Michael Cuddyer’s attempt to self-treat a wart on his foot during the offseason proved unsuccessful, so now he’s expected to miss 7-14 days after leaving Twins camp and returning to Minnesota to have it removed by a doctor.
Aside from it probably being pretty embarrassing for Cuddyer to have his foot wart make headlines, this makes me wonder why teams don’t keep better track of players’ health during the offseason.
Cuddyer will make $10.5 million this season, yet his employers didn’t know he was trying to self-treat a wart on his foot that will now require leaving spring training and missing multiple weeks of camp? Or how about his teammate Francisco Liriano being lax with his offseason conditioning program? Shouldn’t his employers, who’re paying him $4.3 million this year, have known about his lack of workouts before Liriano showed up to spring training and quickly experienced shoulder soreness when he finally started to throw?
This isn’t meant as a criticism of the Twins, as they’re hardly alone in these types of situations and Cuddyer’s wart problem (combined with Liriano’s arm soreness last month) is simply what got me thinking about the issue. But really, if a company is spending $100 million per year on a relatively small group of employees whose performance is entirely dependent on their health and physical status shouldn’t there be constant updates and room to intervene before the season is a month away?
Taking it to an extreme, how much would it cost to have a trainer visit each player on the 40-man roster in person once every six weeks during the offseason? Even if it would cost, say, $200,000, that’s half of the MLB minimum salary and about .002 percent of the average team’s payroll. Or am I nuts?
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.