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Subject:  Re: Isn't that illegal? It should be . . . Date:  10/8/2007  3:51 AM
Author:  Springtex Number:  34044 of 56829

<<Normally I would be the last person on earth to defend anything that goes on in the New England area (there isn't a sports franchise up there that I don't think sucks) but isn't it quite common for football teams to study film of their opponents? In fact, is there anything in the rules keeping them from doing it during the game? In fact (again), don't the offensive and defensive coaches during the normal course of a football game get stills from television shots showing them the different offensive and defensive alignments of the opposition? How would that be all that different from what Ortiz is doing? Btw, all of that is a bit different from what New England was doing... they weren't busted for using game video, they were using their own cameras (or hired cameras) to film coaches to steal the opposition's signals.--rwemerson>>

Congratulations on your Yankees' success in the win-or-go-home game, Ralph. I now predict they will take the series, midges or no midges back in Cleveland.

Now, on the subject of the thread, you are off on tangents like several others. I have already commented, and I think it is possible that you are just pulling my chain by raising the same debunked arguments again. But for someone venerable like you, I will repeat in detail.

First, the reference to the NE Patriots did not set up their situation as something governing the baseball situation. It was just coincidental that they also happen to be from Boston and the issue also happened to involve game video. That's the end of the analysis as far as they are concerned.

You go on to ask several questions regarding the NE Pats issues, though, answers to which do not inform the analysis of the baseball issue except in one respect, which I shall point out below. Answers to your questions are, yes, football teams commonly study film of their opponents, but that wasn't the issue with the Pats. The issue with the Pats was their taking video of the opposition's coaches sending in signals during the game and using that video to try to figure out what defenses were being run in real time in that same game, in order to get a competitive advantage. And yes, they do get still photos of formations on the field, etc., but that isn't the same as deciphering signals (which involve motion that still photos would never capture) and coupling those signals with what is run on the next play. The still photos are allowed; the Pats got busted for taking video of the signal-giving and trying to process that along with game action video. That's the football issue; that's how football dealt with it. You may make the argument to football that since they allow still photos, motion video should be allowed--but I have explained the difference--and it is a significant difference.

The baseball issue is of a separate kind, mostly. Begin the analysis by noting that you have a rule against teams placing spies in center field to steal signs given by catchers. I assume that rule also forbids spies from monitoring TV video in real time to steal signs from catchers. Fine. You also have rules defining what is a "ball" and what is a "strike" and umpires are there to call balls and strikes according to those rules.

However, none of that addresses what the TBS people said Ortiz was doing. They said Ortiz spent his time between at-bats (as a designated hitter) watching TV to study ball-and-strike calls by the umpire to determine what was the actual "strike zone" he was following in the current game--in order to know what to swing at and what to take next time up. As indicated by the thread title, I submit that if that is not illegal, it ought to be. It isn't the study of "game film" like you refer to in football. It is intelligence that provides a real-time advantage in the current game that none of the other batters have (except maybe the DH on the other team). We heard tonight--and we hear this over and over--that all players expect from a home plate umpire is "to be consistent" with his strike zone. So Ortiz is expecting an outside pitch he sees called a strike on video to be called a strike when he comes to bat. But it's a damn sight easier for him to figure out where the strike zone is looking at the video (probably enhanced with electronic overlays) than by watching with the naked eye from the field or from the dugout.

So he's getting an advantage (over other batters on both sides), and I say it ought to be illegal, if it isn't already.

The similarity between this and the football situation involving the NE Pats is that in both cases you have electronic observation of patterns of things being done inside the context of the current game, which are expected to be repeated, and the knowledge of which can be used to plan a strategy of attack, to one's advantage. In the football case, it was a pattern of signals being given to the other side--and baseball already outlaws the use of enhanced electronics and spyglasses to observe signals in its game. In the baseball case here under consideration, it is a pattern of calls of balls and strikes by the particular home plate umpire working the current game. It is hard to imagine a similar situation in football--unless perhaps you had a line judge who never calls encroachment and you take advantage by lining up six inches across the line of scrimmage. But again, football does not rule baseball on this, nor vice-versa. We are just comparing cases.

OK, now let's approach the whole issue from the other direction. I'll give you the best argument I can think of to allow Ortiz to look at the video to decipher the umpire's strike zone. It goes like this: The strike zone is defined by written rules, and all umpires are supposed to follow and enforce the written rules. But various umpires fail to follow and enforce the written rules as to what is a ball and what is a strike, and in various ways define the "strike zone" according to their own personal whim, which may vary from game-to-game. Sooooo, since umpires do not declare to all involved what they are going to call a ball or a strike at the beginning of or during any specific contest, it is reasonable to allow batters to use whatever means are available to try and learn what will be a ball or a strike--otherwise they risk being put out on the basis of arbitrary rules of which they have no knowledge or prior notice. Hmmmpf. The presence of the designated hitter is what trumps that argument. The rest of the batters are too busy to study video during a game. A DH gets special advantage if he is allowed to study real-time video and apply the knowledge gained to the current game. So it ought to be outlawed.

/s/ S.T.
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