The Boston Red Sox admitted to stealing signs from the New York Yankees with Apple watches and now the game’s biggest rivalry is on the map again.
One of Major League Baseball’s greatest rivalries was in need of some spice and Apple watches, of all things, did the job.
According to a report by the New York Times, the Boston Red Sox admitted to the league that they relayed signals from the New York Yankees catchers to their dugout from another member of the organization, who was presumably watching the catcher’s signs from another location.
The report states that the information was sent to a trainer’s Apple Watch. It was then passed over to Boston players on the field to fill them in on the type of pitch that was about to be thrown.
If we’re being honest here, there’s nothing too much to this at face value. This process seems like only an advancement of traditional sign-stealing, which has been a tradition and strategy in the game of baseball since its inception.
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To take that a step further, the Yankees held Red Sox batters 1-for-27 in their last series with runners in scoring position and held Boston to a .143 batting average (20-for-140) with runners in scoring position all season. The argument that the scheme was unable to improve the team’s performance or was nothing more than what is already going on certainly exists.
At the very least, the established precedent is one of a few reasons why #AppleWatchgate will never reach the level of Spygate or Deftategate.
You see, most teams in baseball teams still have the ability to gain the same attempted advantages — remember, you still have to execute — Boston obtained when they used their Apple Watches and cell phones.
Those two and use of instant replay screens in the dugout are prohibited. However, there’s nothing stopping players from ducking into the tunnel or checking out replay screens inches outside of the dugout during games to look at a close-up replay of a catcher’s signs then relay that information to the batter. Perhaps when they get to second base using hand motions or vocal signals.
You better bet teams use these tactics to gain an advantage. And those tactics are legal. What’s so absurd about this entire matter is that it’s not even about the sign-stealing — and rightfully so. The only crime the Red Sox committed was using unwarranted technology in the dugout.
Major League Baseball can’t not punish the Red Sox, though. Rules are rules, and one was broken. Manfred should hand down suspensions and fines to manager John Farrell and whichever staff members were involved in the illicit act of having technology in the dugout.
That’s the “slap on the wrist” (per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe) that fans can expect to come to fruition. The unprecedented punishment of forfeiting wins to the Yankees is ludicrous and Buster Olney of ESPN was told it’s “highly unlikely” that commissioner Rob Manfred would dock the Red Sox draft picks. When you realize toying with an Apple Watch in the dugout was the only broken rule, that’s reasonable.
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What’s also reasonable, and the only legitimate takeaways from this circus, is to look into how far a team could go with this technology and adapt. Bugging the visiting dugout fits the bill as dangerous extent a team could go in gaining an edge. Perhaps banning electronic devices in the dugout as a whole is an action Manfred needs to take.
From an individual team aspect, adaptation is important as technology grows. Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi once pondered communication through headsets, which could eliminate the need to constantly change signs. Either way, technology is not going to slow down anytime soon or disappear in its entirety.
Boston will be punished now, but nothing will stop them from doing exactly what they did in a more discrete manner in the future.