A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published a story with a rather shocking accusation: In 2001 with the Oakland A’s, Miguel Tejada was tipping pitches to friends on opposing teams.
Some A’s players thought that during lopsided games, Tejada was letting opponents know what pitches were coming, and failing to field balls hit near him.
The team held a meeting to address the issue, with Jason Giambi airing the players’ concerns before veteran Ron Gant calmed things down.
No evidence ever came to light, and Tejada has been steadfast in denying he has ever done such a thing. But as the story comes in the same season Alex Rodriguez was accused of the same crime, it seems like a good time to address the issue.
STEALING SIGNS A PART OF BASEBALL
Stealing signs has been going on in baseball for a long time. It’s always been part of the game. When I was a player, I was on a couple of teams where it went on.
If a base runner got to second base, he would try to read the signs the catcher flashed to the pitcher, then relay them to the hitter. That’s not unusual and it still goes on. Why wouldn’t you do it if you’re going to help your team?
You also see bench coaches trying to steal signs from the opposing third base coach or even from the other dugout.
Joe Nossek, a longtime coach for the Chicago White Sox who came up as a player with the Twins, was legendary in his ability to steal signs. He was considered one of the best at reading patterns and picking up the indicator sign.
There’s not really a rule about it, but I don’t consider stealing signs to be a big sin. You’re not out there to make friends and I never had problems with my hitters doing that when I was pitching. Maybe it would help get me five or six runs of support.
But on the other hand, when you’re pitching you have to do your best to stop the other team from doing it. I remember the old Brewers teams with Robin Yount and Paul Molitor were good at stealing signs.
There was a game I was pitching against them, and Ted Simmons was on second base. I don’t know what it was, but I sensed something was going on, and Simmons was relaying my signs to the hitter. So I turned around and confronted him at second base, told him “someone is going to get hurt.” He denied it of course, but it was well known at that time that the Brewers were good at it.
The White Sox were known for stealing signs as well. There was an old story that someone was flashing a light on the Old Comiskey Park scoreboard to indicate when the pitcher was throwing a fastball. I remember pitching there and we knew about the stories, so we changed our sign indicator every inning, and sometimes my catcher would come out to the mound and we’d change it between pitches. I had a headache after that game, but somehow I didn’t cross up my catcher one time, and we won a tight, low-scoring game.
In addition to stealing signs, another thing you do during games is closely watch the opposing pitcher to see if he is unintentionally tipping his own pitches. Maybe he raises his index finger when he’s going to throw a breaking ball, and leaves it flat against his glove when he’s throwing a fastball. If you watch closely you can pick up little things like that.
If I ever noticed a pattern like that, I would tell the hitting coach. Since he regularly talks to all the hitters during the game, he could pass on the information without drawing attention. Then once I told the hitting coach, we would both continue to watch the pitcher for awhile to make certain it’s 100 percent sure before telling the hitters.
After all, you don’t want your hitters leaning out over the plate looking for a curveball, then get drilled by a fastball. You have to be careful.
As a pitcher, you could sometimes figure out that the other team had spotted something you were doing. I could tell if they saw me good or were doing something different. In that situation, you just try to make an adjustment quickly and hope you’re still out there before you get hammered.
ATLANTA (AP) - Matt Harvey pitched six hitless innings, John Buck homered and the New York Mets held off another Atlanta comeback, beating the Braves 4-3 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.
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