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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Astros 7, Indians 1: Gerrit Cole allowed one over seven but struck out only four so I can only assume something is wrong with him. Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Yordan Álvarez each knocked in two with Bregman and George Springer each homering. Springer’s homer came in the first. Again: shocker. Cole has not lost since May 22. I can’t remember what I was doing and thinking and how I was living my life on May 22. It may as well be 1983 or something. New Indians Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes made their debut. Puig doubled and went 1-for-3 with a stolen base and Reyes went 1-for-4.

Dodgers 8, Padres 2: Will Smith — the Dodgers’ Will Smith, not the Giants’ Will Smith, and unlike yesterday, this morning I think I got the link to the right player — came to the plate with the bases loaded in the sixth with his guys down 2-1 to the other guys. Then he did this:

The best part of that is Padres reliever Trey Wingenter pointing straight up like he’s gonna help his fielder track it down. Which, I dunno, maybe off the bat to him it looked like a popup. It’s kinda how it looked from the TV angle. We are in the juiced ball age and all manner of struck balls that, a couple of years ago, woulda fallen short of the wall seem to be sailing over. Rules are rules, though, and if the ball goes over the fence it’s a homer and this one went over the fence to give the Dodgers a 5-1 lead and after that it was all just details. Smith, by the way, is hitting .349/.396/.884 with six homers in 14 games as a big leaguer.

Marlins 5, Twins 4: The Twins blew a 4-1 lead in the ninth thanks to some ineffective relief from the newly-acquired Sam Dyson, with Neil Walker‘s two-run single tying things up. Then Harold Ramírez smacked a homer in the bottom of the 12th to give the Marlins the walkoff win. Apparently Dyson was working on three hours sleep after the trade and travel. Maybe give him a day to unwind from travel, Rocco? Let him take his shoes off in his hotel room and make fists with his toes and chill out and all of that?

Phillies 10, Giants 2: J.T. Realmuto singled, doubled and hit a three-run homer and César Hernández and Roman Quinn each went deep. Jake Arrieta allowed two runs over four but left early due to a wonky elbow. They’re saying bone spur. I suppose we’ll take their word for it.

Mets 4, White Sox 0: Zack Wheeler tossed seven innings of four-hit ball and Robinson Canó homered and doubled in a run. What’s the what with the Mets lately, you guys? Seven straight wins and now four back of the Wild Card. Do I think they’ll do it? Eh, wouldn’t bet the farm. But they’re downright frisky at the moment.

Athletics 5, Brewers 3: The Brewers clung to a 3-2 lead in the eighth with Josh Hader on the mound but Matt Chapman got the best of him, smacking a two-run homer. That’s the second time in three games against Oakland that Hader has given up a dinger and a lead. Chad Pinder went deep as well and Mark Canha had three hits, as the A’s took their fourth in their last five games. Or their fourth in their last eight. Depends on how you wanna look at it. End points are useful tools of propaganda, you know. In the long run we’re all dead. Sorry, this is getting dark. Let’s move on.

Blue Jays 11, Orioles 2: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit two homers and drove in four and the Jays hit five in all, with Randal Grichuk, Danny Jansen and Billy McKinney going deep for the blue birds. Wait, no one ever calls them the blue birds. Ah, who cares, let’s start now. Trent Thornton got the start and allowed one over six while enjoying far more run support than he’ll get for most of the rest of his career. Not trying to be pessimistic. Just stating facts.

Rays 9, Red Sox 4: Andrew Cashner started for Boston and got smacked around good. Smacked around so good that even Peter Gammons, who is generally not a shade-thrower, is offering some low-key bile on Twitter this morning:

I think the “Boston’s only acquisition” is the kicker there. It’s the equivalent of “I’m not even mad, just disappointed.” Not what you tend to see from old Gammo these days. Anyway, Mike Zunino and Austin Meadows homered while Brendan McKay pitched into the sixth, allowing three runs to give the Rays their fourth straight win and a three-game sweep of the Sox. Tommy Pham had two RBI singles and Jesus Aguilar singled and scored twice. Xander Bogaerts hit two homers in a losing cause. Boston has lost four straight. 

Cardinals 8, Cubs 0: Jack Flaherty tossed one-hit, shutout ball for seven innings while striking out nine, Matt Wieters hit a three-run shot and José Martínez, Kolten Wong and Yairo Muniz each had RBI singles for the Cardinals. St. Louis takes two of three and takes sole possession of first place in the Central from the Cubbies.

Braves 4, Reds 1: A rain-shortened game but that’s fine because it allowed me to turn it off an watch “L.A. Confidential” for the 50th time or whatever. Max Fried allowed one over six while Freddie Freeman and Adam Duvall homered. For Duvall that’s four homers in the last three games. I admire him as a hitter – particularly his adherence to violence to baseballs as a necessary adjunct to the job. Have you a valediction, boyo?

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.