October 20, 2018


Justin Verlander spoke to the media about the scandal of the Astros "spying" on their opponent's dugout. He said the company line about the spy was really trying to see if the Red Sox were cheating.

But he went on to say something about sign stealing and speeding up pace of play. Yahoo Sports quotes the Astro ace from his Thursday press conference:

Given that cameras are everywhere, do you have any ideas how to make the sign stealing stuff go away, whether it’s wireless headsets, the communication —
It’s a good question. You know, honestly, I think something that came up for me in talking about pace of game might also help, which is, like you said, some wireless — you see in the NFL with the quarterback, a way to converse between pitcher and catcher and honestly between manager and catcher. I thought — I brought this issue to MLB last year and thought that for pace of game that could probably save 20 minutes a game.
You think of all the signs everybody’s going through — between pitcher/catcher, manager/catcher, especially when a guy gets on second base, I mean the game comes to a halt when that happens because of all the technology and we know that you need to be aware of it.
But I think that can also help. It’s not going to help pitch tipping, but I think it will help a lot with the sign stuff. And I think — I mean, I think this is a lot to do about nothing. I think it’s more peace of mind for the pitchers. Like I said, especially in the playoffs, you don’t want there to be any lingering doubt of anything. You want the only reason you get beat to be because you got beat. You don’t want to have to think it’s something else. That’s why you’re seeing all these advanced signs.
Yahoo Sports calculated that the wireless signal calling could speed up the average game by 10 minutes.

But this discussion does not really address the REAL problem. The real problem is that managers and coaches are trying to micromanage the game into a video realm. In the past, the pitcher and catcher had their own "books" on how to get players out. They would review their pitching strategy for the entire game. The catcher would not look to the dugout before each pitch. He would put down the sign and the pitcher, the ultimate one in control of the situation, would agree or shake off the sign. A pitcher knows what is working that day; he knows how he feels. He should have the baseball IQ to pitch to the situation.  

The NFL having an offensive coordinator calling every play through a headset actually turns the game into a battle of sideline guys. The view from the sideline is not the same from that behind center. The QB is the one who sees the flow of the defense; he can see the matchups at the line of scrimmage. But he is told what to do. He is not supposed to audible. He calls the play and has to get through his check downs quickly before being hit by a defender. 

In the past, the quarterback called the plays. Peyton Manning was the last traditional QB in the game. He called all the plays because he was a "coach" on the field. He understood defenses. He understood his players strengths and weaknesses. He could game plan and adapt on the fly. That is why he was a great, winning QB. 

If you want to speed up the game AND bring it back to its roots, the pitcher (like an old school QB) should call his own pitches, take command of his own performance and own his own accountability. That would be a real game changer.