Video insinuates Twins stole signs
DETROIT -- The Minnesota Twins reacted with a mix of anger and amusement to an Internet video that suggests catcher and MVP candidate Joe Mauer was stealing signs from second base in Tuesday's game against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
A 4½-minute amateur video, posted on YouTube and later shown on the Web site Deadspin, shows Mauer fiddling with his helmet and touching his face during a Jason Kubel at-bat in the sixth inning of Detroit's 6-5 victory over the Twins. The plate appearance culminated in a sacrifice fly by Kubel.
A running commentary by the YouTube poster -- who goes by the nickname "rolemodel2008" and has since been identified as Tony Faust of Maple Grove, Minn. -- explains how Mauer is trying to steal signs from Detroit catcher Gerald Laird and relay them to Kubel from second base.
The video circulated through the Minnesota clubhouse before Thursday afternoon's game at Comerica Park. Although Kubel characterized the video as "funny," Morneau took offense at the notion that Mauer was stealing signs. The Twins say that Mauer habitually fiddles with his helmet regardless of whether he's standing on first, second or third base.
"I started laughing and said, 'This is a joke.' And then I said, 'Here we go,' " Morneau said. "It's pretty funny. There don't have to be facts behind anything anymore. You just throw stuff out there, and they want us to prove it wrong.
"I've hit behind Joe for five years and I've never gotten a sign from him yet. I'm still waiting."
Mauer declined to comment on the video early Thursday but talked to reporters at his locker after Minnesota's 8-3 victory and denied doing anything to tip pitches to teammates.
"As baseball players we try to get edges any way we can, but at that point in time it was more of a coincidence than anything,'' Mauer said. "I wasn't relaying any signs or anything like that.
"It's just a habit of mine -- I just go to my right earflap. I thought [the video] was kind of funny, but it was totally off," he said.
Although it's common practice for baserunners to try to steal signs from second base to help a hitter be aware of the type of ensuing pitch or location, it's generally done subtly for fear of retribution. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Mauer's helmet-touching display was so obvious that it would have ensured one of his teammates being drilled by a fastball in response.
"If you're stealing signs and you're using your hands on your helmet, I guarantee you, somebody would get killed," Gardenhire said. "That's not the way you steal signs."
Verlander declined comment to a Washington Post reporter.
Gardenhire said sign-stealing has been a long-standing practice in baseball, that teams are always looking for an edge. The difference now is that You Tube posters and bloggers are paying attention to every scratch and twitch.
"That's what the game is all about -- coaches and base coaches looking in and seeing if they can see the catcher's signs," Gardenhire said. "It's always there, and it's always been there. What's the old saying? If you're not cheating, you're not trying."
Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com.