STEALING SIGNS? SO WHAT. IT'S BASEBALL.
Sports stories in both of Seattle's big newspapers discuss yesterday's Mariner loss to the Toronto Blue Jays wherein some sign stealing apparently hurt Mariner pitcher Ryan Franklin. The articles raise the issue of whether it is cheating for a baserunner to decipher the signals being made between a pitcher and a catcher--and then relaying those deciphered signals to one's own batter. To me, its not cheating. It's simply part of the game.
Of course, it is not a good thing to be relaying stolen signs to a batter in an obvious manner. The trick is to relay the intercepted signs in a subtle manner that goes unnoticed by the other team.
But that's not the end of it. John Hicky's Seattle P-I article
summarizes steps that can be taken by a team when they suspect their signals are being stolen:
One is to keep men from getting to second base too often. Two is, frankly, for a pitcher to hit the batter or threaten to, and let him know the reason why. The third, and easiest, is to change signs. Repeatedly.
It's not terribly uncommon to find little league or senior little league kids yelling out another team's signals. Obviuosly, those are embarrassing, bush league antics. If a team has a coach who is anything other than a cad, he will tell the kids on his team to knock it off. (Another annoying little leaguer antic is for a baserunner to clap loudly while on base loud to distract the pitcher.)
As with evident sign stealing, any of the foregoing would result in a good beaning by the pitcher were it to take place at higher levels of the game.
In the end, the team whose signs are stolen have to take responsibilty for making their signals too easy to intercept. Pat Borders acknowledges as much in Bob Finnigan's Seattle Times story
"That sort of thing happens," Borders said of stealing signs. "If I can't figure out a way to prevent it, I'm not doing my job. For one thing, I set up just as late as I can so the other team has as short a time as possible to get location."
Actually, you have more options to evade signal stealing at lower levels. I was catching in a senior little league game once where the other team was stealing signals and bragging about it. Since beanballs are never called for at that low of a level, we had to make due. The pitcher on my team was a GIGANTIC 300+ lb. man-child, but he was primarily a junkballer. So I went out to the mound and told him to throw whatever he wanted whenever he wanted--and that I would catch it. I went back behind home plate and made gibberish signals for the rest of the game and our pitcher threw whatever type of pitch delighted him most. It wasn't easy to catch, but we made it work. The other team simply thought our new signals were too hard to read and just gave up on it.(Downtown Seattle, WA)