Monday, February 8, 2016

Pirate Autograph Project: #3

I've been working on acquiring an autograph of every players since the end of WWII to appear in an MLB game for the Pirates.  I'll be (hopefully) posting one autograph each day.

I'm front loading the early portions of my PAP postings, but can you blame me?  This card is one of my favorites in my collection.  Not only is it a beautiful signature on a design that makes great use of white space, but it's also a pretty tough signature to nail down.

Benito Santiago's career travelled the spectrum from ROY, perennial All-Star and Gold Glover to...Pittsburgh.  In the mid 00's, Pittsburgh was the last stop on the bus for quite a few former all-star caliber players who had little to nothing left in the tank.

While Benito was in his age 40 season when he hit Pittsburgh, it was cool to see a bigger name player take over behind the plate after trading away Jason Kendall.

Santiago had come off of a decent but injury-shortened season with the Royals in 2004.  But his stop in Pittsburgh never really got a chance to get going.

And it's interesting how we remember things.  I thought Santiago fell into the old Davy Jones Locker outside PNC Park, performing at Derek Bell levels of woefulness.  In reality, the Bucs gave him a whopping 6 games and 23 at bats, during which he was playing about at his career averages.  Not bad for a 40 year old catcher.

I suppose at some point between trading for him in December and early May, the Pirates apparently decided they needed to get older.  This kind of well thought out planning was pretty typical for those Pirate teams.

Some ab's would go to David Ross, who has now acquired grizzled veteran catcher status himself.  But the Pirates would cut bait too early with him as well.  Instead, the bulk of the ab's went to Humberto Cota, who put up an OPS about 60 points lower than what Santiago had done the year prior.  It shouldn't shock you that Humberto Cota never reached the majors after the Pirates finally released him.

So despite 23 ab's and 6 games, somehow Benito Santiago was included as an autographed card in Topps Update, despite never actually having a flagship Topps card as a Pirate.  And having not played for either team pictured for at least 9 months.

But I'm more than grateful this card exists.  For a while, I'm pretty sure it was the most expensive non-Jack Wilson card in my collection.  I think it cost a whopping $7.  But hey, I was in high school and funds were tight.  And ebay shipping was also $2 on the high end back then.


  1. I love that card and have showcased it on my blog too. The Pirates have had a tough time at catcher and first base during the losing streak. After Kendall it was pretty much a revolving door. It looked like Doumit was going to be something useful, but injuries and defense held him back. It turned out that he was pretty much the worst defensive catcher in the last 20 years according to many advanced metrics.

    1. Any mention of Doumit immediately makes me think of the Duke/Doumit/Duffy triple bobblehead. There must have been some in the Pirates PR team that reeeeeally liked alliteration.

  2. Benito bounced around a lot towards the end there - he spent a year on the Northside of Chicago too. He just looks weird in a Pirates or a Cubs uniform.

    1. He was certainly well traveled in his final years. But any catcher who can hit at replacement level without being a liability behind the plate will have a job for as long as their body can take the punishment.