MLB pitches proposals to MLBPA to restrict sign-stealing

Major League Baseball has made a series of proposals to the players union about measures meant to restrict sign-stealing, and the use of information during games, The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli reports.  It isn’t yet known how the MLB Players Association will respond to these proposals, whether they accept or reject the league’s idea, or perhaps make some counter-proposals with some tweaks.

One proposal involves the PitchCom system currently being tested during spring training games, as the league is now offering that players can continue to use the system on a voluntary basis during the regular season.  PitchCom is an electronic method for a catcher to communicate signs to the pitcher — the catcher enters the desired pitch (or pickoff throw, pitchout, etc.) on a specialized wristband, while the pitcher is wearing an audio device in his hat that tells him the pitch call via an automated voice.  The catcher and as many as three other fielders can also be wearing the audio device, to ensure accuracy and to make the information known around the diamond.

Ideally, PitchCom is a way of addressing sign-stealing by simply removing signs altogether.  The system also theoretically speeds up play by removing the need for some mound visits.  Early reviews have varied from individual to individual, and it remains to be seen how many players (or the MLBPA as a whole) would be open to continuing the PitchCom tech during the season.  The voluntary nature of the usage could be an obstacle, as a competitive advantage could be gained by some teams.

The league’s other proposals relate to the in-game use of scouting information.  Under these new rules, a player at the plate couldn’t (to use Ghiroli’s example) review any information on a scouting card within his helmet, for instance.  Also, team staff wouldn’t be allowed to print and deliver new information to any on-field personnel during the game, whether on the actual diamond or in the dugout.

Specifying the use of printed information relates to how the league has already restricted the use of some electronic devices during a game, in the wake of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.  Still, while it would seem fairly easy to monitor whether or not a batter is using a “cheat sheet” during an at-bat, it would seem more difficult to completely police the flow of information between the on-field personnel and front-office personnel over the course of a game.  Of course, there may never be an entirely airtight way to prevent teams from finding loopholes, but having direct rules in place could at least act as some kind of deterrent.

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