Former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell is a player known more for his ideological stances than for his performance on the diamond, but that hasn’t stopped the backstop from turning a few heads while playing in Mexico this season. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser can be counted as one who has taken the time to notice Maxwell’s torrid production south of the border, as the veteran scribe profiled the catcher’s attempts to resurrect a career impacted, in part, by his decision to kneel during the national anthem in 2017 (link). The now-28-year-old Maxwell hit .325 with 25 homers in 2019 while playing for the Acereros de Monclova, a team that also featured fellow former Athletic Chris Carter. But, as Slusser points out, it’s far from clear if Maxwell’s foreign success will be enough to entice teams to overlook the “political baggage” (Slusser’s words) associated with him.
“People say you have to be stand-up citizens, but guys who are taking steroids come back and they still have jobs,” Maxwell said to Slusser in regard to his current lack of stateside of employment. “Guys who beat their wives are back like nothing happened.” While Maxwell had a few other expletive-laced thoughts on the subject of perceived double standards within the business of sport, he did also admit to some mistakes over a brief MLB career that saw him hit .240/.314/.347 (83 wRC+) over 127 games. “I accept I had an attitude,” Maxwell said, “and I could have changed it and I didn’t; I accept responsibility for that.” Maxwell, in addition to his anthem protest, also gained notoriety for a 2017 arrest for aggravated assault.
More notes from around the game, as the Nats and Cards do battle in the NLCS…
- While any news involving Maxwell is likely to inspire some commenting forum debate, our second item comes with far less controversy. In a piece for The Cincinnati Enquirer, Bobby Nightengale profiles Reds hurler Michael Lorenzen’s offseason quest to add velo to his already-fearsome fastball (link). Notably, Lorenzen is planning to seek the tutelage of recently new teammate Trevor Bauer. “We’re talking about making my delivery more efficient where I’m actually able to throw harder with less effort,” Lorenzen said of his discussions with Bauer to this point. “That’s a real thing if you understand human anatomy and human movement. It’s a real thing. With my strength numbers and my power numbers and my movement quality, I should be throwing harder.” As Nightengale points out, Lorenzen already averaged 97.2 mph on his heater this past season en route to notching a 2.92 ERA across 83.1 innings out of the Cincy pen. If Bauer is able to replicate the success he had working with former Indians teammate Mike Clevinger–who added several ticks to his fastball under Bauer’s instruction–the Reds may find themselves with a truly terrifying late-inning option in the Orange County-bred Lorenzen.
- Evan Drellich of The Athletic published a thoughtful and well-researched piece that touched on MLB’s so-called attendance problem, which the writer positions as a possible consequence of broader societal moves toward online–and not in-person–leisure activities (link). MLB attendance was 68,494,752 in 2019, down 1.7 percent from the 2018 season, but Drellich points to the year-over-year growth of MLB At Bat and MLB.tv as signs that the league is growing in ways that may not be evident when looking at attendance data alone. Commissioner Rob Manfred is inclined to agree with this line of thinking: “We try to think about engagement with the game,” Manfred told Drellich. “We sell different things. We sell a live product…We sell a broadcast product…We try to look broader than just attendance.” Drellich’s piece also features extensive data regarding the league’s deployment of social science polling data in their concerted effort to engage Gen Z fans–very heady stuff, for those so inclined.