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Was Mariano Rivera throwing a spitball?

Oct 20, 2009, 8:39 AM EDT

Watch the video here.  And check out the pic to the right.  This took place in the bottom of the 10th yesterday, right after he completed his warmup pitches.  He’s facing away from home plate.

Call me crazy, but it appears to me like Rivera looks up to see if anyone is watching, then looks down and spits right on the ball.  Is that the secret to his cutter? Anyone have an alternate explanation as to what is going on?

Holy smokes. I have to imagine we’ll hear more about this as the day goes on.

UPDATE:  I’ve had a bunch of conversations with a bunch of people on this in the past hour.  Some general observations/questions:

Q: Is Mariano definitely spitting on the ball?

A: Hard to say. Looks like it to me, but the cutaway is quick and the angle could be deceiving. I’m just going with my first impression of what the video and photo show.  I’d kill for another angle of this.

Q: Do you actually throw a spitball by, you know, spitting on the ball?

A: It’s not the most traditional way — according to everything I’ve read merely wetting the fingers is more common — but it’s certainly been done.  Really, anything that either (a) adds a viscous fluid to the ball to alter its flight; or (b) lubes it up to decrease friction upon release, thereby increasing the spin and thus the ultimate drop is sufficient.

Q: If it is a spitball, why would Rivera be so obvious about it?  He’s a smart guy. He’d try to hide it better, wouldn’t he?

A: Maybe so. But isn’t it just as valid to say that Rivera, one of the most talented pitchers ever, never had to use a spitball before, and thus if he is now, he’s less likely to be practiced at it than a guy who had to cheat just to keep his job?

I have no idea what he’s doing here — and I simply don’t want to believe that Rivera was throwing a spitter, because I’ve always admired and respected the guy — but it doesn’t seem satisfying to simply say “Mariano would never do this, so he didn’t do it.”  The video is very, very interesting.  It may be completely debunked by another angle — and if anyone has one, please send it ASAP and I’ll update.  But for now, it’s all we have.

I know I have a reputation for baiting Yankees fans, but I am sincere in asking whether or not Rivera was doing this.  I don’t know, and I’m open to alternate interpretations and evidence.

(thanks to Jason Epstein for the link)


Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that MLB “is investigating video that shows Mariano Rivera spitting toward a baseball before facing his first batter in the 10th inning of Game 3.”  Sherman notes that “the initial reaction by the league is that the video plus still pictures they have of the incident are inconclusive.”

UPDATE #3As Aaron notes, evidence was found of a spitter, which presumably closes the case.

  1. lightfighter - Oct 21, 2009 at 4:55 AM

    BruinsGirl, I think you need to get better glasses. And what do you know? With all due respect, what makes you such an expert? Take another look and then you will see.

  2. jaymen - Oct 21, 2009 at 2:34 PM

    wouldn’t he have to spit on EVERY ball that was used ? … it’s not like one ball stays in play for more than a few minutes

  3. CONCRETE JUNGLE - Oct 22, 2009 at 4:25 PM


  4. CONCRETE JUNGLE - Oct 22, 2009 at 4:26 PM


  5. concrete jungle - Oct 22, 2009 at 4:29 PM

    thanks to Jason Epstein for the link
    Theo Epsteins little bro ??? this is where you get info from Craig.w

  6. concrete jungle - Oct 22, 2009 at 4:34 PM

    too bad, i could careless as long as it can’t be hit

  7. comeonman - Oct 23, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    It would be more interesting if it was VOMIT………….
    I hope Jorge washes his hands before he eats a Post Game meal …..

  8. Squids - Oct 31, 2009 at 8:33 PM

    Seriously, Craig, I think this was one of your weakest posts and one which was poorly thought out on your part. Anyone who believes they can conclusively tell what happened from that angle should go back to geometry class. Everyone gets educated about TV angles each Saturday and Sunday during football season. How many times do you see a player cross the goaline and you can’t tell from one angle but it is decisive from another angle. This video gives no depth perspective and is no different than those replays we see in football. For some reason you are writing a biased article against Mo and here are my reasons for giving him the benefit of doubt:
    1) Your essetially saying he would risk getting caught and suspended during the PLAYOFFS, for that matter, to throw ONE spitter as the first pitch of the inning. I would hope, from watching Mo pitch, you would understand that he is the best closer ever because he is one of the smartest pitchers to ever play the game. If he spit on the ball that had to be one of the most bone head plays even for the Milton Bradley’s of the world. I believe he is smarter than that.
    2) ARE YOU NUTS saying Mo has “lost some of his stuff so he might cheat”. He had one of his best years ever. He looked like “Jake Taylor” out there. Give me a break. While his velocity has declined from his peak he has used experience and perfected pitch location to remain the game’s elite closer.
    When the Michael Jordan’s. LeBron Jamee’s, Tiger Wood’s of the world are playing in front of our eyes we should all enjoy their feats and soak in the great sports moments they give us. Don’t try to tarnish them with petty allegations like a manipulative camera angle.

  9. wstxmike - Nov 4, 2009 at 5:34 AM

    seems the PROOF is in the pudding,or as Gaylord used to tell us down here in Texas…… ya’ll

  10. Estell Mcclory - Feb 13, 2010 at 6:08 PM

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  11. Background Checking - Mar 4, 2010 at 10:04 PM

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  12. Rosie Desai - Mar 8, 2010 at 2:44 PM

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