Connect with us


Astros exec suggested using cameras to spy in ’17, sources say



A high-ranking Houston Astros official asked scouts to spy on opponents’ dugouts leading up to the 2017 postseason, hoping to steal signs and suggesting the potential use of cameras to do so, sources familiar with the request told ESPN.

The reaction among those who received an email from Kevin Goldstein, a special assistant to Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, was mixed, sources told ESPN. Some were intrigued by the idea, sources who received the email said, while others were bothered with the thoughts of pointing cameras toward opposing teams’ dugouts, a plan that could have earned them scorn within the scouting community if caught.

The email, which was first reported by The Athletic and confirmed by recipients to ESPN, is the first indication of Astros front-office involvement in potential cheating and further reveals the scope of Houston’s attempts to gain advantages through intercepted signs. Major League Baseball is investigating the organization’s methods of sign-stealing after pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic that during its World Series-winning 2017 season the team used a live video feed to steal catchers’ signs and transmit them to hitters by banging on a trash can.

Goldstein, who did not return a message seeking comment, wrote in the email: “One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout. What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can [or can’t] do and report back your findings.”

MLB’s investigation ramped up this week as interviewers spoke with on-field and front-office staff from the Astros and other teams. As the investigators attempt to confirm the allegations by Fiers, they continue to lay groundwork for other tentacles of alleged cheating, which people around baseball fear has grown into an epidemic in recent years.

“Technology and stealing info is going to be the black eye of this generation,” one longtime Astros employee said. “It’s really the last frontier that isn’t banned. It’s a way to get a competitive advantage without altering the actual players.”

The Pandora’s box of technology use, even with new rules put into place before the 2019 season, continues to vex a sport that encourages teams to meander into gray areas. Sign-stealing long has been a part of baseball, supported by players and scouts alike, particularly runners on second base eyeing the catchers’ signals and relaying them to the batter.

The use of cameras to do so is regarded as unethical by many and due to recent rule changes is now codified as illegal by MLB. The level of punishment for those involved in the Astros’ alleged 2017 sign stealing might depend on commissioner Rob Manfred’s interpretation of a rule against using technology for “stealing signs or conveying information.” In 2017, the league fined the Boston Red Sox for using an Apple Watch in their dugout.

The breadth of the Astros’ willingness to use technology for on-field advantages continues to come into focus. During the 2018 postseason, Kyle McLaughlin, an Astros baseball operations staffer, was removed from the camera wells next to the dugouts of the Cleveland Indians and Red Sox during the postseason after pointing a cell phone into the dugout. Luhnow said the Astros simply were running a counterintelligence operation against the teams to ensure they were not cheating.

The 2017 plans relayed by Goldstein involved a pro scouting department that since has been gutted, with the Astros’ analytics-scouting balance since then tilting wildly to the side of analytics — “99 to 1,” according to a person familiar with the team’s resources. Much of the Astros’ scouting work today, sources said, involves cameras and video.

On-field personnel that has drawn the interest of the league includes Red Sox manager and former Astros bench coach Alex Cora, New York Mets manager and former Astros DH Carlos Beltran, Astros manager A.J. Hinch and Red Sox bullpen coach Craig Bjornson, who had the same job with Houston in 2017.

MLB’s probe follows years of cheating allegations by teams regularly reported to the league office because of suspicious actions or anomalous results. The league has looked into past allegations against the Astros by Oakland last August and the McLaughlin incidents in October and cleared Houston of wrongdoing. The scope of the investigation is expected to include other Astros teams, including the 2019 version that lost the World Series in seven games.

Source link


‘Efficient’ Gerrit Cole K’s 6, allows 1 hit in 5 innings of Yanks’ scrimmage



Gerrit Cole once again showed a glimpse of what New York Yankees fans can expect this season out of their $324 million ace.

In his first intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday night, Cole threw five innings of one-hit ball, which required only 67 pitches (43 for strikes), with six strikeouts and two walks.

Cole started off needing only four pitches to punch out the leadoff man for the “Bombers,” outfielder Mike Tauchman, before allowing his only hit of the evening, a first-pitch home run to Miguel Andujar.

“I thought it was good; it was nice to get through five. We were efficient,” Cole said. “Bounced back from a couple walks well, and overall the location was pretty good.”

The right-hander, runner-up to former Houston Astros teammate Justin Verlander for the 2019 AL Cy Young Award after posting a 20-5 record and a career-best 2.50 ERA during the regular season, didn’t allow another hit and went on to retire the last nine batters he faced.

“Hit the load really well; worked with [catcher] Gary [Sanchez] well. Like I said, had all four [pitches] pretty much located well tonight. Need to work on the fastball command a little bit, but good progression,” he said.

During the spring, after each one of Cole’s games or bullpen sessions, manager Aaron Boone talked extensively about the ace’s focus and enthusiastic attention to detail. And that was certainly on display Tuesday night.

