Reserving Judgment... But What Did the Sox Do and How Bad Will They Get Hit?

nattysez

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The Kinsler trade finally pays off.


"I don’t know what (the league) is going to find, but in my opinion, it’s not anything close to what’s going on (in Houston), Kinsler said. “The Red Sox were just a very tight-knit group. When I was injected into that team in the middle of the season, it was a lot like the Rangers clubs I was on, where it was just a very tight-knit group and their system was flawless. They just had a very good system of relaying from second base to home plate. That was it. Honestly. We’ll see what happens with the commissioner’s report."

 

Green Monster

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Manfred has been getting destroyed for being too weak against the Astros. I am concerned that he will try to save face by hitting the Red Sox extra hard to show everyone that he really is tough.
 

StuckOnYouk

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Agree, Manfred getting killed from every angle on Houston can't be good for us, even if what the Sox did was minimal.
 

nattysez

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On the other hand, given the winter Sox ownership has had, I don't expect they're going to be open to taking it on the chin unfairly if the Commissioner tries to railroad them for his own screw-up. As things stand now, I imagine the MFY and Dodgers owners are not particularly happy with Manfred, and multiple other teams are probably displeased with how he's handled this whole thing and tarnished their product. Getting the Sox ownership on the warpath against him as well might mean the end of his time as Commissioner.
 

nvalvo

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On the other hand, given the winter Sox ownership has had, I don't expect they're going to be open to taking it on the chin unfairly if the Commissioner tries to railroad them for his own screw-up. As things stand now, I imagine the MFY and Dodgers owners are not particularly happy with Manfred, and multiple other teams are probably displeased with how he's handled this whole thing and tarnished their product. Getting the Sox ownership on the warpath against him as well might mean the end of his time as Commissioner.
I’m also not worried. Manfred has shredded his own personal credibility, in a way that fans are scrutinizing his every utterance quite closely.

And it also looks like fans are quite attuned to the details of the allegations. If the Sox allegations end up more modest (I.e. not sending signs from dugout to batters box in real time), and he gives a penalty close to the Astros’ penalty, that will be seen as further protecting the Astros.
 

Harry Hooper

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The Kinsler trade finally pays off.


"I don’t know what (the league) is going to find, but in my opinion, it’s not anything close to what’s going on (in Houston), Kinsler said. “The Red Sox were just a very tight-knit group. When I was injected into that team in the middle of the season, it was a lot like the Rangers clubs I was on, where it was just a very tight-knit group and their system was flawless. They just had a very good system of relaying from second base to home plate. That was it. Honestly. We’ll see what happens with the commissioner’s report."


This is not as exculpatory as it sounds. Seems like he's basically confirming that the Sox players were using the video replay room to decipher the signs and then relay that info to the runner on second base:

“If there’s a video and you’re going to check out your at-bat and while you’re checking out your at-bat, there’s a runner on second base also, and you look through your at-bat to see your personal flaws and what you’re trying to fix for the next time… I’m going to go back again and check out the signs and see if I can crack them,” he said. “If I can, I can. If I can’t, I can’t.”
 

findguapo

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This is not as exculpatory as it sounds. Seems like he's basically confirming that the Sox players were using the video replay room to decipher the signs and then relay that info to the runner on second base:
He did not say anyone relayed the signs from the dugout to the runner at 2nd base. He is saying they used video to figure out the sign sequence, which enabled them to relay the signs to the batter when they were on 2nd base. I am going to guess that every team has done this in one way or the other, and if this is all that happened, it is very minor. Teams know the guy on 2nd is trying to relay signs, this has happened forever. The team in the field should be constantly switching the signs up when there is a man on 2nd.

Stealing signs electronically when there is not a man on 2nd base is a HUGE difference. When there is not a man on 2nd base, the catcher is only putting down 1 sign, because there should be no relaying going on. The Astros were using a camera from CF to take advantage of this. The Astros sign stealing vs the Red Sox (and probably a bunch of other teams) is hugely different.
 

lexrageorge

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Poor form or not, I am wondering if this kerfuffle wasn't the result of a game of telephone. Sounds to me that a former player or two said something about the Sox stealing signals in the video room, and the Athletic reporter misinterpreted or misreported it as something bigger than what it actually was. What Kinsler describes hardly seems nefarious, but seems probable. And we have multiple former and current Sox players saying that this episode is no big deal.

