Sign stealing is one of the oldest tricks in baseball, but teams today are using technology to find any competitive edge that exists.
According to Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, electronic surveillance is a growing trend around the league, with "many" teams using up to six "high magnification cameras" in their home ballpark specifically for stealing opposing teams's signs.
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers' video room three years ago played host to starter Zack Greinke watching for weaknesses in opposing hitters. This season, the set up has a much different objective.
This year, if you walked into the same room you would have found a small army of 20-something analysts in polo shirts and slacks pouring over video from the in-house cameras, like the security room at a Vegas casino. Most teams train their cameras on the catcher, the pitcher (from several angles), the third base coach and the dugout.
These cameras are not used for training purposes. They are used expressly for stealing signs and deciphering “tells” from pitchers.
"We’ve reached a point,” said one club executive, “where the attractiveness of the sport as an entertainment option has been lost in the quest to find every incremental edge. And video has changed things rapidly. I’m increasingly thinking something has to be done."
The Astros raised eyebrows during the playoffs when an employee was spotted pointing a cellphone in the direction of the opponent's dugouts. The man was seen taking video of the Indians' dugout during the American League Division Series and again against the Red Sox during the Championship Series.
Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan reported that Cleveland even warned Boston ahead of the ALCS to be on the lookout for him.
After that incident, Major League Baseball released a statement addressing concerns of cheating and revealed that multiple teams brought the issue to the Commissioner's Office before the season began.
"The concerns expressed related to a number of Clubs, not any one specific Club," MLB said in the statement. "In response to these calls, the Commissioner's Office reinforced the existing rules with all playoff Clubs and undertook proactive measures, including instituing a new prohibition on the use of certain in-stadium cameras, increasing the presence of operations and security personnel from Major League Baseball at all Postseason games and instituting a program of monitoring Club video rooms. (sic)"
Teams without the same advantages are calling for Manfred to ban in-stadium camera surveillance.
“I’m all for that,” one big league manager told Verducci. “The big market teams have an advantage there. Now everybody is suspicious – and teams are suspicious because they’re pulling the same tricks they’re worried about the other guy pulling.”