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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

Commentary on a current scandal, by a long-time site associate.

 

QLE Posted: November 20, 2019 at 12:58 PM | 103 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: coverups, manfred is thinking about it, sign-stealing

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   1. The Duke Posted: November 20, 2019 at 03:04 PM (#5902702)
I hate this. I don’t think anyone else was doing this. Because to do so involves technicians, operations folks, players, managers etc . Only teams with no soul could do this. Low tech cheating - probably but nothing on this scale.

Every reporter/investigator in baseball is looking for “they all did it” angle and still nothing but crickets.......
   2. "RMc", the superbatsman Posted: November 20, 2019 at 03:12 PM (#5902707)
I’ll never understand why sign-stealing is considered such a High Crime (tm). I mean, the idea is to win, right?
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 20, 2019 at 03:16 PM (#5902712)
I’ll never understand why sign-stealing is considered such a High Crime (tm). I mean, the idea is to win, right?

It's not. It's totally allowed.

You just can't use technology to do it, because that gives the home team an advantage. The home team must provide the visitors with the same "facilities" they have.
   4. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 20, 2019 at 03:19 PM (#5902716)
they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”
"Honey, I totally thought you were having an affair, so I started banging strippers. We're cool, right?"
   5. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 20, 2019 at 03:40 PM (#5902727)
3 - exactly. (caveat: not the home field advantage part - teams can make choices to embrace their HFA so long as they apply to both clubs.)

Other teams are totally doing this. Likely not as brazenly and maybe (and this is key, given the rules and the marginal advantage) not via cameras/tech.
   6. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 20, 2019 at 03:46 PM (#5902731)
"Whitewash" is a terrible name for a reporter.
   7. The Duke Posted: November 20, 2019 at 03:52 PM (#5902737)
6. I haven’t laughed so hard in a while
   8. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: November 20, 2019 at 04:58 PM (#5902758)
"Whitewash" is a terrible name for a reporter.


Still, he's made considerable progress since his days as Bucky's sidekick during WWII.
   9. KJOK Posted: November 20, 2019 at 05:06 PM (#5902760)
I don't know why anyone would be surprised by his comments. He doesn't want this to turn into a league-wide scandal. The Astros will be the fall guy, and agree to take some light penalties in exchange for not pointing out all the other teams doing something similar (just not as blatant) to steal signs.
   10. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 20, 2019 at 05:13 PM (#5902762)
that's sort of my feeling too. not sure how light they will be, though. lighter penalties.
   11. JAHV Posted: November 20, 2019 at 05:14 PM (#5902763)
I consider sign stealing a high crime, even when done through implicitly allowed means. Batters shouldn't know what pitch is coming. It undermines the pitching process. Stealing isn't legal just because the door is left unlocked.

I'm completely against sign stealing in all forms and consider it cheating, but I acknowledge that it can only be punished as cheating if it's explicitly against the rules.
   12. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: November 20, 2019 at 05:18 PM (#5902765)
#1 - Shuttup, Rob. Don't say stupid things.

#2 - Snapper nails it exactly.
   13. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 20, 2019 at 05:18 PM (#5902766)
so... how do people feel about earpieces for the battery? i think i'm pro; i bet you'll collectively hate it.
   14. Esoteric Posted: November 20, 2019 at 05:25 PM (#5902767)
I am perfectly willing to believe that other teams were involved in electronic sign-stealing regimes.

I am less certain that they went as ruthlessly far, and high-tech, as the Astros.

I would like a complete investigation and let the chips fall where they may. I normally think Calcaterra has a tendency towards...hyperbole...but in this case I don't think "whitewash" is too strong a term, and I do think that the comparison to the Mitchell Report and baseball's official response to the Steroids Era is a potentially fair comparison. Of course, much remains to be seen.
   15. Esoteric Posted: November 20, 2019 at 05:27 PM (#5902768)
so... how do people feel about earpieces for the battery? i think i'm pro; i bet you'll collectively hate it.
I'm fine with it in theory, but you have to know it's just going to lead to an entirely different kind of skullduggery from the Astros of the world. SIGINT is going to be the new hotness, and they'll be recruiting ex-NSA/CIA guys instead of finance-bros and BPro quants.
   16. Jose Goes to Absurd Lengths for 50K Posted: November 20, 2019 at 05:29 PM (#5902770)
I’m not ok with the Astros doing this but I’m also not particularly outraged. They broke a rule, they got busted, Hit them with some fines, maybe a few meaningless suspensions for Lunhow or whoever and carry on. I don’t find it some massive moral failing.
   17. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: November 20, 2019 at 05:46 PM (#5902775)
I’m not ok with the Astros doing this but I’m also not particularly outraged. They broke a rule, they got busted, Hit them with some fines, maybe a few meaningless suspensions for Lunhow or whoever and carry on. I don’t find it some massive moral failing.


I suppose it depends...

Was the idea that Twins (among other teams in a dome) used to turn on the AC depending on who batting an urban legend or a real thing?

Ultimately - and this is why I think Snapper's 3 is so germane - I find it far more serious that a team gains such a significant homefield advantage.... If the Rockies had, say, used a different set of balls (humidor vs non-humidor) baseballs depending on who was hitting...

Well... ultimately - that makes it more serious to me.
   18. Zach Posted: November 20, 2019 at 06:13 PM (#5902787)
An earpiece or buzzer for the battery wouldn't be the end of the world, but it's a complicated technological solution to something that wasn't a problem for the first 150 years of professional baseball.

