MLB Issues Statement Clearing Astros Of Rule Violations

2:40pm: Major League Baseball has issued the following statement on the investigation:

“Before the Postseason began, a number of Clubs called the Commissioner’s Office about sign stealing and the inappropriate use of video equipment. The concerns expressed related to a number of Clubs, not any one specific Club.  In response to these calls, the Commissioner’s Office reinforced the existing rules with all playoff Clubs and undertook proactive measures, including instituting a new prohibition on the use of certain in-stadium cameras, increasing the presence of operations and security personnel from Major League Baseball at all Postseason games and instituting a program of monitoring Club video rooms.

With respect to both incidents regarding a Houston Astros employee, security identified an issue, addressed it and turned the matter over to the Department of Investigations.  A thorough investigation concluded that an Astros employee was monitoring the field to ensure that the opposing Club was not violating any rules.  All Clubs remaining in the playoffs have been notified to refrain from these types of efforts and to direct complaints about any in-stadium rules violations to MLB staff for investigation and resolution.  We consider the matter closed.”

8:45am: There was no shortage of drama surrounding the Red Sox and Astros last night following a series of reports regarding an Astros employee who was removed from the photo well next to the Red Sox’ dugout in Fenway Park during Game 1 of the ALCS, as first reported by Danny Picard of the Metro News. The employee, reported by Yahoo’s Jeff Passan to be Kyle McLaughlin, was said to be pointing a small camera into the Boston dugout. However, both Alex Speier of the Boston Globe and Joel Sherman of the New York Post report that the league’s investigation was concluded by the time Game 3 began. That probe actually revealed that McLaughlin was trying to determine whether the Red Sox themselves were illegally using video monitors to steal signs from the Astros.

Passan writes that the league has not punished the Astros for any illegal behavior following the investigation. Picard’s initial report even indicates that McLaughlin wasn’t removed from the stadium — only the media area in which he’d been set up. However, it does not appear as though this was an isolated incident.

Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer further reports that the Indians filed a complaint with the league against the Astros following a pair of similar incidents in the ALDS and also reached out to the Red Sox to warn them prior to the start of the ALCS. Passan also details a complaint filed by the Athletics, who alleged that the Astros were using a clapping-based system from the dugout to relay stolen signs to the players on the field during an August game. To this point, though, there’s been no word on whether Houston was punished in that incident.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski does not believe the matter had any influence on the outcome of Game 1, which Boston lost 7-2. Red Sox manager (and former Astros bench coach) Alex Cora agreed. The series of complaints against the Astros, Sherman notes, could stem in part from a reputation in the industry that portrays them as a “[New England] Patriots-like” organization — that is, one that “pushes to the limits of the rules — and perhaps beyond.” Passan adds that some clubs are “wary” that Houston may utilize its Edgertronic ballpark cameras, which can record 2,000 frames per second, in sign-stealing schemes.

As Passan notes, however, the Astros aren’t the only organization that has been accused of this manner of sign-stealing efforts. While he doesn’t cite specific teams that have been placed under the microscope, it’s worth remembering that the Red Sox themselves were fined in 2017 for illegal use of an Apple Watch in the dugout in an effort to steal signs from the division-rival Yankees. The  Yankees, too, were also fined for violating a rule pertaining to the use of the dugout phone, and there have been similar reports that other teams believe the Yankees use the YES Network to steal signs from opponents. Back in 2015, the Royals believed the Blue Jays were stealing signs during the 2015 ALCS (to say nothing of the infamous “man in white” conspiracy in Toronto a few years prior).

If anything, the series of reports serves as a reminder and/or an eye-opener that most, if not all teams throughout the league are willing to push the boundaries and utilize technology in an effort to gain a competitive edge. It’s arguable that these tactics are of in the spirit of more “traditional” sign-stealing methods that have been employed for decades (e.g. runner on second base looking in on a catcher’s signs), though the advent of technology obviously presents new methods of gaining that edge — methods that exist in what is at best an ethical gray area.

