Saturday, April 26, 2008

2007 UD Elements Scott Thorman

Who is this? Braves first baseman Scott Thorman.

What is this? An autograph card from 2007 Upper Deck Elements.

Where'd I get it? Flea market dealer.

How much did it cost? Four bucks.

Why is this so special? Well, it's a Brave so it's worth the four bucks to me if not anyone else. It's funny how one roster mistake can start a chain reaction of screw ups. Smoltz moves from the closer spot back to the rotation, which turned out to be a good move. He was replaced by Danny Kolb, which most decidedly was not. Our solid set-up man, Chris Reitsma, replaced Danny and Chris couldn't hack it either. Now we have no setup man or closer so Schuerholtz trades for Bob Wickman, who we should have signed in the first place. Bob is fat and old so we go out and get some relievers to protect against the inevitable collapse. Adam LaRoche is a solid first baseman, but Scott Thorman is waiting in the wings and the organization decides Adam is expendable. LaRoche goes to Pittsburgh for Mike Gonzalez who ends up hurting his arm. Thorman was supposed to replace Adam LaRoche at first, but neither his bat nor his defense was anything close to Adam's production. Thor can hit the longball, but hovered around the Mendoza line while hitting them. Now we have no first baseman, a fat cantankerous closer and a lefty getting Tommy John surgery. If Bill Bavasi wasn't dumb enough to trade Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez things would be really bad. Luckily the scouting department is better at evaluating the draft than evaluating closers, so we had a farm system stocked enough to snag Mark Teixeira from the Rangers. So when it was all said and done, the Braves went from Russ Ortiz in the rotation, Adam LaRoche at First and John Smoltz as the closer in 2004, to Smoltz in the rotation, Teixiera at First and Soriano as the closer today. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that ended up being a net improvement. It just took a really strange and terrible path to get there with Thorman being a key step along the way.

It eventually worked out for the Braves, but it's not working out for Thorman. He's now hopelessly blocked by Teixeira to the point where he doesn't even merit a spot on the roster as his backup since Tex never misses a game. However, since Mark might bolt for greener pastures at the end of the year the Braves can't trade him either since he might be next year's starter by default. So now he's stuck in Richmond, where he has one hit in 21 at bats. Poor Thor. This card is as big a mess as his career. First of all, the card is a pun. Upper Deck Elements... it's got gold foil... so we call it Au tographs... because the atomic symbol for gold is Au.... and gold is an element... clever eh? No. It isn't. It was old and trite in 1996. And there's too much foil on the thing. And the design is lazy, the back looks exactly like the front. The stupidest design decision was to make the autograph sticker wider than the space for the autograph to go. Luckily Scott has a bizarre signature that doesn't take up too much room and stays in the white space. I can kind of see where Scott is going with his signature. There's an S, then a dot, which rhymes with cott, so you have Scott. Okay, fair enough. then he starts the T but gets bored with it all on the crossbar and just squiggles a wavy line instead of horman. As a result, it's more of a doodle than an autograph and I can't look at it without seeing a crude line drawing of a woman's face. It's an optical illusion too, look at it one way and the woman is looking at Scott, look at it another way, and she's staring straight at you with her bangs covering her left eye. So he lost his job, is stuck in Triple-A and has a goofy looking signature. Poor Thor.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

2007 Topps Chrome Glen Perkins

Who is this? Twins pitcher Glen Perkins.

What is this? An autograph card from 2007 Topps Chrome, card number 348.

Where'd I get it? Flea market binge.

How much did it cost? $2.50.

Why is this so special? This guy's rookie cards were all over the place a couple of years ago and the name stuck with me. He's still a decent prospect for the Twins, but he's started the year in Triple-A. Glen is a homegrown Twins prospect, he was born in St. Paul and went to college at the University of Minnesota. He's throwing well so far in the minors and might get a call up sometime this year, especially since he's a lefty and they're hard to come by. Then again, he might suck and never sniff the majors again, who knows? It's a chrome auto of a legit prospect so what the heck. It's a sticker auto, and the signature kinda looks like a doodle some guy would draw while talking on the phone, and I got a fingerprint or a smudge or something up on the corner but it was in the 4 for $10 box so rock on. Remember, this was the big hit in a box of Chrome for some guy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2007 Topps Dan Uggla

Who is this? Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla.

What is this? An autograph card from 2007 Topps, card number HA-DU.

Where'd I get it? Flea market 3 for 10 box.

How much did it cost? $3.333333333333333333333...

