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Jason Hammel thinks the Blue Jays were stealing signs

May 31, 2012, 11:51 AM EDT

sign stealers

Jason Hammel came into yesterday’s game with a 2.78 ERA and just three homers allowed in nine starts this season, but the Orioles right-hander served up four homers to the Blue Jays and afterward got about as close to accusing them of stealing signs as he could possibly get without actually doing it.

Here’s what Hammel told Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun:

They’re a very potent offense and if you don’t make your pitches down they’re going to get them out. They were taking some pretty big hacks on my breaking stuff too, which leads me to believe it was something else. It is what it is. I need to keep the ball down.

When you’re locating your fastball, you’re going to give up some home runs there, but the swings they were taking on he breaking stuff, it was pretty amazing to me. I don’t think you can take swings like that not knowing they’re coming. I don’t know. That’s all I can say.

This is far from the first time an opposing pitcher has accused the Blue Jays of stealing signs in Toronto and in fact Amy K. Nelson wrote a whole article about it in ESPN The Magazine a couple years ago, making “the man in white” famous.

When asked if he was aware of the past accusations, Hammel replied:

There’s rumors and things like that. I don’t know. I can’t speak on that, but they were taking very, very big strong hacks on breaking stuff. It was something I’ve never seen before.

Hammel has started 125 career games. Not only was that the first time he’s allowed four homers, he’d allowed three homers just twice before and gave up zero homers in 65 of those 125 starts.

Toronto has hit .262 with an .803 OPS at home this season, compared to .231 with a .660 OPS on the road. Their splits weren’t quite as extreme last season, but the Blue Jays hit .254 with a .759 OPS at home compared to .244 with a .699 OPS on the road. So … if they are stealing signs at home the Blue Jays are at least doing a pretty effective job of it.

  1. chill1184 - May 31, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    Seriously the O’s are a good story this year, Hammel shouldn’t stoop to that stealing signs crap, its garbage. Hammel needs to buck up and get ready for his next start, you expect the Jay’s to hit with the power they collectively have.

    • proudlycanadian - May 31, 2012 at 1:47 PM

      What an inflated ego this clown has. Too many of his pitches were up and he paid for it. He did not pitch well and does not have the honesty to admit it. Every pitcher has off days and yesterday was his off day. He didn’t quite stink out the joint, but his refusal to admit that he pitched poorly sure stinks.

      • proudlycanadian - May 31, 2012 at 7:29 PM

        Quotes from AA. ” Our players when they have a bad game, they chose to answer the questions and they blame themselves. They take accountability and that ends up being the end of it. How other players want to handle things is their choice.” To paraphrase, he basically said “grow up Hammel”.

      • randomdigits - May 31, 2012 at 8:15 PM

        And yet all the Jay hits last night were with the bases empty…

        Things that make you go hmm….

  2. El Bravo - May 31, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Dirty BJs.

    • cur68 - May 31, 2012 at 1:39 PM

      That’s Beaver Wrestler to you πboy. BW. And, yeah, you gotta get dirty to wrassle those rodents. You gotta do your intel. You gotta pick your spots. Then, you read the signs, and take what they give you. If the O’s don’t like gettin done dirty by the BWs then they can play the game, too. No rule against it.

      As for the O’s pitching staff, weeel, Tough Nuts, Hammel. Next time don’t knock down Rajai Davis and he might not take you deep, son. Every other pitcher in MLB has no trouble striking that lad out on the low away pitch. Try that, sometime.

      As for the Wrestlers themselves, well they’ve been seeing nothing but breaking stuff. Arencebia KILLS breaking pitches. Davis has learned to kill them too. Lawrie has seen nothing but breaking balls. He’s waiting for them now. As for E5, well throw strikes, meat. He’ll kill whatever you leave over the plate.

      • El Bravo - May 31, 2012 at 1:42 PM

        Tough nuts and dirty BJs. Finally, someone understands.

  3. mybrunoblog - May 31, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Ballplayers and teams have been stealing signs since they played in wooden ballparks with thick flannel uniforms.
    I normally dislike the “it’s a part of the game” argument when cheating is concerned but I don’t look at sign stealing as cheating. Teams are just looking for an advantage. Hey Orioles, go steal their signs.

