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Some more thoughts on how to fix MLB’s video cheating problem

The league hopes to have some changes in place by Opening Day.

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Could this be the solution to MLB’s video cheating problem?
Photo by JIM YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, I wrote this article with an idea of how to fix sign-stealing by video, which has so far resulted in three managers and one executive losing their jobs.

The fix I proposed was taking video review away from teams, eliminating the challenge system and placing replay review control completely with Major League Baseball.

I suppose the league might consider this eventually, but Evan Drellich of The Athletic, who is one of the writers who helped break this story, has some information on MLB’s thinking on how to make changes that could help eliminate cheating:

MLB will have a revised policy addressing electronic sign-stealing in 2020 that could produce significant change. Player use of video during games in any capacity, such as a review of at-bats, could end. More extreme, but perhaps more secure, is the possibility that players would have to remain in the dugout once a game begins, barring exceptions for injuries (and bathroom breaks). Once in the dugout, they stay in the dugout.

Those things would certainly cut down on the possibility that any player could have access to video during the game that would allow stealing of signs. Another interesting idea was posted by Jayson Stark in his “what’s going to happen in the next decade” article a couple of weeks ago:

Within the next year or two, we’ll see pitchers, catchers and one authorized coach in the dugout all wearing specialized Apple Watches, or something similar, that will be pre-loaded with a game plan for each opposing hitter. Then whoever is calling pitches will relay those calls electronically, from watch to watch. And then, um … let the hacking begin!

That could work, although in Drellich’s article, he points out a potential issue with having that limited to “pitchers, catchers and one authorized coach”:

Keep in mind that catcher signals are not only used by pitchers; infielders have long appreciated knowing what is coming for positioning purposes. At least one of the technological solutions the league has considered would involve giving not only the pitcher and the catcher a wrist device, but also infielders. With every pitch, the device would generate a new sign sequence.

Now there’s an intriguing idea. If you’ve been at games in the last couple of years, you might have seen fielders take a card out of their back pocket between hitters. These cards have positioning information on where to play specific hitters. From my seat, I’ve seen Kyle Schwarber do this quite a number of times and move his defensive position depending on who’s at bat. It’s a lot easier than having a manager or coach try to signal a player into the correct defensive position.

Having a “specialized Apple Watch” for all fielders, as well as the pitcher and catcher, could allow the team playing defense to share all its signs and defensive signals without the batting team being able to see a thing. This would, as noted in both Stark’s and Drellich’s article, require the approval of the MLB Players Association, but I don’t see any real obstacles there. Most players want to see the game played on the up-and-up:

Electronic devices got MLB into this mess. It appears different electronic devices might help the league solve the problem.