For the Boston Red Sox, it seems that an Apple a day helps keep the rulebook away.
Investigators working for Major League Baseball have discovered that the Red Sox illicitly stole hand signals from opposing teams players and relayed the information using smart devices like the Apple Watch. The Red Sox currently sit in first place in the American League East division, though the New York Yankees are closing in quickly on the top spot.
The initial inquiry began over two weeks ago when the Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman issued a complaint to the MLB commissioner’s office. A video was included that showed a home game in Boston where a Red Sox athletic trainer was glancing at his Apple Watch in the dugout. That trainer would then relay a message to players who would then signal a player or batter on the field. The signals typically conveyed what kind of pitch might be thrown, helping the batter anticipate a fastball or curve then adjust accordingly.
MLB investigators corroborated the story then confronted the Red Sox, who admitted to receiving signals from video personnel in the stadium.
The Red Sox then fired back, filing a complaint alleging that the Yankees used cameras from the YES television network to exclusively steal signs from opponents.
“We will conduct a thorough investigation on both sides,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said to reporters at Fenway Park. “We’re 100 percent comfortable that it is not an ongoing issue.”
It is currently unclear what kind of punishment, if any, will be levied against the Red Sox. Stealing signs is a natural part of baseball, though it is typically done by a runner on second base without the aid of technology or outside personnel. Red Sox manager John Farrell even admitted to sanctioning sign-stealing for his team, though of course without electronic aid.
Since 2001, the use of electronic communications in a dugout has been outlawed by the MLB. Wifi disabled iPads are delivered to the teams before each game, and in 2015 Kansas City Royals coach Ned Yost received a phone call and a barrage of questions from the MLB for wearing an Apple Watch in the dugout.
MLB teams have used devices to cheat before. The 1951 New York Giants used a buzzer system to mount one of the greatest regular season comebacks in history, and the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies went old school when they used binoculars to steal signs from left field. The Phillies were warned by the MLB but did not face further consequences.
Technology helps society in almost every facet, so its natural that teams would want to use whatever they can to pick up wins. The difference is using it on and off the field. Services that form stats around on-field play then use it for off-field analysis are fine, but taking that advantage into a real game situation creates unfair advantages. There is even an industry popping up around new ways to track athletes, with companies like SPORTLOGiQ filling the niche.
It is hard to deny that as tech becomes more pervasive, instances like this will only rise when it comes to pro sports. Here’s hoping it at least fuels the intense rivalries between teams at the highest competitive levels.