ENOUGH WITH THE PEARL-CLUTCHING

10 examples of how baseball cheating is just the tip of the iceberg

Cheating in sports is nothing new. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Is anybody surprised that baseball is full of lowdown, dirty cheaters? Even more than you ever expected. Cheating and baseball go together, like peanut butter and jelly, rock and roll, cousins in Kentucky.

It used to be that pitchers merely gobbed on the baseball to make it dart and dive, Ty Cobb sharpened his spikes to put fear in fielders trying to tag him out, batters loaded their bats with cork and Super Balls, it was enough for shortstops to come within 10 feet of touching second base on double plays, and pitchers scooting up from the rubber before releasing the ball.

Cheating is part of baseball lore. It's tradition. It's practically cute.

Now, of course, baseball has become a halfway house, and I'm not talking about stadium attendance, which has been decreasing in recent years. Baseball is home to 21st century skulduggery, matching the KGB and CIA for inventive espionage.

Apparently the only difference between the 2017 (2018-19?) Astros and practically every other team is the Astros got caught. Not really punished, at least not the actual sign robbers, but the manager and general manager were suspended and later fired, the team lost draft picks and Astros owner Jim Crane was fined the coins under the cushions of his living room couch.

Now the latest, certainly won't be the last, baseball scandal has pitchers lathering up the ball with Gorilla Glue or rosin and Hawaiian Tropic for that "savage" slider.

There's a saying, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying," which has become such a stable in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations that nobody's quite sure who said it first. Some say it was Cubs first baseman Mark Grace (also the originator of "slump buster"), others insist it was pro wrestler Eddie Guerrero. I'd go with "Latino Heat" Guerrero since he was "guilty" of "accidentally" pinning his "girlfriend" Chyna to steal the Intercontinental Championship from her while the "impartial" referee "didn't see" his "strategy."

Of course baseball isn't alone as a school for scoundrels. Pro basketball has had its share of scandals, from a referee manipulating point spreads to pay off gambling debts, to officials allegedly freezing an envelope in the fishbowl to guarantee the New York Knicks first crack at drafting Patrick Ewing. For cheating in the NFL, just see "New England Patriots."

This made me think: is there any sport where it's impossible to cheat? I'm not talking about athletes using performance enhancing drugs, I'm pretty confident everybody does it, and I'm not convinced steroids are a bad thing if used intelligently in small amounts. Plus steroids can carry an athlete only so far. Sure, the juice was able to help Ivan Drago kill Apollo Creed, but not even steroids couldn't stop the Italian Stallion from dropping Drago in the 15th round.

Horse racing: Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has flunked so many drug tests that the horse may be sentenced to a halfway stable.

Cricket: In 2018, television cameras caught Australian national team bowler (pitcher) Cameron Bancroft roughing up the ball with sandpaper during a match against South Africa. Although he had nothing to do with the cheating, Australia's coach resigned. Bancroft, who was suspended, said other bowlers tamper with the bowl, too. The scandal is now referred to Down Under as "Sandpaper Gate."

Tennis: College players and amateurs often call their own lines in tournaments. Sometimes, a player will call an out ball in, and vice-versa. It happens, even veteran pros like Roger Federer can't clearly see where the ball bounces. But when a player makes a mistake on purpose, it's called "hooking." Also, there's a (stupid) rule that outlaws players from receiving signals from coaches in the stands at Grand Slam events. Remember when Serena Williams was caught receiving coaching, was hit with a code violation and raised holy hell at the 2018 U.S. Open - only to have her coach later admit that he was guilty? Didn't they just arrest a Russian player for accepting a bribe to throw a doubles match at the French Open?

Little League baseball: Teams have been expelled from the Williamsport World Series for playing kids who live outside their district or are older than the age restriction. Also, there's a company that will take your child's metal bat, remove the cap and scrape (shave) the inside so the bat is lighter than legal. Also, the company will "roll" the bat on a device that looks like the grill used for movie theater hot dogs to make the bat harder and stronger.

Golf: Some of the most famous players on the PGA Tour have accused one successful pro of improving his ball's lie ("building sandcastles in bunkers"). To its credit, golf may be the cleanest pro sport – there's a code of fair play and honesty that most players honor.

Marathon: The course is 26.2 miles, the distance that Greek soldier Pheidippides ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens on Sept. 12, 490 B.C. to tell the townspeople that Greece beat the Persians. 1980 Rosie Ruiz knew a shortcut.

Boxing: Sonny Liston was accused of having his trainers smear eye-irritant liniment on his boxing gloves during his fight against Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) in 1964. Other trainers, according to boxing lore, were not opposed to slipping a horseshoe or concrete powder in their boxer's gloves.

