pretty painful to see the Phillies lineup so effete, so ineffective, to see Aaron Altherr, Cesar Hernandez and Cameron Rupp get blanked. Jerad Eickhoff was pitching well, but he was giving up runs, including a crucial home run to Corey Dickerson. Plus, our seats weren't as good as yesterday's, and while the game was indeed flying, it didn't have as many great moments as yesterday's.
Now, Philadelphia DID eventually get a hit, from personal favorite Tommy Joseph in the 8th, and we did get to see Pat Venditte fan some batters using both hands, but the Rays kept pounding, especially in the later innings when the starters were leaving.
Even though it was a nice day, and a pretty good pitching battle, it didn't feel as fulfilling as yesterday's on a number of levels. I did end up getting a pin from the gift shop, because I do that, but I don't have that much else to take away from this one.
Tomorrow, a much more exciting finale, at a stadium I never thought I'd attend, featuring a team I've already (reluctantly) rooted for on this trip, and one I root for willingly, duking it out.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Greetings, from Fort Myers, Florida.
I would have done an intro post for this trip like I usually do, some sort of 'hey, I'm gonna be hitting some Spring Training games this weekend' kind of number, but I was busy. Besides, you're smart people. You don't need a lead-up post. You want the real thing.
Today was the real thing. And I'm about to tell you why.
My uncle lives in Fort Myers, and for a few years my dad and I have been waiting for the right moment to come down for Spring Training. It's a matter of timing, scheduling, logistics, etc. Last year my schedule didn't match up, but my dad and uncle went to a few anyway. This year, it was my turn finally, and last night I touched down in Florida, meeting my dad at the airport, and ready to embark on three Spring Training adventures.
Today was Day #1, and...oh my gosh it's gonna be hard to follow.
(I'll preface the writeup by saying that last night, when I got in, my uncle gifted me with a baseball signed by two Red Sox organization members at the facility's open house- Deven Marrero and Josh Rutledge. He said the ball would last the rest of the trip, and any autograph could land on that ball, which was awfully nice of him.)
The thing about the Twins Spring Training stadium is that it's very simple, very cozy, and very relaxed. It doesn't need to be showy (like a stadium I'll be visiting in two days), but it does the trick, and it makes Twins fans happy. Driving into the lot, we passed a series of memorial street signs for the lots (Hrbek Drive, Gardenhire Way, Blyleven Curve, etc...), which let us know the hearts of the fans were in mind.
I came to the game in a Twins cap, as the opposing team was the Boston Red Sox, and I swore before the game that I wouldn't stoop to the level of rooting for them. Oh, how times were so simple pre-game..
Before the game, my father, my uncle and I went out to the nearby practice field, because you kind of have to in opportunities like these. It was very weird seeing Paul Molitor only a few feet away, standing behind the backstop glaring down the young guys taking BP. Baseball royalty, scratching his chin. Insanely eerie stuff. Eventually we went around and watched some of the minor leaguers practice, coached by someone we all assumed was David Eckstein. We also peered through the batting cages at someone taking extra BP, coached by someone teaching some bare-bones hitting stuff.
There was a moment where some players were exiting practice, signing some autographs. What the hell, I said. I may never be here again.
The tricky part about getting autographs from a team you're only sort-of familiar with is that you can't really yell out their names to get their attention. You just kind of have to weave through, get your hand in there and hope the guy signs it. The first guy that came out, did some signing...I had no clue who it was, but he looked like he enjoyed it, and he looked promising, so I gave him the ball to sign, and he did so gladly. My uncle told me afterwards that it was Eduardo Escobar. Not necessarily someone I collect, but a good enough player.
Eventually I found someone I did recognize.
Kyle Gibson was pretty nice- this was routine to him, but he at least asked me how I was doing. I forget whether or not he was taller than me, but he's pretty tall. He ended up signing the ball, and adding a Bible scripture underneath, which I, as someone who isn't necessarily the most religious chap in the room, could not for the life of me decipher.
He handed the ball back to me, I said 'hoping for a great season, man', and I walked off, having gotten an autograph from a legitimately good pitcher.
