Phillies’ coach was cheating? Give that man a raise

Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer: I spy something fast. (Courtesty of FSN Rocky Mountain Sports)

Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer: I spy something ... fast!

So let me see if I’ve got this straight: Baseball teams steal signs?

Yes, those dirty, cheatin’ Philadelphia Phillies have been accused of stealing signs by the Colorado Rockies. This, of course, would explain why the Phillies are on their way to a fourth straight National League East title and probably will go to World Series for the third straight season. And you probably thought it was because they had the best lineup in baseball. (Duh.)

Maybe what the Braves really need is not a .300 hitter but just a good set of binoculars.

Look, I’ve always considered there to be two kinds of cheating in sports:

1.) Cheating that really matters: Examples of this are performance-enhancing drugs, performance enhancing drugs and performance enhancing drugs.

Occasionally, something else cute slips in, like the New England Patriots video taping a St. Louis Rams closed practice before a Super Bowl. This differs from other forms of “sign stealing” because the Patriots weren’t supposed to be in there. Hence the term: CLOSED practice. It would be like somebody from Microsoft hiding in a closet when designers from Apple had a meeting to discuss new ideas, which come to think of it probably has happened.

2.) Cheating that doesn’t really matter. This is almost everything else. OK. So Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was caught on camera peering through binoculars from the bullpen at Coors Field. (For the record, he denies he was looking at the pitch signs being given by Rockies catcher Miguel Olivio. I believe him. He probably does what all guys do with binoculars at baseball games: He looks for the section with the players wives and girlfriends.)

Baseball players steal signs. Football players try to steal signals. I’ve always found the level of paranoia about this to be hysterical. One thing I’ve always loved about hockey is coaches don’t care who is watching. Teams watch each other go through game-day skates all the time. Granted, hockey doesn’t have much in the way of set plays, but there’s not nearly the level of paranoia with things like forward line combinations, defensive pairings and who’s on the power play.

Baseball’s history is rich with great cheating stories. San Francisco Giants manager Alvin Dark used to instruct the groundskeeper at Candlestick Park to soak the area around first base or spread sand in the base paths before games so the Dodgers’ Maury Wills would have a harder time trying to steal second.

Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot heard round the world” that enabled the New York Giants to win the 1951 pennant reportedly came as result of a team spy stealing the opposing catcher’s signs from center field with binoculars.

I say: Give that spy a raise.

Baseball players, coaches and mangers are constantly trying to steal signs — from players, coaches and managers on the other team. The giving and the stealing has been elevated to an art form.  Same in football. It’s part of the game.

If a team is worried about signs being stolen, give better signs. Here’s an idea: make two fingers the fastball and one the curve. That’ll throw them off!

In the interest of full disclosure, I used to try to steal signs in Little League. Turned around and sneaked a peek a couple of times. Saw the catcher putting down one finger. Fastball. But I couldn’t catch up to it anyway.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on

38 comments Add your comment


May 13th, 2010
10:26 am


May 13th, 2010
10:30 am

judging by that picture it does seem more likely that he was looking at the wives and girlfriends section

[...] Phillies coach was cheating? Give that man a raise [...]

who cares

May 13th, 2010
10:37 am

if stealing signs and plays would help the braves win, i say do it. in fact, why havent we been doing it already…?


May 13th, 2010
10:48 am

Well said, Jeff. That he was stupid enough to get caught doesn’t mean he’s the only one doing it. The solution is just to get more complex and confusing with your signs.


May 13th, 2010
10:50 am

Seriously, this guy is an idiot…with all the tv camaras and conveage at these games…did he really think the “quick look with the binoculers and then hide them behind his back” trick would work???


May 13th, 2010
10:51 am

Happy Jack

May 13th, 2010
10:54 am

Look for a new Peak AntiFreeze sponsorship in Citizens Bank Field. “When you Peak, you win.”

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

May 13th, 2010
10:57 am

perhaps he was checking out what snacks & food were available? Seeing how mamoth the guys is.


May 13th, 2010
10:58 am

What it boils down to is this: the pitcher still has to make the pitch.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Will D., PJ Gillam. PJ Gillam said: Phillies’ coach was cheating? Give that man a raise. [...]

Hillbilly Deluxe

May 13th, 2010
11:06 am

In the interest of full disclosure, I used to try to steal signs in Little League. Turned around and sneaked a peek a couple of times.

Back in the 80’s, WGN showed a shot of Jody Davis sneaking a peek back at the catcher. A couple games later, he got knocked down a couple times. I always figured the 2 were related.

Don Zimmer, a baseball lifer, was the 3B coach of the 84 Cubs (who had a great season before their infamous flameout against the Padres in the Playoffs). He said that team was the best he ever saw at stealing signs from 2B.

When Ricky Henderson first came up with Oakland, Billy Martin was the manager and they were a running team. There were allegations at the time that in Oakland Coliseum, the distance from 1B to 2B was 88 feet rather than the regulation 90. A good groundskeeper is like a 26th man.

Herschel Talker

May 13th, 2010
11:23 am

Agree somewhat. Stealing signs by a runner on second base who slickly transmits them to the batter is one thing (a la Joe Mauer last year). However, blatantly pulling out binoculars is a different matter.


May 13th, 2010
11:24 am

Jeff, did that coach eat the bull that was in that pen?

matt r

May 13th, 2010
11:26 am

I thought the main thrust of Spygate was the taping of defensive signals during a real game… which would fall under category 2, right?


May 13th, 2010
11:28 am

A closer look might reveal that those are actually “BAR-noculars”. Probably full of slimfast and Jim Beam.


May 13th, 2010
11:44 am

What punishment could fit such a crime? Banishing the guy to one of the worst cities in America? Oh wait, which city is already in? Whoops. The only worse places might be Detroit, Toledo, or Memphis.