The utilization of technology in sign-stealing efforts isn’t likely to go away, and it’ll continue to force teams and players into more rigorous efforts to protect signs. Hoynes notes in his column that Cleveland worked so diligently to protect its signs in the weeks leading up to the ALDS that the efforts “bordered on paranoia.” Players, too, recognize the need for increased caution.

“It’s part of the game now,” Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart tells Speier. “…The game is changing. It’s making it tougher. You see a lot of pitchers and catchers get crossed up now — it’s crazy. The game sequences, the signals that you come up with are crazy. You’ve just got to stay in tune with everything.”

Perhaps the greater issue in all of this, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston writes, is Major League Baseball’s lack of transparency on matters of this regard. As Drellich examines, the lack of clear rules in place and the unnecessarily hushed manner in which the league handles such scenarios only incentivizes teams to continue rule-bending/breaking and to make accusations in the first place.

Tracking the Managerial and Executive Openings around MLB

We already have several managerial job openings. Here is a quick and easy guide to what is going on in those searches.

At the end of a season, many teams have to make a tough decision: whether or not they should fire any members of their coaching or front office staff. This article will provide the latest updates regarding team’s searches for a new manager or general manager.

In addition, you can check out the Manager and General Manager spreadsheets for the statuses off the most-likely candidates.

Two clear front-runners in Reds managerial search | October 17
John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that there are two apparent front-runners in the search for the newest manager of the Cincinnati Reds: Rocco Baldelli, who is the field coordinator of the Tampa Bay Rays, and David Bell, who is the farm director of the San Francisco Giants.

Angels interview Ausmus, Chavez | October 17
The Los Angeles Angels have interviewed Triple-A manager Eric Chavez and special assistant Brad Ausmus for their managerial opening. Chavez, who has never coached at the MLB level, became the manager of the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees in August. Ausmus, on the other hand, does have experience as a manager from when he was with the Detroit Tigers from 2014-17.

Orioles job search remains quiet | October 17
The Baltimore Orioles have been quiet this offseason when it comes to finding a new manager and general manager. Billy Ripken and Orioles TV analyst Mike Bordick are expected to be candidates for the managerial position. Meanwhile, Amiel Sawdaye (Arizona Diamondbacks, assistant general manager) and Dan Kantrovitz (Oakland Athletics, assistant general manager) are both likely candidates for the general manager vacancy. The Orioles have yet to interview anyone for either position.

Blue Jays managerial search enters Round Two | October 16
The Blue Jays are the second team to enter the second round of their managerial search. David Bell (San Francisco Giants, VP of Player Development), Joe Espada (Houston Astros, bench coach), Rocco Baldelli (Tampa Bay Rays, field coordinator), and Brandon Hyde (Chicago Cubs, bench coach) have supposedly advanced to the second round of interviews, a source tells Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. A fifth candidate has also reportedly advanced to Round Two of interviews.

Minnesota Twins interview sixth person | October 16
The Twins have interviewed their sixth person: like many teams, they have checked in on Joe Espada. They have also interviewed Brandon Hyde, Rocco Baldelli, Hensley Meulens (San Francisco Giants, bench coach), Derek Shelton (Minnesota Twins, bench coach), and James Rowson (Minnesota Twins, hitting coach). They are also expected to meet with retired catcher David Ross, who is currently working for ESPN.

San Francisco Giants interviewed Jason McLeod, Amiel Sawdaye | October 16
It was reported today by Bruce Levine of 670 TheScore that Chicago Cubs senior vice president of player development Jason McLeod interviewed for the Giants’ general manager opening. Although he seems like a strong candidate, he may choose to remain with the Cubs, where he is making $1M per season. Arizona Diamondbacks assistant general manager Amiel Sawdaye is also a strong candidate for the role, and he would be a great fit for the general manager role in San Francisco. Among the players Sawdaye has drafted are Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Sam Travis from his time with the Boston Red Sox.

