What's the deal with autographs?

Leave a comment

I’m not going to say that baseball news is slow, but this is one of the better things I’ve read today:

It always angers me that some athletes will go to great lengths to sign
legibly, and others will scribble their name, and be done with it.
Personally, I think it is a travesty for an athlete to sign his name in
such a way that you cannot decipher what it says. Now I realize that
players sign so much that it is ridiculous, and naturally some players
sign more than others, but you can’t tell me that a player can’t at
least write two or three letters that can be read by the average person.

Yeah, it’s that bad.  But at least it provides me a basis for jumping into a subject I raised on my old blog a couple of years ago and which probably worth raising again: what’s the freakin’ point of autographs? I simply don’t understand the appeal. Sure, I understand that they’re valuable, but why? On a simple level, an autograph is proof that you
were in the presence of someone famous.  But why should anyone else care that I — or some autograph dealer more likely — met someone famous? It’s like tulips or dotcom stocks or something. Price that doesn’t correspond with much if any value.

To be fair, the article linked above is about kids getting autographs and I sort of understand it for kids. They’re told by their parents that autographs are worth having, so kids seek them out.  If obtained in person, they’re a handy vehicle for getting the kid near the ballplayer, and that is kind of cool.  But isn’t the biggest takeway from that the fact that the kid actually stood next to the ballplayer and maybe said a word or two to him? I got Alan Trammell’s autograph when I was a kid. It’s in my basement somewhere and I haven’t looked at it in years. But I still vividly remember meeting him and talking to him, and I’d have the same emotional warm fuzzies about it if I had simply walked up to the crowd next to him and didn’t walk away with an autograph.

So sure, the kids can have their autographs because they may not go up to the ballplayer otherwise, but what about the grownups? It seems mildly twisted to me. A grownup either gets an autograph at a signing or by interrupting a celebrity in public.  If it’s the former, it’s just an act of commerce, so what’s so special about it?  If the latter, man, isn’t that kind of rude?  Can’t we invade their personal privacy simply by pointing our cameras and gawking and leave the final line — thrusting personal objects at them for them to handle, sign and return — uncrossed?

I’m not trying to be a total killjoy about this or anything. I have some autographs. Some — the ones I got myself as a kid, mostly — I like. Trammel, Gaylord Perry, Stan Musial, Al Kaline. Others I obtained in the course of my baseball card habit. For example, I never met George Brett, but I have his autograph on a ball and a 1980 Topps card. Same with Don Sutton and Eddie Matthews and Paul Molitor.  But either way, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to take from them. I’m not sure what they’re supposed to mean. I’m not sure I’d ever obtain another autograph for as long as I live.

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson
Leave a comment

As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger. There is also a second player headed to Baltimore in the deal.

This feels like an admission from the O’s that they’re not going to be able to re-sign Chris Davis, who is said to be looking for more than $150 million in free agency.

Clevenger was out of options and the Orioles have both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph coming back at the catcher position. Wieters was due to become a free agent but accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Baltimore last month.

Trumbo has always been a low-OBP guy and he rates as a poor defender everywhere he has played, but the 29-year-old has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBI for every 162 games in his six-year major league career. Camden Yards is a much better place than Safeco Field for him to show that power.

Cardinals finished runner-up to Red Sox in David Price sweepstakes

David Price
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

These kind of after-the-ink-has-dried reports have to be taken with a grain of salt for a variety of reasons, but they’re fantastic conversation-starters …

Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the Cardinals “finished runner-up” to the Red Sox in the bidding for free agent left-hander David Price, who signed with Boston on Monday for a record seven years and $217 million.

There were reports early on that the Red Sox were going to have to overpay on Price because he wanted to either stay in Toronto or make the move to the more pitcher-friendly National League. And maybe they did go significantly above and beyond the next-best offer to land him.

But the report from Nightengale serves as an indication that the Cardinals are ready and willing to spend big money ahead of next week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. Does that chunk of change now get directed toward Jason Heyward? Or might the Cardinals pounce one of the falling dominos in this still-loaded starting pitching market? What about both?

St. Louis lost Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery last month and both Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha carry some injury concerns into 2016. There’s money to spend there with a new billion-dollar local television deal about ready to kick in.

Pirates expressing interest in Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson
AP Photo/Ben Margot
Leave a comment

Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has become the king of the reclamation project. And it sounds like he’s about to take on another big one …

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates have expressed interest in free agent Justin Masterson. The expectation is that it will be a one-year deal with the goal of rebuilding the right-hander’s value in an environment where many other struggling veteran pitchers have executed significant career turnarounds.

Masterson earned his first (and only) All-Star nod in 2013 when he registered a 3.45 ERA, 195 strikeouts, and three shutouts in 32 appearances with the Indians. But he had a 5.88 ERA in 128 2/3 innings between Cleveland and St. Louis in 2014 and he continued struggling to the tune of a 5.61 ERA with the Red Sox in 2015.

It’s not clear whether the Bucs would try him as a starter or reliever.

Zack Greinke deal “could come soon,” Dodgers and Giants lead the bidding

Zack Greinke
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Jordan Zimmermann signed with the Tigers on Sunday for five years, $110 million. David Price signed with the Red Sox on Tuesday for seven years, $217 million.

Two big dominos have fallen in this loaded free agent market for starting pitchers, and another big one is about to go …

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says a deal for Zack Greinke “could come soon” and it’s currently “Dodgers vs. Giants” at the top of the bidding ladder.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick confirms that both the Dodgers and Giants are looking for an answer from Greinke, adding that the 32-year-old right-hander seeks a five- or six-year deal with a greater average annual value (AAV) than what Price just secured from Boston. That number would be $31 million, so we’re talking something close to $32 million through 2020-2021.

Greinke opted out of the remaining three years and $71 million contract with Los Angeles in October after posting a 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP across 222 2/3 regular-season innings in 2015. He finished second to the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in the National League Cy Young Award balloting.