Mets pretty sure Ike Davis has Valley Fever

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Mets first baseman Ike Davis missed over 100 games last season due to a left ankle injury.

And now his 2012 is off to a rough start.

According to Marty Noble of MLB.com, the Mets are “treating Davis as if Valley Fever has been diagnosed” and are already planning days off for him this spring. His blood work is not done being reviewed in New York, but there’s a certainty in Port St. Lucie about what it will eventually say.

Valley Fever is a fungal disease common in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico (Davis lives in Arizona) with symptoms ranging from fevers and coughs to rashes and joint aches. It cost former Diamondbacks outfielder Conor Jackson nearly the entire 2009 season and created a hole in former minor leaguer Joe Vavra’s lung. Vavra is now the Twins’ major league hitting coach.

Davis isn’t symptomatic yet, and the disease can clear on its own, but the Mets are prepared for the worst. When asked Saturday whether the team has developed a contingency plan in case the talented 24-year-old is again absent from the lineup, manager Terry Collins replied: “Had to. Have to be prepared. Can’t be blindsided.” Lucas Duda would likely fill in at first base, where he started 37 games in 2011.

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.