Athletics

Former A's catcher Bruce Maxwell 'still smiling' after controversial season

Former A's catcher Bruce Maxwell 'still smiling' after controversial season

Former A's catcher Bruce Maxwell will always be a part of Major League Baseball history.

And yet, he remains unsigned. 

The 28-year-old became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

Just a few short weeks after he knelt in a game against the Rangers, Maxwell made headlines once again -- this time, following an arrest at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct after he allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery worker. He plead guilty.

In a feature from Bleacher Report's Scott Miller on Monday, it was revealed that Maxwell has received support from former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who still reaches out to Maxwell to see how he's doing. And while Maxwell is aware his situation is different from Kap, there is a possibility that he too, is being "blackballed" by the league.

Former A's pitching legend Dave Stewart -- who also represents Maxwell at his agency, Sports Management Partners -- spoke highly of Maxwell. 

"Quite frankly, I like having him around," Stewart told Miller. "He's been delightful."

"What's clearly understood, and Bruce and I have talked about it, is he's willing to take a step backwards right now to go forward. He'll do whatever it takes to get an opportunity to play. That in itself is admirable to me.

"When we took him on as a client, I told him it wouldn't be easy getting him a job but that we would get him a job playing with an affiliated team," Stewart said. "So I'm kind of surprised now that [we've reached] spring training and we don't have a job for him."

It appears Maxwell is not the only free agent still looking for work, as plenty of other free agents aren't signed either.

"What I can tell you is this: In talking to teams about Bruce, the knee is not an issue. [Clubs] question more about the weapon than they did the knee."

Maxwell was very open with Miller about what had happened during the incident -- he had no problem going into detail with how he was scared to answer the door following taking a knee after forgetting he had ordered food from Postmates. 

"I was struggling," he said. 

"Me being on the edge; me having all those things going through my mind—my family getting threatened—I answered my door with my weapon in my hand," Maxwell said. "Once I saw who it was, I was startled. Obviously, I startled the young lady."

It's something he won't soon forget.

"I feel that, with everything that comes along with me, it plays a small part in how people view me, or how people might view my career," he said. "At the same time, all I can focus on is my work and preparation."

Since being designated for assignment by the A's in September of 2018, Maxwell has been using the time to focus on himself.

Across three big-league seasons with the A's, Maxwell boasted a .240/.314/.347 line with five home runs and 42 RBI in 127 games.

He's reportedly slimmed down since admittedly showing up to camp last season overweight. So he wants to improve himself in order to make these hopes of returning to baseball a reality.

[RELATED: Store closes after Nike boycott, Kaepernick still gains support]

While Maxwell is hoping for a second chance, it doesn't appear likely that he'll be back in Oakland. The A's are comfortable platooning Josh Phegley and Chris Hermann, and also brought in Nick Hundley for a veteran presence. Although Stewart and Maxwell both believe he should get another opportunity soon, it's still unclear where or when that might happen.

It appears Maxwell has nothing to hide. He's aware of his past, he's aware of what people have said about him, to him -- but the good news is, he's smiling -- which is far from that place of darkness. 

A.J. Puk's strikeout of Kris Bryant shows how special A's lefty can be

A.J. Puk's strikeout of Kris Bryant shows how special A's lefty can be

Allow A.J. Puk to reintroduce himself.

The A's young, hard-throwing left-hander made a cameo at the end of last season working out of the bullpen. He's expected to be a staple of the A's rotation this season, and he gave fans a glimpse of what makes him so special Saturday when he struck out Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant on three pitches to open the A's first spring training game. 

That last pitch made me feel things.

Puk, along with fellow southpaw youngster Jesus Luzardo, gives the A's rotation two potential aces in the making. During his one inning of work Saturday, Puk featured all four pitches in his arsenal -- four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, curveball -- and lit up the radar gun by touching 97 mph. 

But it was the punchout slider to Bryant that has people buzzing.

"First one of the year, it was a pretty good one to start out with. I was pretty happy with that," Puk said of the slider, via The Athletic's Alex Coffey.

[RELATED: Why A's no longer view Puk, Luzardo as prospects]

After coming off UCL surgery in 2018, Puk worked his way back to form last season before getting the call up to Oakland late in the year.

Now, he and Luzardo are ready to be the face of the A's rotation for years to come. If that slider to Bryant was any indication, the Green and Gold are in great hands.

Mike Fiers told J.D. Martinez about Astros cheating before 2018 ALCS

Mike Fiers told J.D. Martinez about Astros cheating before 2018 ALCS

November wasn't the first time A's pitcher Mike Fiers blew the whistle about the Houston Astros' sign-stealing nature.

After the Astros won the 2017 World Series thanks to a lot of help from trash cans, they returned to the American League Championship Series to face the Boston Red Sox. But if the Astros still were cheating, it didn't matter because the Red Sox knew it was coming. And not just because then-manager Alex Cora was part of the Astros' scheme the year prior.

"Alex Cora never influenced us and never told us about that thing," Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez told WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria." "The only way I ever found out was in the playoffs was when Fiers, who is a really good friend of mine, reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, make sure you’re doing this because this, because this is what these guys are doing in the playoffs.' I was like, 'What? How is this a thing?' And then I mentioned it to (Cora) and he told kind of me about the whole system and everything like that. That was kind of why it was so crazy. (Cora) was so relaxed going into those playoff games because he knew and we were ready for it."

Fiers also alerted the A's to the scheme in 2018 and they brought it to the league. It was only when nothing was done that Fiers went public to make sure the playing field was leveled.

That's why David Ortiz's comments Thursday in which he said he disagreed with Fiers outing Houston two years after he won the World Series with them were so misguided.

Fiers tried to go about the matter quietly and even helped make sure Ortiz's old team was prepared for what awaited them in the ALCS. He could have spoken up in 2017, but he tried to right those wrongs in 2018 before making sure the Astros had their trash cans confiscated.

[RELATED: Projecting A's 26-man roster]

The Astros were able to bang their trash cans to one title, but Fiers made sure they wouldn't be able to repeat using the same old tricks.