MLB thinks it has the solution to prevent future sign-stealing scandals. Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to go old-school and mulls banning in-game video usage, a practice that has been widely seen for since essentially the birth of baseball broadcasting.
Players have become used to being able to review their at-bats while the game is still in play, but Manfred feels that the broadcast feeds are being manipulated in order to allow players to figure out what signs are being called and what pitches are being thrown. As usual, the change is producing divided camps, and there is no clear consensus on whether or not the change will ultimately find its way to the field.
Support For MLB Banning Video?
The league, if the rules find enough support, would prevent game broadcasts in the clubhouse, restrict access to the replay room to only players and coaches and prohibit non-uniformed personnel from being in the clubhouse. Whether or not there is any science to back up the bans as a way to curb cheating is not entirely clear.
In the NFL, players on the sidelines are often seen holding tablets or reviewing stills during the game as they review their performance. In the NBA, though, in-game reviews of live, or near-live, footage is almost unheard of. Many MLB players have grown accustomed to the access to broadcast video, but arguments can be made for both cases – to continue to allow the use and to prevent it entirely.
The baseball community seems to be mixed on the decision, as well. Trevor Bauer of the Cincinnati Reds told The Athletic, “I think it would be a huge hit to players in their abilities on the field if all video is taken away. I know I personally use it a lot. I know a lot of hitters that use it. I know a lot of pitchers that use it, for completely reasonable and fair and by-the-rules things. It would be tough to see that taken away.”
Danny Duffy, pitcher for the KC Royals, sees things differently. He would ban active players from leaving the dugout until after the game and adds, “I mean, how often do you see basketball players go up in their locker room during games? We don’t need to. We don’t have to. As long as there’s a bathroom there, we’re good.”
The debate goes beyond just the simple “it’s the way the game is played” argument. Bauer alluded to the fact that he uses it correctly to improve his game, but J.D. Martinez of the Boston Red Sox believes he most likely wouldn’t be playing in the majors if it weren’t for the practice. He has become an All-Star after a very slow start, and he says it’s all because he can review his at-bats during the game.
Martinez adds that the move is nothing more than a publicity stunt by the league and calls it a “joke.” He adds, “I’m sure there are some people who are anti-[in-game video]. Those are natural hitters. I’m not a natural hitter. I had to teach myself how to hit. That makes me rely on it and there are similar players out there who feel the same way. Guys that rely on breaking their swing down and seeing what they’re doing wrong. Because it’s hard enough already.”
Some players don’t care either way – they, like many fans, just want the game to be played faster. This is probably where MLB needs to be concentrating its efforts if it wants to keep things interesting, and Joey Votto of the Reds told The Athletic that the only thing he cares about is that the games move faster. However, his motivation isn’t exactly tied to better baseball. He asserts, “Most restaurants close around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. It’s hard to get a reservation and make it if you’re playing a three-and-a-half-hour game.”