News Flash: There is sign stealing in baseball. In fact, the story goes that one of the most famous home runs in baseball history—Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” 1951 pennant-capturing blast—was possible because the Thompson’s New York Giants were stealing the Brooklyn Dodgers signs with a telescope and a buzzer system.
Today, the only rule against sign stealing is that teams can’t do it electronically. That’s the backdrop against which the cry-baby, pot-calling-the-kettle-black Yankees are accusing the Red Sox of relaying the Yankees’ signs via an Apple watch to Sox hitters.
Before you read further, feel free to stop and disregard the rest of this post if you know nothing about baseball but somehow have reached the conclusion that the Red Sox are cheaters and that’s the end of it. No, that’s not the end of it.
The state of video replay and various angles enjoyed by TV-watching baseball fans are such that we can see inch-by-inch a pitch, a slide, or a hit-by-pitch. The advent of managers’ challenges to plays they think the umpires got wrong lays bare the use of precise video to influence the game.
When managers are about the challenge a play, you can actually see them standing on the top step of the dugout waiting for word from the video room, often located a few feet from the dugout, on whether they should challenge.
So it’s quite easy for teams’ video rooms to steal signs. They are regularly relayed to the bench. In the Red Sox case, they eliminated the middle man and had them relayed to an Apple watch, or so the accusation alleges. The New York Times broke the story and claimed the Red Sox front office copped to the sign caper. But the Times didn’t say who on the Sox admitted anything (and we all know an unnamed-sourced story from the New York Times is fake news!). Subsequently, neither manager John Farrell nor baseball operations boss Dan Dombrowski admitted anything.
Further, the Red Sox say the Yankees regularly stole signs using video from their YES (TV) Network and they can prove it. (Watching the Red Sox catcher throw down signs is probably the only thing worth watching on YES unless you enjoy The Michael Kay Show.)
Then there is the question of the effectiveness of the supposed sign-stealing by the Red Sox. Boston posted a .196 batting average and .304 slugging percentage in 19 games v. Yankees this season. The Sox batted .143 with runners in scoring position. If the Red Sox were cheating, they did a lousy job of it.
Finally, any team that allows their signs to be stolen and used against them is run by morons. I learned the position of catcher in my years in Little League, Babe Ruth, high school and later, men’s league baseball. If we ever suspected the other team was stealing our signs, we’d change the damn signs. Try it Yanks! And while we’re at it, a little less worrying about the Red Sox sign stealing when you’re doing the same thing, and a little more teaching your defensively challenged catcher not to sucker punch people who are on the ground.
I love September baseball.