Los Angeles Dodgers

Yu Darvish weighs in on Astros cheating allegations

Yu Darvish weighs in on Astros cheating allegations

Cubs starter Yu Darvish isn’t about to blame his struggles in the 2017 World Series on the Astros stealing his signs. That doesn’t mean he agrees with the notion he was tipping his pitches, however.

Tuesday, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported the Astros stole signs electronically in 2017, the season they won the World Series. Although sign stealing in baseball is nothing new, doing so with a video camera posted up in center field, fixated on the opposing team’s catchers, crosses a line.

Former MLB infielder Trevor Ploufee also reported the Astros stole signs and described the system in a series of tweets:

Darvish – who was pitching for the Dodgers at the time – infamously struggled in the 2017 Fall Classic. He allowed nine runs in 3 1/3 innings across two starts: Game 3 in Houston and Game 7 in Los Angeles. He allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings in the latter, a 5-1 Astros series-clinching win.

Darvish’s World Series struggles were initially attributed to him tipping his pitches. He weighed in on the topic on Thursday, posting a video to his YouTube channel where he disagrees with the notion he gave off signals to Astros hitters. He speaks in Japanese in the video, but one Reddit user translated what the right-hander said.

Some of the more interesting points:

On whether the Astros were stealing signs or not

But personally, Game 7 was played at Dodgers Stadium. Since what we currently know is limited to Minute Maid Park, I don’t think there were any signs stealings going on at that game. However, with the technology that they have, I really think it’s not impossible that they’ve done it at LA as well.

On the notion that he was tipping his pitches

After Game 7, there were news about how I was tipping my pitches. After the World Series ended, I personally asked a player from the Astros about it. He said that I was fumbling my ball before I threw my fastball. After Game 3, the Dodgers suspected that I was tipping my pitches, and I reviewed some footage with some people. I reviewed my mechanics from that footage, but we all couldn’t find any noticeable signs that I was giving something away. During Game 7, I was really aware and concerned about this, so I made extra sure on the mound that I wasn’t giving anything away.

After Game 7, I’ve been personally trying to get to the bottom of this problem. This year, from a source from the Astros that I won’t disclose, I was told that I was tipping my pitches during Game 3 and 7 by fumbling my ball before my windup. Since I saw my Game 7 footage numerous times, I was convinced that I wasn’t doing that, and there was something in the back of my mind that didn’t mesh well with what that player was saying, and what was shown on the footage.

Two things off these comments:

-Dodgers president Andrew Friedman noted Tuesday at the GM Meetings that one Los Angeles player, who was good at picking up pitch-tipping (reportedly second baseman Chase Utley), studied Darvish’s World Series starts. Utley said Darvish was not tipping his pitches:

-A’s pitcher Mike Fiers – who was with the Astros from 2015-17 – told Rosenthal and Drellich that Houston had a camera positioned in the outfield at home games. Whether they also had a system setup on the road is unknown at this time (such as Game 7), but Darvish (and the Dodgers, at the time) seem adamant that he wasn’t tipping his pitches.

But even if they did steal signs, Darvish doesn’t blame the Astros on him pitching poorly in the World Series:

Now, do I think that my failure in the 2017 World Series is because of the Astros stealing signs? I don’t think so, I think Astros have talented players. Results don’t change, and I don’t expect anyone to send me apologies for what they had said to me for the past two years. Through adversity, I’ve been able to work hard and play for a great organization, the Cubs. If I start associating my failure to the Astros scandal, I don’t think that I would be able to develop as a person. I think adversity is important in life, and I think these types of failures will be an important experience for me, as a player. I’m willing to swallow the results of 2017.

It's nice to see Darvish has moved forward; he had a stellar second half in 2019 and will open the 2020 season as the Cubs top starting pitcher. However, he had a tough time dealing with backlash from Dodgers fans, and the Astros cheating may have cost him in free agency. The Cubs signed Darvish to a lucrative six-year, $126 million deal, but he may have gotten more, if not for his poor World Series showing. Plus, he remained on the open market until February 2018.

