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Doc Gooden calls B.S. on people saying pine tar is just to help pitchers get a grip on the ball

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I’m still laughing at the fact that the same people who have been on my case for years for my suggestion that not all cheating is dastardly — and that, maybe, we should judge the effect and intent of people breaking the rules before castigating them — either minimizing what Michael Pineda did last night or claiming that his real transgression was the obvious manner in which he used the foreign substance as opposed to the fact that he used a foreign substance.

The analogy that some are using — I saw Tom Verducci use it on the Dan Patrick Show anyway — is that Pineda was “doing 56 in a 55.” This is simply wrong. The rule against foreign substances on baseballs is designed to keep pitchers from getting an unfair advantage over hitters by giving them better stuff on the ball. In this it is no different than any other rule designed to stop cheating in order to get an unfair advantage, be it corked bats or, yes, PEDs. All of those, we usually agree, are serious transgressions against a level playing field. Say, going 90 in a 55. And it’s no less of a ticket if you go 90 in a 55 in a Buick than if you do it in a Cadillac.

Moreover, the “everyone does it” thing we’ve been hearing since last night never seems to wash when I mention that, when Barry Bonds played, everyone was doing PEDs. Not sure why it washes now. Maybe there shouldn’t be a rule against pine tar for pitchers — I’d really like MLB to examine whether it’s necessary and whether the claim that all pitchers use it to “get a better grip” is really why they use it — but until the rule is off the books, it’s still a violation and shouldn’t be getting the eye-rolls it’s getting now. Or, if it does, other rules violations that “everyone does” and that have innocent motivations even if there are some competitive benefits (say, HGH for recovering from injuries) should be getting the same treatment.

Maybe the first step to all of that is to actually cut through what I suspect — but can’t really know for sure — is a heavy dollop of B.S. when it comes to the “I just use it to get a grip on cold nights; I don’t want to hit any batters” excuse no one seems to want to criticize. Well, no one except an actual major league pitcher who knows a thing or two about this stuff:

I don’t think using pine tar is a capital case — ten games is probably right, I suppose — but it is against the rules. And why now, after so many years of having people bleat about how hitters trying to get advantages over pitchers threatened the very soul of baseball, I don’t have a ton of patience for people saying pitchers trying to do the same thing is no big deal.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.