06/23/06 9:15 PM ET
Sox brush off sign-stealing accusations
Hitting coach Walker calls Cardinals' claims 'asinine'
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
But Tony La Russa's crew certainly was able to raise the White Sox collective blood pressure a bit with one parting shot before heading off to Detroit. According to a short article in Friday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals suspected a little bit of gamesmanship from the White Sox in regard to their offensive explosion over the first two contests.
That form of assistance, according to an anonymous Cardinals source, came from a camera just below the Jumbotron in center field signaling signs to the White Sox hitters.
"Let's put it this way," one Cardinals source said Thursday night, as quoted in Friday's article. "They looked like they knew what was coming the first two nights. They looked like they had no idea [Thursday]. You figure it out."
This particular article also pointed out that the White Sox were 40-for-88 with 15 extra-base hits and 33 runs the first two games of the series, and during Wednesday's rout, the St. Louis dugout became convinced of the camera tipping pitches. The signs were changed after the fifth inning, and the White Sox finished 4-for-36, with Jim Thome's home run serving as the lone run after the switch.
Of course, the changing of the signs just happened to coincide with Jason Marquis' exit from Wednesday's game, the same St. Louis starter who allowed 13 runs on 14 hits against the red-hot White Sox attack. When informed of the accusations on Friday, White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker barely wanted to acknowledge the charges of cheating.
The acknowledgement Walker did put forth was done so in a very pointed and direct fashion, bordering on mild anger.
"It's asinine. We don't do it," Walker said. "We see teams giving signs from second base. I've been here for four years, and we've never even done that. I'm sure they said they changed their signs. Did they come up with something we can't understand? It's an asinine comment and not true."
Walker went on to break down each game individually. Mark Mulder, a talented left-hander who went on the disabled list on Wednesday, was throwing in the mid-80s when the White Sox knocked him around on Tuesday. Marquis had an off-night, but had to absorb a few extra innings because of the bullpen's wear and tear from the previous night.
As for Reyes, Walker knew the White Sox were in for a battle as soon as he saw game tape of the pitcher with a similar style to a healthy Mark Prior.
"The kid yesterday threw a great game. I was very impressed with him," Walker said. "The first day, I felt pretty good about our chances. The second day, I felt a little better, but yesterday I knew we had our work cut out for us."
With the way the White Sox had been hitting the ball over the past week, Reyes' effort becomes that much more astonishing. The South Siders entered Thursday with a franchise-record six straight games of scoring at least eight runs and had knocked out at least 13 hits in each of those six. The White Sox also lead the Majors in June with 131 runs scored and a .297 average.
And if the White Sox offensive boom really was due in part to help from the center-field camera, then they also must have been getting help in Texas and Cincinnati. The now infamous Vicente Padilla was the only pitcher from the past week, prior to Reyes, who didn't fall victim to the White Sox bats.
"We pay their cameramen off, and they agreed to do it," said Walker with a smile, in regard to help on the road.
"The only thing we do is swing the bat good," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen added. "It's funny because when they kick my butt, I say they have a good hitting team. All of a sudden we score a lot of runs and we're cheating."
While Walker admitted that the Cardinals' insinuation was insulting to his hitters, Guillen added that it also took away a little from Reyes' dominant effort on Thursday -- one of the best-pitched games against the White Sox in 2006. Guillen has been through this cheating issue before, only with Mark Buehrle throwing out subtle hints in August that the Rangers were signaling pitches in Texas with lights in the scoreboard.
Guillen basically countered Buehrle's claims by stating that his left-handed ace simply was hit hard on that given night, and rookie Brandon McCarthy came back two days later to throw shutout baseball at Ameriquest Field. Guillen also joked on Friday that if the Cardinals would have faced his struggling offense a couple of weeks ago, then they wouldn't have worried about the sign stealing.
The White Sox's 27-10 home record is the best in baseball, and they have a .286 average as a team at U.S. Cellular Field. But the White Sox also are hitting the ball well on the road, with a .282 average.
Simply put, the Cardinals were hit hard by a top-notch offense and left Chicago seemingly looking for excuses. Then again, a somewhat sarcastic Guillen said if something was going on with the center-field cameras, he certainly wouldn't admit it.
"You have to prove me wrong first," said Guillen with a wry smile. "I say that I'll be all over the news. 'Look at what Ozzie's saying now.' If they think we're doing it, they don't give my team credit. We're swinging the bat well."
"We had a great two games, and you saw what good pitching did to us [on Thursday]," Walker added. "I said that when we left Cincinnati, there are few times during the year as a hitting coach that you look at your guys and say we've got everyone swinging the bat good. I'm talking about even bench players, even [Jon] Garland."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.