It was recently reported that the Boston Red Sox, currently in first place in the American League East, were caught stealing signs and relaying them to players on the field during games with the second place New York Yankees, as well as other teams. Sign stealing/spying is nothing new in baseball, it’s legal, and wholly accepted (if not through the use of binoculars, cameras, etc.). In fact it has been going on for decades. What was it that separated this incident from all the rest?
Technology, being used in a way that it has never been used before in sports.
The New York times article Boston Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Steal Signs Against Yankees specified how the Red Sox used a “modern — and illicit — twist” – an Apple Watch to gain an advantage against the Yankees, and other teams.
Major League Baseball investigators determined that the Red Sox executed a scheme to steal signs from opponent team’s catchers. Training staff would monitor instant-replay video and watch to see what signs the opposing catcher was giving to the pitcher, quickly relay it to players in the dugout (in one instance injured star Dustin Pedroia), where they would in turn signal to the batter the pitch that is being thrown.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman filed a complaint with the Commissioner’s office which included video shot of the Red Sox dugout during their three game series last month. The Yankees stated that the video showed a member of the training staff looking at his Apple Watch in the dugout, then relaying a message to some of the players in the dugout.
This per the Times:
The video provided to the commissioner’s office by the Yankees was captured during the first two games of the series and included at least three clips. In the clips, the team’s assistant athletic trainer, Jon Jochim, is seen looking at his Apple Watch and then passing information to outfielder Brock Holt and second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who was injured at the time but in uniform. In one instance, Pedroia is then seen passing the information to [player Chris] Young.
The Commissioner’s office confronted the Red Sox about the incident, and the organization admitted that the trainer had received video replay information and then relayed it to the players – an operation which had been in place, according to the New York Times, for weeks.
This is certainly groundbreaking in that an Apple Watch, a wearable device, could be an aid in such an incident. Manager John Farrell admitted that he knew players were stealing signs, he just wasn’t aware that it was being done with the aid of video replay, and an Apple Watch.
So he admits to the “cheat,” but isn’t aware how it’s being done. Interesting…
The Red Sox countered with how the Yankees were using a camera from its YES Television network to steal signs, somethings which the Yankees (of course) denied. MLB is following up on both.
This is somewhat reminiscent of another New England incident – Spygate in 2007, where the New England Patriots admitted to spying on the New York Jets through videotaping defensive coaches’ signals from an unauthorized location in the stadium. Head Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 by the NFL (the maximum allowed by the league and the largest fine ever imposed on a coach in the league’s 87-year history) for being the “mastermind.” That year they went 16-0, going to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Giants in an upset. Again, hmm.
Could Farrell face a hefty fine? Could the Red Sox go to the World Series this year after such incidents have been made public, and verified by the highest office in Major League Baseball? Just how many team were affected by this?
Vanity Fair published an article ‘The Red Sox Finally Find a Use For the Apple Watch – A new real-world application for the long-suffering device,’ stating how one week before Apple was expected to announce a new Apple Watch—an update to a device that has struggled for years to gain traction with consumers, the company received a highly unexpected bit of press. While it’s unclear what penalties the Red Sox could face for using an Apple Watch to cheat (or the Yankees for their alledged improprieties) – at a minimum, according to Vanity Fair, Apple can now add “stealing hand signs” to the Apple Watch’s list of functionalities.
There you go.
Even Apple Insider reported the story. And the photo in the article is priceless…