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Previous Autographs of the Month

May, 2016:

I received nothing in this drought of a month. So here's a llama.






April, 2016:


Ken Anderson

From the dawn of his career in 1971 to its conclusion in 1986, Ken Anderson was one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League.

The Browns stalwart did not wait long to get going. In just his fourth season, he led the league in completions, completion percentage, yards, yards per attempt, yards per game and quarterback rating. 

That started a trend — he would lead the league a lot. The next year, 1975, he again led the league in yards, yards per game and rating. And from 1976 to 1980, during what was a down stretch in his career in which he did not lead the league in anything, he still managed to toss nearly 11,000 total yards.

Then something clicked. Or, re-clicked. From 1981 to 1984, he led the league in quarterback rating twice — with a career high of 98.4 in 1981 — a completion percentage twice, peaking at 70.6 in 1982. 

Of course, he's never flown under the radar. He made four Pro Bowls and has been thrown around in recent Hall of Fame discussions (in fact, he's been a Hall of Fame finalist twice). Will he ever make it to Canton? That remains to be seen, but a case for enshrinement can be made.





March, 2016:


John Ramos

John Ramos didn't last long in the major leagues, but he made the best of his time there. 

Drafted by the New York Yankees in the fifth round in 1986, he toiled in the minors for a few years, where he showed okay pop, occasional speed on the base paths and a decent eye at the plate. In 1991, for example, he hit ten home runs at Triple A; three years before, in 1988, he swiped 10 bases and walked 61 times to only 43 strikeouts. 

And he could also hit for average. In 1988, he hit .304 at Class A. His mark was .307 in 1990 between Double A and Triple A and in 1991, his first full campaign at the latter level, he batted .308. 

It was that year that he caught the Yankees' eye. After solid performance on the farm, they gave him a late-season look-see, sending him to the dish for 26 at-bats. He scored four runs and had three RBI on eight hits, which was good for a .308 batting average. 

But it wasn't good enough for the Yankees, who demoted him Triple A, where he would spend the rest of his career. He had a .327 batting average in 1994 and slugged 20 home runs in 1995, but never again played in the bigs. After 1996, his professional career was over.





February, 2016:


Whitney Mercilus

Whitney Mercilus has always been a solid defensive force for the Houston Texans. 

The former first round draft pick had six sacks in 2012, his rookie season, despite starting just four games. In 2015, he reached double digits in quarterback take downs for the first time, finishing with 12. And in 2016, on the back of 7.5 sacks and 36 tackles, he was named a Second Team All-Pro.

In his final college season, 2011, is when he became a true star. That year, he was a unanimous All-American and a First Team All-Big Ten. He earned the Ted Hendricks Award and the Bill Willis Award. What did he do to earn all those accolades? Only manage 16 sacks and 57 tackles for the Illinois Fighting Illini. 





January, 2016:


Bobby Grich

Bobby Grich is a historically unheralded player — though thanks to sabermetrics, that is changing a little.

As great a player as he was — he earned six All-Star selections, won four Gold Gloves and was awarded a Silver Slugger — Grich usually does not come to mind when folks consider the best second basemen of the past fifty years.

Sure, he hit over 200 home runs, a solid total for a second sacker, but he did not reach other important milestones. No 2,000 hits, no 1,000 RBI. Sure, his on-base percentage was a great .371, but he batted just .266. Sure, he was an All-Star, but only once was he an All-Star in consecutive years (1979–1980). 

As a result of his relative anonymity, Grich received just 2.6 percent of the vote in his lone year on the Hall of Fame ballot, 1992. Even Rusty Staub did better. 

But what traditional stats do not reveal, modern measures do. Grich was a great player. His 70.9 career WAR is 92nd all-time, and 61st among position players. His 61.1 offensive WAR is 85th in baseball history, and his 16.2 defensive WAR is 86th. To rank among the top 100 out of over 18,000 players is pretty impressive. 

And though few fans want him in the Hall of Fame at this point, consideration and calls for his enshrinement are growing. One day we might see Bobby Grich, the unknown American League second baseman from the seventies, in the Hall of Fame.





December, 2015:


Brandon Gibson

Wide receiver Brandon Gibson was a First Team All-Pac 10 player in 2007 and earned honorable mention in 2008, so when he arrived in the NFL in 2009, he already had an impressive resume. And he's only added to it since. 

A reliable pass catcher, Gibson has caught as many as 53 passes in a season and gained as many as 691 yards. Though he's not a superstar, he's proven to be useful and versatile, even averaging 8.8 yards when asked to rush the ball. 

Currently injured, Gibson looks to return to form in 2016 — and that should give opposing defenses something to worry about.




November, 2015:



Toby Gerhart

Toby Gerhart is a repeat selection for Autograph of the Month, though he deserves it. The rusher averaged an astounding 7.9 yards per carry in 2013 and, in 2011, managed a less stellar but still solid 4.9 yards per rush. The Sports Network describes him as "a powerful and hard runner blessed with terrific vision and instincts [who] gains tough yardage by being very hard to bring down." In addition, he "has the poise of a running back and the raw skills of a fullback." 

His talents and accomplishments have parlayed into a solid NFL career ... and a second Autograph of the Month selection.




October, 2015:

Yovani Gallardo



He's one of Mexico's finest products.

Yovani Gallardo began his big league career at just 21 years old and immediately made waves, going 9-5 with a 3.67 ERA and an 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings ratio in his 2007 rookie campaign. The next year, in an abbreviated season, he had a 1.88 ERA in 24 innings. 

2009 was the campaign he proved just how dominating he could be. In 185.2 innings, he struck out 204 batters and allowed only 150 hits, thus beginning a stretch of four straight seasons with 200 or more Ks. He earned his first All Star nod in 2010 at just 24 years old, again averaging more than a strikeout per inning; In both '09 and '10, he was second in the league in strikeouts per nine innings ratio. 

Every single year, he does something better than the year before. In 2011, he won a career high 17 games and finished seventh in Cy Young Award voting. In 2012, he led the league in games started. In 2013, he allowed the fewest home runs since 2010. In 2014, he allowed the fewest walks since 2008 and in 2015, he posted the lowest full season ERA of his career. 

And it's not just in the regular season — or on the mound — that he dominates. In 31 postseason innings, he owns a tiny 2.32 ERA, surrendering only 26 hits and winnings two games. At the plate, he's batted over .200 five times, not bad for a hurler, winning a Silver Slugger Award in 2010. That year, he had four home runs and 10 RBI while slugging .508. The next year, he scored 11 runs and had four doubles. 

Of course, his success really comes as no surprise to those in the know. He was a highly-touted prospect coming up through the minors, being named the 16th-best prospect in the land going into 2007 by Baseball America after two stellar campaigns in the minors. In 2005, he was 8-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 121.1 innings and the next year, he was 11-5 with a 1.86 ERA and 188 Ks in 155 frames. 2007 was his first taste of Triple-A and he killed it, going 8-3 with a 2.90 mark. Then he was called up to the majors and the rest, as they say, is history.  

Because Yovani Gallardo is such a star, and because he's still so young — he's only 29 — the righty from Penjamillo is October's Autograph of the Month.





September, 2015:


Jeff Reardon

Jeff Reardon was one of the greatest closers in big league history.

The right-hander spent 16 years in the majors, saving 367 games, finishing 695 and allowing a paltry 2.8 walks  per nine innings. Consider this: The four-time All-Star, who last played over 20 years ago in 1994, still ranks ninth all-time in career saves and seventh in career games finished. His 880 appearances are among the highest ever and his meager 7.9 hits per nine innings ratio is also among the best. Oh yeah, he also help the all-time career saves record for a spell

The 1985 National League Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year didn't earn the nickname "The Terminator" for nothing. From 1979 to 1982, he posted a 2.26 ERA in 197 games. And from 1982 to 1992, he averaged 31 saves per year, leading the league in 1985 and finishing second three years in a row (1986 to 1988). He also placed second in games finished four times, including three straight seasons, from 1987 to 1989.

Let's not forget his postseason domination. He shut down the Phillies in the 1981 National League Division Series, and a few years later — in the 1987 World Series — he held the Cardinals scoreless in four appearances, helping the Twins win the Fall Classic. Skip to 1992, when — in the twilight of his career — Reardon mastered the Pirates in the Championship Series. All told, he made 18 career postseason appearances and logged six saves.

Outside of his All-Star Games and Rolaids Relief award, his greatness was recognized many other ways. He won the May 1986 NL Pitcher of the Month honor and earned two Pitcher of the Week selections. He garnered Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player votes three times each, finishing as high as seventh and 11th in the balloting, respectively. Even early on he turned heads, placing sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. And how about this: In 2000, his first and only year on the Hall of Fame ballot, Reardon earned 4.8% of the vote — hardly enough to put him in Cooperstown, sure, but it was a better percentage than John Franco's 4.6 in 2011. Isn't that something? Voters thought more highly of Reardon than Franco, who was just the second pitcher -- and the first southpaw -- to save over 400 games.

Because he was such a great pitcher for so many years, Jeff Reardon is September's Autograph of the Month.





August, 2015:


Jerry Reuss

Pitcher Jerry Reuss was among the youngest players in the league when he made his big league debut in 1969 and one of the oldest codgers in the loop when he finally quit in 1990. 

In the 22 years that he twirled his stuff, the hurler won 220 games, completed 127 matches and worked 39 shutouts. He tossed nearly 3,700 innings and faced over 15,000 batters, yet walked barely 1,100 of them — though he once led the league in bases on balls, he became one of the best control pitchers in the game, twice posting the second-best BB per nine innings pitched ratio in the league.

From 1973 to 1977, he averaged 15 wins, 12 complete games and 239 innings pitched per year, winning 16 or more games per year from 1973 to 1975. He posted a high of 18 victories the latter year, earning an All-Star nod, then matched that mark in 1980, then again in 1982. 1980 was a campaign for the ages: He went 18-6 with a league-leading six shutouts and a 2.51 ERA to finish second in National League Cy Young voting.

In fact, his entire run from 1980 to 1985 was incredible. Though he averaged less than 200 frames per season, he posted an excellent 2.88 ERA while averaging 13 victories and seven complete games a year — and to think, he was 36 when that run ended! He had one last hurrah in 1988, winning 13 games at the age of 39. 

He had a thing for dominating against the best hitters in the league. Pete Rose, the all-time hit king who batted .303 for his career, managed a paltry .250/.287/.336 slash line in 128 at-bats against Reuss. George Foster, one of the game's best sluggers in the 1970s, hit only .248/.287/.416 in 113 ABs against the pitcher. And Phil Garner, a three-time All-Star and .260 career hitter, batted a meager .175/.196/.409 in 97 at-bats against the southpaw.

Because Jerry Reuss was such a solid pitcher for over two decades, he earns the August Autograph of the Month.





July, 2015:


C.J. Cron

C.J. Cron has the potential to be a star. 

A first round pick in 2011, the 25-year-old dominated the minor leagues at all levels: He slugged .629 his first pro season, hammered 27 home runs with 123 RBI in 2012, mashed 36 doubles with 14 home runs the third campaign and in 2014, his first year at Triple-A, he slashed .316/.385/.511 in 49 games.

After that performance, he wasn't long for the minors. He made his big league debut on May 3, 2014 and slugged 11 home runs in just 242 at-bats. Back in the minors for more seasoning for part of 2015, he hit (as of this writing) .323 with a .667 slugging mark in 23 Triple-A games. Though he started off slow in the majors, he batted .343/.373/.586 in July and shows no signs of letting up. 

Because C.J. Cron is such a promising young player, he is July's Autograph of the Month.





June, 2015:


Jack McDowell

"Black Jack" McDowell was one of the most dominant pitchers of the early 1990s.

Most fans recall his incredible 1993 campaign, when he went 22-10 with a league-leading four shutouts, ten complete games and a 3.37 ERA to win the American League Cy Young Award with the White Sox. Equally prominent is his stellar 1992 season, when at 26 years old, he won 20 matches, led the league with 13 complete games, tossed over 260 innings and finished second in Cy Young balloting.

The peripheral campaigns, though they have less mind share, were also remarkable. His run of greatness began in 1990, when he won 14 games,  tossed 205 frames and allowed only 189 hits. The next year, he had 17 victories, a league-leading 35 starts and 15 complete games and only 212 hits allowed in over 250 innings of work. The strike-shortened 1994 had the potential to be another 15-win season for the hurler, but he had to settle with leading the league in starts again. 

After a 15-10 1995 in which McDowell again led the league in CGs, the pitcher's stupendous skein was over. From 1990 to 1995, he averaged 16 wins, nine complete games and 229 innings per season. He was thrice and All-Star and twice earned MVP votes. But even then, he wasn't done. 1996 was a step down for the pitcher as his ERA jumped to 5.11, yet he still managed 13 victories and five complete games in 192 innings. 

When he became eligible for the Hall of Fame, he earned a couple votes in recognition of his greatness. And that's just what this success was: Great.




May, 2015:


Nori Aoki

Nori Aoki arrived from Japan with a winning pedigree and has continued his successful ways in the United States. The outfielder — a 30-year-old rookie  because he spent so long overseas — possesses a slew of big league skills. Quick on the base paths, he has stolen as many as 30 bases in a season and at least 14 in each of his big league campaigns. Averaging one strikeout every 11.6 at-bats, he is one of toughest players to whiff — in 2013, he led the league with a 14.9 at-bats per strikeout ratio. Solid batting averages and on-base percentages are the norm for Aoki, as he owns marks of .287 and .353, respectively.

Because Nori Aoki is such a solid contributor wherever he goes, he is May's Autograph of the Month. 





April, 2015:



Danny Duffy

Big things were expected of Danny Duffy and so far, he's delivered. 

He began his big league career by averaging a solid 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings for the Royals in 2011, then upped that number to 9.1 in 2012. Though he made only five starts for the club in 2013, Duffy showed signs of his potential by going 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA, allowing only 19 hits and striking out 22 batters in 24.1 innings. 

In 2014, he exploded. In 31 games (25 starts), the hurler posted a 2.53 ERA and 156 ERA+, allowing only 113 hits in 149.1 innings. Among major league pitchers with at least 145 innings tossed, he ranked seventh in ERA+, seventh in hits per nine innings and 11th in ERA. He led Royals starters in ERA, ERA+ and H/9 IP, as well.  And once the regular season was over, he wasn't done. In the 2014 postseason, Duffy earned a win and struck out five batters in 5.1 innings of work.

Because Danny Duffy has shown so much potential at a young age, he is April's Autograph of the Month.




