By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Apparently, the Yankees are a bit paranoid.
Yes, they hit the bull’s-eye with their accusation that the Red Sox were using an Apple Watch in the dugout as a means of communication regarding sign-stealing. On that, they caught the Red Sox red-handed.
But the Yankees remained convinced that the Red Sox’ cheating schemes were so elaborate that they involved a pitcher getting secret information piped directly into his ears. And that pitcher was brazen enough to wear it out in the open in the dugout!
Very salacious indeed!
Oh, but wait. That’s not an earpiece. It’s actually just … a rubber mouthpiece.
CSNNE’s Evan Drellich reported early Wednesday that the Yankees accused Doug Fister of wearing an illegal electronic earpiece during the Red Sox-Yankees game last Friday night in the Bronx.
“The Yankees went to MLB with a complaint about what they thought to be an earpiece — some sort of impermissible audio device — that Fister was using,” Drellich reported before dropping the bombshell: “The purported audio device was a mouthguard that Fister was wearing wrapped around his ear.”
Here’s a look at the rubber mouthguard.
Red Sox play-by-play man Dave O’Brien actually noted on the Red Sox broadcast that it was indeed a mouthguard, though tweets of the great Fister-Ear Mystery go back all the way to last year:
And this year, through August and through last weekend’s start, some spectators at home were perplexed:
Apparently, not many people have seen a rubber mouthguard before. But you’d think the Yankees might be familiar with the technology. It has been around for a while. Sometimes, baseball players use them. And we all know what they look like.
In any event, the nonsensical accusation on Fister adds to an already-loopy situation between the Red Sox and Yankees. While the situation is no doubt embarrassing for the Red Sox — who deserve to feel great shame in this — it has been somewhat lost what actually transpired in the Boston dugout to bring about this great “cheating” scandal.
Essentially, as I understand this situation, a Red Sox staffer observed the Yankees’ battery to be operating on either a first-sign/second-sign/whatever-more-elaborate-process the catcher might be using to give the sign to the pitcher. Instead of walking down the tunnel and relaying that message in person, he sent it to another staffer’s Apple Watch. That’s a big no-no. For that, the Red Sox deserve the shame and whatever slap on the wrist comes from the league. Much like when Michael Pineda took the mound for the Yankees with a smattering of pine tar smeared athwart his neck, the message from the baseball world is a simple one: Hey, don’t be so stupid.
(Side note: That Pineda situation three years ago, in which the Red Sox said nothing at all the first time Pineda took the mound with a glob of goo on his neck but finally raised a stink the second time he so openly showed it, likely kicked off the tit-for-tat struggle we’re seeing play out this year. These are, generally, baseball things that get handled or counteracted on the baseball field. The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has been considered largely dormant for years, but clearly some bad blood has been bubbling somewhere in these organizations.)
But where the initial report — in my opinion, now — erred is in suggesting that this information made it out to the field quickly enough to get to the batter at the plate. Such communication is impossible in real time. The information provided to the players would be an aid the next time they got out to second base, where they’d still have to make sure they had the right information and that the catcher and pitcher hadn’t changed their system before trying to signal to the batter what type of pitch is coming.
So, cheating? Yeah, sure. Don’t do this. It’s foolish — and not altogether efficient. But the inclusion of Apple Watches has made the story appear juicy to many folks who don’t understand how signs work in baseball. I’d say that it doesn’t exactly rise to the level of “scandal,” but I’ve seen enough nonsense get that treatment over the years to know that the reality is much more boring than the shock value on the back pages.
But, again, that’s something that actually happened. The mouthguard thing? It shows just how eager the Yankees are to catch the Red Sox doing something in these games. And it allows the Yankees to share in some of the Red Sox’ shame for this entire situation.