The name of this blog is dedicated to my mother. Back in little league, my mother used to stand back behind home plate and give me that one, simple batting instruction: "get the bat off of your shoulder!"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Players you just don't like

As a kid I found it easy to dislike baseball players for no good reason. It made it easy that I didn't know any of them personally. I only knew them through pictures in the newspaper, or watching them at Anaheim Stadium, or through baseball cards. I knew their weight, height, what hand they threw with and where they were born, but I didn't know anything personal about them. They weren't really human beings to me. So when they did something that bugged me, I found it real easy to dislike them for that slightest of reasons.

As quick as that dislike would grow over some perceived slight, once the season ended, that dislike would go away. Fall would bring Winter and soon comes Spring Training when all things are new again, old dislikes are forgotten and all teams start out 0 and 0 in the win-loss department.

Being a fan of the Angels, as a kid, back in the 70's was pretty easy. Come April, we certainly didn't have any pretensions that the Angels would make the playoffs. Playoffs were for the Dodgers, or the Athletics, maybe the Phillies, Reds, Orioles or Pirates. Each season, you knew the Royals had a chance to take the AL West, but it certainly wasn't going to be the Angels. I had not just accepted that the Angels would never win anything, I think I just viewed them like some lucky AAA team that got to play other big-league teams, in order to give them a warm-up. just had to accept that the Angels would not win anything. That made it easier to never hate any of the Angels. I was no Red Sox fan stewing on Bill Buckner. That's just not what Angels fans are made of. Imagine if Josh Paul played for the Red Sox... he would be unable to show his face in Boston, hell, the entire Northeastern seaboard for that matter.
About the closest you could come to naming some scapegoat who got in the way of an Angels post-season appearance is Donnie Moore. But what that poor man didn't realize is that we didn't hold that against him. No one did.

So, being as I didn't really have any Angels to hate, I had to look elsewhere for it.

Take for example, as a kid, I just didn't like Pete Rose. There were a lot of reasons, one being how he plowed in to Ray Fosse during the All Star game, but that wasn't the main one. Primary reason was - I didn't like the way he ran to first base after a walk.
I mean, it's a walk!
Trot it down there, shuffle down there, but you don't RUN down there!
His running to first on a walk has long since been replaced by batters who stand there staring at their home run, but for a while there - I honestly couldn't stand Pete Rose for that simple reason.

Around that same time was Steve Garvey. I just didn't like Steve Garvey because... I don't know, exactly, but because he was just so clean cut with that chiseled jawed and his hair was always perfect... I remember watching the '77 playoffs, and the Dodgers had just finished what had to be the boringest final game of a league championship that my 12 year old eyes had seen. It was so boring, that Tommy John was left in to bat in top of the 9th. We all sat there watching, knowing the Dodgers would win and clinch, but nobody even cared. There wasn't even a hit after the 5th inning, I don't think. Anyway, after the game they're spraying champagne all over the place, everybody's soaked, everybody's catching bubbly spray in the kisser, everybody has sweaty hat-head... except Garvey! They get to Garvey and it's like he just stepped out of the hairdresser's chair. He's impeccable! And he's not rip-roaring and yelling, he's talking like he was running for office. Yawn!

Nowadays it's Yankee first baseman Teixeira. At first, I just hated him because he played for the Rangers. Then, once the Angels traded Kotchman away for him, I was OK with him. I could shelve my loathing for a few months and actually cheer him. Secretly inside, I still didn't trust him. By season's end, I was starting to like this guy though.
But wait, season's over and... what? You want to play with the Yankees all this time? You mean, you just kind of lied to us? Were we just the gateway drug to get you to your Yankee heroin?
It's like the Angels asked you to the prom, and you said yes because you figured you'd be more likely to have fun at the dance then you would with the Rangers. But then the dance is over and it wasn't quite the fun you thought it would be with the Angels, so you change your mind and just dump the Angels for that Yankees guy... I was heartbroken! Not only did we give up Kotchman for you, but after you broke up with us, you basically said that you'd always wanted to be with the Yankees. You used us! I still feel dirty.

But now, I don't dislike him for that anymore.
I have grown past that betrayal. I have matured and realized that he probably was never a part of long term Angels' plans, but just a way to clear Kotchman out of the way at first base for Kendry Morales.
So now I just hate him because he makes this stupid blow-fish face.
Zounds does he look stupid!

