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Nightengale: Nothing Surprising about Red Sox AppleGate Wrist-Slap Fine

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Photo: Michael Dwyer/AP

Come on, you didn’t really expect anything more than a fine, did you?

When the Boston Red Sox were caught illegally stealing signs using their fancy new Apple watches, and Major League Baseball acted horribly offended, did anyone really believe it was anything more than an act?.

Sure, MLB and Commissioner Rob Manfred were irritated, but hardly affronted, knowing deep in their heart there were probably 29 other teams violating MLB’s conduct policy regarding the illegal use of electronic equipment.

So when Manfred announced Friday that the Red Sox were being fined — as well as the New York Yankees, who turned them in — it was nothing more than a warning.

Hey dudes, you were caught, it’s illegal, and enough is enough.

It’s no different than putting a speed limit in the neighborhood when the police realize that a few folks are going over 25 mph.

Yep, an ol’ fashioned wrist-slap.

For those who thought Major League Baseball was going to strip draft picks from the Red Sox, or comically even force them to vacate victories, it’s time to wake up and smell reality.

Sign stealing in baseball has gone on since before the days of Babe Ruth.

Veteran scouts recently regaled USA TODAY Sports in stories of a knothole between the clubhouse and the dugout at the old Polo Grounds, with the manager able to relay signs to the hitter.

It was common practice at every ballpark in America.

And now that we’re advanced in technology, with our entire world needing the Internet to survive, what did anyone expect?

This is why hitters study videotape on their computers, managers utilize iPads to study matchups, and why players and general managers would rather text one another than actually talk.

It’s 2017, and, life has dramatically changed.

Now, with the game adopting instant replay, and the pitch clock coming to a stadium near you in 2018, how can anyone be naïve enough to believe that teams wouldn’t take advantage of the technological advances?

Come on, you don’t think visiting manager’s offices have been bugged?

You don’t think there are secret cameras in opposing dugouts?

You don’t think teams have employees stationed in different parts of the ballpark stealing and relaying signs to their players?

Times have dramatically altered the way we act in baseball, whether it’s using WAR to evaluate players, or baseball-reference to seek statistics, but the constant that remains the same is good old-fashioned competition.

You still do everything possible, whether it’s legal or illegal, to gain an edge.

It doesn’t matter whether you are taking performance-enhancing drugs or getting ADD prescriptions when you don’t need it. Or you’re juicing the baseballs to increase home runs and attendance?

The game of baseball, and sports, is built on cheating.

The only difference is the mode of cheating, and Manfred used the Red Sox to send a message that it’s time to cease and desist.

It’s a fine today.

It will be the forfeiture of draft picks tomorrow.

The Red Sox were the guinea pig, and the first team to be blatantly exposed using their fancy electronic espionage.

So they got their wrist slapped.

They’ve got to stand in front of the chalkboard writing, “We will not cheat,’’ 100 times in front of their classmates.

That’s it.

And that’s perfectly fine for now.

Next time, it better be different.

Much, much different.

Everyone has been warned.

If you’re stupid enough to get caught again, just like testing positive for PEDs, or signing under-aged players, you deserve the ridicule and shame.

Next up will be the illegal recruiting and signing of Japanese star Shohei Otani.

Sure, he may get only the maximum $10.1 million signing bonus now, but a year from now, let’s see what team gets away with giving him an extension exceeding $100 million, if not $200 million.

There will be an investigation, plenty of denials, and the need for MLB to find proof the team that lands Otani already had an illegal agreement to give him a lucrative extension.

The team that signs Otani, in all likelihood, will have cheated, hoping to get away with it.

Why should we be upset?

It’s simply the American way.

By Bob Nightengale

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook

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