CLEARWATER, Fla. — About that massive sign-stealing scandal that rocked baseball this winter and led to the dismissals of three managers and one general manager, with a subsequent investigation still ongoing: Joe Girardi doesn't intend to discuss it much during his first spring-training team meeting here this week.
“Specifically having a meeting about what’s off-limits, no, I don’t think that’s necessary,” the new Phillies manager said Tuesday. “Because this is not a club that was doing anything [wrong].”
To recap: Commissioner Rob Manfred punished the Houston Astros for using a system to electronically steal signs from opposing teams in 2017-18, including during their run to the 2017 World Series title. Manfred’s office is also looking into evidence that the Boston Red Sox cheated in a similar fashion.
The Astros fired manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow last month after both were suspended for a year by Major League Baseball. Red Sox manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran lost their jobs, too. Cora was the Astros' bench coach and Beltran their designated hitter in 2017.
Girardi said he has talked with several Phillies pitchers and catchers about "how we protect our stuff" and noted that the team will implement a system in spring training to safeguard its signs. But Girardi doesn't see a point in going over the rules that govern sign-stealing with his players.
Sign-stealing is acceptable within the game as long as players are using their wits on the field. Technology or another means of artificial intelligence isn’t permitted. The Astros reportedly developed an Excel-based application and used it in conjunction with an algorithm that could decode opposing catchers’ signs, then relayed them to hitters by using a live camera feed on a monitor near the dugout and banging on trash cans a certain number of times.
“We’re going to do things the right way, and we’re going to look for every advantage there is,” Girardi said. “If a pitcher is tipping, we’re going to use that, and make sure our guys aren’t tipping.”