Bryce Harper
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Giants meet with Bryce Harper

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Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports that multiple members of the Giants front office met with Bryce Harper this week. That includes team Chairman Larry Baer, President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi and Manager Bruce Bochy. The meeting took place in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas.

The Giants, who are in a transitional period following 98 and 89-loss seasons, have not committed to a full-blown rebuild like some losing teams have, but their recent hiring of Zaidi at least suggested that they would take a slower approach as they attempt to return to contention. As it is, their only offseason additions this winter have been Derek Holland, Drew Pomeranz and Pat Venditte, which is not exactly a case of the Giants setting the world on fire.

Still, Harper is a generational talent and, assuming the Giants’ timetable is only a couple of years rather than, say, five years, it would make a lot of sense for them to be interested in a player like Harper to build around. Or retrench around. Whatever you wanted to call it.

As for Harper, whether he’d be interested in going to San Francisco is an open question. It’s certainly a great baseball town with an ownership group which has shown it likes to spend money. The issue is whether he’d want to go to a place where, at least for the short term, the road to contention seems rocky.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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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.