MLB can’t tolerate the Red Sox acting like the Patriots

Boston Red SoxI love my Sox, but they need to respect the integrity of the game.

The Boston Red Sox appear to have been busted for cheating.

The hated New York Yankees have what they believe is conclusive evidence that the Sox were violating the league’s no-technology rule by using video and electronic communications to steal the catcher’s signs and relay them to their players, allowing the hitter to know what pitch was coming in advance. Given the velocity with which today’s pitchers throw and how little time the batter has to assess the pitch once it’s released, this constitutes a major advantage for the guy in the batter’s box.

One assumes investigations are afoot.

As my friends know, I’m a Red Sox fan. But I’m a fan of the game first and foremost. I played as a kid and I came back as an adult, spending several years playing on a variety of adult amateur teams (primarily in the NABA) in Denver, Boston and North Carolina. I played to win, but my motto was always respect the game. Perhaps it’s odd that I’d get so caught up in the issue of integrity over a sport whose history has been so infested with rogues (Ty Cobb, the Black Sox, Ben Chapman, Gaylord Perry, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and so on). But I was raised to care about sportsmanship and those lessons have never left me.

So yeah, I love the Sox. But I love the game more. And if these charges are accurate, I’m with Buster Olney – the league needs to lay some heavy smack on the team.

If Major League Baseball wants teams to take its no-technology rules seriously, it needs to come down hard on the Red Sox. If commissioner Rob Manfred lightly fines Boston, or renders some other toothless punishment, then he’ll essentially greenlight other teams to try to replicate the Red Sox crime — and guarantee that a game he is trying to speed up will instead be even further bogged down by mound meetings and infield conferences, as teams combat an even more complicated version of sign-stealing.

Specifically? I don’t know. If they fined them a million dollars or suspended manager John Farrell for a week (or more) I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. In fact, less than that risks sending other teams the wrong … well, signal.

You may be arguing that stealing signs is part of the game. You’re right – it is. And I did it all the time. If I was on second, I’d figure out what pitch the catcher was calling for pretty quickly. I might relay the info to my teammate at the plate, although in my case I was more often looking for a pitch to run on. Stealing was a huge part of my game, and when I saw the signal for a breaking ball, I was off at the pitcher’s first twitch toward the plate.

When in the field, I’d watch the third-base coach closely as he went through his signals, trying to decipher steal and bunt signs. And so on. This is part of the game as it has always been played. It was no different than what you did in any other sport, where your success can pivot on your ability to anticipate the opponent’s move. If a defense in football hears the QB calling an audible, rest assured they’re listening closely – have they heard that signal before?

If you don’t want teams stealing your signs, then do a better job of disguising them.

But what Boston did is over the line and must not be tolerated. It’s one thing when the mechanism for the espionage rests within the player’s wits. This relies on an organic, totally human faculty. I have zero problems with that. But using cameras to focus in on a catcher as he runs through signs, then using electronic tech like, in this case, smartwatches to relay signs, that’s not kosher. It’s no longer mano a mano.

If the allegations are demonstrated to be true, here’s hoping MLB lands hard on my Red Sox. I’d rather lose clean than win dirty.

The last thing we need is the Sox behaving like another certain team in that market.


  • Dr. Denny Wilkins

    Well, I agree. But I’m hard-pressed to believe the Sox are the only team guilty of the stealing of signs via electronics.

    • I’d be stunned if they were alone. And MLB should ball-stomp any and all offenders it catches. It should now implement a wide-ranging investigation into what everybody is doing.

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