“Honestly [what stands out] is his intensity. He does not take a pitch off, and I’ve talked to him about that. He wants to be game-like every time he’s on the mound,” said rookie Michael King, who pitched a couple of scoreless innings of his own. “Even in these intrasquads, first one of Spring Training 2.0, and he’s mad at himself for missing pitches, mad at himself for not executing. So it’s that competitiveness and intensity that he brings that I hope to do the same.”

“I thought he threw the ball really well, and I thought he finished well, too,” Boone said. “That was the thing I thought was good to see — his stuff was really good from start to finish. I felt like in some ways, he even got a little bit sharper and in a good rhythm, especially with his slider later.”

There was a lighthearted moment when, after striking out Tauchman, Cole thought that he could not reuse the ball that he had just thrown, and upon requesting a fresh one, gave up a home run with his next pitch.

According the wide-ranging protocols contained in the “2020 Operations Manual,” “Any baseball that is put in play and touched by multiple players shall be removed and exchanged for a new baseball. After an out, players are strongly discouraged from throwing the ball around the infield.”

“We weren’t exactly sure if we were supposed to keep it or not. So we kind of made a joke about it and it looks like I should have kept it,” Cole said. “I think there’s obviously going to be some added preparation in terms of really knowing the rules before we get out there, and that’s kind of all of our responsibilities, so it falls under the job description of playing during a pandemic. We’ll get it done and we’ll do it safely.”

Boone said the team has been easing into action outfielder Clint Frazier, who has been dealing with “a little foot issue the last couple of months.” Frazier served as the Bombers’ designated hitter for a second night in a row.

The second-year manager also said the Yankees had completed their intake testing, and only pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga, who was delayed due to travel issues from his home country of Nicaragua, had not finished the process. Boone said he was hopeful that Loaisiga, who is a consideration for a possible fifth starter spot, would be able to rejoin the team Wednesday.

Source link

Continue Reading


Shohei Ohtani walks 8 on 50 pitches in Angels’ intrasquad game



ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani threw competitive pitches off the mound at Angel Stadium on Tuesday for the first time in two years.

Ohtani struggled with his control in the Los Angeles Angels‘ intrasquad game, walking eight batters on about 50 pitches. The two-way star and manager Joe Maddon weren’t overly concerned about the results of another key day in Ohtani’s return from Tommy John surgery.

“I was able to throw all my pitches today, so I’m just going to try to build on that,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “Obviously it felt a lot different from my bullpens, especially because I was unfamiliar with pitching to my teammates. That kind of threw me off a little bit.”

Ohtani hadn’t pitched at the Big A since June 9, 2018, when he left a game with what was initially called a blister. Ohtani was shut down as a pitcher for three months, and the AL Rookie of the Year only returned for one outing in September before it was determined he needed elbow surgery.

“I just saw a guy that didn’t have good rhythm in his delivery,” Maddon said. “He just wasn’t as sharp as he can be, obviously.”

Ohtani served solely as a designated hitter for the Angels last season, hitting .286 with 18 homers and 62 RBI. He intends to resume his two-way career when the majors’ 60-game regular season begins later this month.

Ohtani has gradually built up his arm strength since spring training through workouts at Angel Stadium amid the coronavirus pandemic. He wasn’t scheduled to return to the mound this season until May, and the Angels hope he can make one start per week for the duration of the two-month regular season.

Ohtani struggled with his control during his first spring training with the Angels in 2018, but he largely shook off those woes when he got to the regular season.

“I’ve been told it looked like that a couple of years ago, and there’s nothing to be concerned or alarmed,” said Maddon, who returned to the Angels organization in the offseason. “He’s healthy. He walked away good.”

Source link

Continue Reading


Mets to host Yankees next season on 20th anniversary of 9/11



NEW YORK — The New York Mets will host the crosstown Yankees on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 next season, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.

The clubs will play at Citi Field in a game sure to be full of emotions for the city that’s also reported over 18,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths this year. The person spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because Major League Baseball has not yet released next season’s schedule.

“I can’t imagine how powerful and how emotional of an event that could be,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

The decision was first reported by Newsday.

The 20th anniversary game will be played not far from the site of demolished Shea Stadium, where Hall of Famer Mike Piazza hit a memorable home run for the Mets against the Braves on Sept. 21, 2001 in the first major sporting event in the city following the attacks. New York wore hats honoring the city’s first responders for the game.

Mets slugger Pete Alonso is sure to have a hand in the planning.

The 25-year-old reigning NL Rookie of the Year sidestepped MLB rules to create customized cleats for all of his teammates honoring 9/11 victims and first responders for New York’s home game last Sept. 11. Alonso later donated his spikes to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum

The Yankees and Mets won’t have to wait that long to see each other. The teams announced Tuesday they will play preseason exhibition games July 18 at Citi Field and July 19 at Yankee Stadium as they prepare for the start of a pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season.

The Yankees will start the season against the World Series champion Nationals in Washington on July 23 — the first game of the year for any team. The Dodgers and Giants will play later that night, and the rest of the league will open the next day.

The Philadelphia Phillies will travel to the Bronx for an exhibition game July 20. It’ll be a homecoming of sorts for former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was hired as Phillies manager over the offseason.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source link

Continue Reading