Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pine Tar Again

Well well. Pine tar is in the news again. George Brett will enjoy the fact that Joel Peralta got caught Tuesday night with a glob of pine tar in his glove. Since 1920 the spitball – as such – has been banned but really did not go away until the late 1950’s.  What we have here is cheating, or is it? It appears that doctoring the ball has been in the game from the beginning and is still here.

Ball players have, at every step in the game’s development, tried anything they could to get an advantage. The spit ball, the cut ball – Leo Durocher and Elston Howard for Whitey Ford, the hair cream ball, KY jelly or Vaseline on the brim of the hat, or shoes or belt or…  – Gaylord Perry. Now we have pine tar. Pine tar is the better choice because it can be found on the mound and – in the NL – on the bats the pitchers will use.

Several pitchers have been busted with pine tar. The likes of Jay Howell in 1988 NLCS – suspended three games, Julian Tavarez and Brendan Donnelly, both ejected. The big incident was Kenny Rogers, in game 2 of the 2006 WS, for having pine tar in his hand. He was simply asked to wash it off. No further sanction.  He went eight innings and won the game.

George Brett, for weeks, had gotten away with the excess pine tar on his bat. It was not allowed to be more than the 17 inches, the size of home plate.  Yankee skipper, Billy Martin, waited until his challenge would affect a game. It did and history was made. Later, it was decided by MLB that it was not an advantage to the hitter. So, it is no longer an issue. Messing with the ball is an advantage for the pitcher.

The scuffing, wetting, cutting and greasing the ball in general was first made legal in 1903 in the new American League.  It was banned when Indian shortstop, Ray Chapman, was killed by a beanball in 1920.  The old style dirty ball was filthy with stuff on it and was very hard to see. The AL mandated new balls be issued for every game. So, today we have a new ball practically every pitch. It is harder to get a scuffed or greased ball into play.  However, this recent incident shows they are still trying. Joe Maddon says it is “common knowledge in the industry” by “every major league baseball team.”

Joel Peralta got caught, ejected and did not pitch to one batter.  The story here is the reaction of both managers. Joe Maddon is upset that Davey Johnson used insider information. Peralta had pitched for the Nationals in 2010, before moving to the Rays. (It was Graig Nettles who gave information to Billy Martin about George Brett). These guys do not like each other. Their egos and styles have always been at odds.

The latest exchanges are about the rules and the “Code”. In baseball the players take care of things on the field. Always have and always will. If one side feels disrespected, retaliation will take place now or in the future.

I cannot wait to see what the next step between these two teams will be.

ps. Late breaking news. Peralta got an eight game suspension. He is appealing but unbelivable. Way too much. Ejection yes, but, in light of other rulings, ridiculous.

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