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Questions linger about Rockies' baseballs

9/21/2010

The Giants have to play in Denver next weekend, and everyone's still not convinced that the Rockies are playing fair with their humidified baseballs. John Shea:

    In the Rockies' series, which could go far in determining the outcome of the NL West, the humidor could be a subplot. The humidor is used to make balls less hitter-friendly in the thin air of the Mile High City, but what if some non-humidor balls were in the mix with the Rockies at bat?

    In July, the voice of the Giants, Jon Miller, said in a KNBR interview that he had heard from people in the game that something fishy could be happening with the baseballs, which are to be humidified and used by both teams.

    --snip--

    The team scoffs when anyone challenges how it transports balls from the humidor to the pitcher's hand.

    Kevin Kahn, the Rockies' vice president of ballpark operations, said dozens of game balls are removed from the humidor (in a room near the Rockies' clubhouse) on game day, rubbed up by the umpires' attendant and deposited into a ball bag that is returned to the humidor. After the national anthem, the attendant transfers the ball bag from the humidor to the end of the Rockies' dugout.

    During games, when the plate umpire is low on baseballs, a ball boy situated near the bag pulls out some and runs them to the ump.

    MLB doesn't monitor the process in person, and Kahn said the umpires' attendant is a Rockies employee. So what's to prevent the Rockies from slipping in a non-humidor ball when the team needs a big rally?

    "The integrity of the manager [Jim Tracy] and coaching staff would prevent that," said Kahn.

I do not believe the Rockies are tampering with the baseballs.

That said, I am decidedly not reassured by the integrity of the manager and the coaching staff. What, the Rockies have somehow managed to find the first manager and coaches in major league history who wouldn't cheat if they thought they could get away with it? And if so, shouldn't they fire them and hire some guys who will cheat?

I'm not being completely serious. But inside the game, it's sort of expected that you'll take whatever edges you can get. And if that means stealing signs, taking steroids, managing from the clubhouse after you've been ejected, teaching your pitchers to throw spitballs ... Well, if you ain't cheating you ain't trying and it's only cheating if you get caught.

My guess is that Major League Baseball is going to take a serious look at humidor procedures this winter. And not just in Denver, because other cities have humidors, too. Maybe MLB can knock down unemployment a few points by hiring "baseball attendants" for all the humidified ballparks.