There is mischief afoot in Colorado! The Phillies Comcast broadcast last night reported that the Phils were concerned about the Rockies stealing signs (UPDATE: This was likely just Tom McCarthy making an error in judgment). Comments today have cited the Colorado Fox Sports affiliate “catching” bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer sitting in the bullpen with a pair of binoculars and Shane Victorino in the dugout using the bullpen phone. Of course, this would not be the first time the Phils have been accused of cracking codes.
Last year, during the World Series, both the New York Yankees team and Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa — a former Phillies shortstop and manager, and former Yankees third base coach — accused the Phils of stealing signs. That angered center fielder Shane Victorino, who pointed to the Phillies’ lack of success against the Yankees as evidence that they are clearly not guilty.
In 2008, the Boston Red Sox called the Phillies out for sign-stealing despite losing two of three games in the series. The New York Mets did the same in ’07 as the Phillies swept them in a crucial four-game series. The Mets had the most elaborate accusation (surprisingly). From the New York Post:
Allegedly, the camera in center field provides footage to a video room. A coach stationed in the corner of the Phillies’ dugout has a buzzer in his pocket. Based on the signal he receives from the video room, he then yells a code to the batter – such as his first name – to relay what pitch is coming. One Met said he’s heard from three different former Phillies in the past year alleging foul play at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies have been investigated several times but have never been found guilty. Stealing signs is only against baseball’s rules if electronic devices, such as cameras, are used. Joe Mauer, catcher for the Minnesota Twins, was famously “caught” last year in a game against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. Mauer relayed the location of the pitch to Jason Kubel by touching his helmet with his hand.
Preventing sign-stealing is easy, though. All it requires is for the “victims” to change their signs or to not use them at all. The Phillies went the latter route against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS last year. Per Danny Knobler:
The Phillies were so concerned about the Dodgers stealing their signs in the National League Championship Series that for one crucial at-bat, they gave no signs at all.
It was in the fifth inning of Game 5. The Phillies led 6-3, but Manny Ramirez came to the plate representing the tying run. Rafael Furcal, who the Phillies suspected of sign-stealing, was on second base.
When reliever Chad Durbin came into the game to face Ramirez, he and catcher Carlos Ruiz scripted the entire at-bat before it began. For the entire five-pitch at-bat, which ended with Ramirez bouncing back to the mound, Ruiz never gave one sign.