Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The end of my Big Mike collection

One thing I failed to do on this blog was announce the end of my Michael Pineda collection.

In December, Pineda quietly signed a 2 year, $10 million deal with the Minnesota Twins. He won't pitch in 2018 due to recovering from Tommy John surgery.

While I continued to collect Tino Martinez after he moved on from the Yankees, I knew Pineda would never have the same fate.

I started collecting him following the 2011 trade that brought him to the Yankees for Jesus Montero. I never intended on making him a main focus guy, but I picked up 20 or so Pinedas after the trade. Figuring he might one day be the ace of the Yankees, I started casually picking up a few more of his cards, all with the Mariners.

Of course, he didn't pitch for the Yankees until 2014 due to missing 2012 and 2013 with injuries.

In the time, his card prices plummeted so heavily - from rookies to autographs to relics - that it almost became a game for me to pick up premium card of him for low prices.
When he came back in 2014, he looked incredibly strong, and I looked like a genius. His card prices on eBay started to pick up steam again. I'll never forget the gem he pitched against the Cubs on 4/16/14, the day my daughter was born. I watched the Yankees in the hospital that day, as they had a double header. Pineda and Tanaka dominated the Cubbies all day long.
But then Pineda had the famous pine tar incident, and got hurt, and then spent a few more years never quite living up to his potential. He showed flashes, like his 16-K performance against Baltimore in 2015. But really, he just never could put it all together.

He pitched his final game for the Yankees on July 5, 2017 against Toronto. It was then announced he needed surgery and would be lost for the season. It was poor timing for him, as he was due to be a free agent. The injury cost him a lot of money. Or maybe not given this ridiculous free agent freeze.

It also effectively ended my pursuit of his cards. With the exciting team the Yankees have on the field now, my attention (and funds!) are better served focusing on the current players and prospects.

I built up one of the finest Pineda collections out there, that I'm certain of. I'm proud of it. I have many of you to thank for that. And I'll still keep it tucked away together in a shoe box. There's nothing else to do with it. No market for it. And I'll still appreciate new Pinedas sent my way, but I'm not going to go out of my way to build upon my 159-card collection of his.
Good luck, Big Mike. It was a pleasure. Sometimes.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

TTM Success: Louuuuuu

Being a big tough guy writing a "how to" article on TTMs yesterday, I needed to back up that talk with a nice success.

I did just that yesterday, as a nice little SASE was waiting for me when I got home from work.

The contents inside? This beauty:
One of baseball's greatest personalities, Lou Piniella! I have wanted an autograph of Lou for a long time, and I saw a nice run of successes recently from him for a $5 fee. While I don't always send to players/legends who require fees, I felt like $5 for Lou was certainly worth it.

I have a bunch of Yankee cards of Piniella, and I'm not quite sure what prompted me to send this card. I have a really nice 1977 Topps I considered sending, but I don't love autographs that coexist with a pre-printed facsimile. Although the '76 is an extreme close-up, I still really like it.

Thanks to Sweet Lou for this excellent addition to my collection!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Sending a TTM autograph request

This is a post I featured in September of 2016. The last few days I've seen a lot of chatter on Twitter about sending out spring training autograph requests, and inevitably there are a few who comment about how to do it.

Please note everyone has their own technique, and this is what works for me. If there's something you do that I don't, that's cool. I've been doing this since I was a kid and this is my preferred method.

I'm also significantly cutting back on the number I send out this spring. Over the past few years, my success rate has drastically decreased, even for some of the lesser known players. That's not to discourage anyone, but rather just share a trend that many TTMers have seen over the past four or five years.

So with that, here is my previously featured post on how to send a through the mail (TTM) autograph request:
I know that others have written about this exact topic, but figured I should have a post like this on my blog as well.

There seems to be more and more card bloggers getting into Though The Mail (TTM) autograph collecting. Being perhaps my favorite part of collecting, I love seeing this. As a result, it's also piquing the interest of other collectors who are less familiar with TTM autograph collecting.

