Professional baseball has a dirty secret, according to the New York Times. Although a catcher can secretly signal certain pitches with his fingers, “Several managers say there are clubs that use a dozen or more employees to study video and make signs.”
But should such a practice be stopped with technology?
The addition of cameras in every stadium and video monitors in every club opened the door to an unintended consequence: electronic cheating. The 2017 Houston Astros walked through that door brazenly, developing a sophisticated sign-stealing system that helped them win the World Series. Two years later, when the system was introduced to the public, it led to firings, suspensions and, ultimately, the final taint of the championship… This season, Major League Baseball took a giant leap forward in distancing itself from the taint. of stealing signs with the introduction of PitchCom, a device controlled by the catcher that allows him to communicate wordlessly with the pitcher that a pitch is coming – information that is simultaneously transmitted to the three other players on the field through headphones in the bands of their caps….
There have been a few glitches where the devices didn’t work or pitchers couldn’t hear, but so far this season everyone in baseball seems to agree that PitchCom, whether we like it or not, is working. Carlos Correa, the Minnesota Twins shortstop who has long been the unofficial and infallible spokesman for those 2017 Astros, went so far as to say the tool would have prevented his old team from systematically cheating. “I think so,” Correa said. – Because now there are no signs.
But not all pitchers are on board. Max Scherzer, the New York Mets ace and baseball’s highest-paid player this season, tried PitchCom for the first time in a game against the Yankees late last month and had mixed feelings. “It works,” he said. “Does it help? Yes. But I also think it should be illegal.”
Scherzer went so far as to suggest that the game would lose something by eliminating character theft.
“That’s part of baseball, trying to hack somebody’s signs,” Scherzer said. “Is there a welcome intention to clean up the game a bit?” he said of PitchCom. “Yeah. But I also feel like it takes away from the game.”
That comment was called “a little naive” and “a little hypocritical” by the Seattle pitcher, who also had this to say about Scherzer. “I have a very good feeling he’s been on one or two sign-stealing teams.”
For now, electronic alarms remain optional — and yet have been adopted by each of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams, the article notes (attributing it to “league-wide paranoia”), and Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of operations points to a second advantage.
Because catchers don’t have to go through a long series of fake signals, “it really sped up the game a little bit.”