“I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign”
September 6, 2017 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Boston Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Steal Signs Against Yankees by Michael S. Schmidt [The New York Times] “For decades, spying on another team has been as much a part of baseball’s gamesmanship as brushback pitches and hard slides. The Boston Red Sox have apparently added a modern — and illicit — twist: They used an Apple Watch to gain an advantage against the Yankees and other teams. Investigators for Major League Baseball have determined that the Red Sox, who are in first place in the American League East and very likely headed to the playoffs, executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents’ catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams, according to several people briefed on the matter. The baseball inquiry began about two weeks ago, after the Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman, filed a detailed complaint with the commissioner’s office that included video the Yankees shot of the Red Sox dugout during a three-game series between the two teams in Boston last month.”

• What to Make of the Red Sox’s Apple Watch Scandal by Ian Crouch [The New Yorker]
“The Red Sox’s alleged scheme went like this: when the team was at bat and had a runner on second base—a rare enough situation, yet a vital one—an employee in the video department who was watching the Yankees’ catcher would decode the signals he was using to call pitches then transmit the information to a trainer in the Sox dugout who was wearing an Apple Watch. The trainer would then give that information to a player standing nearby, who would signal to the teammate on second base, letting him know what to look for. The base-runner would then signal in to the batter, giving him the advantage of knowing which pitch was coming before it was thrown—as long as this game of telephone hadn’t garbled the original message. This plot added a few extra layers to Cleveland’s old model, though presumably it was done with the intention of being harder to detect than simply having someone signal in to the batter from the outfield. (The Toronto Blue Jays have, for years, been accused of stealing signs from center field, in a manner much like Veeck’s Indians.)”
• Dustin Pedroia downplays scandal: 'Don't think this should be news' by Scott Lauber [ESPN]
“As he sat down Wednesday to begin his daily pregame media session, Red Sox manager John Farrell looked at his wristwatch, nothing more than a reflex. Then, he realized an opportunity for comedy. "It's not an Apple Watch," Farrell said. One day after commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed a New York Times report that Major League Baseball is investigating claims by the New York Yankees that the Red Sox used electronics -- an Apple Watch, to be specific -- to read and relay signs from Yankees catchers, Boston players and staff members remained wholly unapologetic, even making light of the situation. "It's part of the game," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "Our adjustment to that stuff is: Go out to the mound and change the signs. "It's been around a long, long time. We were doing that at Douglass Junior High School [in Woodland, California], where I played. So, I don't think this should be news to everybody."”
• The Red Sox Have Given Us Spygate 2.0 and I Am Abso-Freaking-Lutely Thrilled by Claire Mcnear [The Ringer]
“Let me be clear: I love everything about this big, dumb scandal. We are currently just barely on its precipice. If the past is any indication, this is just Day 1 of, I don’t know, 710 or so. The preferred retort of Spygate 1.0’s defenders was that everybody was stealing signs in the NFL, and it was just positively messed up if not outright conspiratorial that the poor (yes) misbegotten (yes) Patriots should be punished for Bill Belichick’s enthusiastic, red-handed engagement in the practice. That set us up for 545 days of Deflategate. We already have amateur forensic counterevidence from New England fans, so think about what we still have ahead of us! The suspensions! The appeals! The furious and possibly deleted team and player statements on Twitter! The inevitable response by Apple! The yelling on sports talk shows! The ESPN sidebars! The apoplectic talk radio hosts! The comment sections—my god, the comment sections! The untold hordes of furious Boston Twitter eggs, just waking now from their brief, between-sporting-persecutions slumber! We just have so much ahead of us, and it will be anchored by chatter about the functionality of a vanity Fitbit, the frantic press conferences of John Farrell, and the statements of Brock Holt and meathead’s meathead Dustin Pedroia. We do not deserve this. We are getting it anyway.”
• Sports Media Slam Red Sox for High-Tech Cheating: So the Red Sox cheat. Does anybody not? by James Warren [Vanity Fair]
“Steve Jobs didn’t live to see the introduction of the Apple Watch. Not only did he thus miss its fitness tracking but also one presumably unintended use: cheating by professional sports teams. Or at least one. With a conspicuous exception, Major League Baseball’s online site was all over the baseball news early last evening: “Goldy’s MRI clean; expected back Wednesday” . . . “Harper plays catch for first time since injury” . . . “Verlander makes debut with Astros on MLB.TV” . . . “30 Clemente Award nominees revealed.” And, of course, this breaking story: “Back to school: In college? MLB.TV is free.” Given the rising price tag of higher education, parents will be thrilled with the pro bono prospect. But, ah, wait. Hours after it broke, the site had missed a story: The New York Times disclosure that “Boston Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Steal Signs Against Yankees.” Yes, it does cover many matters unrelated to Donald Trump. So this was either A) a big story B) a medium-sized story C) a “Ok, so what?” story or D) a blow to the egos of Seiko, Omega, Swatch, Bulova or TAG Heuer since the Red Sox didn’t use them to cheat?”
• Yankees-Red Sox Sign-Stealing Drama Boosts Rivalry, But Here's The Real Problem by Tom Verducci [Sports Illustrated]
“How common is stealing signs off the live television feed? "Goes on all the time," the player said. "Our (monitor) is so close (to the dugout) you could just run up and whistle" to the hitter to communicate what pitch is coming. "It's the reason you see all the meetings on the mound—to change signs. You've got guys signaling from second base. You see it all the time because everybody is doing it." The case of sign-stealing by the Red Sox, as reported by The New York Times, is a violation of both the rules and the ethics of the game. Electronic communication devices are not permitted. (Tablets with preloaded data, video and scouting reports are allowed.) Boston also exceeded the ethical boundaries (yes, they actually do exist in baseball at some point) by involving electronics. "It's kind of like pine tar," the player said, referring to pitchers using the substance for a better grip, though it technically is against the rules. "Guys use it all the time and it's understood to be okay, just as long as you don't go crazy with it, like [Yankees pitcher] Michael Pineda did, with the stuff slathered all over his neck." In the short term, this is good for baseball. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is officially back on. From CC Sabathia moaning about bunting to each team pointing an accusatory finger at the other for dirty pool, we at last have genuine ill will between the rivals.”
posted by Fizz (36 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
On the other hand, the Yankees suck.

