The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 1, 2009

A tipping point

The New York Daily News on Thursday reported on contents of an Alex Rodriguez bio coming out this month. The headlines are about the steroid allegations therein — that he started using while in high school and that he continued even after joining the Yankees — but that's not the part that got my attention.

According to the Daily News, the book also claims A-Rod, during lopsided games in his Rangers days, would tip off opposing hitters to what pitch was coming. The idea was that they would do the same for him and allow him to fatten his stats accordingly.

I have no idea how well documented this allegation is. The book has yet to come out, and the Daily News story doesn't go into detail on this allegation.

It has long been known that one point of friction between Rodriguez and manager Buck Showalter in Texas was over Rodriguez trying to call pitches from shortstop — giving the catcher signals to transmit to the pitcher. I wonder if this pitch-tipping allegation isn't the same idea, A-Rod calling pitches and the signals getting stolen.

Rob Neyer of ESPN — one writer whose knowledge of the lore of the game I will admit is superior to mine — says there are plenty of such tales. My sense of it is that a lot of the stories seem as much mind-game as anything else: Think you can hit his curve? Here it comes. Ooops, you missed. Want to try his fast ball this time?

But Ifind myself thinking ... the pitchers working the late innings of blowouts are generally guys on the margin of the roster. The 11th pitcher on the Texas Rangers staffs of the past decade was always hanging onto his job by his fingernails. His team is getting drilled 15-2 and he's in to mop up in the eighth inning — if he gets knocked around, he might in Tulsa the next afternoon.

That's not a guy who needs to have his shortstop in cahoots with the batter.

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