Tag Archives: Boston Red Sox

Spies Like us? MLB Investigation Unearths Vast Cheating “Can”spiracy

In the 1964 movie Goldfinger, James Bond, played by Sean Connery, finds himself in the crosshairs of a rather delicate situation after he has been strapped to a table with a laser pointed down at him.

It is while he is in this predicament that Mr. Bond, James Bond utters the famous line, “Do you expect me to talk?” to which his captor Auric Goldfinger, played by Gert Frobe, gleefully gives the equally famous reply “no Mr. Bond I expect you to die.” Before going any further it should be noted that James Bond did not in fact die by being lasered in half and went on to have various other fictional adventures.

Et tu, Orbit? After the findings of a report outlining a far reaching, season long, vast “can”spiracy cheating scandal within the Houston Astros organization one has to wonder, what did the mascot know, and when did he know it? Photo Credit R. Anderson

I was recently reminded of the classic scene from Goldfinger while reading stories about Major League Baseball’s (MLB) investigation that placed the Houston Astros in the crosshairs of one of the largest cheating scandals in the history of the sport.

The details of the findings read an awful lot like something that could have come off of the typewriter of Ian Fleming, the man behind the James Bond novels, and also the author of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We will delve more into the second book in a bit. For those who may not be aware, the MLB commissioner’s office recently completed an investigation into cheating allegations levied against the Houston Astros related to games played in the 2017 season, which also happened to be the same year that the Astros won the World Series.

As a result of those findings, three managers and a general manager who had ties to the Astros during the 2017 season have been fired leaving the Astros, Red Sox, and Mets searching for new leadership mere weeks ahead of the start of Spring Training. The Astros were also forced to forfeit four draft picks.

According to the report, the cheating involved a series of high tech and low tech means to steal signs from opposing teams in order to give the Astros an advantage at the plate by knowing what pitches were coming. As Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis demonstrated in Bull Durham, when the hitter knows what is coming, the ball coming off of the bat travels so far that it ought to have a flight attendant on it. Or to use the sabermetrics lingo, “epic launch angle equals the ball traveling many feet.”

Houston Astros 2nd Baseman Jose Altuve, shown during a 2016 Spring Training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Osceola County Stadium, was chosen as the 2017 American League MVP. Now, thanks to the release of the findings of the MLB Commissioner’s office, fans will forever be wondering how much of that MVP year was skill based. and how much of it was aided by an intricate cheating scheme that involved a camera, a bat and a trash can to alert batters on the type of pitch that was coming. Photo Credit R. Anderson

Okay, so every ill-gotten hit by the Astros during the 2017 season wasn’t an out of the park dinger, but the scheme did allow them to hit the ball extremely well, and extremely often, when playing in their home ballpark.  

So how does one alter the outcome of the home games they play in the 21st Century?

According to the allegations outlined in the MLB report it involves a couple of fairly simple, albeit highly unethical steps.

Step 1, place a camera in center field and aim it directly at the crotch of the opposing catcher.

Step 2, make sure that the feed from said catcher crotch cam can be viewed within sunflower seed spitting distance of the dugout.

Step 3, find a bat, these are usually lying around most MLB dugouts.

Step 4, find a trash can. This can be plastic or metal depending on preference.

Step 5, take bat and go chitty chitty bang bang on trash can whenever the catcher crotch cam indicates that the catcher has called for an off-speed pitch such as a breaking ball, or a curve ball.

Step 6, repeat Steps 1-5 for all batters on your team. Remember to only bang the can slowly during off speed pitches, no bang on the can means they are bringing the heat.

To be clear, sign stealing is of course as old as the game of baseball itself. However, it is the lengths that the Astros went to, and the use of digital devices that caused them to run afoul of the commissioner’s office.

In Scooby Doo parlance the Astros may have continued to get away with their cheating being their dirty little secret had it not been for what they would likely call a “meddling” former player from the 2017 team going public with what he knew.

By blowing the lid off of the trash can so to speak, he went against centuries of baseball lore where one only whispers about the dirty deeds allowing disagreements to be policed internally and civilly through bench clearing brawls that inevitably involve the poor relief pitchers having to travel the length of a football field just to arrive after the fight is over before traveling another football field’s worth of distance back to their seats in the bullpen.

