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Old 01-13-2020, 06:55 PM
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Sign stealing in baseball


As this article details, MLB is in the midst of dealing with a sign stealing 'scandal' involving the Astros.

In the article, it states "decoding (signs) with the naked eye is allowed". Is there any more in-depth definition what is or isn't allowed, or is that it? The full quote suggests there's more (i.e. "While decoding with the naked eye is allowed, MLB has enacted increasingly stringent prohibitions in recent years against the use of electronics to spy on opponents").

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Old 01-13-2020, 08:03 PM
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It basically means that if the man on 2nd sees the catcher flash the "Curve" sign, and the runner can relay this info to the man at bat (by signaling with body position most likely) then they are free to do so. That's why you see catchers go through a completely different set of signs if there is a man on base.
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Old 01-13-2020, 08:12 PM
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It basically means that if the man on 2nd sees the catcher flash the "Curve" sign, and the runner can relay this info to the man at bat (by signaling with body position most likely) then they are free to do so. That's why you see catchers go through a completely different set of signs if there is a man on base.
No, I get that, thanks. What I was after was if there were any more explicit/detailed "official" rules. Or is truly just as simple as "decoding (signs) with the naked eye is allowed"
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Old 01-13-2020, 08:15 PM
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No use of electronic or mechanical devices are allowed. So, no binoculars, spotting scopes, radios, cell phones, etc.

Cora is about to be kicked out of baseball for a long time. As a Red Sox fan, I can't say I'm sorry.
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Old 01-13-2020, 08:26 PM
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I don't think MLB went down hard enough on the Astros. Every single player on the team who took part should get a one-year suspension. The manager should get a lifetime ban as should the GM. If Houston has to put major league uniforms on its AAA players for a year, so be it. Let them suck.
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Old 01-13-2020, 09:04 PM
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Does this mean that a person sitting in center field seats with excellent eyesight is allowed to steal signs? Suppose he is wearing glasses? I always thought that stealing signs was totally limited to players on the field, essentially only runners on second.

Curiously according to the account I read they did it only when there actually was a base runner on second. I suppose the results would have been too obvious otherwise.

How could they have expected to keep it secret? The first time a player was traded (or moved as a free agent), he would tell his teammates and the story would get out. As indeed it did in exactly that way.

It didn't do them much good against the Nats did it? Imagine a seven game series without a single home win.
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Old 01-13-2020, 09:43 PM
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Does this mean that a person sitting in center field seats with excellent eyesight is allowed to steal signs? Suppose he is wearing glasses? I always thought that stealing signs was totally limited to players on the field, essentially only runners on second.
Wouldnít that be fan interference?
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Old 01-13-2020, 10:28 PM
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I don't think MLB went down hard enough on the Astros. Every single player on the team who took part should get a one-year suspension. The manager should get a lifetime ban as should the GM. If Houston has to put major league uniforms on its AAA players for a year, so be it. Let them suck.
I have to agree, and suspect it's because they just couldn't firmly sort out which players were more responsible than others.

AJ Hinch is probably done; I don't think he will ever manage in the big leagues again, even after his suspension. Managers are a dime a dozen these days. Luhnow will get another job. Taubman, who was suspended for a different reason, will never work in MLB again in any capacity.
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Old 01-14-2020, 12:12 AM
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Does this mean that a person sitting in center field seats with excellent eyesight is allowed to steal signs?
It's not enough to steal the signs, you then have to relay them to the batter fast enough that he can react before the next pitch in a way that can't be detected. And no matter how good your eyesight is, you can't pick up the difference between 2 and 3 fingers at 350'.
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Old 01-14-2020, 08:04 AM
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More importantly, how does MLB prevent this in the future? I think each team puts a person in the press box, well away from the dugout. When he sees a play he thinks should be challenged, he hits a button that turns on a light in the dugout. No other form of communication should be allowed. You just can't have the replay screens in close proximity to the dugout or clubhouse.
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Old 01-14-2020, 08:25 AM
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More importantly, how does MLB prevent this in the future?


I don't think they can. The individual teams are just going to have to come up with ways to counter it, as they have done in the past.

I suspect this has been happening all over baseball, for some time now. Perhaps some instances more egregious than others, but a team that doesn't do everything possible to win doesn't want to win. The reason for rules is not to prohibit conduct, but rather to provide a consistent set of remedies when the offenders are caught.

