Blue Jays deny stealing signs
Last season he was shooting down suggestions of steroid abuse. This season he’s defending his team against allegations of sign stealing.
Jose Bautista wonders what he and the Toronto Blue Jays will have to answer for next.
In the latest twist in what has become an ongoing saga, an ESPN report says at least four members of an opposing team — identified by Bautista as the Chicago White Sox — claim the Blue Jays stole signs from outside the field of play during games at Rogers Centre.
“This is just ridiculous and fictitious,” Bautista said. “I’m intrigued to see what they’re going to come up with next week or next year to try to decipher why we’re playing good or why we’re doing good or something,” the Toronto Blue Jays right-fielder said before Wednesday’s game against the Oakland Athletics.
Bautista has 33 homers this season, tops in baseball, and led the majors with 54 last season. As his home run total mounted last year he had to listen to suggestions that steroids might be involved.
“Doing things that are illegal in the game of baseball, this has not happened here and it won’t happen,” Bautista said. “That’s not the way I do things. That’s the same answer I gave last year about the whole steroid thing.”
Players in the visiting bullpen noticed a man dressed in white in the outfield at the Jays’ stadium in April of 2010. According to the website’s report, the players said the man made signals from the outfield stands to Toronto batters, apparently alerting them to what pitch was coming.
“I don’t see how you can look at the ball and look at that at the same time,” Bautista said. “It’s impossible in my head. From reading the article, I have no idea how they claim this is done. … It would help anybody to know what’s coming. Of course it does.”
The all-star was supported by Toronto’s front office.
“This is stupid,” said Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos who denied that his team stole signs in the article and did so again before Wednesday’s home game against the Oakland Athletics.
“There’s zero truth to this,” Anthopoulos told reporters. “No one’s ever contacted me. No GM has picked up the phone and called me.
“The way I was raised, if I have an issue, if I had a concern, if I think someone on the other side is doing something I’m going to call, I’m going to walk across the field (and) go talk to someone. I’m going to do something like that. No there hasn’t been anything like that at all.”
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi suggested last month that the Blue Jays might be stealing signs at Rogers Centre. Yankees catcher Russell Martin of Chelsea, Que., said at the time he suspected the Toronto players were stealing signs from second base.
Girardi had little to say when asked to comment on the latest allegations against the Blue Jays.
“People have been stealing signs since the beginning of time,” Girardi said before the Yankees hosted the Angels. “It’s your job as a club to protect your signs.”
Asked about the matter before his game at Baltimore, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen acknowledged being aware of Toronto’s reputation for sign stealing.
“People talk about it,” Guillen said. “If it works, they should be in first place.”
The Blue Jays entered play Wednesday at 58-57, fourth in the AL East and 14 games out of first place. They’re 28-27 at home, where they were no-hit by Detroit’s Justin Verlander in May, and 30-30 on the road.
Verlander’s May 7 no-hitter was one of four times the Blue Jays have been shutout this season, with three of those coming at home.
Both Guillen and Girardi said protecting signs is the responsibility of the catcher.
“If you have stolen signs, you have a dumb catcher,” Guillen said. “If you see guys stealing signs, change the signs.”
Blue Jays fans and players had some fun with the allegations during Wednesday’s game. Several fans in the outfield seats wore white shirts, with one holding a sign that read “FASTBALL.” Another a few rows back held one that read “I’m stealing your signs.”
Seated in the bullpen, reliever Casey Janssen fashioned a pair of binoculars out of two paper cups and a roll of tape, and wore them around his neck.
Still, not everyone was laughing. Anthopoulos wondered why former Blue Jays players or personnel weren’t contacted for the story.
“To do something like this would take a whole lot of work by this organization to keep everybody quiet,” he said. “I just wish people would look at the common sense component first and say ‘Is this really realistic?’
“Think of what would have to go into all this stuff. Really that’s as far as it goes. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair to our players, I don’t think it’s fair to the organization.”
Added Bautista: “This is sad, funny and ridiculous at the same time,”
The right-fielder could not recall any past issues with the White Sox.
“To me it’s unprofessional,” Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia said. “It’s a joke. It’s somebody discrediting our success. As a baseball player, I think there’s zero chance of it working. I’m very upset about it, because I take it personally.”
Catchers often use multiple signs to try to eliminate any chance of an opponent picking up on something — usually a runner at second base — and using it to their advantage. Stealing signs from outside the field of play is generally deemed to be unacceptable.
According to the ESPN report, some visiting teams have started using multiple signs between catcher and pitcher at the stadium, even when no Blue Jays are on base
“First of all I think that the statements that were made — and all I can speak to were the recent statements — they’re completely misguided,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. “And it’s to suggest that if a player does well it’s for other reasons rather than hard work and making adjustments. Players change. We see it all the time, Players will make fundamental adjustments and they’ll reap the rewards of those adjustments and the work.”
Michael Teevan, the public relations director for Major League Baseball, said there are no electronics allowed in dugouts or team areas. However, when it comes to sign stealing, there are no clear rules on the issue.
“In terms of sign stealing, I’m not aware of anything that’s in our rules about it,” Teevan said. “Traditionally as the old saying goes, it’s something that teams kind of police themselves.
“But in general I would say that if a club calls us with something to look into, then we’d look into it.”
Teevan added that MLB has not received a complaint.
Farrell, who was the Boston Red Sox pitching coach for the previous four seasons, said there were no suspicions that the Blue Jays were doing anything abnormal in attempting to steal signs when he was with Boston.
“Nothing outside the norm of location might be being relayed from second base or something that I would venture to say to a certain extent every team does,” Farrell said. “It’s the same reason why we equip our pitchers either there or here with multiple sets of signs.”
“It’s a story for today,” Anthopoulos said Wednesday. “But for me it’s, a non-story.”