When it comes to the worst-signing teams in the American League, as I catch them in Minnesota, it’s hard to match the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels.
The only bonus for the Angels was their offseason addition of all-star outfielder Torii Hunter, who is one of baseball’s best-signing stars. Take Hunter off the roster, and you have a long list of players who are headaches for fans.
One of those is Vladimir Guerrero, who has firmly established himself as one of the elite players in the game, but also one of the worst signers. Guerrero can be considered nearly impossible to obtain at the team hotel, and the former MVP is just about as difficult at the stadium. In Minnesota, Vlad did not sign during an entire four-game series, which was not a big surprise. Back when he played with the Expos and was still a young prospect, he was one of the nicest guys, but that all changed as his play on the field increased.
Another toughie for fans is closer Francisco Rodriguez. You would see collectors in shock on a day when Rodriguez actually decided to help out collectors and sign an autograph. Unfortunately, he has had his sour attitude toward signing during his entire seven-year career in the majors.
Another pair of signing disappointments with Los Angeles is the outfield tandem of Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews. Both Anderson and Matthews have been extremely bad signers in person for years, and getting turned down by them is a regular occurrence for fans all across the league. The consistent successes collectors continue to get from any mail request sent to Anderson is still a perplexing issue since he is so bad of a signer in person.
The lone bright spot with the Angels is the former Minnesota Twins star Hunter, who continues to be one of the good guys in baseball. We got to experience Hunter’s kindness for many years here in Minnesota, but fans everywhere have surely seen what a great person he is and what a treat he is for collectors. Hunter joins catcher Jeff Mathis as the best signing players on the Angels.
A pair of former All-Stars were also good, with manager Mike Scioscia and former Royals pitcher Mark Gubicza siging. Scioscia is close to a lock when asked for his signature, and Gubicza – who travels on most road trips working for the team’s television broadcasts – is also just as kind.
Grab the young stars now
A pair of star-studded hockey teams came through Minnesota near the end of the regular season. The Chicago Blackhawks, with their young stars, and the New Jersey Devils, with their All-Stars, both made trips to St. Paul to face the Minnesota Wild.
The Blackhawks were making their second trip into town this year and were surprisingly still good about signing. With a pair of rookies who are being compared to current and past greats, you would think that the constant demand for their signatures would have changed them already. Thankfully, it really hasn’t. Patrick Kane is the 19-year-old future star, and Jonathan Toews is the 20-year-old. Together, the pair make up the hottest young tandem in the league.
Kane has lived up to the hype after being selected first overall in the 2007 draft, while Toews also has delivered after being the third overall selection in the 2006 NHL Draft. Both were the most sought-after signatures by far when the Blackhawks came to Minnesota. Kane and Toews were great about signing, as the team went over to the arena on the morning of the game. They signed for the entire crowd of more than 20 fans and collectors.
It was in the evening before the game at the team hotel that was not as pleasant. Kane ignored all requests while Toews grabbed a Sharpie and signed a few, before getting on a bus and heading over to the arena. It you are a hockey fan or collector, it would be in your best interest to try and pick up a signature from this explosive duo now before they become even more difficult.
One proven NHL superstar who has no problems with signing autographs is Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard. The NHL Hall-of-Fame member, who had a brilliant 17-year playing career, is now the head man in Chicago working to turn the franchise around. Savard is as nice as they come for fans, as he will always go out of his way to sign.
The other good signers included Craig Adams, Rene Bourque, Dustin Byfuglien, Martin Havlat, Duncan Keith, Patrick Lalime, Robert Lang and Jason Williams.
Signatures from the Devils
The Devils shook things up a little for collectors by switching hotels and staying across town in Minneapolis. The change in hotel venues was not a good thing for collectors who had to deal with hotel security who would not allow us anywhere near the doors to the hotel. This meant results were not as good as they could have been during the few days of autograph seeking.
The main draw for New Jersey would be longtime Devils goalie and a future Hall-of-Famer, Martin Brodeur. The two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy, Brodeur has been the face of the franchise since 1991, and he continues to be one of the game’s top goaltenders. Martin usually is pretty cooperative with autograph requests, but the only problem is his signature is just a small and quick couple of lines. That being said, Brodeur was still nice enough to walk over and sign at the team hotel the day before the game.
Also being very gracious with fans was the team’s leading scorer during the regular season, Zach Parise (see photo), even though he is still only 23 years old. He has proven early on in his career that he will be a force in the NHL for many years to come, and he was as stellar off the ice as well in Minnesota. Not only did he sign for everyone waiting, Parise gave collectors a perfectly legible signature.
Also signing away on that afternoon was second-leading scorer and former All-Star Patrick Elias. The other good signers with the Devils included Sergei Brylin, Andy Greene, Jamie Langenbrunner, John Madden, Paul Martin, Mike Mottau, Jay Pandolfo, Kevin Weeks, Colin White and Travis Zajac.