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'An Apple Watch in play to keep the pitcher at bay’: Major League Baseball’s latest cheating scandal

Baseball catcher on field
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 By Richard Liddell KC, Kevin Cooper

Cheating is as old as sport itself.  It comes in various forms and has different levels of sophistication, including bribery, doping (both blood and mechanical) and players’ actions such as the American marathon runner, Fred Lorz, who made sure he won at the 1904 St Louis Olympic Games by travelling almost half of the distance in a car.  Further, what is regarded by some as cheating is considered by others not to be cheating, but instead to amount to bad sportsmanship or “bending the rules”.[1]

Whether or not the recent revelations regarding the Boston Red Sox baseball team and their use of an Apple Watch to gain advantage over their opponents by “sign-stealing” constitute cheating - and the (metaphorical) jury is arguably still out on this particular episode - these events show how advances in technology are facilitating a whole new raft of "opportunities" in sport to “get ahead of the game”.  While some of these “opportunities” may amount to a legitimate advantage, others will clearly constitute cheating[2], and of course many will lie in a grey zone somewhere in-between.[3]

This article reviews the recent events concerning the Red Sox and considers what rules were breached (if any) and what punishment they might expect to receive (if any).   Specifically it looks at:

  • Facts

  • What is sign-stealing and how did the Red Sox do it?

  • Is sign-stealing against the rules?

  • Did the Red Sox cheat?

  • What might the Red Sox’s punishment be? 

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Written by

Richard Liddell

Richard Liddell KC

Rick is a Barrister at 4 New Square.

Rick is on the Editorial Board of LawInSport and is recommended in the legal directories as a leading Silk in sports law.

He is described in the directories as a “superb advocate” and “a welcome addition to the front Bench – a brilliant sports law lawyer with exceptional professional regulatory skills as part of his all-round talent. A vast array of sports-related experience and expertise. Tactical nous. Excellent manner with clients.”

Rick acts for both athletes/players and governing bodies and has appeared in appeals in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  He is frequently instructed in sports commercial disputes, disciplinary matters and sports arbitrations, including anti-doping cases and safeguarding matters.

Kevin Cooper

Kevin Cooper

Kevin Cooper is a US attorney based in Chicago with a keen interest in sports law. Kevin represents and counsels large and small companies on matters involving employment, workers' compensation, injury, contract/general business, and maritime/admiralty law.

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