You’re fooling no one, boys. Every team in the major leagues has a pitcher or two — or four or eight or 10 — who doctor the baseball. This is why the Red Sox said nothing when everyone with a TV feed knew that Michael Pineda, starter for the purported arch-rival Yankees, had a dark substance on his palm that looked like pine tar. In fact, it doesn’t take much Google work to locate more evidence of Pineda with goo on his hand, a photo posted on the Internet during his previous start in Toronto.
But the Red Sox can’t routinely rat out the Yankees when last fall, during the World Series, a green substance was found on the glove of Boston ace Jon Lester. By the silly clubhouse code that too often governs Major League Baseball, one team can’t snitch on another team when every team has its share of guilty parties. All of which violates MLB rule 8.02, which forbids a pitcher from applying “a foreign substance of any kind to the ball” or having “on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance.’’
The penalty for this violation is supposed to be an immediate ejection from the game. “In addition,’’ says the rule book, “the pitcher shall be suspended automatically.’’
Well, just as Lester wasn’t ejected from a game or suspended automatically, Pineda escaped without an ejection or suspension. Why? Because, as the MLB office explains, the umpires didn’t notice the substance and the opposition didn’t take take exception. Never mind that all of us saw it. Bud Selig is ceding to the little boys’ code.
“The umpires did not observe an application of a foreign substance during the game and the issue was not raised by the Red Sox,” MLB said in a statement. “Given those circumstances, there are no plans to issue a suspension, but we intend to talk to the Yankees regarding what occurred.”
That would be typical, ass-backward rationale by the powers-that-be. First announce there will be no suspension, then admit the situation is suspicious enough to merit a discussion with the Yankees. What if Pineda, who said he doesn’t use pine tar but attributed the dark spot to “dirt’’ and “sweating on my hand too much in between innings,’’ came clean and admitted to using a foreign substance? Wouldn’t MLB then have to suspend him? That’s not how Selig’s operation works. Damn the rules, even if they reflect poorly on the sport’s integrity, which should be sacred amid a filthy performance-enhancing-drugs scandal that continues to sully the game.
Yeah, the Yankees spoke to MLB all right. General manager Brian Cashman talked to his former manager, MLB executive vice president Joe Torre, and after exchanging pleasantries about each other’s families, they probably had a good laugh about the Pineda affair. “I talked to Joe Torre, he gave me a holler,” Cashman said. “It’s a resolved issue.”
“It was a conversation,” Cashman said. “I wouldn’t characterize it any way. But he did reach out to me, we had a conversation about it.”
Said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, also shrugging off a question about whether he questioned Pineda: “I have never went out and questioned anyone in my career. I’m aware of things. This is something you could probably go back 50 years ago or 80 years ago and you could probably go out and question people. It’s nothing I’ve ever done. I don’t talk to pitchers about that: ‘Do you use or don’t you?’ This is not a recreational drug. I don’t talk to people about that. I’m aware. I’ve been on teams where I’ve seen it. I’m 99 percent sure that I know of other guys on other teams that use it. I just haven’t said anything. Will we talk to Michael? If we did, I wouldn’t tell you anyway.”
Pine tar isn’t a recreational drug, agreed. But a pitcher who is using pine tar is violating the rules.
And no one cares.
Girardi admits he’s “99 percent sure’’ that opposing pitchers goo it up. Yet he won’t say anything about it.
So why have rules?
“The Red Sox didn’t bring it to our attention, so there’s nothing we can do about it,” umpiring crew chief Brian O’Nora said. “If they bring it to our attention, then you’ve got to do something.”
Why didn’t the Red Sox bring it to the umpires’ attention? “I became aware of it in the fourth inning through the video that someone had seen,” manager John Farrell said. “And then, when he came back out for the fifth inning, it looked, based on where it was told to me it was located, it looked like the palm of his right hand was clean.” Everyone else in America was aware in the early innings, yet Farrell, in the age of high tech, when he could be alerted quickly via a phone text or the dugout phone or a clubhouse messenger, didn’t know about it until much later?
What do they think we are, stupid?
Surely, the outspoken A.J. Pierzynski, in his first season as a Red Sox catcher, had something to say about Pineda after striking out and lining out. Actually, he didn’t. “I didn’t really think about it,” Pierzynski said. “I didn’t see it. I don’t know, he pitched good. That’s it.”
The message from the players is clear: We’re all cheating, and we’re going to play dumb about it. And Bud Selig, who failed to protect the sport’s integrity against PEDs for the better part of two decades, certainly isn’t going to react and enforce the rules.
So grease up, boys. Break the law.
Pineda, from this point on, is pronounced “Pine-aid.’’