First off some housekeeping; the Baltimore Orioles and their radio flagship station (105.7 WJZ-FM) announced that there would be 13 spring games heard on local radio this spring. Most of these games are home games in Sarasota, but the Orioles’ radio crew will hit the road a couple of times. For the full list visit MASN Orioles.
Major League Baseball leaked earlier this week that they were considering the act of tapping dugout/bullpen phones to ensure that teams aren’t stealing signs. Anyone who’s read my column both here and on other previous sites where my writing has appeared knows that I believe wholeheartedly in baseball’s unwritten codes. One of them of course is that you don’t steal signs.
However this is not to say that I think there should be draconian enforcement of these unwritten codes. And in my view, tapping phones is just that. In short, the rule is that teams can’t use electronic means to steal signs. Years ago the Chicago White Sox utilized a light on their scoreboard during home games to signal pitches, and there have been a few other similar situations. This of course culminated last year with the Boston Red Sox stealing New York Yankee signs by an aide relaying them over an Apple Watch.
Again, these things are inexcusable in my mind. It interferes with the integrity of the game and so forth. And yes, all of the aforementioned tactics are against the written rules, and thus a team could find itself disciplined in the form of a fine, or perhaps a manager suspension. That includes phoning the signs in from the bullpen.
Now that said, stealing signs by the naked eye and using a “secret signal” to relay the sign to a teammate is still a deplorable act in my view. However it’s not against the written rules. One way or the other, baseball has always policed itself in these situations. And yes, I’m talking about burying a fastball in someone’s back, or something along those lines. It’s easy for people to say that type of thing shouldn’t be done. I disagree with that; if you don’t want one of your players to be subject to that, don’t steal signs. But I digress…
…do we really think that tapping phones is going to ensure that these types of incidents don’t occur? Because I suspect that’s MLB’s ultimate goal; preventing beaning incidents and fights. Some would say that’s a good thing, but in reality you just can’t let things like that fester. Because eventually as anger builds up guys will lose their heads and you could end up with a knock-down-drag-out fight like the Orioles and Seattle Mariners had in 1993. Point being, ultimately you sometimes have to allow for a dust-up to avoid a bench-clearing melee.
And here’s the other thing; what happens if in this process phone lines get crossed? Seriously folks, that could happen. Anytime you’re dealing with electronics, there’s always a chance that something like that could occur, or that something could be hacked. What if one team ends up being able to hear conversations between the opposing manager and his bullpen coach as a result?
Sign-stealing is an abhorrent practice in MLB in my opinion, however I’m not in favor of draconian measures to prevent it. You can bet that opposing teams are always watching one another (such as the Apple Watch situation). If there’s anything funny going on, odds are they would know if before the league would.