Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos says an ESPN report accusing his team of stealing signs at home is “stupid” and “has got a lot of holes in it.”
A front page article on the ESPN website Wednesday cited four anonymous relief pitchers from an AL team who claimed they saw a man in a white shirt sending signals from the outfield seats to the batter's box during a game in 2010.
According to the article, the man would raise his arms to indicate an offspeed pitch, and leave them by his side if a fastball was coming.
Speaking to reporters before Toronto's game against Oakland, Anthopoulos said there was “zero truth” to the allegations, adding that he was upset no former Blue Jays players, coaches or officials were quoted in 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?'
“Baseball is a small fraternity,” he added. “I don't think it's too hard to find a former coach, a former player, a former front office executive, a former clubhouse guy, a former field guy. Not one person. Instead, let's find four players on some other team claiming that they saw the guy in the white shirt and that they saw the UFO flying across the sky, and let's write a huge story and make a big stink about it.”
Anthopoulos challenged his accusers to find video evidence of sign stealing.
“I think every one of our games is broadcast,” he said. “We have cameras everywhere. Why doesn't everybody go through the footage? Spend a month, spend a year, spend your lifetime, go look for the man in the white shirt. Maybe you'll find someone in a blue shirt or a black shirt. Maybe you'll see a dog. But spend the time, do a little work.”
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. Blue Jays manager John Farrell called the article “a slap in the face.”
“It's unfortunate and it's unfounded,” Farrell said. “They're completely misguided comments.”
One of the four pitchers mentioned in the article told Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista he would throw at his head if the sign stealing continued. Bautista said the team involved in the April 2010 incident was the Chicago White Sox. Baseball's reigning home run king refused to identify the player who made the threat, but said he is still a member of the White Sox.
Bautista called the ESPN report “ridiculous and fictitious.”
“I don't see how you can look at the ball and look at (a man in a white shirt) 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.”
This isn't the first time the Blue Jays have been accused of stealing signs. Yankees catcher Russell Martin claimed Toronto was relaying information from second base during a July series in Toronto. Manager Joe Girardi conceded that anything done by the players and coaches was fair game, but suggested the Blue Jays “could be” using other means to gain an edge.
After losing the opener 16-7, the Yankees began using multiple signs in last month's series, even when no one was on base. They went on to win two of the next three games.
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 this season the Blue Jays have been shut out 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.”
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