Baseball and technology have always made for wary partners.
For a five-year span in the 1930s, as radio became more popular, all three New York teams — the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers — banned live play-by-play of their games because they feared the new medium would reduce attendance. When the Chicago Cubs added lights to Wrigley Field in 1988, allowing them to walk away from generations of games played exclusively during the day, fans were up in arms. When electronic calls of balls and strikes were proposed, it was the umpires’ turn to complain.
Other sports may change, but baseball, by and large, has made a business of staying the same.
With the installation of limited instant replay in 2008, and with replay’s expansion in 2014, the game tentatively stepped into the Digital Age. But adding cameras in every ballpark and video monitors in every clubhouse opened the door to an unintended consequence: electronic cheating.
The 2017 Houston Astros brazenly stepped through that door, developing an elaborate sign-stealing system that helped them win a World Series. Two years later, when that system was revealed to the public, it resulted in firings, suspensions and, ultimately, the permanent tarnishing of a championship.