Phillies, Astros and Red Sox pursue Polanco

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polanco tigers.jpgMLB.com reporters are connecting Placido Polanco to the Phillies, Red Sox and Astros one day after the Tigers declined to offer the Type A free agent arbitration, allowing teams to sign him without surrendering a draft pick.
Todd Zolecki claims the Phils have been “very aggressive in their pursuit” of Polanco as their top choice to replace Pedro Feliz at third base. Adrian Beltre and Mark DeRosa have also been discussed as possibilities there. Zolecki believes that the Phillies are the favorites to land the 34-year-old, who played for Philadelphia from mid-2002 to mid-2005.
Brian McTaggert has the Astros as “seriously interested,” even though they’ve been crying poor and they’re on the hook to Kaz Matsui for another $5 million in 2010. Houston has been hoping that Matsui would take the Kenji Johjima route back to Japan, but there’s been no indication that it’s a real possibility. Matsui remains an above average defensive second baseman, but he’s often hurt and he hit just .250/.302/.357 last season.
The Red Sox could use Polanco at second base if they moved Dustin Pedroia to shortstop, though that’s probably not their preferred option. Polanco has seen his OPS drop from 846 in 2007 to 768 in 2008 and 727 last season, and while he’s more attractive now that he won’t cost teams a draft pick, that doesn’t give him any extra advantage over Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez.
Polanco could also be an option for the Dodgers, Twins or Cubs at second base. The Tigers won’t re-sign him, as they need to save money and have an internal replacement ready in Scott Sizemore.

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.