Monday, October 3, 2016

Squeaky Wheels

In Jim Bouton's famous book Ball Four, he made it clear that he loved his pitching coach, Johnny Sain. Sain was famed for a couple of things; of course, everyone knows "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" from Sain's days with the Boston Braves. Sain also mentored recent great pitching coach Leo Mazzone along with 16 total 20-game winners in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Sain always encouraged his pitchers to ask management for everything they deserved and more. The famous line that still sticks with me that Bouton wrote in Ball Four is "Don't be afraid to climb those golden stairs."

There are times that Sain's advice has inured to my detriment. For instance, when I was a new associate expressing my opinion about how the firm should operate, that was definitely a bad time to "climb those golden stairs." Why? Well, unlike baseball, those of us in the civilian world have a longer career arc to figuring things out than our baseball counterparts, so climbing the golden stairs should take place only after one has enough gold built up to make the stairs golden. The talent pitchers have create that gold.

Other times, though, the gold for the stairs comes from being a consumer. Very recently, I have exercised my customer service rights to complain to good effect. One was minor -- I got one of those single serving boxes of cereal that was fully sealed but entirely empty. I sent a message to Kellogg's customer service, and a week later I got a coupon for a free Kellogg's product. 

So, thanks Kellogg's!

My other customer service experience was more interesting.

I finally lost my cool with getting ignored on Twitter by @Toppscards. I sent customer service an email, and then I climbed those golden stairs: I found an email address for the President of the company, and I included him on that email. I even included my cell phone number and invited a call. I didn't expect one, though.

To my surprise and to Topps's credit, however, I received a call from the Director of New Product Development & the eCommerce Marketplace (i.e.,, Mr. Jeff Heckman. Mr. Heckman has been out front for Topps talking about Topps Now in various places (such as WGN Radio), so I am guessing that my complaints were directed to him since they were focused on Topps Now. 

Mr. Heckman tried to explain that they understood that not everyone would be happy with the card selections made on a daily basis for Topps Now. The point I tried to get across calmly and without sounding whiny (and I'm not sure if I succeeded on either front) was that there are lots of fans for teams other than the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, and Cubs who would love for a couple of their highlights to be featured on the cards. 

He emphasized to me that his team was aware of my complaints through Twitter and that they did follow through on Twitter to try to find the events that mattered. He thanked me for my interest and for caring enough to write, and then said he'd send me something as a goodwill gesture. I told him that that was not why I wrote, but he said not to worry about it. He got my address and, a few days later, I was shocked at what showed up.

First: one box of Archives Snapshots:

These cards were the highlights. I'm thinking that I need to sell that Vizquel black and white parallel on eBay, maybe. I certainly could have done a little better on the autograph, though to be fair I am quite pleased to see someone who to us today is a minor star getting an autograph.

Next, I got a full two-box pair of Topps Finest.  The highlights:

A Rollie Fingers autograph numbered to 150, a Brewers parallel (albeit of a guy who was terrible this year in Triple A) numbered to 250, and a Daniel Norris autograph highlighted those two boxes. If there is a Mariners fan out there who wants a Ketel One Marte card numbered to 99, then I've got he or she covered too.  Can't complain about that!
And finally -- yes, there was more -- I got a box of those Black Allen & Ginter cards from this year:

A Braun and a Molitor mini were my only Brewers. The autograph in my box was of Colorado Rockies catcher -- and the preseason #97 prospect according to Baseball America -- Tom Murphy. Murphy is 25 and has had a couple of major league callups the past two years, totaling 88 plate appearances and hitting 8 home runs. Murphy will get every chance next spring to be the catcher for the Rockies -- or at least the short side of a platoon with lefty hitting Tony Wolters. Despite playing only 12 games, Murphy had a higher WAR (0.6) than Nick Hundley (79 games, 0.1 WAR) or Dustin Garneau (23 games, 0.1 WAR).

So, I guess I'm hopeful that Murphy might grow up some day to be a real player. And when he does, he needs to make sure that he isn't afraid to climb those golden stairs.

Many thanks go out to Jeff Heckman at Topps for these great cards. While I appreciate them greatly, it will not stop me from criticizing Topps when it deserves it. After all, everyone needs someone who will give them a reality check.


  1. Pretty nice gesture from Topps. Bet you wish that Rollie was in his Brewers uni. And that is a sweet Alomar auto.

  2. You got all of that just for complaining about Topps Now? Shoot, I hate Topps Now. hate it hate it hate it. Ah, who am I kidding? I'm a Red Sox fan. They've had more than their share of cards. But seriously Topps did right with you bigtime. That Fingers auto is awesome!

  3. Very nice gesture. I might come crawling to you asking for some of those Ginter black minis if you're willing.

  4. I'm liking Tom Murphy and the surprising depth we have at the Catcher position these days.

  5. HEY! I complain about Topps on my blog all the time! WHERE MY CARDS????

  6. Wow. That's pretty nice of them to send that stuff; a good will package if ever there was one. But I also appreciate that you will still complain when they deserve it; and I'm sure they'll deserve it a lot next year, too. But didn't I read somewhere they'll be issuing one card per game next year?

  7. I'm glad he took the time to listen to you. You should call him back and tell him you weren't happy with the Brewers cards in Finest! I kid, I kid. It was super cool that he took the time to call.

  8. The head varsity baseball coach at my high school keeps me around because I'm not afraid to tell him like it is... I never see any baseball cards though. Maybe I should shift my focus to Topps?

  9. Glad Topps took the time to listen to your concerns. Now hopefully they will do something about that. I guess either way... it was pretty cool of them to send you that nice care package.