NASCAR lore promotes the phrase “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’” That saying could easily apply to other sports and as news broke this week, the sport now in offseason mode could see some making similar claims about their game. The alleged culprits and the outrage is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.
World Series Runners-up the Houston Astros were alleged to have used cameras in the batter’s eye in centerfield to steal signs from their opponents this season. Already found to have been caught a few years ago for similar circumstances, their previous offseason success is now in question.
Experts have evaluated the statistics for the 2019 season and shown that the Astros success at home this year is vastly better than road appearances. Call me skeptical, but if that was true the Astros should’ve won the World Series easily this season since they had home field advantage but were swept at home in the World Series. So, I have my doubts.
Regardless of the accusations being true or not the Astros can’t be the only team trying to steal signs. Every team is trying to determine the pitch that’s being thrown at any time. The entire goal of the batter is trying to guess the pitch and the location being thrown. So, how is it wrong for coaches to do the same. Stealing signs is roughly equivalent to a scouting report. I know the idea of communicating the signs to the players is the issue, but the ability to judge the pitch type, speed, and location is determined by the batter in less than 10 seconds. Even knowing the pitch ahead of time doesn’t guarantee a hit or runs produced. So, I don’t have a problem with a team scouting the competition. Back to NASCAR wisdom, this from Darrell Waltrip, “If you don’t cheat, you look like an idiot; if you cheat and don’t get caught, you look like a hero; if you cheat and get caught, you look like a dope. Put me where I belong.”
If teams want to prevent signs from being stolen, pick new signs that teams don’t already know. If you’re being outsmarted by another team with your pitch selection, outsmart them with new signals. Even if by accident, some pitchers will reveal their pitches and ‘tip’ the pitch to the batter. Catchers and coaches have already worked to prevent pitch tipping by covering their mouths with their mitts during mound visits. Worth noting, catchers might do well to avoid painting their nails so pitchers can more easily see because that same visibility extends to eagle-eyed opponents trying to figure out what the sign is.
A possible solution is borrowing technology from NFL. Why not have a pitching coordinator in the press box or bullpen with a headset connected to the pitcher and catchers who are fitted with an earpiece? The pitcher and catcher agree on the selection called by the pitching coordinator and throw the agreed upon pitch. Sure, there’s potential for problems with this, but make sure the umpires or another MLB official maintains custody of the electronics before, during, and after the games.
Is it wrong to ‘steal’ signs of an opposing team?