I am still basking in the glory of my Chicago Cubs clinching the Central Division title this week (a division title by a returning World Series champion that has not happened in over a decade). I have been invited by a friend to attend the first game against the Nationals next Friday in Washington. I will be sitting near home plate in the seats of my friend (who I have promised one of my kidneys in return). It appears however that I will have to refrain from advising the Cubs on throws. I was surprised to read this week that a Yankees fan was ejected for yelling information on the expected location of the pitches to the Rays’ catcher, Wilson Ramos. Yankees’ Gary Sanchez was at bat. This is the first that I have heard of fans being barred from predicting throws as opposed to the disgraceful practice of the Boston Red Sox in using Apple watches to improperly communicate throw info to their batters.
In the Boston Red Sox scandal, team officials were reading catcher signals and then letting their batters know. That is cheating under MLB rules. However, this fan was simply watching how the Rays catcher shifted his body to predict that throw. That seems fair game. First, catchers are trained not to signal the throws since body movement can tip off batters. If a catcher is signaling, he is the one at fault, not a fan reading the “tells.” Second, there is a long-standing principle in law that conduct in public is generally not protected under privacy and related rules. This is telling fans that they can see a mistake but must not utter it.
It is also questionable how useful this information may be. A batter is never certain that the information is real or an effort to confuse by the batter by a fan of the opposing team.
Nevertheless home-plate umpire, Dan Bellino pointed to stadium security to remove from the stadium. Yankees Manager Joe Girardi supported the decision. Ramos later said that the fan was indeed reading him accurately and “that was not professional.” But whose fault is that? Moreover, Ramos said “If you come to the game, you’re asked to enjoy the game. Everybody’s supposed to see the ball and just react with pitches … so to me, it’s like cheating.” The fan was enjoying the game . . . until they threw him out.
Frankly, I have said for years that we should toss all home plate umpires out of the game in favor of computerized systems for balls and strikes. They could stay as a back up but there is no reason why we continue to tolerate bad calls that determine games when technology would improve the accuracy of the game. As for fans, they should be able to call out throws as they see them. No one took a vow of silence when players signal their next moves.