Henry's pocket will be lighter, and the team may lose a draft pick given that they were on double secret probation. But anything bigger could easily result in Manfred being replaced as commissioner.
 
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I still don't see the big deal. They can use the video to pick up signs, which, when there is a runner on second to pick up the signs, might be relayed to the batter, unless the other team gets paranoid about signs with a runner on second, which every team does, and so in the end the scheme doesn't accomplish a damn thing.
 

DJnVa

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They way I've seen some comments from the Sox that are in camp and commenting--about how what the Astros did and how it hurts the game--makes me wonder what exactly the Sox were doing. In other words, it seems weird to be harsh about the Astros cheating when, for all we know, the Sox are going to get dinged a bit too.
 

lexrageorge

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They way I've seen some comments from the Sox that are in camp and commenting--about how what the Astros did and how it hurts the game--makes me wonder what exactly the Sox were doing. In other words, it seems weird to be harsh about the Astros cheating when, for all we know, the Sox are going to get dinged a bit too.
Kinsler describes the situation where the batter would legitimately be watching video in the replay room to look at his swing, the pitchers' tendencies, etc. And would sometimes watch the video to attempt to decode the signs.

If that is what happened, I get the feeling that players may have felt that was par for the course for just about every team. And they wouldn't be wrong. Why wouldn't a batter watching his swing take a few minutes to read the catcher's signs? And players on 2nd base relaying signs to the batter is nothing new; it's been going on since the game began.

The players seem convinced that this is all there was and it's no big deal; Gasper is convinced the Sox are going to get nailed in a bigly way; Shank thinks the Sox permanently tainted all past, present, and future World Series titles the team may win.

EDIT: I should add that not all of the above outcomes are mutually exclusive. There is absolutely zero chance of the players getting any discipline after the Astros players were let off the hook; the MLBPA will do everything in their power to prevent that, and will have genuine precedent on their side as well. It appears that Roenicke has already been essentially cleared of discipline. However, team fines and draft pick penalties could still be in play, but those are something the players involved could probably care less about.
 
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nvalvo

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Kinsler describes the situation where the batter would legitimately be watching video in the replay room to look at his swing, the pitchers' tendencies, etc. And would sometimes watch the video to attempt to decode the signs.

If that is what happened, I get the feeling that players may have felt that was par for the course for just about every team. And they wouldn't be wrong. Why wouldn't a batter watching his swing take a few minutes to read the catcher's signs? And players on 2nd base relaying signs to the batter is nothing new; it's been going on since the game began.

The players seem convinced that this is all there was and it's no big deal; Gasper is convinced the Sox are going to get nailed in a bigly way; Shank thinks the Sox permanently tainted all past, present, and future World Series titles the team may win.

EDIT: I should add that not all of the above outcomes are mutually exclusive. There is absolutely zero chance of the players getting any discipline after the Astros players were let off the hook; the MLBPA will do everything in their power to prevent that, and will have genuine precedent on their side as well. It appears that Roenicke has already been essentially cleared of discipline. However, team fines and draft pick penalties could still be in play, but those are something the players involved could probably care less about.
I agree with you completely. It seems like in the absence of clear allegations about Boston, some very different practices are being lumped together.

If Xander Bogaerts or whoever goes back to the video room when the Sox are up in the second inning to look at his swings from his first inning PA, that's allowed. It also allows him to see the signs being put down, and correlate them with what pitch follows what sign. He's a middle infielder and a smart player, he reads signs, he understands how these things work. If he sees enough pitches, he might well be able to figure out the sign scheme that the other team is using, which might allow him to communicate some signs to JD Martinez from second after Bogaerts hits a double to lead off the fourth inning.

It's also likely that Boston's advance scouts know something about what kinds of sign schemes the opposing team tends to use, so he might have some information that helps him figure out what he's looking for especially quickly. Or maybe Benintendi already figured it out after looking at video of his first PA, and passes that info along to his teammates. All of that might be reasonably understood to be boundary pushing, but it seems to me to be within the traditions of the sport.

