Jon Heyman
Friday May 1st, 2009

Pitch tipping has been around baseball since the Giants won the pennant in 1951, at the very least, and probably a lot longer than that. The twist in the case of Alex Rodriguez, according to Selena Roberts' new A-Rod book, is that he was occasionally tipping players on the other team while he played with the Texas Rangers.

If true, that borders somewhere between nuts and sick.

Commissioner Bud Selig declined to say when asked whether Rodriguez might be called into his office yet again, this time to address the pitch tipping allegation, which involves signaling opposing players in blowouts about what's to come with the understanding they'll return the favor for him. But my strong belief is that there's a very good chance A-Rod will have another date with the commish. He absolutely should be called in.

It's interesting stuff, of course. But, believe it or not, this book, which will be released Monday, four of five days before Rodriguez is scheduled to return from the disabled list, may be a big relief to Rodriguez.

The New York Daily News hit most of the high points in the book on Thursday, though a 700-word newspaper story doesn't do justice to the 250-page book. The new steroid stuff in the book is fascinating, but unlike the failed steroid test story Roberts broke two months ago, it isn't likely to make A-Rod fall to pieces. The Yankees people I talked to Thursday seemed slightly relieved. And A-Rod may be, too. (He isn't saying, and his publicist, Lisa Gillson, didn't return calls).

The pitch-tipping stuff may be the most damning allegation in the book. And as far as that goes, I see him skating.

The thing Rodriguez has going for him in the case of the pitch-tipping allegation, and virtually everything else in Roberts' book, is plausible deniability. Unlike with Roberts' big steroid scoop in February, Rodriguez knows that Congress is too busy trying to fix the country to get involved now with pitch tipping. He knows that no one's going to be subpoenaed regarding pitch tipping, and that the worst that'll happen is he'll have to protest his innocence to Selig.

Denying comes easily to A-Rod, almost as easy hitting homers or turning a double play. So he's almost safe at home.

I congratulate my esteemed colleague Roberts for coming up with this tasty morsel (and seemingly everything else A-Rod has allegedly done wrong in his fascinating life). She's about the best reporter I've ever worked with, and she's certainly risen to the top of Rodriguez's "hates to face'' list. But unlike last time, A-Rod isn't going to have to jet off to some island to mull his choices about how to handle things, and there isn't going to be a staged national interview or press conference. This time, it looks like A-Rod will survive.

A member of the Rangers I called yesterday was unaware of A-Rod's alleged involvement in pitch tipping. That person did confirm the long-held belief that Rodriguez frequently was calling the pitches for their own pitchers -- "You know, he thinks he invented baseball,'' the person said -- so that might at least explain why he knew which pitches were coming.

But that doesn't prove the veracity of the allegation, either. And unlike in the case of A-Rod's failed drug test, there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason Rodriguez has to admit it now. Unlike with the failed drug test, there's no paperwork, no reasonable concern about Congress getting involved and no real reason for A-Rod to remember it that way.

Rodriguez's big problem when Roberts broke the story of A-Rod failing baseball's 2003 survey steroid test is that he understood how ugly things could get when a player of his stature lies about steroids. He saw it firsthand with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. One is under indictment, the other should be.

Though Roberts' book is unflattering to A-Rod, the big bombshells are already out. The book contains some serious steroid allegations, and as with the failed steroid test, they rely on unnamed sources. The difference here is that the new drug charges don't involve anything quite as vital as a failed steroid test, and there doesn't seem to be a scenario where A-Rod will be forced to answer to any of it.

One allegation involves an unnamed person saying his high school coach's son told someone Rodriguez took steroids back in high school. Another involves someone with the Yankees saying they saw Rodriguez and the already-implicated ex-Yankee Kevin Brown with HGH (Brown denied this story to Roberts in the book).

Another allegation involves players supposedly noticing physical changes in 2005, including the emergence of "b---- t---.'' I do recall a year where Rodriguez got round (though I couldn't find anyone Thursday who recalled the "b---- t---'' nickname.) This will undoubtedly draw snickers but probably isn't something that will necessitate further investigation.

There are also speculative quotes in the book from Canseco regarding Rodriguez's alleged high school steroid use. And while Canseco's steroid batting average is pretty good, let's not give him too much credit. Canseco did sign a false sworn federal affidavit that Clemens wasn't at a party at Canseco's house (that was a key detail in trainer Brian McNamee's story of Clemens' steroid use) and Canseco did shake down people for cash not to appear in his book (I know a few who were shaken down).

Rodriguez initially denied comment about the Roberts book after his workout in Tampa Thursday. But if he does say anything, it may be to remind folks that he's passed all the steroid tests since 2004 (there is no test for HGH, of course). The rest he can either deny or ignore.

The classy Angels privately decided they are going to do what they can to honor the memory of Nick Adenhart, the promising rookie pitcher whose life was tragically ended at 22 when he was killed by a drunken driver. "Nick was looking down on us, saying, 'What are you doing?' '' Angels star Torii Hunter said during the Angels difficult start following Adenhart's death.

