Red Sox

Red Sox-Yankees sign-stealing scandal encourages MLB to monitor dugout phones

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Red Sox-Yankees sign-stealing scandal encourages MLB to monitor dugout phones

Their calls may now be monitored for quality assurance.

The sign-stealing scandal between the Red Sox and Yankees didn’t exactly slip away and disappear. The part of the saga that drew the most attention was the primary accusation: that the Red Sox were using some sort of portable electronic device to relay signals.

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MLB found that that the Red Sox indeed sent “electronic communications from their video replay room to an athletic trainer in the dugout,” per the league’s press release in September.

Yet, the Red Sox accused the Yankees of also stealing signs, by using YES Network cameras to help them. The league did not find the Yankees had cheated in this manner.

“In the course of our investigation, however, we learned that during an earlier championship season (prior to 2017) the Yankees had violated a rule governing the use of the dugout phone,” the commissioner’s statement read. “No Club complained about the conduct in question at the time and, without prompting from another Club or my Office, the Yankees halted the conduct in question.  Moreover, the substance of the communications that took place on the dugout phone was not a violation of any Rule or Regulation in and of itself.  Rather, the violation occurred because the dugout phone technically cannot be used for such a communication.”

Now, MLB wants to monitor those dugout phones.

Teams have typically installed the phones at their ballpark. The league is instead looking to replace them with their own phones, sources with knowledge of the plan confirmed to NBC Sports Boston. The Yankees-Sox situation isn't the sole motivation behind the change, but a contributor.

Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, who reported the plan earlier this week

“Baseball is also working to address this problem, installing new phones in every dugout, phones that will connect only to the replay room and bullpen. All communications over those phones will be recorded and monitored, with the goal of eliminating sign-stealing conversation between the dugout and replay room.” 

A couple of uniformed folks who spoke to NBC Sports Boston about this subject recently expressed a sense that such a move was overkill.

More from Rosenthal: “Baseball even discussed banning players and coaches from leaving the dugout to go to the clubhouse or replay room but recognized that such a rule would be difficult to enforce. Still, officials believe that the process of sign stealing will become more burdensome if phone communication is eliminated. Players and coaches will need to leave the dugout and return to relay signs.”

There was chatter even during the playoffs that at least some teams were stealing signs, an act which in itself is not outlawed, but cannot be done by certain methods. As Lance McCullers Jr. of the world champion Astros recently wrote on Twitter (without reference to any specific period of play): "You can’t limit mound visits, especially from the catcher, when everyone is using adv tech to steal signs. You have to change them too often to try to keep things as 'even' as possible. And I’m not talking about signs when a man is on second."

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Don't panic over J.D. Martinez physical . . . yet

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Don't panic over J.D. Martinez physical . . . yet

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The waiting room includes the entirety of Red Sox Nation.

Another day has passed without J.D. Martinez being introduced in a Red Sox uniform. He is in Florida, awaiting a press conference like everyone else. But the Sox haven’t completed their medical process.

Don’t freak out yet.

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Martinez and the Sox agreed to terms on Tuesday. Two days in between an agreement and completion of all the medical work is not a long time by any stretch. There were three days in between David Price reportedly agreeing to terms and his introduction, for just one example.

“I have no information from them other than the review is not yet complete,” Scott Boras said Thursday.

Martinez, then, would seem to be in the dark. On one hand, why not keep the player and the agent in loop? On the other hand, if the team is investigating something that could prove to be nothing, why raise alarm unnecessarily?

The fact the Sox are in Florida and their doctors are Boston-based has worked against them logistically. Could there be a matter the Sox want reviewed with great care, an extra set of eyes? Sure. Wouldn’t you almost hope, in the case of a nine-figure investment, that the Sox would take this process slowly and carefully? Speculatively, Martinez well might have a "red flag." But that doesn't mean he's truly damaged goods, or that his contract would need to be reworked.

Perhaps the Sox are flying a specialist down to see Martinez. One baseball source said Thursday it was possible Martinez would meet with another doctor after going through exams on Wednesday, but it was unclear if that became a firm plan. Either way -- an in-person examination or a further review of records from afar -- what's happening now is all part of the same process of due diligence as best anyone can tell.

At this point, there’s no reason to think the Sox have graduated from due diligence to great alarm, from investigation to finding, as they finalize this deal. 

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Cora wants to see quick changes in Red Sox hitting approach

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Cora wants to see quick changes in Red Sox hitting approach

FORT MYERS, Fla.  -- At Fenway Park at least, there may be no need to implement silly mechanisms to increase pace of play. Alex Cora’s vision for the Sox offense could speed us along.

The Sox of yore strove to work counts for the sake of booting a starter out of the game early. A higher pitch count made it easier to get into a presumably weaker bullpen.

The difference now is manifold. For one, relievers are simply better. 

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“We used to wait them out. But that was 10 years ago, 13 years ago,” Cora said Thursday morning, before the Red Sox first exhibition game of the spring. “It's been a while. It's a different game. I had a conversation with Mikey [Lowell] about that. I was like, ‘Mikey, the starters, they go four or five innings.’

“[They don’t] bring in the 87-88 [mph] cutter/sinker/breaking ball guy. Now the guy in the sixth inning is 97 with a great off-speed pitch, secondary pitch. I'm a big believer when you get to that starter, if you can get him right away, get him. Either he'll get you or you'll get him.”

And everyone is very directly trying to "get” one another. Attack plans are both more deliberate and more easily accessible these days. The proliferation of analytics has led to better scouting reports. Waste pitches may still be thrown with some sense of purpose, but there is a trend toward maximizing efficiency. See Chris Sale, who has talked a lot about the need to reduce wasted pitches -- not necessarily the same as a purposeful pitch outside of the zone , but still in the same vein. You don't necessarily need a fastball to set up your amazing curveball, or may not need it as frequently.

The best offense in the majors in 2017 belonged to the world champion Astros, and they saw the second fewest pitches per plate appearance of anyone in the majors, 3.78. Cora was their bench coach.

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Now, you can still have a great offense and work counts. The team the Astros beat in the American League Championship Series, the Yankees, had 3.98 pitches per plate appearance in the regular season, the second-most. The Red Sox were seventh, at 3.94.

Another effect rooted in the same causes: Lineup construction doesn’t mean quite as much. A left-right balance may be helpful throughout the regular season, at least, but it doesn’t have to drive the boat.

“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter,” Cora said. “You put the best lineup out there. I hate to bring up last year, because I want turn the page, but you saw what happened at the end. We had five righties [in the Astros lineup consecutively], it didn’t matter. If you can hit, you can hit. 

“They’re good hitters. Throughout the minor leagues, you face lefties and righties and all of a sudden, your first month in the big leagues and you can’t hit lefties. I never got that. Probably have to make that decision later on, but it doesn’t matter.”

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Lineup protection isn’t a priority, either, from the sound of it.

“I believe in lineup construction, that’s most important,” Cora said recently. “You’ve got David [Ortiz] and Manny [Ramirez], you pick your poison. You’ve got Miguel [Cabrera] and Victor [Martinez], you pick your poison. You decide when to challenge who at certain times. But I think it’s making that lineup long enough to keep putting pressure on the opposition. 

“The way the league is pitching sometimes, it doesn’t matter who is hitting behind you. It’s a matter of how they attack you. There are certain teams [where] this is how you’re going to attack this guy, regardless of the situation, and they’re going to go there. If they walk him, they walk him. And if they strike him out, they strike him out. If they put together a good at-bat and they get on base, so be it. It’s a lot different because of the way stats are attacking guys. So for me, it’s all about construction."

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