Stealing Baseball Signs Is Not Cheating

May 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Exactly what does “cheating” mean?

One dictionary definition is: “to act dishonestly; practice fraud.” That sounds good .

A second definition is: “to violate rules deliberately, as in a game.” That sounds good too.

In 1951, the New York Giants won the National League Pennant, overcoming the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 13.5 game lead.

In January 2001, an article in the Wall Street Journal claimed that the Giants had an elaborate sign-stealing scheme that allegedly used a telescope in the scoreboard, and a system of bells and buzzers that allowed Giants’ reserves Sal Yvars and Hank Schenz to tip off hitters.

No Rule Against Stealing Signs

If it is true, were the Giants cheating? Well, they were not acting dishonestly. They were acting surreptitiously.

Were they violating any rules? Absolutely not .

There was nothing in the baseball rulebook in 1951 that prohibited stealing signs by any methods a team choose to employ. There still isn’t.

Baseball’s Statement About Sign Stealing

When those in charge became aware of the allegations that besmirched the greatest miracle in sports history, they did what bureaucrats do. They made a statement.

On March 31, 2001, executive vice-president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson sent teams a memo that restricted the use of electronic equipment during a game.

Such equipment and technology “could not be used for communications or for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a club an advantage.”

Does the Method Matter?

Alderson mentioned nothing about using eyes, limbs, head, or any other part of the anatomy to obtain signs—only electronic equipment.

A contradiction exists. Keeping things simple, there must be no cheating in baseball. That is the premise that those in the game must accept. We all know the chances of successfully enforcing such a position.

What difference does it make if signs are stolen by an individual located in the center field scoreboard, or by the runner on second who sees the catcher’s signal to the pitcher?

Both are considered cheating, but some individuals refer to the latter as “gamesmanship.”

Mick Billmeyer

Philadelphia Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was using binoculars in a game against the Colorado Rockies a few days ago, allegedly watching Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo.

Billmeyer claims he was watching Phillies backstop Carlos Ruiz set up, and that he was not stealing the Rockies’ signs.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told reporters, “We were not trying to steal signs, Would we try to steal somebody’s signs? Yeah, if we can. But we don’t do that. We’re not going to let a guy stand up there in the bullpen with binoculars looking in. We’re smarter than that.”

Two Choices

Stealing signs has been part of the game since the games began. It is not cheating because stealing signs does not violate any baseball rule. To allow stealing signs when technology is not involved is ridiculous.

If those who run the game are sincere, then they must either allow stealing signs by any methods sign-stealers choose, or they must add a rule not allowing it.

If stealing signs using technology is allowed, every baseball park will look like AT&T’s secret wire-tapping room in San Francisco.

If a rule is added to prevent sign stealing, a rule that is impossible to enforce will make a farce of the game.

Everyone knows that the success of prohibition during the Al Capone-Elliot Ness has been surpassed only by the success of the War On Drugs .


Major League Baseball Rules

Marazzi, Rich. “Baseball Rules Corner: How Baseball Teams Steal Signs From Each Other in the Past and Present.” Baseball Digest . June 1, 2001.

Definition of Cheating

Phillies Deny Stealing Signs

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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