Stealing Signs Is Part of the Game, But…

Avid readers of this sports column know full well where my professional baseball allegiances lie.

Unfortunately, for the bulk of my fandom of the New York Mets, September is a time for two things: looking forward to the next MLB season and rooting vehemently against the New York Yankees.

However, recent events have me – a baseball purist – siding with the Yankees.

During a series in mid-August at Fenway Park, the Yankees accused the Boston Red Sox of using an Apple Watch to steal signs, adding another chapter to this already bitter rivalry, both on and off the field.

I must be honest. I have absolutely no problem with teams attempting to steal signs. It’s part of the game, and it’s been so since the game’s inception.

When I played baseball, I always tried to look in to the opposing catcher giving signs to see if I could figure out the pattern. And then when I coached a high school team, I was able to relay the opposing catcher’s signs to my hitters using a system of communication.

Is this unethical? Perhaps, but I justify it by saying it was me using my own human intuition to gain an upper hand in competition.

The key here is human intuition. Of course, there were times when I was wrong, since much of the time sign stealing involves an element of guessing.

What happened with the Red Sox and Yankees though takes sign stealing a step further by implementing technology. This wouldn’t even be a story if the Red Sox attempted to steal signs the old-fashioned way.

Crossing the Line

But when an Apple Watch is used by a trainer to relay the opposing catcher’s signs, that crosses the line.

Red Sox officials admitted that an assistant trainer in the dugout received the signals from video replay workers and then passed the signals onto the players. That is a clear violation and will be punished accordingly.

Sadly, it was only a matter of time before we found out about teams using their own ballpark’s technology to gain a competitive edge. There are cameras everywhere and plenty of ways to communicate within a stadium.

The Red Sox are likely not the only team with some sort of sign stealing scheme, but they just happened to be the ones that got caught.

There must be something about the Boston area that makes pro teams think they can get away with cheating. Several years ago, sports fans were inundated with news surrounding the “Deflategate” scandal, in which the New England Patriots allegedly deflated footballs during the 2015 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

That scandal resulted in a four-game suspension for Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, which he served at the beginning of last season. The Patriots went on to win

the Super Bowl, and the Red Sox are hoping for a similar end to a season now marred in controversy.

Sign stealing will remain a part of the game, but let’s hope technology stays out of it. Other baseball purists would argue that instant replay has already ruined the game, let alone using technology as a means of cheating.

This incident will go down as merely a footnote in a rivalry that includes the Babe Ruth trade, Bucky Dent’s 1978 playoff home run, numerous base-brawls and the Red Sox coming from three games behind to win the 2004 American League Championship Series in stunning fashion.

But it just goes to show that some teams truly abide by the principle of “winning at all costs” – even if that means cheating.

Contact Jim Mancari via email at