Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
As MLB investigators intensify their probe into allegations of high-tech cheating against the Yankees, Mets and other clubs, a key element of their process will be comparing the accounts of interviewees, and searching for inconsistencies in the various testimonies, according to people familiar with the investigation.
As SNY reported, Mets manager Carlos Beltran and Red Sox manager Alex Cora will be interviewed but appear unlikely to be suspended. The Athletic reported that MLB has also contacted former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, who alleged that the Astros used cameras to steal signs in 2017.
However, if the accounts offered by Beltran, Cora or any other witness contain inconsistencies or falsehoods, they and any other witness could end up facing harsher discipline.
MLB places a strong emphasis on forthrightness and cooperation in its investigations. Former Braves GM John Coppolella received a lifetime ban in 2017 for violations of international signing rules -- and his punishment was so harsh in part because MLB investigators believed he had intentionally misled them.
In addition to gauging the honesty of its witnesses, the league must determine exactly how the Astros used a camera to steal signs.
This week, The Athletic reported that "Four people who were with the Astros in 2017, including pitcher Fiers, said that during that season, the Astros stole signs during home games in real time with the aid of a camera positioned in the outfield."
A significant question still to be determined is which camera the Astros are alleged to have used.
Most team broadcasts have two cameras in center field: A wide camera, which shows the standard view of a pitcher's back and is usually where the shot of a pitch comes from, and a tight camera for close-ups. The tight camera would likely be the one to have extreme close up capabilities.
In practice, this would be difficult to use for sign stealing. Both center field cameras are manned by camera operators who have multiple game responsibilities.
For the operator of the tight camera to participate in a sign-stealing scheme, he or she would need to ignore key aspects of his or her job and be in cahoots with players or team officials. While technically possible, it is hard to imagine this level of coordination.
It's unclear if Fiers is alleging that the Astros installed an additional camera, specifically for sign stealing. One former player said that he could see plenty of signs from the regular broadcast feed in the clubhouse, and noted that doing so was not illegal.
If Beltran, George Springer or any other player received an audio cue from a clubhouse game feed in 2017, it would be considered by most opponents a violation of baseball's unwritten rules -- but probably not a serious infraction by the league. It would also not be possible in the current game.
This season, MLB mandated an eight-second delay in games broadcast in the clubhouse. That rule was part of a five-page memo sent to clubs in February from the commissioner's office in an effort to counter sign stealing.
Other measures laid out in that memo included that stationing of a monitor to ensure that the video replay coordinator, who needs a live feed, does not convey signs to other team personnel. Teams are also now required to document every camera in their stadium.
Because of all these nuances, it is still possible that the Astros -- and by extension Beltran -- will be deemed innocent of breaking major rules. There is currently no known evidence that Astros players used a camera to cheat, beyond the allegations of Fiers and other Athletic sources.
If they did, the next big question for MLB's department of investigations will be: Which camera?
Much of this investigation will hang on that question, and the truthfulness of witnesses like Beltran.