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What Is That Stuff on Kenny Rogers's Hand?
2006-10-23 09:29
by Mike Carminati

(A variation on the song "What is That Thing on Aaron Neville's Face?")

Kenny Rogers can't leave good enough alone. Last season, he was having the season of his life and was in the thick of the Cy Young hunt. So what does he do? He shoves a cameraman or two and oddly enough, it's all on videotape. He ends up suspended for twenty games (but was later reinstated by an independent arbitrator) and is fined $50K, later is charged with misdemeanor assault, and then slinks off to Detroit as a free agent in the offseason.

After a solid year in Detroit, there were allegations that he grabbed a fan near the ballpark when the man's son, with an injured leg yet, asked for an autograph—shades of Mr. Scrooge and Tiny Tim?

Now, he is being transformed into a cult hero by helping to shut out his ex-teammates, the Yankees, in the pivotal game three of the Division Series. He then pitches 7.1 innings of shutout ball against the A's in game three of the ALCS en route to a four-game sweep. Next up, he pitches eight innings of a shutout of the Cardinals in game two of the World Series, a game that the Tigers, down one game to none at home, very much needed to win. Rogers is now sixth on the all-time consecutive scoreless postseason innings list:

Pitcher, Team IP
Mariano Rivera, NYY 33.1
Whitey Ford, NYY 33.0
Babe Ruth, BOS 29.0
Christy Mathewson, NYG 28.0
Curt Schilling, PHI-BOS 25.0
Kenny Rogers, MIN-DET24.1
Lew Burdette, MIL 24.0
George Earnshaw, PHI 22.0
Orel Hershiser, LA 21.1
Bob Gibson, STL 19.0

So Rogers should be on top of the world, right?

There's a little problem—you may have heard. The FOX cameras picked up some sort of substance that looked very much like pine tar on Rogers's pitching hand in the first inning. They even intimated that the Cardinals, who presumably would have someone watching in the clubhouse, should look into it. Next, Tony LaRussa came out and discussed an issue with the homeplate ump between innings. Then, when the second inning started, the substance, whatever it was, was gone. FOX ran a side by side comparison which made the difference clear, thereby justifying their existence with or without the otherwise execrable coverage (and multiple foistings of former American Idol losers on the American public whenever a song is needed in the game).

Rogers did go on to pitch seven more shutout innings, but the controversy today is whether he cheated in the first place. The situated was apparently complicated by the umpiring crew's reluctance to investigate the substance followed by their request that Rogers wash it off, which he did. So if the substance needed to be removed, wasn't it illegal? And if it wasn't illegal, why did he need to wash it off? The logic will is dizzying.

There are reports that Cardinal batters reported that the ball was moving in unexpected ways. Did the umpiring crew follow up on the complaint or did they just attempt to sweep it under the rug?

The story seemed to change from there not being any inspection whatsoever to the umps finding that it was dirt. But they never really inspected it. Then again, they looked enough to ask him to wash up.

Whether there was an out-an-out cover-up or the non-inspection was conducted due to the umps' incompetence is hard to say. But it's another black eye for a sport that doesn't need one in a game that is on a national stage, especially after two Midwest teams that choked down the stretch and backed into the playoffs (one as a wild card and another with just 83 wins) are meeting in the World Series. Reportedly, a similar substance was found on his hand upon review in all three of Rogers's playoff starts.

If this series reaches game five, Rogers' next turn in the rotation, the coverage of his left hand will surpass that of the Rally Monkey in 2002. If Rogers pulls a Jack Morris and pitches a complete-game shutout, wins the World Series, and simultaneously breaks Mariano Rivera's consecutive shutout record, it will be the highlight of his career but the talk will be about the "substance".

I blame the umps for losing control of the situation, but most will probably blame Rogers, and I can't say that I would feel sorry for the guy given his past. I guess it makes a rather bland Series a bit more controversial and potentially interesting for the average fan. I guess that's something, but if I were Bud Selig I would rather have the fans interested in the game itself. Then again, Bud probably wouldn't mind if it helps the ratings.

Anyway, I wondered if Rogers's was the most unexpected postseason for a pitcher given his regular-season performance, so I looked it up. I ran the numbers for the expected earned runs for a pitcher in a postseason based on his innings pitched and his regular-season ERA. Rogers came in fourth, but had the highest total for a pitcher who did not allow an earned run:

