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Stealing Signs - Little League Rules

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Guest NJ Coach

Rhode Island baserunners tipping off batters to pitches against NH team in regionals, and apparently as a regular practice. 

When I first heard of this controversy earlier today I had no issue.   It's baseball. But after reading more, I learned this is now against LL rules and cause for player and manager ejection.    After being alerted to and seeing this in the game , which RI won, the ump called time and discussed with both coaches.  But no ejections.

I suppose he gave a warning, rather than follow the letter of the rule.    Is this how you would handle ?   In such a high profile game, I figure the HPU didn't want to eject anyone and be a major part of the outcome.   But rules are rules, no ?

If no balk warnings, no head first slide warnings, then no sign stealing warnings, right ?

 

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We had a discussion on this in another part of the forums: 

 

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Guest NJ Coach

Unlike the guy in the other thread, I have no horse in this race.       To me, this comes down to the quote in the sungazette article....no one wants to see a kid thrown out of a game.   HPU didn't want that on his conscience or be the story.  

However, IMO rules are rules and its his job to follow them to the letter, even more so in such a high-stakes game.   Or maybe not his job,  but the advisors behind him.  
 

But of course LL backs him to preserve the integrity of the outcome and WS field.

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It is in my opinion that LL did not eject the player to save a controversy problem.  However by doing so they have opened one up as they clearly did not follow their own written rules.

To me as an umpire even if the roles were reversed I would have ejected the kid.  I am out there to uphold the rules and do the game to the best of my ability and make sure I do so without any favoritism to either team.  

Sigh  Williamsport backed up Bristol which was a no brainer, You do not look at arguably the 2nd most important location for LL and say to them. "NO you messed up"

I have heard of a case recently in one of the tournaments the pitcher dropped the ball while on the rubber.  Umpire called no pitch and called it a ball ( no balk rule ).  from what I understand that's what you call all year long, So in the end the umpire was critqued and told you did the right call. However Do not make that call again here.

- scratching my head  seriously..

So all year long we make the call if the pitcher does X then we call A

Now at the tourney level its No pitch no penalty? which a ball unless he's forcing in the winning run with a walk is really not that harsh but still.. It makes me wonder Why have all these rules if we are not supposed to enforce them.

my 2 cents..

will prolly get me black listed but I'm the type of guy you give me a set/book of rules and then tell me well don't do this or that type of thing I'm gonna get upset. Its not the way to handle things properly.   

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Guest NJ Coach

Angel...I agree 100%

The HPU  'swallowed the whistle' on this one....and LL doubled down to save face.    Unfortunate, but it is what it is.   Sometimes human nature trumps formal rules.   Sigh and move on.  Life isn't always fair.  Hopefully this issue gets fixed so it doesn't happen again.      I don't fault the NH mgr for raising this issue.

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34 minutes ago, Guest NJ Coach said:

Angel...I agree 100%

The HPU  'swallowed the whistle' on this one....and LL doubled down to save face.    Unfortunate, but it is what it is.   Sometimes human nature trumps formal rules.   Sigh and move on.  Life isn't always fair.  Hopefully this issue gets fixed so it doesn't happen again.      I don't fault the NH mgr for raising this issue.

As a LL guy...Williamsport is getting the egg on its face it deserves for implementing this stupid rule in the first place.

I had a coach try to argue this to me one tournament game this spring.  He had already tried some gamemanship nonsense the previous time I was PU for his team.  I told him that as PU I hadn't seen it, seeing as I had ball and strike calls as a priority.  Well, next pitch he asks for time again and comes out again.  My BU had specifically watched R2 on  that pitch, and when we got together told me she had absolutely nothing.   When the manager kept going until he said the magic word "protest." I don't think he meant to do that, but I took the opportunity to say (paraphrased) "great, we'll do that, you have to shut up and let us do that now" and we got our on site TD involved (he called our DA, who agreed with our take that in our judgement, there was no sign stealing, so nothing to protest.)

When I did one of the district semis at that level, everyone on the crew had a story about that jerk trying some sort of intimidation crap.  LLI, in prohibiting a part of baseball, just handed him another tool.  The fix is to get rid of it, but in the absence of that I'll take this years' precedent.  (I feel you on book enforcement, ArchAngel, but this is a local rule made by fools, writ large.)

 

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Guest NJ Coach

Same thing as the PGA golfer who was called out this week by  others for taking too long between shots.   Rules call for penalty same as for other infractions, but no enforcement on this and other golfers ask why not ?

