Friday, August 23, 2013

Unpossible Autograph Friday- Jack Harshman

A post on SportsCollectors.Net from yesterday mentioned that former Orioles pitcher, Jack Harshman passed away last Saturday. 

Jack was kind enough to sign two cards for me through the mail back in 2009. He kindly personalized both of them, which is awesome because it is always what I always request when I send TTMs. As you can see, his signature was really nice, and he even added different inscriptions on both cards.

I briefly wrote about Jack when I received these cards, but since that was nearly four years ago, I doubt that anyone will mind if I repeat myself a little bit. Jack pitched eight seasons in the Majors between 1952-60, spending a season and a half in Baltimore in 1958-59. In 1958, he had a 12-15 record, a 2.89 ERA to go along with 17(!) complete games, and received a few MVP votes for the effort. In 1959, he began the season 0-6 before being traded to the Red Sox.

He also managed to hit 6 home runs in 1958, which is pretty amazing for a pitcher. In fact, Jack hit 21 homers over his career, which is good enough for a tie for 10th most all-time for pitchers. You almost could call Jack a two way player. Not too shabby!

RIP Mr. Harshman, and thank you for having taken time to sign for your fans!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jake Looks Strange

So I tuned into the Nationals-Cubs game the other evening and who did I see pitching but former Oriole Jake Arrieta. It was the first time I had seen him in a Cubs uniform, and I have to admit that he looked slightly weird wearing another uniform, but that's life being an Orioles fan. I mean, I would venture a guess that at least half the teams in MLB have a former Oriole on their roster, so it's not that big of a thing. But it does give me a nice excuse to show off this awesome personalized autograph that Jake signed for me on my 2013 Spring Training trip that I had not shown here yet.

Thanks for signing Jake, and good luck in Chicago!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Oriole #960- Bud Norris

Wow, I'm finally caught up on my Orioles debut posts, for the moment at least. My posting over this summer has obviously been lacking, and at times, even calling it sporadic might have been a compliment. But the blog is still alive and kicking (or at least treading water). So your "favorite" source for everything related to Orioles autographs will continue to deliver "well-written" posts about signed pieces of cardboard for the foreseeable future! Rest easy, my friends.

Bud Norris, Oriole #960, Debuted August 1 vs. Astros

The trade that brought Bud Norris into town was definitely my favorite deal of the three that the Orioles swung prior to the trade deadline. While I think the Feldman and K-Rod trades both improved the club, this trade was the one that I think might be the difference between the team making the playoffs or just watching them on TV along with the rest of us. The trade was also an interesting one in that the Astros were playing the Orioles in Baltimore when it went down, so Bud only had to switch clubhouses at Camden Yards to join his new team.

Bud has pitched in the Majors with the Astros since 2009, and his W-L record isn't great but his ERA is very respectable, and let's face it, the 'Stros have pretty much been horrible throughout Bud's time with the team. While I wasn't thrilled to give up two local MD products and prospects in L.J. Hoes and Josh Hader, Bud isn't a free agent until 2016, so should be able to help the O's compete in coming years as well as this one.

To date, Bud has pitched in five games for the Orioles (four starts and one emergency late inning relief appearance), and has won three of his four starts while taking the hard luck loss in just the second appearance out of the 'pen in his MLB career. He has had the luxury of facing some relatively anemic offenses including the Astros, Padres, Giants, and Rockies, but I'm still a fan of his 3.91 ERA in an Orioles uniform.

Before I wrap this up, I want to pass along the story of how he earned the nickname "Bud". I heard this story earlier in the summer while he was still with the Astros but I thought it was pretty funny so it stuck in my mind. Anyway, his real name is David, but when he was a kid, he went out to dinner with his parents and some of their friends/family, and almost everyone at the table ordered a Bud(weiser) and so did he, apparently without anyone else paying attention or the waiter/waitress noticing he wasn't old enough to be drinking. So the server brought back everyone's drinks and before handing young David his beer, finally took note that he wasn't old enough to drink it. So from that day forth, he has been known as Bud. So there you go.

