You’ve heard the news by now, surely, the cat having been let out of its proverbial bag. As reported by ESPN on Wednesday, the Toronto Blue Jays are sign stealers; the Toronto Blue Jays are cheaters.
I found the report deeply disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not troubled by the undeniable facts that prove the Blue Jays are cheating. Not at all. What’s most troublesome about the revelations, to me, a proud Blue Jays supporter, is that Toronto, the sign stealers, can’t even get cheating right. They’re obviously not very good at it, as evidenced by their 30-29 record at the Rogers Centre this season. In 2010, Toronto’s .569 home winning percentage was good for third in the AL East. In 2009, that number was .543, good for — you guessed it — fourth in the division. It’s always third or fourth place, man, and I’m sick of it. If the Jays are going to go to the trouble to cheat, I mean really cheat, allegedly going as far as to put someone — a spy — in the stands to steal signs, I’d much rather they be successful. Cheat, but cheat well, my beloved Blue Jays! I can only hope that general manager Alex Anthopoulos, in his retooling of the franchise, is pouring resources into the Cheating Department as well as the Scouting Department.
But this isn’t about me, and my fandom. It’s about the Blue Jays stealing signs, and where we go from here. The analysis, reactions and rebuttals to the ESPN piece are out there, have been written in spades. And what’s important, here and now, at this moment in time, is that the NotGraphs Investigative Reporting Investigation Team has scored, as you were probably expecting, an exclusive interview with Toronto’s Rogers Centre’s mysterious Man In White. Actually, our bold investigative reporter was honest: He stumbled upon the Man In White by chance, running into him outside the ballpark after Thursday’s matinee between Oakland and Toronto, the Man In White smoking a cigarette outside Rogers Centre’s gate eight. Dressed in immaculately white Adidas runners, black pants, and a tight, white, Anderson Cooper-esque v-neck t-shirt, when asked whether he was actually the now-infamous Man In White, the man responded, “I am he,” blew five cigarette smoke rings, “And he is I.”
The Man In White agreed to sit down with our one man NotGraphs Investigative Reporting Investigation Team at St. Louis Bar and Grill — if we were buying, and we were — across the street from the Rogers Centre. Below is a transcript of the exclusive, bombshell interview:
NotGraphs: Tough game.
Man In White: You’re telling me.
NotGraphs: Felt like Oakland knew what was coming.
Man In White: That’s not funny.
NotGraphs: Sorry. I had to.
Man In White: Whatever. It doesn’t help that Brad Mills throws the baseball at one speed, and one speed only.
NotGraphs: No, no it doesn’t. Anyway, look, thanks for agreeing to do this, Man in White. We at FanGraphs certainly appreciate it. Let’s start at the beginning: You were one of the most highly-touted sign stealers coming out of high school. How did it feel to be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the third round of the 2005 MLB amateur draft?
Man In White: It was an honour, of course, just to be drafted. But it was even more special to be selected by the Blue Jays. I actually grew up in upstate New York, only an hour outside Buffalo. Since it was a shorter ride to Toronto than to New York, whom my friends rooted for, I actually grew up a Blue Jays fan, and got up to the SkyDome a few times as a kid. Every little boy dreams of being selected by the team he grew up rooting for, and then helping that team cheat their way to the World Series. I couldn’t have scripted it better myself, and draft day was definitely one of the best days of my life.
NotGraphs: You did have plans to go to college, though, right?
Man In White: I did. I’d verbally committed to Long Beach State. We were going to cheat our way to a national championship. But it was an easy decision, once J.P. Ricciardi showed me the money. Cheat in college, or cheat in The Show? No brainer, man.
NotGraphs: Good point. And the Blue Jays went over-slot on your contract, too, didn’t they?
Man In White: They did. It showed their commitment to stealing signs, to cheating, and to doing whatever it takes. The only fools who actually say “Cheaters never prosper” are the ones who either didn’t cheat, or lost to cheaters.
NotGraphs: You spent a year in Dunedin, a couple of years in New Hampshire, and one in Las Vegas before being called up to Toronto. What were the minor leagues like?
Man In White: My job — my production — is dependent on the hitters who are taking my cues. A lot of guys in the minors aren’t very good hitters, you know what I’m saying? That’s why they’re in the minors. God love ’em, they’re chasing their dream just like I am, but it was great to finally get the call to Toronto in 2009.
NotGraphs: You were a September call-up in 2009. Jose Bautista hit 10 home runs after you arrived. He’d hit four up until that point.
Man In White: That’s not a question.
NotGraphs: You’re right.
Man In White: Let’s just say I made an impression.
NotGraphs: You did. On the Blue Jays and the Chicago White Sox. Let’s deal with these allegations in the ESPN Magazine piece. Did members of the White Sox bullpen spot you in the center field seats on the night of April 13, 2010?
Man In White: They did.
