During an appearance on Sirius XM’s MLB Home Plate on Sunday morning, Red Sox assistant general manager Ben Cherington addressed the right thumb condition that nixed a possible trade of Mike Lowell to the Rangers:
“Even at the end of the playoffs, in our exit physical, he barely made
mention of it,” Cherington said in the interview. “It’s just one of
those things as a player you get used to being a little dinged up at
the end of the season. I think that’s how he felt it. And then Mike, as
many players do, sort of took his customary break after the season, let
the body heal and then when he went to pick up a bat again recently as
per his normal schedule he still felt a little bit in there and so
wanted to get it checked out.”
With surgery now scheduled for the
thumb, get used to hearing the Red Sox saying very complimentary things
about Lowell. It will be a constant theme between now and spring
training. You’ll hear about the wonderful progress he is making on his
rehab, or how the Red Sox are confident he’ll be even better than he
was last season. They’ll say whatever they can to boost his value
headed into spring training.
But while you hear these things, you have
to understand how frustrated the Red Sox are with Lowell for not having
the problem addressed sooner. Not only because of the nixed trade, but
what might have happened had the Red Sox stayed with the status quo.
Lowell likely wouldn’t have had the thumb examined during the offseason at
all had Texas not tentatively agreed to a trade. They have every reason
to be be furious with Lowell, even if they will say otherwise publicly.
UPDATE: FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal predicts that “Mike Lowell will never play another game for the Red
Sox” regardless of whether or not the trade with the Rangers is truly dead. He writes that they’re unlikely to simply release Lowell, but “eventually will complete the kind of deal they
tried to make with the Rangers, paying most of Lowell’s salary to
make him disappear.”
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.