Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees was caught by television cameras with what appeared to be a foreign substance on his hand and wrist while pitching against the Boston Red Sox.
Pineda said it was just dirt.
Almost everybody else agrees that the substance was in all likelihood pine tar.
In fact, most people are so convinced it was pine tar, that the debate is not about the substance but whether or not we should still care.
The argument for not caring is based on three points:
- Pine tar is just used to get a better grip on the baseball, something some batters appreciate as it means pitchers will be less wild and less likely to hit batters.
- Pine tar does not alter the behaviour of the ball the way Vaseline (i.e. spitballs) does.
- Everybody is doing it.
The last point is the troubling part. It’s almost certainly not true, which is why we should still care when pitchers use pine tar.
As it stands now, using pine tar is illegal and as a result there are pitchers that wouldn’t use it even if they wanted to.
There is direct risk associated with the act. A pitcher can get caught and can get ejected. This happened to Joel Peralta of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012.
In addition to hurting his club in that game, Peralta was suspended for eight games, which cost him nearly $US100,000 in lost pay and left his team a pitcher short.
If not all pitchers are willing to take this risk, then the playing field is not level. Pitchers who are cheating have an advantage other pitchers aren’t afforded.
Ultimately, pitchers probably should be permitted to use something to improve their grip of the baseball if that’s what all players want. But until that happens, it is illegal, it does create an unfair advantage, and it deserves to still be a big deal when it happens.
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