Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How to cheat without getting caught

Oh, how I wish I were Kenny Rogers.

After his first three starts this postseason, he’s yet to surrender a run, a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance compared to his 8.85 postseason ERA entering this year’s playoffs, which by the way, just happened to be the highest in history.

His 42-year old soft-tossing left arm suddenly packs punch, looking more and more like that of a pitcher half his age.

He’s 3-0, doesn’t have an ERA, and for lack of a better word, has been unhittable.

But that’s merely an ounce of the reason I wish I were Kenny Rogers.

Rogers was caught cheating in the first inning of Game Two of the World Series Sunday night, and still got away with the crime, which can be described in a Law and Order type of scene like this:

Starring as the accuser whose ultimate motivation behind the accusation was public goodwill is St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

The defendant is Rogers, who’s fitting nickname, “The Gambler,” has come full-circle the past few weeks. Three starts, three forms of dirt, pine tar or mud, and now, thanks to Todd Jones, chocolate cake isn’t even out of the question. More on the evidence later.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland acts as Rogers trusty lawyer whose “I’m not going to chew yesterday’s breakfast” quote Monday was so lawyer-like after his client was busted, you swear it was really Johnny Cochrane talking.

The judge and prosecutor are Steve Palermo and Alfonso Marquez, respectively. Palermo is an umpire supervisor and decided that although home plate umpire Marquez informed him that the suspect, Rogers, was indeed guilty of having a foreign substance on his left hand, no further action would be taken.

Cameras showed Rogers and Marquez talk between innings, and this is how Marquez recalled addressing Rogers.

“Kenny, also that dirt thing that you’ve got on your hand, if you’ll just do me a favor and take it off,” Marquez said.

That’s like telling the bank robber to return the money, get rid of the ski mask, and get on with his life. Oh, how you could just feel the love flowing in Comerica Park.

Now THIS is the kind of legal system we need.

THIS is what I have been calling for since second grade, the beginning of a countless number of times where I had been accused and prosecuted unjustly.

Hey, besides the fact that such a legal system would corrupt our society, at least there would be no need for jury duty. Because, as the jury, it’s so blatantly obvious what was on Mr. Rogers hand that we’ve all collectively decided to skip.

That’s right; we missed out on testimony from Leyland, who explained like Einstein how dirt-plus-spit-plus-rosin equals that circular brown sport on Rogers hand. That brown spot that television cameras caught on Rogers every time out this postseason and at least once in the regular season.

We missed Jones showcase a delicious piece of chocolate cake, fighting back the kind of mischievous laughter one gets while defending such an outlandish claim—that a pitcher could use pine tar to improve grip and combat the arctic-like temperatures of late October baseball in Detroit.

A claim that Jones coincidentally admitted to using in his previous stint with the Colorado Rockies.

So here we are, finally with somewhat of a grasp on this whole situation thanks to La Russa’s comments Monday.

Light has been shed on answers that were in the dark late Sunday night, where the accuser wouldn’t talk, the judge explained the process implied, and the defense’s comments not only disputed the judge’s, but defendant and defense lawyer sounded like they needed some time to get on the same page.

Confused yet?

La Russa confirmed he approached the umpiring crew to let them know about the pine tar on Rogers hand.

Yes, I said it. Pine tar. We’re making progress.

But, with delight from high above, in baseball’s immortal world, a world ran under a set of unwritten rules by names like Ruth and Aaron, including such brilliant cheaters like Bouton and Gossage, La Russa decided to take the high road and preserve the game’s integrity.

An integrity that cheating has been so much a part of for so long. La Russa knows his players have long used these innocent tactics which are widely accepted throughout present-day baseball, and even more so in it’s rich history.

He was also aware of the stain such an event would have on the game’s biggest stage, the World Series.

“I decided that I was not going to be part of [the garbage] where I was going to ask the umpire to go to the mound and undress the pitcher,” said La Russa.
“I said, ‘I hope it gets fixed, if it doesn't get fixed then I'll take the next step.’ Because I do think if someone is abusing ... the way we handle this is, quit doing that, before this becomes a big deal or ugly or whatever. I mean stop it. That's what was done last night,” he continued.
Kudos to La Russa, whom many believe to be the brightest mind in the game, for not forcing the ejection of Rogers in the opening inning, something that would have undoubtedly given the Cardinals an advantage.

Not only would Leyland have had to open the bullpen door in the first inning, Rogers magical postseason run would have come to an end right there, following a suspension.

It’s no secret La Russa and Leyland are great friends. But La Russa’s actions didn’t seem to be based on a friendship, but rather on a deeply-rooted passion for the game.

And as for the post-pine tar hand? It looked pretty good, as La Russa acknowledged. Rogers cruised through eight innings of two-hit baseball, extending his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 23. He’s now second place on the all-time list for consecutive scoreless innings in a single postseason, behind Christy Mathewson’s 27.

At least we known seven of those innings were pine tar free.

But the only thing more entertaining than the emotional Rogers mowing down the Cardinals lineup in Game Two would have been if one were able to listen to the two old-time managers converse afterward.

They both knew what happened, and that the situation couldn’t have worked out any better for the game, as weird and fishy as it looked and seemed.

Think about it again: Kenny Rogers was caught, but didn’t get caught.

Boy, if I had just known of this Rogers fellow in middle school. He would have been THE ultimate superhero.

Just think of the countless hours that were wasted in after-school detention, at home grounded, or actually studying for tests that could have just as easily been aced using the Kenny Rogers method.

You cheat. You get caught. You win.


Anonymous said...

That was Mitch Albom-esque right there!

Anonymous said...

World class stuff, Tony. Really, top notch.

Anonymous said...

Talented with knowledgeable information. Nice.