MILWAUKEE — All year, folks have wondered why the Milwaukee Brewers have been so much better at home than on the road.
The St. Louis Cardinals offered a possible theory Monday night: The Brewers are cheating.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa filed a complaint with the umpiring crew during that series opener, suggesting the LED “ribbon” board that wraps around the ballpark above the loge level shone brighter while the Brewers batted. The suggestion was that the lighting was darker when the Cardinals batted, making it more difficult to see the ball in their 6-2 defeat Monday.
Umpiring crew chief Gary Darling forwarded that complaint to Major League Baseball vice president of baseball operations Joe Garagiola, Jr., who called Brewers general manager Doug Melvin.
“There’s no cheating,” said Melvin. “It’s all been handled.
“We didn’t change anything. There was no reason to change anything. What was brought up, nothing had to be changed.”
Asked after the game Monday about his complaint to the umpires, La Russa said, “I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to talk to you guys about.”
La Russa declined to comment further Tuesday.
Darling confirmed to a pool reporter before the second game of the series that the Cardinals complained about the lighting but said nothing was changed. He said no edict was issued by MLB to make any adjustments to the lighting.
“I sent an email last night to the baseball ops department explaining Tony’s complaint. They took it up from there,” said Darling.
Asked if he noticed any irregularity in the lighting, Darling said, “No. Like I told him last night, we just don’t pay that much attention to it. Nothing really jumped out about it. I told him I would report it to the league, and that’s what I did.
“They just called me back that they had spoken to both general managers and they were handling it from that end. We’ll pay attention to it, but there’s nothing there as far as we’re concerned.”
There have been whispers at times about possible cheating by the Brewers at home because they have been so much better at Miller Park than on the road. They entered play 40-14 at home, the best winning percentage in the major leagues, but only 21-35 on the road.
Apparently, there was thought on the St. Louis side that the Brewers were relaying pitch signs from second base Monday night in the fifth inning, when they broke through for five runs against right-hander Chris Carpenter after he dominated them through four frames.
It’s not against the rules to relay signs from the bases, but if the other side suspects it confrontations can occur.
When told about that suspicion, Brewers rightfielder Corey Hart said, “Why did we wait until the fifth inning to do it? I had struck out twice by then.”
When asked point-blank if the Brewers were cheating at home, manager Ron Roenicke was incredulous.
“If we are, I know nothing about it,” said Roenicke. “I would think I would be (in the loop).”
No one can dispute how much better the Brewers have been offensively at home, however. Through 54 games at Miller Park, they had a .282 team batting average with 67 home runs, a .348 on-base percentage, .461 slugging percentage and an average of 5.13 runs scored.
In 56 road games, the Brewers have batted .236 with 51 home runs, a .290 OBP, .372 slugging percentage and an average of 3.5 runs per game.
“I remember going into Texas (as a coach with the Los Angeles Angels) and thinking the same thing. Why is their batting average 100 points higher there than it is on the road?” said Roenicke.
“I don’t know what the answer is. I’ve said before it’s a comfort when you come to the ballpark, knowing it’s a good-hitting park, knowing that you’re probably going to get one or two hits a game. It does something to you mentally.”
Added Melvin: “We’re happy with our home record. We’re not as happy with our road record. It’s got nothing to do with anything other than the game on the field.”