pineda hand

Pineda and pine tar: baseball is, once again, sending mixed signals about cheating

129 Comments

I get into a lot of baseball arguments which end up with people telling me how damn clear the rules and morals are and how I’m a jerk for not understanding that. How breaking the rules is cheating, cheating is wrong and cheaters are bad people. How defending the cheaters is an exercise in amoral or even immoral excuse-making. Rules are rules, and if I can’t understand that well, God help me.

Then Michael Pineda is caught twice using pine tar, and apparently nuance is the order of the day. “His crime wasn’t cheating, so much,” the consensus holds. “Everyone uses a little something to help them get a grip on the ball. His crime was being so obvious about it. It’d be just fine if he used pine tar in a manner that didn’t make a mockery of the situation.”

MORE: Yankees’ Pineda caught with pine tar, faces suspension

Imagine if we applied that standard to other forms of cheating. Most players who use PEDs claim with a straight face that they do so for totally legitimate reasons, separate and apart from gaining an advantage on the competition. Now, picture a guy getting busted for HGH and being met with the same sort of response the Pineda thing is getting: “Hey, a lot of guys use this stuff because they just wanna get off the disabled list more quickly, and if you do it we’re not going to care all that much. But you can’t go getting caught by George Mitchell, dummy. Jeez, what an idiot.”

I don’t feel like that dynamic would fly too well. So forgive me if I don’t think the conventional wisdom forming around the pine tar issue this morning is all that great.

Specifically, I don’t understand why, after a decade’s worth of hand-wringing over the moral depravity of rule-breakers, people are accepting of a situation where breaking the rules is totally fine as long as no one is being obvious about it and no one is doing things to cause it to make big, controversial news. This was baseball’s original m.o. regarding PEDs, after all. Steroid use was widely known and acknowledged as something that was happening and something that was wrong, but it only became a big issue once Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti decided to start talking about it in 2002. That approach has been soundly rejected as shameful and willful blindness on baseball’s part, and everything that has happened with PEDs since then has been a reaction to it or correction of it.

VIDEO: Farrell on Pineda | Yankees embarrassed

Yet, here we are again. When it comes to pine tar or other foreign substances used by pitchers, baseball seems content to look the other way until someone as indiscreet as Pineda literally forces them to acknowledge it. And fans and commentators, it seems, are content to go along with that. To mock and punish the guys who openly flaunt the rules, while not thinking too terribly hard about the rules or their inconsistent application in the first place.

How nice it would be if, this time, baseball actually looked at the issue at hand in a mature and non-reactionary way and determined whether, if rules are being broken, why they are being broken and whether the rule in question should actually exist in the first place.  To ask if what everyone says is true and pitchers legitimately need pine tar or sunscreen to get a grip on the ball. To determine if doing so is not objectionable, whether maybe it’s a good idea to legalize pine tar or sunscreen or whatever is being used. To put a big tub of it on the mound for the pitchers to use. Or at the very least to examine pitcher grip in an intelligent way and decide which substances are OK and which substances aren’t. People claim this is a matter of batter safety. If so, let’s make baseball put its money where its mouth is rather than just stigmatize people and go after the low-hanging fruit like Michael Pineda or any of the guys named in the Mitchell Report.

If, however, that angle is oversold and, in reality, pitchers use this stuff to get an advantage over hitters — and if people’s usual willingness to look the other way on this is a function of not wanting their cheating pitchers to lose their advantage — let’s not pretend that how obvious someone is about their cheating is the real issue here and actually start enforcing a clear rule which has been on the books for far longer any rules about PEDs have been.

I don’t expect either of those things to happen, of course. Rather, I expect that people will be content to laugh at Michael Pineda and criticize him for being obvious. For lecturing anyone who questions those who would mock Pineda about the unwritten rules of cheating in baseball and how, if they don’t get that, they obviously haven’t played the game before and don’t understand baseball’s rich and colorful history.

Then, the next time someone recovering from a torn ligament get busted for taking HGH, I expect us to be back in the land of heroes and villains, moral certainty and the deficient character of those who would cheat. Because the only consistent thing there is when it comes to baseball and cheating is its considerable inconsistency.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday evening’s action

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15:  Joe Ross #41 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the third inning during a baseball game against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on May 15, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Early Thursday afternoon treated us to a pair of games: Diamondbacks/Pirates and Marlins/Rays. We have an abbreviated slate from the late afternoon onwards, with only six contests.

Let’s use this opportunity to talk about Nationals starter Joe Ross, who will take on the Cardinals in the opener of a four-game home series beginning at 7:05 PM EDT tonight. Ross will oppose Mike Leake.

