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Sign Stealing is Baseball’s Oldest Crime; Let’s End It

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Sign stealing is really old. It’s impossible to think, in the age when everything is captured on a phone or camera, that teams won’t look for some way to steal signs with technology. Here is my one-point plan to get rid of sign stealing: get rid of signs!

Football uses technology to get plays into the quarterback. Baseball can use technology to get pitches to the pitcher. Here are two ideas:

  1. Have the manager give the signs to the pitcher via a headset. This takes the catcher out of it completely, and gets rid of any issues with a runner on second, or a center field camera. There’s nothing to see.
  2. Let the catcher send digital signs to the pitcher. Both wear some kind of watch. Likewise, the manager could wear a watch. There’s still the threat of the batter staring at the catcher typing, but a simple rule could allow an umpire to call an out for against any batter who looks; or the catcher can be subtle.

95% of the signs in baseball are the signs from a catcher to a pitcher. The other 5% are baserunner signs. The Carlos Beltrans of the world can spend their energy trying to figure out when a team is going to steal. The Astros might forever abandon elaborate strategies to steal signs. Let’s hope they do. But this story just emboldens teams like the Mariners, who’ve gone about 12-87 against the Astros over the last five years, and now can claim a competitive disadvantage. If I’m an Astro and it’s 2014, and I find out that the Yankees have been stealing signs, I’d probably have less qualms about it than I did the season prior.

Institute plan 1 or 2 in the minors in 2020. Figure out the glitches. Then integrate it into MLB in 2021.