On Monday night Alfonso Soriano hit a long fly ball that, had he been running out of the box instead of watching his handiwork, would have probably been a triple. It did not go unnoticed by Cubs’
radio TV announcer Bob Brenly, who snarked “wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could get our left-fielder to run as
hard as Ted Lilly does?” referring to Lilly’s attempted steal during a rehab start in Peoria.
He went on, saying that Soriano’s lack of hustle “sets a bad precedent to the team,” and sends “a bad message to the younger
players.” Which would be a damning criticism if the Cubs actually had any younger players.
Seriously, though, Brenly has a point. Sure, old managers saying that guys don’t hustle is not exactly a newsworthy occurrence, but Alfonso Soriano doesn’t need to be making himself a point of contention at the moment. It’s not often that a team will simply eat $90 million by cutting a guy, but it’s not totally fantastical to think that it could happen here.
The new owners aren’t psychologically or politically invested in that awful contract and if the team tanks — as it appears it very well might — cutting loose a seemingly lackadaisical symbol of the failed former regime may actually win them some fan support. The manager is probably going to retire after this season. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the GM canned this fall as well. Why not clean out the dead wood leftfielder too?
I guess what I’m saying is that if I were Alfonso Soriano I’d at least try to hustle a little bit, because while your mileage may vary, it seems like getting $90 million to play baseball would be preferable to getting $90 million to do nothing.
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.