The Highs and Lows of Graphing in One Day

When you collect in person autographs there many highs and lows. There is nothing better than when you get most, if not all, of the cards or items you wanted signed. You develop friendships with other graphers at the ballpark as you talk to kill time waiting for players.

On the other side there are low times where the freshly written autograph gets smeared. Or there are times where the player you’ve been patiently waiting for tells you, “after the game,” or a straight up “No.” There is no worse feeling than when the pen fails and the item is ruined.

Those who collect autographs have all been there. It’s all a part of the game. These are the things that will happen time and time again. You can only hope that there are more highs than there are lows.

On Wednesday, May 17th I experienced some really good highs, followed promptly by the lowest of lows. The Inland Empire 66ers were visiting the Stockton Ports. There are quite a few prospects on the 66ers that I wanted to get. Also, Rickey Henderson, who serves as a roving instructor for the Athletics Minor League System, was in town so there was a small chance of getting his auto as well.

When some of the 66ers started to come out, I noticed Matt Thaiss and asked him to come over. He was really great about it. As he came over he noticed one of the other grapher’s book had a couple cards of another player, Kyle Survance, Jr. Matt said, “Hey, you need Kyle? He’s right here. Kyle come over here.” This was the first time I ever had a player ask another player to come over and sign for us. That was a really cool experience.

I ended up getting all, but one or two of the players I was looking for, so it was a really good pre-game session. As I got back to my seat, I noticed that Rickey Henderson was signing for a few people. I had brought a card with me and as always a Major League Ball. In the last moment I decided to get the ball signed instead of the card. I hand the ball and to Rickey and he starts to sign it. Then the worst possible thing happens. The pen fails.

I was so heart broken. He got through his first name and the pen failed as he was signing his last name. I couldn’t believe my luck. This was the same pen that I used the last couple of days to get Jharel Cotton and Daniel Gossett on Major League Balls. When I got back to my seat, I promptly snapped the pen in half and threw it on the ground.

I have been an Oakland A’s fan since 1985. Rickey is a player I grew up watching. He is one of my all time favorites. To have this happen is heart breaking. I hope that one day I can get this ball replaced. I do have a a California League Ball signed by Rickey, so at least I have that.

At this point I have opted to not attach a picture of this ball. I might change my mind and post it later. If you do want to see a picture then comment below and I’ll likely post it.

2017 Spring Training TTMs Batch #1

So I sent out my first batch of Spring Training TTMs yesterday. For this batch I sent a total of 20 requests. 13 to Oakland Athletics, 2 to Houston Astros, 2 to Philadelphia Phillies, 1 to San Diego Padres, 1 to Minnesota Twins and 1 to Atlanta Braves. Quite a few of these players have a good track record for responses. A couple have no track record, so who knows if they’ll sign. Unlike last year, I’m not sending out a super long shot, like Mark McGwire. I took a chance and it didn’t work, but I only lost 1 card that I have a lot of so it’s not really a loss.

Here’s the breakdown:

Oakland Athletics
Sean Doolittle
Kendall Graveman
Jesse Hahn
Liam Hendriks
Ryan Dull
Jharel Cotton
Sean Manaea
Marcus Semien
Jaycob Brugman
Mark Canha
Jake Smolinski
Bruce Maxwell
Ryon Healy

Houston Astros
A.J. Reed
Kyle Tucker

Philadelphia Phillies
Pat Neshek
Matt Stairs

San Diego Padres
Travis Jankowski

Minnesota Twins
Hector Santiago

Atlanta Braves
Sean Newcomb

Sean Doolittle and Marcus Semien are very good at signing. I have received successes from Doolittle in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Semien in 2015 and 2016. 6 of the others on the list I have received successes from in the past. I hope to get a better success rate than what I had last year. 50 percent is a great return rate from active players, but I always hope for better.

Right now, I am planning a second Spring Training batch. I’m not sure how many I’ll send with this one. I’m always open to suggestions. So, if you know of some players with good track records, please comment below. I’m especially interested in guys who were in either the 2016 Topps Pro Debut or 2017 Topps, but I’m not limited to those.

2016 Spring Training TTM Returns

With the 2017 Spring Training getting under way (combined with my absence from this blog), I thought it would be a good time to recap my 2016 Spring Training TTM successes. Last year I sent 2 batches of TTMs to Spring Training camps. The first was on February 16th and included the following players:

Mark McGwire
Sean Doolittle
Stephen Vogt
Billy Burns
Mark Canha
Jed Lowrie
Renato Nunez
Kendall Graveman
Daniel Robertson
R.J. Alvarez
Jesse Hahn

The second batch was mailed on March 1st and included the following players:

Marcus Semien
Jesse Chavez
A.J. Reed
Eric Sogard
Joe Wendle
Chris Bassitt
Max Muncy
Ron Washington
Juan Samuel

In total I sent out 20 requests. To date, I have received back 10 successes. A 50% success rate. Not quite what I hoped. Here is the list again with the date I have received the success.

