The Mets have made a lot of bad decisions this offseason, but here’s a really, really good one: having Keith Hernandez help Daniel Murphy with his defense at first base:
The tutorials are underway in Port St. Lucie, after general manager
Omar Minaya called Hernandez requesting that he help ease Murphy’s
transition to first base. Hernandez and Murphy have spent the last two
days working on fundamentals . . . “I do like [Murphy’s] aggressiveness,” Hernandez said. “He’s always got
the thought of getting the lead runner. He likes to go in the hole
after a ball and he’s just got to learn when it’s not his ball, when he
needs to get back to the bag.”
Whenever someone struggles defensively, there’s this temptation to say “ah, just stick him at first base.” First base, however, is no easy trick. In fact, it seems like parts of the job — feeling for the bag without looking; that bit Hernandez mentions about deciding whether to get back to the bag or not — would be harder, or at the very least less intuitive, than a lot of other positions. Assuming he’s not as intimidated as all hell, Murphy is probably very, very happy to have the guy who is more or less the best ever at the position giving him pointers.
Especially given that he now has some competition for the job.
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.