On possibly using racist remarks to steal signs

I’ve read and heard articles and reports that players were stealing signs by saying racist remarks. During the 2017 World Series, [Yuli] Gurriel did a racial gesture after he hit a home run off of me. I don’t really care, but if he did that knowing about the signs, I think that puts that problem in an entirely different light.

Gurriel hit a home run off Darvish in Game 3, doing a racist gesture after returning to the Astros dugout. He was suspended five games to start the 2018 season as a result, avoiding a ban from the World Series. The gesture was extremely problematic in its own right. If Gurriel did it to convey stolen signs and/or to openly mock Darvish for knowing his signs? Brutal.

Darvish also noticed some strange tendencies from opposing hitters when he was on the mound in 2019:

Especially this year, I've noticed a lot weird things. When I’m in the set position, usually the batter looks at me. It depends on the batter, but they generally look at my elbows, my eyes, my shoulders, you know it. But several times this year, I’ve noticed that the batters don’t look at me. Even without runners on second, I see players just looking into the distance, around left center field. It’s awkward. This usually happens when we’re the visiting team. I’ve even told [Cubs catcher Victor Caratini] during mound visits that the batters eyes were not on me.

According to Cardinals beat writer Jeff Jones, the Brewers and Rangers are egregious with electronic sign stealing as well, though there’s no word if MLB is investigating them.

Brett Taylor from Bleacher Nation found a clip of a Christian Yelich at-bat vs. Darvish from 2019. The camera angle is off-centered, but it shows Yelich – who stares at Darvish for several seconds – look towards left-center field (where the Brewers bullpen is located) before looking back at Darvish.

Darvish acknowledged that he wasn't sure of Yelich's intentions, but he stepped off when Yelich's eyes moved. He added this doesn't mean Milwaukee was stealing signs, though Yelich may not have seen that tweet...

Darvish had one final PSA to MLB about cheating:

So, um, let’s stop sign stealing. What’s fun about swinging at something that you know that’s coming? I wonder if the batters are actually happy with that. If Houston was actually content with winning the World Series knowing that they were stealing signs electronically... I don’t know, I wouldn't be able to do that as a player if I’m in their shoes. It’s very disappointing.

Well said, Yu. What comes next is to be determined, but Cubs president Theo Epstein pointed out the magnitude of the situation at the GM Meetings.

"Certainly not something to be swept under the rug," said Epstein, who initially admitted it's best for teams not to comment while MLB is looking into the matter. "It needs to be fully investigated and bring light to it and I'm sure there will be appropriate action taken."

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Fans apologize to Yu Darvish following Astros cheating allegations

Fans apologize to Yu Darvish following Astros cheating allegations

When the Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish at the 2017 trade deadline, he was expected to be one of the final pieces to their championship puzzle.

After a solid nine-start regular season with Los Angeles, Darvish was stellar early in the postseason. In two starts (one in the NLDS, one in the NLCS), he allowed two runs across 11.1 innings, racking up 14 strikeouts compared to a single walk.

Things went downhill for Darvish in the World Series, where he surrendered nine runs in 3.1 innings across two starts. This includes Game 7, when he threw 47 pitches in 1.2 innings, allowing five runs in a 5-1 series-clinching win for the Astros.

Darvish became a scapegoat for the Dodgers' World Series loss and faced heavy backlash from fans. Consequentially, he had concerns about re-signing with the Dodgers when he became a free agent that offseason, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, due to fears of how the city's anger towards him would affect his family.

Two years later, fans are now apologizing for directing their anger at Darvish for his World Series performance. Why?

Tuesday, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported the Astros stole opposing teams' signs electronically during the 2017 season. This conflicts with the notion of Darvish tipping his pitches in the World Series, which an anonymous Astros player told Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci was the case.

The notion of Darvish tipping his pitches is now in question altogether:

As has often been the case this offseason, Darvish had a brilliant reaction to the whole situation on Twitter:

Darvish joined the Cubs in 2018 on a six-year deal. After an injury-riddled debut season with the Cubs, he took off post-All-Star break in 2019 and is expected to be the team's Opening Day starter in 2020. Although what happened in 2017 can't be changed, it's nice to see he's moved forward.

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Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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