Rules need to be followed 100% for fair competition. If not, cheating is implicitly endorsed.

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1 hour ago, Guest NJ Coach said:

Angel...I agree 100%

The HPU  'swallowed the whistle' on this one....and LL doubled down to save face.    Unfortunate, but it is what it is.   Sometimes human nature trumps formal rules.   Sigh and move on.  Life isn't always fair.  Hopefully this issue gets fixed so it doesn't happen again.      I don't fault the NH mgr for raising this issue.

Well here is the truth.  I was at the game observing from reserved seats as I am a district ump from D1 and had umpired actually a lot of Goffstown games this year.  Well I do not blame the HPU or the rest of the crew,  He went back to the fence and chatted with the crew behind the fence. I do not know the conversation as I was not privy to it. But I'm willing to bet they told him "warn the coach and ask him to tell the kid to stop it"  As that's what happened after.

 

What is the thing that really irks me is the rule book states "Shall eject", furthermore the Gtown people complained about it in the last game they played RI that it was happening then also, and nothing was done about it.  I was not there do not know what occurred,  but if Gtown had complained about it to the officials then that should have been brought to the RI team's coaches attention. At that point it should have been, an if it was why not toss the kid and coach for doing it again knowingly.

 

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Guest NJ Coach

because in such a high profile game, it's just easier for the umps and advisors to resolve it the way they did rather than enforce.  Not fair, but tidy.

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7 minutes ago, Guest NJ Coach said:

because in such a high profile game, it's just easier for the umps and advisors to resolve it the way they did rather than enforce.  Not fair, but tidy.

/agree

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3 hours ago, Guest NJ Coach said:

Rhode Island baserunners tipping off batters to pitches against NH team in regionals, and apparently as a regular practice. 

When I first heard of this controversy earlier today I had no issue.   It's baseball. But after reading more, I learned this is now against LL rules and cause for player and manager ejection.    After being alerted to and seeing this in the game , which RI won, the ump called time and discussed with both coaches.  But no ejections.

I suppose he gave a warning, rather than follow the letter of the rule.    Is this how you would handle ?   In such a high profile game, I figure the HPU didn't want to eject anyone and be a major part of the outcome.   But rules are rules, no ?

If no balk warnings, no head first slide warnings, then no sign stealing warnings, right ?

 

There are no balks.

Head first slides have been banned for years and everyone knows it.

No sign stealing is new and 97% of the participants think it's a nonsense rule.

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An old, and universal truth is "The best way to get rid of a bad law or rule is to ENFORCE IT!" . . . think about it.When enough people / politicians get Bitch** at, it will get changed. Look back in history.

:-)

 

 

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As johnpatrick pointed out in the "when they don't call something" thread, the Little League University takes a slightly different stance about sign-stealing: "If, in the judgment of the umpire(s), this behavior is occurring, both the player and the manager may be ejected from the game. It is the discretion of the umpire to decide if the action is blatant and consistent to the point where ejection is warranted. An ejection for unsportsmanlike conduct based on the stealing/relaying signs is a possibility in all levels of Little League." [My emphases.] Here is the link, under "Explanation": https://www.littleleague.org/university/articles/hey-blue-protesting-unsportsmanlike-conduct/

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Hopefully this stays on track because I think there is an issue that is not being discussed here.  As with the last thread, people are getting hung up on the “shall eject” clause.  That is the wrong part of the rule to be focused on.  The problem in the rule is not in the penalty, but in the definition of the rule itself.  What is “stealing signs”?  LL has not provided a definition.  Is simply seeing the catcher’s position and relaying that considered “stealing signs”?

Many folks are saying LL has egg on it’s face because of the occurrence in the RI/NH Regional game.  Not necessarily true.  In this game it appeared the runner was relaying the catcher’s position, not intercepting a sign, decoding it, and providing intel to the hitter.  Given the sparse direction on what “sign stealing” is, I would back the umpire’s actions in this game ...

... IF Little League had not just had the exact same situation unfold on TV in a TX/OK softball regional where the player and coach were ejected for this same action.  NOW LL has egg on its face.  However the yolk’s not on those umpires ... each one did exactly what the rule instructed under its “If, in the umpire’s judgement” clause.  One umpire judged it was stealing signs, one umpire judged it was not.  Given the lack of direction from LL, both umpires made the correct (albeit opposite) call.

I am not a LL umpire and am not dialed directly into this issue, but for an outside umpire’s perspective LL is not handling the concern properly.  Instead they are providing umpires with additional conflicting information and even worse, making contradictory statements to the public.  

