Zumaya-gate springs to life
ST. LOUIS -- If there's one thing this World Series needs, other than emergency dome-implant surgery, it's a controversial story line that doesn't involve Kenny Rogers.
Well, voila. Welcome to Zumaya-gate.
Unlike Dirtgate, you probably missed Zumaya-gate on Tuesday because the Fox crew never picked up on it. But here's the deal:
A very peculiar thing happened inside Busch Stadium in Game 3 when the hardest-throwing human being on our beloved planet, Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya, entered the game.
All night long, the stadium radar board and the Fox TV radar-gun readings had been virtually identical. Oh, a mph apart every now and then, maybe. But nothing noticeable.
Then Zumaya showed up, machine-gunning his usual assortment of 99s, 100s and 101s all over your TV screen. But if you were listening at home for the oohs and ahs those gun readings usually elicit, you might have noticed there were none.
Why? Because, in Busch Stadium, the 46,000 folks watching all this live kept seeing a radar board showing mostly 95s and 96s. Pitch after pitch. On one particularly weird occasion, Zumaya launched a heaterball that Fox showed at 101 -- and it came up at 95 in the ballpark.
"Really?" gulped Tigers closer Todd Jones on Wednesday. "Maybe it was 95 Canadian. ... Or metric."
Sure. Or Celsius.
Or -- if you're a conspiratorial kind of reader -- La Russius.
Yes, friends. There were some idle suspicions being voiced anonymously in that Tigers clubhouse that the Cardinals asked the radar-board gang to deliberately devalue Zumaya's gun scores. So why would they even think to do that? Who knows?
To mess with Zumaya's head? So their hitters wouldn't be terrified by seeing such scary numbers up there? So they could pretend the guy was more hittable than he normally is?
Tell us that makes any sense.
"Oh, it's 102," Jones said. "And if you don't believe it, just get a bat and helmet and stand in the box, because I've seen it too many times to doubt his fastball."
Hey, excellent point. It's not as if those radar boards have sci-fi-ish, radar-board-over-matter powers, where, by displaying a slower pitch speed, they could actually slow the ball down to make it travel at that speed. Right?
And if they could, wouldn't they show it puttering along at 75 -- not 95?
Not that you should ever trust any radar-gun readings, you understand. Especially if they involve steering wheels, flashing lights, gas pedals and your right foot mysteriously attached to those gas pedals.
But this was one disparity that seemed especially odd, given that it existed only for Zumaya -- not for anyone else who pitched. And, in our continuing efforts to provide you only the most journalistically sound radar-gun information possible, we even veered away from our own spectacular Web site and double-checked Zumaya's readings on MLB.com's GameDay log.
They jibed with Fox's numbers -- not the stadium board's.
Hmmm. So what's up with that, anyway?
Zumaya, for one, had no idea. He told Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler, the only writer to write about this strangeness Tuesday night, that he normally checks the board to monitor his gun numbers, but he didn't in this game.
His teammate, Justin Verlander, did, however. And he was so alarmed by what he saw -- and worried Zumaya might be hurt -- he told Knobler he ran up to the clubhouse just to check Fox's readings. He felt a lot better afterward.
A day later, the Tigers weren't ready to convene any Congressional Zumaya-gate hearings, though. If anything, they were highly amused by the whole deal.
"It's a great day," Jones quipped, "when you can lose eight miles an hour -- and still throw 95."