Rosenthal: Manny Ramirez is unprofessional; should not make the Hall of Fame

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Earlier today Aaron took some mighty and righteous swipes at those who are treating Manny Ramirez like dead weight for the 2010 season. But Ken Rosenthal does those naysayers one better: he discounts Manny’s entire career based on, well, let’s let Ken explain it:

Manny’s Hall of Fame chances took a dramatic hit when he received a
50-game suspension last season for using performance-enhancing drugs.
But even if you remove PEDs from of the equation, he flunks the
“character, integrity and sportsmanship” criteria — badly.

He quit on the Red Sox. He quit on the Dodgers. The Hall includes its
share of miscreants, but Manny has routinely engaged in conduct
detrimental to his team.

True, these were relatively isolated incidents. Some statistical
analysts might look at his career numbers and say, “What more can you
want?” My answer: Basic professionalism.

And not just professionalism. Rosenthal ends his article by saying “certain standards of decency apply.” So apparently Manny is indecent too. My word!

Notably, Rosenthal does not explain how Ramirez “quit on the Dodgers.”  Earlier in his piece he notes how Ramirez didn’t play in five of eight games since coming off the disabled list, but Joe Torre simply didn’t write him into the lineup for those games, probably because the team was trying to get a deal done with the White Sox. I’ve seen nothing suggesting that Ramirez begged out, and the charge that he quit on the team seems pretty damn unsupportable.

I’m on record saying
that Manny’s final days in Boston were kind of bad, and I believe that
no matter how good his stat line was at the time. He missed two games that his team thought he should have played and had one notoriously indifferent at bat against the Yankees. And then of
course there was that incident where he pushed the traveling secretary down. Whether you consider that “quitting” on the team or not is a
matter of opinion, but I think it’s safe to say that there was something bad
going on.

But bad enough to nullify his Hall of Fame case even without taking PEDs into account?  Bad enough to warrant a comparison to Albert Belle, as Rosenthal does?  The same Albert Belle who was given a jail sentence for stalking a woman? Who chased trick-or-treaters with his car? Who threw a baseball into the stands and struck a fan? Who unleashed profanity-filled tirades at the media? Who destroyed tens of thousands of dollars worth of team property a year due to his violent outbursts?  Who, when asked by the Indians to issue apologies for his transgressions famously said “I apologize for nothing?” That’s the moral equivalence Rosenthal is making here?

Look, I’m not going to play the straight “look at the stats and nothing else” line when it comes to Ramirez, because that’s being a bit too cute. Manny is complicated. He’s been difficult. He’s never conformed to anyone’s idea of a model ballplayer when it comes to deportment and attitude and all of that. I get it. But at the same time, those traits have been wildly overblown by the media in both severity and significance.

In this age of players who are schooled in p.r. savvy from Day One, the press has been hungry for a heel for a good long time, and more often than not Manny Ramirez has been that guy. He took PEDs, but so did a lot of guys.  He had a little tiff with the Red Sox as he left, but a lot of guys have had worse tiffs with their teams.

Manny Ramirez isn’t perfect, but he’s no monster, and Rosenthal’s attempt to make him out as one rings hollow.

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.