This past Thursday, Laura Armstrong of the Toronto Star reported that entomologist Bob Anderson, from the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, named a newly discovered species of beetle after former Blue Jays slugger José Bautista. Anderson is a fan of Toronto sports and decided to honor Bautista due to his famous bat flip after hitting a three-run home run in Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS against the Rangers.
The species is known as Sicoedrus bautistai, found in Bautista’s native Dominican Republic. It is a true weevil in the family of beetles known as Curculionidae. There are over 60,000 known species of weevils.
According to Armstrong, Anderson has coined names for two or three hundred species across his 30-year career. Bautista is not the first athlete to serve as the namesake for an insect. Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask had a species of wasp named after him in 2015, called Thaumatodryinus tuukkaraski. Additionally, José Fernández-Triana of the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada named a species of parasitoid wasps after legendary Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, Diolcogaster ichiroi.
Bautista, 38, spent the 2018 season in the NL East with the Braves, Mets, and Phillies. He hit a combined .203/.348/.378 in 122 games. His days of being a starter are numbered, but he could serve as a bench bat next season. He likely will have to settle for a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Even if Bautista doesn’t have a uniform come spring training, he has a species of beetle named after him and no one can take that away from him.
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.