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Teams land on opposing sides of the signing game

The Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels  are on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to their willingness to sign autographs for fans at major league games.

When it comes to autographs, two contrasting teams recently visited Minnesota. The Toronto Blue Jays were in town in early July, and once again proved to be one of the best signing teams in baseball. They have a veteran lineup of stars who almost always go above and beyond when it comes to signing for fans.

Leading the way is Mr. Good Guy, Frank Thomas, who has been a terrific signer since his early days in Chicago. Thomas has always taken time for fans and will usually sign whenever he is asked. The future Hall-of-Famer is still one of the top signers in all of baseball. Hopefully he is a good example for the next generation of baseball stars as to how to deal with autograph seekers.

Another good role model on the Blue Jays is outfielder Vernon Wells. The 28-year-old star constantly grabs the Sharpie when asked and was again outstanding on the Blue Jays last trip through town. Sending items to him through the mail is probably not worth your time, since it seems the days of him signing his fan mail look to be over. Nevertheless, Wells still has to rank right up there with Thomas for top signing baseball stars.

Alex Rios has made a name for himself this season with Toronto, showing the offensive skills to be a star for years to come. The 26-year-old is near the top of the leaderboard in the American League home run race, and that power should make Rios a future hit in the hobby. Rios is another member of the Blue Jays who usually goes above and beyond for fans. The other good signers with Toronto include the following players and coaches: pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, hitting coach Mickey Brantley, Royce Clayton, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Aaron Hill, Brandon League, John McDonald, Lyle Overbay, Matt Stairs, Brian Tallet and Greg Zaun.

While the Blue Jays are on the good side of the signing fence, the Los Angeles Angels are on the other side. For the past few seasons, the Angels have been a headache for collectors and fans with their poor signing habits. Los Angeles has so many players on the team that are nearly impossible to obtain, and unfortunately, those players make up the biggest stars on the team.

Former MVP Vladimir Guerrero is just one of those stars on the Angels who almost always turns down requests made by fans for an autograph. He used to be such a great signer when he first came into the league with the Expos more than a decade ago, but those days are long gone. He has become such a terrible signer that most collectors do not even approach to ask for an autograph.

The same can be said for star pitcher and closer Francisco Rodriguez. Still just 25 years old, Rodriguez rose to fame by helping the Angels win the World Series in 2002 and has been dominating batters ever since. He has also stayed consistent over the past four years by blowing off fans and not even saying a word when asked for his autograph.

Gary Matthews is one of the newest members of the Angels, and he fits the mold of the previously mentioned players for his sour signing habits.

The signings habits of long-time Angels outfielder Garret Anderson again leaves autograph seekers confused. Anderson has been nearly impossible to obtain during the past five or so years when he is asked for a signature in person. Yet, send a mail autograph request to him, and you will get a quick response with his great-looking signature. Normally, players who are non-signers in person are also not very good about answering fan mail, but Anderson is different.

The few bright spots from the Angels come from manager Mike Scioscia, who is one of the better signing managers in all of baseball. The former All-Star catcher with the Dodgers usually will take the time to stop and sign for fans when asked. He gladly signed my magazine for me after one of the Angels games against the Twins. The few other good signers include: Chris Bootcheck, first base coach Alfredo Griffin, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Dustin Moseley, Darren Oliver, Robb Quinlan and Scot Shields.

Mail Call

When teams like the Angels leave collectors feeling discouraged, it is always nice to have some mail autograph successes to make up for the in-person disappointments.

One of those nice bonuses came recently from former all-star and National League MVP Dale Murphy. The former Braves star does not get the attention he deserves from the collecting world — probably because he spent nearly all of his career with Atlanta when the Braves suffered losing season after losing season. Murphy has always been a reliable former player for autograph hounds, and he again delivered with a great-looking signature on the card I sent him a few weeks ago. Another former baseball All-Star who generally is overlooked by collectors is Greg Luzinski. Luzinski played in four All-Star games during his career and finished his 15-year playing career with more than 300 home runs. Luzinski signed the magazine I sent to him in quick fashion.

Sparky Anderson continues to be a favorite in Detroit and Cincinnati for his managing success with both teams, and he is popular among hobbyists for being one of the most successful managers in baseball history. Just like he was during his career in the dugout, Anderson continues to be a treat for fans by signing mail sent to his home address.

Other former baseball players who have been signing through the mail recently are Wilson Alvarez, Andy Benes, Steve Crawford, Greg Gagne, Carlos Garcia, Dave Goltz, Chris Hammond, Clay Parker, Jeff Reardon, Chris Singleton, Bobby Thigpen, Turner Ward and Ned Yost.