The link above from LRZ makes it sound as if ejection is contingent upon umpires mentioning this in the pre-game plate meeting.  That is not a part of the written rule in the rule book.

The article provided by johnpatrick contains pearls of wisdom from LL CEO Steven Keener that further muddy the water:

Keener said Thursday “nobody wants to see a kid thrown out of a Little League game.”

“The umpires are instructed to say you have to be 100 percent sure that that’s what they’re doing if you’re going to enforce the rule,” Keener said. “If you think they’re doing it, you go to the manager and say this is what I think I’m seeing and I’m basically giving you a warning and if I see it again, then I’m going to have to enforce the rule. That’s the appropriate way to handle the rule and that’s how they handled it up in Bristol.”

Sorry Steven, that is not what you wrote in your rulebook.  When organizations place poorly written rules into the rulebook and then issue contrarian statements or directions to their umpires, the umpires (and the game participants) are the ones who suffer.

 

 

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Rule 3 E. Under “tournament playing rules”. Clearly states it.

Each umpire has authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager, or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field. If an umpire disqualifies a player while a play is in progress, the disqualification shall not take effect until no further action is possible in that play. The stealing and relaying of signs to alert the batter of pitch selection and/or location is unsportsmanlike behavior. If, in the judgment of the umpire this behavior is occurring, those responsible including any player(s), coach(es), and/or manager shall be ejected from the game.

 

The Stealing AND RELAYING of signs to alert the batter of pitch selection AND/OR LOCATION

 

The player at 2nd more than 1 time relayed to the batter the position of the catcher with a hand signal.  From my 2nd row seat it was clear as day to see what they were doing. Also he was not the 1st player on that team to do it during that game.

I’d like to know how you feel the umpire judged it was not. I assume you are speaking of the NH RI game where the coach was warned.

 

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The problem in the rule is that it states “the stealing and relaying of signs”.  I may not necessarily agree with it, but I cannot disagree with the interpretation that observing where the catcher is setting up and communicating that is NOT stealing and relaying signs.

Take that clause out and you now have the clean rule you want: Alerting the batter of pitch selection and/or location is unsportsmanlike behavior. If, in the judgment of the umpire this behavior is occurring, those responsible including any player(s), coach(es), and/or manager shall be ejected from the game.

I mentioned it before (not above): if you want to outlaw communicating with the batter, then do that.  Do not write a hastily composed rule and then try to apply it to other things.

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Heck, I don't even consider noting fastball vs. off-speed as sign stealing.  That's just decrypting.  The offense's poor OPSEC is not the umpire's problem.  "Stealing" would be sneaking into the dugout and absconding with their code book.

I don't expect that interpretation survives a protest, but there ya go.

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I’ll give you a “like” @stevis because you are getting the point ... the written rule is providing very specific terminology with no definition of what that behavior is and then trying to use it to whatever advantage/disadvantage the moment sees fit.

 

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The phrase was used in 1964 by United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to describe his threshold test for obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio.

Can “we” apply his prudent thinking to the “description(s) ofstealing signs”??

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description,” . . .(edited) . . . “and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, . . . ”

:-)

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The error is the win at all costs teaching technique used by the coach. This is how winners do, or you are a loser. You want to know where this comes from, just look at the coaches setting such a great example for your child, and the parents condoning this type of coaching technique, because these are the things that get you ahead in life, and get you that look at me, look at me, how great i am, that all winners in the game of life have, or should have and aspire to, so you don't get left out in real life.

So, to me, you would not have to even need a rule about this, if I were a coach. Number one, I as a coach (and that is why I would never be asked to be one in a competition environment i would imagine), i would not coach this type of tactic even though I would be violating the athletic/competition code of, if you ain't cheat'in,  you ain't trying.

the above would be told at the beginning of the year in a meeting with the players and the parents. I would also mention to the parents that winning at all costs was not in my vocabulary, but I would be fine with anyone that wanted to find another League or team that did not share my views.

if I caught my player doing this, and I would catch it before the umpire, believe me, I would remove the player and we would have one last talk about why that strategy would not be acceptable sportsmanship, with the warning that the next violation, strike 3, (remember strike one was at the beginning team meeting with the parents and by not leaving then, you were in agreement with my thoughts on sportsmanship and fair play), and removal from the team. You would not need this rule with me, nor would the umpire need to deal with any sneaky attempts at avoiding the spirit of the rules.

