LOS ANGELES — Well, that didn't take long. Manny Machado is back in the news.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' shortstop exhibited behavior during Game 2 of the World Series that has raised some eyebrows.
During Enrique Hernandez’s turn at the plate in the fourth inningWednesday night, Machado took a short lead off second base and stared intently at Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez while he signaled David Price.
With all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, Machado moved his right hand from his hip to the tip of his helmet, then grabbed the letters on his jersey.
Throughout Hernandez’s nine-pitch at-bat, and again for Yasiel Puig after Hernandez struck out, Machado made various deliberate gestures just as Price came set.
This is what sign-stealing looks like, from the Major League level on down to junior varsity baseball. It’s why catchers often stop for a mound visit when an opponent reaches second base, and why they flash a coded series of signs anytime a runner’s on base.
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Puig smacked an RBI single in the inning. After the game, Red Sox pitching coach Dana Levangie told Bleacher Report that he “saw the whole thing.” He had wanted to use a mound visit to alert Price about the larceny in progress, but opted against ruining Price’s momentum after he struck out Hernandez.
But to hear the World Series managers tell it, sign-stealing in its analog form — no iPads, no Apple Watches, no cameras — just a baserunner trying to figure out the sequence and relaying it to the batter — is just part of the game.
“It's been going on since the game came to be,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Friday. “There's a gamesmanship part of it, where you're trying to get an advantage. And coaches and players do that every day.
"But now, when you kind of introduce technology and using that as an advantage, I think that there's a line that's crossed. That's where Major League Baseball has done a really good job, trying to make sure that doesn't happen.
“But as far as the sign stealing, I guess everyone's probably guilty of that or attempting to do that.”
The Houston Astros were the latest to get caught using electronic devices, with a club employee monitoring the Red Sox dugout with a cell phone camera from the first-base photographer’s well in the first three innings of the American League Championship Series Game 1 at Fenway Park.
But what Machado did is not illegal.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora suggested sign-stealing is one way a club can take advantage of paying close attention to details, and relayed a story about Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar capitalizing on a catcher’s nonchalant return throws to the pitcher while Cora and Alomar played winter ball together in Puerto Rico.
“You just have to be prepared as a team,” Cora said. “That's the only thing you can do. Stealing signs and tipping has been going on forever. I learned in Miami, in college, we used to do it. I don't know if that's good for the program, but, yeah, we used to do it.”
Dodgers’ Game 4 starter Rich Hill contended that it’s the pitcher’s responsibility to make sure his opponents can’t figure out the signs.
“If guys are getting the signs from second base and relaying them to the hitter, you've got to be a little bit more savvy as a pitcher to have multiple signs and change your signs if something like that is going on,” he said.
“I don't have a problem with guys relaying signs from second base to the hitter because if you're not, again, kind of equipped to be prepared to change your signs to a different set of signs or a different — whatever your variation might be, that's on you, the pitcher. That's the way I look at it.”
Machado’s efforts were not enough to help the Dodgers win Wednesday. The Red Sox hold a two-game advantage in the best-of-seven series entering Game 3.
Follow Berg on Twitter @OGTedBerg
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