LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The National League Championship Series is over and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers fair and square, L.A. manager Don Mattingly acknowledged.
But... the Cardinals also were trying to steal their signs. St. Louis batted .330 with runners in scoring position during the regular season — which is absurdly good — but were down to .259 with RISP in the NLCS. Was it in part because their intelligence — as in information obtained through spying — wasn't as good?
Before leaving baseball's winter meetings, Mattingly told ESPN Los Angeles that the Dodgers made some adjustments to reduce the possibility that Cardinals coaches on the field would steal their signs:
The Dodgers complained to the umpires at times about where Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo stood while coaching third base.
"We felt like we had to be sure we kept an eye on their first-base coach and their third-base coach," Mattingly said. "They're the ones with the easiest way to steal signs. Josie's a guy, at third, who's always looking for my signs from our dugout."
Mattingly said he did not relay signs during the series, having someone else in the dugout do it for him, to keep Oquendo from picking them up. The Dodgers did not change their signs heading into the postseason, Mattingly said, because they felt it was likely to cause confusion among their own players, who were conditioned to the same signs all year.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked Cards' GM John Mozeliak about Mattingly's accusations before he left the meetings:
"I don't know anything about it," Mozeliak said. "I suspect people have been trying that for years. I remember we had an advance scout that worked for us that used to take pride in it. I have no idea if that's a benefit or not."
The Dodgers also think Cardinals runners, once they reached second base, were sneaking a peak at Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis and reading the signs he put down. These kinds of practices, it would seem, are done by most if not all teams in the league and have been since signs were first used. Simply the appearance of ESPN's story implies that the Dodgers don't try to steal signs. That's hard, if not impossible, to believe. At least Mattingly admitted it's up to one's own team to prevent sign-stealing from mattering.
Goold's post doesn't bother to imply the Cardinals aren't among thieves themselves.
The Cardinals continue to have several players on the team and coaches who are able to decode signs.
So there you go. It could be said that, if a team isn't trying to steal signs, it hasn't prepared enough. There's also a saying that sounds harsh but rings true: If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'.
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