You must have heard by now that Michael Pineda had a gooey, brown substance on his throwing hand when he pitched against the Boston Red Sox last night. The substance was evidently pine tar despite Pineda’s claim it was just a combination of “dirt and sweat.” Was a media frenzy about to unload? The aftermath was much-anticipated but when it was all said and done, the result was a private phone call from MLB and opposing hitters David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia coming to the defense of Michael Pineda and the use of pine tar and other banned substances to get a better “grip” on the ball.
MLB rule 8.02 says a pitcher will not “apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.” Rule 8.02 (b) “have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game. In addition, the pitcher shall be suspended automatically.”
Sure, John Farrell would have looked hypocritical had he griped about it because Red Sox’ pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz faced similar allegations last year. Both pitchers conspicuously had “something extra” on the baseball (you do not need SPF in a dome) but the aftermath was parallel to Pineda. Nothing happened. The media ignored it because it is somehow justifiable because everyone does it. Same thing can be said about PEDs in the beginning of the 21st century but does that make it excusable?
Former big-league pitcher C.J. Nitkowski had some interesting thoughts on the situation:
Shhhhhhhh! Pitchers use pine tar, firm grip, bull frog, sandpaper, fingernails, spit, rose water + glycerin, hair gel, etc. #CatchMeIfYouCan
— CJ Nitkowski (@CJNitkowski) April 11, 2014
This was fairly obvious and mostly everyone suspected this already. They use the cop-out that it does not have an influence on the spin of the ball and it is hard to argue the point. Mainly, because my pitching career did not persist past little league so if you don’t take a blogger’s word for it, then what about a major-league pitcher’s?
Heard on pine tar story: it’s only used for grip in cold weather, doesn’t help you spin the ball more (better CB, SL, cutter). Both false. — CJ Nitkowski (@CJNitkowski) April 11, 2014
Pine tar & other grip products are used all year round, because it helps you get more spin on the ball. Simple friction. — CJ Nitkowski (@CJNitkowski) April 11, 2014
Simple friction. A scientist would probably concur with Nitkowski’s summation of pine tar and other grip products effect on the baseball.
They are blatantly breaking a policy set by Major League Baseball and yet, there are no consequences and only an upside resonating from using that edge. So, how does baseball go about fixing it? Is there a clear-cut solution?
Major League Baseball has prided themselves on evening the playing field and cracking down on “cheaters.” As a precaution and to ensure they are adhering to this standard, would it be so ludicrous to enforce a policy where the umpire checks the arm and glove of the pitcher before every inning? It would not elongate the game by much, if any. It would not even be seen by the naked eye as it would take place while you’re live Tweeting your thoughts about the game during commercial break. What it would do is guarantee a fair game and an even playing field.