This post will serve as a quick 'how to' in terms of sending an autograph request for a signed card. Other collectors often send photos, baseballs, jerseys, and other memorabilia, but I'll stick to what I know: baseball cards.

Before I get started, a few rules of thumb:
1. Don't send anything you can't afford to lose.
2. Try not to be too greedy. Sending a couple of cards is ok, but keep it within reason. If you do want to send a few, offer to let the player keep a couple for himself or to give to family and friends. Some will take you up on it, some will not.
3. You'll be surprised what you can find with a few minutes of Googling - player signing habits, forums to discuss successes, home addresses, etc.
4. Be realistic. For the most part, major stars will probably not sign due to volume of mail. That's not to say don't take a chance. You never know. I've just found that I am more successful with lesser known players, minor leaguers, and retired players.
5. Be patient! It's worth it.

Now that that is out of the way, here is a quick and easy way to send out a TTM request.

What you'll need:
- 2 envelopes (I prefer a #10 envelope and a #6 envelope)
- 2 Forever stamps
- paper
- pen
- baseball card

That's it! Pretty easy, eh?

Step 1 - The Letter
Write your letter of request (LOR). I prefer to hand-write mine, but I know plenty of people who type their letter. To me, hand-written feels more sincere. However, if you have poor penmanship, by all means type it so it's easier for the player.

Some players will read letters, some will not. I always try to include a personal anecdote or a question or two. Once in a while, a player will send a nice note back or answer you question(s). Minor leaguers are pretty good about answering questions.

Sample letter:
Dear Mr. Player,
My name is AJ and I am a big fan of yours. I was lucky enough to see you while you played in Double-A Trenton. It's fantastic to see you in the big leagues now, and I wish you continued success.

If you have time, can you please autograph my card? It would be an honor to add it to my collection. Thank you for your time, and best of luck this season.


That is a general formula I used, but personalize to each player, of course. I try to keep it short knowing the player is busy.

Step 2 - The Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE)
This is crucial and a must. Do not skip this step. The player has better things to do than address an envelope back to you and find a stamp. Save him the hassle.

Don't forget the stamp!

Tip 1: I always include my address as both the "To" and "From" section of the SASE to ensure it gets back to me no matter what.
Tip 2: Use a peel and stick, self-adhering envelope. The player will appreciate not having to lick your envelope.

Step 3 - Package everything nicely
Don't just throw everything into the envelope. Put some care into it. This is how I package my card:
A. Fold the letter nicely
B. Tuck card(s) into the letter
C. Fold the SASE in half
D. Tuck letter with cards in folded envelope
Tip: I prefer to send my cards unprotected. I assume players don't want to fidget with a top loader. I also avoid penny sleeves. A long time ago, Ralph Houk signed my sleeve and not my card. I never made that mistake again. More often than not, the cards return in fine condition.

Step 4 - Address the envelope
If you are sending to a player in care of (c/o) his team, here is the proper way to address the request:

Mr. Babe Ruth
c/o New York Yankees
Yankee Stadium
E 161st St. and River Ave
Bronx, NY 10451

If you are sending to a player's home address, obviously skip the team name.

Step 5 - Seal and send
Tuck the neat package from Step 3 into the envelope, seal it up, send it off, and wait patiently.
I also recommend keeping a simple spreadsheet of who you send to, date sent, date received, success/failure, and any other info of note. You'll appreciate this more over time as you send out more and more requests. It'll help you see your success rate and how long you waited on a particular request to come back.

There you have it. It's easy, fun, and rewarding. Whether you are a seasoned veteran, or trying this out for the first time, I wish you the best of luck!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Organizational progress

Since blogging started for me in 2011, I've moved from New York City's Upper East Side to Hoboken to a rental in my current town to purchasing right here in Essex County, NJ.

