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Saturday, February 29, 2020

What did Joe Torre know and when did he know it?

Earlier this afternoon a reader named Sean James pointed me to this morning’s Buster Olney podcast at ESPN, where Buster and ESPN’s Karl Ravech were talking about the potential penalties the Red Sox might be facing when MLB’s report on their sign-stealing operation finally comes out. One part in particular stuck out.

At the 10:50 mark, Ravech tells Buster a story about something that happened in the 2018 ALCS between the Sox and the Astros. Buster said afterward that he had not heard this. I do not believe I have heard this. If it has been reported out before, I don’t recall it, but there has been so much flying around over the past couple of months that it might’ve just gotten lost. Anyway, here’s Ravech:

““I don’t know if I told you this, but there was a meeting before the LCS between the Astros and the Red Sox that involved A.J. Hinch, it involved [Jeff] Luhnow, it involved [Dave] Dombrowski, it involved [Alex] Cora, and Joe Torre was in that meeting and Torre basically said to the teams, both of them, to all those people and anyone else who was in the room, ‘Look: if you are inclined, or have gotten away with, or are doing anything that would violate the rules that you are all aware of or should be aware of, um, you’re gonna have to understand, at some point there’s gonna be a player or players or front office person that’s going to leave your team, go to another team, and basically rat you guys out. Basically tell, you know, the dirty secrets.’

“So whether Joe Torre was aware, at that point, what was coming from Mike Fiers, and there’s no evidence to believe that, but I was told that that message and that meeting basically scared the heck out of those guys in that room. To the point where they acknowledged ‘we’re in trouble, we’re dead, so we cannot continue this particular behavior.’””

The sort of thing that makes you wonder if the folk from that poll who suspect an MLB cover-up have a point…..

 

 

QLE Posted: February 29, 2020 at 12:46 AM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, joe torre, red sox

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   1. Mayor Blomberg Posted: February 29, 2020 at 02:01 AM (#5927228)
Calcatera thinks so:

Finally, and most importantly, it gives a lot of insight into Major League Baseball’s attitude about all of this. Basically, MLB knew, and its impulse was not to get to the bottom of it all, but to save the cheaters from themselves. To save them from being outed and caught. It’s Joe Torre — representing baseball as an entity in that meeting — saying “we can turn the other way for only so long, but eventually we may not be able to because someone will snitch. Please don’t force us to do something about this.”

Which, as I have argued before, is simply irresponsible on the part of Major League Baseball.

In the more than three months since this scandal broke open, everything about it suggests that MLB knew or had reason to know what was going on and that they did as little as they possibly could until Fiers went to the press. Then and only then did the league react, and then only because of the bad publicity the November story in The Athletic caused. And even then, it was just an investigation into the Astros. It would take a second story — one implicating the Red Sox — for them to open up an investigation into Boston’s cheating.
...
We also know that in early January, Rob Manfred personally knew that the Astros front office originated the scheme of stealing signs via video. We know that, despite that, his official report 11 days later left that part out.

   2. Lassus Posted: February 29, 2020 at 07:50 AM (#5927232)
Flame on, but god, I really don't care.
   3. bobm Posted: February 29, 2020 at 09:31 AM (#5927234)
So whether Joe Torre was aware, at that point, what was coming from Mike Fiers, and there’s no evidence to believe that,


He likely knew

"Sources: Red Sox were warned by Indians about Astros attempting to steal signs and information" by Jeff Passan, Yahoo Sports October 16, 2018

During a late-August game against Oakland, A’s players noticed Astros players clapping in the dugout before pitches and believed they were relaying stolen signs to pitchers in the batter’s box, sources said. The A’s called the league, which said it would investigate the matter. It’s unclear what the result of the investigation was or whether it remains ongoing.

Two major league players said they have witnessed the Astros hitting a trash can in the dugout in recent years and believe it is a way to relay signals to hitters. [...]

MLB has attempted and failed to corroborate such accounts, the league source said. 


On August 6, 2018 Mike Fiers was traded by the Detroit Tigers to the Oakland Athletics for players to be named later.
   4. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 29, 2020 at 12:56 PM (#5927253)
Flame on, but god, I really don't care.