I mean, if you're not willing to say "Don't steal the catcher's signs" and stick to it, why would you be any better at enforcing "Don't steal the feed to the pitcher's earpiece"?
   19. The Duke Posted: November 20, 2019 at 07:43 PM (#5902814)
Fascinating new data point

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.sportingnews.com/us/amp/mlb/news/astros-sign-stealing-scandal-reddit/guv8c2tyeb4h1gx9h61qapv6k
   20. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 20, 2019 at 07:51 PM (#5902818)

I consider sign stealing a high crime, even when done through implicitly allowed means. Batters shouldn't know what pitch is coming. It undermines the pitching process. Stealing isn't legal just because the door is left unlocked.

This seems silly. If every team tries to do it and it's not against the rules, then how could it possibly be a "high crime"? Do you feel the same way about base stealing?
   21. zachtoma Posted: November 20, 2019 at 08:00 PM (#5902820)
An earpiece or buzzer for the battery wouldn't be the end of the world, but it's a complicated technological solution to something that wasn't a problem for the first 150 years of professional baseball.

I mean, if you're not willing to say "Don't steal the catcher's signs" and stick to it, why would you be any better at enforcing "Don't steal the feed to the pitcher's earpiece"?


I think it's likely that the multiple sets of signs even w/ no runners on, and associated mound visits, contributed somewhat to the very long World Series games. If you can make calling signs as simple as pressing a button on your wrist, why not? You would lose the gamesmanship of the runner on second looking in, but frankly the increasing complexity of the signals has become sort of a drag. Like Bill James said once, good rules are subtle ones that encourage you to just play ball. You shouldn't have to study cryptography to catch or pitch in the majors.
   22. Zach Posted: November 20, 2019 at 08:18 PM (#5902823)
If you look at the posted videos, the signs are mostly just the catcher holding out different numbers of fingers. Simple, reliable, very difficult to get wrong.

Stealing signs is 100% about seeing the signs the catcher is giving.

It seems to me that if you switched to a buzzer system, you'd still be at risk from someone with a camera looking for how many times the catcher's hand moves. Not to mention the likelihood of the buzzer getting broken when it gets hit by a ball.
   23. Zach Posted: November 20, 2019 at 08:21 PM (#5902825)
The very best case scenario from a buzzer system would be indistinguishable from what we already had with the finger system.

Before making a switch, I'd like to know exactly why we can't keep using the finger system with better enforcement.
   24. Baldrick Posted: November 20, 2019 at 08:57 PM (#5902832)
Home field advantage is cool. Fans get to see their team win more often. Everyone gets the same number of home games, so it doesn't unfairly help one team or another. If the home team can use technology to gain an additional advantage, that seems fine to me. So long as everyone knows that they are welcome to pursue similar advantages in their home games.

I'm not entirely serious with that take, but I'm not not serious.
   25. The Duke Posted: November 20, 2019 at 10:00 PM (#5902844)
If the latest rumors about buzzers and bandages are true and cover the 2018-2019 period as well, I’m going to start getting closer to believing the 2017 title needs to be vacated. I’m also of the view that if players are now so neck-deep in this activity that I would tend to support suspensions for them. I just don’t think this is going to end well. It is rather hard to believe that all of this happened in 2017 and nothing subsequently happened. The logical conclusion is they kept getting better at what they were doing, right ?
   26. base ball chick Posted: November 20, 2019 at 10:09 PM (#5902848)
this is horse excrement

manfred doesn't WANT more than 1 team to be doing this - seeing as how it looks bad, so he is gonna make an example of astros management. he would have a very hard time blaming only the players, like buddy boy did with the ROIDZZZZ even though the teams actually gave the players INSTRUCTION on how to use them properly

so

the astros are the new barry bonds. make them the Face Of EVULLLL and Do Something whike telling ownres at the owners meeting that this shttt IS gonna stop or he's gonna george steinbrenner them because he's worried it will affect the billions they are making
   27. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 20, 2019 at 10:28 PM (#5902849)
The Astros aren’t the only team to have players move on to other teams, some of whom probably left on less than favorable circumstances, yet, so far, no one has blown the whistle on anyone but the Astros. Assuming other teams have done what the Astros allegedly did appears to be jumping to an unsupported conclusion. Let’s see where the evidence leads.
   28. The Duke Posted: November 20, 2019 at 10:30 PM (#5902850)
I’m already there on management getting suspended but the latest rumors make me think players may need to be disciplined as well. Luhnow May be way ahead of everyone. Guarantee your best players contracts for life and then provide them with great technology to help them win titles and go to the HOF. Feels very Rollerball to me and interestingly James Caan character plays for the Houston franchise

I still struggle with the whole story that the Astros turned Verlander and Cole into Tasmanian devils over night - everything seems suspicious now
   29. JAHV Posted: November 20, 2019 at 11:12 PM (#5902856)
This seems silly. If every team tries to do it and it's not against the rules, then how could it possibly be a "high crime"? Do you feel the same way about base stealing?


Other than the word "stealing" the two activities have nothing in common. Signs only exist so the catcher knows what the pitcher is throwing. Part of the competitive fabric of baseball is the batter not knowing what type of pitch is coming. Sign-stealing ruins that.

Base stealing involves moving runners to the next base, which is a basic and integral part of offense.
   30. base ball chick Posted: November 20, 2019 at 11:24 PM (#5902857)
mike fiers obviously had a serious grudge. players usually have that mafia code thingy goin on and unless they got a serious anger or they are done with baseball, they ain't gonna voliunteer

the players didn't set up the system and they were not acting outside of the team instructions. what is punishing THEM supposed to do? besides make the owners happy that the players are taking the balme once again

you i know and i know that this goes to the top of the food chain and they can't pretend they had noooooooooooo idea Those EVULLL players were using Those EVULLL roidzzz. i mean electronics/video feeds



   31. GGIAS (aka Poster Nutbag) Posted: November 21, 2019 at 07:41 AM (#5902876)
Why? Why does a guy doing the right thing have to be "obviously had a serious grudge"? And "NO NO NO OTHER TEAMS HAD TO BE DOING IT TOO THEY JUST WANNA SET AN EXAMPLE OF THIS TEAM"

Like, what the hell is so ####### hard about "Hey, this team flat out cheated. Made that decision all on their own. Period. All the evidence says they cheated. Lets focus on that. What they did that was wrong and how they shall be punished for it"

Bullies and abusers deflect. They want you to look everywhere else before/instead of addressing their transgressions.

