No matter what the rules say and what the fans think about it, sign stealing is ever-present in the MLB. However, we don’t often hear about it because illegal sign stealing can be difficult to detect and prove. This week, controversy has emerged as the New York Yankees accused the Red Sox of illegal sign stealing, and presented evidence to the MLB.Will this go any further than the dozens of news stories that have popped up, and what are the details on the alleged offense?

Details on the Latest News

Although the story has only recently gained any significant traction, the alleged sign stealing incident dates back to August 18th, when the Yankees provided the MLB Commissioner’s Office with video evidence that they claim proves the use of Apple watches, smartphones, and other electronic gear for the purpose of sign stealing.The Yankees claim that their footage shows clearly that Jon Jochim, athletic trainer for the Red Sox, had possession of an Apple watch and a smartphone, both of which are banned by the MLB in the dugout. The Yankees say that Jochim accessed the devices during a pitching change, said something to Dustin Pedroia, who then shared that information with Christian Vazquez who then returned to second base.MLB insiders say that the Yankees are asking for strong penalties to be applied to the Red Sox, but this will ultimately be decided by the Commissioner’s Office, after investigation.According to the New York Post, after first raising the issue with the Commissioner’s Office, the Yankees were informed that Dave Dombrowski (Boston Red Sox president) would be contacting the team so that they could begin a direct dialogue regarding the accusations. However, the same source claims that the contact never took place, and that the Red Sox continued the behavior in subsequent games.Dustin Pedroia said of the supposed evidence that “They had a good picture of me. I was talking to the trainer about what time I’m rehabbing the next day.” Apparently Pedroia is not fussed about the ongoing investigation and what it might mean for the team.There are even some on the Yankees side that are downplaying the incident. CC Sabathia, star pitcher for the New York Yankees and one of the highest paid athletes in the MLB, told the media that “I don’t think it will have an impact. It’s baseball. That kind of stuff has been going on forever. I don’t think it’s that big a deal.”Sabathia seemingly echoes the sentiment of a number of fans and baseball insiders. Everybody is aware that sign stealing happens. It only becomes a problem when teams gain an unfair advantage through banned technology.The MLB does not outright forbid sign stealing, but the use of technology to do it is punishable within the rules of the league.

Red Sox Admit Openly to Wrongdoing

The evidence provided by the Yankees was strong enough that the Red Sox came right out and admitted to the wrongdoing. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told media at a press conference that “The Red Sox have been 100 percent fully cooperative with us in this investigation. However, the Red Sox also came back with a counter-complaint to the MLB Commissioner’s Office, claiming that the Yankees have been using video footage to steal signs from the Red Sox.Yankees Manager Joe Girardi denies any wrongdoing by his team, and even if the Yankees have been sign stealing (as many teams do) it would be almost impossible to prove, considering that they’re obviously not doing it in a way that is as blatant as the Red Sox.Commissioner Manfred has said publicly that “What I can tell you is this: I take any issue that affects the play of the game on the field extremely seriously. I do believe that this is a charged situation from a competitive perspective when you have the kind of rivalry that the Yankees and the Red Sox have, I guess it’s not shocking you could have charges and countercharges like this. We will conduct a thorough investigation of the charges on both sides. I want to do that quickly. I think that’s important that we get it resolved.”Whatever the outcome is, the Yankees and the Red Sox won’t play each other again in this regular season, but the repercussions could spill over into the 2018 season, depending on the investigation and whether penalties are applied to either team.

How Common is Sign Stealing in the MLB?

One veteran player, speaking under condition of anonymity, told Sports Illustrated that sign stealing “Goes on all the time.” He said that “It’s the reason you see all the meetings on the mound – to change signs. You’ve got guys signaling from second base. You see it all the time because everybody is doing it.”The same veteran thinks that sign stealing could be prevented by delaying the game video feed that is sent to the dugouts. He told Sports Illustrated that “They really should have the monitor on delay. But baseball doesn’t want to do that. Why? Pace of play. They want replay decided as quickly as possible. That means they don’t want even the extra three or four seconds it would take if you had it on delay.”A delayed feed would definitely prevent sign stealing occurring from the video feed, but it wouldn’t stop teams from using other technologies, as is evident with the Red Sox recent use of Apple smart watches to communicate stolen signs to players.

Does it Even Matter?

At the end of the day, every baseball fan and bettor knows that sign stealing happens all the time in baseball. It’s ludicrously hard to police, and there is so much footage available today that it would be outright ridiculous to think that teams don’t do it. However, there’s a difference between sign stealing and blatantly using illegal technology to do so. If anything does come from this, it’s going to be a slap on the wrist for Boston, and that’s about as far as it should go. If anything, this whole drama makes things more exciting for fans and bettors because it adds heat to the already intense rivalry that exists between these two teams.

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