The Michael Pineda pine tar thing last night will set tongues wagging on talk radio today. Which is fine, because it’s fun to talk about that kind of crap while we wait for the next day’s games. But as our tongues wag, let’s remember something here: just about every pitcher uses something to mess with baseballs and/or enhance their grip, and for the most part baseball is content to look the other way about it.
We were reminded of this last year when Clay Buchholz was (more or less) busted with the Bullfrog sunscreen on his arms. While pitching in a domed stadium. At night. No on one the Blue Jays complained about that — it was noted by broadcasters Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris — and in the aftermath we got reports that upwards of 90 percent of pitchers use something to enhance grip. Heck, Pineda wasn’t even the only pitcher using foreign substances yesterday. As Evan Drellich reports, Astros reliever Josh Zeid was seen putting sunscreen on his arms yesterday before entering the game. In a domed stadium. At night.
When asked about it on the record, pitchers — after some hilarious early denials that they had anything untoward on their hands or arms — will tell you that they do this to get extra grip on the ball and hitters will tell you that they are more or less OK with this if it prevents pitches from being inadvertently sent on a trajectory toward their heads. Off the record, of course, pitchers will note that if it helps them get some extra mustard on the ball, well hey, ain’t that a daisy? Off the record hitters will privately grouse about it too (and apparently Red Sox players were privately grousing about Pineda’s pine tar last night). But no one makes a stink out of it because the last thing a hitter wants is his own pitcher being similarly scrutinized.
So this is the dance. It’s a dance that wasn’t as necessary before HDTV, telephoto lenses and social media made these incidents visible and subject to discussion in real time, but it’s a dance that isn’t likely to change any time soon. With the exception of PEDs, baseball has always been able to deal with these gray and complicated ethical areas in which someone may be cheating but our guy is cheating too without getting too worked up about it.
Just keep that in mind if your local sports yakker decides today that Michael Pineda is a dirty rotten cheater and that baseball must do something about it.
UPDATE: Andy Martino of the Daily News spoke with Chris Capuano and some other players about it. And the message: yes, everyone does it. Just don’t be so obvious about it, ok?
The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.
Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.
Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.
Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.
Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.
Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.
The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”
Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.
Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.
On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.