ESPN reported today that several Major League Baseball players and managers have accused (anonymously) the Toronto Blue Jays of using a spotter in the stands to steal pitch signals and relay them to batters.They also claim to have the stats to prove it.
An analysis of the Blue Jays hitting shows a remarkable ability to hit more home runs in their home park then they do on the road. Visiting teams do not share that park advantage.
The numbers do seem suspicious, but do not of course proves anything. The Jays 2010 season is a great statistical outliers, but it’s still just that – an outlier.
More damning is the quote from opposing players saying they could see a man in the outfield (positioned directly in the batter’s line of sight) predicting offspeed pitches with his arms. The players who saw them aren’t named, but the Yankees admit that when in Toronto’s Rogers Centre, they use extra signals, even when no one is on base.
So let’s assume for a moment that’s it’s true. The Toronto Blue Jays are stealing signs. Who cares?
Well, baseball players seem to care. Not because it’s illegal. It’s not against the rules to discover what other teams are doing before they do it. That why they have hand signals in the first place.
It’s not even clear that it breaks the famous “unwritten rules” of baseball, since this brand of “cheating” is a time-honored tradition. The Dodgers won the 1951 pennant thanks to a guy with a telescope and spitballs have put players in the Hall Of Fame.
Baseball (and all sports) really are always about trying to gain an advantage over your opponent, within the rules of the game. One team pushes the boundaries, another pushes back. That’s how the game works.
It’s not very “gentlemanly” or “sporting,” but perhaps the reason most players are really mad at the Jays is because they didn’t think of it first. Or have the audacity to try and get away with it.
In the end, the solution is simple: If someone is stealing your signs… change your signs. It’s sure easier than complaining to ESPN about it.
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