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 Yankees signed first-round draft pick Clarke Schmidt and second-round pick Matt Sauer on Saturday, per a team announcement. Schmidt, a right-hander from the University of South Carolina, is set to earn a signing bonus of $2,184,300. According to MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin, that’s much lower than the typical $3+ million allocated for a No. 16 overall pick. The opposite is true for Sauer, whose projected $2.5 million signing bonus tops the suggested $1.2 million reserved for a No. 54 pick.
Schmidt, 21, boasts an impressive four-pitch repertoire and profiles as a front-end or mid-rotation starter, according to reports from Yankees’ VP of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer and ESPN’s Keith Law, among others. He carried a 4-2 record through nine starts in 2017 and turned in a 1.34 ERA before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery last month to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow. While the Yankees won’t see him pitch at any level until late 2018, they seem confident in his makeup and ability to rebound over the next couple of years.
Fellow right-hander and Righetti High School senior Matt Sauer is a different story altogether. The 18-year-old hurler appears destined for the bullpen with a polished fastball-slider combo and a promising curveball and changeup. He dazzled on the mound this year, going 9-1 with an 0.98 ERA and two shutouts over 78 1/3 innings. While the Yankees seem most interested in his pitching skills, Sauer showed some pop at the plate as well, touting a .427 average with 24 RBI through 135 plate appearances.
The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.
Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:
Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:
In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.
The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.