Tuesday, October 24, 2006

DirtGate, Day 2:
La Russa as REAL Bad Guy?

(Tuesday A.M. Quickie below.)

Who else finds it fascinating
that the focus of Kenny Rogers' alleged-presumed-assumed cheating has shifted in the last 24 hours from the offending pitcher to the offensive manager -- of the opposing team?

Let's review:

On Sunday, Tony LaRussa downplayed the whole thing. I don't think he imagined the shitstorm that would hit yesterday morning -- and how his downplaying of it would circle back to bite him in the ass.

LaRussa's attempt to tamp it down totally underestimated the more dominant power of media: Photos allowed fans everywhere to draw their OWN conclusions – and LaRussa's claims didn't pass a basic smell test. You didn't have to be a "genius" baseball manager to see with your own eyes that it LOOKED like Rogers was cheating -- and had over the course of the playoffs. It eroded LaRussa's credibility with fans and media and set the stage for the story's evolution:

By Monday afternoon, Tony LaRussa was backtracking furiously: "I don't believe it was dirt."

Well, now he's in even MORE trouble. Because, if THAT's the case, it's more than reasonable for fans and critics to ask why the hell didn't he push the issue at the time?!

Cards hitting coach Hal McRae was more blunt:

"It was so blatant," he told USA Today. "What was so strange about it was how obvious it was, in the World Series. It's a shame a guy would cheat in a World Series game. It hurts the integrity of the game."

Well, Hal, if it was "so blatant," why didn't you push your boss to do something about it? How about taking a little responsibility?

And that's the fascinating upshot of the new twist to the story:

It's arguable that the bigger scandal was LaRussa's inaction – either out of some loyalty to buddy Jim Leyland or something else he has yet to explain sufficiently.

How about that? The guy who was cheating isn't the worst offender in this story; in fact, he (and his defenders) can simply point to the 2nd through 8th innings, when he pitched a shutout with clean hands.

Meanwhile, those same innings are a damning indictment of LaRussa's decision-making:

If LaRussa had done the right thing -- the competitively honorable thing -- he would have challenged Rogers in the 1st and maybe Rogers never would have even had the CHANCE to pitch innings 2 through 8.

It was not on Rogers to 'fess up to cheating (and, by the way, unlike LaRussa's flip-flop, Rogers still contends he didn't cheat -- and the umps' call that it was dirt still backs Rogers up, which really should be the ultimate word on Rogers' culpability).

It was squarely on LaRussa to challenge Rogers on it. So until he can provide a reasonable explanation for why -- if he believed it wasn't dirt -- he didn't challenge the pitcher, LaRussa is the bigger asshole in this story.

For now, it's so interesting to watch this story pivot:

From Rogers' purported cheating to LaRussa's unquestionably damning inaction, which – I'm ready to argue – is worse than cheating: At best, it's negligence in the most important moment of his team's season; at worst, it's tanking for an old buddy sitting in the dugout across the field.

Stop worrying about whether Rogers was using pine tar or another substance -- and jump on the bandwagon of asking WHY LaRussa didn't challenge him?

Because if Cards fans are looking for someone to blame, they can start with their own manager.

-- D.S.


FreKy J said...

I hate this story already. If I were to fault anyone it would be the media for continuing to push it even after everyone PHYSICALLY involved agreed there was nothing to it.

La Russa's only backtracking now because there's so much media coverage and speculation that he's being swayed, much like the almost 60% of voters who think KR cheated.

Players in EVERY dugout are constantly on the lookout for ways to see if a player is cheating. So you're trying to tell me that nobody in the A's, Yankees and Cards dugouts saw this "smudge" before Sunday? I'd guarantee you they all saw it, and they all thought it was mud, and the only reason this has gotten any attention is because the media wants news and ratings.

KR should bean you all in the head with your own damn writing pads. You make me sick.

Gary said...

Why does Kenny Rogers potentially cheating get more of a pass than speculation about steroid use. They are both cheating, Rogers was actually caught with "something" on his hands, that makes him more guilty of cheating than Barry Bonds has ever been. Granted, if Barry were proved guilty, his offenses would be worse, but you get the point

Anonymous said...

Keith Olbermann has a great take on this - that's it's partially washed off/dirty super-stickum stuff basically. SI has an MLB scout saying it's pine tar, but who really knows?

