Monday, December 15, 2008

Gamesmanship versus cheating

Apparently, when it happened in a historically meaningful game more than 50 years ago, it's both charming and nostalgic. When it happens in the last decade and a half, it's subpoena-worthy:

Sign-stealing by mechanical means was outlawed by baseball in 1961. As for that episode a decade earlier, “I didn’t feel guilty about anything,” [Sal] Yvars told Prager. “I was just doing my job.”
The link above is the obituary for Sal Yvars, a back-up catcher on the NY Giants team that won the pennant when Bobby Thompson hit his "shot heard 'round the world" against Ralph Branca.
When Branca delivered his fateful pitch, a high inside fastball, did Thomson know what was coming? “I gave him the sign,” Yvars told The New York Times in 2001. But Thomson told Prager that he had been concentrating so heavily that he had not looked toward Yvars.
Bottom line, cheating is cheating. Unless it's on grainy black and while film and we wax philosophical about that time and the good old days. Because it wasn't yet illegal by definition (though clearly in against the spirit of the rules), it's gamesmanship. Just not for PED's.

(Thanks to Ron Rollins for the tip)


Mark said...

Except I don't believe stealing the other team's signs if cheating. Sure, there are matters of degree -- and setting up a spotting scope in CF with a phone line to your dugout might be pushing things -- but sometimes you just get it.

Say the other team is really dumb, and relays their signals by calling across the diamond in Bulgarian, and you just happen to speak Bulgarian. Are you stealing their signs? No, you are not.

Same thing with signs consisting of finger waggling/chest slapping/cap brim tugging/semaphore. If someone else can break your code, then maybe your code isn't very good. Stop whining and come up with something better. And if Moises Alou is peeking back between the catcher's legs while he's at bat, toss one at his head.

Though I have to say -- you get some chutzpah points for setting up a spotting scope in CF.

Jason @ IIATMS said...

there's sign-stealing and then there is an elaborate system designed to steal, decode and transfer the signs to the ballplayer.

That's like comparing Advil to Winstrol, no?

Jason @ IIATMS said...

PS: Mark, what do you at/in Harvard?

Mark said...

Yeah, but even an elaborate system designed to steal signs and transfer said signs to the batter doesn't bother me all that much. In baseball, there are greater ills to annoy me.

I'm not at Harvard. I work at the umbrella company that runs MGH and BWH hospitals, which is affiliated with Harvard Med School, and I think Harvard owns the lines our domain lives on, or some such. And thus why my IP probably comes through as harvard dot something or other.