Last one – jai alai: Tales of game fixing are rife in the Florida betting sport. True story, at the start of my journalism career, this long slow climb to the middle, I used to attend jai alai at the Melbourne fronton on a regular basis. I always sat toward the front, down on the left, for the best view of the action. I got to know the players pretty well. One day, one of the players waved his cesta at me and mouthed some words I didn't understand. I figured, this is it, he's supposed to win that game. He's clueing me in. What a pal! So I loaded up on him. He finished out of the money. The next day, I caught him in the parking lot and said, "What happened, why'd you tell me to bet on you?" He said, "No, I was telling you that we're having a picnic Sunday afternoon and you're invited." Most expensive hot dogs I ever ate.

Conclusion: All sports are fixed. Everybody cheats. Deal with it.

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Watch out for AJ Allmendinger this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons

The NASCAR Cup Series closes out the Round of 12 this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America Roval 400. The Round of 12 has been just as wild and unpredictable as the rest of the playoffs and now they go to a track known for crazy finishes. One part of this track to look out for is turn one. Appropriately called “the Tums Heartburn Turn” many drivers have a lot of trouble getting into this corner but with these cars being much better at road courses, we might not see as much calamity in this corner as we have in the past. We are expecting low temps in the 40s this weekend in Charlotte, so it might be difficult to find grip in these new tires.

It was announced Thursday that William Byron had won his appeal from the Texas incident with Denny Hamlin. His points have now been rescinded and are now back above the 8th-place cutoff in the playoffs. This is a HUGE win for Hendrick Motorsports as they now get three of their cars back into the playoff picture with Chase Elliott punching his ticket last weekend. Byron is not out of the woods yet, and he’s still only 14 points ahead of 9th. The same can’t be said about his teammate Alex Bowman. As we all know, the Arizona native was sidelined last week at Talladega with concussion-like symptoms, his injuries will keep him out of this week's race at the Roval.

Bowman won’t be the only driver out this week, as Cody Ware and Kurt Busch will also miss this week's race as well. This is the first time since 2001 that three or more drivers would miss time due to injuries. We have beat the drum over and over about this car and how safety is a major concern, and it seems as if NASCAR is working towards a fix, but it won’t be till next season. One solution that has been offered is a fix to the headrest that keeps the drivers in place. Dale Earnarhdt Jr had a great idea of adding more foam to cushion the impacts. These next four races will feature two mile-and-a-half tracks, a road course, and a short track, so there is a lot of concern for the tracks like Las Vegas and Homestead as the cars are carrying a high amount of speed all around the racetrack. Let's hope to get a safe race like we did last week at Talladega.

As I mentioned earlier, Chase Elliott went on to win at Talladega to clinch his spot in the semi-final round. The race was a fairly clean race as there was only one multi-car wreck, we didn’t see a lot of the crazy blocks that we see on these types of superspeedways because a lot of these drivers were being extra cautious. The fans were treated to a pretty fantastic finish as Chase Elliott passed Ryan Blaney on the final lap to win his fifth race of 2022.

After a disappointing 29th place finish, things only got worse for Kevin Harvick and his crew chief Rodney Childers. His Ford Mustang was taken to the Research and Development Center, where they would find illegal body modifications to the rear decklid. A massive 100-point penalty would be levied on the team and Childers would be suspended for four weeks. Many people including Kevin Harvick himself would talk about how ironic it was that such a heavy penalty would come after his comments regarding the parts, but it’s important to note that Martin Truex Jr has also said similar things and his car did not fail inspection. With this penalty and Harvick’s feelings about the car, his future beyond 2023 is becoming increasingly unclear.

There was some big news regarding Kaulig racing this weekend as it was announced that AJ Allmendinger will be promoted to the Cup Series full-time in 2023. While the move seemed to be a backup plan as Kaulig missed out on Kyle Busch, this is still awesome to see considering how fast AJ has been not just in the Xfinity Series but in his limited Cup Series starts as well. With an average finish of 17.4, he is a certain contender for the playoffs, especially with the hefty amount of road courses on the schedule next year.

With all that being said, AJ is the driver that I am predicting will win this weekend at the Charlotte Roval. Aside from his incredible road course ability, he has a knack for getting around this place. In the Xfinity Series that he runs full-time, no one has a better average finish than him and three victories. Anytime the Cup Series goes to a road course you know that AJ is the driver to watch, he’s scored six top tens and 3 top fives in his road course start since 2019. Look for him to become the record-breaking 20th different winner in 2022

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