Many people have gone on record as saying that the cheating should have remained hidden, while others have applauded the whistleblower for sharing a welcome breath of honesty in a dishonest world. As is the case for all things, history will decide how he will be remembered for his actions.

Despite federal protections and other statues whistleblowers often face more blowback than a fastball up and away to keep the batter from crowding the plate. Of course, the 2017 Astros would have known when to crowd the plate, and when to back away thanks to the tone of the two bangs on their trusty trash can.

There is no way of knowing whether the Astros could have won the World Series in 2017 without cheating, but the fact that they did win it while cheating likely leaves many baseball fans in cities like Los Angeles (lost to Astros in World Series) and New York (Lost to Astros in American League Championship Series) wishing they had a laser to strap people to so that they could get some answers.

To be clear I am not suggesting that anyone build an evil lair in an abandoned warehouse and construct a table made out of gold with a high-powered laser attached to it for interrogating people. Instead, just look on a vacation home rental site under the heading of laser equipped evil lairs.

Again, I am joking but if anyone has an under-volcano lair available the third week of March let me know.

Since the initial release of the report, additional allegations have arisen from the vast shores of public opinion that claim that Astros players wore buzzers on their body to tell them what pitches were coming as a way to give the trash can a night off now and then.

Related to buzzergate, the MLB commissioner’s office noted that no evidence of electronic buzzers or other devices being worn by players was established. The players implicated by the buzzer conspiracy theorists also deny using them.

Despite these protestations of buzzer free play, there are likely to be more allegations made as everything done by players on the Astros for the past three seasons is likely to go under the microscope of crowd sourced group think.

While the investigation into the Astros only centered on the 2017 season, MLB is expected to release their findings on an investigation into allegations that the Boston Red Sox cheated during the 2018 season, which coincidentally was the year that they won the World Series.

The loser in both 2017 and 2018 was the Los Angeles Dodgers who very likely could have old wounds opened up that are wider than the Chavez Ravine that holds Dodgers Stadium if it is revealed that the boys in Dodger blue were bested two straight years by teams found to have cheated.

Were it not for confirmed cheating by the Houston Astros in 2017, and the alleged but still under investigation cheating by the Boston Red Sox in 2018, the Los Angeles Dodgers very well could have added to their tally of World Series Championships. Instead the Dodger players and fans will be forever left to wonder, what if? Note, the trash can pictured is not the trash can implicated in the Astros’ web of cheat and is only guilty of smelling of discarded Dodger Dog wrappers. Photo Credit R. Anderson

Regardless of the outcome of the Red Sox investigation it is clear that the public trust in America’s Pastime has eroded somewhat.

Fans will undoubtedly wonder whether the effort they are witnessing on the diamond is from hard work and preparation, or from shortcuts and cheating.

It is not the first time that scandal has befallen the game and in all of the previous cases the game has survived since diamonds are forever.

With another baseball season on the horizon time will tell if the fallout from this scandal merely leaves baseball shaken, or if it gets stirred down to the core.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Our Yearly Movie Countdown is Feeling Feverish for the Red Sox

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of seeking sunshine during a gray winter, and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season we will be counting down our favorite baseball movies for the next three weeks. Today we travel to Red Sox Nation on the big screen.

In the movie What About Bob?, the title character, played by Bill Murray, sums up the world as being comprised of two types of people, those who love Neil Diamond, and those who do not.

My aunt falls into the category of someone who loves Neil Diamond. Her love of all things Neil Diamond goes so far as having “Sweet Caroline” as the ringtone on her phone.

While this causes some members of the family to burst out into fits of side splitting laughter whenever she gets a call, it is something that she enjoys.

Like Neil Diamond, one tends to either love or hate the Boston Red Sox. It probably is not too surprising then that Neil Diamond and the Red Sox are so intertwined that Boston Red Sox fans belt out that same Neil Diamond song as my aunt’s ringtone during every home game.

While the Red Sox have a long history of winning, they also had a long period of “cursed” play where the diehard fans wondered if their beloved BoSox would ever hoist the World Series trophy again.

