A Deeper Look at A-Rod Tipping Pitches

More evidence is needed to convict A-Rod of tipping pitches

Depending on your point of view, the most scandalous allegation in Selena Roberts' book about Alex Rodriguez didn't have anything to do with steroids. It had to do with pitch tipping, specifically that A-Rod would tell opposing hitters what pitch was coming so that they would do the same for him at some point in the future.

Actively trying to help the opposition should be taken as a much greater affront to baseball than steroids, unless half the players were doing that too, but what if the explanation wasn't quite so nefarious. In an op-ed for the New York Times, former big leaguer Doug Glanville offered a potential explanation for what might have went down regarding Rodriguez and forthcoming pitches.

A more likely scenario for how he may have been tipping pitches: he was sending signals to his own team, something that could easily be stolen by a sage opponent. Just as we knew when certain pitchers were throwing a curveball (based on their glove habits, or the way the catcher crouched), or throwing home instead of picking off to first (the pitcher may have turned his front foot inward, or widened his base).

David Pinto of Baseball Musings picked up on that, and also on a conversation that Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had with an anonymous player who seemed to be hinting at the same thing.

"We had plenty of guys who could see what he was doing and steal his signs," said the player. "He was kind of sloppy with the way he did it. Now it makes me wonder if he was tipping the pitches or giving away the pitches. There's a big difference between a guy just being sloppy with the way he signals the pitches so that the other team can steal the pitches and a guy who's intentionally letting someone on the other team know what's coming."

A commenter on Pinto's post mentions that Orel Hershiser, who was a pitching coach with the Rangers while A-Rod played in Texas, said that Rodriguez would often try to be the on-field leader when it came to positioning the other infielders. Hershiser said that when he did so he was terrible at concealing the signs, which would make it easy for other teams to grab the signs. 

R.A. Dickey, who pitched for the Rangers, told Ted Keith of SI.com there were games when A-Rod would go so far as to call pitches from his shortstop spot. Keith spoke to Roberts, who said that none of those explanations made sense because of the timing of when A-Rod would flash the signs.

That doesn't mean Roberts is wrong, but there needs to be more than just an anonymous source to back it up. Roberts offers no video or photo evidence of what Rodriguez was doing, no statistical breakdowns of how A-Rod's alleged tipping was changing games and doesn't speak to any of the players, like longtime Ranger Michael Young or his manager Buck Showalter, who have offered other points of view in response to the book's allegations. 

The simplest explanation tends to be the likeliest explanation, or so says William of Ockham. In this case, that explanation is that Rodriguez was sloppy, not that he's evil.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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