How did Aaron Judge’s sign-stealing dialogue miss the fact that no one did anything illegal?

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Aaron Judge was the first person – well, the first person affiliated with a Major League Baseball team – to use the word “cheating” to refer to the term ‘cheating' seen around .

Blue Jays broadcasters Dan Schulman and Buck Martinez did not accuse him of cheating on Monday. He explicitly discussed the possibility that he was prying at the catcher's setup behind him, a practice that is equally considered against an unwritten rule, and considered implausible depending on the angle. He referred to the idea of ​​allegations about Some And of course there is a level of intention inherent in the judge's gaze. But the leap to something illegal once his comments – and skillful camerawork – entered the public discourse.

Blue Jays manager John Schneider called it “odd” and doubled down on Judge's interpretation. somewhere “for a reason.”

Meanwhile, Judge was in the dugout checking on his teammates to see who was tweeting at the plate umpire after manager Aaron Boone ejected. That might have been the least truthful thing anyone said about the situation.

The next day, possibly after viewing the broadcast clip and coming across a less-than-flattering interpretation, the judges were dismayed. “Especially to bring out the things that have happened in this game with cheating and stuff, I'm not happy about it,” he told reporters.

OK, now he has a point, especially with “everything that's happened in this game”.

“Whatever happened last night was not against the rules,” Boone said. And since we're analyzing the implications, he didn't say nothing happened – just that the goings on were legal. This was supported by reports that MLB would not conduct an investigation.

Then, during Tuesday's game, both teams in the rowing rivalry took up the issue of where the opposition's base coaches stood. As you know from looking at a baseball field, there are three-sided rectangles painted on the grass along each line. As you've undoubtedly noticed, the base coaches stand anywhere but in those boxes with impunity.

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On Wednesday, Blue Jays reliever Jay Jackson, the pitcher who was about to begin his windup when Judge looked away from the mound, The Athletic spoke to Ken Rosenthal About how he was swinging his pitches—both with his speed and leaving the Yankees' first-base coach a visible grip on the back of his glove. The judges, then, looked for their coach's indication of what was coming, an interpretation corroborated by Blue Jay sources and consistent with what had been observed.

Importantly, as Rosenthal explained, decrypting and relaying pitch information to an on-field coach or baserunner batter is clearly legal,

Therefore. Let's assume what it was: From a spot on the field that was not strictly within the boundaries of the base-coach box, but perhaps not wildly out of line from where the base coaches actually stood, Yankees first-base coach Travis Chapman could see Jackson grip the ball and guess which pitch was coming. They devised some kind of signal to transmit that information to the judge, who had a split-second between the grip being fixed and when the ball was released to secretly watch, interpret the signal and act accordingly. make plan.

In this scenario, the batting team will want to retain this legal edge for as long as possible and therefore must deploy it stealthily. It is an important but subtle part of what is happening on the field. Professional baseball observers, with the aid of super slo-mo cameras, notice something unusual—a glow or a footprint in a pond or a ripple that represents action elsewhere, the tip of a plan they suspect is in play. How is it playing.

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In presenting what they know, the broadcasters have launched a barrage of allegations and counter-allegations about what they are alleging. Articles about what happened on the broadcast says that means Aaron was cheating the judge, The judge's guards provide exculpatory evidence to absolve him of crimes not specifically raised; For example, the Blue Jays' use of the pitchcom would have made it impossible to the signs posted by the catcher. In an attempt to defend himself against charges that were never formally made, the judge offers an outright lie.

This is all very dumb.

I'm not naïve enough to discount all doubts and worst-case scenarios. Whether or not it helped win the World Series years later, when the Houston Astros' elaborate, electronic and illegal sign-stealing scheme was revealed, it was a bombshell for baseball, shrapnel hitting high-profile teams that May or may not have been very smooth for things that may or may not have gone bad. (But, as far as we know, were not.) The Yankees are the highest-profile team in sports. The Yankees captain, the highest of the highest, coming off the back of an AL MVP season, a historic home run chase and a $360 million contract.

But the intense focus on pitch-information-retrieval inspired by the Astros scandal shouldn't be a reason to erase all the nuance within the issue. How have we, as a baseball-watching population, gotten away with years of detailed reporting about sign stealing, only to be able to perceive it as something binary and a bad thing?

The judge was right to believe that fans would paint with a broad brush stigmatizing anyone involved in a single sentence as “sign stealing”, but he did no favors to the conversation, which Crumpled under the obvious next step of talking. someone else is involved. And it's not like the Blue Jays were pacified by his explanation anyway.

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It could have been a fascinating, real-time opportunity to broaden our understanding of the different games within the game, deepen our appreciation of every incremental advantage teams have, marvel at the intricacies and intensity of each at-bat. Vibrating competition in every corner of the playing field. It's all part of baseball, a sport that is increasingly about strategy as much as it is about athleticism.

I really don't understand how the discourse goes down the rabbit hole regardless of whether whatever happened was actually against the rules. I think it stems from the maddening tendency these days to view any conversation as a battleground and everything as being on one side or as an attack. Surprised that what the judges were seeing is not the same which means they were doing something wrong (even if it comes from the opposing broadcast).

Ultimately, this kerfuffle will end up as fodder for a rivalry with actual baseball stakes, which is fine. It adds a little extra intrigue to an already pressure-filled American League East. The judge must begin rolling his eyes in the middle of each at-bat; Inducing paranoia is also a type of strategy.

But we can allow intrigue to be born out of interest and insight, not resentment.