Carlos Zambrano is the only Cub not allowed to have a meltdown

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The Chicago Tribune’s Dan McNeil is no fan of Carlos Zambrano. After railing against his contract and going on about how he’s no Ted Lilly, McNeil predicts a Big-Z meltdown:

Put me down for the first week in May for not-so-Big Z’s first
implosion. Not sure if it will be getting tossed for undressing an
umpire or pulling up lame trying to stretch a double, but an eruption
is a certainty. Until the man-child proves he’s as right between the
ears as he is in the hips, I’m betting against the Cubs getting this
cat’s potential actualized.

I think the richest thing about this is how he uses Ted Lilly of all people to demonstrate just how awful Carlos Zambrano is, because Lilly is no stranger to drama himself.

No wait, that’s not the richest thing. The richest thing is that just last summer McNeil wrote that the Cubs’ biggest problem was that Lou Piniella was acting all calm and professional instead of being a combative jackass:

Unearthing bases. Kicking dirt. Spitting. Scratching.
Fighting one of his own players, as he did in Cincinnati with the
behemoth-sized Rob Dibble.

None of those outlandish behaviors will solve the Cubs’ most urgent
problems, but when a historically fiery manager ceases to breathe fire,
then you have a brand new problem to tack onto the list: resignation.

To sum up: you can get away with acting like a jerk if you’re Ted Lilly. You can not only get away with being a jerk but you damn well better be a jerk if you’re Lou Piniella. But Lord help you do those things and your name is Carlos Zambrano.

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.