If you’ve known me for more than a day, you know Baseball is in my blood. In case you don’t know if I get a boo-boo, I bleed Dodger Blue
A few days ago, there was a bunch of hoopla about the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox stealing signs. I say to you, that’s just part of Baseball. Stay with me a few minutes here, and I’ll explain.
Stealin’ signs is part of the cat-n-mouse of Baseball. Teams and players have been doing it since day one. Abner Doubleday probably figured it would be there when he invented the game.
STOP THE PRESSES… STOP THE PRESSES!!!
Just as I was about to publish this op-ed, the news came out that the Houston Astros have been fined $5,000,000 by Major League Baseball… manager and general manager fired. Baseball will never be the same. News at 11… maybe
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
Ole Abner knew that when the catcher wagged his a sign out to the pitcher, the runner(s) on base would try to figure out what that sign was. The runner wanted to signal back to their teammate what kind of pitch was about to be thrown… a fastball, curveball, screwball… or even a bean-ball.
I mean… this is as much a part of baseball as stealing bases and throwing spit-balls. It’s all part of the charm and tradition of the game.
Let’s take a step back from stealin’ pitch signs and look at all the other signs you see in a game. Sittin’ in the dugout, the manager performs all those quirky maneuvers to tell the third base coach what he wants the batter or runner to do… or not do.
For example, the manager touches his nose, then his chin, followed by his ear, and then grabs his crotch three times. That means nothing… it’s just a decoy… or maybe he just had an itch. But, if in full view of the television cameras, he does all those maneuvers and then scratches his butt twice, that means the batter is supposed to bunt.
Following that, the third base coach has a whole different set of signs he sends to the batter… he adjusts his belt, sticks his finger in his ear, takes off his hat and rubs his head, and finally swats at a nonexistent bug flying around his head.
Then the batter steps up to the plate… but when the pitcher throws the ball, it’s nowhere near the plate, so the batter does nothing. And the whole thing starts again. You should see the gyrations managers, and base coaches go through for a hit-and-run play.
Of course, all this wagging, touching, scratching, and rubbing are in full view of the world… including the opposing team. And you can count on it… the opposing team is trying to figure out what all those signs mean too. You don’t hear anyone saying “ain’t it awful” to this stuff.
So, let’s get back to the catcher and pitcher. At the first-ever baseball game, when the catcher held up his arm waving, over his head that he wanted a curveball, ole Abner Doubleday was on second base. When Abner saw the signals, he hollered back to the batter, “He’s going to throw a curveball!” The batter hit a home-run.
After that, the catcher walked out to the pitcher and told him, “I’m going to show you 1 finger out in front of my crotch for a fastball, and two fingers for a curveball… got it?” Of course, Abner figured that out and started signaling back to the batter. And so it has gone for 181 years.
Now catchers have an elaborate set of signs intended to throw off the opposition. Catchers do more rubbin’, scratchin’, tappin’, and finger-wagging than the manager in the dugout and the third base coach combined.
Both sides know what’s going on. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. These days, catchers try to combat sign stealing by changing their sign patterns between innings. Sometimes in the middle of the inning, the catcher will run out to the pitcher to change the sign pattern.
And I think I’m probably right when I say, catchers have decoy signs. Just when they think the opposing team has stolen the signs, they change them to mean the opposite thing. A team steals what they think is going to be a curveball, and they get a fastball.
One more thing… the news media has said there’s so much at stake today, and technology makes it different. I submit it doesn’t make it different. Do you think the 1988 Dodgers thought there was any less at stake during the World Series? I don’t think so. Yeah, the dollar value has changed, but so has the price of a loaf of bread. Stakes now are the same as it was back in Abner’s day when they first hollered, “Play Ball.”
Some of you may think, “Ain’t it awful,’ but consider this. If baseball wanted to keep managers, coaches, or catchers from getting their signs stolen, they would just put a buzzer in the pitcher’s ear. Managers and coaches would use radios to the batters. The catcher would have a button under his big toe to press… once for a fastball, and twice for a curveball. No one could see anything. Of course, they would probably use a scanner to pick up the signals out to the pitcher.
And about that technology thing… first, it was just eyeballs… then it was a spyglass, then it was binoculars, then it was a camera on top of the stadium in centerfield. One day I’m sure they will have satellites looking down at the catcher’s crotch. Yep… stealing signs will still be going on then too.
So get over it. It’s part of baseball. It always has been and always will be.
By the way… “There’s no cryin’ in baseball.”
As for me, I can’t wait till February 21 when the umpire hollars out…
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