PitcherYrTmRS ERA IP Post Post ERAPost ERPost R Exp ER ER Diff
Lady Baldwin1887Detroit Wolverines3.84 42.0 1.50716 17.91 10.91
George Earnshaw1930Philadelphia Athletics4.44 25.0 0.7222 12.33 10.33
Curt Schilling2001Arizona Diamondbacks2.98 48.3 1.1266 16.01 10.01
Kenny Rogers2006 Detroit Tigers 3.84 23.0 0.0000 9.81 9.81
Orlando Hernandez1999New York Yankees4.12 30.0 1.2045 13.72 9.72
Chad Ogea1997Cleveland Indians4.99 31.3 2.3088 17.36 9.36
Waite Hoyt1921New York Yankees3.09 27.0 0.0002 9.28 9.28
Orel Hershiser1995Cleveland Indians3.87 35.3 1.5368 15.20 9.20
Lew Burdette1957Milwaukee Braves3.72 27.0 0.6722 11.15 9.15
Bob Caruthers1887St. Louis Browns3.30 71.0 2.151729 26.03 9.03
John Smoltz1996Atlanta Braves2.94 38.0 0.9545 12.43 8.43
Charlie Getzein1887Detroit Wolverines3.73 58.0 2.481623 24.04 8.04
Hank O'Day1889New York Giants4.31 23.0 1.1733 11.01 8.01
Derek Lowe2004Boston Red Sox5.42 19.3 1.8644 11.64 7.64
Steve Rogers1981Montreal Expos3.42 27.7 0.9833 10.50 7.50

As for the pitchers who performed well below expectation, I'm proud to say former Phillie Tommy Greene leads the modern pitchers in postseason putrescence:

PitcherYrTmRS ERA IP Post Post ERAPost ERPost R Exp ER ER Diff
Elton Chamberlain1888St. Louis Browns2.19 44.0 5.322636 10.71 -15.29
Tommy Greene1993Philadelphia Phillies3.42 11.7 13.111717 4.43 -12.57
Adonis Terry1889Brooklyn Bridegrooms3.29 37.0 6.082534 13.51 -11.49
Tom Glavine2002Atlanta Braves2.96 7.7 15.261313 2.53 -10.47
Scott Garrelts1989San Francisco Giants2.28 19.0 7.111516 4.82 -10.18
Jay Witasick2001New York Yankees3.30 5.0 21.601213 1.84 -10.16
Hal Newhouser1945Detroit Tigers1.81 20.7 6.101414 4.16 -9.84
Don Newcombe1956Brooklyn Dodgers3.06 4.7 21.211111 1.58 -9.42
Pete Alexander1928St. Louis Cardinals3.36 5.0 19.801111 1.87 -9.13
Bret Saberhagen1999Boston Red Sox2.95 9.7 11.171214 3.17 -8.83
Jack Morris1992Toronto Blue Jays4.04 23.0 7.431919 10.32 -8.68
Greg Maddux1989Chicago Cubs2.95 7.3 13.501112 2.40 -8.60
Fred Green1960Pittsburgh Pirates3.21 4.0 22.501010 1.43 -8.57
Jose Paniagua2001Seattle Mariners4.36 5.7 17.471111 2.75 -8.25
Kevin Brown1997Florida Marlins2.69 33.0 4.911818 9.87 -8.13
Pedro Martinez2003Boston Red Sox2.22 28.3 4.761515 6.98 -8.02
2006-10-23 10:24:40
1.   Xeifrank
Todd Jones said that whenever it's cold that pitchers will usually put something on their palm to help them grip the ball.

And by the way, I like how you added your sour grapes into yet another post. especially after two Midwest teams that choked down the stretch and backed into the playoffs (one as a wild card and another with just 83 wins) are meeting in the World Series.
vr, Xei

2006-10-23 11:37:19
2.   wamz
I think its pretty interesting that he has a huge
temper (direct effect of Steroids), as well as obvious
use of "something" in his last 3 games.

Roids + Pine Tar = Pitching Greatness

I feel sorry for the guy that asks Kenny the question
with no camera around. He'd probably pound the crap
out of him.

2006-10-23 12:34:39
3.   D4P
So if the substance needed to be removed, wasn't it illegal? And if it wasn't illegal, why did he need to wash it off?


2006-10-23 13:45:48
4.   Murray
I can't believe he didn't get ejected for this. What does the rulebook have to say?
2006-10-23 15:29:01
5.   mister4tee4
Murray, the rulebook says...

The pitcher shall not --

(b) Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game. In addition, the pitcher shall be suspended automatically for 10 games.


Now, I'm not an expert, but where I live in Upstate NY, you don't see a lot of shiny yellow dirt...

2006-10-23 17:39:04
6.   Mike Carminati
1 The sour grapes aren't mine, they are baseball's:
2006-10-23 17:41:03
7.   Mike Carminati
1 Oh, and you undermine your credibility by quoting Todd Jones:

2006-10-23 19:59:38
8.   StolenMonkey86
personally, I think it was poo
2006-10-23 21:31:16
9.   Bluebleeder87
sports writers are peranoid
2006-10-24 06:25:31
10.   rbj
Hey, it wasn't a foreign substance, it was good old fashioned American pine tar.

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