Over at Hardball Talk, Craig Calcaterra directs our attention to a story of Jose Valverde possibly throwing a spitball. There are a couple of things that make this story amusing:
1. The story initially came from Mat Latos's wife, which is extra funny if you know how chirpy Mat Latos is. Of course he has a wife who would direct a tweet like that at Hardball Talk. The Latoseses are the best.
2. Jose Valverde
The next pitch was a fastball. It had movement on it alright, but so did the other fastballs Valverde threw in the inning. According to Brooks Baseball, both the horizontal and vertical movement of the possibly doctored fastball were almost identical to the movement of the two fastballs before that. But Calcaterra notes that the fastball in question had just a little more rotation compared to the fastballs that preceded it.
The GIF is hypnotizing. He definitely brings the glove up, and does he spit? Does he exhale? What does he do with the dirt after that? Is he wiping something off his hand? That brings to mind a passage from The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers that explains the decline and fall of the spitballer:
…every baseball game is now recorded from multiple angles, which would make it pretty tough for a suspected spitballer to get away with anything for long.
It was a nationally televised game. I find it hard to believe Valverde's strategy for deception was to raise his hand like he needs to go to the bathroom, bring the glove up to his mouth, and clearly spit on it.
But why does he bring the glove to his mouth? What else could he be doing? I want to invoke Occam's Razor here ... but that would indicate that he was either talking to the ball or spitting on it. Probably spitting on it. Though that brings up another point:
Jose Valverde is a little weird. He most certainly could have been blowing on the ball for good luck, or whispering sweet nothings into its leathery ear. That's the takeaway from this game. That's the takeaway from every game Valverde pitches in. Dude's a little weird.
This deserves a little scrutiny, and Valverde will get it. For the next few weeks, we'll pay more attention to Jose Valverde's mouth. Which is a strange thing to type. But that's probably all that will happen. If he's throwing spitters, he'll probably take it down a notch now that people are a little wise. If he's not throwing spitters, he'll just keep on doing weird, inscrutable things because he's Jose Valverde.
Did Jose Valverde throw a spitball? Maybe, possibly, I'm not sure, we'll never know, and probably not.
But then you look at the video again, and ... man, I don't know.