Dan's Dugout: Cheating Remains Part of the Game • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Cheating Remains Part of the Game


Now that we’re deep into the Age of the Internet, it was only a matter of time before someone was charged with hacking into scouting reports, classified information, or other private matters.

If baseball is to maintain the integrity it always boasts about, the only hacking connected with the game should be the cough of a player foolish enough to ignore his sweatshirt on a cold, damp night.

With millions of dollars involved, players and teams will do anything to succeed.

Players are still getting suspended for drug abuse, a scourge that has infected the voting for the Hall of Fame.

Ervin Santana wasn't worth the money the Twins spent on him

Ervin Santana wasn’t worth the money the Twins spent on him

When the Minnesota Twins lavished millions on free-agent pitcher Ervin Santana last winter, they did not expect him to incur an 80-game suspension for steroids abuse. Projected to be the team’s top starter, Santana still hasn’t thrown a pitch this year.

And how about Chris O’Dowd, son of former Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd? Traded to the Braves, a team that desperately needs catching help after trading Evan Gattis, O’Dowd instead suffered the same fate as Santana. Even though he had not yet reached the majors, he could have done so had he stayed clean.

The poster child for steroids remains Alex Rodriguez, who recently joined the squeaky-clean Hank Aaron as the only men to collect 2,000 runs batted in.

Every time A-Rod comes to bat this season, he’s greeted with cheers by Yankee fans thrilled about his unexpected comeback. But he’s also jeered on the road by spectators who realize his records — and baseball history — are tainted by his actions.

Barry Bonds, with seven MVP awards, and Roger Clemens, with seven Cy Youngs, were never convicted

Barry Bonds has the single-season and lifetime records for home runs but no entry key to Cooperstown

Barry Bonds has the single-season and lifetime records for home runs but no entry key to Cooperstown

of anything but the level of suspicion against both is higher than the Empire State Building. On statistics alone, they should already be enshrined in Cooperstown. Unless the Hall of Fame opens a Steroids Wing, or agrees to put a black mark on their plaques, they will never make it.

The same goes for Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro, three sluggers who deserve election by numbers but not by behavior. Sosa, for example, was caught red-handed with a corked bat even before steroids allegations surfaced.

Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte, who come up for consideration soon, had at least minimal involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. Maybe that’s why Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell are not in Cooperstown either, despite several appearances on the ballot.

Teams aren’t much cleaner than players.

A story break this week that the St. Louis Cardinals allegedly broke into the security system of the Houston Astros, where general manager Jeff Luhnow is a former Cardinal employee. If true, the incident will put rookie commissioner Rob Manfred to his first real test. He could impose seven-figure fines, suspend the club’s ability to participate in the amateur draft, or both.

Long before the advent of computers, ballclubs made some ballsy moves.

Ralph Branca says the Giants cheated

Ralph Branca says the Giants cheated

Ralph Branca still believes Bobby Thomson knew what was coming in the last inning of the last National League playoff game in 1951. The New York Giants apparently had a spy with binoculars relaying the opposing catcher’s signs from the center-field scoreboard to the dugout via an elaborate buzzer system.

Charley Dressen, Brooklyn’s manager before Walter Alston, once held a pre-game meeting and told his NL All-Stars, “Don’t worry about new signs, guys. I’ll give each of you the signs used by your own team.”

Sign-stealing only works if the perpetrator is careful. During the 1953 World Series, Billy Martin intercepted a Dressen sign for the squeeze bunt because the manager carelessly used the same signal he employed as Martin’s manager in the Pacific Coast League a few years before.

Years later, in another Dodgers-Giants playoff, San Francisco groundskeepers were caught watering down the area around first base in an effort to deny traction to base-stealer Maury Wills.

The Giants tried to slow Maury Wills in the playoffs

The Giants tried to slow Maury Wills in the playoffs

In Philadelphia, the grounds crew helped fleet Phillies leadoff man Richie Ashburn by engineering a slight incline in the dirt path along the foul line from home to first. “Ashburn’s Ridge” helped keep his bunts fair.

