Twins right-hander Joe Nathan blew his second consecutive save opportunity on Saturday afternoon against the Rays and has looked like a shell of his former self since spring training began.
Only 13 months removed from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, the veteran Nathan simply doesn’t have the arm strength nor the command to handle high pressure situations.
So the Twins made a change on Sunday.
According to Kelsie Smith of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minnesota coaching staff has decided to name Matt Capps as the team’s new closer. Nathan will be used in low pressure middle relief situations until he begins showing improvement.
Capps has allowed three earned runs in his last 1.1 innings of work, but he was really sharp in the ninth inning last season for the Nationals and Twins, and he should be able to handle the responsibility here in 2011.
Nathan was the picture of consistency at the back end of the Twins’ bullpen for an entire decade and he should be able to get back to an elite level eventually. But, right now, he’s not fit for the role.
Minnesota is currently sitting at the bottom of the American League Central standings with a 4-10 record.
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.