With Stephen Strasburg off to a great start and having signed a seven-year, $175 million extension, and with Max Scherzer having authored just the fifth nine-inning 20-strikeout game, it’s understandable why Ross hasn’t made headlines. The brother of Padres starter Tyson Ross, Joe has put up a 2.70 ERA with a 37/15 K/BB ratio in 46 2/3 innings spanning eight starts thus far. Only 19 qualified starters across baseball have put up a better ERA than Ross.

Ross was rated one of baseball’s top-100 prospects entering last season and he proved why, as he pitched well in 13 starts and a trio of relief outings following his promotion on June 6. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, featuring a fastball that averages 92 MPH. He compliments that with a slider and a change-up. Ross has good command of the strike zone and mixes up his pitches well enough to keep hitters off balance. He turned 23 years old last Saturday, so he has plenty of time to get even better.

The Cardinals, though, will be a hard match-up for Ross. They’re averaging 5.43 runs per game, a mark bested only by the Cubs (5.61) and one which is more than a full run per game above the league average (4.28).

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) @ New York Yankees (CC Sabathia), 4:05 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake) @ Washington Nationals (Joe Ross), 7:05 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray) @ Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta) @ Atlanta Braves (Matt Wisler), 7:10 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman) @ Houston Astros (Lance McCullers), 8:10 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Miguel Gonzalez) @ Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy), 8:15 PM EDT

Major League Baseball issues a statement about the Padres national anthem thing

SAN DIEGO - APRIL 06:  The grounds crew works on the field before the start of the game between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres during Opening Night at Petco Park on April 6, 2007 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
3 Comments

I figured the last word on the Padres National Anthem thing came the other day when everyone seemed to apologize to everyone else and ask for fired people to be rehired and all of that stuff. But no, it appears that there is more.

A coda anyway. From Major League Baseball which apparently used its Department of Investigations to suss everything out about the whole affair. And here you thought all they did was walk a questionable ethical line when investigating drug use.

Anyway, here is their statement. One more false ending to this thing and I’ll feel like we’re in a sequel to the movie “Clue.” Which is massively underrated, by the way. Tim Curry’s second-best movie, easily, and Lesley Ann Warren’s absolute best.

The statement:

Major League Baseball announced today that it has completed its investigation into the unfortunate events of Saturday, May 21st, when members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus had been scheduled to perform the Star-Spangled Banner before the Padres’ “Pride Night” home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park.  The review, which was conducted by MLB’s Department of Investigations, included a dozen interviews with individuals who were involved in the situation.

The Department of Investigations has concluded that the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus has performed the Star-Spangled Banner multiple times before a Padres game; that Saturday’s regrettable situation was a product of human error; that the situation was exacerbated by the fact that the lead entertainment supervisor was involved in a car accident on Friday night and thus was unable to work on Saturday and handle his typical responsibilities; that employees involved in the matter were handling new duties with which they were insufficiently familiar; and that the employees involved had no malicious intentions and, in fact, universally relayed contrition for how the incident unfolded and the adverse impression that it created.

MLB received the full cooperation of Padres management, which expressed its deepest apologies.  MLB believes that the Padres’ efforts to remedy the situation, including its invitation to the Chorus to return to a future game to perform the National Anthem, are appropriate and has every expectation that the Club’s longstanding record of inclusion will be evident in the future. 

 

A-Rod off the disabled list and back in the Yankees lineup

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez watches his RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
2 Comments

Alex Rodriguez has been activated from the disabled list and will be batting fifth in his return to the Yankees lineup this evening.

A-Rod has been on the DL since May 4 with a strained right hamstring. He was off to a slow start this year but began to slowly heat up just before going down with the injury. Overall he’s He’s hitting .194 with five home runs in 20 games.

It’s hard growing old. Partially because of the injuries. Partially because jerks remind you of things like the fact that you went 3-for-5 with a solo homer in a loss against the Royals on the day the Dodgers starting pitcher for tomorrow night’s game was born.

Anyway, welcome back A-Rod.

Matt Carpenter placed on the paternity leave list

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter celebrates after hitting an RBI triple during the second inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday, April 11, 2016, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 10-1. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
6 Comments

The St. Louis Cardinals have placed third baseman Matt Carpenter on the paternity list. He’s gonna be a daddy. Or just became one. Not sure. Either way: Awww. Carpenter is first on the team with nine homers and 32 RBIs and is batting .250 with a .378 on-base percentage. He’s expected to miss four games.

He’s also expected to outrage dudes like this:

 

Personally, I always look to Mickey Mantle when I’m thinking about how best to comport myself off the field. He was a paragon of family values.

Oh well. We’ve come a long way with this stuff in a short time. Just two years ago we had scores of yahoos, including some members of the media, grousing about Daniel Murphy taking paternity leave. Now we have just one yahoo. This is what progress looks like, folks.