Happy Birthday, National League

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National League logo.jpgA tweet from ESPN’s Jorge Arangure reminds us that today is the National League’s 134th birthday.  The league was founded in New York by William Hulbert, the owner of the Chicago White Stockings, and the owners of the Philadelphia Athletics, the Boston Red Stockings, the Hartford Dark Blues, the Mutual of New York, the St. Louis Brown Stockings, the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Louisville Grays.

Obviously much has changed.  The White Stockings would soon be known as the Cubs. The Red Stockings would eventually be known as the Braves.  Hartford remained until 1961, when it moved to Houston to become the Colt .45s, and was replaced by another team in Hartford that moved to Texas after the 1971 season, dropped the “Dark” from their nickname and simply became “The Blues.” By 1900 The Mutual had morphed from a baseball team into a regional bank, with branches in the Bronx, Brooklyn and northern Manhattan which themselves were reverted back into baseball team to fulfill contractual obligations.  As you can see, it was really a time of flux in Major League Baseball.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that the National League did not have the DH. This conclusively proves that — apart from the racial segregation, gambling, rampant alcoholism, short distance from mound to home and the fact that batters could call for a high pitch or a low pitch to his liking — Mr. Hulbert and his colleagues were on the side of the angels.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.