Sunday, June 14, 2015

Missing 1990's Country Music While Acknowledging Things Change

I wish they were making country music like they did in the 1990’s. As my favorite artist Alan Jackson celebrates his 25th year in country music, I find current state of country music to be less than appealing. I like some of the acts, but on the whole it is more or less songs about the same things – trucks, beer, hot women, etc.

The music industry as a whole has changed. Full length albums are out. Album sales are now small and unimportant. Instead the music industry is now about hit singles and touring. This ironically was how things use to be in country music. The 50, 60, and first half of the 70’s were all about hit singles and touring while album sales were small. Then Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, and Alabama came along and large album sales totals became the thing to have.

What once was is not likely coming back. As time moves on things change, but it does not mean we cannot remember and relive great music from our past. I encourage anyone who likes good music to check out great country artists like Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Clint Black, and two personal favorites of mine Patty Loveless and Pam Tillis.

I learned long ago we do not all like the same thing, and that is a good thing. If we all liked or disliked the same thing life would become monotonous. And while Taylor Swift and Jason Aldean are disliked by many, they are also loved by many.

I started this blog as a graduate school project. I got that Master of Science degree expecting to get a one job field and ended up in another. Life does not always go as planned. Country Music use to be something super important to me. I loved listening to it. I bought lots of albums and went to lots of concerts. But like Taylor Swift – who is following the Olivia Newton John plan on how to morph from a country to a pop star – we all change. I still like to listen to country music, and but I don’t buy albums or go to many concerts much anymore. Part of it is the money it cost; part is the lack of good music from the current artists.

I missed out on the Garth Brooks show here earlier this year, and I will miss out on the Kenny Chesney – Jason Aldean show at Target Field. That is what happens when you cannot afford $200-$500 evening that includes concert tickets, parking, food and beverage. Back in the 90’s I saw Alan Jackson and Faith Hill $25 and got free parking at the Minnesota State Fair. Oh how things have changed.

Country music has changed from the 90’s too. Some think for the better, some think for the worse. I tell people it is okay to think either way. I have my opinion, but that does not have to be yours. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Twins 2015 Prediction and TTM Update

It has been slow going in my pursuit of autographed Minnesota Twins cards since Twinsfest. I did add Paul Powell, Jim Meritt, and Yohan Pino thru the mail (TTM) to give me signed cards from 521 current or former Twins. I also received returns from Jim Thome, Michael Restovich, Ricky Nolasco, Tommy Milone, and Ryan Doumit.

I hope to have more success with the season starting. I will be buying some of the new 2015 cards and sending them to current players. As they seem to do every year the Twins put someone on the team I never expected would make it and those guys never have any real baseball cards. This year it is Blaine Boyer and Shane Robinson who made the team, and I cannot find any cards of them, so I created some on my computer. Hopefully they are good signers.

Predicting how the Twins will do this season is purely guess work. Unforeseen problems like Ervin Santana 80 game suspension for using steroids can quickly mess up any prediction. Still I hope that Danny Santana, Kenny Vargas, and Oswaldo Arcia take the next step in their growth as players and become young stars. I hope Brian Dozier moves his game to All-Star level, and that Joe Mauer returns to All-Star level.

I am rooting for Phil Hughes to continue to pitch like he did last year, and for Tommy Milone to pitch like he did 2012. I also hope Kyle Gibson has a good year, and that Ricky Nolasco bounces back. I really hope to see young prospects like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Alex Meyer, Trevor May, and Michael Tonkin make it up to the big club to stay.

I hope a lot, but I know better. The Twins will have another tough season where they lose at least 85 games. Hopefully though the young players grow and become better, and we get some excitement watching the games this year. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Twinfest 2015

I attended Twinsfest 2015 which marked my 11th year straight year of attending Twinsfest. With crowds down from previous years, I was able to hit 10 of the 16 autograph stations on Friday night which produced 48 signed baseball cards. I took it a bit easier on Sunday and secured 8 signed baseball cards (got 3 guys for a second time).

I almost always get a cold after Twinsfest and this year was no exception. Now that I am feeling better, below is a list my successes with some commentary.

