January 10, 2020
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about the latest revelations about Red Sox sign-stealing, MLB’s impending punishment of the Astros, and long-term sign-stealing solutions, then answer listener emails about banning executives, the offseason coverage of the Cubs and White Sox and what it means to win the winter, why bench players aren’t displayed in box scores, the merits of MLB’s approach to instituting an automated strike zone, and what makes errors and misplays memorable, plus a Stat Blast about the positional patterns of multi-position players.
- Would MLB adjust or revisit past penalties if sign-stealing is league-wide?
- How free agency signings are covered for different teams
- Offseason coverage for the Cubs and Whie Sox
- Patterns of multi-positional players
- Difficulty of finding bench players for each game
- MLB process of instituting an automated strike zone
Uncle Tupelo, "Steal the Crumbs"
Otis Redding, "Everybody Makes a Mistake"
- Ben and Sam discuss the latest sign-stealing allegations against the Red Sox. They are being investigated for using the video replay room to steal signs, something explicitly prohibited by MLB in previous seasons.
- Comparing the Astros and Red Sox sign-stealing
- Sam says that the Astros and Red Sox methods of sign-stealing feel different. Comparing the scandals to cheating on a test, he says that the Astros broke into the school to steal answers whereas the Red Sox looked at the test of the person next to them.
- Strategies for how MLB can prevent sign-stealing
- Use of technology for preparation/scouting vs. in-game
- What makes errors, misplays, or bloopers memorable
Email Questions Edit
- Maximiliano: "As an Astros fan, I have been doing a lot of thinking about potential punishments for the sign-stealing affair. I have heard the opinion that the severity of the punishment should be commensurate with how widespread this sort of cheating is. That led me to this question: Suppose MLB decides to be harsh and bans Jeff Luhnow from baseball for life. It comes to light sometime in the near future that several other teams were cheating at a level that would merit similar punishment. Do y'all think MLB would go with established precedent and issue many lifetime bans or rescind Luhnow's ban and find a different way of punishing this?
- Anthony: "Am I way off base here, or is the way that free agency is covered in the non-sabermetric, beat-writer level of the baseball media extremely misleading to the general public? The reaction to the offseason seems to be based almost exclusively on the number of moves, and not the overall state of the team making the moves. The White Sox are a fine and interesting team who might be a sneaky competitor in 2020, but they're being treated like geniuses and clear offseason winners just because their team had a bunch of gaping holes that it could easily fill with low to mid tier free agents. Meanwhile people keep pointing out that the Cubs haven't signed any new major league contracts, when the team is still projected to be better than most of the teams who are "winning the offseason". I've been mulling over a thought experiment, and I'm almost 100% sure of the following: Imagine the Cubs had the exact same roster they do now, except that Heyward, Lester, and Darvish had all hit free agency again after last season. Then they start this offseason by re-signing them. I'm almost positive that in that universe, the Cubs would be considered one of the winners of the offseason so far. Instead, they're getting roasted in the media as one of the big losers, even though those are the exact same deals that the team currently has on its books. They just signed them years ago instead of in the last two months.
- Bartosz: "As a relatively new fan of baseball, I wanted to thank you for keeping me company in the first season of my baseball fandom. I really would want to know, why are members of the 25 (soon to be 26) man rosters so hard to find for any given game? Coming from a whole different sports world in Europe, one of the basic things displayed on almost any soccer match recap website/article are the bench players. Why is it different for baseball? In my opinion the players on the bench are important too!
- Kieran: "MLB does a lot of things ham-handedly and incompetently, but it sure seems like they have absolutely nailed change management around the introduction of an automated strike zone. Over the past five years, say, the idea has been constantly in the conversation to the point where everyone accepted its eventuality (regardless of support) before they even started testing it in games. This has allowed them to monitor responses, collect feedback, and anticipate issues. They rolled it out outside of affiliated ball first. They're introducing it gradually in affiliated ball. They got the umps on board in their CBA. It just seems like such a well-executed plan from the league's perspective, which puts in even starker contrast many of their other actions and responses.
- Rob: "One thing you mentioned recently was memorable items in a specific category over the past decade and mentioned the goof or blunder in the vein of the Merkle Boner that would qualify. I thought we pretty much had a Merkle Boner in this past postseason with Trent Grisham's misplay at the end of the 2019 NL Wild Card Play In game. Think about the implications of him cutting off the ball. The Brewers surely give up a run but not likely the lead and we're talking about only needing 3 more outs from Hader and they move on to the playoffs whereas the World Series Champions don't win anything. The ramifications of that are pretty dramatic. Who knows if the Nationals feel they are on the right path enough to lay out the money to keep Strasburg. I still believe Rendon is gone but the team might be more likely to be cautious in spending and lean towards a rebuild (or at the minimum a reboot) and in doing so we would likely see a lot less of the free agency movement in their direction (they've most definitely been the most active teams in the market thusfar), where Strasburg lands might change where Rendon lands (especially if the Angels land Strasburg) thus shifting the market further. Considering the way the market has stalled behind Donaldson's decision, how much more stagnant does the market become if Rendon, who was either #2 or #3 in this market depending on your view, is in a similar position of holding out for better money and stalling other big position players behind him? If Grisham makes the play, are the Brewers so willing to give him up for Urias? If they keep him is there a need to sign Garcia? The domino effect of that play seems to have some rather far reaching tentacles but the blunder in the outfield just on it's face, seems Merkle or Snodgrass worthy... or maybe more appropriately Freddie Lindstrom worthy (those old NY Giants sure had a lot of crazy fielding mishap circumstances that cost them games, didn't they?)
Stat Blast Edit
- Following up on a discussion about Danny Santana in Episode 1473, Sam looks up information about players who have played every defensive position.
- There are 3 players who played all 10 positions (including DH) in a single season: Scott Sheldon (2000), Jake Elmore (2013) and Andrew Romine (2017).
- 11 players in history have played all 9 defensive positions, 18 have played 8 (excluding pitching).
- There have been 138 players in MLB history who have played 7 defensive positions in a season (pitcher and catcher excluded).
- Baseball Reference lists the positions in decreasing order of frequency played at that position.
- Sam asks Ben to guess the most common order of positions.
- It's a trick question. There are no duplicates among the order of positions. Sam finds this surprising, because for 7! = 5040 possible orders, the Birthday Paradox says that after 83 players, the odds of a duplicate reach 50%.
- Of the 138 players, Ben Zobrist is the career WAR leader.
- Sam doesn't think that Trent Grisham's error can be held solely responsible for the outcome of the NL Wild Card game. In addition, while Grisham may have misplayed the ball it wasn't a silly blooper.
- Willians Astudillo was involved in the fringe of a brawl (and ejected from the a game) in the Venezuelan winter league where a hitter swung a bat at the catcher.
- Recent Yankees signee Nick Tropeano recorded a one-pitch strikeout in 2013. After throwing a questionable first pitch strike the batter Tropeano was facing refused to get back in the batter's box, protesting the call. In quick succession the umpire called two automatic strikes and Tropeano recorded the strikeout.
- Effectively Wild Episode 1484: Degrees of Sign-Stealing Sin
- MLB's sign-stealing controversy broadens Sources say the Red Sox used video replay room illegal in 2018 by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich
- Red Sox Face Same Exhaustive Investigation for Sign Stealing as Astros by Tom Verducci
- Wild Venezuelan brawl started with a 'hit catcher' by Thomas Harrigan
- Yankees sign Nick Tropeano, who once recorded the most insane strikeout by Mark Fischer