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Catcher Jonathan Lucroy says he was changing signs every pitch vs. Astros



FORT MYERS, Fla. — As a catcher who spent parts of four seasons playing in the American League West between 2016 and 2019, Jonathan Lucroy found himself in a unique position to observe the sign-stealing tactics of the Houston Astros while needing to plan against the scheme.

Lucroy, who is now with the Boston Red Sox, played for the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels in the AL West during that span. And, as a division rival, he saw up close the effectiveness of Houston’s actions.

“I knew about that two years ago, that it was going on,” Lucroy said Thursday. “I know it just recently came out. Everyone in baseball [knew], especially in that division that played against them. But we were all aware of the Astros doing those things and it was up to us to outsmart them, I guess you could say.

“It’s kind of hard when you have a computer program that breaks your signs. We actively changed signs. Every single pitch, we were changing signs. You had to because they would relay them to second, stealing them from first, too — from between your legs. They had a very intricate system going on. We were well aware of it, and it was a challenge. It was a mental challenge to really overcome that. It’s easier said than done. But it’s a shame, and I’m glad it came out and it came to light.”

Lucroy said that Mike Fiers informed him of Houston’s tactics once they became teammates in Oakland in 2018. The revelation led Lucroy, who signed a minor league deal with Boston earlier this week, to create more and more intricate sign-calling patterns to preemptively fight any tactics used by the Astros. Working with different pitchers called for different tactics as well.

Lucroy added that he never heard the banging of a trash can, but he would not have been listening for it in the first place.

“[Pitchers] don’t want to sit there and try to think about decoding your signs and thinking about your indicators and all the different things that you’re doing,” said Lucroy, a 10-year major league veteran. “They want to sit there and just worry about executing. Some guys can handle it and some guys can’t. It was very difficult to do.

“The guys were calling time and stepping out of the box as you take time to put your sign sequence down, and it was making games long and leaving guys out there. Their system, not only did it work with them having the signs and being able to see them, but it made our guys sit out there longer. You had to put down a more complex set of signs and everything. I’m glad it’s been taken care of. It was out of hand and it affected the games in a lot of different ways.”

According to Lucroy, the Athletics informed Major League Baseball about their experience with the Astros, but no investigation was started until Fiers went on the record with The Athletic in November.

Athletics general manager David Forst confirmed to The Mercury News last week that Oakland complained to the league well before MLB’s investigation commenced.

Word began spreading quickly about the Astros, and Lucroy said he would text others around the league about what he had learned.

“It was crazy, some of the pitches they would take,” Lucroy said. “It was like, ‘Man, these guys are some of the best hitters I’ve ever seen.’ It all made sense when I found out how they were doing it. Then it was like, ‘What are we going to do?’ I was with Oakland, and we had let MLB know, and they just called and said something. They didn’t go through the whole investigation. It wasn’t until Fiers came out publicly that they went and looked at it really hard.”

Paranoia played a massive role in shaping Lucroy’s preparation for Houston. Sign stealing has always been a part of the game, but Lucroy said Houston’s efforts extended beyond what he had seen. At times, Lucroy said, players would look out into the outfield to see if anyone in the bullpen had binoculars.

“I remember a game with Edwin Jackson. He’s a guy I’ve been around a long time, so I knew that I could get real complicated on signs and he would be OK,” Lucroy said. “It was a mental workout. We were switching signs every pitch — every single pitch — because you had to. If you didn’t, they were going to get it and go up there and take advantage of it.”

While Major League Baseball has discussed new technology to allow pitchers and catchers to communicate without putting down signs, Lucroy has been skeptical about its effectiveness and its ability to not be hacked.

“They’ve talked about the earpieces, the radio transmitters, but the thing is, someone is going to hack into that, too,” Lucroy said. “There’s some kind of CIA-spy thing out there where someone will figure something out. I don’t know. We’ve talked about it as a union, amongst ourselves as players, and there’s gotta be something we can do to make it easier. The NFL does it with their quarterbacks. There must be something we can do.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred gave Houston’s players immunity from punishment in order to extract as much information as possible about the scandal, but Lucroy said Astros players deserve punishment for their actions, echoing the massive wave of player comments across the league in spring training.

Lucroy, who was teammates with Ryan Braun when the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder was suspended for using PEDs, said Astros players deserve punishment similar to what steroid users have received.

“Guys do steroids and they get punished. Guys cheat with steroids and get punished. I saw that in 2011 with the Brewers with that whole situation there,” Lucroy said. “That guy [Braun] got punished. For me, the hardest part, and everyone else has been saying this, you’re taking money.