Current Players (including manager):

Paul Molitor (manager), Danny Santana, Phil Hughes, Trevor Plouffe, Oswaldo Arcia, Ervin Santana, Glen Perkins, Tommy Milone, Kurt Suzuki, Eduardo Escobar, Jordan Schafer, Kyle Gibson, Mike Pelfrey, Brian Duensing, Tim Stauffer, Caleb Thielbar, Carey Fien, Aaron Hicks, and Kennys Vargas 

Nice to add Ervin Santana, Tim Staufer, Tommy Milone, and Jordan Schafer to my collection of signed Twins cards. I now have signed cards from 518 different current and former Twins players. Great to add more signed cards from Phil Hughes, Danny Santana, and Kennys Vargas. Glen Perkins commandeered an Eric Fryer card from a fan to add to his own collection, the fan received an extra autograph for free from Perkins in exchange (you get only 1 autograph from each player each time you pay to go through the line). The Torii Hunter autograph lines were the longest of the weekend which did not surprise me as he was and still is one of the popular Twins of all-time.

Propsects:

Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Kohl Stewart, Alex Meyer, Nick Gordon, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Trevor May, A. J. Achter, Logan Darnell, Max Murphy, Treysen Vara, Tanner Vara, B. J. Hermsen, Tyler Duffey, Mark Hamburger, Nate Hanson, Taylor Rogers, Stephen Pryor, Blake Schmit, Jason Wheeler, J. R. Graham, Brandon Peterson, Eric Fryer, Mike Kvasnicka

The Twins have a lot of good prospects. Buxton, Sano, Stewart, Meyer, Gordon, Polanco, and Rosario all have star potential. Stewart signed his full name which he has not done on the certified autograph cards he signed for the card companies. Rosario’s autograph is a mess, and has certainly gone down hill from when he started in the minors. I needed Achter for my Twins collection as he spent a brief stint up with the big club.

I expected the Buxton and Sano lines to be real long and people did line up 2-3 hours ahead of time. However, once that group moved through the line, there was no more line. Few if any people joined the line when the signing started. I was able to show up at the Paul Molitor and Byron Buxton signing with 15 minutes left in their signing time, and did not have to wait in any line. I even got to stand around and chat with them because there was no one behind me. I had a similar experience in the Sano line. I understand the prices for the Buxton and Sano were higher this year, but both were signing with big names (Sano with Twins legend Tony Oliva, Buxton with Paul Molitor). I suspect once both men get up to the Twins and start showing what they can do, the super long lines will be back again.

Alumni & Coaches

Tony Oliva, Tom Quinlan, Gene Larkin, Dan Gladden, J. T. Bruett, Joe Vara, Neil Allen, Gene Glynn, Butch Davis

Pretty spares list of alumni players this year. Corey Koskie & Roy Smalley were supposed to be there on Friday, but they cancelled out. I wanted to get Koskie so I was disappointed to learn he had cancelled. Gladden showed me his 87 World Series Championship ring which looks good. I had a nice chat with new Twins pitching coach Neil Allen who seems like a nice guy.

I also got a chance to talk with Twins TV play-by-play man Dick Bremer in the hallway. He seemed like a nice guy. He even asked my name and where I was from.

Overall it was another good time, and I look forward to the upcoming Twins baseball season.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Autograph Twins Baseball Card TTM Update for 2014

I was mostly neutral on the Twins bringing back Torii Hunter. I think he can still hit a little, and might not be as bad a fielder some people think, but I believe the Twins would benefit more from a younger player like Eddie Rosario playing in the outfield on a regular basis.

Ervin Santana on the hand is a signing I like. Santana is a quality pitcher who for the next few seasons should be able to at least keep the Twins in games early on, something the Twins have not been getting the last few years from their starters.

The one good thing about the Hunter and Santana signings is I will likely be able to get their autographs at Twinsfest (January 23-25, 2015). Players I am looking to get this year are Josmil Pinto, Eduardo Nunez, Jordan Schafer, Tommy Milone, Aaron Thompson, and A.J. Achter. All of these players are relatively new Twins who I need for my collection of autographed Minnesota Twins baseball cards.

I sent to the above players through the mail (TTM) this year and got no response. In fact my 2014 success rate is only 49% which is by far the worse year I have ever had. I did pick up first-time successes from Dan Serafini, Bobby Keppel, Shane Bowers, Danny Goodwin, Dan Graham, Mike Stenhouse (sent 2012), Wally Backman (sent in 2012), and Lenny Webster (private paid signing) so my efforts were not a complete loss.

2014 also brought my longest return ever - Mark Salas 1891 days (over 5 years). In the time it took Mr. Salas to get back to me on this one card, I had sent to and received back from him 2 others cards. I am figuring his misplaced this first card, found it, signed it, and sent it back to me.