 
March, 2015:



Andrew Carignan

Andrew Carignan pitched in the major leagues in 2011 and 2012, making 17 appearances for the Oakland Athletics. Though his career was brief, it was marked by bursts of excellence.

In his first campaign, he struck out three batters in just his second game, tossing two innings and allowing only a hit. In 2012, he posted a 2.89 ERA over his final 9.1 innings, allowing only six hits while striking out eight batters. Some of his strikeout victims included stars Torii Hunter, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young.

It is also hard to neglect the pitcher's minor league career. He posted ERAs of 2.02 and 2.01 in his first two campaigns, respectively, saving 28 games the latter year. In 203.2 career frames, he allowed only 147 hits while K-ing 255 batters — an average of 11.3 per nine innings.





February, 2015:


Drew Stubbs

Though Drew Stubbs had only 424 plate appearances in 2014, this past season was arguably the second-best campaign of his career. He had career highs on batting average (.289), on-base percentage (.339), slugging percentage (.482), OPS (.821) and OPS+ (115). 

Despite having 120 more plate appearances in 2012 and nearly 60 more in 2013, the outfielder managed more hits, doubles, triples and total bases in 2014 than in either of those campaigns. The only other year that competes with 2014 in terms of quality in his 2010 season, when he had 22 home runs and had 30 steals in 150 games.

But that is not to say his other years weren't solid. In 2011, he scored 92 runs and had 40 swipes and in 2012, he added another 30 stolen bases and 75 runs scored. With the Indians in 2013, he once again showed great speed, stealing 17 bases, while adding 21 doubles and 10 home runs. 

Not many players can steal bases and hit for power like Stubbs can. In fact, since 2010 only four players have hit at least 75 dingers and swiped more than 125 bags -- B.J. Upton, Alex Rios, Carlos Gomez and Mr. Stubbs. 

Because he is a rare kind of player who continues to perform well, I name Stubbs February's Autograph of the Month.





January, 2015:


C.C. Sabathia

C.C. Sabathia is one of this generation's best pitchers.

The 34-year-old has 208 wins, 2,437 strikeouts, a .636 winning percentage and 37 complete games in a 14-year career. The six-time All-Star won the American League Cy Young Award in 2007 (and placed within the top five in voting four other times), has earned MVP support five times (finishing as high as sixth in the balloting), has won five Pitcher of the Month honors, won the 2009 ALCS MVP award and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2001.

The hurler has led the league in wins twice, innings pitched twice, hits per nine innings pitched once, games started three times, shutouts three times, strikeout-to-walk ratio twice, batters faced three times and even pitcher fielding percentage three times. He's won at least 15 games eight times, tossed at least 225 innings five times and struck out 200 or more batters thrice. In fact, he currently leads all active pitchers in career strikeouts (and complete games). 

And he's not done. Despite tossing only 46 innings in 2014, Bill James' projection tool dubbed the "Favorite Toy" says he is still on pace for 241 career wins, nearly 2,900 strikeouts and 40 complete games. 

I haven't even mentioned his postseason work. To date, he has made 18 playoff starts, earned nine victories and K-ed 101 batters in 107.1 innings. In the 2009 postseason, he was 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA, earning a World Series ring. In the 2012 American League Division Series, he was 2-0 with a complete game and a 1.53 ERA in 17.2 innings.

This is the third time C.C. Sabathia has won Autograph of the Month honors. And it is just as deserved as the others.





December, 2014:

For the second time in three months, I didn't receive a single success. It's only the second time since this website began that that's happened. That's a real bummer. 

Here's a whale:






November, 2014:


Martin Mayhew

Martin Mayhew had a respectable NFL career, intercepting as many as seven passes in 1990 with another season of five picks in 1995. In 1990, he had the third-most interceptions in the league, tied with the likes of Joey Browner and Gill Byrd. 

Following his eight-year skein as a player, he became General Manager of the Detroit Lions and was the architect of the 2011 club that went 10-6 and played in the Wild Card game and the 2014 crew that won 11 games and also made it to the postseason.





October, 2014:

I didn't receive a single success in October. Not one. That's what happens when you mail almost nothing out all year.

Here's a turtle wearing a top hat:






September, 2014:


Will Smith

Man, is Will Smith talented or what? Not only is he the world famous actor who brought us the Fresh Prince and rapper who gave us "Gettin' Jiggy wit It," he is also a reliable reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Oh, wrong guy? Gotcha. Well, the guy with the Brewers might not be as famous as his thespian counterpart, but he's pretty good at his job, too. In 2014, the 24-year-old led the National League in appearances with 78, striking out 86 batters in 65 2/3 innings -- that's an average of nearly 12 per nine innings. 

In fact, he's developed into quite the strikeout ace, K-ing 129 batters in 99 innings between 2013 and 2014. His 11.7 K/9 IP ratio those two years was the 13th-best mark in the major leagues among pitchers with at least 80 games pitched. Among NL hurlers, it was the sixth-best mark. 

Though relievers can falter just like that and be out of the game in no-time, it looks like Smith is on his way to a long, successful career.





August, 2014:


Freddy Sanchez

Though he last played in the major leagues only four years ago, Freddy Sanchez seems largely forgotten -- and that is a shame. 

Less than a decade ago, in 2006, Sanchez led the National League in batting average with a .344 mark and doubles with 53, whacking 200 hits and striking out only 52 times in 582 at-bats. From 2006 to 2009, he was an All-Star three times -- only missing the game in 2008, when his batting average fell to .271 -- and from 2005 to 2010 he maintained a .300 batting average. 

In 2010, he was crucial to the Giants winning the World Series, batting .292 for them during the regular season, hitting .320 for the club during that year's National League Championship Series and whacking three doubles, driving three runs in and scoring twice during the Fall Classic. 

Though Sanchez wasn't a marvel defensively, he held his own. Among National League second baseman, he ranked either second or third in fielding percentage each year from 2007 to 2010, with his .990 career mark the eighth-best of all-time. Per Baseball Reference, his defensive Wins Above Replacement is a solid 3.5.

Solely using statistics as a gauge, Sanchez was far and away my best success of August, 2014. But that this return took 1,889 days -- that's over five years -- also makes it pretty spectacular. Never give up on requests, never write them off. Because they do come back after extremely long waits ... as you see with this one.





July, 2014:


Juan Pierre

Juan Pierre was an exciting ballplayer, racking up over 2,000 career hits, 600+ steals, more than 1,000 runs scored and nearly 100 triples.

During the first half of his career, it seemed like he was never not on base, averaging 197 hits and another 40 walks per campaign from 2001 to 2007. He had over 200 hits four times in that span, scoring 100+ runs thrice, whacking 10+ triples four times and stealing at least 45 bases per campaign. 

In fact, he averaged 55 steals per year from 2001 to 2007 as the greatest base thief in the game during the 2000s. In his career, he led the league in swipes three times, tallying 50+ steals five times and 60+ thefts three times. Save for his 51-game rookie campaign in 2000, Pierre never stole less than 23 bases in a season. He ranks 18th all-time in steals.

Swiping bags was just one facet of his mastery of small ball. Pierre had 167 sacrifice hits in his career, leading the league in that category four times. Though it's a painful method of gaining first base, Pierre took the initial sack over 100 times on hits by pitch, twice being whacked by a ball 10+ times in a season and pacing the loop with 21 in 2010.

And Pierre hit when it really counted, too -- in the postseason. In 26 career playoff games (79 at-bats), he finished with a .304/.375/.418 slashline -- yes, Pierre and his powerless bat slugged over .400! -- with 24 hits, 16 runs scored, five doubles, two triples, seven RBI, three steals and only four strikeouts. He won a World Series ring in 2003, slashing .333/.481/.429 in that year's Fall Classic. 

Worth noting, too, is that Pierre almost never struck out. Though he didn't walk much, he still had more career bases on balls than strikeouts through the 2011 campaign. Only in 2012 did his K total surpass his BB total, yet still he averaged only 34 strikeouts per season. He whiffed over 50 times only once and had fewer than 30 strikeouts six times.

Earlier in his career, Pierre inspired a lot of wishful thinking, with some fans dreaming that he may one day reach 3,000 hits. Through 2007, it certainly seemed possible -- with nearly 1,450 hits at that point, he was on pace for over 2,700 career knocks per Bill James' Career Assessments projection tool. 3,000 hits would have been a hop-skip-and a jump away, then, if all went right for Pierre with a few extra lucky breaks thrown in. 

Of course, those breaks never came and he finished with a still-respectable 2,217 hits. That's a lot of whacks for a player who never made a single All-Star team. That's right -- Pierre, despite hitting .300 or better six times, despite all those hits and steals and runs and triples and exciting plays -- was never selected to a Midsummer Classic. And he got a raw deal, too. Since the dawn of the All-Star era in 1933, he has the most hits of any player never elected to an All-Star squad.

Juan Pierre was one heck of a player and a personal favorite of mine. I was super excited to get this return. His choice as July Autograph of the Month was an easy one. 





June, 2014:


Luis Valbuena

Luis Valbuena isn't a superstar, but he's a useful addition to any roster. 

Just a few years ago, in 2010, Valbuena hit an anemic .193 with a meager .273 on-base percentage and a paltry .258 slugging mark. In fact, from 2010 to 2013, his slash line was an unimpressive .210/.303/.326. With the Cubs in 2014, however, Valbuena put it altogether, developing into a threat both offensively and defensively. He slugged 16 homers while whacking 33 doubles, raising his batting average to .249 and his slugging percentage to .435. He set career highs in nearly all major statistical categories. Even on defense, he was impressive, with a .969 fielding percentage -- the fifth-best mark among National League third baseman. 

As Valbuena enters deeper into his prime, his performance should only  continue to improve.





May, 2014:



David Treadwell

David Treadwell's career wasn't long, but it was very good.

The kicker spent six years playing in the NFL, earning a Pro Bowl selection his rookie campaign, 1989. That year, he finished third in the league in points scored, fourth in field goals made, fourth in field goal percentage, seventh in field goal attempts, eighth in extra point attempts and 10th in extra points made. 

He wasn't a one-year wonder, though. In 1990, he was fourth in the league in field goals made, fifth in field goal attempts and sixth in points scored. In 1991, he was fifth in field goals made and field goal attempts and sixth in points scored. In 1992, he was third in field goal percentage and in 1993, he placed eighth in that category.  

Treadwell was one of the best kickers of the late '80s and early '90s.





April, 2014:

Ross Ohlendorf

Ross Ohlendorf is a solid pitcher.

Though he didn't play at the big league level in 2014, he did well the year before by going 4-1 with a 3.28 ERA and 116 ERA+ in 60.1 innings for the Nationals. In his first big league stop, in 2007, he posted a 2.84 ERA and in 2009, he won 11 games and had a winning record for a Pirates team that went 62-99 overall. 

His 2010 campaign was an odd one. Again pitching for the horrid Pirates, he won only a single game ... and lost 11 matches ... despite having the best ERA, ERA+ and third-most strikeouts among team hurlers with at least 15 games started. 

He's even shown flashes of brilliance with the bat. One game in 2011, he slugged a three run home run. He contributed positive offensive WAR that season, a rarity for pitchers. 

Ohlendorf is not a superstar, nor will he ever be. But he is the type of pitcher teams ink to round out their pitching staffs. And round them out he can. 




March, 2014:

Adrian Burnside

Well, this is a first. I received three successes in March. All were baseball players ... and not one of them played a single game in the major leagues. Yeah, they're all retired minor leaguers.

It's hard to choose an "Autograph of the Month" when none of the guys even reached the highest level of professional baseball -- heck, I bet hardly anyone has heard of the schmoes I got back.

Though I must admit, these players were quite accomplished despite never making the bigs: 

First, there was pitcher Adrian Burnside, who spent 11 years playing in affiliated ball, another year pitching in Mexico, one more season in Korea, yet another campaign in China and finally a stay at the highest level of Asian baseball, a spell in Japan. He also pitched for his native country Australia in the 2006 Baseball World Cup and earned a Silver Medal during the 2004 Olympics. He wasn't very good in affiliated ball -- his ERA exceeded six FIVE times -- but his long, winding, multinational career is worth noting.

Then there was outfielder Barry Jones, who spent 16 years in the minor leagues, including part or all of seven campaigns at Triple-A. He never had one stupendous year -- his career-high in runs: 72; hits: 144; doubles: 25; home runs: 19; RBI: 55 and stolen bases: 23 -- but he was good enough to play closer to two decades than one. Plus, he managed a bit, leading the independent Ozark Mountain Ducks to a decent 59-53 record in 2000.

And finally, there was outfielder-pitcher Rick Asadoorian, a former first round draft pick who spent 12 years in the minor leagues. Though he hit only .248 at the dish, he had some success after converting to pitching full time in 2007, posting a 4.02 ERA in 173 appearances (only two were starts). He averaged less than a hit allowed per inning and had a solid 8.2 K/9 IP ratio. 

But who was the best of these guys? Let's go with Adrian Burnside. He is the only one who played in higher-level, MLB-comparable (kind of) leagues. His participation in multiple international tournaments helps, as well. 





February, 2014:


Greg Kragen

Nose tackle Greg Kragen spent 13 years in the NFL and produced a very solid career.

In 1989, he was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro after sacking two players and recovering four fumbles during the regular season. In 1991 and 1992, he again earned All-Pro honors after causing 3.5 sacks and making 92 tackles the former campaign and forcing 5.5 sacks with 107 tackles and two forced fumbles the latter.

He played in fourteen playoff games -- including three Super Bowls -- and even tallied an interception in the 1992 AFC Championship.  

Few '80s and '90s defensive linemen had careers like Kragen's and that is why he is February's Autograph of the Month. 





January, 2014:


Philip Humber

Philip Humber was once a top prospect. 

Taken as the third overall pick by the New York Mets in the 2004 amateur draft, Humber was twice named one of the 100-best minor leaguers in the game by Baseball America and made his big league debut within three years of his professional debut. 

One of the main cogs in the trade that sent star pitcher Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins to New York, he fizzled quickly and by 2010 -- his 5th cup of coffee at the big league level -- owned a 5.26 ERA in the majors. 2011 was solid -- he posted a 9-9 record with a 3.75 ERA -- but nothing stellar.

Then 2012 happened. That year, one single game made the name Philip Humber an immortal one. On April 21, he tossed a perfect game against the Seattle Mariners -- only the 21st perfecto in major league history -- blanking them 4-0. He threw only 96 pitches. He struck out nine batters.

It doesn't matter that Humber finished the season with a 6.44 ERA and the next with a 7.70 mark. Humber etched himself into baseball history with that one fleeting moment of greatness, undoing much of the disappointment that had grown around his otherwise lackluster career. 

