BOSTON (CBS) — Sign-stealing has been ingrained into the culture of baseball teams for a long time. But the Red Sox took the act to another level with their use of electronic devices to do so, which is explicitly against MLB rules.
The New York Times’ seemingly explosive report on Tuesday read like a bombshell, one that could find the Red Sox in serious trouble with commissioner Rob Manfred over their admitted use of an Apple Watch to swipe signals from the Yankees during a recent series. But based on the reactions of both Manfred himself and Red Sox president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski, sign-stealing isn’t as serious as it may seem to those following the story.
Dombrowski essentially laughed the matter off.
“Do I think sign-stealing is wrong? No, I don’t. I guess it depends how you do it. But no, I never thought it was wrong. I guess everybody in the game has been involved with it throughout the years,” said Dombrowski, chuckling. “People are trying to win however they can. It’s an edge they are trying to gain. Sometimes your sophistication of signs can make a difference. So no, I never felt like it’s wrong. Put it this way, I was never brought up that it was wrong.”
Manfred, who happened to be at Fenway Park on a routine visit, also addressed the matter with reporters. While he acknowledged that he takes violations of the integrity of the game “extremely seriously,” he also downplayed the seriousness of stealing signs and emphasized that the violation only involved the use of electronic devices in the dugout.
“We actually do not have a rule against sign-stealing. It has been a part of the game for a very, very long time,” said Manfred. “To the extent that there was a violation of the rule here, it was a violation by one or the other that involved the use of electronic equipment. It’s the electronic equipment that creates the violation.”
According to the New York Times report, the Red Sox filed a counter-claim against the Yankees alleging that they use a YES Network camera at Yankee Stadium exclusively to steal signs. Dombrowski apparently took issue with the Yankees leaking the details of the investigation on the day that Manfred was visiting Boston, questioning their decision to publicize a matter that is normally discussed privately between teams.
“The Yankees decide they want to give [the story] today, for whatever reason. I think maybe because it just so happened the commissioner is in town today. I’m not sure there is a direct correlation to that,” said Dombrowski, who stressed that Manfred was in town to make a regular visit and not to address the sign-stealing story.
“Usually the general manager calls you and says, ‘Here’s a situation I’d like to discuss with you,’ and I’ve had that happen maybe 10 times in my career,” Dombrowski added.
Manfred said during his Tuesday press conference that certain investigations are still ongoing, but the Red Sox were 100 percent cooperative and is confident that any violations on either side are no longer taking place. Both he and Dombrowski sounded like executives who are already trying to put the controversy behind them and move forward.