Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos speaks to media at the Rogers Centre in Toronto on Wed. Aug.10/11 on the recent ESPN story about Jays stealing signs.
Credits: Dave Thomas/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
So kudos to the Blue Jays and the man in the Panama white suit as Toronto baseball fans can no longer say that the team isn't dedicated to winning.
Seriously though, the accusations raised in an ESPN magazine article that the Jays were relaying pitch selection from centre field caused Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos to come close to flipping out.
According to a lengthy ESPN article, four relief pitchers on an unnamed team - a team later identified as the Chicago White Sox by Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista - claimed that in 2010 they witnessed a man in a white suit flash signals to the Jays' hitters, whether the next pitch would be a fastball or a breaking ball.
The article went on to say that may have been the reason why the Jays hit so many home runs at the Rogers Centre in 2010 (146 as against 111 on the road) and helps explain the home field advantage enjoyed by the likes of Bautista who hit 33 home runs at home in 2010 as opposed to 21 on the road.
This season, following a 16-7 beating laid on by the Jays at Rogers Centre July 14, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi expressed sentiments that perhaps the Jays were stealing and flashing signs to aid their hitters, a policy that any number of teams engage in when a baserunner looks in from second base.
The Jays, naturally enough, claim the story is bunk.
That's what Anthopoulos told the ESPN authors when originally contacted and what he reiterated Wednesday night.
"This whole thing is stupid," a peeved Anthopoulos started off. "It's unbelievable that we're sitting here to even talk about this."
But the story being from a respected source such as ESPN and with the clout that cable shows have, it was the story that was up and running not only in Canada, but south of the border as well. Anthopoulos didn't have a beef with ESPN but felt they didn't go the extra mile by trying to find a former Blue Jays player, scout, manager or employee of any stripe who could have backed up the story. But there wasn't one - which supports the Jays' claim of innocence.
"I understand it's a story and we have to make ourselves accountable," he said. "All I'll say is there's zero truth to this. I understand it's part of today's generation if there's allegations, accusations, all that stuff's fine.
"(But) baseball is a small family, it's a small fraternity. I don't think it's too hard to find a former coach, a former player, a former front office executive, a clubhouse guy, a former field guy ... but not one person (backed up the White Sox claim).
"Instead, let's find four players on some other team claiming that they saw the guy in the white shirt, they saw the UFO flying across the sky and let's run a huge story and make a big stink about it."
If there was a whiff of truth to it, Anthopoulos reasoned, you'd think that somebody would have contacted him. "No one from the commissioner's office has contacted me, no GM has ever picked up the phone and called me," he said. "The way I was raised, if I have an issue, I have a concern, if I think someone on the other side is doing something, I'm going to call, I'm going to walk across the field, go talk to someone, do something like that. But there hasn't been anything like that."
Meanwhile, the Jays' players thought the claim was beyond stupid.
"It's sad, funny and ridiculous at the same time," Bautista said.
J.P. Arencibia said it's simply ridiculous.
"Anybody who ever played baseball knows that it's impossible to do what people are saying that we can do," he said. "I'm hitting .200 (.214 actually). So if I knew what sign was coming don't you think I'd be completely dominating everyone that comes into this stadium. It's a joke.
"I work my butt off and to have somebody discredit the success we have on the field because of somebody who gives the signs is unbelievable."
In the centre field bleachers for Wednesday's game against Oakland a man in a white suit couldn't be found.
There was, however, a man with a big yellow hat with a monkey on his lap who on occasion would jump up and down and wave his arms.