September 6, 2017

PBO Dombrowski, Commissioner Manfred Address Investigation of Red Sox's Sign Stealing

Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox's president of baseball operations, strongly implied that the Yankees leaked the sign-stealing story to the New York Times to coincide with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's trip to Boston.
This is not new. This has been something that has been going on for 10-12 days. Something like that. Maybe two weeks. The Yankees decide they want to give it today, for whatever reason. I think maybe because it just so happened the commissioner is in town today. I'm not sure there is a direct correlation to that. He was not in town for this. This was not why he was in town. He is in town just on a normal visit.
ESPN's Scott Lauber reports that Dombrowski acted "not at all like the president of baseball operations of a team that is under investigation", responding to questions with "verbal shrugs, smiles and a few chuckles".
Do I think sign stealing is wrong? No, I don't. I guess everybody in the game has been involved with it throughout the years. People are trying to win however they can. It's an edge they are trying to gain. I guess it depends how you do it, but no, I never thought it was wrong. ... We probably do something wrong every once in a while. I've had my wrist slapped a few times throughout my career - not just with the Red Sox. Sure, we do things wrong at times.
Lauber cited an ESPN article from 2004. When Dombrowski worked for the White Sox in the 1980s, a team employee "would sit in the manager's office, watch the center-field camera angle on the TV broadcast and flip a switch that would light up a 25-watt refrigerator bulb on the scoreboard to indicate whether a fastball or an offspeed pitch was coming".

Dombrowski admitted that he has been involved in sign-stealing accusations in the past.
Numerous times. Usually the general manager calls you and says, 'Here's a situation I'd like to discuss with you,' and I've had that happen maybe 10 times in my career. ... I'm not really sure why [the Yankees did not handle it that way]. Everybody has to do whatever they think is the right thing to do.
Manfred also seems to wish the Yankees had handled this privately, rather than running to the principal's office.
We would prefer not to have these sorts of issues at all, No. 1. No. 2, to the extent that we have them, we'd prefer to investigate them, deal with them privately, and be done with them. It didn't happen that way. ... I'm told sign stealing issues are often resolved by one general manager calling another general manager and saying, 'Hey, I think you're doing X and if you're doing it, you oughta stop doing it' ...
Manfred also pointed out that stealing signs is within the rules of the game.
We actually do not have a rule against sign stealing. It has been a part of the game for a very, very long time. To the extent that there was a violation of the rule here, it was a violation by one or the other that involved the use of electronic equipment. It's the electronic equipment that creates the violation.
(ESPN has a full transcript of Manfred's comments.)

According to ESPN's Andrew Marchand, the Red Sox "devised a scheme in which a member of their organization watches catchers to pick up the signs. The person quickly decodes the sequence that signifies the pitch that would be thrown. Then, according to sources, the information would be texted to Red Sox assistant trainer Jon Jochim. Jochim would relay the information to Red Sox batters."

That is an involved, multi-step process. The Red Sox did admit they related information electronically, specially this:
[T]he Red Sox admitted that trainers had received signals from video personnel and relayed them to some players. The Red Sox told investigators that team personnel assigned to watch instant replay electronically sent pitch signs to the trainers, who then passed the information on to the players.
But the time between the catcher giving the signals and the pitcher beginning his wind-up is not much more than one second, usually, so how could this be done: A see the signs, "decodes the sequence" to determine the upcoming pitch, and texts the info to B, who then relays the info via signs to C (the batter)?

One SoSHer commenter watched last night's game with a stopwatch: "It's consistently 0.80 to 0.86 seconds from the time Vazquez finishes the sign and Rodriguez starts his windup. ... How do you press a button (or 3) and get that info to the hitter in time for the pitch?"

You would expect manager John Farrell to deny any knowledge of this, no matter what the truth is. From where I sit, encouraging cheating, while not in line with the rules of the game, can be defended as looking for any possible edge, but actually being ignorant of this elaborate scheme going on in your own dugout, against multiple opponents, seems like a worse crime.

The Red Sox filed a counterclaim with the commissioner's office claiming that the Yankees use the YES Network feed to steal signals from their opponents. Manager Joe Girardi said there was "no chance" that claim is true (though he also pleaded ignorance when asked if his team uses electronics). I guess the Yankees may coat themselves with pine tar before taking the mound or run back into a brawl to throw some more sucker punches, but stealing signs via a TV feed is going way too far.

Of course, the Yankees are paranoid by nature. According to Evan Drellich, CSNNE:
After Doug Fister's outing Friday at Yankee Stadium in a 4-1 Red Sox win, the Yankees went to MLB with a complaint about what they thought to be an earpiece -- some sort of impermissible audio device -- that Fister was using, baseball sources with knowledge of the complaint told CSNNE.

The purported audio device was a mouthguard that Fister was wearing wrapped around his ear.

The YES Network's telecast captured Fister walking around in the Sox dugout in the top of the eighth inning, once his outing was over, with the mouthpiece lodged around his ear. It did give the appearance of a bulky hearing aid, but also was not a mystery that required MLB's involvement to solve.

A review of the telecast did not show Fister ever took the mound Friday with the mouthguard around his ear.
If the Yankees has also been monitoring the NESN broadcast, they would have hear Dave O'Brien and Dennis Eckersley discussing about the mouthguard.
Why a person would want to keep his mouthguard hooked on his ear is perhaps a mystery for another time.

Here is some Reverse Schadenfreude (which will not be a continuing series):

(The tabloids are having fun, but many New York sportswriters understand that this is not really much of an earth-shattering story. Ken Davidoff of the Post says the only mistake the Red Sox made was being sloppy and getting caught. (His article's URL actually includes the phrase "fun-scandal".)


allan said...

Jon Heyman, who covered the MFY for a long time, is an attention-seeking dope: "To me, you can't fine the Boston Red Sox enough. ... I would have them forfeit the games that they won against the Yankees this year."

PK said...

Listening to the hosts and callers on WEEI (always a bad idea) you'd think the Red Sox were caught doing some elaborate doping scheme.

Big props to Manfred for calling out the Yanks who look, to my extremely biased eyes, like a bunch of crybabies.

What would be worth investigating is how Joe Torre handled the Yankees suspensions. His preferential treatment looks like an actual unfair advantage.

allan said...

Pete Abe tweet:
Per an MLB source today: “slap on the wrist” is what Red Sox can expect. Team cooperated and issue was short term.
12:47 PM - Sep 6, 2017

allan said...

SoSHer SemperFidelisSox: "Listening to Buster Olney on Michael Kay show is pure Yankee propaganda. This is Black Sox + Spygate + the Holocaust."