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Alex Sanabia brings back the spitball in beating the Phillies

May 21, 2013, 2:08 AM EDT

Move over Clay Buchholz. Marlins starter Alex Sanabia went old school on Monday, bypassing the sunscreen and rosin and simply hocking a big ol’ loogie on the baseball after giving up a home run to the Phillies’ Domonic Brown.

The video isn’t embeddable yet, but here’s the link to it at, as well as some still shots.




As it turned out, that second-inning homer by Brown was the lone run for the Phillies tonight in a 5-1 loss. Sanabia scattered seven hits over 6 1/3 innings in improving to 3-6 on the season. He lowered his ERA to 4.56.

While one can debate the legality of sunscreen on the arm, there’s no doubt what Sanabia was doing was against the rules, and though no one caught him during the game, it will be interesting to see if a suspension follows based on the obvious visual evidence.

(hat-tip to David Cameron at Fangraphs)

  1. Walk - May 21, 2013 at 2:15 AM

    I saw brown earlier this year and he looked comfortable at the plate, swing was a bit shorter and quicker. Even though brown play on an opposing team I am interested in him this year as it is likely going to be a make or break year for him. If he does well it may well signal a long run as a starter and if not he may be back to being a ph, fourth outfielder, or end up being a career long sub of some sort. As far as the spitball goes all I can saw is wow, guess he figured no one was watching.

  2. aceshigh11 - May 21, 2013 at 2:52 AM

    What the hell?

    That’s so blatant and brazen that it almost doesn’t seem real.

    • Old Gator - May 21, 2013 at 8:23 AM

      You don’t spend enough time in Macondo, is all.

  3. tycobbfromfangraphs - May 21, 2013 at 2:54 AM

    I don’t see a problem here
    – Burleigh Grimes

    • basedrum777 - May 21, 2013 at 9:11 AM

      That’s legal right?

      – Clay Buchholz

      • sabatimus - May 21, 2013 at 1:02 PM

        The Buchholz thing is so tired and unfounded. Enough already.

    • polegojim - May 21, 2013 at 9:34 AM

      C’Mon guys… what’s a little moisture got to do with it. You’re totally overworking this.

      – Gaylord Perry

      • Tick - May 21, 2013 at 10:35 AM

        “He’s a great cheater, but he’s not as good as me.”

        – Barry Bonds

  4. blacksables - May 21, 2013 at 3:30 AM

    The NFL rules enforcers will go back and watch film of every game after it is over, and retroactively fine players for uniform violations.

    Is this what you guys want in baseball?

    Quit shoving the fucking cameras down my throat and let the game play itself out on the field. What is so hard about understanding that concept?

    • laserrocketarm31 - May 21, 2013 at 4:20 AM

      What planet are you from? Nothing you said has any relevance to the topic at hand. He blatantly spit on the ball with cameras all over the place. Spitballs affect the outcomes of games. Uniform violations have nothing to do with the result of the competitive balance of the game. Simple pre-school apples and oranges logic here.

      • jdillydawg - May 21, 2013 at 10:37 AM

        Actually, I saw this homerun the other night and they played it over and over and over again and the umps still said it was a double. Some argued that it was blatantly a home run. But not everyone…

        So, maybe he did cheat, maybe he didn’t. A good lawyer would argue the ball was spitting at him. Or that he was chewing gum and if you look closely, you can see that it isn’t a loogie, but him stretching his bubble gum. Nervous habit he’s developed. (See where I’m going with this? I can make a case all day long he didn’t spit on that thing. Camera doesn’t really prove otherwise).

        Instant replay is a waste of time. It’s killing every game out there. Football games are a nightmare because of it. Baseball is going that way. Leave the game alone. Quit demanding perfection from every guy in blue. The pictures gives the umps reasonable suspicion and they’ll probably watch him more closely now, as they should.

        If we always take the camera over the guy, then let’s just get rid of the guys.

      • scoocha - May 21, 2013 at 12:54 PM

        To jdilly: Rules say he can put a foreign substance on the ball, so stop trolling here.
        In terms of replay, you’re mostly right with football but why does anyone watch the game anymore if the most important thing is safety and making sure TEs don’t get touched downfield?
        Replay in baseball is SO EASY, millions times so compared to football. If anything bring full replay into baseball and knock it out of the NFL. We should be demanding (near) perfection from umpires – its their job and in regular life people get fired for not being (nearly) perfect. Are you telling me you make 3-5 mistakes per day and still keep your job?
        Your last sentence is perfect – we should get rid of the boys in blue except for the home plate ump. Again, these calls are so easy, and they are wrong 60% of the time at least.