Amen brother. Look, if people want to end this it’s simple, get rid of the screens in the dugouts, bullpens and clubhouses.
   5. Do Not Touch Fancy Pants Socially Distanced Handle Posted: February 29, 2020 at 01:05 PM (#5927254)
Amen brother. Look, if people want to end this it’s simple, get rid of the screens in the dugouts, bullpens and clubhouses.

Screens AND trashcans!
   6. Itchy Row Posted: February 29, 2020 at 01:17 PM (#5927255)
And- just to be safe- get rid of the bats.
   7. Banta Posted: February 29, 2020 at 01:47 PM (#5927260)
And the balls! We can add it all back in post.
   8. majorflaw Posted: February 29, 2020 at 02:47 PM (#5927273)
“During a late-August game against Oakland, A’s players noticed Astros players clapping in the dugout before pitches and believed they were relaying stolen signs to pitchers in the batter’s box, sources said.”

Um, I may be missing something but if the AL A’s are playing the AL Astros just how many pitchers would find themselves in the batter’s box and, pray tell, WTF were they doing there?
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 29, 2020 at 03:56 PM (#5927280)
Um, I may be missing something but if the AL A’s are playing the AL Astros just how many pitchers would find themselves in the batter’s box and, pray tell, WTF were they doing there?

They forgot the Astros weren't in the NL anymore. Happens to me all the time.
   10. bobm Posted: February 29, 2020 at 04:00 PM (#5927281)
[8] Probably an editor who does not know baseball.

The next day...

"Far too many questions remain in MLB giving the Astros a free pass on their dugout surveillance" by Jeff Passan, Yahoo Sports, October 18, 2018

Houston argued that it directed McLaughlin to surveil the opposing dugouts to ensure their opponents weren’t using any illegal tactics to steal the Astros’ signs. In other words: The Astros were making sure the Indians and Red Sox weren’t doing something wrong.

“We were playing defense,” Astros president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow said. “We were not playing offense. We want to make sure it’s an even playing field.”

The league offering Houston the free pass enraged executives around baseball, who reached out to Yahoo Sports trying to understand the rationale. If the Astros were allowed to monitor another team’s dugout in-game without penalty, one wondered, shouldn’t every team be allowed to do the same? If the Astros were so concerned with opponents’ nefariousness, another said, why did they send a kid in his early 20s whose role with the team is opaque and not simply request MLB send a security professional to examine the dugout from the same spot and ensure everything is above board? Most of all, taking at face value the Astros’ explanation for using McLaughlin, if there is a rule forbidding in-game technology to help steal signs, why is a team allowed to use in-game technology to investigate whether its opponent is illegally stealing signs?

These are hard questions for MLB, and they’re ones the league wants to push off until the offseason, lest its postseason be dogged by questions about its defending World Series champions’ tactics. Sorry. That Pandora’s box is wide open, and whatever reasoning the league used to validate its decision, absolving the Astros will not close it.

[...]

In a late-August series against the Astros, the Oakland A’s believed they caught Houston using claps from the dugout to replay signals to the field. While Luhnow said to reporters he had not “heard any [accusations against the Astros] personally myself,” sources said MLB reached out to the Astros regarding Oakland’s accusations. No penalty was assessed in that case, either.

Which leaves Luhnow essentially saying: They hate us ’cause they ain’t us. “What happens is when a team has success,” he said, “there’s going to be a lot of other people looking at ’em and trying to figure out what’s driving their success.” Not because the Astros have essentially replaced their scouting staff with cameras. Or because ex-Astros have told teammates how adept the team is at getting opponents’ signs. No. Just because they’re good.
   11. bobm Posted: February 29, 2020 at 04:33 PM (#5927285)
From Sign Stealing Scandal: Astros 2017 Home Games

  Date Bangs Opp           Game 
Aug 18    37 A's Astros won 1-3
Aug 19    16 A's Astros won 0-3
Aug 20    45 A's    A's won 3-2
   12. Walt Davis Posted: February 29, 2020 at 05:32 PM (#5927290)
Obviously the cover-up potential could do far more damage to the game than the scandal itself. That said, there's rumors and accusation and then there's evidence. Now some of that evidence would have been very easy to find -- a spot inspection of the Astros' dugout by MLB would have immediately found the screen relaying live video. But this could explain why Manfred offered players immunity at the very start of the eventual investigation -- they may have been trying for a season or so to bust the Astros without player testimony, Fiers forced their hand to get to the bottom of it.

