Players who make accusations should not hide

A Hughes bullpen debate, once more with gusto
RAB on Speaking of Sports

Note: I stand by the premise of the post, but I’ve chosen a poor example to illustrate it.

When baseball players talk, journalists listen. This is especially true when a ballplayer accuses another of an impropriety. Unfortunately, because of baseball’s walled-garden nature, most of those anecdotes reach the public anonymously. It’s the only condition under which journalists can print the accusations. Ballplayers simply do not want their names attached to criticism of fellow players, especially teammates.

Mark Feinsand relates an example involving ESPN broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe:

Sutcliffe said on the air that A-Rod had been feeding Teixeira verbal signs from the on-deck circle, giving his teammate a heads-up on the catcher’s location before the pitch was delivered.

While Feinsand didn’t reveal how Sutcliffe became privy to this controversy, it really comes down to one of two ways. He either made the observation himself, or he heard it from a player. Since he’s a broadcaster for a national network and hasn’t covered more than a handful of Yanks games this year, the former is unlikely. It’s fairly safe to say — though I’ll avoid making the concrete connection — that he got the information from a player.

Which player? We’ll never know. It’s the same as the pitch-tipping accusation in Selena Roberts’s book. An anonymous player made an accusation, and the journalist ran with it. This, I think, is a mistake. Journalists shouldn’t feed the public accusations from anonymous sources.

A glance through the comments section of RAB reveals the problems with anonymity. When people don’t attach their own names, and thereby their own reputations, to a comment, they’ll say things they would never, ever say if their integrity was on the line. But, because in many instances there is no way to connect the commenter and his real-life personage, the commenter is free to say whatever he or she likes, without any repercussions.

This can be applied to baseball players. Since their names will never be attached to the comment, they can say what they like. They could have a personal vendetta against the player and say something in a moment of frustration. They might relay a suspicion, grounded in nothing but a single observation. It could be any number of things, but since the player doesn’t have his name attached to the comment, it won’t harm his reputation. He’s free to say whatever he wants, really.

Please be clear: this is not to say that A-Rod didn’t tip pitches, nor is it to say that A-Rod doesn’t give Teixeira a verbal sign from the on-deck circle. The point is that if players are going to levy these accusations, they should either attach their name, and thereby reputation, to the comment, or not say it at all. How can the public determine the validity of the accusation if we don’t even know the source?

Anonymous sources are important for journalists. Through anonymous sources journalists can find out information that they otherwise would not have. However, there’s a point of abuse. If a player isn’t willing to attach his reputation to a comment, why should a journalist deign it worthy to print? The short answer, in my opinion, is that he or she shouldn’t. Leave the grenade-lobbing gossip in the clubhouse. If a player feels strongly enough about the accusation — both its accuracy and its gravity — he will put his name on the accusation. Otherwise, it should be left in the clubhouse, like just about everything else in baseball.

A Hughes bullpen debate, once more with gusto
RAB on Speaking of Sports
  • jsbrendog

    carl pavano approves of this post

  • Simon B.

    Would this really be a problem with anybody? Stealing signs/location is part of the game as long as you aren’t using cameras or scoreboards or something like that.

    • GG

      I agree completely, the thing in Texas involved helping guys on other teams, and I think thats largely inaccurate and unsupported rambling by an author with a vendetta.

      As for the thing with Tex: If a catcher is not slick, and sets up early enough for teammates to help each other out, the guys should do just that, they are playing for the same team and trying to help get hits off of the opposing team.

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

      Word. We did this shit in high school and Legion ball all the time.

    • Chris

      More specifically, I always thought A-Rod was regarded as one of the best at stealing signs when he’s on second. I’ve got no problems whatsoever with A-Rod helping tip pitches/locations to Tex. If a team has a problem with it then they should disguise their signs better.

      • Bryan

        I saw that game on ESPN and wasn’t about sign stealing. Sutcliffe said A-Rod whistled to Tex to indicate that the catcher was setting up inside. He was noticing that Saltalamacchia was moving in or out way too early and he heard a whistle right before the pitch that Tex crushed for a home run on an inside fastball. He then jumped to conclusions that A-Rod tipped him off. It wasn’t that great a pitch anyways middle-in I believe so a guy like Tex would be able to knock it out without help.

  • Joe R

    He was on BRandon Tierney’s show this morning and kindve said that he was more blaming the catcher for moving to his location too early before the pitch and that anyone couldve relayed the location to teix, not necessarily a-rod. I think he also said on air how they were laughing in the dugout after Teix hit the HR and he didnt know why and thought maybe cause he tipped it, however he later found out that A-Rod asked him what he hit and he said a changeup when it was a 94mph fastball inner 1/3rd.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Personally, I think he made it up. I think he’s a little bitter about the game*, and he’s a little resentful of what these two are doing, especially in that time period, and sided with the pitcher that the only way Tex could have tagged that was for somebody–wait for it–Arod to have tipped him.

