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Sign stealing: a waste of time, but easy enough to defend against

Nov 13, 2009, 10:55 AM EDT

ESPN’s Buster Olney reproduces an email he received from former major league catcher Brent Mayne talking about sign stealing and mound visits and stuff.

It’s pretty illuminating.  Among the the tidbits he offers are that most hitters don’t want stolen signs flashed to them by their teammates anyway. I can see that: how much time do you have to prepare for a pitch in the first place? Not a ton, so why would you want to take your eyes of the pitcher for the second or two you’d need to focus on the baserunner bouncing around down at second base?

Also, if you think the bad guys are stealing signs, you’re much better off simply using a subtle indicator of some sort to change signs pursuant to a pre-set pattern as opposed to having mound visits. If you have multiple conferences on the mound the other team knows you’re changing up, and they’ll know they need to pay closer attention and try to steal a new set of signs.

Mayne sounds pretty sensible in all of this. Maybe Jorge Posada and CC Sabathia should call him this winter for a couple of tips.

  1. Old Gator - Nov 13, 2009 at 12:04 PM

    A predator drone would work nicely on the spotters. At the so-called Tropicana Dome, you could arm that stupid camera blimp that keeps getting caught up in the crossbeams.

  2. smokehouse - Nov 13, 2009 at 1:53 PM

    All things being equal, I would rather steal signs than not steal them.

  3. Michael - Nov 13, 2009 at 2:18 PM

    But without sign stealing, Deadspin wouldn’t be able to pretend they know something about baseball (after they stop calling it “pitch-tipping”) and have to make up another alcoholic relapse scandal.
    Seriously, I find it amusing that baseball “journalists” have suddenly discovered this “issue.”
    Perhaps it should be a litmus test for press credentials. …Nahhh, ignorance of basics hasn’t stopped the media before, why should it now?

  4. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Nov 13, 2009 at 2:54 PM

    There’s a difference between pitch tipping and sign stealing though. Pitch Tipping is what caused Pettitte to get hammered in ’01 WS since the Dbacks figured out when he wiggled his fingers he was throwing a curve. Sign stealing is what that Mauer was doing in that vid deadspin posted.
    [note: not exactly clear by your words, but willing to give you the benefit of the doubt]

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