New MLB rules punish electronic sign-stealing

    Marly Rivera is a writer for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.

Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association have agreed to a new set of rules to punish players and team personnel who steal signs electronically.

These new rules specifically state that any individual who utilizes electronic devices or visual enhancement devices during the game to identify, communicate or relay the opposing team’s signs or pitch information will be subject to discipline, according to a confidential document obtained by ESPN.

No Astros players were disciplined after an MLB investigation in January revealed an elaborate electronic sign-stealing scheme used by the team in 2017. MLB and the players’ association acknowledged that rules changes including discipline were under discussion.

The issue again took the spotlight when Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly was suspended for eight games for throwing a fastball behind Astros third baseman Alex Bregman’s head and taunting Carlos Correa on Tuesday, leading to a benches-clearing skirmish.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who was still an ESPN broadcaster when Houston eliminated the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS, has been candid about his criticism of the Astros in the fallout of the sign-stealing scandal and believes discipline will help maintain a level playing field.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Boone said. “It’s obviously become something that’s become an issue in our sport. I think in some way, to a lesser degree, the last couple years because there has been quite a crackdown, and obviously all that went on this winter with the crackdown. So, look, anything that we can do to make it competitively fair, as best you can, I’m supportive of.”

“After what happened with the Astros, anything MLB does as punishment is valid. The most important thing is that everyone plays legally,” added Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres, who didn’t make his big-league debut until 2018 but is one of the many Yankees whot brought the Astros’ World Series championship into question after the investigation.

A detail in the new regulations that seems a specific result of the Astros sign-stealing scheme is that no team is allowed to install or use any camera that captures an image of the catcher’s signs. Players and team personnel can utilize any video from prior games to identify an opponent’s signs or pitch information if it happens before the first pitch of a game, and that information can be relayed to other team personnel only prior to the start of a game.

The one exception to the sign-stealing rule is what players have always done to acquire a competitive edge: If a baserunner or coach identifies an opposing team’s signs or pitch information through his own unaided observation of the pitcher, catcher, or opposing team’s dugout, that person may communicate that information to an on-field player or coach.

The only electronic devices allowed for use anywhere in the stadium, including the clubhouse, are the iPads provided by MLB with approved content, which may not be updated during the game.

In terms of accessing in-game video, which is something players have expressed interest in as they have done in the past, MLB informed the union it will continue its best efforts to develop a new system of access to in-game video for players during the 2020 regular season and postseason games, but there are no guarantees.

Another detail set forth in the new rules is that starting this Saturday, monitors and TVs in the clubhouse can only show a single video angle of the field to track game action, one that does not display any catcher signs or pitch information. If not available, they may show the broadcast feed on a delay.

In terms of sanctions, MLB may discipline any individual who commits any violation to the regulations. Discipline may include suspensions without pay or service. Teams, executives and off-the-field personnel who commit any violations can also be fined, suspended or lose benefits.

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