MLB’s sign-stealing controversy broadens: Sources say the Red Sox used video replay room illegally in 2018

Van Everyman

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Shank also says Deflategate was real.
Not to go too far down the rabbit hole, but his whole problem with Deflategate was not that he thought it was a big deal but that he did think the Pats were lying. He and Felger thought the Wells Report In Context site, in particular the “Deflator comment was in reference to Dorito Dink losing weight” argument, was mendacious and undermines everything else.

Here, we all know Shank as a troll but in a baseball context I think it doesn’t help the Red Sox to have a Spink award winning (ie, Cooperstown Hall of Fame) journalist making this argument.
 

Manramsclan

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FWIW, I saw Ken Rosenthal on High Heat earlier. I didn't catch the whole thing, but I believe Rosenthal said three Red Sox players confirmed this for him and were not happy by the team's actions. He wouldn't divulge who the players were or if they are still with the team.
They have to be pitchers, right? I just don't see a hitter being upset about this.
 

The Gray Eagle

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It's amazing that anyone ever pays the slightest bit of attention to the Shaughnessy troll.

The actual baseball journalist at the Glob, Speier, had an article on this with some new info:

One member of the team confirmed to the Globe that there was constant traffic in 2018 to and from the area where the real-time feed used for determining whether to challenge on-field calls was broadcast. However, that source noted that the real-time video replay system was located next to the BATS video consoles that players use to review in-game at-bats.

According to that team member, Red Sox player traffic around those systems was constant — in no small part because players were constantly reviewing their swings and pitch selections from previous at-bats. Indeed, that same team member noted that it could have been possible for sign sequences to be stolen via the BATS system, albeit in a fashion that was slightly (at least one batter) behind real time.

That said, the proximity of the BATS system to the real-time feed also would have created what was characterized as an almost unavoidable temptation to crack teams’ sign sequences, something that could be used to relay pitch types and/or locations via traditional means.
.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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We have had so little turnover since then. Kelly jumps out obviously. Maybe Johnson. This also makes me wonder if this is why Bannister left.
Johnson?

Departed pitchers of note since 2018: Kelly, Kimbrel, Pomeranz, Thornberg, Wright, Porcello.
 

Harry Hooper

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Seems like a "trash can banging" scenario has been excluded. Am I wrong that these articles this week suggest someone cracking the code via replay would have to communicate this knowledge to a runner on 2B, who in turn would have to read the catcher's signs and convey the info to the batter?
 

Green Monster

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Seems like a "trash can banging" scenario has been excluded. Am I wrong that these articles this week suggest someone cracking the code via replay would have to communicate this knowledge to a runner on 2B, who in turn would have to read the catcher's signs and convey the info to the batter?
A scenario I read a few months ago when the Astro's story leaked, was that the bullpen was used to communicate to the batter. Someone in the bullpen, casually watching the game, gets notified via ear bud etc then either rests their arms on the bullpen wall or not. Arms up off-speed, arms down fast-ball, etc. Batter then glances to the bullpen and either see arms or not. I remember thinking how Cora had brought a bullpen coach with him from Houston.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Seems like a "trash can banging" scenario has been excluded. Am I wrong that these articles this week suggest someone cracking the code via replay would have to communicate this knowledge to a runner on 2B, who in turn would have to read the catcher's signs and convey the info to the batter?
Wouldn't really have to communicate it in real time. As they do with looking at these very same replays for pitch tipping or swing glitches, the knowledge gleaned can be used at a later time rather than immediately. I'm picturing them deciphering signs on video, then alerting all the players what to look for if they are a runner on second base. That's shit we used to do in high school, absent the use of video. In other words, the idea of stealing signs is not new or exclusive to video replay usage. It's been a part of the game since the beginning, at almost every level possible.
 

Harry Hooper

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A scenario I read a few months ago when the Astro's story leaked, was that the bullpen was used to communicate to the batter. Someone in the bullpen, casually watching the game, gets notified via ear bud etc then either rests their arms on the bullpen wall or not, with one meaning fastball and the other off-speed. Batter then glances to the bullpen and either see arms or not. I remember thinking how Cora had brought a bullpen coach with him from Houston.
OK, but then why would a stream of Red Sox players have to be going into the replay room rather than a dedicated lackey as in Houston?


Maybe the players were mobilized only in the playoffs when MLB started monitoring things more closely?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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OK, but then why would a stream of Red Sox players have to be going into the replay room rather than a dedicated lackey as in Houston?


