Sunday, May 03, 2009

Rodriguez ... the real 'tipping' point

This is mostly a test to make sure the in-one-ear, out-the-other rule with Alex Rodriguez is being followed.

You shouldn't believe for a second that much will come from Major League Baseball's reported investigation into Alex Rodriguez. ShysterBall turned on this like a Brian Burres offering: There is little evidence, unless someone in the game decides to spill his guts, and you'll remember how many ballplayers voluntarily came forward to help out with the Mitchell Report. The Yankees blog River Ave. Blues, "In the end, baseball has to investigate to look good for Congress." That's where it ends.

The pitch-tipping allegations might do more to finish Rodriguez with rank-and-file fans. People expect the games to be on the level. The rub is that hitters share information with players on other teams and so do pitchers, so you can see why pitch-tipping might become a next step for these guys.

People have kind of reconciled themselves to the reality steroids are a gray area. It wasn't illegal at the time and it's only human nature to expect that ballplayers, who have a very finite career span, would do whatever they could to enhance their performance. Like Jim Bouton once said, "If you told a pitcher there was a pill that would guarantee he'd win 20 games every year but would shorten his life by five years, he'd take it."

Cheating on the field, though, that's a different story.

It would be tough to prove, unless other players stepped up and said Rodriguez was helping them out during lopsided games. The thing is, it's entirely believable. It's pretty low, but you should never confuse ability for character in sports.

Hitters share information with hitters in baseball; pitchers share info with pitchers. It has been that way for a long time. It probably runs counter to us-vs.-them football and hockey mentality that has more currency with most sports fans. It's not hard to imagine that extending to Rodriguez and a few money-hungry hitters were in cahoots in order to collect a few more home runs and RBI.

Baseball is an individual sport masked as a team game and the players are compensated based on their stats, not the team's won-loss record. (Teams are getting much smarter about understanding players' contributions to preventing runs, that being said.) One can kind of understand why they would do that in games where the issue had been decided. A few points here or there, a few more RBI, could make a difference at contract time. It's not right,

Perhaps someone with the right kind of mind could prove it statistically, but even then, it's not too clear. A major league hitter against a major league pitcher could know what was coming and still hit the ball right at a fielder or get under a fastball and fly out to the warning track.

Who knows what happened or whether MLB would want to get into it. Perception is reality, though.

Baseball Said to Be Inquiring About Rodriguez Drug Use (The New York Times)
MLB Investigating A-Rod (ShysterBall)
Roberts refuses to help as MLB digs into A-Rod (River Ave. Blues)

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