Manuel completes first year as Mets manager

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Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes
that today is Jerry Manuel’s one-year anniversary as Mets manager.
Manuel has gone 88-67 at the helm, producing what has to be one of the
most-complained-about .568 winning percentages in baseball history.

Manuel took over for Willie Randolph 69 games into last season and
guided the Mets to a 55-38 (.591) record after they went 34-35 (.493)
under Randolph. Of course, they faded down the stretch and ended up
missing the playoffs by one game, so Manuel’s tenure was viewed as more
failure than turn-around.

This season has been similar in that the Mets currently sit a
half-game out of the playoff picture at 33-29 and fans criticize Manuel
constantly. Meanwhile, from a non-New Yorker’s point of view he has the
team in the thick of contention despite a ton of injuries to everyone
from Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Brian Schneider to Billy Wagner,
Oliver Perez, J.J. Putz, and John Maine.

He’s certainly been far from perfect and Mets fans have plenty of
room to complain about specific issues and faults, but in the big
picture Manuel has won 57 percent of his games with a somewhat flawed
and now injury-wrecked roster, which is good for the second-highest
winning percentage in franchise history behind only Davey Johnson.

Or as Sherman so aptly puts it:
“Manuel is a gregarious, self-confident man with a ton of baseball
knowledge. I sense an excellent manager in there. I just wonder if he
will ever have enough time or the right team with the Mets to prove
that.”

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.