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Caught Stealing

by admin October 7, 2009 0 comment

Caught stealing

by Archives October 6, 2009 0 comment

I don’t want to call the 2009 Major League Baseball season a bust, but it lacked the drama and storylines that made the 2008 season so enjoyable. It was business as usual this year, and the only real surprise was not that the Mets collapsed like a Mexican hatchback, but that they didn’t wait until September to do so. Thank the baseball gods for a last-minute story that we can make into a mountain from its molehill status.
Since this year’s division races are about as exciting as a Lois Lane comic book, I figured why not peer into the one battle that has some actual suspense to it. The American League Central is looking to be the only entertainment there is in the dying days of September and into the final series of the regular season. With Detroit holding a small lead over Minnesota, it is again coming down to the wire. The only other battle is out in the National League West, with Los Angeles and Colorado fighting to win the division, but either way, both teams are going to the playoffs. So why so much added zest to this race? Because Joe Mauer is stealing more than bases.
On Sept. 29, while Justin Verlander was pitching a solid game, Mauer hit a double which advanced a runner to third and placed him in prime position, on second base, to get a nice view of all the action going on around the batter’s box, which includes what the catcher is telling the pitcher to throw. If you YouTube “Joe Mauer steals signs” you’ll catch some subtle gestures from Mauer to the batter that warned him of which pitch Verlander was tossing. Baseball purists would call this cheating, “bush league,” or even cheap. It’s an unspoken rule along the lines of no checking in a National Hockey League All-Star game, along with no running over the catcher in a play at the plate. Well, does Mauer deserve the ire that Jeremy Roenick and Pete Rose deserve for breaking those unspoken rules? Not a chance.
The reality was that this was a very important series. Detroit had a ticket to the playoffs and Minnesota was looking to pry it out of their hands. Mauer might have broken one of those unspoken rules, but the difference with the other examples I provided was that this game mattered, and mattered a lot. Had this occurred in May or June, when the season is in its infancy, then maybe I would think differently. Instead, it’s the end of September with less than a handful of games left to play and a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. Can you blame Mauer? He has done everything to lead the Twins’ charge to make the post-season, including putting up MVP calibre numbers, and if he can use some of his baseball intellect to give his team an edge, then by all means he should. Plain and simple, it wasn’t cheap. Picking Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat was cheap, this was smart.
I asked Rod Francis of The Team 990 sports radio what he thought of the Mauer incident.
“Stealing signs has always been a part of baseball,” he explained. “It’s up to the players to police themselves.”
Francis knows a thing or two about the rules and when to intervene. He has been an umpire in senior amateur baseball for many years. So what happens when it occurs while he’s behind the plate?
“If I notice a batter looking at the catcher’s signals, or a runner at second tipping pitches or location, I’d let the pitcher and catcher know what’s going on, so they can handle it themselves.” In other words, it isn’t breaking any rules, but Francis warns of a likely consequence: “He’s going to get plunked in his next at-bat.”
There may be those who’ll insist that it is unsportsmanlike. Being smart isn’t unsportsmanlike. Do you think a pitcher doesn’t use his pitching experience when he goes up to bat? Mauer merely played his position when he wasn’t playing his position. What he did was along the lines of shifting an infield to counter a batter who is always pulling the ball, a smart move that improves your chances of success.
So you might think I’m a ruthless baseball cutthroat now that I’ve sided with Mauer. That is only a half-truth. I’m ruthless; I just haven’t cut any throats since I learned how to shave. What I have done, however, is played baseball as a catcher for the past seven years. My signals to the pitcher are fairly simple, as they are with most catchers. However, I always have a second set of more complex signals in case a runner on second base decides to go James Bond on me and starts spying. Do I blame him? No, I adjust my strategy. It is all part of the game.

I don’t want to call the 2009 Major League Baseball season a bust, but it lacked the drama and storylines that made the 2008 season so enjoyable. It was business as usual this year, and the only real surprise was not that the Mets collapsed like a Mexican hatchback, but that they didn’t wait until September to do so. Thank the baseball gods for a last-minute story that we can make into a mountain from its molehill status.
Since this year’s division races are about as exciting as a Lois Lane comic book, I figured why not peer into the one battle that has some actual suspense to it. The American League Central is looking to be the only entertainment there is in the dying days of September and into the final series of the regular season. With Detroit holding a small lead over Minnesota, it is again coming down to the wire. The only other battle is out in the National League West, with Los Angeles and Colorado fighting to win the division, but either way, both teams are going to the playoffs. So why so much added zest to this race? Because Joe Mauer is stealing more than bases.
On Sept. 29, while Justin Verlander was pitching a solid game, Mauer hit a double which advanced a runner to third and placed him in prime position, on second base, to get a nice view of all the action going on around the batter’s box, which includes what the catcher is telling the pitcher to throw. If you YouTube “Joe Mauer steals signs” you’ll catch some subtle gestures from Mauer to the batter that warned him of which pitch Verlander was tossing. Baseball purists would call this cheating, “bush league,” or even cheap. It’s an unspoken rule along the lines of no checking in a National Hockey League All-Star game, along with no running over the catcher in a play at the plate. Well, does Mauer deserve the ire that Jeremy Roenick and Pete Rose deserve for breaking those unspoken rules? Not a chance.
The reality was that this was a very important series. Detroit had a ticket to the playoffs and Minnesota was looking to pry it out of their hands. Mauer might have broken one of those unspoken rules, but the difference with the other examples I provided was that this game mattered, and mattered a lot. Had this occurred in May or June, when the season is in its infancy, then maybe I would think differently. Instead, it’s the end of September with less than a handful of games left to play and a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. Can you blame Mauer? He has done everything to lead the Twins’ charge to make the post-season, including putting up MVP calibre numbers, and if he can use some of his baseball intellect to give his team an edge, then by all means he should. Plain and simple, it wasn’t cheap. Picking Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat was cheap, this was smart.
I asked Rod Francis of The Team 990 sports radio what he thought of the Mauer incident.
“Stealing signs has always been a part of baseball,” he explained. “It’s up to the players to police themselves.”
Francis knows a thing or two about the rules and when to intervene. He has been an umpire in senior amateur baseball for many years. So what happens when it occurs while he’s behind the plate?
“If I notice a batter looking at the catcher’s signals, or a runner at second tipping pitches or location, I’d let the pitcher and catcher know what’s going on, so they can handle it themselves.” In other words, it isn’t breaking any rules, but Francis warns of a likely consequence: “He’s going to get plunked in his next at-bat.”
There may be those who’ll insist that it is unsportsmanlike. Being smart isn’t unsportsmanlike. Do you think a pitcher doesn’t use his pitching experience when he goes up to bat? Mauer merely played his position when he wasn’t playing his position. What he did was along the lines of shifting an infield to counter a batter who is always pulling the ball, a smart move that improves your chances of success.
So you might think I’m a ruthless baseball cutthroat now that I’ve sided with Mauer. That is only a half-truth. I’m ruthless; I just haven’t cut any throats since I learned how to shave. What I have done, however, is played baseball as a catcher for the past seven years. My signals to the pitcher are fairly simple, as they are with most catchers. However, I always have a second set of more complex signals in case a runner on second base decides to go James Bond on me and starts spying. Do I blame him? No, I adjust my strategy. It is all part of the game.

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