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How Much Cheating Is Too Much in Baseball?

We spoke with ballplayers, coaches, and executives about what does and doesn't constitute cheating in baseball.

by Christopher Crawford
Feb 15 2017, 6:36pm

A little over a week ago, former Cincinnati Reds outfielder and NFL Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders accused Tony Dungy of stealing signals during NFL games. These comments came just after the New England Patriots—who had once been punished for videotaping another team's practices—won their fifth championship.

Dungy didn't deny the claims. Rather, he pointed to the subjectivity of cheating, and also brought up the fact that baseball players were stealing signs back in the 1800s. He has a point. Baseball is no stranger to these kinds of accusations. Cheating is cheating, it's wrong, but it's also part of the game. Think of the performance-enhancing drug scandal that rocked the sport in the last decade—and all the people who looked beyond it, or even encouraged it. Think of corked barrels and doctored baseballs and the pine tar on George Brett's bat.

Those all seem fairly black and white, but cheating in baseball is also in the eye of the beholder. There is plenty of behavior in the sport that is considered cheating by some and not by others. I spoke to seven people—four players, two scouts, and a National League executive, to get a sense of where they stood on subjects like stealing signs, leaning into pitches, and balky pickoff moves.

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