That is a very different thing than setting up a secret monitor to get an illicit live stream of the signs being put down by the opposing catcher and communicating those signs before the signed pitch is thrown to the batter. That's what has everyone freaked out about the Astros.

We have no indications yet (that I've seen) that Boston did anything like that. Even in the Apple Watch incident, the tech was used just to communicate what sign schemes were in use from the (legal) video room to the dugout — instead of, like, walking down the hall. There was no accusation that live signs were being given to batters except the traditional way, from baserunners on second. And again, players are allowed in the video room during games.
 

InsideTheParker

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It's behind a paywall and I am not a member, but there is a new article up on BP:

I wish a subscriber would give us the jist of that. JDM is willing to put on a lie detector to testify that the 2018 Sox were legit:
https://www.masslive.com/redsox/2020/02/mike-fiers-alerted-boston-red-soxs-jd-martinez-of-astros-cheating-before-2018-alcs.html

Martinez said former Sox manager Alex Cora -- who was implicated as a key player in Houston’s scheme -- never brought any of those methods to Boston. So when Martinez was alerted by Fiers -- his former teammate at Nova Southeastern University and a close friend -- he was shocked.

“You can put me on any lie detector. You can put me on anything,” Martinez told OMF. "Alex Cora never influenced us and never told us about that thing. The only way I ever found out was in the playoffs was when Fiers, who is a really good friend of mine, reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, make sure you’re doing this because this, because this is what these guys are doing in the playoffs.’ I was like, ‘What? How is this a thing?’ And then I mentioned it to (Cora) and he told kind of me about the whole system and everything like that. That was kind of why it was so crazy. (Cora) was so relaxed going into those playoff games because he knew and we were ready for it.”
Of course it's a safe bet he'll never be asked to be hooked up to a lie detector, so ...?
 

geoflin

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The gist of the BP article is that for Boston in 2018 there was a much higher percentage of pitches out of the strike zone being taken, rather than swung at, when there was a runner on second as opposed to nobody on, particularly when the pitcher was ahead in the count. This indicated to the author that the runner on second was letting the batter know when an off speed pitch was coming, something far out of the strike zone or in the dirt, so the batter would be less likely to swing. So, as I see it, circumstantial evidence at best. The author doesn't address the possibility that the runner on second was stealing the signs on his own, as has been the case for a century, as opposed to signs being relayed to him from the clubhouse. The author also states that this was not true of the Red Sox in 2017 or 2019, noting that the Red Sox had the second lowest percentage in baseball of swinging at pitches out of the strike zone with a man on second in 2018. But again, another team, not mentioned, was lowest (and lower than the Red Sox but that team isn't being accused of cheating) and somebody had to be second lowest.
What doesn't make sense to me about all of the recent coverage is that nobody is talking about 2019. If the Astros and Red Sox got away with cheating in 2017 and 2018, are we supposed to believe that by 2019 they both just stopped on their own? Also, Matthew LuCroy was quoted today as saying that the A's, his team, complained to the commissioner's office in 2018 about the Astros but the commissioner did nothing until Mike Fiers spoke up over a year later.
 
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lexrageorge

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Sounds much like the flawed analysis the stats flunkies did on the Patriots fumbling tendencies during the Deflategate fiasco.
 

gatorgurl67

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This is coming from a Yankee fan but I just saw him & he has a friend who is a retired umpire who works in the league office & he told him the Red Sox punishment is coming & it is going to be harsh. I am taking this with a grain of salt considering the source.
 

