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

8slim

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If there is a sense that the games are in any way influenced by “cheating” the amount being bet will plummet. And that has a huge impact on them.

At least that’s the theory that was being pushed.
I’m a bit skeptical of that angle. If that were the case, no one would have bet on NBA games in a decade. That league literally had games “fixed” by a ref.
 

Average Reds

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Excuse me if this has been mentioned, but are Lunhow and/or Hinch appealing the suspensions to at least try and get them reduced or just accepting it?
What avenue of appeal do they have?

They are not covered by a CBA. They don’t even have recourse against collusion between the league and the Astros, because MLB has an anti-trust exemption.

If their contract extends beyond the coming season, they may have a claim for the value of the remainder of the contract. Though it's not clear whether Houston has indicated that they won’t pay.
 

DeadlySplitter

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both Lunhow & Hinch have come out with statements accepting the decision. as also said, no appeal possible.
 

djbayko

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If there is a sense that the games are in any way influenced by “cheating” the amount being bet will plummet. And that has a huge impact on them.

At least that’s the theory that was being pushed.
Okay, I thought the "out for blood" part implied that they wanted punishment for past damages, which there should be none. We're nowhere near that point yet though. As long as the league takes care of the problem, everything will be just fine. Anyone remember Donaghy? People really like to gamble.
 

staz

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In all honesty, this opens up the hugest can of worms MLB could possibly imagine. Sign-stealing of various sorts has been part-and-parcel of baseball since its inception. If MLB *really* wants to go down this road, it's going to have its hands full. But I suspect they'll conveniently ignore other possible stories of this kind of thing and focus on the Astros and Red Sox and hope that that's enough to deter future episodes, while at the same time showing people how serious they are about dealing with cheating.
Yeah, I mean their biggest crime is getting caught for breaking a rule.

But the rule should be moot. Every pitcher and catcher knows they're being watched, so why not change things up more? It's not that hard to memorize 3 or 4 sets of signs, and key each to a mutually-understood situation. Spotting a sign is easy, knowing what it means can be made impossible.
 

BaseballJones

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Yeah, I mean their biggest crime is getting caught for breaking a rule.

But the rule should be moot. Every pitcher and catcher knows they're being watched, so why not change things up more? It's not that hard to memorize 3 or 4 sets of signs, and key each to a mutually-understood situation. Spotting a sign is easy, knowing what it means can be made impossible.
I also think one solution is to arrange it to show the sign for a curve low and away and know that that's getting relayed to the hitter, and then firing 97 mph heat inside. That'll get a hitter pretty uninterested in getting "false" information from the runner on second...pretty damned quick.
 

dhappy42

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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.
There's an even simpler, non-electronic solution. Use cards similar to the ones worn by QBs on their forearms. Catcher and pitcher both wear them. Catcher's traditional hand signals indicate a number -- say 1-2-1 -- that decodes to a fastball. 3-3-3 could decode to a fastball too. There are several ways to code signals that'd be almost impossible to steal in real time. And you can always change the code-cards between innings.

With headsets, who's calling the pitches? Someone on the bench? Catchers calling pitches could be overheard by batters. And then there's crowd noise. And technical glitches.
 

staz

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I also think one solution is to arrange it to show the sign for a curve low and away and know that that's getting relayed to the hitter, and then firing 97 mph heat inside. That'll get a hitter pretty uninterested in getting "false" information from the runner on second...pretty damned quick.
Exactly.
 

SemperFidelisSox

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In all honesty, this opens up the hugest can of worms MLB could possibly imagine. Sign-stealing of various sorts has been part-and-parcel of baseball since its inception. If MLB *really* wants to go down this road, it's going to have its hands full. But I suspect they'll conveniently ignore other possible stories of this kind of thing and focus on the Astros and Red Sox and hope that that's enough to deter future episodes, while at the same time showing people how serious they are about dealing with cheating.
This won’t deter any team from continuing to steal signs or lead to further investigations. The Astros and Red Sox were targeted because they won championships doing it. Nobody cares or will continue to care if the 100 loss Marlins start banging their own trash cans. Success brings attention and the ire of opposing teams and owners.
 
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Max Power

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Yeah, I mean their biggest crime is getting caught for breaking a rule.