I think it's plausible that baseball managers draw a line between pine tar and stickum, since one would illegally alter the pitches (and should be noticeable in review Kenny's pitchers) and the other only helps you pitch in cold weather. And I certainly find it plausible that his hand was sticky in all 9 innings. He pitched a really good game.

So LaRussa doesn't do this because there's no way this stops with Kenny Rogers. Like the Miller Lite ad where one guys whines about hidden beer, and it turns out that _everyone_ has hidden beer, including that guy? Same thing here. This is why hockey managers _almost_ never challenge the stick curl and why steroids is so prevalent in the NFL (how many players can _naturally_ heal that quickly?) and why racers say you're either cheating or losing.

The conclusion is that LaRussa's guys are cheating worse or this is soooo normal that he never even thought of it. That's why he doesn't challenge and that's why he blows it off.

This isn't golf. There's no honor system, perceived or otherwise. I just hope that this doesn't blow up at the next World Baseball Classic. There's also no challenge system like in the NFL, where a coach is used to speaking up.

Now that the HD era is nigh upon us, I think we're going to have a lot of myths blown up.

john (east lansing, mi) said...

Dan - I think you had the IH right last night, except for the part where you never managed to throw away the outrage. You were right. Everybody was in on this. You were obviously right about LaRussa, definitely Leyland, and clearly the umps.

But the umps have a choice in situations like this - if they find that a player has introduced a foreign substance, they can toss him, or, if they don't think he's trying to gain an unfair advantage, they can warn him. "Wash your hand before we have to toss you" sounds like a warning to me.

Although this latest post echoes my very first reaction yesterday morning, I understand the situation more now, to the point where I think nobody's to blame, because there is no victim (except maybe Cardinals fans - but Tony LR seems to have decided that it's more fair for a pitcher to beat a team fairly over the course of 7 innings with 1 spurious inning, than for a team to beat another team by getting that pitcher tossed so early in the game.)

The real point is, the rule that matters in this situation is one that can be applied by the umpires as they see fit; it was. The ruling on the field stands.

9.02 (a) Any umpire's decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.

(b) If there is reasonable doubt that any umpire's decision may be in conflict with the rules, the manager may appeal the decision and ask that a correct ruling be made. Such appeal shall be made only to the umpire who made the protested decision. (Property of MLB)

What I think those things mean is, if the umpire says it, and both managers permit it, it's fact. Kenny Rogers didn't cheat.

(I'm 98% certain he had pine tar on his hand, and so is Tony LR. But that's ok.)

mattie said...

Boy, do pitchers get away with murder compared to hitters. Everything is a wink-wink, nudge-nudge, everybody's doing it, it doesn't really make a difference anyway, who cares kind of thing.

Steroids in baseball? It's all about those evil, nasty, game-destroying, cheating home-run hitters, and let's never much discuss the possibility that the pitchers might be using too (even if they are, it's the hitters' fault, they have to keep up! Right?).

Messing with the equipment? Well, corking one's bat is heinous of course, and think of all those homeruns that were hit so unfairly! And let's all take a closer look at that ARMOR they wear -- it lets them crowd the plate, not dive out of the way of an inside pitch, or even try to get hit by a pitch because it doesn't hurt! But hey, need to get some grease, tar, vaseline, whatever on that ball to pitch it? No problem. Everyone does it all the time, and hey, it's cold out in October! What's an old guy like the Gambler supposed to do? So what that he has a tell-tale mark on his hand that can be picked up by every camera in America? It's not like it's *really* a bad thing, wink-wink. Have him wash that particular spot off so we can't see it any more, please don't check him otherwise, and all's well.

I do think LaRussa's nuts for not actually pursuing the matter, but I guess he knows that baseball's 'unspoken rules' are more important than getting an ace out of a WS game when he's obviously cheating to anyone with eyes. If I were a Tigers pitcher, I'd have a tub of Vaseline, some pine tar, and an emory board right at the base of the mound for the next game, and just roll with it.

FreKy J said...

I really think LaRussa was just trying for some gamesmanship by having KR wash his hand. It didn't work at all, and now we have this media frenzy that's driving me nuts.

Stop. This. Now.

