Red Sox

Rob Manfred, MLB failing with cheating measures

Rob Manfred, MLB failing with cheating measures

HOUSTON —  Rob Manfred needs to come up with transparency for the public, and fast. Major League Baseball has a sticky situation to sort out after an Astros employee was engaging in some shady behavior both in Cleveland and Boston during the playoffs this year. 

A person working for the Astros — first identified by Yahoo Sports and confirmed by NBC Sports Boston to be Kyle McLaughlin — impermissibly attempted to tape the Sox dugout in Boston during Game 1 of the ALCS, sources said. The Sox were tipped off to McLaughlin by the Indians, who encountered him engaging in similar activity in the ALDS this year.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski confirmed the occurrence at Fenway Park to the media Tuesday night after the Red Sox won Game 3. Major League Baseball confirmed it was looking into the matter.

“It did not affect our first game, what took place,” Dombrowski said. “The person was removed much earlier in the game.”

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Whether it’s professional jealousy playing out in the form of a complaint or a larger, legitimate problem specific the Astros; whether this was something everyone on the Astros knew about, or was an endeavor known to just a few taskmasters — these are questions for MLB to sort now. And it needs to do so in a way that instills confidence that it, one, has a grasp on how to consistently enforce its own rules, and two, that its rules actually make sense in modern times.

The league’s approach thus far in these matters has been to stay quiet unless someone tattles. Hush-hush, unless reporters or the public catch wind — then deal with it begrudgingly.

“We are aware of the matter and it will be handled internally,” Major League Baseball said Tuesday night, reiterating the statement it gave to Metro, which first broke the story.

Recall that when the commissioner spoke at Fenway Park about the Apple Watch saga last year, he seemed tickled that the matter became public at all.

Integrity of the game has always been paramount, or at least projected to be. But the league is incentivizing people in the industry to both cheat — punishments are rare — and to throw accusations around, because that’s the only way matters become investigated.

The league has taken some proactive steps. This year, dugout phone calls became something the league can listen back to. MLB this postseason has more consistently monitored video replay rooms, as well, sources said.

But why hasn't the latter move been publicly advertised? The cat's out of the bag.

“It’s intense, to say the least,” one source with a playoff team said Tuesday night. “There were people coming in and out [of the video room]. There were always people around. But I think this year it’s more . . .  It’s like paranoia.”

Attempts to gain advantages are rampant throughout baseball, and most clubs engage in some form of rule-rule-breaking when it comes to the letter of the law. Some rival executives believe the Astros to be at the forefront of what amounts to cheating, even if the gains may be small, or as reports pegged it Tuesday night, for some sort of defensive purpose.

“The Astros are the Patriots of baseball,” one American League executive said on Tuesday night.

Those feelings could be rooted in reality. They could be rooted in a snowballed perception problem. The Astros are certainly known to push the envelope generally. Jeff Luhnow’s made a career on seeing how far he can push boundaries, and largely, he’s succeeded.

Cameras are everywhere at stadiums. Visiting teams notice them. They get paranoid, and maybe rightfully so. Even announcers can be involved in sign stealing, hurt Sox pitcher Carson Smith said the other day.

Maybe it should be the case that taping anything visible to a fan on the field of play should just be fair game, to limit what actually stands out as a violation. It’s kind of silly that a fan could sit in the stands and tape something but a team employee could not. 

Maybe the league should encourage teams to move to some sort of audio play-calling system. 

Either way, brushing aside these situations as a matter to be handled internally is an insult to the viewing public. The rules should reflect that it is inane to try outlaw all electronic means of surveillance in today’s world. And most importantly, the means of enforcement should not be a product of a whisper campaign that pits teams against each other in a constant petty fight that makes it hard to discern reality from gossip.

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MLB Power Rankings: The Red Sox are bad... but how bad?

MLB Power Rankings: The Red Sox are bad... but how bad?

We're now two weeks into the 2020 MLB season and well... the Boston Red Sox are who we thought they were.