And because of that fine game, Philip Humber is January's Autograph of the Month. 




December, 2013:


Mike Montgomery

Mike Montgomery is a perennial top prospect.

Entering the 2010 season, Baseball America named him the 39th-best farmhand in all of baseball. Going into 2011, he was the 19th-best minor leaguer in the sport. Before 2012, he was #23.

And those high rankings were justified. In his first three professional seasons, he posted ERAs of 1.69, 2.21 and 2.61, respectively. In his fourth campaign, 2011, he had some hiccups adjusting to Triple-A and still struck out 129 batters. 2012 was even worse (his ERA was 6.07), yet he still managed 111 Ks, a complete game and only 64 walks allowed in 149 2/3 innings. He righted the ship a bit in 2013 and, to begin 2014, looks well on his way to a major league promotion - and a very good big league career.

Because he holds so much promise, Mike Montgomery is December's Autograph of the Month. 





November, 2013:

Stanley Morgan

It's hard to deny that Stanley Morgan was a great wide receiver. 

In his 13-year career, Morgan caught 557 passes for 10,716 yards. He scored 72 touchdowns and averaged 19.2 yards-yards-per-catch, leading the league in those categories once and three times, respectively. He averaged over 20 yards a catch six times, had 1,000 or more receiving yards three times and scored at least 10 touchdowns twice. All his catches and yards and touchdowns culminated in four Pro Bowl selections.

But Morgan was more than just a receiver. He could run too - he averaged six yards a carry in 21 career rushing attempts - and he could return punts with the best of them. In 1977, he was second in the league in yards-per-punt return. 

Because he was such a solid, well-rounded football player, Stanley Morgan is November's Autograph of the Month. 




October, 2013:

Wilin Rosario

Since 2012, Wilin Rosario, Colorado's slugging backstop, has averaged 24 home runs and 75 RBI a year while playing around only 120 games a campaign - that's 34 home runs and 103 RBI per 162 games. He was a highly touted prospect as he ascended through the Rockies' system, so his excellent output thus far is not unexpected - but most definitely appreciated.

With his mighty power and respectable average (he's a .277 hitter), Rosario is in line to make a few All-Star Games in the near future - especially if he can improve his less-than-stellar career on-base percentage of .309. He has a bright career ahead of him, that's for sure. 




September 2013:

Garrett Richards

Garrett Richards was drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009 and, after dominating in the minor leagues - he is 34-11 with a 3.34 ERA in 69 starts at that level - he quickly rose to the majors. 

The 25-year-old has had some ups and downs so far in his big league career, but the number of ups is growing greater and the number of downs is diminishing markedly as time passes. Just look at his 2013 season: His June ERA was 1.08, he allowed two earned runs or less nearly half of his starts and he saw his win total climb for the second straight year.

If Garrett Richards can cash in on his potential - and I think he can - he will be one heck of a pitcher. And that is why he is September's Autograph of the Month.




August 2013:

James Lofton

James Lofton is in the Hall of Fame for a reason. That he caught over 750 passes and had over 14,000 receiving yards tells only part of the story - he was also an eight-time Pro Bowler who twice led the league in receiving yards per reception and who had at least 1,000 receiving yards in a season six times. He averaged over 20 yards a catch five times in his 16-year career and only twice did he average less than 15 yards a reception. He averaged nearly eight yards a rush when he was used as a back.

Because James Lofton was such an incredible wide receiver - he's in the Hall of Fame, after all - he is August's Autograph of the Month.




July 2013:

Ken Singleton

From 1970 to 1984, Ken Singleton was one of the most consistent outfielders in Major League Baseball. 

In those 15 seasons, he collected over 2,000 hits, knocked nearly 250 home runs and had over 1,000 RBI. He walked more than he struck out, eclipsing the 100-walk mark four times, giving him an excellent on-base percentage of .388. Five times he hit at least 20 home runs in a season and thrice he had more than 100 RBI.

Pitchers feared him. He led the league in intentional walks twice, earning more than 10 in a season six times. He hit just as well at home and away, during the first and second halves of the season. For his contributions to the game, he was named an All-Star three times and in 1982, he earned the Roberto Clemente Award.

Though he didn't receive any support for the Hall of Fame in his only year of eligibility - though a token vote or two was definitely deserved - Singleton was one of the better, if not one of the best, outfielders of the 1970s. 

And for that, he is the July Autograph of the Month.





June 2013:

Charlie Manuel

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel didn't sign my card, but he sent back this nifty autographed postcard instead. 

Manuel has been one of the best managers of the past decade and there are those who say he should one day make the Hall of Fame. For now, the latter argument seems extreme, but Manuel sure is one of the better skippers in recent memory.

Since joining Philadelphia in 2007, Manuel has never led the squad to a finish worse than third place. He led the team to five consecutive first place finishes - from 2007 to 2011 - winning a World Series in 2008 and earning the National League Pennant in 2009. Add to that his first place finish with Cleveland in 2001 and that gives him six overall. His career .552 winning percentage trails only Joe Girardi and Davey Johnson among active managers.

Now, about that Hall of Fame argument - it is unlikely that he'll make it one day, but not entirely impossible. He is, at present, only five wins away from 1,000 for his career, and that is a golden number for managers. In fact, only 58 managers have ever won that many games and 29 of them - exactly one half - are in Cooperstown.

There aren't many managers in baseball like Charlie Manuel, and that is why he is the June Autograph of the Month.





May 2013:

Addison Reed

I didn't have many choices for May, so I went with Addison Reed, the current Chicago White Sox closer. Though he's yet to have a truly stellar season, he has shown the potential to be an excellent pitcher. He didn't allow an earned run in his first six games of 2013 and through his first 24 appearances, his ERA was a tiny 2.25. He showed a similar streak in 2012: Through his first 13 appearances, he allowed zero earned runs.

Reed averages more than a strikeout per inning while showing solid control. He hasn't quite put it all together, but at 24 years old, he still has some time to do so. With his history of incredible hot streaks, I think it is only a matter of time before Reed becomes one of the better closers in Major League Baseball. 




April 2013:
DeMarcus Ware

It's not often a future Hall of Famer arrives in the mailbox, but that is exactly what happened one glorious April day. DeMarcus Ware, one of the preeminent defensive players in the game today, so graciously signed my card and sent it back.

Look at his list of accolades and achievements: Seven Pro Bowl selections. Four First Team All-Pro selections. 111 sacks. Twice the NFC leader in sacks. Zero missed games since he began playing. Some say he hasn't done enough to make the Hall of Fame just yet, but with a resume like that, I would have to respectfully disagree.

Because he is such a stellar player, I name DeMarcus Ware the April Autograph of the Month.




March 2013:


Ron Jaworski

Not only was Ron Jaworski a solid quarterback in the NFL for 14 seasons - he threw over 28,000 yards and had 179 touchdowns - with a career punctuated by greatness - he was a Pro Bowler in 1980 - he was also an astute student of the game who went on to become one of the most well-known NFL analysts in the sport. 

Because he is such a well-known television personality with a well-known earlier career behind him, I name Ron Jaworski the March Autograph of the Month.





February 2013:


Andy Benes

Two words describe Andy Benes: solid and consistent. The pitcher never won more than 18 games in a major league season, yet he won 155 games in a 14-year career. He did that by averaging 12 victories a season from 1990 to 2000, winning less than ten games only once in that span. A workhorse, he tossed at least 200 innings five times and started over 30 games eight times. In 1994, he led the National League in strikeouts with 189.

Because Andy Benes was such a reliable, durable pitcher for most of his career - and because of the fine totals he finished with - I name Andy Benes the February Autograph of the Month. 



January 2013:

Jake Long

It's hard to ignore a player who has been named to four Pro Bowls in five seasons.

Offensive tackle Jake Long, the first overall draft pick in 2008, already has a laundry list of awards and accolades, dating back to his time in college. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2010 and a second-team All-Pro in 2009. He won the Ed Block Courage Award in 2011 and the Jim Parker Trophy in 2007. He was twice a consensus All-American while at the University of Michigan and he was the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year twice.

In other words, he's a pretty stellar player - and because he is so stellar, I name him the Autograph of the Month.




December 2012:

Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton continues to impress, putting up another stellar season in 2012. Last year, he hit .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBI, finishing second to Miguel Cabrera in both categories. The All-Star won a Silver Slugger and finished fifth in MVP balloting.

Despite having a late start to his big league career--he was 26 his first year--Hamilton has still managed 161 home runs, 553 RBI and a .304 average since he joined the majors, an average of 27 home runs and 92 RBI a year.

Largely known for his home run power, and for good reason, a lot of fans don't realize how great of a doubles hitter Hamilton is. He has whacked at least 30 in four of the past five seasons, with 31 last year. His average of one double per 16 at-bats since his career began is one of the best marks in the majors.

Hamilton, no doubt, is one of the top stars in the game today.




November 2012:

Jordy Nelson

Jordy Nelson is not a superstar, but he is the kind of wide receiver a team needs to be a winner.

A steady performer from 2008 to 2010, the talented wideout had a breakout season in 2011, catching 68 passes for 1,263 yards (an average of 18.6 yards a grab) and 15 touchdowns. This year, he is on pace for over 60 receptions once again.

Because Jordy Nelson is such a solid performer, I name him the Autograph of the Month.




October, 2012:

Ray Rice

Selecting October's Autograph of the Month was an extremely tough decision. I received a bunch of autographs and I whittled my number of choices down to two--Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent and current star running back Ray Rice--but from there, it wasn't easy.

I had to make a choice - should I go with the player already enshrined in Canton, Largent, who has seven Pro Bowls, 819 receptions and 100 touchdowns to his name? Or is the one building a Hall of Fame-quality career, Rice, the better decision?

In the end, I went with Rice. The electrifying halfback already has over 5,000 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns in his career. He has been a Pro Bowler twice and he has rushed for over 1,000 yards three times--already!

And check this out: He has more rushing yards through age 25 than Hall of Famers Thurman Thomas, Franco Harris and Marcus Allen, among others. To say he's on a Canton-bound pace is an understatement.

Because he is such a stellar running back with a Hall of Fame future, I name Ray Rice the Autograph of the Month.*

*I have learned that this is a stamped signature. For shame, Mr. Rice. For shame. So I retroactively award the Autograph of the Month to Steve Largent, a wide receiver in the National Football League's Hall of Fame.




September, 2012:

Ted Hendricks

When I think of Ted Hendricks, one word comes to mind: Dominant.  During his 15 seasons in the National Football League, the imposing linebacker earned 60.5 sacks, picked off 26 passes and caused four safeties en route to eight Pro Bowl selections. In addition, he was a four-time First Team All-Pro to boot.

Hendricks plied his trade for multiple teams throughout his career, and performed at a Hall of Fame level with each. With the Baltimore Colts, his first team, he once had five interceptions in a season. He then accomplished that same feat with the Packers, his second squad. Joining the Raiders next, he posted a year in which he had 8.5 sacks and three interceptions and in his penultimate season, he recorded seven more sacks.

Everything he did in his stellar career wound up earning him election to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Because he was such a stellar player - and since he's in the Hall of Fame - I name Ted Hendricks the Autograph of the Month. 




August, 2012:

Harry Carson

I turned my attention largely to football in August and have since received quite a few successes as a result. Lots of great players of yore have trickled in, including a couple Hall of Famers.

One of those Hall of Famers is Harry Carson, who dominated as a linebacker for the New York Giants in the 1970s and 1980s. He could sack, he could intercept, he could do it all - that's why he was a nine-time Pro Bowler and a 2006 Hall of Fame inductee.

Not a bad resume, and that's why he's the Autograph of the Month.




July, 2012:

Ricky Watters

Former NFL running back Ricky Watters, a potential future Hall of Famer, is the Autograph of the Month this go around, narrowly edging Seattle Mariners prospect Brad Miller for the honor. 

In ten seasons with the 49ers, Eagles and Seahawks, the Notre Dame alum rushed for over 10,000 yards, while scoring 78 touchdowns on the ground and catching 467 passes. He totaled at least 1,000 rushing yards in a season seven times, scored at least 10 TDs three times and caught at least 50 passes five times, while starting every game from 1994 to 2000.

Hall of Fame odds are in his favor, as well--11 of the 19 players with at least 75 career rushing TDs have been elected to Canton, while exactly half of the running backs with at least 10,000 yards have earned induction as well. 

Because he was such a solid running during his career with the shot of becoming a Hall of Famer, I name Ricky Watters the Autograph of the Month.




June, 2012:

Andy Stankiewicz

Man, June was a really slow month. Andy Stankiewicz, who played all of 429 games in Major League Baseball, while hitting a meager .241, earns the Autograph of the Month honor.

"Stanky," the former Yankees infielder who was their primary shortstop in his rookie 1992 season, spent most of his seven-year career riding the pine, averaging only 61 games and 121 at-bats per season. His mediocre offense was offset by his solid defense, which he played with aplomb. He was versatile as well, spending time at second base, shortstop and third base over the course of his career. 




May, 2012:

Chase Headley

Chase Headley very narrowly edges David Murphy and former football player James Stewart for the Autograph of the Month.

Headley has been a consistent ballplayer since coming up to the big leagues in 2007. He offers both solid speed on the bases and decent power at the plate, stealing as many as 17 bases and hitting as many as 12 home runs in  a season. 2012 appears to be a career year for the 28-year-old, as he seems on pace to break both of those career highs.

Because he is such a consistent, solid player, I name Chase Headley the Autograph of the Month.




April, 2012:

Nyjer Morgan

Tony Plush is the Autograph of the Month this time around. I gave Atlanta Braves' pitcher Kris Medlen and football player Reggie Nelson some consideration, but the speedy Morgan wins it.

With 108 career stolen bases and 24 triples to his name, the current Brewers outfielder is a very exciting ballplayer. He has stolen over 30 bases twice, peaking at 42 in 2009. Though he is sometimes inconsistent, Morgan can be downright brilliant at the plate--in 2009, he hit .307 in 469 at-bats and, just last year, he hit .304 in 119 games.

Despite struggling in the playoffs overall, he helped the Brewers win the 2011 National League Division Series by scoring a run and driving in three. In the Championship Series, he hit a double and scored a run, but it was for naught--the Brewers lost to the Cardinals.

Because he is a speedy, exciting ballplayer who shows flashes of greatness at the plate, I name Nyjer Morgan the Autograph of the Month.




March, 2012:

Laynce Nix

Power-hitting outfielder Laynce Nix earns the Autograph of the Month this time around, for a couple reasons.