But the rule should be moot. Every pitcher and catcher knows they're being watched, so why not change things up more? It's not that hard to memorize 3 or 4 sets of signs, and key each to a mutually-understood situation. Spotting a sign is easy, knowing what it means can be made impossible.
Because it's making the game unwatchable. Every pitch takes 30 seconds because pitchers and catchers are running through tons of signs even with nobody on base. It's gotten out of hand the last couple of years (and for good reason).

Like I said earlier in the thread, I'd like to see MLB ban all live game feeds entirely from the dugouts and clubhouses except for the high home camera. If you want to challenge a play, do so from what you can see from the dugout. If you want to follow the game while you're in the cage or the clubhouse, you get the audio and the full field view. Anyone caught breaking the rules gets the Astros treatment.
 
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Sign-stealing in the World Series? The Nationals had a plan just in case.

"First, each pitcher had to have his own set of signs, and catchers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki had to be familiar with each one. So the staff printed out cards with the codes and had them laminated. The catchers could have them in their wristbands, a la an NFL quarterback with play calls strapped to his forearm, and the pitchers would have them in their caps. Each pitcher had five sets of signs, and they could change them from game to game — or even batter to batter, if necessary. "

There is a bit more to it but I don't want to quote the entire article.
 

loshjott

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I also think one solution is to arrange it to show the sign for a curve low and away and know that that's getting relayed to the hitter, and then firing 97 mph heat inside. That'll get a hitter pretty uninterested in getting "false" information from the runner on second...pretty damned quick.
That kind of thing already happens when the runner at second tips off the batter the old fashioned, legal way.
 

Plympton91

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I'd consider a team that didn't use available resources to steal signs a bunch of nimrods. No one criticizes the accepted tool of stealing signs from 2nd base. Technology (including a guy in the bleachers with binoculars) now allows a team to steal signs without a base runner. I see no difference with the man on 2nd scenario...or a guy in the stands...or a guy watching video.

The answer is one of two things: (1) be more clever with masking pitch calls, or (2) throw high and inside on an apparent low and away sign...and keep mixing it up.

Just assume signs are being stole because...they can be.
What if the guy watching video is using a computer to decode the signs rather than his brain?

You’re effectively ending the ability to use signs at all. Maybe we should just get rid of the limit on mound visits then, and let the pitcher and catch meet halfway and talk about each pitch. That’ll certainly speed up play!
 

rajendra82

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What if the guy watching video is using a computer to decode the signs rather than his brain?

You’re effectively ending the ability to use signs at all. Maybe we should just get rid of the limit on mound visits then, and let the pitcher and catch meet halfway and talk about each pitch. That’ll certainly speed up play!
There are better ways to transmit information across the distance than signs visible to all. A Catcher can use a wearable with the screen pointed towards his body and send an encrypted signal that the pitcher gets as a series of buzzes on his wearable. It's faster than throwing down fingers, and can't be seen on any camera or by the people on base. You never have to change the signs up, so fewer mound visits and fewer delays.
 
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singaporesoxfan

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Oh puhleeze. Without Alex Cora, nobody could have taught Red Sox players how to steal signs from a replay video monitor?

It looks to me like Cora is going to be the one dropped in the volcano to appease the pagan gods of baseball.
Of course someone else could have if Cora wasn’t around. But that’s like saying a bank had such low security that you shouldn’t prosecute the bank robber, if he didn’t do it someone else would have.

Not sure why you think Cora is being unfairly targeted. It’s not like MLB is going out of its way to be nice to Luhnow and buy his side of the story, there’s a whole chunk in the statement that isn’t even about the cheating at all but simply a long criticism of Luhnow’s way of running things. There’s clearly no love lost between Luhnow and Manfred, and if they could have tied this to Luhnow (or Taubman) I think they would have. To me, the simplest explanation seems to be that Cora was indeed the one who came up with the idea.

(Also is Cora allowed to comment on what was said about him in the statement?)
 

joe dokes

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Perhaps one of the biggest questions for Cora's future with the Red Sox, beyond whatever happens, is whether or not he is a championship caliber manager without the alleged digital tactics. Perhaps 2019 is more indicative of his abilities than 2018.
I dont think he stole signs to keep the starting rotation relatively healthy in 2018.
 

joe dokes

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This won’t deter any team from continuing to steal signs or lead to further investigations. The Astros and Red Sox were targeted because they won championships doing it. Nobody cares or will continue to care if the 100 loss Marlins start banging their own trash cans. Success brings attention and the ire of opposing teams and owners.
The bolded is speculation. The Astros were "targeted" because Mike Fiers told the world about their system.
 

