Sub-headline: Cubs players and coaches, make sure you take off your Apple Watches tomorrow night.
Sign-stealing has long been a part of baseball.
Of course, when done with tactfulness, and without the aid of electronic devices, its reception tends to fall closer to a deviously competitive as opposed to blatantly cheating.
But with the proliferation of video around the park and the invention of some discrete means of communication, like FitBits and Apple Watches, some teams have taken sign stealing a bit too far.
As I’m sure you remember, the Boston Red Sox were recently busted for using an Apple Watch (later changed to a FitBit, but whatever) to more quickly relay stolen signs from the Yankees, and were later fined an undisclosed amount by the league. And while many were happy the Red Sox received any punishment at all, many others suggested it was far too light of a punishment for such a blatant offense.
To be fair, Commissioner Rob Manfred later released a statement saying, “All 30 clubs have been notified that future violations of this type will be subject to more serious sanctions, including the possible loss of draft picks.”
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) October 5, 2017
Yep, that’s a picture of Diamondbacks coach Ariel Prieto clearly wearing an Apple Watch during his team’s 11-8 victory in the playoff Wild Card game last night against the Rockies. And according to the Post, the team is now under investigation.
To be sure, it’s entirely possible that this was simply a lapse in judgement on the part of Prieto – given the importance of a one-game playoff and the recent investigation into the Red Sox – and maybe the investigation will return just that.
“Ariel Prieto has assured us that this was a simple oversight and honest mistake. The watch he wore last night was absolutely not used in any way related to our game and we will make certain prior to the NLDS that it will not be an issue again. Ariel takes full responsibility and feels terrible that this has been a distraction of any kind.”
I had a feeling that the recency of the Red Sox transgression, the seriousness of the commissioner’s statement, and the spotlight on last night’s game is going to mean that Prieto was not, in fact, cheating.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the investigation ends there. Because, if the Diamondbacks/Prieto are found to have been using that device maliciously (and then lied about it), the sanctions could be quite serious and would probably include loss of draft picks, per the commissioners warning.
My gut says nothing comes of this other than a more strict rule/reminder, which disallows all unapproved electronic devices from the dugouts at all times and results in discipline regardless of use/intent. But until we hear more from the league, we’ll have to wait and see.