Over the past few years, sign-stealing has crept into the forefront of issues facing Major League Baseball, as teams have gotten more brazen than ever in their effort to, well, cheat.
To be sure, I see nothing wrong with traditional sign-stealing (i.e. a runner on second base tries to break the catcher’s code and relay what he thinks the next pitch will be to the hitter at the plate), as that’s been part of the fabric of the game since pitches were called. But as soon as you start introducing spies in the stands, or using camera feeds, or technology like iPads in the dugouts and smart watches on the players on the field, I take MAJOR issue with that.
The league has tried to clamp down on those practices, but so many teams have been caught red-handed, and considering how beneficial it can be, I sincerely doubt the practices will stop any time soon – not as long as it’s still possible.
So can the league fight against it? How about something completely insane like smart watches for the pitcher and catcher:
MLB is at Nationals’ camp today workshopping a new communication device for pitchers and catchers. It would allow catchers to type a pitch call (with location) into a watch that is connected to a watch the pitcher is wearing on the mound. An effort to eliminate sign-stealing.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) March 18, 2019
Jesse Dougherty is a Nationals beat writer for the Washington Post, and according to his latest report, MLB is testing out some sort of device that would provide catchers and pitchers a new way to communicate what pitch should be delivered next. Which, just … wow.
If the process was seamless enough, that could *completely* eliminate sign-stealing – in all forms – in one fell swoop. [Brett: Well, outside of a team hacking another club, but, come on, what organization would be awful and devious enough to do such a thing?]
And if it was easy enough to use, I could even see this cutting down on the time between pitches: if there’s no threat of sign-stealing, catchers can eliminate the whole series of fake signs meant to hide the actual plan, and there won’t be mound visits used on sorting out sign issues.
Of course, the counterargument is that pitchers might still want to shake-off whatever the catcher suggested. And if the technology isn’t quite perfect – or easily adaptable – it could slow things down further.
Indeed, that seems to be an early issue among some pitchers:
Yankees tried these out last week — and some said it seemed like it would slow down the entire process. https://t.co/TmmytVDXCn
— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) March 18, 2019
But also, I’m not even a little bit shocked that a new technology is being met with resistance. People are never good at using new tech … until they are. And if the league does ultimately plan to implement these devices, I’d bet the younger pitchers and catchers – especially ones who might have come up through the minor leagues practicing with these devices – would use them just fine.
The other positive is that this doesn’t seem like something that would be mandatory. In other words, it could be introduced as an option for those who want to try it, and if the benefits are clear enough, others will jump on board for their own benefit.
In my opinion, this is a pretty freakin’ cool idea, and I can’t wait to see how it works. But I also have about a million questions. For one, are these going to be completely new devices created solely for the purposes of baseball? Or will we see existing smart watches adapted for this use? In my opinion, the most seamless integration of this sort of technology would be through the use of haptic feedback – the Apple Watch, for example, can send little, distinct vibrations to the wrist to indicate different sort of notifications. If that became sophisticated enough, pitchers wouldn’t have to stare at a tiny screen on their wrist for the next pitch signal (an obvious and potentially annoying hurdle for everyone involved).
And while that might seem like a complicated thing to learn … so are the intricate signals catchers give pitchers. Perhaps it would take a long time for the technology to get where it needs to be, let alone players to adopt it, but this is a pretty exciting idea and I’m at least interested to see how it could work.
Next up: brain implants. https://t.co/3drm2pwZCJ
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) March 18, 2019