Ohhhh, Yankees’ baseball. You gave me so much to get worked up about this week. Michael Pineda is clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed, Joe Girardi’s loopty-loop bullpen continues to underwhelm, and then Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees’ safety net over the last two seasons, got shellacked. Obviously, Pineda’s antics and ensuing suspension garnered much of the headlines this week, but was it entirely his fault? I’m not so sure anymore. It’s 2014, it’s time for these unwritten rules to be written down. The Bronx is boiling and I need to blow some steam.
ENOUGH WITH THE UNWRITTEN RULES OF BASEBALL
Who do these guys think they are, the Illuminati? MLB seems to feel that they are some sort of superior body that allows themselves a secret code of conduct. Once you crack the bigs, you must adhere to these unwritten laws or pay the penalty. That penalty is that the other players won’t like you. There are two basic hypocrisies behind the unwritten rules. For one, everybody knows them and secondly, rules are meant to have consequences. The unwritten rules have none!
Do me a favor before we go any further. Google baseball’s unwritten rules. How many results did you find? Nearly 31,000, right? That means baseball’s unwritten rules HAVE BEEN WRITTEN!!! It is time to move on from this absurdity that MLB is some exclusive club that there is a secret Code of Conduct that they follow that nobody else does. Write them down and deal with it.
Everybody knows the unwritten rule that if your star player gets beaned, you reciprocate the favor the next inning. So, now that everybody knows about it, what happens? If, let’s say, Derek Jeter gets thrown at, a warning is issued. Ooooooh, a warning. I used to get a warning in fourth grade when I would come to class with my books not covered in grocery bags. You know what the end result of those warnings was? I still never covered my books. Despite these big, scary warnings, most of the time, the unwritten rule reigns supreme and somebody is going to get plunked.
Think about the unwritten rule about staring down or admiring home runs. It’s unacceptable and unsportsmanlike, but there are no real rules about it. But ask Carlos Gomez if he cares? He’d rather admire his long balls and start bench clearing brawl after bench clearing brawl than do what a rule that has no consequence tells him to do. The NFL? The NBA? Both have well known written rules against showboating. Do people still do it? Sure, but they also pay the consequences.
Which brings us to Michael Pineda. PINEda exposed the one unwritten rule in baseball that EVERYONE chooses to overlook. That rule: EVERYBODY CHEATS. People in the dugout try to steal base stealing signs. Base runners try to steal signs from the pitcher from the catcher. Batters look for any edge that will give them more power over the next guy. And pitchers doctor the ball.
A slew of Red Sox were all on record this week saying that they didn’t care that Pineda used a little pine tar. What they cared about was that the unwritten rule that pitchers use some shady aids were exposed. Pineda wasn’t suspended for cheating. Did they find pine tar on the ball? Did they find it on his throwing hand? Did they examine his glove to see if any pine tar had smeared? The answers to all these questions are no. They found pine tar on his neck, and the end result, no matter how baseball officials and commentators want to phrase it, was that he got suspended for being a moron.
“Any substance is illegal,” Red Sox skipper John Farrell told NESN. “But I think there’s a certain acceptance that it’s used and it’s discreetly used. Personally, I don’t think this is the case (here).”
“A lot of pitchers in the league do it, and you don’t really see spots like that to where it’s so blatant,” Mike Napoli, Red Sox first baseman, chimed in. “It is what it is. I’d rather have a guy have control over the ball when it’s cold, but you really can’t do it that way.”
“I don’t have a problem with guys who do it,” Catcher A.J. Pierzynski added. “I know as a hitter, I want to get in there and know the guy has (control), especially on a night when it’s cold (and) it was windy. Put it on your hat, put it on your pants, put it on your belt, put it on your glove, whatever you’ve got to do. But at some point, you just can’t do it that blatantly, and I think that’s what the biggest issue was. No one has an issue with him doing it. I think it’s more of the fact he just did it so blatantly.”
So, Pineda got caught doing something that everybody does. He’s a lot like Bill Clinton. If you really think that Clinton is the only president to use his executive power to his advantage, you have lost your mind. He got caught using a substance that is acceptable for one participant in the game to use legally (the batter) but another can not. Find me another sport where one player can use a foreign object to enhance his performance but for another player the same substance is illegal. It is absurd.
Let’s get rid of these petty unwritten rules. I can only imagine what it must be like for a 20-year-old rookie prospect like John Ryan Murphy to break into the big leagues. “Hey, Murph, I know you just hit your first homer. We would really love to take you out to celebrate, but first you have to pass this 30-page test on baseball’s unwritten rules and then never mention them again.” Whatever the case is, Pineda will be back soon. If he can’t put together a few quality starts sans pine tar, his whole career will be under a microscope. Considering more youngsters know Gaylord Perry as the greatest spitballer ever and not the fact that he is a Hall of Fame pitcher, I’d say that’s pretty unfair.