Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Country Music Stars TTM Successes

Back in the 1990’s I wrote country music stars Alan Jackson, Wynonna Judd, Dwight Yoakam, and Mary Chapin Carpenter to praise their music, and ask them for an autograph photo. Na├»ve at how such things worked I expected them to provide me a signed photo and paid for postage to send it me. Well they were not so accommodating. Alan and Wynonna sent me letter thanking me for my letter and offering me a chance to buy an autographed photo for $3. Dwight said I had to join his fan club in order to get an autographed photo. My letter to Mary Chapin came back RTS and I never found another good address to send it to.

I did get my autographed photos from Alan, Wynonna, and joined Dwight’s fan club for a year. The photos were very nice looking, and I still have the Alan and Dwight photos framed and on display in my house.

Now well over a decade later I decided to write some of my favorite country artist again. Using my experience with sending baseball cards to players to sign, I created my own country music star baseball cards to send. Knowing that the bigger the star, the less likely I was to get a response, I choose four older artists whom I had enjoyed. Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Clint Black, and Travis Tritt were a major part of the 90’s country boom, but only Alan is still a major commercial force.

I sent cards out to all four. I got one of them back quickly. Unfortunately it was a RTS from Vince Gill. I had the wrong address. I am still searching for a better one to send it to though I think I am on to something.

39 days after I sent all four out, my first success arrived and it was ALAN JACKSON! I must admit I was surprised. He is still very popular and though he probably can’t match Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood in the amount of mail they get, he still must get plenty. That said he did sign a card for me and even personalizing it. Thank you Alan Jackson!

I hope to send out more to the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Pam Tillis, Brooks & Dunn, and others. I loved 1989-1995 country music and most the artists from that time period are more apt to sign as they are not getting as much fan mail as they use to, and they understand they must work maintain the fan base they have now in order to be able to keep making a living making music.

I will avoid the big stars of today like Carrie, Taylor, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, and Sugarland as they are less likely to sign due to the volume of mail they get. I will also avoid Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire. I can’t find anywhere to send the Garth item to making me think he has stopped signing autographs. I have read on multiple Web sites that people who have gotten a response from Reba have gotten pre-printed autographed items meaning the items like a picture were created with autograph already on them. She actually never signs them. I find that surprising as in her early career Reba signed a lot of things. Evidently her priorities have changed.

I will try and post updates here on my successes. I will also work harder and updating my baseball, hockey, and football successes as well.

Great TTM Successes From Great Guys

Baseball Hall of Famer Al Kaline has made my great guy list. I created a custom baseball card of Mr. Kaline on my computer. I sent the card to him with his signing fee of $10. Mr. Kaline not only signed my card, but also he also sent me a nice looking card of his own which he also signed. I have to admit it was awful nice of Mr. Kaline to send me that extra signed card. I had heard he was a really nice guy, this proves that to be true.

Another nice person is former North Star hockey player Bobby Smith. I sent a hockey card to Mr. Smith up in his native Canada, and I included a dollar to pay for return postage as I had no Canadian stamps to put on it. Well Mr. Smith not only signed my card, but put his own stamp on the return enevlop plus he returned my dollar to me. Thank you Mr. Smith! With the economy as bad as it is, I can use every dollar.

Rich (Goose) Goosage also proved to be a nice guy signing for me, and a lot of others, right before he was elected to the HOF. Why is that good? Well after he was elected to the HOF he started to charge for autographs. He could have held on to all the cards he received before getting elected to the HOF and sent them back asking for money to sign them. Instead he did the right thing and signed the ones he got before for free, and then charged people who sent to him afterward. Not all players would or have done the same.

Former Twins pitcher Al Worthington not only signed my custom baseball card on the front but the back as well. He also included a signed 3 x 5 photo of himself, some religious materials, a copy of an article of him in Life Magazine which he signed, and signed letter explaining why he had included the religious material.
He put all of this in his own envelop and put his own postage on the letter.

But one of the nicest things I ever got from a player was from former Twin Juan Rincon. I sent Juan a card to sign after he had been released from the Twins. I also sent him a note thanking him for his time with the Twins and urging him to keep his head up and that I felt he would be back in the major leagues soon. Not only did he sign my card, but he also included a hand written note thanking me for my kind words. That was great stuff from a great guy.

These are just some of the nice things that have happened.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Time to hand out the grades for the Twins organization

Jim, Bob, and Bill Pohlad, owners of the Twins – Grade of B+

The Pohlads let Torii Hunter leave, but did sign Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan to long–term contract extensions. Hunter had an average year with his new team while Morneau had an MVP worthy season, and Nathan remains a dominate closer.

