COMMENTARY | It's been a pretty rough go for the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park lately.
Since 2007, the Pirates are 8-46 in their last 54 games playing the Milwaukee Brewers in their home stomping grounds. It's not as if the Pirates are the cellar dwellers they once were. Pittsburgh has been a team on the up-and-up over the past three seasons, and yet it has absolutely no luck at Miller Park.
Sometimes, when things aren't going your way, you'll look for any possible alibi that helps support why such is the case.
Well, guess what? We've finally figured it out, you guys. There's something funky going on at Miller Park, and the stench of cheating is swirling around the stadium. That's because the Brewers have been stealing signs from the Pirates, providing the Crew with an unfair advantage and leading to their dominance over the Buccos.
Just ask Pittsburgh's director of baseball communications Jim Trdinich. According to his Facebook page (Warning: NSFW -- via Deadspin), he's had just enough of the tomfoolery going on at the apparent unfriendly confines of Miller Park.
Bold statement, Jim. He clearly realized the mistake and deleted this message, but that's the great thing about screen captures -- now it will live on forever. Let that be a lesson to everyone out there -- always think twice before hitting the enter key.
All kidding aside, Trdinich isn't the only person associated with the Pirates that smells something fishy. In Game 2 of the three-game series between the two clubs, Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin was none too pleased with something Brewers' third base coach Ed Sedar was doing in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Milwaukee had already jumped out to a 7-3 lead, and Carlos Gomez was at the dish with one on and one out. Gomez called time and stepped out, and this was followed by Martin taking off his mask and yelling in the direction of the third base line, presumably at Sedar as this GIF would indicate (h/t Rumbunter.com).
Now this isn't the first time the Brewers have been accused of stealing signs. Former St. Louis Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa suggested that something was going on with the scoreboard lights to help tip hitters off as to what pitch was coming next. Cardinal pitcher Chris Carpenter also accused Brewer base runners of relaying signs to hitters, and La Russa went as far as filing a complaint (via Yahoo!Sports).
Of course, this wasn't the first time La Russa had a gripe with an opponent, and the Brewers and Cardinals were locked in a rather bitter rivalry down the stretch of the 2011 season when this whole thing went down.
Then there was the first week of the 2013 season when Milwaukee played the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was the D-Backs who were eliminated by the Brewers in the playoffs two years ago, and just for good measure, catcher Miguel Montero switched things up in the teams' series in early April. He had some interesting comments to make regarding the change (via MLB.com).
The Diamondbacks wound up sweeping the Brewers, although both Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun missed most of the series with injuries.
OK, so that's three instances in the past three years. Let's weigh some factors.
If you happened to watch the first two games of the Pirates and Brewers' series, you'd have noticed that Pittsburgh starters Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald were having trouble locating their pitches. The Brewers went on to score 22 runs, impressive for an offense that was in a bit of a funk entering the series.
We already mentioned that the Brewers are 46-8 against Pittsburgh at home since '07, and they have also enjoyed similar success in Milwaukee against the Chicago Cubs, going 18-2 in their past 20 games against the North Siders. Overall, the Brewers do have a rather noticeable split between home wins and away wins under the leadership of manager Ron Roenicke.
But these are also two teams that the Brewers have had more success than in recent years. If Milwaukee is stealing signs, then why isn't it beating the stuffing out of every team that enters its humble abode?
You would also think that former Brewer Casey McGehee, who played for the Pirates last season, would have tipped off his teammates about Milwaukee's deceitful ways. The Brewers did go 6-3 in 2012 at home against the Bucs, so perhaps McGehee's presence had a subtle effect.
There were the days back in little league and high school where stealing signs was more common practice, but this is Major League Baseball. Some would say at this level that it's bush league, especially if the Brewers are using the lighting in the stadium to their advantage -- they would have to be if there are only issues when teams play at Miller Park.
Or is this a "fool me twice, shame on me" situation? Is stealing signs just part of the game? If teams are so poor at hiding their signals, do they deserve to have them stolen? Are teams right to have a legitimate beef with the Brewers and the way they go about their business at Miller Park, or is it all just sour grapes?
The Brewers aren't the only team that's been called out. On a few different occasions over the past two seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays have come under scrutiny from the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees (via Sportsnet.ca ).
Perhaps an investigation is necessary, but it's difficult to say if there is really enough evidence to go after Milwaukee. There is also no rule prohibiting a team from stealing signs -- it's a bit of a grey area.
Maybe there's more to this story, maybe there isn't. Stay tuned to see if more opposing teams voice their concern with the Brewers and change their signs before playing at Miller Park, and if this has a subsequent effect on how Milwaukee performs.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who contains an unhealthy amount of knowledge about Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Miller Park