Last year, one of the big deals that hit the newspapers was "Apple-gate," the scandal about how the Boston Red Sox used an Apple Watch to steal signs from the New York Yankees and gained an unfair advantage that is strictly forbidden by the rules of baseball. Rather than rehash the details, take the time to familiarize yourself with the story if you haven't already.
As an aside, let's highlight just a few additional points:
- The Red Sox were fined a large sum of money for their actions. They openly admitted it and cooperated with the investigation.
- Although the Red Sox filed a counter suit against the Yankees, the investigation into that matter yielded no evidence of any similar wrongdoing.
- However, during the investigation into the Yankees, evidence was discovered of the Yankees breaking another rule in a previous season, which led to a small fine.
- Following the regular season, a new photograph surfaced from the National League Wild Card game which showed a coach in the dugout for the Arizona Diamondbacks wearing an Apple Watch.
So what can we take from this?
First of all, let the record state that it is illegal in baseball to use technology to steal signs or gain any sort of advantage. The most that is allowed in baseball are stopwatches, which are used by coaches to gauge times for pitchers to deliver a pitch, catchers to throw to second base, etc. Major League Baseball has actually now started allowing iPads in dugouts (and similar devices) so long as they are issued solely by MLB; this allows players to watch video on pitchers (which they do anyway in preparation) while guaranteeing that the devices are locked and governed by MLB with no threat of additional cheating.
The issue with technology is that it cannot be used to gain an advantage during the moment. If teams or players want to head back to the clubhouse in between innings to examine their most recent at-bat and try to pick up a pattern on pitch sequence, for example, that's completely fine because it does not "tip the pitches" to the hitter so they know what is coming. They're using past experiences to make an estimation on what they think will happen in the future, which is a philosophical experience that can be traced back to how humans make certain understandings about things such as the law of gravity: "I cannot guarantee that the law of gravity will continue to exist, but judging based on my experiences in life, I can place a pretty good bet that it will continue to exist."
So what did the Yankees do to deserve this fine? Well, it was never fully released as to what their sin was, but if I had to guess, it was probably a violation of the mandate that was passed down regarding how teams are not allowed to use their replay technology (especially the phone system of calling back to the replay room) to ask about an umpire's strike zone and then argue with the umpire about it. That's the same as disagreeing with a call on the field, going back to the clubhouse to see a replay, then coming back to argue with the umpire and cite the fact that you saw the replay and the umpire was wrong: that's grounds for immediate ejection.
As to the Diamondbacks, at the time of this writing (which is shortly following the NLWC game), there has been nothing released about the investigation. But it seems pretty clear: if you're lucky enough to own an Apple Watch or a similar device, leave it in the clubhouse!
As an epilogue, the monies collected in the fines were all donated to hurricane relief funds. So there is a quantum of solace to the story!