DJnVa

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I guess I need to know if Justin Verlander has fired off any snarky tweets about this.
 

Plympton91

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Definitely. Isn't the reason the Astros' penalties are so large because of the Apple watch thing? It's probably moot but Cora has to be in for a long suspension.
Again, the Apple Watch and Video Replay system would have been available to anyone who wanted to cheat.

The Astros system was exclusively available to them. There was no comparable technology in the visitors’ dugout/clubhouse.

That’s a lot worse.
 

Plympton91

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I also think one solution is to arrange it to show the sign for a curve low and away and know that that's getting relayed to the hitter, and then firing 97 mph heat inside. That'll get a hitter pretty uninterested in getting "false" information from the runner on second...pretty damned quick.
It’s also a good way to kill someone. Not really the way to do this.
 

Plympton91

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Because it's making the game unwatchable. Every pitch takes 30 seconds because pitchers and catchers are running through tons of signs even with nobody on base. It's gotten out of hand the last couple of years (and for good reason).

Like I said earlier in the thread, I'd like to see MLB ban all live game feeds entirely from the dugouts and clubhouses except for the high home camera. If you want to challenge a play, do so from what you can see from the dugout. If you want to follow the game while you're in the cage or the clubhouse, you get the audio and the full field view. Anyone caught breaking the rules gets the Astros treatment.
I endorse this. Players have front row seats. They don’t need a video feed during the game. And, replay should only. E used when there’s clear evidence of a mistake, not when there’s a bang-bang play that requires frame by frame viewing to get it “right.”

The other solution, as I said in one of these threads, would be to have the TV broadcast blur the catcher’s fingers when they’re giving a sign.
 

edoug

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Again, the Apple Watch and Video Replay system would have been available to anyone who wanted to cheat.

The Astros system was exclusively available to them. There was no comparable technology in the visitors’ dugout/clubhouse.

That’s a lot worse.
No argument but without the apple watch incident, the penalties wouldn't be so big. Maybe only a fine and month or so suspension(s)
 

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Isn’t there a way for technology to allow the pitcher and the catcher to communicate without having to flash signs? Put a transmitter inside the catcher’s glove finger hole or something?
 

BaseballJones

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Yeah they should. But signaling low and away and purposely throwing high and tight is a recipe for disaster. There is a difference between that and throwing inside.
I didn't say throw high and tight. I said throw inside. And all you have to do is do that one time and the electronic sign stealing ends. Or it doesn't and every now and then a guy gets hit in the ribs.

This already happens in baseball when they suspect a guy is stealing signs "normally". They do it when they are setting a hitter up for future pitches or at-bats. Guys "brush hitters back" all the time.
 

EricFeczko

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There are better ways to transmit information across the distance. Catcher draws a pattern or picks a location on his smartwatch screen pointed towards the inside of his wrist, pitcher gets one to four buzzes on his smartwatch. Pitcher shakes his head to accept or reject the sign. It's faster than throwing down fingers, and can't be seen on any camera or by the people on base. All you need is one set of signs transmitted using an encrypted signal.
I'm surprised something like this hasn't happened yet. Nothing in the rule book defines how a catcher signals the pitch. Not only would this hide signs but also reduce pitch latency. A faster system enhances a pitcher's ability to throw off the given batter's timing.
 

staz

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Wristbands, cards, wearables... the simplest solution is not inventing a new medium, it’s encoding the message better. A catcher with a good system could literally yell the sign for all to hear without concern.
 

dhappy42

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Is it possible that prior to the 2017 Red Sox Apple Watch incident, when the league clarified the rule against using electronic devices to steal signs, that players and coaches misunderstood the rule, thinking it applied to relaying sign stealing info from the replay room to the dugout?

That’s what I thought at the time, (having not real the actual rule,) that it prohibited transmission of info from the replay room to the dugout by phone, text, walkie-talkie etc. because that’s what the focus was on: using AppleWatches and the dugout phone to the replay room.

That might explain the Astros moving the replay room closer to the dugout, to make non-electronic transmission (word of mouth) quicker. Banging on trash cans isn’t electronic transmission either.

