“Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical,” baseball legend Yogi Berra said. As a man known for his funny sayings, many of them seem to ring true. This quotation is no exception. Baseball is not checkers, it’s chess. To win at the professional level, any advantage over the opponent can prove to be priceless.
It is because of this aspect of the sport that certain actions that seem otherwise unsportsmanlike are generally accepted. If you flip your bat after a home run, be prepared to have a ball thrown at you the next time you’re at bat.
Players are taught to slide hard to break up a double play. If you can read the catcher’s signs from second base, you might as well let your teammates know. This is exactly what the Boston Red Sox did against the New York Yankees in their most recent series.
This time, however, this strategy came with a modern, technological and illicit twist. After a detailed report filed by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, the Red Sox were found to have been using Apple Watches to help them steal and relay signs from the catcher when they had a runner on second base.
The details of this accusation are just as complicated as they are important.
It is clear now that the Apple Watches played a role in the relaying of signs and not the actual stealing. The Apple Watches expedited the process. In the past, a player or staff member would hustle to the dugout to give the information while it was still relevant. With the watches, they could relay this information very quickly, while getting around the “no technology in the dugout” rule—almost.
In his report, Cashman included several videos of a Red Sox staff member looking at his Apple Watch, giving information to a player, who in turn relayed this information to a teammate on the field, usually on second base.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said that he was aware that his team tried to steal signs—something that is not illegal in Major League Baseball—but that he did not know that they were using illicit technology to do so. The same goes for the rest of the Red Sox higher-ups, who all claim to have no knowledge of the Apple Watch situation.
What does this mean for the Red Sox? The team is in first place in their division and likely headed to the playoffs. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that he does believe that there is a precedent for punishing such actions.
The stats of the series seem to suggest that the sign stealing was at least somewhat effective. The Sox went 5-for-8 with a runner on second base against the Yankees on Aug. 18, including third baseman Rafael Devers’ home run in the second inning, which gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.
As for the rivalry, this just added fuel to the fire. This rivalry has proven to be one of the most intense in all of professional sports. These two teams care very much about beating one another. The complicated details of this situation for such a seemingly small advantage should prove that. Thanks to Apple Watches, this rivalry just went from red hot to white hot.
With the Yankees only three games behind the Red Sox in the American League East, it adds another layer to what should prove to be a very entertaining final month of baseball.u