As a result, my collection has been on the move multiple times, boxed up and never really finding a permanent place until now.

The one drawback to the house we purchased is that there isn't really an office or room for a man cave. I always wanted one, but it wasn't necessarily a "must-have" on our checklist when looking at houses. The real estate market here in the Jersey burbs is super competitive, and a house that checks off every box just isn't realistic, especially when within a certain budget.

What my house did have is a "finished" attic. I say "finished" because it was probably finished about 40 years ago, complete with ugly yellowish/orange carpet that still resides in there today. There is also an unfinished portion good for storage of Christmas decorations and old baby clothes, and a bathroom with a cast iron tub that must weigh a few tons. Seriously, that thing is never moving, at least not whole.

I did manage to carve out a small corner of the finished part of the attic for my card collection. While it'll never be the perfect spot and someplace to chill, there's no reason I can't use it to be more organized, especially for a place to quickly store cards coming in and going out. I admittedly fell behind the eight ball when sorting, and as a result, cards piled up and it became unwelcome and daunting.

While far from done, I'm on the right track. Here is everything in December:
And here is everything as of last night:
See? Still a ways to go, but much more manageable. And I now have a process for anything unsorted that I can get to a box at a time versus just being so overwhelmed that I don't do anything.

And how ugly is that carpet? Gross. But on the list of things the house still needs, this isn't even close to the top.

Eventually I hope to get a desk in there, and maybe even a TV to watch some games while sorting. For now, I'm happy with the progress!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

1,000 is so far off

While I always thought I'd get to 1,000 unique Tino Martinez cards, now I'm not so sure.

According to Trading Card Database, there are 2,246 Tino cards out there. I'm not sure how accurate that is or not, but 1,000 out of the 2,246 seem daunting.

My collection growth has really slowed because it's just not easy to find them anymore. I do regular eBay searches for new ones, but many left for me are very high end or rare. Otherwise, it's dupe after dupe.

So when one shows up for a buck with free shipping, I pounce. It's especially satisfying when it's a semi-rare numbered card. In this instance, a 2002 Fleer Platinum Parallel #'d to 202. This marks Tino #832 for me.
It's an unremarkable card from an unremarkable set, but it's another inch closer to 1,000. Maybe I'll get there one day.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Cardboard roulette (h/t BWTP)

Matt over at Bob Walk The Plank recently showed a few cards from higher-end products he's picked up for well below the cost of that pack or box. In this case, he was talking about Archives Signature.

It's basically cardboard roulette, Matt says. And I agree. Most of the time, collectors pay top dollar for these higher end products, and then the non-mojo SiCk hItZ end up on eBay for a fraction of the cost of the product.

A small portion of collectors certainly must pull great cards, but the others? Well they list Dellin Betances cards like this for dirt cheap:
This set me back a whole $2, including shipping. It's from Topps Tier One, a product that costs $100 per pack for 3 cards - 2 autographs and a relic.

So like Matt, I'm happy to let other people pay premium prices, and then reap the (cheap) benefits when the cards they don't want hit eBay.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Get in gear

I remember LA Gear’s LA Lights shoes were pretty cool when I was a kid. I mean, they lit up. Literally. With actual lights. Admittedly, I never owned a pair. Even at an early age, I was a Nike/Reebok/Adidas guy. While I can’t say I’ve owned a pair of Reeboks in at least 20 years, I’m still a strong Nike supporter. Occasionally I rock some Adidas too, like the pair of Originals NMD-C2sI just got for Christmas.

So while friend-by-friend showed up to elementary school in their new LA Lights, I rocked my original Reebok Pumps, Adidas Samba Classics, or Nike Airs.

That didn’t stop me from appreciating the LA Gear signed photo that Karl Malone sent me, however.
He was one of my first TTM successes as a kid, and I’m happy to say I still have the photo to this day.

