What is Cheating?

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AllforOne

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Andrew Scheid said:
Hypothetical:

In an alternative universe, the Tribe are using technology to steal signs in the 2016 World Series.
Chapman throws his 3-2 (count) hanging slider to Santana, and instead of Los sitting on 100 mph, he knows the slider is coming and hits the first walk off G7 homer in the WS since 1960.

Years later it's revealed that he had advanced knowledge of what pitch was coming, and there is a groundswell of rancor towards the Indians organization.

Do your intial feelings of utter ecstacy morph into a memory that is tainted and even ambivalent? I honestly don't know.
That's a really fucking awesome discussion question.

I'm not sure of the answer this moment. But I will add a different thought: it's interesting how we draw these lines on the slippery slope -- lines between things that we accept as legitimate (and even as recommended) versus things that generate outrage.

For example, take the whole HGH/steroids/BALCO-type performance enhancement. I think most of us would initially agree that it's cheating and shouldn't be allowed. But why is that? Why should those be outlawed, whereas plenty of other types of performance enhancement -- lifting weights, flexibility training, specialized nutrition, allowed medications -- aren't? (And in fact, they're recommended, if not mandatory.)

Same thing with sign stealing. Being able to surreptitiously steal the other team's signs has been a part of baseball since about 30 seconds after signs were first used. Is it fundamentally any different when a team uses a coordinated, technology-driven effort to obtain that information?

None of that will stop me from believing that the Astros are a bunch of cheats who deserve ... well, maybe not an eternity in hell, but at least some time in an unusually warm, brimstone-filled environment. But I have a hard time with setting down an objective rationale for which behavior falls on which side of the line, other than the infamous Justice Stewart "I know it when I see it" line.
 

Obscured By Clouds

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Same thing with sign stealing. Being able to surreptitiously steal the other team's signs has been a part of baseball since about 30 seconds after signs were first used. Is it fundamentally any different when a team uses a coordinated, technology-driven effort to obtain that information?
I'll answer that question very simply: yes, yes it is.

Now, as to what punishment. Right now it looks like only FO and managers/coaches are being handed punishments, as well as teams via draft picks being taken away. Players themselves are being left out of any punishment. The commissioner did warn teams a few years ago, even citing the removal of draft picks as possible punishment. I think, much like PEDS, the punishment will evolve, becoming more strict and most likely adding players as ones that can and will suffer punishment. I also think this scandal will hit the breaks on this happening again, or at least any time soon.
 

AllforOne

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I'll answer that question very simply: yes, yes it is.
That's just it, though. It's not that simple ... and if you think it is, then it may be an indication that you have more layers of the onion to peel back.

How do you distinguish a runner at second base relaying signs to the batter, from the Astros' use of high tech (including that cutting-edge innovation of banging on trash cans)? What's your principle for saying one is OK and the other isn't?
 

AllforOne

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Side story: Years ago, a buddy of mine was working in the SF Bay area. His office was in a not-terrific area of town and had a commanding view of the parking lot. He never could figure out why the lot routinely had outrageously expensive cars parked in it. Turns out, the next building over was where BALCO was located, and as we know, pro athletes usually aren't driving Corollas ...
 

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That's just it, though. It's not that simple ... and if you think it is, then it may be an indication that you have more layers of the onion to peel back.

How do you distinguish a runner at second base relaying signs to the batter, from the Astros' use of high tech (including that cutting-edge innovation of banging on trash cans)? What's your principle for saying one is OK and the other isn't?
Stealing signs "naturally" has always been a part of the game. I think you can chalk that up as the opposing team being sloppy/lazy with their signs.

The line, in my opinion, is crossed in any scenario where technology is used.
 

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That's just it, though. It's not that simple ... and if you think it is, then it may be an indication that you have more layers of the onion to peel back.

How do you distinguish a runner at second base relaying signs to the batter, from the Astros' use of high tech (including that cutting-edge innovation of banging on trash cans)? What's your principle for saying one is OK and the other isn't?
No for me it is that really simple. When you use electronic devices, you've crossed the line.

Black Jack just accused the Sox and LaRussa of using them in the 80's

 

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That's just it, though. It's not that simple ... and if you think it is, then it may be an indication that you have more layers of the onion to peel back.

How do you distinguish a runner at second base relaying signs to the batter, from the Astros' use of high tech (including that cutting-edge innovation of banging on trash cans)? What's your principle for saying one is OK and the other isn't?
How did the runner on second base steal the sign?
 

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When the Indians went after Albert Belle's corked bat I was pissed. Really pissed.

Taking steroids? Quite pissed as well, but just because you have muscle doesn't mean you have the rest of what it takes. Watching Barry and Mark and Sammy was surreal. Doesn't make it right, but it felt like a sign of the times. Guys were getting bigger, all over. If that's what you want to do with your life to make millions of dollars. I can understand that. Just let it be known and make it legal all around.

With the Astros, and which ever team participated in this...
Knowing which pitch is coming? That's beyond any sort of competitive advantage. You could almost make the case that with the drums and the whistles the players weren't really 'in on it'. Then if/when the devices which were strapped to the bodies of these players, which would let them know when a certain pitch was coming.... That's beyond an advantage. That's batting practice. Why not just ask the pitcher to softball it to you? You're a worthless piece of scum as a baseball player and you're taking away from real professionals who should be in the sport. Their contracts need to be ripped up. They are boys playing in a league meant for men. If they want to play in MLB it should only be for the minimum before they can prove themselves to be competitive at the game of baseball.
 

Bob_The_Cat

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That's just it, though. It's not that simple ... and if you think it is, then it may be an indication that you have more layers of the onion to peel back.

