When a Major League Baseball pitcher like Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees performs the pine tar cheat over and over again – in a manner so obvious and with consequences so minimal – young fans get is that it’s OK to be a bad sport as long as you’re famous or good at what you do.
Baseball as a game is loved for its simplicity – and the rules for Major League Baseball outline clearly what it takes to keep your nose – or neck, in Mr. Pineda’s case – clean.
For the pitcher, the use of rosin (that white powder often seen pluming above the pitcher’s mound) is permitted.
However, MLB rule 8.02(3) leaves no room for ambiguity on other goop: “The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.”
As former Yankee Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot just by watching.”
Anybody looking at Pineda could see the glistening streaks of sticky greenish-brown goo on his neck.
According to multiple media reports, Pineda has used pine tar in more than one game by slathering it on his neck so he could casually run his fingertips across it and thus have better traction. This is an obvious no-no.
As a parent, it’s frustrating to see the images from Fenway Park of Pineda with a pine tar hickie on his neck, as kids witness yet another flagrant cheat by this pitcher. A cheat that is unlikely to result in significant punishment.
According to MLB.com, when Pineda faced the Red Sox in New York on April 10, cameras clearly showed pine tar on the palm of his right hand, however the Red Sox did not complain to the umpires that night, and the next day Major League Baseball announced Pineda would not be disciplined, but that the issue would be discussed with the Yankees.
Sports Illustrated described Yankees Manager Joe Girardi reaction to Wednesday’s incident as, “looking as irked and hapless as a man trying to untangle the Christmas lights, losing a wrestling match with a small remote-controlled camera.”
"Just a bump in the road," Girardi told SI as he, according to the report, “tried desperately to close the book on the poor judgment of the man now forever known as Michael Pine-tar.”
I think we need to keep this book open, or at least put a more significant marker into this page of MLB history.
In my opinion, Pineda should be suspended for a significant number of games, and perform community service with kids, the biggest group of fans he has let down by cheating.
I realize cheating and being crafty seems like an ingrained part of the sport, since it is documented throughout baseball history. However, the only chance we have of weeding the cheaters from the field and having a good clean all-American game to watch with our kids is to crack-down on cheating, rather than taking the “boys will be boys” attitude.
Since the beginning, there have been spitballs, mud balls, scuff balls, and more that have been banned through baseball’s history. Pine tar measures up to the best of old-fashioned cheats that should have no place in today’s game.
I’m a native New Yorker and a Yankees fan ever since my father took me to a game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx when I was age 4.
Before we ever went to the game, my father and I watched the old black and white film “Pride of the Yankees” about Lou Gehrig, starring Gary Cooper.
Today, I am not seeing any pride in my home team or any of MLB. Telling kids to be good sports and then letting cheaters openly ignore the rules is not the kind of curveball we need to keep throwing at children.