Friday, March 29, 2013

Unpossible Autograph Friday Sadly Returns

With the news that two former Orioles passed away this past week (Gus Triandos passed away yesterday, and Lou Sleater on Monday), I am unfortunately reviving my "Unpossible Autograph" feature to highlight the former Orioles who have passed on.

Triandos was far and away the better remembered player of these two, both in Baltimore and nationwide. If you click his name at the top of this post, you can see the write up I did about him back in 2011. And here is an excellent eulogy written by Joe Posnanski, and after reading that, I won't try to top it since it does such a great job of remembering Gus. 

Here is a quote (that I found on Core Contrarian's blog) that sums up how Gus felt about getting older: "I think I'm mildewing. Whoever said that getting old is beautiful was full of it." RIP Gus, you were a funny man. 

I don't know too much about former pitcher Lou Sleater, and what I do know you can find out if you check out his linked name at the top. I do know that Lou was a great TTM signer, and it's great to know that he appreciated his fans. RIP Lou.

I will also say that both of these former O's passing away within a few days of each other is driving home to me that I should be sending out more TTM requests to many of the guys who I would still like to add personalized autographs of to my collection. They certainly aren't getting any younger, and both of these guys  were great signers for many years. I really appreciate that they took their time to sign so many items for so many people, I just wish that I hadn't been so lazy as to not send them something myself.

To briefly explain the misspelled/made up title of these weekly posts: Every Friday, I profile a former Oriole who has passed away. I've substituted the word unpossible for impossible as an homage to a line from "The Simpsons". Young Ralph Wiggum, who is not very smart, says "Me fail English? That's unpossible." 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring Training Success

I'm back from my Spring Training trip, and I had an absolute blast. I got in some quality time with my parents and in-laws, and got to watch three Orioles games. Oh and I got some autographs. 

Including a few signatures from the one man whose name I needed to scratch off of my need list, Mr. Luis Ayala. The funny thing is that I didn't get Luis's signature until my last two times of getting autographs and I was becoming mildly concerned that I would go home without getting him to sign one of his new Orioles cards. But those worries were all for naught and I came home with three Ayala signatures on O's cards.

My grand total for the week was 276 autographs of Orioles and O's minor leaguers, including a high of 97 in a single morning spent at the minor league complex. Unfortunately, I have yet to scan any of my new autographs, but I hope to begin the process tonight. At my recent rate of getting my blog things taken care of, the process could take months. But I do plan to show off the signatures I got over the coming days/weeks.

A big thank you to my mom and dad for putting up with my autograph-collecting junky self and even helping me to obtain some of those signatures. Thanks for everything guys!

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Few Upgrades

I've spent this past week in Sarasota, spending time with my family, watching some Orioles Spring Training games, and getting as many autographs as humanly possible. So I'll make this quick.

I've recently been able to add a couple personalized upgrades to my collection via some Chris Potter signings. Chris is based in the Baltimore area and consistently sets up signings with a number of former Orioles players, which has allowed me to get some players who don't typically sign TTM to add my name to their signature.

Most recently, former pitchers Dick Drago and Roger Nelson personalized their Orioles Crown cards for me.

Also, one of my fellow Orioles autograph collectors and frequent trade partner, Russell, hooked me up with his custom Wally Westlake Orioles card in a trade. It's certainly an upgrade over Wally's "Orioles" Crown card that pictures him in a Pirates uniform and goes to show that the producers of that set could have done a better job picturing all of the players in O's uniforms if they had done some more digging. But it did come out in 1991, before we had the luxury of the internet, so I'll give them that.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Additions to the Orioles Coaches Collection

As I've mentioned in the past, my Orioles' Managers & Coaches autograph collection takes a backseat to my O's player autograph collection, and rightfully so. The players collection is what started this all, and the managers & coaches collection came along as an afterthought, a logical one, but an afterthought nonetheless.

