Kenny Rogers is pitching like the reincarnation of Christy Mathewson and no one knows exactly why. Most of the media has decided that it's because he has become so emotional. Joe Buck devoted an entire inning to explaining how emotional Rogers had been in his Division Series start against the Yankees, emphasizing his apology to the Yankees in his postgame press conference. Buck made sure America knew Rogers "wasn't trying to show up the Yankees" by pumping his fist after every strikeout and shouting with every batter he retired.
It's not just FOX that is pushing the "emotional" theme. MLB.com writes, "If Rogers had any physical edge before, he seemingly had his usual emotional one after that." They also claim Rogers "channel[ed] his energy into his pitching." After his win over the A's, the AP wrote: Rogers was aggressive, part of a personal plan this month: Encourage his inner emotions, rather than trying to keep them in check.
Here's my question: Has Kenny Rogers had a reputation for being unemotional before this? Because I mostly remember him kind of being an asshole. He memorably failed in both of his stints in New York, particularly in the playoffs. In 2005, Rogers pushed two cameramen that were filming the team walk out of the dugout. Then, he shoved one of them again, throwing his camera down, and kicking the camera on the ground.
Rogers also broke a bone in his hand punching a water cooler a few weeks earlier. At the time, he kept a sticker on his locker that read "My Shitty Attitude Is None Of Your Fucking Business". Way back in 1994, Rogers shoved a beat writer out of the Texas clubhouse.
Now, Rogers has pitched 23 scoreless innings in the playoffs, and he's the toast of Detroit. Why is that? Apparently, it's his newfound commitment to fist-pumping, yelling, and showing up the opposing team. If I understand this argument correctly, Kenny Rogers was never this dominant before, because he wasn't enough of an asshole.
There have to be some real reasons he's suddenly unhittable. Maybe his changeup has been unusually effective against teams who rely on right-handed power hitters. Maybe the near-freezing temperatures in Detroit help keep long fly balls from turning into home runs. Maybe, since Rogers is 41, the extra few days of rest he gets are especially beneficial. Since he also dominates in the spacious McAfee Coliseum, maybe Comerica Park's large outfield helps Rogers, who doesn't strike out a lot of hitters. (Home ERA: 3.26; Road ERA: 4.41; three times as many home runs on the road in the same number of innings.)
All of these things are possibilities, and they might even be more important to Rogers's success than letting himself get aggro on the mound. Of course, maybe Rogers is constantly talking his feelings so no one notices he's secretly scuffing the ball. Maybe Rogers pumps his fist to confirm that there's still pine tar stuck to his hand. Maybe his eyes welled up with tears after the Yankee game because he was ashamed to be cheating so blatantly. Or maybe he's secretly frustrated knowing that his doctoring of the baseball has been revealed by his archenemies: television cameramen.
Whatever the cause, I expect Rogers to pitch Game Six of the Series, if necessary, wearing
a bunch of Vaseline his emotions on his sleeve.
"Kenny Rogers can not just decide he's a better pitcher when he releases his emotions; at that point, he is not 'releasing emotion' as much as he is 'yelling as a superstitious tic.' In other words: He is starting to look silly out there. He is yelling because he thinks it makes him a better pitcher, rather than because he is actually emotional about something.")