Ex-teammates saddened about Rodriguez pitch-tipping allegations
Fallout from Thursday's pitch-tipping news may be worse than steroid news
Several former Texas teammates had emotional reactions to the allegations
Dickey has first-hand knowledge of A-Rod's involvement with calling pitches
When it was reported last February that Alex Rodriguez had tested positive for steroids in 2003, the reaction around baseball was mostly one of shock. Thursday's revelation that Rodriguez might have been tipping pitches to opposing hitters while playing shortstop for the Rangers from 2001-03 elicited a similar reaction from his former Texas teammates, with one important distinction: this might be even worse.
"In a lot of ways, it's worse than steroids and HGH," said Twins pitcher R.A. Dickey, a former teammate of A-Rod's in Texas. "It's so much worse because you're harming another person deliberately."
These latest allegations -- that A-Rod might have been purposely tipping pitches to opposing hitters while playing shortstop for the Rangers in the hopes that they would return the favor for him -- landed like a body blow to Dickey and Doug Glanville, another former Rangers teammate of A-Rod's. When told of the news, Glanville, who played with the Rangers in 2003 and is now retired, said "Oh wow." Dickey's first reaction was "Oh gosh man."
Shane Spencer, though, was not surprised by the revelation of the allegations. Spencer came to the Rangers from the Indians in a July 2003 trade and it wasn't long after his arrival that he began hearing whispers in his new, divided clubhouse about Rodriguez. "It was brought up. I overheard it but not from specific people," said Spencer, now a coach with the high Class-A Lake Elsinore (Calif.) Storm. "I think I overheard it in our clubhouse, but that team was really split up -- a bunch of groups of threes and fours. It wasn't a real close clubhouse and guys start talking especially when you're getting your butt kicked everyday. I remember hearing that."
Both Glanville and Dickey were reluctant to believe the allegations, which are a part of Selena Roberts' forthcoming book "A-Rod," until further information is made available, but neither could be sure that it didn't happen either. "I certainly didn't know or see anything like that," said Glanville. "Obviously if that's true that would be insane. I don't remember hearing anything about that when I was there. Of course it would be egregious and unforgivable."
"From personal experience, I can tell you I've seen nothing or heard nothing that would support any chapter in that book that says that," said Dickey. "Then again, it's not so far outside the realm of possibility where you could dismiss it because obviously it could happen. It's mind-boggling."
Not to Spencer. The journeyman outfielder said that while he never saw or heard of other players doing that, he wouldn't have been surprised if Rodriguez wasn't the only one doing so. "I'm sure it does happen. There are friends of friends. I'm sure there are catchers out there that have told guys what's coming. Hopefully it didn't happen [in Texas] and hopefully it didn't happen that often."
The allegations, which were first made public in a New York Daily News story on Thursday, are in Roberts' book, which will be released on Monday. In a phone interview with SI.com, Roberts said that over the course of a couple years, some people with the Rangers began to detect a pattern whereby Rodriguez would appear to be giving away pitch type and location to hitters, always middle infielders who would then be able to repay him in kind when he was at the plate, with his body movement. According to Roberts' sources, "If it was a changeup, he would twist his glove hand. To indicate a slider, he would sweep the dirt in front of him and he would bend in the direction of where the pitch was going to be, inside or outside." Roberts' sources stressed that this only occurred in games that had long since been decided and was done for "slump insurance. You can count on your buddy to help break you out of your slump. There was no intent to throw a game or change the outcome."
That explanation wasn't sufficient for Glanville or Dickey, who said "There's no situation that would ever justify him doing that on any level. That's somebody's ERA that's somebody's livelihood, that's somebody trying to provide for their family. I'm holding on to the belief that it's not true. No one with a conscience could do that. Blows me away."
Dickey does, however, have first-hand knowledge of Rodriguez's involvement with calling pitches. "My first year there (2001) there were a couple of games where he called the pitches from shortstop or helped the catcher called pitches, in a couple of my starts I know he did that," he said. "Einar Diaz was our catcher and Alex did that on occasion on a couple of my starts. I never knew it until after the fact but he helped [our] catcher out a couple times. But as far as giving away pitches I couldn't speak with any amount of knowledge on that subject."
Dickey pitched in several blowout games with the Rangers during his years there but said he had no recollection of anything like this happening. "I can't recall any of those games and even if I could I would never be thinking along those lines that my teammate could be giving away pitches" he said. "I could never think 'For sure he must have done it then.' That's just so far off the radar dude."
Glanville suggested that perhaps A-Rod's mannerisms that led to suspicion were actually a way to alert his fellow defenders what pitch was coming next, something the shortstop often does during a game. But Roberts' sources said that the key difference is when Rodriguez would signal. "The thing Alex would do, and this is the critical difference between signaling your infield as quarterback and giving away the pitch to the hitter, is when you flash the sign," she said. "This was done to give the batter plenty of time to see it and figure what to do about it. What would usually happen would be for Alex to do something as the pitcher is in the windup; that way the batter is focused on the pitcher. These signs Alex would flash came before the windup and that made it even more noticeable."
Rodriguez did not respond to these allegations when asked about them on Thursday in Tampa, Fla., where he is recovering from hip surgery that has kept him out for the entire season to this point.
Roberts said that one teammate gingerly approached A-Rod at the time to ask him about tipping pitches, and that A-Rod's reaction was "What are you talking about?" Both Dickey and Glanville said they wouldn't have hesitated to call him out on it if they knew. "If someone knew about it and didn't say anything in my eyes they're just as liable," said Dickey.
"If we had noticed it, it would have been handled in house with the players not with the coaching staff, personally with him first as friends and teammates and if it became a problem we'd have to bring the team in," said Spencer. "But that never came up. If I saw that it wasn't going to fly."
Glanville said that he would involve people "at the highest level" if he knew such a thing was going on. "It would pretty much be Armageddon," he said. "If you found out a teammate was giving a sign to another team that would be pretty ugly. If it is true it would be a serious offense in the culture. That would be the thing where I wonder if players would even want to play with him. Anything like that being true is a really major problem. If I knew about that, people would be confronted real quick. You can be friends with guys [on other teams] but when they're in the other dugout you try and take their head off."
"If he did do it he's going to (take it) to his grave out of fear for his life for sure," said Dickey, whose only move now is to be just like everyone else: wait and see what happens. "I'll be watching to see what his own response will be to the allegations. I mean, what's next?"
After the steroid and pitch-tipping claims against the man once hailed as a perfect representative of all that was right with the national pastime, Dickey -- and the rest of baseball -- may be afraid to find out.
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