MLB and the MLBPA have agreed on rules to allow MLB to police electronic sign stealing, and to suspend players who engage in electronic sign stealing, per Evan Drellich.
Drellich, who, with Ken Rosenthal, broke the initial story on the Astros cheating that included Mike Fiers going on record about the cheating, says that an outside security firm has been hired to monitor access to the video replay rooms in the stadiums during games, and will be implementing a system to edit out signs from the video footage players have access to in-game. MLB also has explicit authority to suspend players for illegally stealing signs — something that there was not an agreement with the union on previously.
While MLB not suspending Astros players who were involved in sign stealing, and instead offering them immunity for cooperating with the investigation, has come under much criticism — particularly in the aftermath of Joe Kelly throwing at Alex Bregman — Drellich noted back in February that MLB would have had a hard time getting any suspension to stick:
Any potential punishments to Astros players would have prompted grievances and wound up before an arbitrator. And in the words of an official with knowledge of these matters, MLB would have been “smoked.” Another person experienced in this area said that MLB’s case would have been “brutal” and the league would “look a fool.”
MLB wanted to deal with the sign stealing scandal that resulted in punishments levied against the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox in a way that brought closure to the saga, and allowed everyone to move forward with a clean slate. Suspensions of players would have resulted in challenges, appeals, and a lengthy grievance process which would have stretched on for months. MLB also needed the players to provide information about what was going on in order to have a complete report, and to substantiate the findings that led to the punishment that was meted out. The only way to realistically due that was to offer immunity.
But even if you don’t find those reasons compelling, if MLB expected that any suspensions were not going to be upheld, it would be nonsensical for them to levy the suspensions. Fighting a losing battle that ends up in the same place, only after having this fight drag on and potentially overshadow the season, would serve no purpose.
This agreement between MLB and the MLBPA resolves that problem. And if players engage in illegal sign stealing going forward, MLB now has the ability to mete out punishment.