MLB and the MLB Players Association are working to devise rules that will limit the availability of in-game video to players and thus reduce the risk of electronic sign-stealing, The Athletic reported Friday night (subscription required).
The sides want those rules in place before Opening Day as part of their reaction to the Astros using video illegally to steal signs in 2017 and 2018, the report said.
Players watch video in the clubhouse during games to analyze swings and pitches. The ’17 and ’18 Astros used video technology to intercept opposing catchers’ signs, decode them in real time and then deliver them to hitters through various methods, in violation of MLB rules.
Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that players have been discussing ways to possibly curtail video use.
“We need to come up with rules now that limit how many cameras we can have on the field, how much replay we can actually have,” Scherzer told Ken Rosenthal. “We’re trying to decide how much access players should have to that during the game.” Scherzer is the Nationals’ player representative and a member of the players association’s executive subcomittee.
Houston’s sign-stealing scheme also relied on an Excel program named “Codebreaker,” which employed an algorithm to discover patterns of signs in real time. Algorithms are another area of discussion between baseball and the players, according to Scherzer.
“We’re trying to come up with ways — (whether) punishments need to be in place for that or whatnot, what kind of rules need to be in place to get the algorithms out of the game as well, and try to just get it back to baseball,” Scherzer told Rosenthal in an interview that aired on MLB Network.
MLB players are angry with the Astros for their cheating, and many of them believe the team has never stopped flouting the rules even though MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said last month that Houston ended its relaying of signs during the 2018 season. There are allegations Astros hitters last year received signs via buzzers that were taped to their bodies and worn under their jerseys.
Houston shortstop Carlos Correa denied that happened, and MLB has said it found no evidence buzzers were used.
Members of the Astros’ 2017 World Series championship team have used the first few days of spring training to apologize for their actions, but opposing players consider most of those apologies inadequate. Astros team owner Jim Crane said at a press conference Thursday that the team’s sign-stealing “didn’t impact the game.” Opposing players reject that position outright.