Royals Accuse Blue Jays of Stealing Signs

AP Photo
The Associated Press

On Tuesday, Kansas City Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez asserted that his fellow pitcher, Johnny Cueto, believed that the Toronto Blue jays were stealing his catcher’s signs, enabling them to hammer him for eight runs in two-plus innings in Monday’s Blue Jays’ 11-8 victory.

Cueto resurrected the long-debated claim that the Blue Bays steal signs, a charge first leveled in 2010. He and catcher Salavador Perez consistently met on the mound Monday every time the Blue Jays put a runner on second base.

Volquez said of Cueto, “He said last night they got a guy in center field. You see how hard it is, he looks to center field and he sees somebody do this or do that – it’s really hard to do that. I don’t know, he said that. But when a guy gets on second base, he said something about that, too, they were giving signs to the hitter. But I don’t know.”

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons denied the charge, protesting, “We don’t do any of that. We’re here to play baseball. We’ve had guys come and go over the years and even when guys have come back and they’ve had an axe to grind that’s never been an issue.”

Still, it has been noted that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox both use multiple sets of signs whenever the face the Blue Jays in Toronto.

The 2010 intrigue was reported in 2011 by ESPN, which delineated the claim by teams that a man in white standing in the center field bleachers would raise his arms over his head for curveballs, sliders, and changeups, but remain motionless for a fastball. Players in the opposing team’s bullpen formulated a plan; some would turn their backs to the field and watch the man in white while others would observe the stadium’s radar gun. The players watching the man would call out what the man’s signals seemed to transmit, and the others watching the radar gun would confirm the signal with the radar gun. They found a distinct correlation.

The day after the players confirmed something sneaky afoot, they got to the field early. One player stood in the batter’s box while another stood on the pitcher’s mound, and it became apparent that the man in white had been positioned so that a batter would see him clearly behind the pitcher. One player told ESPN, “It’s premeditated, as if the guy was a sniper trying to find the best position to make a shot.”

In January, 2011, Colin Wyers, a contributor to ESPN Insider who wrote for Baseball Prospectus, analyzed data and found that the Blue Jays power surge looked suspiciously large at home. Wyers found that when the Blue Jays traveled in 2010, they hit home runs in 4 percent of plate appearances in which they made contact, but at home, their home run on contact rate climbed to 5.4 percent.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the charges of cheating might have some merit, stating, “Could be. Obviously, if you feel like it’s coming from somewhere else besides a player on the field, yeah, I do have issues with that.”

Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos denied everything, saying”That never happened, will never happen, not even a possibility. If it did happen, we’d be winning a lot more games at home … I think it’s a nonstory because no one ever has picked up the phone and called me about it. It’s never been an issue, and I would expect them to do so if it was.”

An MLB spokesman quavered, “Major League Baseball has never received a complaint from any club about sign stealing in Toronto, and this is first [we’ve been] made aware of it.

When the Rockies spotted a Phillies bullpen coach using binoculars, and accused the Rockies of cheating in 2010, Commissioner Bud Selig responded, “Stealing signs has been around for 100 years,” and only issued a reprimand.

Former Blue Jay Gregg Zaun admitted on Monday night on a Kansas City radio show, “The only thing I can tell you about stealing signs is, when I played for the Blue Jays (2004-2008), yes we stole signs, and we were happy to do it.”