Pablo Sandoval responds to Aubrey Huff’s criticism: “Who is Aubrey Huff?”

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Third baseman Pablo Sandoval decided to leave the Giants as a free agent, ultimately signing with the Red Sox on a five-year, $95 million deal in November. Sandoval was beloved in San Francisco, helping the team win three championships over the last five seasons. Despite that, there’s some ongoing bad blood between Sandoval and the Giants.

Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller recently quoted Sandoval as saying the Giants, including GM Brian Sabean, “didn’t respect” his agent. In explaining why he took less money to join the Red Sox, Sandoval said, “It is not about money. It is about how you treat the player.” When asked what he would miss about the Giants, Sandoval said, “Only Bochy.” He then added, “And Hunter Pence. Just those guys.”

Former Giant Aubrey Huff went on Facebook recently, responding to Sandoval. He wrote (via ESPN’s Marly Rivera and Gordon Edes):

“I’m pretty sure their (sic) wasn’t a tear shed on behalf of all the players, and the coaches when he signed with Boston,” Huff’s Facebook post from earlier in the week read. “It has always been about Pablo. He had the fans fooled but not the players! One of the biggest reasons he didn’t want to come back is because the Giants made him workout on the treadmill every day! Pretty sure that was a driving force for him! Never the less [sic] he could have always been a legend in San Fran but ego always will come in to play when it comes to Pablo! Sorry for the rant just want to take up for the players who are there now holding their tongues, because they don’t want to get in the middle of this! If you can’t get along with guys like (Buster) Posey, (Madison) Bumgarner, (Matt) Cain, (Jeremy) Affeldt (sic), just to name a few, then maybe it’s time to look in the mirror! Rant over!”

Sandoval’s response? “Who is Aubrey Huff?” He continued, “What is important here is to see where the person who made those comments is, and where I am now, that’s what counts.” He called Huff’s Facebook post “completely incoherent”.

Sandoval accrued 21.1 Wins Above Replacement (per Baseball Reference) over seven seasons with the Giants,  making the NL All-Star team twice. He frequently drew criticism for his weight, something Huff alluded to in mentioning that the Giants made him run on the treadmill every day. Huff intimates that Sandoval is lazy and selfish. Sandoval responded, saying, “I’m not selfish and I have always worked very hard for my team. Those are things I have proven to my teammates, especially working with young players.”

It will be interesting to see if Huff or anyone else associated with the Giants responds to Sandoval’s latest salvo, or if the issue will dissipate as the regular season draws closer.

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

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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.