What's the deal with autographs?

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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.

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.