First, he's a really solid ballplayer and an excellent power option off the bench--last year, in just 324 at-bats, he slugged 16 home runs for the Washington Nationals and in just 309 turns at the dish in 2009, he whacked 15 bombs for the Cincinnati Reds.

Perhaps most notable about this return is the time it took to come back to me. I sent it way back in 2007 when he was with the Nashville Sounds and, 1,715 days later, it wound up in my mailbox. This proves, once again, that you should never give up on a request. Never write them off, because even years after sending them out, you might still get a return.



February, 2012:

Ray Soff

Ray Soff's major league career wasn't long, but his rookie season, 1986, was pretty solid.

Soff, who went 6-4 with a 1.55 ERA in the minors that season, started his big league career off with a bang - in his first seven appearances, he didn't allow a run and posted an opponent batting average of .174. He later had a 0.69 ERA during one 10-game stretch (which included an eight-game scoreless streak) and until his final appearance of the season, his ERA was 2.41.

Now, a pitcher with one solid season in a two-year career (and it wasn't even a full year, he pitched only 30 big league games in 1986) normally doesn't cut it when choosing the Autograph of the Month. But, my only other options were a slew of minor leaguers and Jerry Goff, who hit .215 in his short time in the bigs.

So, mostly because it was a weak pool of candidates, I name Ray Soff the Autograph of the Month.



January, 2012:

Lonnie Smith

Lonnie Smith was never a superstar, but he was one heck of a player nonetheless. The 17-year veteran was a real speedster, stealing at least 30 bases five times and at least 50 bases thrice. The outfielder stole 68 bases and led the league with 120 runs scored in his lone All-Star season of 1982. He also finished second in MVP voting that year.

Smith, who always seemed to find a way on base, led the league in on-base percentage in 1989 and finished with a mark of .371. He also led the league in hit by pitch three times and finished with a very respectable OPS+ of 118.

Because Lonnie Smith was such a solid player, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



December, 2011:

Toby Gerhart

Toby Gerhart is a solid running back for the Minnesota Vikings, who through 2011 has a more-than-respectable average of 4.5 yards per carry. His success, however, is not unexpected.

He was a real star prior to joining the NFL, winning the Doak Walker Award, Jim Brown Award and Archie Griffin Award in 2009, enabling Gerhart to be picked in the second round of the 2010 Draft. While playing ball for Stanford, Griffin averaged over 5 yards a rush, while scoring 44 touchdowns and making 39 receptions.

Because he was such a stud in college - and because he has gotten off to a good start in the NFL - I name Toby Gerhart the Autograph of the Month.



November, 2011

Jeremy Giambi

Hard-hitting Jeremy Giambi, who slugged in the major leagues from 1998 to 2003, is this month's Autograph of the Month for a few reasons.

First, I was able to complete the trifecta with this card, as it now has the signatures of all three players on it--Giambi, former Expos speedster Peter Bergeron and former top prospect George Lombard.

Second, he's not the easiest player to obtain through the mail, with a success rate of just over 50 percent, per SportsCollectors.net.

Third, this card took nearly nine hundred days to come back to me, showing once again that you should never give up on an autograph request.

And finally, he wasn't a terrible player in his day, belting as many as 20 home runs in a season while posting a solid .377 career on-base percentage.

All in all, I think he merits the distinction of Autograph of the Month.




October, 2011

Todd Jones

Todd Jones was never a superstar, but for 16 seasons, the closer was a solid compiler, saving 319 games in his long career. He pitched in 982 games and finished 619 of them, ranking 17th and 15th all-time, respectively, in those categories. In addition, he is 15th all-time in saves.

He earned recognition for his work in 2000, being named to the All-Star Game and winning the American League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award after leading the league with 42 saves and averaging more than one strikeout per inning.

All told, Jones saved more than 20 games seven times, 30 games six times and 40 games twice. Though he wasn't an All-Star that year, 2005 was perhaps his best season as he saved 40 matches and posted a career-best 2.10 ERA.

Jones was an All-Star, an award winner and he ranks high on a bunch of all-time lists. That merits an Autograph of the Month selection, I think.   



         

September, 2011

Charlie Joiner

Not many people receive the honor, but Charlie Joiner did - in 1996, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. He was pretty deserving too - in an 18-year career, he caught 750 passes, averaging 16.2 yards a reception, and scored 65 touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler thrice and a First-Team All-Pro once.

His numbers don't look so gaudy compared to today's 800-catch receivers, but Joiner played before the huge explosion in passing that overtook the NFL in the late '80s and has stayed with us since. In fact, he has the most catches of all receivers who retired in 1986 or before.

That's nothing to sneeze at, that's for sure.    




August, 2011

Steve Tasker

Steve Tasker is considered one of the first, if not the first, players to establish himself as a star for his work on special teams. It was there that he delivered fierce hit after fierce hit, forcing numerous fumbles that helped turn the tide of the games in which he played.

Because of his revolutionary play as a gunner, Tasker was a seven time Pro Bowler and a seven time All-Pro. Many people think he should be in the Hall of Fame--he was a Hall of Fame semi-finalist in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010, though he has yet to gain election.

Because he was such a solid player who may one day make the Hall of Fame, I name Steve Tasker the Autograph of the Month.




July, 2011

Michael Stutes

It might be because I have a case of Phillies phever (and I'm a Mets fan!), but I think Michael Stutes is a worthy choice for Autograph of the Month.

Stutes has been an integral part of the Phillies' bullpen this season, posting a 5-1 record and a 3.11 ERA in 37 games through August 1. He is averaging more than one strikeout per inning and has the most wins of any of the team's primary relievers.

The 24-year-old's success isn't entirely surprising - in the minor leagues, he had success as a starter and as a reliever. This year, he had a 1.80 ERA in Triple-A and last season, he won seven games in relief. As a starter in 2008, he went 7-2 with a 1.42 ERA.

Stutes is an excellent young pitcher who could be a solid cog on the Phillies staff for many years to come - and because of that, I name him the Autograph of the Month. 



June, 2011:

Jordan Zimmermann

In 2007, Jordan Zimmermann was the Washington Nationals' second round draft pick. Two years later, he was in the major leagues...and he didn't impress.

Two years after that, Jordan Zimmermann has proven to be one of the best young pitchers in the game. Though his won-loss record is an unimpressive 5-7 this year, Zimmermann has posted an excellent 2.63 ERA and 145 ERA+, while allowing only 90 hits in 102 2/3 innings. He is only 25 years old, too, meaning there are plenty more seasons for him to get even better.

Because he is such a solid, young pitcher, I name Jordan Zimmermann the Autograph of the Month.



 May, 2011:

Justin Masterson

The resurgent Cleveland Indians have been incredible thus far in 2011, jumping to the top of the American League Central division. With the help of timely hitting and fantastic pitching, they - at least for now - seem unstoppable.

Justin Masterson is one of the key reasons why they are performing so well. He has gone 5-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 11 games through June 2, leading the team's starters in strikeouts, ERA and complete games. He is also second on the squad in victories and innings pitched.

Prior to this season, he had shown flashes of brilliance - for example, in 2008, he won six games and posted a 3.16 ERA in 36 games for the Boston Red Sox and just last year, he finished the season by posting a 1.88 ERA in his final eight games of the season. However, 2011 seems to be the year that he has finally put it all together.

This year, he got off to a rockin' start and he doesn't seem to be slowing down. Because he is such a solid pitcher, I name Justin Masterson the Autograph of the Month.



April, 2011:

Jim Corsi

This month, the battle for Autograph of the Month was between Phillies prospect Vance Worley and Jim Corsi, who pitched in the 1990s. I went with Corsi.

In the late 1980s and through the 1990s, Jim Corsi was a very solid relief pitcher who showed flashes of brilliance at times in his career. In total, he made 368 appearances, winning 22 games and posting a 3.25 ERA and a 134 ERA+. He had four seasons that really stand out to me: 1989, 1992, 1995 and 1998.

In 1989, he made 22 appearances and posted a 1.88 ERA and a 199 ERA+. In 1992, he went 4-2 with a 1.43 ERA and a 264 ERA+ in 32 appearances and in 1995 he posted a 2.20 ERA and a 197 ERA+ in 38 appearances. He wrapped up his brilliant quadfecta in 1998 by going 3-2 with a 2.59 ERA and a 182 ERA+ in 59 appearances. Don't get me wrong, he was a good pitcher outside of those seasons, but that set of years was pure excellence.

Because Jim Corsi was such a solid pitcher for a decade, I name him April's Autograph of the Month.



March, 2011:

Rob Richie

This past month, I received six successes and five failures. That's terrible. Imagine if those five failures had been successes - I would have been able to add greats like Kevin Sheredy (who?) and Robert Powers (who??) to my collection, but alas...

Well, enough whining, let's get to the Autograph of the Month. Rob Richie is the choice this time around, and I think he is a worthy selection.

Richie is not the recipient of this prestigious honor because of his playing career - after all, he spent only 19 games in the major leagues. Rather, he is the Autograph of the Month because he is supposedly a "difficult" autograph to acquire. Apparently, people always seem to send to the wrong address and he, well, just does not like signing autographs.

Long story short, I found his real address (it wasn't difficult to track down - it is on a free address search Website), sent him a letter and a card and received an autograph a few weeks later. This is why you can never say "never" with this hobby - you just never know!

Anyway, enough about that. Rob Richie's story is really quite interesting. Apparently, he gave up playing baseball because he did not like the "immorality" (drinking, philandering, et cetera) associated with the game. He retired and went on to become a probation officer.



February, 2011:

Russ Nixon

Last month's Autograph of the Month was Bobby Doerr, an old timer who played in the 1930s and 1940s. Let's do another old timer this month - Russ Nixon, who played in the 1950s and 1960s.

A catcher, Nixon spent 12 years in the big leagues, playing for the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins from 1957 to 1968. He was a pretty solid hitter, posting a .268 batting average in 2,504 career at-bats.

Perhaps his best season offensively was 1958, his second year in the big leagues. That season, he hit .301 with 113 hits, nine home runs, four triples, 42 runs scored, 46 RBI and a 109 OPS+ - all career highs. He also hit 17 doubles, which isn't too shabby a number itself, considering he had only 376 at-bats that year.

On the basepaths, Nixon was notoriously slow. He attempted seven steals in his career, and each one ended with him being called out. Nixon was so slow, in fact, that he is the only playerever to appear in at least 900 games and never steal a bag (the active player closest to breaking his record is fellow catcher Chris Snyder, who has gone 596 games without a steal).

Because he was a solid player during his career - and because this success took over 2,000 days to come back to me - I name Russ Nixon the Autograph of the Month.



January, 2011:

Bobby Doerr

Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr is the Autograph of the Month and for clear reasons - he is a Hall of Famer! And not only that, he is one of the classiest, most accomodating signers out there, Hall of Famer or otherwise (which means you should acquire an autograph as soon as possible - he is 92 years old, so time could be running out).

Doerr spent 14 seasons in the big leagues, collecting 2,042 hits and earning a trip to nine All-Star Games - and he might have been to a tenth had he not missed 1945 due to service in the Second World War. In addition, he received votes for the American League MVP eight times, finishing in the top ten twice.

Though he never received more than 25% of the Hall of Fame vote in a BBWAA election, the Veteran's Committee eventually elected him in 1986, 35 years after he retired. Better late than never, right? (Ask that to Bid McPhee).

Because he is such a great signer and because he is in the Hall of Fame, I name Bobby Doerr the Autograph of the Month.



December, 2010: 

Brett Anderson

Last month, I said "Oh jeez, and I thought last month was slow," in reference to November. I guess to emphasize just how slow December was, I should put that sentence in all caps.

OH JEEZ, AND I THOUGHT LAST MONTH WAS SLOW!

In all of December, I received exactly three autographs - two of them from guys who never reached the major leagues and one of someone who is actually pretty good. Ergo, the pretty good guy gets the Autograph of the Month nod.

In 2010, Brett Anderson started only 19 games at the major league level, but he performed very well - he went 7-6 for the Oakland Athletics, posting a 2.80 ERA with only 22 walks in 112 1/3 innings. His ERA+ of 148 was the best among all starting pitchers on the team and was second overall only to closer Andrew Bailey. All this, it should be remembered, came from a 22-year-old pitcher in only his second big league season.

Anderson's success really should not come as a big surprise to anyone - in three minor league seasons, he has a .657 winning percentage and 261 strikeouts in 244 2/3 innings. In fact, he performed so well in the minor leagues that Baseball America named him the seventh best prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2009 season.

Because he is such a promising young pitcher (and, once again, because I got so few autographs), I name Brett Anderson the Autograph of the Month.



November, 2010:

Adam Melhuse

Oh jeez, and I thought last month was slow.

Adam Melhuse, a .234 career hitter, takes the Autograph of the Month honors, because I think he is a tad more deserving than Pat Misch, a modern relief pitcher with a 3-15 career record.

Though he finished with a low career batting average, Melhuse was at times throughout his career a solid hitter. In 2003, for example, he batted .299 with a .584 slugging percentage in 40 games with the Athletics. The following year, he hit .257 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI in 69 games. From 2003 to 2005, he hit a combined .263 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI - not too shabby for a backup catcher.

Melhuse also performed very well in limited postseason duty. In six at-bats over two playoff series, Melhuse hit .500 with a triple and an RBI. Is was all for naught, however, as his team lost both series.



October, 2010:

Jake Arrieta

It was a slow month, so I had two real choices - a mediocre relief pitcher (Doug Slaten) and an unproven starting pitcher (Jake Arrieta). Because Arrieta is highly touted, I went with him.

Jake Arrieta made his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles in 2010 and he did pretty well - he made 18 starts, going 6-6 with a 4.66 ERA. His .500 winning percentage was especially impressive considering he pitched for a team that went 66-96 - a .407 winning percentage. In fact, he was the only starting pitcher on the team to finish with a .500 record or better.

What is especially noteworthy is that, if his minor league record is any indication, Arrieta will only get better. Through 2010, he has a career minor league record of 23-18 with a 2.89 ERA and in 336 2/3 innings, he has 332 strikeouts and only 141 walks. Those are some excellent numbers. Of course, a lot of pitchers have done very well in the minor leagues and faltered at the big league level (Rick Ankiel had a 2.80 ERA on the farm, remember), but I think Arrieta will perform well in the majors...especially if he can get out of Baltimore.

Because Arrieta is such a promising young pitcher, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



September, 2010:

Drew Stubbs

Drew Stubbs or Clayton Richard, that is who it came down to. Richard went 14-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 33 starts in 2010 - definitely solid - but I think Drew Stubbs did slightly better. Ergo, he is the Autograph of the Month.

