So, you think the marginally above .500 Toronto Blue Jays, who rank sixth in the 14-team American League in batting average and on-base percentage, are stealing signs?
Apparently, some opposing teams think as much. How about the Blue Jays players?
"Just read the dumbest article on ESPN about us getting signs? I'm hitting 200 and we get signs at home, that makes sense?" Blue Jays starting catcher J.P. Arencibia posted to his Twitter account in reference to an ESPN The Magazine story published Wednesday on the ESPN website.
He Tweeted a couple of minutes later: "Teams/pitchers need to accept when we kick their [a--] in the rogers centre n not give excuses … Looks like we had verlanders signs."
The last reference was to Justin Verlander's no-hitter in Toronto on May 7 in a 9-0 Detroit Tigers win.
The Jays went on to lose six of the next 10 games at home and currently sport a 28-27 record at home and 58-57 overall. Boston and the New York Yankees, whose manager Joe Girardi raised the sign-stealing issue during a recent visit to Toronto, lead the AL with 37 home victories.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos denounced the allegations on Wednesday, saying the ESPN report is 'stupid' and has 'a lot of holes in it'.
"To do something like this would take a whole lot of work by this organization to keep everybody quiet," he said. "I just wish people would look at the common sense component first and say, 'Is this really realistic?'
"Baseball is a small fraternity," he added. "I don't think it's too hard to find a former coach, a former player, a former front office executive, a former clubhouse guy, a former field guy. Not one person. Instead, let's find four players on some other team claiming that they saw the guy in the white shirt and that they saw the UFO flying across the sky, and let's write a huge story and make a big stink about it."
Anthopoulos was so vehement in his denial that he even went so far as to invite his accusers to review video footage to try and prove it.
"I think every one of our games is broadcast," he said. "We have cameras everywhere. Why doesn't everybody go through the footage? Spend a month, spend a year, spend your lifetime, go look for the man in the white shirt. Maybe you'll find someone in a blue shirt or a black shirt. Maybe you'll see a dog. But spend the time, do a little work."
Jays right-fielder Jose Bautista scoffed at the allegations.
"This is just ridiculous and fictitious," Bautista said. "I'm intrigued to see what they're going to come up with next week or next year to try to decipher why we're playing good or why we're doing good or something," the slugger said before Wednesday's game against the Oakland Athletics.
The ESPN article noted a game in Toronto in the spring of 2010 during which members of the visiting team's bullpen — situated in right-centre field — claimed to see a man dressed in white about 25 yards to their right in the centre-field seats.
According to the magazine, four people in the team's bullpen that day saw the man seemingly signal pitches the visiting pitcher was throwing.
Different pitches, different sign?
The man allegedly would raise his arms over his head for curveballs, sliders and changeups and did nothing when catcher called for a fastball.
"It's not too [f------] easy to hit home runs when you don't know what's coming!" a bullpen member shouted out to Bautista late in the game.
After striking out earlier in the contest, Bautista heard it from one of the livid opposing players once he took the field the next inning.
"We know what you're doing," he said, referring to the man in white, according to the player and two witnesses. "If you do it again, I'm going to hit you in the [f------] head."
In September 2010, Bautista confirmed the verbal exchange with the player but denied it revolved around alleged signals relayed from the stands and that he received outside help to steal signs.
"First of all, I don't even know how you can do that," Bautista told ESPN The Magazine. "And second of all, it's obviously something that's not legal in the game. We do not cheat."
Arencibia, for the record, leads AL catchers this season with 18 home runs — nine on the road and nine at Toronto's Rogers Centre, site of the supposed sign stealing. And his average and OBP are higher on the road (.234. .295) compared to home (.194, .265).
However, the splits amongst some of his teammates are more extreme.
Bautista topped the majors in 2010 with 54 home runs, hitting 33 of them at hitter-friendly Rogers Centre and posting a 1.118 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) compared to 21, .879. First baseman Adam Lind also had more success in Toronto, swatting 15 homers with a .759, while he went deep just eight times on the road with a .660 OPS.
A year ago, Toronto led the major leagues with 257 home runs, including 146 at Rogers Centre.
Anthopoulos previously has denied his team has relayed signs from beyond the field of play.
"That never happened, will never happen, not even a possibility," he told ESPN. "If it did happen, we'd be winning a lot more games at home. … I think it's a non-story because no one ever has picked up the phone and called me about it. It's never been an issue, and I would expect them to do so it if was."
During the Yankees' visit to Rogers Centre in mid-July, manager Joe Girardi suggested to reporters that the Blue Jays "could be" using devious means to acquire information from their AL East rivals.
"Sometimes we have inclinations that things might be happening at certain ballparks and we're aware of it and we try to protect our signs."
During the same visit, Yankees catcher Russell Martin of Montreal said he suspected Toronto was relaying information from second base to the batter.
From the outset of one game, Girardi had instructed Martin to give Yankees pitcher Freddy Garcia multiple signs, even with no one on base. The Blue Jays prevailed 7-1.
The next day, Girardi suggested Toronto was doing more than peeking in from the basepaths.
"Obviously if you feel it's coming from somewhere else besides a player on the field," he said, "I do have issues with that. … I don't really want to get into it because I'm not 100 per cent sure about anything, but we need to protect our signs."
As ESPN The Magazine pointed out, stealing signs is as old as signal-calling itself. Last season, Philadelphia was accused of stealing signs when Colorado noticed a Phillies bullpen coach using binoculars.
Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig downplayed the incident saying, "Stealing signs has been around for 100 years."