The world of a Boston Red Sox fan is explored in the baseball movie, Fever Pitch. Photo R. Anderson
The world of a Boston Red Sox fan is explored in the baseball movie, Fever Pitch.
Photo R. Anderson

After winning World Series titles in 2004, 2007 and 2013, the Red Sox have certainly been on a bit of a winning streak lately.

But before the start of the winning streak, members of Red Sox nation had to look towards the silver screen to see a place where the Sox could be champions.

Enter the movie Fever Pitch which explores the fanatical side of Boston Red Sox fandom while also exploring interpersonal human relationships in the form of a baseball Rom Com, or romantic comedy.

At its surface the terms romantic comedy and baseball should not really be uttered in the same breath. But upon deeper inspection, one can accept that baseball fans have long had a romance with the game that often starts when they catch their first game or pick up a ball and glove for the first time.

In Fever Pitch, the romance is between a Red Sox loving man, played by Jimmy Fallon, and the conflict that arises as he tries to choose between his love of his team and the pressure he feels to grow up.

The movie resonates with fans in different ways depending on where they see themselves along the spectrum.

For some people at a crossroads they can think about whether they need to give up their childhood love of the game and get a real job.

For others watching, perhaps they long for a return to when they loved the game as much as the characters in the film.

Others may be somewhere in the middle finding balance between a so called normal life and support of the home team.

Regardless of where one stands in terms of their personal baseball journey, Fever Pitch offers a glimpse into a year of fandom related to one of the teams with the most rabid fan bases in all of baseball.

Of course, the movie also may or may not have helped break some of those dreaded Red Sox curses so it should be a must have for any member of Sox Nation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly have the urge to listen to some Neil Diamond.

Copyright 2016 R. Anderson

Baseball Movie Mondays is Feeling Feverish for the Red Sox

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of seeking sunshine during a gray winter, and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season we will be featuring baseball movies every Monday between now and Opening Day. Today we travel to Red Sox Nation on the big screen.

In the movie What About Bob?, the title character, played by Bill Murray, sums up the world as being comprised of two types of people, those who love Neil Diamond, and those who do not.

My aunt falls into the category of someone who loves Neil Diamond. Her love of all things Neil Diamond goes so far as having “Sweet Caroline” as the ringtone on her phone. While this causes some members of the family to burst out into fits of side splitting laughter whenever she gets a call, it is something that she enjoys.

Like Neil Diamond, one tends to either love or hate the Boston Red Sox. It probably is not too surprising then that Neil Diamond and the Red Sox are so intertwined with Red Sox fans belting out that same Neil Diamond song as my aunt’s ringtone during every home game.

While the Red Sox have a long history of winning, they also had a long period of “cursed” play where the diehard fans wondered if their beloved BoSox would ever hoist the World Series trophy again.

The world of a Boston Red Sox fan is explored in the baseball movie, Fever Pitch. Photo R. Anderson
The world of a Boston Red Sox fan is explored in the baseball movie, Fever Pitch.
Photo R. Anderson

After winning World Series titles in 2004, 2007 and 2013, the Red Sox have certainly been on a bit of a winning streak lately.

But before the start of the winning streak, members of Red Sox nation had to look towards the silver screen to see a place where the Sox could be champions. Enter the movie Fever Pitch which explores the fanatical side of Boston Red Sox fandom while also exploring interpersonal human relationships in the form of a baseball Rom Com, or romantic comedy.

At its surface the terms romantic comedy and baseball should not really be uttered in the same breath. But upon deeper inspection, one can accept that baseball fans have long had a romance with the game that often starts when they catch their first game or pick up a ball and glove for the first time.

In Fever Pitch, the romance is between a Red Sox loving man, played by Jimmy Fallon, and the conflict that arises as he tries to choose between his love of his team and the pressure he feels to grow up.

The movie resonates with fans in different ways depending on where they see themselves along the spectrum.

For some people at a crossroads they can think about whether they need to give up their childhood love of the game and get a real job.

For others watching, perhaps they long for a return to when they loved the game as much as the characters in the film.