NotGraphs: And you, worried that the jig was up, took off?
Man In White: No, I went to pee. I’d had a couple of beers. I drink for free, it’s in my contract.
NotGraphs: You drink while you work?
Man In White: Don’t you?
Man In White: I left after the 7th inning that night. Not because the White Sox had spotted me, but because it was 4-0 Blue Jays, and Ricky Romero was tossing a no-hitter. My work was done.
NotGraphs: What was your reaction to the White Sox chirping at Jose Bautista, and threatening to hit him in the head if Chicago saw you again?
Man In White: Look, the White Sox are bitter about the whole Alex Rios thing. And, really, can you blame them?
NotGraphs: You weren’t there the next two nights, either.
Man In White: Vacation. Scheduled. I was off from April 14 through April 19. The Jays lost four of five. You see, there’s a reasonable explanation to all of this.
NotGraphs: Do you always wear white?
Man In White: Yep. It’s a lot easier for the guy at the plate to see me that way.
NotGraphs: How the hell do you see the sign from that far, more than 400 feet away?
Man In White: If I told you, I’d have to kill you. But, for the record, that’s just one of our sign stealing strategies. We have plenty more in our arsenal.
NotGraphs: Good to know. Tell us about the rest of 2010.
Man In White: The numbers speak for themselves. Swing hard, right? And swing harder when you know which pitch is on the way. ESPN wrote their piece because of 2010, I get that. It’s a season no one, especially not ESPN, can ever take away from me, from us. We did some pretty special things at the Rogers Centre last year. Matter of fact, I’m having dinner with Vernon Wells [Friday] night. Vernon’s buying, obviously, and we’re celebrating. Have you seen his 2010 splits? A .417 wOBA and 163 wRC+ at the Cable Box! Those numbers are what got him traded to beautiful, sunny southern California. I know Anthopoulos gets a lot of credit for trading Vernon, and that bloody contract, but it doesn’t happen without his 2010 resurgence; it doesn’t happen without me.
NotGraphs: Do you ice your arms after each game?
Man In White: Of course. They’re my livelihood.
NotGraphs: How do you feel about being outed by four anonymous relievers, and ESPN?
Man In White: If anyone is baseball thinks I’m the only sign stealer out there, or that the Blue Jays are the only team in baseball stealing signs, they’re insane. The Red Sox steal signs. Lord knows the Phillies do. The Blue Jays have me. I work alone. That’s how I prefer it. Baltimore has, last I remember, at least seven sign stealers. And they still can’t hit. Bud Selig actually mandated the Orioles to expand their sign stealing staff, because he thought it might help.
NotGraphs: Well, that makes sense. The Orioles are awful. The Yankees were in Toronto this season complaining about signs being stolen. What was your reaction to those complaints?
Man In White: The same reaction I have today to ESPN’s story: If you’re worried about the Blue Jays stealing your signs, change your signs. I’m very good at what I do, but, let’s be real, this isn’t brain surgery. See the sign, steal the sign. And, hey, our numbers are down this season. My job’s getting harder. This is baseball. Good teams adapt. But we’re still keeping on, here in Toronto, we’re still cheating, and we’re going to continue to cheat. It’s part of Alex Anthopoulos’ master plan, by any means necessary, in order to climb the standings.
NotGraphs: Are the Yankees stealing signs?
Man In White: As the old saying goes: If they’re not, they’re not trying hard enough. But I believe they are. This ESPN piece, it’s all Joe Girardi’s and Russell Martin’s fault, for piping up. Deal with it. Cheat, or be cheated. New York cheats by spending everyone else into the ground. We have to be a little bit more creative, and if that means I’m sitting in center field, using my hands from more than 400 feet away to tell our guys what’s coming their way, so be it. If that means I’m on a bluetooth headset, in the ears of our hitters, so be it. We’re in the AL East, and playing an unbalanced schedule. Whatever it takes. Beast mode.
NotGraphs: What good, if any, has come out of this situation?
Man In White: Tons of good. There are at least 10 Twitter accounts out there now, impersonating me. Do you know how many young kids, after Wednesday, are saying, “I want to be a professional sign stealer when I grow up!”? Thousands. Millions! And that’s great. For the profession, and for baseball. There’s more: “SpyDome.” Shit, that’s brilliant. And how about Anthopoulos stepping up to the mic and opening with, “This whole thing’s stupid.” That’s gold. And, best yet, there’s going to be tons of fans in the bleachers at the Rogers Centre, all wearing white, for the rest of the reason, and all doing crazy things with their hands. It’s going to be a hoot, like it was [Wednesday night]. Brett Lawrie, quick learner. He’s already got two home runs. I’m already having a blast working with him. At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
NotGraphs: You’ve got that right. Thanks again for taking the time with us today, Man in White. Best of luck stealing signs in the future.
Man In White: Thank you.
Image credit: The Toronto Star.