Tag Archives: World Series

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.

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!

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.

Get ready for the ridicule, Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle isn’t the first athlete to decline a White House invitation. Donald Trump isn’t even the first president to receive a refusal from a championship-winning athlete.

Neither of them will be the last individuals take part in such a strange tango.

However, Sean Doolittle — a relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals World Series champion baseball team — is likely in for a rough ride from the president of the United States.

Why? Because Doolittle said he cannot attend a White House ceremony presided over by Trump, a man he detests. Doolittle said he doesn’t like the way the president talks about immigrants, the poor and those who come from so-called “sh**hole countries.”

Doolittle said he and his wife adhere to the principle of kindness and have worked to help those in stricken “sh**hole” nations.

Trump, of course, has invited a lot of this kind of reaction from athletes and the teams on which they play. The Golden State Warriors stayed away from the White House after winning the NBA title a couple of years ago. Trump made quite a bit of hay over it via social media.

Will he do the same to Doolittle? What if other Nationals players decide to stay away? Will they get the social media bullying that has made the president infamous?

The Trump era as president is going to take another bizarre turn as he seeks in his usually clumsy fashion to honor some pro athletes, many of whom quite likely would rather be somewhere else than in his presence.

Was it ‘fair’ to boo POTUS at World Series? Absolutely … yes!

I keep seeing the question popping up on social media sites and elsewhere about the greeting that Donald Trump got when he showed up at Game 5 of the World Series the other evening between the Washington National and the Houston Astros.

The public address announcer told the crowd that the president of the United States was at the Nats’ ballpark. The crowd of 41,000-plus erupted … on boos and chants of “Lock him up!”

So, the question persists even after the Nats winning the Major League Baseball championship: Was it fair to boo the president?

Of course it was fair! He got what he deserved!

I mean, consider what this clown has done to others. He has enabled campaign rally crowds to shout “Lock her up!” in connection with Hillary Clinton’s controversy over email use. He has used social media to bully his opponents. Trump has fomented lie after lie about his foes and about former presidents of the United States. He has denigrated war heroes, a Gold Star family, mocked a reporter with a physical disability and kowtowed to hostile foreign-power leaders.

So, a baseball crowd decides to boo this individual and some on the right and in the media question whether it was proper for Americans to voice their displeasure about him?

Give me a break.

Who didn’t see this coming?

I guess this had to be one of the biggest non-surprises of the 2019 World Series.

Donald Trump showed up tonight at the Washington Nationals ballpark in D.C., while the Nats were playing the Houston Astros in the fifth game of the World Series. The public address announcer told the crowd of more than 40,000 fans in the third inning that the president was among them.

The crowd reaction? They booed loudly and then began chanting “Lock him up!” in a move reminiscent of the “Lock her up!” chant heard during the 2016 presidential campaign; the former chant, of course, was aimed at Hillary Rodham Clinton and her now largely debunked e-mail controversy.

But now the president is facing, shall we say, much more serious charges of corruption and violation of his oath of office. He is likely to be impeached by the House of Representatives.

So he goes the ballpark for a little “down time” from the rigors of the impeachment inquiry and killing of the Islamic State guru in Syria.

He got the greeting he deserved and quite likely expected to receive from the Nationals crowd.

Is he disheartened by it? Hardly. That would require a conscience on the part of the president.

Trump might get to add some drama to World Series … do ya think?

Well now. There will be a Game 5 in the 2019 World Series, thanks to the Houston Astros winning the third game Friday night in Washington, D.C., against the Nationals

Do you know what that means? It means that Donald J. Trump will get to attend Game 5 as he had already announced he would do.

He won’t take the mound to toss out the first pitch, a la President George W. Bush, who in 2001 famously fired a strike at Yankee Stadium. Nor will he toss the pitch from the stands, as many presidents have done dating back nearly to the founding of the Grand Old Game.

It is reported he will arrive after the game starts and will leave before the final out; the president’s intent is to avoid too much disruption for the security.

I am left to wonder, which I’ll do right here: Will the public address announcer reveal the president’s attendance at the game? If that occurs, what then do you suppose will be the fans’ reaction to hearing that Donald Trump is among them?

It is well-known how divided this country has been for years preceding the presidency of Donald Trump, whose rhetoric only has widened that divide.

We might have gotten a hint of that divide when Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner has said that the president “has every right” to attend a World Series game.

Doesn’t that go, um, without saying?

Why isn’t this guy in the MLB Hall of Fame?

I can’t believe I’m thinking of this, but I am and I feel the need to state my piece.

