December 2012

Last Blog Post Until 2013

Well, the Mayans were wrong. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the world didn’t end on Friday, and subsequently there will in fact be a 2013 MLB season. I couldn’t be happier. I would’ve hated not to of seen how Josh Hamilton works out with the Angels, or if R.A. Dickey will end up leading the newly revamped Blue Jays to the World Series, like so many people seem to be predicting. And of course, still being alive is always good.

But I’m not here to talk about Mayans, or even Hamilton and Dickey for that matter–as stated in my last blog post, I don’t plan to write anything 25035_10151134333357204_1662307553_nmajor about either of them. No, the reason I’m writing this is to let you know that there will be no more blog posts from me until 2013, as well as to make you aware of a couple of my current blogging plans for January. (Keep in mind, it’s not set in stone.)

Right now, the plan for January is to get a blog post up sometime during the first few days of the month with my thoughts on this year’s Hall of Fame candidates. With names like Sosa, Clemens and Bonds, I have a lot to say on the subject. The voting results are set to be announced on January 9th, so I’ll probably end up posting something after the fact as well.

Furthermore, the two-year anniversary of ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’ is coming up on January 20th, and thus I plan to post something to mark the occasion. I haven’t yet decided exactly what I want to include in the post, so if you have any ideas as to what I should focus the post on, or what you’d like to see me do, just leave a comment below.

Lastly, I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who’s read my blog throughout the past year. Whether you’re a regular, or just check in from time-to-time, if it weren’t for you all I’d have no reason to blog. So thank you. I’m going to do my best to make 2013 the best year yet, and hopefully you will all continue to come back every so often to read what I have to say.

Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a Happy New Year.

See you all in 2013.

My Review of 2012 Panini Prime Cuts & Cooperstown

I made the decision to not blog about Josh Hamilton and/or R.A. Dickey because I didn’t really feel there was that much I could say that wasn’t already being said. I might decide to talk about them at a later point in time, but right now I’d like to focus my attention on baseball cards; more specifically, Panini America baseball cards.

I recently broke open a box of 2012 Panini Prime Cuts and 2012 Panini Cooperstown, with the purpose of providing my own personal review of the products. I’ll start with my thoughts on 2012 Panini Cooperstown.

2012 Panini Cooperstown runs anywhere from 80-90 dollars a box (depending on who you buy from), but you certainly get plenty of cards for your money. As its name would suggest, Cooperstown focuses on players that have made it into the Hall of Fame, as each card of the 200-card base set is of a HOF’er:

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Each individual box contains a total of 24 packs, with 5 cards per pack, for a grand total of 220 cards per box. Of the 220 cards, at least one is guaranteed to be autographed, with the chance for you to pull randomly inserted cut signatures of former greats such as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, and Dizzy Dean, to name a few. The autograph I received was that of Peter Gammons (numbered 165/300):

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Nothing super fantastic, but still an autograph of a well known baseball writer.

Each of the boxes’ 24 packs also contains a Hall of Fame sweepstakes card that has a unique code with which you can use to enter for the chance to win a trip to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, for you and a guest:

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Each code entered is another chance at winning the trip; thus, the more boxes you buy, and the more codes you acquire and enter, the better your chances become at winning the great trip. So if nothing else, this product is definitely worth buying if just for that reason alone. (I mean, who doesn’t like the chance to win a free trip?!)

The other Panini baseball product I was lucky enough to break was a box of 2012 Panini Prime Cuts.

Prime Cuts will run you a bit more than Cooperstown–with each box costing around 150 dollars–but you stand a better chance of getting your money back out of it. Unlike Cooperstown, Prime Cuts isn’t limited to just Hall of Famers, but instead it’s a combination of both former greats and current stars.

You only receive two cards per box, but each box is guaranteed to contain at least one autographed card; with names such as Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Pete Rose being possible:

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Of the box I opened, the first card pulled was a Ryan Howard jersey card (numbered 19/99):

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A good looking card, of a great player, but nothing compared to my next pull.

