I can’t explain what was going through Michael Pineda‘s head on Wednesday night in Fenway, and I can’t explain what was going on in his teammates’ head while they watched the 25-year-old take the mound with a streak of pine tar on his neck, but it was Brian Cashman who called this incident an embarrassment for the Yankees. To some extent, yes, the Yankees clearly didn’t communicate the severity of using pine tar to Pineda. Perhaps the language barrier confused Pineda, maybe the pitcher was trying to conceal it in his glove or belt and had an itch on his neck while applying it, or maybe he really is as stubborn as the media now assumes. Either way, Pineda cheated again.
Yet even the group of writers that have proven the most prudish about cheating refuse to call Pineda a cheater. During last night’s YES broadcast, not only did David Cone and Al Leiter talk about the rampant use of pine tar by pitchers, but they even detailed their own use and how they chose to conceal it. Half way through the broadcast, Leiter talked about John Lackey‘s glove, and pointed out that the right-hander kept grabbing at something in there and it was likely pine tar. Then there were remarks by players and managers of the opposing team.
Mike Napoli: "Every pitcher does it. You can't blatantly have it out there showing. It was just kind of silly."
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 24, 2014
Farrell: "Fully respect on a cold night youre trying to get a little bit of a grip, but when its that obvious, something has got to be said"
— Daniel Barbarisi (@DanBarbarisi) April 24, 2014
Rarely do we see players public approve of breaking MLB’s rules. From these remarks, it’s clear that Pineda’s biggest infraction was to publicly disregard unenforced rules. This reaction proves that these rules have fallen into desuetude, and in an era where Bud Selig so badly wants to prove that he won’t tolerate cheating, Pineda’s penalty will be much bigger than his crime.
Just two days ago, another player was suspended for also breaking a rule. Carlos Gomez, who reacted to trash talk by Gerrit Cole, beat opposing players with his helmet on live television. The penalty was a three game suspension. Pineda is likely to receive a suspension of around eight to ten games, and although that will probably mean just one missed start, the message is that fighting is less offensive than mocking the commissioner.
Pineda is as much of a cheater as 90% of the other pitchers in baseball that succeed in concealing pine tar, yet he’ll be the one penalized for so flamboyantly ignoring a normally unenforced rule. While this could have been avoided entirely, MLB and Bud Selig should be embarrassed after the reaction of their players, ex-players, and the writers. Not only have one of their rules been lampooned and degraded during this process, but their reaction will likely be a penalty which is three times greater than an actual assault that took place on the field by Carlos Gomez. There’s a good chance that the Yankees and Pineda will be rather harshly penalized for so publicly ignoring MLB’s last warning about pine tar 10 days ago, yet I wouldn’t be surprised if pine tar was legal at this point next season.