    *a classic example of some shit I just made up.

  • Cliff

    The way I took it was as an obeservation from Sutcliffe. He was commenting about the way they were interacting and just trying to act like he knew everything and make a completely inappropriate accusation while doing so.

  • NYCOUG

    I was watching the game you were referring too here in Seattle and the ESPN cameras kept showing A-ROD and Tex talking in the dugout about pitches and signs and that was right around the time Sutcliffe started to talk about it. I do agree with what your saying but i think he was just referring to what the camera caught.

  • http://www.supertangas.com The man with 33 fingers

    The truth of the matter is there really is no such thing as sports journalism. Its commentary and opinion and speculation; steroids and sign stealing are not weapons of mass destruction.

    • jsbrendog

      except when wielded by kim jong-arod

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Hellooooooo, Mia from Argentina!

      • skeleton coat

        If it wasn’t for The Man with 33 fingers, I wouldn’t even care about A-Rod, the Yankees, or riveraveblues.com.

  • Axl

    More anti-Yankee propaganda. Anti-Yankee news sells big time. So they gobble up anything they can get. Hence, “Arod once made somebody put toothpaste on his toothbrush.” I’d love to meet the person who was astonished or changed by this.

    Jason Bay is hitting better than he’s ever hit in his life and everybody leaves it alone. David Ortiz is hitting worse than Ramiro Pena…and people are trying to find every excuse they can…pulling for Papi.

    But if Mark Teixeira, a guy who hits extremely well every year, starts hitting the crap out of the ball once Arod comes back? There’s cheating going on. Arod is cheating and he’s feeding Teixeira signs for him to use…and THAT’S the reason for his success. LOL.

    Doesn’t this contradict all the other stories about Arod?? That’s he’s selfish and will only do things if he gets something back in return, yada yada yada? Then why is Arod helping Teixeira (who the media previously claimed ‘hated’ Arod) without clearly getting reimbursed with something in return? His numbers aren’t increasing at nearly the same pace Tex’s are.

    These guys will make up literally anything to sell a newspaper or magazine. Hating the Yankees is trendy…Loving the Red Sox is trendy…the media is well aware of this and abuses it to the max.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      That’s a shot at Ramiro Pena…

  • Rob S.

    It should be mentioned that there is no rule against stealing signs or tipping pitches. It may be fashionable to take cheap shots at A-Rod but this really disparages Teixiera who does not strike me as the type of player to go for something like this. Also how does A-Rod know what pitch the catcher calls from the on-deck circle? If the pitcher is tipping his pitches then Teixiera wouldn’t need A-Rod’s help.

  • Scott

    Joseph,

    while I agree with the context of what you are saying, you should have done more homework. Sutcliffe said this on a national broadcast for ESPN right after it supposedly happened. So he didn’t get his information from any player. He tried to sound smart about his baseball “insider” info as a former player.

    I don’t even recall who they were playing now on Monday night baseball (might have even been Wednesday) but I was watching b/c I don’t get to see the Yanks as I live in the Midwest, unless they are on ESPN.

    Tex crushed an inside pitch for a HR. Sutcliffe made the comment that the catcher moved inside too quickly after giving the sign,
    A-Rod noticed and whistled or signaled to Tex to let him know it would be an inside pitch.

    He then went to explain that it happens all the time in baseball when an on deck batter sees something that might help the hitter. He said the signs are different with each team but they all have them. They then showed the reply 2-3 times to try and figure out what A-Rod’s tip off was.

    So he never got the info from a player before, during or after the game. he was speculating.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      I hear ya. I hate when I want to make a point and choose a poor example to illustrate it.

    • CB

      This was my take on what Sutcliffe was said on the broadcast as well.

      The idea that he actually bothered to speak with an anonymous source gives him much too much credit.

      He’s completely unprepared for broadcasts – knows nothing about the teams he’s covering and was simply trying to create filler based on his “insiders knowledge” of the game.

      He noticed that Salty sets up position early. He just kept harping on it until it took on more and more importance. And pretty much one thing led to another and through wild off the top of his head speculation he was insinuating that Alex was tipping off Tex because based on Sutcliffe’s own “insider’s experience” that kind of thing happens all of the time.

      It was an absurd, lazy inference tied together through speculation.