Friday, May 27, 2011

2011 Topps Heritage Ranting

I am not really sure what made me want to start collecting this year's Heritage set. It could be that it mimicked the 1962 design. I've always liked the wood grain look of the 1962 set, and it was the first real year for Angels' baseball cards. Yes, there are L.A. Angels cards in the 1961 set, but none of those are actual pictures - just a bunch of hatless guys in some uniform that is clearly not an Angels' uniform. I think Topps photographers required one picture with your hat on and one without just in case you got traded and they needed to use your picture again.

Anyhow, enough about the hats, on to this 2011 Heritage set. I just have one thing to say: They're ugly!

No, seriously.

They're really ugly. They are some of the ugliest pictures I've ever seen.

To make it worse, there is clearly some attempt at photo-shopping these pictures to look old, or to mimic what someone thinks a 1962 card looked like. And, if that was the intention - I have news for you - you failed and failed horribly.

Here's a good example, look at card of Aaron Harang. Aaron clearly didn't get the message that Topps was coming by for pictures today. He's been out all night as we can see by the dark circles and bags under his eyes. The photographer had poor Aaron pull off his hat, because, "Hey that's just how they did it back in 1961!".

So what we get is a sweaty brow, a bad hair day, skin-dentation where the hat dented in his brow.

This scan here isn't mine, I pulled it off e-bay - my card actually looks worse. He looks even more pale, and the black around his eyes even more pronounced. No joke - my 9 year old daughter who collects "weird" cards, thought it so perfectly fit her collection that she was willing to give me two 2011 Opening Day cards in exchange for it! Ryan Howard and Howie Kendrick, if it matters. She used the word "ghoul" to describe Harang's picture.

Runners up for ugliest card:

Vernon Wells - looks like Tweedle Dee, maybe it's Tweedle Dum, not sure.

Jonathan Sanchez - I don't know why, but I find the fact that professional athletes trim their facial hair to be discouraging. Where is Gorman Thomas when you need him?

Aroldis Chapman - What made them intentionally take a picture and mess with the coloration so badly that I can't tell the color of his hat from the color of his face!

Now besides the ugliness - let's look at the insert ideas they came up for in this set. The green tint idea is an OK idea, in principle, because it goes along with what the original 1962 set had due to some kind of inking problem. But then there's these other tints, like one color for Target cards, one for Wal-Mart cards, one for cards that come from hobby stores instead of Mega stores... and so on. What the hell is the point of that?

Next is the pointless "short print".
What used to be something unintentional is now made intentional to add some kind of artificial rarity to a card that is no more rare than the million others in your shoeboxes other than they just chose to make fewer of them. Why? Was that supposed to make it exciting?

Well, I'm not excited. I'm just annoyed.

Pissed that I have to pay $3 and up for someone like Matt Garza or Aubrey Huff.

Finally it's these black refractors that suck the most. What is normally an OK idea, looks crappy in this set. Reason being that the set has a thin wood border all around, except the lower right corner. Down there, the design is made to look like the picture peels up a bit and the Player/Team/Position text is there on the wood. But in these refractors, it's like they used the "airbrush" tool in photoshop to avoid colorizing the text. Double-ugh-ugly!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Now Isabel is in to cards

So Elizabeth, my 7 year old, and I get back from the card show on Saturday and now Isabel, she of 9 years, is jealous and wants some baseball cards! Another trip to Target, and a few packs of Opening Day later and we have a three card collectors in the house now!

I picked up another blaster of Heritage. I think that is the last I will buy. I seem to have crappy luck. I'll try trading doubles to get the rest. I am still at barely half of the collection after about $100 in cards. I know, I know, I'm old, and $100 is probably not a lot of money to spend on trading cards.

What makes it all worth while at this point is the Stan Musial signature card. I still can't believe I got that card. To think I've got something in my hands that Stan Musial had in his hands is pretty cool.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

E's first card show

I took my youngest to her first baseball card show. 7-year old girls at card shows is not a common site, so she had more attention than she knew what to do with.

One of the vendors there was selling plastic bags of random cards, about 10 in there for $1, so I gave her a dollar and had her pick one.

She took the one with Vlad Guerrero on top, a nice 2003 Upper Deck portrait. Good choice. Inside the pack was also a 1990 Topps Jamie Moyer. Yes, the same Jamie Moyer that threw for the Phillies last year. The card is with him on the Rangers, but I remember him with the Cubs before that, and if you'd told me he'd pitch another 20 years, I wouldn't have believed you.

We looked around the show a while longer, but it wasn't easy looking through cards with her on my feet so we headed home. But on the way home, she eyes Target and asks if we can get some more cards! How can the proud father say no, so I get her another pack of Opening Day. She pulls Howie Kendrick, and I pull the Pirates Parrot, and a trade is made.