Breaking (bending?) the rules is part of the game. Spitballs, scuffballs, corked bats, the list goes on. The only "Thou shall not" that will get you banned is gambling, for good reason. Banning players, managers, or owners for cheating better than another team cheats ends with only those without sin being worthy enough to play the game.

Last edited by excavating (for a mind); 01-14-2020 at 08:26 AM. Reason: word
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Old 01-14-2020, 08:25 AM
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More importantly, how does MLB prevent this in the future?
Pitcher and batter get headsets like in football. Then there are no signs to steal.
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Old 01-14-2020, 08:53 AM
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It ultimately doesn't get prevented. As mentioned above, teams have been bending/breaking the rules with the tacit acknowledgement they'd at best get a slap on the wrist.

It appears Manfred wanted to make this a story about the Astros as a rogue team. He's quoted as saying "I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time" even after the Red Sox had been caught in 2017 (before Cora was even manager). And it made no sense even at the time as some of the people involved had reportedly brought elements of the scheme from other teams and it wasn't limited to one team even by the evidence presented at the time. He is also quoted as telling John Henry (the owner of the Red Sox) "I've got no choice here" regarding extending the investigation to the Red Sox, which isn't exactly what you tell him if you want an impartial and complete investigation.

And while there have not been investigations, some active players have accused the Brewers, Dodgers, Rangers, and Yankees of also violating the policy. It's not unreasonable to suppose several other teams have done so as well. That last one is telling - the player (not an Astro) basically considers it another tool in the box but also believes all teams should be equally punished if one is.

The commissioner's office has decided somebody is going to have to take the brunt of it because of the public outcry but still wants to protect the other teams. It's not unlike the PEDs scandal. They're hoping by offering up one team the whole thing will blow over.

Last edited by Great Antibob; 01-14-2020 at 08:56 AM.
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Old 01-14-2020, 08:59 AM
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Pitcher and batter get headsets like in football. Then there are no signs to steal.
Until someone hires a lip-reader with a telescope to watch the catcher's mouth. Or gets a parabolic microphone to listen. Or hacks into the radio signal (for instance, even if the transmission is encoded, you might be able to get useful information by noting how long the catcher is transmitting (it would vary by catcher, but you might realize that "split finger fastball' takes longer than 'curve')).
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:05 AM
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Pitcher and batter get headsets like in football. Then there are no signs to steal.
How does the catcher say what pitch he wants without the batter hearing?

The best short term solution is just severe punishment. Luhnow and Hinch got what they deserved; Alex Cora should be banned for life, and well may be. But the investigation should have dug deeper and crucified a few players as well. There's already stories coming out that people IN BASEBALL think the Astros got off easy. The Dodgers' press release was, well, read it for yourself:

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All clubs have been asked by Major League Baseball not to comment on today's punishment of the Houston Astros as it's inappropriate to comment on discipline imposed on another club. The Dodgers have also been asked not to comment on any wrongdoing during the 2017 World Series and will have no further comment at this time.
So to translate from corporatespeak: "We got fucking ripped off and the thieves got away with it."

The argument will go "you can't punish all of them." No, realistically, you can't, but you can sure as shit put the fear of God in them.

I am no fan of Rob Manfred but must clarify that this may have been the best he could do. Manfred works for the owners and so is in an immensely hard position; he is in effect punishing one of his 30 bosses. There was no easy response here. I don't envy his job at all.
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:07 AM
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Until someone hires a lip-reader with a telescope to watch the catcher's mouth. Or gets a parabolic microphone to listen. Or hacks into the radio signal (for instance, even if the transmission is encoded, you might be able to get useful information by noting how long the catcher is transmitting (it would vary by catcher, but you might realize that "split finger fastball' takes longer than 'curve')).
You replace the finger signs with verbalized numbers.
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:57 AM
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How does the catcher say what pitch he wants without the batter hearing?
It could work with the pitcher calling the game, and the catcher only hearing and being able to shake off a pitch. But that's a pretty significant change to the way things are done now.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:52 AM
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Is there a reason teams don't just use a more robust code?
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Old 01-14-2020, 11:08 AM
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Is there a reason teams don't just use a more robust code?
Most pitchers have 3 or 4 pitches. Any code that's easy to use for 100+ pitches in a game is going to be relatively simple. They have to be quick, simple, and difficult to mess up. When runners are on base they do change them up.
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Old 01-14-2020, 12:00 PM
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Until someone hires a lip-reader with a telescope to watch the catcher's mouth. Or gets a parabolic microphone to listen. Or hacks into the radio signal (for instance, even if the transmission is encoded, you might be able to get useful information by noting how long the catcher is transmitting (it would vary by catcher, but you might realize that "split finger fastball' takes longer than 'curve')).
You donít speak clearly, you speak in code just like in football when they call plays (Omaha, Philly Special, Yellow Weasel). So youíd have to somehow intercept the message then decode it.

