The simple axiom persists throughout the evolutionary chain of sporting leagues and levels, “you can cheat, but don’t get caught.” Much to the dismay of the Red Sox nation, many of which hopped on the annoying and garish bandwagon over the last decade and are known to infiltrate the ballpark of an opponent armed only with a simple and incessant chant and fail to recall any of Roger Clemen’s or Bill Buckner’s teammates on the 1986 AL pennant winner, the current edition of the franchise is now mired in a trivial scandal as accusations of sign stealing enhanced by technology have circulated throughout the league.
Of course, the New England region is quite familiar with furtive and cagey tactics employed in at the expense of foes and rival fan bases, as Patriot’s head coach Bill Belichick and staff were caught with their hand elbow deep with the cookie jar during the “spygate” controversy.
Next to simple burglary and prostitution, the art of intercepting the nonverbal communication of the opponent first surfaced as humans achieved bi-pedal motion capabilities, and the luxury of utilizing hand gestures in signaling for a mate and the opportunity to guarantee genetic prosperity was born. Within the the unwritten rules of baseball, stealing signs is accepted and expected, as teams employ various traditional methods in gaining a competitive edge that could make the difference in a game that is decided by one strike, one inch or the consequences of a split second decision. Over 162 games, the subtlest of subtle nuances accumulate in the form of 1 + 1 + 1 +1, equating to the thin margin of error in qualifying for the postseason, or making travel plans for a long winter and working on batting stance foot placement in the Mexican League. With an innate knowledge of quantitative dynamics, teams employ intricate schemes to decode pitch sequences or batting philosophies, which on the surface can be as eloquent as an older woman seated behind home plate and winking with either eye to the runner at second base as to the next pitch being a fastball or a slider. As the technology has allowed for quality and flexibility in providing limitless video perspectives from every conceivable angle in a contemporary major league stadium, it is safe to say that digital cheating has been around for some time.
The New York Times reports that the Red Sox may have crossed an invisible line, by the existence of devices receiving information within the dugout, during a recent series against the Yankees. Boston hitters were an amazing 5 for 8 during the first game of the series, an serious indication that pitches were being “tipped” to the hitters. Allegedly, the front office of the Bronx Bombers, filmed video of the Boston training staff hijacking signs via Apple watches and passing along the information directly to players. New York general manager Brian Cashman, promptly filed a complaint with the Commissioner’s office, in the wake of the suspected questionable actions. Again, while the cat and mouse game of stealing signs is widely accepted, there exists a stipulation that no radio or an information receiving device in the dugout, should be utilized to actively engage in communication during a game (What happens when virtual contact lenses infiltrate the market?).
While the punishment for the crime will probably air on the side of negligible and this incident will go down in history with hilarity and intrigue, for baseball fans the idea that heated rivals such as the Red Sox and Yankees, continue to transcend the inflated salaries and lifestyles of millionaire ballplayers and literally awaken primal competitive behaviors if only for a moment, makes the costly price for a single game ticket during the regular season all worth it, even if the respective cheering sections of each franchise cannot look at themselves in the mirror.
Read the full New York Times article here.