By Cesar Ortiz (c)
November 24, 2019
The Mayor League Baseball (MLB) organization is updating the ongoing investigative effort on the 2017 baseball games signal hacking issue. The Houston Astros organization is leading the pack of baseball teams under the investigative radar. Astros front-office employees, on-field staff and the Astros manager, AJ Hinch have already been interviewed. Other players allegedly involved are the current Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and the New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran.
The SNY TV Network on November 14, 2019, is quick to state that the MLB has no evidence yet for imposing sanctions to Cora and Beltran, further stating, “ The league does not have either accusations or evidence that would point to severe discipline for either”.
For years, stealing signals from players was considered an art. It is not illegal, but officials become wary when they find reports of the activity when it is done using banned technology.
The use of technology to intercept or relay the signals is forbidden. The New York Times reported in 2017 the use of an Apple watch as a means to electronically relay signals to the Red Sox team partners by a Red Sox trainer. The Apple watch use was revealed in a detailed official complaint filed by Brian Cushman, the New York Yankees general manager. Among the exhibits in the complaint was a video shot of the Reds Sox dugout in Boston during the 2017 three-games series. The Red Sox team was fined by the MLB.
Recently, USA Today ran an article explaining how Manny Machado was caught stealing and relaying signals in game two of the 2018 World Series. In the Machado event, there was no violation of any rules because all the signal intelligence was acquired and relayed by Machado using manual signaling skills. No mechanical or electronic devices where used.
The Athletic ran an article detailing how the Astros in 2017 ran a hacking operation using a video camera and drum beats to relay signals from the catchers to everyone in the stadium, only the hacking partners knew the meaning of the beats and how to decode them.
Some suspected means of stealing baseball signals are:
(1) The use of a realistic-looking medical bandage-like device worn by the player at bat that receives a buzzing signal with a predetermined pattern, for example, one buzz for a fastball.
(2) Hidden catcher aimed mini cameras that feed data of catchers signals and sends out information on the type of pitch.
(3) Extended range antennas for radio devices to hear the pitcher-catcher-manager conferences at the mound.
(4) Lips reading text interpreters for conferences between players (that is the reason players cover their mouth with the gloves when they speak to each other).
(5) Monitoring of the live video broadcast of the game (MLB mandated a delay in the video monitors that are used in the dugouts and nearby areas).
Most of the suspected technical equipment techniques used are detectable by specialized equipment and manual signaling stealing can be detected by a trained eye.
The fact that we may find such hacking practice, even when they can be detected, tends to show the high amounts of monetary rewards involved, that in the eyes of the perpetrators, warrant the risk of detection. So far, no one has been charged with any criminal or civil offense. MLB is offering leniency to those who speak up on the subject and, as of this date, all technical equipment use events are related to the 2017 year.
The MLB hacking using information technology techniques and equipment brings to the field a new form of platform to think about, perhaps some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs will design custom hardware and software to detect the hacking devices.