January 20, 2020

Does sign-stealing scandal matter to us? - Daily Leader Extra : Editorials

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Does sign-stealing scandal matter to us?

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Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 3:05 pm

The commissioner of Major League Baseball issued unprecedented penalties to the Houston Astros Monday over a scandal involving stealing signals between opposing pitchers and catchers. The penalties included yearlong suspensions for the general manager and field manager, loss of draft picks and a $5 million fine. The general manager and field manager were fired by the club hours later.

For those of us in Madison, the scandal seems far away. Major league baseball is already a world away from what we know, and it involves a team we don't normally follow. We would guess most of us don't care at all.

But it still causes us to think. In baseball, before every pitch, the catcher signals to the pitcher what type of pitch he should throw, such as a fastball or curveball. If the hitter knew in advance what pitch was coming, he would be at a tremendous advantage.

The Astros scandal involved video cameras picking up the sign from the catcher, someone to relay the pitch information to the dugout, and players banging on trash cans to signal to the batter what was coming.

The rules about sign-stealing are pretty clear (a team or players can't use any devices, such as binoculars, camera, lights, etc., to steal signs). But multiple Astros players and coaches were involved to install the technology, relay the info from video room to dugout, then dugout to batter, who was willing to accept it. So it goes beyond a single rogue employee to many who were willing to cheat to win.

Major league sports are hypercompetitive, with coaches fired and players cut all the time for failing to win championships. Perhaps that environment is a factor in cheating.

What concerns us is the trickle-down effect, to the minor leagues, to colleges, high schools, club teams, even youth sports. We've seen plenty of bad behavior at the lowest levels.

The commissioner levied such heavy punishment to try to send a message about cheating. It may work at the major league level, but we'd love to see that message trickle down to others. Perhaps this incident is an opportunity for parents and youth coaches to talk with young athletes about honesty in their sporting lives.

-- Jon M. Hunter