On the Torre meeting -- seems a bit ... under-cooked? It had never occurred to people on the Astros or Sox that players changing teams might spill the beans? That, at the very least, word getting out among the other players teams meant their cheating had a short shelf life? It took a Torre lecture to impress that point ... and they were immediately so scared by this revelation, they changed? It really doesn't make sense from any perspective to me.

Anyway, it is clear that "everybody" in baseball "knew" the Astros were cheating ... one thing that's not clear yet is whether MLB could have proven it without the player testimony. If in fact they had been trying to prove it for some time (no strong evidence that they were), that suggests they should have granted immunity sooner than they did.

At this point Manfred's days are numbered. Even if he couldn't have handled the investigation any better (and almost certainly he could have), the PR blowback is getting out of control. I'm not sure why this lesson is so hard to learn -- it's the "we can take care of this on the quiet" approach that carries the biggest risk. For sure it works an awful lot of the time but when it blows up, it blows up good. Possibly this is another situation where a piece of valuable teaching advice I was given years ago applies: "If you're an ####### at the start of the semester, you can be a nice guy later; if you're a nice guy at the start, it will be too late to be an ####### later."

To me this also means MLB has almost no choice but to whack the Red Sox hard whether they deserve it or not. There's little doubt that going soft on the Red Sox now would be a PR disaster.

The investigators have to take this stuff seriously ... and when something very wrong is going on, you have to stop it and punish it ASAP.

EDIT: A meeting where Torre basically said "we know you're cheating, if you don't stop it now, we'll have no choice but to investigate and the punhsiments will be harsh" sounds much more plausible to me.

EDIT2: The main thing Manfred/MLB had going for him was his report which came across as "we are appalled not just by the cheating but by the entire culture, clean house!" All of that goes out the window now.
   13. Sunday silence Posted: February 29, 2020 at 05:43 PM (#5927293)
It took a Torre lecture to impress that point ... and they were immediately so scared by this revelation, they changed? It really doesn't make sense from any perspective to me.


It might make sense if there was an acceptable culture about it. So far it seems the Red Sox must have been doing something questionable as well, its possible HOU thought that many teams were doing similar stuff. After all, we had the PED scandal of the 90s or whatever and that was more or less an open secret. Yes? So maybe something similar here.

Or they simply thought that it wasnt really a set in stone rule. There are lots of examples of players not knowing all the rules.

That's not to dimiss your pt, its a good pt. Just saying there might be some way to make this fit the narrative.
   14. Sunday silence Posted: February 29, 2020 at 05:52 PM (#5927294)
If in fact they had been trying to prove it for some time (no strong evidence that they were),


Im confused: Is there any evidence at all that they were trying to prove something? Torre calling a meeting and issuing some warning doesnt seem to be evidence of any sort of active investigation. Is that what you are referring to here?

...they may have been trying for a season or so to bust the Astros without player testimony, Fiers forced their hand to get to the bottom of it.


Maybe Im missing some part of the story. What makes you think this likely? I dont see the MLB offices as filled with detectives and such. How often do we hear of them you know, like keeping track of pitches with odd movement, or looking for bats with gumballs in them. The executive offices of MLB seem to have no interest in this sort of thing that I recall.

There own "investigation" into the recent juiced balls hardly seems to be some deep scientific study.
   15. Sunday silence Posted: February 29, 2020 at 05:59 PM (#5927296)
I'm not sure why this lesson is so hard to learn -- it's the "we can take care of this on the quiet" approach that carries the biggest risk.


Its because they're in their own little world and have no idea of what the common person is thinking or even how a real criminal investigation run by real lawyers is supposed to work.

I dont know what your professional background is, but I have seen government agencies in Washington that order bathrooms with Italian marble, get chauffered around in limos just for lunch and all sorts of crazy perks. This is how the upper class does business each day at least since 90s. Its not hard to imagine Manfred and a bunch of interns and lackeys sitting around issuing memos, ordering a smoke salmon spread for lunch and then having some silly meeting where Manfred issues some edict and a bunch of lackeys just nod their heads.

