PITTSBURGH – Joe Maddon’s eyes lit up when a reporter mentioned the breaking New York Times story that exposed a Major League Baseball investigation into the Boston Red Sox electronically stealing signs from the New York Yankees, making the Apple Watch a new weapon in their heated rivalry.
“I just heard,” the Cubs manager said near the end of his media briefing before Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. “I’m wearing a Fitbit. I still think it has the same espionage capabilities as the Apple Watch...if in fact you wanted to turn in that direction.
“A lot going on there, man, a lot going on. Oh my God, it’s pretty impressive to be able to get all that done in that short amount of time.”
Maddon knows how the Red Sox are wired after managing nine seasons in the American League East and leading the upstart Tampa Bay Rays into Fenway Park. The New York Times report detailed the complaint Yankees general manager Brian Cashman filed with the commissioner’s office and a system where a Red Sox training staffer would check his Apple Watch in the dugout and relay messages to players.
“You can still do the old-fashioned way,” Maddon said, “just by doing it because they’re not hiding their signs properly. They have a good relay system between second and the hitter – I’m all for that. And if somebody steals our signs, that’s our fault, absolutely.
“But the camera shooting in, and whistles from the dugout, that kind of stuff, I’m not into. I don’t think that’s right.”
The New York Times reported the Red Sox responded by filing a complaint accusing the Yankees of using their YES Network to try to steal signs and gain a competitive edge – and claiming their own manager (John Farrell) and president of baseball operations (Dave Dombrowski) were unaware of the sign-stealing scheme in the Boston dugout.
“There’s been a lot of different ballparks (with) an urban legend behind each one,” Maddon said. “One ballpark in the American League, we used to roll our signs all the time. Not just runner on second base, runner on first base, whatever – always rolling your signs. We were concerned about it.”
Was that ballpark located not too far from Wrigley Field?
“Not far,” Maddon said. “Not far.”
It would be naïve to think this is just limited to Red Sox-Yankees bitterness. This is the new reality for a multibillion-dollar industry obsessed with technology and saturated with Big Data.
“There’s always been this concern,” Maddon said. “Light bulbs, lights, cameras, guys standing up, sitting down, towels in bullpens. All kinds of goodies.
“I’ve had other friend coaches who would text or call me (when) they had been adamantly sure about different things – chicanery – going on in these different spots.
“So like I said, your best method is to conceal your signs. Don’t just be so blatantly simple. Do something a little bit different. (Maybe) you give up one sign and then all of a sudden you do the exact opposite intentionally.”