This is the exact same ####, except in the form of homerism for a fkin team.

Stop making excuses.



   32. Rally Posted: November 21, 2019 at 08:08 AM (#5902878)
MLB should set the record straight and formally investigate all sign stealing cheating incidents and levy draconian penalties. Including stripping teams of titles and pennants that were aided by this nefarious cheating.

For one, it's well documented that the 1951 Giants were sign stealers, so Bobby Thomson's shot hear around the world never happened. Dodgers won the pennant! The Dodgers won the pennant!

Let's move along with a redo of the 1951 world series between the Yankees and Dodgers, and hurry up and get it done before any more players from those teams die.
   33. Rally Posted: November 21, 2019 at 08:15 AM (#5902879)
OK, too late to get a real game from those teams, but a few players are still around and in their mid 90s. Make them hit off a tee, first player to get the ball out of the infield has his team crowned as the new 1951 champions.
   34. Nasty Nate Posted: November 21, 2019 at 08:40 AM (#5902881)
"Whitewash" is a terrible name for a reporter.
Stealing signs with a camera isn't that hard, tell em Whitewash.
   35. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: November 21, 2019 at 08:56 AM (#5902882)
Part of the competitive fabric of baseball is the batter not knowing what type of pitch is coming.


In the old days of baseball, batters could call for a high or low strike.
   36. villageidiom Posted: November 21, 2019 at 09:08 AM (#5902885)
Part of the competitive fabric of baseball is the batter not knowing what type of pitch is coming.
They can achieve this already without using signs.

The only point of using signs is so that the catcher will know what type of pitch is coming. That the catcher flashes the signs, and the pitcher agrees or disagrees, is easier to protect the information from the batter than if the pitcher were signaling the catcher. They use this system because they want the catcher to gain an advantage without revealing it to the batter.

In baseball as in life, someone wanting something does not entitle them to it. If a system doesn't work, find a new system, or abandon it, or accept the consequences of it. The defense is not entitled to the batter being unaware of the pitch type while the defense openly communicates it. Likewise, the offense is not entitled to the fielders being unaware of a "bunt" signal from a base coach. If you don't want signs being decoded use better signs.
   37. jmurph Posted: November 21, 2019 at 09:39 AM (#5902895)
The only point of using signs is so that the catcher will know what type of pitch is coming. That the catcher flashes the signs, and the pitcher agrees or disagrees, is easier to protect the information from the batter than if the pitcher were signaling the catcher. They use this system because they want the catcher to gain an advantage without revealing it to the batter.

In baseball as in life, someone wanting something does not entitle them to it. If a system doesn't work, find a new system, or abandon it, or accept the consequences of it. The defense is not entitled to the batter being unaware of the pitch type while the defense openly communicates it. Likewise, the offense is not entitled to the fielders being unaware of a "bunt" signal from a base coach. If you don't want signs being decoded use better signs.

This is EXACTLY how I feel about the matter, and it's also presumably why sign-stealing is not actually against the rules. There is no reason to privilege the advantage that the pitcher/catcher have gained from being able to communicate in code.

I am fine, however, with banning the electronic nonsense, but only to prevent the ever-escalating bullshit that teams are coming up with, and the mound visits to change signs, etc. But there's nothing philosophically wrong with disrupting the advantage that the pitching team seeks.
   38. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 21, 2019 at 09:48 AM (#5902897)
use better signs: it's not hard to do better than what was "cracked" here and, honestly, i'm not sure why teams weren't more proactive about defending against this at the time. (not blaming the victims, but saying something in line with what i've heard from some players about being aware that you're in enemy territory)
that said - the game needs to speed up as is and more complicated sign sets run counter to this. hence my earpiece question (and, yes, that can be cracked too but, as it's new tech, establish clear, harsh penalties from the onset would be possible).
big league pitchers are hard to catch, by the way. catchers need signs.
   39. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 21, 2019 at 09:54 AM (#5902901)
Stealing signs with a camera isn't that hard, tell em Whitewash.


It's incredibly hard.
   40. pikepredator Posted: November 21, 2019 at 10:09 AM (#5902908)
I'm in the "players on second are entitled to steal signs and signal the batter if they want to" - but anything beyond that feels unethical, particularly since it's either aided by binoculars/cameras and/or being done by players (or worse, non-players) who aren't on the field of play.

That said, have catchers experimented with magician-style mid-direction? For example, flashing signs as usual but then looking up at the hitter once for a FB/twice for a curve, or shifting their right foot for a slider and left foot for a cutter . . . just wondering if signs are always hands-in-the-crotch or if someone has deployed more creative schemes that might also be simpler.
   41. Nasty Nate Posted: November 21, 2019 at 10:15 AM (#5902911)
That said, have catchers experimented with magician-style mid-direction? For example, flashing signs as usual but then looking up at the hitter once for a FB/twice for a curve, or shifting their right foot for a slider and left foot for a cutter . . . just wondering if signs are always hands-in-the-crotch or if someone has deployed more creative schemes that might also be simpler.
They sometimes tap their chest in certain ways/patterns when there is a runner on 2nd.
   42. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: November 21, 2019 at 10:19 AM (#5902912)
I still struggle with the whole story that the Astros turned Verlander and Cole into Tasmanian devils over night - everything seems suspicious now


Verlander was a HOF level pitcher before he came to the Astros, and he has continued to be a HOF level pitcher with the Astros.

