By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

If A-Rod tipped pitches, he should be banned

Nick Cafardo’s blasé take on the latest Alex Rodriguez controversy has me scratching my head.

In her forthcoming book on A-Rod, Selena Roberts alleges that, when he was with the Texas Rangers, he would sometimes deliberately tip pitches to opposing hitters. It’s nice to know that David Ortiz would “beat the crap out of him” if he were the pitcher and the allegations were true. But why are we not talking about an immediate investigation, followed by a possible lifetime ban?

Cafardo writes in today’s Boston Globe:

This is New York, a city and a team built to handle controversy. So A-Rod took steroids in high school, the book alleges … so A-Rod went to strip clubs … so A-Rod allegedly tipped pitches to opposing hitters … so A-Rod had the Texas clubhouse guy put toothpaste on his toothbrush every day.

Beyond the entertainment value, who cares?

Who cares? Other than the apparent absence of a gambling angle, what A-Rod is alleged to have done is akin to throwing games.

Roberts is no hack — it was she who flushed out the first round of A-Rod allegations, which turned out to be true. Yet no one seems to be all that upset about the possibility that Rose — er, Rodriguez — was stabbing his Texas teammates and fans in the back.

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  1. io saturnalia!

    Head-scratch no more: Cafardo is a written-out old hack.Like you, I’m surprised the pitch tipping thing hasn’t been followed by blood in the streets, so to speak. Steroids can be chalked up to, as David Cone once said, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin'” but actually helping your opponent is despicable. But that’s who A-Rod is.

  2. Steve

    The allegations were that A-Rod would tip pitches in games that were “out of reach” (yes, I know, no lead is safe). So the “throwing games” angle is a reach, I think.It was a ploy to pad his stats (at the expense of his pitcher’s stats), and thus increase his market value (at the expense of his pitcher’s market value).Ortiz’s reaction is old school, and fits my understanding of the way infractions like this have been handled in baseball within the confines of the game. I don’t remember this situation from “Ball Four”, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Bouton covered it. I imagine A-Rod’s pitchers have much the same reaction as Ortiz.I don’t think it rises to the level of a ban, if gambling isn’t involved. And if you are talking about a ban, you should be prepared to quote chapter and verse from the MLB rules.It probably also deserves mention that Michael Young (ARod’s 2bman with Texas) insists that nothing like this took place.

  3. Patrick McManus

    Roberts is no hack — it was she who flushed out the first round of A-Rod allegations, which turned out to be true.I think this is an interesting topic for a media blog. It isn’t clear cut just because she got the last story right.If we are going to talk about Selena Roberts’s journalistic history we need to consider the Duke Lacrosse team Rape allegations from 2006.Roberts was the main reporter behind them. Conventional wisdom is now that the allegations were unsubstantiated. The incident caused a great deal of division and hostility (town/gown) in that community and certainly boiled over into politics.The NY Times had to run a correction for some of her work on that story – and probably should have run others. Surely she didn’t fabricate that story – she got played by folks with other interests at hand.With that on your record, shouldn’t a story backed only with anonymous sources be greeted with some skepticism that she might be getting played again?

  4. Steve

    I did a little research into “chapter and verse” concerning banning players from baseball.As far as I can tell, it’s entirely up to the commissioner, who can ban a person (player, coach, manager, owner) from baseball for damaging the integrity of the game.If Roberts’s allegations about pitch tipping are proven, I think this may indeed qualify. But as yet, there’s no identifiable source for the allegation.

  5. Steve

    Me again. :-)Craig Calcaterra sets out his reasons “Why we can’t take Selena Roberts at her word“. He notes that:“Roberts’ track record on trust is frankly terrible. She was willfully and ridiculously ignorant in assessing sabermetrics as they emerged into popular understanding. She serially and defiantly got the facts wrong with the Duke stuff. She also has a track record of numerous anti-Alex Rodriguez stories, many of which are pegged to zero in the way of facts or substantive reportage.”There’s lots more, including some interesting links. The whole thing deserves a read.

  6. mike_b1

    Steve, Roberts did correctly report the Aroid/steroids use during his time with the Rangers. That much has come to light. I really don’t know about all the other stuff. My guess is that 1) we will learn that Aroid’s history with steroids was indeed longer than he has thus far let on, and 2) the public, having already ruled on his guilt, will collectively shrug.I do agree with you that tipping pitches is to throwing games what sipping wine at home is to drunken driving.

