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Book drops real bombshell: Alex Rodriguez tipped pitches to opposing players

As accusations go, think of it as worse than steroids. Think of it as worse than a photo layout in Details magazine. For crying out loud, think of it as worse than Madonna.

Alex Rodriguez sold out his teammates.

If you believe the new book A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, it is as simple, and as dirty, as that.

At the core of it, once you get past the rehash and beyond the reflux, past the new stories of old drug use and on the other side of his infidelities, this is the part of the book by Selena Roberts that matters. According to her, Rodriguez used to tip opposing batters to which pitches were coming.

In other words, he betrayed his pitchers in exchange for a favor to be named later.

In other words, he tainted the game to plump up his statistics.

As allegations go, this is worse than anyone has ever said about Barry Bonds. Think of it as worse than the darkest secrets of Roger Clemens. For goodness' sake, think of it as worse than Pete Rose.

Wake up, Bud.

This time baseball has a real scandal.

I know, I know. You are weary of reading about Alex Rodriguez, and you would rather develop a rash than ever speak his name again. You are weary of reading about steroids, the new scarlet letter of sports. Most of all, you are weary of books about steroid scandals, whether the subject is Bonds or Clemens or Rodriguez.

This is different, however. And deep in Selig's offices, you get the feeling that Bud knows it, too.

Surely the investigation launches today. Doesn't it? When a book is making the most incriminating charge of this generation, how can Selig not look into it? Why wouldn't he launch "The Mitchell Report: The Sequel" immediately?

Don't underestimate the severity of what Rodriguez is being accused of here. It is vile, nasty stuff.

Steroids? Yes, steroids are a wicked thing. Politicians have postured, and America has scolded, and everyone agrees that a player pumping himself full of high-test is an awful thing.

When you think about it, however, at least those players were trying to make themselves better (and richer), which in turn would make their teams better (and richer). The only victims were integrity and the statistics of players long since gone.

Gambling? Yes, gambling is an evil thing. All of sports agree on that.

But if you're talking about Pete Rose, he was never accused of gambling as a player. And if Rose had not lied so loud and so often about betting while he was a manager, he probably would have been forgiven by now.

Rules-bending? Sure, it happens. Players cork bats, scuff balls and steal signs all the time. And it's wrong. Again, however, those things are usually an effort to gain an edge that a player would then use to help his team.

But this? Increasing the odds against your pitcher? That violates the trust of a clubhouse. Worse, it suggests that fans cannot always believe in the final result of a game. No sport can afford that.

This time it shouldn't be that hard for Selig to find out the truth. Watch a few game tapes and see if A-Rod really does twist his glove just before a changeup. Watch him sweep the dirt with his feet and see if a slider follows. Most of all, call in the middle infielders Rodriguez played against who were in on the dodge — because they would be just as guilty.

If there is a shame to the A-Rod book, it is that too much of it travels over familiar territory and not enough is devoted to the pitch-tipping. A bombshell like this, frankly, deserves more than four pages in a 255-page book.

Look, I understand why Roberts leaned on anonymous sources for the information; who is going to go on the record about this? Still, there should have been more details, down to the day and the game and the name of the opponent involved in the swapping. With a charge such as this, the more details, the more credibility. And frankly, I wanted to read more about pitch-tipping and less about waitress-tipping (A-Rod evidently goes only to 15 percent).

Perhaps Roberts did not have enough time. After all, the release of her book was moved up. If there is a criticism here, it is that the book has a rushed feeling to it. Roberts did such a crackerjack job (along with fellow Sports Illustrated reporter David Epstein) in breaking the original story about Rodriguez testing positive for steroids, it is natural that her book would have a recycled feel.

Are there useful tidbits in the book? Sure, it's interesting, but not essential, to learn that Rodriguez may have done steroids as a high school player. But once you establish that he has, does it really matter when he started?

Is the stuff about his dalliances with strippers interesting? Sure, in a gossip-over-the-fence way.

The meat of the book, however, is the part about Rodriguez as pitch snitch.

Steroids or not, that's the new book on A-Rod.

Book drops real bombshell: Alex Rodriguez tipped pitches to opposing players 05/04/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 5, 2009 9:53am]

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