Anonymous said...



you quoted 9.02 which it states is about a foul/fair, strike/ball, safe/out AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PINE TAR ON BALLS

the rule that applies is 8.02:
(a)(2), (4) and (5), the pitcher shall not:
(2) expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove;
(4) apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball; [or]
(5) deface the ball in any manner.
"For violation of any part of Rules 8.02(a)(2) through (6): (a) The pitcher shall be ejected immediately from the game and shall be suspended automatically for 10 games."

and again, you are wrong, the manager must request the search, la russa requested the wash. the manager didn't say no to the search and said lets not make a big deal out of this i'll just have him wash his hand, cause if that happend i gaurentee la russa WOULD HAVE GONE CRAZY

an incredible analogy was made this mourning:

The speed limit is 55. You can go 65 without being pulled over. If someone zooms past you goin 75 he gets pulled over. He might get a warning he might get a ticket.

55 means no foreign substances. The cops or umps won't do anything up to 65 or some minor pine tar. Kenny Rogers was going 75 with alot of pine tar. The ump pulled him over. If it had been the regular season he would have been suspended. But it was the playoffs so he got off with a warning.

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jhawkjjm said...

How about this theory:

FOX and MLB paid Rogers to put something on his hand so people would talk about something besides the crappy ass ratings the World Series is getting.

William Joseph said...

I bet the Cards pitchers do it too. People in glass houses...

Anonymous said...

Hey, how about John Kruk's total 180 on last night's Sports Center? Sunday night he was ranting and raving about how if the umps caught him and simply told him to wash it off that it would be a disaster for baseball, etc etc (okay, he didn't mention disasters, but he was plenty riled up), and then yesterday he played it off by saying (quotes only used for dramatic effect and are in no way meant to lead the reader to believing that this is Kruk's working verbatim) "Everyone uses pine tar, and if you're using it to get a better grip on the ball, then just put it somewhere where we can't see it."

Really John? Dear Bud Selig: EVERYONE CHEATS. Hell, even Dusty Baker thinks that even if it was Pine Tar, it's not a big deal. So, my question is, honestly, why have rules in the first place? Baseball would certainly be more interesting if runners could hold onto their bats and use them to break up double plays...

...holy crap, am I still typing?

john (east lansing, mi) said...

guy -

Nice selective reading. First of all, the point I was trying to illustrate is the umpire's infallibility. Whatever an umpire says becomes an official ruling, Bud Selig never has to go on TV and apologize, etc. The salient part of the rules section I quoted (from the "Umpires" section) was the part that said "such as, but not limited to." Ever hear a clause like that? It's like a reserved power. Balls and strikes, but also everything else. I see what you mean, but my point is, there is a judgment decision involved here too.

Furthermore, I know exactly where you found your little slice of the rules, and I am just pleased as punch that you decided to omit the other section that was included along with it:

(d) The umpire shall be sole judge on whether any portion of this rule has been violated.
Rules 8.02(a)(2) through 8.02(a)(6) Comment: If a pitcher violates either Rule 8.02(a)(2) or Rule 8.02(a)(3) and, in the judgment of the umpire, the pitcher did not intend, by his act, to alter the characteristics of a pitched ball, then the umpire may, in his discretion, warn the pitcher in lieu of applying the penalty set forth for violations of Rules 8.02(a)(2) through 8.02(a)(6). If the pitcher persists in violating either of those Rules, however, the umpire should then apply the penalty.

Yes, that (d) matches up with the final (a) in your comment. Which means the very rule I alluded to without pasting (since I knew everybody had already read it on espn.com) does in fact apply in this situation.

The umpire shall be sole judge, and his decision on this judgment call is final. 38 hours later, with no appeal, I think it's fair to say there's nothing more to say about this whole situation.

And your analogy is worthless. The incredible part is that you give it such credit.

mrmom61 said...

Meanwhile our children are dying in Iraq.To bad the media does'nt cover that like they do this shit that no opposing player or manager is complaining about.

Pokhra said...

What part of "Last Word" didn't you get? Its only the media wanting this to be a bigger deal than it really is.

That said, Kenny's an idiot for being so blatant about the cheating.

Big Al said...

I bet the Cards pitchers do it too. People in glass houses...


From everything I've been reading, Rogers isn't the only one who uses pine tar, so LaRussa had to tread carefully.

TLR makes a big stink, you'd have to think that Leyland would retaliate later in the series. Leyland was a scout/advisor with the Cards for several years before he took the Tigers job. You'd have to believe that he knows of more than a few skeletons in the closet of the Cards pitching staff.

If there is an overall crackdown on "Dirt," then that affects the Cards pitchers who use "Dirt" just as much as the Tigers.

If it was TLR trying mind games, it sure didn't work. Rogers' performance over final 7 innings made the whole damn thing moot, anyway.

