I went on yesterday about how Commissioner Selig’s little committee was probably set up for cynical purposes. Today the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers goes in a different direction, hatching the conspiracy theory that the committee was set up to ban the Designated Hitter:
be fair, it’s premature to ask such a potentially provocative question.
But thanks to Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision to turn recommendations
for on-field matters over to a newly created version of the NFL’s Competition Committee, the DH rule could face its first real threat since the American League accepted it permanently for the 1976 season . . . The commissioner did not mention the DH rule, but Cardinals manager
Tony La Russa and longtime Braves executive John Schuerholz, who joined
Selig on a conference call, both listed it as the one thing they
potentially would change if they could.
I’m no fan of the DH, so if there was even a shred of a scintilla of a hope that La Russa and the gang were going to recommend its abolition, I’d be playing it up like crazy. But there’s nothing here to suggest that the committee is even going to look at the DH rule, let alone opine on it.
La Russa doesn’t like it. Great. But that “if they could” in the last sentence of the blockquote is pretty important. Messing with rules is one thing. Abolishing the DH, however, messes with rosters. As in, the position on the AL roster that has historically had the highest average salary in baseball and is home to a lot of players who would otherwise be out of the league due to their inability to play defense. The Player’s Union would no sooner agree to getting rid of the DH than the Teamster’s Union would agree to give up seniority pay.
The DH made its debut three months before I was born. I’ve resigned myself to the DH. I’ve even prepared myself for the expansion of the DH to the NL one day, because I think that has pretty even odds of happening in my lifetime. Getting rid of it? No way. No how. The world simply isn’t that just.
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.