Bobby Valentine On WFAN: We've Had 70 Years To 'Figure Out' How To Control Sign-Stealing

Former Mets Manager Discusses How Technology Enabled Astros' Scandal

Joe & Evan
January 14, 2020 - 5:48 pm
Categories: 

Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine admittedly prides himself in his ability to steal signs. He loved to decipher the opposition in order to gain the competitive edge over the course of his playing career. 

Listen to your team news NOW.

On Monday, Major League Baseball handed out severe punishments to the Astros for their involvement in the recent sign-stealing scandal, including one-year suspensions for manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, who were later fired. Valentine joined WFAN's Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts Tuesday afternoon to discuss how stealing signs isn't an isolated incident and whether every team had their own unqiue scheme.

"I think every team was aware that you could do it," Valentine said. "I don't know that every team implemented a system of banging a trash can or having a unique camera set up specifically for signs ... .The first time it happened that everyone knew about it was 1951. This is 70 years that we've had to figure out how to control it. 

"At the end of the day, this isn't only a punishment situation," Valentine added. "This is a "solve the problem" situation and the problem is that technology has afforded the opportunity (for) people to steal signs. You have to come up with the technology that keeps people from stealing the signs. End of conversation."

Crane acted swiftly in firing Hinch and Luhnow following the release of MLB's report. He opted to remove the duo from the organization since "neither one did anything" to put an end to the process. It led Roberts to question what Valentine would've done if he were in Hinch's situation. 

"I would not have stopped it," Valentine said. "No. I would say shame on them for allowing us to steal their signs. It's similar to what I told Ralph Branca for the 40 years that I lived with him while he was alive and he complained about the Giants stealing it. I said, 'shame on the National League for allowing them to steal it.' ... I knew when people were stealing signs and they used technology in the 80s to steal signs. It wasn't always with a guy on second base."

Valentine, who managed the Mets from 1996 to 2002, admitted that he's tried to indirectly steal signs using cameras. The 69-year-old said "cooler heads prevailed" when asked if he'd considered installing more cameras to help understand opponent's signs. 

"I'd be lying to you if I didn't tell you that I had cameras that were right out in the open, next to the dugout that would film the hitter and film the pitcher from the different perspectives for our teaching," Valentine said. "When the camera was on the pitcher from the first-base dugout sometimes you saw the third-base coach and I'd be lying to you if I didn't tell you that I tried to see what the third base coach was doing in slow motion. You bet I tried ... but it was there to see."

Mets manager Bobby Valentine and catcher Mike Piazza applaud in honor of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani before the Mets' game against the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 21, 2001, at Shea Stadium.
Getty Images

In between his time with Boston and New York, Valentine continued his coaching career in Asia. He realized that methods of stealing signs were just as unique and developed as it was in the United States.

"In 2004, they were stealing the signs from the stands with video cameras," Valentine recalled. "We wound up changing our signs from the third base coach and from the manager to the third base coach every day. To give relevance to that, you might change signs in the big leagues twice a year or maybe sometimes you'll change signs if you're repeating a series back-to-back. Never do you change signs every day. The sign-stealing was so prolific when I got there that I had to have different sets of signs every day."

Click the audio player above to listen to Bobby Valentine's interview in its entirety. 

Related: