Monday, July 31, 2017

Goodbye and good luck to some great TTM signers

As someone who likes following prospects, it was a bit sad to see a few good ones go over the past couple of weeks as a . I’m also a realist and know that 1. You have to give something to get something and 2. These guys don’t always pan out. But still, that doesn’t make it easier.

Many of us had visions of James Kaprielian taking the hill in a big game for the Yankees, or Jorge Mateo swiping a crucial bag in a late inning. However, with the depth the Yankees have built in their farm system, and unexpectedly being in first place on July 31, the Yankees traded from areas of strength to improve the current team. Maybe it’s not fair to ever say it’s a surprise the Yankees are in first, but their “rebuild” is a little ahead of schedule when most figured 2018 and 2019 were when it would come to fruition.

Plus, outside of Todd Frazier, each piece the Yankees have acquired are under control to help those expected runs in 2018 and beyond.

However, there is no guarantee for the next season and beyond, and when your team is in first place on July 31, you do what you can to improve. The Yankees have done that, and only time will tell if it will work out or not.

Of the prospects the Yankees traded over the last week, six of them were past TTM signers for me.
I’ll still cherish these autographs, and certainly wish each player well in his new organization. I especially hope that Kaprielian and Fowler each come back 100% from their injuries. They are A+ dudes, and deserve successful careers.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

My useless knowledge game was strong as a 5-year-old

Gary Ward was one of those Yankee names I remember when I was really young.

I loved baseball at ages 4 and 5, and my family always showed me off to their friends by asking me to name players and who they played for. I didn't think it was anything special, but now having a 5-year-old myself who can only name Babe Ruth, Tino Martinez, Michael Jordan, and Donald Trump, I guess it must've been pretty cool that I knew Kirby Puckett was a Twin and that Vince Coleman was a Cardinal.

For the record, I could also name all of the game show hosts and NASCAR drivers at the time too. It was like a dog trick, with my parents constantly peppering me with questions to impress onlookers.

"Hey, AJ, who is the host of Press Your Luck? Hey AJ, who drives the Folgers #6 car?"

Anyhow, Gary Ward was one of those guys I remember liking, along with Mike Easler, Jack Clark, Mel Hall, etc. Sort of randomish players, especially for a 5-year-old. I don't remember much about them, but I remember knowing of them and pretending to be them playing tee ball in the backyard.

Anyhow, Gary Ward was nice enough to sign 5 cards for me TTM. I normally don't send that many, and I actually asked him to keep a few, but he kindly signed them all.
Cool success.

Now I just need autos of Peter Tomarken and Mark Martin to really bring it all full circle.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

TTM Success: Tony LaRussa

For some time now, Tony LaRussa has been a terrific TTM signer. I finally stopped being lazy and sent him a request, as it's not every day you can add an autograph of a HOFer to your collection.

I'm sure I have more, but this is the only card I could find at that time, so it did the job.

LaRussa signed and returned this card in just 8 days c/o the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

When the back outshines the front

Having purchased probably a dozen or so Topps NOW cards this year, a pattern I'm seeing is that the back of the card tends to outshine the front.

I'm not just talking about the refractor-like shine on the backs that I previously wrote about.

I mean the actual photos on the back tend to be a lot more fun and playful, while the fronts are often very similar to previous issues.

Most of my Aaron Judge cards look the same. Here's an example of four from this year.
By and large, not a ton of differences, right? All taken from 1B side facing him. All swinging. Most cropped around the knees.

Yet, here is the back of one of the images (the Judge on the upper right, if you're wondering):
Hmmm. That would have looked pretty cool on the front of the card.

Yesterday, I received my second Topps NOW Clint Frazier card. Here is the first.
And here is the second.
Again, fairly similar. Not 100% the same - road uniform vs home uniform, night vs day, but overall, not drastically different. Yet, here is the back of the second card, which celebrates Frazier's first career walk-off homer.
Now that's pretty awesome. (and I'm impressed with the cool way that the refractor shine scanned)

I'd be totally fine if more of these moments, often which are moments of celebration, were featured on the card versus the actual swing or follow through. In some instances, it's entirely appropriate. In others, give the card some more personality.

This is in no way a jab at Topps. I really like Topps NOW and think it's been a fun addition to the hobby over the last two years. I just wish they'd take the creative license to step outside the box a little more, as I certainly remember Frazier's joyous celebration more than than the actual swing itself.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Chistmas in July from Jolly Johnny

You guys make me wonder sometimes.

Where on earth do you get all of your cards?

Guys like Wes and Johnny have a seemingly endless supply of what I collect. I know that can’t be true, but there are definitely some bloggers out there who swirl in a sea of cardboard mystery.

John of Johnny’s Trading Spot hits me up about once a month these days…definitely faster than I can return packages to him. This one was labeled “Christmas in July” in a note he included. Indeed it was!
The first half of the package was nothing but Tinos. Like I mentioned, where does one stumble upon so many cards of the guy I collect? There were some neat ones too, like some old school Fleer Ultra inserts.

