The ambiguous world of “Baseball Gamesmanship”

Over the past few games, the Yankees have been fairly vocal with their feelings regarding Toronto’s alleged stealing/relaying of signs. After being outscored 23-8 through the first two games of the series, Joe Girardi commented, “Sometimes we have inclinations that certain things might be happening in certain ballparks and we are aware of it and we try to protect our signs.” The skipper elaborated, “I’m not accusing anyone. I just said we need to protect our signs. You have to take pride in it, and you have to be smarter than other clubs when you do things, and you have to change things up.”

For what it’s worth, my guess is that the losses endured over the first two games of the series had more to do with the shoddy defensive play and grossly underwhelming pitching than anything else. Perhaps not so coincidentally, CC Sabathia didn’t appear overly affected by any stolen signs as he pitched eight strong innings of one run ball during the third game of the set, which ultimately resulted in a 4-1 Yankees win. The same could probably be said for Phil Hughes and his six inning, two earned run effort today.

Of course, if the Blues Jays were actually using some outside form of monitoring (binoculars, electronic equipment, etc.), than that absolutely would be a problem as that type of action blatantly contradicts the written rules of the game. In the same vein, if the Yankees seriously believed this to be the case — which would constitute a fairly substantial charge against the Jays — I’d suspect MLB would probably be asked to step in. Interestingly enough, the Yankees are not the first team to make this particular type of complaint either.

Assuming no official rules were actually violated though, this situation at the very least, qualifies as one of the many ambiguous circumstances of the game that are not necessarily illegal, but still incensing to some nevertheless. It wasn’t shocking to anyone when Martin commented, “They’re lucky that that’s my mindset, of me wanting to change [the signals] because it’s my fault. But some other teams, guys can get drilled for that. I’ve seen it happen.”

It would appear that popular consensus suggests that if a base runner is clever enough to figure out a pitch sequence, signal the dugout, and focus on base running, more power to him. To me, it speaks more towards overall poor pitch selection or general predictability on behalf of the pitcher and catcher. I completely agree with Russell Martin’s conclusion, “The reason why you put multiple signs down is so they’re not able to relay, and that type of stuff. There’s a reason why you just use one when there’s nobody on, and multiple when there’s people on.”

However, it’s certainly understandable how rationalization of this type of “gamesmanship” treads a fine line. Depending on your stance, other similar aspects of the game become a little trickier to condone or condemn. When does “crafty gamesmanship” become unsportsmanlike shenanigans? Also, do you find your feelings change when the discussion shifts to other topics such framing pitches, sliding especially hard into second, pretending to be hit with a ball during an at bat, or distracting an infielder while running the bases?  I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

Game 92: Escape from Toronto

(Photo Credit: Flickr user kyle.tucker95 via Creative Commons license)

I’m really starting to dislike the Blue Jays. I hate the artificial surface in their stadium. I hate their good young pitching. I hate Jose Bautista when he’s playing against the Yankees. I hate crappy little Aaron Hill, who seemingly accumulates his entire .276 wOBA against the Yankees. I hate Edwin Encarnacion making diving stops he has no business making. I hate Travis Snider’s mustache. I hate that Jose Molina for turning into a .300 hitter. I hate Rajai Davis for stealing four bases a game. I hate Shawn Camp’s changeup. I hate that they were able to dump $160M or so of Alexis Rios and Vernon Wells. And more than anything, I hate that they’re starting to become a legitimate contender. They’ve got talent in the big leagues, talent coming up in the minors, and ownership can definitely afford to up payroll. Rogers Communications is like Verizon plus AT&T plus Sprint combined. There’s something like eight million people in Toronto and the surrounding areas. That team is a sleeping giant. That’s why I hate them. Here’s the lineup…

Brett Gardner, LF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, 1B
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Ramiro Pena, 3B

Phil Hughes, SP

First pitch is scheduled for a little after 1pm ET, and the game can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Roster Move: Chris Dickerson has been recalled, I assume in favor of Greg Golson. That’s weird, why didn’t they just call up Dickerson in the first place? The ten day rule didn’t apply because of Alex Rodriguez‘s injury.

Fixing the All-Star Game: A Battle of the Ages

This is a guest post from RAB Shop extraordinaire Tyler Wilkinson. So read it, then go buy something.

