MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2020: BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?
“The bills are all due and the baby needs shoes and I’m busted...”
The Boston Red Sox had a magical season in 2018 when they won 119 games or some such on the way to a smashing victory over the Los Angeles Underachievos in the World Series of that bygone year. Since then they’ve been in Karmic Meltdown. You may remember that they brought in Dave Dombrowski to win them another championship and Dave did just that. He did what he always does with every team he’s been with: he spent all the money available on front line pitchers like David Price and Chris Sale and ignored the depleted farm system and presented a winner to the fickle owners and public. Then when those same players didn’t produce in 2019 they fired him.
Now you hear whining all over New England...”We went over the salary cap (whine) our team is too expensive (whine) ‘SNOT FAAAAIIIIRRRRR! (a big Germanic whine from the Big Lebowski nihilists)
So presto chango the team fires DD and hires Chaim Bloom from Tampa Bay who is used to running teams on a shoestring. His mission? Get the payroll under the luxury cap of $208 million so the Sox can reset the Cap Clock and avoid millions in penalties. And oh by the way, compete with the Yankees and go to the playoffs or else we’ll fire your ass too!
Is this any way to run a team?
I got two names for you O Whining Sox-Natics!”Rusney Castillo” and “Yoan Moncada”.
While you are complaining about the expensive players you had to pay to get you that championship in 2018 and keep you relevant in the American League East, just remember you gave $72.5 million freaking dollars to Rusney Castillo to come over from Cuba at age 27 and be a star. Whoops. And then you promised Yoan Moncada $63 million. Rusney never got out of the minors and Moncada played for about a week in Boston before being the sacrificial prospect piece in the Chris Sale trade. Moncada is hitting (when he’s not striking out 200 times a season) for the White Sox but he’s not going to be the combo of Tim Raines and Robbie Cano that was hoped for.
The point is, you risked that kind of money on two “what-if” kind of players and now you’re unwilling to pay Mookie Betts what he has proven he’s worth? You should be offering Mook the $35 million a year he wants and keep the Face of your Freaking Franchise who is essential to keeping you in the hunt with the Yankees. There’re just not that many players like Betts.
Very rarely does baseball produce that special player who is just a joy to watch and an inspiration to the game...a guy with all the tools who can also warm the hearts of the withered with just a smile. Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Junior type players. Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson, Ted Williams...they are all baseball Gods. But they don’t smile their way into our hearts...they batter the doors down. And that’s wonderful in its own way. Mookie does that with his bat, his speed, his arm and his smile. I can only think of 4 other players right now who have that quality: Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr., Vlad Guerrero Jr., and Francisco Lindor. Smiling Baseball Adonises. (Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa of the Astros might have made that list if not for an unfortunate incident with a trash can. Keep smiling boys. Maybe we’ll forget.)
The Cleveland Indians are about to lose Lindor and that’s tragic for them. But the Indians are a small market team who can’t pay their stars...never could. The Red Sox have money...lots of it. They should keep Mookie. If they don’t they’ll regret it.
Sale and Price and Eovaldi? The trouble there is you can’t get enough back for them seeing as how they are each injured for about a third of every season. And the other starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, is also hurt every year. The Sox have to hope that at least two of those guys come up with their A game this season and next so they can make a run before they have to go out and scrounge for starters again.
The Sox actually got big seasons last year from unlikely sources...their catcher Vasquez hit plenty and Rafael Devers was a huge surprise at third. He was a top five MVP candidate! So if those guys, along with Bogaerts, Betts and J.D.Martinez are still boppin’ in 2020 the Beantowners could surprise...if only their pitching holds up.
But if you trade Betts and Price for young talent they may finish back of Toronto and Tampa...not to mention the Yankees. (New York is so deep that Miguel Andujar hit 27 homers and 47 doubles in 2018 and can’t even get on the field now! )
THE WAGES OF SIN
Now I must speak once again...briefly...about the Current Debacle of the Great Techno Cheat.
The penalties came down about like I figured. But the Astros owner tried to regain the public trust and moral high ground by going ahead and firing his already suspended general manager and bench manager. I don’ t think those guys will ever again have those positions with a major league team. Baseball is going to run away and try to forget this sorry episode.
The joke is that every player and every coach on that Astros 2017 team had to know about the cheating… and they get to keep playing and coaching because MLB can’t afford to give a whole team the death penalty. But does one of those coaches get to move up to manager? That seems unfair.
