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Opinion

Rogers makes a run at historic record

Ben Brewster

October 26, 2006

Tigers starting pitcher Kenny Rogers has, for the past few weeks, put together a playoff run nearly unmatched in baseball history. He now has 23 consecutive scoreless innings spanning three starts this postseason, which date back to his start in Game 3 of the ALDS against New York. During those three starts Rogers struck out 19 batters and gave up nine hits without allowing any earned runs.

Rogers’ postseason streak is second only to Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson who threw 27 consecutive scoreless innings in the 1905 World Series while pitching for the New York Giants. If the World Series reaches Game 6 – which is a safe bet considering one team would have to sweep all three games in St. Louis to end the series without reaching a Game 6 – Rogers will get his chance to make history, needing only four more innings to tie Mathewson’s record.

What Rogers is doing is even more amazing because over his career he has been a notoriously bad postseason pitcher. Coming into this year he had pitched in six postseason series – three with the Yankees, two with the Mets and one with the Twins – and in those series’ he had an 0-3 record with an 8.86 ERA. Most of that damage came with the Yankees and Mets, as he only pitched 1.1 innings in the Twins postseason series in 2003.

Nearing the end of his career, Rogers has become a man on a mission to make up for his past failures.

But his achievements have been somewhat overshadowed by a developing scandal. On the ESPN Web site it has already labeled it “Dirtgate.”

In his Game 2 start against St. Louis, the FOX cameraman zoomed in on Rogers’ hand which appeared to be smudged with a dark substance. Rogers claimed it was dirt, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa felt that was something else, like pine tar, which is used to help pitchers get a better grip on the ball in cold weather. The home plate umpire asked Rogers to wash his hands before the second inning, which he did, and went on to shut out the Cardinals for seven more innings.

Pine tar is common in baseball – batters often use it to get a grip on the bat, but it’s currently against the rules for pitchers to use it. If the pine tar, or whatever was on his hand, gave him any advantage it sure didn’t matter much with the way he pitched after it was gone. And if Rogers can get away with it, I say more power to him. Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford used to cut the ball with his wedding ring or have the catcher cut it with a buckle on his shin guard. He also threw what he called a “gunk ball,” which was a mixture of baby oil, turpentine and resin. Gaylord Perry was famous for keeping Vaseline on his sleeves or the bill of his cap to use during the game. Both Perry and Ford are in the Hall of Fame.

Rogers’ alleged cheating pales in comparison to those examples, or more serious forms of cheating, such as steroid use. The media is blowing it out of proportion when they should be focusing on more important things, like a great World Series and Rogers’ historical streak.

Ben Brewster is an alumnus of UW-River Falls. He was editor of the Student Voice during spring semester 2009.