Weekly Mailbag: Sign-Stealing, A Super Infield, and Deivi Garcia!
We’ve got another week until the hot stove really begins to heat up. Until then, we’ve got plenty of content over here at SSTN to keep you warm.
In this week’s mailbag, we’ll talk about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, a super infield, and Deivi Garcia! Let’s get at it:
Mike asks: Is the Astros’ cheating scandal as a big a deal as people are making it out to be? I also don’t know too much about it. The ESPN article was more of a history about sign stealing.
Yes, this is a big story for good reason. Cheating allegations have dogged the Astros for years, and many teams have been paranoid about the way in which they pass signs during games at Minute Maid Park. Obviously, evidence of cheating has not yet been corroborated, and MLB’s investigation is not yet complete, so I don’t want to hang the Astros in the court of public opinion…yet.
During this year’s ALCS, the Yankees made it very clear that they thought the Astros were stealing signs. In talking about Gary Sanchez with people with whom I watched the games, I talked about how impressed I was with Gary’s ability to change pitcher’s rhythms and signs on the fly. On the one hand, you take those measures to throw hitters off of their timing and control the rhythm of the game. On the other hand, you only commit to a game plan in which the catcher frequently changes signs and intentionally gets the pitcher to shake off until time is called if you think there is a high probability that the other team has your signs. At the time, I gave Sanchez a lot of credit for managing the game so effectively, but the implications are far bigger.
This will sound like sour grapes, but I’ve had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach since Altuve’s walk-off homer off of Chapman a few weeks ago. Yes, Altuve is a great hitter. Yes, Chapman hung a slider…badly. We might as well call the pitch a spinner. That said, Altuve tomahawked an off-speed pitch up and away to the pull side, not an easy feat for someone not known for top-of-the-scale power and a de-juiced ball. In the moments after the homer, as I sat deflated, I said to the people around me that I thought that Altuve knew what was coming. At the time, I chalked it up to being a sore loser. Now…I’m not so sure. I’m beginning to think that my initial instinct was correct.
To answer the initial question, there is an unwritten acceptance in baseball that if you steal signs because the other team wasn’t able to hide them, it’s all fair game. What crosses the line is the use of technology and additional people away from the field to try to steal signs. A lifetime ago, Bobby Thompson hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” but we know now that the Giants had someone watching the catcher’s signs in the CF scoreboard, meaning that Thompson knew what was coming. Everyone realizes that such sign-stealing is not in the spirit of the game. What the Astros have allegedly done fits into the same bucket. Using cameras to pick out signs to gain an advantage is wrong. This is one time when I am perfectly OK with baseball’s unwritten rules.
To be fair, other teams are likely engaging in this form of cheating as well. MLB has made previous attempts to curb this cheating by limiting the type of video available to guys in the dugout. If the allegations against the Astros are true, MLB needs to come down hard, and consider if there are any additional rules that can be put into place to curb these types of violations.
Jeff asks: Are the Yankees lining things up to create a “super infield”? Cashman keeps talking about Torres at SS so maybe someone else is coming to the party.
There are two ways to decipher Cashman’s comments about Torres thus far this off-season. On the one hand, you can say that Cashman is toeing the party line, ensuring that they don’t give Didi Gregorius too much bargaining power. Also, it is realistic that the Yankees could go into next season with the current infield as-is, with Urshela at 3B, Torres at SS, DJLM at 2B, Voit/Ford at 1B, and Andujar as a corner infielder who plays 4 times per week. The Yankees might go that route if they are really concerned about the budget, particularly considering the likelihood that they will attack the starting pitcher market this off-season.
That said, I am becoming enamored of the idea of bringing Anthony Rendon into the fold. Rendon is such a good ballplayer on both sides of the diamond, that he makes any team better. Remember, the Yankees have already signaled that they are willing to make some sacrifices to their infield defense, as evidenced by Cashman’s comments about playing Torres at SS. If that’s really the case, how would the offense look if the Yankees could slot Rendon in at 2B, the position he played on at least a part-time basis through 2015? Playing Urshela/Andujar at 3B, Torres at SS, Rendon at 2B, and DJLM at 1B looks pretty good to me!
The question is whether Rendon can even tread water defensively at 2B in his 30s. Rendon’s hands are so good, that I wouldn’t dismiss the idea out of hand. Can I say that the Yankees are specifically planning to build a video game infield? No, but the possibility exists.
Jimmy asks: Will Deivi Garcia start the season in the rotation?
If Deivi Garcia starts the season in the rotation, something went wrong in the off-season for the Yankees. The Yankees have made it their mission to acquire starting pitching either through the Free Agent Market or via trade. As we saw this season, injuries can throw a wrench into even the best laid plans, but the Yankees need to acquire talent and depth.
Beyond that, Garcia still has room to grow. Garcia is still honing his control and command, while learning how to get more advanced hitters out consistently. I personally am a fan of grooming starters in the bullpen, but I certainly don’t think the Yankees will entertain that path at the start of the season.
While I wouldn’t be happy about it, it would not surprise me to see Garcia dangled this off-season in a trade as one of the Yankees’ most valuable trade assets. The Yankees are ready to win now, and despite all of the young talent the Yankees have acquired, somehow it feels like the Yankees window with this core is slowly shrinking. It seems crazy to trade Garcia at first glance, but not as crazy if you think about it in context.
In short, no, I do not think Garcia will be in the rotation to start the year, but I really am pulling for him to be the next homegrown Yankee great.
That’s all for this week! Thanks for reading, and as always, please send your mailbag questions to email@example.com. See you next week!