Bill Buckner died this week at the age of 69. He crafted a stellar Major League Baseball career that ended in 1990. He collected more than 2,700 hits; he compiled a .289 batting average; he won the National League batting title in 1980; he batted more than .300 in seven of his years playing in the big leagues. Buckner appeared in several All-Star Games. He played for more than 22 years in both the American and National leagues.

Oh, but he is known to most baseball fans for one play. It occurred in the 1986 World between the Boston Red Sox (Buckner’s team at the time) and the New York Mets. In the sixth game of the series, Mookie Wilson of the Mets hit a “routine” ground ball to Buckner, who was playing first base. Buckner bent down to catch the ball — and then watched it scoot between his feet under his glove.

Error on Buckner! The Mets scored the winning run and went on to win the World Series.

For that play, Buckner was vilified, scorned, ridiculed, hassled and harassed for the rest of his career and beyond. The Red Sox eventually brought him back to honor him. The fans who once booed at the sound of his name stood and cheered him that day.

Which brings me to my central point: Is that single play responsible for this fine player being denied enshrinement in baseball’s Hall of Fame?

Players with far less impressive stats are in the hall. I think, for instance, of Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski, a second baseman who — in my view — is in the HoF because of one hit: a Game 7 walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees.

Buckner’s window for induction into the HoF induction has been closed for a long time. The old-timers committee cannot even let him in.

It’s a shame. The guy could hit a baseball. Absent that one play in the 1986 Fall Classic, he could field his position, too.

For what it’s worth, I think he deserved induction into the Hall of Fame . . . right along with Bill Mazeroski.

World Series is over … and I don’t really care!

There clearly is something wrong with me.

Once upon a time, when I was a much younger individual, I cared about the Fall Classic, the World Series of Major League Baseball. I watched every inning, every pitch, every hit, every throw from the outfield.

This year? I didn’t watch any of it. Not a single, solitary moment of the Series that ended with Boston Red Sox beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.

Fine. Put away the bats, balls, gloves, resin, chalk and wait’ll next season.

I cannot tell you precisely when my disinterest took root. I have said that free agency helped ruin my interest in the game. That was when MLB decided to let players shop themselves around to the highest bidder when their current contracts were up. That meant few players stayed with the same team that brought them all that fame, stardom and, um, money.

For that matter, my favorite Hall of Famers are the guys who played their entire careers for one team: Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Mike Schmidt, Cal Ripken Jr., Robin Yount … you get the idea. OK, I’ll concede to favoring a few other non-single-teamers as well. Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Nolan Ryan come to mind.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it has nothing to do with the game, which is still fun to watch. Yes, I’ll watch a game on occasion during the regular season. The postseason? All those playoffs — the division series, the league championship series, then the World Series? Pfftt!

It didn’t used to be this way. Believe me. When Bill Mazeroski hit that Series-winning home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960, defeating the New York Yankees in the seventh game after being outhit for the Series by the Yanks, I went into a funk for an entire offseason. 

As recently as 1991, I had great interest in the World Series. That year, the Minnesota Twins beat the Atlanta Braves, also in seven games, in what — in my mind — was the most remarkably well-played World Series in the history of the event. Every game was won by the home team; many of the games were decided in the bottom of the final inning; the clutch hitting, base-running and fielding was stellar in the extreme.

I was a huge Mickey Mantle fan. Each day from April through much of October started the same for me: I got up, went out to get the paper, I went directly to the sports page to read the box scores from the previous day’s game; I wanted to see how Mick did at the plate.

That was then. These days, well, I couldn’t care less about it.

I do still love the game, when I can fire up enough interest to watch it at the Major League level.

Hey, it just occurs to me: Amarillo, where my wife and I lived for 23 years before moving away, is going to welcome a Double A minor-league franchise next spring.

That is where I’ll get my baseball fix whenever we travel back to the High Plains.

Don’t give up on me just yet. It’s still the Grand Old Game.

Astros vs. Brewers in World Series? Another MLB first?

For those of you who might be interested in truly useless information, I have a bit of it for you.

Major League Baseball’s league championship series are underway. The American League series features the defending Series champs Houston Astros vs. the Boston Red Sox; the National League pits the Milwaukee Brewers against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Follow me on this.

If the Brewers win the NLCS and the Astros win the ALCS, the 2018 World Series will be played by teams that both have appeared in the Fall Classic representing both leagues. The Chicago White Sox swept the Astros in 2005; the 1982 Brewers lost the Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

A member of my family is a diehard Dodgers fan. So, with all due respect to him, I’ll pull for the Brewers and the Astros to make MLB history.

There you have it. Is that totally useless info … or what?

You’re most welcome.