A.J. Pierzynski was an especially easy player to dislike. As a broadcaster? I’d have said less so before the second inning of Monday’s Game Four of the ALDS between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros.
I mean, he’s not bad. Granted, I’ve listened to enough of Pat Tabler in my lifetime that my bar for “not bad” is probably pretty low, but I haven’t found myself cringing too often while watching this series. And likable or not, having the perspective of a catcher can sometimes be really insightful — something we know all too well in this market, especially the “likable or not” part *COUGH*.
But… uh… then this exchange happened:
DAVID CONE: You’re seeing Vasquez give multiple signs here with no man on second base, so…
A.J. PIERZYNSKI: It’s odd. Especially at home. On the road I’ve seen it, and we’ve talked about that, but it’s just odd that you would do that at home. There’s nothing out there unless they think somebody’s out in the crowd giving something — which has been known to happen in Toronto. Here they’re going no sign, because they just had a quick meeting.
JOE DAVIS: Another 0-2. Barely got a piece of another high fastball.
PIERZYNSKI: But it’s odd to me Coney, at home — OK, when we were in Toronto, when I played in Toronto, we used to always do that because there was rumours of a guy out in centrefield that was relaying stuff — but at home, especially with the tarp in centrefield, covering right behind the mound and the batter’s eye, you don’t see that as much. But… maybe it’s a comfort thing with Porcello out of the stretch, I don’t know. Whatever it is. But it’s just interesting that they’re doing that.
I mean, I know that A.J. is just relaying his personal “experiences” here — or at least what he and his teammates dumbly perceived they were experiencing — but holy shit, man. The “Man In White” story was horseshit easily debunked by a cursory look beyond the few numbers presented in support of it, and premised on the idea that the Blue Jays were basically both the most inept and blatant cheaters imaginable. It was beyond dumb as fuck.
I probably don’t need to tell anybody reading this that, or to show examples, but just because it’s fun and so unbelievably easy, let’s review…
Even though the piece came out in August of 2011, it focused mostly on the previous season, almost certainly because the Jays numbers in the 2011 season didn’t support the conclusion the piece was trying so very hard to push (a conclusion that the authors ultimately danced around with this chickenshit shoulder shrug of a final paragraph):
By themselves, these numbers are circumstantial evidence. Unsupported by data, the four players’ accounts might describe a scheme of uncertain impact. And without proper context, the Yankees’ decision to mask their signs could be chalked up to paranoia. But together, the numbers, the stories and the actions indicate one certainty: Every pitch to a Blue Jay in Toronto is worth watching.
The 2011 Jays ended up ranking 9th in MLB in runs scored at home, 17th in batting average at home, and 15th in OBP at home. Had they suddenly stopped cheating, even though they’d gotten away with it so well in 2010? Maybe that’s what we were supposed to think (we are told that, after a confrontation with an opposing team, strongly believed to be Pierzynski’s White Sox, the “Man In White” suddenly disappeared — at least for the rest of that particular series), but the problem was that the 2010 stuff didn’t hold up either. Yes, the Jays had led the league in home runs by a wide margin that year, and an outsize number of those were hit at home, but the Jays’ on-base at home in 2010 was .315 — good for the 27th best home mark in baseball. Their batting average at home, .253, ranked 23rd. By comparison, they were 21st and 24th by those measures on the road. SURE SOUNDS LIKE A TEAM FULL OF HITTERS THAT WERE BEING TOLD WHAT WAS COMING AT ROGERS CENTRE, EH?
The piece pointed to a bunch of Jays players who had extreme splits at home, ignoring many others with even splits, or ones that went the other direction. It also pointed to a big spike in the Jays’ “home run rate on contact” at home in 2010 — a spike that, we can see from a graphic included in the piece, was nearly identical to one that Jays hitters had experienced in 2006. Were they cheating then, too? Did they stop for four three seasons then start cheating again? Valid questions if not for the fact that it was all utter fucking nonsense and those kind of fluctuations maybe just happen.
Worse, these improprieties were allegedly first noticed at the very end of 2009 — i.e. José Bautista’s breakout September. Since Bautista kept passing drug tests, I guess there must have been some other way he’d fraudulently become a superstar, right? And while I can understand an opposing team being paranoid about such things, that ESPN was so eager to run with it, and — presumably — to keep running with it despite its foundation of innuendo and dubious statistical “evidence,” was genuinely fucked up.
That it is still being referred to and held up, over six years later, as the example of illegal sign stealing is, if not offensive, really bloody fucking irksome. Particularly BECAUSE THIS!!!!:
The Red Sox were actually caught cheating this year and we need to hear about this urban legend still.
— BlueJaysTwit (@bluejaystwit) October 9, 2017
At Fenway Park! On baseball’s biggest stage; a holiday afternoon playoff game! Watching the Red Sox! Who were actually penalized this season for illegally stealing signs! We’re talking about fucking “Man In White” horseshit!!!
I obviously can’t say for sure that the Jays weren’t doing anything wrong back then, but I can say with absolute certainty that ESPN sure as fuck didn’t prove that they were. Conjecture from some anonymous team didn’t prove it. The statistics — either during 2010 and 2011, or any season afterwards — didn’t. José Bautista’s career definitely didn’t. Nothing has.
So can we maybe shut the fuck up about it already? Huh, A.J.? And is maybe a little interjection about the team you’re watching being actually shown to have been cheating this season really too much to ask?