      • jdillydawg - May 21, 2013 at 1:08 PM

        Trolling? Really? Explain to me why this is an issue if the rules clearly state pitchers can put foreign substances on the ball? If that’s the case, explain this sentence from the article: “there’s no doubt what Sanabia was doing was against the rules…” Maybe you should tell the author to stop trolling.

        Baseball is a game. Have you ever umpired a baseball game? Any game, try it. Even T-Ball. Stand out there and make a call that’s even remotely controversial and you’re the most hated guy around. What made baseball so great was that calls don’t always go your way. It’s like life. It ain’t fair. All we are doing is creating leagues of players who no longer know how to deal with adversity and will simply shift blame from the guy in blue to the guy in the replay booth.

    • emoser - May 21, 2013 at 9:45 AM

      Yes, let’s take all the cameras away. What business does baseball have being broadcast on tv like it’s some kind of entertainment?

      /end sarcasm

      • jdillydawg - May 21, 2013 at 10:38 AM

        Instant replay isn’t entertainment – it’s a waste of time. The cameras are there to highlight the play of the players, not nitpick every call made by the guys in blue.

        No sarcasm on that one.

      • tuberippin - May 22, 2013 at 2:25 AM

        “No sarcasm on that one.”

        No, no sarcasm. Just idiocy.

    • sabatimus - May 21, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      Is this trolling? Ignorance? Sarcasm? I truly have no idea on all counts. But John McEnroe says he CANNOT be serious.

  5. duckthefodgers - May 21, 2013 at 3:51 AM

    He probably assumed they stopped televising Marlin games.

    • Old Gator - May 21, 2013 at 6:33 AM

      No, he probably assumed no one was watching the telecasts.

    • basedrum777 - May 21, 2013 at 9:13 AM

      He figured the raccoon a lady sneaked into a game was running the cameras now…

      • Old Gator - May 21, 2013 at 1:43 PM

        The raccoon ladies have all been eaten by the mama pythons.

  6. bringbackkosar - May 21, 2013 at 4:45 AM

    Maybe a picture of Jeff Loria’s face was on that baseball, then I’m OK with it

    • Old Gator - May 21, 2013 at 6:36 AM

      Printing Scrooge McLoria’s face on a baseball would alter its trajectory. A fastball would become a fast one.

      • nbjays - May 21, 2013 at 8:01 AM

        Yeah, but the Feesh’s team batting average would skyrocket.

      • Old Gator - May 21, 2013 at 8:25 AM

        I doubt it – it looks like it’ll need better ballplayers for that – but their spitting average would definitely improve.

  7. dondada10 - May 21, 2013 at 6:23 AM

    I don’t think there’s any question about whether you have to suspend Sanabia. If you don’t, there will be guys with emery boards on the mound shaving laces off the ball.

    • Old Gator - May 21, 2013 at 6:35 AM

      I’f I’m a baseball, I have to prefer that. Being spit on? Eccchhhh.

    • randygnyc - May 21, 2013 at 9:30 AM

      With an emery board, its not so much the laces as it is scuffing or actually cutting the leather that makes the ball move. A little nick can make a ball dart. A large one even more.

    • phillyfrank - May 21, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      With phlegms like that, who needs emeries?

  8. proudlycanadian - May 21, 2013 at 6:36 AM

    Loria probably had a fit. The plan is for the Marlins to lose more games than the Astros so that the Marlins end up with the number 1 draft pick in 2014. Winning games is not on Loria’s agenda.

    • mx429 - May 21, 2013 at 6:59 AM

      Yeah, Loria needs the first pick so they can trade it for some worthless prospects and a wad of cash.

      • albertmn - May 21, 2013 at 9:28 AM

        I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure teams can’t trade draft picks in MLB.

      • sfbookreviews - May 21, 2013 at 8:25 PM

        albertmn – while that is certainly true for the first pick in the draft they would win with a last place finish, teams are now allowed to trade picks awarded in the “Competitive Balance Lottery”. Being a low revenue team due to the fire sale and general douchery of the owner puts the Fish in that lottery. In fact, the Marlins were one half the first ever such trade last year.