Maybe the players were mobilized only in the playoffs when MLB started monitoring things more closely?
Weren't players using the replay room to watch their previous ABs, presumably to try to correct some error they made or verify that the pitch they were rung up on was actually a strike or whatever? In other words, they had legitimate reasons to be there beyond trying to see/decipher the catcher's signs. Seems to me that the simple solution is barring players from the room all together. If they were already barred, then how/why were "a stream" of them allowed to enter it in the first place?
 

S. H. Frog

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Can't the cameras run on a delay where they blur the catchers fingers for all teams? Then, if the play is under review for some sort of catcher related issue, the replay room can click a special button or something to unblur?
I think this is a really good idea.
 

bosockboy

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Weren't players using the replay room to watch their previous ABs, presumably to try to correct some error they made or verify that the pitch they were rung up on was actually a strike or whatever? In other words, they had legitimate reasons to be there beyond trying to see/decipher the catcher's signs. Seems to me that the simple solution is barring players from the room all together. If they were already barred, then how/why were "a stream" of them allowed to enter it in the first place?
Right. Have to just make the dugout the only acceptable area for players during games, barring injury.
 

JimD

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Players go to the video room, batting cages, clubhouse, etc. all the time - restricting them to the dugout seems like a massive overreaction. The obvious solution is a headset between pitcher, catcher and coach - if the NFL can make this work with guys crashing into each other on purpose, it seems like an MLB version shouldn't be too difficult at all.
 

OurF'ingCity

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Seems like a "trash can banging" scenario has been excluded. Am I wrong that these articles this week suggest someone cracking the code via replay would have to communicate this knowledge to a runner on 2B, who in turn would have to read the catcher's signs and convey the info to the batter?
Correct, the Athletic article suggests that the process went (1) personnel in replay room would tell a nearby player the current sign sequence, (2) that player would run to the dugout and report the sign sequence, (3) someone in the dugout would then relay that information using signs to someone on second (or, possibly, first, according to the article), and THEN (4) the player on the base would have to look at the signs and quickly relay it subtly to the batter. Obviously the Red Sox and other teams found it helpful but honestly to me it sounds almost more trouble than it is even worth.

Weren't players using the replay room to watch their previous ABs, presumably to try to correct some error they made or verify that the pitch they were rung up on was actually a strike or whatever? In other words, they had legitimate reasons to be there beyond trying to see/decipher the catcher's signs. Seems to me that the simple solution is barring players from the room all together. If they were already barred, then how/why were "a stream" of them allowed to enter it in the first place?
I think they were barred but no one was monitoring it in 2018. In 2019 there were monitors hired by MLB but according to the article some monitors were super aggressive and others just basically let whoever wanted to come into the room come in.
 

The Gray Eagle

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A scenario I read a few months ago when the Astro's story leaked, was that the bullpen was used to communicate to the batter. Someone in the bullpen, casually watching the game, gets notified via ear bud etc then either rests their arms on the bullpen wall or not. Arms up off-speed, arms down fast-ball, etc. Batter then glances to the bullpen and either see arms or not. I remember thinking how Cora had brought a bullpen coach with him from Houston.
From the Speier article I linked above:
The Athletic story suggested that once another team’s sign sequence was identified, Red Sox players could walk to the dugout to relay the information to teammates. From there, a runner on base (usually second base, sometimes first) could read a catcher’s sign sequence, identify the pitch type, and signal it to the batter. None of those player-to-player actions is prohibited by MLB; the only issue is the use of the real-time replay feed, which would have run afoul of a clearly outlined MLB policy from the spring of 2018 prohibiting the practice.
So this is nothing like the Houston bullpen scenario or trash can banging. It's hitters in the replay room who figured out signals and then told their teammates in the dugout. It's just like what the Yankees were doing as far back as 2015.

From the Athletic article:
As far back as 2015, the Yankees used the video replay room to learn other teams’ sign sequences, multiple sources told The Athletic. Other teams likely were doing the same. Sources said the Red Sox began doing it no later than 2016.
“Oftentimes it takes a player to show up and be like ‘You f—— morons, you’re not doing this?’” said one American League executive.

Reviewing past footage before games was legal then, and remains legal today. That includes a study of sign sequences, or pitch tipping — determining if a pitcher looks or acts differently depending on the pitch he is about to throw.

But in the middle of the decade, MLB had a broad rule forbidding the use of electronic equipment in sign stealing: “No equipment may be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a Club an advantage.”

The league today says that there was some “gray area” in that rule. Information from the replay room was not communicated directly to the hitter; teams needed a runner on second base to serve as a conduit.

