Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that last night New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected in the second inning against the Boston Red Sox for having pine tar on his neck. The reason I put the word cheating in quotes is because I think how you feel about Pineda really has more to do with what team you root for than what he actually did.Let’s face it, we have Boston Red Sox fans screaming and pointing fingers like Pineda had a steroid needle coming out his butt. What Pineda did is no different than what Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have and likely will continue to do. When assigned the job of throwing the ball 95 mph towards another human being, you’re likely going to want to have a nice grip on the baseball. I’m not going to defend what Pineda did because rules are rules. He broke them, deserved to be ejected and deserves any punishment that comes thereafter. Where I do have a problem is when internet gangsters start casting aspersions as if Pineda was caught giving away US Military secrets to a foreign enemy.
Again, what Pineda did was wrong because the rules state it’s wrong. Pine tar isn’t the same as scuffing the ball or putting vaseline on it. It won’t make it dance wildly. It won’t give the impression that the ball is shaking or help utilize aero-dynamics in a way to cause a poor pitcher to suddenly pitch well. All it does is give the pitcher a better grip and that’s quite helpful when it’s cold. We heard Red Sox players say it after the last time Pineda was suspected of using that they’d rather have a pitcher know where the ball is going when he’s throwing it towards them in the mid 90’s. The “advantage” comes only if you truly assume and believe that John Lackey wasn’t using anything in the same cold weather. While I’d like to believe that’s the case, past evidence of Red Sox pitchers would indicate otherwise. Comments from other pitchers around the league would indicate otherwise. It’s just more likely than not that Lackey was simply smarter than Pineda about it.
Now that brings me to another point. How in the world did Pineda think he’d get away with this when he placed it in such an obvious position so shortly after being suspected in a prior start? Is this a cry for help from Pineda or is he just that stupid? I understand a Dominican born player never truly getting used to pitching in chilly or cold weather, but this was him begging to get caught. I’m perplexed.
As for Yankees fans calling out Red Sox manager John Farrell of being a hypocrite when his own pitchers have been guilty in the past I say shut the hell up. National League fans talk about how much extra strategy there is with the pitcher hitting and the double switch (something I think is total crap by the way) and how strategic the game of baseball is. Well, when presented with such an obvious infraction, Farrell did the absolute right thing. It was only a 2-0 game at the time and by protesting, he knew Pineda would be ejected. So, not only do the Yankees lose their better pitcher, but the bullpen is now forced to pitch 8 innings. That taxing of the bullpen has consequences and it was a smart tactical move by Farrell to not sit idly by. In fact, how would Yankee fans have reacted if the shoe was on the other foot and Joe Girardi just sat there and didn’t protest? They’d be out of their minds. The phones lines for all the NY talk radio stations would have exploded.
So what’s the answer? I think the answer is simple but the implementation might present problems. When the weather falls below X, pitchers are allowed to use substance Y. Now, what temperature is X? I don’t know. Perhaps they could simply poll all present and former pitchers and get a ruling. What substance would Y be? Again, I’m not sure. Maybe pine tar is the answer and they simply can put a small tube of it behind the mound right next to the rosin bag that already resides there. The batters don’t seem to have a problem with pitchers having a better grip so why does MLB care so much? Probably because it’s just easier to outlaw everything instead of having to open things up for interpretation. Give pitchers an inch and they’ll take a mile.
In any event, this situation is something worth monitoring with regards to pitchers for the rest of the season and more importantly, for how things will shape up in one of the sports most compelling rivalries.