05.01.09

Just the Tip: The Weirdest Component of the New A-Rod Allegations

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 3:36 pm by

We don’t have a lot of editorial meetings at CSTB headquarters. I can’t speak for the other contributors — our office suites are all on different floors — but most of my days are just, you know, driver drops me off, through the retinal scan device thing, take the secure elevator to the 11th floor, get my coffee and briefing (who I’m having lunch with, etc) from my assistant, and then just kind of wait for something to happen. It can be weeks sometimes. Look, it’s Gerard’s business model, I don’t question it.

But we’ve been having the closest thing I’ve known to an actual CSTB editorial meeting this afternoon — that is, Rob Warmowski sent an email to GC, Ben, Jason and myself with a link to Sports Illustrated in which Selena Roberts runs down the latest pre-leaked allegation from Selena Roberts’ EXPLOSIVE upcoming A-Rod tome. In this case, it’s not the previously aired “Bitch Tits” clubhouse nickname or the suspicious weight gain during puberty (EXPLOSIVE) but the charge that A-Rod was intentionally tipping opponents off on upcoming pitches during blowouts, in the hopes that those opponents would return the favor to him. “Slump insurance,” Roberts terms it.

Which, honestly, is just weird. I’ve never heard of something like this, which doesn’t mean much in itself, but it just seems improbable. A-Rod tipping the batter — a twist of the glove means change-up, brushing the dirt in front of him means curveball — to the incoming pitch in the hopes that his own stats will get back-scratched come next blowout? The idea that A-Rod was doing this on purpose seems to me very much like clique-y clubhouse shit-talk run rampant — it’s easy to imagine Hank Blalock, say, shaking his head and saying, “wouldn’t put it past him, the (cruel nickname or curse).” Or, say, Shane Spencer doing that. It’s easier to imagine Spencer doing so, though, because he essentially said as much to Sports Illustrated’s Ted Keith in Keith’s follow-up story on the charges:

“In a lot of ways, it’s worse than steroids and HGH,” said Twins pitcher R.A. Dickey, a former teammate of A-Rod’s in Texas. “It’s so much worse because you’re harming another person deliberately.”

These latest allegations…landed like a body blow to Dickey and Doug Glanville, another former Rangers teammate of A-Rod’s. When told of the news, Glanville, who played with the Rangers in 2003 and is now retired, said “Oh wow.” Dickey’s first reaction was “Oh gosh man.”

Shane Spencer, though, was not surprised by the revelation of the allegations. Spencer came to the Rangers from the Indians in a July 2003 trade and it wasn’t long after his arrival that he began hearing whispers in his new, divided clubhouse about Rodriguez. “It was brought up. I overheard it but not from specific people,” said Spencer, now a coach with the high Class-A Lake Elsinore (Calif.) Storm. “I think I overheard it in our clubhouse, but that team was really split up — a bunch of groups of threes and fours. It wasn’t a real close clubhouse and guys start talking especially when you’re getting your butt kicked everyday. I remember hearing that.”

…Glanville suggested that perhaps A-Rod’s mannerisms that led to suspicion were actually a way to alert his fellow defenders what pitch was coming next, something the shortstop often does during a game. But Roberts’ sources said that the key difference is when Rodriguez would signal. “The thing Alex would do, and this is the critical difference between signaling your infield as quarterback and giving away the pitch to the hitter, is when you flash the sign,” she said. “This was done to give the batter plenty of time to see it and figure what to do about it. What would usually happen would be for Alex to do something as the pitcher is in the windup; that way the batter is focused on the pitcher. These signs Alex would flash came before the windup and that made it even more noticeable.”

Okay. I’ll make no pretense to knowing a whole lot about the pro-ballplayer code — it seems to involve goatees, but that’s about all I’ve got — but this seems like a really huge allegation with a notably less-substantial amount of (anonymous, of course) sourcing. (Elsewhere in Keith’s story, Glanville says, “It would pretty much be Armageddon. If you found out a teammate was giving a sign to another team that would be pretty ugly.”) I have no real bias in favor of A-Rod, although I do find his reliable putziness kind of fascinating, but this doesn’t smell right to me, although I’m inclined not to call bullshit on anything until I read the actual book. GC also notes another inconsistency: “I’m less shocked by the notion pitch tipping is a time dishonored tradition than the inference A-Rod has friends,” he wrote. “Who are these mysterious opponents he’s buddies with?”

8 Responses to “Just the Tip: The Weirdest Component of the New A-Rod Allegations”

  1. Tom says:

    Seems perfectly likely to me, not weird at all. And all the denial and pooh-pooing around the sports blogosphere reminds me of all the denial after Canseco’s book. Nowadays, my rule of thumb is, the more certain and strident the denials are (absurd! preposterous!), the more likely the allegations are to be true. Seriously, after steroids, shouldn’t reasonable suspicion, then wait and see, be the default first reaction? It is mine.

  2. If this happened, wouldn’t it almost require that the opposing middle infielders be of sufficient star power to hang with A-Rod? The star hierarchy being what it is, I’m guessing A-Rod would be precluded from hanging out (or colluding) with, oh, Angel Berroa or Julio Lugo.

    Names that do come to mind…Jeter…Robbie Alomar?

  3. GC says:

    Marchman on the pitch tipping allegations : “Whether or not you care about this information, before dimissing it think about just how heavily lawyered it must have been.”

    http://www.tmarchman.com/ic/a-fraud-ii-the-hearkening.html

  4. David Roth says:

    Marchman’s point notwithstanding — and it’s a good one, but kind of a given considering how many softening subjunctives are already in this particular facet of the story — I still have a hard time with this one. Although I think I should’ve been clearer about why (I sure took long enough in not-explaining it).

    I have no problem believing A-Rod took steroids, cheated on his wife, farted on a crowded subway, whatever — I’m under no illusions about his personality, and I have no dog in the fight loyalty-wise, as he’s a player I don’t particularly like on a team I particularly don’t like. It’s not that I don’t think he’s venal or selfish enough to do this (although I kind of don’t, it just seems like a bit much) — I just don’t think it’d work for him, and so I don’t think he’d do it. It’s too complicated, the issue of who exactly he’d tip off (and how or why he’d think they’d repay him) and how he’d do it…I don’t know, at some point you’ve got to expose this whole deal to Occam’s Razor, I think. And factoring in the additional story-coloring agent that he was loathed in Texas, and was in a clubhouse that was dysfunctional, clique-ish and messed up (per Shane Spencer) even by shitty-team standards, it just seems like a bridge too far.

    I’m sure, in the next day or two, someone’s going to break down some game tape. I look forward to seeing what’s there, or isn’t.

  5. GC says:

    i kind of like the idea of R.A. Dickey being upset. ie. A-Rod was letting opponents know by scratching his groin that the Rangers’ knuckleballer was going to throw something approximately 25 miles an hour that may or may not break wildly.

  6. Ben Schwartz says:

    I’m sure Bob Feller will be outraged, but can he stick around long enough to block A-Rod from the Hall of Fame?

  7. Dave says:

    I’m just glad to know Shane Spencer still has a job.

  8. Ben Schwartz says:

    Wasn’t that A-Rod’s nickname in the locker room? Pitch tits. I mean, pitch tips.

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