Iíve never heard of even the Patriots hacking into the headsets in the NFL. I think itís a lot harder than youíre assuming.
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Old 01-14-2020, 12:41 PM
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You donít speak clearly, you speak in code just like in football when they call plays (Omaha, Philly Special, Yellow Weasel). So youíd have to somehow intercept the message then decode it.

Iíve never heard of even the Patriots hacking into the headsets in the NFL. I think itís a lot harder than youíre assuming.
Even code words won't really work. Most pitchers have two good pitches and occasionally they'll have 4. The average at bat is just under 4 pitches. The third time you hear omega after seeing two other fastballs you're going to know what's coming. Even if the code is dependent on the count your third time through the order you're going to have a good idea what is coming.

If they went to head sets a click system would probably be what is used. Just triggering the mic on and off would be inaudible to the hitter and as long as it was loud enough to be heard and counted it should work.

I do think MLB should have come down harder on this. Using video technology built into the stadium is very different than having a guy on second take a look.
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Old 01-14-2020, 02:30 PM
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I don't know enough about the mechanics of the sport to understand the level of advantage knowing the pitch gives the batter. Is it a question of knowing when not to swing or does the batter have a measurable advantage if they know if the next pitch is a fastball or changeup?
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Old 01-14-2020, 02:33 PM
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The advantage of knowing what pitch is coming is enormous. Hitting is timing; pitching is disrupting timing.

A batter that always knew what pitch was coming would be ludicrously great. It would turn an average MLB hitter into the best hitter in baseball.
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Old 01-14-2020, 02:36 PM
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Thanks!
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Old 01-14-2020, 03:05 PM
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Pitcher and batter get headsets like in football. Then there are no signs to steal.
That would violate a basic rule in Major League Baseball: No electronic equipment allowed

Quote:
Sandy Alderson, then baseballís executive vice president of baseball operations, sent the following memo to clubs in 2001:

Please be reminded that the use of electronic equipment during a game is restricted. No club shall use electronic equipment, including walkie-talkies and cellular telephones, to communicate to, or with, any on-field personnel, including those in the dugout, bullpen, field and Ė during the game Ė the clubhouse. Such equipment may not be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a club an advantage.
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:30 PM
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Rally basic question-- how does the catcher determine what pitch will work best and why can't the pitcher figure that out on his own?

Brian
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:42 PM
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With all the movement a professional pitcher puts on the ball the Catcher has to know what pitch to expect or there would be passed balls all over the place. And the pitcher would have a much harder time signalling in secre to the catcher while the batter is starring right at him.
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:46 PM
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One could argue that given the fact that this scandal involves potentially games in two different World Series (let's not just assume that Cora didn't take his tactics with him when he went to Boston), this could be the biggest MLB scandal since the 1919 Black Sox debacle.

Alex Cora, Joe Jackson and Pete Rose welcome you to eternal baseball hell.
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:56 PM
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One could argue that given the fact that this scandal involves potentially games in two different World Series (let's not just assume that Cora didn't take his tactics with him when he went to Boston), this could be the biggest MLB scandal since the 1919 Black Sox debacle.

Alex Cora, Joe Jackson and Pete Rose welcome you to eternal baseball hell.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:33 PM
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Rally basic question-- how does the catcher determine what pitch will work best and why can't the pitcher figure that out on his own?
The pitcher in the catcher need to be on the same page when it comes to pitch location and speed. As mentioned, it's much easier for the catcher to signal the pitcher and keep it hidden from the batter.

