Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
When Major League Baseball investigated the Yankees and Red Sox for electronic sign stealing in 2017, the league interviewed outfielder Chris Young multiple times.
According to two people briefed on those interviews, MLB concluded that Young and the Red Sox were using Apple Watches to convey sequences during games that year -- and that there were no credible allegations about the Yankees doing the same when Young and Carlos Beltran were on the team.
It's important to note that before commissioner Rob Manfred warned teams about electronic sign stealing in a memo issued on Sept. 15, 2017, these behaviors were not explicitly illegal. Young is not at risk for any discipline.
The scandal resurfaced on Tuesday when veteran writer Peter Gammons said on a radio show that Young told him, "I started the whole Apple Watch thing. I got it from when I was with the Yankees."
Reached by SNY, Young denied ever saying that and declined further comment. Gammons later issued a retraction on Twitter.
Multiple sources told SNY that Young was a leader of what became the Red Sox Apple Watch scheme in 2017. One eyewitness laid out how it worked: Early in the season, Young gathered teammates and taught them how to decode a catcher's sequences. This served as a team-bonding exercise, and many Red Sox got into it.
Looking at video before games of that day's starting pitcher, the Red Sox would figure out what sign sequences he used. That evolved into team employees texting an Apple Watch from the replay room during games, so a person in the dugout could indicate to a base runner which sequence the pitcher was using.
Unlike the Houston Astros' trash-can scheme, the Red Sox did not typically have the exact pitch, according to a person in the dugout that year. They had sign sequences, and needed a runner on base for their method to work. On that team, Young was viewed as a leader who helped others learn the hidden languages of the game.
After the Yankees noticed an Apple Watch in the Boston dugout, MLB investigated and fined Boston. Manfred then issued the Sept. 15, 2017, memo that drew a line in the sand on in-game electronic sign stealing. Manfred also fined the Yankees for illegal use of their replay phone.
As SNY first reported, the actual infraction was a single phone call by then-pitching coach Larry Rothschild from the dugout, asking the replay room if a particular pitch had been a ball or a strike.
Prior to his time in Boston, Young played for the Yankees from late 2014 until the end of the 2015 season. According to a person briefed on MLB's investigation, he told the league that he and his Yankees teammates would study video before games of pitchers' sequences. They would then use that information when on base to convey a sign to the batter.
The Yankees were never accused of using an Apple Watch, and MLB was never asked to investigate that.
According to the source, MLB also found that Young and other Yankees did look at sequences in the replay room during games, and convey them verbally or in person to the dugout. This was not illegal at the time.
As the source put it, "When Young went to Boston, the Red Sox took what the Yankees were doing, which was legal, and basically put it on steroids." The "steroids" in this case were not performance-enhancing drugs, but an Apple Watch that took the process to another level.
The Yankees and Red Sox were not the only teams during those years experimenting with ways to use their replay rooms to decode signs and sequences.
Replay rooms were introduced league-wide in 2014 and immediately became laboratories for sign stealing -- until MLB's 2017 memo outlawing the practice.
It's also worth noting that the facts about Young and the 2017 Red Sox provide context for the current investigation into the 2018 Sox and manager Alex Cora. The year before Cora arrived -- John Farrell was manager in 2017 -- Boston players engaged in sign-stealing that ultimately resulted in punishments. While Cora participated in his own sign-stealing that year as Houston's bench coach in 2017, he was decidedly not the high-tech Johnny Appleseed who introduced the Red Sox to cheating.