The Internet at its Worst

There is an old adage that says, “a lie spreads halfway around the world before the truth even gets its pants on”. Yesterday was a great example of that. One of the things we have seen with the explosion of social media is how true this adage is. All it takes is a bit of reasonable suspicion and someone to inflame the passions of those suspicions and it’s off like a raging wildfire.

Yesterday, it happened to MLB. Everyone around the game has been consumed by the Astros sign-stealing scandal. So, when someone on Twitter claiming to be Carlos Beltran’s niece started saying he told her that some of the Astros wore buzzers under their uniform to receive pitch signals, things took off. A video was quickly posted of Jose Altuve not wanting his teammates to rip off his jersey after he hit the series-winning homer in the ALCS this past year. Clearly, Altuve was guilty and Beltran was right!

There are three problems with that theory. First, MLB explicitly stated that they looked into wearable technology and didn’t find any evidence of its use. They talked to Beltran, would he really have lied to them, but told his “niece” this information considering the fact he was just named a manager of an MLB team? Second, was this really Carlos Beltran’s niece? (It wasn’t). Finally, and this is a big one, who did Carlos Beltran work for during the 2019 season? If you answered, the Yankees, or the team who gave up that home run to Altuve, you are correct.

So, you need to believe that an investigation by MLB failed to turn up this evidence. That this report is really from someone connected to Beltran, and that they know what they are talking about. And that Beltran watched the team that employed home lose the ALCS because of blatant cheating and did nothing about it. It seems ridiculous and it is, but as another adage states, “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.

But here perhaps is the ultimate lesson from this episode- MLB hasn’t done enough to convince the fans they have a handle on this. They’ve got a little over a month before spring training games and they need to use that time to come up with a plan to combat the illegal use of technology. Otherwise, Thursday’s circus will only be the beginning.

Beltran’s Out

We are less than four weeks away from pitchers and catchers and three high-profile managing jobs are now open. The Mets announced today that Carlos Beltran will not be their manager this season.

Once again, you can’t blame the Mets for this. They got caught in a whirlwind that they didn’t have anything to do with and they made the best decision for their team. I also think this was a smart move by Beltran. Yes, it is terrible to lose the first managerial job you get, but this allows him a path to a future. He can go away for awhile and let things cool off. He can then come back to baseball when this has faded in the collective memory. He wasn’t suspended, he wasn’t fired, he should get another chance at a big league job.

We still have two more pieces of fallout that we know are on the horizon. First, what will MLB do to the Red Sox? Second, with three managerial vacancies open, will some current MLB coaches suddenly leave their current teams for a better opportunity? For instance, Tim Bogar, firstbase coach for the Nats, was interviewed for the Mets job, will he get a second crack at it, and leave the Nats looking for a new coach?

Lastly, what is Jessica Mendoza doing? For one thing, you are a member of the press now, you want people to speak up. For another, you have a huge conflict of interest in this matter since you work for the Mets. Finally, you spend your Sunday nights next to one of the biggest cheaters in baseball history. Why don’t you worry about what he did to then game instead of Mike Fiers?

Cora Fired

The Red Sox have fired Alex Cora in a preemptive move before MLB comes to a decision about his conduct.

You really can’t fault the Red Sox here. Whatever happened with Cora, it promised to be a huge distraction to a team that could be really good next year. And, there was a legitimate question of how long Cora’s suspension from MLB would be. Reading the MLB report, he certainly seemed like the instigator in Houston and when you add the investigation into the Red Sox, I suspect he will be suspended for more than a year. The Red Sox are smart to get in front of that and act now which should allow then to quickly move on from this and have a relatively normal spring training.

I wonder if the Mets are paying any attention to what is going on? So far their strategy seems to be to hide in the weeds, but Beltran is going to face a harsh spotlight when he emerges and they would be smart to say something, really almost anything at this point because the feeding frenzy is growing bigger.

