On Friday, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. joined host Major Garrett on the CBS Podcast “The Takeout.” Among other things, the two discussed the sign-stealing scandals that involved the Astros and Red Sox. His suggestion for dealing with a team stealing signs like the Astros did? Easy, throw at them.
Here’s what he said:
In a really harsh way, you tell the pitcher to put down a curve ball [sign], the guy on second [base] tells the hitter that a curve ball is coming. And then you throw a pitch right here. [Gestures to his chin.] Then, their life flashes in front of their eyes. And I will tell you that you break the trust between that sign-stealing scheme that’s going on and if you’re a hitter, and that guy gives you the next sign, you gotta say, ‘Hmm, I wonder if that’s really going to be a fastball or a breaking ball.’ And then I think you win.
The problem with Ripken’s scenario is that he envisions pitchers having pinpoint accuracy. As we know well, no pitcher — not Zack Greinke, not Max Scherzer, not Justin Verlander — has pinpoint control. So a pitcher throws a pitch like Ripken suggests, near the batter’s chin, but he’s off by a couple of inches. Now the pitch hits the batter in the cheek or the eye and suffers a serious, season-ending — potentially career-ending — injury.
Don’t believe me? Ask Giancarlo Stanton, who was hit in the face by a Mike Fiers pitch in September 2014. He suffered multiple facial fractures as well as dental damage. It could have been worse: Stanton could have suffered a concussion. He could have even been killed if he had been hit in the wrong spot. A baseball, thrown by a trained athlete at 95-100 MPH, is a weapon.
The way to discourage players from cheating is to create heavy enough punishments that the risk does not outweigh the reward. While many would argue that MLB has not done that with the punishments levied to the Astros and Red Sox, it’s still better than becoming a vigilante and weaponizing the baseball.