While the Pete Rose ban remains enforced, baseball continues to usher in a new era of young stars who boast big bats, big arms and big wheels. The tools are plenty sharpened and the toolbox is full of shiny, heavy metal.
Most of the best new players, however, can’t write worth beans. Perhaps these 20-somethings (25-under) sign contracts better than they sign autographs on the run, at the ballpark or before a game. No doubt they’ve spent more time with a bat or a ball in their hands than a pen. Or maybe they sign autographs wearing a glove on their writing hand.
One thing is certain, the players who were young stars 60 years ago, beginning with the 1956 season — Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Mathews, Banks, Kaline and Robinson (Frank) — wrote their names better than the kids today.
And to think the baseball world fretted about whether an illiterate Joe Jackson could physically write his name or whether he, well, just drew it.
Sweet Spot took a cursory look at the signatures of 18 top young stars and found none with 5-star quality; only three with 4-star quality; and two with 3-star quality. The rest were worthy of 1 or 2 stars.
We give the group high marks for crafting capital letters and generally good marks on drawing loops and lines, even though they may resemble nothing close to the formation of cursive letters. We invite you to email us your own assessment of our best and worst and offer other nominations. Clearly the horribly bad examples outnumber the well crafted, aesthetically pleasing examples.
Warning: there isn’t an example of any modern day player that comes close to the pleasing qualities of the players
from 1956, even the early versions of the examples that clearly evolved over time, notably Mantle and Mays.
From best to worst in terms of ratings and listed alphabetically, here we go:
- Gerrit Cole, 24, •••• — This signature has variations, from flat objects to balls, but Cole’s signature has a nice aesthetic and a good-looking capital G. Through a nice combination of loops the name can be read. Watch out, though, some signatures have a dot; others don’t.
- Sonny Grey, 25, •••• — This signature is very readable with a nice capital S, G and lower case y’s.
- Trevor Rosenthal, 25 •••• — Perhaps the best of the 4-star sigs, Rosenthal’s signature is nicely legible with distinguishable capital letters and unique features. It appears to be a signature that could get better with age.
The two 3-star autographs belong to the middle infield of the Houston Astros, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
- Jose Altuve, 25, ••• — For shear aesthetics, this signature, with its series of waves in the middle is cool-looking, but I dare anyone who is unfamiliar with this signature to be able to identify its owner.
- Carlos Correa, 20, ••• — The baby in our highly unscientific analysis, Correa shows lots of flair and the “Carl” representing the shortstop’s first name is distinguishable. The capital C’s are nice and graceful, consistent with the way Correa plays his position. This signature, too, could get even better with age.
In the barely 2-star category, Sweet Spot recognizes some big bats, notably the Cubs dynamic duo.
- Kris Bryant, 23, •• — His signature features large capital letters with a discernible “yt.” Bryant has more pop in his bat than he does in his signature. He is much in demand, so hopefully his autograph will improve with practice.
- Matt Harvey, 26, •• — Harvey’s signature may top 99 miles an hour, like his fast ball. His signature needs work but has potential. It’s not great, not horrible. By mixing speeds, the formation of letters and style could improve.
- Manny Machado, 23, •• — Machado’s signature starts nicely with a somewhat stylistic capital M. After that, Mmmm, not much else.
- Salvador Perez, 25, •• — This sig starts with an S with flourish and continues with strong vertical loops, but damned if anyone will be about to read anything beyond it.
- Anthony Rizzo, 25, •• There’s something interesting about this signature with the distinguishable A and R. The crossing loop for a Y crosses the A and lower case t.
- Giancarlo Stanton, 25, •• — With some flair in the initial loop that signifies the G, this signature has some potential to gain a rating point. Holding it back is the line that separates an S and an n in the last name.
- Michael Wacha, 24, •• — This signature has a nice M and W. The rest? Who knows what hieroglyphics the symbols represent.
And now, brace yourself for the worst-crafted signatures. A couple belong to the biggest young stars in the game, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Think about the beautiful John Hancocks of Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, so many others. Then, check out these horrible examples. It’s uncertain whether they’re worthy of any rating or your hard-earned cash at this time. Our best advice is to show patience. You don’t have to own these signatures right now. You really don’t. Wait.
- Nolan Arenado, 24, • — This signature is indistinguishable and out of balance. Practice on a lined Big Chief tablet, for crying out loud.
- Madison Bumgarner, 25, • — After a somewhat interesting M, we don’t see anything that resembles a letter from the English language.
- Jose Fernandez, 22, • — This signature is a very flat, horizontal image. It sort of looks like a bird chasing three fish. Well, use your imagination.
- Joe Pederson, 23, • — This signature is such a disappointment. Was this his first stab at cursive writing?
- Mike Trout, 23, • — Trout’s sig is a Big M, sort of a capital T and marks that look like closed quotes.
- Bryce Harper, 22, • — Basically, Harper’s signature is a Big B, a Big H, and the rest of his name is reduced to a squiggle, a lower case p and a line. Terrible.