Category Archives: Sports news

Sign-stealing scandal claims another field boss

Wow! It looks as though the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal is way bigger than I imagined.

A third field manager has been sent to the proverbial showers. Carlos Beltran, who was supposed to manage the New York Mets this coming season, is now the former Mets manager. Why? Because he, too, was among those mentioned by Commissioner Rob Manfred in the sign-stealing scandal involving the Astros and their now-controversial 2017 World Series championship.

Beltran was a veteran member of the Astros when they won the World Series and, I guess, he was deeply involved in the sign-stealing tactics employed during the Series.

The Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers three seasons ago in the Series. They cheated, though, by stealing signs and transmitting that theft using high-tech hardware from the outfield to the bullpen. It’s really weird, given that sign-stealing on the field has been part of the game since its inception. Runners on second base watch the signs the catcher flashes to the pitcher and somehow communicate what he sees to the batter.

The Astros went way beyond that.

Major League Baseball was going to suspend the Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager AJ Hinch for the season. The Astros, though, fired them both. Then came the boot delivered to Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was bench coach for the Astros during the 2017 season and was part of the sign-theft crisis.

Now. Beltran is gone.

The question is circulating about whether MLB should vacate the 2017 Series title won by the Astros. I hope the Astros get to keep the trophy. I also don’t want them to have to bear an asterisk next to their designation as World Series champs.

The Astros could do the sportsmanlike thing and perhaps offer the Dodgers a share of the trophy. Maybe the Astros organization can make a profound public apology to the Dodgers for doing what they did during the Series.

I am dubious about whether the Astros’ tactics proved decisive, that they would not have won without cheating. I am not sure how you prove such a thing.

My strong hunch, though, is that there might be more heads to roll before this matter gets settled once and for all.

Now I am feeling badly for dismissing the scandal initially. Yeah, this is a big deal.

The other big shoe drops in sign-stealing scandal; more to fall?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox have fired their field manager, Alex Cora, for his role in a scandal involving another American League baseball team.

The Red Sox had no choice but to follow the Houston Astros’ lead. The Astros canned field manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow after Major League Baseball announced they would be suspended for the next season.

What did everyone do here?

Well, the Astros were accused of using high-tech devices to steal signs during the 2017 World Series against Los Angeles Dodgers. They went far beyond the usual techniques used for many decades to swipe signs.

Cora was bench coach for the Astros in 2017. Therefore, he was a principal culprit in the sign-stealing matter.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred had warned all big league teams about the consequences if they persisted in this activity. The Astros ignored the warning … to their peril.

And so, now Alex Cora is out of a job.

The axe had to fall on the Red Sox field boss.

To its credit, Major League Baseball has become hypersensitive to cheating on the field and is seeking to take charge of this problem.

Astros cheated their way to World Series title? Yes, but let ’em keep it

I have thought for years that stealing signs is part of baseball’s charm. Players on the field seek to pilfer signals the catcher gives to the pitcher as well as the signals that come to the hitter from the third-base coach.

However, the art of signal stealing has its limits, according to Major League Baseball, which had leveled season-long suspensions to the field manager and the general manager of the Houston Astros, who won the 2017 World Series. The Astro ownership, though, went a step further: the two men suspended got fired; they’re gone.

So what’s the future of this scandal? It’s not over, more than likely.

I was a bit baffled by all the hubbub over the Astros’ cheating scandal. As I said, my sense for many years has been that signal theft is part of the Grand Old Game. I sought the counsel of a gentleman — a former colleague of mine — who knows the game well. He answered in an e-mail to explain it to me. Here is what he said:

It was done via technology. A camera was set up in centerfield directed at the catcher. There was a monitor in a video room next to the Astros dugout and the signal was seen and relayed through claps, whistles or banging on a trash can to the batter. This is much different than the gamesmanship that has gone on for decades of players trying to decipher signals while on the field. In other words, a runner gets on 2nd base, can see the signals and somehow relays that to the batter, or someone in the opposing dugout has figured out the third base coach’s signals.

In 2017, there was some signal-stealing via technology because of the added use of cameras for replay reviews. Commissioner Rob Manfred sent out a harsh memo telling teams to stop or there would be reprisals if they didn’t. The Astros arrogantly continued to do so. 

The Red Sox are also about to get nailed for doing something similar. Alex Cora is the manager. He was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017 and reportedly came up with the system. He may be looking at a lifetime ban.

OK, it’s clear to me now.

The question remains: Should Major League Baseball rescind the World Series title the Astros won? I would argue “no!” I am not sure it can be proven that the cheating was the difference between winning and losing the Series. Absent proof, then the Astros should keep the title as baseball champs.

