One-game playoff Deep Thought

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The Rangers are out. And the Braves — as approximately 2,245 of you have reminded me — are out too.  They were the losers in baseball’s new one-game playoff and thus their season has ended.

Normally when a team gets knocked out of the playoffs there is space and time for anger and/or reflection and/or crying about it. If only the manager wasn’t an idiot! If only our bullpen didn’t suck! If only x, y, z, etc. etc.!!

Really, though, it’s hard to get worked up about how it all ended this year. I hope Rangers fans feel the same way. I hope that fans of any team that plays and loses in the wild card playoff from here until the end of time feels that way too, because one game — while meaning everything in the context of this new playoff format — means nothing in terms of how good, bad, flawed or whatever a baseball team is, and thus should not form the basis of a fan’s anger or sadness.

This isn’t sour grapes. I realize the season ended and if they wanted to advance, my Braves had to take care of business. They didn’t, and it’s all on them. I’m not going to blame baseball for it or claim that their elimination was somehow illegitimate. These are the rules, and if the Braves don’t like being eliminated in a one game playoff, they should have won their division.

But it’s not gonna cause me, as a fan, to be too mad or sad about my team.  For my entire baseball-watching life, one game — outside of occasional playoff series elimination games — hasn’t meant anything.  Bad games happen and the guys live to fight another day. Think of how many Game 1 flops your favorite team has had in playoff series in the past. Now think of whether, how they did after Game 1 affected how you felt about them. Think about how it would have changed if they were playing in the wild card series then.

What I’m saying is that just because Bud and the TV networks decided that one game is everything doesn’t mean I have to change how I’ve always understood baseball. And my understanding of baseball is that a team’s value is determined over a season. Or, less fully, over a month. Or less fully than that, over a series.  And, the 2012 playoff elimination notwithstanding, I will still and will always judge the Braves 2012 season as a successful one.

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.