The Boston Red Sox have been tied to the Houston Astros and the current sign-stealing scandal, but two of their arms never heard any of the misbehavior.
It seems that the only thing baseball fans can talk about lately is the mess going on in Houston. With the light being shined on the sign-stealing world, the Red Sox have found themselves in the headlines as well. Though for a different style of going about the age-old tactic, both teams have found themselves tied in this current hot topic.
It was clear during the Winter Weekend event that the media and players wanted to talk about everything going on with not only Boston but with Houston. Now, they didn’t get too deep into things but there was a lot of conversing in regards to the hot button issue.
Two guys that had some things to say about everything going on in the baseball world were Red Sox pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Matt Barnes. The righty pair have played numerous games against the Astros and more importantly in their home of Minute Maid Park.
This is the first time that I can remember seeing anything from an opposing squad denouncing the trash-can rumors. I’m not saying they’re the only ones to speak up that they don’t remember hearing anything from the Houston dugout but I sure don’t recall anyone else saying as much. They didn’t fully exonerate their AL rivals as there was talk of whistling from the Astros squad.
“There’s always something,” Eovaldi said. “As a player, you don’t want to think something like that’s happening. If you’ve got a big guy out there, one of your starters and they’re getting rocked, it’s like… Hm. What’s happening? Are we tipping pitches? Everybody has different stuff going on.”
Nasty Nate is spot on that it’s hard to think that your ace is just having an off night. Red Sox Nation saw plenty of that from the starting rotation in 2019 and I’m sure there may have been some chicanery mixed into the bad pitching. We’ve all read the report by this point so it’s a surprise to get a different take from a player about what was going on.
Eovaldi says he never heard anything too nefarious from the Astros while playing in Minute Maid Park beyond the more traditional whistling. His thoughts on sign-stealing fall in line with many of those that are out on the ether in that the practice is fine as long as it’s “done right.”
When I say that I mean in the aspect of not using any extra tools in order to learn the sign patterns. If you just have the eye for it like some veterans do, then go ahead and use that gift.
Pitchers always need to be aware of tipping their stuff and allowing the opposition an easy path to knocking them out of the game. Adding in the usage of technology to speed up the process only makes a pitcher’s life that much more stressful.
This has given way to the implementation of “cheat sheets,” which are strategy cards with multiple pitch sequences in order to keep things fresh. Former Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie put the practice into place midway through 2019 in a way to combat Boston’s poor pitching. With several issues on the hill and no real diagnosis for them, the team was willing to try anything to give their pitchers a chance.
“As pitchers, we know they’re trying to pick up signs,” he said. “That’s why we have sequences with runners on base. From my understanding with the Astros, they were able to do it with nobody on base. That’s a little different,” Eovaldi added.
Barnes, much like Eovaldi, believes that the pitcher is the first line of defense in relation to the sign-stealing and has to be aware of tipping his pitches. He also doesn’t support the use of technology or outside sources in order to figure out what’s coming to the plate. It’s on the pitcher to make sure that they aren’t giving away what pitch is coming just as much as it’s on the hitter to guess correctly.
Baseball is one giant chess match between the pitcher and hitter so for one to have an extra advantage isn’t right. Teams around the league have been on high alert the last few seasons with several allegations coming out against multiple teams. We all know about the crap hurricane surrounding the Astros right now and the Red Sox aren’t necessarily the cleanest organization right now either.
This all goes back to the differences between what the two squads are accused of doing. Houston used an elaborate system with its own cameras and a neat trash can. Boston used the replay room which was provided by the MLB albeit under direction to not use it for decoding signs. I haven’t seen as much outrage over what the Red Sox are accused of, and this is my belief, is because most teams were doing the same.
“I think sign-stealing from second base and guys trying to pick pitches has been going on as long as the game has been going on,” Barnes said. “It’s part of it. I’m looking for a hitter’s weakness. They’re looking for if I’m doing something with my glove or if I’m falling into certain tendencies. It all falls into that category.”
Back to the matter at hand though and that’s that despite all the video and enhanced sound “evidence,” we have two pitchers that played in the park saying they didn’t hear anything. Considering the trash cans can be heard pretty damn clearly it may have been more so because they were in the zone and or in an area with poor acoustics.
The Red Sox are still awaiting the findings of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s investigation into the 2018 allegations. Until that report is finished and made public, Boston will remain under the same dark cloud that has made its home over Houston. No matter what the results of the investigation are there will be a portion of the baseball community that will always try and hold the allegations against the Sox.
Sign-stealing is nothing new to the world of baseball and will continue to be a part of the game until we take our final breaths. What the MLB needs to do is find a way to counter the advancing technology around their ancient game in order to protect the sanctity they love so much. We’ve already seen how teams are using even given technology to their advantage, and it’s only going to get more creative as time goes on.