Stolen signs, spin moves, solid advice and more.
It's this week's edition of Short Yards.
Hello! Happy Monday! We hope that you had a restful weekend and that your sports teams performed well and vanquished their rivals, who are clearly wicked. This is Short Yards, where we cover a range of topics from the past week in sports in quick-hit fashion.
Let’s dive right in.
I. WAYS TO OUTFOX THE HOUSTON ASTROS’ SIGN-STEALING SYSTEM
In the weeks since the World Series ended, Major League Baseball has launched an investigation into the Houston Astros’ alleged use of an elaborate system for stealing signs. The Astros — one of the most successful teams in the league in recent years — apparently captured opposing catchers’ signs using a hidden camera in center field. A team staffer observing on a monitor within earshot of home plate would signal to Astros’ batters when an off-speed pitch was coming by banging on a trash can.
Obviously, many are upset — although there’s good deal of gray area in what might be considered illegal sign-stealing (runners on second base have long forced catchers to conceal or modify their signs), this clearly crosses a line into explicit cheating, and may result in significant penalties for members of Houston’s organization. This system will be put to an end.
But… someone’s going to come up with a new system. In a stadium with tens of thousands of people in it, with myriad hiding spots and methods for electronic surveillance, a visible signal made between pitcher and catcher will always be ripe for stealing. How can an organization ensure that the communication between batterymates remains private?
We have a few ideas.
Carrier pigeons relay pitch calls between plate and mound; Randy Johnson no longer in league, probably safe?
Pitcher and catcher always identical twins who can communicate in special twin language. May present roster construction issues.
Pitcher decides all pitches without catcher knowing; catcher positions ~30 feet back from the plate and fields pitches like ground balls
Batter’s eye replaced by mural of Fred Rogers; you’d just feel bad cheating with him watching?
Batters forced to wear fancy noise-canceling headphones while at plate so they can’t hear audible signals; makes for good sponsorship opportunity AND just looks cool
Houston Astros’ 2017 World Series title vacated as deterrent, awarded to whoever finished second the previous year? Seems fair, without looking up who that is.
All off-speed pitches banned. THROW THE HEAT.
II. THE INTERNAL MONOLOGUE OF A DEFENDER PREPARING TO TACKLE LAMAR JACKSON
here he comes
shit he’s fast
I’m ready though
he’s gonna do the spin thing
I’m gonna be ready for the spin thing
he’s almost here
I’m going for it
here I go -
I have temporarily departed this plane of existence; time and space have briefly torn, and my body has disconnected from the temporal reality in which my understanding of life on earth to this point has been grounded. I think I’m meeting an alien, but it’s taken the form of my father so that I don’t feel scared. It’s just like that scene in Contact.
You ever see that movie? Feel like it got a bad rap. It’s pretty good, honestly. Carl Sagan wrote the book. Anyways, when they run the big machine at the end, everyone thinks that Jodie Foster just fell straight through in seconds and nothing happened, when in her perception she experienced an absence of 18 hours. No one believed her, but the recording devices showed 18 hours of silence. I think this is kinda like tha-
oop I’m back
shit he scored didn’t he
III. INTRODUCING OUR RESIDENT ADVICE COLUMNIST, THE SHORT-LIVED MISS CINCINNATI BEARCAT MASCOT FROM THE EARLY 1980s
Dear Miss B.,
I’m the first-year head coach of a struggling football team. We’ve under-performed expectations all year, but recently, we finally seemed to be turning a corner. Unfortunately, discipline has been a persistent issue. I’ve tried to impose a sense of authority over my players, but many of them are established professionals who don’t have any reason to respect my admittedly-thin resume. This came to a head last week, when one of my top players assaulted an opposing player during a nationally-televised game, leading to his indefinite suspension. People are saying I’m not in control of my team. How do I get the players — and the public — to respect my authority?
Frustrated Fred, Cleveland, Ohio
Son, you want respect the easy way, you can steal an Aretha Franklin tape from the Sam Goody down at the mall. You want it the real way? You gotta earn it.
I seen your team. Done came into this season thinkin’ you’re the hottest shit this side of a tainted Chipolte. But you ain’t done a damn thing to show it yet, ‘sides from tradin’ for some fancy-hair fella what wasn’t wanted by his old team no more. Son, if I wanted a fella who got out of New York in an ugly situation on my team, I’m signing that Snake Plissken fella. You know what Snake and I have in common? We both got rode around by Harry Dean Stanton for a while, and some of it ended up on film.
[long silence while she takes a drag from an unfiltered cigarette]
So, respect. This little fella you got quarterbackin’, thinkin’ he’s all pretty and shit, actin’ like he’s Larry Wilcox in CHiPs. You get yourself one of them pocket shavers, little battery-operated things. Next time your little mouthy boy throws an interception — and hell, I ain’t checked, it mightna happened since I started talkin’ — you wait until he comes back to the sideline. You don’t say nothin’. You just look him in the eye, pin his pretty little ass to the ground, and buzz that mustache right off.
Respect is earned, and so are mustaches. Harry Dean Stanton knew that.
IV. THIS WEEK’S TRIVIA QUESTION, AND LAST WEEK’S ANSWER
Last week, we posed this question to you:
What is the oldest stadium in FBS football, according to the NCAA?
Though a few people responded with the correct answer, reader Hoke H. was the first to nail it — Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium was the first current permanent structure to open, in 1914 — narrowly edging out the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, which opened a year later. (A case could also be made for Texas A&M’s Kyle Field, which saw play start on its site in 1904, but a permanent structure wasn’t put in place until 1927).
Congratulations to Hoke, who — as promised — will receive absolutely nothing for being right other than the satisfaction of being right, the greatest gift of all.
This week’s question:
In 1989, Raycom Sports attempted to organize a season-opening college football game to be played in then-Soviet Russia, something that would be termed the “Glasnost Bowl”. While the game eventually fell through and was moved back to the US, what two teams were selected to be the first representatives of American football behind the Iron Curtain?
You can answer by responding to this email, and again: you’ll get nothing for it.
V. A QUICK ROUND OF CHEERS AND ALSO SOME JEERS
Cheers: LeBron James, who is one month shy of turning 35 and is back performing like a murderous machine on the court, giving foolhardy inspiration to people like me who are also 35+ but absolutely in no way as talented at anything as LeBron is at this:
This is the kind of dunk that’s gonna lead to me straining a muscle when I get inspired and work out for the first time in six weeks.
Jeers: Monmouth men’s basketball player George Papas, who received a technical foul in the closing seconds of a 55-point loss to Kansas, after stealing the ball from a Jayhawk player dribbling out the clock, dunking, and talking smack after:
I’m sorry, did I say jeers? This is cheers all the way. Let’s review:
Garbage time is a BS construct. I want to see teams on both teams trying to score no matter what the score is. I didn’t pay to see you dribble.
If pictures are framed correctly, George Papas can have a nice picture hung in his rec room of “that time I dunked on Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse” and leave out all context, you don’t pass up that opportunity
early-season college basketball matchups like Kansas vs. Monmouth are an absolute, meaningless sham and should be treated with exactly this level of respect and decorum
Cheers, George Papas. Cheers to you and your spiteful, meaningless dunk.
VI. AND NOW, SHORT YARDS
Have a great week, everyone.
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— Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)