“Guys are out there on the mound — and it may be a Triple-A up-and-down guy and he gets rocked because you’re stealing signs like that and gets sent down and never plays again. Or a guy who gets his career ended ’cause he goes out there and gets rocked. This game is a business, and if you’re not performing, you don’t play. Guys have families and have kids. That’s the hardest part for me.

“These guys were essentially taking money away from players and their families and their kids. That’s the hardest thing for me to swallow. I just think we should play the game the right way. If you want to steal signs, put them on second — and I’ve been on teams that have done that. That’s normal and part of the game. Doing it illegally? That’s tough, especially with how it affects your livelihood.”

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Dodgers’ Justin Turner proposes HR derby to end extra-inning games



Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Justin Turner has a lot of time on his hands these days, and has come up with a novel idea for deciding extra inning games once the baseball season starts back up.

Taking a cue from the NHL’s shootouts, Turner suggested that baseball go to a home run derby if a game is tied after 10 innings.

“Instead of playing 17 innings, you get one extra inning, you play the 10th inning, and no one scores, then you go to a home run derby,” Turner said Wednesday on Spectrum SportsNet. “You take each team’s three best hitters and you give them all five outs and see who hits the most homers.”

“You know, you wanna keep fans in the stands until the end of the game,” he said. “I know when I go to hockey games, I actually enjoy watching shootouts. That keeps me in my seat, so maybe a home run derby will do that as well.”

Turner went on Twitter to expand on the idea Thursday, saying the suggestion would just be for this season, when baseball is looking for ways to get as many games in as possible in a season truncated by coronavirus.

“Nobody wants to see a tie,” Turner wrote. “A quick 1 round, 6 man derby (3 a side), 5 outs or 10 swings each (keep it safe for the hitters too) and you have your winner! “

He also said that a coach would throw pitches during the derby, so overworked pitchers would get a break.

Turner noted that “everything is on table,” when baseball comes back– multiple double headers a week, seven-inning doubleheaders, extra inning rules, roster expansion.

“It’s about getting creative,” he said.

Turner might have a hard time breaking into the Dodgers top three, with MVPs Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts at the top of the order.

But the big redhead has shown a flair for dramatic home runs with the Dodgers, including a three-run walkoff against the Chicago Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS in 2017. He hit 27 for the Dodgers last season.

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Check out the Tampa house Bucs QB Tom Brady is renting from former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter



The Captain.

The G.O.A.T.

World Series wins? There are five.

Super Bowls? Six.

Two legends, seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, 30,000-plus square feet.

With quarterback Tom Brady moving to Tampa after signing with the Buccaneers, he needed a place to lay his head. Former New York Yankees shortstop, current Miami Marlins chief executive officer and part owner, and Tampa resident Derek Jeter was there to help.

Like a sports royalty version of MTV Cribs, with gift baskets galore, here’s what happening at 58 Bahama Circle in Tampa.

It’s the largest house in Hillsborough County. According to the New York Times, it’s the size of an average Best Buy store.

The Davis Islands area of Tampa is man-made, built in the 1920s. Much of the original architecture is Mediterranean, but Jeter’s house clashes. It’s an English manor style home. According to Zillow’s estimate, it’s price is almost $6 million more than the average in the neighborhood.

Brady and his wife Gisele Bundchen have two children together. There are enough bedrooms for them to have three apiece, leaving one for mom and dad. Though Jeter, who has two children of his own, might have some rules for his renters like no finger-painting or stuff stuck to the refrigerator.

One benefit, for the notoriously private Brady, is the fence. Photographers, nosy neighbors and passing boaters trying to get a glimpse at Jeter, drove him to build the 8-foot fence. However, one Davis Island resident, according to the Tampa Bay Times, challenged it. The city agreed with Jeter, so good luck catch a glimpse of Brady at the grill.

While Jeter, and now Brady, are certainly the most famous, and winningest athletes on the block, hockey might be the dominant sport of Davis Islands. Former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lacavalier and current Lightning players Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman also live there.

It’s got a boat launch, room for eight cars, a pool, a fireplace and even an elevator. So, what will it cost Brady, who just signed a two-year, $50 million deal with Bucs, be paying? According to Zillow, the rent estimate would be more than $44,000 a month. But, maybe Mr. November will give TB12 a discount.

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Former Angels, Cardinals All-Star Jim Edmonds OK after coronavirus



Former baseball All-Star Jim Edmonds says he tested positive for the new coronavirus and for pneumonia.

“I am completely symptom free now and doing really well, and so I must have had it for a while,” Edmonds said in a video posted to his Instagram account. “I appreciate everyone who has said well wishes and wished me the best.”

The 49-year-old played 17 major league seasons from 1993-2010, mostly for the California and Los Angeles Angels (1993-99) and St. Louis Cardinals (2000-07).

He hit 393 home runs.

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