Moments after home plate umpire Clint Vondrak ejected New York manager Aaron Boone for arguing balls and strikes with the Yankees leading the Blue Jays 6-0 in the eighth inning, slugger Aaron Judge smacked a home run off of right-hander Jay Jackson to give his team a seven-run lead.
What was notable about the smash, other than that it traveled 462 feet into the seats, was that it appeared Judge was looking toward his dugout immediately before turning his attention back to the pitcher and swinging his bat. The broadcasters for the Blue Jays were actually talking about Judge glancing at the dugout earlier in his at-bat when he did it again seconds before hitting his blast off Jackson. Though the announcers stopped short of alleging Judge was cheating, they did speculate he could have been looking for some kind of signal from the dugout.
While it may be frowned upon in some circles, sending a batter signals from the dugout about what sort of pitch may be coming is not against the rules. Of course, that’s only true if the information being relayed was obtained in an above-the-board manner that didn’t involve audio or video surveillance equipment. Thanks to the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, there’s no reason to give any MLB team the benefit of the doubt at this point, and that includes the Yankees (who’ve dealt with their own sign-stealing allegations).
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“He’s obviously looking in that direction for a reason,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider, via The Athletic. “And I think [we’ll] dive into it a little bit more tonight and tomorrow and just make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to not make ourselves susceptible to tendencies or location or pitches or anything like that, but it was, yeah, kind of odd to see him looking over there right before a pitch came. But he’s obviously looking somewhere besides the pitcher for a reason at that point in time in his at-bat so you’ll have to ask him.”
Reporters did just that, and when asked what he was looking at during his controversial at-bat against Jackson, Judge had the following explanation: “There was kind of a lot of chirping from our dugout, which I really didn’t like in the situation…I said a couple of things to some guys in the dugout and especially after the game. Hopefully it won’t happen again.”
It’s a reasonable explanation, but there’s really no way to know. If Judge hits another pair of home runs today, we’ll have our answer.
In addition to his home run in the eighth inning, Judge hit a first-inning homer off Alek Manoah. It was his 30th career multi-homer game and came at the same ballpark where he matched Roger Maris’s single-season AL home run record by belting No. 61 on September 28 last season.