Card number two of the box was an autographed ‘CHARLIE HUSTLE’ game used memorabilia booklet of Pete Rose (numbered 9/25):

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If that card alone doesn’t prove to you that Prime Cuts is one of the best baseball products out there, then you’ll never be convinced.

Of the two products I opened, I’d have to give Prime Cuts the upper hand over Cooperstown. Though, I could be feeling that way just because of the sick card I pulled. (Who knows?) Either way, I feel that both of these products are outstanding.

It really comes down to what you like, in terms of which would better suit you. If you’re big on receiving tons of cards for your money, then Prime Cuts (with its two cards) isn’t for you. You would be better off picking up a box of Cooperstown. However, if you enjoy “high risk/high reward”, then I would recommend Prime Cuts.

In the end, no matter which you choose, you’re sure to pull some awesome looking cards.

I’d like to thank Panini America for providing me with the boxes for the review. Go check them out at paniniamerica.net. And go ahead and follow them on twitter: @PaniniAmerica

Q and A With Brady Rodgers

Brady Rodgers was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. Since the draft, Rodgers has pitched in a total of only 12 games, but in those few games was able to live up to being a third round pick; posting some fairly impressive numbers, in his first (partial) season. 628x471

Going 7-2, with a 2.89 ERA in 62.1 innings pitched this past season, Rodgers certainly showed the type of potential he has to become a big league starter. If he can keep on pitching the way he did in 2012, I feel it’s truly only a matter of time before he’s on the mound down in Houston.

But posting great numbers isn’t something that’s new to Rodgers; he’s been doing it for years. In three years at Arizona State University, Rodgers went a combined 23-10 with a 2.39 ERA–the second best career ERA in ASU team history.

Rodgers’ first full season in 2013 will be the real test to see if he can keep up the stellar pitching throughout the long season, but if he pitches the way he’s capable of doing, sky’s the limit.

Brady Rodgers–pitcher in the Astros organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest influence growing up?

My biggest influence had to be my dad. He was the one who got me interested at a really young age; probably around 2 years old, he got me my first baseball glove and I fell in love with the game right away. He took time out of his day to make sure I was learning the game the right way and that I could be good at it.

2.) Who was your favorite player growing up? Why?

When I was growing up I had 2 favorite players: Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux. Nolan was a bull on the mound and wasn’t afraid of any hitter, and Maddux was pin point and could put the ball where ever he wanted. So the way I pitch is kind of like both pitchers combined. A guy who isn’t afraid and can throw the ball wherever he wants.

3.) You were drafted by the Astros in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The process was definitely a long one, but also a good one, and I have to thank God for giving me the opportunity to even get drafted. The Astros are my hometown team–the one I grew up watching and loving–so that’s what also made it even better. During the draft I was at my house with friends and family and I found out as soon as my name was called. My initial thoughts were “this has to be a dream”, because ever since I was little I have always dreamt of playing for the Astros, and now I’m one step closer to my dream.

4.) You played for team USA in 2011. What was that experience like?

The experience was one I’ll never forget because it was real fun and I was surrounded by some of the best college players in the nation, and that’s what made it different. We got to wear the nation’s colors and wear USA across our chest which really means a lot. Also, the team was just fun to be around and we have built friendships that will last a life time.

5.) Going into 2012 (your first pro season) what were you hoping to accomplish?

My main goal was to stay healthy, but my other main focus was to get use to a five-man rotation and getting used to throwing every 5th day, rather than once a week like in college. Also to keep my arm fresh so that it could withstand a 200 inning season and I feel like I reached all of my goals.

6.) What do you feel went well in 2012? What do you feel you need to work on for 2013?

The whole year of 2012 went perfect, and I wouldn’t change a thing. For 2013, I feel like I need to keep learning how to pitch and examining hitters swings, as well as their approach to the plate, and to get on a good throwing program that can help me stay healthy through a long season.

7.) Is there any player you model your game after?

I model my pitching after Greg Maddux because I want to be able to use all of pitches at any time and put them where I want, but the way I play is my own style.

8.) Favorite TV show?