(and also stole signs, if you believe the Red Sox' counterclaim)
posted by yhbc at 8:01 PM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Red Sox Unveil New Bobblehead

So this is the baseball equivalent of the Patriots' underinflated balls?
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:04 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


After all these years, it's hard to believe teams still use the flashing of fingers by catchers. Surely, those are nothing but bullshit decoys and the actual sign is something much more covert. No?
posted by davebush at 8:05 PM on September 6, 2017


I asked my wife, who is originally from the Boston area, what she thought about this:

"Why the fuck are Boston teams so bad at cheating?"
posted by Chrysostom at 8:22 PM on September 6, 2017 [25 favorites]


Is the iWatch doing something you couldn't just do with a cell phone? Or is this another "Teenagers are ordering pizza...WITH COMPUTERS" article?
posted by straight at 8:30 PM on September 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm glad there's a MeFi post about this, as I've been fascinated by it since reading the NYT story. I'm beginning to read the rest of the stories, hoping to find one that points to the actual rule that's allegedly being violated.

As near as I can tell, it's not a "rule" so much as a "guideline".
posted by madajb at 8:31 PM on September 6, 2017


I've never quite understood why it's the catcher's job to call pitches anyway.

Seems to me that it should be part of being a pitcher.
posted by Hatashran at 8:32 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've never quite understood why it's the catcher's job to call pitches anyway.

The catcher has to know what to expect, or he couldn't reliably catch it. So they have to agree on a pitch before it's thrown. And the pitcher can't be the one proposing the pitch, because the batter can see him. So the catcher signals options and the pitcher can nod yes or no.

Something something encryption something something game theory.
posted by officer_fred at 8:39 PM on September 6, 2017 [38 favorites]


Is the iWatch doing something you couldn't just do with a cell phone? Or is this another "Teenagers are ordering pizza...WITH COMPUTERS" article?

