Apr 24, 2014, 8:07 AM EST
I get into a lot of baseball arguments which end up with people telling me how damn clear the rules and morals are and how I’m a jerk for not understanding that. How breaking the rules is cheating, cheating is wrong and cheaters are bad people. How defending the cheaters is an exercise in amoral or even immoral excuse-making. Rules are rules, and if I can’t understand that well, God help me.
Then Michael Pineda is caught twice using pine tar, and apparently nuance is the order of the day. “His crime wasn’t cheating, so much,” the consensus holds. “Everyone uses a little something to help them get a grip on the ball. His crime was being so obvious about it. It’d be just fine if he used pine tar in a manner that didn’t make a mockery of the situation.”
Imagine if we applied that standard to other forms of cheating. Most players who use PEDs claim with a straight face that they do so for totally legitimate reasons, separate and apart from gaining an advantage on the competition. Now, picture a guy getting busted for HGH and being met with the same sort of response the Pineda thing is getting: “Hey, a lot of guys use this stuff because they just wanna get off the disabled list more quickly, and if you do it we’re not going to care all that much. But you can’t go getting caught by George Mitchell, dummy. Jeez, what an idiot.”
I don’t feel like that dynamic would fly too well. So forgive me if I don’t think the conventional wisdom forming around the pine tar issue this morning is all that great.
Specifically, I don’t understand why, after a decade’s worth of hand-wringing over the moral depravity of rule-breakers, people are accepting of a situation where breaking the rules is totally fine as long as no one is being obvious about it and no one is doing things to cause it to make big, controversial news. This was baseball’s original m.o. regarding PEDs, after all. Steroid use was widely known and acknowledged as something that was happening and something that was wrong, but it only became a big issue once Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti decided to start talking about it in 2002. That approach has been soundly rejected as shameful and willful blindness on baseball’s part, and everything that has happened with PEDs since then has been a reaction to it or correction of it.
Yet, here we are again. When it comes to pine tar or other foreign substances used by pitchers, baseball seems content to look the other way until someone as indiscreet as Pineda literally forces them to acknowledge it. And fans and commentators, it seems, are content to go along with that. To mock and punish the guys who openly flaunt the rules, while not thinking too terribly hard about the rules or their inconsistent application in the first place.
How nice it would be if, this time, baseball actually looked at the issue at hand in a mature and non-reactionary way and determined whether, if rules are being broken, why they are being broken and whether the rule in question should actually exist in the first place. To ask if what everyone says is true and pitchers legitimately need pine tar or sunscreen to get a grip on the ball. To determine if doing so is not objectionable, whether maybe it’s a good idea to legalize pine tar or sunscreen or whatever is being used. To put a big tub of it on the mound for the pitchers to use. Or at the very least to examine pitcher grip in an intelligent way and decide which substances are OK and which substances aren’t. People claim this is a matter of batter safety. If so, let’s make baseball put its money where its mouth is rather than just stigmatize people and go after the low-hanging fruit like Michael Pineda or any of the guys named in the Mitchell Report.
If, however, that angle is oversold and, in reality, pitchers use this stuff to get an advantage over hitters — and if people’s usual willingness to look the other way on this is a function of not wanting their cheating pitchers to lose their advantage — let’s not pretend that how obvious someone is about their cheating is the real issue here and actually start enforcing a clear rule which has been on the books for far longer any rules about PEDs have been.
I don’t expect either of those things to happen, of course. Rather, I expect that people will be content to laugh at Michael Pineda and criticize him for being obvious. For lecturing anyone who questions those who would mock Pineda about the unwritten rules of cheating in baseball and how, if they don’t get that, they obviously haven’t played the game before and don’t understand baseball’s rich and colorful history.
Then, the next time someone recovering from a torn ligament get busted for taking HGH, I expect us to be back in the land of heroes and villains, moral certainty and the deficient character of those who would cheat. Because the only consistent thing there is when it comes to baseball and cheating is its considerable inconsistency.
Jan 26, 2015, 11:45 PM EST
McGee is expected to begin the season on the disabled list, but he’s hoping to return by late April or early May.
Jan 26, 2015, 11:05 PM EST
Ottavino has quietly been very effective since joining the Rockies in 2012, posting a 3.60 ERA over 179 relief appearances while averaging 9.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.
Jan 26, 2015, 10:01 PM EST
After negotiations with Ryan Vogelsong broke down last week, the Astros are now considering alternatives.
Jan 26, 2015, 9:07 PM EST
Gutierrez has played a grand total of 173 games dating back to 2011 and sat out last season due to a gastrointestinal issue.
Jan 26, 2015, 8:16 PM EST
Avila is making a change in hopes of avoiding future concussions.
Jan 26, 2015, 7:09 PM EST
The announcement comes after the Blue Jays reportedly ended their pursuit of Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette.
Jan 26, 2015, 6:30 PM EST
The 29-year-old hit just .245/.304/.347 with three home runs and nine RBI across 81 games with the Braves last season and was designated for assignment in November.
I don’t know if Dustin Pedroia is in the Best Shape of His life, but he IS posing with his shirt off
Jan 26, 2015, 5:04 PM EST
Before cell phone cameras we just sat around and posed in the mirror. Now we can share that with everyone.
Jan 26, 2015, 4:16 PM EST
Norris asked for $10.25 million and the Orioles countered at $7.5 million.
Jan 26, 2015, 3:49 PM EST
Buck joins Christian Bethancourt and A.J. Pierzynski on the Braves’ catching depth chart.
Jan 26, 2015, 3:35 PM EST
Now, if they’ll bring back the beer mug Bernie slides into, everything will be A-OK.
Jan 26, 2015, 2:42 PM EST
I’m sure you’ve been worried about whether he would.
Jan 26, 2015, 2:10 PM EST
Parmelee was dropped by the Twins last month.
Jan 26, 2015, 1:18 PM EST
Mesoraco is arbitration eligible for the first time at age 26 and filed for $3.6 million, while the Reds countered at $2.45 million.
Jan 26, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
Wade Boggs is . . . the World’s Most Interesting Man
Jan 26, 2015, 12:28 PM EST
If it was a human it would’ve almost made it to the first grade. But now it is dead, aged just short of six years.
Jan 26, 2015, 11:29 AM EST
If you made a trade with St. Louis in the 90s and 2000s, you likely got the bad end of that trade. Because of this guy.
Jan 26, 2015, 10:57 AM EST
Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.
Jan 26, 2015, 10:15 AM EST
“I don’t know if my metabolism is slowing down from getting older or what, but I feel good.”
Jan 26, 2015, 9:31 AM EST
Hey guys, if things break just right we may get another A-Rod lawsuit!
- Blue Jays sign president and CEO Paul Beeston to extension through 2015 20
- Reds sign four-year contract extension with Devin Mesoraco 11
- The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives 74
- How Commissioner Rob Manfred Can Make Baseball More Appealing 60
- Blue Jays cut off talks for Orioles executive Dan Duquette 48
- Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts 118
- Yankees reject A-Rod’s apology attempt 48
- Joe Posnanski: Remembering ‘Mr. Cub,’ Ernie Banks 18
- Bud Selig: The Greatest Commissioner in the History of Baseball (146)
- Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts (118)
- Comments of the Day: some of you guys aren’t big Bud Selig fans (77)
- Ernie Banks, one of baseball’s greatest players and greatest ambassadors has died at age 83 (75)