Sports Media Slam Red Sox for High-Tech Cheating – Vanity Fair
Steve Jobs didn’t live to see the introduction of the Apple Watch. Not only did he thus miss its fitness tracking but also one presumably unintended use: cheating by professional sports teams. Or at least one.
With a conspicuous exception, Major League Baseball’s online site was all over the baseball news early last evening: “Goldy’s MRI clean; expected back Wednesday”…”Harper plays catch for first time since injury”…”Verlander makes debut with Astros on MLB.TV”…”30 Clemente Award nominees revealed.”
And, of course, this breaking story: “Back to school: In college? MLB.TV is free.” Given the rising price tag of higher education, parents will be thrilled with the pro bono prospect.
But, ah, wait. Hours after it broke, the site had missed a story: The New York Times disclosure that “Boston Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Steal Signs Against Yankees.” Yes, it does cover many matters unrelated to Donald Trump.
So this was either A) a big story B) a medium-sized story C) a “Ok, so what?” story or D) a blow to the egos of Seiko, Omega, Swatch, Bulova or TAG Heuer since the Red Sox didn’t use them to cheat?
The Boston Globe was more forthright more quickly than MLB.com as its site led with “Red Sox are accused of stealing signals via Apple Watch and video.” And columnist Dan Shaughnessy discussed the city taking another big hit on sports ethics after the New England Patriot’s so-called Deflategate (with Bleacher Report running a tweet, “Just a matter of time before the #Patriots order a case of Apple watches”).
ESPN underscored, ” Major League Baseball does not have a policy against sign stealing, per se…The issue is the use of an electronic device in the dugout, which is against league rules.”
And it still begs a question even for a New York native and Yankees diehard with a genetic predisposition to hate the Red Sox: how does this cheating work exactly?
It wasn’t totally clear in the story by the Times‘s Michael Schmidt, who was taking a brief hiatus from more than two years of great Donald Trump– and Hillary Clinton-related reporting. It was Schmidt who broke the March 2, 2015 story on Clinton’s private email server, arguably the single most influential story of the presidential campaign.
So a Boston trainer looked at his Apple Watch and relayed what an opposing catcher was signaling his pitcher to throw. He then signaled a nearby player who apparently relayed that information to a base runner at second base, who relayed it to the hitter. Or maybe whistled or shouted something toward the batter himself.
Whew. That’s a lot of communications to get to the batter in the time between a catcher putting down a few fingers and the pitcher then throwing the ball. But, wrote Sports Illustrated baseball maven Tom Verducci, it’s a function of history and the greater use of video replays.
“The dark art of stealing signs is a baseball tradition that goes back to when the Phillies’ third base coach stood on an underground box that would buzz depending on what pitch was coming—in 1899! “
Verducci maintains that cheating is widespread ever since the sport adopted instant replay in 2009. With the intent of speeding up an often-tortuous speed of play, MLB allowed live feeds in every team’s video replay monitor, some positioned right behind the dugout.
So a team can see the opposing catcher’s signals and try to relay them quickly to its dugout and the hitter. But does that really help when a pitcher is about to throw a 100 mph fastball at knee height?
Yes, in one of the games in which the Yankees suspected cheating, the Sox batters got hits five of eight times with a runner at second base. But, as Schmidt also notes, “Their success when they had a runner on second in the other two games was mixed: 1 for 6 in the second contest and 3 for 10 in the third.”
Wrote The New York Daily News: “First, SpyGate. Now, iGate. The Boston Cheat Party is back at it again.”
I called Mike Barnicle, the longtime Boston columnist, Red Sox diehard and MSNBC commentator to put this ethics brouhaha into proper Big Picture context. It’s the indispensable role of great journalism.
“Instead of using the Apple Watch to cheat, the Red Sox should use it to ask Siri why the club can’t hit.”
The Right on DACA
Breitbart: ” By now it is crystal clear: the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was simply a way for President Obama to force his successor to make an unpopular decision.”
Weekly Standard: ” For a town accustomed to punting major policy issues, the Trump administration’s boot of DACA to Congress could nab it a Pro Bowl nod.”
National Review: ” Attempting to pass a stand-alone DREAM Act is a massive political trap for Republicans. If the bill succeeds, it could cause a backlash from the Republican grassroots, who would perceive Republicans in Congress as putting a greater priority on amnestying illegal immigrants than on increasing enforcement or reforming legal immigration so that it is more sustainable.”
David Frum in The Atlantic: “But Trump, himself a notorious employer of cheap foreign labor on his building sites and at his Mar-a-Lago resort, has never been interested in immigration as an issue, only as a means to mobilize political emotion. And so he now seems to have fastened on the concept of trading some update of the Dream Act to secure Democratic votes for the Trump Wall.”
Laurene Jobs takes out ads
“Laurene Powell Jobs’ philanthropic arm is purchasing its first-ever political ads on television, according to advertising placement records seen by Recode.
