BALTIMORE — Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed Wednesday a report that the Red Sox used an electronic device to steal signs from the Yankees at Fenway Park this season.
According to a New York Times report published late Tuesday afternoon, Major League Baseball investigators “determined that the Boston Red Sox . . . executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents’ catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams,” using an Apple Watch to do so.
The news didn’t come as a big surprise to players.
“I think it was something we suspected was going on,” Brett Gardner said Tuesday.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman jump-started the investigation, the Times said, filing “a detailed complaint with the commissioner’s office that included video the Yankees shot of the Red Sox dugout during” a three-game series at Fenway Park Aug. 18-20.
It was the use of an electronic device, Manfred indicated early Tuesday evening, that was the potential violation as such devices for that purpose are prohibited.
“We actually do not have a rule against sign stealing,” Manfred told reporters Tuesday in Boston where, coincidentally, he was visiting Fenway Park as part of his desire to visit as many ballparks as possible during a given season.
When confronted by the commissioner’s office, the Red Sox admitted that they used an electronic device to steal signs and relayed the information to players.
Manfred confirmed that the Yankees also were being investigated — the Red Sox alleged the Yankees were using a YES Network camera to steal signs, an allegation Joe Girardi laughed off — but overall didn’t seem overly concerned.
“I do believe that this is a charged situation from a competitive perspective, when you have the kind of rivalry that the Yankees and the Red Sox have,” said Manfred, adding later he didn’t foresee any victories being vacated. “I guess it’s not shocking you could have charges and countercharges like this. We will conduct a thorough investigation of the charges on both sides”
He also said: “We are 100 percent comfortable that it is not an ongoing issue.”
The Yankees won the season-series against the Red Sox this season, 11-8, taking three of four games at the Stadium last weekend.
Sign stealing has been a part of baseball pretty much as long as the sport has been around. It is practiced by every team in some form or another.
“It’s all part of the game,” Gardner said. “I think pitchers and catchers and hitters and everybody recognizes that, but it seems like, the little bit that I know about it, maybe it was something that may have been taken to the next level.”
It was too soon to say what, if any, penalty the Red Sox could face.
The number of cameras in every ballpark has ballooned in recent years with the increase use of replay, making signs that much more difficult to hide.
“I think electronics makes things easier, more accessible and more dangerous,” Girardi said.
The increase in mound visits by catchers has increased dramatically in recent years and oftentimes it’s to change signs.
“This has been a concern of mine in baseball for a long time and what we do to try and combat the catchers having to go out all the time” said Girardi, a former catcher. “Pace of play has slowed down because of this.”
Though Girardi sounded as if he was speaking out against electronics, he thinks it can help solve the problem, suggesting, as he’s done previously, some kind of headset-receiver combination, similar to how plays are relayed to quarterbacks in the NFL.
“They’ve talked about they don’t know how feasible that is in the game of baseball, but I think we have to try something,” Girardi said. “We can use electronics for other things, I think we ought to be able to use it somehow in the game to communicate where just a few people know it.”
An interesting postscript: The Red Sox, whose .271 average with runners in scoring position had them tied for third in the AL entering Tuesday, batted 20-for-140 (.143) in such situations in 19 games vs. the Yankees this season, including 1-for-27 during this past weekend’s series.
“Maybe,” one Yankee wryly said, “we should just let them keep doing what they’re doing.”
With David Lennon