The debate over pitchers using pine tar was raised once again when Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees was ejected after umpires found the sticky substance on his neck while pitching against the Boston Red Sox.
Pine tar is used to get a better grip on the ball, but it is an illegal substance banned by MLB.
After his ejection from Wednesday night’s game against the Red Sox, Pineda admitted that he was using pine tar.
This incident comes two weeks after cameras appeared to show pine tar on Pineda’s hand. After that game, Pineda claimed the smudge was just dirt.
Once again, many people don’t care that Pineda was using pine tar and there is a growing movement to make the substance legal for pitchers.
The argument for not caring and the growing movement to make it legal 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 pitches 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.
Pitchers are already permitted to use rosin, a substance that helps dry their hands. However, rosin will not improve their grip on the ball unless it is mixed with sweat or another liquid, such as sunscreen, another form of cheating some pitchers use.
Many batters don’t care and even encourage the use of pine tar. They agree that the substance gives the pitcher better control and the batters are less likely to get hit with the ball.
Some batters also like the idea of pitchers having better control because if the pitcher knows where the ball is going, there is a better chance for the batter to know where the ball is going.
In addition, many will echo the notion that “everybody is doing it,” which likely includes teammates of many batters.
But to say “everybody is doing it” is the troubling part. It’s almost certainly not true, which is why we should still care when pitchers use pine tar.
There is direct risk associated with the act. In 2012, Joel Peralta of the Tampa Bay Rays was suspended for eight games, which cost him nearly $US100,000 in lost pay and left his team a pitcher short.
Pineda is facing a similar punishment, if not worse, because there is evidence he has done this before.
If not all pitchers are willing to take this risk, then the playing field is not level and 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 is still a big deal when it happens.
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