Stubbs displayed a quality that is hard to find in baseball these days - the ability to hit for power and steal a bunch of bases. In 2010, Stubbs hit 22 home runs and stole 30 bases, the latter of which was a team high and ranked him within the top ten in that category in the National League. Perhaps most impressive of all is that 2010 was Stubbs' first full season. Perhaps this year was portentous, an indicator of many similar seasons to come.

Because Stubbs had such a solid 2010, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



August, 2010:

Gordon Beckham

It was a pretty tough choice this go-around - I received a few autographs from players that all have cases to be the Autograph of the Month. For example, I received Beckham, who is a solid, young second baseman with some upside. I also received football quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who - with 26,000+ passing yards and a Pro Bowl under his belt - was also in the running. Lastly, I received Kirk Rueter, the former Giants pitcher who won 130 games over the course of a 13-year career.

I went with Gordon Beckham, because - unlike Harbaugh and Rueter - he still has many years ahead of him to add to his credentials. Though there is always the chance he could bomb, there is also the chance that he could do great things later on in his career. He has already proven to be a solid player, even after showing signs of a sophomore slump in 2010 (through the end of June he hit only .209. Since then he has hit .331).

And so, because he is young and talented, I name Gordon Beckham the Autograph of the Month.



July, 2010:

Brad Ausmus

The ageless Brad Ausmus is July's Autograph of the Month. Over the course of his 18-year career, he has won three Gold Gloves, appeared in an All-Star Game and collected 1,568 hits. Perhaps most impressively he has done it all almost exclusively at catcher - how many catchers are still active at 41 years old? Even more incredibly, he had never been on the disabled list until April, 2010.

Though he has struggled as hitter these past fews years batting only .239 since 2003, Ausmus has proven to still be solid defensively - in 2007, he ranked fourth in the National League in catcher fielding percentage, and in 2005 and 2006 he led the league.

Because he has been such a stalwart at catcher for all these years, I name Brad Ausmus the Autograph of the Month.



June, 2010:

Mike Timlin

Good ol' Mike Timlin - he who spent 18 years in the big leagues - is June's Autograph of the Month. Timlin appeared in 1,058 games in his career, turning 141 of those appearances into saves. Closing, of course, wasn't his niche - rather, being the conduit to the closer was his specialty. In four of the seasons he pitched, he posted ERAs under 3.00, and in eight of his seasons he posted ERAs under 3.50. Always reliable, he appeared in 50 or more games 12 years in a row from 1996 to 2007.

While a lot of relievers fizzle out after a few years, few remain as consistently solid as Timlin did. As a testament to his consistency, teams relied on him so much so that he appeared in more than 1,000 career games - he's only one of fourteen pitchers to do that. Many players start winding down their careers by the age of 36, but Timlin was doing the opposite - he was really kicking it into high gear, appearing in more than 70 games for the first time in his career at that ripe old age. Thus began a streak of four seasons with 70 or more appearances, with a league-leading 81 in the final year of that stretch.

Because Mike Timlin was such a solid and reliable relief pitcher for such a long time, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



May, 2010:

Tony Boselli

In a most incredible twist, a football player was named the Autograph of the Month for the second month in a row. Last month, it was a punter - and this month, it is an offensive lineman.

Though Tony Boselli's career was short - only seven seasons - it was excellent. He made the Pro Bowl in five of those seven years, and in three of those seasons he was a first-team All-Pro. In addition, he was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and he was inducted into the Jacksonville Jaguars' "Pride of the Jaguars," a Jaguars-based ring of honor.

Yes, his career in the NFL was not long, however Tony Boselli did very well during his tenure - and that is why he is the Autograph of the Month.



April, 2010:

Jim Arnold

I was originally going to name Eddie Watt as the Autograph of the Month, because over a 10-year career back in the 1960s and 1970s (before relief pitchers were really "in"), he went 38-36 with a 2.91 ERA primarily as a reliever. He gets honorable mention.

Jim Arnold, however, is more deserving. Sure, he was "just" a punter, but he was a good punter. He spent 12 years in the NFL, booting 866 total punts. He led the league in that category twice, eclipsing the 90-punt mark four times. As well, he led the league in punt yards twice, finishing second in that category twice too. To honor his good punting skill, he was elected to the Pro Bowl twice, in 1987 and 1988.

Jim Arnold was very good at an unsung position in football, so I name him the Autograph of the Month.





March, 2010:



Pat Combs

March was a pathetic month. I'll be honest. It was an absolute embarrassment. I guess that's mostly my fault, because I haven't been mailing stuff out as much. 

Anyway, the Autograph of the Month is the great Pat Combs. Over the course of a four year career, Combs was actually sort of solid - he went 17-17 with a 4.22 ERA in 56 games, 54 of which were starts. He had a brilliant first year in the big leagues, going 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA for the 1989 Phillies. In his very first start, he pitched six scoreless innings, and in his third start he threw a four-hit, nine inning shutout.

Unfortunately, he couldn't quite carry the success he witnessed in his very first year over to the rest of his career. Sure, he won 10 games in 1990 - but he lost 10 as well. Between 1991 and 1992, he appeared in only 18 total games, going 3-7 with a 5.53. After that, his big league career was over.



February, 2010: 



Jim Thome

Sure, there are rumors that Jim Thome uses a ghost-signer. But come on, it's Jim Thome - he has to be the Autograph of the Month.

What a career Jim Thome has put together, I tell you what. 564 home runs, 1,565 RBI, 1,486 runs scored. He has 2,138 hits and is the active leader in bases on balls (as well as strikeouts, come to think of it). This guy is a Hall of Famer.

Though he has had some great years since leaving the Cleveland Indians, I will always remember him primarily as an Indian. From 1991 to 2002 - his time with the Indians - he hit .287 with an OPS+ of 152, not to mention his 334 home runs. Since then, with the Phillies, White Sox and Dodgers, he has hit .263 with an OPS+ of 138. The OPS+ is still great, but you can definitely tell he slipped a little after leaving the Indians.

Nevertheless, Jim Thome is one of the greats today, and that is why he is the Autograph of the Month.



January, 2010:
John Lackey

I received two really awesome successes in January, and they are both deserving of the Autograph

of the Month honor: Lackey, and quarterback Mark Brunell. It was a tough to decide between

one of the top pitchers in the game today and one of the best quarterbacks of the 1990s

and early 2000s, but in the end I chose the former.

 

Lackey is a good pitcher. No, he is a great pitcher. He has over 100 career wins, and

he has won as many as 19 games in a season--2007. That year, he was also an All-Star.

He has led the league in ERA once, and in shutouts three times.

 

And now that he is with the Red Sox, I think he'll do even better. He has a solid

cast around him, one that may even make him a 20-game winner. Even if he doesn't win

20 games, he is almost a guarantee to win 15 or so.

 

Because John Lackey is such a good pitcher, I name him the Autograph of the Month.

 



December, 2009:

Jacob Tamme

What a crummy way to end 2009. In December, I received only one success - Jacob Tamme - so I guess he HAS to be the Autograph of the Month.

Tight end Tamme has been in the NFL since 2008, and through January 2nd, 2009 he has exactly five career receptions, with his longest being for eight yards. That's not terribly impressive.

While in college, though, he was pretty solid. As a sophomore with the Kentucky Wildcats, he caught 29 passes, good for second most on the team. He was voted to the All-SEC team as a junior, and he led all SEC tight ends with 32 passes that year.

His best year was his senior year. He caught 56 passes as a senior, earning first-team All-SEC honors once again. Indeed, he put together a good college career, becoming the Wildcats all-time leader in receptions by a tight end. Furthermore, he is second all-time among SEC tight ends in receptions.

Because he was my only success in December, 2009, I name Tamme the Autograph of the Month.


 

November, 2009:



Orlando Cabrera

I literally had only three successes in November. It was a pathetic month, that is for sure. Those three successes included two retired minor leaguers...and Orlando Cabrera. I think you can figure out why I chose Orlando Cabrera to be the Autograph of the Month.

This is actually his second time winning this prestigious honor. The last time he won it was way back in September of 2007. Coincidentally, I got one of those oversized Subway cards signed last time as well.

He is a very solid shortstop, that is for sure. He can be counted on to hit 8-10 home runs a year, steal 20 bases and bat .280, while providing solid defense.

Because he is the only guy I got this month who actually made it to the big leagues, I name Orlando Cabrera the Autograph of the Month.



October, 2009



Matt Hasselbeck

I had two main options for Autograph of the Month, one for football (Hasselbeck) and one for baseball, Adam LaRoche. I went with Hasselbeck.

Over the course of his career, Matt Hasselbeck has been a very solid quarterback. Not great, but solid. He has been good enough to get elected to three Pro Bowls, to throw over 150 touchdowns and pass for nearly 25,000 yards. He has completed over 250 passes in a season five times and he has posted a quarterback rating of ninety or greater twice. As was stated, he has been a very solid quarterback his entire career.

In 2008 though, Hasselbeck struggled. He has made a pretty good comeback in 2009, throwing nine touchdowns and only three interceptions, and posting an 87.0 rating (through November 4).

Because he's been such a solid quarterback, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



September, 2009

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Jarrod Saltalamacchia - he who has the really long name - was the best autograph I received in September. I was originally going to give it to Ramon Troncoso, who has had one heck of a 2009, but I'm going to give it to Salty.

Saltalamacchia has a load of talent, but he hasn't quite lived up to his hype just yet. For 2009, he hit in the .230s, and in 2008 he hit just about .250. Despite his less than stellar performances these past couple of seasons, however, I think he'll turn into an excellent ballplayer down the road. He's not even 25 yet, too.

Because he should eventually develop into a solid player, and because he has one of the greatest names ever, I name Jarrod Saltalamacchia the Autograph of the Month.



August, 2009

 

Adam Wainwright

I received Adam Wainwright not only once in August, but twice - and get this, both successes were on the same day!

Wainwright was a pretty obvious choice for Autograph of the Month. As I write this, he is 16-7 with a 2.47 ERA in 28 games started this season. He is leading the league in wins, is second in innings pitched and games started, and is fifth in strikeouts. Could he make a run at the Cy Young Award this season? He very well may.

Since his first full season in the big leagues in 2006, Wainwright has been getting better and better each year. He was a reliever in 2004, making 61 appearances and posting a tidy ERA of 3.12. In the postseason that year, he absolutely demolished the opposition - he made nine relief appearances, allowing only seven hits and two walks in 9 2/3 innings of work. He struck out 15 batters and didn't allow a single run. To this day, I can still clearly remember how he shut down the New York Mets in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the National League Championship Series.

In 2007, he was a starter, going 14-12 with a 3.70 ERA in 32 starts - not bad at all. In 2008, he made only 20 starts but performed very well, going 11-3 with a 3.20 ERA. And now, this year, he is showing what he can really do. What a year he is having.

Wainwright of course came to the St. Louis Cardinals by trade in 2003, with Ray King and Jason Marquis in exchange for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero. I guess we can tell who got the better of that deal. Drew spent only one season with the Braves, although arguably it was the best of his career. Eli Marrero, too, spent only one year with the Braves and although he performed well, he still only spent one year with them. On the other hand, Ray King gave the Cardinals two seasons of solid relief duty, posting a 2.91 ERA in 163 games for them. Jason Marquis was a good starter in his first year with the Cardinals, and he won 13 games in his second year with them.

And then of course, there is Adam Wainwright. Wainwright has performed so well for the Cardinals since he became a regular on the team, and that is why I am naming him the Autograph of the Month.



July, 2009

Joey Votto

Joey Votto is a talented young baseball player, that is for sure. In his first stint in the big leagues in 2007, he hit .321 with four home runs in only 21 games. In 2008, he hit 24 home runs with 84 RBI, and so far in 2009 he has 16 home runs with an outstanding .338 batting average. The player he is most similar to, through age 24, is none other than the great Todd Helton (according to Baseball Reference).

The future is bright for Joey Votto, that is for sure. It is so bright, in fact, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



June, 2009

Billy Wagner

This was a great month for autographs, but I think Billy Wagner was my best success. Wagner is one of the games premier closers, with 385 career saves and a 2.40 ERA - and 1,066 strikeouts in only 818 innings of work.

Some say Wagner is a future Hall of Famer - he is no lock like Mariano Rivera or even Trevor Hoffman are considered to be, but with what he's done he most certainly has a shot at the Hall one day. He has saved over 30 games eight times and over 40 games twice and three times he has pitched in over 60 games in a season and posted an ERA under 2.00. I don't know about you, but I think that's a pretty impressive resume.

Because Billy Wagner is one of the best closers in the game today, and because he might get into the Hall of Fame one day, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



May, 2009

Jason Marquis

A first round pick by the Braves back in 1996, Jason Marquis never really lived up to the expectations in a Braves uniform. Indeed, as a Brave, he posted a a season ERA under five only once in four years with them. When he was traded to the Cardinals, however, things changed - in fact, he won 15 games in his first year as a Cardinal. He tapered off a bit and posted losing records the next two seasons, but ever since being traded away from the Braves, Marquis has won at least 11 games each year.

With the Rockies now, Marquis is currently leading the league in wins with seven, and he'll probably end up with 15 or so by the end of the season. That is what is great about Marquis - a team can count on him to win 10-15 games a year, consistently. He does it without much fanfare and often in a way that's unspectacular - however, he wins the games nevertheless. And it is because of his great consistency and reliability that I name him the Autograph of the Month.



April, 2009

Luke Hochevar

It was tough deciding between Luke Hochevar and Jered Weaver, but in the end I thought the first overall pick from 2006 is more deserving of the Autograph of the Month honor.

Luke Hochevar was sought after before even setting foot on a college baseball diamond -  in 2002, he was selected in the 39th round by the Dodgers out of Fowler High School in Colorado. It was his college baseball career that really set him apart from other young pitchers in the country, however. In 2005, he set a University of Tennessee record by striking out 154 batters. He also went 15-3 with a 2.26 ERA that season.

During the 2006 season, Hochevar made his professional debut - not with an affiliated team, but with the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association. He went 1-1 with a 2.38 ERA in four games with them, striking out 34 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings of work. When he did finally play with an affiliated team in 2006, he pitched even better - although he went 0-1 for the Burlington Bees, he did post a 1.17 ERA and he struck out 16 batters in 15 1/3 innings. Overall, he went only 1-2, but he had a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 38 innings in his rookie professional season.

Although Hochevar had a rocky minor league season in 2007, he shined in the big leagues, posting a 2.13 ERA in 12 2/3 innings of work. He struggled in 2008 in the big leagues, but he performed well in the minors that season.

