Did Miguel Tejada Tip Pitches In 2001?S

The New York Times seems to think he did, only the paper says so in such a mealymouthed and sidelong way that one starts to wonder if something else is going on here.

Reporter David Waldstein cites a Oakland-Toronto series in May 2001, during which Tejada and Blue Jays third baseman Tony Batista, a friend from the Dominican Republic, both hit well. Tejada went 4 for 10 with three home runs; Batista, 6 for 13, with a home run.

More significant in the eyes of some of the players was an incident in the second game of the series. Tejada did not get to an easy ground ball Batista hit off reliever Mark Guthrie with the Athletics leading, 8-2. When the inning was over, A's players fumed on the bench.

Tejada, now 35, said his teammates were skeptical because Batista dropped a foul pop-up he hit in the previous game.

Lacking any hard evidence, Waldstein places the accusations in the mouths of some of Tejada's former A's mates, whose suspicions were further aroused in July 2001 when Tejada "failed to catch what appeared to some as a soft line drive off the bat of Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Adrian Beltre," a teammate of Tejada's in the Dominican Winter League. By the middle of the month, some A's players had grown so wary of their shortstop that manager Art Howe was forced to shake himself from his seasonlong nap and convene a team meeting:

Not surprisingly, several people who attended the meeting, in the A's home clubhouse, described it as contentious and ugly. Frank Menechino, an A's infielder at the time, said the veteran Ron Gant took control at the first hint that it might turn nasty.

"I think Ron Gant calmed it down before it snowballed into anything big," said Menechino, now the hitting instructor for the Class AA Trenton Thunder. "Like: ‘Hey, man, we can't worry about what the other teams are doing in this league. But we can't pull the Dominican guys out of our team and suspect them of anything until we catch them.' He basically calmed everything down. Everything was fine after that. I seriously can't prove, say, yes or no, that guys were doing it. But who knows?"

[...]

Johnny Damon, who played for the Athletics then, absolved Tejada by saying observant opponents had been interpreting Tejada's inadvertent cues.

"Miggy was telling guys there was no way he would be doing it," Damon said. "I think what we concluded was that the hitters were seeing him move on certain pitches. That happens, you'll see a young player move closer to the hole on a fastball away, you'll see him creep a little toward the hole. I think that's what it all came down to, Miggy not being able to hide the extra steps. But it seemed like all the Dominican guys were killing us."

And with that last bit, the team meeting sounds less like an airing of well-founded suspicions than an exercise in a sort of clubhouse McCarthyism. There's a persistent and especially odious stereotype in baseball that suggests Latino players lack a certain loyalty to their teams, that they act as a sort of free-floating junta within the game. Many years ago, the former Giants skipper Alvin Dark famously questioned their "mental alertness," adding, "You can't make most Negro and Spanish players have the pride in their team that you can get from white players," and, "One of the biggest things is that you can't make them subordinate themselves to the best interest of the team." (This has a political corollary in the longstanding notion that minorities, and especially blacks, are insufficiently patriotic.) Nearly a half-century later, you find no less than Keith Hernandez accusing the Mets' Latino faction of conspiring to get Willie Randolph canned. There's a vast and fetid history of this, and it has never been more than a lot of racist hooey, and so forgive me if I'm a little skeptical of a Times story whose every paragraph rings with echoes of Alvin Dark.


Friendship or Betrayal From Inside the Lines?
[New York Times]