    • aceshigh11 - May 21, 2013 at 8:12 AM

      Wasn’t that kinda like the plot to Major League?

      • proudlycanadian - May 21, 2013 at 9:03 AM

        Could be; however, we have seen Loria follow a similar plot before.

  9. mx429 - May 21, 2013 at 6:57 AM

    Cheating and fraud is simply the dominant culture in Miami, he probably didn’t realize it’s considered wrong in civilized countries.

    • Old Gator - May 21, 2013 at 7:41 AM

      And you’re writing from where – Chicago? Newark, NJ? Feeliedelfia? Washeengton DC?

      • Kevin S. - May 21, 2013 at 8:12 AM

        Hey, Newark’s mayor is Batman, leave the city alone.

      • andrewproughcfe - May 21, 2013 at 5:13 PM

        And you are saying what – those cities cheat less than Boston?

    • 18thstreet - May 21, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      To quote the late Molly Ivins, this probably sounded better in the original German.

  10. section138 - May 21, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    This is a non-story. Seriously. He’s just rubbing up a new ball, since the last one was deposited into the seats. Used to be umpires would rub up all the balls in the ump room before the game with Mississippi mud. Now a days, they go through so many balls, not all can be prepped for play. You do not want a brand new ball. They’re too slick. You need to take the shine off. Some folks grab some dirt to rub up the baseballs, some like their palms and rub it up, others spit on it.
    There is absolutely no sarcasm in this post. He is just rubbing up a new baseball.

    • Old Gator - May 21, 2013 at 8:27 AM

      You’re right, this isn’t a story. It’s a marketing ploy. The Feesh will do anything to attract attention.

    • albertmn - May 21, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      If that wasn’t sarcasm, then you are just wrong. The balls are still rubbed with mud prior to the game and they have dozens of dozens of balls ready for each game.

      • section138 - May 21, 2013 at 11:00 AM

        I checked, and you’re right, a certain amount still gets rubbed down. That said, I still say he’s just rubbing down the ball. If you look at this vine video, you’ll see that he rubs the ball down for quite a few seconds after the spit. If he wanted to throw a spitter, the spit needs to remain on the ball. The whole point of a spitball is to have it “slip” from the fingers (like Vaseline, or rubbing a little jalapeno up your nose, get it runnin’, and if you need to load the ball up…). Sanabia is clearly rubbing the ball down to get more grip. Which is the opposite of what a spitball would be.

  11. ryanrockzzz - May 21, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    haha….he doesn’t need to spit on the ball to beat the Phillies. He just needs to show up. What an awful lineup.

  12. jarathen - May 21, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    That’s a pretty disgusting set of images.

    • Utley's Hair - May 21, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      Better than Craig’s collection of Lenny Dykstra pics.

  13. chlstn - May 21, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    No replay during the game. No replay after the game is over.

  14. Tim OShenko - May 21, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    So, 50 games for first violation? After all, cheating is cheating, right? We can’t just let him get away with these Performance Enhancing Loogys.

    • andrewproughcfe - May 21, 2013 at 5:15 PM

      PEL’s. The bane of baseball.

  15. dman6015 - May 21, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    I’m not inferring anything here, but it wasn’t too long ago that people with HIV/AIDS were charged with attempted homicide for spitting on someone.

    • Old Gator - May 21, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      The CBA has no provision for testing for aids. It can only test for enhancements.

  16. unicatfan - May 21, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    While its definately a violation of the rules there is a comment in the rule book that if a pitcher violates Rule 8.02(a)(2) in the judgment of the umpire, the pitcher did not intend, by his act, to alter the characteristics of a pitched ball, then the umpire may, in his discretion, warn the pitcher in lieu of
    applying the penalty set forth for violations of Rules 8.02(a)(2). 8.02(a)(2) just says a picther may not spit or expecatorate on the ball, his glove or hand. If you wlook at the whole video, he rubs tehball down pretty well.

  17. buddysguys - May 21, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    how did anyone not notice that? Looks like he is ready to eat the ball.

    • 18thstreet - May 21, 2013 at 2:27 PM

      High def and multiple cameras at games has probably made it a lot harder to get away with a spitball.

  18. jimpalmher - May 21, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

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