MLB Is Going To New Lengths To Stop Camera-Aided Sign Stealing

Illustration for article titled MLB Is Going To New Lengths To Stop Camera-Aided Sign Stealing
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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has apparently found another aspect of baseball that needs fixing. According to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, the league is incorporating a bunch of new bylaws that will snuff out hi-tech sign stealing like the Houston Astros used during last season’s playoff run, thus returning the practice to its folksy origins.


Her are the proposed rules, according to SI:

In addition to banning all in-house cameras from foul pole to foul pole, the rule provides that:

  • The only live feed of a broadcast will be the one provided to each team’s designated replay official.
  • A specially trained monitor, not a Resident Security Expect, will be assigned to each designated replay official to make sure that person has no communication with team personnel regarding signs, either in person, by phone or any other device.
  • All other bullpen and clubhouse television monitors will receive game broadcasts on an eight-second delay.
  • No television monitors are permitted in the tunnels or auxiliary rooms between the dugout and the clubhouse.
  • Each club must provide to MLB an audit of every in-house camera, detailing its purpose, its wiring and where its signal can be viewed.

The stated reasoning behind the change is that it will improve the pace of play, Manfred’s pet project:

Commissioner Rob Manfred believed the restrictions were necessary because high-tech sign stealing grew more prevalent and slowed the pace of play because of the paranoia it engendered. Last November general managers thoroughly endorsed the adopting of such rules rather than engage in what they saw as a coming “high-tech arms race to cheat,” according to one source.

That’s a fairly reasonable explanation. Having games drag on because increasingly paranoid teams are engaged in cryptologic combat isn’t much fun for anyone. This will probably put an end to further innovations in sign crafting, though, which could have at least yielded some entertaining spats if not much on-field entertainment.

Speaking of high entertainment, the most amusing part of Verducci’s report is that managers and GMs will have something of an sign-stealing abstinence pledge forced on them by the league:

To make sure teams comply with the rule, MLB is holding general managers and managers personally responsible for compliance. Before and after each season, every GM (or president of baseball operations) and manager must sign a document professing that his club is in compliance with the anti-sign stealing rules and that he knew of no “pre-meditated plan to steal signs,” a source said.


These new rules do seem like they will stop an Astros-like scheme from materializing again next season, but who’s to say teams won’t just develop even more advanced forms of chicanery in response? I say let sign stealing be a post-apocalyptic wasteland, wherein teams employ drones and wearables and AI to squeeze out whatever advantages they can. If nothing else, it would be fun to see Javy Baez, noted protector of signs, huck a baseball at a drone hovering above the stadium.

Staff Writer at Deadspin