Our seats were pretty good. I'm gonna stress that before I get to a later part of this post. Our seats were on the third base side, relatively close, and we had a really nice view. I was not complaining. We got food, beverages, and sat down to have a nice time and root for the Twins.
The first inning was already pretty explosive- the Twins attacked Porcello, as Mauer had a well-equipped RBI, as well as Max Kepler having a really impressive hit to get some runs over. The team started with a 4-0 lead in the first. Kepler, however, was the one unlucky part of the inning- he knicked his thumb on a slide, and looked pretty pessimistic about it as he left the field.
I watched Ryan Vogelsong's pitching as a cynic, having never been a fan of him on the Giants (he was the Kyle Kendrick of that rotation). I left...even more of a cynic. Vogey has an incredibly slow delivery, most of his pitches were in the 70s and 80s, and only his control, which waned after a while, was worth mentioning. The guy wasn't looking great, and started to get battered down as the game went on.
Around the third inning...the unthinkable happened.
My uncle's veterinarian, the guy who got us the seats in the first place, came by (he's a friend of my uncle's, as my uncle has had several dogs and has probably singlehandedly paid for a wing of this guy's house), and asked us if we wanted to chill in his section for a little while. I had a vague idea of where the seats were, and figured that they'd at least be an upgrade from the already-great seats.
Well...it was indeed an upgrade:
...No, seriously. These were the seats we got for the rest of the game. Front row, directly behind the batter's box, and directly to the left of the Boston dugout. My dad was sitting right next to the dugout, and he could see John Farrell from two feet away. As the Red Sox batters got up to the batter's box, I could see them...insanely clearly.
If I had to pick a favorite...
As I was surrounded by Red Sox fans in our section, as well as being bordered by, well, THE ACTUAL RED SOX, I had no choice to, for the first time in my life, root for the Red Sox. Although, I did this while wearing a Twins cap, so I'm not exactly sure if it was too effective.
Somehow, as I began rooting for Boston, they came alive. Pablo Sandoval, whom we relentlessly cheered on (having done so in San Francisco a few years back), had an INSANE day, hitting two home runs, and getting back his career. A great deal of people, including Pedroia, Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley had some truly nice moments.
Meanwhile, we were right near Farrell, and the coaches, including Chili Davis, whom my dad thanked for some great moments in the Bronx, and Ruben Amaro Jr., who was having a nice conversation with the people behind us. My dad even asked one of the coaches who'd be pitching on Monday, when we'd be seeing Boston at their stadium. The answer- Kyle Kendrick. Irony.
After 7 innings, me, my dad and my uncle packed up and left. I managed to snag a Joe Mauer t-shirt, as well as a Joe Mauer pin (as I've been collecting a shit-ton of pins lately). We were tired, slightly dehydrated, and we felt insanely satisfied, after LITERALLY rubbing elbows with some Red Sox coaches.
So...that was day 1. I don't know what the final score was, but the Red Sox came back and absolutely killed the Twins.
Tomorrow is another game, and it's a little further, but it's worth it, as it's a rematch of one of the most important World Series match ups in recent history.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
David Dahl, Ian Desmond and Tom Murphy are all reeling from injuries, most of which are going to affect them from contributing until a bit later. One of these holes, like the one at 1st base, is easily fillable- Mark Reynolds, re-signed as a precaution, will probably take the starting corner job. Also, Gerardo Parra could be an extremely easy fill-in for Dahl, completing the Carlos Gonzalez-Charlie Blackmon anchored outfield. Parra is still a pretty solid outfield choice, even if he was being phased out over time last season.
In terms of catching, I'm not exactly sure how they're gonna work that one. Nick Hundley is gone, and there aren't a ton of options at backstop...as per usual this decade. There's the option of picking up Derek Norris, but some other team might get to him first. It's just not looking very clear.
It's a shame, because this Rockies team is just a few pieces away from contending. They just happen to be in the same division as the Dodgers and Giants, who are probably still going for 1st this year. These injuries might push them back a bit further.
With people like Trevor Story, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu on the roster, it won't be ALL bad, but it's gonna be very tough for the Rockies to be truly great in 2017.
