Jason Heyward happy for a fresh start with the Cardinals

18 Comments

The Braves traded outfielder Jason Heyward along with reliever Jordan Walden to the Cardinals in December in exchange for starter Shelby Miller and minor league pitcher Tyrell Jenkins. Though Heyward had been productive in his five seasons with the Braves, he didn’t quite live up to the expectations he brought with him as a 14th-overall pick in the 2007 draft.

As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, Heyward thinks that his new home in St. Louis is “the best thing that could have happened to me.”

“I spent five years at this level with one organization and I still don’t know if I’ve seen the best of myself,” Heyward said. “I would say a fresh start would be good. I feel like that was kind of self-explanatory. Look at it. I do feel that this is the best thing that could have happened to me as far as playing this game, getting a new start somewhere else. Absolutely.”

Heyward also has the tough job of replacing prospect Oscar Taveras, who died in an October car accident in the Dominican Republic, in right field.

Heyward, at times a target of derision among Braves fans and pundits, batted .262/.351/.429 with 84 home runs and 292 RBI in 2,819 plate appearances. He can become a free agent after the season and has previously stated interest in discussing a contract extension with the Cardinals.

An Astros executive asked scouts to use cameras, binoculars to steal signs in 2017

Getty Images
12 Comments

The Athletic reports that an Astros executive asked scouts to spy on opponents’ dugouts in August of 2017, suggesting in an email that they use cameras or binoculars to do so.

The email, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports, came from Kevin Goldstein, who is currently a special assistant for player personnel but who at the time was the director of pro scouting. In it he wrote:

“One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout. What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings.”

The email came during the same month that the Red Sox were found to have illegally used an Apple Watch to steal signs from the Yankees. The Red Sox were fined as a result, and it led to a clarification from Major League Baseball that sign stealing via electronic or technological means was prohibited. Early in 2019 Major League Baseball further emphasized this rule and stated that teams would receive heavy penalties, including loss of draft picks and/or bonus pool money if they were found to be in violation.

It’s an interesting question whether Goldstein’s request to scouts would fall under the same category as the Apple Watch stuff or other technology-based sign-stealing schemes. On the one hand, the email certainly asked scouts to use cameras and binoculars to get a look at opposing signs. On the other hand, it does not appear that it was part of a sign-relaying scheme or that it was to be used in real time. Rather, it seems aimed at information gathering for later use. The Athletic suggests that using eyes or binoculars would be considered acceptable in 2017 but that cameras would not be. The Athletic spoke to scouts and other front office people who all think that asking scouts to use a camera would “be over the line” or would constitute “cheating.”

Of course, given how vague, until very recently Major League Baseball’s rules have been about this — it’s long been governed by the so-called “unwritten rules” and convention, only recently becoming a matter of official sanction — it’s not at all clear how the league might consider it. It’s certainly part and parcel of an overarching sign-stealing culture in baseball which we are learning has moved far, far past players simply looking on from second base to try to steal signs, which has always been considered a simple matter of gamesmanship. Now, it appears, it is organizationally-driven, with baseball operations, scouting and audio-visual people being involved. The view on all of this has changed given how sophisticated and wide-ranging an operation modern sign-stealing appears to be. Major League Baseball was particularly concerned, at the time the Red Sox were punished for the Apple Watch stuff, that it involved management and front office personnel.

Regardless of how that all fits together, Goldstein’s email generated considerable angst among Astros scouts, many of whom, The Athletic and ESPN report, commented in real time via email and the Astros scout’s Slack channel, that they considered it to be an unreasonable request that would risk their reputations as scouts. Some voiced concern to management. Today that email has new life, emerging as it does in the wake of last week’s revelations about the Astros’ sign-stealing schemes.

This is quickly becoming the biggest story of the offseason.