Brian Cole's family awarded $131 million in lawsuit

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The family of former Mets prospect Brian Cole, who was killed in a one-car accident in 2001, was awarded a $131 million judgment against Ford Motor Company on Monday, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports.
Cole died from injuries sustained in a March 31, 2001 accident when his Ford Explorer veered off a Florida highway and rolled over.
In th lawsuit, which was being tried for a third time after two hung juries, 11 of the 12 jury members agreed with the verdict aganst Ford. The case was settled before the punitive phase for a confidential amount, attorney Ted Leopold told Rubin.
Ford Motor Company admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

“This was a tragic accident and our sympathy goes out to the Cole family for their loss, but it was unfair of them to blame Ford. Brian Cole had been driving over 80 mph when he drifted off road for unknown reasons, suddenly turned his steering wheel 295 degrees, lost control, and caused the vehicle to roll over more than three times. He was not wearing his safety belt and died after being ejected from the vehicle. His passenger, who was properly belted, walked away from the accident. The court denied Ford a fair trial by excluding evidence that the jury should have heard and considered about Brian’s driving and the speculative nature of plaintiffs’ claims.

Cole, a 5-foot-9, 168-pound center fielder, hit .301/.347/.494 with 69 steals between Single-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton in 2000, earning him an invitation to major league spring training in 2001. He was just 21 at the time of the accident, and he was viewed as a very good prospect, though many were skeptical about how his power would hold up at higher levels. Baseball America rated him as the Mets’ No. 3 prospect in 2001 behind outfielder Alex Escobar and right-hander Pat Strange.

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.