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Thursday, August 4, 2011
Is Bonifacio worst player of the month?

By David Schoenfield

A colleague poses this question: Is Emilio Bonifacio the worst player to win a player of the month award?

By this, we don't mean the worst statistically for that month, but the worst player over the course of his career. Bonifacio had a terrific July to be named NL Player of the Month -- .380, 27 runs, 16 stolen bases and a 26-game hitting streak. But this is a guy with three career home runs and a .661 career OPS.

The National League started handing player of the month awards in 1958; fittingly, the first winners were Willie Mays and Stan Musial. The American League didn't begin until 1974. It's not that easy to win one of these things -- Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki, for example, have won just once. Chipper Jones has never been a player of the month winner.

Eleven players have won at least six times: Barry Bonds (13), Alex Rodriguez (10), Frank Thomas (8), Albert Belle (7) and Albert Pujols, Jason Giambi, Vladimir Guerrero, Mark McGwire, George Brett, George Foster and Pete Rose with six.

So, back to our original question: Who are the worst player of the month winners?

The roll call ...

Runner-up: Glenallen Hill, 2000 Yankees. This is a weird one, as Hill only played two months with the Yankees and August of 2000 was literally his last month as a regular in the big leagues -- he'd play only 30 more games in his career. But he hit .411 with 10 homers and 19 RBIs.

3. Felix Jose, Cardinals. Jose was actually a decent player. He had a career line of .280/.334/.409, although the outfielder never lived up to his prospect hype and was a big league regular just five years. But what's amazing is he won TWO Player of the Month awards -- the same total as Ken Griffey Jr. In April of 1991, he hit .354 with two homers, nine doubles, 15 RBIs and 16 runs. He was an All-Star that year and hit .305. In May of 1992, he won again, hitting .346 with four homers and 25 RBIs.

2. Jim Hughes, 1975 Twins. I had to look this guy up. In '75, pitchers were still eligible for the award (they would later get their own). As a rookie with the Twins, Hughes went 6-0, 0.87 in May to win monthly honors. He allowed just 29 hits in 51 innings. I saw one newspaper story were Boog Powell said, "I don't know what he was throwing. ... It was some kind of trick pitch." Hughes never matched that success again and finished the year 16-14 with a 3.82 ERA, but walked 127 and struck out just 130. The next year he went 9-14 with a 4.98 ERA and continued control problems. After two games in 1977, his career was over. I couldn't find evidence of an injury, although that's certainly possible. Regardless, he had that one shining month.

1. Alfredo Griffin, 1979 Blue Jays. Now, Griffin had a long major league career, but he hit just 24 home runs in 18 seasons, hardly the kind of hitter who usually wins this award. His career OPS is .604 ... well below Bonifacio's. But in September of his rookie season in 1979, Griffin hit .347 ... with no home runs and six RBIs. OK, no, I'm not exactly sure how he was the best player in the AL that month.