Of course there is sign stealing in baseball. Teams will use any edge they can get to gain an advantage on the opponent.
Runners on second base spot the catcher’s signs to the pitcher, then attempt to tip off the batter as to what pitch is coming.
Base coaches have tried to position themselves so they can see the catcher’s signs and tip off their players. Lee Mazzilli was known for this when he was first base coach with the Yankees. The Orioles, in 2001, painted the first base coaches box several feet from where it was supposed to be to try to move Mazzilli out of spying range. They were caught and had to repaint the box.
Players in the dugout stare down the opposing pitcher, looking to see if he wiggles his glove as he applies his curveball grip. Baserunners watch pitchers for the first sign that they are going to the plate, so they can attempt to steal second. There are incessant attempts to read body language and decipher nonverbal communication.
Baseball is one big poker table, and every team is looking for a tell.
But you can’t use a camera to peek at someone’s hand at the poker table, or have someone nearby look over the shoulder of an opponent’s hand and relay the info via an Apple Watch. In baseball, electronic espionage is not allowed.
And that makes the Boston Red Sox cheating cheaters, if Major League Baseball agrees with a complaint issued by the Yankees last week.
The Red Sox used a system in which Yankees signs were caught on camera and forwarded to someone with an Apple Watch who then signaled a player — Dustin Pedroia, according to the complaint — who tipped off the hitter.
Boston claims it is no big deal. So did Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Deflategate. So did Celtics GM Danny Ainge on trading Isaiah Thomas when he knew he had a hip problem. What is going on with Boston-area teams?
Well, it is a big deal, and it’s on MLB now. If it agrees the Red Sox were guilty of skulduggery, the punishment needs to be strong enough to deter teams from trying the same tactics in the future. Issuing a fine or taking away draft picks means nothing to Boston, which develops players as well as any organization.
Forfeiting games? That’s too strong. Besides, if the Yankees pick up forfeited games they would strengthen their grip on the first wild-card spot, which other contenders like the Twins would not be happy about. Anything too light, and teams will be more inclined to throw beanballs than file complaints to deal with spies.
The message the league needs to make should be clear: Go ahead. Steal signs. But do so with dignity.
Indians: Cleveland is playing so well right now it can get by without All-Star third baseman Jose Ramirez in the lineup every day. Ramirez injured his right wrist early in the week while swinging a bat, and when it continued to bother him he was held out of the lineup on Thursday when the Indians won 11-2 for their franchise record 15th consecutive win. He’s was expected to play by the end of the weekend.
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Royals: Third baseman Mike Moustakas is trying to keep his team in the postseason race while setting a single-season record for home runs. But he could only DH on Thursday and was not in the starting lineup on Friday because of a sore left knee. It didn’t help that Kyle Gibson hit him above the knee with a pitch on Thursday.
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Tigers: Detroit’s tumble took place even before Justin Verlander was traded. The Tigers entered the weekend giving up a league-high 5.92 runs a game. And that looks to either maintain or get even worse, as the Tigers are patching together their rotation or taking a look at young arms during the rest of the season. They have allowed double-digit runs in 11 of 52 games since the All-Star break.
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White Sox: Well, Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech made it to the bigs, sort of. In an unusual move, Chicago flew its No. 2- and No. 3-ranked prospects, outfielder Jimenez and righthander Kopech, to Chicago last week. They didn’t play. They just checked out the facilities, met the staff and future teammates and also did interviews. Preparation for the future.
The 3-2 pitch
Three observations …
• Houston’s waiver claim of Cameron Maybin is paying immediate dividends. He had eight RBI in his first six games since joining the club.
• Arizona has dangerous bats in its lineup, but the reason for its recent 13-game winning streak is that D-backs pitchers are throwing as well as they have all season, posting a 1.91 ERA in that stretch
• Tim Beckham has sizzled since being traded to Baltimore, batting .359 in 35 games. That’s not good news for former Twins shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is a free agent after the season and was just activated by the Orioles after missing three months with a fractured wrist.
… and two predictions
• Baseball will soon limit how many players can be used in September games. The Dodgers are carrying 38 players from their 40-man roster right now, which is excessive.
• Just give the AL Cy Young Award to the Indians’ Corey Kluber right now.