Every offseason, there is a player or two who seem to keep bouncing around from team to team. Usually, different clubs are involved. In pitcher Ian Clarkin‘s case, he has oddly bounced between just the Cubs and White Sox throughout the offseason.
On November 20, the Cubs claimed him off waivers from the White Sox. The White Sox got him back six days later, claiming him off waivers from the Cubs. On January 8, the White Sox designated him for assignment. Today, the Cubs announced the club claimed him off waviers from the White Sox. Clarkin is essentially a hot potato the Cubs and White Sox keep passing to each other.
Clarkin, 23, hasn’t pitched in the majors yet, which is why the only picture we had of him was from 2012, when he pitched in an 18U tournament for the United States. The lefty was selected in the first round (33rd overall) of the 2013 draft by the Yankees. The Yankees packaged him with Tyler Clippard and Blake Rutherford when they acquired Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox in July 2017.
This past season, Clarkin pitched 85 innings in the minors, 68 2/3 of which came with Double-A Birmingham. With Birmingham, he posted a 4.98 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 31 walks across 10 starts and eight relief appearances. Clarkin will open the 2019 season in the minors.
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.