That being said, it doesn't mean that I completely neglect my mini-collection, and I still keep my eyes peeled for any of the remaining autographs I need for it. I'm pretty much down to the nitty gritty with it, so additions are rather rare these days. But every now and then, something comes along.

And I'm pretty excited about this first addition as I have been searching for one of these for a few years now, after foolishly neglecting to bid on one that sold for just a few dollars probably two years ago.

At times like these, I sometimes say to myself, how many other people out there can really want and/or need a signed Ralph Rowe Orioles postcard? I know that there can't be many of us around. After all, he never played in an MLB game, and that typically will significantly decrease the market for one's autograph. He did coach eight seasons in the majors (four each for the Twins (1972-75) & O's (1981-84)) so I guess that the other people in the market for his autograph are largely collecting coaches just like I am. Also, he passed away in 1996, so that also makes his autograph harder to track down at this point.

And while I didn't quite get this one for the $3 range that the last one that I saw sold for, I believe I got this delivered for under $15, which isn't too shabby. If you're in the market for that kind of thing, anyway.

Next up are a few signed cards that I was able to add in trades. I already had signed Orioles postcards of both of these guys, but generally like to have a signed card as well if it's available. Some may call that overkill, but I collect how I collect. What can I say?

Greg Biagini kind of holds a special place in my household, as Kalina gave me her signed O's postcard of his for my collection, and we both enjoy saying his last name (be-a-genie). Fun, right? 

During the middle of a long-time MiLB managing career, he served as the Orioles hitting coach from 1992-94 under Johnny Oates. Sadly, he passed away from kidney cancer in 2003, when he was just 51 years old.

Last up, we have Tom Trebelhorn, who was recently somewhat back in the spotlight as he is a coach for Team Italy in the WBC  and that squad had a bit of a Cinderella run during this year's tournament before being eliminated earlier this week. Tom was a long-time Orioles coach from 2001-07.

I'm not really sure where this card came from or what it is, but it certainly seems to be his only Orioles "card". My guess is that this was included in some sort of magazine or program over the years, but I can't say for sure.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

An Interview with former Oriole, Tom Patton

A few years back, I sent a TTM request to Tom Patton, a former catcher who appeared in just a single MLB game (for the 1957 Orioles) during his professional career. If you don't feeling like clicking on the link and searching for my autograph of Tom, here it is:

And along with the autograph, he included this nice note:

So I decided to write him back and ask him a few questions about his time around the Orioles team. I don't really recall when I sent the letter to him, but I received it back sometime over the past few months while I was in the process of moving, so that also means that I don't honestly know exactly when it made it back to me. Anyway, he was nice enough to not only answer my questions but also included this cool signed picture along with his responses. 

Without further ado, here is my "interview" with Tom...(I apologize for my sorry penmanship. But it is what it is.)

And there you have it. In retrospect, I wish I had asked a few more/different questions, and maybe I'll get around to that one day. So check back here in 2018 for part two of this interview!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Knocking a Few Players Off

Of my need list, of course. At this point in my Orioles autograph collection, I think it registers as a minor miracle (in my warped view of life anyway) anytime that I'm able to scratch another name off of my list. The fact that I've been able to knock two of my needs off in recent weeks is truly remarkable. I now am searching for just 21 upgrades to "complete" my collection, including two players who were included in the 2012 Topps Update set that I'm hoping to have taken care of before the season starts.

I wrote about Luis back in November, and at that time, I had a signed copy of one of his Padres cards in my collection. I have been searching for a signed copy of this Orioles Crown card, the only card that pictures him as an "Oriole" (were there seriously no pictures of him wearing an Orioles uniform?!?). Luckily, I was able to get in on a signing with him on SportsCollectors.Net recently, and was even able to get my card personalized, just how I like it. Although, I can't make out his inscription, and am pretty sure it's in Spanish, which makes this card a very unique member of my collection. 