Good luck with the O's, Bud! You're the first Oriole that I'm aware of who is named after a beer, so regardless of how your time goes in Baltimore, you will always have that!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Oriole #959- Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez

Slowly, very slowly, I'm making my way through the list of players who have recently made their Orioles debuts. Up today is K-Rod.

Francisco Rodriguez, Oriole #959, Debuted July 25 against Royals

The Orioles swung a trade with the Brewers to add this four-time All-Star to their bullpen for the stretch run. The Birds traded away Nicky Delmonico, their #5 prospect, and 2011 6th round draft pick, to pry K-Rod away from the Brew Crew, so I certainly hope that he does something over the course of the last two months of the season to make the deal worthwhile for the O's. 

Things started out on the wrong foot for K-Rod and the Orioles as he gave up four home runs in his first four appearances for the team. Luckily, his five appearances since then have been free of homers, or any runs at all, and he has struck out nine while only giving up two hits.

After Jim Johnson's recent stretch of being absolutely horrible (did you know that he has blown 7 of 15 one run save chances this year?), it's entirely possible that K-Rod just might be the Orioles closer at least in the near future, if not for the remainder of the year. Since he was the Brewers closer before being traded, was 10-10 in saves this year, and has 304 career saves, I think he could do the job. Another thing to chew on is that K-Rod's 40 strikeouts on the year are just one fewer than Johnson's 41, in just over half the innings pitched. 

Good luck in Baltimore K-Rod! Oh, and it would be nice if the next time it's only me and one other person asking for your autograph, you might oblige us. It would certainly help a brotha out!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Oriole #958- Henry Urrutia

Last week, I began the process of catching up on recent Orioles debuts, but at this point, I'm almost further behind than when I began due to Bud Norris's debut. But I'm going to try to keep up with the ever-changing Orioles! Up today is Cuban rookie, Henry Urrutia.

Henry Urrutia #958, Debuted July 20 against Rangers

Henry's back-story is rather interesting as he was a star baseball player in Cuba, but I think we all know that Cubans are not allowed to leave their country to play baseball in the U.S.. So to pursue his dream of playing in the Major Leagues, he defected to Haiti in summer 2011 and the Orioles signed him to a contract. However, he ran into some issues establishing residency in Haiti and/or obtaining his visa to enter America, and was stuck in Haiti through most or all of 2012. (Disclaimer- I'm not familiar with how residency is established or the US Visa process.)

He finally obtained his visa and was able to join the Orioles at their minor league complex for Spring Training 2013. Unfortunately, he suffered some sort of injury that further delayed his progress, but he was around the team and kind enough to sign some autographs for me, on what were his only baseball cards at the time, my dad's old man cards.

Well, Henry got himself healthy quickly enough, and joined AA Bowie to start the 2013 season. Over 52 games with the Baysox, he hit .365 with 7 homers and 16 doubles before he was promoted to AAA Norfolk with much of the same success, hitting .367 over 15 games. He had shown enough to earn the promotion to Baltimore, and to date has appeared in 14 games and hit .279 over 43 at-bats. He has mainly served as the DH thus far in his Orioles career, and I believe the team would like him to work on his defense and base-running. But his bat seems to be the tool that will likely keep him at the MLB level, though he seems like more of a slap hitter than a power guy for now.

I wish Henry the best of luck with his Orioles career! He certainly surmounted many challenges to reach baseball's top level.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Oriole # 957- Jairo Asencio

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm in the process of trying to catch up on the Orioles who have debuted over the past month. Up next is Jairo Asencio, who was traded to the organization from the Brewers late in Spring Training 2013, of course after my autograph trip was already over, so I didn't have an autograph of his waiting to slide into my collection.