    • paperlions - May 31, 2012 at 12:41 PM

      It really doesn’t matter how you look at it. According to the rule book, it is cheating. The only legal ways to steal signs don’t involve ways to see the catchers signs (except when there is a man on 2nd).

      • The Baseball Idiot - May 31, 2012 at 12:47 PM

        Most pitchers are called by the manager or the pitching coach from the dugout, and relayed to the catcher.

        It’s very easy to see them and pick up signs, if you’re good enough.

        Being smart enough to figure out the visual signs the other team is using isn’t cheating. No more than stealing a base or faking a tag to get a runner to slide.

      • paperlions - May 31, 2012 at 12:58 PM

        In college. In the majors (and even the minors) this is most definitely not true. What managers call for are pick offs, pitch outs, or step offs….they don’t actually call the pitches. Indeed, calling a game is one of the skills catchers usually have to learn as a pro because they are not allowed to do so at most levels before that.

    • passerby23 - May 31, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      Totally agree. I mean, signs are code messages for plays. The whole point of them is to not let the other team figure out what you’re going to do. If they do figure it out, you call it cheating? It’s no different than if you noticed a pitcher scratches his nose every time before throwing a fastball. Players picked up on it. How about change your signs?

      • chumthumper - May 31, 2012 at 4:29 PM

        Is it cheating when a base runner figures out a pitcher’s tendencies and moves so he can steal a base? I don’t think so. So it isn’t wrong to figure out pitching signs either.

    • 4cornersfan - Aug 3, 2015 at 10:25 AM

      Stealing signs from the bench or second base is a skill with a long history which is generally accepted and somewhat admired. Hiding a guy in the stands with a telescope and a method of communicating with the team is Patriots-style cheating.

  4. Chris Fiorentino - May 31, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    Just because they hit 4 home runs off you in a game they were stealing signs? Mr. Hammel, I know Aaron pointed out that you never gave up 4 home runs in a game. And only gave up 3 home runs in a game twice.

    BUT the fact remains you have a career ERA over 5 and a WHIP damn near close to 1.500. Just because you are having a good year this year doesn’t mean you have earned the right to think anything other than “I SUCKED” when you get knocked around the park. Enjoy your small sample sized quality pitching while it lasts…because all signs point downward for you moving forward.

    • El Bravo - May 31, 2012 at 12:38 PM

      Nice to see you, good sir. Haven’t seen you post in awhile…although I’ve been on and off myself.

      • Chris Fiorentino - May 31, 2012 at 12:45 PM

        Damn, how did I get 10 thumbs downs for that comment? Geeze there must be a lot of fans of a guy with a 5 ERA around here LOL. Or a lot of Blue Jay haters maybe? I haven’t been around because my work was blocking something with HBT. But I think it is all better now. Somebody has to come around to get the thumbs-down buttons clicked I guess. With bicepts gone, I guess that leaves me.

        I’m still surprised by the negative reaction to my post…I mean…he’s complaining about sign stealing when he has a 5+ career ERA? Yeah he is having a nice year in the first 2 months…that means he has the right to complain about sign-stealing? Puh-leeze.

      • hiltonandastoria - May 31, 2012 at 12:47 PM

        Yankee fans

      • El Bravo - May 31, 2012 at 1:40 PM

        I made a BJ reference and received 10 thumbs downs…there’s people out there that apparently don’t like BJs. So yeah, dummies.

      • cur68 - May 31, 2012 at 1:41 PM

        You were dead on, Chris. I declare, most of that down clicking was due to you using stats to prove your point. Scares the Children of the Corn types.

    • hiltonandastoria - May 31, 2012 at 12:46 PM

      Boom Roasted

  5. sportfan23 - May 31, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Here’s an idea….maybe you could change your signs on the fly? You gave up 4 bombs on pitches that weren’t down in the zone. Get over it and get ready for your next start.

  6. kopy - May 31, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Too bad for the Orioles there’s a strict rule that prevents them from having the catcher visit the mound and/or switching up their signs.

    • proudlycanadian - May 31, 2012 at 1:54 PM

      Their “brilliant” catcher got tossed out of Tuesday’s game for arguing strikes and balls while he was behind the plate. He is supposed to be the best catcher in the league.

  7. savocabol1 - May 31, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    In a day and age when everything has become digital I am kind of shocked that signs still exist. The manager, pitcher, and catcher should all have a tiny radio piece that they can communicate with each other on.

