MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is coming under increasing pressure over his handling of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Over the weekend, he went on a bit of a media blitz in defense of his actions (or lack thereof), which included an extensive interview with ESPN. Beginning at about the 2:10 mark, the Diamondbacks get mentioned.
Specifically, here’s what was said by Manfred.
“We were aware of rumors, not just about the Astros, but that there was sign stealing going on. Remember, in 2017, we had investigated and disciplined the Yankees and Red Sox. There were incidents. There was an incident in Arizona, as well. So as we got information, every single time, there was an attempt to dig deeper, to figure out what was going on.”
Oh, no! The Diamondbacks were totally stealing signs! Well, given the reaction of certain people on social media, you’d think that was the case. But wait a moment. Let’s just review what actually went on in 2017 - not just with regard to the D-backs but also the Yankees. In Arizona, it was because coach/translator Ariel Prieto wore an Apple watch in the dugout during the wild-card game against the Rockies. Now, this did come not long after the Red Sox were fined for using the same device are part of a scheme to relay signs. But the MLB investigation into Prieto concluded as follows:
MLB forensically examined Mr. Prieto’s Apple Watch and his cell phone and interviewed Mr. Prieto. MLB found no evidence that Mr. Prieto used the Apple Watch or cell phone for any purpose in the dugout, nor any baseball-related communication on either device, during Wednesday’s game.
ound no evidence that it was used for “any purpose in the dugout.” The team were fined for the rule breach. Although Prieto was let go at the end of that season, there’s no evidence this was connected to his timepiece. The Yankees’ “incident” was perhaps even more silly. The investigation into them and subsequent fine came about after retaliatory accusations by the Red Sox, but the fine was because, “A member of the team, likely then-pitching coach Larry Rothschild, used the dugout phone to call replay coordinator Brett Weber and ask if a particular pitch was a ball or a strike. This did not even occur in 2017, but in a prior season. Weber openly admitted this to the league during its investigation. That’s it.”
It seems pretty clear Manfred was just bringing up cases previous to the Astros were accusations had been leveled and were investigated by major-league baseball. But clearly, not all of these things were alike, or even similar. Only the Red Sox appear to have been found guilty of using technology to steal signs. And this in part is what led to the subsequent stern memo from MLB, warning teams that future breaches would be subject to harsher penalties.
However, it would be equally premature to proclaim the Diamondbacks as being entirely innocent. For there was this interesting article from October which stated, “Given assurances of anonymity, several league sources indicate the Astros, Dodgers, Red Sox, New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks have been especially adept with technological surveillance.” So, stay tuned, folks: I suspect this particular saga may still be nearer its beginning than its end.