There were some murmurs of Michael Pineda‘s pine tar situation the other day but I decided not to deal with it because, as even MLB executives didn’t seem to care, it became a relative non-story despite the fact that it constituted cheating and stirred a minor uproar on the interwebs. The gist seemed to be that “everyone does it” or “pitchers have to get a grip” so such violations were allowed to go unpunished.
Samardzija brushed it off, saying it’s not a big deal; pitchers just try to do anything they can to get a grip on the baseball.
“If a guy I’m facing has a little pine tar, I have no problem with that,” Samardzija said. “It’s more of when it’s something gaudy, something obvious.
“It’s more about doctoring up the ball, too. When you start cutting the ball, you start scuffing the ball, that’s when it really affects the pitch. A little pine tar doesn’t affect the pitch unless you’re putting a big clump on the side of the ball.”
I’m not really sure what to make of this, as the pine tar incident seemed to suggest that most pitchers, managers, and MLB eyes-in-the-sky were okay with pitchers putting crap on the ball as long as they weren’t caught. It reminded me of this scene from Major League (which I still have to watch this season, I can’t believe I haven’t yet!):
So as long as the umpires look the other way, or the opposing players don’t care, it’s not a big deal. Most managers probably won’t even register a complaint even when they’re being soundly thrashed. I DID watch The Naked Gun so skip to 2:30 in this video:
My observations were that the media and a good portion of Twitter really took notice of the pine tar on Pineda’s hand, and made references to when Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz used various foreign substances on their hands the previous season, including in the World Series. Kenny Rogers also famously had a huge chunk of SOMETHING on his hand in the 2006 World Series. The media complained, and so did fans, but nothing was done and so it was dropped.
If that sounds familiar, think about what happened with the whole “Steroid Era” of baseball. For the longest time, we all knew that Mark McGwire was taking androstenedione (legal at the time) and probably some other crap. Baseballs kept entering low Earth orbit and nobody cared because it was awesome. Then slowly, the media started complaining, players started complaining, and Bud Selig finally decided to do something, leading to the incredible Biogenesis debacle last year. Oy.
It’s somehow ironic that pitchers who regularly doctor the ball to gain an immediate advantage over their opponents decry the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional baseball. Take Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, for example.
Would he cast a Hall of Fame ballot for a player linked to steroids?
“Oh, not for a long time. I would wait, wait, wait. I guess (I would) when my brain gets old and forgives them.”
In terms of ethics and cheating, how much difference is there between throwing a spitter and using steroids?
“There’s a tremendous amount. You try things, you try to improve (in looking for a small edge). Back in the 1960s and 70s, we played hard. We had a good time.”
I assume that at some point (maybe?) enough folks are going to complain about doctoring the baseball that pitchers with strong credentials will get a stigma attached to them because they had slightly too much pine tar on their palms one day, more than the arbitrary threshold amount that Samardzija suggested was fine. And then we’ll see a movement to actually enforce the “no doctoring the ball” rule. Until then, I leave you with this from a former professional pitcher, Dirk Hayhurst:
Of all the cheats I’ve listed here, only lubing is considered an actual cheat within the baseball community. This is, if you ask me, rather myopic, if not hypocritical.
The baseball community says that performance enhancing drugs are wrong because they skew the playing field. While there is no doubt that PEDs have enhanced or prolonged some players’ careers, you can’t directly correlate that to every player. With ball doctoring, there is an immediate edge gained.
Sure, pitchers will say that it’s all about getting a grip, and it most certainly is. But you wouldn’t believe what a professional player can do with that increased, unnatural grip. That’s why there’s a rule about it in the rulebook.
So, to summarize, it’s currently okay to enhance the baseball to gain an immediate, quantifiable edge over your opponent, while it isn’t okay to enhance one’s body (if enhancement even occurs) in a less quantifiable fashion to gain an edge that may or may not be there. Hmmm!
UPDATE 4/23 7:35 PM: Maybe Samardzija was right about the being “obvious” thing…
Dammit Pineda hahahaha…how can you be THAT dumb? Even if every pitcher breaks the rules (and not saying it’s okay) you have to at least be smart about it. Oy.