I have two favorite TV shows: ‘Family Guy’ and ‘The League’. I always love comedies because laughter is the best medicine.

9.) Favorite food?

If I had to pick one plate of food I could eat every day, a nice steak (medium rare) with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

Just to continue to love the game and have fun playing it. There will be some days that the game doesn’t treat you right but if you continue to work hard and love it you will have success. Also, never take your eyes off the prize, because once you do there are other players out there that will pass you up.

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Big thanks to Brady Rodgers for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @Rodgers20

The Electronic Autograph

If you’re one of the millions of people around the world who falls under the category of “baseball fan”, odds are that you’ve found yourself seeking the autograph of your favorite player at one time or another. Even if you wouldn’t classify as an autograph collector, surely even the slightest of fan would jump at the chance to acquire their idols’ signature.

But getting an autograph from your favorite major leaguer isn’t always as simple as heading out to the ballpark after dinner. If you find yourself residing in one of the many states that lacks a Major League Baseball team, getting autographs in person can be a difficult and costly task.

Of course, there’s always the option of mailing an autograph request to the ballpark, but you can’t always guarantee that the player you admire will be able to take the time, during their hectic 162-game season, to sign your enclosed item; especially if they happen to be everyone’s favorite player, and receive hundreds of letters every month.

Too many times have I sent off one of my most cherished baseball cards, to one of my favorite players, only to be disappointed in the end when daily trips to the mailbox resulted in the same outcome: No autograph.

Until recently, the only other option remaining for a person looking to obtain an authentic signature they so greatly desired was to scour the internet for the most economically priced example they could find; usually still costing a couple hundred dollars. And even then, nothing connects you to the player personally. It’s just one of the thousands of autographs the player has signed over the years. Nothing all that tremendously special.

That’s why I was so intrigued the first time I heard of the latest in sports memorabilia technology: The electronic autograph; Egraph, for short. Costing anywhere from 25-115 dollars, depending on the player, an Egraph is an electronic autograph, produced by the player of your choice on their own personal iPad. The best part being that it’s guaranteed to be returned, in 2-3 weeks, and in addition, comes along with an audio message, recorded by the player themselves, just for you.

You can’t get much more of a fan-to-player interaction than that.

HOW IT WORKS

The first step in creating your Egraph is to select which player you’d like to receive an Egraph from. With roughly 200 players (current and former greats) and managers–with more being added all the time–it’s not an easy choice. Undoubtedly making this the most difficult portion of the entire process.

After deciding on a specific player, and choosing which background photo you’d like the autograph to appear over, the only thing left to do is to make the decision of what you would like inscribed on your photo.

You have the choice of typing exactly what you want the player to write, or you can choose for them to create their own response. As is the case with the entire Egraph process, it’s up to you. But in the end, no matter what you decide, you really can’t go wrong.

As stated earlier, no two Egraphs are alike. They’re made by the player specifically for you. Take for example my own personal Egraph, created by Mets’ third basemen, David Wright:
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CLICK HERE to listen to David Wright’s audio message.

Wright could make a thousand more Egraphs and would never again make one exactly like the one you see above. That’s what makes Egraphs such an ingenious idea. It allows you to connect with the games’ greats in a personal way that hasn’t been possible up until now; and I can only see it taking off in popularity from here.

If you’d like to purchase an Egraph, head to Egraphs.com, or simply click the Egraph ad on the right sidebar to be taken to the site.

2012 GIBBY Awards

The 2012 Greatness In Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) award winners were announced yesterday afternoon. The GIBBY Awards are awarded for 21 different categories including Rookie of the Year, Play of the Year, etc. These awards are given to the winners based on votes by you the fans at MLB.com, media, front-office personnel and MLB alumni.

Although I’m a day late, I wanted to take the time to publish a post with a list of the winners along with my opinions:

MLB MVP OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mike Trout

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

It wasn’t all that shocking that Miguel Cabrera beat out Mike Trout for MVP of the 2012 season. Although I had Trout as the MVP, since just after the All-Star break, the majority of baseball fans felt Cabrera was the most valuable. So, while I disagree, I’m not surprised with how the fans voted.

