Doug Glanville on Tipping Pitches
Buried in the avalanche of news surrounding Manny Ramirez's positive test for performance enhancing drugs last week was a fascinating piece by none other than Doug Glanville, the former Phillies outfielder and Ivy League student (Penn, Class of '92 though he left after his junior season in '91), who has been opining about the general state of baseball for the New York Times. As you might expect from a baseball essay written by a Penn grad, his column's tend to be well thought out and immaculately written. This one also happened to be terrifically insightful.
That's because Glanville took the time to analyze exactly how Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez could have tipped pitches if he did, in fact, take that drastic step as a shortstop for the Texas Rangers. While it still seems like a gigantic leap of faith to make, Glanville has a plausible scenario for how such a scheme would have worked, and why it would have been so hard to tell if the tipping was intentional or not as a result.
As Glanville readily points out, there are a number of ways in which a less than thoughtful, or antsy, middle infielder could give opponents an inclination of what pitch was coming. Here's how the outfielder typified how such an unintentional exchange of information might have happened:
"A savvy opponent may in turn start paying attention to those key defensive players who are most prone to "tip" off the plan of the pitcher. Should they move too soon, they might clue in the other team as to what is coming (which is why catchers are taught to set-up "late"). While the tip might not be as specific as, say, "fork ball," it could be enough to know whether the next pitch is going to be slow or fast. But rarely is there time for the discoverer of these tips (he could be a coach, or anyone on the bench paying close attention) to relay this new information to the batter or any runners to benefit."
Now take a look at how Glanville says A-Rod could have intentionally tipped off opponents, and take note of just how nuanced the difference between unintentional tipping and the intentional variety would have to be.
"So, according to the latest story, Alex is connected to some pitch-tipping scheme in which he relayed signs to the opposing hitter (if he was a friend) or for someone who would return the favor when he was hitting. This was supposedly done in one-sided games where, in theory, one team had no chance of catching up. Alex was said to be in cahoots with a lot of middle infielders. Allegedly, there was some sign he would relay to the hitter -- a movement with his glove or his feet -- to let the hitter know what type of pitch was coming and where."
Clearly, the devil is in the details. But as Glanville points out, there hardest part in buying the complete A-Rod pitch tipping story is figuring out how some member of the savvy media wouldn't have caught on to the scam sooner.
For his part, Glanville does a strong job explaining how Rodriguez could have given away far more information than was intended, helping relay pitch calls to the catcher and doing so lackadaisically, letting opposing hitters steal them in the process. It's not hard to believe that, just as the Rangers staff would have had to be pretty naive to let Rodriguez help direct pitching strategies during a game, he just as easily could have flashed them around naively, assuming others wouldn't have picked up on his signs.
Does that mean that A-Rod didn't tip off foes intentionally? Hardly. It just means that there's more natural explanations for how it could have happened without a sinister bent than reasons why it could have happened for the slugging infielder's benefit. You decide which part of Glanville's analysis to believe, because all three story lines are compelling in their own way.
May 13, 2009; 1:02 PM ET
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