Ball Star

Andy McCullough blogs about the Royals and baseball

The Rundown: Stealing in baseball not limited to bases

09/14/2013 6:42 PM

09/14/2013 6:47 PM

Things got a bit testy in the wild-card chase this last week.

On Monday we saw Yankees manager Joe Girardi jawing at Orioles third-base coach Bobby Dickerson, which led to Baltimore manager Buck Showalter howling at Girardi. The basis of Girardi’s outburst? He though Dickerson was stealing signs.

Cheating in baseball? That’s about as surprising as, say, gambling at Rick’s Cafe Americain in “Casablanca” (Cue Captain Renault: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”)

At least that’s Rays manager Joe Maddon’s take.

“Everybody should try to steal the other team’s signs,” Maddon told reporters. “And if you let your signs out there to be stolen, it's your fault, period. That's part of the game to steal signs, man, absolutely. I love trying to do that.”

Sign-stealing has been around for more than a century. Rob Neyer once had a great piece for ESPN on the history of sign-stealing and found evidence the 1900 Phillies probably had cheated.

Even Girardi, a catcher for four teams in his 15 big-league seasons, saw it in his day.

“Catchers have to move away, they have to change their signs,” Girardi told reporters after the brouhaha. “Signs can’t be simple. It’s been going on for years. It went on when I played, and I’m sure it went on before that.

“And because you play so much now and you see teams so much now, they’re very familiar with what you do, so you have to be creative and you to have to protect things.”

That’s why you’ll see pitchers talk into their gloves when meeting with catchers (ESPN’s Jayson Stark had a fun story about that) and catchers change their signs when a runner is on second base.

“Everybody sits there with multiple signs,” Showalter told reporters. “We change signs. And you should do it, ifyou can get them. They’re right there for everybody to see if you can figure out the sequence.

“There’s a lot of clubs who have people who do nothing but watch the sequences that every pitcher uses, so you have to. It’s very easy to camouflage it to keep them from getting it. It’s part of the game. It’s part of it. That really falls under the Captain Obvious thing.”

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