In this article I am going to address an issue that has come to light with the Cardinals' recent pursuit of Jon Lester. As many will remember, in the 2013 World Series Jon Lester was caught on camera with a "mysterious substance" on his glove. This set off a fire storm in Cardinal Nation that Lester was cheating and to this day, you will see Cardinal fans curse his name. Hopefully by the end of this article, I will have you convinced why you should forget about this "scandal" and move on.
Many people know that in the MLB there are a variety of "unwritten rules". From not talking about a no hitter while it's going on, to not pimping home runs, and of course you are to never run over the pitcher’s mound on the way back to the dugout, baseball has many "rules" that major leaguers are supposed to follow. Perhaps the most controversial of these unwritten rules is the use of pine-tar by pitchers.
For as long as baseball has been played, players have been trying to get an edge over their opponents. One of the most popular ways to get an edge is for pitchers to "doctor" the baseball. Years ago this included everything from spitting on the ball and even using nail files to rough up the seams to get a better grip. Most of these doctoring techniques are no longer in use because Major League Baseball Rule 8.00 governs behavior for pitchers and subsection 8.02 clearly states: “The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.” The one "doctoring" technique that is still in use is the use of pine tar by pitchers.
There is a difference between those other techniques and using pine tar. Pine tar is used by pitchers to help grip the baseball, not provide unnatural movement. Pine tar is widely used by many pitchers in the MLB today. A pitcher can have a swab on the back of his ball cap, a little bit inside their glove and sometimes even their catcher can supply some during a visit to the mound.
This, of course, is not to say that pine tar is used all season long and by all pitchers. It is more common to find a pitcher using pine tar during April, September and October. These are months when pitchers feel like there is more of a chance that the ball might slip out of their hand. You might be thinking to yourself, "Why are batters fine with pitchers using pine tar." The answer to that is easy, grip! When you are facing a pitcher who can throw 105 MPH, ex. Aroldis Chapman, you want that pitcher to know where the ball is going. Pine tar is a substance that allows pitchers to do this; it provides the pitcher better grip and the ability to better control where the ball is going.
Of course, many of you will remember when Michael Pineda was suspended at the beginning of the 2014 season for having pine tar on his neck and people might ask themselves, "Why was he suspended for pine tar if many players and coaches in the MLB are fine with it", I'll explain. Pineda was being WAY too obvious with the pine tar and it could easily be seen from the Red Sox dugout. John Farrell summed up the whole pine tar argument perfectly, "When it’s that obvious, something has got to be said.”
Former Red Sox catcher David Ross was quoted as saying, “I would rather the guy know where the ball is going and have a good grip, for me, personally, As long as I've played there’s guys always trying to make sure they've got a grip when there is cold weather, early on. Maybe it’s cheating, but I don’t really look at it that way. Some guys might, but not me, personally.”
Many former players, current players, and even many managers have called for MLB to legalize the use of pine tar for pitchers, so I make a plead to you Cardinal Nation. If current players don't care that pitchers use pine tar, then neither should you!