Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SweetSpot [Print without images]

Thursday, April 24, 2014
Pineda suspended, but ramifications?

By David Schoenfield

As expected, Major League Baseball suspended Michael Pineda for 10 games for using pine tar in violation of rule 8.02 that prohibits using a "foreign substance" on the ball. Pineda will not appeal the suspension and will begin serving it immediately, meaning he'll be eligible to pitch again Monday, May 5.

The bigger issue here remains: Is this something teams, managers and MLB will be willing to crack down on moving forward with other pitchers? Or even want to? As offense continues to decline and strikeouts continue to rise to ridiculous levels, has the game swung too far in favor of the pitchers? Is it just a coincidence that pitchers are dominating at the same time the use of pine tar or spray-on sunscreen is apparently so widespread that the reaction from within the game was basically, "Pineda just should have done a better job of hiding it"? MLB officials didn't blink an eye -- at least publicly -- when Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester was spotted during last year's World Series with a mysterious green substance on his glove. How far is, "It's part of the game" allowed to go?

Is there a correlation between using something to improve your grip and the dominant level of pitching we're seeing these days? Maybe not. Pitchers say a little tar or sunscreen doesn't make their curveball any better or slider any sharper, but a better grip is still a better grip. On the other hand, pitchers have always done stuff to the baseball more dramatic than pine tar. As Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams once said about pitchers trying to get an edge, "Anything short of murder is OK."

Michael Pineda
Michael Pineda will be eligible to return from his 10-game suspension on May 5.
Still, I think there are some potential ramifications brewing from the Pineda incidents (he was seen with pine tar on his palm a couple of weeks ago), along with the accusations last year toward Lester and teammate Clay Buchholz:

1. Managers will be watching a little more closely, at least for obvious offenders. Of course, the trade-off there is your own pitchers will be watched more closely. But I think managers will feel obligated to have umpires check when the offender is as obvious as Pineda was Wednesday or Lester was last October.

2. Pitchers, certainly, will be more careful about what they're doing (not that many have been caught or accused). I don't think we'll be seeing any pitchers with green goop on their glove this postseason.

3. MLB officials will convene some sort of study on the effects of pine tar and/or sunscreen and/or whatever else pitchers are using. Or at least a blue ribbon panel.

After all, by the rules, it is cheating. As Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations, said on MLB Network on Thursday, "You have to enforce the rules."

Of course, in a 1990 article in the Los Angeles Times, Torre, then a broadcaster for the Angels, said, "I have no problem with cheating. Whatever you can get away with."

So it's a complicated issue, at least if you're not a pitcher. I guess it comes down to this: If the people in the game don't deem pine tar as cheating, then it's time to change the rules.