Pitch selection is both a science and an art. By looking at lots of film and studying what the batter has done in the past the catcher and pitcher work out a series of strategies to keep the batter off balance. Sometimes they will use pitches to set up future at bats in the same game or even in other games. It's really fascinating.

Last edited by Telemark; 01-14-2020 at 10:34 PM.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:46 PM
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I don't know enough about the mechanics of the sport to understand the level of advantage knowing the pitch gives the batter. Is it a question of knowing when not to swing or does the batter have a measurable advantage if they know if the next pitch is a fastball or changeup?
Batters have to make decisions in a fraction of a second. Great hitters make judgments about what to swing at or not the moment they first see the ball as it leaves his hand, and they decide even before that moment if the pitcher (or someone else) "tips" the pitch. Good pitchers learn to conceal the ball as long as possible until their delivery. Having worked out a system using electronic devices gives the hitting team an enormous edge -- it's like having an eye in the sky in a casino telling a card player what hands other card players have.
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Old 01-15-2020, 08:11 AM
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That would violate a basic rule in Major League Baseball: No electronic equipment allowed
But there's nothing preventing MLB from changing that rule. I know baseball loves to pretend it's still the 1920s, but come on - an encrypted radio between the pitcher & catcher isn't going to ruin the game any more than playing games at night did.
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Old 01-15-2020, 08:47 AM
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But there's nothing preventing MLB from changing that rule. I know baseball loves to pretend it's still the 1920s, but come on - an encrypted radio between the pitcher & catcher isn't going to ruin the game any more than playing games at night did.
You know, that's the thing though.

Baseball has decided using your unaided eyes and ears to steal signals is not just ok but a lauded and traditional part of the game but using any form of electronics to do so is not.

This really is a case of a slippery slope. Once they allow slightly more advanced technology to be involved, it's going all the way. Manfred has basically said so himself - that he's still trying to figure out if it should be allowed in the future or they keep things the same. Doesn't change the fact it was not allowed today, but that seems to be the direction the world is headed.

Also, there's some debate on how much the cheating helped. Note all the stats cited above include both home and away games - you'd think a team getting an unfair advantage should see a distinct advantage at home rather than away but this didn't happen. The Astros players more or less stopped doing it themselves in 2018 not because they thought it was wrong but because they thought it didn't add much value.

I brought it up above, but there's also the question of how much MLB just wants this story to end without seeing how far it goes. Beyond the other teams I mentioned above (Brewers, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers), the Indians, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Blue Jays, and Nationals were also suspected by the league office (note the linked article is from early October - well before the Astros story broke).

I can see MLB wanting to make one big example and have the problem go away but that's not usually how the world works.
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Old 01-15-2020, 08:52 AM
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But there's nothing preventing MLB from changing that rule. I know baseball loves to pretend it's still the 1920s, but come on - an encrypted radio between the pitcher & catcher isn't going to ruin the game any more than playing games at night did.
Well my attitudes about team sports go further back. I think that in any sport only the players on the field should be playing the game and making all decisions. The team captain on the field should make decisions about substitutions, etc. Alll communications between managers/coaches and players should be banned during the course of a game. Managers and coaches should be sitting in the stands Along with spectators with no means of communicating with players.
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Old 01-15-2020, 09:20 AM
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This really is a case of a slippery slope. Once they allow slightly more advanced technology to be involved, it's going all the way.
Good. Grease that slope. I donít want batters in exoskeletons but technology could definitely curb cheating and make calls more accurate. You could even say that instant replay already started this.
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Old 01-15-2020, 10:01 AM
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Well my attitudes about team sports go further back. I think that in any sport only the players on the field should be playing the game and making all decisions. The team captain on the field should make decisions about substitutions, etc. Alll communications between managers/coaches and players should be banned during the course of a game. Managers and coaches should be sitting in the stands Along with spectators with no means of communicating with players.
Well, that's an opinion all right.
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Old 01-15-2020, 10:07 AM
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Well, that's an opinion all right.
Well, yeah. The way I see it, it's a game, so any help to the players is kibbitzing. You aren't allowed to receive instructions from coaches when you're playing chess or Jeopardy, so you shouldn't have access to the advice/instruction coaches when you're playing baseball, basketball, or football. It should be considered unsportsmanlike.
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Old 01-15-2020, 11:05 AM
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The way I see it, it's a game, so any help to the players is kibbitzing. You aren't allowed to receive instructions from coaches when you're playing chess or Jeopardy, so you shouldn't have access to the advice/instruction coaches when you're playing baseball, basketball, or football. It should be considered unsportsmanlike.
In football you can legally lay out an opponent with a hit that breaks bones. You should be able to do that in chess because football and chess are both games. Anything else would be unsportsmanlike.
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Old 01-15-2020, 11:13 AM
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Also, there's some debate on how much the cheating helped.
While true, it really doesn't matter.
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Old 01-15-2020, 11:21 AM
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While true, it really doesn't matter.
Yes, as I noted.

