MLB: Cut replay to cut sign-stealing? Not so fast!

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Molly Knight of ‘The Athletic’ recently called for MLB to cut instant replay if they want to help eliminate sign-stealing. Here’s why she’s dead wrong.

It had to happen, no matter that in your heart of hearts you hoped otherwise. But now the fallout from Astrogate and its sort-of sidebar Soxgate has delivered. There’s at least one on-the-record call to eliminate replay in MLB or at least restrict it severely the better (so it’s hoped) to stop high-tech, off-field sign-stealing before the cheaters might be able to think about it, most of the time.

It’s not unsafe to think there’ll be more where that came from.

We aren’t that far removed from the days when the purists and the get-off-my-lawn crowd thought replay was going to be the end of the world as we knew it and they weren’t feeling fine. But those of us who welcomed replay and argued that the “beautiful human element” (Joe Torre‘s phrasing, actually) was well and good but so was getting it right, especially when it came to playing for championships, now have to rethink.

Because the human element just couldn’t resist finding a way to employ or pervert otherwise beneficial technology to baseball’s oldest profession. The Astros figured out how to end-run the mandatory eight-second feed delay to set up their Astro Intelligence Agency for sign-stealing; the Red Sox simply used their lawful replay room and some clever eye and footwork without compromising the technology. Boys will be boys and, if you give them new toys, they always find the sneaky ways to play.

The Athletic‘s Molly Knight says nuts to all that. Want to prevent future Astrogates, Soxgates, or pick-your-team-gates? Just abolish the technology, she says. Sort of.

Baseball says it wants to speed up games. You want to shave off 10 minutes a game? Get rid of center-field cameras, and pitchers will no longer have to ask catchers to run through the signs over and over, because now the sequencing has to be so elaborate that rocket scientists can’t decode it with algorithms.

You want to cut even more time from the average game length, and eliminate the need to station mostly useless hall monitors in video rooms during thousands of baseball games a year? Get rid of instant replay altogether.

Well, not quite altogether, she hastens to suggest:

Look, I am all for getting important calls right. So why not just save instant replay for the playoffs, and deploy an army of well-trained MLB employees into video rooms, dugouts and center-field camera wells to stop this from happening ever again?

The surest way for MLB to put an end to the cheating and soothe the league-wide paranoia is to get real and remove the technology that caused it all in the first place.

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