Finally, someone found a great use for the Apple Watch.
The Boston Red Sox apparently used Apple Watches to help cheat in a recent game against the New York Yankees, The New York Times alleges in a report today.
The Yankees filed a report with Major League Baseball two weeks ago, with video showing how the Red Sox’s staff were stealing signs from Yankees pitchers to relay them to Red Sox batters. In baseball, the pitcher and catcher essentially communicate with each other during a game using a combination of hand gestures to figure out what pitch to throw at any given moment—if the batter knows what the pitcher is about to throw, he’s far more likely to be able to hit it than if he was blindly guessing.
The report wasn’t completely specific about who on the Red Sox was using an Apple Watch—which would be far easier to hide than, say, a smartphone—but it seems that it was being used to send signals from someone watching the game, to the dugout, and eventually to the player at bat:
The Yankees, who had long been suspicious of the Red Sox stealing catchers’ signs in Fenway Park, contended the video showed a member of the Red Sox training staff looking at his Apple Watch in the dugout and then relaying a message to players, who may have then been able to use the information to know the type of pitch that was going to be thrown when they were hitting, according to the people familiar with the case.
At issue here is the use of the Apple Watch. Since 1961, stealing signs by using a “mechanical device” has been banned in MLB, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). Sign stealing on its own isn’t strictly illegal, according to the MLB, and as veteran slugger and former Philadelphia Phillie Matt Stairs once said: “It’s not cheating, it’s just trying.”
Both the Yankees and the Red Sox were not immediately available to comment on the report, nor was it clear what penalties the Sox might face if they are found guilty. As The Times notes, when the Phillies were accused of stealing pitches (and were still a team that had any impact on the course of a baseball season) in 2011, no judgments were ever handed down on them.
Perhaps the Red Sox were just following in the footsteps of their title-winning neighbors, the New England Patriots, who were caught taping the signals of an opposing team—also from New York—in 2007.