And They Aren’t Deaf
Larry Thornberry
by
Alex Cora (YouTube screenshot)

Former Red Sox manager Alex Cora is the latest victim of the latest sign-stealing flap in Major League Baseball. The Sawks sacked Cora on Tuesday after former Astros manager A. J. Hinch was cashiered on Monday, all based on MLB’s exhaustive and exhausting look into Astros sign-stealing in 2017, the details of which have been all over the sports news this week, so I need not rehearse them here. Cora was Astros’ bench coach in 2017 and alleged to have been more than cleat-deep in the sign thefts.

My guess would be the Sawks’ head shed wanted to ease Alex out even before this perfect excuse came up. (I don’t blame Alex for the Sawks’ 2019 slide. The team’s ERA ballooned to almost five. You can’t put together winning streaks giving up five runs per game. Neither do I give Alex all credit for the 2018 Sawks going through MLB like Sherman went through Georgia. This bravura performance was down to some outstanding athletes having monster years.) I don’t know who’s available out there to take this very high-profile job. But a decision needs to be made, and soon. Pitchers and catchers report to spring camp in a month.

This whole business of sign-stealing is a puzzlement, even if a time-honored tradition in baseball. (I’ve always suspected there has been more talk about sign-stealing than actual sign-stealing.) There’s so little time between the pitcher getting the sign and delivering to the plate, the relay has to be really quick. We’re told the Astros relayed signs to batters by banging on a garbage can in the dugout, presumably one bang for the fast ball and more for breaking pitches. The problem is if the batter can hear these beats, so can the catcher — and probably the pitcher. So how long would it take them to catch on? I know catcher’s gear is (or used to be) called the tools of ignorance. As true baseball fans know, catchers aren’t ignorant. To do their jobs well they have to know more than anyone on the field. And they surely aren’t deaf.

Larry Thornberry
Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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