William Joseph said...

mrmom61, this is a sports site, Dan will (and should) talk mostly about sports. There are PLENTY of places to go if you want info on Iraq.

dawg gone round the world said...

Hmm. I'm starting to think no one that reads this blog actually played sports. These comments regarding Kenny Rogers are just ridiculous.

If you'd played sports at even a HS level, you'd know, "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying."

rubbing a little stickem on the hand/glove isn't illegal until you get caught. sliding into second to blow up a double play where you are no where near the base is illegal, but unless they call you on it...it ain't illegal.

You're a moron if you don't think they do everything they can to get an advantage without getting caught.

Jen said...

jhawkjjm said...
How about this theory:

FOX and MLB paid Rogers to put something on his hand so people would talk about something besides the crappy ass ratings the World Series is getting.


Who gives a CRAP anymore!? It's over and done with and the Ohio State-Michigan game is in 3-1/2 weeks! HAHA

Listen, about the freakin' Iraq comments...I have friends that are/were over there. There is so much that we don't know about, both GOOD and BAD, but the media just looooves to let the American people know all of the bad going on.

Enough political talk. Is someone going to start a religious debate next?

mrmom61 said...

Ken d I was just making a point. now back to your sports blog. Is Drew Bledsoe starting next game?


Jingoist said...

The biggest question before Game 3 should be, are the Cardinals players over the fact their manager ceremoniously, albeit inadvertently, threw them under the proverbial bus by declaring, in hindsight, Kenny Rogers cheated. Though Tony LaRussa never actually applied the Scarlet Letter to Rogers' chest, the "it wasn't dirt." pretty much is the "A" we all wanted to see. But really, who is the bigger "A" in this?

My boy Shanoff rightfully says, it's Tony.

What manager in their right mind backtracks and makes an accusation like this? As the victim for crying out loud!! If you're going to make the call, make it when it counts- in the 1st inning of Game 2. Any effort (let's not even rank the hollowness of the actions) since then is completely and utterly useless.

What's worse is, by not calling a spade a spade in Game 2, LaRussa has directly put his team in a 2 games to 1 hole before they even play Game 3. Why? Because if you were a Cardinals player (not counting perennial LaRussa-hater Scott Rolen) wouldn't you be just a little miffed (and subsequently off your game tonight) if you knew your manager didn't have your back? I mean, come on- you and your team had a built-in excuse (and rally cry for Game 3) to chalk up a Game 2 loss to cheating, instead you took the high road, then took the low road and metaphorically castrated your HFA gained after a Game 1 win because everyone now feels cheated because they didn't have a chance to say they had been cheated.

Do you see the absolute conundrum here for Cardinals players (and fans)? Tonight is lose/lose. If you win, you know you got cheated out of a 3-0 WS lead and near-lock for the title in perhaps the greatest upset (to steal a Shanoff phrase) "of the ESPN Era". Better than the Red Sox '04 ALCS 0-3 comeback? Maybe not, but as I said in a previous post, all the "experts" virtually condemned the Tigers when the Detroit sweep talk was conceived before the WS started. At the time I said Murphy's Law will step in and the Cards would win in 7. But maybe it's worse than even that classic scenario. Maybe the Cardinals reel off the next 3 wins (at home), win the title 4 games to 1 and they get the time-tested, MLB-approved * in the history books.

2006 World Series: Cardinals 4 games Tigers 1 game*

* Should have been a sweep (and greatest upset of all time contender) if LaRussa had just rallied his troops before the Game 2 loss became apparent).

Sure, that may be 1 long footnote, but in this day and age of all things media, just winning is not enough anymore. Sure, no one remembers the events 10 years from now (I'd argue, by the start of next Spring Training more likely), but that's what asterisks are for- to remind us what should have happened.

If the Cards lose (more likely), they just handed Detroit back the HFA, are legitimately down 2-1 and have begun a 2-game losing streak with a demoralized team psyche- all thanks to Tony "a spade's not a spade... oh wait, yeah it is" LaRussa's fence hopping. It's this type of decision-making that will make LaRussa 1-4 for his career in World Series matchups.

Don't hate the playa, hate the manage-a.

dogomoreno said...

With all the talk of the biggest upset of all time if the cards win this thing, let me remind you that La Russa must have a talk about that, his Oakland A's from 88-90, were upset twice by not only inferior but atroucious teams compared to his team.
Those A's were more loaded than this year Tigers, and this year Cards is a better team than the 88 Dodgers.