Seels

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Ha, they lost their best player and manager. What could be harsh at this point? Do your worst MLB
 

jon abbey

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Ha, they lost their best player and manager. What could be harsh at this point? Do your worst MLB
Losing draft picks is what I'd be scared about as a Sox fan, they really can't afford that at this stage.
 

nvalvo

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The gist of the BP article is that for Boston in 2018 there was a much higher percentage of pitches out of the strike zone being taken, rather than swung at, when there was a runner on second as opposed to nobody on, particularly when the pitcher was ahead in the count. This indicated to the author that the runner on second was letting the batter know when an off speed pitch was coming, something far out of the strike zone or in the dirt, so the batter would be less likely to swing. So, as I see it, circumstantial evidence at best. The author doesn't address the possibility that the runner on second was stealing the signs on his own, as has been the case for a century, as opposed to signs being relayed to him from the clubhouse. The author also states that this was not true of the Red Sox in 2017 or 2019, noting that the Red Sox had the second lowest percentage in baseball of swinging at pitches out of the strike zone with a man on second in 2018. But again, another team, not mentioned, was lowest (and lower than the Red Sox but that team isn't being accused of cheating) and somebody had to be second lowest.
What doesn't make sense to me about all of the recent coverage is that nobody is talking about 2019. If the Astros and Red Sox got away with cheating in 2017 and 2018, are we supposed to believe that by 2019 they both just stopped on their own? Also, Matthew LuCroy was quoted today as saying that the A's, his team, complained to the commissioner's office in 2018 about the Astros but the commissioner did nothing until Mike Fiers spoke up over a year later.
The key thing here is man on second. (I know you're just the messenger here.) Is that cheating now?

I think the thing about this Astros controversy that has everyone up in arms isn't that they are trying to decode signs, it's the way they are communicated to the batter.
 

edoug

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The key thing here is man on second. (I know you're just the messenger here.) Is that cheating now?

I think the thing about this Astros controversy that has everyone up in arms isn't that they are trying to decode signs, it's the way they are communicated to the batter.
I would add how far Houston went to make it work is part of it as well.
 

jon abbey

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No, that didn't work for me either, maybe because I'm on a Mac (safari).
 

Archer1979

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The key thing here is man on second. (I know you're just the messenger here.) Is that cheating now?

I think the thing about this Astros controversy that has everyone up in arms isn't that they are trying to decode signs, it's the way they are communicated to the batter.
Exactly. Folks are treating this like a big gotcha but all it proves is that the Sox were better with men on second base than not, which isn't against the rules.

If it's the same study that I saw before, it doesn't take into account home/road splits; differentiation between 2017, 2018, and 2019; and that the Sox had better hitters with a full year of Devers, a break-out year for Mookie, and JD replacing Hanley in 2018.
 

geoflin

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I left a comment for the author of the article. Since he said the Sox had the second lowest percentage of swinging at pitches out of the zone with a runner on second, I asked who had the lowest percentage and why they weren't being accused of cheating.
 

HangingW/ScottCooper

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The gist of the BP article is that for Boston in 2018 there was a much higher percentage of pitches out of the strike zone being taken, rather than swung at, when there was a runner on second as opposed to nobody on, particularly when the pitcher was ahead in the count. This indicated to the author that the runner on second was letting the batter know when an off speed pitch was coming, something far out of the strike zone or in the dirt, so the batter would be less likely to swing. So, as I see it, circumstantial evidence at best. The author doesn't address the possibility that the runner on second was stealing the signs on his own, as has been the case for a century, as opposed to signs being relayed to him from the clubhouse. The author also states that this was not true of the Red Sox in 2017 or 2019, noting that the Red Sox had the second lowest percentage in baseball of swinging at pitches out of the strike zone with a man on second in 2018. But again, another team, not mentioned, was lowest (and lower than the Red Sox but that team isn't being accused of cheating) and somebody had to be second lowest.
What doesn't make sense to me about all of the recent coverage is that nobody is talking about 2019. If the Astros and Red Sox got away with cheating in 2017 and 2018, are we supposed to believe that by 2019 they both just stopped on their own? Also, Matthew LuCroy was quoted today as saying that the A's, his team, complained to the commissioner's office in 2018 about the Astros but the commissioner did nothing until Mike Fiers spoke up over a year later.
Relaying signs from second base is not illegal if the runner on second base is decoding them in real time. I would think that even using the video from the video room to pick up sign patterns and relaying those sign patterns to runners on second base so that they can look for sign patterns is not illegal.