Others may be somewhere in the middle finding balance between a so called normal life and support of the home team.

Regardless of where one stands in terms of their personal baseball journey, Fever Pitch offers a glimpse into a year of fandom related to one of the teams with the most rabid fan bases in all of baseball.

Of course, the movie also may or may not have helped break some of those dreaded Red Sox curses so it should be a must have for any member of Sox Nation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly have the urge to listen to some Neil Diamond.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Matthew McConaughey’s Cannot Miss Ballpark Accessory

Actor Matthew McConaughey recently visited Fenway Park with his son to watch a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros.

Normally a Matthew McConaughey Ballpark sighting would not be a big deal. Celebrities of all shapes and sizes often take in baseball games with their families; the only difference being they usually have better seats than the rest of us.

But during a television interview with the local Houston affiliate the Academy Award winner dropped some serious rationale for bringing back an often ridiculed fashion accessory.

That accessory is the fanny pack.

Mark my words before now no one has ever made the fanny pack look like anything other than a human kangaroo pouch.

I am sure if we are all honest with ourselves there was a time when each of us wore a fanny pack.

Then, when we spotted a vacation photo of us wearing the fanny pack we suddenly realized just how silly they looked and the fanny pack was moved to the back of the closet never to be heard from again.

Actor Matthew McConaughey recently visited Fenway Park with his son to watch a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros and may have started a new fashion trend in the process. Photo R. Anderson.
Actor Matthew McConaughey recently visited Fenway Park with his son to watch a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros and may have started a new fashion trend in the process.
Photo R. Anderson.

While the fanny pack certainly will not be part of any fashion shows, the accomplished actor made a very good point regarding their practicality during his in-game interview.

“I’m not afraid of the fanny pack, instead of stuffing your pockets,” McConaughey said. “You’ve got to kind of put it on the side to make it look a little not as nerdy, but still, practicality wins out. I’ve got so much gear in here that I don’t want in my pockets.

“How many times are you around somebody and they’re like, ‘I forgot my so and so, I got to go back to the car?’ And you’re like, ‘I got mine right here.’”

With many Ballparks employing a no reentry policy one can certainly be in bad shape if they find that they have forgotten their “so and so” after reaching their seats.

Back when I covered games as a sports editor I had a large bag that contained 20 to 25 pounds of everything I thought that I would possibly need to cover that particular game from pens to paper to snacks to rain gear.

Of course when going to games as a normal fan though a 25 pound attaché case complete with an Associated Press Style Guide, Dictionary and Thesaurus is not really practical.

So instead of a bag to carry my Ballpark essentials I have worn cargo shorts for many years on game day as a way to ensure enough room for my tickets, phone, camera, sunglasses, and other must haves.

But with one in-game interview Matthew McConaughey has made me question everything I thought I knew about Ballpark preparedness as well as Ballpark fashion.

I mean if a fanny pack is cool enough for a former People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, it has got to be cool enough for the rest of us.

While reality is probably not nearly as cool as conjecture I have the following scenario in mind when I picture a Ballpark bound Matthew McConaughey.

“Going to the Ballpark to see a game. Need my tickets and my camera. All right, all right. Need my phone in case my agent calls with a movie offer. All right. Need some righteous snacks since I don’t want to pay those inflated Ballpark prices. Into the fanny back they go and away we go. All right, all right, all right.”

In fairness it is hard to know exactly how many “all rights” are enough when it comes to Matthew McConaughey and his Ballpark fanny pack stuffing ritual. Who knows, as a big-time Hollywood star he may even have a dedicated fanny pack stuffer on staff.

While only Matthew McConaughey and the person at the bag check station know for sure what all is in the fanny pack, personally I hope it includes a miniature Oscar statue just for fun.

The term the McConaissance was coined as a way to honor the second act of Matthew McConaughey’s career which has seen the actor take on more challenging roles and even earn that aforementioned Academy Award.

For his efforts in freeing our pockets at the Ballpark, and in the spirit of the McConaissance, I say we honor Matthew McConaughey by renaming fanny packs to something worthy of their second act.

