Toronto Blue Jays Stealing Signs: Are They Cheating or Is It Just Media Hype?

Adam Graham@@adam_grahamAnalyst IIAugust 11, 2011

TORONTO, CANADA - JULY 31:  Close to 45,000 fans fill the Rogers Centre during MLB action at the Rogers Centre July 31, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

“Stealing signs has been around for 100 years.”

That’s what MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said just 15 months ago when asked about the Philadelphia Phillies stealing signs in a game against the Colorado Rockies. But while a player trying to pick up signs from the field is considered to be part of the game, there are certain lines you don’t cross when it comes to cheating.

On Wednesday, ESPN released a shocking story accusing the Toronto Blue Jays of using a sophisticated method of stealing signs that goes beyond those accepted practices of cheating.

The article, written by Peter Keating and Amy K. Nelson, claims that a mysterious man in white  was relaying signs to Blue Jays hitters from the center field seats of the Rogers Centre during home games in 2009 and 2010. The sources for these accusations are four unnamed relief pitchers from opposing teams who allegedly saw the man raise his arms when an off-speed pitch was coming and remain still if a fastball was on its way.

But when asked how this man in white could possibly see their catchers signs all the way from the center field bleachers, the pitchers were out of answers.

The best possible theory they could come up with was that perhaps he was receiving messages via his Bluetooth from someone elsewhere in the stadium who had binoculars. That seems a little far-fetched if you ask me, but anything is possible.

Just ask the New York Jets, who filed a complaint to the NFL in September of 2007 the day after they caught the New England Patriots using video cameras to spy on their defensive signals during a game. The complaint launched an investigation by the NFL, which led to the Patriots being proven guilty of spying on their opponents.

However, no one has ever filed a complaint to Bud Selig regarding the Blue Jays stealing signs in the past year. It’s not as if they haven’t had the time to do so either since it’s allegedly been happening since 2009. The ESPN article also suggests that this has happened on multiple occasions with multiple teams. If this is true, you’d think at least one of the many opponents who have battled Toronto at the Rogers Centre over the past two years would want Selig to know about it.

Another extreme difference between the Spygate controversy with the Patriots and this Signgate story with the Blue Jays is the contrast in reactions between Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos.

Belichick gave his usual curt and aloof responses when initially asked about the Jets formal complaint. He then apologized for the actions of the team just a few days later, conceding his team had done something wrong.

Anthopoulos, on the other hand, flat out denied the accusations made in the ESPN story. He called the story stupid and said that, “it’s got a lot of holes in it.” In my opinion, he might be right.

Aside from the lack of a formal complaint being filed against the Jays, Anthopoulos pointed out that there is no video evidence of anyone in the stands relaying signs to the Blue Jays hitters. This seems odd considering the age of technology we live in and the amount of cameras there are in any given sports venue.

He also mentioned that in the small world of professional baseball, there has to be at least one former Blue Jay employee who would be willing to dish the dirt to the ESPN reporters if this was true. However, not a single ex-Jay was cited as a source in this article.

At the end of the day, it seems as though this story has left us with more questions than answers.

Is there any proof to the allegations made by the ESPN reporters? No. Even Amy K. Nelson admitted that it’s a very hard thing to prove in the video that goes along with her article. She also claimed that when she asked members of the New York Yankees about anyone sitting in the bleachers, no one said they saw anyone out there.

So where does this leave ESPN? Since no complaints were ever filed against the Blue Jays, has ESPN crossed the line by creating the news rather than reporting on it?

It’s almost as if they are presenting circumstantial evidence to an empty courtroom because no one else is putting the Blue Jays on trial.

The problem is that the media doesn’t always need to have all the facts to create a court of public opinion. Perhaps it was a slow news day and someone at ESPN made the call to put this story on the front page for no other reason than to create a buzz and get hits on their website. It wouldn’t be the first time a media outlet has done such a thing, but that doesn’t necessarily make it right.

Even here at Bleacher Report, many writers are given tips on how to get our articles noticed and read by more consumers. This doesn’t mean that we’re going to make up news in order to get more reads, but we are encouraged to give our opinions on the news and some opinions have the potential to create quite the buzz.

Certainly the accusations made by ESPN’s Peter Keating and Amy K. Nelson generated quite the buzz, at least for one day. We’ll find out soon enough if anything more comes of these accusations. But based on the evidence, or lack thereof, it doesn’t look like it will.


Those are my opinions. What do you think? You can comment below or follow me on Twitter: @adam_graham 


UPDATE: The link to the video of Amy K. Nelson discussing her story has been taken down from the ESPN website. The link I provide now simply directs you to the original ESPN story.