Mark stealing has long been a part of baseball strategy. When a batter is hitting, his teammates carefully observe a catcher’s fingers or body language to understand which pitch is about to be thrown. This is all fair play as long as the teams don’t use electronic devices, such as cameras or computers, to facilitate the process.
Over the past few seasons – according to a recently published and partially drafted letter from Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman sent in 2017 – the Yankees have used electronic devices to decipher and share the signs of opposing teams. The letter came after the Yankees accused the Boston Red Sox of using a similar process.
“The Yankees’ use of the bench phone to convey information about the signs of an opposing club during the 2015 season and part of the 2016 season constitutes a material violation of the Replay Review Regulations,” Manfred wrote to Cashman.
“By using the telephone in the video review room to instantly transmit information about infringing rules signals to the bench, the Yankees were able to provide real-time information to their players on the sequence of signs of an opposing club. goal of the Red Sox plan that was the subject of the Yankees complaint. “
The reason the Yankees were punished less severely (a $ 100,000 fine for a charitable cause) than the Houston Astros and the Boston Red SoxWorld Series winning teams that have been given bans, fines, lost draft picks and public contempt? Those teams continued to steal the signs after the MLB began cracking down on them and instituted clear punishment terms.
The content of that MLB letter to the Yankees – which went public Tuesday before the expected court overturning – wasn’t exactly new or surprising. Paranoia about opponents stealing signals between pitchers and receivers has existed throughout baseball history, but the influx of technology into the game had introduced new fears.
New ways to get around the rules emerged in 2014 when MLB expanded the use of instant replay review, which set up rooms near each team’s bench with live video feeds to help coaches decide whether or not to challenge a team. game. Players could also visit these rooms during matches to view their videos launch or hitting. But any use of technology to decode or transmit opponent’s signs during a match was still prohibited.
Although concern had grown among many teams that their opponents were going too far, the first big public sign of technology abuse came in 2017 when the New York Times reported that the Yankees filed a complaint with the MLB accusing the Red Sox of broadcasting the signals from the video playback staff to the bench via an Apple Watch. After an investigation into the Red Sox, which led to a fine, the MLB admitted that it had become increasingly difficult to monitor inappropriate use of electronics.
“At that point, the theft of insignia was used as a competitive tool by numerous teams across Major League Baseball and only became illegal after the Commissioner specifically set the rules on September 15, 2017,” the Yankees said. a statement Tuesday, later adding that they have had no “infractions or violations” since then.
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On that day, Manfred sent a memorandum to all 30 teams warning them of the theft of illegal signs and stating that the club’s management, not the players, would be held responsible for such cheating. In March 2018, the MLB sent another memorandum to the teams in which it made clear that playing rooms and video feeds could not be used to steal signals during matches.
(MLB has since taken further steps try to curb such behavior.)
This is where the story of the Yankees, however, deviates from that of the Astros and the Red Sox.
The Astros have been found, second an MLB survey released in January 2020used a pattern during the 2017 playoffs and for at least part of the 2018 season that involved the use of cameras and monitors to decode opposing team signs and alert Houston hitters, often bumping into a garbage can just outside the bench.
Manfred punished the Astros by issuing a one-year suspension to general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, both of whom were subsequently fired by team owner Jim Crane, and fining the team $ 5 million and hooking a first and second round draft pick. in 2020 and 2021.
The Red Sox were found, according to a separate MLB investigation released in April 2020, to have used a scheme in 2018 that was more limited in scope than the Astros but still involved decoding opponents’ signs while watching live video. during the games and we passed that information together with the players.
Manfred punished the Red Sox by issuing a one-year suspension to manager Alex Cora, who was also part of the 2017 Astros plan, and JT Watkins, the Boston-based video replay operator. The team also lost its second round pick in 2020.
Manfred’s once private letter to the Yankees has now been published due to a court case, dismissed by US District Judge Jed S. Rakoff in April 2020, between fantasy sports contestants claiming they were harmed by cartel theft. in MLB Fans, who have sued MLB, the Astros and the Red Sox, said that Manfred’s 2017 letter to Cashman, which emerged during the discovery, contradicted the league’s public statements at the time.
The Yankees tried to keep the letter sealed, arguing that they were not a party to the case and that it would damage their reputation. Several judges disagreed and argued that most of the letter had already been disclosed by MLB in its 2017 statement. The US Second Court of Appeals last week rejected a request by the Yankees to try the team’s case to keep the letter sealed.
Manfred’s three-page letter to Cashman explained how the MLB discovered that the Red Sox had violated league rules. Manfred wrote that during the investigation into the Red Sox, the league was told (by a person or group whose identity was obscured) that the Yankees “used a scheme similar to that of the Red Sox” to decode the signs. opposing teams and pass them to the batter when a runner was on second base.
Manfred also wrote that a blacked-out person or group, who spotted the Red Sox using the Apple Watch, told the league that during the 2015 season and part of the 2016 season they provided information on opponents’ signs to players and coaches in the game. Yankee Stadium playing room, and they forwarded it to the bench.
Finally, Manfred wrote that his office found no merit in a formal complaint from the Red Sox accusing the Yankees of pointing their YES Network cameras at the Boston bench when coaches and players gave signals.
In their statements on Tuesday, the MLB and Yankees pointed out that much of the letter’s content had been known for some time.
“The Yankees did not violate the MLB rules at that time which governed the theft of signs,” the MLB said. “At the time, the use of the breeding room to decode signals was not expressly prohibited by MLB rules as long as the information was not communicated electronically to the bench. As the rules relating to the use of breeding had evolved, many clubs they moved their video equipment close to the field, giving staff the potential to quickly transmit signals to the field. “
The MLB said it clarified its rules relating to electronic equipment in that Manfred memorandum dated September 15, 2017 and drew a “clear line” on March 27, 2018 that no clubhouse or video room equipment could be used. to decode the signals.
“The Yankees have vigorously fought the production of this letter, not only for the legal principle involved, but to avoid mismatching the events that occurred before the Commissioner’s sign-stealing rules were instituted with those that occurred after,” they said. the Yankees. “What should be vibrantly clarified is this: the fine noted in the Major League Baseball letter was imposed before the new MLB regulations and standards were issued.”