The McConaughey pack as a nice ring to it, don’t you think? I mean can I get an all right, all right, all right?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to see if I can dig up my old fanny pack before my next trip to the Ballpark.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Baseball’s Beasts are in the East

This week the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays faced off in an American League East battle.

Before that it was the New York Yankees and the Rays facing off.

After all of the inter division dust settled the margin between the first place Orioles and the last place Rays was a mere three and a half games.

The Baltimore Orioles currently sit atop the American League East standings where only three games separate first from fifth place. Photo R. Anderson
The Baltimore Orioles currently sit atop the American League East standings where only three games separate first from fifth place.
Photo R. Anderson

The order of teams in the division is likely to change many times between now and the end of the regular season with the Rays, Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees and Blue Jays each having a legitimate shot to win the division when all is said and done.

The same can be said in the National League East where only three games separate the tied for first place Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals from the last place Philadelphia Phillies.

As is the case in the American League East, each of the five National League East teams, Marlins, Nationals, Phillies, Braves, and Mets should feel pretty good about their postseason chances at this point in the season.

While the beasts in the east are all within striking distance of each other things get a little more spread out for teams west of the Mighty Mississippi.

The American League Central has a 6.5 game spread between the first place Detroit Tigers and fifth place Minnesota Twins. In fact the Tigers have a 4.5 game cushion over the second place Chicago White Sox.

The Washington Nationals are currently tied for first place in the National League East with the Miami Marlins in a division that also has three games separating the top from the bottom of the standings. Photo R. Anderson
The Washington Nationals are currently tied for first place in the National League East with the Miami Marlins in a division that also has three games separating the top from the bottom of the standings.
Photo R. Anderson

Out in the American League West the margin stretches to nine games from the first place Oakland Athletics to the fifth place Houston Astros.

In the National League, both the Central and West Divisions have a 9.5 game margin between first and fifth place.

This snapshot of the standings shows once again how the most competitive divisions in baseball reside along the Atlantic coast. But the question remains what is it about those 10 teams that makes them so good year after year?

One could make the argument that much of baseball started with the east coast teams and the fact that they are still competitive could be in direct result of their longevity as franchises.

While it is true that the bulk of the teams in the East Divisions have long histories that does not account for the three World Series appearances by the relatively young Florida based teams.

Despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball the Tampa Bay Rays manage to stay competitive year after year in one of the toughest divisions in Major League Baseball proving that money cannot always buy wins. Photo R. Anderson
Despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball the Tampa Bay Rays manage to stay competitive year after year in one of the toughest divisions in Major League Baseball proving that money cannot always buy wins.
Photo R. Anderson

The Rays have one World Series appearance ending in a loss and the Marlins won their two trips to the October Classic proving that age is not the only driving factor when it comes to success in the east.

With length of franchise existence ruled out as the driving factor behind the success in the East one might be tempted to say payroll is the key to what makes baseball on the East coast so much more competitive than the western counterparts.

While it is certainly true that the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies are not shy about spending money to sign players, the current teams atop the National League East and American League East, the Marlins and Orioles respectively, have some of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

Additionally the Tampa Bay Rays have shown year after year that they can be competitive despite a payroll that is a fraction of the size of some of the big spenders in the division.

So one cannot use history or finances to point to as reasons behind the competitive balance in the Eastern Divisions of Major League Baseball.

A third possible reason behind the success of the Eastern Division franchises that could be pointed to by some is the proximity of the teams to each other that leads to heated rivalries.

While it is true that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have proximity as well as a heated rivalry that has spanned over a century there are rivalries in all divisions in Major League Baseball so the Eastern Division teams cannot claim a monopoly on that reason either.

In the final analysis one cannot really point to why the 10 Eastern Division teams seem so much more evenly matched than the other 20 teams in baseball.

Sometimes there are not simple answers for things.

One does not need to know how exactly it is that the Earth spins down to the molecular level to appreciate that it prevents people from floating off into outer space any more than one needs to know the complete formula for the success the teams in the Eastern Divisions.

Sometimes in life it is just best to enjoy the resulting sausage without having to see how it was made, and right now there is some very tasty sausage being made in the American and National League East Divisions.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am suddenly craving some bratwurst for some reason.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson