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Boston Red Sox Busted For Using Smart Watch To Steal Signs From Yankees


We are indebted to The New York Times for news of Major League Baseball's latest adventure in questionable sportsmanship. The Times reports that investigators from Major League Baseball found that the Boston Red Sox at their home stadium, Fenway Park, stole signs from catchers on the New York Yankees and other visiting teams through the use of an Apple Watch. The Red Sox have since complained that the Yankees did something similar at Yankee Stadium. Well, joining us is the New York Times' Michael Schmidt, who broke the story. Thanks for joining us.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: Let's explain first for the non-baseball fans in the audience. Catchers flash signals - finger signals - to the pitcher telling him what pitch to throw and where, and those signals are supposed to be out of the batter's view. What did the Red Sox allegedly do?

SCHMIDT: The Red Sox were able to use video equipment to figure out which - what those signs meant. And they basically were able to relay that information to the - to a runner on second base who was then able to pick up the signs and relay to the hitter the type of pitch that was coming. All of that is OK under baseball's rules. There's no problems with that. Where the Red Sox ran into problems is that they had a trainer on the bench with an Apple Watch receiving information about what signs the other team was using.

SIEGEL: It's the technology that's the problem here according to Major League Baseball.

SCHMIDT: Correct. You can do whatever you want with your eyes essentially. But you can't use binoculars, and you cannot use electronics in the dugout to communicate with people outside of it. That's against the rules.

SIEGEL: I thought when there's a runner on second, you change the signals because the runner is - the baserunner is trying to steal the signs.

SCHMIDT: That's the thing. But with technology these days, what the teams do is that they have folks that are studying the replay and looking at it real-time, trying to figure out what those signs are and trying to break them and then trying to relay them down so the runner on second base can try and pick them up and get that to the batter.

SIEGEL: We came to know this - you came to know it - after a Yankees-Red Sox series in Boston. Major League Baseball was asked to investigate.

SCHMIDT: Correct. The Yankees filed a detailed complaint with Baseball that included footage of the Red Sox dugout that showed the trainer using the watch. Baseball was able to corroborate that based on video that it had. It was then - it then confronted the Red Sox. And they admitted to this, but they said that the manager and the front office knew nothing about it.

SIEGEL: We're talking about one of the great rivalries in baseball - between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. So it was probably inevitable that the Red Sox would say, they do it, too.

SCHMIDT: Well, that's what they did on Monday. They filed a complaint with Major League Baseball saying that the Yankees had used a special camera that should be dedicated to broadcasting the game to stealing signs from the Red Sox - or from other teams, that is - that the camera is just used to take in the signs from other teams.

SIEGEL: And just to explain again for the non-fans listening, if the batter knew even with a few seconds to go that what's coming is a fastball on the outside corner, that would be a big advantage.

SCHMIDT: Some hitters would say it is. Some hitters would say they wouldn't want to know, that they'd just want to be up there and react and swing. Others think it's a huge advantage that if you know a fastball is coming or, you know - and to adjust your swing and to be prepared for it. There's some question amongst players. They have differing views about how effective and helpful it is. But in this case, there are some folks on the Red Sox that are believed to have taken advantage of that.

SIEGEL: And just very, very briefly, are there any other teams apart from Boston and New York that have been implicated in this?

SCHMIDT: Over the years, teams have always been accused of stealing signs, but no other team has been sanctioned by the commissioner's office for doing it illicitly. And that's what we could see here.

SIEGEL: Michael Schmidt of The New York Times, thanks.

SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOUT OUTS LOUDS SONG, "PAOLA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.