      • Mike HC

        These guys have to talk for three plus hours. It is not easy to do. You have to add a lot of bullshit and say some stuff I’m sure they would not say if the whole thing was scripted. Of course some of the stuff is going to be subjective opinions. Sutcliffe noticed a young catcher tipping his pitchers pitch locations. That is what I want to hear out of announcers. I think that is something interesting to hear. He was not saying this as an undisputable fact, but was just telling the viewers what he was seeing. I don’t really have a problem with that.

        • Rich

          Perhaps that’s why he’s broadcasted games under the influence before.

  • ZDW

    I could have sworn that I heard Singleton talk about this a couple weeks ago. From what I remember he talked about the catcher moving too early and then explained that any experienced ballplayer would then give a whistle or other signal to tell the batter what was coming. The YES cameras then showed A-Rod talking to Teix in the dugout (after what I think was a Teix HR) making hand gestures that suggest “and that’s how it’s done.” Kenny seemed to characterize it as something good ballplayers do. It doesn’t strike me as underhanded at all.

    I should note that my memory is somehwat fuzzy on this. It might not have been Singleton, but I’m almost certain it was a YES broadcast.

  • Matt S

    Everyone that’s not a NY Yankees fan hates the Yankees. Everyone that’s not a Yankees fan loves the Rex Sox. Loving the Red Sox is the cool thing to do.. the cool thing to be. Girls who don’t even know what the top and bottom of an inning are love the Red Sox because it’s cool. Guys who don’t know what a double play is love the Red Sox but hate the Yankees. That’s just how it is.

    • Matt S

      And on second thought, why would you take what this guys says seriously anyways: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2442045

      • Mike HC

        Three years ago, Sutcliffe got drunk with his friends at a baseball game and actually tried to make an on air interview interesting for a change, and now he should never be taken seriously? I would have liked to hear the announcer’s answer. This actually bumps him up a notch in my book.

  • steve s

    How helpful is it really to know pitch location or type or pitch a few seconds or a split second before it happens? I think we are attributing super-human powers to these guys. As Yogi said you can’t hit and think at the same time. So even though it sounds like good “inside” baseball stuff it seems more bs than anything else and when Tex/Arod cornered Sutcliffe to yell at him it was more likely for wrongly saying they were somehow “cheaters” in a climate where cheaters are being pounded on like never before.

  • Mattingly’s Love Child

    I just had a well thought out response to this post…but my f’in computer went nuts…I’ll try to summarize what I had said….

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      The bigger issue is journalism in general. All of us are big baseball fans. We watch and read enough about baseball to know when someone is pulling out some sketchy rumor BS. But this happens all the time with the MSM across all areas. If CNN or Fox News has someone go on camera or write something on their website about the war in Iraq or the genocide in Darfur, we’re not as familiar with the subject matter. Therefore, our bullshit meters are quite as tuned to this.

      Anonymous sources is lazy journalism. Sometimes it’s good to the word out there, even if stories cannot be completely corroborated, but usually that is for matters of life/death/national security. For things as trivial as sports and general politics, it is irresponsible. For a while now, that type of journalism has sold, and sold big. News outlets are hurting for $$ big time. So the only way journalists will change the way they do business is if it effects their wallets.

      If you see an example of lazy journalism, send a quick email to the editor, let them know you won’t be spending money on their product until they stop spreading garbage. Enough people do this, and change will happen. Seems to me the only solution. Right now there is no such thing as journalistic integrity.

      • Mattingly’s Love Child

        And furthermore, it speaks very well of the American public tht Selena Roberts’ book of lies, rumors, and innuendos is selling so poorly! So maybe there is hope that people are tired of hearing “facts” that can’t be backed up or proven!

        There is some hang over of the truthiness of the Bush years…

  • Axl

    Who wins in a fight…

    Teddy Ruxpin or Alf from Melmac

    • jsbrendog

      what the hell does hat have to do with anything?

      (alf)

    • Count Zero

      Alf would effing kill Teddy Ruxpin. Not even close.

      Paddington Bear, though? You don’t mess with anybody from deepest, darkest Peru…

  • Tony

    Are you guys seriously doing this again? Good thing you aren’t actually trying to report anything.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      What exactly are you talking about? Your use of “this” in the context of your comment is tremendously vague.

      • Tony

        “This” meaning the assbackward opinions on the use of anonymous sources. Go open a newspaper or magazine. Guess how everything of any value in there got reported. On the record sources get you press releases, not stories.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

          It really depends on the story. If it’s an investigative piece, anonymous sources are valuable. However, when it’s just accusations and there’s no further indications (in the case of pitch-tipping), it falls short.

