Technology, in some ways, makes the potential to cheat a lot easier. Think of the possibilities, for instance, of stationing sign spotters equipped with Bluetooth or other small wireless headsets (that's one theory of how Toronto's "man in white" accurately predicted pitches from way up in the centerfield stands).
And yet, it sometimes helps to slow down and appreciate the simpler things in life -- like a few good ol' underhanded baseball basics. Even within this realm of cheating, the perpetrators have something that could be considered a code of honor: Keep the cheating inconspicuous, and if caught, act contrite and stop -- at least for a little while. All the same, you probably won't find many parents too happy about it if you coach any of the following tactics to their little leaguers:
- Assorted bat-shenanigans -- shaving and weighting; disguising altered, "juiced" bats as legal bats; "triple dipping" bats in varnish to make them harder
- Hiding foreign materials and substances -- as mentioned earlier, it takes some amount of cleverness to disguise one's ball-doctoring intentions. How about taping a thumbtack to your finger? Or hiding a nail file in your waistband? Catchers have even been known to use their belt buckles to sneakily scuff balls.
- Wetting the baselines -- under the pretext of "grounds maintenance" to slow down the opposing team's runners; also, shady groundskeepers can "tilt the field" to keep visiting teams off-balance, literally.
As we've seen, people have found numerous ways to try to "get one over on the system" in baseball. A certain amount of rule bending, it seems, is acceptable, but there are obviously practices that cross the line. The victims are the players who actually do play by the rules, fans who pay to see games they expect to be played fairly and honestly and the integrity of the game itself. Close to a century after the ignominious "Black Sox" debacle, we're still talking about the place of ethics in baseball. It's probably a safe bet that as long as the game is played by human beings, cheating techniques and the scandals that erupt from their use will remain a part of the greater drama that fascinates us with the sport.
Author's Note: 5 Ways to Cheat in Baseball (That Aren't Steroids)
There's no crying in baseball, except maybe when a cheating scandal blows up in a player's face -- threatening his career, his livelihood and his reputation. The baseball-adoring public has a remarkable ability to forgive its heroes for a wide (and wild) range of indiscretions. But collectively, this group that can remember the most obscure and esoteric of sports statistics never forgets when a player violates their trust. Records are revised with dismissive asterisks. Sure, cheaters' names become immortal, but in infamy. We may never know how many players and staff in the majors and minors have cheated and gotten away with it. For those who were caught and branded as cheaters (and those who will be) it's a label that never goes away.
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