“I’m just telling you from a broad perspective, living it, it didn’t feel that wrong,” said one player who used the replay-room system with the Yankees as far back as 2015. “It was there for everyone, that’s all.”

Veteran players who were skilled at picking up tendencies by watching on-field action knew what to look for on video as well.

“If I could figure out the signs from the telecast, I was not going to hold on to that information,” that former Yankee said. “I was going to share that with whomever.”
 

Minneapolis Millers

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I'm curious about Chavis. He's a deeply religious guy and I wonder how this might set with him. Doesn't mean he's one of the three that Rosenthal spoke with, but I wonder if he would want to be reap any benefit from it.
I found this funny, and hope that it was intended to be either sarcastic or ironic. But in case it wasn't, I would only say (1) religion and situational ethics are two completely different but not mutually exclusive things; and (2) I don't see the value in speculating about who the "snitches" might be.
 

Plympton91

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So how much of the home run boom could be related to this practice, assuming it is as widespread as rumored. These are pretty easy studies to do for the people who have the data set up. There should be a statistically significant increase in OBP and SLG with runners on 2nd base relative to the same figures from the period before instant replay was installed.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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I found this funny, and hope that it was intended to be either sarcastic or ironic. But in case it wasn't, I would only say (1) religion and situational ethics are two completely different but not mutually exclusive things; and (2) I don't see the value in speculating about who the "snitches" might be.
Agreed. I mean Matthew Slater has been on the Pats for like, ever.
 

uncannymanny

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Can't the cameras run on a delay where they blur the catchers fingers for all teams? Then, if the play is under review for some sort of catcher related issue, the replay room can click a special button or something to unblur?
Why does it even need to be this complicated? The replay TV should only need to be used for replays. Why is the feed always viewable? It is completely and totally fucking idiotic that they needed to send human monitors.

The operator should be required to enter a password to unlock the screen when they want to view the feed (pretty sure this tech exists :rolleyes:), making MLB easily able to track who and when the feed is being viewed. Keeps players out and allows MLB to run some pretty simple data algos to look for suspicious viewing patterns.
 

Marciano490

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How much time usually passes between a catcher laying out signs and the pitcher throwing? It seems like it’d almost be distracting to hitters to look to baserunners for signs then focus back in on the pitcher.

Obviously if they went through all this trouble, it must’ve been useful. But, isn’t the solution just to pitch right after getting the sign?
 

Larry Gardner

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Not a huge poster here, but I thought y'all might enjoy a quick story....
A friend of mine is employed by MLB in Detroit, and one of his jobs is to monitor the video room during games to make sure they aren't using the video to steal signals.
He was in the visiting clubhouse last year and Chris Davis was sitting in the clubhouse during the game and said something to him to the effect of "you got me.....I've been cheating looking at signals".
Kind of a cut on himself because of his historically shitty performances, but pretty funny, nevertheless....
 

Manramsclan

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I don't see the value in speculating about who the "snitches" might be.
I agree with your first thought, but I think it is interesting to understand who would break the notorious clubhouse omerta that exists in MLB. The idea that it would be pitchers who would frame it that way makes the most sense to me, as they would think in black and white terms such as "cheating".

Obviously this is a problem, but there is also the fact that sign stealing has been going on for years, technology just complicates the issue. So it's ok to steal the signs if you are on base and relay them to a batter(although you might risk getting thrown at), but not ok if you are using video to relay to the person on base. But it is ok to use video from a previous game to look for tipping of pitches, or other patterns but not signs? That's as clear as mud as far as I am concerned.
 

chrisfont9

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In 2018 the Sox were six games better at home (57 wins) vs on the road (51). Presumably they would not have been able to "cheat" in this way on the road? If so, that's a pretty normal home/away split and though it may not disprove any benefit from the video room, it doesn't suggest much of one either. Interestingly, the Asstros were better on the road than at home in both 2017 and 2018... but in 2019 they were 13 games (!) better at home. Maybe they got the right trashcan last spring?
 

nvalvo

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So how much of the home run boom could be related to this practice, assuming it is as widespread as rumored. These are pretty easy studies to do for the people who have the data set up. There should be a statistically significant increase in OBP and SLG with runners on 2nd base relative to the same figures from the period before instant replay was installed.
Very preliminary, obviously, but I don't see anything in AL numbers that suggests that the premium for having a man on second has changed. (AL only, because I was concerned that bunting behavior would be a source of noise.)