May 13th, 2010
11:46 am

More power to him. Its part of the game and they all do it.

They need to just worry about the Drugs!!!!!!!


May 13th, 2010
11:55 am

For the record, he denies he was looking at the pitch signs being given by Rockies catcher Miguel Olivio. I believe him.

You cant be that dumb Jeff


May 13th, 2010
11:56 am

They’re called “signs” for a reason. Teams are deliberately trying to transfer information that they don’t want the other team to know. If the other team can decipher their “signs” and codes, then it’s time to change your signs! This isn’t “Earmuffs, please” and then speak freely.

If stealing signs were illegal, the batter would wear earmuffs while the pitcher and catcher talked it out, and when they came to a consensus, the batter could take off their earmuffs. I think we can all agree that that would be just plain stupid. To anyone who thinks stealing signs is an egregious violation of sportsmanship, lighten up and enjoy the competition.


May 13th, 2010
12:05 pm

know how big that field is? its frickin. ginourmous. he could be looking at anything… besides how is he relaying the signs to the batter, from where he is sitting, when the batter is at plate? even if victorino knew what pitches were coming in—which any good batter will read scouting reports—he doesnt know whats coming pitch by pitch. in these shots he’s resting the binocs right in front of him. Theres no controversy here.


May 13th, 2010
12:14 pm

I hate the Phillies. bunch of crooked sleeze balls.

Delbert D.

May 13th, 2010
12:15 pm

Is having 20/10 vision going to be illegal too?


May 13th, 2010
12:16 pm

I’m not gonna sit here while you defend the Phillies. I’m going to Mark Bradley’s blog!


May 13th, 2010
12:18 pm

I can’t wait for Ubaldo Jimenez to stand on the mound and announce to Victorino, ‘Hey Vic, let me know if your guy predicted this one’…then put one of his 100 mph’ers in his ear-hole. That ought to break those dogs from suckin’ eggs.

Well, as I always say...

May 13th, 2010
12:21 pm

…if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’!!!!!

Ghengis Kahn

May 13th, 2010
12:46 pm

Cheating in baseball? Say it aint so.

This guy is the poster child for why baseball coaches/managers shouldn’t wear uniforms but should wear suits or other clothes instead of uniforms. How many of these fat, sloppy looking baseball coaches are out there? At least there’s not as many fat/sloppy looking John Kruk type players as there used to be.

[...] Phillies' coach was cheating? Give that man a raise [...]

Danny O

May 13th, 2010
1:34 pm

I agree w/Schultz. Stealing signs is a part of the game. If the league has a problem w/what the Phillies bullpen coach was doing, then the only reasonable response is to ban binoculars from bullpens and dugouts. Otherwise, there’s no way to keep other teams from trying to interpret signs. If they can see it, then they’re gonna try and figure out what it means and relay that info to batters.

[...] Phillies' coach was cheating? Give that man a raise [...]

[...]  I read Jeff Schultz’s take on the matter afterward and that calmed me down a little. Share this [...]

[...] Jeff Schultz compared the Phillies’ binoculars to the 1951 Giants’ elaborate operation, writing, “I say: Give that spy a [...]

Big Steve

May 13th, 2010
4:33 pm

My God, how can you be discussing whether cheating is wrong? Do you understand the term? Thankfully, you are not my accountant, my preacher, my representative, or my wife. You seem to have some confusion about the term “steal.” Baseball players “steal” signs in the same way that they “steal” bases. They take advantage of a situation that everyone approves of and accepts. It is not really stealing or cheating. What the Phillies are doing is unacceptable to the entire baseball world. It is cheating, no matter how amoral you are.


May 13th, 2010
7:19 pm

You discredit yourself as any type of journalist if you repeat and print as fact something that is UTTERLY BOGUS. Here’s the retraction of the only paper that ever claimed they had a source that the Patriots ever videotaped the walkthrough:

“On Feb. 2, 2008, the Boston Herald reported that a member of the New England Patriots’ video staff taped the St. Louis Rams’ walk-through on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI. While the Boston Herald based its Feb. 2, 2008, report on sources that it believed to be credible, we now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walk-through ever existed.”

Anyone that would repeat LIBELOUS information as fact has no place writing about or condemning cheating. John Tomase of the Boston Herald no longer writes about football. Maybe you should find something else to write about other than sports.


May 13th, 2010
10:47 pm

God mr schultz I guess u truly are an idiot. Which is why you don’t write for any decent publication. Anway u say it’s ” cheating that doesn’t matter” yet it’s still cheating you moron. Otherwise why say they are “stealing” signs. Why even do it if there it doesn’t help. You obviously seem to realize that it helped Bobby Thompson and the giants. Charlie manual as well as the phills ate pieces of ****. Just like last year when the paid people to vote for Shane Vic to make the allstar team when Matt kemp was and is a far superior player.( gold glove silver slugger 09). Bottom line is that besides being cheating, where’s this old f***( c. Manuals) itegrity? He is not a hall of fame coach and should never be considered. The guy is a joke. He even knows it which is why he feel he needs an edge. As for the best lineup in baseball, that is argued with stats and numbers. And their numbers are obviously tainted since they have had an advantage. Funny thing is they couldn’t even win last year eventhough rhey were cheating. I hope Charlie gets his pathetic a** fined for this.


May 17th, 2010
10:17 pm

Ha Ha! May the best cheater win!


May 18th, 2010
9:25 am

i think there is more to this then just stealing signs,this is the only thing we cought them doing. I believe if they have the balls to do that then what else can they be doing?As a mets fan,I will never look at the phillies the same.I had respect for them, they were a good team but cheating? really? if u was bud selig i would have there season forfitted.

[...] Phillies' coach was cheating? Give that man a raise [...]