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Enough already about the binoculars

The majority of e-mails from angered readers and Phillies fans in the last three weeks generally take the form of three themes: A) Fire Charlie Manuel / When will Charlie retire? B) Release Raul Ibanez and bench Chase Utley, and finally C) The Phillies haven't hit ever since they put the binoculars away in Denver.

Let's focus on Theory C.

Well, firstly, they did hit for a brief period. Over a four-game stretch beginning in Milwaukee immediately following the Rockies' complaint of Mick Billmeyer using binoculars in the visitors' bullpen, the Phillies scored 8.75 runs per game.

Of course, in the 19 games since then, the Phillies are scoring 2.16 runs per game.

After Monday's 3-1 loss to San Diego, a member of the media who is not regularly around the team asked Phillies manager Charlie Manuel if this is more than coincidence.

"That has nothing to do with it," Manuel said. "Let me say this, I cannot believe anyone would think we were stealing signs with binoculars and someone standing there in the bullpen. I hope someone would give us a little bit more credit for being smarter than that.

"I can't buy into that. I'm sorry. No."

Manuel, for his part, was able to laugh about the idea.

"If we're stealing them," Manuel said, "we've got them wrong."

In the ninth inning Monday, with Ryan Howard on second base and Jayson Werth at the plate as the tying run, the Padres had a meeting at the mound. San Diego closer Heath Bell had thrown six pitches, all fastballs, to Werth and had him at a 2-2 count.

On the Phillies' TV broadcast, it was suggested the Padres were changing their signs in case Howard was relaying location or pitch type to Werth from second base.

The seventh pitch to Werth was also a fastball. He struck out.

Manuel rejected the notion Howard was doing anything.

"I don't think he was," Manuel said. "He really didn't have to. He laid on him with fastballs. He wasn't tricking him. He went right at him."

And even if he was, well, it's legal. (As long as Howard didn't whip out binoculars while on second base.)

"Believe me, no we're not stealing signs," Manuel said. "If we were stealing signs, we wouldn't be hitting like that. But stealing signs is part of baseball. If someone is stealing our signs, that's our fault.

"Of course we would if we could. I've been trying to do that ever since I started playing this game. And I'm sure every team in baseball does that."

And that's the last we'll speak of the binoculars.