Astros controversy starts to bubble
The big story to come out on Tuesday brought us back to 2017 when the Astros won their World Series. Teams have long hinted at Houston being the worst in terms of illegal sign-stealing, but there had never really been anything besides sometimes subtle (and sometimes not so much) insinuation. Then, Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal reported their exact method from 2017. Honestly, to me it seems less sophisticated than I would have expected. Basically, they allegedly used a camera in center field and when they saw a sign for an offspeed pitch they would bang on a trash can so the batter at the plate could here. We’ve heard for so long about all of the intricate methods Houston has for everything I would have just assumed it would be the same for their sign-stealing.
That is not to say this is not a big deal, though. MLB is certainly going to investigate this, and while I have little faith this will change the culture of this around the league hopefully the attention here will cause something to happen. There will be many who say something along the lines of “just use better signs,” and while I understand the sentiment at the end of the day using technology to steal signs is a clear no-no which is understood across the league. Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is that Mike Fiers, a former Astros pitcher, went on record. His reasoning — that this sort of thing hurts young players trying to make it in the league — is good, but I’m really interested to see what kind of retaliation he gets here.
Sox Spin: There are a few points to make here. The Red Sox were, of course, caught using an Apple Watch to steal signs a few years ago, so Boston fans can’t get too high and mighty here. There is also the lame but relevant defense that most all teams likely use some sort of illegal system in this regard, and whether or not the league will go after this culture. This is a story that isn’t done yet, so we’ll keep tabs as the winter goes on.
As user doof54 pointed out and I clearly should have noted originally, Alex Cora was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017 while this was all happening. That, uh, seems notable.
Gabe Kapler hired as Giants manager
The Giants were the first team to know they’d need a new manager for 2020 with Bruce Bochy retiring at the end of the year, but they took their time finding a replacement. After a lot of speculation that Jose Espada would be the guy, Gabe Kapler ended up getting the job late Monday night. The former Phillies manager did not take long to land back on his feet, being hired by former Dodgers coworker Zaidi Farhan. Kapler had some good and some bad moments on the field with the Phillies and has something of a divisive personality. However, the most damning argument against him are the allegations that came out late last winter about his mishandling of sexual assault allegations from some minor leaguers during his time with the Dodgers. That this was so easily brushed aside less than a year after the story came out is just more evidence that MLB doesn’t actually care all that much about that stuff, at least if it gets in the way of potential wins.
Sox Spin: Kapler was on the 2004 Red Sox team, which means he will always have a piece of Boston history. He is also, of course, not the first from that team to become a controversial figure since his playing days ended.
Adam Wainwright re-signs in St. Louis
It’s not really a major signing, but we have a little bit of action in free agency! Longtime Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright entered the open market last week, and after a short time he decided to go right back to St. Louis. It’s not a major surprise, as he has spent his entire career with the Cardinals and he’s not so good at this point that he had a line of other teams waiting to sign him. At a certain point, there’s more value in sticking with one team for your entire career. Wainwright will get $5 million for one year with another $5 million in incentives.
Sox Spin: The Red Sox are looking for rotation help and likely some on the cheaper side, so Wainwright could have realistically been a fit. Of course, like I said, it was never super likely to happen.
Manager of the Year awards announced
Awards week continued on Tuesday, with the Manager of the Year awards being handed out this time around. This one wasn’t as obvious going in as the Rookie of the Year votes the night before. In the end, Rocco Baldelli of the Twins and Mike Shildt of the Cardinals got the wins. I never really know how to react to these because so much of what makes a manager successful happens behind closed doors. I have no idea if these were the right picks. They seem like good picks — I would have voted for Aaron Boone in the AL, but it’s not an egregious difference of opinion — but I have no idea if they were the best.
Sox Spin: Alex Cora, unsurprisingly, did not get a vote.