The Pohlad brothers also were willing to eat the remainder of the contracts for Craig Monroe, Livan Hernandez, and Mike Lamb when it became obvious their time was up. It’s not the Pohlads fault that GM Bill Smith choose to bring these guys instead of going with the youngsters right away.

The Pohlads did offer big money to Johan Sanatana, but there was no way they could have given Santana the $140 million he got from the Mets.

Bill Smith, general manager of the Twins – Grade of D

Smith gets an F bringing in free agent Livan Hernandez, Adam Everett, and Mike Lamb, and for trading for and Craig Monroe. I had written that I thought Everett’s gold glove caliber defense would help the Twins. However, you cannot help a team when you can’t play. Everett’s season long battle with injuries was unfortunate. Also unfortunate was Lamb’s inability to handle the full time job at 3rd. I, and a lot of other people, expected Lamb to hit 15-20 HR’s. He hit 1. Monroe had a couple of big home runs, but mostly looked old and slow. Hernandez meanwhile did get some early wins, but quickly turned into the most hittable pitcher in baseball.

Smith trade of Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to Tampa for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris looks bad too. Garza is now living out his promise as a top flight starting pitcher while Bartlett’s play at short was so good, the Tampa area media voted Bartlett the division winning Tampa Bay Rays team MVP. Harris started the season as the Twins second baseman and looked lost. A move to short and then to 3rd help him a lot in the field, and he was solid with the bat. Unfortunately he looks like nothing more than a platoon player. Delmon Young was supposed to be a superstar in waiting. Will we are still waiting. In Young’s defense he was asked to switch positions from his natural right field to left field in a stadium – the Metrodome – where it is hard to play the outfield. Young did hit for a solid average, but he must hit for more power. He is very young, so he may yet have a bright future, but right now this trade is looking real bad.

Smith gets an incomplete for the trade of Johan Santana to the Mets for Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. Santana had another fine year, and did nothing to make the Mets regret the move. Gomez quickly became a Twins fan favorite with his display of dynamic talent. As a defensive player Gomez as more range and a stronger arm in center field than his gold glove winning predecessor Torii Hunter. Gomez has speed to burn and stole most bases by a Twin in over a decade. Gomez also looks to have some power potential. Unfortunately Gomez also swings too freely, and a can get a little too worked up. Still, he is a major talent.

Humber and Mulvey look to be noting more than fifth starters or long relievers. Humber is out of options so the Twins have to either keep him on the major league team or trade or release him. Guerra has a live pitching arm, but is very raw. Time will be needed with him.

A lot was asked of Bill Smith in his first year and he did not deliver. I do give him credit for admitting his mistakes and getting rid of them. With a less hectic off-season approaching perhaps Smith can focus in and get something productive done.

Ron Gardenhire, manager – Grade A

I like to second guess some of Gardenhire’s moves during a game, but I cannot question the job he did this season with this team. Working with three everyday players (Gomez, Spahn, and Casilla) who were basically rookies; handling a staring pitching staff with pitchers who had little major league experience, and having to deal with a bullpen on the verge of meltdown; Gardenhire somehow willed this team into being within a run of winning the central division.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Twins Season Ends

I was disappointed with the Twins 1-0 loss to the White Soxs in one game playoff to decide the A.L. Central Drivision champion. However, that the Twins were competitive at all was a pleasant surprise, and I have great hope for the future of this team. Why? Look what the Twins accomplished despite:

· Having lost the best pitcher in baseball in Johan Santana, an All-Star outfielder in Torii Hunter, their starting shortstop in Jason Bartlett, and an innings eating starter in Carlos Silva.

· Off-season additions Livan Hernandez, Craig Monroe, Mike Lamb, and Adam Everett were almost all complete busts.

· Star player Michael Cuddyer missed almost the entire season due to injury.

· Major acquisition Delmon Young – who was suppose to hit 20 + HR’s and have 100 + RBI’s - hit 10 HR’s and had 68 RBI’s.

· Three starting players – Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, and Alexi Casilla were in their first full year in the majors

· None of the Twins five starting pitchers Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowly, Nick Blackburn, and Glen Perkins had ever gone a full year as a starter in the major leagues.

· The Twins hit the fewest home runs in the major leagues.

Despite all of this the Twins came within one run of winning the division. Yes, the Twins should have wrapped up the division title in their final series of the regular season when the inexplicitly lost two out of three to Kansas City. Still that they were even in the position at all was amazing.