Why is this so special? I love Wikipedia. You see, I thought I knew Dan Uggla, but I didn't know nothin. I knew Dan as the Rule V castoff with a funny name that came out of nowhere to be an All Star in 2006. I knew him as the blue collar player who came in third to super hyped prospects Hanley Ramirez and Ryan Zimmerman in the Rookie of the Year vote. I knew him as the guy passed up in fantasy drafts in favor of Alfonso Soriano and Chase Utley and Robinson Cano who still hit 30 homers last year.

I didn't know that his name means "owl" in Swedish. I didn't know he broke Joe Gordon's record for most home runs by a rookie second baseman. I didn't know he won the Player's Choice and Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award over his blue chip rivals. He's never going to lead Beckett's Hot List, but Dan's the kind of player you want on your team. His simple, to the point signature belies his workman like attitude. Plus his name is fun to say.

UGGLA! See, I told you it was fun.

2007 Topps Shawn Chacon

Who is this? Pirates pitcher Shawn Chacon.

What is this? An autograph card from 2007 Topps, card number HA-SC.

Where'd I get it? Flea market during a buying binge.

How much did it cost? $2.50

Why is this so special? Shawn's not a great pitcher, but he's a decent one. I have a fondness for pitchers who come out of nowhere to save 30 games for a team like Shawn did for the Rockies in 2004. Ok, so he also went 1-9 with a 7.11 ERA, but he got some guy a bunch of saves for his fantasy team! Shawn is one of the few major leaguers born in Alaska, and was adopted by family in Colorado when he was four, and was later drafted by the Rockies. He was an All Star for the Rockies in '03 and pitched well for the Yankees in 2005. He was traded to the Pirates in '06afte a rough start and mostly pitched relief for them last year. He is now making a comeback as a starter in the Astros rotation. The cryptic biblical message on the front of this card refers to his streak of 85 1/3 innings pitched without a stolen base. It's also a warning to anyone who wants to filch my autograph of Shawn. Keep your hands off my card, ya thief!

Friday, April 11, 2008

2007 Topps Emiliano Fruto

Who is this? Mariner relief pitcher Emiliano Fruto.

What is this? An autograph card from 2007 Topps, card number HA-EF.

Where'd I get it? From Jesus guy on eBay.

How much did it cost? I'd have to do math to tell you for sure, so let's just say two bucks, mmmmkay?

Why is this so special? This is the autograph card I talked about in this post. While I was specifically looking for Goudey cards on my eBay binge, this card here was the one that made me bite on the auction. Now why would I want a card of an obscure Mariners reliever? Well the name is cool.. say it out loud. Emiliano Frrrruto! Make sure you rrroll the Rs for full effect. Plus he's the second guy to ever pitch a 3 inning save in his debut. Didn't know you could get a save by coming into the game with a lead, pitching three innings and finishing the game without giving up the lead did you? Well thanks to this card, now you do! Ok fine, it's not that great a card and I shouldn't be allowed near a computer when I get into a bidding craze. Let's see who this guy is, shall we?

Fruto was signed at sixteen years old out of Colombia by the Mariners. He worked his way through the minors to make his debut in 2006, then the M's shipped him off to the Nationals in the Jose Vidro deal. I just found out that Chris Snelling was also in that deal. There's a can't miss prospect that missed, but I digress... Emiliano pitched pretty badly for Triple-A Columbus before getting swapped to the D-Backs at the deadline. He's back in Triple-A. but he's still young and has a decent fastball so there's a chance he'll get back to the majors as a reliever. So, not the best card, but he's got an awesome name. You can't deny that. The signature's pretty nice too, Emiliano doesn't let the sticker confine him and he just lets it flow. A nice loopy E is followed by a distinct F, the R and U loop together and the TO ties it all together. Bad card, good signature, and that counts for something.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hank Aaron Signed Photo

Who is this? Hank Aaron, Home Run King.

What is this? An autographed photo of Hammerin' Hank.

Where'd I get it? Atlanta Sports Cards in the late '80s.

How much did it cost? 8 or 10 bucks, I think.

Why is this so special? Everybody knows who Hank is, so I'll tell you how I got this thing. The card shop I went to as a kid was Atlanta Sports Cards in the Green's Corners shopping center on Jimmy Carter Boulevard. I got my vintage collection started with their commons, bricks and bargain bin cards. I usually had no more than ten or twenty bucks to spend when I went there so big purchases were rare. One day when I was there they had a stack of autographs for sale. They had either done a big signing session with Hank or had purchased it from someone who had. They had a bunch of signed Aaron photos there for premium prices that were out of my range, but the guy behind the counter showed me some 'rejects' they had cheap. There were the photos that were smudged, or marked or where the autograph just looked weird. I'm pretty sure they were selling them for eight bucks each, but my brain refuses to believe that a Hank Aaron autograph could ever have been priced with only one digit so let's say ten to keep my mind happy. This was probably a really big chunk of my cash on hand, and when you take into consideration that there was an arcade full of video games calling me downstairs it might have taken most of my card money for the day. Even so it was the biggest no-brainer I ever had to buy that photo. I looked through the pictures and found one that was reasonably unsmudged (although I really didn't give a flip about the smudging since it was an autograph of HANK) and looked through the cheap boxes for cards that day. This photo currently is stored away with this.

