Early Tuesday morning, a poster named "DesertTex" from the Newberg Report forums reported that he had seen some suspicious behavior from Angels' closer Francisco Rodriguez during the 9th inning of Texas's Opening Day 4-1 loss. Others chimed in, with several confirming that Rodriguez had some kind of foreign substance on the underside of his cap. He also continuously moved his right thumb along that area of his cap, presumably in an attempt to doctor the baseball.
Crazy conspiracy theorists? Not exactly. David Zumsteg of U.S.S. Mariner, who recently published a book entitled "The Cheater's Guide to Baseball," looked more closely at the incident yesterday with the aid of MLB.TV. His conclusion? K-Rod was cheating, and quite blatantly. Zumsteg breaks down each pitch and includes various pictures of Rodriguez grabbing the brim of his cap, and also has this particularly telling quote:
Compare the movement on those pitches to the movement on the fastballs where he clearly doesn�t go to the hat brim.
Also, watching the video, it�s a lot more striking than stills convey � it�s clearly not a cap adjustment, but something else entirely. He grabs the front of the cap and then rubs his thumb on the underside of the cap, picking whatever it is up. On the video, it�s quite striking.
I won't refer to the same pictures that Zumsteg does, but instead focus on a split second right after Rodriguez retires Brad Wilkerson. This video shot from the high quality 700K MLB.TV feed is completely undoctored, and has only been resized in order to fit in this space.
Notice the very bright white coloration on the black underside of his cap. Incredibly sharp contrast, isn't it? Just to show that it's not stadium lights or a reflection playing tricks with the camera, here's a slightly different angle:
Obviously, there's something there that shouldn't be there. Is it rosin? Perhaps something else? We may never know.
Just for further evidence, I recorded the 9th inning from MLB.TV, and spliced it up to show each instance of K-Rod rubbing his thumb against the substance. By my count, there were at least seven instances of it happening, with some more blatant than others. Decide for yourself:
Pay special attention to the moment right after Gary Matthews Jr. catches the fly ball, as you can see the white discoloration for yourself. On the X-Mo replay near the end, you can make out a white streak while he's in his pitching motion, especially on the higher resolution video. The rest of the shots are varying degrees of him messing with the substance on his cap.
In any event, it wouldn't be the first time that an Angels pitcher was busted for tampering with the baseball. On June 14th, 2005, reliever Brendan Donnelly was ejected for having pine tar on his glove. Nationals' manager Frank Robinson alleged that Donnelly was using sandpaper as well, but gave it to second baseman Adam Kennedy before the umpires could confiscate it. Crew chief Dale Scott had this to say after the game:
"There was a foreign substance on the heel of the glove. It was definitely pine tar. It was obvious and it was a lot of it."
Needless to say, I think plenty of people should be watching K-Rod from now on - especially opposing teams' dugouts.
(Note: I have the original video and picture files available by request through my MVN e-mail address)
Update: There are unconfirmed reports that the Rangers have filed a complaint with the league office concerning the K-Rod situation. Stay tuned.