By now, unless one lives under the proverbial rock, you have heard the fallout of Michael Pineda‘s misadventures with pine tar. For the second time against the Boston Red Sox, Pine Tar Pineda went back to the sticky substance to get a better grip on the ball. However, unlike his first blatant usage of such foreign materials, this time Red Sox manager John Farrell took action. Due to the pine tar smeared on his neck, the New York Yankees starter now finds himself suspended for ten games.
Typically, that would be the end of such shenanigans. Once a pitcher is caught doing such things, they will normally rein in such activity for a while. The problem is, the Red Sox pitching staff has developed quite the reputation for cheating as well. In particular, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester have been accused of doctoring baseballs themselves. Remember last season when Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris accused Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa of throwing a spitball against the Toronto Blue Jays? Based on the video, the case could certainly be made that both were doing something to the ball.
Then there was the possibility that Lester was using some foreign substance during the first game of the World Series last year. It certainly appeared as though there was some mysterious green goo inside the webbing of his glove, although it’s actual purpose was open to speculation.
With the Red Sox having garnered that sort of reputation throughout baseball, it is not a surprise that other teams may be looking to match up by giving their pitchers some sort of advantage. It may not have been a coincidence that the first time Michael Pineda was obviously using pine tar, he was matched up against Clay Buchholz. The rationale may have been that if Farrell wanted to have Pineda checked, then the Yankees could do the same with Buchholz, given his greasy mane and apparently constant need for sunscreen.
In fact, it is going to be interesting to see how the opposition approaches those starts against Buchholz now. Will those starters, much like Pineda a couple of weeks back, go to the mound with such careless abandon and an obvious way of doctoring the ball? Will those managers demand that Buchholz be checked almost immediately at the start of the game, given his seemingly fragile psyche?
It may have seemed as though catching Michael Pineda with pine tar on his neck would be the end of the cheating. Yet, this may actually usher in the beginning of a new style of gamesmanship, where managers look to get into the heads of the opposing starter, having umpires check them for foreign substances just to break their rhythm and make them think. By stopping Pineda, Farrell may have opened a can of worms that could be used against his starting rotation, and Clay Buchholz in particular.
John Farrell and the Boston Red Sox may have won the battle by getting Michael Pineda thrown out of Wednesday’s game. Time will tell if this turns out to be a hollow victory, and one where they won the battle only to lose the war.