Friday, April 25, 2014

Michael Pineda and the Pine Tar Incident

By now we all know about Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees getting ejected from Last night's game in Boston of having pinetar on his neck after being accused of having pinetar on his hand during his last start against Boston. Now I wasn't going add my two cents on this story but I've changed my mind. No excusing Pineda's actions. He chose to do something that was illegal and got caught. He was given a 10-games suspension and hopefully he won't appeal the suspension. This is where I want to add my two cents.

According to Major League Baseball Rule 8.00, Subsection 8.02: “The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.” My problem with this rule is that while many a pitcher uses one substance or another when the weather is cold AND it is commonly known that pitchers do this, it is one of Baseball's "hush-hush" acts that gets a blind eye from MLB. Both David Cone and Al Leiter on air during the YES network's telecast admitted that they used firmgrip hidden on their belt to aid with the grip of the ball during cold weather. As I said, this is not an uncommon thing.

Tyler Kepner describes a way that a pitcher can circumvent the rules in his article Missing on the Mound: A Dab of Discretion from the New York Times website dated April 24, 2014:
Going outside the rules is easy enough, and widely condoned, because nobody wants the umpires to investigate their own pitchers. One common method, pitchers say, is to put suntan lotion on their arms. Dab the rosin bag onto that spot, touch it with your fingers, and you create just enough stickiness to get a better grip
In the same article St. Louis Cardinals starter Adam Wainright is quoted as saying:
“There’s ways to do it without doing that,” said Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals’ ace right-hander. “I mean, what’s he doing? But I do think that on a day like yesterday, when we had wind gusts of up to 41 miles an hour, honestly it is very hard to get a good grip on the ball. I do think a little something here and there — not pine tar — but something is fine.”
Even during the World Series last October you had a mysterious green substance that was seen in John Lester's glove and made its rounds on the social media circuit. This is just one type of action that MLB has rules for but doesn't enforce until it becomes obvious that they have to.

This is what I propose. If the usage of substances to aid in gripping as common and rampant as the players say, then either enforce the rule with a more stringent eye, not letting it be a "hush-hush" or a "Wink-wink" kind of thing players do and is condoned OR change the rules and allow pitchers to legally use the substances that many have already been using in certain conditions in the same way that the rosin bag is allowed to be used.

For those who are beat the drums about wanting Baseball to be "clean", do some research. BASEBALL HAS NEVER BEEN CLEAN. I think this is a very naïve way of looking at things. Historically from day one, players have sought to find ways in order to gain an advantage. This hasn't changed in over 130 years and probably won't ever change. If those who want a clean game are serious about their wanting cleanliness then start with kicking out Hall of Famers Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton who admittedly used substances to doctor the ball while pitching their way to the Hall of Fame. For those who want to do some research, pick up a copy of Roger I. Abrams' The Dark Side of the Diamond: Gambling, Violence, Drugs and Alcoholism in the National Pastime for a glimpse of the lengths some players have gone to in order to find an edge throughout the history of the game.

Do I think it is right? Honestly I don't know. It is hard for me to say when you have ballplayers, coaches and announcers who just shrug when asked if pitchers use substances to aid in their gripping the ball or even going as far as what David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox stated: “Everybody uses pine tar in the league, It’s no big deal at all.” I place the onus on MLB to either enforce the rules and not ignore the acts by the pitchers or to amend the rules. It's a simple as that.

Until Then Play Ball,
Baseball Sisco