Gerrit Cole was the #1 draft pick in the 2011 draft. Blew through the minors in 2012 (3 levels) and after some time in AAA in 2013 was in the majors to stay. Was one of the top rated prospects in all baseball in those years. Put up a season with the Pirates of 2.60 era before getting hurt the next year. Struggled a bit the following year and then Houston got him. Got him straightened out and the last two years he has been excellent.

It is not like they took Homer Bailey and he suddenly turned into, well, Justin Verlander...
   43. The Duke Posted: November 21, 2019 at 10:43 AM (#5902915)
Well that’s the story isn’t it? There were lots of stories about those the Astros hitters have cracked some code too. We shall see
   44. PreservedFish Posted: November 21, 2019 at 11:03 AM (#5902918)
It is not like they took Homer Bailey and he suddenly turned into, well, Justin Verlander...


Charlie Morton is the most eyebrow-raising pitching transformation of the last several years, IMO. When he was on the Braves and Pirates he looked like a tired old veteran with barely enough juice to get by. Not saying that the Astros cheated or anything - I think that the org is legitimately the best in baseball at maximizing the natural talents of its pitchers.
   45. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: November 21, 2019 at 11:21 AM (#5902927)
Charlie Morton is the most eyebrow-raising pitching transformation of the last several years, IMO


True, but, he is no longer an Astro and had his best season ever in 2019 with the Rays. Most innings pitched and highest era+
   46. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 21, 2019 at 11:24 AM (#5902929)
Morton was also a highly touted prospect in the Atlanta system, so it was more a matter of unlocking potential that was always there rather than finding a whole new level.
   47. JAHV Posted: November 21, 2019 at 11:36 AM (#5902934)
In the old days of baseball, batters could call for a high or low strike.


True, and a long time ago they thought, "Wait a minute, that's pretty dumb" and they got rid of that practice. Part of the magic of seeing great hitting is knowing these guys have to react in a fraction of a second without knowing where the ball will go and yet they still somehow make solid contact. Part of the magic of the pitcher/hitter matchup is seeing the pitcher try to play with the batter's mind, moving pitches inside and out, throwing fastballs on breaking pitch counts, or giving the batter a fastball down the middle and daring him to hit it. Those dynamics lose a lot of their interest for me if the batter has foreknowledge of what's coming, regardless of whether that came from cameras or the baserunner on second. Watching a catcher throw out a baserunner on second is a lot more fun when he pops from his crouch and fires than it is if the other team has stolen the sign and calls for a pitchout.

Obviously, electronic sign stealing is against the rules and I hope MLB throws the book at the Astros (and any other team that might have been engaged in it), while other forms of sign stealing are allowed by rule (or by the absence of rule). But I've made this analogy before and it's apt for the way I think about sign stealing: the catcher's signs are just the lock on the door; it's still a crime to steal if the door is unlocked, and it's certainly a crime to pick the lock and steal something.

Sign stealing is anti-competitive.
   48. Astroenteritis Posted: November 21, 2019 at 11:40 AM (#5902938)
It is not like they took Homer Bailey and he suddenly turned into, well, Justin Verlander...


Clearly the Astros have taught their pitchers telepathy so they know what the hitter is looking for at all times. When they master telekinesis they won't lose another game.
   49. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 21, 2019 at 11:50 AM (#5902941)
When they master telekinesis they won't lose another game.
"That trash can is thumping itself!! But...how???"
   50. PreservedFish Posted: November 21, 2019 at 11:57 AM (#5902943)
Morton was also a highly touted prospect in the Atlanta system, so it was more a matter of unlocking potential that was always there rather than finding a whole new level.


This isn't true at all. Morton wasn't touted, he was a nobody.

Scouting reports were a bit more promising but even optimists did not view him as a top prospect, noting a 90-94 MPH fastball but the need for better command of his curveball. Baseball America rated him as the Number 28 Braves prospect entering 2004 and 18th entering 2005. My ratings saw him as a Grade C type.


Sickels

He never made a BA Top 10 list.

The Pirates failed to get any of the Braves' top three prospects, as rated annually by Baseball America: Hernandez was ranked No. 4, Locke No. 7 and Morton not at all. But the Braves had made clear that they would not trade either of their top two prospects -- pitcher Tommy Hanson or outfielder Jason Heyward -- even if it was one-for-one for McLouth.


An article at the time of the McLouth trade

   51. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 21, 2019 at 12:11 PM (#5902948)
This isn't true at all. Morton wasn't touted, he was a nobody.
Really? I swear I remember him being a "guy" in the Braves system. But your evidence does seem persuasive.
   52. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 21, 2019 at 12:12 PM (#5902949)
This isn't true at all. Morton wasn't touted, he was a nobody.
He was a 3rd round 2002 Braves draftee, which seems somewhat tout worthy.
   53. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 21, 2019 at 12:14 PM (#5902950)
This isn't true at all. Morton wasn't touted, he was a nobody.


During the time Morton was in Pittsburgh, he was definitely seen by the Pirates and the fans as a guy who had unrealized potential. People here played up his similarities to Roy Halladay, and while that was obviously a stretch, it's also a good illustration of the kind of hopes that they had for him. He had really great motion on his stuff, and the main thing holding him back was that it often moved too much and drifted out of the zone. Turns out that all he really needed were a few obvious-in-retrospect adjustments. Moving from a two-seam to a four-seam gave him a little extra velocity, and throwing a four-seam up in the zone rather than a two-seam down in it made it much easier for him to get swings-and-misses on his curve.

