A Boston pro sports franchise finds itself in yet another controversy.
This time it’s the Boston Red Sox, who were investigated by MLB for a sign-stealing scheme using an Apple Watch. The Red Sox reportedly used the MLB video replay equipment to figure out the Yankees’ signs, then relayed them to the dugout via an Apple Watch on the wrist of a trainer. He’d then spread the info to players. The story originated from the New York Times, which has sources familiar with the investigation saying the Red Sox will be punished by the league.
The Red Sox themselves don’t seem to think this is too big a deal. Red Sox beat writer Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe even reported Wednesday that an MLB source tells him the Red Sox will get a “slap on the wrist.”
Still, there’s little precedent for something like this. Sign-stealing, for all intents and purposes, is looked at as gamesmanship. Electronic devices aren’t permitted in the dugout, however, which is where the Red Sox engaged in some rule-breaking.
So what sort of punishment is warranted from this modern attempt at a ruse as old as the game itself? Should MLB send a message? Or actually just give the Red Sox a slap on the wrist? We have some suggestions in this week’s Big League Stew roundtable:
Dock them two games
There’s really no way to know how Rob Manfred will choose to punish the Red Sox. Everyone agrees that stealing signs is part of the game, but only if you do so without technology. As our own Jeff Passan explained last night, stealing signs via technological devices does happen around the game quite a bit. The only issue here is that the Red Sox were too blatant about it.
You need a punishment that is harsh, but not too harsh. So, I say take two wins from the Red Sox. You can either just vacate the wins of give them to the Yankees. Either way, it puts more pressure on them down the stretch and makes that race tighter. They got an advantage from using the Apple Watch, so they should be hit with a disadvantage with their punishment. Something bigger than a fine. (Chris Cwik)
One draft pick
As the old saying goes, if you’re not cheating you’re not trying. Chances are every team is using similar technology to gain an edge somewhere along the line. I don’t see this as the Red Sox going rogue or gaining an advantage that other teams aren’t getting. Of course, another old saying is that it’s only cheating if you get caught. Apparently those involved in the Red Sox scheme were unlucky or just became too lazy in their execution, so now they get to be the example.
We don’t know all of the details, so it’s tough to know for sure how deep this scheme truly goes. It’s certainly nowhere near as serious the Cardinals hacking scandal, but it’s something the league will not take lightly because there’s a certain degree of integrity it wants to uphold. With that in mind, I think taking away the Red Sox’s first pick in 2018 draft will suffice as something of a warning to Boston and to other teams to keep better tabs on employees or to do a better job hiding the sharing of information. Just make it clear to the Red Sox if they get caught again, another draft pick will be tacked on and they’ll lose 10-20 percent of their intentional signing money.
I think having that hanging over their head would be the stronger message. Such a punishment would sting a lot of teams in the Red Sox position, and it could definitely hurt Boston in the short term if Shohei Otani makes the move from Japan. The Red Sox and Yankees are best positioned to sign Otani with $8 million apiece available. Losing that money would undoubtedly tip the scales. The threat of losing it should have Boston on its best behavior. (Mark Townsend)
No more video replay for 2017
I don’t envy Rob Manfred. He’s in a really tough spot. Two of baseball’s most popular and most adversarial teams are locked in yet another battle, but this time it’s an embarrassing off-the-field sign-stealing scandal. And despite Manfred saying that old fashioned sign stealing is A-OK with him, that’s not what the Red Sox did. They used MLB’s own technology to do it, taking advantage of team replay cameras.
If the punishment should fit the crime, then it’s actually pretty easy: no more replay cameras for the Red Sox for the rest of the regular season and the postseason. They can still challenge plays, but they have to decide to do it based only on their own eyes. The offices with the replay camera equipment should be dark, empty, and locked until 2018. That’s what they used to try and get an advantage, so it shouldn’t be available to them for the rest of the year. It doesn’t seem as big as taking away a draft pick, but it hurts them where it counts: their ability to challenge the right plays in important situations. That could be a huge deal in a late September game or a playoff game. If the Red Sox aren’t going to use the technology in the way it was intended, then just like a child who is using blocks to beat up their sibling, it should be taken away. (Liz Roscher)
Suspend all the coaches on both sides
Suspend without pay all coaches and mangers from both teams for one series. We’re talking Yankees and Red Sox at the time of year when all eyes are slowly turning to baseball. MLB was just given everything it needs to speed that process up — and fines and/or loss of draft picks isn’t going to do it. Make the teams play their next three games without any support staff regardless of their opponent. That means players are responsible for filling out their lineup cards, making calls to the bullpen, letting each other know when to steal or when to try for an extra base. Imagine your third-base coach coming in to pinch hit. Or having your designated hitter calling out defensive shifts. If either team wants to try stealing signs, they’ll have to do it without any help.
Would you tune in to see the Yankees and Red Sox — the richest of MLB’s rich — try to call all the shots themselves? Not to mention the fact that it’d be wildly interesting to see how the game is played when no one is holding players back or pushing them harder.
Yes, it’s a radical punishment for a baseball’s version of a ten-cent crime. But no one ever thought to use an Apple Watch to steal signs before. Why can’t we get a new punishment that would attract attention, make the game more fun for all involved and still serve as a deterrent for all other clubs After all, the last thing coaches would want is to find out their players can handle the job without them. (Blake Schuster)
Just fine ’em
Let’s be real about this: Major League Baseball is fine with pitchers doctoring the ball as long as it’s not too blatant. Pitchers are mostly allowed to use foreign substances to enhance their grip on the ball, so long as it’s not too obvious. What does that tell you? Baseball is fine with a little bit of rule-bending and gamesmanship in the interest of competitive spirit (or something).
So do we really think the Red Sox are going to get anything more than a fine here? C’mon. If the league isn’t going to fully enforce rules about doctoring the ball, it’s not going to get mad at an Apple Watch being used in a sign-stealing scheme. So the Red Sox will get their — which probably won’t anywhere close to the money they wasted on Pablo Sandoval, so whatever. (Mike Oz)
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