ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As word of Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer getting busted with binoculars and allegedly stealing signs boomeranged around the game Wednesday, two men who worked with Billmeyer a decade ago found the idea of Billmeyer doing such a dastardly deed laughable.
"I hate to throw him under the bus but, knowing him, I'm sure it had nothing to do with signs," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who, during his 31 years in the Angels' organization, became friends with Billmeyer (who was the Angels' bullpen/workout coordinator from 1994-1999).
"I'd bet on it. I can say that because he's a single guy."
Across the field here Wednesday, one of Billmeyer's former roommates -- Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher -- chuckled and agreed.
"I honestly believe he was either checking out the scenery," said Butcher, who lived with Billmeyer for a time when Butcher was pitching for the Angels (1992-1995), "or checking out his own catcher.
"I know he's the catching instructor there. I wouldn't be surprised if he was bearing down on his own guy."
Evidence uncovered by the Rockies was incriminating enough that major-league baseball delivered a stern reprimand to the Phillies on Wednesday.
The Rockies noticed Billmeyer with binoculars in the Coors Field bullpen during a game earlier this week looking in at Colorado catcher Miguel Olivo from the center field bullpen with the Phillies batting in the first inning. The Rockies asked their television network to zoom in on Billmeyer, and television cameras caught him looking in at Olivo in the second.
"Sign-stealing is going on all the time, and I think it's one of the lost arts of the game if you doing it the right way," Maddon said. "If you're doing it with technology, I totally disagree with it. But if you're doing it through observation ... binoculars, I'd say, are technology."
First generation, apparently -- though Maddon did not elaborate on that part of it.
"When you can get the other side's signs through old-fashioned detective work, it can really impact a game," Maddon said. "If some people are upset with that, then I'd say shame on them for not concealing their signs better."
Even with binoculars in Billmeyer's hand and video evidence, though, Maddon still found it difficult to believe that Billmeyer was studying Olivo's signs.
"I'd love to know what was [in the stands] behind Olivo," he quipped.
Likes: Nothing like a good, old-fashioned, sign-stealing controversy. ... The Phillies have been accused of this before (see Dodgers coach Larry Bowa's radio comments from last October when the Phils were playing the Yankees in the World Series). But a couple of things to remember, for those thinking Billmeyer is the culprit: While you can see the catcher from the bullpen in Philly's Citizens' Bank Park, it's hit-and-miss on the road. Not all bullpens would give Billmeyer (or anybody else) a clear line of vision to the catcher (Coors Field does). Also, the Phillies scored more runs on the road than at home last year, and the same is true so far this year.
Dislikes: The pair of binoculars I have at home have been broken for two years.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply
"So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
"He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do
"So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you
"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
"Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
"Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign"
-- Five Man Electrical Band, Signs