MLB Sign Stealing-Astros, Red Sox and maybe more

In 2014, with the goal of getting umpire’s calls correct, Major League Baseball went to an instant replay system.  The system included video rooms in each clubhouse that teams could use to decide when to dispute a call.  Over the next few years it appears that a number of teams utilized this replay technology and center field cameras for other purposes including “decoding”/stealing pitch call signs between catcher and pitcher.   In September, 2017 MLB Commissioner Manfred issued a note to all 30 teams to stop using technology for sign stealing as the rumors had been rampant. We now know that at least a few teams did not adhere to Manfred’s warning. This week MLB issued a report that levies a significant penalty on the Astros for their 2017/2018 scheme that married the center field camera that looks in on the catcher with the high tech video room, and later a TV monitor near the dugout and an “old school” bang a trash can with a bat system to let batters know in real time what pitch was coming. The Astros were fined $5MM, they must forfeit first and second round draft picks in 2020/2021 and a one year ban was placed on of both Manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow. The Astros fired those two within a day of the MLB report. Hinch admits he knew about the scheme and even tried to damage the TV monitor but did not stop the operation. Luhnow claims he knew nothing about the scheme but he did not appear to relay the “cease and desist” September, 2017 memo from Manfred to his staff/players. The Red Sox have now parted ways with Alex Cora, the Astros bench coach in 2017 and Red Sox Manager in 2018-19-Cora has been referred to as the “mastermind” of the Astros operation even though the scheme was called “player driven.” Cora is thought to have taken parts of the Astros scheme, not including trash can banging, to Boston.  Astros player Carlos Beltran, who is now the Mets manager is also named in this week’s MLB report. The MLB investigation of the Red Sox is ongoing. The Mets have not made any moves with Beltran as of now. The Astros won the World Series in 2017 and the Red Sox won the following year so this is a really bad look for baseball. The Dodgers, who lost both of those World Series are clearly frustrated, as are their fans-LA City Council wants those two worlds series trophies.  Good luck with that. In our research on The Ringer, The Athletic, and Yahoo we understand 9 other clubs have been accused of stealing signs at some point including: Yankees; Dodgers; D Backs; Indians; Rangers; Cubs; Blue Jays; Nationals (2019 World Series champs) and Mike’s beloved Brewers. More to come.  In 2019 MLB added its employees to each teams video room and made a number of other changes e.g. 8 second delays from the center field camera to the video room but as our friend Mark Fainaru-Wada said on our pod in December, when Brian asked him about the continued steroid use in MLB,  players and teams will continue to look to technology for all the advantages they can get.

Luke Keachly retires at age 28

After 8 seasons, numerous Pro Bowl and all Pro recognitions and career earnings of roughly $60MM, Keachly is stepping away from the Carolina Panthers and the NFL  Kuechly’s exit video mentions a lack of speed and explosiveness that he needs to play at his high level but it seems likely that Keachly is stepping away primarily due to the impact of the multiple concussions he endured as a middle line backer and the risk of incurring more concussions.  He joins Gronk, Patrick Willis, Andrew Luck and others who have stepped away from the NFL in their late 20’s (after making life changing money in their second contracts).  It makes you wonder if we will see more of this going forward and how these shorter careers will impact their NFL Hall of Fame candidacy. It also makes you wonder how many of this generation of NFL players have read Fainaru-Wada’s fantastic but troubling book League of Denial which dissects on the link between concussions/CTE and NFL football. We believe the only position where players aren’t going to retire early is Quarterback which the NFL continues to try to protect.

Small City NBA success and Thank God for no super teams this season

As our blog readers and podcast listeners know, Mike was born in Milwaukee and is a big Bucks, Brewers and Packers fan. He spent much of his career in Cincinnati and Jacksonville so he has a special affinity for smaller pro sports cities.  Shout out to the league leading Milwaukee Bucks and the #2 in the West Utah Jazz; plus the Indiana Pacers; and the Oklahoma City Thunder who are all on track for the playoffs. Congrats as well to the small city Memphis Grizzlies; New Orleans Pelicans (Zion will play his first NBA game next week); Sacramento Kings; Portland Trailblazers; Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs who are all fighting for the 8 seed in the West. While the TV networks may not like it one of the great legacies of David Stern is the strength of these small city NBA franchises. From Brian-Unlike my dad I can handle big city teams being successful what I hate is Super teams e.g. Warriors with Kevin Durant.  What I love about this season is that there is no super team-there are a number of dynamic duos in the West (AD/Lebron, Kawahi/PG, Westbrook/Harden) but no dominant team.  I believe that Milwaukee is by far the best team in the East -the only team that would have a shot against Milwaukee in a 7 game series is a fully healthy Nets team with KD/Kyrie/Lavert etc. but the Bucks are not a super team-they will likely have only 1 All Star.

Carolina Panthers hire LSU OC to be the OC on Matt Ruhle’s staff

The Bengals are virtually certain to draft LSU QB Joe Burrow. Why didn’t they hire Joe Brady, LSU’s pass game coordinator who revolutionized the LSU offense this year, to partner with Burrow? Is Bengals owner Mike Brown being cheap, again?