Dexter Fowler wasn’t gritty enough to be the Rockies’ center fielder

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All this time I thought they played baseball games and then I read this from Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post and find out that — Jiminy Christmas! — they’re wrestling in gutters!

That’s how Kiszla puts it, anyway, after acknowledging that the Rockies have a hole in center field now that they traded away Dexter Fowler. But never fear: it’s fighting time:

The Rockies, however, are better off without Fowler.

My choice to play center: Corey Dickerson. You want the Rockies to bring a dirt-bag attitude that can wrestle with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the gutter, then Dickerson is your center fielder.

Kiszla can be forgiven, however, in that he’s merely following Walt Weiss’ lead:

“In our sport, more than any other sport, the ability to compete and grind and play with grit is extremely important, because we have to play at the highest level virtually every day for seven months. There’s no other sport like that,” Weiss said Monday. “The ability to compete through difficult circumstances and still believe you can play up here even when you get beat up by the game … The self doubt, even though it does creep in, if you can deal with that and still succeed, it’s the X factor.”

I have no doubt that attitude is a big factor in dealing with a long grind of a season. But if Dickerson couldn’t hit the cover off the ball — which he did in the minors, at least — all the grit in the world isn’t going to help him help the Rockies win baseball games. And if he can’t handle center field, as opposed to his natural position in left, he can grind all he wants. He’ll just be grinding two or three steps short of those balls in the gap which are his responsibility to track down.

Absent extreme attitude deficiencies, which Fowler has never been reported to have, what Dickerson does or Fowler could have done to help the Rockies win are functions of baseball skill and performance, not their gritty-grinding-gutter-wrestling-ways. But hey, if it helps people accept the trade of an otherwise effective player and the installation of a guy who may not be able to handle the position, well, any cliches at hand, I suppose.

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.