James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, May 02, 2009

An Unbelievable Allegation

According to Jason Whitlock, Selena Roberts, then of The New York Times, helped lead the lynch mob against the Duke lacrosse team. (She turned out to be just as credible as The Times' Judith Miller was on Saddam Hussein's WMD's.) Whitlock concludes "I’m not going to trust her, not without some on-the-record reporting, not after what she wrote about the Duke lacrosse players."

I agree. Without on-the-record sources, allegations made in the book can be doubted because, as far as anyone knows, the messenger made up the message. I haven't read the book myself. That said, there is reportedly one allegation in the book that is particularly interesting. In blow-out games, A-Rod supposedly tipped off opposing batters on what the pitch would be, so that they would do the same for him and everyone could inflate their stats (except, of course, the poor pitchers). If this is true - and I don't believe it is - it is the worst thing A-Rod would have done. Not only for betraying teammates and compromising the integrity of the "game" (or at least the statistics and records), but most of all for punishing the fans.

If I were a baseball player with Hall of Fame hitting skills, I would commit myself to giving 90, maybe 95% effort. There would be situations where I'd just call it a day.

Of course, I wouldn't admit it publicly. I'd want the other team to think I'm trying. But I definitely wouldn't give full effort in blow-out games - whether I'm on the winning or the losing team.

If it's the 8th inning in a near-freezing day in April and my team is down by 7, I'm unlikely to run out every ground ball at full speed. Frankly, I would probably intentionally do less-than-my-best at the plate, in order to give the pitcher a false sense of confidence for the next time he faces me.

My feeling will be, sure, because there have been over a million Major League games played, the numbers tell us it's possible to rally from this deficit because it's been done before. But it's still unlikely. Everyone wants to go home - the opposing team, my team, the fans. Let's get out of here and make sure were not in the same situation the next day.

I would feel the same if my team is up by a huge lead. I would remain vigilant while on the field, in order to get the outs to put the game away. But I'd also be somewhat inclined to take it easy on the mediocre relief pitchers I'd face. Especially in inter-league games, or games in which my opponent is not a rival for a play-off spot. If we lose, it will be because of our own blown pitching, not because I didn't "give 110%" while at the plate or running the bases.

If my team leads the division by one game and is creaming the last-place team by 8, 12, 15 runs, they'll run out of pitchers. And what if the next day, they'll face the #2 team in the division? Instead of piling on to inflate stats, it's better to ease up on offense, do our job on defense, and allow this last-place team to be in a stronger position, pitching-wise, to face the #2 team the next day. Get the outs on defense and win the game. By the later innings, the game has to be close for the fans to even care. Give them a break - give the young adults the chance to hit the bars sooner, allow the families with bored kids to escape to the parking lot. Especially on cold or drab days.

If a game has not been competitive, my impulse in the later innings is not to pour it on to assure a victory, nor would it be to try to trigger a rally. It would, instead, be to just get it over with. Save my strength for when it counts.

I don't know what margin, at what inning, would prompt me to pull back on my offensive effort. If I played, I would find out, controlling also for home-away, relevance of opponent, time of year, the weather.

This is what I'd do as a manager. Pete Rose was banned from baseball because, as a manager betting on his own team, his choice of pitching in certain games might have affected the team's season for the long haul. So managers aren't expected to bring forth their best possible personnel every game. Just as no marathon winner is expected to be the faster runner in every 285-yard increment for 162 increments. I would argue that, for the same reason, it is wise for players to not bring forth their best possible effort every time at the plate.

A-Rod's alleged strategy was the exact opposite: if the game is out of hand anyway, let's prolong it. And betray my own pitchers in the process.

Even if I believed A-Rod was such a vain person to do this, I find it nearly impossible to believe that members of opposing teams would get in on the quid pro quo. Heck, I would publicly snitch on A-Rod just to add another distraction to the Yankee clubhouse and perhaps get him booted out of the league, so as to advance my own team's competitive chances.

So with this allegation even more so than others, I'm definitely with Whitlock. Roberts needs an on-the-record source (and in this case, more than one) for me to believe this.

No comments:

Post a Comment