So, Hochevar was a first overall draft pick, he's shown success in the minors, and some success in the majors. Does that make him worthy of Autograph of the Month honors? You bet it does.



March, 2009

Darryl Talley

Darryl Talley had a long career in the NFL, lasting from 1983 to 1996. A two-time Pro Bowler, he had 38.5 career sacks and 12 career interceptions. He also had five 100-tackle seasons, including four in a row. Not only that, he appeared in four Super Bowls and never missed a game when he played with the Bills. Although he never led in a statistical category, he did rank among the leaders in non-offensive touchdowns in 1990 and 1993.

Talley was a very good player. Good enough to be the Autograph of the Month? You bet.



February, 2009

Brian Blades

Brian Blades was a very solid wide receiver during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. He had over 50 receptions five times in a season, over 75 receptions four times and over 80 receptions twice. He had four 1,000 yard seasons and two years with at least five touchdowns scored. He was even a Pro-Bowler once, in 1989.

Overall, Blades had 581 receptions, 7,620 yards and 34 touchdowns in his career. Because he was such a solid wide receiver, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



January, 2009 

Travis Buck

I got a ton of successes in January, however most of them were from retired minor leaguers. One that was not a retired minor leaguer, however, was Travis Buck.

A first-round draft pick, Buck made his big league debut in 2007 and did pretty well. In 285 at-bats, he hit .288 with seven home runs and an OPS+ of 130. He went through a sophomore slump in 2008 however, hitting only .226 in 155 at-bats. I don't believe that is very telling of what kind of talent he is, though. In the minors, he had a .326 batting average and a .404 on-base percentage. In 2006, he attended the All-Star Futures Game, and in 2007 he was named the best prospect in the A's organization and the 50th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America.

Although minor league success doesn't always transfer to the majors, I think Travis Buck will do well for a long time - and that is why he is the Autograph of the Month.



December, 2008 

Josh Hamilton

What a cool success this was. Josh Hamilton exploded onto the scene in 2007, and in 2008 solidified himself as a true star of the game. In '07, he hit .292 with 19 home runs and 47 RBI in 90 games for the Reds. He was traded to the Rangers, and in 2008 hit an astounding .304 with 32 home runs and 130 RBI. He was an All-Star, won a Silver Slugger and finished seventh in MVP voting. He also led the league in RBI and total bases.

Almost everyone knows the story about Josh Hamilton. He was the first overall draft pick in the 1999 draft, selected by the Devil Rays and booming with talent. But, drugs became a major part of his life, and from 2002 to 2005 he didn't even play professionally. Many people thought Hamilton's career was done.

Luckily for him, however, the Reds took him in the Rule 5 draft in 2006, and after hitting .350 in 11 games in the minors in 2007 he was called up, and the rest is history.

Because Josh Hamilton is one of the top stars in the game today, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



November, 2008 

 

Michael Griffin

Michael Griffin is a talented young football player. In 2007, he had a solid rookie season, picking off three passes and forcing a fumble. He also served as a useful kick returner, averaging 23.4 yards a return.

This season, Griffin is on pace for another good year, already surpassing last year's interception and sack totals. The Titans must have seen something good in him - he was their first round draft pick in 2007, so maybe his numbers aren't all that surprising after all.

Because he is such a promising young player, I name Michael Griffin this month's Autograph of the Month.



October, 2008

Bert Blyleven



This is one of my favorite successes, because Blyleven is one of the games all-time underappreciated players, in my opinion. Honestly, I believe he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Blyleven went 287-250 with 3701 strikeouts and a 3.31 ERA in his career. His winning percentage doesn't seem that great, but that's because he didn't always pitch on the best teams in the league. In fact, if his stats were neutralized, he would have won well over 300 games in his career.

 Although he won 15 or more games in a season 10 times, he only won 20 or more games once. And it's pretty impressive that he won 20 games the year he did too - the team he played for that year, the Twins, went only 81-81. To show just how unimpressive the Twins were that year, Jim Kaat - another should-be Hall of Famer according to many - went only 11-12 that season.

I could say a lot about Blyleven's Hall of Fame worthiness, especially considering I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame. However, I am going to make a few points. One: Except for Bobby Mathews and Tommy John, Blyleven has more wins than anyone not in the Hall of Fame - and he has a better case than either Mathews or John. For example, Mathews spent a large part of his career in the National Association, who many don't even consider a major league, and John doesn't have the strikeouts or grey and black ink (grey and black ink are a Bill James invention) that Blyleven has. Which brings me to point two: Blyleven has over 3700 strikeouts, making him fifth all-time in the strikeouts category. Only eight players have 3500 or more strikeouts, and besides Blyleven they are all in the Hall of Fame, or on their way there. Finally, Blyleven's grey and black ink are great, especially his grey ink. The average Hall of Famer's grey ink is 185 - Blyleven's is 237.

Because Blyleven was such a great pitcher, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



September, 2008

Jeff Clement


It was a slow month, September was. I received only five successes in the mail. However, I believe Jeff Clement makes the best choice for Autograph of the Month.

Although he struggled mightily after Kenji Johjima himself struggled in 2008, I have hope that Clement will rebound and do well in the big leagues for many years. In the minors, he hit for both average and power, and he showed a good eye at the plate. He wasn't drafted third overall in the 2005 draft for no reason, after all.



August, 2008

Curtis Granderson



I received a bunch of successes in August, but none were as awesome as Curtis Granderson. Despite being, in my opinion, one of the best all around players in the game today, Curtis signed my three items for me in less than a month.

Although he may never live up to his amazing 2007 season, in which he hit .302 with 38 doubles, 23 triples, 23 stolen bases and 26 steals, I believe he will be one heck of a player for a long time to come. Think about it - the Tigers drafted him in the third round of the 2002 draft, ahead of guys like John Maine and Pat Neshek. They must have known he was going to be good, and lo and behold, he is.

Because Curtis Granderson is such a solid player, I name him the Autograph of the Month.






July, 2008

Garret Anderson




I had a bunch of great successes this month, including on the baseball front Garret Anderson, Adam LaRoche and Hong-Chih Kuo. On the football front I received Shawn Springs (after a 1032 day wait). It was pretty hard to decide who the Autograph of the Month should be.

In the end, however, I chose Garret Anderson. Sure, I've named him the Autograph of the Month before (from a different success, of course). But he keeps on producing at a consistent rate. Despite being in the "winding down" phase of his career, you can still expect 10-20 home runs and at least 80 RBI out of him. He'll still give you a .280 or better batting average, and a handful of steals if he's feeling up to it.

Although I don't believe he has done enough to merit Hall of Fame induction, what he has done will get him at least a few votes when he becomes eligible for the vote. Because he has done so well for so long, and because he is one of only 11 current players with at least 2300 hits, 250 home runs and 1200 RBI, I name Garret Anderson the Autograph of the Month.



June, 2008

Jesse Crain

 

It was the battle of the young pitchers this time around - the three candidates for Autograph of the Month were Jesse Litsch, Shaun Marcum and Jesse Crain. Not only did I receive all three of these successes on the same day, but they are all viable candidates for Autograph of the Month - that is, they all have good arguments.

Through July 5, Litsch is 8-4 with a 3.69 ERA so far this season. Marcum is 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA, and Crain has a 2.80 ERA in 34 relief appearances. It's a tough choice, but I'm going to go with Jesse Crain for this month's Autograph of the Month.

Not only is Crain doing very well this year, he has done well in years past as well - in 22 relief appearances for Minnesota in 2004, he had a 2.00 ERA. He went 12-5 with a 2.71 ERA in 75 relief appearances in 2005. He had a 3.52 ERA in 68 relief appearances in 2006, and although he hit a bump in the road in 2007 (his ERA was 5.51) he seems to have gotten himself back on track this year.

So far in his career, Crain has a 3.10 ERA in 217 career appearances. Unlike Litsch and Marcum, Crain has shown he can do very well in the major leagues before, not just in one year (Litsch, for example, went 7-9 with a 3.81 ERA last year and prior to this year Marcum had a career 4.29 ERA). Because of this, Crain is June's Autograph of the Month.



May, 2008

Pat Hentgen


For eight straight seasons, Pat Hentgen was a perennial 10-game winner. Four times he won 15 games or more. Once, 20 games. For that eight year span - from 1993-2000 - Pat Hentgen was a very solid pitcher. In that time, he posted a 115-86 record. That's a solid .572 winning percentage, and an average record of 14-11 each year. His solid pitching was highlighted by a couple of monster seasons (namely 1993 when he went 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA and 1996 when he went 20-10 with a 3.22 ERA, winning the Cy Young Award and the AL The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award). Not only that, in that time he was an All-Star three times.

Overall, Pat Hentgen posted a record of 131-112 with a 4.32 ERA. Although they aren't the greatest numbers in the world, they are the numbers of a pitcher who was solid for a relatively long stretch of career. And that's why he's this month's Autograph of the Month.



April, 2008 

Jay Bruce


The 2007 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, Jay Bruce hit .319 with 26 home runs and 89 RBI in the minors last season. Not only that, he hit 46 doubles and the year before he showed flashes of speed by swiping 19 bases as well. He was also a minor league All-Star in both 2006 and 2007.

Normally, I am very skeptical about prospects. I'm one of those guys who thinks, show me what they can in the majors, then I'll think they're worth looking at. But Bruce is the rare exception. I honestly believe that he is going to be a star.

Sure, he strikes out a lot. But he is still an amazingly talented ballplayer. And it's not like this is all a big surprise or anything - the Reds took him 12th overall in the 2005 draft for a reason.

Former Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky once said, "you just can't say enough good things about Jay Bruce," and aint it the truth? Because he is such a big prospect right now and because of his vast potential, I name Jay Bruce the Autograph of the Month.



March, 2008:

John Maine



John Maine

What an awesome success this was for me. Not only is John Maine a budding star, but he is also a New York Met!

Maine is a solid young pitcher with a ton of potential. Since coming to the Mets in 2006, he has posted a respectable 21-15 record with a 3.81 ERA. Not only has he done well in the regular season, but he has also shined in the postseason. In three career postseason starts, Maine has a 1-0 record with a 2.63 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings of work.

In 2007, he was in the top-ten in multiple categories, including wins, strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings and shutouts. He even had the second most amount of sacrifice hits.

The Mets really got a steal when they traded Kris Benson for Maine and Jorge Julio. Yes, Julio was unimpressive while with the Mets, but Maine has proven to be a real gem. As a Mets fan, here's hoping Maine does well for years to come.

Because Maine is a solid young starter and a New York Met, I name him the Autograph of the Month.



February, 2008:

Roosevelt Brown

Are you kidding me?

That was the first thought I had when I went down the list of autographs I received last month.

Is this it?

Sadly, yes. I had basically two choices for the Autograph of the Month: Roosevelt Brown and Joe Borchard. I was going to pick Borchard, but I don't think I could live with myself if I picked a .205 lifetime hitter for Autograph of the Month.

So, instead, I picked a .251 lifetime hitter. Roosevelt Brown was a highly touted prospect for a couple years, and in 2000 with the Chicago Cubs he batted .352 in 45 games. Unfortunately, he flopped and .265 and .211 the next two seasons.

He may have flopped in the Majors, but at least he hit .300 in his minor league career.

Because I had such a terrible month getting recognizable names through the mail, I name Roosevelt Brown - who is the only player I received whose career can be considered something of a success - the Autograph of the Month.



January, 2008:

C.C. Sabathia

This is the first time I've ever had a repeat winner of the Autograph of the Month, but Sabathia is well deserving of that honor. His 2007 statistics alone make him worthy of the Autograph of the Month: He won 19 games and posted a 3.21 ERA, struck out 209 batters, was an All-Star for the third time, he led the league in games started, innings pitched, batters faced...

Oh yeah, he also won the Cy Young Award.

He already has 100 career wins and is only 27 years of age. I truly believe he may be a Hall of Famer one day.

Sabathia is the Autograph of the Month...and for good reason.



December, 2007:

Jim Thome

I had some great successes last month. Josh Hamilton, Jeremy Accardo, Matt Capps, Andre Ethier, Jim Thome - all had good seasons in 2007 and all are talented players.

But how could I not choose Jim Thome for Autograph of the Month? Sure, there are rumors that he uses a ghostsigner, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here. I mean, the man has hit 507 career home runs, has been an All-Star five times, has a .565 career slugging percentage.

Again I asked, how could I not choose him?

He is a future Hall of Famer, and - at his current rate - is projected to hit over 600 home runs in his career.

Because of the great career he has had, Jim Thome is the Autograph of the Month.



November, 2007:

Cole Hamels

I didn't get very many autographs in November, however I got some good ones. Some of the most notable were Cole Hamels, Chris Duncan, Pat Hentgen and Mike Lieberthal.

Hamels, however, was my best success this month. Prior the start of the 2007 season, Hamels made the bold prediction that he was going to win 20 games this past season. He did not win that many, however he did post an impressive 15-5 record with a 3.39 ERA in this past season at the young age of 23.

An All-Star this past season, Hamels has 322 strikeouts in 315 2/3 innings of work so far in his career. If he keeps up this pace, he could have over 3000 strikeouts in his career by the time he's done. I myself made a bit bold in saying this, he I believe he has Hall of Fame potential.

Because he is young and he has already proven himself in the big leagues, I name Cole Hamels the Autograph of the Month.



October, 2007:

James Loney

In October, I received multiple autographs but only three were in the running for Autograph of the Month. Those three were Orioles designated hitter/first baseman/third baseman Aubrey Huff, Dodgers first baseman James Loney and Pirates reliever Matt Capps.

Huff had a solid year, playing in 151 games, batting .280 and hitting 15 home runs.

Loney, in just 96 games, hit .331 with 15 home runs and 67 RBI.

To go along with a great 2.28 ERA, Capps saved 18 games in 76 appearances.

In the end, I chose James Loney. A young 'un at only 23 years old, Loney has already proven himself a force to be wreckoned with. He tore up the minor leagues, hitting .371 in 47 games with Great Falls in 2002 and .380 in 98 games with Las Vegas in 2006. A first round draft pick, a lot of things were clearly expected of him - and it would seem as if he is living up to those expectations.

He made his debut in 2006. On September 28th of that year, he drove in nine RBI and was only one hit away from the cycle that day. His final hit of the 2006 season - which occurred on October 1st - was a home run off of Jason Schmidt. Interestingly, his second to last hit of the 2007 season was a home run as well.

Because James Loney has so much potential - and because of what he has already shown in the big leagues - he is October 2007's Autograph of the Month.



