October 23, 2006

Weird, Wild Scuff: Thoughts on Kenny Rogers and His Dirty Baseball Tactics

About a year ago, after months and months of dodging the authorities at every devious turn, yours truly was apprehended by the local government and forced to serve a stint on jury duty.

In general I have no problem with this particular civic duty, but the timing of this jury stint was particularly rotten. Work was busy, my kids (who do not exist) were about to begin preschool…life was just altogether a handful, and the last thing I needed was to have my schedule thrown into even further disarray.

So I decided then and there that I was going to escape. Not the kind of escape in which I would leap up from the juror’s seat, throw a smoke pellet into the ground, fire a grappling hook into the ceiling and pulley myself up and away to safety (sorry, just recently re-watched Batman Begins).

No, this escape would be simpler and slightly more underhanded. While the prospective lawyers were asking us questions to size us up as unbiased jurors, I would showcase bias at every opportunity. Ignorance would ooze out of my pores like sweat from a hippo's back.

Or at least this was my intention. Once the process actually started, it was far more difficult than I thought to do anything other than answer the questions honestly. But I did have one signature “Wow, that guy is one close-minded bastard” moment, regarding a case where the defendant was accused of possessing with intention to sell a certain amount of crack cocaine.

When asked if I could be unbiased in such a case, I found myself standing up before the court and saying (not quite word for word but close), “I believe that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And it’s hard for me to look past that. In a case like this, I believe that if someone is being accused of selling crack, odds are that he did something wrong.”

Needless to say I wasn’t selected to serve on that case. But in some sort of cosmic (or local government) punishment I was eventually chosen to serve on a jury, and you’ll be glad to know that I very nearly pulled a Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men to try to get my fellow jurors to consider the defendant’s innocence. (Though as it happened, he was unbelievably guilty and there was really no denying it.)

Thinking about it since then, I can’t really believe that I stood up and said “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” in a court of law, because as someone who comes from a family of liberal-minded attorneys, it goes completely against what I’ve been taught to believe. And the fact is, normally I’m not a "Where there's smoke, there's fire" kind of guy, unless I’m desperately trying to get out of jury duty at all costs.

Or unless the topic of conversation is Kenny Rogers and the mysterious substance on his pitching hand.

Because this is one case where I’m ready to convict even if I don’t hear one more shred of evidence. Consider what we already know:

  • Here’s a pitcher who had a consistently good season, though not a dominant one, who is suddenly dominating to the point of being essentially unhittable at the most important time of the year. Is that a coincidence?
  • Don’t know about you, but multiple people I know (particularly some Tigers fans) were absolutely raving about how incredible Kenny Rogers’ curveball looked against the Yankees in the Division Series. Have you ever known people to talk about Kenny Rogers’ repertoire in that way before?
  • Of course, the most damning evidence is photographic. Rogers claims he had dirt on his hand, but if you look at these pictures, does that look anything like dirt to you? Absolutely not. I’d sooner believe that it’s aloe spouted from an extinct breed of space cactus only found on the dark side of Jupiter than to think it's dirt. What that stuff looks like to any reasonably trained baseball eye is pine tar.

So why is this such a big deal? Doesn’t baseball have a long history of cheating that has over the years almost become comical? Memories of Gaylord Perry frothing saliva on the ball like a rabid hedgehog or Joe Niekro’s famous manicure moment when he was caught with a nail file on the pitching mound are at least partially humorous to think about today.

But in the case of Kenny Rogers, there seems to be something downright sinister going on. And it’s not just the lingering bad memory of Rogers bludgeoning a cameraman into submission, it’s more that with the man pitching better than he ever has before at age 41 on baseball’s biggest stage, you already get a “This guy must have sold his soul to the devil” kind of vibe, even without the photographic evidence we’ve all now seen.

So in my mind, we can skip the jury trial on this one, Your Honor. He may have washed his hands, but at this precise moment Kenny Rogers reeks of guilt more than ever.


Anonymous Aimee Berg said...

Justin Verlander: What's that shit on your chest?

Kenny Rogers: [wiping his finger across his chest] Crisco.

Rogers: [wiping it across his waist line] Bardol.

Rogers: [wiping it along his head] Vagisil. Any one of them will give you another two to three inches drop on your curve ball. Of course if the umps are watching me real close I'll rub a little jalapeño up my nose, get it runnin', and if I need to load the ball up I just... [wipes his nose] ...wipe my nose.

Verlander: You put snot on the ball?

Rogers: I haven't got an arm like you, kid. I have to put anything on it I can find. Someday you will too.

8:40 PM, October 23, 2006  
Anonymous Aimee Berg said...

Wait a minute... Kenny Rogers is still alive? I thought he died at the end of Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS. He died to me that day anyway.

8:41 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger The OCC said...

Great call on the Major League dialogue.

Though I will be really depressed if in 17 years Justin Verlander is lobbing it in at a bedeviling 86 mph with the aid of some sketchy unknown substance on his pitching hand.

9:23 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger jimmyrad said...

Heard a couple gems on the radio about other players reactions to what the substance might be:

Todd Jones - Detroit Closer:
"Maybe it was Chocalate Cake."

Andy Van Slyke - Commentator, former MLBer:
"Maybe he was eating tootsie rolls to close to the heater."

I have to dig up the quotes for perfect accuracy, but "chocolate cake and tootsie rolls" were defintiely used. What this means? Todd Jones and Van Slyke obviuosly know that that shit wasn't dirt, knew Rogers got away with it, and find the whole thing quite hilarious.

5:30 PM, October 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Van Slyke, like Todd Jones, is also employed by the Tigers (first base coach). No wonder they're amused. Cocksuckers. If I were Bud Selig, I would have given Kenny Rogers the death penalty. I would also be old and a major tool, so I guess it's okay that Kenny lives. At least I'm young.

8:35 PM, October 24, 2006  
Anonymous Aimee Berg said...

Forgot to take credit for that last post. Haven't quite mastered how to work these internets yet. All of these tubes are so damn confusing!

8:36 PM, October 24, 2006  

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