Check out the video here. I’ll hear all evidence to the contrary, but that looks to me like he (a) looks up to see if anyone is watching; and (b) spits right on the damn ball.
Is that the secret to the unhittable cutter?
UPDATE: The Yankees’ bad day in multimedia continues . . .
UPDATE #2: A Q&A on Mariano:
Q: Is Mariano definitely spitting on the ball?
A: Hard to say. Looks like it to me, but the cutaway is quick and the angle could be deceiving. I’m just going with my first impression of what the video and photo show. I’d kill for another angle of this.
Q: Do you actually throw a spitball by, you know, spitting on the ball?
A: It’s not the most traditional way — according to everything I’ve read merely wetting the fingers is more common — but it’s certainly been done. Really, anything that either (a) adds a viscous fluid to the ball to alter its flight; or (b) lubes it up to decrease friction upon release, thereby increasing the spin and thus the ultimate drop is sufficient.
Q: If it is a spitball, why would Rivera be so obvious about it? He’s a smart guy. He’d try to hide it better, wouldn’t he?
A: Maybe so. But isn’t it just as valid to say that Rivera, one of the most talented pitchers ever, never had to use a spitball before, and thus if he is now, he’s less likely to be practiced at it than a guy who had to cheat just to keep his job?
I have no idea what he’s doing here — and I simply don’t want to believe that Rivera was throwing a spitter, because I’ve always admired and respected the guy — but it doesn’t seem satisfying to simply say “Mariano would never do this, so he didn’t do it.” The video is very, very interesting. It may be completely debunked by another angle — and if anyone has one, please send it ASAP and I’ll update. But for now, it’s all we have.
I know I have a reputation for baiting Yankees fans, but I am sincere in asking whether or not Rivera was doing this. I don’t know, and I’m open to alternate interpretations and evidence.
(thanks to Jason Epstein for the heads up)