These numbers are BA/OBP/SLG premia for the base states with men on second (-2-, 12-, -23, 123) relative to those with no man on second (---, 1--, --3, 1-3). A bunch of them are negative.

2013 AL -0.004 0.013 -0.020
2014 AL -0.003 0.015 -0.009
2015 AL -0.001 0.019 -0.007
2016 AL -0.002 0.016 -0.015
2017 AL -0.003 0.013 -0.008
2018 AL 0.000 0.017 -0.005
2019 AL 0.000 0.015 -0.011

I don't see a lot there, except that it seems like people get pitched more carefully with men on 2nd, which isn't especially surprising.
 

SemperFidelisSox

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Cora is getting minimum a 1 year suspension. JWH would be wise to get out in front of this and fire him.
John Henry should look in the mirror. This is the second time in three years they’ve been caught sign stealing. Henry won’t be punished, but his ignorance to this part of baseball ops has tarnished a championship season. This is Tom Yawkey type crap he’s tried so hard to correct with the franchise.
 

jon abbey

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I don't think any of this had a big impact on HR rates, I really think it was almost completely the different balls. I keep going back to the numbers JJ Cooper posted last August, keep in mind they were using the MLB balls in AAA and the previous ones in every level below that:

2019 AAA HR/G (per team): 1.4 (160.7 % of 2018 rate)
2019 AA HR/G: .74 (91.8 %)
2019 HiA HR/G: .65 (95.1%)
2019 LoA HR/G: .63 (95.4%)

Pretty sure they're not stealing signs in all of AAA.
 

DeadlySplitter

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anyone saying this tarnishes a championship... life is too short to fret over little things like this.
 

lexrageorge

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Sounds like some players were deciphering signs on the replay tapes that they were allowed to view anyway? Is that correct?

That doesn't sound like something that should lead to a year long suspension or firing.
 

Max Power

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Players go to the video room, batting cages, clubhouse, etc. all the time - restricting them to the dugout seems like a massive overreaction. The obvious solution is a headset between pitcher, catcher and coach - if the NFL can make this work with guys crashing into each other on purpose, it seems like an MLB version shouldn't be too difficult at all.
Football players wear helmets. It's a lot easier to stick an earpiece in something that's already covering your ears.

I wouldn't be opposed to getting rid of video and replay rooms entirely during the games. It would eliminate replay challenges except in the most obvious of mistakes or important moments, which is really the spirit of replay is all about. And players would have to rely on what they can see on the field or the historical video on the dugout iPads. No real time video scouting work needs to be permitted.
 

Plympton91

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Very preliminary, obviously, but I don't see anything in AL numbers that suggests that the premium for having a man on second has changed. (AL only, because I was concerned that bunting behavior would be a source of noise.)

These numbers are BA/OBP/SLG premia for the base states with men on second (-2-, 12-, -23, 123) relative to those with no man on second (---, 1--, --3, 1-3). A bunch of them are negative.

2013 AL -0.004 0.013 -0.020
2014 AL -0.003 0.015 -0.009
2015 AL -0.001 0.019 -0.007
2016 AL -0.002 0.016 -0.015
2017 AL -0.003 0.013 -0.008
2018 AL 0.000 0.017 -0.005
2019 AL 0.000 0.015 -0.011

I don't see a lot there, except that it seems like people get pitched more carefully with men on 2nd, which isn't especially surprising.
Thanks for throwing that together. Certainly doesn’t seem to matter in the aggregate.
 

Jnai

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A scenario I read a few months ago when the Astro's story leaked, was that the bullpen was used to communicate to the batter. Someone in the bullpen, casually watching the game, gets notified via ear bud etc then either rests their arms on the bullpen wall or not. Arms up off-speed, arms down fast-ball, etc. Batter then glances to the bullpen and either see arms or not. I remember thinking how Cora had brought a bullpen coach with him from Houston.
I am 99.99% sure that this story is not true. One of the Astros bullpen catchers during their championship season spoke this year at Saberseminar. (EDIT: someone informed me via PM that it is the *other* catcher who was suspected, so maybe disregard this.)

Sounds like some players were deciphering signs on the replay tapes that they were allowed to view anyway? Is that correct?

That doesn't sound like something that should lead to a year long suspension or firing.
I think Cora's involvement in whatever was going on in Houston is much more likely to be the problem than the stuff with the Red Sox.
 
