Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray was selected by the Athletics ninth overall in the first round of the 2018 draft. He’s a terrific baseball player, but he is in the midst of a Heisman Trophy-caliber season, as he has thrown 40 touchdowns and a total of 4,053 yards while rushing for 11 touchdowns and 892 yards. That has led to some uncertainty about his future as a baseball player, as he very easily could also jump into the NFL draft.
His agent Scott Boras put that to bed. He told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, “Kyler has every intention of fulfilling his agreement with the A’s and he’s grateful he has had the chance to pursue his college goals. He will be in spring training with the A’s.”
It isn’t just Boras himself speaking for his client. Boras said, “Kyler said more than a week ago that he’s going to spring training. When people come around this kid and ask him all this stuff about his future and he said, ‘We’ll talk about it after the season,’ that’s what he’s saying. His attitude is, ‘The Oakland A’s gave me an opportunity to fulfill a personal goal in college football and when it’s complete, I’ll return to my contractual commitment.'”
Murray’s Sooners are 12-1 and headed into the College Football Playoff. He also helped the Sooners reach the 2018 Division I Baseball Championship, but his team was eliminated in the regionals. Murray, an outfielder, hit .296 with 10 home runs, 57 RBI, 46 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 189 at-bats.
From a practical standpoint, it makes sense for Murray to choose baseball over football. If he can endure the low pay — he agreed with the A’s to a signing bonus of approximately $5 million — and low quality of life of the minor leagues, and then make it to the big leagues, he will earn guaranteed money with a much lower risk of injury, particularly brain trauma.
We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.
As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.
Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.
As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.
While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.
Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.