How do you distinguish a runner at second base relaying signs to the batter, from the Astros' use of high tech (including that cutting-edge innovation of banging on trash cans)? What's your principle for saying one is OK and the other isn't?
I kind of think of it like this:

You know the take-a-penny, leave-a-penny trays at gas stations? That's like a runner on second stealing a sign and relaying it to a batter. It's there for everyone, every team does it, and it's an understood part of the game.

Using technology to steal signs would be like breaking in the gas station at night and tapping their credit card processing system in order to scrape pennies off of every transaction.

They're vastly different things.

Or...the comparison to steroids / hgh. Let's say you have the impossible hypothetical of two guys who are the same height, same weight, same skill level, and doing the exact same training and workout program, but one is using performance enhancing drugs. Who has a massive advantage?
 

AllforOne

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No for me it is that really simple. When you use electronic devices, you've crossed the line.

Black Jack just accused the Sox and LaRussa of using them in the 80's

So if a team uses video to scout their opponents, and happens to pick up their signs from their video study, that's out too, right? No electronic devices, yeah?

For that matter, is all video scouting cheating? If the Indians study video of an opposing pitcher and find that he scratches his ass every time before he throws a curve ball, and all their batters then know to look for the hook if they see that tell, is that cheating? I suspect you'd say no (and I'd agree) ... but then how can you so confidently say that what the Astros did was on the other side of that line?

At the end of the day, all scouting is about one thing: information. If the Astros are better than anybody else at collecting and using that information, why is it wrong?
 

AllforOne

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I kind of think of it like this:

You know the take-a-penny, leave-a-penny trays at gas stations? That's like a runner on second stealing a sign and relaying it to a batter. It's there for everyone, every team does it, and it's an understood part of the game.

Using technology to steal signs would be like breaking in the gas station at night and tapping their credit card processing system in order to scrape pennies off of every transaction.

They're vastly different things.

Or...the comparison to steroids / hgh. Let's say you have the impossible hypothetical of two guys who are the same height, same weight, same skill level, and doing the exact same training and workout program, but one is using performance enhancing drugs. Who has a massive advantage?
Shit, when you started that story with the penny tray, I thought you were gonna go full Office Space on me. I was all ready to get Michael Bolton and Samir and lay waste to that printer. Only thing is, I always mess up some mundane detail.

Anyway - why should some competitive behaviors be swept under the rug of "they're an understood part of the game," but others aren't?

As for your last hypothetical: what if the performance-enhancing substance doesn't have the label of a "drug," but is instead a "supplement" (you know, in that gray area where the FDA fears to tread)? Or food? I think we'd agree that Guy #1 isn't doing anything illegal if he eats a healthy diet while Guy #2 knocks back boxes of Oreos ... but doesn't that fall under the same canopy of "putting something in your body to enhance performance"?

Or to pick a different example: in endurance sports, it's well known that you can improve performance by training at altitude. Actually, much of the benefit comes just from living at altitude. But since not everybody has the opportunity to live in the Andes, it has created a small cottage industry of hypoxic tents (tents that reduce the available oxygen in the air; you can sleep every night in one of those tents, and your body will respond with the adaptations of living at altitude, such as increasing the number of red blood cells). Should that be considered cheating?

The responses in this thread are making my point for me. Many/most fans confidently say "X is cheating" or "Y isn't cheating" ... but they really can't express a neutral principle that divides the Xs from the Ys. It's just "I know it when I see it." I'm not saying that's bad or wrong or whatever. Shit, I'm glad to see the Astros get nailed to the wall. But I suspect as much of that is because I hate the Astros, than it is some neutral principle of sport that I can clearly express.
 

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The line seems, to me, when a specific rule is in place and there is ample evidence that specific rule is being broken. There is no rule against training in high altitude or using hypoxic tents. There is a rule against stealing signs, especially when they have a clearly unfair advantage using specialized equipment to break the clear rule. That becomes an issue with providing an equal playing field for all participants.

What if we learn that the Patriots developed a device to intercept radio communication between coaches and the quarterback. I'm not blaming the coaches who followed the rules. I'm not blaming the NFL for developing radio communication everyone is allowed to use. I'm blaming the Patriots for seeking out and executing an elaborate scheme to gain an unfair advantage that goes against an expressed rule on the books.
 

Derek

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So if a team uses video to scout their opponents, and happens to pick up their signs from their video study, that's out too, right? No electronic devices, yeah?

For that matter, is all video scouting cheating? If the Indians study video of an opposing pitcher and find that he scratches his ass every time before he throws a curve ball, and all their batters then know to look for the hook if they see that tell, is that cheating? I suspect you'd say no (and I'd agree) ... but then how can you so confidently say that what the Astros did was on the other side of that line?

At the end of the day, all scouting is about one thing: information. If the Astros are better than anybody else at collecting and using that information, why is it wrong?
We're not talking about scouting here. They were using the cameras in real-time.

When a guy is on second base, the team pitching switches things up and starts using indicators to disguise their signs. However, without a guy on second, the Astros still had eyes out there. That's the issue.

It would be more similar to having a camera or recording device in the opposing team's huddle than the scouting parallel you're attempting to draw.
 

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So if a team uses video to scout their opponents, and happens to pick up their signs from their video study, that's out too, right? No electronic devices, yeah?

For that matter, is all video scouting cheating? If the Indians study video of an opposing pitcher and find that he scratches his ass every time before he throws a curve ball, and all their batters then know to look for the hook if they see that tell, is that cheating? I suspect you'd say no (and I'd agree) ... but then how can you so confidently say that what the Astros did was on the other side of that line?

At the end of the day, all scouting is about one thing: information. If the Astros are better than anybody else at collecting and using that information, why is it wrong?
I have no idea what you are talking about. What I am talking about is simple: using electronic devices the way the Astros did; to in real time relay what pitch is coming to their hitter. That is crossing the line.
 

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