Blue Jays right-hander Jay Jackson had a point. At least he had one until the Yankees’ Aaron Judge took him deep on Monday night, prompting the journeyman pitcher’s return to Triple A.
Jackson brought his hands to his ears as he held the ball before settling into a set position. According to multiple Jays sources, Yankees first base coach Travis Chapman knew the grip indicated what kind of pitch he was going to throw. In a phone interview Tuesday night, Jackson admitted to tipping his slider but said the timing of his delivery was more of an issue than his grip.
So, there you have it. Judge was not illegally stealing signs when he cautiously observed that Jays broadcasters Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez looked sideways during his eighth-inning at-bat against Jackson. He was looking at Chapman, who was able to convey Jackson’s words through hand signals, a perfectly permissible behavior under Major League Baseball rules.
But the judge doesn’t need that much.
“From what I was told, I was swinging the pitch,” Jackson said, after striking out the first two batters in the eighth inning as Judge threw six straight sliders, the last 3-2. “When I got behind my ear it was (less) my grip. It takes me from my set position, from my glove to my head to my hips. On fastballs, I used to do it faster than sliders. They took it. “
Such behavior is part of the athleticism that smart teams use to pursue every possible edge. The Blue Jays aren’t saying the Yankees did anything wrong, other than mispositioning their coaches. No one has accused the Yankees of using any electronic equipment banned by Major League Baseball in the wake of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
“When they knew it was coming, he clipped me, (and then) he clipped me,” Jackson said. “I’m glad he hit it like he did.”
Jackson’s comments provide valuable insight into the matter, but in baseball’s post-Astros paranoia age, fans will believe what they want to believe, the fallout from the league’s failure to enforce its rules and prevent illegal electronic identity theft in the late 2010s.
Social media conspiracies are rife these days, and when Schulman and Martinez noticed the judge’s eye movement and wondered aloud what he was seeing, it was a trigger.
In this case, the joint, ahem, side eye is unnecessary. Even with Yankees coaches out of their respective boxes, Jays officials made a point to the league Tuesday that Toronto pitchers must be consistent with their balls, cover their grips and do whatever it takes to cover their pitches. Catchers, likewise, must cover locations, but Blue Jays manager John Schneider said “he didn’t see anything” with his team’s catcher Alejandro Kirk.
Schneider declined to comment AthleticWhen Caitlin McGrath reported on Jackson’s comments. But before the game, he must highlight the importance of teams and defend against opponents.
“If you’re doing things visually, I think you can fix them, and you have to be prepared for what the consequences are going to be,” Schneider said. “To be fair, yes, that’s part of the game, everybody wants to help their teammates, everybody wants to pick up trends, so anything that happens on the field the right way, absolutely fair game.”
Regarding the position of the Yankees’ coaches, Schneider said, “I think there are boxes on the field for a reason. Yeah, I think you put two and two together a little bit when you’re 30 feet out of place. … If things are taken from people who aren’t where they should be, that’s where the line should be drawn.
The Blue Jays tried to make sure the line was drawn Tuesday night, asking Yankees third base coach Luis Rojas to stay inside his box. The Yankees then made the same request to Blue Jays third base coach Luis Rivera. But the bigger question about the judge’s eye movements seems to have already subsided.
A league source said AthleticBrendan Kutty said, “There is no indication that anything that happened last night violated our rules.” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he didn’t expect an investigation from the league. And Schneider certainly didn’t make a call.
Jackson said Jays people first let him know he was tipping after coming out of Monday’s game. He was working out at Rogers Center on Tuesday, shortly after learning he had been optioned back to Triple A, when the topic came up again.
“One guy told me I might be tilting my pitches,” Jackson said. “And then the video guy comes back later and says, ‘Hey, maybe we picked up on something in the difference between your slider and your fastball. It might have been something those guys were onto. Be aware of that. You might want to change that next time.
Often when an opponent detects a pitcher tipping, it is the runner at second base who acts as the detective and relays the information to the hitter. Jackson said he could more easily accept such a decision than a hitter “peeping somewhere.” Practitioners, he added, “must not give out symptoms.” But he added, “If I’m giving up pitches, that’s on me. I need to fix that and make a better pitch 3-2 in that situation. I left it in the middle.
Major League Baseball Regulations, a copy of which has been obtained Athletic, prohibit communication of signs or pitch information from the dug site. The introduction of PitchCom enables direct communication between pitcher and catcher. But the rules, which are updated every year, make it clear that a coach or baserunner on the field can relay other things.
“During a game, no club personnel shall in any manner communicate the opposing team’s signs or pitch information to a batter, baserunner or coach on the field,” states Rule 1-1(b). , a person who recognizes the opposing club’s insignia or pitching information by the catcher or the opposing team’s dugout may communicate that information to the batting or another on-field coach.
“‘Pitch information’ means the type or location of the incoming pitch, or any notes by the pitcher that would help identify the pitch (eg, ‘pitch tipping’ information).”
The Yankees’ past isn’t entirely clean. Commissioner Rob Manfred fined them $100,000 for using a dugout phone to communicate information about opposing teams’ signs during the 2015 season and part of 2016. Until 2015, the Yankees used the video replay room to learn other teams’ batting lineups. A common practice used by clubs before the league before the 2018 season cracked down on such behaviour.
The league continued to institute new rules and enforcement procedures after the Astros’ scandal. The Yankees, in this tough era, are one of the clubs most interested in legitimately spotting pitchers’ tendencies. They had Tigers pitcher Elvin Rodriguez tipping his pitches last season, prompting the right-hander to say, “They got me.” Monday night, they got Jackson.
“It is what it is,” Jackson said. “I’ll have to clean it up and go back and get him next time.”
(Top photo: Joe Robbins/ICON Sportswire via Getty Images)