Monday, October 23, 2006

World Series: Sc-hand-al!
Was Kenny Rogers Cheating?

Monday A.M. Quickie below.

(Or click on link above.)

Did Kenny Rogers have an illegal substance on his hand in the 1st inning -- or was it just dirt, like he claims?

Or is the REAL dirt simply the sensationalistic suspicions being thrown around by analysts and fans?

Who cares? It was gone by the 2nd, and Rogers only went on to pitch 7 more scoreless innings to go with the 1st, giving him 23 scoreless innings pitched in a row in the playoffs, which is insane.

(Hell, I think it would be even cooler if he DID use some help; nothing says "crafty veteran pitcher" like being able to use an illegal substance to take 10 years off his mileage.)

A lot is being made of the inconsistencies between Rogers' explanations and what appears to be, uh, reality. (The gist: He says he washed it off on his own; others say he was told to wash it off by umps.)

Even though I can appreciate the suspicions, Rogers has all those zeros from the 2nd inning through the 8th inning (not to mention the previous 15 scoreless playoff innings) to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Question: Am I crazy for playing down his cheating? Or does his post-1st inning shut-out innings make the "scandal" moot-ish?

-- D.S.

29 comments:

mkud said...

Given the level of mania with which Rogers pitches, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that he had only a foggy memory of his discussion with Marquez after the first inning.

john (ann arbor, mi) said...

I'm really upset about this, because I've now attended 23 innings of scoreless pitching by The Gambler in the last 3 weeks, and I didn't even realize this was happening, and I'm not sure what I believe (in fact, I'm not even sure what my options are... I'll need to see the whole press conference or a transcript, because the sound bites alone, out of order, don't make much sense).

Many of the signs point in a direction I don't like, but then, a lot of stuff that happened seems to be poorly explained.

I think, assuming one is innocent until proven guilty (and I don't think, at this point, that there could ever be a way to prove Kenny did anything wrong), that I'm really upset at two groups, who dropped the ball. The umpires, and the Cardinals.

Umpires - if this was a real concern, about which Jim Leyland was approached and everything, it should have been looked into correctly. You can't just offhandedly mention something like this and not pursue it.

Likewise, Cardinals - you've gotta back up your shit. If you're gonna throw dirt on a guy (pun certainly intended), take it to the officials and get it taken care of right. You can't just suggest a guy was cheating after you did nothing about it. That's on the order of slander, and it adds an unnecessary, disgusting question-mark to an otherwise incredible postseason streak.

If anyone thinks I should be upset at Leyland and Rogers, I could see that being an opinion. But, like I said, innocent 'til guilty, so I am acting like Rogers did nothing wrong; what more should a guy do, besides wash his hand when somebody points out that it's dirty? It's not like it was Jim's or Kenny's responsibility to register a complaint with the officials. I think if my hand actually had dirt on it, I would think nothing of washing it right off without submitting it to a proper inspection process.

Big D said...

Look at the frontpage on ESPN right now... two photos - one from the ALCS, one from last night.

Same "dirt" spot, same place, same relative size.

I'd believe Rogers more if he said it was betadyne or some other anti-septic from a cortizone shot or something of that ilk. But to say that it's dirt, when there is obviously going to be photographic evidence suggesting that it's been there for at least one other game, makes it just a wee bit tough to believe.

There goes Kenny - arguing with photographers again...

Generik said...

One of the analysts made a comment that Rogers had the same "dirt" pattern on his hand in the previous couple starts. I haven't seen anything to corraborate it.

Brave Sir Robin said...

There are pictures showing it on ESPN (from the ALCS and last night).

Next up, I'm supposed to care about this with Gaylord Perry in the hall of fame? Not happening. That man once had a ball get fouled off that left a splatter on the press box window.

Geoff-Detroit said...

Well, whatever it was it made little difference in his performance. He was just as dominating without it as he was with it. So really it is basically a big non-issue right now. Though it certainly give everyone something to talk about on a travel day.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Don't forget to add in that the Cardinals suck.

