I spent the weekend in Galveston for work and took a couple of days off from the blog. Someone broke into the Work Car and stole all of our backpacks, it was fantastic. Let's see what has happened over the last couple of days...
*Josh Reddick had an apparently successful surgery on his AC joint in his shoulder. The Astros said he'd be ready for Spring Training.
*From Friday: Tom Verducci notes that MLB has already interviewed "15 to 20" Astros personnel, including A.J. Hinch - "Some more than once." One "official:"
I don't know if MLB wants to turn over every rock, because this is the culmination of where the game is going. Whatever comes out of this has to be good for the game. This gives MLB ample opportunity in this day and age to do whatever they want with protocols. You can reshape where technology is in our game. You have a golden opportunity to restructure some processes in baseball.
*From Friday: Jeff Passan reports that MLB officials are asking questions about the Astros' efforts to steal signs. Key paragraph:
Players have been asked about "buzzing," via the use of Band-Aid-like wearable stickers; furtive earpieces; pitch-picking algorithms; and other potential methods of sign-stealing, the sources said. Accusations about the extent of the alleged wrongdoing have streamed into commissioner Rob Manfred's office from officials of other teams, the sources said. MLB officials are endeavoring to separate fact from fiction, the sources told ESPN, and the league has not concluded whether any such methods actually have been used.
So it's open-season on the Astros from basically anyone who has a score to settle (i.e, "officials of other teams.") Got screwed in a trade? Call Manfred and tell him that the Astros keistered electrode-addled tampons for an extra edge in knowing if the pitch coming in is breaking.
Next key paragraph:
Players who might have violated league rules have been told by MLB officials they can expect leniency in exchange for answering questions truthfully. But members of the Astros' front office and coaching staff could face significant punishment upon the investigation's conclusion if they're found to have cheated, the sources said. The league has requested to search the phones of certain members of the Astros' front office, the sources said.
What Manfred wants (again, this is my opinion with absolutely no one in the organization talking to me, because Active MLB Investigation) is to get enough guys to flip so he can go after Luhnow. Passsan notes that "multiple players no longer in baseball" are refusing to cooperate with the investigation. I'm gonna go out on a really thick limb and guess that McCann and Gattis have told Manfred to shove it.
Evan Drellich had an update on Thursday in which Manfred promises they're chasing down every lead in regards to sign-stealing across baseball. But Manfred was clear in noting that the sign-stealing thing wasn't, but also was, related to the Taubman thing:
Started separately, ended up as one big thing. It's hard to separate them out. I hope at the end of this undertaking, I'll put both of those issues to bed at one time.
So that's it. MLB wants to tie one issue that is ongoing and apparently league-wide to the other issue that resulted in a firing. Cool.
*Baseball Prospectus' Rob Arthur (remember he's the one who isolated the audio and found evidence of trash can banging) notes that the Astros' transformation into a Murderers' Row-esque offense coincides with the sound of banging on trash cans. The close:
New details are bound to come out, but in the meantime we can tentatively conclude that their sign stealing probably had a major impact on the team's plate discipline numbers. This was not innocent cheating that barely affected the game; according to the available data, it may have yielded an unprecedented improvement in the Astros' ability to make contact and lay off outside pitches, helping to turn a talented lineup into one of the best-hitting teams of all time.
*Yahoo's Tim Brown giddily works through some consequences.
*Jon Heyman knows some scouts and, of the dudes he asked about the emails who had Some Concerns regarding the sign-detection from the dugout, one got fired and one got promoted by a different team. Heyman loves Teh Scouts.
*In the wake of the trades for Verlander, Cole, and Greinke, Jim Callis tackles the strength of the Astros' farm system. Callis:
All the graduations and trades have left the Astros system thinner than it has been since it was one of the game's worst at the beginning of the decade. Unlike then, they aren't about to string together a slew of last-place finishes. Their lone Top 100 Prospect, Forrest Whitley, should be ready for the big leagues in 2020, but they lack other impact talents who can make a difference in the next couple of seasons...That said, Houston has excelled at using analytics and technology to create pitching prospects out of unheralded signees, with Bryan Abreu, Cristian Javier, and World Series hero Jose Urquidy three prime examples currently looking to stick in the big leagues.
Callis' Top 5 Astros Prospects:
This is a really thorough look at what the Astros have in the pipeline. Click the link.
*David Schoenfield: Which free agent pitcher could be the next Gerrit Cole? We were so blessed to watch two full seasons of Gerrit Cole.
*The Mariners signed a Double-A guy to a 6yr/$24m deal. Reminder that in September 2013 the Astros apparently offered George Springer a 7yr/$23m deal. He obviously declined it.
Astros offer, 2014-2020: $23m
Springer earnings, 2014-19: $28,935,300
He's about to blow that $23m out of the water.
*Jomboy got what he wanted. It's really cool that The Athletic basically accepted as gospel the narrative Jomboy provided for his "rise to legitimacy" and published it on a reputable platform. Very cool.
*Peter Gammons: How do teams restore pitching after a period of historic offense?
*Ken Davidoff: Labor talks between MLB and MLBPA don't seem to be going very well.
*Texas Monthly: From Rick Perry to Kenneth Starr, here are the Texans involved in the impeachment hearings.
*NY Times: Viking treasure could have made them a fortune. Instead, they sold it.
*Leeds United 2 Luton 1. LUFC take the 2nd automatic promotion spot (with so much more to come) by 3 points clear....
*A Musical Selection: