Posted on September 5, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Investigators from Major League Baseball have determined that the Boston Red Sox have been illegally stealing signs. According to a report published Tuesday by the New York Times, the Red Sox used an Apple Watch to communicate signs stoeln from opposing catchers. Stealing signs is not inherently illegal in baseball. However, using electronics to steal signs is not within the rules of the game.
Two weeks ago, New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman filed a formal complaint to MLB about the Red Sox stealing signs during a series between the two teams last month. The Yankees sent video showing a member of Boston’s training staff relaying messages to Red Sox players after consulting with his Apple Watch.
MLB’s investigators used video from television broadcasts and instant replay cameras to confirm the Yankees suspicions. When confronted with the allegations, the Red Sox confirmed that for several weeks their video replay personnel sent information to the team’s training staff who then shared information about the opposing team’s signs with Red Sox players.
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With both television and instant-replay cameras all over major league fields and teams employing assistants to monitor plays to challenge, there’s been an increase in teams monitoring video in search of signs. However, instead of having to physically move from the monitoring area to the dugout to share information, the Red Sox used technology to pass along that information quicker.
“We actually do not have a rule against sign-stealing,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “It’s the electronic equipment that creates the violation. I think the rule against electronic equipment has a number of policy reasons behind it, but one of them is we don’t want to escalate attempts to figure out what a pitcher is going to throw by introducing electronics into that mix.”
The Red Sox and Yankees played two different three-game series during the month of August. Boston won four of those six games. Heading into Tuesday, the Red Sox hold a 2.5-game lead over the Yankees atop the AL East. If the margin remains that close between now and the end of the season, those games may end up making a difference in the final standings.
“To the extent there was a violation on either side,” adds Manfred, “we are 100 percent comfortable that it’s not an ongoing issue, that if it happened, it is no longer. I think that’s important from an integrity perspective going forward.”
In response to claims from the Yankees that the Red Sox were cheating, Boston filed a formal complaint with MLB on Tuesday against the Yankees. The Red Sox claim that the Yankees used a camera from the YES television network to steal signs. It’s unclear if MLB will investigate the Yankees for illegally stealing signs.
More importantly, it remains to be seen what, if any, punishment Manfred will impose on the Red Sox. Manfred says that MLB does have the power to take wins against from teams. However, the league has never exercised that right. Manfred doesn’t appear to be seriously considering that option, explaining “it’s just very hard to know what the actual impact in any particular game was of an alleged violation like this.”
Manfred acknowledges that some kind of punishment may be needed to help deter teams from using technology in the future to steal signs. What that punishment may be is unclear at this time. But it’s safe to say this is not the last we’ve heard about the subject of sign stealing this season.