Let’s be perfectly clear: Aaron Judge was not cheating

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Aw, nothing like a cheating scandal, real or imagined, to ignite a rivalry. 

It’s the kind where everyone openly accuses each other of suspicious activity, but has nothing concrete but a little rosin and foreign substance mixed in. 

Come on, wasn’t baseball’s Pitchcom technology supposed to wipe out sign stealing forever? 

Unless someone broke into a team’s control room, or intercepted a team’s sound waves, how can you possibly pick up signs when there’s no longer a need for catchers to flash signs with their fingers?

Well, as the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays are proving loud and clear in their juicy four-game series this week, teams still can use their own ingenuity to spot tendencies, pick up flaws, and detect whether a pitcher is going to throw a fastball or off-speed pitch without a garbage can in sight. 

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The Yankees may indeed have spotted a flaw in Blue Jay reliever Jay Jackson’s mechanics to know what pitch was coming, and whether or not Aaron Judge really did take a quick peek and look for a sign, or wonder who was loudly yelling from his own bench, everything was perfectly legal. 

If you’re careless enough to let hitters know what pitch is coming, you deserve to be smacked around until you’re much more careful disguising your pitches. 

“What’s fair is fair, I think,’’ Toronto manager John  Schneider told reporters. “If our guys are giving stuff away, we have to be better at that. I think that if things are being picked up from people that aren’t in places they should be, that’s where I think the line should be drawn. … 

“The integrity of the game is so important and people are always trying to look for competitive advantages.’’ 

We may never know whether Judge knew exactly what pitch was coming on Monday night on his 462-foot homer off Jackson, his second of the night. But we do know that his 448-foot shot into the Flight Deck that broke the WestJet maple leaf logo, didn’t involve a single glance towards anyone but pitcher Erik Swanson, unless you count Judge looking and pointing towards the fans, or was it his bullpen, as he slowly rounded the bases getting sweet revenge. 

“Especially with the things that have happened in this game with cheating stuff,’’ Judge told reporters, “and to get that thrown out, I’m not happy about it.’’ 

Let’s be perfectly clear, Judge was not cheating. Maybe he was onto Jackson’s pitch selection, with Jackson telling The Athletic afterwards that he was tipping his pitches, but if that’s illegal, the sport would be shut down. 

The Blue Jays did speak with MLB officials, with Schneider saying they at least wanted to enforce the rule that the first-base and third-base coaches stay in the coaching box, even though there’s not a single coach or team that adhere to the rule. 

“It’s silliness. It’s ridiculousness,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters. “I hope everybody on both sides realizes it.’’ 

If you want actual cheating, look no further than Yankees starter Domingo German, who was caught red-handed, once again, with an illegal foreign substance on his hand, pants, glove, and everywhere you looked. 

He was immediately ejected and will be suspended 10 games, leaving questions on just how he’ll perform once he returns and must pitch with clean hands. 

That is cheating.

When Fernando Tatis Jr. tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs last year, that was cheating too. 

It would be grossly naïve to believe that all players are clean now, no matter how often they are tested. 

Baseball is a game deep-rooted with cheating, whether it’s players using corked bats, pitchers scuffing baseballs, flashing signs or lights in outfield bullpens, or widespread tampering among baseball executives and agents. 

Baseball has never been pure, and never will be, but it doesn’t diminish the sheer beauty of the game. 

We love our bitter rivalries in this game, where teams actually hate one another, whether it’s Bryce Harper challenging the entire Colorado Rockies team to a fight and calling them a loser [expletive] organization, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane telling Yankees GM Brian Cashman to keep his mouth shut, or Blue Jays All-Star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. saying he’d rather be dead than play for the Yankees. 

Now, in a matter of 48 hours, we have Schneider yelling to the Yankees’ bench, “Shut up, fat boy.’’ We have Boone screaming at the Blue Jays. We have Judge saying he’s furious with the Blue Jays broadcasters for suggesting he was stealing signs. And we have two teams comically trying to enforce coaches to stay inside their coaching boxes. 

What’s next, a crackdown on the fraternization rule that teams opposing players aren’t permitted to speak or acknowledge their buddies when the gates open before a game? 

The animosity has been created all thanks to a cheating scandal that’s not a scandal, unless someone actually believes that German is not acting on his own when he lathers himself with an illegal foreign substance and then tries to convince anyone who’ll listen that it was merely rosin. 

“It was definitely not rosin,’’ crew chief James Hoye said. “I’ve felt hands with rosin. That wasn’t rosin. …The stickiest hand I’ve ever felt.” 

The drama has left us with baseball’s latest and greatest rivalry, at least for the rest of this season, making the Dodgers-Giants, Cubs-Cardinals and Yankees-Red Sox rivalries look like a lovefest. 

“It’s a competitive environment,” Schneider told reporters. “Things get said. People say things they may or may not regret.” 

Says Jays starter Kevin Gausman: “There’s definitely a bit of a dislike and that adds to the fuel.’’ 

These two teams, after they play again Thursday, don’t meet again until late September, when postseason berths should be on the line. 

Will tempers simmer over the next four months? 


Will this feud be forgotten in four months, particularly by these two rabid fanbases? 

Absolutely not. 

There is no cheating scandal here. Really, there’s nothing to see but two great teams fighting for a playoff berth. But why let a few facts get in the way or ruining a budding rivalry? 

See you in September. 

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale 

This post appeared first on USA TODAY