- Dec 4, 2009
Replay rooms across the sport evolved into hives of sign-stealing activity before MLB attempted to crack down.
For the Red Sox, and possibly other clubs, it did not.
Three people who were with the Red Sox during their 108-win 2018 season told The Athletic that during that regular season, at least some players visited the video replay room during games to learn the sign sequence opponents were using. The replay room is just steps from the home dugout at Fenway Park, through the same doors that lead to the batting cage. Every team’s replay staff travels to road games, making the system viable in other parks as well.
Red Sox sources said this system did not appear to be effective or even viable during the 2018 postseason, when the Red Sox went on to win the World Series. Opponents were leery enough of sign stealing — and knowledgeable enough about it — to constantly change their sign sequences. And, for the first time in the sport’s history, MLB instituted in-person monitors in the replay rooms, starting in the playoffs. For the entire regular season, those rooms had been left unguarded.
Other clubs might have committed violations similar to Boston’s under the new rules, but The Athletic could not confirm such conduct at this time.
“It’s cheating,” one person who was with the 2018 Red Sox said. “Because if you’re using a camera to zoom in on the crotch of the catcher, to break down the sign system, and then take that information and give it out to the runner, then he doesn’t have to steal it.”
The Red Sox declined to comment at the time of publication.
Replay room to dugout to baserunner to hitter is less direct — and less egregious — than banging on a garbage can, the method the Astros used at home in 2017 to alert hitters to what was coming on a pitch-to-pitch basis. The Astros’ system was triggered by a center-field camera and a video screen positioned near the dugout; no one on the playing field was involved in stealing the sign.