Cincinnati enters Round Two of managerial search | October 15
The Reds are entering the second round of their search for a manager, and have decided on ten candidates to advance to the next round of consideration. Among those that are expected to remain under consideration are Baldelli, Joe Girardi, and Reds’ 2018 interim manager Jim Riggleman.

Rangers conduct at least seven interviews | October 15
By now, the Texas Rangers have conducted at least seven known interviews for their managerial vacancy. Among those who have interviewed are Don Wakamatsu (Texas Rangers, interim manager), Jayce Tingler (Texas Rangers, assistant general manager), Brandon Hyde, Joe Espada, Joe Girardi, David Bell and Rocco Baldelli.

Angels working on finding new manager | October 14
The Los Angeles Angels are starting the process of finding a new manager. So far, they have interviewed Joe Espada and Brandon Hyde. Brad Ausmus and Eric Chavez are both currently in the Angels organization and may also receive interviews.

Search for the new Mets GM: Chernoff won’t interview | October 14
Chaim Bloom (Tampa Bay Rays, senior vice president of baseball operations), Kim Ng (MLB executive), and Doug Melvin (Milwaukee Brewers, special adviser) have all received interviews with the Mets, and are considered to be the leading candidates. Meanwhile, Cleveland Indians GM Mike Chernoff declined an interview and will stay with Cleveland.

Check back often for the latest updates.

Didi Gregorius Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

Oct. 17: The Yankees announced that Gregorius had the surgery today, which “went as expected.” No further timetable was given in the press release announcing the operation.

Oct. 12: Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius underwent an MRI yesterday that revealed a ligament tear in his right elbow, manager Aaron Boone revealed to reporters today (all Twitter links via The Athletic’s Marc Carig). He’ll require Tommy John surgery to repair the injury, and an exact timeline on his return is presently uncertain, though rehab for position players is shorter than it is for pitchers. Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News writes that Boone expressed a belief that Gregorius could return in time “to play the bulk of the season with us,” and she further tweets that GM Brian Cashman suggested a “summer” return for Gregorius is possible.

The injury is fairly jarring, as Gregorius wasn’t known to have previous elbow pain. However, Boone explained to reporters that Gregorius felt something in his elbow at Fenway Park when making a relay throw during the American League Division Series. Despite the obvious discomfort that followed, Gregorius gutted out the remainder of the series before undergoing an MRI after the conclusion of the Yankees’ season.

The uncertainty surrounding Gregorius will add a major wrinkle to the Yankees’ offseason. The team has already been linked to free agent Manny Machado dating back to last offseason, and the fact that Gregorius isn’t likely to be ready to open the season will only further fuel that connection. Adding a shortstop won’t be an imperative for the Yankees, who do have substantial depth with Gleyber Torres, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade all on the roster. Nonetheless, they’ll surely at least explore their options — likely including everything from smaller-scale depth additions to an earnest pursuit of Machado, one of the highest-profile free agents in recent history.

The very fact that Boone has suggested Gregorius will return to the Yankees is of some note. He’s up for a relatively hefty arbitration raise after hitting .268/.335/.494 with a career-high 27 home runs for the Yanks this season; MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Gregorius to earn $12.4MM in 2019 — a sizable step up from this past season’s $8.25MM salary. Gregorius would be eligible for free agency upon completion of the 2019 season.

If the timeline for his return is lengthy enough, however, the Yankees would likely be forced to consider a non-tender of Gregorius. The final determination on his timetable, of course, won’t be made until after he undergoes surgery, but a salary north of $12MM would be a substantial price to pay for half a season, and Torres’ natural position is shortstop. Utilizing Torres at short in 2019 would open up an even wider slate of possibilities, as the second base market has ample supply that could vastly outstrip the demand at the position.

Brewers replace injured Gonzalez on NLCS roster

Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

High ankle sprain ends Gonzalez’s 2018 season

After the 13-inning marathon that was Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, the Milwaukee Brewers were able to add a pitching reinforcement before Game 5 less than 15 hours later. Zach Davies was added to Milwaukee’s NLCS roster in place of an injured Gio Gonzalez.

