Baseball’s sign stealing scandal: Bang the can slowly

AstrosI had an interesting conversation with a buddy a couple of days ago as we hiked a Colorado trail. He’s a baseball fan, and so am I, him Cubs, me Reds, and we both agreed that the teams we support were not good enough last year to be part of the sign-stealing scandal. I cannot rule that out, however.

First, a couple of baseline thoughts:

  • Baseball has a very clean image, and to the casual viewer it would appear that games are very hard to fix. Instant replay tends to get every umpire call right. But games are actually easy to fix. Baseball hitters are some of the best athletes in the world, able to hit fastballs traveling nearly 100 mph. Pitchers are only good to the extent that they are able to fool hitters by concealing their pitches. They cannot just overpower them. However, if a batter knows what pitch is coming, the odds are high that he will send that pitch to the cheap seats. That’s really all it takes to fix a game – tipped pitches.
  • We are told that last year that the baseballs used in Major League games were “juiced.” Home runs were up for nearly every team. The aerodynamics behind a juiced baseball were said to be compressed seams that allowed it to go further and faster than in years prior.

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Sports and rigged outcomes (?)


Just for my own entertainment, I was revisiting a comment by “MH” from 2016. It concerned Superbowl 49, and an amazing catch near the end of the game by Jermaine Kearse of Seattle. It appears that all videos, including the one referenced in the comment below, are now off limits, that is, private property of the NFL and not available for viewing. I did manage to grab the photo above, which was interspersed with two sports journalists drooling over the Patriots miraculous victory in that game.

My curiosity arose from a discussion of the current World Series, which appears to be headed towards a Houston victory this evening, but has extended to a seven game series. That doesn’t always happen – last year Boston won in five, but I believe that it is in the interest of the league owners to have a seven-game series, as it brings in more ad revenue. But how to fix a baseball game (especially now with instant replay)? It’s easy … just tip pitches. If a batter knows what’s coming, more times than not a hit follows, often a home run. These guys are superb athletes. The batter/pitcher dual is intense – these are the best athletes of any sport, in my humble opinion.

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Ramblings, football is life, and, oh yeah, about a place called Iwo Jima

A year ago I attended my fiftieth class reunion, Billings Central Catholic High School, Billings, Montana. If you are anywhere close, or even if thirty years away, my advice would be don’t bother. Two things were upsetting … the general level of intelligence is not indicative of fifty years of forward movement, and … I’ll be be delicate here, I won’t  be cruel or crude … so many of the women and quite a few of the men too … have gotten really fat. A couple of girls I dated were there, and all I could think was “Phew! Dodged a bullet!”

But that is all cosmetic. It goes deeper. People and attitudes do not change. I was an outsider in high school, and fifty years later, I was still an outsider. That’s a two-edged sword: I would not belong to a club that would have me as a member, but I wanted, like everyone, to be accepted and admired. In high school I did not like being an outsider and took no pride in my status. That mindset, however, inability to blend into the group, has molded me into the person I am, gave me self-employment and a happy life. Two-edged sword indeed.

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My Sunday morning … wasted efforts and ramblings

Martin Sheen flipped

A reader suggested that I take a look at Charlie Sheen as being a Matt Damon Batch member, and I didn’t have to look long. There are certain characteristics that immediately jump out at me, among them the part on the left side of the head, the square jaw, and what has to be considered ruggedly handsome features of leading man quality.

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A revealing article from a sports journalist

I am a sort-of baseball fan, one who used to be a real fan. The team I chose to brand on was the Cincinnati Reds. They are falling off the map. If the Major Leagues were formed today, that  city would have, at best, a AAA franchise.

The Atlanta Braves inspired a bumper sticker years ago that said “Bring professional baseball to Atlanta.” Cincinnati now inspires such a sentiment.  Its teams have been moribund, dreadful, boring, its managers uninspired and behind the times. The reason, I am told, or at least assume, is that this is a small market team doing all it can afford to do.

So this article by Steve Mancuso opened my eyes. Starting with the assumption that the Reds have to trade some viable young prospects in lieu of paying outright for proven talent, Mancuso took me on a ride.

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About the missing post … also a football discussion thread

Note to readers: After receiving the video from Kevin* today of Barbara Walters’ first appearance on the Today Show in the 1960s, I slowly came to realize I had much of that scam wrong. While Pamela Courson did indeed become Walters, in my view, what I thought were surviving photos of the original Walters were in fact, again, Courson.

*To be clear, though Kevin supplied the video, he does not see what I see in it, and is not on board with my conclusions.

Pam as BarbaraWalters 1989 CSo I have more work to do – it appears at this writing that the entire Internet has been scrubbed of photos of the original Walters, but that is the work that now lies ahead of me – to see if any survived. Just as an example, the photo to the left here, which I took to be the original Walters, is actually Pam Courson in a 60s wig and done in black and white. It was said to have been shot in 1960, but more like 1976. She will end up looking like the Walters we all know, shown on the right.

Original BabaAnd, from Kevin’s video on the right here is the original Barbara Walters. Those with trained eyes should easily see that she looks nothing like the woman pictured above, and my work ahead will be to see if she looks anything at all like the Walters we came to know in the 80s and 90s. I doubt it. This is the woman who disappeared from view in 1976.

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Waiver wire antics?

I don’t know if it is deliberate but Bill Belichick’s demeanor and dress remind me of the Emperor from Star Wars. It could be he is aware of this and likes such a negative image. It could be that the league promotes this image. Having an “Evil Empire” team is good for business. Baseball has done it with the Yankees for decades. It drives up ratings and attendance, as people want to see insult inflicted on teams that consistently win while theirs loses.

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Football logic

Baseball used to be considered that “national pastime,” but has been supplanted by football in the last few decades. Football easily lends itself to gambling. There are far fewer games and the results of those games, if deemed important, are easily controlled by referees and a few players and coaches under control of the league. Under orders, they can create illogical wins and losses.

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A highly unlikely outcome

[Update: The video cannot be viewed here, but do go to the YouTube link and watch it. Quite a few people are sure Parks stepped out of bounds. Watch what happens at 1:33 in the replay.]

[Update: I searched to find out how many cameras are used to cover a football game, and the answer varies depending on the game. 13 appears to be the norm for a regional game. Sidelines shots are of high importance, especially if a play is challenged. So they probably had better footage of this play and did not show it, instead relying on a shot from the end zone behind the play, sixty yards away. Indeed, at 1:02 or so they switch to an end zone camera on that sideline that probably had Parks all the way down the sideline.]


All I can  figure is that Brandin Cooks was not supposed to to catch that touchdown pass from Drew Brees in the closing minutes of yesterday’s Denver-New Orleans matchup. For Denver then to pull it out required shenanigans.  Watch the video above as the snapper #47 (ah geez, really?), Justin Drescher, allows himself to be gently pushed down to allow Justin Simmons to block the extra point, thereby allowing Will Parks to run it back for a two point score.

I don’t quite buy that all NFL outcomes are fixed, as games are controlled chaos and anything can happen. Those key to determining the outcome are referees, who can call a penalty on any play, and perhaps just a few players on each team who can fall down on demand, as did Drescher, or fumble and then stand and watch, as did Cam Newton in the last Super Bowl. This much I know: Teams know how to block the other team on PATs. They practice this stuff.

Just remember, the NFL is one organization and teams abide by the script. There is nothing illegal about fixing games, as it is purely entertainment. Only advertising and gambling keep the game alive. Yesterday both were served.