Jairo Asencio #957, Debuted July 12 against Blue Jays

OK, I will start with the most obvious question about this card/autograph that pictures someone named Luis Valdez. You might ask, what does this have to do with Jairo Asencio? Well, since Jairo is a relatively fringe MLB player, let me ask if you are familiar with the Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez fake name/age situation? If so, then just know that the same situation occurred here. If you still don't know what I'm talking about, here is a quick rundown.

In recent years, a number of baseball players from the Caribbean Islands (specifically the Dominican Republic) have signed contracts under fake names, generally to seem younger than they actually are to increase the bonus money they receive when they signed with an MLB organization. Well, MLB teams were being duped out of money with these deceptions, and the US Government doesn't generally approve of people entering America with falsified documentation. So there has been a crackdown on this in recent years, and while it still occurs, most of the offenders are generally found out at some point along the way.

So, essentially, Luis Valdez = Jairo Asencio.

"Luis" made his MLB debut in 2009 for the Braves before MLB discovered his name discrepancy in 2010. He missed the entire 2010 season as he got his paperwork straightened out, and has pitched under his actual name since 2011 for the Braves, Indians, Cubs, and now, Orioles.

Since this is an autograph blog, my interest in all this (and presumably yours as well) centers around Luis/Jairo's autograph. Assuming that both of these signatures are authentic, it seems like regardless of the name he doesn't have much going in terms of penmanship. The Valdez card up top is on its way to my collection while this Asencio signed photo is available on ebay.

It's honestly hard to say if he is more used to signing his name as Valdez or Asencio but from my standpoint, the Valdez signature seems more fluid, though it's hard to say when this Braves photo was signed. It could have been recently after his return to being Jairo, who knows? I hope to someday soon, have my own in-person autograph of his to add some additional insight to this discussion. I'm also a bit torn about whether having an autograph of "Luis" should be considered the same as having an autograph of Jairo, but I've come to the conclusion that if he signed it, I will include it in my collection, regardless of the name listed. 

But for now, Jairo is once again pitching for AAA Norfolk, after four appearances and a 7.71 ERA over his two week stint with the Orioles. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Oriole #956- Scott Feldman

Since I wrote my last Orioles debut post about Travis Ishikawa back in late June, five more players have made their Orioles debuts, three of whom were acquired in deals leading up to the trade deadline. Let me tell you, as a long-time O's fan, it's still feels strange to be on the receiving end of these types of trades. I'm much more used to the days when the team would ship out most of it's veterans at the end of July. Over the coming days, I'm going to write about each of the new players. 

 Scott Feldman Oriole #956, Debuted July 3 against White Sox

Back on July 2nd, the Orioles traded with the Cubs to acquire Feldman, and minor league catcher Steve Clevenger, in return for the long-struggling duo of Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. I feel like it was a smart idea to strike a deal before the starting pitcher trade market took shape and honestly, I don't feel like the O's had to give up very much to get Feldman. While both Arrieta and Strop have plenty of potential, they certainly weren't living up to it in Baltimore. 

Jake was one of the players I watched rise through the Orioles minor league system and I had high hopes for him, but he never seemed able to stay on top of the mental part of the game at the MLB level as attested to by his 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts) with the Orioles. And Strop was a nice guy who always seemed to have a smile on his face, but had become a relatively unusable member (7.25 ERA) of the 2013 'pen.

Over 5 starts thus far with the O's, Feldman has a 2-2 record and a 5.12 ERA, so I would like to see him step it up a bit, but I still feel like the move was an overall upgrade for the team. 

I'm aware that the logo is pictured on the card above, but it is the autograph of Feldman's that is in my collection for now, I just have not had the time to scan the card since it arrived at my house. There are a few certified autographs of Feldman out there, so his autograph is a relatively easy one to add to your Orioles autograph collection. 

And I know that this is small sample size, but in my first in-person autographing attempt to have Feldman sign one of my dad's Old Man Cards this past Sunday, he completely ignored the relatively small group of fans who were trying to get his autograph. I hope to have some better luck with him on my next attempt!