And if the commissioner drops the hammer on Alex Cora and bans him for life, then a lifetime ban ought to have the weight of … a lifetime ban.

What’s more, my hope is that this mess doesn’t deter players from stealing signs on the field the way they have done since the time they threw out the very first pitch. Hey, it’s part of the game!

Waiting for baseball season to begin … already?

I am likely not offering a big-time scoop but I am getting some buzz from up yonder in Amarillo that Texas Panhandle baseball fans are counting down the days for Season No. 2 of the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Hey, why not?

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t make it to the pro football playoffs; the Houston Texans blew a big lead against the Kansas City Chiefs over the weekend, so they’re out. The Dallas Mavericks are off to a good pro basketball start. The Dallas Stars? Beats me.

Baseball is on the minds of a lot of sports fans in the Panhandle. The Sod Poodles whet their appetites by doing something quite remarkable in their initial season. They won the Texas League championship in a five-game thriller against the defending league champs, the Tulsa Drillers.

Hodgetown, where the Sod Poodles play their home games, is mostly dark these days. That’s my guess anyway.

We’re halfway through January already. The season starts in April. The Sod Poodles will have some sort of ceremony on opening day to celebrate their Texas League title. They’ll hear speeches from the mayor, maybe a county judge or two. The fans will cheer.

Someone will toss out the ceremonial first pitch.

They’ll start playing hardball at Hodgetown, which more than likely will be chock full of fans.

So the next season is right around the corner. Isn’t that correct?

That’s what winning does. It makes fans anxious for the next season to begin.

Hall of Fame awaits Coach Johnson … how about Ring of Honor?

I cannot believe I am going to write these next few sentences, but here goes.

Former Dallas Cowboys head football coach Jimmy Johnson should be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor … now that he is heading for enshrinement into the Pro Football of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Johnson’s stint as Cowboys’ coach was brief, but it was, um, highly productive. He coached the team to two Super Bowl victories in the 1990s. Then he mouthed off to his boss, owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who fired him.

The men once were friends, teammates at the University of Arkansas. Jones hired Johnson — a native of Port Arthur, Texas and a high school classmate of (get ready for this!) Janis Joplin — after purchasing the Cowboys and firing legendary coach Tom Landry. It was thought to be a marriage made in football heaven.

Hah! It didn’t last.

So now Johnson is going to be honored with a plaque and a statue, and he will get to wear a mustard-colored blazer at the televised induction ceremony in Canton.

He doesn’t yet have his name inscribed on the Ring of Honor at AT&T Stadium. He deserves the honor.

C’mon, Jerry Jones. Do the right thing, just as you did when you agreed to put Tom Landry’s name up there.

There. That wasn’t so painful after all, even for someone — such as me — who is no fan of the Cowboys or certainly of the team’s egomaniac owner.

Hoping the KC Chiefs bring home Lombardi Trophy

I have a clear favorite among the eight teams still vying for a chance to play in the Super Bowl next month in Miami.

It is the Kansas City Chiefs. Why the Chiefs? Here we go.

I am a longtime fan of the former American Football League. The Chiefs came into being as the Dallas Texans, one of the charter franchises in the AFL in 1960. The Texans packed up and moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs.

With that all said, I will now ignore the National Football Conference playoff lineup. I don’t care about any of the teams in that “other” conference.

The Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans are the two original AFL franchises still in the hunt. However, I remain profoundly angry that Bud Adams, the owner of the Houston Oilers, decided to move his team to Nashville because Houston wouldn’t build a stadium with luxury boxes. Hey, the Oilers played in the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Astrodome. That shoulda been good enough for the Oilers. It wasn’t. Adams got greedy and bolted for Grand Ol’ Opryland.

The Baltimore Ravens? Pfftt! They once were the Cleveland Browns, one of three old NFL teams that moved into the AFC when the AFL and the NFL merged in 1970.

The fourth AFC team is the Houston Texans. That franchise is new to the NFL, having been created after the Oilers left the Bayou City. They don’t count, either.

In all my years watching the Super Bowl, I have rooted for one NFC team to win the Lombardi Trophy. That would be the New Orleans Saints in 2010. They beat the Indianapolis Colts. Two factors came into play for that Super Bowl. First, New Orleans needed a lift after the 2005 devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina. Second, the Colts have no AFL history, as they were among the NFL teams moved into the AFC when the leagues merged; the third team to join the AFC, by the way, was the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Chiefs played in the very first Super Bowl, losing 35-10 to the Green Bay Packers in 1967. Then they came back in 1970 to beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, pummeling the heavily favored NFL rep 23-7. That was the final Super Bowl before the leagues merged.