    Old timers would hate this idea, new comers would love it.

    It works for football….but then again so does replay and baseball has shown over and over that what works best should not be implemented…

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - May 31, 2012 at 2:30 PM

      Seeing as how it’s catchers that call most games, you are suggesting having him speak into a microphone with the batter hovering 2 feet away from him? May as well give him a bullhorn…

      • savocabol1 - May 31, 2012 at 3:05 PM

        No, idiot. You see that is what happens when you assume. I am suggesting that the coaches will call the pitches. Why else would I suggest a coach to have the headset as well?

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - May 31, 2012 at 4:43 PM

        Idiot? Wow, that was really necessary there. Thanks for showing off your lack of class.

        Consider that the majority of catchers have been calling games their entire careers, as far back as high school in many cases, and most coaches have never had to make such decisions. Not only that, but coaches also have to manage pitch counts, defensive alignments, substitutions, their bullpens, and any number of other scenarios that may come up in a game. Maybe adding this responsibility to coaches is a bit much to ask. Joe Torre may have been notorious for his level of control, including calling pitches, he was the exception, not the rule. But what do I know, I’m just an idiot because I didn’t read into what you insinuated properly.

      • savocabol1 - Jun 1, 2012 at 2:28 PM

        Literally every time they show a manager on the bench he his sitting on his thumbs. It isn’t like they are busy working on something else out there. Besides there are a million coaches in each organization, they can figure out which one would be the pitch caller.

        As far as experience calling pitches goes….If a radio announcer with no baseball experience besides covering the games and maybe some junior high ball can predict what pitch should be coming, then a major league manager can certainly call one.

  8. frankenderek - May 31, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    Maybe he’s tipping his pitches?

    • randomdigits - May 31, 2012 at 8:18 PM

      Yea, he tips his pitches to the Jays on the road but not at OPACY.

      That makes sense.

      5 of the 7 home runs Hammels has allowed this season have been in Toronto.

  9. dangcote - May 31, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    It sounds like a conspiracy theory to me, the blue jays had different players two years ago (such as wells, hill, overbay, and molina) and a different coach. As far as a better hitting satistics at home, a lot of teams with favorable hitting stadiums tend to hit better at home.

    • paint771 - May 31, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      Right? One other thing that annoys me is the way these things get covered, with the author (Aaron above) always mentioning home-away splits with an implied raised eyebrow.

      The BASELINE is that teams perform better at home than away. Hell, that’s true in every sport, but particularly in baseball where the fields of play actually vary significantly from stadium to stadium (and where Toronto has one of the friendlier). That doesn’t even qualify as circumstantial evidence.

      And as to the different players point, one thing that AA has noted in relation to these claims is a lot of people have passed through Toronto the last few years, coaches and players both, and you don’t hear these accusations coming from them. Just opposing players/mangers bitching when they get hit.

  10. jaysfan64 - May 31, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Did Hammell mention his sore right knee that was causing him to not properly finish his pitches (almost everything was elevated)? Of course not…

  11. mydadyourmom - May 31, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    In related news, the Jays think Jason Hammel sucks and is now regressing to his usual shitty self.

  12. dangcote - May 31, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    All those homeruns were solo, who was stealing the signs?

    • randomdigits - May 31, 2012 at 8:19 PM

      No one on base…

      which is the whole point, if you can steal em while you are on base it is fair game.

  13. jaysfan64 - May 31, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    This was Hammell’s third start against the Jays this season -the first 2 he shut them down… good hitting teams adjust…the Hays adjusted – plus the sore knee….

  14. paint771 - May 31, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    This always gets me, and I think it’s because how good Toronto is gets hidden by their division and the fact that they’re a perpetual 4th place team, despite the fact the the other three are the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays.

    But for the last couple of years, every time somebody gets rocked they start making this complaint, and their evidence is SOLELY a barely-masked gut thing based on their notion that the Jays shouldn’t be good enough to knock them around as hard they did. You would never hear Hammell make that complaint against the Rangers (no matter what their swings against his breaking stuff looked like), or the Yankees make that complaint about the Tigers. Instead you’d get the normal “well, just wasn’t my night, they were seeing the ball well…” cliches. But Toronto? Well hell, if we can’t steamroll them, they must be cheating, because…well, Toronto!

