Updated: Jan 8, 2020
Are people in baseball finally tired of the bullshit? Perhaps.
The Athletic’s duo of Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal teamed to deliver another story about another team using technology to break the rules. By now, the two beats Drellich used to cover – Red Sox and Astros – probably feel like the NWO when Sting hung out in the rafters for a year and terrorized Hollywood Hulk Hogan and friends with a baseball bat. And if Drellich is picking a Starrcade opponent, it’s unquestionably Houston.
Anyway, the report states the Red Sox, according to anonymous sources from the team, illegally used the video replay room in 2018 to steal signs. Basically, think of it like this: the Red Sox used technology as a shortcut to steal signs from second base.
“It was like having an open-book test and the open book is right there next to you and the teacher says, ‘Don’t look at the book,’ said one former player in The Athletic’s report. “Whatever is available to teams, they’re going to take advantage of it. Major League Baseball knows that. If you have this technology that’s available where you have 20 cameras on the field, cameras that can look at signs, I mean, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see: Oh, if I’m in the video room and I see the guy’s signs, you’re basically playing the same game now that was played when I first came into the league and there was a guy on second base. You’re trying to break the code.”
An important note is hitters can legally enter the video replay room during a game to study pitchers. As the report states, MLB didn’t begin staffing someone in the replay room until the 2018 playoffs, a playoffs that saw Boston win the World Series. More on that in a moment.
While Yankees fans will try to take victory laps today, they too were included in the report for allegedly, as far back as the 2015 season, abusing replay room access the same way as the 2018 Red Sox.
“I’m just telling you from a broad perspective, living it, it didn’t feel that wrong,” said one player who used the replay-room system with the Yankees as far back as 2015. “It was there for everyone, that’s all.”
Veteran players who were skilled at picking up tendencies by watching on-field action knew what to look for on video as well.
“If I could figure out the signs from the telecast, I was not going to hold on to that information,” that former Yankee said. “I was going to share that with whomever.”
Take a seat, Evil Empire. You’re in this mess too.
If today’s report is true, and I have no reason to believe it’s not, the Red Sox should be punished. But you shouldn’t expect them to be hammered. As The Athletic’s report states, the video replay room is a bit of a gray area considering foot traffic was allowed in and out during a game. Plus, technology wasn’t directly used to steal a sign; rather, it was used as a shortcut to allow for more efficient sign-stealing on the bases, which has been occurring since baseball’s beginning.
Frankly, what Boston did – or allegedly did – is cheating, but is it truly worth outrage or extreme punishment? Nope. There are two problems for the Red Sox, though: they were already disciplined for Apple Watch usage back in 2017, so they could be viewed as a repeat offender; cheating, or at least allegations of such, sure do seem to follow Alex Cora everywhere he goes. At this point, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t at least suspended.
The bigger story with today’s report might be overlooked. People inside baseball, and specifically players, are beginning to talk. That’s a big deal.
There have been whispers around baseball for years about the use of technology to steal signs or gain an advantage, and yet they were continuously swept under the rug. Hell, if the Yankees were using the video replay room since 2015 that meant at least four full regular seasons before MLB staffed someone in the room, and the reporting made it sound like it occasionally staffed Ralph from The Simpsons.
Once again, MLB was slow to react despite evidence around it. It’s almost like MLB has been through something similar before… oh, yeah. PEDs. Court rooms. Lawyers. BALCO. Tainted records. Perhaps the game’s best hitter ever unable to, so far, enter the Hall of Fame. Players watching other players get an advantage and wanting the same.
It wasn’t until players went on the record – most notably Mike Fiers, who won a championship with the Astros – that MLB’s hand was forced. And in today’s report, multiple sources were people on the 2018 championship Red Sox team. So, even the players winning titles are tired of the bullshit, which speaks to the prevalence of this around baseball. Baseball, like most professional sports, creates a culture of keeping things inside the clubhouse. For players to basically snitch on the team they played and won a championship for is a very big deal.
Shortly after The Athletic’s report, ESPN’s Jeff Passan dropped a report about upcoming punishment for the Houston Astros.
When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred soon announces the punishment, it’ll be a pivotal moment for baseball and his tenure. If the punishment is severe and viewed around baseball as a fair – or even extreme – reaction, it very likely deters future cheating. If it’s viewed as weak and not thorough enough, get ready for the flood gates to open. Given Manfred’s public comments during Winter Meetings and past punishments, I’d bet the former.
Players and front office personnel are already talking to reporters about incidents. They’re mad. They’re tired of the paranoia and cheating. They see where this is going, and they want it to stop. Manfred failing to step to the plate and deliver something strong could incite a riot inside baseball of irate people ready to bring it all into the open. Regardless, one thing is certain: people inside baseball view using technology to cheat as a very big problem.
cover photo: AP Images