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MLB working on catching in-game sign stealers

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Major League Baseball is continuing to take a hard look at the use of technology in order to steal signs during games, according to MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem. Discussions this winter will help determine if they expand in-game security.

“The real issue here is giving clubs comfort that other clubs are not using electronic technology to steal signs,” Halem said Thursday morning.

Halem spoke on the final day of the GM Meetings where, at this time of year, “all issues are on the table.” In terms of the sign stealing/spying issue, the league is looking at how the center-field camera and team’s video rooms play a part in the process.

But the league’s No.1 issue continues to revolve around getting more balls in play. This past season was the first in baseball to feature more strikeouts than hits.

“We’re an entertainment product,” Halem said. “We want to play the game in a way that’s compelling for our audience, including our younger audience. We’re constantly looking at the way the game is changing organically and trying to balance the competitive issues… versus what those decisions result in, with the product on the field. It’s not an easy balance.

“We’d probably like to see more balls in play. It’s an issue under discussion.”

Old topics like pitch clocks, length of games and now legalized gambling were discussed this week, as was defensive shifting. It’s too early to know if there will be any rule change to ban shifting.

“I don’t know if it’s a concern,” Halem said. “It’s an issue we talk about. We talk about a lot of issues regarding the way the game is played and our clubs have a variety of views on that.”

The waiver trade process is also up for discussion, including trading deadlines, while the league is also continuing to keep an eye on length of games. Halem said they were down about 4.5 minutes in 2018 citing changes from last winter as reasons for the decline.

“Shortening the inning break and the mound visit rule,” Halem stated. “Games are about 3 hours. It’s going in the right direction.”

Halem said the league doesn’t believe there is much correlation between tanking teams and a decline in attendance, something agent Scott Boras claimed on Wednesday, but the league is looking at all possibilities to keep fans coming to games.

“Our owners don’t believe there is any connection between the rebuilding process and overall attendance,” Halem said. “All issues are on the table right now. As we make our way through this offseason process, he (the commissioner) will make some decisions.”

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