Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell looked like a man going to turn his best friend in tothe police as he trudged, head down, to the umpires in the bottom of the second inning on Wednesday night. Farrell was compelled to ask the umps to check Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda for illegal substances. The umps got together and agreed to inspect Pineda. They checked his mitt, his cap, his back (back???) and finally got to what everyone on national television saw – a huge schmear of pine tar on his neck!
Pineda was done for the night (and subsequently, the next 10 games). Yankee manager Joe Girardi walked out of the dugout to ask about the situation, as certain in his client’s guilt as a mob lawyer. Girardi accepted Pineda’s fate and sauntered back to the dugout, hands in pockets, thinking about the need to hire someone to wipe this kid down before every inning the rest of the year.
Pitchers have been doctoring balls since Abner Doubleday threw out the first pitch in Hoboken. The old motto, “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” has been woven into the fabric of baseball since its early “legal spitball” days. However, the days where “cut fastball” had a literal meaning, have been phased out. Performance enhancing drugs have painted all cheating with the same broad brush. Gaylord Perry’s Vaseline ball and Whitey Ford’s sharpened belt buckle have gone the way of the sacrifice bunt.
But when you think about it, what is “performance enhancing?” Pine tar, batting gloves, and body armor that would make a Navy SEAL jealous are used by every hitter. Fielding gloves the size of Jai Alai cestas are provided to every outfielder. The only thing uniform left in the game is the size of the ball (and just the size – the consistency has been changed to “juice” or deaden the balls in any given year). Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Barry Larkin commented that the hitters wouldn’t mind the pitcher having a better grip so they can control it better. Is there anything scarier that having someone not in control of a 95 mile per hour fastball from 60 feet away?
I don’t advocate what Pineda did. In my opinion, he should be suspended for his lack of subtlety or inability to conceal the pine tar. Farrell, who skillfully dodged the issue two weeks ago, desperately did not want to go to the umps, but was compelled by the obvious schmear (nothing better would describe the inches long streak on Pineda’s neck). Knowing that this now opened Red Sox pitchers up to inspection, Farrell was seeking any other solution. He knows that this now opens his staff (purportedly heavy users of sticky stuff) to inspection, something Girardi has in his back pocket for a critical moment to come later in the year as revenge.
One easy solution for baseball in the spirit of the game (AL President Lee McPhail’s excusefor allowing George Brett’s “pine tar” home run in 1983): pitchers should be allowed to use limited amounts of pine tar on cold nights. If umpires have the discretion of allowing pitchers to put their hands to their mouth on cold days (a violation on normal days), then why not allow pine tar?
It’s already on the field – go ask a batter.
Welcome to New York Martin St. Louis! Now keep it up.
Umm, two weeks in and Phil Jackson and James Dolan are already like Jets and Sharks. What a surprise!
So much for my “Ivan Nova as Cy Young Winner” prediction . . .
Fantasy Football Update: My buddy, AC is trying to get me into another league- this one allows you to own two quarterbacks – this way I can take Tony Romo with a clear conscience.
I keep hoping against hope that some teams will trade up in the NFL draft to get some of these quarterbacks allowing the Giants to get a crack at better players. I wouldn’t bite on any of usual suspects. Not with three SEC-tested success stories waiting in Rounds 2, 3 and 4. Bold prediction: Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and AJ McCarron will be the best QBs out of this draft.