Yesterday there were two reports spinning out of FOIA requests related to George Steinbrenner. One dealing with his criminal conviction for campaign finance law violations and one related to his pardon request, which was supported by multiple instances of Steinbrenner assisting the FBI.
Today the New York Times has more details about those things, including the assertions by Steinbrenner’s lawyer at the time — corroborated, it seems, by the FBI — that Steinbrenner put himself at some degree of risk in helping the FBI. The upshot: the cases involved terrorism and organized crime and there was some concern that there could be retaliation against Steinbrenner’s family if things went sideways.
Maybe this was overstated. After all, a lot of these documents appear to be from Steinbrenner’s lawyer in the course of advocating for a pardon for his client, so they’re going to naturally make things seem a bit more dire than they really were. But think how history could have changed if someone did go after The Boss’ family and, say, took out Hal instead of Hank, leaving the latter to run the Yankees by himself. I shudder at the very prospect.
In other news, the article in the New York Times is accompanied by the below picture, which is pure money, made all the more money because it was taken at Billy Martin’s funeral. If they could have somehow gotten Martin in there — or if they could have panned the crowd for some other rake or scoundrel — it could be the Mount Rushmore of vice:
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.