FreKy J said...

It's quite possible that the way he handles a baseball, combined with the way major league grounds crews wet down the dirt on the field causes mud to accumulate on that spot on his hand. The picture of his hand in the ALCS shows that same brown spot, but it shows to be smeared, as if he's wiped his hand at some point.

If it was an illegal substance, or suspected as such, he wouldn't have been asked to wipe off his hand, he would have been tossed from the game.

mkud said...

He would only have been thrown out if the umpires had searched him at the behest of the other team, or if there was some obvious evidence that the umpires could uncontrovertably judge illegal, thus not requiring direction from the other team. Given the accusation that the substance may have been pine tar (one of the most distincive smelling substances on the planet), and that during his conversation with Marquez after the first inning his hand was less than a foot from Marquez' nose (see shot in Gene Wojciechowski's article onespn.com), I would argue that the dirt argument gains some creedence.

Ken D said...

Greg Zaun of the Blue Jays does analysis between innings on the Canadian channel. He said he is sure what was on Rogers hand was Pine Tar, but that so many pitchers do it that umps usually don't care. So to him it was a non-issue.

Ryan G said...

My first thoughts last night during Pinetar, I mean, dirtgate...

Fox announcer Joe Buck's home team is the Cardinals. His dad was their radio guy. They are his team. I think he does a lot of their games when not on Fox.

Anheuser-Bush is one of the WS major sponsors who happen to be HQ'd in St. Louis.

Buck was practically screaming "look at his hand" on TV last night. It was not not quite to the level of Moss's "mooning" last year but stil he would not let it go.

I'm not saying, I'm just saying...

ChrTh said...

It has nothing to do with Joe Buck being a homer, it has to do with Joe Buck being an idiot and beating every little thing he discusses to death. It's like he's OCD.

Scott said...

What are the chances that Kenny Rogers' substance on his hand was intended for cheating? In 2002 while with the Rangers, he had a no-hitter going against the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland manager made the umps check the balls that Rogers was using. Do you think LaRussa doesn't know that there may be suspicions of this around the league? Great job by Fox in showing the close up. Yes..I realized that he was basically perfect for the next seven innings but I think there is a history here.

FutureLegendVinceYoung said...

Joe Buck will do anything to keep from focusing how bad the Cardinals are. I think the win in Game 1 can be seen more as rust from the Tigers than the Cardinals being a better team. Now that the Tigers bats are awake this series is over in 5.

Buck was doing the same thing in 2004 when everytime the Red Sox got into the later innings while they were beating the shit out of the Cards he would mention the Curse hoping it would reverse what the sox were doing to the Cards.

Jim Rome has often said that Joe Buck is one of the 5 smartest people to be interviewed in the Jungle and I usually like Rome but when he says this I just have to shake my head.

Jake C said...

Here's my question...is he really THAT stupid to put an illegal substance on a spot THAT evident to the naked eye, let alone still images?

john (ann arbor, mi) said...

"scott" - I can't tell which way you're coming down on this. Your comment seems to fold back on itself so many times that I can't tell if you think Kenny was cheating, you think Tony LR made the right move by not having the umps look into this, you actually think Fox's coverage was good, and/or you think Kenny's 2nd through 8th innings make Dirtgate insignificant. It sounds to me like you have at least 2 conflicting opinions. But I'm not sure.

TBender said...

I'd hardly call Detroit's bats alive after scoring a whopping 3 runs.

Not happy with the way LaRussa shrugged off the pinetar/dirt but it had little bearing on the game. Rogers is a lefty, and the Cards don't hit lefties very well.

And thanks Chrth for pointing out Buck isn't as much of a Cards' homer as everyone makes him out to be. Most Card fans want him to be more of a homer instead of the non-partisan national announcer.

nep1293 said...

Cheating in Baseball? I am outraged.

Just make everything legal. Cork, Steroids, Hand Goo, Aluminum Bats.

Seriously i couldn't give a crap anymore

melissa said...

