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.