Lots of people are living isolated, insulated lives. Manfred's methods here seem to be take the path of least resistance without any regard to reality.
   16. Sunday silence Posted: February 29, 2020 at 06:04 PM (#5927298)
A meeting where Torre basically said "we know you're cheating, if you don't stop it now, we'll have no choice but to investigate and the punhsiments will be harsh" sounds much more plausible to me.


Not to me. If Torre said that then now he's on record as saying he knows; and then he's almost forced to do an investigation regardless of what actions the players take at that pt. WHy would he want to take that on? DOes he even have authorization from Manfred to do an ivnestigation? ANd what is he 80 years old? Why?
   17. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 29, 2020 at 06:18 PM (#5927300)
ANd what is he 80 years old? Why?


Because a little less than 81 years ago a mommy Torre and a daddy Torre loved each other very much and gave each other an extra special hug...
   18. Sunday silence Posted: February 29, 2020 at 06:37 PM (#5927302)
Now some of that evidence would have been very easy to find -- a spot inspection of the Astros' dugout by MLB would have immediately found the screen relaying live video.


But this is all monday morning quarter backing. What would make them specifically look into their dugout? It seems with modern technology one could have a co conspirator sitting in the stands watching a video feed and relaying messages via a cell phone directly to a receiver on the player's body? There's probably a million ways to do this, where would one start?
   19. majorflaw Posted: February 29, 2020 at 06:52 PM (#5927304)
“There are lots of examples of players not knowing all the rules.”

You mean like this:

https://www.mlb.com/news/yankees-right-hander-michael-pineda-ejected-for-having-pine-tar-on-neck/c-73145346
   20. depletion Posted: February 29, 2020 at 06:54 PM (#5927306)
Sorry to drag y'all off topic, but there are no articles to site about the effect of coronavirus on the upcoming season. A significant portion of the fanbase is not going to want to go to large, crowded gatherings for the next few months or until there is news that the spread of the virus is not as bad as feared. I know I won't want to go to any such gatherings. Any thoughts? What, if anything, should MLB do to protect its fanbase?
   21. Sunday silence Posted: February 29, 2020 at 07:17 PM (#5927308)
depletion: Its a good pt. I hadnt thought of but would be more useful to submit an article to the moderator.
   22. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 29, 2020 at 07:33 PM (#5927311)
I did a quick check for articles on the topic and I didn’t find much. It seems like at the moment what is happening is MLB is “monitoring” the situation. There doesn’t seem to be a lot on topic at the moment.
   23. Sunday silence Posted: February 29, 2020 at 07:41 PM (#5927313)
there are pics from Japan of games with no one in attendance. i was thinking submitting one of those to stimulate discussion.
   24. bobm Posted: February 29, 2020 at 07:42 PM (#5927314)
It's hard to say that MLB handled the cheating situation worse than PEDs. I would think that those who found offering immunity to be pragmatic faced much resistance from those who wanted to punish players. It's quite convenient that the two most prominent players/ringleaders retired into management and thus could be disciplined and/or coerced into being terminated.
   25. Sunday silence Posted: February 29, 2020 at 07:43 PM (#5927315)
There are lots of examples of players not knowing all the rules.”

You mean like this:


What came to mind to me was when Donovan McNabb did not know how sudden death overtime worked. To me having followed the NFL with a passion that seems unbelievable but of course not everyone is going through the same experience.
   26. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: February 29, 2020 at 07:46 PM (#5927316)
SS - I can approve articles if you want to submit something.
   27. Sunday silence Posted: February 29, 2020 at 08:24 PM (#5927321)
Jose in the future that will be helpful. thanks.
   28. bobm Posted: February 29, 2020 at 08:27 PM (#5927323)
[26] - on topic, I just submitted "How Teams Tried to Counter the Astros’ Sign Stealing Before MLB Did"
https://www.theringer.com/mlb/2020/2/27/21155650/houston-astros-sign-stealing-jonathan-lucroy-pace-of-play

In late August 2018, the second-place Oakland Athletics visited Houston for a potentially pivotal three-game series against the first-place Astros. The A’s entered the series boasting baseball’s best record over the previous two and a half months (45-19 since June 13), and they trailed the Astros by only 1.5 games in the AL West. The previous week, the two teams had actually spent a few days tied atop the division, although the A’s had never pulled ahead. If Oakland swept this series, the reigning world champions would be looking up at the A’s.

