Are Cardinal Pitchers Cheating?
Last week Tampa Bay Rays reliever Joel Peralta was ejected and suspended for eight games for having pine tar smeared on his glove during an appearance against the Nationals. Many players felt Peralta was punished too severely for an offense widely practiced around the game.
If, before every game, they stopped and checked everybody’s gloves or something there would be one or two guys on every team that would just get popped. I’ve only played for two teams and more guys did it on the Cardinals than (Cleveland).
Some members of the Cardinal pitching staff have responded to Perez’s accusations, but their answers are disconcertingly vague to say the least.
For instance, Chris Carpenter made this unusually-nebulous remark in response to the charges:
First of all, I don’t know what Chris (Perez) is talking about. Second, it is what it is. I understand it’s in the rule book. But it’s a situation that happens. There are probably a lot of pitchers in this game who need something at times to help them get a better grip. If you’re talking about scuffing or putting Vaseline on the ball to make it move differently, that’s a separate issue. But to do something to get a better grip on the ball? With guys throwing 100 miles per hour? I don’t think that’s cheating … pine tar, sunscreen, whatever… it’s not there to help the ball sink, cut or do funny things. It’s a tool to keep it from flying out of your hands.
Uh, not exactly a denial of guilt.
And then there’s Adam Wainwright‘s interesting comment regarding the use of pine tar on the mound:
There’s a difference in pine tar from oil and grease, things that make the ball sink, cut or do different stuff. That’s different than doctoring a ball. If one of our pitchers gets a scuff on the side of a ball he can do all kinds of things with it. An emery board or something like that is totally different.
Is it really?
And then Kyle Lohse weighed in with this odd personal comment:
If you’re doing something to find a better grip, I don’t have an issue with that. I don’t think hitters would, either.
Sure, Kyle … the hitters have no problem with a pitcher having a competitive advantage!
I think it’s pretty obvious that Perez nailed the Cardinal staff to the wall with this issue. Their obfuscation when asked direct questions about their use of pine tar all but implicates them as pitchers who use pine tar while pitching.
And why is this wrong? Because Rule 8.02 of the official rules of MLB expressly forbids the use of any substance on the ball during the game:
Rule 8.02: The pitcher shall not … apply a foreign substance of any kind on the ball or deface the ball in any manner.
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?
What makes this particularly grotesque is the incident that occurred during the 2006 World Series. Many will remember the Cardinals famously objecting to the pine tar on the right hand of Kenny Rogers after the first inning of Game 2. Many will also remember Tony La Russa’s hesitation to pursue the issue during the game or afterwards. For a manager best-known for seeking any edge, TLR’s lack of action in that instance brought heavy criticism.
I guess we now know why La Russa refused to act against Rogers – because his pitchers are doing the same thing.
Wainwright addressed the Rogers incident in his answer, and it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth:
If it’s something like Rogers in the World Series, that was different. That was overboard. He was getting an unfair advantage … I really don’t know how (Rogers) used it. I guess you can create more spin on your breaking ball if you use enough of it. But the reason we didn’t like it was because it was so ‘in your face.’ If he had been a little more discreet with it nothing would have ever been said.
So listen to Wainwright, kids – it’s only wrong if you get caught.
I’m quite disappointed to discover that the pitchers on my favorite team are not only using pine tar to enhance their performances, but that they’re so widely known throughout the game as a team that supports and practices it. Not only do they look like cheaters, but hypocrites as well.