HITTER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Miguel Cabrera

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

While I feel that Mike Trout was the most valuable player of the year, there’s no doubt in my mind that Miguel Cabrera was the best hitter of the year. Becoming the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, it was really no contest. Thus, I fully agree with the outcome of the vote for this particular category.

STARTING PITCHER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: R.A. Dickey

Winner: R.A. Dickey

I’m not sure if R.A. Dickey was THE best starting pitcher of the 2012 season, but I picked him to win the award nonetheless. Dickey seemed to be able to produce a quality start every time out, so I suppose he truly was the best candidate for the award.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mike Trout

Winner: Mike Trout

Leading every rookie in all of Major League Baseball in every conceivable statistical category, there was no other way this vote could’ve gone. Trout did things that no other rookie in the history of MLB has ever done, and thus is the correct choice for Rookie of the Year.

CLOSER OF THE YEAR

Winner: Fernando Rodney

This particular category wasn’t voted on by the fans, but I agree with the pick nonetheless. Fernando Rodney posted an ERA of 0.60 in 74.2 innings pitched, and was able to close out the game for the Rays nearly every time out; recording 48 saves. Truly remarkable.

SETUP MAN OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Sergio Romo

Winner: Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo had one of the best seasons of his career, and truly earned this award. Without Romo doing what he did all season long, and into the post season, it could be argued that the Giants don’t win the World Series. So I fully agree with Romo winning.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mike Trout

Winner: Yadier Molina

I don’t necessarily disagree with Yadier Molina beating out Mike Trout for this award, but I still feel that Trout should’ve won. It seemed like every other night Trout was robbing a guy of a homer, or making a diving grab to take away a base hit. So I don’t fully agree with Molina winning this award.

BREAKOUT HITTER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Chase Headley

Winner: Chase Headley

Chase Headley recorded a dismal 4 home runs and 44 RBI’s in the 2011 season, and going into the 2012 season no one really expected anything drastically different from Headley. Yet, he was able to have a career year, blasting 31 home runs and 115 RBI’s. Truly worthy of the breakout hitter of the 2012 season.

BREAKOUT PITCHER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: R.A. Dickey

Winner: R.A. Dickey

Going 8-13 in 2011, with 134 strikeouts in 208.2 innings pitched, R.A. Dickey truly was the breakout pitcher of the 2012 season as he completely turned things around, going 20-6, with 230 strikeouts in 233.2 innings pitched. Being that his 2012 performance was good enough to earn Dickey the Cy Young award, I fully agree with him winning the GIBBY.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Buster Posey

Winner: Buster Posey

After spending much of the 2011 season on the disabled list, Buster Posey made a major comeback in 2012 as he was able put together a fantastic year; which resulted in his 2nd World Series ring in just his 3rd career season. In addition to winning yet another Championship ring, Posey also took home the award for National League MVP, thus making him worthy of the GIBBy, in my mind.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Bob Melvin

Winner: Buck Showalter

This award could’ve gone either way for me. Although I picked Bob Melvin to win, I’m happy with Buck Showalter winning. Both managers were able to completely turn around their teams from the previous year and so I wouldn’t have been upset with either winning the award.

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mike Rizzo

Winner: Billy Beane

I thought Mike Rizzo did a fantastic job this year with the Nationals, but after thinking it over, I agree with the pick of Billy Beane for the award. Beane has always impressed me with the way he goes about his job in such a proficient way, and he did an absolutely incredible job in 2012. I couldn’t agree more with the pick of Beane for the award.

POSTSEASON MVP

My original pick: Marco Scutaro

Winner: Pablo Sandoval

For me, this award came down to Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo. You could make cases for each of them, as to why they were most deserving of the GIBBY, but in the end I picked Marco Scutaro. I felt Scutaro came through for the Giants time and time again throughout the entire post season, but I can’t really complain with Pablo Sandoval winning the award.