2006 Bowman Heritage Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Who is this? Braves catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

What is this? An autograph card from 2006 Bowman Heritage, card SG-JS.

Where'd I get it? Same eBay seller as the Chuck James.

How much did it cost? $4.10.

Why is this so special? When I was ripping piles of Bowman Heritage in the winter of '06-'07 (and spring... and summer... and fall... this stuff didn't move off the shelves too fast) this was the autograph card I most wanted to pull. Once the MLB Draft started being updated live online, I had gotten into the habit of obsessively hitting refresh on the page at work to see the Braves' picks. I remember the pick of Salty in the 1st round in 2003. That was a pretty good draft, 4 years later and over half the first rounders are in The Show. Jarrod stuck with me as a player to watch (and with that name it's hard to forget it) and when Javy bolted to the Orioles, he seemed like he could one day be the catcher of the future. In 2005 Johnny Estrada got hurt, Brian McCann got called up and played like he was a veteran. At that moment, Jarrod got hopelessly blocked in the Braves organization and the trade rumors started swirling.

Stuck behind McCann, Cuban prospect Brayan Pena and a multitude of veterans brought in year to year as a permanent backup, Jarrod was stuck but kept hitting in the minors. Last year he got his chance when both McCann and Brayan Pena got hurt and the Braves needed someone who could play behind the plate every day. He played well, and the Braves tried him out at first base since the Scott Thorman experiment bombed so badly. When the trading deadline came up, the Braves made a move and sent Salty and a truckload of other prospects to Texas for Mark Teixeira. Mark has hit like a beast ever since he put on a Braves uniform, but giving up Salty still hurts. the Braves have the early advantage on the trade, as Jarrod lost the starting job in Texas to Gerald Laird and got sent to triple-A. Next year things could swing the other way though as Mark is going to want a rather huge contract and Texas can't keep Saltalamacchia's bat out of the lineup forever.

It's a big reflection on the state of the hobby where two autograph cards can be picked up for less than the price of the packs they came in. Chuck James and Saltalamacchia aren't really household names or anything, but they are young players who have actually played in the bigs and have a bright future if they stay healthy. Stuff like this is really making me rething the wisdom of mindlessly ripping the latest product looking for hits when the ones I really want are usually in the bargain bin. I'm not really a prospector, but I'll bet this card is worth more than four bucks in a few years. The actual signature is interesting though. Jarrod opts for the minimalist kanji style of autographs. It's like a miniature Zen Garden in blue ink. I envisioned Jarrod having a huge bold John Hancock like signature, but now that I think about it with twenty letters in your name simple is best.

I also just learned that Jarrod's daughter's name is Bunter. Whatever you do dude, please don't name your next child Homer.

Monday, April 7, 2008

2006 '52 Topps Rookie Card Chuck James

Who is this? Braves pitcher Chuck James.

What is this? An autograph card from 2006 '52 Topps Rookie Card, card 52S-CHJ.

Where'd I get it? Ebay.

How much did it cost? 99 cents.

Why is this so special? I got this card and tomorrow's card from the same seller. Gotta love combined shipping! Chuckie's apparently not a popular signature right now, because I got him for the opening bid. I like the card though. It looks good even being on the overdone '52 design and the signature itself looks fantastic. Chuck used every last millimeter of that box for the autograph and till made it look good. Good for you Chuckie!

Now obviously since it's a Brave I like the player, but Chuck is especially cool. He seems like a happy go lucky guy and has the typical lefty crazies. After his successful rookie season he admitted in a radio interview to everyone's horror that he spent the offseason working for Lowe's installing windows and stuff. Needless to say after two 11-win seasons, he's not working for Lowe's anymore. James is currently on the DL resting a rotator cuff injury but is expected to come off it quickly to take the brittle Mike Hampton's spot in the rotation. Chuck is a solid pitcher but he's got a reputation for only being able to go 5 effective innings. With the abundance of starting pitchers in the Braves' organization right now, Chuck is going to have to earn his job, but has the talent to stick in the rotation.