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The responses to the Jon Lester Vaseline “controversy” are pretty familiar

Oct 24, 2013, 1:03 PM EDT

World Series Cardinals Red Sox Baseball

I don’t think there is anything to make of the Jon Lester Vaseline controversy than what has been made. Maybe he had something on his glove, but MLB can’t prove it, the Cardinals aren’t pursuing it and the most this will ever amount to — and probably the most it should amount to — is a bit of fun and chatter-fodder this morning.  Even if something was amiss, no one has much of an incentive to pursue it anyway, and it’s all gonna die before the first pitch of Game 2.

Which it probably should. Again: absent more evidence or something more conclusive, it’s not a big deal. It’s something fun to talk about. Nothing more.

But I am getting a bit of a chuckle at how the responses to this little incident are playing out, as some of them are quite familiar.  Here’s a broad sampling of the various responses I’ve seen. And I don’t mean to single out these tweeters — some of them are my friends — they’re just what I happened to see.

  • Let’s go after the accuser:
  • Sure, maybe something was going on, but EVERYONE does it.
  • Even if he is doing it, it didn’t help him. He would have accomplished what he accomplished anyway.

Sound familiar? They do to me. Because we see these defenses play out in the PED arguments all the time. And they never really fly there.

We saw the line of reasoning in Abraham’s tweets way back in 1998. That’s when Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press pointed out the andro in Mark McGwire’s locker. He was dismissed at best, vilified at worst, not because of what he was saying but because he, in the minds of some, lacked the standing to say it. Depending on how hard someone went after Wilstein, it was either irrelevant or shameful.

As for the “attention-seeking,” We saw this hurled at Jose Canseco, who was dismissed as an attention-seeker when he first announced his intention to out the PED users and later when he wrote his book. Which, yes, Canseco was an attention seeker, but that didn’t make him wrong.

The other two are more recent and, to me anyway, more familiar. Because heck, I make those arguments all the time! I say stuff like “why are we so hard on hitters who took PEDs when pitchers did too?” And “Maybe Barry Bonds took PEDs, but it’s not like he wouldn’t have been a Hall of Famer without them.”  They’re the same arguments as “the Cardinals put goop on balls” and “Lester didn’t need the goop to win” stuff.

When I offer those arguments, though, I’m usually shot down by others with some variation of “just because everyone does it doesn’t make it right” or “even if the guy would have been a Hall of Famer without PEDs, he still cheated and cheating is wrong.” Which is kind of funny when you think about it, given how non-critical people are being of that line of reasoning with respect to doctoring baseballs.

Look, I’m not suggesting that whatever Jon Lester did — if he even did anything — is awful or terrible. Indeed, I’m inclined to let it all go simply because (a) lots of pitchers doctor baseballs and (b) whatever he was doing last night, it didn’t really change anything.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t, technically, cheating if he had some substance on his glove. If he had goo on the glove he was very much cheating, for whatever that’s worth.

I am just sort of amused at how the sorts of defenses used for one sort of cheating — PED use — are considered illegitimate by many but are immediately trotted out when another sort of cheating — spitallin’ — presents itself for discussion.

  1. cohnjusack - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    One thing is certain. Lester’s glove will be probably be checked before the next game and we can all be pretty certain that there will be no(more?) ball doctoring this World Series.

    • jbriggs81 - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:38 PM

      I doubt that we will not see any substances on the ball as the Red Sox pitchers routinely use some type of subtance while pitching. Just look at how greasy Buchholz comes out in between innings. His hair is somehow wetter than it was the previous inning and he constantly touches the ends of his hair between every pitch. Its systemic in that organization

      • 18thstreet - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:14 PM

        He really is greasy. It’s pretty gross to look at.

    • offseasonblues - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      Who’s going to ask to see the glove?

      Matheny didn’t last night, and won’t going forward because then Farrell will check his pitchers.

      • cohnjusack - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:09 PM

        If only baseball had some sort of independent authority on the field who did this type of thing. Someone whose job it is to referee the action. Alas! No such thing exist in sport that I’m aware.

      • stex52 - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:17 PM

        Sarcasm Alert!!!! Shame on you Cohn. No, the umpires are too busy staring at the bases to possibly look up and see what is going on with the rest of the field. /S

  2. cupquest - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Maybe Bill Belicheat captured a better angle on his videotape.

