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Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Did Mariano Rivera throw a spitball?!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)
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 8:45am
Alex K said...
Wow, you’re not messing around with this one. I think the server at NBC is going to crash…...
Posted 10/20 at 09:01 AM
I can see the write-up in the NYT and WSJ now:
“Mr. Rivera, a closing pitcher of some renown with the New York Yankees of the Bronx NY, seemingly expectorated on a baseball, as was transmitted by some gol’darn invention called (sniff) YouTube
Posted 10/20 at 09:08 AM
... wow. I was expecting something vague, or distant. No - It’s a close up, and very clear.
He’s like.. spitting right on the ball. What the hell.
Damn, Craig. Um. Damn.
Posted 10/20 at 09:14 AM
Look carefully and you’ll see the angle is slightly off. He’s spitting to the side of the baseball. It’s a shame we don’t have the rest of the footage to show it falling away.
Historically, no one ever spits on the ball that way (check wiki for some of the more famous tricks). You’d have to be an idiot to do it in the open.
Posted 10/20 at 09:28 AM
Nice fade by Fox, too. You can just hear them screaming in the control room, “CUT TO 3!! CUT TO 2!! CUT ANYWHERE!! Get a camera on someone else!! Where’s the Jeter-cam?!? I’ll take Scioscia for cryin out loud!!”
Posted 10/20 at 09:29 AM
I can’t believe I’m writing (since it involves watching spit in slow motion) this but if you pause the video at just the write moment you can see the spittle move past the ball. It happens at about 5 secs but you still have to pause it at the right moment just before the fade.
Posted 10/20 at 10:02 AM
I can’t believe I’m writing this (since it involves watching spit in slow motion) but if you pause the video at just the write moment you can see the spittle move past the ball. It happens at about 5 secs but you still have to pause it at the right moment just before the fade.
Posted 10/20 at 10:02 AM
This is ridiculous. There is no way he is spitting on the ball. How stupid would you have to be to set up a spitball this way.
Posted 10/20 at 10:06 AM
Upon further review, to hard for me to tell. The video is to blurry on my computer to tell if what I’m seeing is actually the spit traveling. Okay, I’m done looking at spit.
Posted 10/20 at 10:10 AM
I don’t think he’s spitting on the ball. I’m an Angels fan, and I’ll take whatever advantages I can get, but I don’t think this is what it looks like. As far as I know, this isn’t even how you throw a spitball. And the angle of the camera is such that it could easily be going on the other side of the ball.
I won’t rule it out, but I’m skeptical that we’re really seeing Mariano hawk a loogie onto a baseball to make it harder to hit.
Posted 10/20 at 10:18 AM
Richard in Dallas said...
When I saw this during the game last night, all I could think of is how this will bring disgrace to the Yankees, and Rivera, and how there is now no way they will EVER retire his number in Yankee Stadium. Oh, That’s right….
Posted 10/20 at 10:20 AM
Chris H. said...
I bet that helps take Rivera’s cutter to 11.
Posted 10/20 at 10:24 AM
The video provoke me to consider several questions.
First - did we just see behind the wizard’s curtain? If Rivera is using a spit ball on a frequent basis then I certainly question his past performances much as I would a PEDs user.
Second - if he has been using a spitter all these year, why is this the first evidence we have seen of is spitting on a ball? With all the exposure he has gotten over the years I wonder why this is the first time we are seeing footage of what appears to be a pretty blatant act. While I haven’t spent much time pausing the video I can see Tom point that it may be a camera angle issue making it appear like a direct hit. As evidence to support the bad angle argument I refer you the ‘The Pick’ episode from Seinfeld in which Jerry clearly was just scratching his nose.
Third - if this is truly a spitter will it get the Kenny Rogers treatment in that pretty compelling evidence of doctoring the baseball was never truly investigated by MLB due to the embarrassment/scandal that could result.
Last - is Craig actively trying to set a record of hits on his other site as I think this may just outdo any entry questioning Jeter in any way whatsoever? My sense is that the tech guys over at NBC are rerouting traffic to new and bigger servers to handle the volume of traffic Craig has generated with the stick he keeps poking into the side of Yankee fans.
Posted 10/20 at 10:33 AM
Um, you don’t actually spit on the ball for a spitball. Additionally, for a spitball to work, you need the foreign substance (usually mud or pine tar) to stick to the ball. Do you really think saliva is going to adhere to a baseball being hurled at 90 mph?
Posted 10/20 at 10:50 AM
15 years in the big leagues and this is the first time we see something like this from Mo? Yeah, I seriously doubt this is commonplace for Rivera. Non-story.
Posted 10/20 at 10:52 AM
Craig Calcaterra said...
Mark: it’s not the most common way to doctor a ball, but it’s been done. I have a book at home about spitters and knucklers and there were some dudes who would spit right on the ball. Most wet the fingertips. Pete Vukovich used to spit right into his glove and rub the ball around in it. With a spitter—unlike a scuffed ball—the point is not so much to keep the foreign object on the ball to affect its flight as much as it is to decrease friction and increase spin at the point of release, thereby increasng spin. The spit can be gone the second the ball is released and it has still done its job.
Lara: Remember “Major League”? The veteran doctored the ball because he lost the stuff of his youth. Again, I have no idea what’s going on here, but I don’t think it’s enough to simply say “Mo didn’t do this because he wouldn’t.” The video is not conclusive, but I think it requires more than merely character evidence to render it meaningless.
Posted 10/20 at 11:08 AM
People haven’t pointed to character evidence once, Craig.
Here’s what I read above:
1) Angle is inconclusive. Just like off-center center field cams, we get a distorted view from this video. One viewer thought that under slow-mo, the spit passed the ball.
2) In light of Rivera never being seen in 15 years of intense scrutiny within baseball and in the media (e.g. the patented YES and ESPN Rivera cam during the post-season and all star games), the off-angle, normal spitting explanation gains currency.
3) Rivera is not a moron, especially if as you claim he’s been getting away with this a a lot (as you do in your first sentence), and would not spit openly onto the ball in full view of fans, the opposing dugout and other umps. If he was indeed a seasoned spitter, there’s no way he’d do this.
4) Further, the method inconclusively displayed in the video does not accord with any of the common traditional methods for making a spitball.
You’ve responded to only #2 (and maybe #3) by limiting your initial claim and saying that Rivera’s recently added this pitch to make up for diminished stuff. This is speculation that doesn’t overturn all the arguments to contrary you do not address (blatant stupidity/unskilled nature of move easily explained by this being a trick of the camera angle; likewise the unusual method for creating said “spitball”).
Posted 10/20 at 11:21 AM
Do Keith Hernandez and Roger McDowell have credible alibis for last night?
Posted 10/20 at 11:22 AM
Aaron Moreno said...
Just because if how odd it is when he does it, I’m going with “he was looking at the ball and he also spit, not thinking that he probably shouldn’t do those things all at once.”
Posted 10/20 at 11:23 AM
Apologies, you updated while I was commenting on the very stuff you were writing about.
I stand by my point though - if the best you can come up with is that on an inconclusive camera angle, Rivera appears to be throwing a rare spitball he has little experience with to make up for declining stuff, that’s a weak and limited argument indeed.
Posted 10/20 at 11:28 AM
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