I’ve heard two main things that I disagree with about this whole mess. First, Houston should have had their World Series title vacated. That’s a college move and while I get the emotion behind it, I don’t think you should do it. What good does it do now? You can’t suddenly say the Dodgers won that series and the banner has been raised, the rings handed out, and the celebration concluded. If you want to do anything, put a big fat asterisk next to it in the record book

Second, these punishments will stop this from happening again. No, they won’t. None of the players who have benefitted from this are being punished. Are you going to tell me that they feel chastised by this? Are you going to tell me that some of them won’t try to exploit technology to steal signs again in the future? Call me a cynic, but of course they will! MLB has to shut the door it opened with replay rooms and cameras all over the place. If Manfred doesn’t know how to do that right now, appoint a panel to come up with ideas. Simply relying on these punishments to solve the problem won’t do it.

MLB Slams Houston-UPDATED

We have an answer to the question of how MLB will punish the Astros. Both the GM and Manager have been suspended for a year. The former assistant GM has been placed on the ineligible list, meaning he needs to apply for reinstatement if he ever wants to work in baseball again. The Astros were also fined $5-million, the maximum allowable fine under the CBA, and they will forfeit their first two picks in the next two drafts. Additionally, Alex Cora is reportedly facing “a harsh” penalty after the investigation into the Red Sox is completed. (It is unclear if this is because of the fact he was the Astros bench coach when this happened, or because he was Red Sox manager for the period they are being investigated for, or both.)

This is a strong message from MLB and the exact message they needed to send to make teams think twice about engaging in electronic sign stealing. But, I hope MLB goes further with a detailed plan of how they will prevent this sort of cheating in the future. Penalties are not enough, the league needs to eliminate the replay room, centralize that process, and look to a technological solution to replace catchers using fingers to call pitches.

UPDATE- You can read the full mlb decision here. Also take note of the Alex Cora section he could be in a lot of trouble:

Alex Cora (Bench Coach). Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct. I will withhold determining the appropriate level of discipline for Cora until after the DOI completes its investigation of the allegations that the Red Sox engaged in impermissible electronic sign stealing in 2018 while Cora was the manager.

UPDATE- The Astros fired both their manager and GM today in a strong statement. It will be really interesting to see what jobs Hinch and Luhnow get next, if any. Luhnow basically built the Astros into what they are today. Hinch won two pennants and a World Series. Normally, they would be hot commodities when their suspensions end, but this might be too much controversy for a team to take on.

On a side note, it will be interesting to see what happens the next time Carlos Beltran faces a microphone. It seems pretty clear from reading the report MLB released that the only thing that saved him from suspension was the Commissioners decision to punish management and not the players. At the very least, it will make for a messy start to his managerial career.

Arbitration Complete

The Yankees settled their nine arbitration cases today for about $35-million. That’s a bit misleading as three players- Paxton, Judge, and Sanchez, make up about $26-million of that figure. Judge and Sanchez earned $13.5-million combined in their first year of arbitration. They are going to get very expensive in the next two years and Gleyber Torres will hit arbitration next year.

If you want an idea of how expensive, consider some of the other cases that settled today. Kris Bryant for $18.5-million and the right to be a free agent next year if he gets a certain number of plate appearances. Mookie Betts got a record $27-million in his final year of arbitration. Cody Bellinger got a first-year record of $11.5-million.

Maybe the next CBA will change the system, but for now teams should take their chances on locking up their young stars quickly. Arbitration is quickly becoming a gold mine for players.

Eliminate Signs

While we wait for MLB to render a verdict in the Astro’s sign stealing case, the Athletic is reporting (subscription required) that the Red Sox are being investigated for illegally using their replay room in 2018 It’s time to put a stop to all of this insanity and get rid of signs entirely.

It’s 2020 and while we don’t have the flying cars we though we would, we have devices in our pockets that can communicate with almost anyone on the face of the planet. Surely there must be some technology that could replace the centuries-old tradition of the catcher putting down a couple of fingers? The NFL solved this with speakers in the helmets that allow the play to be sent in wirelessly from the sidelines. That wouldn’t work as well in baseball as you need more than one person to know what pitch has been called, but it’s a starting point. What about some kind of signaling device on the catchers body to signal to the pitcher what pitch is called for? There has to be a way.

Or, go the other route and rip out the technology that allows cheating. Why does replay require teams to challenge calls? If the point is to get the call right, why not take it out of teams’ hands and just let the league run it? Delay all video feeds in the stadium by ten seconds, so real-time sign stealing is impossible.

