February 27, 2020

Technology Throws a Curveball to a Sport Built on Deceit. Or Is It Gamesmanship? - The New York Times

But distinctions must be made, Heider said. Digital sign-stealing permits a catcher’s signals to be recorded and analyzed in a manner unavailable to a runner on second base, he said.

“To me, it seems a pretty clear case of a team trying to gain an unfair advantage using technology,” he said.

Yet, Heider noted, there are cameras all over the place in a ballpark, technology available that everyone is cognizant of, and the game’s overlords should make some concession for it.

To Shawn E. Klein, a lecturer in philosophy who teaches sports ethics at Arizona State University, rules against electronic sign-stealing “seem pretty stupid.”

The supposition that a video monitor provides a dramatically significant advantage over a human camera — the eye — to steal signs, he added, “strikes me as a little bit far-fetched.”

Or at least not fully quantified.

As Michael Powell noted, in 2017 Houston hit .279 at home with 115 home runs and a .472 slugging average. On the road, where elaborate sign-stealing should theoretically have been more difficult, the Astros hit .284 with 123 home runs and a .483 slugging average.

Ultimately, such attempts to bar the electronic monitoring of activities that occur in the open — such as the catcher’s signal for the next pitch — are expensive, destined to leave policing in arrears of the latest technology and “doomed to failure,” Klein said.

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