Mark McGwire (long shot, I know)
Sean Doolittle – March 7, 2016
Stephen Vogt
Billy Burns
Mark Canha – March 1, 2016
Jed Lowrie
Renato Nunez
Kendall Graveman
Daniel Robertson
R.J. Alvarez – March 18, 2016
Jesse Hahn – April 1, 2016
Marcus Semien – March 10, 2016
Jesse Chavez
A.J. Reed – April 4, 2016
Eric Sogard
Joe Wendle – June 24, 2016
Chris Bassitt – March 25, 2016
Max Muncy – March 10, 2016
Ron Washington
Juan Samuel – March 10, 2016

I will update this list should I receive any more returns.

In spite of only a 50% return rate (so far) I still plan to send out a bunch of Spring Training TTMs this year. I currently have a batch of 20 ready to go. This batch contains 13 A’s players, 2 Phillies, 2 Astros, 1 Padres, 1 Twins, 1 Braves, but those details are for another post.

Coming Back

For a while I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to continue this blog. It’s been almost a year since my last post. In that time I have met a lot of great people, mostly online through Twitter and Instagram, I’ve seen A LOT of baseball and I’ve had many amazing experiences.

I have decided that instead of using this blog for posting A’s and A’s related news, I am going to use it as a forum for my baseball experience, along with some life experiences thrown in.

I don’t know how often I’ll post. It will likely be inconsistent at best. I will try to write something at least once a week. A lot depends on my mood and if I have something to write about… who am I kidding, I have a lot to write about. It really depends on my mood, do I really feel like typing.

Here are a couple of pics from recent events and TTM returns that will serve as a prelude for some of my future posts. I hope you will enjoy!

Oakland A’s FanFest and a Curt Young game worn jersey I picked up at FanFest.

A couple of my favorite recent TTM successes. Storm Davis and Juan Gonzalez!

Spring Training TTM Batch No. 1 Ready

It’s that time of the year. Pitchers and Catchers start reporting this week and soon Spring Training will be in full swing. It is also the time where I send a couple of TTM batches to current Major and Minor Leaguers in hopes of getting their autographs on some cards.

This year my first batch is almost exclusively Oakland Athletics. Honestly this is no different than in years past. There is only one non-Athletics player and that is Daniel Robertson of the Tampa Bay Rays. As many know he was drafted by and played for the Athletics’ minor league system until he was traded prior to the 2015 season.

In the first batch there are 11 players/coaches that I am sending requests to. Usually my batches are in groups of 10, but I had a couple of extra stamps so I decided to add one more. 4 of these players are ones I have received TTM successes from in the past. 7 I have not sent to before. 1 of those 7 can be classified as “Why not? What’s the worst that could happen?” (i.e. Long Shot)

Here is the list of players in the first batch:

Sean Doolittle*
Stephen Vogt*
Billy Burns*
Mark Canha
Jed Lowrie*
Renato Nunez
Kendall Graveman
Daniel Robertson
R.J. Alvarez
Jesse Hahn

The Long Shot:
Mark McGwire

From time to time I see successes from Mark McGwire so I figured why not? What’s the worst that is going to happen? I lose 1 card. The potential reward far out weighs the risk.

*Received prior successes.

Card of the Week: Dennis Eckersley 2015 Topps Five Star

The Card of the Week for January 10-16, 2016 is the 2015 Topps Five Star Autograph of Dennis Eckersley. Eckersley was one of my 2 favorite pitchers to watch as a kid. The other being Dave Stewart. I began watching baseball in the mid-1980s, this was after Eckersley came to the Oakland Athletics and converted into one of the most dominant closers in the game.

Dennis Eckersley 2015 Topps Five Star Autograph

Dennis Eckersley 2015 Topps Five Star Autograph

Eckersley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. He is one of two pitchers with 20-win (1978) and 50-save (1992) seasons. Eckersely was selected to the All-Star game 6 times, 2 as a starter and 4 as a closer. He was also named MVP of the 1988 American League Championship Series, saving all 4 of Oakland’s victories against the Boston Red Sox.

His best season came in 1992 when he posted a 7-1 record, struck out 93 batters in 80 innings and saved a major league leading 51 games. That year Eckersley won the American League MVP and Cy Young Awards.

