Sign-stealing is a hot topic in baseball these days after the Astros were caught monitoring and recording activity in the opposing dugout during the postseason last year. , though the incident did bring high-tech sign-stealing into the spotlight.
As such, MLB implemented a series of measures designed to combat high-tech sign-stealing this season. Among other things, teams can not have non-broadcast cameras in the outfield, and each video replay room will be monitored by an MLB official. Stealing signs is not against the rules! Improperly using technology is though. That's what MLB is trying to prevent.
In an effort to further combat sign-stealing, MLB is testing out a new device this spring that will allow the pitcher and catcher to communicate though watches.
MLB is at Nationals’ camp today workshopping a new communication device for pitchers and catchers. It would allow catchers to type a pitch call (with location) into a watch that is connected to a watch the pitcher is wearing on the mound. An effort to eliminate sign-stealing.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) March 18, 2019
This doesn't seem to fit into the league's ongoing battle against pace of play. The catcher has to punch in the pitch type and location into his watch, then the pitcher has to read it from his watch. Throwing down fingers and reading the signs that way seems much more pace of play friendly. I mean, if you don't disguise your signs well and they get stolen, that's your problem.
Also, think of all the potential issues. On one hand, a catcher calling the wrong pitch because he fat-fingers the wrong button would be pretty funny. On the other hand, how long until we hear about a team hacking the other team's watches? Or that the network is down? What about a team bypassing the catcher and improvising the pitcher's watch to receive pitches from the dugout or even the front office?
I agree with MLB stepping in to curb sign-stealing through technology. Stealing signs should be limited to the folks on the field. I do give MLB credit for being open to new things like these pitch-calling watches, but this strikes me as a solution in search of a problem. It is ripe for unintended consequences.