The two biggest powerhouses of the American League were on the late spring schedule for the Minnesota Twins, as both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees came to Minneapolis.
As has been stated here earlier, the teams in any of the major sports that are consistently one of the most popular and successful teams generally translate to poor autograph results for fans. This is definitely the mode of thinking for both the Red Sox and Yankees, but the pair did have some surprise signings while in Minnesota.
The defending World Series Champions came through town first, and for Boston, this was the only time the Twin Cities would see them this season.
For the most part, that is a good thing, as the players were not very receptive to fans pleas for signatures. Boston has been getting more and more difficult to obtain the past few years, and another World Series title surely could not have helped. We knew it would be a long weekend when the first night they were in town, Coco Crisp gave us an earful about bothering him and the rest of his teammates.
The poor results piled in with the star-studded roster turning down requests before and after games. The crowd at the team hotel and stadium was quite large, which is probably the case in every city for the Red Sox. One of the best signers the entire weekend came as quite the surprise to many. Manny Ramirez has been an elusive signer for pretty much his entire career, but he was a signing machine in Minnesota.
Manny kept with his tradition of leaving the stadium out a back entrance, which unlike the normal player gates, is accessible to fans. Upon leaving and walking to his cab, Manny signed both nights after the game for some of the dozens of fans waiting. He even signed for a few fans at the hotel before one of the games. Seeing him sign and obtaining Manny’s autograph helped make up for the poor results from most of the rest of the team.
The other veteran slugger on the Red Sox who normally is good about signing in Minnesota is David Ortiz. A former Twin, Ortiz has generally been above average at signing when coming back to the city he spent many years in as a member of the Twins.
This year was different, however, as Ortiz limited his signing to just one afternoon before the game as he was entering the stadium.
The rest of the results with the Red Sox were very poor. Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka are the anchors of the pitching staff, and they are just two of many Boston players who are poor signers. These two refused to sign whenever they were asked all weekend.
Since Jonathan Papelbon has appeared on the cover of just about ever major sports publication, he was quite the sought-after signature. However, the 27-year-old refused to sign whenever he was asked. From reports in other cities, the Red Sox closer has already become a near impossible signature.
Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury have become two of the most popular players from Boston, but that didn’t happen because of their signing habits. The pair signed just a small handful of autographs.
Yankee stars still sign
The Yankees always bring in quite the circus in so many different ways. The crowds at the hotel and stadiums are always at a high for the season with the Yankees. The team travels with a large contingent of security personnel that makes sure fans do not get too close to the players. This year, they even had Minneapolis police officers at the team hotel as well.
Yet, even with the large crowds and security, the Yankees were signing much better than they have in recent years. Even though he has dealt with large crowds and a constant demand for his signature throughout his entire career, Derek Jeter is still not an impossible autograph to obtain, and that was surely the case in Minnesota.
After not signing the first two days of the series, Jeter came through in a big way before and after a Sunday afternoon game against the Twins. The future Hall of Famer signed for everyone waiting at the team hotel before the game, as well as after. In past years, Jeter would normally sign for everyone on one occasion during the series, so to see him sign twice that day was quite the surprise.
The other great fortune we had was with Alex Rodriguez, who continued to stay at a different hotel than the rest of his Yankees teammates. Rodriguez will refuse to sign at his hotel, telling fans to get him at the stadium. But we were lucky enough to get him as he went to the gym down the street for a workout. Even with the all the constant distractions Rodriguez has caused for the Yankees, he is still considered one of the greatest players of this generation, and landing his signature is becoming more and more difficult.
Another lock for Cooperstown on the Yankees is closer Mariano Rivera, who has accumulated more than 450 career saves. Rivera is like Jeter in that he will generally sign at least once per trip, and this was the case when he signed for everyone one afternoon with one of the nicest-looking signatures in baseball.
Playing with the Yankees does not seem to have affected the signing habits of Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon, who both continue to be all-stars with the Sharpie.
Before they both came to the Yankees, they were signing superstars with their respective teams. Yet, since most players sign less and less after dealing with the Yankees circus, it is a big surprise that Giambi and Damon are still so generous to the fans. Damon signed pretty much every time he was asked at the team hotel, as well as the stadium.
The same can be said about veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu, who continues to be one of the classiest guys in baseball and a willing signer all of the time. Abreu might not be on the status level of guys like Jeter and Rodriguez, but he has put up fairly impressive career numbers.
The negative side for the Yankees came from popular pitcher Joba Chamberlain and young outfielder Melky Cabrera. Both youngsters refused to sign during the entire series whenever they were asked.