Whatever path they choose, it’s clear MLB has to change. HD feeds and replay rooms have created a new avenue for cheating. I would suspect a lot of teams are exploiting that avenue and MLB must find a way to close it.

The Move That Started it All

The Yankees have had many pivotal moments in their illustrious history, but today marks the 100th anniversary of their most important move. Yes, it was 100-years ago today that the Yankees bought Babe Ruth from the Red Sox for $125,000 and some help with the mortgage on Fenway Park.

Imagine an alternate history where that doesn’t happen. I suspect the Red Sox win a lot more World Series. I wonder if the Yankees ever escape the Polo Grounds? In fact, when California comes looking for major league teams to move west in the 50’s, is it possible that the Yankees go and leave the city to the two clubs from the National League?

I’m not sure, but it’s not the craziest idea. Babe Ruth changed everything for the “Americans”, as they are referred to in the headline of the article I linked. He came to New York and out-homered every team in the American League. Yankee attendance doubled to almost 1.3-million. The club became so popular, that in a fit of jealousy, the Giants’ ownership demanded they leave the Polo Grounds. The first baseball “stadium” soon rose across the Harlem River. They won seven pennants and four World Series with Ruth on their club and became the top franchise in baseball.

And to think, that when you convert the sales price into today’s money, you end up with about $1.5-million. Beyond all his accomplishments, Ruth might also be the greatest bargain in sports history.

The German Suspension

Various outlets are reporting that MLB has handed down an 81-game suspension for Doming German. Because he has already served 18 games since he was put on administrative leave, he will miss the first 63 games of the 2020 season.

This will be the longest suspension handed down by MLB for domestic violence where legal charges weren’t filed. Hopefully that’s a sign that the culture is finally changing on this and we are getting closer to a place where men realize that abusing their partners is never acceptable.

Betances Moves to Queens

Dellin Betances is a Met! He reached a one year deal with multiple player options that should allow him to get healthy next year and make some serious bank next offseason.

I’ll miss him, he was a great player and I think not having him this October might have been the difference. For now he will become another player who has played for both the Mets and Yankees, a pretty formidable team if you ask me. Consider this squad

C- Yogi Berra (sadly this happened)
1B- John Olerud
2b- Willie Randolph (or Cano, but I love Willie)
SS- Tony Fernandez
3B- Robin Ventura
OF- Rickey Henderson
OF- Carlos Beltran
OF- Gary Sheffield
DH- Darryl Strawberry

SP- David Cone
SP- Al Leiter
SP- Dwight Golden
SP- Ralph Terry
SP- El Duque

RP- Jesse Orosco
RP- Armando Benitez
RP- Dellin Betances
RP- Mike Stanton
RP- Jeff Reardon

Manger- Casey Stengel

May visions of curveballs dance in your heads. Merry Christmas!

A Good Star

Introductory press conferences introducing free agents are always a bit of farce. The player and the team profess a deep love for each other and no one mentions the reality that this deal came to fruition because of three reasons- money, money, and money. So I wasn’t very interested in hearing about how Gerrit Cole was a lifelong Yankee fan and how this was a dream come true. If the Yankees offered $300-million and the Dodgers had offered $324-million, do you have any doubt that Cole would have been smiling while putting on a Dodgers hat today?

So, I came in skeptical, and I was pleasantly surprised by Cole’s performance. He came off as very cerebral. He reminded me of Mike Mussina, giving thoughtful answers and showing a very analytical mind in the process. He also came off as funny. He talked about how the Yankees had sent him a huge box with various things in it, including an IPad loaded with information about the team. He then noted, “being a millennial, I was immediately drawn to the tablet.” He also didn’t shy away from why he is here. Addressing a question about the pressure he will face, he replied, “pressure is a privilege.”

But what really hooked me was his list of thank you’s s that he gave out as he began his comments. Besides the usual litany of friends, family, and coaches, he stopped to recognize Marvin Miller, and his impending introduction into the Hall of Fame (finally!) and Curt Flood. He correctly surmised that he wouldn’t be standing in the Bronx today without the contributions and courage those two showed. That showed a respect and understanding of the history of the game that I find lacking in today’s game. It’s a good start, but we all know that today will be long forgotten by the time opening day rolls around.

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