I agree that if this was such a big deal, the umps and the Cardinals should have done more than they did to pursue the issue. However, they did not, and Rogers went on to pitch better from the second inning onward than he did during the first. Could it be that this was not explored further because the Cardinals don't want to be subjected to the same scrutiny? After the game, Dusty Baker stated his belief that pine tar is used by 60-70% of pitchers in the league (it still didn't help the Cubs). Was Rogers cheating? Maybe. But we'll never know now.

I think the comments by Buck and McCarver have everything to do with being a "homer." After the game on the Detroit Sports Report (Fox Sports Detroit) Rod Allen and Mario Impemba commented that a TV analyst just doesn't "spot" something on a person's hand like that. There was no indication of an issue on the field before Buck and McCarver had the cameras zoomed in on it and were crowing like they had just found the holy grail. Hmmm, wonder who tipped them off?

ChrTh said...

tbender:

Let's not go nuts, Joe Buck can be a homer. But for example, his call during Endy's catch in Game 7 was totally non-biased. In the end, his OCD is greater than his homerism, but both are present.

Brian in Oxford said...

Are those Holiday Inn ads with Buck the worst things going? If someone were to touch my neck like that, I might just dribble spit out my mouth just to creep the guy out.

I would like to see Buck work with a better partner. I'm not the biggest Joe Morgan fan around, but I think that could work, because Morgan's about as non-funny a guy can be in a booth. Might keep them focused on the game.

(oh, and I haven't actually entered any jigsaw puzzle competitions, but if it does become the next poker, I guess I would have to think about turning pro, huh...)

henry s said...

those Holiday Inn ads are pretty great, IMHO...(and I don't otherwise think much of Joe Buck)...

true, Anheuser-Busch is a big sponser, but the OTHER big sponser is GM, located in Detroit...

and hey, let's not let TarGate overshadow the REAL story of the Series: the Tigers were introduced before game 1 to the strains of "Stranglehold", by the Nuge...how awesome was that?!

Raizor's Edge said...

I'm sorry, but I think this is 100% media-created. Why? Apparently, when there are no New York teams in the World Series, the ratings tank. I don't know why, but they do. So Fox is creating a "controversy" to boost ratings. People will want to tune in Tuesday night (even though Rogers isn't pitching, and may not pitch again in the Series if one of the two teams goes on to win the next three games).

Remember, LaRussa studied law, and if he thought he had a legitimate case against Kenny Rogers, he certainly wouldn't have been so tight-lipped about it, friendship or no friendship with Jim Leyland. I think it's just the media making a mountain out of a molehill (or, in this case, a dirt hill) in order to get the World Series ratings up.

Todd Ching said...

Here's a question... suppose that it really was a mixture of wet dirt and rosin, but that he strategically is putting it there to smudge the ball...

Since those two substances are defined as legal in baseball, would it be illegal of him to just intentionally have that on his pitching hand? Basically what I'm asking is, could he be legally doctoring the baseball?

Mark said...

Moot-ish.

It was off his hand after inning 1, who cares?

Kid Keith said...

First of all I am a long time Tigers fan and from Michigan. That was pine tar on Roster's fingers. Dirt and rosin don't shine under the lights. The fact is many pitchers (especially old guys) do that in cold weather. It doesn't really help out a guy's stuff, it adds feel and grip when your fingers are cold as ice. Nobody says anything about it because there is no competitive advantage to doing it. Uni Watch threw in its two cents claiming his hat is rigged so he can cheat. This has really gotten messy and I feel some folks are trying to get into Kenny's head. It's a shame because he is pitching lights out and should get praises rather than criticism, but that's how things happen. In case anyone wanted to know when Lou was in the booth in the Oakland series he claimed that he knows many guys put tar on their hands in the cold. Baker just re-inforced those sentiments on Monday night so it is a non-issue and you can't really argue with Lou and Dusty about the finer details of being a crafty veteran. P.S. Along these lines (cheating) I have also heard from many of my baseball loving physics professors in college that "corking" a bat does nothing to make the ball travel farther. There really should be a formal study on this because it would put to rest many of these crumby "theories" Stark and Buck want to dream up.

mark said...

