Scandal-free Worries

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When Major League Baseball looks more corrupt than Washington something is seriously wrong.

It gets worse. The sign-stealing scandal has, for the first time in my life, made me feel sorry for the Dodgers. I didn’t think that was possible.

I don’t know if we know everything about the depth of the Houston Astros’ deceit. Our new outfielder Tommy Pham wondered on Twitter ( check his feed @TphamLV ) about buzzers in Astro uniforms that could signal pitches more effectively than the banging of a trash can lid.  Ask yourself: if you had already crossed the Rubicon and committed to this ghastly level of cheating, which would you prefer, a buzzer or a can lid?

MLB says it found no evidence of uniform-sewn buzzers. But fans will wonder. This video does not help. Note how Jose Altuve covers up and no one peels off his jersey? Altuve even appears to wave to his teammates as he approaches the plate – as if to say, leave the jersey alone. Proof? Hardly. Suspicious? Maybe. Odd? Definitely. Some will say it is nothing – an innocent but wholly incongruent post-game gesture. My children had a way to describe such things: weak sauce.

Even if there were no buzzers, this stinks. As several pitchers have said, they would rather throw to a player on steroids than a player who knows what pitch is coming. Trust me, pitchers REALLY don’t like throwing to juiced batters. Sign stealing is worse. It is a systematic effort to disembowel the game – to turn every pitch and the subsequent action into a ruthless con. Tolerance factor: zero. Parish status: check back in a decade.

The scandal cost three teams their managers. In mid-January. Staggering.

I wonder. Had he been on the market, would Jayce Tingler have been a serious contender to lead the Astros, Mets or Red Sox? I doubt it. Tingler appears to be a unique Padres/A.J. Preller obsession. I remain dubious. Jim Bowden, current MLB Network analyst and former GM of the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals, recently predicted Tingler’s firing in May “with the team sitting in last place, 12 games out.” Bowden then predicted Bruce Bochy’s return and a winning 2020 record. Bowden’s column of 2020 predictions is half serious/half satire. The “Ting” dinging read serious to me. Nothing worries me more than our new, untested “I have managed a lot of games in my mind” skipper.

Now. What about Mookie? What about Starling?

The Padres have been in talks with the Red Sox about acquiring All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts.  To make this fantasy all the more alluring, the imagined deal would allow the off-loading of Wil Myers and the $61 million albatross that is his remaining contract. Too good to be true? Probably.

But the Padres have stockpiled prospects and they can’t ALL make the 40-man or 26-man roster. Betts would be a $27 million one-year rental (he is free-agent eligible in 2021 and would command $330 million-plus) with electrifying upside. Betts in a lineup with Profar, Pham, FTJ, Manny and Hosmer would mean speed and line drives from both sides of the plate. Real offense. Every inning. Notice I did not mention recently acquired Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Trent Grisham. He could be bait. How many front-line prospects is it worth to entice the BoSox? Not MacKenzie Gore. Not CJ Abrams. Not Luis Patino. And, considering current catching issues, I would dangle Luis Campusano only if it meant no carrying costs for Myers. The Sox would have to take all $61 million.

As I write this, the speculation engine is at full throttle. Scenarios are more numerous than Spring Training sprinkler heads. By the time this is printed, Betts could be a Padre. Or it could be a hot stove dust devil, spun furiously on misinformed or marginally informed hot air before collapsing without a trace.

Starling Marte could be the fallback. Padre trades tend to be of the fallback variety. As fallbacks and the Padres go, Marte would be first rate. Solid defender, doubles machine, base-stealing threat with plus power. He’s not Betts but almost no one outside of Mike Trout or Anthony Rendon is. The Pirates sound finicky and disinterested. That might be a ploy. Truth be told, no MLB team can ignore our prospects. If we talk, everyone must listen.

But I would feel much, much better if the GM doing the talking – and upon whose judgment we all must depend – hadn’t put the fate of the 2020 roster (whatever its ultimate composition) into the hands of Jayce “I’m going to make mistakes” Tingler.

Major Garrett was born and raised in Clairemont, is Chief White House Correspondent for CBS News, host of “The Takeout” podcast and author of the book “Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams and Occasional Blackouts of His Extraordinary First Year in Office.”