Monday, October 23, 2006

World Series Gm2: Tigers even it up

Score: Tigers 3-1
Series: Tied at 1
WP:Rogers (3-0)
LP:Weaver (2-2)
HRs:DET: Monroe(5)

The Tigers won a game they had to have in order to keep this Series from getting away from them. But the talk of the night and today is focused the foreign substance on Tiger starter Kenny The Cameraman Clubber Rogers' hand. A foreign substance was detected by Fox cameras on Rogers' left palm in the first inning, which was believed to be seen by Cardinal players in the clubhouse, who then alerted manager Tony LaRussa and the umpires. After much discussion and confusion, Rogers came out for the second inning with the questionable spot removed. But the debate was just beginning: what was it on Rogers' palm, why was he allowed to remove it, and how long has the spot been there? After all, the split screen picture above shows an near-identical spot on the rejuvenated lefty's palm in the ALCS vs. Oakland (left side)as well as last night. Hmmmm. Rogers claims it was "a big clump of dirt" he got on his hand due to the damp ground & resin bag and that when he noticed it he washed it off without being told to do so by home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez.

But Tiger manager Jim Leyland and supervisor of umpires Steve Palermo both said that Rogers was told by Marquez to wash the substance off. Hmmm. And if it truly was a clump of dirt, how was that identical clump of dirt on the hurler's hand in the previous series?

Look, let's get real here and quit pussyfooting around the issue:Rogers cheated. He entered this postseason with the highest ERA of any pitcher in history (8.85) and he has now, after allowing no runs in 8 innings last night, pitched 23 consecutive scoreless innings in this postseason. That streak is the 6th longest in baseball history, 3rd longest in one postseason run. He has been busted with a foreign brown substance on his pitching hand in not one but two playoff series and suddenly gone from pitching like Gerald Ford to Whitey Ford when the calendar turns to autumn. And everyone wants to blow it off and blame it on some dirt? That's a pile of horsecrap. This guy was blatantly cheating and should have been called out for it and tossed from the game, if not the series. Everyone wants to sweep this under the rug because it would ruin a feel-good story, the kind baseball so desperately craves, and divert attention away from an entertaining postseason. It would be yet another black eye for a sport still recovering from steroid scandals, All Star Game fiascos and the recent death of Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle.

But let's call it like it is. I never believed that Rogers had turned himself around to become this grandfatherly leader of men, model citizen and all-around good guy. Is he the first pitcher to use pine tar on his hand, especially in cold weather, in order to grip the ball better? Hell no. But he is the one allegedly doing it now, in the midst of a marvelous postseason run for his Tigers, and by doing so he threatens to wash away all the good things Detroit has worked so hard to accomplish all season. There is no doubt in my mind he is cheating- the guy mauled a cameraman for crying out loud, what's a little pine tar on the hand to him?-and there is also no doubt in my mind that every player on both teams knows he did it. But everyone, including the Cardinal players & manager and MLB officials, appear willing to let it blow over, so what's done is done. The next chapter in this story will be in Game 6 when Rogers is scheduled to take the hill again. And you can travel to Vegas & bet the house that his hands will be cleaner than a surgical instrument.
As for the game the Tigers wasted no time in getting to Cards starter Jeff Weaver (5IP, 9H, 3R, 1BB, 5Ks.) Emerging star Craig Monroe, who is making up for spending 6 years in the minors, picked up where he left off in Game 1 when he hit the 1st pitch of the 9th inning for a confidence boosting home run. This time he hit the 1st pitch of the 1st inning for a one-out moon shot off of Weaver the Underachiever to give Detroit that early lead they so badly needed to help erase the memories of the 7-2 Gm 1 beating. Monroe now has 5 homers this postseason, matching Detroit legend Hank Greenberg's record. The more I see of him & Granderson the more I love those guys.

Detroit added another run that inning on an RBI double by Carlos Guillen (3-3, 1R, 1RBI) and that ended up being all The Cheater would need to pick up the win. Detroit added an insurance run in the 5th on a Sean Casey singled, which made it a little easier to stomach the horrendous job Todd Jones did in the 9th. he allowed the only cardinal run on 2 hits, his own error and a HBP, but ended it on a groundout with the bases loaded. he then went into the postgame presser and said the substance on Rogers' hand could have been chocolate cake. Ha ha.

KEY PLAY: Monroe's homer. It set the tempo and gave the Tigers confidence that they could get to Weaver in this one. It also gave Rogers an early lead, and with that loaded up palm, that would be all he needed.

HERO: Guillen. He was a homer short of the cycle, was involved in all the Tigers scoring plays and the natural SS is playing phenomenal defense at first in place of Casey.

GOAT: Rogers. He has taken all the attention away from the Tigers win, the Series, and his own phenomenal run by involving talk of cheating and fair play. Nice job, Dirtman.

NOTES: The last time a pitcher was ejected for an illegal substance in the playoffs was Los Angeles Dodger reliever Jay Howell in the 1988 NLCS. Howell was found to have pine tar on his glove and subsequently suspended for 2 games...The Cheater joined Christy Matthewson as the only pitcher to have 3 scoreless starts in 1 postseason.

"It was a big clump of dirt, and I wiped it off," Rogers said. "I didn't know it was there, and they told me and I took it off, and it wasn't a big deal."
He better hope the Tigers win it all and he can ride off into the sunset without any more incidents to tarnish his already well-blemished reputation.

Game 3 is tomorrow night in St.Louis. Nasty Nate Robertson (1-1, 5.91) will start for Detroit against cards ace (though not in the postseason) Chris Carpenter (2-1, 3.70) Carpenter has allowed 25 hits in 24.1 innings this postseason.Yikes.
MY PICK: Cards ride the strength of exposing the Dirtman as a cheatin' fool and crush the rusty Robertson (he hasn't pitched in 14 days)and Detroit,6-2.

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