A meaningful series of September baseball between the American League wild-card-leading New York Yankees and an Orioles club that's chasing them took on a much more sensational feeling Tuesday.
The New York Times reported that the Boston Red Sox were being investigated for using technology to steal signs from the Yankees last month.
According to the report, the Yankees submitted evidence to Major League Baseball that a member of the Red Sox training staff was using an Apple Watch to relay information to players both on the bench and on the field. The Red Sox filed a countercomplaint that the Yankees use their YES Network cameras to relay catcher signs as well.
Baseball investigators corroborated the Yankees' claims based on video the commissioner's office uses for instant replay and broadcasts, the Times reported. The commissioner's office then confronted the Red Sox, who admitted that their trainers had received signals from video replay personnel and then relayed that information to Red Sox players — an operation that had been in place for at least several weeks.
While sign-stealing gamesmanship has been part of the game for decades, and the use of electronic tablets in the dugout is permitted, electronics cannot be connected to the internet and relay real-time information.
With the Orioles in pursuit of both teams and having played both recently, including a three-game sweep in Boston on Aug. 25-27, executive vice president Dan Duquette said when asked about the specific allegations that "it's a very competitive division, and among the most competitive in professional sports.
"So, the Orioles are very vigilant in all aspects of our baseball operations," Duquette said. "I mean, we have to be to compete against these wealthy clubs in the American League East.
He noted that the Yankees have outspent the Orioles 2-to-1 on major league payroll since 2012, and Boston 1.7-to-1 in that period. On the amateur side, Duquette said the Yankees have outspent the Orioles 2-to-1, and the Red Sox 3-to-1 since 2012.
"It's a wonder we can even compete with them," Duquette said.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking on a previously scheduled visit to Boston on Tuesday, said the two teams' rivalry has made it a "charged situation from a competitive perspective."
"I guess it's not shocking you could have charges and countercharges like this," Manfred said in Boston. "We will conduct a thorough investigation of the charges on both sides. I want to do that quickly. I think that's important — that we get it resolved. The only thing that I can tell you about repercussions is that to the extent that there was a violation on either side — and I'm not saying that there was — to the extent that there was a violation on either side, we are 100 percent comfortable that it is not an ongoing issue — that if it happened, it is no longer happening. I think that's important from an integrity perspective going forward."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wouldn't get into specifics in his pregame media session Tuesday at Camden Yards, though he said there was "no chance" they used the camera for a competitive advantage, as the Red Sox alleged.
He did, however, say they assume everyone is trying to do something like decipher signs to get a competitive advantage.
"Again, it's something you have to protect from all teams," Girardi told reporters. "The way they do it is one thing. Again, it's something you really have to do everything you can to protect it. Whether it's just word of mouth or people coming down the stairs, you have to protect it. My idea is let's make it easier so we don't have to go through things like this."
In Boston, Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters neither he nor general manager Dave Dombrowski knew about the use of the watch, and would have stopped it if they did.
This story has been updated.
Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.