I also got 2 RTS (return to senders) that were strange. One was from former Twin Rob Bowen who the post office evidently could not deliver to 1436 days after I sent to him. I sent a card then current Twin Jason Marquis during his only spring training with the Twins back in 2012. 985 days after I sent the card, it came back RTS not deliverable as address (the address was fine). Who knows what happened there.

I have signed cards from 513 current and former Twins players. There are 184 players I don’t have of which 107 I have contacted and have yet to receive a return. I hope to pick a handful of these players in 2015. Sometimes the going is slow, but there are surprise successes that make doing this worthwhile. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Goodbye Gardy



Ron Gardenhire became manager of the Minnesota Twins in 2002. I started rooting for the Twins with greater passion in 2002 because of the spunky team he lead back to the playoffs. Since 2002 the Twins have won 6 division titles, but only advanced once in the playoffs (2002). Under Gardenhire the Twins won more often than not, and gave fans plenty to root for.  At least till 2011-2014 when 4 straight 90 loss seasons did Ron Gardenhire in. Now the Twins have to find a new manager who hopefully can turn the Twins back around.

Gardenhire lead teams that employed 2 MVP’s in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, a 2x Cy Young Award winner in Johan Santana, and 2 other players (Torii Hunter and Joe Nathan) who were considered amongst the best at their position. Yet many fans felt Gardenhire lead teams underachieved. Others feel he got more out of the Twins than others would have.

I remember my interactions with him. I got 5 cards, 1 ball, 1 photo, and Twins banner signed by him. He was always pleasant with me. I even freaked him out at Twinsfest 2007 when I congratulated him on the new truck he had just bought (a guy in line who worked at the dealership Gardenhire bought truck from told me).

I liked Ron Gardenhire, but it was time for him to go. I will remember his successes more than his failures. I am not sure his successor will right the ship, but Gardenhire was no longer getting through to the players and a new voice was needed. Hopefully the new manager will be a person who is kind to fans like Ron Gardenhire was. Best of luck in your future Gardy!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Get on TV at the Twins Game



Monday the 18th I had the privilege of attending the Twins – Royals game complements of my employer. We had a gathering up on the Budweiser Roof Deck which is a unique place to watch a game.

Highlights included getting rained on during the game, watching Twins GM Terry Ryan dump a bucket of ice water on Twins owner Jim Pohlad (it was for an ALS charity), and seeing one of my favorite Twins – Oswaldo Arcia – hit a massive home run off the flag pole in right field.

The best highlight though was when I got to be on TV. How? I had moved down from the Roof Deck as game went on. I was in center field in the ninth when Trevor Plouffe hit a deep fly ball. I realized it was coming close to me and sure enough went for a home run. In the above picture I am under the word “Porch” on the sign that says “usbank Home Run Porch”. I am giving the old fist pump in celebration. The home run made it 6-4 unfortunately the Twins still ended up losing.

Still I had a good time, and I came to learn that the Home Run Porch is not a bad place to watch a game. The view is good, and the seats are cheaper. Now that the Twins are getting some of the young guys like Danny Santana, Kenny Vargas, and Oswaldo Arcia some playing time, the last few games this year should be interesting.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Oswaldo Arcia Autograph Signing

Arcia actually has worn #31 not #78 for the last two years
.




There has been a dearth of Twins player autograph appearances this season with only 3 so far. However, the most recent was Oswaldo Arcia signing at a Sports Authority this last Saturday.

I had only one signed Arcia baseball card, as he is not always one to sign through the mail. Of course on the day before his signing I got two signed cards back from him that I had sent to him during spring training. If he thought that would stop me from coming to his signing he was wrong.

I was surprised to see there was a nice turnout. Lately these signing have not drawn big crowds because interest in the team itself is down. When the Twins win, fans want player autographs. When the Twins lose, fans are not as interested in player autographs.

Despite the larger than expected crowd, I was able to get four signed Arcia cards which along with the two I got in the mail the day before brought my total from one to seven.

Arcia’s signature can get a little sloppy, but the one he signed the best was his 2014 Allen & Ginter which is good because I am into collecting signed Ginters. One interesting note about Arcia’s Ginter is that it has a picture of him wearing #78 when in fact he has worn #31 for the last two years. The picture on the Ginter is actually a cropped version of the photo on his 2013 Bowman Platinum. The Ricky Nolasco 2014 Allen & Ginter meanwhile has the exact same photo that is on his 2014 Topps Heritage. I would have hope Topps could have a little more diversity in the photos they used on their different cards, but it seems not.