PLAY OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Davis tops Toronto’s tall wall

Winner: Mike Trout’s catch at the wall

Under the circumstances, I felt that the catch made by Gregor Blanco to preserve Matt Cain’s perfect game was the best play of the year, but I thought THE overall best play of 2012 was the catch made by Rajai Davis over the Rogers Centre’s 10 foot high left field wall. Apparently, the majority of the baseball world didn’t agree with me, as they voted Mike Trout’s catch at the wall as the best of the year. While Trout’s catch was incredible, in my opinion, no one made a better play than Davis, thus, I don’t agree with the voters’ pick.

STORYLINE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Stars of tomorrow excel today

Winner: Tie- Orioles’ & Nationals’ Seasons

I’m a big prospect/rookie guy, so maybe that’s why I felt Mike Trout’s and Bryce Harper’s incredible rookie seasons were the best storyline of the year, but I enjoyed keeping up with the National’s and Oriole’s seasons as well. The fact that the Nat’s were able to go from an 80 win team in 2011 to a 98 win team in 2012, with the O’s going from a 69 win team in 2011 to a 93 win team in 2012, was interesting enough to make even the slightest of baseball fan pay attention. So, while it wasn’t my first choice, I suppose I agree with the O’s and Nat’s amazing seasons receiving the GIBBY.

HITTING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Hamilton’s four-homer game

Winner: Hamilton’s four-homer game

There were a lot of great hitting performances this past season, but none were better than that of Josh Hamilton on May 8th against the Orioles. Going 5-5, with 4 home runs (the 16th player in MLB history to do so), Hamilton certainly put on quite the slugging performance, thus making him worthy of the GIBBY for hitting performance of the year.

PITCHING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Praising Cain

Winner: Praising Cain

When trying to decide which performance to choose, it came down to Johan Santana’s no-hitter and Matt Cain’s perfect game. While both performances were franchise firsts, Cain’s perfect game was the most impressive of the two, as he recorded a total of 14 strikeouts. Cain no doubt had the best pitching performance of the 2012 season, and as such, deserved the award for this category.

ODDITY OF THE YEAR

My original pick: What a relief

Winner: Michael Morse’s

My original pick for this particular category was Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis picking up the win in the 17th inning of a 9-6 win versus the Red Sox–after going 0-8 at the plate, with 5 strikeouts. I really don’t see how Michael Morse beat out Davis by simply reenacting his home run swing after the umpires made him re-circle the bags, so I don’t agree with Morse winning the GIBBY.

WALK-OFF OF THE YEAR

My original pick: A legend’s last long ball

Winner: A legend’s last long ball

Chipper Jones’ walk-off “yicketty”  in the bottom of the ninth, of the Braves’ September 2nd win against the Phillies, was by-far THE best walk-off of the year. The entire 2012 season of Chipper Jones was absolutely incredible, and to end it with a walk-off bomb by Chipper is just a storybook ending to an amazing career. Chipper was certainly most deserving of the GIBBY.

CUT4 TOPIC OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Young fan scores special moment with dad

Winner: Bryce Harper

It seems Bryce Harper wins every possible award he gets nominated for, and while most of the time it makes sense, this time I don’t agree. I feel the young boy who got the surprise of seeing his dad who had just returned home from Afghanistan was the best Cut4 topic of the year in my mind. So, while Harper was the overall baseball topic of the 2012 season, I don’t agree with him taking home the GIBBY.

POSTSEASON MOMENT

My original pick: Sandoval’s homer trifecta

Winner: Raul Ibanez

I don’t really see how Raul Ibaez could beat out Pablo Sandoval for postseason moment. I’ll admit, when Ibanez hit those home runs to come through for the Yankees when they needed him, I was up off my seat; stunned with what I had just seen. But Sandoval did something that had only been done by three other players before him: Hitting three home runs in a World Series game. How do you not vote for that? I’m truly baffled.

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If you made it to this point, thanks for reading. I know a blog post without any pictures (not to mention nearly 2,000 words) can seem to drag on forever, but I just wanted to get my opinions out there on this year’s GIBBY awards.

The remaining blog schedule I have laid out for the rest of 2012 should be a lot more entertaining. So stay tuned….

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