The link between live centerfield cameras and the replay room is, of course, an electronic transmission, but it’s league-approved. But was it clear, prior to the 2017 clarification, that it was illegal to steal signs off those video screens and then walk them to the dugout?
 

dhappy42

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Wristbands, cards, wearables... the simplest solution is not inventing a new medium, it’s encoding the message better. A catcher with a good system could literally yell the sign for all to hear without concern.
True. One fall in youth baseball (12U, I think) I experimented with third base coach verbal signals for bunt, steal, etc. instead of hand signals. Not instead of, exactly. Still showed hand signals, but they didn’t mean anything.
 

Plympton91

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Wristbands, cards, wearables... the simplest solution is not inventing a new medium, it’s encoding the message better. A catcher with a good system could literally yell the sign for all to hear without concern.
No human system is going to outwit a computer’s pattern recognition program.

The problem really isn’t people watching the signs. It’s people seeing the signs and putting them into a computer that picks them apart in seconds.

This stuff is baby computer science

View: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PmlRbfSavbI
 

Ed Hillel

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Apparently owners think the Astros got off too easy.
Multiple ownership-level sources told ESPN that dissatisfaction with the penalties had emerged following a conference call with Manfred, in which he explained how the Astros would be disciplined, then told teams to keep their thoughts to themselves.

"The impression," one person familiar with the call told ESPN, "was that the penalty for complaining would be more than Houston got."
FFS, MLB had decided to turn into the NFL, with bitter owners whining and seeking utter destruction of their colleagues. This is gonna suck for those who like focusing on baseball.

 

dhappy42

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No human system is going to outwit a computer’s pattern recognition program.

The problem really isn’t people watching the signs. It’s people seeing the signs and putting them into a computer that picks them apart in seconds.

This stuff is baby computer science

View: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PmlRbfSavbI
A computer pattern recognition program has to be told what to look at. If it’s looking at a third base coach and the manager on the top step of the dugout is giving the signs, it’ll fail.

As for catchers’s signals, if catchers and pitchers communicated via cards like the ones QBs use (and every University of Michigan baseball player wears on his belt) it’d be impossible for even a computer to decipher in real time.

For example, a card with a 5x5 matrix has 25 two-sign possibilities. 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, etc. If a pitcher has three pitches (say fastball, curve, change) there can be eight different signs for each pitch (with one left over).

Change the cards for every pitcher and change every game. A computer might eventually figure it out but what useful info does it provide? “If the catcher puts down 1-1, 1-3, 2-1, 2-4, 2-5, 3-5, 4-3, 4-4... it’s a fastball.”
 

Harry Hooper

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Is it possible that prior to the 2017 Red Sox Apple Watch incident, when the league clarified the rule against using electronic devices to steal signs, that players and coaches misunderstood the rule, thinking it applied to relaying sign stealing info from the replay room to the dugout?

That’s what I thought at the time, (having not real the actual rule,) that it prohibited transmission of info from the replay room to the dugout by phone, text, walkie-talkie etc. because that’s what the focus was on: using AppleWatches and the dugout phone to the replay room.

That might explain the Astros moving the replay room closer to the dugout, to make non-electronic transmission (word of mouth) quicker. Banging on trash cans isn’t electronic transmission either.

The link between live centerfield cameras and the replay room is, of course, an electronic transmission, but it’s league-approved. But was it clear, prior to the 2017 clarification, that it was illegal to steal signs off those video screens and then walk them to the dugout?
I believe that monitor set up by the Astros and the trash can banger guy was NOT the replay room but a dedicated sign stealing desk.
 

dhappy42

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I believe that monitor set up by the Astros and the trash can banger guy was NOT the replay room but a dedicated sign stealing desk.
That’s sort of my point. It seems some players and coaches may have thought (incorrectly) that the prohibited action was electronically transmitting information obtained from video to the dugout, by AppleWatch or phone, for example. And that manually transferring the info from video monitor to players in the dugout or on the field was okay, if only because “everybody does it.”*

If someone thought that, then moving the video monitors closer to the dugout would make non-electronic communication easier and quicker. Moving the video monitors suggests cluelessness — as opposed to knowingly cheating — because it’s impossible to hide or deny later.

*It’s absurd to allow players and coaches to watch video of at bats during games for developmental purposes, but insist they not look at catchers’ signals or relay them verbally to teammates.
 

OurF'ingCity

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Two things I'm wondering about the current investigation are (1) will MLB extend the investigation if it gets tipped that other teams were also using the replay room to steal signs in 2018 and (2) if so, will that affect the Sox' penalties in any way (not Cora's suspension as he's fucked regardless, but any draft pick or financial penalties).

