And I’m not even talking about greenies or horse liniment or whatever old school product that enhanced performance even if people today want to act like it didn’t. I’m talking about steroids or HGH or PEDs in that general category. We like to pretend that there isn’t anyone who did that before Jose Canseco, but that’s almost certainly false.
Evidence? For one thing there was Thomas Boswell in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary update “The Tenth Inning,” who said that he personally witnessed a current Hall of Famer take a PED-laden shake:
“There was another player now in the Hall of Fame who literally stood with me and mixed something and I said “What’s that?” and he said “it’s a Jose Canseco milkshake”. And that year that Hall of Famer hit more home runs than ever hit any other year. So it wasn’t just Canseco, and so one of the reasons that I thought that it was an important subject was that it was spreading. It was already spreading by 1988.”
Everyone forgets that and Boswell tends to keep pretty silent about that come Hall of Fame voting time in December.
Then, just last night came this interesting tidbit from Patty Blyleven, first wife of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, from Ross Newhan’s Facebook page just last night:
No, I do not consider Patty Blyleven to be an authoritative source on such matters. She may be passing things along third hand for all we know. But it’s naive in the extreme to think that the first ballplayer to ever take PEDs and then try to enter the Hall of Fame was Mark McGwire or someone of his era.
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.