    I watched this game too – one would have thought if they would have been stealing signs they wouldn’t have been 0 for 12 or whatever with runners on, stranding 7. Or that the man in white would have thrown Adam Lind a bone at some point.

    The truth is Toronto is a damn good team who would have been a perpetual contender in most other divisions in baseball the last decade, that regularly features a lineup most years where almost every man 1 to 9 is capable of hitting 20 HRs, and though they’re streaky they can get as hot as anybody and put up numbers or long balls fast. Sorry Hammell – they just plumb sticked you.

  15. charlutes - May 31, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    The Jays steal signs all the time. So does everyone else. Done. Stop it with this stuff.

  16. Mark - May 31, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    So all of the Home Runs Hammel gave up were on fastballs. Three of the singles were hit off of fastballs. There were two hits off of Hammel’s breaking balls. He threw 48 breaking pitches.

    So could someone explain to me how the Jays were cheating on Hammel’s breaking stuff if they only managed 2 hits (a single and a double) off his offspeed stuff? I’d really like to know how the Jays cheated on the breaking balls as Hammel claims.

  17. stew37 - May 31, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    I am a Blue Jays fan and my wife and I watch every game on Sportsnet. The thing that doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the comments is that, if you watch the games, no players are looking toward center field as they set up to hit. Watch Swisher at home; he looks up at his picture on the big screen, finds the pitcher and sets up for the pitch. You see him do it. All four shots were solo shots, so the sign stealing needs an accomplice in center. None of the hitters are peering off into center like Swisher does as part of their set-up. Any hitter would tell you that this sort of collusion is laughable; a runner at second can signal some useful information, but to pick up a fan in center, get the sign, and set to hit a big-league pitch just doesn’t compute to me. As for the home-road splits, well maybe the Sydome is a laucnhpad and Murphy preaches aggressive swings early in the count. That might explain the big cuts at breaking balls and the solo shots on mistakes up. All of this is hating on a young team, built on the Rays’ model and finding their stride.

  18. rico7207 - May 31, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    Too bad the Leafs can’t steal signs in the NHL and win a couple games. The Jays have to cheat to win some games with the triple A team they have.

  19. dfeltz - May 31, 2012 at 6:37 PM

    If you watch this link – you will see that of the 4 homeruns, the 3 pitches shown were at 94 mph, 93 mph and 93 mph. What the is Hammels talking about? Does he typically throw 98 -99 mph and 93-94 is offspeed to him?

  20. sophiethegreatdane - Jun 1, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    Oriole fan here.

    Note to Jason: shut up. Pitch better. That is all.

  21. virgilhiltz2 - Jun 1, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    With the low end of MLB teams payroll at $60,000,000 I’m surprised the Jays players can only afford this sign stealer guy to just do it home for them.
    If each player want to chip in about 2% of their salary and 10% of their per diem I’ll gladly go on the road and steal signs for them!

    ^ of course said in jest but the fact is why is this only a concern when the team is home. The players can easily afford to have a sign stealer at away games!

    The suckage factor has always been off the charts for Hammels, it’s just catching up to him now!

  22. bigballer16 - Jun 1, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    What a goof! How do you steal signs anyway?? a guy from the stands somehow relays a message to the batter VIA how?? in the 1 second from the time the catcher flashes the sign to the pitcher until the ball reaches the plate??? PFFFFT! It’s called the AL east…get used to it! First time around you baffled a few lineups….second time around…not so much. You’re mediocre career thus far does NOT give you the right to make a stupid claim like this! Be prepared to doll out plenty more accusations, because once the Yankees, Rays, and Sox see you for the 2nd and 3rd time….your A$$ will get lit up some more! I say again….PFFFT!

  23. samuellsamson - Jun 1, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Just because they gave you 10 thumbs down for a comment they were Blue Jays haters?

    Mr Fiorentino, just because you are having a good messageboard year doesn’t mean you have earned the right to think anything other than “I SUCKED” when your posts get down-thumbed around the internet. Enjoy your small sample sized messageboard status while it lasts…because all thumbs point downward for you moving forward.

  24. mrmafaka - Jun 1, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    I fail to see the problem here, if they are ‘stealing’ your signs then change it up, since when is stealing signs against the rules, Hammel shut it or go cry to your mommy

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