August 10, 2011
Now, he and his fellow Toronto Blue Jays hitters are being confronted with new accusations regarding their collective success at Rogers Centre.
An ESPN The Magazine and Outside the Lines report talked to several players from an opposing team who believe that Blue Jays batters have benefited from someone — a mysterious "man in white" — who relayed signs to them from center field, signaling what opposing pitchers are about to throw.
The players weren't exactly sure how the man in white knew what was coming -- maybe, they thought, he was receiving messages via his Bluetooth from an ally elsewhere in the stadium who had binoculars or access to the stadium feed. But they quickly picked up the wavelength of his transmissions: He was raising his arms over his head for curveballs, sliders and changeups. In other words, anything besides fastballs.
The report says the alleged incident occurred last season after the pitchers in the visiting bullpen noticed the man in white and his signals. The members of that bullpen shouted accusations at Bautista as he took his position in right field and one threatened to throw at Bautista's head if the Blue Jays continued the sign-stealing.
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At a press conference called Wednesday to address the allegations, Bautista told reporters that the bullpen belonged to the Chicago White Sox. Both Bautista and GM Alex Anthopolous firmly denied the charges.
This isn't the first time a team has accused the Blue Jays of stealing signs. New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi made the suggestion in mid-July after Russell Martin(notes) and Freddy Garcia(notes) employed multiple signs, even when no runners were on base. That implied that the Yankees thought the Blue Jays might be getting some help from an off-field source.
So do these charges have merit? Rogers Centre is one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the majors. Highlighting the Blue Jays' top two sluggers, Bautista has a 1.115 OPS at home versus 1.030 on the road, though his home run numbers are rather evenly split. Adam Lind(notes) has a .807 OPS in Toronto, but .754 away from home.
But as Drunk Jays Fans profanely points out, the Blue Jays were also no-hit by Justin Verlander(notes) this season in Toronto. Was the man in white hanging out in center field then? Are the Tigers just better at mixing up their signs than other teams? Or is Verlander just so dominant that it doesn't matter whether or not you know what pitch is coming?
Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia(notes) also cited the Verlander no-hitter on Twitter. However, he could be particularly sensitive on the subject of home-road splits, since he's batting .194 (with a .697 OPS) at Rogers Centre.
To no one's surprise, Anthopoulos denied the allegations in the ESPN report itself and during the aforementioned presser Wednesday afternoon. Additionally, a MLB spokesperson said the league has never received any official complaints from a team about sign-stealing by the Blue Jays.
Steal of Home performed some impressive detective work to determine if the man in white exists. Taking screen caps from an April 2010 game between the White Sox and Blue Jays, three men wearing white can be seen in center field during the game. And one of them left his seat by the fifth inning, after the confrontation between Bautista and the visitors' bullpen took place. Hmm.
Is the truth still out there? If so, watching Blue Jays games on TV may have become much more interesting. That is, if visiting team telecasts begin training their cameras on center field, looking for any man wearing white.