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:
Pine tar is used 2 make ur breaking pitches sharper& help ur sinker 4 more movement!
— Dwight Gooden (@DocGooden16) April 24, 2014
You can blow in your hand for a better grip when it’s cold… enough already! — Dwight Gooden (@DocGooden16) April 24, 2014
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.