An article at the time of the McLouth trade


Yeah, that's right around the time that Dejan openly pulled the knives out and started going after the front office over anything possible, whether it was earned or not.
   54. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 21, 2019 at 12:16 PM (#5902951)
He was a 3rd round 2002 Braves draftee, which seems somewhat tout worthy.


And BA listed him as the #9 prospect in the International League post-2008, with the following description: "Morton had little success in six previous seasons before breaking through in 2008. He didn't give up a home run in 12 starts, he kept the ball on the ground and he posted healthy strikeout and walk rates. In the majors, though, he developed soreness beneath his right shoulder blade that diminished his velocity, and he got hit around. The slender righthander also lost about 15 pounds during the season. Morton showed three average or better pitches that he's willing to use in any count. He pitches at 91-93 mph with his two-seam fastball and can go get 95-96 with his four-seamer when he needs it, even late in games. His hard-biting, power curveball is his out pitch, and he keeps both lefties and righties honest with his changeup."

That doesn't sound like a nobody to me.
   55. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 21, 2019 at 12:18 PM (#5902954)
Oh and hey, how about this? In the Pirates' 2010 ZiPS projections, the first set released after the trade, he was forecast to be the best pitcher on the entire staff.
   56. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 21, 2019 at 12:20 PM (#5902957)
Boom! In your face, Fish.
   57. PreservedFish Posted: November 21, 2019 at 12:24 PM (#5902958)
For most of his minor league career, Morton was essentially a nobody. Perhaps after 2008 he was upgraded to "maybe he'll be a competent 4th starter" status.

I will say, though, that he was better in Pittsburgh than I realized. He did improve with the Astros, but it wasn't quite as dramatic a change as I had thought.
   58. PreservedFish Posted: November 21, 2019 at 12:27 PM (#5902962)
The important thing here, and what everyone needs to recognize, is that ElRoy was more wrong than I was.
   59. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 21, 2019 at 12:38 PM (#5902964)
I know I beat the drum for Morton on this very site while he was with Atlanta and Pittsburgh, but, given my track record, that doesn't mean much. I thought he could become a #3 starter type.
   60. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 21, 2019 at 01:06 PM (#5902978)

Other than the word "stealing" the two activities have nothing in common.

Well, that and the fact that neither is *actually* theft. Which is why I asked the question.

Part of the magic of the pitcher/hitter matchup is seeing the pitcher try to play with the batter's mind, moving pitches inside and out, throwing fastballs on breaking pitch counts, or giving the batter a fastball down the middle and daring him to hit it. Those dynamics lose a lot of their interest for me if the batter has foreknowledge of what's coming, regardless of whether that came from cameras or the baserunner on second.

My view is very similar to #36 and #37. Teams and hitters do all sorts of things to try to figure out what the pitcher is throwing as early as possible, from scouting to watching for a pitcher tipping his pitches to stealing signs. Teams have been stealing signs from the basepaths forever -- I just don't understand a definition of "high crime" that makes a criminals out of a large number of players when nobody else actually involved in the competition viewed it that way, either at the time or today.
   61. The Duke Posted: November 21, 2019 at 02:29 PM (#5903002)
Jeff Passan from ESPN:

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred just acknowledged that the investigation into the Houston Astros will involve looking into the 2018 and 2019 seasons as well as 2017.
   62. Sunday silence Posted: November 21, 2019 at 02:31 PM (#5903003)
Did anybody see the reddit thread where someone recalled a remark made during one of the WS games? Essentially somebody called out the Astros in real time and said it seemed like they had buzzers in their shoes or something, and then said "no it was just a dream.." Same guy IIRC also said in another thread: "The astros have to be best team in baseball at guessing what pitch is coming.

Thinking is that this was probably someone in the know. Its an interesting thread.
   63. Blastin Posted: November 21, 2019 at 02:59 PM (#5903012)
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred just acknowledged that the investigation into the Houston Astros will involve looking into the 2018 and 2019 seasons as well as 2017.


Mostly, it will just be nice to have them stop being seen as unimpeachable geniuses who won by just being The Smartest.

And this is going to end poorly for them. At the least, their farm system is going to crater.
   64. Rally Posted: November 21, 2019 at 03:26 PM (#5903018)
I saw Morton's MLB debut, he was pitching against the Angels. Before the game I had no idea who he was. Pitched a solid game, 6 innings, 3 runs, and I was impressed by his stuff. Threw a few curveballs with big break, and hit 95 a few times with the fastball. Averaged 93.5 for the game. He was not very good for the rest of his rookie year, but he looked good in that one game.
   65. vortex of dissipation Posted: November 21, 2019 at 03:53 PM (#5903023)
mike fiers obviously had a serious grudge.


I don't know if he has a grudge or not, but Fiers led the 2017 Astros pitchers in starts and innings pitched, and then was left off the playoff roster. I'm not going to make a determination of whether the Astros were correct to do that in a purely baseball sense, but from a human standpoint, it had to have hurt Fiers.
   66. Mayor Blomberg Posted: November 21, 2019 at 04:49 PM (#5903037)
#62 So that post comes in Game 2 of the Series and Sherman talks in his article about someone with ties to the Astros who has approached MLB.

It almost makes you wonder if the Astros pissed off an employee in the time between, say, beating the Yankees and starting against the Rays.
   67. The Duke Posted: November 21, 2019 at 04:51 PM (#5903038)
66. That post on Reddit was made the same day taubmann was fired supposedly
   68. Dr. Vaux Posted: November 21, 2019 at 05:07 PM (#5903040)
Mostly, it will just be nice to have them stop being seen as unimpeachable geniuses who won by just being The Smartest.