The second half of the team bag – prospects!
These ones made me a little sad. I didn’t load up on Blake Rutherford cards yet, so his trade to the White Sox didn’t break my heart from a collecting standpoint. Still, I liked him a lot, but do think it was a fair trade.
Chance Adams is a guy I don’t understand what the Yankees have planned for him. He’s really good, and comes in at #63 on’s top prospects. Yet, the Yankees keeps saying he needs more development time. I get it. They know a lot more about baseball and their prospects than I ever coyld. But from afar, I don’t understand why they are running our Caleb Smith or Luis Cessa every fifth day. Surely a still-developing Adams is better than those guys. I suppose they want to set him up for success down the road, but it’s hard for me to accept that he can’t give a better effort than the current #5 starters.
Wilkerman! I’m officially going to stop sending him TTM requests. I think I’m 0 for 3 on him. Time to just sit on cards of his now instead of sending them into the abyss.
Zippy Zappy favorite Thairo Estrada! He’s so overlooked, but just keeps producing. He’s hitting .308 as a 21-year-old in AA. He’s got a shot.
Nick Solak is a solid prospect too. He produced in college at Louisville and has carried it right into the pro’s. It feels like he should be ticketed for Trenton at some point, although there is a bit of a log jam there.
Lastly, new cards of Gleyber and Frazier! I didn’t have either of these.  Frazier is a lot of fun to watch every night. Jokes were made about his “legendary bat speed”, but he seriously does have impressive bat skills, even to my untrained eye. And it’s crazy to think of the trickle-down effect that Gleyber’s injury had on the Yankees. If everything went according to plan, there is a very real chance he would be the Yankees starting 3B right now. But things never go according to plan, especially with prospects.

Johnny, thanks for the early Christmas present!

Monday, July 24, 2017

A night with the New Jersey Jackels

A few weeks ago, I found out that there was an independent league team that played just minutes from my house. The New Jersey Jackals, playing in Little Falls, NJ are part of the Can-Am League. Their stadium is called “Yogi Berra Stadium” and is located on Montclair State’s campus.

I felt kind of dumb that there was pro baseball so close (not counting, you know, both NY MLB teams, Staten Island, and Brooklyn). But this is REALLY close. Like 10-minute car ride, close.

On Friday I checked the schedule and noticed that there was a 6:05 game on Saturday, and that the game would be followed by fireworks. Having missed our town’s July 4th fireworks while on vacation, I decided we should take the kids to the game and fireworks show.

Plus, it was Star Wars night and they were handing out light sabers. I admittedly know absolutely nothing about Star Wars, but my son thinks it’s cool, so that was a bonus. He wore the “Darth Gator” shirt I got him in New Orleans.

I decided to rely on buying walk-up tickets, which was a mistake. The line was really long. It was actually quicker for me to buy tickets online (while in line!) and then go grab them from will call. Ahhh, attending baseball games in 2017.

Upon entering, you get a great view of the field before walking down the steps. Each kid got a lightsaber, so they were really excited. My 3-year-old daughter saw a storm trooper and got really scared.

The stadium is kind of charming, nestled against a hill and right behind the Yogi Berra Museum (which I have’t been too womp womp). The field itself looked a little raggedy, but I get it. An independent league team likely doesn’t have the budget for top notch field care. It wasn’t bad, just not as pristine as you see at other pro ball parks. 
We found some bleacher seats down the third baseline and settled in. We had assigned seats, but it was pretty empty where we were, so we had plenty of space for the kids to move around. 
One downside, and I’m not sure if it’s just because it was a busy game with the promotional night, but the concessions lines were crazy long. It look me about 30 minutes of waiting to return with food and drinks, and I missed a chunk of the first inning. The prices were too bad, for stadium concessions. Not great, but not terrible.

The team wore Star Wars jerseys that were to later be auctioned off, which were cool looking.
As for the baseball, yikes. I don’t want to complain too much. These guys are still playing pro ball, and good for them. Many are former MLB draft picks, and a few players on New Jersey even spent some time in The Show, including Johnny Hellweg (Brewers).

The biggest issue for me is how long the game took. I can’t imagine how boring it might have been for kids, although luckily they had their lightsabers and duels were breaking out all over the park. The pitchers just couldn’t throw strikes. All game. And with the threat of rain, I was really worried the kids wouldn’t see fireworks.

It did rain a little, but all in all, the fireworks came after a four-hour, nine-inning game. That’s simply too much. Not sure if they need to do less promotions between innings or cut games to seven innings or what, but holy crap, four hours for a nine inning Can-Am league game is painful. I’m not sure if this is the norm, or just the result of a sloppy, high-scoring game. I hope it’s the latter.

All-in-all, it was fun to go to a ball game and give the kids something different to do on a weekend night. Neither showed much interest in the game, although my son did enjoy really high pop flies. They did have fun dancing and watching the various ballpark antics, including Jack the Jackal mascot. I see no reason why we wouldn’t make this a yearly visit to the park.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A pair of call-ups

It’s been crazy to see the amount of Yankees who have made their Big League debuts this year. Overall, the number stands at 11 different players making their MLB debuts. Some, like Clint Frazier, are top prospects, while others, such as Gio Gallegos, are more roster filler or were needed out of necessity.
Frazier came up right after Dustin Fowler’s injury, and looks to be a fixture in the lineup from here on out, despite what Brian Cashman says. He’s hitting for power and providing a nice energy spark. He’s also wearing #77 now, which is pretty rad.
Miguel Andujar played only one game for the Yankees. He came up, tore the cover off the ball and went 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs, and was sent back down after the game. He’ll be back, but it’s gotta be a tough pill to swallow to get the call, perform, then immediately be sent back down.

Both player’s successful debuts earned them Topps NOW Call-up cards for their performances. I snagged them from the same seller for the same price that it would cost to normally purchase one of these.

I hope Frazier provides many more Topps NOW moments this summer, and I really want to see Andujar back sooner than later.