The responses to the Jon Lester Vaseline “controversy” are pretty familiar


I don’t think there is anything to make of the Jon Lester Vaseline controversy than what has been made. Maybe he had something on his glove, but MLB can’t prove it, the Cardinals aren’t pursuing it and the most this will ever amount to — and probably the most it should amount to — is a bit of fun and chatter-fodder this morning.  Even if something was amiss, no one has much of an incentive to pursue it anyway, and it’s all gonna die before the first pitch of Game 2.

Which it probably should. Again: absent more evidence or something more conclusive, it’s not a big deal. It’s something fun to talk about. Nothing more.

But I am getting a bit of a chuckle at how the responses to this little incident are playing out, as some of them are quite familiar.  Here’s a broad sampling of the various responses I’ve seen. And I don’t mean to single out these tweeters — some of them are my friends — they’re just what I happened to see.

  • Let’s go after the accuser:
  • Sure, maybe something was going on, but EVERYONE does it.
  • Even if he is doing it, it didn’t help him. He would have accomplished what he accomplished anyway.

Sound familiar? They do to me. Because we see these defenses play out in the PED arguments all the time. And they never really fly there.

We saw the line of reasoning in Abraham’s tweets way back in 1998. That’s when Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press pointed out the andro in Mark McGwire’s locker. He was dismissed at best, vilified at worst, not because of what he was saying but because he, in the minds of some, lacked the standing to say it. Depending on how hard someone went after Wilstein, it was either irrelevant or shameful.

As for the “attention-seeking,” We saw this hurled at Jose Canseco, who was dismissed as an attention-seeker when he first announced his intention to out the PED users and later when he wrote his book. Which, yes, Canseco was an attention seeker, but that didn’t make him wrong.

The other two are more recent and, to me anyway, more familiar. Because heck, I make those arguments all the time! I say stuff like “why are we so hard on hitters who took PEDs when pitchers did too?” And “Maybe Barry Bonds took PEDs, but it’s not like he wouldn’t have been a Hall of Famer without them.”  They’re the same arguments as “the Cardinals put goop on balls” and “Lester didn’t need the goop to win” stuff.

When I offer those arguments, though, I’m usually shot down by others with some variation of “just because everyone does it doesn’t make it right” or “even if the guy would have been a Hall of Famer without PEDs, he still cheated and cheating is wrong.” Which is kind of funny when you think about it, given how non-critical people are being of that line of reasoning with respect to doctoring baseballs.

Look, I’m not suggesting that whatever Jon Lester did — if he even did anything — is awful or terrible. Indeed, I’m inclined to let it all go simply because (a) lots of pitchers doctor baseballs and (b) whatever he was doing last night, it didn’t really change anything.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t, technically, cheating if he had some substance on his glove. If he had goo on the glove he was very much cheating, for whatever that’s worth.

I am just sort of amused at how the sorts of defenses used for one sort of cheating — PED use — are considered illegitimate by many but are immediately trotted out when another sort of cheating — spitallin’ — presents itself for discussion.

Mike Rizzo and Shawn Kelley almost got into a physical confrontation

Getty Images

A few weeks back the Washington Nationals designated reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment the morning after he threw his glove into the ground and glared at the Nats dugout in frustration after giving up a homer in a blowout win against the Mets. He was later traded to the Athletics. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said at that time that he thought Kelley was trying to show up his manager and that there was no room for that sort of thing on the team, offering an “either you’re with us or you’re working against us” sentiment in the process.

Today the Washington Post talks about all of the Nationals’ bullpen woes of late, and touches on the departure of Kelley as being part of the problem. In so doing, we learn that, on the night of Kelley’s mound tantrum, he and Rizzo almost got into a physical confrontation:

Rizzo headed down to the clubhouse and confronted Kelley, according to people familiar with the situation. The argument became heated, including raised voices, and eventually it almost became physical, according to people familiar with the exchange. Adam Eaton got between the two of them and separated them before things could advance further . . .

Might I point out that, the fact of this emerging now helps to vindicate Brandon Kintzler who, the day before, was traded away, some say, for being the source for negative reports from inside the Nats’ clubhouse?

That aside, the article does not make anyone look good, really. Rizzo had the backing of his team with the Kelley incident, but the overall story — how did the Nats’ bullpen, which was once a strength — get so bad? — does no favors for Rizzo. Mostly because he seems to have thought that they had so much extra bullpen depth that they could afford to deal away Kintzler, which he says was a financial move, not a punitive trade for being a media source.

Question: when was the last time you heard a baseball man say he had too much relief pitching? Especially today, in which the bullpen has assumed such a prominent role? Seems rather unreasonable to cut relievers when you’re trying mightily to come back from a sizable deficit in the standings, yes?