But there are a lot of posters stating with certainty it's a major competitive advantage, and the data doesn't firmly support it. There's the feeling that it should convey an advantage for various reasons, but that's all that it is at the moment - a feeling. We have 'just so' stories on how it's supposed to help but nothing to back it. And from the other end, players have stated sometimes they don't want to know - mistakes can be made and knowing what's coming can sometimes throw off your timing.

Of course players can and will try to take advantage based on hunches (baseball is notoriously superstitious after all) but it just brings home the fact that they went to a lot of effort and a few people got hit with major penalties for potentially little or no benefit. That's a bit pathetic.

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Old 01-15-2020, 11:22 AM
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In football you can legally lay out an opponent with a hit that breaks bones. You should be able to do that in chess because football and chess are both games. Anything else would be unsportsmanlike.
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Old 01-15-2020, 11:37 AM
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There always is chess boxing.
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Old 01-15-2020, 01:01 PM
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There always is chess boxing.
There's a trainer in the corner! That's unsportsmanlike!
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Old 01-15-2020, 01:33 PM
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While true, it really doesn't matter.
This is certainly correct. Cheating is cheating even if you are bad at it, However, I'm seeing a lot of argument that the Astros and teams in general are now encouraged to cheat as a World Series win is worth this punishment. If you show that the cheating didn't make much of a difference than it was certainly not worth it for the Astros or future teams.
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Old 01-15-2020, 02:26 PM
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In football you can legally lay out an opponent with a hit that breaks bones. You should be able to do that in chess because football and chess are both games. Anything else would be unsportsmanlike.
Yes, that's funny, but to me "The players and no one else play the game" is a fundamental principle defining games. Unless you posit that the real players in a baseball, football, or basketball game are actually the managers/coaches, and the people on the field are just pawns, in which case, the wins/losses should be in the managers'/coaches' names rather than in the teams' names.
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Old 01-15-2020, 02:47 PM
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Yes, that's funny, but to me "The players and no one else play the game" is a fundamental principle defining games. Unless you posit that the real players in a baseball, football, or basketball game are actually the managers/coaches, and the people on the field are just pawns, in which case, the wins/losses should be in the managers'/coaches' names rather than in the teams' names.
Players play. Coaches and managers coach, game plan, and make decisions. Maybe we should just let players coach themselves too, coaches have no place in competition because theyíre not playing the game.
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Old 01-15-2020, 02:56 PM
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Players play. Coaches and managers coach, game plan, and make decisions. Maybe we should just let players coach themselves too, coaches have no place in competition because theyíre not playing the game.
Coaches are like teachers or instructors. They might play a role in practice sessions or workouts, but they should be nowhere near an actual game. The players should make their own plans and decisions, choosing among themselves a captain to lead them.
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Last edited by Acsenray; 01-15-2020 at 02:57 PM.
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:11 PM
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Coaches are like teachers or instructors. They might play a role in practice sessions or workouts, but they should be nowhere near an actual game. The players should make their own plans and decisions, choosing among themselves a captain to lead them.
That's your opinion and you certainly have a right to it.

But are there any professional team sports that even begin to approach this ideal?
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:12 PM
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Coaches are like teachers or instructors. They might play a role in practice sessions or workouts, but they should be nowhere near an actual game. The players should make their own plans and decisions, choosing among themselves a captain to lead them.
Where are you getting your definition of "game" and what games currently meet your rigid specifications?
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:17 PM
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That's your opinion and you certainly have a right to it.

But are there any professional team sports that even begin to approach this ideal?
Or college, or high school? Team sports have coaches, who also coach during a game. It's been that way for a very long time.
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