Red Sox

Evan Drellich: Sign stealing is escalating spitting game for Yankees and Red Sox

Evan Drellich: Sign stealing is escalating spitting game for Yankees and Red Sox

BOSTON — These teams want to watch each other burn. What a wonderful spitting game to take in.

The Red Sox have no doubt the Yankees wanted the sign-stealing story public. It’s just a little icing on the cake for the Yanks, who took three out of four over the weekend and are quickly closing in on first place. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski on Tuesday noted the league’s investigation has been going for 10, 12 days — maybe two weeks.

“The Yankees decided they wanted to give it to the [New York Times] today, for whatever reason,” Dombrowski said.

To be clear: one of the game’s most well-respected executives just accused the game’s most famous franchise of leaking a story to The New York Times.

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George Steinbrenner would be eating this stuff up. Yankees president Randy Levine is probably laughing himself to sleep.

It’s entertaining as hell for everyone watching. Between the competitiveness of the division, CC Sabathia’s unhappiness with bunting and new accusations of electronic theft, The Rivalry is turning into a soap opera again.

The Red Sox’ guilt doesn’t seem in question.

The New York Times reported the iSox have acknowledged they stole signs using electronic devices. Neither commissioner Rob Manfred nor the Red Sox confirmed as much Tuesday, saying the investigation was still ongoing. There were no denials issued on the Sox behalf, and Dombrowski seemed more bemused than anything else. 

The Sox have cooperated fully, and indications are they know they were wrong. The commissioner noted that stealing signs is a legal act, simply one that can’t be aided by electronics. 

Normally, though, the Sox’ discipline wouldn’t be public. None of this would be. Now everyone knows.

Just how the Yankees wanted it, perhaps? 

Clever, clever. It’s notable the matter became public the same day that the Sox filed a counter-complaint about the Yankees: for using a TV camera to steal signs.

Per the Times, the Sox’ complaint came on Tuesday.

“I do believe that this is a charged situation from a competitive perspective,” Manfred said. “When you have the kind of rivalry that the Yankees and the Red Sox have, I guess it’s not shocking you could have charges and counter charges like this. We will conduct a thorough investigation of the charges on both sides. I want to do that quickly. I think that’s important, that we get it resolved.

The iSox, who are trying to gain a competitive advantage like everyone else, have only themselves to blame for what happens from here. The commissioner said he wants any potential punishments to act as deterrents. So, the Sox may once again be held up as an example for the rest of the league, just as they were last year when they were punished sternly for impermissible international signings.

But the Yanks might get their punishment too, now that the Sox have countersued.

Once electronics get involved with the intent of gaining an advantage, a rule has been violated — Apple Watch, a YES Network camera, it does not appear it should matter by the letter of the law.

The most relevant portion of a bulletin provided to all teams prohibiting such action: “No equipment may be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a Club an advantage.”

So here’s the Yanks position: you, the Red Sox, tried to cheat us and got little out of it. We beat you anyway, and you hit .143 against us with runners in scoring position, which is when your sign-stealing was supposed to work. And now, you’re turning around and trying to accuse us of cheating?

Here you go, check out the Grey Lady.

It’s a brazen move, particularly if the Yanks don’t win the division, or get knocked out in the Wild Card round. And it is befitting the rivalry.

Manfred said at Fenway Park on Tuesday that these matters are typically handled between general managers. One GM calls another, the league doesn’t get involved and that’s that. But, Manfred said, there have been times where other teams have raised concerns about electronic sign stealing with the league, so the matter is not unprecedented.

Spitting games are much more enjoyable when public. 

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Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

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Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve embraced Justin Verlander as confetti rained down. An improbable thought just a few years ago, the Houston Astros are headed to the World Series.

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. combined on a three-hitter, Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Astros reached the World Series for only the second time by blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Verlander, the ALCS MVP , and fellow Houston ace Dallas Keuchel will have plenty of rest before the World Series begins at sweltering Dodger Stadium.

"I love our personality," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have the right amount of fun, the right amount of seriousness, the right amount of perspective when we need it. This is a very, very unique group. To win 100 games and still be hungry is pretty remarkable."

The Astros will try for their first World Series title, thanks in large part to Altuve , the diminutive second baseman who swings a potent bat, and Verlander, who switched teams for the first time in his career to chase a ring.

Four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees on consecutive nights after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first crown, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

"This city, they deserve this," McCullers said.

Clutch defensive plays by third baseman Alex Bregman and center fielder George Springer helped Houston improve to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and become the fifth team in major league history to capture a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four. A noted curveballer, McCullers finished up with 24 straight breaking pitches to earn his first major league save.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron JudgeGary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

"I know people are going to talk about how we didn't win many games on the road. There were some other teams that haven't won many games on the road, either. We just happened to run into a very good team that just beat us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Astros also eliminated New York in the 2015 postseason, with Keuchel winning the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia entered 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double. He snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night in a 7-1 win.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York went 1-6 on the road this postseason.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS exactly 13 years earlier.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh.

With McCullers in charge, the Astros soon closed it out.

"It's not easy to get here. And I don't take any of this for granted. And this is what we play for," Verlander said. "These are the experiences that you remember at the end of your career when you look back, winning these games, just playing the World Series. Hopefully winning the World Series."

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Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

UPDATE: The deal is for three years, per Ken Rosenthal.

BOSTON — We’re just waiting on an announcement now.

A pair of national reports on Saturday afternoon, one from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal... 

...And another from MLB Network and FanRagSports.com's Jon Heyman...

have firmed up Alex Cora’s expected hiring as Red Sox manager. Both reported that Cora, the Astros bench coach, is expected to take the job once Houston's season ends, which could come as soon as Saturday night after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. 

Heyman reported a contract offer has already been made to Cora. 

A baseball source said this week that there was “not a doubt” Cora, the Astros bench coach, would wind up with the Red Sox gig. It’s unclear when exactly the offer was made to him, but one had not been made as of midday Wednesday, the source said. 

Cora, 41, a former Red Sox infielder (2005-08) who's also worked in the media and is the most sought-after managerial candidate at the moment, appeared the front-runner since the outset of what proved a small search for the Red Sox.

Earlier, Boston Globe reported that the Washington Nationals were interested in Cora after they fired Dusty Baker on Friday.