Keeping Score: One if by hook, two if by heat

Published: 1/17/2020 9:20:20 PM
Modified: 1/17/2020 9:19:25 PM

Good morning!
Our fascination with spycraft dates to before the American Revolution, when lanterns were hung in the Old North Church to tell Paul Revere if the Brits were coming: one if by land, or two if by sea.

That was a war, but baseball is sport. Imagine if Cleveland used smoke signals, the Brewers used beer cans, and Chicago and Boston hung dirty socks from the dugout to say what pitch was coming.

Commissioner Rob Manfred probably wishes it could be that whimsical, but today’s game is big money and the recent spate of suspensions isn’t good for business. “Blood is a big expense,” Mario Puzzo’s fictional crime figure Virgil Sollozzo said to Tom Hagen.

When Houston pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic that the Astros had used the center field camera, TV monitors, Apple watches, replay rooms and text messages to decipher sign sequences, Manfred knew his warning to stop using technology during games had gone unheeded.

His investigators, Bryan Seeley and Moira Weinberg, interviewed dozens of players and scanned thousands of front office text messages. Almost immediately, they put former bench coach Alex Cora atop what cops call the “crazy wall.”

It was Cora who had devised the intricate means of stealing signs and conveying the info to Houston’s hitters. After the Astros won the World Series in 2017, he was hired to spin his magic in Boston and the Red Sox went 108-54 and won the World Series.

This week was the reckoning of the Astros’ 2017 season. Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were both suspended for a year and subsequently fired. Cora was momentarily spared, but quit before he was axed.

It was a Rosie Ruiz moment — cheat but don’t win or it’ll cost you big time. Journeyman infielder Logan Morrison is on record saying he knows that the Dodgers and Yankees both cheat, and this week former Mets GM Steve Phillips said on SiriusXM: “Everyone better be careful because the dots might come in your direction.”

The Red Sox have historically gotten off lightly when it’s come time to pay the piper. They escaped blowback after the Mitchell Report despite having juicer Manny Ramirez in the lineup, and they got a slap on the wrist after they were caught using Apple watches to steal signs in 2017.

This time, Manfred might not be so kind, but the Red Sox are deft at deflecting blame. Cora thought he had ownership’s tacit approval to do what was necessary, but instead became the penguin who gets pushed in the water to test for the sharks.

Meanwhile, fans are wondering who will be the next Red Sox manager. Naming Jason Varitek would be a good PR move, but he’s never coached or managed in the big leagues.

Others think Brad Ausmus would fit despite his ups and downs as a skipper — winning 90 games in Detroit and losing 90 in Anaheim. Ausmus is a New England native and Dartmouth grad and was Boston’s second choice behind Cora two years ago.

If he gets an interview, he’ll be sure not to wear an Apple watch. Indeed, my spies tell me he wears a Timex.

Over the holidays, UMass AD Ryan Bamford emailed fans a 2,700-word missive explaining his vision for UMass football. The short version of the Bamford Manifesto is that the B&B Boys — Bamford and Bell — plan to recruit high character athletes who are Grade A students and future Olympians.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Tryouts for the walk-ons begin next week. “Want to play Division I football? Here’s your chance!” tweeted UMass assistant coach Rory Pommerening, aka Coach RoPo.

If you’re a full-time student and a Rudy wannabe, Uncle Walt wants you.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s gold medal win at Lake Placid. On Feb. 22, 1980, Mike Eruzione scored the goal heard round the world that beat the USSR, 4-3. Two days later, goalie Jim Craig made 21 saves to help the U.S. beat Finland, 4-2, in the gold medal game.

A week from today at the MassMutual Center, the 65-year-old Eruzione will be in Springfield for Hometown Heroes Night at the MassMutual Center.

Prior to meeting the public, Eruzione will be at the Breakaway Lounge and for $50 fans can be photographed with the former BU star, get an autographed photo of him and a center ice ticket for the Thunderbirds’ game against Bridgeport.

For more information call 413-739-4625.

What to do about technology and cheating? Go dark. Hand out Kodak cameras and transistor radios. Return to the days before launch angles, infield shifts and K-zones, when baseball was played between the lines and the sport wasn’t ruled by the geeks and dweebs upstairs.

SQUIBBERS: After the Manfred Report was released, former Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer (now with the Reds) posted a video of Astros players hitting home runs off him. … Anybody want to play poker with Alex Bregman? Not me, thanks. … The Oak Ridge Golf Course in Gill has been sold for less than half the $639,900 asking price. …  Liz Spaulding spotted Bill Belichick and girlfriend Linda Holliday at her gym in Tequesta, Fla., last Saturday. “Relaxed but of course not smiling,” she texted. … Reader Mike Ludden’s list of “stuff that baffles TSA guys: shoe trees, salmon dip, guitar tuners and gel packs. Items 1 and 4 good for exteeeended delays.” …  The Dolphins have three first round picks in the upcoming draft — 5th, 18th and 26th — and are expected to go after Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. … Two weeks after he was hired by Boston College, Azaar Abdul-Rahim’s name is still on the UMass website in the coaching directory. … The New Hampshire Lottery reported that 16,000 people — “including a significant amount of out-of-state bettors” wagered more than $3.44 million ($212.60 per person) in the first week of legalized sports betting. …  Five teams that beat UMass played in bowl games. Louisiana Tech shut out Miami in the Independence Bowl and Liberty beat Georgia Southern in the Cure Bowl. The other three lost:  Charlotte to Buffalo (Bahamas Bowl), BYU to Hawaii (Hawaii Bowl), and FIU to Arkansas State (Camellia Bowl). …. During last week’s Titans-Ravens radio broadcast, CBS’s Brandin Gaudin reported that Tennessee running back Derrick Henry gave each of his offensive linemen $15,000 Rolex watches. Sidekick and former NFL lineman Ross Tucker laughed and replied: “I got a $500 Movado for being on Terrence McGee’s kick-return team.”

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