Associated Press

Could an accountant play credible inning of Major League Baseball?

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Last night the Chicago Blackhawks lost two goalies and were forced to press an emergency goalie they signed earlier in the day into action. That emergency goalie, Scott Foster, stopped all seven shots attempted by the opposing Winnipeg Jets.

That doesn’t seem all that odd until you realize that in the NHL emergency goalies are not like minor leaguers you call up or members of an NFL-style taxi squad. Per the weird NHL roster rules, guys who fill that role hardly ever play and don’t even dress for the game. It was rather flukey that Foster even saw action. He has a day job as an accountant, for Pete’s sake, and last played competitive hockey in the 2005-06 season at Western Michigan University. He’ll likely go back to accounting on a full time basis because he only made $500 yesterday. It’s like hiring a temp.

That’s a pretty neat story. One that made me wonder if an analogous situation could ever occur in Major League Baseball.

OK, I know it couldn’t happen, practically speaking, because teams have bench players, emergency catchers and minor league reserves on call as a matter of course. No, what I’m really wondering what would happen if a big league team could sign an accountant to a one-day contract and what would happen if that guy had to play.

My wife happens to work for a small accounting firm. It’s a good group of people. I go to their firm bowling outings and holiday parties and stuff, but I’m not sure I’ve paid close enough attention to the office’s aggregate level of athletic talent to know if anyone there could do it for sure. Here are the data points I had as of a few minutes ago:

  • We all went to a Columbus Clippers game last summer, but all that showed me was who could drink beer in the sun the best [me, natch];
  • On the wall of the office when you walk in the front door of the place there are three framed baseball jerseys with the partners’ names on the back. I’m not exactly sure why — the place has no baseball connection whatsoever and does not even field a rec league softball team — but it’s kinda cool;
  • My wife’s boss, Jim, has a bottle of Beanball Bourbon from the Cooperstown Distillery on the shelf of his office, which I think was a gift from a client. That’s likewise inconclusive as I have the same bottle and I can’t play baseball at all.

Could any of the accountants at my wife’s office fill in for the Cincinnati Reds if, say, Scooter Gennett, Jose Peraza, Eugenio Suarez and Cliff Pennington all got eaten by sharks at the Newport Aquarium three hours before game time, if I-71 between Louisville and Cincy was blocked by a landslide and if Trump ordered the FAA to ground all air traffic for the day for, I dunno, reasons? What if the Reds had NO CHOICE WHATSOEVER but to put an accountant into the game and on that same day my wife’s firm was at Great American Ballpark on a company outing? I decided to ask my wife.

Me: Could any of the accountants at your office play one inning of major league baseball in any capacity and be credible? This is actually a serious question I’m writing an article about it.

Allison: What are you even talking about?

Me: An accountant played in an NHL game last night. I want to know if one can play baseball.

Allison: Jim says no. Maybe Matt.

Me: What are Matt’s qualifications?

Allison: Matt is the least fat and most in shape.

Me: How old is Matt?

Allison: 41.

Hmm. I was getting a little worried here. As we’ve written so often recently, baseball is becoming a young man’s game. Bartolo Colon can’t make a roster anymore. Ichiro is only on a 25-man because of nostalgia. And that’s before you realize that those two guys can play baseball. Was there anyone else at the firm who could play?

Allison: Wait, Bruce says Jamie is actually the most in shape, but we’re not sure if he knows anything about baseball.

Me: What are Jamie’s qualifications?

Allison: He was all-state football in high school.

Me: That’s not bad!

Allison: He’s 45.

Crap. Alright. Sorry Matt, but Jamie may have some athletic muscle memory that has almost but not entirely disappeared. He gets the call.

I mentioned the Reds suffering an infield catastrophe earlier because, really, I don’t think anything else would remotely work. There’s just too much ground to cover in the outfield for a 40-something accountant. Pitching and catching would be downright dangerous. No civilian has the arm for third or short. Second base may be harder to field than first base, but a first baseman may be killed by a hard throw from one of the other infielders. Also: no damn accountant is moving Joey Votto off of first base anyway.

So we put Jamie at second base. He bats eighth, with the pitcher batting seventh (Billy Hamilton seems to own the ninth slot these days). Just let me enter all of these variables into the simulator, and  . . .

Ok, Jamie got no fielding chances in the first two innings and then went 0-for-1 in his only plate appearance in the bottom of the second. Specifically, he struck out on three straight batting practice fastballs from Max Scherzer of the Nationals who was NOT AT ALL pleased at having to deal with this crap.

In the top of the third Jamie was killed by Bryce Harper who was running from first base on a grounder to short as Jamie attempted to cover the bag. The game was canceled and the Reds forfeited because they could not scrape up all of his body parts from the base path. RIP Jamie.

All of which is to say: great job, Scott Foster! That had to have been much harder than it looked!

 

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.