On Wednesday April 23rd Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees was ejected while pitching against the Boston Red Sox. The reason; having pine tar on his neck. This was a repeat offense for Pineda who was seen with pine tar on his hand during a start against the Tampa Bay Rays. On Thursday April 24th, Major League Baseball handed down a ten game suspension for the right hander. This can be somewhat confusing as pine tar is accepted and encouraged for hitters. So why the big deal that a pitcher would have pine tar?
Pineda’s reason for having the pine tar was to help his grip on the ball. Wouldn’t the hitter want the pitcher to have a better grip on the ball so he does not lose control and put one in the hitters back? Actually just the opposite. When a pitcher uses any foreign substance they do it for an advantage, not for safety. Pine tar improves a pitcher’s grip. Pitcher’s learn at a young age that putting different pressures on different parts of the ball can make the ball move. Using pine tar to get a better grip in turn helps the pitcher get more pressure on the ball and creates more movement. And ask any hitter, they would rather try to hit a 115 miles per hour fastball that is straight than an 85 miles per hour fastball that can move four inches either way at the pitches decision.
When the hitter uses pine tar to increase his grip, it has no effect other than safety of not letting the bat go. Even if they swing harder, there is no guarantee they will make the solid contact they need for a hit. They also cannot manipulate the bat enough due to pine tar to have an advantage.
Let’s play devil’s advocate. Pitchers already have a rosin bag to help limit sweat running down their arm to the hand, and rosin is tacky. Pine tar seems to be a logical step if the rosin bag is not enough. Well, next time you get the opportunity, touch a rosin bag and see if you would need more grip after using as much rosin as you wanted. Mostly likely you will say no. But in the case you need more, why not pine tar? Because there is no way to limit the usage of pine tar from how much to which finger(s) it would be used on. This is where you would get an unfair advantage. If you have a pitcher say he only needs pine tar on his index finger, there is no way to prove it otherwise and now he can apply more pressure with his index finger and gain movement without losing velocity.
There is no way pine tar can ever become legal for pitchers as it is for hitters. It is used in a different way to gain a different end result by pitchers. I am surprised the penalty for Pineda was not more severe as it was blatant cheating. Hopefully he, and other pitchers, will get the message and not try to cheat the game.
Written by Nic Amanno
Follow Nic on Twitter @ChicoAlum
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