What is sign stealing in baseball
Stealing characters in baseball
Sign stealing is pretty easy - you watch the signs and then adjust the appropriate pitches. The signs indicate what type of pitch (fastball, change, slider, curve, etc.) and often its placement - in the middle, inside. low / high etc. Knowing that a batsman has a beatable pitch and can pass it on to him before the ball hits will greatly improve the chances of a hit and avoid pitches that are likely to result in a hit and miss.
Sure, a 2nd base runner would have the best view of the catcher to see what signs were issued, but the team on bat also have first and third base coaches who both have pretty good sight of the catcher .
The real way this is done today is by using the live TV feed teams use for instant viewing on their jumbotron screens across the park. Tom Verducci, who writes here for Sports Illustrated, says using the live feed became an issue when Major League Baseball introduced an instant retry in 2009 to review some calls.
In baseball, it is common practice to steal signs and not technically break the rules. One reason players surround a pitcher is because the team changes characters during a game. Where the Red Sox broke a real rule, and not just ethics, was the use of electronic devices in the dugout. The only communication device in a baseball shelter that uses electricity is said to be the analog phone plugged into the bullpen. Unlike most sports with headsets, tablets, etc., baseball goes with the tradition of the past, saying that you can't use electronic communications in the dugout - so no one has a cell phone. They allow tablets, but cannot receive any information during the game - all data is pre-installed (batter spray diagrams, pitcher tendencies, etc.).
The Red Sox had someone watching the video monitor in real time to get the sign and sending a sign to a trainer with an Apple Watch who could whistle to either indicate a pitch to hit or avoid.
There is an old saying in baseball, "If you don't cheat, you don't try." Stealing signs, hiding baseball, and changing balls are common practices. However, if you are found with a nail file or using electronic means, etc. and caught, you will be punished.
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