Right as the AL East race is heating up, the Yankees and Red Sox are accusing each other of breaking one of baseball’s cardinal rules.
The Yankees have submitted evidence to Major League Baseball which they contend shows the Red Sox using an Apple Watch to steal pitch signs during a recent series at Fenway, the New York Times reports. MLB investigators subsequently confirmed the Yankees’ suspicions with the league’s own video evidence and got the Red Sox to admit to having trainers relay information from their replay staff to players using electronic devices.
The Red Sox responded by accusing the Yankees of using one of their television network’s cameras “exclusively to steal signs during games,” according to the Times.
Boston’s process for stealing signs and relaying them to players went like this: Staffers charged with watching instant replay video would pass the signs electronically to trainers, who would then communicate with Red Sox players in the dugout. In one instance, Dustin Pedroia, who was on the disabled list at the time, is seen receiving information from a trainer and passing it to outfielder Chris Young.
The Yankees’ complaint stems from their series last month at Fenway Park but MLB’s investigation found the practice was not limited to games against New York, the Times reports.
The Apple Watch cannot display video but does receive text messages and images. The use of electronic devices by on-field personnel had been strictly prohibited by MLB but the league has relaxed those restrictions in recent years. Royals manager Ned Yost caused a minor stir in 2015 when he wore the watch in the dugout but MLB decided it was not against the rules. Beginning last season, every MLB team has an iPad Pro in the dugout that displays the same sort of information teams previously collected in binders of paper.
Stealing signs is one of baseball’s oldest bits of gamesmanship and is only considered dirty if teams use visual aids of some sort. In 2003, three former Giants players admitted to using a telescope at the Polo Grounds to steal signs late in the 1951 season as they made up a 13 1/2-game deficit in the division to set up the iconic one-game playoff against the Dodgers. Blue Jays opponents have long spoken of a “man in white” lurking in the far reaches of Rogers Centre who they believe is responsible for stealing signs.