Serious code violation: Brandon Belt sat in Matt Cain’s seat during the perfecto

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I don’t believe in almost any superstition. There may be an exception or two I’m forgetting, but most of it is hogwash and hoodoo for the feeble-minded. And spare me your Crash Davis “if you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you *are*!” speech. Save it for someone who’s afraid to step on the foul line while walking out to the field.

But even if I don’t believe in the superstitions themselves, I do believe that such things can become accepted enough practices among a sufficient number of people that you should at least respect the beliefs of others, however misguided they may be in provenance. It’s not a matter of thinking that their violation will cause some great harm. Rather, it’s a matter of just being cool to someone and not violating a social code. I’ll note this is how I view religion too, which is why you’ll never hear me getting up in someone’s grill about what they believe as long as it’s not harming me or anyone else.

The point of all of this: if I was pitching a perfect game — in San Francisco, say — I don’t think I’d make a point to sit in the same spot in the dugout after each inning or not talk to anyone of whatever else it is that pitchers in such a situation do. It has no effect on how I’m pitching. The key would be to make sure I didn’t lose my concentration or mojo or whatever it was, and I don’t think I’d tie that to those sorts of things.

I would, however, if I were a position player on a team in which a pitcher was doing such things, make sure not to step on whatever it is he’s doing. It’s something that Brandon Belt didn’t do last night, as Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea reports:

With Matt Cain closing in on the 22nd perfect game in major league history, and the first in the Giants’ 129 years as a franchise, Belt sat down in the dugout after the seventh inning to take a deep breath.

“I sat down and Cainer just stopped and stared at me,” said Belt, whose eyes grew wide with panic. “Yeah, I guess everything was OK until I sat in his seat.”

Can you imagine the perfect game was lost right after that? Belt would probably want to go find a hole someplace in which to die.  And it would suck for all of us Belt fanboys too, because the dude is just now starting to get some regular playing time, and I would bet that the ruckus all of that would cause would be enough for Bruce Bochy to exile him to Fresno or San Jose or points even farther away.

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.