Chicago White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle intimated earlier this season that Greg Maddux’s Hall of Fame career was partly the result of doctoring the baseball.
Buehrle was at it again last Monday, calling the Texas Rangers a team of cheaters.
After giving up seven runs to the Rangers on Monday, Buehrle said he believed something was fishy, and that perhaps the Rangers were flashing signals to their hitters via their electronic scoreboard in center field.
"I’ve heard rumors, and it’s not just me saying this. I’ve heard this from tons of people on other teams,’’ Buehrle said.
"No one knows (how they cheat), but people think something’s going on here because they hit so good at home. As good as they do hit here, it has to raise an eyebrow."
The Rangers’ hitting success at home has been long noticed, but most baseball people consider it a byproduct of the warm air that helps the ball carry.
Buehrle’s comments were taped in the Rangers’ clubhouse next to the lineup card on Tuesday, with pertinent passages highlighted.
"I’m not mad; it’s hilarious," first baseman Mark Teixeira said.
"I’ve got to believe he’s kidding," said infielder Mark DeRosa, who doubled and homered off Buehrle in the Rangers’ 7-5 victory. "If he wasn’t, I would find that disrespectful."
And DH Phil Nevin jokingly asked Showalter why the lights weren’t working when he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Monday night.
Buehrle made it clear Tuesday that he was not joking.
"There were certain pitches that you’d throw that they’d lay off of them like they knew it was coming, or they’d hit them like they knew it was coming," Buehrle said.
"You could tell by their at-bats and the pitches you made that they put better swings on it than they really should."
The Rangers were hitting .285 with 125 homers at home earlier this week while hitting .256 on the road.
Many in the Texas camp dismissed Buehrle’s charges, talking about difficulty of looking for signs in a scoreboard while watching for a pitch. They also talked about the likelihood that an ex-Ranger would have blabbed if they were cheating.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen shot down Buehrle’s theory.
"The way Buehrle pitched, it seemed like they didn’t need no signs,’’ Guillen said. "Everything Buehrle pitched was right down the middle of the plate, sinker, slider or change-up, whatever he was throwing."
Texas pitchers have been hammered at home, too.
Baltimore released Sidney Ponson earlier this week, believing his two DUI incidents in the past 10 months — and three in nine years — were grounds to void his contract.
Ponson is owed $10 million, including $7.5 million in 2006, but the Orioles will not have to pay Ponson if an arbitrator rules that he is in violation of the morals clause in the standard players contract. The clause reads:
"The player agrees to perform his services hereunder diligently and faithfully, to keep himself in first-class physical condition and to obey the club’s training rules, and pledges himself to the American public and to the club to conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship."
The Colorado Rockies attempted to void pitcher Denny Neagle’s contract after his arrest over the winter for solicitation of prostitution, 14 months after he was cited for a DUI. The players association filed a grievance, and the two sides settled during a break in the hearing. Neagle accepted $16 million of the $19 million he was owed.
The New York Yankees succeeded in voiding outfielder Ruben Rivera’s contract in 2002 after he admitted to stealing teammate Derek Jeter’s glove in spring training in order to sell it to a memorabilia dealer. Team officials transferred his contract to nonguaranteed status and cut him without any objections from the players association.
"The first thing (Ponson) has to do is save his life, and then think about his career," Orioles pitching coach and former manager Ray Miller said.
"But in the meantime, this is a business and other people’s lives are affected deeply. Feeling sorry for someone isn’t always in the picture when you know other people worked as hard as they could and got cheated by somebody."
MORE ILL WILL
The White Sox’s Jermaine Dye homered twice and drove in six runs in the second game of a doubleheader against Texas on Tuesday, then was hit by a pitch when he batted in the ninth inning.
"I’m not saying (Texas manager Buck) Showalter is a head hunter, and I’m not saying the guy hit him on purpose," Guillen said. "I’m saying that it was the wrong place at the wrong time. It might not be on purpose, but it looked ugly."
Fearing retribution, Showalter pinch-hit for Mark Teixeira in the last of ninth. Teixeira drove in six runs in the first game of the pair.
On Wednesday, White Sox reliever Damaso Marte threw two pitches inside to Teixeira, forcing him out of the batter’s box. Both benches were warned and there was no further incident.
Considered an extra piece behind Jim Thome, Ryan Howard was available in a trade the last two years, although no one would meet Philadelphia’s admittedly high asking price.
With Thome out for the year, Howard has provided a John Mayberry-type power bat during the Phillies’ playoff run.
Howard had homers Wednesday and Thursday as the Phillies took the final two games of a three-game series against the Mets, homering off Pedro Martinez the first day and hitting a 430-footer off Braden Looper on the next.
"Big man, big power," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said.
So now it is Thome (and his $46 million contract) the Phils will try to move this offseason, although prospective trading partners might be leery of the risk after Thome’s back problems earlier this year and recent season-ending elbow surgery.
• "I know I’m not supposed to talk about this, but I think what it shows is that steroid testing is working. I keep track of all the home runs I give up and I’ll ask you where are some of these guys who hit them? Not in the game or broke down, that’s where." — Detroit reliever Jamie Walker, on the decline of home runs.
• "I hear a lot of what is said about me on those shows and it really ticks me off. Guys who call and blast me will have an effect on whether I want to come back here next season. My kids hear this stuff and it makes me mad." — Cleveland’s Bob Wickman, who admits he listens to sports talk radio.
• In the wake of Milton Bradley’s most recent spat, the Dodgers will try to trade him in the offseason; if they are unsuccessful, they likely will not offer him a contract by the December deadline for arbitration-eligible players, making him a free agent.
• If investor Stuart Sternberg becomes Tampa Bay’s new "control person’’ before the 2006 season, as expected, he will buy out the final year of manager Lou Piniella’s $4.4 million contract. Piniella wants out unless payroll is increased, and Sternberg does not intend to do that.
•Albert Pujols is the fourth player in major league history to have 100 RBIs in each of his first five seasons in the Majors, joining Al Simmons, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. Simmons drove in 100 in each of his first 11 seasons. Williams went eight in a row; DiMaggio seven.
• Roy Oswalt: Houston hurler is 15-0 in his career against Cincinnati.
• Andruw Jones: Atlanta slugger had 11 home runs and 29 RBIs in August.
• Jeremy Hemida: Florida top prospect hit a grand slam in his first major league at-bat, the first time that has happened since April 21, 1898.
• Rafael Palmeiro: Oriole first baseman is 2-for-26 with one RBI since returning from his steroid suspension.
• Pedro Martinez: New York Mets ace gave up four homers to the Phillies on Wednesday, the first time he has given up that many in a game since 1998.