KANSAS CITY — The above photo was tweeted around by many during last night’s game. It’s Salvador Perez and his shinguard and what appears to be pine tar. I guess given that it’s Perez we’re talking about it could be some sort of fluid from a severely injured internal organ he’s nonetheless playing though, but it’s probably pine tar.
Other than the retweets and some not-to0-serious chatter, no one really cares. Maybe it’d be a bigger thing if last night’s game didn’t have so many other things going on with it, but this is about as far from a controversy any putative foreign substance incident has been in recent memory. It’s no Bullfrog Sunscreen-gate and far from L’affaire Kenny Rogers. Ned Yost dismissed it after last night’s game. More significantly the Mets — who would be the ones to make an issue out of it if an issue was to be made — laughed the matter off. Indeed, just now, before Game 2, Collins was asked about the pine tar, whether he cared and whether his players do it. Collins said “I don’t know if Travis [d’Arnaud] does it. He probably does. Throughout baseball, everyone does.” He went on to talk about how it’s a benefit to the hitters, ultimately, in that they don’t have to stand in against a pitcher with a bad grip.
This all falls under the same general ethical umbrella that the sunscreen-on-pitchers-arms stuff does. As we learned back when Clay Buchholz was making headlines about this two years ago, almost all pitchers use something to get a better grip and, really, no one cares. Either for the stated reason — what Collins said about better grip — or for the more plausible reason: the pine tar or whatever it is does give the pitcher an advantage but their pitchers are doing it too, so there’s no percentage in getting into accusations over it during a game. Heck, Yogi Berra was doing this for Whitey Ford before your mom was born. If Yogi did it, who are you to throw stones?
People like bright red lines when it comes to matters of cheating, but it doesn’t really work like that in practice. It’s dangerous to have situational ethics, but in some situations ethics are practically and somewhat understandably malleable. If the Mets are willing to look the other way — and they were, either because they simply don’t care or because their catchers have gunk on their shinguards too — I’m not sure where the mandate to start inspecting shinguards comes from, even if pine tar on shinguards is not, strictly speaking, kosher.
All I know for sure is that if there are closeups of Sal Perez’s shinguards tonight they’ll be as clean as a whistle. I mean, even if no one cares, why be obvious about it?