Ah, Ronny Paulino, who seemed so opposed to signing autographs last season. (He was one of the very few players who have ever shut me down in a one on one situation at the stadium, made even more confusing as all he seemed to be doing was sauntering down the foul line.) And the reports I got from a few friends from AAA Norfolk (where he spent a large chunk of the season) didn't indicate that he possibly ever picked up a pen all season long. When I saw that Topps was including him in the '12 Update set, I wasn't pleased, and doubted that I would ever be able to get one signed. Luckily, one of the graphers who works in the Dominican during the off-season sold off a few of these on ebay and I happily snatched one up. At least it's in my collection now, and he is pictured rocking the orange uni to boot.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finally Some New Scans (Super-Delayed FanFest Autographs!)

As some of you may know, I've recently moved, and that has dropped my autograph collection near the bottom of my list of things to do. I barely touched a baseball card for a month, which is likely some sort of modern-day record for me. Add that to the fact that I also purchased a new scanner recently and it equals a major delay in getting anything scanned around here. So without further ado, here are some of the new(ish) autographs in my collection.

I'm going to start with some autographs that fellow collectors helped me out with at Orioles FanFest, which was almost two months ago at this point.

As a reminder, I purchased a number of autograph station tickets for FanFest, and got everyone that I really wanted/needed. But there were a few other players who I could use upgrades for but couldn't justify purchasing a ticket just for that reason, so a few fellow collectors helped me out.

I'll start out with the only one of the group who has actually played for the O's to this point, Lew Ford, who kindly signed and personalized one of my dad's cards for me. He signed it at a great place and the autograph really pops.

Next up is current O's batting coach, Jim Presley. I had his autograph on an Orioles postcard, but have had zero luck getting him to personalize one, which is always easier at signings like this one.

It's hard to say if the rest of these guys will ever appear in a game for the Orioles (they remind me of Matt Antonelli and Jai Miller at last year's FanFest who both signed Orioles postcards for me that don't have a place in my collection at this point since they never made it to Baltimore). 

McFarland, being a Rule 5 pick will have to stay on the 25 man roster all season, and after a rocky start to his spring, that seems unlikely, but who knows? 

Trayvon Robinson was removed from the O's 40-man roster shortly after FanFest, so he is also a long-shot to play in Baltimore. However, I do hear that he is quite a difficult autograph to get in person, so I will happily be covered if he does play for the Birds.

Finally, I swung a trade for an autograph of another player who the O's currently have in camp for Spring Training, pitcher Daniel McCutchen. This Topps Chrome certified autograph didn't scan very well, but it could fill a whole in my collection if Daniel forces his way onto the roster. 

I would certainly always rather be prepared and have an autograph of a guy who never makes it into a game for the O's than to have to scramble to track down an autograph once they are on the team. That's just how I roll; what can I say?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring Training Minor Leaguers

I love baseball for many reasons, but at least one of them is due to its general quirkiness. And that rarely is more evident than during spring training, when minor leaguers and their major league counterparts intertwine to form some interesting rosters, especially for road games. Most of the starting lineups for away games consist of back-ups and guys trying to make the roster, and the players that replace them later in the games are generally straight minor leaguers, typically guys with some upside. And here are some autographs that I have of some of those MiLB guys that I've seen in some games so far this spring.

These first two guys were actually on the official camp roster, but were among the first round of cuts that were announced yesterday. de San Miguel spent part of Spring Training playing for Australia in the WBC and was mainly in big league camp because extra catchers are always needed. Wright is actually the O's number four pitching prospect and held his own over three appearances.

The other three players sent to minor league camp were Eduardo Rodriguez, the O's #3 pitching prospect who is just 19 years old, and catcher Luis Martinez and pitcher Zach Braddock, neither of whom have yet appeared in a game due to injury/recovery from an injury. I don't yet have an autograph of any of those three guys.

And here is some of the menagerie of minor leaguers who have logged some game time with the O's so far this spring. I've even added some notes when I have something "worthwhile" to say.

Buck is Zach Britton's older brother

 Glynn is a local undrafted speedster prospect

 I really don't like Ty's signature. I know he has a short name and all, but c'mon.

