The St. Louis Cardinals made relatively easy work of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS this year, winning the series in six games and finishing the job with a 9-0 thumping in Game 6. Traditionalists would argue that the Cardinals were simply the better team. However, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has wondered if St. Louis gained an advantage with its knack for stealing signs.
At the MLB winter meetings on Wednesday, Mattingly said his team was well aware of the Cardinals’ reputation for stealing signs when they began the NLCS. While he said he does not believe St. Louis won the series because of sign stealing, he did admit that the Dodgers complained about where Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo was standing at certain times.
“We felt like we had to be sure we kept an eye on their first-base coach and their third-base coach,” Mattingly said, via Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “They’re the ones with the easiest way to steal signs. Josie’s a guy, at third, who’s always looking for my signs from our dugout.”
Mattingly said he had someone else besides himself relay signs from the dugout during the series to try to stop Oquendo from stealing them. There has also been speculation that the Cardinals mastered the art of relaying signs to hitters when they had a man on second base. They hit .190 in the NLCS with no runners on base and .259 with runners in scoring position. As Saxon pointed out, St. Louis hit .236 with nobody on and .330 with runners in scoring position during the regular season.
“If you think a guy’s looking from second base, then you have to have a combination of signs,” Mattingly said. “If you think guys are cheating from first base, then you have to have multiple signs even with a guy on first. It’s your job to make sure they can’t do it.”
Mattingly reiterated that he was not using the prospect of sign stealing as an excuse, but he could have just as easily refused to discuss it. Stealing signs has been part of the game for years. The best teams can adapt accordingly.