UPDATE: Here's a screenshot from the Rockies' broadcast on Monday, courtesy of one of my Twitter followers, @Phylan. It clearly shows Billmeyer using the binoculars in the top of the second inning, with the Rockies in the field.
DENVER — In the last four seasons, the Phillies have often been accused of stealing signs. In 2007, the Mets went as far to say the Phillies had a hidden camera at Citizens Bank Park they were using to record and relay signs to hitters.
On Monday, the Rockies were the latest to file a complaint with Major League Baseball about the Phillies’ tactics. But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel vehemently denied his club was stealing signs.
So why all the accusations?
“Because we beat them,” Manuel said. “That's why. What the hell? Keep crying.”
The Rockies see it a little differently.
Phillies bullpen coach and catching instructor Mick Billmeyer was caught on TV cameras using binoculars from the Phillies bullpen.
Manuel said he wasn’t aware Billmeyer used binoculars and never instructed him to do so. On Monday, he was told Billmeyer used them to watch how the Phillies’ catchers positioned themselves.
But cameras reportedly showed Billmeyer using the binoculars while the Rockies were in the field, too.
Pitchers in the Rockies bullpen told reporters Wednesday they saw Billmeyer using the binoculars while the Rockies were in the field Monday. He was attempting to hide them, they said.
Billmeyer declined comment, only to say he spoke with Bob Watson, senior vice president of on-field operations for MLB and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr.
The warning was issued after Major League Baseball’s review of the situation revealed no conclusive evidence of cheating.
In the second inning, Colorado manager Jim Tracy complained to the umpiring crew. Umpire Jerry Crawford summoned Manuel during the second inning and told him the Phillies needed to stop using the binoculars.
“As far as I am concerned, it’s out of line,” Tracy told reporters Wednesday. “It’s one thing to play a club as hard as you can possibly play it. But if you are cheating and you get caught, then you better do something about it.
Tracy didn’t buy the excuse the Phillies had.
“A pair of binoculars staring down the barrel of the hitting area, I don’t think any team would take too kindly to that,” Tracy said. “You can come up with all kinds of reasons, but are we to believe that or believe that they are trying to gain a competitive advantage? It makes you wonder.”
Manuel said there was no chance his team was stealing signs.
“Absolutely not,” he said.
The original report of the stolen signs on Foxsports.com said the Mets had filed a complaint against the Phillies earlier in the season following the game on May 2. A spokesman from Major League Baseball said he was not aware of any clubs other than the Rockies filing a formal complaint against the Phillies.
When asked about the Mets complaint, Manuel said he hadn’t heard anything about it. He then went into a rant about the Mets.
“Somebody maybe ought to check on the Mets,” Manuel said. “Their [expletive] home record is out of this world. They're losing on the road. That's a good indication sometimes if they’re stealing signs.”
The Mets are 14-7 at home in 2010 and 4-8 on the road.
“I’m not accusing them,” Manuel said. “But we’re about the same home and road. I’m just saying their record is much better at home and they hit better.”
Phillies catcher Brian Schneider spent the last two seasons with the Mets and said the team sometimes wondered about the Phillies’ tactics.
But Schneider didn’t remember any accusations of the Phillies illegally using technology to steal signs. When done without the aid of technology, stealing signs is an art, Schneider said, that some teams can do better than others.
“Teams that have guys who have been playing together for a long time, they know each other,” Schneider said.
“I'm sure if they can steal signs, they’ll steal them,” Manuel said of opposing teams. “And we will too, if we can get them legally. If you're dumb enough to let us get them then that's your fault. That's been in the game for a long time.”
But the manager said there was no way Billmeyer was using the binoculars to steal signs.
“That’s the truth,” Manuel said. “That’s the absolute truth. We’re not trying to steal signs. That’s it.”