August 21, 2010

Hey Mister, sign my ball?!

It’s not often that we get to hear from the ballplayers about autographs. We all know that players sign items and when they don’t, we are quick to write these people off and think of them as jerks.

A colleague of mine stumbled upon this blog post written by Phillies prospect Michael Schwimer. He currently pitches for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Schwimer writes about reasons he may not sign autographs.

The four reasons he gives are valid reasons.

Do I agree with everything he says? No.

Schwimer says he will not sign items in perfect condition because of the fear they may end up on eBay or something of the sort. He talks about ‘sharks’ the people who seek autographs to turn a profit on eBay or in similar ways.

What's funny is that there isn't much of his stuff on eBay (auctions).

I pose this question. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to go online to do this? Maybe they are providing a service for someone who can’t get to a ballpark where the minor league player competes. To me, that attitude is much like our government. If they aren’t seeing a piece of the money, they don’t want anyone else to reap the benefits.

I know many players are like this and if I get an autograph will ask to get items personalized just to show that I am not going to sell. But why do I want an item signed by a player that isn’t going to be in the place I want it so I can display it with the rest of my memorabilia.

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  1. I'm not a big fan of the "I don't want it to end up on eBay" excuse either. I understand it, bit it is a very weak argument.

    If players are truly concerned then they know the guys who are the so-called "sharks". Ignore them and sign for the "fans".

    As for his "financial" argument? THIS is the big problem I have with athletes. YOU PLAY A GAME!!!!! People want your autograph for some reason. Doctors, Politicians, Teachers, Nurses, Soldiers.....people that actually MATTER in this world do not receive the attention and accolades you do for playing a game.

    "If I was in the major leagues and getting paid $400,000 a year, I would feel like part of my pay salary is to stay late and sign autographs......."

    All I have to say to that is F**K YOU.

    Looks like I just broke rule #4. Guess I'll never get his autograph.


  2. I respect Mr. Schwimer's right to have an opinion, but I he sounds like a bit of a jerk.

    His point about not signing blank items comes up a lot, but I really don't know how necessary a signature is for identity theft. How often to people really pay attention?

    I can see not signing baseballs on the sweetspot if he's concerned about people making money off his signature. But if he's really that worried about his finances and the possibility of collectors making money off his signature - why doesn't he sign some baseballs and sell them on eBay himself?

    As far as for cards and other items where the signature would add "value"? If I'm understanding Mr. Schwimer correctly, he will sign dirty batting practice baseballs and (perhaps) team-signed clean baseballs.

    I'm out of luck, because I choose to collect baseball cards. Why not take the time to personalize if you're concerned about the possibility of resale, and just sign one per person. It seems like a more fan-friendly way of handling things.

    I will agree completely with Mr. Schwimer on the manners issue though.

  3. Mr. Schwimer has two problems here:

    1. He thinks too much
    2. He has an entitlement issue, which is a major problem in society, not just sports.

    The identity theft thing sounds silly. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but how often does that happen? It's like saying you won't walk on a sidewalk because you heard once that someone tripped on one and cracked their head open.

    So what if people are selling stuff on ebay? You have a chance of making $400,000 a year. How many people get a chance to do that! As my parents always said: "Don't worry about what they're doing, worry about what YOU'RE doing."

    I do agree with him on the manners, too, although I'm pretty sure kids have been saying "Hey - sign my ball" since the 1920s or earlier. I'm often appalled by autograph seekers' behavior and their reaction if they don't get something signed -- I totally understand that players may not be able sign for various reasons -- but pondering whether something ends up on ebay should not be one of them.

  4. all good points... on the other hand, he has something we want from him. For free. To me, that means he dictates the rules.

    If I was a famous ballplayer and someone wanted my auto, I'd make 'em sing me their school fight song, or do a little dance. Since I'm Canadian, maybe they'd have to do a math problem....

  5. My major beef is that he restricts a lot of what he'll sign. I usually do cards if I have them of the guy, otherwise just scraps of paper (sometimes index cards) so that I can put them into my binders.

    He wouldn't sign either of those, so I guess I'd never have his autograph. Sorry dude, but fair condition baseballs and programs don't fit into 9 pocket card sleeves.

  6. I understand Schwimer's point about not signing balls or cards because he might be doing me a favor that I might inadvertedly benefit from.

    Those who attempt to collect and sell autographs don't see the point of view that a player isn't some signing machine you can build an Ebay account around.

    On the other hand, Schwimer maybe a professional ballplayer, but he's lucky if a person remembers him two minutes after he has signed an autograph for that person.

    I suspect other, more high profile players in the minors feel the same way Schwimer does now - that is where it hurts for autograph collectors.

    Maybe Schwimer is just speaking for the those guys who can't articulate their thoughts on a blog, because they are too busy actually doing something as legitimate prospects within the Philadelphia Phillies' system.

  7. Obviously Schwimmer has no idea how Ebay or the hobby works.

    I collect autographs of my minor league club as a niche in my PC. If I can't get the auto at the park on something, I collect certified autos. I'm frequently on ebay searching for cert autos to add to my PC.

    I stay away from non-cert autos because of the lame COAs provided (the sellers "word" that the auto is real and not fake). I also notice that cert autos seem to end higher than non-cert autos (or sell whereas in-person autos usually sit in ebay stores for months or years).

    I wouldn't worry about signing stuff at the park as it's likely to not be worth much on ebay if the auto even sells at all.

    If you are worried about identity theft, use a "public signature" that is different from your legal signature. I've already worked on my public signature that if something happens that makes me famous, I have a public signature I am ready to use and I know I can prove it's different from my legal obligation signature.

  8. Most of his points do smack of seeking out reasons not to sign, and as such, I see the politeness issue as the only valid one.

    It sounds as if there's some truth to the identity theft issue, but it mostly sounds apocryphal, at best.

    Total baseball fraternity urban legend kind of thing ("I heard that this guy..."). In a story like that, unless I get specifics (names of people, places, approximate dates, etc.) it goes in the "Pics or GTFO" category.

    As for his second and third reasons, he should concentrate more on becoming that guy that gets promoted to the big leagues than the guy who worries about what minor-league groupies want to do with the odd signed item.

    There are plenty of guys in the minors that get draft day bonuses, so they already have big money. As such, those high draft pick guys are often the most desirable for the prospector types. Even then, I've seen guys like Buster Posey leave half-way through a 2-hour sponsored signing event, because they supposedly resent the obligation to promote the team they play for--and autographs are a prominent method for that. Again, a weak sauce argument.

    Recording artists and book authors often bitch about how they don't see a royalty payment from sales from used music and book stores, and they have a more valid reason to complain--the results of their labor are being traded without compensation. What's an autograph from a ballplayer compared to that? Not much. I don't see artists and authors getting any traction on that claim, so athletes have a longer way to go with those lame complaints.

    As for politeness, that is the strongest point by far. I've noticed that the crappy adults that whip out the "don't tell me how to raise my kid" defense are often the ones that most need to hear that they suck at it.

    Even for the little ones, I would insist on a please *and* a thank you; I wouldn't let go of the item until I heard the thank you, even if I had to coax it out of the kid. If it got chronic with a particular group, I would stop signing, and say something along the lines of how a particular kid ended the session early due to poor behavior. Nothing like using a little mob rule against a punk for once.

    You can't start too early with that stuff. There's only so much time before bad habits get in front of the good ones, and bad ones are always easier to start.