It seems like the most important detail is that LaRussa said nothing. That old saw, "it isn't cheating if you get away with it," isn't at all accurate. But it is correct that it isn't cheating if the guy on the other end of it knows about it and doesn't give a hang. Arguably, that simply moves the line as to what's cheating and what isn't.

As to why ratings go down if it isn't NY or BOS involved, the reason is that it's the media's own darn fault. For the past decade they've been selling baseball as the Yankees, the Red Sox, and twenty-eight teams for the above to beat up on. When the Yankees and the Red Sox don't show up, they have no built-up hype to fall back on. Since many people's response to TV is basically Pavlovian (i.e., learned responses to arbitrary stimuli), it's hard to whip up excitement for another matchup on short notice.

Also, it's hard to whip up hype for a matchup when the media itself knows nothing about the teams involved. I sat through last year's world series here in Chicago cringing every time Joe Buck mispronounced "Podsednik."

henry s said...

if Rogers did have pine tar on his hand, and LaRussa knew about it and said nothing, it must have been because his own pitcher (Reyes) was greasing his own palm...

Lee K said...

Yes, Henry S. This is what I've been saying to my friends and family (who don't really care).

Let's presume that Jim Leyland and Tony LaRussa are old-school managers who have been baseball people for a long time. Given others' comments (Dusty Baker's and Greg Zaun's, for example) that pitchers use pine tar all the time and that it's kind of accepted as part of the game, this seems to be the most likely scenario:

Tony LaRussa or someone on the Cardinals team sees the pine tar on Rogers' hand (or sees the Fox broadcast of it). They say, "Holy crap! That moron's got his pine tar right on his fricking hand! What a douchebag!" LaRussa knows some of his own pitchers put their own goop on the ball, so he doesn't want to call for an examination and show up Rogers/Leyland/the Tigers lest his own team get increased scrutiny. But he also can't have Rogers' pine tar out there for all the world to see (on Fox), because not saying anything would make the Cardinals look like total doofuses. So he gets Rogers to wash the pine tar off and put it somewhere less obvious, like the rest of the baseball world does.

While others will point out to his success the rest of the way in Game 2 as evidence that the pine tar really didn't have anything to do with his pitching, it seems just as likely that he put his pitcher's helper somewhere else. Zaun and Baker weren't surprised about the pine tar. And last night Baker said after the game, "You hear about guys using it, but usually they'd put it under their hat or in the back of their hair and not right on their hand." So, here is a trusted baseball source suggesting other places that pitchers can place their goop. It wouldn't be out of the question for Rogers to move his pine tar to another place.

This is where the Uni Watch column on ESPN's Page 2 comes in. In my view the column didn't accuse Rogers of cheating - it examined Rogers' preference to pitch in a batting practice hat, which has a black underbill, versus the hats that everyone else in the game wears, which have grey underbills. Because of the pine tar, Uni Watch was able to offer a reason why you might want to pitch in a BP hat beyond it being just a quirky choice.

And make no mistake - that was pine tar. I refuse to believe that in the ALCS and the World Series a "big, clump of dirt" on your hand could have developed with the exact same size. On the exact same spot. With the exact same color. On your otherwise perfectly clean hands.

The only other weird thing going on here is the umpires. I'm guessing that LaRussa got word to the umpires about the situation and said, this is how we're going to handle it: have him wash it off his hand and let that be the end of it. I don't know anything about the umpiring world, so I don't how likely or unlikely this is. Baseball can be kind of an exclusive club, but umpires are also supposed to look after the integrity of the game. However, if the umpires agreed not to make a big deal out of it, then this could explain the conflicting comments from Rogers and the umpiring crew. When asked about the ball-doctoring (cheating), Rogers natural inclination would be to deny, deny, deny. But he didn't guess that the umpires would give us a window into the truth.