Baseball’s mid-summer classic, once an avenue for die-hard fans to catch a glimpse of cross-country superstars, has descended into a watered down exhibition featuring all of the players we watch every night on and every morning on Sportscenter. With the appeal fading, several years ago Commissioner Bud Selig took the radical step of turning this meaningless event into the deciding factor for home-field advantage in the World Series. Yes, crazy. Believe it or not, the possibility of Aaron Crow influencing home-field advantage hasn’t yielded the results Selig was looking for. With that in mind, I have an unrealistic crackpot idea to drive up interest.

A battle for of the ages.

Problem 1, the rosters are too damn big. Peace out Aaron Crow. Royals, you want an All-Star, trade Hosmer and Moose Tacos to the Yankees for A-Rod. Picking on Aaron Crow is fun. Kidding aside, trying to include a member of every squad is diluting the talent pool and lessening the experience. Solution: 25 man rosters. Done.

Problem 2, Joe Buck & Tim McCarver. Do the right thing, Fox.

Problem 3, people aren’t tuning in to watch AL vs. NL anymore. We need a twist. How about a battle of old vs. new? Jeter vs. Cano? Lester vs. Gonzalez? Good vs. Good? Evil vs. Evil? Taking this year’s injury-riddled lineups and splitting them into the 25 youngest players I find interesting and the 25 oldest players I find interesting, let’s see how the rosters fill out.

Young Punks

C:  McCann
1B: Fielder
2B: Cano
3B: Sandoval
SS: Reyes (we’ll roll with the fan vote)
OF: Braun
OF: Kemp
OF: Upton
DH: Votto

SP: Lincecum
SP: Hernandez (F-Her, don’t forget to spread the nickname)
SP: Lester
SP: Price
SP: Hamels
RP: Weaver
RP: Cain
RP: Kershaw
RP: Pineda
RP: Jurrjens
CL: Robertson (shut up, it’s my list!)

BN: Avila
BN: McCutchen
BN: Tulowitzki
BN: Martin (3 catchers to swap out in the ASG seems reasonable)
BN: Bruce

Thoughts: Relievers not named Mo probably don’t belong in the ASG, apologies to Aaron Crow. That is a ridiculous pitching staff. I hope Lester hits Youkilis in his ugly ribs.

Old Geezers

C: Molina (I double checked. It’s not Gustavo)
1B: Gonzalez, Ad.
2B: Phillips
3B: Rodriguez
SS: Jeter
OF: Bautista
OF: Granderson
OF: Hamilton
DH: Holliday

SP: Halladay
SP: Sabathia
SP: Lee
SP: Verlander (the youngest of the old geezers & the exact middle point)
SP: Beckett
RP: Shields
RP: Wilson, Brian (have to break the no relievers rule)
RP: Valverde (and again, gross)
RP: Bell  (and again)
RP: Wilson, CJ
CL:  Rivera (forever and ever)

BN: Montero, Mig.
BN: Beltran
BN: Berkman
BN: Kendrick (someone’s gotta backup the middle infield)
BN: Youkilis (gross)

Thoughts: While the youngsters have a ridiculous pitching staff, the old folks have some big guns of their own up front with a familiar face closing it down. There’s a lot of pop in the old guys’ lineup.

While not perfect (Valverde survived the cut), I still believe the new format would increase interest. Baseball would have an avenue to market their phenomenal young stars to a national audience and the fat of the current system would be trimmed right off.  Plus, the novelty of seeing a Reyes/Cano double play combo is probably more appealing than the standard AL/NL lineups that people have grown accustomed to.  The one thing I think we can all agree on is that home-field advantage being decided in an exhibition game three months before the World Series is ridiculous and unnecessary.  While a radical alteration like the one I proposed is unrealistic, correcting home-field advantage is a simple step that needs to be fixed yesterday. That and Joe Buck.

Sabathia stops the losing streak, Yanks beat Jays 4-1

LOL Jays.

It had been almost a week since the Yankees last won a game, though the All-Star break makes that sound worse than it is. After losing two games in a row, the Yankees had the right man on the mound to … put it on the left side!

