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Did Luis Severino warm up too late for Game 3?

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Yankees starter Luis Severino lasted three-plus innings last night and, thanks to a lack of anyone picking him up when he left the game in a jam, ended up surrendering six runs on seven hits and two walks with two strikeouts. He wasn’t sharp at all, with Red Sox batters barreling him up early and often. That happens to even the best pitchers sometimes, especially against outstanding offensive teams like the Red Sox. But was something else going on last night?

TBS broadcaster Ron Darling thought so. He said that Severino was mistaken about what time the game was supposed to start — thinking it was an 8:07 start instead of a 7:40 — and warmed up too late.

During the game, TBS showed video of Severino playing catch in the outfield as pitching coach Larry Rothschild walks up to him to tell him something. Severino was later shown first taking the bullpen mound at 7:32, only eight minutes before game time and, as it turned out, ten minutes before he threw the game’s first pitch. Darling made a point to say that Severino’s warmup was truncated and might’ve affected him. Later YES analyst and former Yankees catcher John Flaherty agreed, saying “There is no way you can go on a big league bullpen mound eight minutes before the scheduled first pitch and expect to be ready.”

Severino, however, took strong issue with Darling’s suggestion that the warmup was rushed, claiming that he always goes out to the outfield to throw 20 minutes before a game and then takes the bullpen mound “ten, eight minutes” before a game:

“If my pitching coach said it, you could believe it. Whatever [Darling] said, he’s not always in my bullpen; how would he know what time I go out? I came out 20 minutes before the game like I usually do. I don’t know why he would say that . . . I always go into the bullpen 10, eight minutes before the game. I warm up quick, so that’s always my plan.”

Rothschild later had Severino’s back on that, saying that there was no doubt that he knew when the game was to start, having told Severino the start time in the clubhouse well before talking to him on the field. Both he and manager Aaron Boone also made a point to say that whatever struggles Severino had, it was not because of his pregame routine. He was just off.

Still, Rothschild and Boone were not totally unequivocal on the matter. Rothschild:

“I think that’s a little bit blown out of proportion. In the playoffs, the routine is always [different] because of introductions and everything. He does a lot inside and he comes out a little bit later than most starters.”

Boone:

“I’m not saying — I’m saying he had his — he had plenty of warmup,” Boone said. “He had what he intended to go down there and get done, and Larry said he was able to get through his normal routine, where he faces a couple hitters and everything. So it wasn’t an issue.”

At this point I suppose it’s academic, as the shellacking is now in the rear-view mirror.

To the extent it remains a controversy today, however, I’d say that, on the one hand, you can believe Severino if/when he says that he had his totally normal routine, assuming nothing else comes out to rebut that, because we really don’t know better than he does.

On the other hand, however, if, as Rothschild and Boone obliquely imply, he did have a shorter than normal routine, don’t buy the “but it didn’t matter” narrative, because I have never, ever heard a starting pitcher claim that his pregame routine was not important.  Quite to the contrary, actually. Most of these guys regiment their start days from the time they wake up until first pitch. A rushed warmup session would catastrophic for some of these guys.

Is Severino one of those guys? I dunno, but his night was catastrophic either way.

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

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Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.