Skip to content

Tipping Points

There’s been much hoo-hah (that is a technical term, you know) in the media these days about the tipping of pitches.

In particular, of course, it’s in response to Selena Roberts’ book on A-Rod, in which she posits a league-wide conspiracy among A-Rod and his sycophants and cronies on other teams, who would tip pitches to each other to help pump up their personal stats, but only in meaningless games or already-a-blowout situations.

This is a brilliant accusation by Roberts because 1) it seems like a plausible explanation for why A-Rod “always” seems to homer in meaningless situations, 2) it supports her psychological profile of A-Rod as a selfish and immature glory-seeker, and 3) as a conspiracy, the LESS people in the game come forward to talk about it, the MORE believable its existence seems to be!

There have been serious questions about Roberts’ integrity and about whether she she is pushing a personal agenda in the book. I expected she’d be attacked some, because anyone daring to criticize A-Rod will be reacted to by some as if they are attacking baseball itself, and therefore staunch defenders will rise up to counter-attack. But Jason Whitlock’s points in the Kansas City Star struck home for me.

Also, as a baseball researcher and writer friend of mine pointed out, if there is a conspiracy, you’d expect multiple players to have leaked this to multiple writers. Right now, Selena Roberts is the sole person putting forth this theory and you’d think after all the wanking and punditry about it in the previous few weeks, someone else would have dropped a dime. Not so far. Someone else has to go on record before the story is credible.

The issue for me, of course, is not “was A-Rod tipping pitches” but the way everyone is reacting to the story.

Denny McLain supposedly grooved a pitch to Mickey Mantle when Mantle was at the end of his career. People have been telling that story for decades now without anyone being outraged that doing so somehow ruined the integrity of the home run records.

The always incisive Alan Schwarz has a story in today’s NY Times on “The Day the Tigers Tipped Pitches for the Mick.” He interviews catcher Jim Price about it and discovers that in McLain’s own autobiography he botched the story, not even telling it with the right catcher behind the plate. Or maybe McLain did it more than once? Having interviewed plenty of “old timers” myself I can tell you that they do conflate events, get confused what happened in which game, and so on, which is one reason I often go with box scores printed out or with Retrosheet play by play print-outs when I go to do these types of interviews.

The article says that “Price, who has broadcast Tigers games for more than three times as many years (18) as he caught them (5), said he has never heard of such a scene happening with any other player, past or present.”

But it certainly has. Buck Martinez was quoted on XM Radio recently, on the show he co-hosts daily, Baseball This Morning, talking about how he was the catcher in a game toward the end of Reggie Jackson’s career. Pretty much identical story. And I feel like I’ve heard it on other occasions, too, and it was never notable before.

But that’s because there’s a huge difference between a pitcher DECIDING to groove one to a guy as a gift, and some supposed conspirator on his own team giving away his strategy. HUGE DIFFERENCE. So I’m not even sure why we’re talking about the groove-gifts to sluggers as relevant to the supposed conspiracy.

Schwarz points out that not a single player has corroborated the story. it would appear the integrity of the game is safe for another day.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.