          • Tony

            No one says anything even remotely controversial on the record to a reporter, unless they’re an idiot or (amusingly, considering the angle you’re trying to take on this) they’re trying to carry out a vendetta against someone. Don’t see what’s so hard to understand about that.

            • Tony

              And this applies everywhere. Tell me the next time a beat reporter says something interesting with a name and source attached to it. How many “back room” Cashman/Levine/Steinbrenner stories have you seen reported with a direct quote from someone with access? This only becomes an issue when it burns one of the players we’re all required to deify. Give me a break.

  • Mike HC

    I remember Paul O’Neill saying he didn’t even want guys to try to tip off location of pitches to him. He said there was no guarantee that the pitcher would hit his spot, and he didn’t want to have too much going through his head when hitting.

    I also agree with the above commenters that stealing signs, tipping off locations from second, etc … is part of the game. I don’t really have a problem with it.

    As to anonymous sources, I agree with Joe here to certain extent. A person cannot be convicted in court without confronting his accuser (except in rare circumstances). But in the media and in public opinion, these athletes can get hanged based on anonymous quotes. And are we so trustworthy of these reporters that we all blindly trust that there is an actual anonymous source. That it is not just the reporter trying to protect/support his or her bullshit ramblings. It always seems that when someone already has a bullseye on their back, all these anonymous sources like to pile on. Show your face goddammit!!!

    • Joe LA

      The Paul O’Neill thing may be true, but if I could have any baseball player in the world giving me tips on hitting and pitch location, Alex (the human statistical leaderboard) Rodriguez would be on my short list of players to get said tip from.

      And I completely agree with you on anonymous sources. Theoretically, if Selena Roberts suspected A-Rod of steroids, there was a 50/50 chance that he was on that 2003 list. Until this whole thing broke, she existed in journalistic obscurity. If she came up to him about it and guessed wrong, no skin off her nose. If she was right, she just had to add on an anynomous source and a story that big in the right hands could put a journalist on a Pulitzer/Hearst level. Good thing she pretty much tanks at writing and being a likable person.

  • Jim M.

    Bad example aside – you do make a good point. It is one that applies not only to baseball, but life in general. Be a man (or woman), stand behind what you say, lead by example, and tell the truth. One of the things I love about baseball is that you can take so much out of it and apply it to real life. It teaches us how to work hard, deal with failure, work as a team and play by the rules. Most importantly, it teaches us to have fun and be a good sport in victory and in defeat.

    I can’t wait for 7:05 man. I love this game!

  • Zach

    But Teixeria and ARod hated each other in Texas, how could they be working together now??

    • Mike HC

      Is that true?? That A-Rod and Teix had problems in Texas, other than coming in last again and again.

  • AsianShuutoHeat

    Yes, if you want to say something speak up.
    Don’t hide in the shadows and point with your face masked.

    If your accusations are true, then go ahead and tell everyone. Why are you so scared of people seeing whose finger is doing all the pointing? Unless you’re spouting some BS, I don’t think theres a need to go and hide.

  • YankeeScribe

    Everybody hates the Yankees and A-Rod is the embodiment of what people hate about the Yankees.

    Remember how the media reacted to Manny’s failed drug test? First they were skeptical, and then they made excuses for Manny. The contrast against A-Rod’s failed drug test from 2003 was pretty striking. I mean, they were pretty much blaming A-Rod for single-handedly destroying baseball.

    Of course, since he plays for the Yanks and has become the face of the franchise, it’s easier to hate the Yanks these days. It was tougher to hate the Yankees when Jeter and Torre were the faces of the franchise just because the media seems to love them.

  • Ray

    The problem with so-called journalists today is that they hide behind the “anonymous source” without independently checking and re-checking the facts to see if they stand up.

    In the Daily News Mark Feinsand reported that both Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez were upset with the accusation made by Sutcliffe and the two players approached him to discuss the situation.

    The article reported that Teixeira and A-Rod pulled Sutcliffe aside when they saw him in the clubhouse last night, expressing their displeasure with his charges.

    Teixeira onfirmed to Feisand that the conversation with Sutcliff took place.

    In the old days we were told believe half of what you read and less of what you see and hear. With today’s journalist, those percentages are much lower.

  • Mark Feinsand

    Folks, just for the record, there was no anonymous source used in the article in question here. The encounter between Teixeira, A-Rod and Sutcliffe was seen first-hand, and Teixeira confirmed the subject of the conversation.

    I certainly do use anonymous sources when necessary, but this was not one of those times. Everything was right there and out in the open. I’m not sure why this is even an issue when it comes to this story.

    Keep up the great work, RAB.