It’s been 50 years since the Chiefs played for the pro football championship. It’s their time … I hope.

Cowboys find a winner to replace Garrett

First, I’ll declare this: I didn’t always hate the Dallas Cowboys.

Those of us of a certain age remember when the then-upstart Cowboys sought to knock off the Vince Lombardi-coached Green Bay Packers while fighting for the NFL championship. The Ice Bowl of 1967? I remember it well. My home boy Mel Renfro, the Hall of Fame Cowboys safety, suffered frostbite in that classic contest at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

So, then the Cowboys started to win and got too big for their britches.

But they had that history with the Packers … which brings me to my point. The Cowboys have hired a good guy to coach them in the wake of the demise of the Jason Garrett era. Mike McCarthy has won a Super Bowl — which coaching the Packers.

Do I want them to win it all? Am I now going to cheer myself hoarse rooting for the Cowboys? Hah! Not even!

I just want to declare that the Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has made a good hire.

Now the owner ought to take the next step. He ought to just sit up there in the owner’s box during the games and not get involved in football matters. He should hire a real GM, someone with actual football knowledge and let the GM deal with the nuts and bolts of whether Coach McCarthy is doing a credible job calling plays.

The rest of the scenario isn’t likely to occur, given the owner’s monumental ego, but I believe he has made a good call in hiring Mike McCarthy.

Cowboys’ coach is out … finally!

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

That went well, yes? Well, no. It didn’t.

Jason Garrett has been booted as the Dallas Cowboys head football coach. The Cowboys have told Garrett his contract won’t be renewed. He’s out of a job.

However, all of this is coming from media reports. The Cowboys’ ownership hasn’t made a formal announcement just yet.

Jumpin’ jiminy. The owner of the NFL franchise, Jerry Jones, has made a mess of it. No surprise there. The owner operates on a clumsiness quotient that has virtually no rival in the National Football League.

I won’t get into the Xs and Os of the job Garrett did. I don’t know enough about football to speak intelligently about it. He won more games than he lost. He just didn’t win any Super Bowl games during his time as coach. That’s the benchmark for success in Jerry Jones’ world. To be fair, Jones isn’t the only pro sports franchise owner who cherishes league championships.

However, I just hate that Garrett had to be called the Cowboys’ head coach while the owner/general manager was interviewing prospective successors. He didn’t deserve to be disrespected in that manner.

As for whoever dons the coach’s headset next year and beyond, I hope he’s ready to deal with an owner who thinks he enough about pro football to act as a general manager, which to my way of thinking requires a skill set a zillionaire businessman just doesn’t possess.

R.I.P., Mr. Perfect Game

Don Larsen pitched one whale of a Major League Baseball game back on Oct. 8, 1956.

He was throwing for the New York Yankees in that year’s World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. He threw a perfect game. Twenty-seven batters came to the plate; they made 27 outs.

It was picture perfect.

Larsen died on New Year’s Day at the age of 90. Media have reported that Larsen pitched the “only perfect game in World Series history.”

I want to put that feat into its proper perspective. Not only did he throw the only perfect game, he threw the only World Series no-hitter … period! Do you get where I’m going with this? No-hitters themselves are worth noting, even if runners reach base on a walk, or a fielding error.

The very notion that Larsen’s feat was even more expansive than a “perfect game” is worthy of saluting as the New York Yankees legend is laid to rest.

Rose Bowl win is particularly gratifying

The Oregon Ducks won the Rose Bowl tonight. It was a thriller against Wisconsin. The Pac 12 representative beat the Big 10 rep in a game decided by a single point.

I am an Oregon native who did not attend the University of Oregon, but who has rooted for the Ducks since the beginning of time.

There is one aspect of this victory I find particularly poignant. It involves the quarterback for the Ducks, a young man named Justin Herbert.

College football programs spend a lot of effort and money recruiting athletes from all over the country. Oregon is no different. Check out the roster and you see student-athletes from every state.

Herbert grew up in Eugene, where the university is located. He talked often about watching the Ducks play football at Autzen Stadium. His dream was to play for the Ducks.

I mention that because it carries a significant meaning for me that a homegrown young man would choose to stay home to play college football while, I should add, completing his studies and earning his degree. As I understand it, Justin Herbert is an academic all-American in addition to being a stellar athlete.

I am not trying to lionize this young man; he’s going to make a lot of money playing pro football. I only want to point out the joy I had tonight in watching a fellow native Oregonian lead his hometown team to an impressive college football victory over an excellent opponent.

As they say in Eugene … “go Ducks!”