Also, how the heck did the Astros ever think they could keep this kind of cheating hidden? I mean, the year after they win in 2017 several players move on to other teams. Did the Astros think that these players would now keep quiet while the Astros continued to beat their new teams by stealing signs electronically? Especially pitchers! What would happen to the Pitching Fraternity if hurlers just kept accepting getting killed by a cheating system that they knew was happening?
Well, Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora moved to other teams in 2018 so the Astros had to stop cheating (at least with the system that those two guys helped devise). And now the Astros want the fans and the rest of baseball to forgive and forget? Fat chance! The players may have escaped this round of penalties, but what they will get in 2020 may be worse than suspension and heavy fines. They will get the excoriating contempt of every rival player and fan. They will hear boos. They will feel beanballs. They will have rival fans beating on trash cans when they come to the plate.
The Wages of Sin, Astros.
The Boston Red Sox story is slightly different. Yes, Cora has to go. He was warned to keep it clean and he still sponsored TV’s next to the dugout so stolen signs could be communicated quicker. But he didn’t put a camera in centerfield this time. MLB left free chips on the table and then was shocked, shocked I say, to find that gambling was going on!
I’m talking about the replay rooms now universal in baseball where there is a full time monitor in the clubhouse where coaches can run down and see a replay and tell the manager whether to challenge an umpire’s call on the field. If you ever watch baseball on TV, you might have noticed that MLB uses something called a “center field camera” to home in on the plate so we fans can watch the catcher flash signs to the pitcher. What baseball genius had the idea first? “Hey! I can see that catcher’s fingers real good on this here television set! I bet I can figure out his signs! Let’s see...one finger means fastball, two mean curve, three mean change up! I got it! Hey Lefty, go out to the on deck and tell Pedro that a curveball is coming!”
For over a hundred years, runners on base (and sometimes base coaches) have tried to peer in to pick up signs from catchers so they can relay that information to the batter. Totally legal. (When the Giants sent Coach Herman Franks out to centerfield at the Polo Grounds to steal signs with his telescope in 1951...that’s illegal.) Sometimes teams try to dampen the enthusiasm for sign stealing by drilling a few perpetrators next time they come up to the plate. Self policing they call it.
But the main defense against sign stealing has always been changing the catcher’s signs when a runner gets on and changing signs frequently to keep the opposition from homing in. If you don’t change the signs up, the other team can spot your tendencies and get an edge. It’s all based on getting a good look at the catcher’s fingers.
So now MLB is letting TVs show the whole game in a private room next to the dugout and telling baseball personnel that it’s fine to study replays but don’t look at close ups of those signs that the catcher is flashing. That’s like telling a Labrador not to pay attention to a pork chop.
Anyway, that’s what the Red Sox were doing in 2018, using the TV to see the catcher’s fingers better. One techno step away from the permitted tradition of using eyeballs on the field only. Still cheating, but not camera- in- centerfield- cheating. And I guarantee you that many other clubs in baseball were doing the same thing, and will continue to do it unless MLB bans tech from the clubhouse during the games.
What must be done? Once the game starts, no team-run or player- owned tech in the clubhouse or on the field. No TV on, no cell phones, no laptops for the duration of the game. And all replay calls made by the umpire watching from above or in New York or wherever. The manager can still challenge, but only on his own...no waiting for TV confirmation before he protests. Should make the games go quicker too.
One last question must be addressed:
SHOULD THE HOUSTON ASTROS HAVE THEIR WORLD SERIES TITLE OF 2017 OVERTURNED IN FAVOR OF THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS?
I say “No.”
Because the Stros also cheated against the American League teams they beat in the playoffs and maybe one of those teams could have beaten the Dodgers. Impossible to account for all that. Should we go back and vacate the 1951 New York Giants tainted victory? Maybe we should take the title away from some of the Steroid Champs of the 90’s?
But, in the minds of baseball fans everywhere, there will always be an asterisk next to the 2017 Astros name in the record books. But MLB should make it official.
WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS:
2017: HOUSTON ASTROS * over Los Angeles Dodgers.
(*the Houston team was later found to have used technological assistance to steal signs during the 2017 season, including the Playoffs and World Series)
Just put it in the same section with the other great Black Eyes of Baseball History.
--Marco Perella 1/20/2020