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Phils brush off sign-stealing accusations

Phils brush off sign-stealing accusations

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DENVER -- This is not the first time a team has accused the Phillies of stealing signs.

But the Phillies denied they stole signs from Colorado Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo during a 9-5 victory Monday at Coors Field. The Rockies complained to Major League Baseball that Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer used binoculars from the visitors' bullpen in center field to help relay signs to Philadelphia hitters.

MLB issued the Phillies a warning.

"Absolutely no," manager Charlie Manuel said of the accusations before Game 1 of a split doubleheader Wednesday at Coors Field. "Absolutely ... no. Absolutely not."

Rockies manager Jim Tracy strongly disagreed.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's out of line," he said. "It's one thing in my opinion to go out and play a club as tough as you can possibly play it within the framework of the way they've structured things to be done. And cheating, until you get caught, nobody says that you don't explore something like that. But if you're cheating and you get caught, you know what? Then you'd better do something about it. That's my reaction to that."

MLB vice president of on-field operations Bob Watson spoke Tuesday with Billmeyer, who declined comment. Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said the situation has been addressed and it won't happen again.

A Foxsports.com report said video from the FSN Rocky Mountain telecast showed Billmeyer using binoculars during the top of the second inning. It also said it showed Shane Victorino using the bullpen phone in the dugout.

"I called him to put the binoculars away," Victorino said. "[Crew chief Jerry Crawford] had just talked to Charlie. I actually told him, 'Mick, you just got kicked out of the game. Jerry just talked to Charlie and said somebody complained. You've got to come off the field.' He said, 'No, no, no.' I was like, 'No, I'm just kidding.' But that's why I called down."

Crawford spoke with Manuel sometime during the second inning, and at that point Billmeyer put away the binoculars.

"I didn't know anything about it," Manuel said. "Mick watches [Carlos] Ruiz catch. That's what it was. We took care of it. I can understand why they'd be concerned about it, but at the same time, that's the truth. That's what happened. That's absolutely true. We were not trying to steal signs."

The Phillies said Billmeyer used the binoculars to watch Ruiz catch, but the TV showed Billmeyer using them in the top of the inning when Philadelphia was hitting.

"A pair of binoculars staring down the gun barrel of the hitting area, I don't think a club in baseball that's competing against that team would take too kindly to that," Tracy said. "Now you can come up with all kinds of different reasons as to why you had them and what you were doing with them. Are we to believe them at all? Or is it OK for us to think that there might be some type of competitive advantage that you're trying to gain for yourself? And then you start reflecting back on some of the things that have taken place in previous games and it makes you sit here and wonder a little bit."

The Foxsports.com report also said the Mets might have complained about the Phillies stealing signs earlier this season, but Philadelphia and MLB are unaware of it. The Mets have suspected the Phillies of stealing signs for some time. They formally complained to MLB in 2007, saying they used a camera in center field to help relay signs to hitters at the plate.

Manuel got fired up when the Mets were mentioned.

"Somebody ought to check on the Mets if they did [complain], because their ... home record is out of this world and they're losing on the road," Manuel said. "That's a good indication sometimes, if you want to know about signs and [stuff]. When I see somebody is 17-2 at home and 4-12 on the road I kind of get concerned about that. That kind of crosses my mind."

The Mets are 14-7 at home and 4-8 on the road.

So why do so many teams think the Phillies are stealing signs? Former manager Larry Bowa, who coaches third base for the Los Angeles Dodgers, said during the 2009 World Series that teams suspect the Philadelphia of stealing signs at Citizens Bank Park using a center-field camera.

"Because we beat them," Manuel said. "That's why. ... Keep crying. I'm sure if they can steal signs, they'll steal them. And believe we will, too, if we can get them. Yeah, we will. Legally. If you're dumb enough to let us get them, then that's your fault. That's been in the game for a long time."

The 1951 New York Giants allegedly stole signs late in the season to help them overcome a 13-1/2 game deficit to win the National League. Former Red Sox manager Jimy Williams, who later served as Manuel's bench coach, accused the Cleveland Indians of stealing signs in 1999, when Manuel was Cleveland's hitting coach.

Manuel then recalled how TV cameras during the 2007 National League Division Series against the Rockies appeared to catch Manuel Corpas pouring liquid onto the front of his shirt and rubbing dirt on the area before he faced Phillies hitters.

"They didn't do anything about that," Manuel said.

MLB said Corpas didn't do anything.

"This was nothing," Manuel said.

"Every year we're accused of cheating somehow," Victorino said of the accusations. "Your guess is as good as mine."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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