Something slimy is going on, slimier than the goo that appeared to be lathered in the webbing of Jon Lester’s glove. If the gunk so happened to be Vaseline or pine tar or lotion or some other foreign substance, Lester’s brilliant performance in Game 1 should not count, and the Red Sox should have to forfeit their victory. Harsh?
Not at all. Doctoring a baseball is against the rules, even if it’s considered in big-league clubhouses to be one of those wink-wink peccadillos where no one is supposed to squeal because every team has a spitballer or two … or four or five. In fact, it should be viewed as an outrage because it is a flagrant form of cheating — cheating in the World Series, no less — which is a violation of the very integrity that commissioner Bud Selig is supposed to be diligent in protecting.
But just as he ignored performance-enhancing drugs all those years, Selig showed no interest Thursday in investigating Lester beyond a cursory look at video posted on the Internet by social media. This is a potential scandal, Bud, an issue that calls for serious sleuth work and the finest hi-def screens. But there was MLB, systematically wanting no part of a probe that should have started as soon as Tyler Melling, a Class A pitcher in the St. Louis farm system, noticed something funny in Lester’s glove — a discoloring around the thumb of his otherwise black glove, at the very least — and wrote this on his Twitter feed:
“Jon Lester using a little Vaseline inside the glove tonight?”
His Tweet and screen shot was followed by the usual Internet swarm. And it became a story because, hey, why have rules if you don’t enforce them in the World Series? The night before, crew chief John Hirschbeck and four other umpires made refreshing history by realizing their colleague, Dana DeMuth, had made a bad call in the first inning and unanimously agreeing to overturn it — they got the call right. Wasn’t it Major League Baseball’s duty to continue that important breakthrough and investigate Lester? This was the year Selig, after too many years of complicit headturning concerning steroids, finally threw down his hammer and nailed the Biogenesis violators. Doesn’t doctoring a baseball also enhance a performance?
Apparently not. Because by noon, Melling’s Tweet had been removed. And by early afternoon, MLB was releasing a statement: “We cannot draw any conclusions from this video. There were no complaints from the Cardinals and the umpires never detected anything indicating a foreign substance throughout the game.”
Said MLB vice president Joe Torre, via Sports Illustrated: “There were no complaints from the Cardinals or observations from the umpires about the baseball doing anything funny or irregular. We will ask around, but without any complaint I don’t know what else you can say.”
So? You’re actually laying this on the umps, and the fact the Cardinals couldn’t see Lester’s glove from their dugout with the same up-close view that Melling and others had at home? When the Cardinals quickly followed with their own statement pooh-poohing the whole thing, the burial of the story was complete. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a non-issue,” general manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s something that arose in social media and not from our players or manager or our coaching staff. To me, it does not represent a concern.”
My first thought: The Cardinals don’t want to rat out the Red Sox, because the Red Sox in turn will rat out the Cardinals and turn the Series into a ball-doctoring witch hunt.
Lester said before Game 2 that he was using rosin, which is legal. “I can honestly tell you that all I use is rosin,” he said, per the Associated Press. “So, it’s obviously frustrating that after a night like last night, we should be having fun and running around with some energy today and I’ve got to stand here and answer questions about it.”
Oh, it’s the media’s fault now.
“Obviously, when I get a text at 2 o’clock in the morning, it’s not fun,” Lester said. “I understand. I saw the picture. It looks bad. … I throw rosin in my glove. That’s it. I warm up with one hat in the bullpen and then have to change hats when I come in (to the dugout). I’ve had plenty of games where I’ve got sweat dripping off my brim. I’ve put rosin on my hat before to try to stop it. You do a lot of different things to just try to try to contain it. Even on a cold night like (Wednesday) night, I’m still sweating, so you’ve got to do certain things to try to keep a grip on the ball and not let it slip, and rosin is one of those things that seems to help me.”
Said Red Sox manager John Farrell: “If you know Jon Lester, he sweats like a pig and he needs rosin,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I don’t see this as anything at all. MLB has obviously evaluated it and issued a statement. We consider it closed.”
According to Section 8.02 of the rulebook, a pitcher is to be ejected from the game and automatically suspended if he applies “a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.” Was it rosin? Was it something else?
We’ll never know. MLB would prefer not to have another cheating scandal as part of Selig’s checkered legacy. So it puts a hell of a lot more effort into a cover-up than an investigation, which is typically lame.
“This was not instigated by us,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny emphasized. “And the way we approach this is we just play the game. We don’t deny that some things have been acknowledged. And if that’s what he claims, then that’s what it is. That’s all there is to it. And right now it’s pretty much a dead issue.”
Thanks to Selig, the Bud Light of commissioners.