The Angels players and staff quietly held a memorial for Adenhart last week in an effort to honor the well-liked pitcher. They also have been reminding themselves they have a job to do, which is to fulfill nearly everyone's expectation to win the AL West, a job made more difficult by injuries to starting pitchers John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar, a setback for Vladimir Guerrero (who's showing his age -- remember, he's 34, not 33) and uncharacteristic struggles by a bullpen that has a league-worst 6.82 ERA. "He's in a better place,'' Hunter said of Adenhart. "He's a competitor. He wants us to go out and play the game right. We're starting to believe that, too.''

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• Emerging star Matt Kemp is used to being compared to Dave Winfield, but Dodgers manager Joe Torre had a new comp when he invoked A-Rod's name (in a good way). Torre likened Kemp's center-field power to Rodriguez's, and along those lines, hitting coach Don Mattingly is working with him on hitting the ball straight up the middle. And other folks are now starting to see the greatness that has been predicted for him. Kemp is taking better routes to balls, and is even looking better on the basepaths now.

• Anyone who thought Jonathan Broxton wouldn't adapt to the closer's role can shut up now. He has about two strikeouts per nine so far.

• This one might annoy the Dodgers, but Andruw Jones, who last year had an .086 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position, has a 1.500 slugging percentage this year. That's right, in six at-bats, he has five hits (plus five walks). He also has a 2.423 OPS in such situations (compared to .336 last year.) If this works out, Rudy Jaramillo just might be the best hitting coach of all time.

• Speculation of a trade-deadline deal involving Cliff Lee, first mentioned by CBSsports.com's Danny Knobler, is not crazy at all. The CC Sabathia trade worked nicely for them (and especially the Brewers) last year, so if they don't turn things around ...

Trevor Hoffman is already worth it for the Brewers, two saves in. His name alone brings a little gravitas to their roster.

• Nobody can be making fun of Brewers catcher Jason Kendall's pick of Yovani Gallardo for Cy Young winner, either.

• Rockies rookie Dexter Fowler became the first player since 1954 to steal five bases within the first four innings of a game when he did it against the Padres.

Matt Holliday finally hit his first homer as an Oakland A. And he needed the Texas Ranger wind tunnel to do it.

• The Marlins' bullpen may be questionable, but not too many teams have a combo like Leo Nunez and Matt Lindstrom, at least when it comes to velocity. Nunez hit 99 in a game this week at Citi Field (the wind was blowing a gale in), Lindstrom touched 100.

• Anyone notice that Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann, the Nats' No. 4 and 5 starters, are both 2-0. They aren't bad (Zimmermann especially). If the Nats can somehow sign all-time amateur prospect Stephen Strasburg, the San Diego State phenom who throws 100 and combines it with a "legit hammer'' (the words of a Nats person regarding his breaking ball), they might actually have something there.

• And, by the way, Strasburg adviser Scott Boras will be seeking a Daisuke Matsuzaka deal ($52 million for six years) for his client.

• In the meantime, the Nats are surely going to set a record for dropped flies (if records were kept for such things).

• One more thing on the Nats. I love Pedro Martinez. But doesn't he make more sense for a team ready to win now? Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal first mentioned the Nats as a possibility for Pedro, and there is indeed evidence of contact there.

• First bit of bad news for the awesome Red Sox. John Smoltz suffered a slight setback.

Scott Schoeneweis' most common play: the bases-loaded walk.

• Best April turnaround: the Yankees' Robinson Cano hit .366 this April compared to .151 last April. His buddy Melky Cabrera didn't have a bad April either, wresting the center field job from Brett Gardner. Gardner didn't last long as the Yankees' starting center fielder, did he?

Nick Swisher, who was beaten out for the right field job, was the Yankees' second best player in April and is already a fan favorite (.312 this April, .223 last April). Good thing, too, because the White Sox felt he got down quickly last year when he hit on bad luck in April.

• Good to see the Yankees do something to try to rectify their overpriced ticket situation. Though, it also would have been nice for players to chip in to buy some of the unsold seats. OK, I'll stop dreaming now.

• The Mets seem much more depressed than your average 9-12 team. But that might have something to do with their two straight terrible season finishes.

Jerry Manuel never talks about it, and says he never thinks about it, but Manuel must be wondering about now why he only got a two-year deal.

• Manuel's own feeling about Ramon Castro became obvious when he called upon the team's other backup catcher, Omir Santos, to pinch hit with the game on the line two days after Santos' first career RBIs. A lot of Mets people lost faith in Castro (not just Manuel) when he turned down a chance to become the starting catcher two winters ago (they came to believe he didn't want to give up his nights out).

• I love the Zack Greinke story, just love it.

• The Street.com got rid of Lenny Dykstra's stock advice column, but not before losing just about all credibility as a financial Web site. Are they kidding? They charged a thousand bucks for this buffoon's stock picks? Dykstra recently claimed in an ESPN.com article he was 92-0 with his picks last year, a year in which a true genius, Warren Buffett, lost $25 billion. But, of course, it was explained that the reason he can go 92-0 is because he never sells the losers, so therefore they go unrecorded. No matter what anyone thinks of A-Rod's credibility, he never told a whopper that big.

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