September, 2007:

Orlando Cabrera

Boy, I had some great successes this month! I had four main choices out of all the autographs I received to be Autograph of the Month: Matt Holliday, Ian Kinsler, Miguel Batista and Orlando Cabrera. They are all deserving of a mention at least because they all had great seasons in 2007.

Matt Holliday had career highs in home runs with 36 and RBI with 137. He hit .340, leading the league. He was also an All-Star who collected 216 hits.

Ian Kinsler had a 20-20 year, hitting 20 home runs and stealing 23 bases. He scored 96 runs in 130 games.

Miguel Batista had perhaps the best year of his career. He won 16 games and posted a respectable 4.29 ERA.

Orlando Cabrera had career highs in at-bats (638), runs (101), hits (192) and batting average (.301). He also stole 20 bases and drove in 86 runs.

Of course, Matt Holliday looks like the obvious choice. However, there are rumors that his autographs could be ghostsigned. So, I am making Orlando Cabrera the Autograph of the Month because of that.

Cabrera, although he has never been an All-Star, is a very solid athlete. He had a career year in 2007, one that perhaps should have merited an All-Star selection.

I am happy to make Orlando Cabrera the September, 2007 Autograph of the Month.



August, 2007:

Pat Neshek

I had three main choices this month: Neshek, Mark Teahen and football player Mike Nugent. I chose Neshek.

Pat Neshek is known for being one of the fan-friendliest players in all of baseball, and quite possibly in all of sports. He understands autograph collecting the way we understand it, because he is quite the collector of autographs and baseball cards himself.

But that's not the only reason why he is the Autograph of the Month.

Neshek is also the Autograph of the Month because of what he has done on the field. In his 2006 debut season, he posted a tiny 2.19 ERA in 37 innings of work, all the while striking out 53 batters. This year, he has posted an impressive 2.83 ERA to go along with 68 strikeouts in just over 63 innings of work.

Known for his peculiar side-arm style of pitching, Pat Neshek is a fan favorite on and off the field. That - along with how well he's done since coming to the Majors - makes him this month's Autograph of the Month.



July, 2007:

Terry Francona

This month's Autograph of the Month is Terry Francona.

Francona was a fairly solid outfielder/first baseman in his day, batting .274 with 16 home runs and 143 RBI in 708 career games. In his 10 year career, he was never really a starter, but he was still pretty good.

But, that is not the reason why he is the Autograph of the Month. It is how well he has managed the Boston Red Sox since 2004 that make him the Autograph of the Month. As of August 6, 2007, he has helped the Red Sox to a .581 winning percentage, and - oh, yeah - he helped them win a World Series in 2004.

Often called "Tito" by his players, Francona has established himself as one of the best managers in the big leagues today. And that is why he is the Autograph of the Month.



June, 2007:

Mark Buehrle

This month's Autograph of the Month is Mark Buehrle.

Except for 2006, Buehrle has been one of the most consistent starters in the American League since he had his breakout 2001 season.

A three time All-Star, Buehrle has won over 15 games four times in his career, with his high being 19 wins. He boasts a .593 career winning percentage, which is better than pitchers of note such as Chris Carpenter, Phil Niekro, Nolan Ryan, among others.

He was one of the stars of the 2005 NLCS against the Angels, tossing a five hit complete game, striking out four and surrendering only one run.

Overall, Buehrle is a talented pitcher who is still only 28 years old. Taking that into consideration - and all that he has already accomplished in the Majors - Buehrle makes a wonderful choice for Autograph of the Month.



May, 2007:

Bo Hart

Wow, May was not a good month for autographs. I got a good amount, but nobody really noteworthy. So I chose Bo Hart.

What made me choose Hart is the fact that he was all the rage for a short while in 2003, when he got off to an amazing start in his big league career. He had two four hit games in his first 10 games played and he was hitting over .400 until his 16th big league game of the season. He finished the season with a respectable batting average of .277, and was overall a pleasant surprise for the Cardinals.

Except for a handful of games in 2004, he hasn't seen anymore time in the Major Leagues. His career started out in a promising fashion, but like with so many other players, he was unable to carry his success over into the long run.

Still, he is May's Autograph of the Month.



April, 2007:

Cliff Lee

Cliff Lee is April's Autograph of the Month.

Lee is one of those pitcher's that does well but doesn't get the greatest amount of attention in the world. Sure, he led the league in winning percentage and was second in the league in wins in 2005. Sure he was fourth in Cy Young Award voting. He was all this - and he didn't even make the All-Star team. In fact, even though his record from 2004 to 2006 was 46 and 24 - that's a .657 winning percentage - he has never been on an All-Star team. His statistics match up with those of two other underrated pitchers - Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano. They, like him, have good success and don't receive much recognition.

Cliff Lee has done very well these past few years with not a lot of fanfare. That is why he is the Autograph of the Month.



March, 2007:

Kevin Youkilis

The Greek God of Walks is this month's Autograph of the Month.

Youkilis has an amazing eye at the plate, hence his nickname. That might be what leads to his success in the Majors - that, or his knack for collecting extra base hits. In 2006, for example, "Youk" collected 57 extra base hits - 42 doubles, two triples and 13 home runs. That was more than Barry Bonds collected in 2005 and 2006!

I see great things in Kevin Youkilis' future. He is a very talented baseball player.



February, 2007:

Steve Reed

I was stuck between three this month: Orlando Hudson, Aaron Hill and Steve Reed. He may not be the popular choice, but I chose Reed.

Reed was one of the most reliable and durable relief pitchers in his 14 Major League seasons--and what's more amazing is he spent half of his career with the Colorado Rockies in the home run haven ballpark that is Coors Field.

2005, in which he was the ninth oldest player in the league, was the first season he posted an ERA high than 5.00. His previous high had been 4.48.

A very consistent pitcher, he appeared in at least 57 games 12 seasons in a row-between 1993 and 2004.

I know that Hudson and Hill are young and promising, but Reed was such a solid pitcher in his time in the Majors, he deserves to be named the Autograph of the Month. Plus, he appeared in 24 games for my beloved New York Mets. That's got to count for something.



January, 2007:

Khalil Greene

I was in quite a dilemma this month. Should I go old school and pick now over-the-hill Damion Easley to be the Autograph of the Month, or do I go new school and pick Khalil Greene? In the end, I picked Greene.

Greene, who has fair power, hits fairly consistently in that area (he's hit 15 home runs that past three seasons). I have the feeling that that can only improve, and when it does, I'm sure he be more popular and more talented than he already is. 



December, 2006:



Jake Peavy

Without a doubt, Jake Peavy was December's Autograph of the Month. Even with a less than stellar record of 11-14 in 2006, he still was able to strikeout 215 batters in about 202 innings, leading the league with a strikeout ratio of 9.56 per 9 innings.

Obviously his two best seasons so far have been 2004 and 2005-he was an All-Star in 2005, and in 2004 he led the league in ERA with 2.27. He has also been averaging more than one strikeout per inning for the past three years, all the while keep his walk totals in check.

It looks like Peavy is going to be a star for many years to come, and if he can get away from San Diego and settle in with a better team, he might even be a hall of famer one day. In fact, if he can duplicate his 2004 and 2005 seasons multiple times through out his career, he might end up with numbers like those of Bob Gibson...

And it is that possibility that makes him December's Autograph of the Month.





November, 2006:

C.C. Sabathia

I was stuck this month. I had a few great successes-Matt Hasselbeck and Derrick Johnson in the football category, and Philip Hughes and C.C. Sabathia in the baseball category. After hours of deliberation, I decided that C.C. Sabathia was the best choice.

Sabathia, though just 26 years old, is already one of the better pitchers in the American League. Boasting a career ERA of 3.95, he had perhaps his best season in 2006. Although his record was not really noteworthy (12-11) and nothing like his 2001 season where he went 17-5, he still pitched a career high six complete games, which was first in the AL. Not only that, had he a career low ERA with a mark of 3.22 (which was third best in the league), and a career high in shutouts with two-which also led the AL. There is more, too:

  • For one, he tied a career low in home runs surrendered in a season.
  • He was eighth in the AL in strikeouts at 172, which was also a career high.
  • He led the AL with the best hits allowed per nine innings ratio in 2006 with 7.44/9.
  • He was sixth in the league in strikeouts per nine innings at 8.03/9.

This is not to say the rest of his career hasn't been great either. For example, Sabathia-who was the youngest player in the AL in 2000, went 15-10 in 2005. And he finished with a good 3.60 ERA in 2003.

And he's been an All-Star twice, in 2003 and 2004.

And that is why he is the Autograph of the Month.



October, 2006:

Jonathan Vilma

One of the top young linebackers in the NFL today, Vilma has continued to impress most people who see him play. Hopefully he will continue to improve and become even better than he is today.



September, 2006:

Austin Kearns

I had much more success this month than last month. Of all the successes I received, I widdled my Autograph of the Month options down to three-Kearns, Hank Blalock and, sort of surprisingly, David Dellucci. I ended up choosing Kearns because Blalock has already been an Autograph of the Month, and although Dellucci did pretty well this year, he hasn't been more than average in years past.

Kearns, I believe, is a real talent. Sure he's been hurt more in his four years than some players in their entire careers, but when he's been healthy, he's shown what he can do. For example-at one point in 2003, he was actually nearly leading the league in home runs with 13.

Aside from his great hitting, he is also a good fielder (although in 2006 he had a career high in errors committed).

So, why exactly is he the Autograph of the Month? Because, he has power, defensive skills...and when he's not hurt, he should become a great player.



August, 2006:

Freddy Sanchez

This month, I had to main choices-Freddy Sanchez and Darrell Jackson. I chose Sanchez.

Sanchez might not have home run power, or speed, but he does have one quality that not too many others have-the ability to consistently hit over .300 each year. His fine hitting should come as no surprise-in 2005, he hit .291, and in the minors he'd constantly hit .320 to .330. It's not that he doesn't have ANY power, either-he's on pace for over 50 doubles in 2006, and he has shown some pop when it's been necessary.

Because he knows how to get on base-that's why he's the Autograph of the Month.



July, 2006:

Kevin Millwood

I had two real choices this month-Pablo Ozuna, because he's done so well this year, and Kevin Millwood. Millwood has always been a solid pitcher, who seems to be reverting back to his early Braves days. Millwood, who has been an All-Star once (1999), led the AL in ERA in 2005, with a 2.86 ERA. And this year, he's on pace for 15 wins. He's a good pitcher with good stuff, and that's why he's the Autograph of the Month.



June, 2006:

Zach Greinke

This was one of the worst autograph months in recent history for me, but I was able to make a solid choice as to who should be the Autograph of the Month-Zach Greinke. He's young, he's talented...the only problem is he plays with the Royals. If he can get away from there, he'll be an All-Star.

And that is why he's the Autograph of the Month.



May, 2006:

Joe Mauer

Blalock or Mauer...that is the question. After Mauer's recent surge, I decided it had to be him-and, oh yeah, Blalock had been Autograph of the Month once already.

Joe Mauer has been highly touted since day one it seems-and deservingly so. His WORST average in the minors was a .302-so many people would love to see that type of average. And now, he's doing it in the majors. Mauer, who isn't even 25 yet, already has established himself as one of the best catchers in the major leagues. And he's only getting better.

He is young and talented-that is why he is the Autograph of the Month.



April, 2006:

Morgan Ensberg

I had three main choices this month-Morgan Ensberg, Carl Everett and Jerry Hairston Jr. (only because I heard he's pretty hard to get TTM). In the end, I chose Ensberg.

Ensberg is one of the top players in the league today-even if he was a "late bloomer". In 2005, he had a great season with 36 home runs and a .283 batting average. He earned his first All-Star appearance in 2005, and he also won the Silver Slugger for third basemen in '05 as well.

Ensberg has been compared statistically to Hank Blalock and Kevin Mench-two very prolific hitters in the game today. The reason I chose Ensberg as Autograph of the Month is because he is a great player who should have many more great seasons in the future.




March, 2006:

Daryle Ward

Daryle Ward is a solid first baseman/outfielder. When he is "on", he has gargantuan power that can drive balls way out of the park-he was actually the first player ever to hit a ball into the Allegheny River behind PNC park while the ball was still in the air.

 Anyone who followed him as he made his voyage through the minor leagues will never forget his three amazing consecutive seasons, spanning from 1997-1999. In 1997, he hit 19 home runs with 90 RBI and a .329 batting average. In 1998, he hit 23 home runs with 96 RBI and a .305 batting average. Many would argue his 1999 season was the best thus far in his professional career-28 home runs, 65 RBI and a batting average that bears a resemblance to one that Tony Gwynn might have posted-.353.

Of course, Ward's success has not quite carried over into the Majors, although he has posted home run totals as high as 20 and RBI totals as high as 72. An interesting note about Ward's career-on May 26, 2004, Ward hit for the cycle, therefore making him and his father, Gary Ward, the only father-son duo to hit for the cycle in history.

 




February, 2006:

Bobby Crosby

Not an easy month to decide. Not because I got so much, but because I got so little. It was down to Todd Collins, Reed Johnson and Bobby Crosby, because those are the only three athletes who actually played in the NFL or MLB. I think the obvious choice out of those three is Bobby Crosby.

Crosby, who won the 2004 AL Rookie of the Year Award, is a solid young shortstop. He has shown good power throughout his career, and has drawn comparisons to players such as Earl Averill and Khalil Greene. If he can calm his free-swinging bat, he may be even better one day.

I made him February, 2006's Autograph of the Month because, well, I really had no other choice.




January, 2006:

Mike Sweeney

Unlike last month, I had a bunch of good successes this month. They included Jim Abbott, Joe Crede, Mike Sweeney and Brian Urlacher. I eventually narrowed my choice down to two names-Sweeney and Urlacher. It was really hard to choose, but I ended up choosing Mike Sweeney. But because it was such a tough choice, I'm going to give Brian Urlacher an "Honorable Mention".

Sweeney is an offensive force that can do great things when he is healthy. Unlike most power hitters, Mike has a good eye at the plate and normally produces a very small amount of strikeouts each season. Sweeney also has a knack for the extra base hit-not only can he perenially hit 25 home runs each year, he can also be a threat to hit at least 40 doubles each season.

Sweeney is not any slacker on the basepaths either. Even though he doesn't produce Hendersonian stolen base numbers, he  has been known to swipe a bag or two with a career high of 10 in a season in 2001.

It's Sweeney's consistency that makes him January's Autograph of the Month.



December, 2005:

Matt Holliday

Wow. What a slow, slow month. It was between Matt Holliday or Kevin Faulk, and Holliday eventually took it.