I was just writing up a comment to that effect. The Apple Watch has been out for over two years and the NYT is acting as if it's a bunch of console cowboys jacking directly into cyberspace or something. And the Bosox are deeply dumb for using it in that way; as if the thousands of people in the stands, and maybe millions watching it on TV, would never notice the dude checking his watch in the middle of a game (don't want to miss Game of Thrones!) and then going to talk to someone. The pager technology of decades ago could have been used to send the same info via vibrations without any outwardly visible sign.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:40 PM on September 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


So this is the baseball equivalent of the Patriots' underinflated balls?

No, this is the baseball equivalent of the Patriots illegally filming their opponents' practices to anticipate the plays they're going to run.

Boston, City of Cheaters. Every last person that lives there cheats. Even their fans know their teams suck so bad they have to cheat just to stay competitive.

I don't actually think this is that big of a deal, it's just funny because I hate the Patriots and the Red Sox. And the Celtics and Revolution for that matter. I don't follow hockey but my guess is that a team as stupid and ugly as the Bruins probably cheat as well.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:53 PM on September 6, 2017 [17 favorites]


I'm honestly kind of baffled that this is controversial, and not universal.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:57 PM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


This is a fucking delight on so many levels
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:05 PM on September 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


This isn't even cheating, it's like the oldest practice in the game updated for modern times.

On par with QBs having radios in their helmets and the coaches being able to tell them things prior to the snap based on defensive shape - legal, part of the game, not exciting.

If it's effective against your MLB franchise, I suggest you study up on game theory just a tad.
posted by GreyboxHero at 9:32 PM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Can we start a baseball league where spycraft, sabotage and subterfuge are all openly major parts of the game? This is fun.
posted by loquacious at 10:17 PM on September 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


If you have to cheat to beat the Yankees you may as well give up
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:29 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Okay, this is the first explanation I've read of this controversy and the secret, scandalous watch connection is the text from the dude in the bleachers to the other dude in the dugout, but delivered via smart watch?

Uh, underwhelmed by this revelation, Yankees. Try to win some games the old fashioned way.
posted by notyou at 10:37 PM on September 6, 2017


Called last month on reddit.
posted by unliteral at 10:47 PM on September 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


The catcher has to know what to expect, or he couldn't reliably catch it. So they have to agree on a pitch before it's thrown. And the pitcher can't be the one proposing the pitch, because the batter can see him. So the catcher signals options and the pitcher can nod yes or no.

Also, the catcher has the best view of the full field of play, because of their position. From a more strategic point of view, the catcher has the most information available, so it's best if they make the call on what the best pitch is.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:48 PM on September 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


I have to say, if the league wanted people to use electronic devices it would allow the batter and the pitcher to communicate directly and secretly through headpieces. If they're not allowed to use electronics, it seems fair to me to forbid everyone else around them electronics as well. Enforcement is of course a different issue.
posted by crazy with stars at 12:13 AM on September 7, 2017


If it's effective against your MLB franchise, I suggest you study up on game theory just a tad.

But catching your opponent "cheating" and then waiting to complain about it until it becomes most useful is also part of the larger game theory structure. That's the fun! Just ask George Brett
posted by gusottertrout at 12:36 AM on September 7, 2017 [6 favorites]


The pager technology of decades ago could have been used to send the same info via vibrations

The Apple Watch also utilizes haptic technology.
posted by valkane at 2:28 AM on September 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


The World Famous: "A couple of the articles concede that sign-stealing is commonplace and not a violation of any rule, but then refer to a prohibition on electronic communication devices in the dugout. But I don't see a cite to the actual rule in question. Anybody know? I'd be interested in seeing the actual text of the rule."

"There's nothin' in the rule book that says an elephant can't pitch."
posted by chavenet at 4:39 AM on September 7, 2017


"Why the fuck are Boston teams so bad at cheating?"

It's more that everyone's cheating, but there's always more incentive to take down the top dogs, and the Sox and Patriots have both been top teams in the past decade.

Besides, Deflategate was a manufactured controversy that the NFL was using to distract from actual news about brain damage. It's well-known that *every* quarterback tailors the balls to their liking, and if the NFL didn't want this to be the case, they could change that in an instant. All they have to do is put an official in charge of the balls pre-game. Their choice to give the teams the ability to provide balls is what lead to this "controversy."
posted by explosion at 4:45 AM on September 7, 2017 [11 favorites]


As near as I can tell, it's not a "rule" so much as a "guideline".

