Thursday, April 05, 2007

Frankie Under the Microscope

Apparently MLB has initiated an investigation into whatever the stuff is on Frankie's hat. This all started when Derek Zumsteg blogged about it on the site he set up, I assume, to promote his book, but I could be wrong about his intentions (about the site). Full disclosure, I've always liked Derek, and had a few very brief electronic conversations/thread interactions with him in the old Primer days. I don't think he wrote a book and then went looking to find a guy cheating to get his name out there. I think if anything, he wrote the book and got used to looking for that kind of stuff. You know how when you're in the market for a new car, you start noticing every car on the street and wondering what it costs (or is that just me)? Kinda like that. Anyway, I'll try to break down what we know:
  1. Frankie had some white junk on the underside of the brim of his cap. It's pretty clearly visible in some pictures, so it's really undisputed.
  2. Frankie seems to like to touch that part of his hat a lot before he pitches.
  3. Frankie throws some really nasty stuff.
That looks bad, but there's a few other things that we also know:
  1. Frankie has been going to his hat like that since he entered the league in 2002.
  2. The underside of the new hat that New Era is producing this year is black.
  3. Frankie has been throwing really nasty stuff since he came into the league.
That's basically all that we know for sure. Now for the speculation:
  1. Possibility #1 - Frankie feels like he needs something extra this season, so he's started loading up his cap with a foreign substance to get more action on the ball. If I were, say, a Mariners fan (like, for example, Derek), I'd probably be pre-disposed to believing that. It would also be good pub for my book if I pointed that out and everyone ran with it(hey, like I said, it's speculation).
  2. Possibility #2 - Frankie has been cheating for years, and no one has ever caught him, and no one has ever said anything, including current Mariner and noted cocksucker Jose Guillen, who famously ratted out Brendan Donnelly a couple of years ago when he was in Washington. Note, however, that Frankie didn't pitch in any of those games, or maybe Guillen would have done the same thing then.
  3. Possibility #3 - Frankie has been cheating for years, and no one ever noticed because the color of the underside of the hate hat. Note that this also requires Frankie to be really stupid, as he must have not noticed that any substance he was using was now pretty noticeable.
  4. Possibility #4 - Frankie has loaded his hat with some rosin, or whatever the hell they're putting in the bag this year, so that he can dry his fingers without constantly going back to the bag. This is seemingly innocuous, but also technically illegal.
  5. Possibility #5 - Frankie goes to the bag, then wipes his fingers off on his hat, inadvertantly depositing rosin on his hat in the process. This would, one would think, also leave a white mark on the top of his hat. Photos are inconclusive at best.
Personally, it doesn't make much sense to me for him to have started cheating this season. If he's doing it, chances are he's always been doing it, and I have a hard time believing that with all of the video of opposing players that teams pour over looking for any edge, any quirk, any little tip-off, that they wouldn't have noticed that, and at least had it questioned at some point.

I actually think the most likely most likely explanation on that list is #5, and it gets decreasingly plausible as you ascend towards number 1. Of course, they also get increasingly worse for Frankie as you ascend towards number 1, so my rules of plausibility are probably based in bias.

A couple of other notes: Derek claims that video shows the pitches where it's "clear" he loaded up (all fastballs) move a lot more than the pitches where it's not clear. Personally, I think this is crap. It's almost impossible to perceive the motion on a four seem fastball on television, and the gameday feature on shows the ball moving anywhere from about 2-3 inches consistently. FWIW, Rob Neyer thinks it's either chalk or talcum, which he's using to keep his fingers dry, presumably as opposed to loading up the ball.

And finally, I'm not trying to bust Derek's chops on this, but I think he reported this incredibly unprofessionally. That's fine, it's his blog. But for Christ's sake, the title of the post is "Francisco Rodriguez Doctoring the Ball". That doesn't leave you a lot of wiggle room in case the whole thing turns out to be fairly innocent. You'd think a guy who spent a lot of time wiping egg off of his face after announcing that Pete Rose had reached an agreement with Selig for reinstatement might measure his words a little more carefully.

I'll be curious to see what they have to say about this tonight during the broadcast, which I get to watch now.

See also: The Chronicler's take on the subject.


Anonymous said...

FWIW, Orel Hershiser, on today's ESPN Sportscenter, subscribed to your scenario #5.

By the way, the Angels game caps, both the new 2007 model and those of the recent past, have had black underbills. Most other teams have had lighter colored underbills, if I'm not mistaken.

Seitz said...

That's weird. I just checked and I have two authentic Angels hats from these uniforms. One is from when they first changed, and one is probably from 2005 or so that I got when the first one got a little ratty (also, the old ones shrink, and neither fit very well, which is why I just ordered a new one).

The old one (roughly 2002) has a black underbill. The newer one has a gray underbill. Weird.

Josh said...

I am pretty sure that Slate had an article about the underbill (it may have been a Uni Watch article) back in 2002 or so. And they made a comment about how the Angels were the only team using a black underbill and how it gave advantages for this or that reason.

Rob said...

Frankie has been cheating for years, and no one ever noticed because the color of the underside of the hate.

What is the underside of hate? Even more hate? Or is it love?

Seitz said...

Freudian slip.

Actually, I typed that two or three other times, but caught them. It must be like the word ratio, which I can never seem to type without adding an n.