Put another way, if a Red Sox player is interviewed and says "yeah, of course we used the replay room to try to figure out the signs, like every other team - I have friends on the Yankees, Dodgers, and Twins and we all talk about it," would the MLB start investigating the Yankees, Dodgers, and Twins too, and if it does turn out that numerous teams were doing the same thing as the Sox, would that lessen their penalties despite the fact that the Sox are a "repeat violator" and other teams might not be? Among other things, that might make the investigation considerably longer than the one into the Astros, which was obviously team-specific.
 

dhappy42

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Two things I'm wondering about the current investigation are (1) will MLB extend the investigation if it gets tipped that other teams were also using the replay room to steal signs in 2018 and (2) if so, will that affect the Sox' penalties in any way (not Cora's suspension as he's fucked regardless, but any draft pick or financial penalties).

Put another way, if a Red Sox player is interviewed and says "yeah, of course we used the replay room to try to figure out the signs, like every other team - I have friends on the Yankees, Dodgers, and Twins and we all talk about it," would the MLB start investigating the Yankees, Dodgers, and Twins too, and if it does turn out that numerous teams were doing the same thing as the Sox, would that lessen their penalties despite the fact that the Sox are a "repeat violator" and other teams might not be? Among other things, that might make the investigation considerably longer than the one into the Astros, which was obviously team-specific.
The league has already been “tipped” by Astros players that at least eight other teams use the video room for sign stealing. That will probably have no effect on any (ex-Cora) Red Sox penalties because the team will be a second offender.

The difference between using video rooms to steal signs and then walk them to the dugout for baserunners to use and real-time video sign stealing, signaling batters is — or rather should be — significant. The former seems to be something all teams routinely do. The latter, so far, seems unique to the Astros. Media reports conflate the two and the league is unlikely to make any distinctions.
 

OurF'ingCity

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The league has already been “tipped” by Astros players that at least eight other teams use the video room for sign stealing.
Thanks, hadn't seen those reports until now, although there is some ambiguity as to whether those teams continued do so in 2018 after the warning from the league. But assuming they did and MLB doesn't investigate them (not saying they won't but there is no evidence they are as of now), then is the standard of when MLB will investigate electronic sign-stealing basically just "when The Athletic writes about it"?
 

Awesome Fossum

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Wristbands, cards, wearables... the simplest solution is not inventing a new medium, it’s encoding the message better. A catcher with a good system could literally yell the sign for all to hear without concern.
That's a solution to not getting your signs stolen, and it's basically what has happened -- see all those stories about the lengths the Nationals took in World Series. But it's created the second order problem of the game being slowed down. Obviously faster systems can be created -- NFL offenses have learned how to quickly communicate complicated information -- but you need to get the incentives right to force batteries to evolve: the pitch clock. I think you sort of have to pick your poison here.
 
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StuckOnYouk

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Any chance Beltran had a hand in helping the Yankees come up with something for sign stealing in 2019?
He was hired in Dec 2018 as a "special advisor" to Cashman and the following season the yankees get huge contributions from guys you wouldn't expect. I mean think about all the guys they hit on, it's amazing.
Something to think about.
 

normstalls

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Any chance Beltran had a hand in helping the Yankees come up with something for sign stealing in 2019?
He was hired in Dec 2018 as a "special advisor" to Cashman and the following season the yankees get huge contributions from guys you wouldn't expect. I mean think about all the guys they hit on, it's amazing.
Something to think about.
I would be much more surprised if he didn't help them in some way. The fair assumption would be that he did. Especially in light of Cora's comment at the PC after the London series.
 

OurF'ingCity

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I would be much more surprised if he didn't help them in some way. The fair assumption would be that he did. Especially in light of Cora's comment at the PC after the London series.
We've basically entered the PED phase of this issue - people can try to connect dots but we'll never really know for sure, it's probably pointless to speculate and teams now have more clarity going forward that this is just something that shouldn't be done, period.
 

CoffeeNerdness

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That’s sort of my point. It seems some players and coaches may have thought (incorrectly) that the prohibited action was electronically transmitting information obtained from video to the dugout, by AppleWatch or phone, for example. And that manually transferring the info from video monitor to players in the dugout or on the field was okay, if only because “everybody does it.”*
It's difficult to find the text of the memo, but from what I can find a monitor in the hallway is explicitly against the rules.

"No television monitors are permitted in the tunnels or auxiliary rooms between the dugout and the clubhouse."