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Questions swirl about the Rockies' humidor

Sep 21, 2010, 10:30 AM EDT

And by “questions swirl” I mean “lots of people are wanting to make an accusation about the Rockies messing with the humidor, but don’t have enough evidence to do so, so they phrase their accusations in the form of questions so as to make it seem like they’re not accusing anyone of anything”:

The humidor is used to make balls less hitter-friendly in the thin air of the Mile High City but what if some non-humidor balls were in the mix with the Rockies at bat?

In July, the voice of the Giants, Jon Miller, said in a KNBR
interview that he had heard from people in the game that something fishy
could be happening with the baseballs, which are to be humidified and
used by both teams.

“I wasn’t making accusations. I was saying there were people on the
Giants and apparently other teams talking about something could be going
on,” Miller said Monday . . . Two
Dodgers coaches questioned a reporter in San Francisco last week about
the validity of the humidor process, suggesting the Rockies could use
non-humidor balls if the process isn’t monitored properly.

It doesn’t sound like it would be that hard to mess with the balls if one were inclined to do so, given that there appears to be an unmonitored, multi-step chain of custody of the baseballs involving Rockies employees who aren’t exactly critical to the organization (i.e. umpires’ assistants, etc.) and who are thus easily ordered-around and ultimately expendable.  I can see, therefore, how it would be possible to screw with the humidor if the team were so inclined.

But the hallmark of all conspiracy theories is the operation of something that is possible, but for which there is no evidence of it actually occurring. Until someone squeals — and the same non-critical employees who could be asked to mess with baseballs are the same sorts who might find it in their best interests to squeal about such a thing — I’m going to chalk this up to superstition and frustration on the part of the Rockies’ opponents.

  1. BC - Sep 21, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    Is there a rule in place that they HAVE to use the humidor? Or that they have to use it all the time?

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 21, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Why didn’t they just screw with them all year long and build up a 20 game lead? Why wait until Tulowitski comes back, instead of using the advantage while he was out on the DL? Seems a bit silly to me. Besides, what difference does it make. The Phillies are winning the World Series whether the Rockies are thrown humidor balls, non-humidor balls, or balls with titanium steel inside them.

  3. PoorWalt - Sep 21, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    How many homeruns have the Rockies hit compared to their opponents when playing at Coors? That’s the question.

  4. APBA Guy - Sep 21, 2010 at 11:06 AM

    I’ve heard the same thing from a buddy who is a back-office employee of another National League team. Since he has Car-Go in our APBA league, his question was more like “is it possible?”. As umps no longer rub up the baseballs before games it’s definitely possible. But the distance between possible and proven is a long one as to validating such a theory.

  5. Professor Longnose - Sep 21, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    I was under the impression that whether something is possible or not has very little to do with conspiracy theories. Is it really possible for the illuminati to create zombie armies to take over the world?

  6. Trevor B - Sep 21, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    This just wouldn’t be plausible to ensure that the right balls get thrown to the Rockies unless the umpiers were also in on this and lowly officials within the MLB at the stadium were in on it. There would just be too many people who would essentially know something about the balls or how the correct balls get thrown at the Rockies. It isn’t like just one or two people handle the balls before and during the game, and you can’t exactly tell somebody these balls get thrown to the Rockies without suspicion.

    “Hey, you there. Take these balls, but make sure these ones are thrown to the Rockies”

    “Uhhh, why? A ball is a ball?”

    “NO! Just trust me on this, and don’t tell no body, ya’ hear?”

    “But why?”

    “Because these balls here are from Snakes, and he don’t want nobody messin’ with these balls. Understand? Do this and you might find yourself on the right side of The Family”

    I’m not even a Rockies fan, I just think some people look for excuses when a non-elite team beats them. Don’t get me wrong, Rockies are a good team, just not elite.

  7. Paper Lions - Sep 21, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    Rockies team OPS at home is .880 (like having an entire team of Joe Mauers or Scott Rolens); their team OPS on the road is .663 (like have a team of Jeff Francoeurs or Jason Barletts). In the previous 4 years the Rockies have had team-wide home/away splits between 105-125 pts; a team-wide 100 pt jump in those spits is enormous and beyond what could be considered likely random variation.

  8. Old Gator - Sep 21, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    Commissioner Bud Light: I demand that you immediately, or sometime thereafter, appoint a blue ribbon panel headed by Derek Jeter, Gaylord Perry and Sammy Sosa to think about writing a report concerning the Rocky Mountain Oysters’ humidor and the possibility that it contains contraband Cuban cohibas as well as untreated baseballs!

