What is it with New England sports teams and cheating? After a series of ethical controversies involving the NFL’s Patriots, now comes news the Boston Red Sox used underhanded means to gain an edge on their hated rivals, the New York Yankees.
While stealing signals can be part of the game, it’s usually done by a runner on second base using his vantage point to tip off the batter about what pitch is coming. The Red Sox, however, elevated the signal stealing to high-tech spy craft:
In recent years, as cameras have proliferated in major-league ballparks, teams have begun using the abundance of video to help them discern opponents’ signs. Some clubs have had clubhouse attendants quickly relay information to the dugout from personnel monitoring video.With that approach, the information has to be rushed to the dugout on foot so it can be passed to the runner on second base. The Red Sox seemed to shorten the communication chain — and more quickly get the information to their batters — by sending information electronically to people in the dugout. […]In the clips, the team’s assistant athletic trainer, Jon Jochim, is seen looking at his Apple Watch and then passing information to outfielder Brock Holt and second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who was injured at the time but in uniform. In one instance, Pedroia is then seen passing the information to Young. [my emphasis]
Out of fairness to the Red Sox, which admitted the accusations, they are likely not the only ball club to exploit TV cameras in order to get a peek at signs of opposing catchers, Indeed, Boston launched a counter complaint stating the Yankees use one of the cameras deployed by their broadcast partner, YES network, precisely for that purpose. But the use of the Apple Watches appears to be a new and inventive twist on sign stealing.
As for penalties, the Times notes that old-school sign stealing is not against the rules, but using binoculars or other devices (presumably including Apple Watches) is a violation. It’s unclear for now what penalties, if any, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred might impose.
In the case of the New England Patriots, who were found guilty of secretly video-taping their opponents in the 2007 “Spygate scandal,” the NFL fined the team and its coach $750,000 and stripped them of a first round draft pick.
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Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Yankees are locked in a heated playoff race. Boston currently holds a 2.5 game lead in the A.L. East division while the Yankees are winning the wild card race.