Considering it’s been going on for over 100 years, there’s not a lot the New York Yankees–Boston Red Sox rivalry hasn’t seen.
But Major League Baseball has found that the Red Sox have added a new, tech-savvy wrinkle to the century-long feud while joining a fellow New England sports franchise as a team caught red-handed trying to steal communications from a New York opponent.
The league told the New York Times that they’ve determined the Red Sox used in-stadium cameras at Fenway Park and an Apple Watch to relay the Yankees’ and other teams’ catchers’ signals to Red Sox players on the field.
Here’s how it went down, according to the New York Times:
The Yankees, who had long been suspicious of the Red Sox’ stealing catchers’ signs in Fenway Park, contended the video showed a member of the Red Sox training staff looking at his Apple Watch in the dugout. The trainer then relayed a message to other players in the dugout, who, in turn, would signal teammates on the field about the type of pitch that was about to be thrown, according to the people familiar with the case.
Baseball investigators corroborated the Yankees’ claims based on video the commissioner’s office uses for instant replay and broadcasts, the people said. The commissioner’s office then confronted the Red Sox, who admitted that their trainers had received signals from video replay personnel and then relayed that information to Red Sox players — an operation that had been in place for at least several weeks.
The Yankees approached the league with video evidence of what they took as cheating. After review, the league agreed with them.
Stealing signs in baseball is not illegal, but using technology on the field is.
“We actually do not have a rule against sign-stealing,” commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday. “It has been a part of the game for a very, very long time. To the extent that there was a violation of the rule here, it was a violation by one or the other [team] that involved the use of electronic equipment. It’s the electronic equipment that creates the violation. I think the rule against electronic equipment has a number of policy reasons behind it, but one of them is we don’t want to escalate attempts to figure out what a pitcher is going to throw by introducing electronics into that mix.
“To the extent there was a violation on either side, we are 100 percent comfortable that it’s not an ongoing issue, that if it happened, it is no longer. I think that’s important from an integrity perspective going forward.”
Perhaps no Red Sox player has benefitted more from the Apple Watch cheating at Fenway Park than rookie Rafael Devers. The 20-year-old has an OPS of 1.101 at home and an OPS of .584 on the road, albeit in a small 36-game sample size.
We probably shouldn’t be surprised by all of this—10 years ago, the NFL punished the New England Patriots for their illegally videotaping of New York Jets coaches to … you guessed it, steal signals.
The league’s investigation into the Red Sox is ongoing, and it will be interesting to see what punishments are handed down, if any.
“When I think about punishment, I think you need to think about deterrents,” Manfred said. “I think you need to think about how the violation has affected the play on the field, and I think you need to think about how it’s affected the perception of the game publicly. All of those things are something that you have to weigh in terms of trying to get to appropriate discipline.”