Tyler Kepner on the sad state of baseball signatures and how Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew tried to fix the issue:

When young Twins players signed baseballs, Killebrew watched closely, said Tom Kelly, a former manager of the team. If their penmanship did not meet his standards, he corrected them until it did.

“I had a swerve like everybody else — a T and a line, a dot dot, an H and a line, and something like a t,” said Torii Hunter, a veteran outfielder who now plays for Detroit.

But, he added, Killebrew told him a story.

“Think about this: 150 years from now, you’re dead and gone, and kids are playing in a field,” Hunter recalled Killebrew saying. “A kid hits a home run, hits the ball in the weeds — far. They’re looking for the ball, they find it, and it says, ‘T, line, dot dot, H.’ They don’t know who it is. They’re like, ‘Oh, we found another ball to play with,’ because they can’t read it.

“But just rewind that. A kid hits a ball, hits it in the weeds, they’re looking for it, they pick it up and they can read it. It says, ‘T-o-r-i-i H-u-n-t-e-r.’ And they’re like, ‘Wow.’ So they go and look it up and they see this guy was a pretty good player, and they put it on the mantel and cherish it.”

Killebrew said, “You didn’t play this long for somebody to destroy your name,” Hunter recalled.

I have a few signed baseballs from when I was a kid and the sad truth is that I can’t read the names, nor can I remember who signed what. So essentially, I just have some baseballs with pen ink on them.

Speaking of Mike Trout, here’s Cliff Corcoran on his deal:

Still, it’s hard not to see this contract as a major victory for the Angels. They just added three years of Mike Trout’s prime to their future without breaking the bank. Assuming Trout’s salaries over the course of this deal escalate in accordance with his service time, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton’s contracts will all have expired before Trout is making top dollar. The real bottom line, however, is that the Angels have locked up the best player in baseball through the end of the decade at a fraction of his projected value. From a team’s perspective, you can’t do better than that.

Agreed. A very smart play by the Angels.


The Dodgers are ending the Yankees’ 15-year streak as baseball’s biggest spenders and as of Tuesday had a projected payroll of $235 million, according to study of all major league contracts by The Associated Press.

New York, which last failed to top the payroll rankings in 1998, was a distant second at $204 million. After that, it was another huge gap to Philadelphia at $180 million, followed by Boston at $163 million and Detroit at $162 million.

End of an era. Good riddance.

Meanwhile, the lowest payroll? The Astros at $45 million — which is still up from $27 million last year. With his bonus, the Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke will early more than that this year by himself.

Mark WIlson:

Reading from left to right, you watch as six teams create the National Association of Baseball. Things seem tranquil enough, but that quickly explodes to more than 50 teams, split across various leagues, schismed by profits and politics. The run lasted about 15 years, but over that time, attendance waned, some leagues bit it, and eventually baseball shrunk back from the over-expansion in 1900. Soon thereafter, the National Association teamed up with the American League to form the two-party scaffolding of the MLB as we know it today.

A big bang followed by a massive collapse — interesting infographic.

Jerry Crasnick:

Mulder, 36, retired in 2009 after two surgeries on his left shoulder had reduced his effectiveness and sapped his hopes of pitching at an elite level again. He’s been working as an analyst at ESPN since 2011, and had come to grips with the notion that his big-league days were at an end.

But things changed in October when Mulder watched Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez on TV and found something in Rodriguez’s delivery that he could emulate. Mulder spent the month of November working himself into shape at a Phoenix-area facility run by former big-league catcher Chad Moeller, and recently threw off the mound for three unspecified teams near his home in Scottsdale.

He said scouts clocked his fastball at 89-90 mph. Now he’s hoping to audition for more clubs and land an invitation to a spring training camp.

And they say TV rots your mind… What a strange, interesting angle for a comeback. Let’s hope he can pull it off.

Jeffrey Dorfman:

And while that television money looks attractive, baseball executives seem to have forgotten a funny thing about kids: they grow up to be adults. If children grow up with no tradition of watching baseball, they are much less likely to pick it up as adults. Most strong sports team loyalties are born when fans are young. Adults rarely create as strong a bond with a team as do children. That team loyalty can last a lifetime and means years and years of viewership and game attendance. That money comes slower than the television dollars, but over time it adds up.

Historically, baseball was played during the day. People listened to baseball on the radio at work or after school on weekdays. Even playoff and World Series games were played during the day. The Chicago Cubs’ home, Wrigley Field, famously did not have lights at all until 1988, so all their home games were played during the day until then. Even after the lights were installed, the Cubs favored day games at home.

Over time, day games in baseball have declined. This year’s regular season had 34 percent of its games played during the day and 66 percent at night. There has been a ten percent change in favor of night games over the past ten years. Has this long term trend toward night games shown up in a decline in television viewers? Yes it has.

An interesting theory. Certainly, the numbers don’t lie about day versus night games, and it makes sense that television would be the main reason.

What’s sad about this is that baseball is a pretty poor television sport but a great live one.