The Baseball Project is the greatest idea ever and, unlike a lot of great ideas, the execution is pretty fantastic too. It’s a supergroup of sorts, consisting of Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, Mike Mills , Steve Wynn and Linda Pitmon, and all of their music is about baseball. They just put out their third album — appropriately called “3rd” — a couple of weeks ago.
I just heard it for the first time. One standout song among many good ones: “They Don’t Know Henry.” It’s about how, for everything that has ever been said or written about Henry Aaron, not too many people know the real Aaron. As bandleader McCaughey put it in this interview with Riverfront Times:
So much of it was manufactured. It wasn’t him. People wanted him to fit into this niche and be this guy. He was never called Hank in his entire life. Nobody who knew him would ever call him Hank, and they immediately made him “Hammering Hank,” just like when Roberto Clemente came up, he was ‘Bobby Clemente.’ That was not him. That’s the kind of thing that was foisted on these guys, especially in the ’50s if they weren’t white. Aaron didn’t want to be a well-known person. He’s a pretty private guy.
People are still manufacturing things about Aaron. Using him as their avatar for battles over Barry Bonds and steroids. Pouncing on the relatively innocuous things he says in order to take political offense. As if Aaron were at the vanguard of these sorts of political battles as opposed to a man in his 70s merely offering his personal view on the matter or, in some cases, trying to steer clear altogether. It’s a no-win situation for a guy like Aaron in the era in which he came of age and into the public life: be outspoken and flamboyant and you get called a showboat (or far worse). Keep one’s own counsel and speak rarely, have others fill the vacuum with what they’d have you stand for rather than what you do.
Anyway, give a listen. And consider picking up The Baseball Project’s new album:
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.