Welcome to Donald Trump's America
posted by Flashman at 4:57 AM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


The inclusion of non-players (the video guys) and the technology aside, I've never understood why stealing signs is such a big deal. I mean, the signs are given in full view of any player able to watch, so why not use your head and decode the signals? I don't see the problem as long as it stays on the field between the actual players, and doesn't start including non-players or, as we see in this case, enabling tech.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:27 AM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, I deplore cheating (and yes, this is cheating by any standard, and the Sox know it perfectly well, and no, "Billy does it too!" isn't a defense). On the other hand, I've despised the Yankees for my entire life and I welcome anything that helps do them in. In short, my feelings about this are a land of contrasts.
posted by languagehat at 6:37 AM on September 7, 2017 [4 favorites]


On the one hand, I deplore cheating (and yes, this is cheating by any standard, and the Sox know it perfectly well, and no, "Billy does it too!" isn't a defense).

But it's not against any actual rules, so...? Sports rules, enforced by officials, de facto codify the idea that anything within the rules is acceptable, and that intentionally gaming the rules to gain an advantage is also generally acceptable (intentional fouling, time wasting, etc., etc., etc.). There's punishments for the behaviors we don't want, but anyone willing to accept the penalty is free to break the rules. There is a long tradition of loopholes and cynical rule twisting. I'm very sympathetic to the idea that the whole approach is corrupt, but within the laws of the game, this case isn't really cheating, per se.
posted by that's candlepin at 7:44 AM on September 7, 2017


Look, Yankees suck. They also accused Doug Fister of wearing some super-high-tech ear piece to listen in on their bullpen or something - turned out the guy takes out his mouth guard between innings and hangs it off his ear.
posted by adamg at 8:06 AM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


They should just allow a secure communication method between Pitcher and Catcher (league supplied encrypted headsets). That would entirely preclude visible signs and the arms race deciphering the signs.
posted by sammyo at 8:08 AM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm no baseball scholar or historian, but to my mind, one of the most interesting things about baseball is the psychological battle taking place between pitcher/catcher and batter. To remove this elaborate cat and mouse game by coming up with a foolproof method of sign stealing wipes that out and makes baseball a lesser thing. I mean, if a good batter knows for sure, or even 75% for sure, what the next pitch is going to be, then the game basically becomes a Home Run Derby, and personally I find that tedious.
posted by aught at 8:39 AM on September 7, 2017


> But it's not against any actual rules, so...?

So it's still cheating. Everybody knows that. There are many forms of cheating that aren't against any actual rules; if they cause enough problems the rules are amended to take care of them.
posted by languagehat at 8:41 AM on September 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's more that everyone's cheating, but there's always more incentive to take down the top dogs, and the Sox and Patriots have both been top teams in the past decade.

This is the real answer to all the fuss. As yourteamcheats.com shows, on the football side, the Patriots aren't even in the Top 15 among NFL rule breakers. But they keep winning Super Bowls anyway.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:07 AM on September 7, 2017


fallingbadgers: "If you have to cheat to beat the Yankees you may as well give up"

Is it okay if the Yankees cheat, though?
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Red Sox have presented the commissioner’s office with evidence that the Yankees’ broadcast network had a camera fixed on Boston’s bench coach, Gary DiSarcina, during a recent game at Yankee Stadium. This can only have been for one purpose—illicit sign-stealing.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:44 AM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm still waiting for an apology for A-Rod slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove in 2004.
posted by prepmonkey at 10:30 AM on September 8, 2017


On the other hand, the Yankees suck.

(and also stole signs, if you believe the Red Sox' counterclaim)


My favorite nugget in this story is that the only way the Yankees could prove their claim was by admitting that they themselves were spying on and recording the Sox dugout.
posted by dances with hamsters at 3:53 PM on September 8, 2017


Addendum: looks like the watches were actually Fitbits. John Gruber: "This takes some of the fun out of this story. Now the Red Sox are just cheaters with bad taste in gadgets."
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:23 AM on September 19, 2017


« Older One of these things is not like the others (but...   |   life grips Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments