Major League Baseball has made a series of proposals to the players union about measures meant to restrict sign-stealing, and the use of information during games, The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli reports (Twitter thread). It isn’t yet known how the MLB Players Association will respond to these proposals, whether they accept or reject the league’s idea, or perhaps make some counter-proposals with some tweaks.
One proposal involves the PitchCom system currently being tested during Spring Training games, as the league is now offering that players can continue to use the system on a voluntary basis during the regular season. PitchCom is an electronic method for a catcher to communicate signs to the pitcher — the catcher enters the desired pitch (or pickoff throw, pitchout, etc.) on a specialized wristband, while the pitcher is wearing an audio device in his hat that tells him the pitch call via an automated voice. The catcher and as many as three other fielders can also be wearing the audio device, to ensure accuracy and to make the information known around the diamond.
Ideally, PitchCom is a way of addressing sign-stealing by simply removing signs altogether. The system also theoretically speeds up play by removing the need for some mound visits. Early reviews have varied from individual to individual, and it remains to be seen how many players (or the MLBPA as a whole) would be open to continuing the PitchCom tech during the season. The voluntary nature of the usage could be an obstacle, as a competitive advantage could be gained by some teams.
The league’s other proposals relate to the in-game use of scouting information. Under these new rules, a player at the plate couldn’t (to use Ghiroli’s example) review any information on a scouting card within his helmet, for instance. Also, team staff wouldn’t be allowed to print and deliver and new information to any on-field personnel during the game, whether on the actual diamond or in the dugout.
Specifying the use of printed information relates to how the league has already restricted the use of some electronic devices during a game, in the wake of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Still, while it would seem fairly easy to monitor whether or not a batter is using a “cheat sheet” during an at-bat, it would seem more difficult to completely police the flow of information between the on-field personnel and front office personnel over the course of a game. Of course, there may never be an entirely airtight way to prevent teams finding loopholes, though having direct rules in place could at least act as some kind of deterrent.
On field sign stealing has been part of the game since day 1, don’t know how you can prevent it or would try to. The use of cameras is completely different. Leave the game alone.
FredMcGriff for the HOF
This is getting ridiculous. Ghost runners. DH. Now this? Might as well use the ball/strike technology and take the umps out of it as well. Just leave a ump on every base for close calls. Then review the close calls like they do already. So might as well remove the umps as well. How about just leave it all alone?
How about no umps, backyard rules style.
And make right field out…for EVERYONE, including lefties!
Fever Pitch Guy
Okay let’s not group these new proposals with the horrific ghost runner. I am 100% on board with BOTH these proposals.
Sign stealing has become too much of an issue the past few years. While it’s always been part of the game, it’s a part I’d rather do without. Pitchers should be able to retain the element of surprise.
As for putting a stop to players reading cards during at-bats or on the mound, I’ve said before this is a trend that’s relatively new and needs to end. They’ve got plenty of information prior to the games and while they are in the dugout. I also think at times they’ve been flooded with too much data and it’s actually had a negative effect on them. TMI is a real thing.
might as well just have the players sit in the dugout in uniform and let a computer simulate the outcome and stats based on a players projected season
Fever Pitch Guy
braves – Isn’t that what’s already been happening? In-game decisions are already being made prior to the game. That’s why when a Blake Snell is pitching the game of his life, he gets pulled early anyway because the formula-driven statistics say it’s the right move.
The game has turned into a joke, driven by algorithms.
No need to get political. There’s no actual proof Al Gore is involved.
The Rays turn the sport on its head every year or two and you’re going to call out one of the processes that make them one of the elite franchises in the sport? Sounds like a Yankee or Red Sox fan being upset that they have to put up a fight for what they feel is entitled to them.
Fever Pitch Guy
Horst – I appreciate humor, but unfortunately I don’t know enough about Gore to get the joke. All I know about him is related to hanging chads and inventing the internet. LOL
Al-Gore-ithm? Apologies for the bad (and what I thought was an obvious) pun.
Fever Pitch Guy
ryan – I respect the Rays, they are excellent at scouting and developing talented players.
However calling them “elite” is quite a stretch. They haven’t won a championship in their 24-year existence, have made the World Series only once (not counting the joke of a 2020 season), and have been competitive in only 3 of the past 7 full seasons.
Part of the reason for their success is by luck, as they have been unable to afford many of their homegrown stars and therefore were forced to trade them or lose them in free agency … and then watched those same stars go downhill shortly after.
They remind me of another overhyped franchise, Oakland in the mid-90’s. Everyone thought the A’s were geniuses because of Moneyball. Yet here we are, 30 years later, and they still haven’t won an ALCS game since 1992.
All I’m saying is Tampa needs to earn “elite” status, as they have yet to do so.
Fever Pitch Guy
Horst – No apologies needed, it was a good pun that I simply missed.
Your ideas sound great! I love almost all of them! Go Robot umps!
That’s exactly what they’re trying to do: Stamp out electronically enhanced sign stealing,
which has been illegal for ever but recently has become rampant. Catch a player with a few drinks and they’ll tell you an enormous chunk of teams’ performance these days comes from being good or bad at “enhanced” sign stealing. No one cares about the guy on second looking at the catcher.
I don’t think teams are worried about on field sign stealing nearly as much as a team technology used to steal signs.
There will always be cheaters.
Why do they continue trying to change a game that wasn’t broken? They should cancel out the analytics and play by the rules of the 50s, 60s and early 70s when it was the best sport in American. Now the game is boring with the stupid launch angle. Way too many strikeouts.
Bowadoyle you realize the players don’t play like the 50s,60s and 70s? That’s why a pitch clock is needed.
The game is always changing… get over it.
Like lowering the pitchers mound in 69 and the the introduction of the DH
Fever Pitch Guy
There’s a big difference between making changes for the better, and making them for the worse.
I’d say it’s been about 50/50 the past decade or two.
How do you “cancel out the analytics”? Are you suggesting that no player, manager, or FO exec, can do anything to understand their, and opposing players, better through research? How would you do that?
Teams have been researching the game for over a hundred years. The way of doing so has just gotten much more informative.
Fever Pitch Guy
The increased volume of information has created more situations for them to be misused, that is the problem.
When you have a starting pitcher breezing through the first 5 innings with a low pitch count, and he is only getting stronger as the game goes on, it’s asinine to pull him right then just because algorithms say he should be pulled.
Same thing with batting order. Your best power hitter who is also slowfooted shouldn’t be batting 2nd. Your worst OBP guy shouldn’t be batting leadoff just because he’s got some speed. So many other examples I could provide.
What’s the penalty for trying to steal signs through this new system electronically? That’s the real question. Because if it’s not harsh then nobody is going to have trust in the new system.
It’s simple, make the punishment the same as PEDs and this will end instantly. It’s an incentive problem.
Dynamite drop-in, Monty! That broadcast school has really paid off!
Printed items are out of bounds but guys have iPads they review before ABs, are they not always flowing new info through that venue? What’s the difference between that and of paper being distributed? Seems odd.
I think the difference is the printed paper is being used on field. Teams have always reviewed scouting information before the game and in the dugout during.
And I think the ban on printed items is more about pace of game. No more batters stepping out of the box, taking off the batting helmet, and looking inside, during the AB.
Reviewing scouting information isn’t illegal, and never has been. Just make the batter come to plate with the information in his head instead of him reviewing it at the plate.
PitchCom sounds like it would just slow things down even further, cause any disagreement in pitch choice is gonna take longer to resolve I feel like, having to find what you’re looking for each time and input it into the device. Not to mention I don’t think it would cut down on mound visits, since pitcher or catcher might disagree on overall strategy, which that wouldn’t help with.
they want to “speed” things up by taking out things real fans like and replacing them with their new age ideals
Why would it take longer? It’s literally the same exact thing as dropping a sign.
Why? The catcher pushes a button, and the pitcher shakes his head if he wants a different pitch. That would take no longer than it does now.
Plus, when there’s a runner on 2B, the catcher doesn’t have to put down 6 different signs to camouflage the real one. And what if, in that situation, the pitcher doesn’t want what the catcher called?
With a runner on 2B, I’ve seen the catcher put down 6 signs, seen the pitcher shake, the catcher puts down another 6 signs, the pitcher shakes again, so the catcher makes a mound visit. Pitchcom would eliminate that.
I’m in favor of what Joel Sherman called Amish Baseball. No tech what so ever.
Ironically tech has to be used to avoid teams from using tech to steal signs
all in the suit that you wear
Halo: Until some new tech can hack the existing tech.
Right. No lights, no X-Ray machines in the clubhouse, no medical professionals in-house, nothing but men reporters/batboys/announcers…..maybe no players of different skin pigments…..Ah, the good ole’ days….
Exactly what’s the difference between this and NFL coaches transmitting plays to your favorite QB?
I’m not really a football fan but I wouldn’t be in favor of transmitting plays there either.
Not quite sure what you’re getting at with the rest of your post.
bobtillman – “maybe no players of different skin pigments”? No one said or implied anything of the sort. Why make such a brain-dead comment? Utter nonsense.
Not sure that no-tech approach is really working out for the Amish. They survive as a miniscule niche of society, and the no-tech approach, would probably do the same for baseball.
Some people argued against lights for night games. Trying to keep anything from changing with the times usually doesn’t work out.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Maybe we should see the sealed Yankees later before making new rules about sign stealing
One thing that’s always conveniently left out of that is the letter is from BEFORE the league sent out the memo to the teams telling them to stop. The Astros didn’t seem to read that memo.
Yes, true. Also true is the entire reason that memo was sent out is because the Yankees and Red Sox were cheating.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Maybe you should google Chris Bassitt’s comments when he talks about how EVERY team was cheating and the astros were just the scapegoat
@stone cold, maybe you should read what he said on The Chris Rose Rotation. He claims “ Houston was not the only team doing stuff. Like, there was a lot of people doing stuff.” He did not claim that every team was cheating in this interview.
Also, his comments would be pure speculation as he would not know what every other team was doing.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Here is the article. He’s also not the only player who has come out about teams cheating
That memo was sent like a week after Hurricane Harvey.
Big tech selling gimmicks to baseball in the hopes that everyone bites.
Does the MLB ever actually spend time talking to regular fans to see what they want to see. Or maybe I’m just a dinosaur and nobody has any desire to play the true game anymore.
While I’d love to see old school baseball (think 1970s through 1990s), that game just no longer exists. Changes do need to be made.
It’s not like Moses came down from the mountain with the 10 Commandments and the rules of baseball.
mlb got rid of message boards and that tells all about our standings.
A transmitter on a catcher’s wrist is high tech alright: From like 1960.
Dick Tracy used to wear one before that.
They have reconfigured our great game of baseball game into a freaking video & fantasy game platform. – The players are evolving into cartoon characters. .
I am blessed and happy I was able to play the game in high school & JC @ catcher & 3B, prior to the introduction of calling pitched from the dugout, technology in the dugout & the initiation of these intrusive & nonsense. rules..
Its truly a tragedy our game has been invaded & taken over by TV/media conglomerates pushing excessive between innings commercial time,& and an obsessive need to appease degenerate gambling interests and a generation of casual fans with attention deficit disorder.
Why not have an independent source of giving signs? Use artificial intelligence. You tell the pitcher, catcher, all the defensive players for that matter. Then you also have computerized strike zones. Everything else can stay as it is. No one will know what the pitch is going to be and no one will know what the pitch until the machine tells us. Lots of things in this world are already like that. It’s not about strategy, it’s about execution.
That seems like a very expensive method to try to eliminate sign stealing.
If pace of play is an issue than something the requires the catcher type in a command and then waiting for it to transmit to the pitcher, who now has to have something in his ear which could throw off his balance/equilibrium, you are actually slowing down the game more. Plus these devices would have to be multilingual capable. Again, it seems like a lofty investment to try to stop something that has been part of the game since signs were invented
I am very amused by all the Luddites leaving comments. “This com system will ruin baseball! In my day the catcher did it all with his fingers, like a man!”
This is one of the best of the new changes. No more scandals from sign stealing? Fine by me.
If pitcher receives audio pitch and location how long will it be before electric device steals that signal and relays to the plate? Better pitch fast after getting pitch.
It would be very easy for umpires to check batters for some type of receiving device, much like they check pitchers for sticky stuff now.
I see the next big cheating scandal, The com system is implemented and (insert name of whatever team you hate here) uses electronics to intercept the transmission from the catcher to the pitcher. The intercepted message is instantly sent to their batter and base runners who have earpieces in their helmets.
If the messages are coded, the cheating team hires the ghost of Alan Turing to crack the code.
This is a very enigmatic post.
So you assume the umpires couldn’t look inside a batter’s helmet for an earpiece?
all in the suit that you wear
A vibrating device could be placed anywhere on a batter’s body.
A pat down at the start of the game would solve that. There has to be a battery pack somewhere. It’s still more difficult to cheat, and hide it, than it is to detect it.
The Astros didn’t avoid detection, though it was late in coming. Yeah, the Astros’ players got away with it, but the manager and GM didn’t. And that kind of tech hack would require the team to be involved.
I seriously doubt teams would risk being caught hacking into the PitchCom system. That would be much worse than the trashcan banging. And after the Astros scandal, any team stupid enough to go to those lengths, would suffer an increased level of penalties, and that includes the players.
If we get to the point that we have to frisk the players before the game it may be time to end Baseball as a whole
Fever Pitch Guy
Rsox – We are basically already there. Every time a pitcher comes off the mound, he has to surrender his glove and hat to an ump and also pull out his belt.
Funny how so many think this ruins baseball, when it’s just an alternative method to something they’ve been doing for over a hundred years. but some of those same people want to fundamentally change the game by outlawing shifts.
I have absolutely no problem with sign-stealing, provided it’s only done by players and coaches in the dugout or on the field and no technology is used to convey the information. If your signals are easy to decode for the runner on 2B, that’s on you.
I don’t even have a big problem with a cheat sheet in the dugout. Let a player review it before they go for an AB if they want…or not. I’m ok with a C having a cheat sheet of sorts, too.
And no one has said anything about all the outfielders who look inside their hats to figure out defensive positioning for every hitter.
Speed up the game? No commercials. Done.
Unfortunately commercials pay for the broadcast. No commercials, and you have to go to the park to see the game.
They shortened the commercial breaks and all that accomplished was to have ads during the game. Unfortunately the pace of the game has gotten so slow it isn’t a huge issue.
So make the strike zone slightly wider if all the players stay in their respective positions and narrower if they resort to a shift. There, two problems solved in one solution. Bingo bongo.
Ever watch a game on MLBtv… it’s almost unbearable between innings
Cheating is ok until it reaches some point where it’s not ok? Um, ok.
The first thing that occurred to me was: what sweetheart deal do the owners have with the manufacturers of the PitchCom system? The second thing: electronics in the dugout led to the Astros cheating scandal. Now they’re going to solve this with more electronics. How long before someone figures out how to hack into the frequency of the PitchCom signals?
Let’s just give every position player a Bluetooth headset
Sign stealing should be allowed as part of the game. If you can’t switch your signs up as a team then seriously you got problems. I mean hell the PitchCom is only in the heads of 3 or 4 people, there will have to be signs to direct the rest. So either put the device in every hat or just accept the fact people will look for signs.
As far as giving batters information look they still have to execute the plan.I say don’t allow them to take the information in a hat or something but keep it in the dugout during games.
I think the owners’ issue with sign-stealing has little or nothing to do with the integrity of the game and a lot, or everything, to do with speeding up the game. And I suspect that has to do with TV broadcasts and ad revenue.
Sign stealing “should be allowed”? It is, and always has been. What’s not allowed is using technology to do it.
As to putting the device in every hat, that isn’t necessary. Only the IF guys, minus 1B, need to know the pitch call
Totally agree about the scouting info. Limiting it to the dugout makes sense. It reminds me of all the mound visits to talk about the scouting report. Now that info is discussed in the dugout, and the limit on mound visits has had zero impact, except improving the pace of the game.
No wonder Harry The Hat Walker was so good.
I can see it now.
Press 1 for English, press 2 for Spanish, press 3 for pitch
Your call is important to us. All our pitching representatives are busy right now. Please hold and the next available representative will give you the signal. Thank you.
I’m sure the assbros are figuring out a way to hack into PitchCom.
Let’s be honest: no team has entirely clean hands when it comes to cheating. I’m not defending the Astros or what they did, but the Red Sox had a more recent scandal, practically every team had someone whose spin rate fell after the league cracked down on illegal substances, and all teams had guys who used steroids during that era or amphetamines before that. The game has had cheaters for as long as it’s been around.
And more recently the Yankees have been implicated in sign stealing as well. No team is clean in this. Like you said, the game has had its cheaters since the beginning. “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough”
I can see them not allowing it on the field but think it’s going too far to ban “dugout information.
Now I can just see someone sitting behind home plate with a microphone amplifier, tipping his hat on fastballs, lifting his arm on curve balls and jumping up and down like a monkey on pitchouts lol
So the batter has to turn around and look into the stands to find out what the pitch is going to be? Signs aren’t given until the batter is in the box looking at the pitcher. Catchers watch the batter’s eyes to make sure he isn’t peeking. It would be totally obvious for the batter to be looking in stands, afterward, and then he’d be vulnerable to a quick-pitch. Sounds like a doubtful scenario to me.
I can’t come up with everything lol
It was mostly tongue-in-cheek though
First of all, radio transmitters can be hacked. I realize that they are likely using encryption technology to make sure that signals can only be decoded by headsets owned by the team, but what happens if one of those things winds up missing? Or if some geeky fan figures out a way to break the encryption?
Secondly, as has been mentioned, there’s a big difference between a runner on second base figuring out the signs and centerfield cameras spying on opponents.
gen x-ers and millennials will ruin baseball
I love changes to a sometimes slow and boring game. It sounds optional, but I imagine most players will want to use this
i listened to many games on the radio in the late 60’s/70’s. most games were over in 2 and a half hours. wasn’t boring, more strategy, more of a team sport. instead of a individual first sport.
Nobody will have to hack into the system ,baseball is so greedy they will sell access for everyone to listen in on one of the new streaming channels they are launching just for this reason lol. Of course it won’t be available in the dugouts …
It’s fast becoming a real video game or vice versa……sad.
I’d be sad to see old-school on-field sign stealing go, but if it means an end to decoder rings stowed in pitcher’s caps, trash can lids, apple watches and video sign stealing scandals, I’ll support the new technology.
I don’t think making it “voluntary” creates a competitive imbalance. If you think your traditional signs are better, you can take the gamble. If you think the technology is better, go for it. That’s a strategic decision. It’s not like PEDs, where a player has to take dangerous health risks to remain competitive. It more like choosing the right size bat or mitt for your style of play.