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In sport teams and players are always looking to gain an advantage.  Some are more devious than others.  Some bend the rules.  Some outright cheat.

Cheating in sport is nothing new.  Just look at athletics.

Like track and field, professional baseball has suffered in the past from drugs use.

But, the latest scandal to hit America’s favourite pastime is more techie than druggie.

Watch out they’re cheating

The Boston Red Sox are accused of using an Apple watch to cheat.  Making the whole thing worse is that it happened against the New York Yankees.

These two clubs hate each other.  Think Rangers / Celtic, the two Manchester teams or any local derby.  It’s intense.

What happened?

It’s alleged the Red Sox used smartwatches to steal signs.

Before each play the catcher makes a sign to tell the pitcher which pitch to throw.

baseball catcher giving signs

The batter can’t see the sign because he has his back to the catcher.  But if he knew which pitch was going to be thrown it would be easier to hit.

The Red Sox found a way to steal those signs and relay the information to the batter.

They had a team member watching the TV footage of the catcher.  When the signs were made he would relay them through an Apple watch to a coach in the dugout.  The coach would then pass the signal on to the batter.

It seems to have been effective with a Red Sox home run being credited to the scam.

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It’s only the watch which is illegal

Stealing signs isn’t against the rules of baseball.  But, using electronic means to do so is.

The Yankees have provided video evidence which they say proves their allegations.

It is believed investigators have upheld the Yankees complaint.  They have also discovered the scheme had been in place for some time.

It is now up to the Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred to decide the punishment, if any, the Red Sox will receive.

Manfred told the New York Times, “We will conduct a thorough investigation on both sides.

“We’re 100 percent comfortable that it is not an ongoing issue.”

red sox batter
Image credit: Image credit: Dennis Ku /

What will happen to the Red Sox?

No one knows.  It is certainly a grey area in baseball.

But Manfred does believe he has the power to punish the ball club.  He said: “Could it happen?

“I think the answer to that, under the major league constitution, is yes.”

“Has it ever happened with this type of allegation? I think the answer is — I know the answer is no.

“And the reason for that is it’s just very hard to know what the actual impact on any particular game was of an alleged violation.”

Any denials from the Red Sox have been less than vehement.

Manager John Farrell acknowledged they were trying to steal signs.  But insisted he didn’t know his team were using electronics.  “I’m aware of the rule,” he said.

Anything you can do

In a tit-for-tat move the Red Sox have made some accusations of their own.  They say the New York club have been using cameras from their own TV network to steal signs.

baseball player looking through tv camera

Whilst the counterclaims may muddy the waters it is clear something needs to be done.

Baseball commentator Joel Sherman believes electronics may need to be banned.

In a series of Twitter posts he said: “Technology is so ingrained in game now that MLB must rethink how it polices tech use. Perhaps no electronics at all in dugout.

“Technology is not slowing down or going away and neither is the quest to gain an edge. MLB and its teams must adapt.”

Lessons to be learnt?

Baseball is unique in the way it uses signs.  But other sports may also need to take notice of the events in Boston.

Cricket is a prime example.  The Red Sox system could be used by a coach watching TV in the pavilion  He could use a smartwatch to tell the on field captain if he should review an umpire’s decision.

The problem many sports may face in the future is the sheer number of cameras.

So many are used at every sporting event.  The in-depth coverage means technology, in particular smartwatches, can be used to gain an advantage.

But is that cheating or is it just not cricket?

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Token old guy in the office and lifelong Hull City fan with all the psychological issues that brings. To relax I enjoy walking my two Labradors, as well as running and cycling.


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