GLENDALE, Ariz. — Major League Baseball is cracking down on high-tech sign stealing. It is banning all non-broadcast outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole as well as tightening restrictions on in-house video, several sources familiar with the new rules told SI. Teams violating the protocols face penalties that include the loss of draft picks and international spending money.
Commissioner Rob Manfred believed the restrictions were necessary because high-tech sign stealing grew more prevalent and slowed the pace of play because of the paranoia it engendered. Last November general managers thoroughly endorsed the adopting of such rules rather than engage in what they saw as a coming “high-tech arms race to cheat,” according to one source.
About six teams last year were commonly understood to have installed in-house cameras in centerfield that were trained on opposing catchers’ signs, according to one general manager. Several other teams were under heavy suspicion. The sign stealing forced most teams to adopt multiple sets of signs even with the bases empty. Those signs were changed often, even within at-bats, which slowed the pace of play.
MLB has drafted a five-page document which essentially takes a rule already on the books—that signs cannot be stolen from the dugout, bullpens or essentially anywhere other than via a runner on second base—and updated it to fit a game changed by the fast growth of technology.
To make sure teams comply with the rule, MLB is holding general managers and managers personally responsible for compliance. Before and after each season, every GM (or president of baseball operations) and manager must sign a document professing that his club is in compliance with the anti-sign stealing rules and that he knew of no “pre-meditated plan to steal signs,” a source said.
In addition to banning all in-house cameras from foul pole to foul pole, the rule provides that:
• The only live feed of a broadcast will be the one provided to each team’s designated replay official.
• A specially trained monitor, not a Resident Security Expect, will be assigned to each designated replay official to make sure that person has no communication with team personnel regarding signs, either in person, by phone or any other device.
• All other bullpen and clubhouse television monitors will receive game broadcasts on an eight-second delay.
• No television monitors are permitted in the tunnels or auxiliary rooms between the dugout and the clubhouse.
• Each club must provide to MLB an audit of every in-house camera, detailing its purpose, its wiring and where its signal can be viewed.
The document has circulated among clubs for the past few weeks for comment. There is expectation that it will be finzlized within the next two weeks for implementation this season.