Emerson Collective, Powell Jobs’s vehicle for activism and investments, will begin a flight of spots on Wednesday that attack President Donald Trump. A large Democratic donor, Powell Jobs is lambasting the Trump administration for rescinding the DACA program that protected young immigrants who arrived in the United States without proper papers.” (Recode)
And get this: the ads will use Ronald Reagan’s farewell address and its praise of diversity.
Tweet of the night
From Juliet Macur of The New York Times: My 5y.o. daughter cried when I put her to bed and she couldn’t watch the end of the Venus Williams–Petra Kvitova match. Sportswriter’s kid.” (@JulietMacur)
“Frontline’s” new podcast
The Frontline Dispatch will be unveiled Sept. 14 “with an exploration into child marriage in America. New episodes on second chances for juvenile lifers, a community divided over oil drilling and earthquakes, and more will be released biweekly on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, RadioPublic and other podcast apps, and at pbs.org/frontlinedispatch. Jay Allison, the creator of The Moth Radio Hour, is senior editor and creative director. “
The podcast universe is crazy competitive, with precious few turning a buck. But the quantities of high quality work (and crap) are huge. The new effort’s site went live yesterday, so here’s a bit more about the effort, which given its lineage should be worth a listen.
When “the picture” isn’t everything
Pete Souza, who served as White House photographer in the Obama and Reagan years, was asked during a Reddit chat if he’d ever decided consciously not to take a shot because of the story it told. He recalled being overseas for the Chicago Tribune.
“I was in Afghanistan a month after 9/11 and found myself close to the frontline fighting between the Northern Alliance and Taliban. At one point, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded very close to me. And then another one a little further away but on the opposite side. So I was in the middle, wondering if the next one would split the difference. Sad to say, I have no pictures of this because I was too frightened for my life. I realized then and there that I wasn’t cut out to be a war photographer.”
What journalists get wrong about Uber
From Hong Kong-based tech analyst Stratechery: “The fundamental mistake made in so much Uber analysis comes from believing that drivers are the key to the model.”
“For example, there was a very popular piece of analysis some months ago premised on evaluating the cost of driving for Uber relative to driving for a traditional cab company. It was a classic example of getting the facts right and missing the point.”
“In fact, what makes Uber so valuable — and still so attractive, despite all of the recent troubles — is its position with riders. The more riders Uber has, the more drivers it will attract, even if the economics are worse relative to other services: driving at a worse rate is better than not driving at a better one.”
Hurricane Irma was a brief diversion for Trump & Friends before homage to its hero over his DACA decision. Heeding laws. That was what the country was founded on, said sub co-host Abby Huntsman, etc., etc. And bashing the left-wing “race-based politics” of the evil mainstream media, while praising Rush Limbaugh for his support of the decision and running lots of tape of then-President Obama talking of the primacy of Congress (get it? He’s a hypocrite for chiding Trump)
CNN and it’s morning New Day were both still in business despite a New York Times critique of an elite network investigative unit’s stumbles (it’s more revealing, even if inadvertently, about poor managerial systems than wayward reporters). The New York Times Maggie Haberman underscored Trump’s uncertainty about the DACA decision and the ultimate mish-mash of a decision that, she agrees, merely “kicks the can down the road.” It is all, she says, “a big mess.”
MSNBC’s Morning Joe was in full-bash mode with talk of congressional Republicans “on the brink” in frustration with Trump and calling him, not Obama, the hypocrite. And Joe Scarborough didn’t just deride him for knowing zilch about policy and improbably suggested that weenies Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan grow a collective spine and head to the White House and tell Trump, “Mr. President, we’re taking over. We’re going to take over the legislative agenda and we’re going to try to pass all the things you say you want passed. Bu tit’s going to require you to say out of our way.”
Hmmm. Mark Halperin and Kasie Hunt interjected some needed realpolitik as far as the longshot possibility of McConnell and Ryan cutting deals with Democrats. They mentioned, too, the furor of of Trump’s base were the Republicans to wind up standing alongside Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer celebrating, say, a victory on DACA.
Mike Bloomberg himself weighs in
If you own the joint, you get to write op-eds. This morning comes this:
” An executive’s job is to make tough decisions and convince people to follow you. That’s what CEOs are hired to do — and it’s what we elect presidents to do. By punting the legal status of young immigrants to Congress without offering his own proposal, President Trump has failed an important test of executive leadership. But his failure is Congress’s opportunity.”
What media missed yesterday
“With the announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would begin winding down in the next six months, President Donald Trump reportedly fulfilled his long-standing campaign promise Tuesday of finally pushing major immigration decisions onto someone else so he can watch TV.”
Did Maggie Haberman break that? An elite CNN investigative unit? Frontline? Nah, it was The Onion.
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