Count me amongst those that think the penalty the Astros received is too harsh and baseball isn't doing enough to actual solve the problem. LuCroy mentioned the idea of wireless transmitters and that's what I would like to see. Vibrating mechanism in player's hats to relay signals. Visual signs should no longer be the only option but baseball is too afraid to adapt to anything at this point.

The key thing here is man on second. (I know you're just the messenger here.) Is that cheating now?

I think the thing about this Astros controversy that has everyone up in arms isn't that they are trying to decode signs, it's the way they are communicated to the batter.
Even that isn't technically illegal. It's the original source of the relay (using technology to steal the signs in real time). If somehow the dugout had a visual on the catchers signs, they could bang on a trash can all they want to relay the sign to the hitter. If they did use a wireless transmitter in the relay process as well than MLB should use something similar for the legal transmission of your own team's signals.
 

nvalvo

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I think using "electronic means" to decode signs may in fact be illegal according to the letter of the law, but only because the rule is written in a terribly vague way.

My point in my prior post was that what upsets people about what the Astros were doing was not that their advanced scouts were typing signs and the resulting pitches into an Excel spreadsheet to breakdown sign systems; that could be done, albeit more arduously, with a pen and paper. They object to the live video feed and the trash can banging. It's not the methodical attempt to decrypt the signs that's offensive — presumably everybody's video scouts are doing something like that — it's the use of outside-the-lines means to steal and communicate signs between when they're given and when the pitch is thrown.
 

Marciano490

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Why would we need a runner on second to relay signs stolen by electronic means rather than old fashioned deciphering? That could come from the dugout or stands or 1st/3rd base coach.
 

BaseballJones

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Wasn't the news supposed to hit last week?

Do we get this news first or the Pat's filming the Browns first?
Honestly, the NFL, at this point I’m sure, has found nothing on the Pats. But instead of exonerating them, they’re just never going to mention it again and hope that people forget.

Or they’re content to let the Pats kind of twist in the wind a little and have the public believe it was Spygate 2.
 

bstoker7

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Why would we need a runner on second to relay signs stolen by electronic means rather than old fashioned deciphering? That could come from the dugout or stands or 1st/3rd base coach.
Because they were only deciphering the sequence in the video room. Runners on 2nd base were armed with the sequence, which they used to decipher the pitch and relay it.

Regularly changing the sequence renders the Red Sox method useless.
 

amRadio

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I have a feeling that the longer this goes on, the worse it is going to be for the Red Sox. Manfred might be looking for something so he can satisfy the calls for blood on twitter.

Also, Matthew LuCroy was quoted today as saying that the A's, his team, complained to the commissioner's office in 2018 about the Astros but the commissioner did nothing until Mike Fiers spoke up over a year later.
I am so glad I'm not the only person who pictures Matt LeCroy in my head whenever someone says Jonathan Lucroy. I make that flub every single time. What an obscure player to still be on our minds subconsciously.
 

JimD

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I will be shocked if the Red Sox get off without the loss of at least one draft pick (they are certainly getting fined). If MLB finds even the flimsiest sign that something was going on, they are going to hit the organization as a repeat offender and failing to exercise proper oversight after the Apple Watch issue.
 

steveluck7

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I have a feeling that the longer this goes on, the worse it is going to be for the Red Sox. Manfred might be looking for something so he can satisfy the calls for blood on twitter.
I actually feel the opposite. I think Manfred is slow-playing this to get as much separation from the Astros as possible. He probably also wants games (even spring training games) to be in "full swing" so that there are other story lines going around and the fixation isn't 100% on the scandal.
I also wonder if the very vocal reaction of players to the Astros made him pause. Perhaps he doesn't want 2 more weeks of players talking about getting revenge on another team.
 

MartyBC

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I left a comment for the author of the article. Since he said the Sox had the second lowest percentage of swinging at pitches out of the zone with a runner on second, I asked who had the lowest percentage and why they weren't being accused of cheating.
Haven’t the Red Sox been taking pitches like forever?
 

lexrageorge

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The more I hear about the BP article, the more it appears to be click-bait garbage dressed up using improperly applied statistics. 538 swing and missed badly on the Pats fumbling analysis, so we should not assume that BP is immune from similar pressures.