Whatever picture is on the card, it is still nice to get some signed Arcia baseball cards.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Random All-Star Game and Other Thoughts



The All-Star game has come and gone, and I have a few random thoughts.

This year’s game featured some sure fire Hall of Famers like Derek Jeter and Miguel Cabrera, but it mostly featured young talent like Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Dee Gordon, Salvador Perez, Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Gomez, Yoenis Cespedes, and Yasiel Puig. When I see the names left off the teams roster like Joe Mauer, Dustin Pedroia, Albert Pujlos, Ryan Howard, Joey Votto, Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, Josh Hamilton, and Ryan Braun I wonder if we are not seeing a changing of the guard amongst baseball’s top players.

I noticed the lack of young Twins star players on the above list. The Twins have only three players on their 25 man roster who are age 25 or young (Danny Santana -23, Oswaldo Arcia -23 and Eduardo Escobar -25). For a team that is supposedly in rebuilding mode this is not a good sign!

I went to All-Star Fan Fest on Monday for only $10 (regular price was $35). It was a pretty good experience though my hope of getting some of the free autographs was dashed by the long lines (people had to be in line 3 hours ahead of the signing time). However, with a donation to charity I got Tony Oliva to sign a card for me. I also was able to pick some of the popular and free Charlie Brown baseball cards Topps was giving away.

Look at this comparison:

Player A was a .294 career hitter with 272 home runs and a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 37.6. He was a 10 time All-Star and won the league MVP award.

Player B was a .304 career hitter with 220 home runs and a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 43. He was an 8 time All-Star and won 3 batting titles.

Player A and Player B have something in common; neither is in the Hall of Fame. In fact they were on the ballot every year of the eligibility, but never made it. Who are they? Player A is Steve Garvey who started for the National League in the 85 All-Star Game at the Metrodome. Player B is Tony Oliva of the Twins who played in the 65 All-Star Game here Met Stadium. While I was watching the 2014 All-Star game at Target Field I wondered which player(s) would be the Garvey/Oliva player who was really good, but not consider Hall of Fame worthy. It is hard to say who it will be, but we will know by the time the next All-Star Game comes to Minnesota in say 20 years.

The 2014 Allen & Ginter baseball cards were released earlier this month. A & G’s have been my favorite baseball card the last few years. However, this year was a major downer because there were only 3 Minnesota Twins (Mauer, Arcia, & Nolasco) in the set. From 2006 to 2012 the A & G sets average 10 Twins cards per set. Year last there were 7 current and former Twins in the set.

The Twins have been a bad team of late, but really could Topps (who produces A & G) have not least thrown in a card for Brian Dozier or Glen Perkins. Guess not. I would have like A & G to produce at least one card of Rod Carew in a Twins uniform instead of always putting him in an Angel uniform. Carew won 7 batting titles and was a MVP as a Twins for whom he played for twice as long as the Angels. Also why is there no Kirby Puckett card yet? One of the most loved players of his time finds himself one of the very few modern HOFers not to have an A & G card yet.

On a positive note, this year’s Topps Heritage set is real good this season. I hope to get some of them autographed yet this year.   

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Random Twins Thoughts and Autograph TTM Update



Some random Twins thoughts and my Minnesota Twins TTM Autograph Update:

Much has been made about Joe Mauer’s hitting slump, but no one brings up the obvious – he is still suffering from the lingering affects of his concussion from last year. This could be a serious problem as Twins fans remember all to well the lack of production from Justin Morneau even three years after he had “recovered” from his concussion. I worry Mauer could suffer a similar fate.

Another question with Mauer is what the Twins are going to do with him once top prospects Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas get here sometime in 2015. Sano plays third base while Vargas plays first base. One would think the Twins will want both to play and develop, so Mauer could find himself switching positions again and playing left field.

I like many was caught be surprise when the Twins signed Kendrys Morales, but wonder how much he will really help and whether he would even consider staying here long term. He will probably produce okay numbers then leave as a free agent. The Twins have no one who is any better at DH, so Morales will have job for the rest of the season.

So far this year, my TTM autograph collection has not been I would have hoped. I was able to finally get successes from Dan Serafini and Bobby Keppel. I also finally got Bill Campbell to sign a Twins card for me. I miss the boat when I saw Ricky Nolasco and Jason Kubel signed during spring training and when Kevin Correia signed earlier this year. None of the three has ever been reliable signers, so it is hit and miss with them.

The Twins have had only one free autograph signing event this year, so picking there has been slim. 2014 All-Star Fan Fest will be in Minneapolis this year with a lot big name former Twins players appearing. However, I have heard autograph lines are long and it cost $35 to get in the door and that is not counting the parking and food expenses that will be probably another $40. Will I go? I think I will wait and see.