Malone was in the middle of a Hall of Fame career, so it was a big deal to get it back. It was actually part of a school project where we wrote letters to athletes, celebrities, national brands, and local companies in hope for a response and possibly some free stuff (although that wasn’t the point). I think we each had to write three letters, focusing on letter format and penmanship.

I remember some kids getting free samples of Kool-Aid back, while others got McDonald’s Happy Meal coupons. I know I was feeling left out, then one day, bam, The Mailman delivered…literally.

I can’t remember who else I might have sent a letter to, but I think experiences like this early in my childhood are why I’m still sending out TTM requests to players today. It brings back fond childhood memories, just like this.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Blockbuster Move! Yankees get Henderson!

One unexpectedly fun part of the tall task at better organizing my collection is coming across cards I either forgot I had or had no recollection of having to begin with.

I feel like that's sort of the problem, actually. I have so much I don't even know what I have. While fun to stumble upon old new cards, I should have a better grasp and not be surprised by what I resides in the depths of my collection.

Tucked away in some shoe box (literally a Nike shoe box) with a bunch of Danny Tartabull cards was a team bag with two Rickey Henderson cards.
The first was a manurelic from 2012 Topps Update Blockbusters. I actually liked this insert set as a whole, especially the Ichiro card. I do have conscious memories of Henderson as a Yankees player. I would have been ages 2-6 while he was in Pinstripes, so I assume I remember him in 1988 and 1989 as a 5 and 6 year old at the tail-end of his Yankee career. Of course, he would go on to play 16 more years!

Simply put, he was a beast in NY, as he was most other places. The Yankees had him for his theoretical prime years from age 26-30. In that first year in NY, he hit .314 with 24 HRs, a .419 OBP, and 80 steals. He put up a 9.9 WAR! I'd say that's a blockbuster move that worked out well. Sadly (for me), his teams in NY went no where and he didn't appear in one playoff game for the Yankees.
The second card is pretty cool from the amazing inaugural Topps Finest set. I think it's only right that Rickey was an A while this set was featured.

I'm sure I'll find even more treasures as I continue my quest for organization.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Prospects will break your heart

Yesterday, Baseball America released their pre-season Top 100 prospect list. Despite graduating guys like Clint Frazier to the Big Leagues and trading away James Kaprielian, Dustin Fowler, Jorge Guzman, and Jorge Mateo, the Yankees still landed six prospects in the top 100:

6. SS Gleyber Torres
38. OF Estevan Florial
41. LHP Justus Sheffield
59. 3B Miguel Andujar
77. RHP Albert Abreu
81. RHP Chance Adams

What’s interesting here is that at least four of them could help the Yankees in 2018 (Torres, Sheffield, Andujar, and Adams), while Florial and Abreu are a little further off.

As exciting as that is, it’s hard not to be reminded that prospects will, without fail, break your heart. I’d love for each of the six guys mentioned above to be All-Stars, but that’s just now how life in baseball works. If the Yankees get one All-Star (Torres?) and a few solid major league contributors from this list, it’s successful. Heck, one All-Star alone is successful.

That’s not to poo poo on these guys or rain on their parades. I hope they all develop into something. But looking back over the course of this blog from its start in 2011, I can count handfuls of guys I was excited about. Looking back, it’s hard to image that excitement now.

Each of these guys were highly regarded at one point or another, especially through the early stages of this blog. Some were probably built up a little too much as a result of a poor farm system for a few years.

That’s not to say any of these guys are bad players. They just didn’t make it (or haven’t yet), like many others who came before them. Montero was huge prospect ranked right alongside Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Banuelos was the little lefty that could that ran into injury problems. Mason Williams had a few cups of coffee. Bichette came out of the gates strong but never could replicate that early success. Refsnyder hit in the minors but never got regular opportunities in the Majors.

It seems like forever ago that these guys were the next big thing, and I’m curious what I’ll be writing about the six guys on this year's Top 100 list in another six years.