Yes, John is related to the Rudy Ruettiger, who is his uncle.

What an awesome name. 

Chris is an under the radar guy who likely has a shot at an MLB relief role some day.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Plugging a Hug(h)e(s) Hole in the Collection

I like to think that I'm pretty on top of my Orioles autograph collection in regards to which players have been featured on Orioles cards, and who hasn't, so I know what autograph should be in my collection. I always prefer signed O's cards whenever possible. 

Of the 942 players who have appeared in a game for the Orioles, I would like to think that I'm aware of the Orioles card status of all of them. But every now and then something seems to slip through the cracks. One of these issues occurred recently when I came across this autograph in my collection. 

This signed Phillies card of Keith Hughes might not seem to be an issue, but I knew that Keith was also included in the Orioles Crown set, which means I was essentially "missing" an autograph that I hadn't even known that I needed for my collection.

The good news is that Keith is a great TTM signer, and he nicely signed and personalized his only Orioles card for me. Crisis averted. And my collection was once again, relatively complete.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Downsizing Some Cards

As I mentioned in a post the other day, I have recently moved. The space I have for my cards hasn't decreased but I would rather say that it has shifted, and I'm attempting to decrease the sheer volume of cards that I own.

So in an effort to do that, I'm attempting to sell some of my cards, a lot of approximately 20,000 cards from the late 1980s through early '90s. I know that a majority of these are from the junk wax era, but I'm sure that someone out there could use them.

I placed an ad for them on Craiglist last week and I have not received any interest yet. I'm hoping that someone out there will reach out to me. I'm not really sure if the price is too high, but $100 for that many cards surely could yield a profit for someone who is willing to go through them. I don't really have the time or motivation to sort through all of them but as you can see, some of the cards are already broken out by set.

If you, or anyone you might know in the Baltimore area, are interested in taking these off of my hands, please let me know. Many of the cards are unsorted, but I doubt there is anything too earth shattering in there.

And if you don't want them, does anyone have any suggestions about what to do with them? Thanks for any help!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Who Will be the Next New Oriole?

As the baseball season approaches, my "baseball nerd" mind begins it's yearly process of trying to figure out some Orioles-centric questions that likely only matter to me and a handful of others. Or maybe just me, it's honestly hard to say. But since it matters to me and this is my blog, you know that I'm gonna write about it.

In Monday's post, I wrote about (and reminded myself) that prospect L.J. Hoes was the final new Oriole to make his debut last season; he became the 942nd player to appear in a game in Orioles history when he debuted on September 25 in Baltimore against the Blue Jays. Hoes grew up in Maryland, had been with the team for nearly a month before his debut, and has a fun last name, so the fans were rather excited for his debut.

Anyhow, my wheels have begun to spin in regards to whom might be the first new player to appear in a game for the Orioles in 2013. It's a difficult, nearly impossible, thing to predict over a month before Opening Day, but I'm going to look at a few candidates today, and possibly make a prediction.

To make things easier for myself, I'm going to break the possible candidates into a few possible categories, in descending order of the likelihood that Oriole #943 will come from that group.

First off, let's look at the players currently on the 40-man roster who have never appeared in a game for the Orioles. Since a roster move wouldn't have to be made for them to break camp with the O's, it's most likely that the newest O will be amongst these guys: LHP Mike Belfiore, IF Russ Canzler, IF Alexi Casilla, RHP Zach Clark, LHP T.J. McFarland, IF Yamaico Navarro, RHP Todd Redmond, IF Jonathan Schoop, IF Danny Valencia, and LHP Tsuyoshi Wada all fit the bill here.

Again, it's nearly impossible to eliminate anyone at this point, but Wada is the easiest cut as he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery that was performed last May and his MLB ready date is expected to be somewhere in late May, so it's highly unlikely the he could become the first new Oriole of the season.

