When is cheating cheating?

October 25, 2006

In your mind, is cheating subjective? I’ve been thinking of that over the past few nights since watching the World Series baseball championships. The brewing controversy that wasn’t is “What was on the pitcher’s hand?”

For those of you don’t know, one of the hardest things to do in sports is to hit a major league baseball pitch. The speed can be in excess of 100mph, the shape of the bat, the distance of the pitcher to the hitter all conspire to give a huge advantage to the pitcher. To paraphrase former coach Tommy Lasorda, hitting in major leagues is so hard it is the only profession where if you are successful 3 out of 10 times, you are considered great and if you are successful 4 out of 10 times, then you are considered the best ever.

Even with this advantage, pitchers have long sought to increase that edge. One way to do so is altering the surface of the baseball to change its rotation and thus flight path. Altering the spin and flight of the ball can be accomplished by putting a substance on the ball like Vaseline. A foreign substance changes the spin on the ball creating an unexpected path to the hitter. If done well, a pitch becomes unhittable.

Kenny Rogers has recently found himself pitching at 40+ better than he has ever pitched in the past. This year, he has gone from being statistically one of the worst playoff pitchers of all time to one of the best. This year he has pitched better than anyone for 101 years. Rogers is doing this at an age when most athletes are well past their prime.

Well some people are wondering how that can be true. Since the playoffs are big business, more and better camera coverage is in place. Those cameras have noticed a glistening substance on the same spot of his throwing hand in each of the playoff games he has pitched. He claims it was dirt and he didn’t know it was there. Sceptics claim that at his level, he notices anything on his hand, and it is a coincidence that his hand gets dirty in the same spot in each game. Also, noted is the fact that dirt generally doesn’t glisten.

Given the fact that tens of millions of dollars are at stake, should we care that cheating might be going on? I know the press are trying real hard to create controversy here. So far, there are more chuckles than protests.

What do you think?

mlb_rogers_hand_comparison_275.jpg

Kenny Rogers hands the last two playoff games.


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