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Chipper Jones vs. Jamie Moyer: Is Sign Stealing Cheating or Gamesmanship?

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Chipper Jones vs. Jamie Moyer: Is Sign Stealing Cheating or Gamesmanship?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Was Chipper Jones stealing signs off Jamie Moyer on Saturday?

Coming in to the 2012 season, Jamie Moyer and Chipper Jones made for two of the more intriguing storylines to follow.

With the 49-year-old Moyer and 40-year-old Jones proving that age may indeed be just a number, perhaps it was inevitable that their arcs would somehow cross this season. But not like this.

The Atlanta Braves knocked Moyer around for six runs (five earned) and 10 hits in five innings of work Saturday night. Two of those hits were back-to-back home runs by Matt Diaz and Jason Heyward crushed to some of the deepest parts of Coors Field. 

During the fifth inning, Jones was on second base after hitting a double off Moyer. Shortly thereafter, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, Moyer turned to Jones and said, "I see what you are doing."

What Jones was doing, in Moyer's eyes, was stealing signs from Colorado Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario and relaying them to Brian McCann as he was batting. 

The accusation enraged Jones, who vented to reporters about it after the game.

"You question our integrity, that's wrong," Jones said. "I've never accused [Moyer] of doctoring a baseball. I've never accused him of over-milligraming, nothing. That's [garbage] and he woke us up. I didn't see any signs on the 900-foot homers that were hit."

What apparently escalated the matter, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was Moyer later saying to McCann, "That's how people get hurt." The implication was that Moyer was going to throw at someone for stealing signs. 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Did the Braves beat up on Jamie Moyer because they knew which pitches were coming?
Obviously, this was a big deal to Moyer. And Jones certainly didn't like having his integrity questioned, nor his teammates threatened.

But is stealing signs really cheating or is it just a part of the game? 

Yes, by the strictest definition, sign-stealing is cheating. It's swiping information to gain an advantage. And for a pitcher like Moyer, who relies on deception and location to get hitters out, that information is important. 

Yet shouldn't opposing hitters do whatever they can to figure out what the pitcher is throwing? Within the game, that is. Using spy cameras or people in the stands to tip off what's coming is gaining an advantage off the field. 

If Rosario is giving signs to Moyer, and Jones can see the signs, shouldn't he be signaling back to McCann and help his teammate out? 

Isn't it understood that the other team is trying to steal signs? Otherwise, why bother going through a whole flurry of taps, wiggles, pats, points and other gestures in an attempt to obscure which sign is real? 

If the catcher sees that a baserunner might be stealing signs, he doesn't run out to second base and yell at the guy. He holds up his hands to signal to the pitcher that he needs to change his sequence of signs. Or he goes to the mound and discusses the changes with the pitcher. 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Chipper Jones and the Braves brought out the heavy lumber Saturday night at Coors Field.
Doesn't this happen all the time in baseball?

It's understandable that Moyer would get mad at someone trying to gain an edge when he pitches on such a fine line. Yet surely he knows that opposing batters are looking for anything that might help them. 

It's equally understandable that Jones would get upset over being accused of cheating if he wasn't doing so. Maybe he and his Braves teammates were simply hitting Moyer's soft tosses all over the ballpark. They're one of the best offensive clubs in baseball this season. It's not inconceivable that they would pound a finesse pitcher like Moyer. 

But ultimately, isn't this much ado about nothing and just a case of men pounding their chests at one another? Moyer was mad about getting battered, and Jones didn't like being called a cheater. 

Of course, it'll be interesting if and when Moyer and the Rockies face Jones and the Braves again this season. Hopefully, we don't see any sort of on-field justice meted out with pitches thrown at anyone. 

Not over something like sign-stealing. A little gamesmanship shouldn't hurt anyone.

 

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