The A’s dropped the first game of the series 11-4, but the next two contests would each be decided by one run. Journeyman Edwin Jackson, pitching for the 13th of his record 14 franchises, took the mound for Oakland in Game 2. He also took his time. The A’s and the Astros wouldn’t face each other again during the regular season, and given their proximity in the standings and the closeness of the score, each pitch was too critical to rush. But there was one other factor extending Jackson’s pauses between pitches: The A’s were aware that the Astros might be stealing their signs.

[...]

Of course, it’s possible that the Astros were still stealing signs in late 2018 via some pervasive, hitherto-undocumented method (insert buzzer-based conspiracy here). But by that time, at least some Astros opponents were paranoid enough to act under the assumption that the Astros were cheating, regardless of whether they still were. Jackson and Lucroy weren’t the only battery to slow down against the ’Stros; Angels starter Andrew Heaney, who recently said he hopes the Astros feel like ####, worked with catcher Francisco Arcia in two late-2018 starts in Houston and showed a similar spike in bases-empty time between pitches.

[...]

Also of note is that no other team in 2018 had a home pace gap as large as the Astros did: Opposing pitchers slowed down more in Minute Maid than they did at any other park.
   29. Sunday silence Posted: February 29, 2020 at 08:36 PM (#5927325)
So the Astros are contributing to pace of play issues? Another reason to hate them.
   30. The Duke Posted: February 29, 2020 at 08:40 PM (#5927326)
Our Prez says coronavirus is a hoax. Stay calm and carry on
   31. vortex of dissipation Posted: February 29, 2020 at 11:22 PM (#5927335)
there are pics from Japan of games with no one in attendance. i was thinking submitting one of those to stimulate discussion.


NPB has ordered all spring training games to be played without fans. They'll make a decision on the regular season when the time gets closer.

Sorry to drag y'all off topic, but there are no articles to site about the effect of coronavirus on the upcoming season. A significant portion of the fanbase is not going to want to go to large, crowded gatherings for the next few months or until there is news that the spread of the virus is not as bad as feared. I know I won't want to go to any such gatherings. Any thoughts? What, if anything, should MLB do to protect its fanbase?


The nursing home in Washington state where two people have tested positive, and 50 others have reported symptoms is less than five miles from my home. There's a supermarket down the street from the nursing home where I do all my grocery shopping...
   32. Walt Davis Posted: March 01, 2020 at 10:15 PM (#5927429)
On "evidence" of an earlier "investigation" ... not really the guy to ask as this story still doesn't really interest me very much but a day or two ago there was a story here linked that was something along the lines of "Fiers gets traded from Tigers to A's, A's complain to MLB about possible Astros cheating, MLB takes a look."

Here's one story but I think I saw something a bit more detailed than that.

From Wiki: The Cleveland Indians caught an Astros employee taking pictures of their dugout during the 2018 AL Division Series and warned the Red Sox, who faced the Astros in the AL Championship Series.[20] The same man was found taking pictures of the Red Sox dugout in the AL Championship Series.[21] The New York Yankees asked MLB to investigate whistling sounds that they believed were meant to relay signs to batters in Game 1 of the 2019 AL Championship Series, but MLB said they found no wrongdoing

The last in particular says MLB made some finding. Further from Wiki: According to a Washington Post report published in February 2020, as many as 10 to 12 teams had complained about potential sign stealing by the Astros over the years.[25] I take "complain" there as meaning "to MLB" rather than "whined generally" but I haven't checked the source.

Whether any MLB involvement was superficial or serious I don't know. I don't know that an investigation could go anywhere until somebody spills the beans. Fiers forced their hand but one player doesn't get it done. I might have started by trying to get the video guys to spill first before offering the players immunity but the important thing was getting to the truth.

Not that it guarantees anything but some obvious things beyond "no screens, no devices" are (1) MLB has the right to spot inspections of dugout, video room, etc; (2) Video room employees work for MLB; (3) anybody caught stealing signs gets their eyes plucked out.
   33. Sunday silence Posted: March 01, 2020 at 10:56 PM (#5927435)
the story that was linked at the top of the page seemed to sound pretty negative that MLB was really doing anything of substance. I cant recall the exact wording but that's the distinct impression I got. BUt good for you for backing up what you said. I appreciate that.

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