At the heart of the baseball signal theft scandal is the sport's long struggle with technology and its inconsistent drawing of a line between the spirit of the game and cheating.
The baseball myth is steeped in cunning theft and cunning deception. So is your vocabulary: Nice guys end last. The bases are "stolen". The balls (and some players) are "squeezed". The main purpose of the pitch is to elude the batsmen with speed or cunning deception. In 1974, Gaylord Perry confessed, in an autobiography of the average career, to throw a spitting ball and was even voted in the Vaseline wing of the Hall of Fame.
Artistic tricks make baseball enjoyable, help keep it relevant. It is, in essence, a game of futility without limits. Even the biggest hitters fail to hit the baton seven times out of 10, a reminder that we are all extremely imperfect and we must rely on cunning and cunning to succeed.
Well, to some extent.
It's all right. for base runners to steal signals from a catcher, but not for someone to use a television or a computer to decipher the sequence of those finger-waving signals. So, smartness is considered an unfair advantage and, as we have seen in the last few days, a fireable offense.
Baseball executives were at the forefront of the analytical movement in sport. Today, true baseball fans must have esoteric hitting skills, such as pitch angle and exit speed. But the game lagged behind other professional sports in incorporating technology. He preserves old-fashioned traditions, like dressing managers in uniform, and has only recently incorporated repeat video reviews and experimented with a time clock to make sure games don't last forever.
This tension between high technology and low is evident in the signal theft controversy. While Houston used video equipment to decode opposing collector's plates en route to victory in the 2017 World Series, information was often transmitted to Astros attackers by teammates hitting a trash can.
"Of all sports, baseball came out part of the technology, but I would say they are the most reticent," he said. Don Heider, executive director of the Markkula Applied Ethics Center at the University of Santa Clara.
The subterfuge of signal theft, of course, has been part of baseball for centuries. The New York Giants used a telescope and doorbell system in 1951, when Bobby Thomson hit perhaps the game's most famous home run.
Today, Houston is accused of using video equipment instead of a telescope. Technological advancements. Gaps are found. Players continue to seek a competitive advantage in a game that historically tolerates, even tacitly encourages, cheating.
But distinctions must be made, Heider said. Digital signal theft allows a collector's signals to be recorded and analyzed in a way unavailable to a runner on second base, he said.
"To me, it looks like a pretty clear case of a team trying to get an unfair advantage using technology," he said.
However, Heider noted, there are cameras everywhere in a stadium, technology available that everyone knows about and the game lords should make some allowance for it.
For Shawn E. Klein, a philosophy professor who teaches sports ethics at Arizona State University, the rules against the theft of electronic signs "look pretty stupid."
The assumption that a video monitor offers a dramatically significant advantage over a human camera – the eye – in stealing signals, he added, "seems a little absurd."
Or at least not fully quantified.
As Michael Powell noted in 2017, Houston hit 0.277 at home, with 115 home runs and an average of 0.472. On the road, where elaborate plaque theft should theoretically have been more difficult, Astros hit 0.284 with 123 home runs and an average of 0.483.
Finally, these attempts to stop electronic monitoring of activities that take place in the open – such as the receiver's signal for the next pitch – are expensive, designed to leave policing behind with the latest technology and "doomed to failure," he said. Klein.
"It makes no sense to say that you cannot see what everyone else can see," he said.
Some called for a broader embrace of technology, not a strident punishment, to prevent signal theft.
Matt Vautour, a columnist for Massachusetts-based MassLive.com news site, offered a few proposals: headsets for pitches called hiding places or a console the size of a credit card wearing gloves and glove buttons with buttons and lights to indicate the desired tone.
"The technology needed is not much more advanced than those vibrant things that the hostess offers when there is a wait for tables in a restaurant," wrote Vautour. "If the Texas Roadhouse can handle technology, so can Texas Rangers."
Klein, the ethics expert, noted the potential for financial gain, as companies like Apple, Fitbit and Samsung could become the official wearable technology brand and Major League Baseball's signal theft preventer with smart watches and other devices. tracking.
Emerging technology will inevitably bring new ethical challenges. The last advance of the glasses may allow a batter to see the ball more clearly or a runner to steal signals more easily, he said. Jay Coakley, sports sociologist and executive director of the Center for Critical Sports Studies at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.
"Would that be cheating?" He asked.
Suppose electronic signal theft is legalized and a camera in the center of the field allows all attackers – and potentially all viewers – to know exactly what is happening in each field.
"Then it would be fair," said Coakley.
And perhaps more exciting for young fans that baseball desperately needs.
If you wanted to trick the batsmen who knew what was coming, you would have a choice: play a better curved ball.