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Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Obviously this is a problem, but there is also the fact that sign stealing has been going on for years, technology just complicates the issue. So it's ok to steal the signs if you are on base and relay them to a batter(although you might risk getting thrown at), but not ok if you are using video to relay to the person on base. But it is ok to use video from a previous game to look for tipping of pitches, or other patterns but not signs? That's as clear as mud as far as I am concerned.
Agreed. I find it puzzling that the discussion in the media (for instance Shank yesterday) seems to be coalescing around this narrative that "sign stealing is fine, it's part of the game, as long as you do it the old-fashioned way, but the minute you bring technology into it, then it's ten times worse than steroids." This seems like pretty bizarre moral reasoning. The ethical content of the act has nothing to do with the technology employed. In fact the only coherent rationale I can think of for permitting old-school sign-stealing while banning the technology-enhanced version is to level the playing field for teams lacking the resources to pull off the latter. And that's clearly not an issue here.

I think MLB needs to get consistent about this. Sign-stealing is always forbidden, or always OK, regardless of how you do it. If they want to prevent tricks like the one the Sox used, they should focus on measures to make them more difficult, not on exposing and punishing those who use them.
 

OfTheCarmen

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Football players wear helmets. It's a lot easier to stick an earpiece in something that's already covering your ears.

I wouldn't be opposed to getting rid of video and replay rooms entirely during the games. It would eliminate replay challenges except in the most obvious of mistakes or important moments, which is really the spirit of replay is all about. And players would have to rely on what they can see on the field or the historical video on the dugout iPads. No real time video scouting work needs to be permitted.
Would jawbone, or bone conduction earphones be a better option to a traditional earpiece? They can be integrated into the band of baseball style hats.
 

Comfortably Lomb

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anyone saying this tarnishes a championship... life is too short to fret over little things like this.
Eh, there are always the folks who love drama and want everything to be the biggest worstest baddest most earth-shattering thing ever. They love to squawk and tear things down, and rarely is their response in proportion with the issue. We should feel lucky so many of them focus their attention on sports rather than burning witches on stakes.

Cheating is in baseball’s DNA though. It’s how you play the game. Throwing games, tripping players, skipping bases when umpires aren’t looking, emery boards, sandpaper and nails/tacks, every variation of spit or mud or other foreign substance on the ball, PEDs, cork and superballs, freezing game balls (seriously), spiking players, computer hacking, and, of course, stealing signs. All of it is part of why baseball is beautiful.
 

Green Monster

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Would jawbone, or bone conduction earphones be a better option to a traditional earpiece? They can be integrated into the band of baseball style hats.
In order for any of these "earphone" scenarios to work, every pitch would need to be called from the dugout since it wouldn't make sense for the catcher to be speaking into a mic with the batter a few feet away........ I personally don't like that as it would further degrade the catchers position.........What is to prevent a team that is intent on cheating from hacking into the other teams transmission or blocking the other teams transmission in some way??
 

lexrageorge

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Eh, there are always the folks who love drama and want everything to be the biggest worstest baddest most earth-shattering thing ever. They love to squawk and tear things down, and rarely is their response in proportion with the issue. We should feel lucky so many of them focus their attention on sports rather than burning witches on stakes.

Cheating is in baseball’s DNA though. It’s how you play the game. Throwing games, tripping players, skipping bases when umpires aren’t looking, emery boards, sandpaper and nails/tacks, every variation of spit or mud or other foreign substance on the ball, PEDs, cork and superballs, freezing game balls (seriously), spiking players, computer hacking, and, of course, stealing signs. All of it is part of why baseball is beautiful.
While I certainly agree that most of the items you listed would be under the guise of standard gamesmanship, I think I would be with most fans that says that throwing games crosses a line. If I'm investing time and money into watching my team, I do want to be sure that my team is fielding players that are actually playing to win.

Back on topic, I can understand why MLB wants to discourage the use of electronic aids; there are lines that can be crossed to the point things get out of hand.
 

Plympton91

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Obviously the Red Sox were breaking a rule in place by doing it, and so there needs to be consequences. Going forward, for me the dividing line for what should be “legal” is whether or not the ability to exploit something for competitive advantage is equally available to both teams. The Astros had a system that only they could access; that can’t be allowed. But both teams have equal access to the video replay feeds, as long as one team’s room isn’t adjacent to the dugout while the other team’s room is near the showers or something. So it seems like that is consistent with fair play as long as rules are understood and enforced evenly.
 

reggiecleveland

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I'm curious about Chavis. He's a deeply religious guy and I wonder how this might set with him. Doesn't mean he's one of the three that Rosenthal spoke with, but I wonder if he would want to be reap any benefit from it.
Because religious people are morally superior? Huge reach. He is just as likley to conclude god wanted him to have the sign.