Why is that nice? It's good when people succeed by means of legitimate innovation. The reason it's so disappointing is that they turned out, instead, to be ######## and cheaters. There isn't anything nice about any of it.
   69. JAHV Posted: November 21, 2019 at 05:11 PM (#5903041)
My view is very similar to #36 and #37. Teams and hitters do all sorts of things to try to figure out what the pitcher is throwing as early as possible, from scouting to watching for a pitcher tipping his pitches to stealing signs. Teams have been stealing signs from the basepaths forever -- I just don't understand a definition of "high crime" that makes a criminals out of a large number of players when nobody else actually involved in the competition viewed it that way, either at the time or today.


I understand most people don't see a difference, but I think the line is drawn very clearly between all that advanced preparation which still requires you to pick up cues from the pitcher in real-time and knowing what pitch is coming from someone having seen the catcher drop the sign and then relaying that information to you. The latter to me goes counter to the spirit of the game. And I would say that even before this story came out, we've heard lots of complaints from teams who were upset about other teams stealing their signs through non-illegal means. So yeah, I would say plenty of people involved in the competition view sign stealing as unethical or against the unwritten rules.
   70. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 21, 2019 at 05:11 PM (#5903042)
Mostly, it will just be nice to have them stop being seen as unimpeachable geniuses who won by just being The Smartest.

I guess we'll see how the players perform next season. I mean, once we have a better idea of which players participated in the cheating and which didn't. Did the cheating make an .800 OPS guy into an .850 guy? Or into a .950 guy?

The organization seems to be a bunch of jerks but they averaged 104 wins the last three seasons, winning their division by an average of 12 games. Other than 2018, when they only won the AL West by 6 games, it's hard for me to imagine the cheating had that big an effect that not doing it would have cost them the division (and even then, they still probably would have been a Wild Card team--they made the postseason by 13 games).

So maybe they wouldn't have been as dominant or won the World Series. But they were still probably pretty smart without the cheating.

Unless there was other cheating going on involving the pitchers.
   71. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 21, 2019 at 05:54 PM (#5903047)

I understand most people don't see a difference, but I think the line is drawn very clearly between all that advanced preparation which still requires you to pick up cues from the pitcher in real-time and knowing what pitch is coming from someone having seen the catcher drop the sign and then relaying that information to you.

Oh, I see a difference and there's definitely a bright line you could draw there. But historically that's not where people have drawn the line.

And I would say that even before this story came out, we've heard lots of complaints from teams who were upset about other teams stealing their signs through non-illegal means.

Have we? Maybe in the sense that someone gets a fastball in the ribs the next time he's up at the plate, but not in the sense that people think it's cheating. The complaints I've seen over the past couple of years were mainly around the Astros and whistling / banging on trashcans in the dugout to convey the signs to the batter, which implied they were doing something illegal or was too over-the-top and obnoxious.
   72. JAHV Posted: November 21, 2019 at 06:08 PM (#5903050)
Have we? Maybe in the sense that someone gets a fastball in the ribs the next time he's up at the plate, but not in the sense that people think it's cheating.


If it's not cheating (i.e. breaking the unwritten rules), then why would it deserve a fastball in the ribs? The way you're describing it implies that no one cares if the guy on second base is relaying signs to the batter. I think the fastball to the ribs is an indicator that they do care.

Edit: It would take more effort than I'm willing to put into it to dig up stories from before this Astros scandal involving the words "sign stealing", but I vaguely recall several kerfuffles in the past few seasons.
   73. Mayor Blomberg Posted: November 21, 2019 at 06:22 PM (#5903055)
   74. Buck Coats Posted: November 21, 2019 at 06:41 PM (#5903059)
If it's not cheating (i.e. breaking the unwritten rules), then why would it deserve a fastball in the ribs? The way you're describing it implies that no one cares if the guy on second base is relaying signs to the batter. I think the fastball to the ribs is an indicator that they do care.


Admiring your home-run isn't cheating either, yet it also gets a fastball to the ribs. "Fastball to the ribs" seems to be more "faux pas policing" than dealing with cheating.
   75. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 21, 2019 at 06:49 PM (#5903060)
If it's not cheating (i.e. breaking the unwritten rules), then why would it deserve a fastball in the ribs?

Plenty of things that aren't viewed as cheating are still seen as violations of the unwritten rules and can earn a guy a fastball in the ribs. Showing up the pitcher on a HR. A dirty slide. Playing too aggressively and running up the score in a blowout. Etc.

When teams actually suspect cheating they protest the game.

EDIT: Coke to Buck Coats.
   76. Zach Posted: November 21, 2019 at 07:37 PM (#5903066)
From the link in #73:

Whether or not this sign-stealing played into Thomson hitting his legendary home run is a moot issue at this point, and this story only adds to the mystique of one of baseball's greatest moments.

The article's author clearly didn't read the book, which is about how Thomson and Branca dealt with the aftermath of the home run, despite both of them knowing the sign had been stolen. (Branca knew because Thomson eventually told him.)

There have been many sign stealing incidents in baseball history, but I don't think there has ever been one where the offending team claimed that stealing signs was ok, or announced that they intended to keep on doing it. It's against both the written and the unwritten rules.
   77. jmurph Posted: November 22, 2019 at 09:00 AM (#5903105)
There have been many sign stealing incidents in baseball history, but I don't think there has ever been one where the offending team claimed that stealing signs was ok, or announced that they intended to keep on doing it. It's against both the written and the unwritten rules.

People remain very confused about this entire issue.
   78. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 22, 2019 at 09:49 AM (#5903116)
People remain very confused about this entire issue.