  • CC Sabathia‘s 23.2 IP scoreless streak ended in the very first inning thanks to a walk, a stolen base, and a single, but that was all the Blue Jays got. The big guy struck out eight in eight innings, walked three and allowed just three hits. He threw 110 pitches and got 14 swings and misses, his fifth highest total of the season. Over his last five starts, CC has struck out 50 and walked just nine in 39.2 IP. He’s quite good, you know.
  • The Yankees got all the runs they would need in the second inning, when Andruw Jones singled in Nick Swisher and Eduardo Nunez drove in Brett Gardner with a ground out. They chipped in another run in the third when the Jays botched a run down (they had Robinson Cano caught between first and second, but Curtis Granderson broke for home from third with two outs and Toronto threw the ball away), and a Derek Jeter infield single plated the fourth run in the fourth.
  • Brett Gardner had three hits (including two doubles) in four trips to the plate and is 7-for-12 with three doubles in the series. Jeter singled twice, Granderson singled and walked, Mark Teixeira singled, Cano singled and walked, Swisher doubled over the center fielder’s head, Andruw singled, and Frankie Cervelli walked. Eduardo Nunez was the only Yankee not to reach base, though he did lay down a bunt that eventually led to the run down mishap. Cervelli and Gardner each stole bases.
  • Mariano Rivera allowed two bloop singles in the ninth but was otherwise his normal self, striking out two. He did have to throw 28 pitches though (23 for strikes), which might be an issue if the Yankees have a late lead the next few games. It was a pretty standard win, Sabathia dominated, the offense scratched out some runs, and Mo slammed the door. That’s the story right there. Here’s the box score and WPA Graph.

The final game of this four-game series will be played Sunday afternoon. Phil Hughes will make his second start off the disabled list against Carlos Villanueva. I’m kind sick of Toronto, time to get out of there.

A loss at (almost) every level

Tyler Austin has been promoted to Short Season Staten Island. Mason Williams kinda sorta broke the news on Twitter, and the team roster confirms it. The Yankees weren’t messing around, he dominated rookie ball and they bumped him up to give him a challenge. Meanwhile, a Mets scout is making a special trip to Trenton this weekend. Dun dun dun.

As for some injury news, Mark Prior was scratched from his scheduled appearance today. For shame. Bradley Suttle is day-to-day with some arm stiffness.

Triple-A Scranton (7-4 loss to Toledo)
Kevin Russo, LF & Doug Bernier, SS: both 0 for 3 – Russo walked twice and struck ut … Bernier got hit by a pitch and struck out twice
Austin Krum, CF & Terry Tiffee, DH: both 2 for 5 – Krum drove in a run and struck out … Tiffee doubled and scored twice
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 0 for 4, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) – 106 strikeouts in 75 games
Brandon Laird, 2B & Jordan Parraz, RF: both 1 for 4, 1 2B – Laird drove in two and whiffed … Parraz plated a run
Luis Nunez, 2B: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 SB, 1 HBP
Pants Lendleton, RHP: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 2-6 GB/FB – exactly half of his 86 pitches were strikes
George Kontos, RHP: 2.1 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 4-2 GB/FB – 34 of 52 pitches were strikes (65.4%) … that won’t help his chances of a call-up
J.C. Romero, LHP: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-0 GB/FB – ten of 13 pitches were strikes … picked a runner off second

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Curtis Granderson on ESPN’s E:60

Curtis Granderson will be featured on ESPN’s E:60 this coming Tuesday, a piece that looks at his relationship with the family of Brian Bluhm. Bluhm was killed in the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, but he was a lifelong Tigers’ fan and one of Grandy’s biggest fans. He was a pretty active member of the online baseball community as well, doing most of his commenting over at John Sickel’s Minor League Ball. The E:60 feature will air Tuesday at 7pm ET on ESPN. That’s the trailer above.

Here’s your open thread for the night. MLB Network is airing a game, though the teams depend on where you live. Talk about whatever you want here.

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Soriano to begin rehab assignment on Tuesday

Via Chad Jennings, Rafael Soriano will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Tuesday, most likely with High-A Tampa. He threw 25 or so pitches in a live batting practice session today and everything went fine.  The Yankees want Soriano to pitch in back-to-back days before activating him, but rehab assignments for relievers are a formality more than anything else. If all goes well, figure he’ll be back in two weeks.