New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected in the second inning of his start against the rival Boston Red Sox last night, after umpires discovered pine tar smeared across the side of the 25-year old hurler’s neck.
Pineda’s use of the substance violated Major League Baseball Rule 8.02(b), which states, "The pitcher shall not ... have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance."
Pine tar is generally used to improve a pitcher’s grip on the baseball, increasing both velocity and control, especially in cold weather. Pineda is also believed to have used pine tar in his previous outing against Boston, but Red Sox manager John Farrell elected not to press the issue at that time. Wednesday, Pineda’s violation of the rules was so blatant that Farrell had little choice but to point it out to plate umpire Gerry Davis.
Pineda was immediately tossed from the game, and almost certainly faces a hefty fine and suspension from MLB.
What if Pineda were a NASCAR driver, instead of a Major League Baseball pitcher? Past history suggests that things would have gone much differently.
First, Yankee manager Joe Girardi would have exploded from the dugout to defend his pitcher, immediately denying any and all wrongdoing. “It’s not pine tar,” he would insist. “It’s an antihistamine ointment prescribed by our team physician to treat a severe case of poison oak.
“I asked Michael just an inning earlier, `Does your arm itch? Are you sure your arm doesn’t itch? Because if it does, that could impact your control.’
“The ointment was there to ensure the safety of Boston’s batters,” Girardi would claim, “and I cannot image how a league that claims to care about the health and safety of its players could possibly rule against us in this matter.”
When laboratory analysis subsequently proved the offending substance to indeed be pine tar, Girardi would immediately change his story, saying the club purchased 1,200 cases of antihistamine ointment from an aftermarket supplier, but mistakenly received pine tar instead.
“We cannot be responsible to testing every single tube of antihistamine ointment,” he would huff. “This is a manufacturer issue that we should not be held responsible for.”
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild would claim that even though pine tar was present, it provided Pineda with “no significant competitive advantage.
“It was just a tiny little smudge,” Rothschild would howl, with indignation. “By our estimation, it was less than an ounce of pine tar, and our experts all agree that it would have taken at least three quarts of pine tar to make any real difference in the effectiveness of his anemic curve ball.”
General Brian Cashman would then follow with a tersely-worded press release, claiming the pine tar had been applied by an unnamed equipment manager without the knowledge, consent or approval of the Yankees’ front office.
"However," Cashman would say, "We stand behind him 100%"
Photos: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America, ESPN