Red Sox claim Indians' film a documentary on theft


The Boston Red Sox made headlines four years ago when they asked umpires to examine Albert Belle's bat during the 1995 playoffs. Now, they've accused the Cleveland Indians of cheating again.

Tuesday night, manager Jimy Williams delivered a tape to umpiring crew chief Tim Welke that purportedly showed that the Indians were using the center field camera at Jacobs Field to steal signs and relay them to hitters and runners.

"I think we've got something," Williams told reporters. "Just want it fair for both sides. That's all you ask. If you steal signs on the field, to me that's part of the game."

It's not the first time the Indians have faced such allegations. The Seattle Mariners complained about the camera during the 1995 playoffs and the Atlanta Braves felt that the Indians used it to defeat Greg Maddux in Game 5 of the World Series that year.

Former Kansas City Royals manager Bob Boone was so convinced the Indians were sign-stealing that he used to order relievers to cover a camera in the bullpen with a towel.

The alleged spy camera was covered for the remaining games of the series, but the Indians deny any wrongdoing.

"We don't cheat," said manager Mike Hargrove. "I can sit here and tell you that until I'm blue in the face, and you'll either believe me or you won't. But if that's the case, our record on the road (44-28) wouldn't be pretty good, too."

Conspiracy-theory types, however, might note that -- with the camera covered -- the Indians lost the remaining games of the series against the Red Sox and were trounced in the first two games of a four-game series against the Yankees.

Trial by fire

The period of reckoning is about to arrive for the New York Mets, who open a three-game series in Atlanta on Tuesday night and play six games in 10 days against the first-place Braves.

When those two series are over, the Mets could be poised to win the National League East title for the first time since 1988, or -- at the other end of the spectrum -- be out of the playoff picture.

"We've worked very hard to get ourselves into this position," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said, "but we don't have any illusion about who's the team to beat in the National League. It's still the Braves. They're still the best around."

The Mets are 2-4 against the Braves so far this season and 5-13 dating back to the start of 1998. Lest anyone forget, the Braves knocked the Mets out of the wild-card race with a three-game sweep at season's end last year.

Tremendous turnabout

The Arizona Diamondbacks are on pace to win 98 games this year, or 33 more than they won during their 65-97 inaugural season. If they follow through, it would be the biggest single-season turnaround since the Boston Red Sox went from 71-83 in 1945 to 104-50 in '46 -- the year Ted Williams resumed his career after World War II.

No-hit wonder

Former University of Maryland pitcher Eric Milton still has to be walking on air a week after throwing major-league baseball's third no-hitter of 1999, and rightfully so. But he owes some thanks to interim Angels manager Joe Maddon, who left a predominantly Triple-A lineup in the game right to the end.

The only Angels regular in the lineup was young third baseman Troy Glaus. The rest of the club's big guns -- Mo Vaughn, Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad and Jim Edmonds -- watched in frustration from the sidelines as Milton overpowered the green Angels with his 92-mph fastball and excellent control.

Maddon disputed the notion that he should have pulled out all the stops to prevent the indignity of being held hitless. The Angels were down 6-0 in the late innings, so the only reason he would have been making changes was to spoil Milton's big night.

"I don't look at it as an embarrassment," Maddon said. "We sent our major-league players up there. Embarrassment was not an issue for me today. I thought it was a great opportunity to get other guys on the field. There's no second-guessing there. I would have used the [veteran] guys if the game was close. I would've given them time to get loose. But at the point we were at, it didn't make sense."

Salmon stood by his manager, supporting the decision to carry through with his promise to give the veterans the day off. But would he like to see all of the club's September call-ups in the lineup again?

"Maybe not all at one time," he said.

Career year

Braves outfielder and former Milford Mill star Brian Jordan set a career high with his 105th RBI on Tuesday night, surpassing his previous career total of 104, set in 1996 for the St. Louis Cardinals.

"It's about time," Jordan told reporters afterward. "I should have reached it three weeks ago. I really didn't set my sights on anything except getting 100 RBIs, scoring 100 runs and batting .300. To me, [105 RBIs] is a sign I'm getting better each year."

Triple Crown, sort of

Rockies outfielder Larry Walker seems like a lock to walk away with his second consecutive batting championship, and he's playing the other percentages, too.

Walker has a chance to lead the league in all the percentage categories -- batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The last guy to do that was Hall of Famer George Brett during his phenomenal 1980 season. The last NL player was Stan Musial, who did it in 1943.

Total domination

Concealed within two strong starts over the past 10 days, Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez pitched the equivalent of a 10-inning perfect game.

That's right, Martinez finished his dominating victory over the Yankees on Sept. 10 by retiring the final 22 batters he faced. Then he retired the first eight batters in his next outing against the Indians.

That 30 straight outs included 20 strikeouts -- against two of the best offensive teams in baseball.

He's simply the best.

Quote of the week

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Pete Harnisch, after the NL Central-leading Houston Astros extended their winning streak to a club-record 12 games on Tuesday:

"You can't catch them if they don't lose. It's as simple as that."

The Reds finally gained a game on the Astros on Wednesday, when the Phillies ended the 12-game streak with an 8-6 victory in 10 innings.

Astros footnote

The 12-game streak was impressive, but it should be noted that the three teams on the receiving end -- the Expos, Cubs and Phillies -- entered Friday's play with a combined .244 winning percentage since Sept. 1 (10-31).

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