    Cheattown, USA.

    • sabatimus - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:41 PM

      You just supported the question I was going to ask: What’s going to be the shelf-life on this story, particularly if the Sox win the Series? The answer? Forever, apparently. No expiration date.

    • 18thstreet - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:15 PM


    • nightman13 - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      Such a stupid comment. I continue to be shocked that people think that sign stealing did anything at all to help the Patriots.

      1.) Most teams change their signals from week to week, so probably 90-95% of what was recorded was worthless.
      2.) There is no way to steal the sign and relay it to the offense for an upcoming play. The QB headset shuts off with 20 second left on the play clock. That means the Pats would have had to see the sign, translate it, radio the defensive play call to the offensive coordinator, he’d have to determine the best play to attack the D and radio it to Brady in 20 seconds. Impossible.
      3.) I am a freelance writer for the NFL and have attended the Scouting Combine and other major NFL events where all the coaches, scouts, etc congregate. Based off my conversations with people, they estimated that 18-22 of the 32 teams taped signals.

      The only advantage you get from taping signals comes if a team is too stupid or lazy to change them from the previous week. Since 2/3 of the NFL was taping signals, almost all teams changed their signs from week to week. So in the years the Pats were taping signals it may have benefited them in a handful of games against bad coaching staffs.

      • dingee19 - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:02 PM

        Right, belicheat went through all the trouble to tape practices for no advantage at all. Combined with the fact they are 0-for after getting caught makes it seem that maybe taping practices helped. If you think they went through all the trouble to tape practices, with NOTHING to gain from it, you have to be a Patriots fan.

      • crackersnap - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:37 PM

        I always wondered why nearly every NFL coach on the sidelines during games would move his lips while hiding behind his play sheet – both before AND after the Pats got caught up in that. And I seem to recall an article that related how Mike Shanihan and Jeff Fisher respected each other so much, that both knew they could trust the other side during head-to-head games and did not need to protect their signaling and discussions in like fashion.

      • Bob Loblaw - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:10 PM

        Such a stupid comment(how’s it feel?), but I am guessing nightman must be a patriots fan.

        The Eagles after the game were all saying how it seemed like every time they called a screen pass, there were three patriots defenders around. They knew the signals. They taped that week’s practice, not previous practices. They had spies going to the other team’s practice and taping the signals and everything. That was a MAJOR PART of spygate. Not only taping previous games and using those signals. They were sneaking into practices and taping them. They did it during the week of all three Super Bowls they won. How convenient that they upset the Rams as a 14 point underdog, and then 6 years later, AFTER SPYGATE, as a favorite of almost 14 points, they went out and LOST to a FAR inferior NY Giants team. Why? I guess it was just a coincidence LOL.

        Anyone who doesn’t think that the Patriots benefitted from Spygate is either a Patriots fan or an absolute moron.

  3. terrapin03 - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    You forgot the irrational, demented fan response: “BLEEP the , they’re just a bunch of sore losers/whiners/female dogs!

    It’s not on the same level as your other examples that originate with intelligent people, but a very predictable response nonetheless.

    • terrapin03 - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      That was supposed to say “BLEEP the (insert accusing team/person)…” but it didn’t like the brackets.

  4. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    My favorite response? The one by MLB and the commissioner’s office. You can just see Budd standing there outside the stadium…

  5. jbriggs81 - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Can’t say that I am surprised to see Pete Abe acting like that. Ever since he became a writer for the Boston Globe he has become the biggest Red Sox fanboy. It shouldn’t surprise anybody to see that he is flat out denying there was any substance on Lester’s glove, which he is claiming on Twitter.

  6. Bob Loblaw - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    Craig left out a fourth bullet point

    • pro-PED bloggers are going to use this story to write yet another pro-PED blog posting.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      I love how attempting to point out the complexities of PED use makes you “pro-PED”.

      But no, the world is a simple, uncomplicated black and white place where nuance never exists. Now, let’s all crawl back in our caves and be afraid of the sun.

    • nightman13 - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      Human instinct is to deny complex issues to the point of simplicity to remove uncomfortable thoughts from consciousness.

      Some people are wired a little differently and embrace complex issues and analyze them. That’s where you get your scientists and academics.

      Occasionally, you get the second type working in an industry dominated by the first type which creates a natural backlash. Which is one of the reasons journalists despise bloggers and also a reason why hardcore fans flock to bloggers.