  9. Omega - Sep 21, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    Tehn, why aren’t the opposing pitchers talking about this?
    I have read more than one article about opposing pitchers discussing the difference between handling and throwing humidor and non-humidor balls at Coor’s Field, they know the difference. They made a big deal out of it the first year the humidor was used.
    In the history of the Rockies, the Giants announcers have never been fair when it comes to their assesments of anything the Rockos do, so I think this is just a bunch of bellyaching and excuse making on not being able to hit at Coor’s. The Rockos have a pretty decent pitching staff this year.

  10. John_Michael - Sep 21, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    If the Coors Field humidor had a field view and was stocked with some fine aged cigars and you could have a few fingers of good bourbon while watching the game, they could charge Yankee Stadium prices and the thing would still be sold out.

  11. David - Sep 21, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    I wonder if it is the air more than anything else. No other team is accustomed to BREATHING the thinner air, so maybe visiting teams are just a little weaker. Weaker pitchers = weaker pitches. I don’t have any data to support my (non-conspiracy) theory, but it seems possible.
    Also, wouldn’t a pitch thrown in thinner air have less movement than a pitch thrown in denser air? Perhaps visiting pitchers are not used to making those adjustments when visiting Coors once or thrice a year….

  12. Will - Sep 21, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    The Rockies have had absurd home-road splits since 1994. If anything, the humidor has narrowed that gap.

  13. Kevin S. - Sep 21, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    Yeah, the humidor can make the balls not travel as far, but breaking balls still don’t break.

  14. Sam Lee - Sep 21, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    It’s entirely plausible that they enter non-humidor balls at a point where the Rockies are more likely to be batting. It only takes one person.

  15. Trevor B - Sep 21, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Not really. In an inning you don’t know how many foul balls will be hit into the stands, how many home runs, how many new balls will be introduced. Some innings you can get away with 3 balls for one team while the next inning that teams goes thru 15 of them things. There have been at bats with well over 5 balls used. It just is not plausible to have a set of balls that only one team will use OR even to know for sure that the majority of those balls will be used by that team. You can set aside a bucket of 20 balls for the Rockies in the 1st inning and have the side get struck out only using 1 ball and then the opposing team has 20 hot balls to use.

    Bottom line is it just isn’t plausible for a team to get balls set up for JUST them to use, or to even use the majority of them. Coors field is just a hitters stadium and the guys who call that place home know the best angles in the field and know how balls react to whichever wind direction in their home field because they’ve played there enough. These guys are professionals, you know.

  16. ludavince711 - Sep 21, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    In 75 games at Coors Field, the Rockies have hit .304 with 102 homers and 790 hits. Opponents have hit .258 with 67 homers and 698 hits. The Rockies have outscored visitors 452-345
    I’m no statistician but I’d love to see a breakdown considering how of the discrepancy could be attributed to chance. Its a huge discrepancy, and I’d love to see the numbers in past years and especially before they started using a humidor. Definitely seems fishy at first glance.

  17. quint - Sep 21, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    Pretty sure all MLB teams must keep balls in a humidor isn’t it? after they did in at Coors it went nationwide (its just not extreme elsewhere) to keep them standard.
    You will find most MLB teams hit better at home than on the road which is why most MLB teams win more home games than road games. The fact the Rockies outscore their opponents at home is of no surprise, especially when most of their home opponants are the Padres, Giants, Dodgers and Diamondbacks.
    Someone has also done stats showing that the Rockies hit just as well in the late innings at home games than the early innings (i.e. no evidence non-humidor balls get put out in close games).
    Finally, since the humidor and non-humidor balls have differnet weights and feels, I am sure the Umpires but MOST LIKELY the pitchers would notice something is off. None of that has happened.

  18. quint - Sep 21, 2010 at 6:42 PM

    Pretty sure all MLB teams must keep balls in a humidor isn’t it? after they did in at Coors it went nationwide (its just not extreme elsewhere) to keep them standard.
    You will find most MLB teams hit better at home than on the road which is why most MLB teams win more home games than road games. The fact the Rockies outscore their opponents at home is of no surprise, especially when most of their home opponants are the Padres, Giants, Dodgers and Diamondbacks.
    Someone has also done stats showing that the Rockies hit just as well in the late innings at home games than the early innings (i.e. no evidence non-humidor balls get put out in close games).
    Finally, since the humidor and non-humidor balls have differnet weights and feels, I am sure the Umpires but MOST LIKELY the pitchers would notice something is off. None of that has happened.

  19. MVD - Sep 23, 2010 at 3:57 AM

    Doesnt the panel also need someone from Congress, an umpire, and a retired former owner on it? :)

  20. Alex Poterack - Sep 25, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    Bear in mind, this can also be at least partly attributed to the facts that road teams typically perform worse, AND that the Rockies have a very good pitching staff.

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