Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice? Shame on YOU. Michael Pineda has been ejected in the second inning of tonight’s Yankees-Red Sox game in Boston for having pine tar on his neck. This is not the first time Pineda has been caught with a foreign substance on his body while pitching; April 10th Pineda was seen with a “brown goop” on his palm against guess who, the Boston Red Sox. John Farrell took a lot of heat that night for not questioning whether Pineda was doctoring the ball as he dominated the Red Sox line up. However, it didn’t take long for him to make his mark on tonight’s game as he asked the umpires to check on Pineda in only the second inning with two outs in the middle of an at bat. To his credit, he was right; Pineda had pine tar on the right side of his neck.
It is not surprising that he made the move to using pine tar after his first inning of work. He seemed to have zero control of his breaking ball, and even struggled to locate his fastball. For a guy who’s bread and butter is his fastball-slider combo, this could have led to a very long night, especially against a team like the Boston Red Sox.
Being a pitcher who grew up in Massachusetts, I know how tough these cold Boston nights can be to pitch in. Once you lose feeling in the tips of your fingers, it can be almost impossible to generate consistent spin on your pitches. While I have never attempted to use pine tar or any other substance to aid my grip on the ball, it is not surprising at all that Pineda did on this frigid night. Rick Sutcliffe and Aaron Boone, who are working the game for ESPN, did not seem to have a huge problem with what Pineda was doing, even though it was against the rules. Sutcliffe said on cold nights, he would get the ball deeper in his hand if he couldn’t get a consistent grip. He also commented with, “if hitters are allowed use these substances to get a better grip on their bats, why shouldn’t pitchers be allowed to as well?” Boone weighed in on the situation saying, “I am not opposed to a pitcher using a little something on these cold nights, but don’t rub it in the opposing team’s faces.”
David Phelps has been called on to replace Pineda. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch is reporting that if Pineda is found for doctoring the ball with a foreign substance, an immediate 10-game suspension is expected. But, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the suspension is only a minor league rule, and it will be up to MLB Vice President of Operations, Joe Torre.
Actually just checked again and 8.02(b) is National Association rule = Minor League Baseball. No mandatory penalty at Major League level.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) April 24, 2014
What do you think? Should a pitcher be allowed to have a little pine tar in a cold game like tonight?