Using technology to steal signs is banned in baseball. Teams consider this type of sign stealing a way of gaining an unfair advantage (Joe Maddon compared it to using PEDs). As far as I can tell, though, the reason stealing signs provides an unfair advantage is because they are banned and therefore most teams don't do it.

This case seems very different from PEDs, which have reason to be banned besides the competitive advantage gained. The significant negative health effects from using them are good reason to ban them to prevent them from becoming necessary to perform competitively. On the other hand, nobody is hurt from sign-stealing.

So if the MLB has a sign-stealing problem, why doesn't it just allow it entirely. That takes away the unfair competitive edge from stealing signs.

  • @JasonPSallinger I don't think either of those answer this question. – Daniel Dec 11 '19 at 21:10
  • "Why does the league find that unacceptable?" This information is contained in the first duplicate question linked above. Regardless of how you compare PEDs and this issue, it is simply illegal, and even noted so in sources in this first link above. If you believe this is not a duplicate, what makes your question different? – Jason P Sallinger Dec 11 '19 at 21:43
  • @JasonPSallinger I'm not asking why it's wrong or why it's illegal. I'm asking why don't they make it legal given the current problems? – Daniel Dec 11 '19 at 22:06
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    "Why don't they make it legal?" Because they have made it illegal. "But why did they make it illegal?" Duplicate. – Nij Dec 12 '19 at 4:00

Sign stealing isn't really banned. However, the traditional, acceptable way is for a runner on second to look at the signs and covertly signal the batter. What the league finds unacceptable is using technology to steal signs (e.g. center field cameras, secret transmitters).

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  • That's exactly my question, though. Why does the league find that unacceptable? I edited the question to clarify that. – Daniel Dec 11 '19 at 15:33
  • The home team would have an unfair advantage. For example, consider video feeds piped into the home team's clubhouse but not the visitor's clubhouse. From the league's perspective, it's easier to ban any such attempts rather than legislate what is allowed, and continually having to close loopholes found by home teams to regain the upper hand. – chepner Jan 22 at 21:04

It is simple. Because it would make the games longer. MLB is trying to reduce game times and has limits on mound visits.

The art of signs and cryptology isn't rocket science - the more indicators and false positives the more secure your sign will be. Catchers could flash 30-40 different things and a camera would have a hard hard time in gametime coming up with the key.

And then the other reason is the defocus of baseball itself. If they just allowed video of everything a lot of discussion would be around MIT sign/signal-breakers. You would see a "war room" in the back with 5-6 guys trying to break signs, teams would then change their signs every inning or more and it would just add a ton of time and non-baseball things to the game.

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  • If the league had any real interest in reducing game time (and why would it? Longer games means more advertising time to sell), it would enforce rule 5.07(c) (which states that, with the bases unoccupied, the pitcher has 12 seconds after receiving the ball to deliver a pitch) and stop granting time so often during at-bats. – chepner Jan 22 at 21:09
  • @chepner - that is just wrong. Like plain wrong. Baseball every year spends time going over rules to reduce game time. I mean it is a simple search and you will see. 5.07(c) is basically unenforcable because of the allottment of batters timeouts and such. It is so uneforcable that mlb has talked it over and made sure that umpires give each pitcher AT LEAST one warning before calling it - it has been called the past few year... yes a few times a year. The only way it works is a "shot clock" that is on display that takes the time keeping away from the umpire. – Coach-D Jan 23 at 6:48

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