Holliday followed a very impressive rookie season with an even more impressive sophomore season, which is hard to do. He hit .307 with 19 home runs in 2005 while striking out only 76 times in 479 at-bats, as opposed to 89 times in 400 at-bats (which is what he did in 2004).

On September 20, 2005, Holliday drove in 8 RBI, which tied the highest ever total in Colorado Rockies history.

Even though Holliday had fair success in the minors, his Major League success has been a pleasant surprise. Hopefully he'll continue to be as successful as he's been in the past, because his success is what makes him the December Autograph of the Month.



November, 2005:

Jason Bay

Jason Bay is this month's Autograph of the Month for obvious reasons. Not only did he live up to his expectations, he far surpassed them by hitting .306 and 32 home runs in only his second major league season. He also showed very good speed by swiping 21 bases, hitting 44 doubles and 6 triples. In my opinion, Bay is one of the most promising baseball players today.

 



October, 2005:

Terry Glenn

Terry Glenn: Wide receiver. Rookie of the Year Award winner. Crybaby. Autograph of the Month. Many things can describe Terry Glenn. But for now, he is the last on the list.

Glenn was a former first round draft pick, and actually lived up to his expected talent in his rookie year by catching 90 passes and scoring 6 touchdowns. But, soon after his Rookie of the Year season, injuries set in. His catch total dropped to 27 in 1997. He played in only 9 games that year, and 10 the next. The once great wide receiver was turning into a fluke.

But it hasn't only been major injuries that have limited his playing  time throughout his career. If he got a minor injury or into an arguement with a coach, he'd refuse to participate. Glenn, to say the least, has never been a very good role model.

Thankfully, though-at least thus far in 2005-Glenn is on pace for a great season. He is on pace for 72 catches and an 18.9 yards per catch average.

So why is he the autograph of the month? He may not be the greatest player in the league or have the best attitude, but from what I understand, he's incredibly challenging to get through the mail. That's why.



September, 2005:

J.D. Drew

Without a doubt, J.D. Drew was September's Autograph of the Month.

Drew was supposed to be the next big thing after hitting home runs in his final three at-bats in a college World Series and setting a new record. He was drafted high in the first round after playing for the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League for two years, and blasted his way through the minors.

In 1998, the same year he was drafted, Drew made his ML debut. In 36 at-bats, he hit .417.

But, injuries set in, and he hasn't been able to perform as well as he should be able to because of them. In 2004, his first real injury-less season, he hit .305 while belting 31 home runs and showed what he can do when he's not hurt.

And it was his 2004 season-and the fact that he can be very successful when not hurt-that makes J.D. Drew September's Autograph of the Month.



August, 2005:

Hank Blalock

It was between Blalock, Bernard Gilkey, Edwin Jackson and Ryan Langerhans (I got a lot more than that but those were the only ones worth considering). After careful consideration, I named Blalock to be this month's Autograph of the Month.

It's hard to believe Blalock, a guy who started his career hitting .211 and whacking only 3 home runs in 49 games, could turn into the monster of a hitter he is today. He was very highly touted, but after his first season, many thought he was a minor-league-star turned major-league-flop.

But now, after two very successful seasons, scouts are beginning to call Blalock a George Brett-esque player. He's only 24 too, which means he has many, many more years to solidify himself as one of the top players in the league.



July, 2005:

Brandon Phillips

It was between Brandon Phillips and Omar Quintanilla...because I didn't get very much else worth naming this month. So, I chose Phillips.

He was the Indians top prospect in 2003, according to Baseball America. He was the 5th youngest player in 2002, and 10th youngest in 2003. Phillips, in my mind, will have many more successful years ahead of him.



June, 2005:

Craig Wilson

This month was a challenging choice-because I didn't really get anybody all that noteworthy. So, Craig Wilson is this month's autograph of the month.

Last year, he showed a surprising amount of power, belting 29 homers. This power did not come as a huge surprise, though-he'd averaged about 16 homers the three years before, while attaining only about 278 at-bats for those three years. That's one home run every 17 at-bats-better than former sluggers Darrell Evans, Roy Sievers and Greg Luzinski.

If Wilson keeps up his current average of 19 home runs per season (not including the 2005 season), he'll have hit 323 home runs in his career, by the age of 40. But that's an unrealistic number, because that average takes into account the years he spent as a bench player.

If he get 525 at-bats a year, from 2006 on, he will have hit about 418 home runs in his career, making him a fringe Hall of Fame candidate.

Because of Craig Wilson's amazing power, and the fact that it took only 14 days for this card to come back to me, I am naming Craig June's Autograph of the Month.



May, 2005:

Carl Erskine

David Aardsma, Hank Blalock, Carl Erskine. Those were the main players I was thinking about for being the autograph of the month. But there could only be one...

So, I chose Carl Erskine, because he seemed like the best choice. Carl Erskine was one of the better pitchers in Brooklyn-LA Dodgers history. Thrice, he won over 15 games, and one of those seasons he won 20 games (1953, his record was 20-6). Strangely enough, Carl's lowest career ERA, 2.70, was not in one of his 15+ win seasons. No, he never had an ERA under 3.00 when he won more than 15 games, as he had that 2.70 ERA when he went 14-6 in 1952.

Oisk, as he was nicknamed, was a 1954 All-Star. This was his only Mid-Summer Classic appearance. Although his 20-6, 3.54 ERA 1953 season would seem more deserving for an All-Star appearance, his 1954 record of 18-15 with a 4.15 ERA was not too shabby. 

Erskine completed over 10 games three years in a row from 1952 to 1954, finishing as high as 16 in 1953. He also had a rarely seen 4 shutouts in 1952 and 1953.

It may be interesting to note that Carl Erskine threw his first of two no-hitters on June 19, 1952. He was one baserunner away from a perfect game, as the only baserunner was relief pitcher Willard "Willie the Knuck" Ramsdell. His second came on May 12, 1956. He walked two batters in that game.

Carl also set a World Series record by striking out 14 batters in Game 3 of the 1953 World Series against the Yankees. That record stood until Sandy Koufax broke it with 15 in the 1963 World Series against none other, the Yankees.



April, 2005:

Oliver Perez

This was a slow month for autographs. But, for the ones that I did get, I was deadlocked between three-Randy Wolf, even if he had a bad season last year, Oliver Perez, and Sean Burnett. I put those names in a hat and pulled out Oliver Perez. So, he is this month's autograph of the month.

Perez, who was originally drafted by the Padres and was traded to the Pirates with Jason Bay and Cory Stewart for Brian Giles, showed a promising first two seasons in the majors, having a combined K total of 235 in 216 innings. These stats were enough to keep him in the starting rotation, as he had his best season last year (12-10, 2.98 ERA, 236 K in 196 innings).

But, these surprisingly wonderful statistics did not come from a guy who was thought of as nothing. No, people knew he was really going to be something after his stint with Lake Elsinore in 2002. Even though he compiled a lackluster 2-4 record with Lake Elsinore, he did strike out 62 in 53 innings, while compiling a 2.72 ERA. The next year, he had a combined 100 strikeouts in 71 innings, and an ERA under 1.85. This earned him a mid-season promotion, and that is where he started his reign as one of the best young pitchers in the NL. That is why he is April's Autograph of the Month.



March, 2005:

Garret Anderson

When Garret Anderson made his major league debut in 1994, he hit .385 in 13 at-bats. That short stint was a foreshadowing to what he would become - one of the most consistent players in the major leagues today. He has some speed, power, and has hit .300 or better the past three seasons.

Even though he is not the hardest person to get through the mail, he is still March's Autograph of the Month because he is one of the best players in the American League.



February, 2005:

Phil Niekro

Phil, who was inducted in 1997, was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Braves, and spent nearly 30 years playing professional baseball. Niekro, a  5 time All-Star and 5 time Gold Glove winner, is one of the more deserving Hall of Fame pitchers: 318 wins, sub-3.50 career ERA, 13 seasons with 15+ wins, 3 seasons with 20+ wins, and 3000+ K's.

Three's the charm, as it took me three tries to get him. Because he had such an illustrious career, and it took so many attempts to attain his autograph, he is February's Autograph of the Month.



January, 2005:

Barry Zito

Barry is the only remaining pitcher of the big three-Hudson, Mulder and himself-on the Athletics. The former 20 game winner and Cy Young Award winner is coming off two sub-par seasons, but is still considered one of the premier pitchers in the American League.

Because it took 512 days for this success to return to me, I am naming it January's Autograph of the Month.

These are all the first timers on the 2008 ballot. For each one, I have written why or why not they should be in the Hall of Fame.

Tim Raines. The best and most likely of all the first timers to be inducted. His 2605 hits and .294 were great and good respectively, but it is his 808 stolen bases that should get him in. He is fifth all-time on the steals list, and beside Vince Coleman would be the only man eligible for the Hall of Fame with 750 or more steals that is not in the Hall of Fame. He was a seven time All-Star, was constantly on the OBP, hits, triples, BB, stolen bases (among other things) leaderboards. Of the top ten players that are most similar to him statistically, five are in the Hall of Fame: Lou Brock, Max Carey, Fred Clarke, Harry Hooper and Enos Slaughter. His grey ink and black ink are under that of the average Hall of Famer, and the Hall of Fame monitor doesn't even call him a "likely" Hall of Famer. But, I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, and should get in eventually.

David Justice. Hit 305 home runs, which is good, but not Hall of Fame worthy. His chances are made even less likely when you consider that he hit only .279, played only 14 seasons and was a dud in the postseason. Only one Hall of Famer is statistically similar to him - Larry Doby - but the most similar player is Tim Salmon, who, like Justice, probably won't ever get in. His grey ink is less that three times that of the average Hall of Famer, and the Hall of Fame monitor has him as a very unlikely Hall of Famer. He doesn't belong.

Brady Anderson. If you're going to have a .256 career batting average, you also have to be spectacular defensively, a la Bill Mazeroski. By his lack of Gold Gloves (he won a whopping zero) he clearly wasn't that great in the field. 1661 hits, 210 home runs and 315 stolen bases are not enough to get a guy into the Hall. His grey ink is nearly four times less than that of the average Hall of Famer and the Hall of Fame monitor has him even less likely a Hall of Famer than David Justice. He is not statistically similar to any Hall of Famers. He doesn't ever belong.

Rod Beck. He was a great reliever during his prime, but if you're going to be a closer in today's era and expect to get into the Hall, you either have to have a gargantuan amount of saves and/or a really low ERA. Beck had neither. To add insult to injury, he played only 13 seasons, which is really low for a Hall of Famer. Not one of the players he is most similar to are in the Hall of Fame and his black and grey ink are terrible. His black is one (the average Hall of Famer's is 40) and his grey ink is 23 (the average Hall of Famer's is 185). Hall of Fame monitor however says that he is more deserving than David Justice or Brady Anderson to get in, however I don't ever see it happening. If the Hall of Fame ever gets watered down that much, then it would become more or less the Hall of Shame. He doesn't ever belong.

Shawon Dunston. He averaged less than 100 hits a season, collecting only 1597 in an 18 year career. He didn't do any one thing super well: 150 homers, 212 steals and his strikeout to walk ratio was nearly five to one. He was a notoriously bad walker in his career: I remember when he played with the New York Mets, he didn't walk once in 42 games. Over the final six seasons in his career, he didn't walk more than 10 times in a season once, although each year he struck out at least 25 times. He was a good player at most in his prime, but not a Hall of Famer by any meaning of the phrase. There are no Hall of Famers statistically similar to him, his grey ink is 138 less than the average Hall of Famer's and the Hall of Fame monitor has him basically as a zero percent chance kind of guy. He doesn't belong, ever.

Chuck Finley. He was certainly a great pitcher in his best years, but no where near a Hall of Famer. He posted a .536 winning percentage (hey, it's better than Nolan Ryan) but Finley only won 200 games. He was a great strikeout pitcher and had he started his career just two years earlier and lasted another year or so, he would be looking at 3,000 career strikeouts and a much improved chance at the Hall. But, he only has 2610 strikeouts, and add that to a 3.85 career ERA, his chances are really slim. No Hall of Famers are statistically similar to him and he only has a black ink score of 6. His grey ink is actually pretty good being that it's 156 and the average Hall of Famer's is 185, but the Hall of Fame monitor has him as an unlikely Hall of Famer. I agree with that, I don't think he belongs.

Travis Fryman. He hit .274 with 1776 hits and 223 home runs in 13 seasons. Really, that's all I need to say. But, I'll say more: his strikeout to walk ratio was 2:1, he was a postseason dud and his career was too short. He was an All-Star quite a few times, but that doesn't merit his election into the Hall. Not one Hall of Famer is statistically similar to him, his black ink is two, his grey ink is 20 and the Hall of Fame monitor has him as very, very unlikely. He doesn't belong, ever.

Chuck Knoblauch. He was a great basestealer in his day and is well remembered for his funky batting stance. His .289 average and 1839 hits in 12 seasons are respectable, but he is still far from being a Hall of Famer (although Lou Boudreau is statistically similar to him). His black ink is 3, grey ink is 67 and the Hall of Fame monitor has him as unlikely. He might not be the worst choice ever (there are a couple worse players in the Hall than he) but I don't believe he ever deserves induction into the Hall of Fame.

Robb Nen. He was a top closer during his career and it stinks that he was forced to retire so young. I guarantee you he'd be in the Hall of Fame had he played five more years. That said, his 2.98 ERA and 314 saves are great, but he didn't play long enough in my opinion. His black and grey ink were both terrible, however the Hall of Fame monitor has him as an even more likely Hall of Famer than Raines. The tenth most similar player to him statistically, Bruce Sutter, is in the Hall as well. Robb Nen was at the top of his class for a while, and probably will get at least a couple votes. I always thought he was a great player and wouldn't hate seeing him in the Hall, however I think there are others that should get in before him. If he belongs in, it's not for a very long time.

Jose Rijo. He actually had a respectable career ERA with his 3.24 mark, but his record was only 116-91 and he averaged less than 10 wins a season. No Hall of Famers are statistically similar, his black and grey ink are bad, and the Hall of Fame monitor has him as being very unlikely. He never belongs.

Todd Stottlemyre. Posting a 4.28 career ERA is no way to get you into the Hall. Neither is winning only 138 games in 14 seasons and having a .533 winning percentage. No Hall of Famers are statistically similar to him (which is a good thing) and his grey ink is terrible. The Hall of Fame monitor has him one point more likely that Shawon Dunston, which means he'll never get in, and rightly so.

Posted sometime before the 2008 Hall of Fame election (which was held in late 2007).

 

Previous Autographs of the Month

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