  7. clydeserra - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    When was the last tome a pitcherwas called out for doctoringa ball in the worldseries? Odd.

    • tridecagon - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:25 PM

      2006 wasn’t that long ago.

  8. deathmonkey41 - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    Can the umps check players gloves, etc… on their own or do they have to wait for a request to do so from the opposing manager?

  9. gostlcards5 - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    Nicely drawn parallels, Craig.

  10. makeham98 - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Either check his glove when you see it or forever hold your peace. I saw a post elsewhere accusing Cardinals pitchers of putting vaseline on the ball, explaining why the fielders couldn’t hold it.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      Why does that make any sense? How about check his glove when you find the information, and if it appears there was a foreign substance on the ball, take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

  11. gameover78 - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    What a bunch of cry baby back beotches! Sox in 4, won’t get a chance to check Lester’s glove bc he won’t need to pitch again. Sox bats and Cards minor league fielding is what won Game 1.

  12. raiderufan - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    In my opinion the amount of guys who do it compared to the guys who do it and get caught are about 1,000,000/1 in the history of the game.

    Truth is that this has and does happen all the time. Guys poke in the eye in football pile ups….pitchers would pee on thier hands in game if they could get away with it and it helped.

    Not saying it’s fair or right but it’s reality.

  13. m3dman3 - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:02 PM


    • sabatimus - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:45 PM

      You might want to change your handle to reflect that, then.

    • rje49 - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      How about an asterisk next to Pete Vuckovitch’s Cy Young for 1982? During a game at Fenway, pitching to Rick Miller, I watched (on TV) him spit a big gob onto the thumb of his glove, rub his fingers into it, then grab the ball and throw the pitch. Even announcer Bob Montgomery saw it and said “oh, what’s this?”. Nothing was ever done. I guess nobody on the field noticed the most flagrant instance of cheating I’ve ever seen.

  14. gloccamorra - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    Twitter commentary is like asking the opinions of Jerry Springer’s audience. The only place for logical, incisive analysis, the true pulse of the public, is the HBT comments.

    • 18thstreet - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:16 PM

      You’re welcome.

  15. sandpiperair - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    Alex Speier is not giving an “even if he is doing it” response. He’s using information to say that he’s clearly NOT doing it, because his pitches were doing the same thing last night that they usually do.

  16. Liam - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    He don’t use jelly.

  17. gingerkid2000 - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    And let the Boston sports haters commence their whining in 3…2…1… It’s as predictable as the sun coming up. Do your pathetic posts come with a matching pair of ovaries?

  18. nobody78 - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    a) People are plenty hard on pitchers who use PEDs. You think Roger Clemens is going to the Hall anytime soon? Because of how our antennae are tuned (the attention to home runs, the simple fact that hitters LOOK more muscular than pitchers) we’re a lot more likely to accuse hitters of using PEDs than pitchers, but when they’re caught, we’re harsh enough.

    b) People think PEDs are worse than doctoring balls. They have reasons — some good, some bad. For one thing, PEDs are illegal. For another, there are some kinds of cheating which people find charming — usually those which one engages in on the field, and which take a bit of gumption or creativity on the part of the cheater, and PEDs aren’t that.

  19. gloccamorra - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    If only we had the Yankees or Tigers in this Series, we wouldn’t have all this cheating/illegal substances talk.

  20. metalhead65 - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    accusing somebody of cheating when they lose is just part of the cardinal way. that is one one of the reasons this reds fan hates them. when the reds starting winning and beating them in 2010 st. larussa accused Arroyo of putting something on the ball when he won at bush. then in Cincy crybaby carpenter complained about the mound and the condition of the balls there as well as accusing reds pitchers of cheating. and don’t forget about him getting his feelings hurt and being distracyed by the fireworks after giving up a homer. funny nobody but them complained about that the whole year. how about just once when you lose you guys try doing it with some of that cardinal class you are always bragging about.

  21. mjsully123 - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Isn’t Gaylord Perry in the Hall of Fame? Everybody and their mother knew he was throwing a spitball.

  22. crackersnap - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    I blame Mike Trout and all those advanced stat nerds. Because somebody has got to do it.

  23. mvd513 - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    Its safe to ignore anything the Cardinals bitch about. They’ve been the whiniest team in baseball for years.

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