Philadelphia has been slumping at the plate and in the standings. Is it a coincidence their slump coincides with being caught stealing opponents pitching signals? For those of you who forgot or missed the hub-bub... Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was caught on camera peering through binoculars from the bullpen bench at Coors Field earlier in May. He then tipped off Phils hitters which pitch would be thrown. During the same game centerfielder Shane Victorino was spotted on the bullpen phone before stepping up to the plate (also caught on camera). MLB issued a penalty free warning to stop. Philadelphia has been on a steady decline ever since. Coincidence? Or, was sign stealing directly related to Phils success?
One can hardly ignore the National Leagues top offense has since been sputtering. Philadelphia was 20-12 leading NL East by 3 games. They've since gone 12-17 and were shut out six times dropping them from first to third. A few hitters, including All Star 2B Chase Utley, have been slumping. On May 12th, Utley was enjoying a fine season batting .314. His batting average now stands at .255 and dropping. Jayson Werth dropped from .348 down to .281 (after a career year in 2009). Ryan Howard now struggles to drive in base runners and has lost his power stroke which produced 4 straight seasons of at least 45 home runs and 136 RBI.
Sign stealing is nothing new in baseball. It's not against the rules either. If a team is sloppy enough to let their opposition catch on it's one thing. From time to time pitchers tip pitches. However, using binoculars to peer in towards home plate and then signal hitters is off base. Before this incident, Phils were accused of using cameras or planting personnel in perfect position to let hitters know what was about to be thrown.
Time will tell if all of this is all just a pure coincidence. However, all signs point to the Phils being lost without knowing what's coming next. Stay tuned.