There is a mythical “Man in White” in Toronto that has been said to help the Blue Jays. It’s a narrative that should be put to an end.
The game itself was a crazy one. Game 3 of the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals. Johnny Cueto was pitching and wasn’t having the best time against the Toronto Blue Jays. He gave up eight runs in just two innings and was mad about it. Despite his teammate Kris Medlen holding the Jays to just two runs over the next five innings, Cueto was still calling foul.
Cue the myth. It must have been that Man in White, stealing signs and feeding them to the Jays’ batters and not just an off day for the emotional pitcher. Of course it was. That had to be the logical explanation. As a Jays fan, it was quite insulting to rehash this again. Again you ask? Yes again. This myth has been dogging the Jays since 2011.
It was in 2011 that an article was written about this fictional man in white by ESPN’s Amy K Nelson and Peter Keating. In this article, there were supposed enraged players in a game in the spring of 2010, from an unnamed team, that saw a man in white in the seats at centre field, relaying signals of the visiting catcher to the Jays. This allowed the batters to know what was coming. It wrote about incensed players and an angry exchange between Jose Bautista and again, an unnamed player. When asked in September of 2010 about the exchange that happened in the spring, the article stated that Bautista confirmed that the players did indeed exchange words, but denied it was anything about stealing signs. Bautista was clear. “First of all, I don’t even know how you can do that, and second of all, it’s obviously something that’s not legal in the game. We do not cheat.”
The ESPN article went as far as to provide statistics to prove their theory, showing batting averages, home and away, being much higher for the Rogers Centre. The caveat being it was only the Jays batters that saw the increase at the dome, not the visitors.
The best rebuttal to this crazy theory has been an article written by Andrew Stoeten who systematically refutes any statistical evidence brought forward to “prove” the man in white theory. He points out that they didn’t mention at all the Jays that hit better on the road, one being Edwin Encarnacion. Stoeten also stated that the article had pointed out the spike in homerun rate for 2010, but failed to state that there had also been a spike in 2006. The assumption must therefore be that the Jays only steal signs in a leap year fashion, that they chose not to cheat for the three years in between.
Jonah Keri wrote about the sign stealing in 2011 on Grantland.com, and he cites baseball analyst Tom Tango’s conclusions on the matter.
If anything, the outlier is 2008, before all this apparently started. The Toronto hitters had a 28 point advantage at Rogers. But opposing hitters were 50 points UNDER, for a 78 point difference, far ahead of all subsequent seasons. In 2007, it was 37 point advantage for Toronto hitters, while opposing hitters were 47 points under, for an even greater 84 point differential. In 2006, Toronto hitters had a 100 point advantage, while opposing hitters were 48 points UNDER, for a super duper differential of 148 points! You want to talk about something weird, then go back to 2006. In 2005, it was 70 point advantage for Toronto hitters, while opposing hitters were 4 point UNDER, for a 74 point differential.
There were also whispers of the Jays stealing signs in the early 90’s but by no means were they the only ones called out. Teams have been accused of this since the 1970s. Funny that these accusations continue even with all teams using scouting reports, pitching notes, files on players, batting habits, videos of pitchers in action etc.
It has been established that sign stealing from off field is a no no and not a legal part of the game. It has also been established that stealing signs from the field is considered fair game.
What has to prevail is the plain truth. Stealing signs has been around since the beginning of baseball. Many players watch video of opposing pitchers to find out if they have tips in their pitching delivery. If a player is on second and recognizes a signal he will absolutely find a way to relay that to his teammate. It happens ALL the time. It is the job of each team to protect their signs, stop their pitchers from giving off clues to upcoming pitches, and to use multiple signs to avoid the stealing altogether.
Continuing the momentum created in 2015, it is with great hope that these accusations about the mythical man in white be laid to rest. I for one am hoping I don’t have to sit at centre field, wearing my plain white T with “what made you think the man in white wasn’t a woman?” on the back….
*Featured Image Credit: wyliepoon UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.