Cast your mind back to September 2017. Go on; you can do it. Playoff-bound Yankees were playing the lowly Blue Jays. With Todd Frazier on second base, Jacoby Ellsbury lined a drive to right field, seemingly over Jose Bautista’s head.
The veteran slugger showed admirable agility to retreat, reach up and snag the ball, before firing it to Ryan Goins at second base where Frazier had returned safely.
Goins threw back to Marco Estrada on the mound, or at least that’s what everybody thought. Instead, Goins nonchalantly kept the ball in his mitt until the unaware Frazier stepped off the bag. And as soon as he did, the tag was applied, and the inning was over.
The hidden ball trick executed to perfection.
Fast-forward to September 2018 and Todd Frazier invented his own twist on the play, the reappearing ball trick.
In the second inning of the clash against the Dodgers, outfielder Alex Verdugo flied the ball high into the Californian sky, but drifting foul.
The Mets third baseman sprinted towards the stand, reached out to grab the ball and bravely somersaulted into the crowd, pulling off a Web Gem-worthy catch.
Frazier gingerly extricated himself from the crowd, showed the umpire the ball firmly wedged in his glove and threw it back to the stands, as he took the plaudits from teammates.
MLB compared the selfless acrobatics with Derek Jeter’s amazing postseason catch against the Red Sox. Frazier was happy to accept the praise.
In a season devoid of many highs for the Mets, (Jacob deGrom and their 11-1 start to the season excluded) this was uplifting.
That was until smart investigative work by Sportsnet New York uncovered the truth. Rather than pulling off an excellent play, Frazier had, in fact, dropped the ball.
When the 32-year-old was head down between the seats, he saw a ball on the floor. It wasn’t even a proper ball; it was a kids’ rubber baseball, a spectator’s toy. He grabbed it in his mitt and duped the umpire into thinking it was a clean catch.
A couple of days later, and with the TV evidence compelling, Frazier admitted his crime, but with no remorse, stating:
“It is Hollywood, so sometimes you have to act out a little bit. Basically, I caught the ball going in the stands and as I came down the ball came out. … it was just one of those things where I thought real quick … I think any third baseman or any player trying to win would do it”.
Hopefully he is wrong and not every player trying to win would do it. Surely there is a world of difference between trying to win and cheating to win? And if not, where do you draw the line? Presumably injecting EPO while sitting in the dugout would be frowned upon?
In a sport with a bizarre array of unwritten rules which result in hitters getting drilled at the plate, this sort of blatant cheating doesn’t seem to raise an eyebrow.
It is not a good look for Frazier, the Mets or baseball.