When indoor baseball began, the Houston Astros were charged with manipulating the Astrodome air-conditioning so that it was blowing out when they batted but in when the visitors came up.

Even fans can cheat. The current All-Star controversy, with eight members of the Kansas City Royals leading in the voting for the American League lineup, is a case in point. Empowered to vote 35 times, fans who can find more than one e.mail address might vote 70 times or even 140 times. With a local radio station egging them on, the Royals fans are making a royal farce of a treasured baseball institution.

It’s absurd, of course, that fans can vote more than once — as players did when they had the vote — but that’s what happens when commercialism supersedes intelligence. Here’s hoping the first all-online election is the last.

Jose Altuve should be the starting second baseman for the AL

Jose Altuve should be the starting second baseman for the AL

With Omar Infante having the worst season of any of the 30 second basemen in the majors, why deny the start to defending AL batting champion Jose Altuve? Such nonsense might even boomerang to hurt the Royals in October. If the American League loses the All-Star Game, it loses home-field advantage in the Fall Classic. That means the Royals would have one less home game if they repeat as AL champions.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Boston benched third baseman Pablo Sandoval in Atlanta Thursday because he used Instagram during the game — violating the team’s social media policy . . .

With the fast-approaching All-Star break a typical time for teams to change managers, FoxSports.com says the three managers on the shortest leashes are Ryne Sandberg (Phillies), Bryan Price (Reds), and Lloyd McClendon (Mariners) . . .

Speaking of the All-Star Game, those old-time hats and mustache logos pay tribute to the Cincinnati Red Stockings of 19th century vintage . . .

Mustache logos for 2015 All-Star Game at Cincinnati

Mustache logos for 2015 All-Star Game at Cincinnati

Versatility helps: Brock Holt, filling in for Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia Tuesday, responded by hitting for the cycle — the first Boston batter to do that since 1996 . . .

Using position players as pitchers is becoming so commonplace that Washington catcher Wilson Ramos homered against two non-pitchers in the same game against Tampa Bay . . .

Another reason to revoke the fan vote: Nori Aoki (Giants) leading Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins) for the last spot in the NL starting outfield . . .

After a 44-year-old female fan was badly injured by a broken bat at Fenway, Rob Manfred says he can order more extensive protective netting without asking the players union . . .

Even Bob Uecker, Milwaukee’s 81-year-old catcher-turned-broadcaster, got beaned recently, forcing him to spend a night in the hospital with a mild concussion . . .

A-Rod has his stroke again

A-Rod has his stroke again

The Yankees did not expect such stellar seasons out of aging Alex Rodriguez and injury-prone Michael Pineda . . .

Ex-Braves Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Emilio Bonifacio, and Omar Infante are at or below the nefarious Mendoza Line . . .

New Padres manager Pat Murphy got most of his managerial experience during 25 years as a collegiate head coach at Arizona State, Notre Dame, and a couple of other places . . .

Star White Sox southpaw Chris Sale is a fan of 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Randy Johnson . . .

Injuries to catcher Devin Mesoraco (hip), shortstop Zack Cozart (knee), and starting pitcher Homer Bailey (elbow) are three of the big reasons the struggling Cincinnati Reds are certain to be sellers at the trade deadline . . .

No idea why Kyle Lohse was so good with St. Louis but so bad with Milwaukee (6.44 ERA entering the weekend) . . .

Craig Kimbrel hasn’t been the same since leaving Atlanta for San Diego, though he does have two saves against his old team . . .

Craig Kimbrel left his A-game in Atlanta

Craig Kimbrel left his A-game in Atlanta

Did you notice that the Phillies played Chase Utley at first base, rather than second, the other day? . . .

Toronto averaged eight runs per game during an 11-game winning streak snapped by the Mets in New York earlier this week . . .

Although Warren Spahn hit more home runs (35) than any National League pitcher, weak-hitting Sandy Koufax beat him by hitting one of his two career homers in a 2-1 win on June 13, 1962.




About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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