Coming Tomorrow- Not sure if I'll have a custom for tomorrow, but I'll definitely be posting about a trip I'll be embarking on very, very soon.
Monday, March 13, 2017
I honestly didn't think we would be nearing this point back in 2013, during Yasiel Puig's rookie season. Things were so good then that this period of 'if Puig doesn't hit then he's basically done in the MLB' didn't seem like it'd be a reality.
Well...it's 2017, and last season was a bit of a down point for Puig, spending some time in the minors, and we're all at the point where we're wondering how much longer the Yasiel Puig show goes for. A few years ago he was the biggest star in the MLB, with people clamoring for his write-in inclusion on the All Star ballot, people snapping up rookie cards left and right, and the Dodgers shipping Matt Kemp out of town just to make room for his stardom.
Has he done exactly what the Dodgers have wanted him to? Well...his first two seasons were pretty great, with some great stuff in the hits, AVG and RBI categories, and some definite versatility. His last two seasons were plagued with injuries, slumps, controversy and drinking. It's getting to the point where Dodger fans are gonna have to pick which two years they're going to want to go by to watch him this season- the two good ones, or the two crap ones.
There's definitely ways Puig can improve, and there's a chance that 2017 could be the comeback season he's been waiting for...but at the same time, this may be Kosuke Fukudome 2.0...we just don't know yet.
The other thing is, the Dodgers aren't especially relying on Puig to be Mr. Chavez Ravine- they have Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and, uh...CLAYTON KERSHAW, to rake in ticket sales and make beautiful baseball happen. Puig or no Puig, the Dodgers are gonna contend in 2017. It's just a matter of whether or not the right Puig shows up to put them over the top.
A few different possibilities here, but it's open ended...because it's early.
Coming Tomorrow- Tampa Bay's lucky to have this guy.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
It didn't take Chris Sale a lot to become one of my favorite players.
He's around my height and build, and he throws fire. He was one of the best pitchers on the White Sox for a half-decade, he nearly won a Cy Young, and became one of the foremost strikeout artists in baseball. When I went to Comiskey, and around when I started my habit of nabbing a jersey-shirt from each of the stadiums I visited, I had to get a Chris Sale jersey. Nobody else made sense.
Well, this year, the exact thing I didn't want to happen to Chris Sale...happened to Chris Sale. Boston. Freaking Boston.
I'm not gonna hope that Sale doesn't have a great season- hell, that's the opposite of what I want. It's typical for Fenway to get the best of terrific left-handed arms, and I want Chris Sale to have an amazing season regardless of the different winds. I want him to outdo the cynics, even if we're probably looking at another case of 'would have been a Hall of Famer if he'd have stayed in Chicago'. I know it's a lot to hope for, but as someone who's rooted for Sale, it's valid.
I will say that a rotation starting with Porcello, Sale and Price will be pretty ferocious in the AL East, so much so that it's probably gonna be difficult for anyone else, especially the Yankees, to get a word in edgewise...THAT IS, if these three players are all healthy and hot this season. It's not a guarantee for the lefties (look at David Price's 2016), but it could happen.
I'm not exactly hoping for the Red Sox to go all the way, but I'm at least hoping Chris Sale can.
Coming Tomorrow- Someone who needs to make a comeback in 2017, or else me posting a custom of him in the first week is gonna seem rather foolish.
Thursday, March 9, 2017
To see a hero in his days of youth
Then see said hero grow into a star
Solidifies the hope, to tell the truth,
that said hero's reign will last quite far.
The accolades and merits shower through
The hope of a once-dead franchise returns
But when the new breed enters in there, too
The hero doesn't scorch the earth- he burns.
The fan base starts to think the legend's spent
As other heroes burst into the fold
As several wonder where the hero went
The others conclude simply-- 'he got old'.
But hope still holds--in Pittsburgh, very much--
For one last charge from their dear hero, Cutch.
2017 could be a big year for Andrew McCutchen, and as a fan from the beginning, I hope he comes back in a big way.
Coming Tomorrow- Another one of my favorite players, this one having suited up for one of my least-favorite teams.