The next three easiest cuts for me are Navarro, Redmond, and Schoop. I just rank too many of the other similar players ahead of Navarro and Redmond, so they have an extremely uphill battle to break camp with the O's, but an excellent March could obviously change that. And Schoop is the O's #3 prospect,  still just 21 years old. He spent 2012 at AA Bowie, and is spending part of Spring Training with the team from the Netherlands to play in the World Baseball Classic, so I just don't see anyway he comes north with the team.

The group that I have an extremely hard time of creating some separation with includes three pitchers; Belfiore, Clark, and McFarland. The one advantage that McFarland holds over the other two is that he is a Rule 5 draft pick and would have to be offered back to the Indians if the Orioles don't keep him on their 25 man roster all season. Which is extremely unlikely, although they did it with Ryan Flaherty last year. But the other two guys have pitched better than McFarland through the first week of games, so that doesn't establish much. Both Belfiore and Clark were added to the 40-man over the winter, and none of the three have any MLB experience to date.

Zach Clark has been in the Orioles farm system for a number of years, and has steadily moved through the ranks, but put himself firmly on the team's radar after a 2012 late season promotion to AAA Norfolk where he went 5-2 with a 1.75 ERA over seven starts. Like Hoes, he is another (relatively) local guy from Wilmington, DE who went to college in Baltimore at UMBC. I like Zach' chances because Buck Showalter keeps calling him a "baseball player" which is a very high compliment in Buck's vernacular.

Mike Belfiore was acquired from the Diamondbacks last season in return for one-time prospect, Josh Bell. The O's added him to the roster prior to the Rule 5 draft to protect him from other teams, so that tells you that they obviously think that he possibly has something to offer the team. And he has pitched well so far this spring in a few appearances.

So as far as the 40-man roster guys go, that leaves us with three infielders, Russ Canzler, Alexi Casilla, and Danny Valencia, and in my opinion, Oriole #943 is likely going to be one of these three. Although it could also be that not a one of them ever plays for Baltimore. Currently, all of them are playing multiple positions during Spring Training to prove their value to their new organization and they will also have to hit at least a little bit too to prove that they belong. On top of that, they are competing with a glut of non-roster invitees to fill very similar roles and if any of those non-roster guys outplays this trio, they could easily swipe their spot on the 40-man without much of a hassle.

My gut says that probably two of these three guys break camp with the O's, and that Casilla is the most likely to become Oriole 943, mainly due to his glove skills, and that he would specifically be providing depth at 2B behind the recently oft-injured Brian Roberts.

In addition to all of these players, any of the non-roster invitees could stand out and break camp with the big league squad. This group includes pitchers Zach Braddock, Kevin Gausman, Mark Hendrickson, Jair Jurrjens, Daniel McCutchen, Eduardo Rodriguez, Adam Russell, Daniel Schlereth, and Mike Wright, catchers Allen de san Miguel, Jose Gil, Luis Martinez, and Chris Robinson, infielders Travis Ishikawa, Steve Pearce, and Niuman Romero, and outfielders Chris Dickerson, Lew Ford, Conor Jackson, Jason Pridie, and Trayvon Robinson.

My short list of those guys who are more likely than the others to make it to Baltimore in April are Jurrjens, Ishikawa, Pearce, Dickerson, Jackson, and/or Trayvon, although guessing about something like this on March 1st is like pulling names out of a hat. If I had to narrow my list down to just two of this group, I would take Jurrjens and Ishikawa.

And on top of all of those options for the next Oriole debut remains the distinct possibility that the O's swing a trade between now and Opening Day. Baltimore's surplus a of starting pitching is well documented, and the team really could use another power bat. If they make a trade like that, that type of player would likely be someone who would be in the Opening Day lineup. So absolutely everything that I've just written could go out the window.

Finally, to wrap things up if anyone has actually made it to the finale of this novel-length post, as of today, my guess for the next player to make his Orioles debut will be utility infielder Alexi Casilla. But I will likely revisit this topic again closer to Opening Day, when the overall picture might be a bit more clear.