Seriously. Stealing signs is not against the written (or unwritten) rules. Using electronic communication methods during the game is illegal. More specific and formal restrictions were put in place before the 2019 season with respect to where cameras can be placed within the stadium.

In addition to banning all in-house cameras from foul pole to foul pole, the rule provides that:

• The only live feed of a broadcast will be the one provided to each team’s designated replay official.

• A specially trained monitor, not a Resident Security Expect, will be assigned to each designated replay official to make sure that person has no communication with team personnel regarding signs, either in person, by phone or any other device.

• All other bullpen and clubhouse television monitors will receive game broadcasts on an eight-second delay.

• No television monitors are permitted in the tunnels or auxiliary rooms between the dugout and the clubhouse.

• Each club must provide to MLB an audit of every in-house camera, detailing its purpose, its wiring and where its signal can be viewed.


Baserunners stealing signs is not against the written rules, or even the unwritten rules AFAIK.
   79. Blastin Posted: November 22, 2019 at 11:03 AM (#5903138)
Big, long, in-depth piece from Ben Lindbergh at the Ringer that suggests the stealing signs either didn't really help them much (because it changes a complex process by introducing another element), or they cheated on the road as well as has been rumored in some other way (whatever way they may have continued to do so since 2017 ended). But that, regardless, the attempt to cheat electronically is, itself, worthy of their severe impending punishment.

A great line here: "There’s some chance that the Astros incurred the scorn of the sport, forever tainted their title, and opened themselves up to severe penalties—likely fines, loss of draft picks and international bonus pool money, suspensions, or even a John Coppolella–esque ban—for little to no return." Which is actually kinda funny.
   80. Zach Posted: November 22, 2019 at 12:15 PM (#5903159)
Baserunners stealing signs is not against the written rules, or even the unwritten rules AFAIK.

I agree 100%. When I talk about sign stealing, I mean people off the field of play signaling to players in real time.

I think at some point we might have to come up with a new word for what the baserunners are doing. (How often do they actually do this?) As far as I can tell, it's the one exception to the general rule that you can't tell the batter what pitch is coming.
   81. Blastin Posted: November 22, 2019 at 01:13 PM (#5903190)
a new word for what the baserunners are doing.


Deciphering?
   82. JAHV Posted: November 22, 2019 at 01:34 PM (#5903195)
Baserunners stealing signs is not against the written rules, or even the unwritten rules AFAIK.


Again, I ask, if it's not against the unwritten rules, then why would players get upset enough to complain about it or fire a pitch at a guy? I don't think that's a preventive measure; pitchers aren't throwing at guys to stop them from doing it the next time, they're throwing at guys because they're pissed they violated some code.

Stealing signs non-electronically might not meet any official definition of cheating, but I do think it violates the competitive spirit of the game, and I do think plenty of baseball players feel similarly, as evidenced by their reaction when opponents do it.
   83. Howie Menckel Posted: November 22, 2019 at 01:54 PM (#5903214)
Seton Hall Sports Poll out today:

"as the public awaits a decision on the alleged electronic sign stealing by the Houston Astros in the 2017 season, a strong showing of 52 percent vs. 35 percent say that if guilty they should be stripped of their world championship, something that has never happened in Major League Baseball. 14 percent had no opinion or did not know."

"Only 15 percent felt electronic sign stealing was more serious than the use of performance enhancing drugs."
   84. jmurph Posted: November 22, 2019 at 02:03 PM (#5903217)
"as the public awaits a decision on the alleged electronic sign stealing by the Houston Astros in the 2017 season, a strong showing of 52 percent vs. 35 percent say that if guilty they should be stripped of their world championship, something that has never happened in Major League Baseball. 14 percent had no opinion or did not know."

"Only 15 percent felt electronic sign stealing was more serious than the use of performance enhancing drugs."

Christ, what do they want to happen to the roiders then, the death penalty?
   85. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 22, 2019 at 02:11 PM (#5903219)
Christ, what do they want to happen to the roiders then, the death penalty?

They don't get into the HoF.
   86. Howie Menckel Posted: November 22, 2019 at 02:16 PM (#5903223)
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – November 22, 2019 – There is 22 percent support for the NFL decision to suspend Cleveland’s Myles Garrett permanently (still an option for the Commissioner), and 40 percent support for the rest of the season as is currently imposed. 13 percent say “less than the rest of the season or not at all,” with 7 percent saying more than this season, and 9 percent saying they did not know or had no opinion. [NOTE: This doesn't add up, so maybe the other 9 percent do want the death penalty.]

Younger respondents tended to be more lenient, with 13 percent of those 18-29 saying the suspension should be permanent, but 25 percent of those 60 and up agreeing. 51 percent said Garrett should not face additional criminal charges, with only 31 percent of the public saying he should.

By 74 to 19 percent, the American public said they would rather their preferred candidate win the 2020 presidential election than their favorite team win the Super Bowl or World Series.

However, 28 percent of males said they would rather see their favorite team win the championship than have their favorite candidate win the 2020 presidential election – while 64 percent said they would prefer their favorite candidate to win.

Among women, only 11 percent said they would prefer their team to win, with 84% preferring their candidate to win the presidential election. For those with less than a high school education, 55 percent said they would prefer their favorite “presidential candidate to win,” while 31 percent said they would prefer their team to win.

http://blogs.shu.edu/sportspoll/2019/11/22/22-percent-think-myles-garrett-suspension-should-be-permanent-40-percent-say-nfl-got-it-right-with-rest-of-season-majority-say-astros-should-be-stripped-of-2017-world-championship/

   87. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: November 22, 2019 at 02:42 PM (#5903230)
However, 28 percent of males said they would rather see their favorite team win the championship than have their favorite candidate win the 2020 presidential election – while 64 percent said they would prefer their favorite candidate to win.