Gonzalez suffered a high ankle sprain fielding a ground ball in the second inning of Game 4, and exited the game one pitch later. He went for tests late Tuesday night.

Major League Baseball approved the move on Wednesday morning, which per the rules means Gonzalez is ineligible for not only the rest of the NLCS but also the World Series as well, should the Brewers advance that far.

This is the second mid-series injury replacement in the 2018 postseason. The Boston Red Sox replaced an injured Steven Wright in their bullpen after Game 1 of the American League Division Series, instead adding Heath Hembree to the squad.

The right-handed Davies had a 4.77 ERA in 13 starts for the Brewers this season, a campaign interrupted by shoulder and back problems that required two stints on the disabled list.

Losing Gonzalez in the second inning created a pitching scramble for the Brewers, who covered the final 12 innings with six relievers. While the Dodgers used all eight relievers on their roster, the Brewers in Game 4 managed to avoid using Jeremy Jeffress, Brandon Woodruff and Xavier Cedeño.

“We’ll have to kind of put our heads together and look at what we’ve got. We’ve got some guys we’ve used quite a bit,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Tuesday. “We were able to stay away from a couple of guys tonight. But we’re in a little bit of a tough spot, for sure.”

Zach Davies Replaces Gio Gonzalez On Brewers’ NLCS Roster

The Brewers announced this morning that they’ve replaced left-hander Gio Gonzalez on their NLCS roster following yesterday’s ankle injury; righty Zach Davis will take his place. The move renders Gonzalez, a pending free agent, ineligible to pitch in the World Series should Milwaukee advance, as players removed from the roster mid-series are automatically ruled ineligible for the following round of postseason play.

Gonzalez suffered a high ankle sprain in the second inning of last night’s game against the Dodgers when fielding an infield single off the bat of Yasiel Puig (video link via MLB.com). His short start forced skipper Craig Counsell to go to his bullpen early, which proved to be all the more significant in a game that would go 12 innings and deplete the bullpen for each team. Adding Davies to the mix, then, will give the Brewers a fresh arm while simultaneously ending Gonzalez’s season.

Davies, 25, missed a good chunk of the 2018 season due to a rotator cuff issue in his right shoulder, but he returned to the Brewers in September and posted a 3.91 ERA and an 18-to-4 K/BB ratio in 23 innings down the stretch. His overall numbers in ’18 aren’t much to look at, but Davies entered the year with a career 3.91 ERA in 388 2/3 innings with 6.6 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 after being acquired from the Orioles in a 2015 trade that sent Gerardo Parra to Baltimore as a deadline rental.

The 33-year-old Gonzalez will reach free agency for the first time in his career this offseason. He’ll head into the open market coming off 171 innings of 4.21 ERA ball in the regular season, during which he averaged 7.8 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 and 0.89 HR/9 to go along with a 45.3 percent ground-ball rate. It’s the second pedestrian ERA for Gonzalez in the past three seasons, though his 2017 season was terrific in that regard (2.96), and his 2016 ERA (4.57) was heavily skewed by an uncharacteristic dip in strand rate.

Gonzalez has a solid track record over the years and was a fixture in the Nationals’ rotation for seven years after coming over in a trade from the Athletics. He’s lost about a mile off his average fastball since 2016 and turned in the worst full-season walk rate of his career in 2018 — neither of which figure to do his free-agent stock any favors. But Gonzalez has generally been a durable and dependable rotation piece since 2010, averaging 31.4 starts per season along the way. He’s only fallen shy of 30 starts once in that time (27 starts in 2014) and has posted solid run-prevention numbers with a knack for missing bats and limiting home runs.

Gonzalez’s swinging-strike and chase rates both improved substantially with the Brewers, albeit in a small sample of 25 1/3 innings, which could give interested parties some optimism in free agency this winter. At worst, the veteran southpaw should be viewed as a dependable source of 30+ starts, and if a team feels his 2018 control issues can be corrected (and/or that his improvement with the Brewers is sustainable), he could be seen as a step above that in terms of value.

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