Now if you want to keep the player in the game with the current rule, just make it so the umpires move the violator back a base, just like getting knocked back in a board game. If a runner is behind the runner being sent back, that runner is declared out, and removed from the base due to the violation of the lead runner being penalized. The player is warned and so is the coach. Further transgressions by any player for this same violation are ejection from the game for the coach. If the same player violates a second time for this same violation, that player is ejected. Life does not have to be 3 strikes and you are out in all instances, even with baseball.

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16 minutes ago, dumbdumb said:

The error is the win at all costs teaching technique used by the coach. This is how winners do, or you are a loser. You want to know where this comes from, just look at the coaches setting such a great example for your child, and the parents condoning this type of coaching technique, because these are the things that get you ahead in life, and get you that look at me, look at me, how great i am, that all winners in the game of life have, or should have and aspire to, so you don't get left out in real life.

So, to me, you would not have to even need a rule about this, if I were a coach. Number one, I as a coach (and that is why I would never be asked to be one in a competition environment i would imagine), i would not coach this type of tactic even though I would be violating the athletic/competition code of, if you ain't cheat'in,  you ain't trying.

the above would be told at the beginning of the year in a meeting with the players and the parents. I would also mention to the parents that winning at all costs was not in my vocabulary, but I would be fine with anyone that wanted to find another League or team that did not share my views.

if I caught my player doing this, and I would catch it before the umpire, believe me, I would remove the player and we would have one last talk about why that strategy would not be acceptable sportsmanship, with the warning that the next violation, strike 3, (remember strike one was at the beginning team meeting with the parents and by not leaving then, you were in agreement with my thoughts on sportsmanship and fair play), and removal from the team. You would not need this rule with me, nor would the umpire need to deal with any sneaky attempts at avoiding the spirit of the rules.

Now if you want to keep the player in the game with the current rule, just make it so the umpires move the violator back a base, just like getting knocked back in a board game. If a runner is behind the runner being sent back, that runner is declared out, and removed from the base due to the violation of the lead runner being penalized. The player is warned and so is the coach. Further transgressions by any player for this same violation are ejection from the game for the coach. If the same player violates a second time for this same violation, that player is ejected. Life does not have to be 3 strikes and you are out in all instances, even with baseball.

Get real. Why have signs at all. Just yell out instructions and make the other team promise to not listen.

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At least in little league rule book 2019, it is up to the local league to adopt the rule.

So you have to ask the local league.

Rule 9 The Umpire (d) "note", states that a player, coach, etc. "Shall be ejected" for the stealing and relaying of signs to alert the batter of pitch selection and/ or location is unsportsmanlike behavior...

The operative words are " pitch selection" and "location".

This means the position of the catcher.

If adopted, then the umpire can apply.

I tell my local league ALL THE TIME, that if you do not follow a single rule, then ALL rules are no good and cannot be followed.



Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G935A using Tapatalk

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35 minutes ago, BigVic69 said:

At least in little league rule book 2019, it is up to the local league to adopt the rule.

So you have to ask the local league.

Rule 9 The Umpire (d) "note", states that a player, coach, etc. "Shall be ejected" for the stealing and relaying of signs to alert the batter of pitch selection and/ or location is unsportsmanlike behavior...

The operative words are " pitch selection" and "location".

This means the position of the catcher.

 

I disagree with that interpretation ... but as I have repeatedly said, given the vagary of the rule I cannot say that interpretation is wrong.  Ask yourself this: Would it be illegal for R2 to observe the outfield shifted to the right and then tell the hitter “Hit it to left field”?  What if the defensive coach had shifted the outfield using a signal instead of a verbal command?

By the language of the rule, I don’t believe considering a fact that is plainly observable by anybody in the stadium (is the catcher set up inside or outside) falls under “stealing signs”.  If LL wants to keep the rule, simply removing the language about stealing signs and replacing it with “Alerting the batter” will fix that and then would include communicating basic observations.

35 minutes ago, BigVic69 said:


I tell my local league ALL THE TIME, that if you do not follow a single rule, then ALL rules are no good and cannot be followed.

Now THAT is sage advice and words to live by!  :notworthy:

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22 hours ago, Rich Ives said:

Get real. Why have signs at all. Just yell out instructions and make the other team promise to not listen.

Unrelated ... but the last year I coached rec I gave up and did this.  I just yelled “steal” and “bunt”.  The play was so bad that it didn’t matter if the defense knew.  It was 14u.  :shakehead:

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