For Chris Sale: How to counteract sign stealing
Thievery, it's been a part of baseball for my near 20 years of playing the game professionally and for decades before me. It's a nuisance of the game, a battle among crooks, and you have to take precautions so you're not the ignorant victim.
Yesterday in Detroit, White Sox pitcher Chris Sale convinced himself that someone with binoculars was relaying signs to Victor Martinez from the centerfield seats at Comerica Park. Chris Sale was cuckoo bananas yesterday. But that's besides the point.
There have been tales, myths and urban legends of sophisticated sign stealing systems throughout the history of baseball and because of that pitchers can become paranoid.
Did you see the man in the white hat in Toronto? What about the red light that lit up on the scoreboard at Old Comiskey every time an opposing pitcher threw a fastball? Did that runner on second base just touch his helmet to tell the batter a curveball was coming?
The most infamous pitch-relaying conspiracy came in 1951 when Bobby Thompson hit the "shot heard 'round the world." Ralph Branca told me Thompson knew what pitch was coming right before he surrendered the home run because the Giants were relaying signs to hitters. He told me this last year and was still complaining about it.
You can be your own worst enemy in sports, and pitchers may be at the top of the list of conspiracy theorists.
Now, even if someone was relaying signs to V-Mart, and I can say with certainty that it is highly unlikely that was the case, there is a simple step to even the playing field. Use multiple signs.
Whenever we played a team that had rumors surrounding them as sign stealers I would just use multiple signs with the catcher. It's that's simple. My system was "strikes plus one." No strikes in the count, first sign. One strike, second sign. Two strikes, well, you get the drift. If I shook off, it was first sign or last or whatever I wanted it to be. The possibilities are endless and difficult to pick up on, especially if you change them inning to inning.
What you don't do is just drill a guy because you think he is stealing signs. Especially when it is something as far-fetched as a person in centerfield with binoculars.
If you catch a hitter peeking back at the catcher trying to steal location, then yeah, drill him, but not for this. That is irresponsible and dangerous.