If you are looking to get an autographed baseball card from either Torii Hunter or Justin Morneau you can do so for only $30 for Hunter and $25 for Morneau. Hunter signs for the Detroit Tigers Foundation’s Autograph for a Cause program. Morneau signs for the Colorado Rockies Foundation. I sent to Hunter last year and it worked great. I also received a signed card from Miguel Cabrera through Autographs for a Cause in 2010. I used the Colorado Foundation program to get Troy Tulowitzki in 2011 so I know both programs are legitimate. You do sometimes have to wait a while for your card to come back signed, but you get a letter stating the foundation people watched the player signed the cards. Also private signing with these players would cost you more than double what the foundations are charging.

I sent to Hunter again this year, and we will see if I can scrap together enough money to send to Morneau. Hopefully my TTM successes will pick later this season, and hopefully the Twins will pick up some more wins this season.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Minnesota Twins Quarter Season Report



At the quarter mark of the Minnesota Twins season I have been pleased with the play of Brian Dozier, Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto, Eduardo Escobar, and Phil Hughes. I have been disappointed with the play of Joe Mauer, Pedro Florimon, Jason Kubel, Aaron Hicks, Kevin Correia, and Mike Pelfrey. I have been mystified by the Twins handling of Jason Bartlett and Oswaldo Arcia.

Dozier has proved to be one of the best 2nd basemen in the league this year. Dozier has reached base 76 times as of this writing, and scored 40 runs which means he scored more than half the time he got on base which is amazing. Dozier’s defense is better than his offense – which has been very good – meaning Dozer is very worry of all-star consideration. Dozier is also one of the nicest Twins I have ever met. I hope he has continued success.

Suzuki, Pinto, and Escobar have exceeded my expectations. Suzuki offensive revival and strong work with the pitching staff has made people forget that the catcher spot was suppose to be a weakness after Joe Mauer moved to 1st base. Pinto has spent more time DHing than catching because of Suzuki’s strong play, but Pinto has proved he can hit and draw walks. Escobar has emerged from light hitting utility player to offensively strong starting shortstop. I doubt Escobar can keep it up, but every game he can give promising prospect Danny Santana to work on developing his game is worthwhile.

The most impressive player for me so far this season has been Phil Hughes. I previously wrote about my belief that Hughes could have a good year. We now see that Hughes is the best starter the Twins have. He leads Twins starters in several categories. Hughes is the kind of starter we have needed for the last few years. I hope he can continue to have quality outings.

Sadly two other starters (Correia and Pelfrey) have not faired as well. Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Gibson, and Samuel Deduno have pitched well enough to take four of the five starting spots in the Twins rotation. With prospects Alex Meyer, Logan Darnell, and Trevor May starting to show promise at the Twins top minor league team, it could make Correia and Pelfrey very expended.

Kubel started out hot, and has now gone cold. He has been wildly inconsistent the last two years; it now looks like he will make it the last three years. Florimon started out cold and lost his job to Escobar. Mauer has been hurt and not producing like a superstar player should. Hicks seems to lack the drive to succeed. Hicks got called out in the media by the Twins organization which tells us how bad things have gotten with him. Part of Hicks is problem is that the Twins decided to keep Jason Bartlett out of spring training because they felt they needed his leadership. To keep Bartlett (who was not on the 40 man roster and not an experienced center fielder), the Twins had to release Hicks backup Alex Presley. Bartlett’s “leadership” was shown when he started off the season in a slump, got hurt, and then retired. This left the Twins with no solid alternative to Hicks in centerfield meaning Hicks can’t demoted and has to continue to stay with the major league team and struggle.

Another bizarre decision the Twins made involved Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia made the team out of spring training and played four games before being injured. Upon recovering from the injury Arcia was sent on a rehab stint in the minors. He hit well there and when the assignment was up the Twins demoted him back to minors rather than bring him back to he major league team. Now the team says it will bring Arcia back soon. Why not bring him back right away? Next time he gets hurt do you think he will be eager to tell anyone after not getting his old job back even though all he did to lose it was get hurt? If there had been other issues why did he make the team out of spring training?

With top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano hurt and not likely to make the major leagues, things to look forward to are the arrival of pitching prospect Alex Meyer and the emergence of power hitting prospect Kennys Vargas. I also look forward to the all the players on the Twins improving their play and the Twins finishing with a winning record this season.