The Red Sox have a 4-8 record as of Thursday's off day, putting them in last place in the American League East. They're coming off a surprising 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, which ended a four-game losing streak that spotlighted just how long this 60-game season is going to be. How's that for irony?

Without Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) and Eduardo Rodriguez (myocarditis), the starting pitching staff has been anchored by Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. After that, it's a bunch of guys who leave fans hoping the game isn't out of reach by the third inning.

So yeah, the Red Sox are bad, but just how bad are they? Let's see how they stack up with the rest of the league...

Dustin May blowing up for Dodgers, but here's why Red Sox passed on him in 2016 draft

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AP Photo

Dustin May blowing up for Dodgers, but here's why Red Sox passed on him in 2016 draft

The internet is losing its mind over lanky Dodgers right-hander Dustin May, who is unleashing 99-mph two-seam fastballs that look computer generated as they zip a foot and a half behind right-handed hitters.

The 6-foot-6, 180-pounder is 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in three starts, with 15 strikeouts and only three walks in 13.2 innings. Just 22 years old, he looks like a future ace in an organization swimming in top-flight prospects.
 
https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1290822220567191554
 
May's stuff is so overwhelming, and his Dodgers pedigree so established as a consensus top-20 prospect, it's easy to assume he was selected high in the first round of the 2016 draft.

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That assumption would be false. May actually lasted until the third round, 101st overall, where the Dodgers convinced the Texas high schooler to forgo a commitment to Texas Tech with a signing bonus of $1 million, more than $400,000 above slot.

The Red Sox had the 11th pick in that round, 88th overall, and used it to select University of Florida right-hander Shaun Anderson, who signed for $700,000 before being traded a year later to the Giants in a deal for infielder Eduardo Nuñez. Anderson represented the Giants in the 2018 Futures Game and last year reached the big leagues as a swingman, starting 16 games and saving two. He owns a lifetime ERA of 5.42.

Anytime a third-rounder even reaches the majors, which only happens about 40 percent of the time, that's a worthwhile pick. So with all due respect to Anderson, May's breakout success leads to an obvious question: Did the Red Sox give serious thought to drafting him 88th in 2016?

Even though they liked him, the answer is not really. A standout at Northwest High School in Justin, Texas, May was a late bloomer. He threw in the low 80s as a sophomore, but with excellent command. His fastball jumped into the low-90s by his senior year, touching 95, but after a fast start, his velocity dipped. Most projections pegged him for the third or fourth round, where it would take an aggressive offer to buy out his commitment to Texas Tech.

The Red Sox weren't in position to make such an offer, because they had decided to use the 12th overall pick on a high-ceilinged high schooler of their own.

New Jersey left-hander Jay Groome began 2016 as Baseball America's No. 1 overall prospect, but he slipped after a transfer violation cost him half his senior year, and reneging on a commitment to Vanderbilt created character concerns. The Red Sox jumped at the chance to land the 6-foot-6, 220-pound horse with a mid-90s fastball and outstanding curveball, knowing they'd need to pay him above the slot recommendation of $3.2 million.

The problem is, they didn't know exactly how high they'd need to go, with rumors circulating that Groome sought $4 million. With each team allotted a bonus pool, the Red Sox couldn't risk paying Groome so much that there wasn't enough left for May. Groome ended up agreeing to a $3.65 million bonus, or roughly $430,000 above slot, which is about what it took for the Dodgers to sign May.

Groome underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018 and returned at the end of last season to throw four innings between rookie ball and short-season Lowell. He's currently working out in Pawtucket, where he impressed against Triple-A hitters in a recent live bullpen with an effortless 93-mph fastball that should add velocity as he builds back arm strength.

If Groome hits, then the Red Sox will have no complaints about a 2016 draft that has already produced four big leaguers and could add a couple more in first baseman Bobby Dalbec and shortstop C.J. Chatham, not to mention 19th-round left-hander Kyle Hart.

If they could do it all over again, though, they'd find a way to take May. They're not alone, because 30 teams combined to pass on the young star 100 times before the Dodgers struck gold.