The Phillies return tonight to Citi Field. Since their last visit, accusations have come out that the Phillies’ bullpen coach, Mick Billmeyer has been stealing signs, using binoculars.
Major League Baseball issued an executive order in 2001 barring the use of “electronic equipment”, citing that it could not be used “for communications or for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a club an advantage.”
Obviously, bincoluars do not constitute “electonic equipment”, but their alleged use in this situation seems suspect, at best.
Yes, yes, I know: stealing signs has been around for as long as there’s been baseball. But, somehow, stealing signs with the aid of binoculars seems egregious to others besides me. The Rockies filed a formal complaint against the Phillies over the matter and the team was reprimanded. Rockies manager Jim Tracy stated,
“A pair of binoculars staring down the gun barrel of the hitting area, I don’t think a club in baseball that’s competing against that team would take too kindly to that,” Rockies. …You start reflecting back on some of the things that have taken place in previous games and it makes you sit here and wonder a little bit.”
And here’s what Cy Young winner Steve Stone was quoted as saying when Sammy Sosa was taken to task for stealing signs by the Cardinals in 2002:
“To be honest with you, sign-stealing used to be much more of an art than it is now. But as long as you are not stealing signs from the scoreboard, using a camera or something, then you are stealing legitimately.”
Because of the accusations, the rather absurd retort by Charlie Manuel that he found the Mets’ astounding home record (at that time, anyway) suspicious, along with the usual animosity created by uncivilized Phillies fans in our ballpark, I’m willing to bet the fans, if not the players themselves, will show up tonight on the lookout for any signs of foul play and ready to extract vengeance in the form of a big win.