Fun Fact: In his 24 year career, Eckersley only pitched in the National League for 5 years, 3 as a starter and 2 as a reliever. As a starter for the Chicago Cubs (1984-86), Eckersley hit 3 home runs. 1 in 1985 and 2 in 1986. Not bad for a guy with only 181 career at bats.

Eckersley was clearly one of the most dominant pitchers in the game during the 1980s and 1990s. He was instrumental in the success of the Oakland Athletics in the late-1980s and early-1990s. Eckersley will always be one of my favorite pitchers.

Card(s) of the Week: Kendall Graveman 2015 Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch

The Card(s) of the Week for December 6-12th is the 2015 Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch of Kendall Graveman. Panini’s Immaculate Baseball set is quickly becoming one of my favorite high-end sets. Will I ever purchase a box of these cards? No. The $200 price tag for 6 total cards makes it unrealistic for me to purchase. However, I will purchase the cards I want off eBay.

Kendall Graveman Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch #24, 27 /49

Kendall Graveman Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch #24, 27 /49

The jumbo patch is beautifully done, taking up over two-thirds of the card’s surface. Both of these cards are number out of 49.

Graveman1207b

2015 Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch #24/49

Graveman1207c

2015 Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch #27/49

In his first season with the Athletics, Graveman was 6-9 with a 4.05 ERA over 21 starts. He is a young pitcher that shows flashes of promise. During the month of June, Graveman went 3-2 with a 1.93 ERA in 6 starts.  With an improved bullpen in 2016 many of Oakland’s starters should see improved stats over 2015.

This is the second card featured in the Card of the Week from Panini Immaculate. The first was the Shadowbox Signature of Kendall Graveman. Click here to see that post.

Ryan Madson Set to Sign With A’s on 3 Year Deal

Veteran reliever Ryan Madson and the Oakland Athletics have agreed to a 3 year deal worth $22 million. The deal is not yet official as it is pending a physical.

This move will make long strides in shoring up a miserable 2015 bullpen. Madson was 1-2 with a 2.13 in 68 games for the World-Series Champ Kansas City Royals. The true question mark is his health. Prior to 2015 Madson missed the 3 previous seasons with a variety of arm issues. Signing him to a 3 year deal could be a risk, but it can also be high reward as the Athletics lost 53 games in 2015 by 2 runs or less.

The bullpen in 2016 had already received a boost from from the Athletics front office in the off season. In addition to a healthy Sean Doolittle, who spent a lot of time on the disabled list in 2015. Last week the Athletics added another strong arm in Marc Rzepczynski in a deal that also brought Yonder Alonso from the San Diego Padres to the Athletics for Drew Pomeranz and prospect Jose Torres.  In late-November the Athletics acquired Liam Hendricks from the Toronto Blue Jays for Jesse Chavez.

MLB Winter Meetings On Deck

The 114th Annual MLB Winter Meetings are set to take place December 6-10, 2015 in Nashville. This is the time of years we major deals go down and some of the remaining top free agents sign contracts with teams. Executives from all 30 teams will be present, most ready to make deals.

The Oakland Athletics were very active during the meetings in 2014 making a total of 9 deals. This year Oakland will look to shore up it’s league worst bullpen. There are 2 slots they need to fill and there are a couple of good options in Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria of which Oakland could land one of these guys.

The Athletics will likely continue to shop Brett Lawrie and Danny Valencia. One of these players are expendable with the re-acquisition of Jed Lowrie. Lawrie is likely the one to be moved as he can bring a higher return than Valencia.

With the Winter Meetings upon us it is time for GMs to do some Christmas shopping for their teams.

Athletics get Jed Lowrie back

On Wednesday Jed Lowrie was traded by the Houston Astros to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Oakland’s number 30 prospect Brendan McCurry. Jed returns to the Athletics after signing a 3 year deal with the Astros after the 2014 season. He played in 290 games with Oakland during the 2013 and 2014 seasons and batted .271 with 74 doubles and 125 RBIs. In 2015 Jed was limited to 69 games with Houston.

The arrival of shortstop Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve at 2nd base, made Lowrie expendable in Houston. Barring any subsequent moves. in Oakland he will have the chance to platoon with Marcus Semien at shortstop, Brett Lawrie at second and Danny Valencia at third.

Brendan was drafted in the 22nd round of the June 2014 draft. In 2015 he split time with the Stockton Ports and Midland RockHounds. He posted a 1.86 ERA in 50 games, converting 27 out 28 save opportunities. McCurry was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this year and posted a 4.73 ERA in just over 13 innings. He was selected as the reliever on Oakland’s organizational All-Stars for the 2015 season.