  7. Mark

    Steve, I was just going to post that very same link; you beat me to it. Upshot: Selena Roberts is not what you’d call a paragon of credibility.

  8. jvwalt

    Geez, if you’re going to discount Roberts for being willfully ignorant of sabermetrics, you’ll have to dump a whole lot of sportswriters — including, as Exhibit A, Buzz Bissinger, who trashed sabermetrics in an Afterword to the paperback edition of his Tony LaRussa book. As for the Duke case, did Roberts really make all that happen by herself? I seem to remember arrests and prosecutions, which she had nothing to do with. Roberts ain’t perfect — who is? — but she’s been a journalist for a long time, and her balance sheet is overwhelmingly positive. As for Cafardo, well, I’m not surprised that a lot of sports media figures are dismissing Roberts’ book. After all, they’ve almost universally tried to dismiss every new development in the entire Steroid Era — from not reporting on suspiciously muscly and acne-ridden athletes, to mocking Jose Canseco’s book before it proved to be accurate, to downplaying the McGwire/Sosa/Palmeiro Congressional hearing before it proved to be pivotal, to the face-value acceptance of ARod’s “mea culpa” with Peter Gammons. The Roberts critics have far less credibility on these issues than does Roberts herself.

  9. bob gardner

    That’s not the only scandal. Sometimes batters are ordered by coaches not to swing at certain pitches, no matter how hittable the pitch is; other times the batter is prevented from hitting the ball hard and are directed to just hold the bat in front of the ball and let the ball dribble harmlessly into the infield. Where’s the integrity? I can document cases where coaches “empty the benches” and take their best players off the field (and not only in baseball!) When is somebody going to investigate this?

  10. lkcape

    Where money is involved, there is likely to be cheating.Where big money is involved, there is likely to be more cheating.When huge money is involved, the there is likely to be pervasive cheating.Sorry, I have no sympathy with professional sports for their “pain” when they have ignored the problems over and over again.

  11. The Arranger

    Based solely on the Beane article above, and her dismissal of Bill James as a “fringe writer” — in 2004! — I am happy to dismiss Roberts as a hack.Bob in Peabody

  12. Ron Newman

    What was the alleged purpose of A-Rod’s doing this? I don’t understand how it would benefit him (unless he was betting against his own team)

  13. Steve

    Ron – I would guess the purpose would be padding one’s stats, which goes to the bottom line at contract time.

  14. Ron Newman

    How would he do that, though? By inducing batters to hit directly to him?

  15. Steve

    Ron, it was supposedly a quid pro quo. He’d do it for the opposing middle infielder, and the recipient would reciprocate.

  16. O'Rion

    Selena was unkind to George Mitchell following the unveiling of the Mitchell Report. Yes he was a RS limited partner–so what? If too many NYY’s showed up in Michell’s findings that wasn’t his problem. Roberts became the Yankees advocate in her columns. She, not Mitchell was lacking in integrity.

  17. Amused

    Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to ban Crash Davis.

  18. ShelT

    Roberts’ credibility is suspect as noted in fine Jason Whitlock story for Kansas City Star:'s self-absorption is a problem, but no one works harder on the field. Sign tipping allegation is bogus. Let the Yanks shore up their bullpen and allow Posada’s hammy to heal before piling on.Still interested in the identity of the 103 players who. like A-Rod, submitted to random drug testing in 2003, but whose identity was not compromised like A-Rod.

  19. Steve

    Here’s another Calcaterra article referencing Doug Granville’s NY Times Op-Ed.Calcaterra’s conclusion: “ With Glanville on the record, that makes at least three former teammates who have come out by name to cast doubt on the tipping accusation. None of these guys proclaim to be friends of Alex Rodriguez. It’s telling.But not conclusive, of course, and as of now, I suppose this allegation has to remain in the realm of he-said/she-said. But, and pardon the phrase, if more and more Rangers come out casting doubt on these allegations, won’t we reach a tipping point where Roberts’ claim is transformed from the speculative to the fictitious?

  20. Bill Toscano

    I am with Patrick.She *is* a hack and not well-respected at all.How can we know she didn’t make up her “anonymous” sources.Nothing like making a buck at someone else’s expense.I would expect you to be a more discerning consumer, Dan.

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