The New York Times continues its assault on Scott Boras

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Earlier today Keith Law posted his analysis of the relevant MLBPA rules regarding agents making loans to players and found nothing that would appear to make the loan Scott Boras made to Braves’ prospect Edward Salcedo improper.  This followed Scott Boras’ explanation of the loan and rather convincing (in my view) denial that anything improper took place. This also followed a week during which I hashed out the issue and, like Law and Boras, struggled to find any problem with the loan whatsoever.  Case closed?

Hardly. In Tuesday’s New York Times — published to the web this evening — Michael S. Schmidt writes about the “scandal” as if no one has questioned his initial report. Indeed, he writes it as if he has conducted no additional research into the matter at all. The story: last week Major League Baseball sent a letter to the union asking it to determine if Boras broke any rules.  There is no mention of what possible rules were broken. There is no new information other than the fact the letter was sent seven days ago. A letter which we all knew would be sent last week when, in Schmidt’s original story, anonymous Major League Baseball officials voiced concern. The letter is just another means of concern-voicing.

But there is plenty of additional hand-wringing. There is the obligatory “these allegations come at a time,” sentence, which is a time-tested way to cast something in a negative light when there are no actual connections between the complained-of activity and some perceived evil.  There’s the obligatory “the loans raised questions” sentence, when in fact, no one who has yet identified themselves by name has raised a question, let alone identified a violation of any rule or ethical norm. Seriously: someone name a rule Boras has violated. MLB-source guy: name the rule. Schmidt: report what rules you think were violated. Because thus far, there’s nothing.

I carry no brief for Scott Boras, but this is starting to look like a witch hunt. This latest story completely ignores Law’s analysis of the rules in question.  It puts out a single piece of information — the letter — that is a week old and essentially meaningless.  It quotes numerous agents who happen to compete for business with Scott Boras and whose interest would be served by having his reputation damaged, all waxing disapprovingly of the loan and saying how they themselves would never do such a thing.  Of course, none of them suggest that the loan was improper either.

I found Schmidt’s initial report on the Boras-Salcedo loan to be interesting but slight. In light of what we’ve learned about the loans in the past week, however, I am more firmly convinced than I ever have been that there is no story here at all.  Or rather, not the story that the Times is struggling to tell. Rather, this is a story about an all-out assault on Scott Boras.  And unless someone can point to a single rule that was broken, it’s one that needs to cease now.

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.