Yankees think Astros are stealing signs by whistling

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During the 2018 postseason there was a bit of a thing involving the Indians and Red Sox thinking that the Astros were stealing signs and/or spying on their dugouts via the stationing of a team employee nearby. That controversy came and went with Major League Baseball issuing a statement that nothing untoward had happened.

Flash forward to this week and, once again, someone is accusing the Astros of stealing signs. This time, however, the accusation involves a far lower-tech means of doing it. From Andy Martino of SNY:

Yankees players and coaches became angry with the Astros during Game 1 of the ALCS when they noticed a whistling sound in the Astros’ dugout — which they believed was an over-the-line example of sign stealing, and a violation of the game’s unwritten rules.

According to three sources, a Yankees coach noticed a whistling sound in the opposing dugout on certain pitches on Saturday night in Houston. The Yankees started yelling across the field, and people in the dugouts argued back and forth.

“The whole dugout was pissed,” said one source. “Everyone was chirping.”

It’s all very muddy, as these things always are, but at some point it’s probably worth noting that if the Astros were stealing signs in Game 1, it didn’t bother Masahiro Tanaka much. He tossed seven shutout innings. Relevant? I dunno. That usually doesn’t stop either the complainers from complaining or the defenders defending. I just thought I’d throw it out there.

Anyway, as these stories always do, the famous “unwritten rules” have been invoked, and — surprise surprise — no one seems to be totally sure how they cut.

The general rule: sign stealing is OK, but not if you’re using technology to do it. In Martino’s story an anonymous coach asks whether there’s a further distinction between flashing your teammate a visual cue of what a pitch might be but the audio cue of a whistle might be too much. The coach thinks so, but he also adds “honestly I don’t know where to draw the lines anymore.”

We’re right there with ya, dude.

But that “no technology” rule is more than an unwritten rule these days, right? Remember when the Red Sox were busted for using Apple watches to relay signs? In the wake of that, MLB said that was an official, as opposed to an unwritten, no-no. I bring that up because a coach from a team other than the Yankees is quoted in Martino’s story suggesting that what may have been happening here is that the Astros are picking up signs — or tipped pitches — via video or other electronic means and that the whistling is the team’s way of signaling it to the batter. If that happened, well, there is more to this than just beefing. There’s an actual rules violation.

My guess, though: we get no satisfying resolution one way or another, if MLB even bothers to weigh in they’ll do what they did last year and say that nothing definitive or untoward has taken place, and everyone will move on. And that’ll be the case even if something untoward has taken place, because they really, really, do no want this kind of controversy in the middle of the postseason.

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”