I would gladly make this trade with them ahead of time, enjoy those flags fellas.
   88. jmurph Posted: November 22, 2019 at 03:18 PM (#5903242)
They don't get into the HoF.

Given that they want to actually strip a World Series from a team for what they feel is a lesser crime, somehow I don't think this will be enough!
   89. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: November 22, 2019 at 03:18 PM (#5903244)
However, 28 percent of males said they would rather see their favorite team win the championship than have their favorite candidate win the 2020 presidential election
It sort of depends on how you interpret the question. I mean, you could interpret it to mean that I'd prefer my home team win the championship and my second favorite candidate, James Orlando Ogle III, wins the Green Party nomination and the presidency instead of my first favorite, Green party candidate Susan Buchser. That would I think be totally cool. If instead of a Green it meant that next prez would come from the American Independent Party, or worse yet one of those biters from the Independent American Party, or the Independence Party or (God help us all) the Independent Conservative Democratic Party, or a ####### Independent (choose a side people!) then I might prefer that Home Team U lose the big game.

Note: I pulled the candidates and parties from a list; I have no idea who they are. Knowing what some minor parties are like it's probably better that way.

What I'm saying is that I'd take Andrew Yang over Marianne Williamson if it meant another Red Sox World Series win.
   90. Mayor Blomberg Posted: November 22, 2019 at 03:24 PM (#5903247)
Again, I ask, if it's not against the unwritten rules, then why would players get upset enough to complain about it or fire a pitch at a guy?


Because the catcher is pissed, though it's his responsibility to switch signs to something the runner can't figure out. I see it as similar to getting angry at someone for looking at your cards when you tip your hand. The fact that catchers are supposed to use different signs recognizes that poaching signs from second is a thing.

Batters have also been plunked for hitting too many HR in a game off a pitcher; surely that's not illegal or against the unwrittens.
   91. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 22, 2019 at 03:24 PM (#5903249)
Given that they want to actually strip a World Series from a team for what they feel is a lesser crime, somehow I don't think this will be enough!

What's the actual impact of "stripping a World Series from a team"? You can't un-ring the bell.

It's a nothingburger punishment. Strip them of all their 2020 draft picks and Int'l FA budget if you want to hurt them.
   92. jmurph Posted: November 22, 2019 at 03:31 PM (#5903251)
What's the actual impact of "stripping a World Series from a team"? You can't un-ring the bell.

It's a nothingburger punishment. Strip them of all their 2020 draft picks and Int'l FA budget if you want to hurt them.

I partly agree, we all know what actually happened and you can't change that, but I'm reasonably sure the team/fans wouldn't agree.
   93. Mayor Blomberg Posted: November 22, 2019 at 03:32 PM (#5903252)
What's the actual impact of "stripping a World Series from a team"?


Spoken like a Yankee fan :) ; it's the only one they have
   94. jmurph Posted: November 22, 2019 at 04:07 PM (#5903268)
The article appears to be paywalled, but here's a thread from a BPro writer that says the impact was bigger than initially realized.
   95. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 22, 2019 at 04:11 PM (#5903272)
Spoken like a Yankee fan :) ; it's the only one they have

But you can't actually take it away. The games still happened, the fans still had the joy. Now they know the Astros cheated, and they'll feel about it however they feel about it.

I don't see what an official "stripping" actually does? Are they going to purge the team from BRef? Will there be a blank for the World Series winner that year?
   96. JAHV Posted: November 22, 2019 at 04:13 PM (#5903275)
What's the actual impact of "stripping a World Series from a team"? You can't un-ring the bell.


Yeah, I don't understand fans who want this to happen. It's meaningless except in drunken bar arguments, which are, themselves, meaningless. The Astros on the team knew what they were doing was against the rules and I'm sure none of them had even the slightest twinge of guilt as they were lifting the World Series trophy. Astros fans aren't going to feel guilty about celebrating their World Series victory any more than I feel guilty about celebrating 2002 despite being pretty darn sure that the Angels had some PEDers on that team. If I were a Dodgers fan, it might make me feel vindicated, but it wouldn't give me any joy.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation (particularly whether they were using illegal sign stealing methods in the playoffs), I might support MLB stripping the World Series title as a matter of record, but I don't think it's a significant punishment for the current Astros organization or a deterrent for the rest of the league.
   97. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 22, 2019 at 04:16 PM (#5903278)
but I don't think it's a significant punishment for the current Astros organization or a deterrent for the rest of the league.

Right.

If you made them give back their World Series shares, and stripped them of their World Series rings, that would at least be a real financial consequence.
   98. TJ Posted: November 22, 2019 at 04:32 PM (#5903284)
Christ, what do they want to happen to the roiders then, the death penalty?

They don't get into the HoF.


Strip away their teams World Series titles. And don't forget to take away their children.
   99. Mayor Blomberg Posted: November 22, 2019 at 05:54 PM (#5903308)
Strip away their teams World Series titles. And don't forget to take away their children.


Rob Manfred's already at work on Minor League contraction.
   100. Sunday silence Posted: November 22, 2019 at 06:36 PM (#5903316)
this is similar idea to post 94; more data on how perhaps how significant HOU cheating was.

https://www.reddit.com/r/baseball/comments/e051pz/lots_of_smoking_gun_posts_in_relation_to_stats/

We're only at the beginning of this scandal, like what week 2? There's gonna be a lot more info to come out. SO its hard to make judgments about how much or how little the cheating (alleged) really helped them. Personally, I think alot because baseball's always a game of inches and a little advantages can add up.
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