Martin Perez AP

Must-click link: The lost art of the baseball signature

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Tyler Kepner of the New York Times has a really interesting story today about the seemingly lost art of the baseball signature. While signatures from most marquee players were once easily-identifiable, it’s increasingly difficult to to tell one from the next. Seriously, look at the baseballs in the story and try to figure out who signed them. It’s nearly impossible.

So, why the change in quality? Well, it’s likely a combination of factors. Curtis Granderson explained that he that he doesn’t have the time to write a neat signature when he’s signing for hundreds of people at a time. Others say that handwriting just isn’t a priority in schools like it once was. Here’s a sample of the story:

Kate Gladstone, a handwriting instructor from Albany and the director of the World Handwriting Contest, said Ruth had a model signature. Ruth attended St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a Baltimore orphanage and boarding school where a scribbled name, Gladstone guessed, would not have been tolerated.

Whatever players’ upbringing, signatures mostly stayed legible for decades. Even after Depression-era budget cuts de-emphasized handwriting in schools, Gladstone said, people born in the 1940s, ‘50s and early ‘60s tended to be taught by well-trained instructors.

Today’s players, many born in the 1980s, were not. Children learned print and cursive then, as now, but handwriting was generally less of a priority in curriculums.

“In the ‘80s, we started to have people basically say, ‘Oh, handwriting’s not important, because in five or 10 years everything in the world will be computerized,’ ” Gladstone said. “But I don’t think we’re yet at the stage of typing our names onto baseballs.”

The entire piece is well worth reading, so check it out.

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.

Report: Dexter Fowler will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.

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Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.

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Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.

Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.

Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.