MLB – IT’S TIME TO OFFICIALLY TEST THE AFFECTS OF PINE TAR ON A BASEBALL

On April 23, 2014, Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected in the second inning of a game vs. the Boston Red Sox after Coach John Farrell pointed out to umpires that Pineda had pine tar noticeably visible on his neck.  Pineda was later suspended 10 games by MLB.

After his suspension, Pineda decided not to appeal and admitted that he used the pine tar to help him get a better grip on the ball, because he couldn’t feel it well enough in the cold conditions and was worried he was going to hit a batter.

More interestingly, Pineda also said the pine tar “did not help” him throw harder, only to get “a better grip”.

The Official MLB Rules say that while hitters may use pine tar to help “improve the grip” up to 18 inches from the end of the bat handle (Rule 1.10c), pitchers are not allowed to use any “foreign substance” on the ball at any time (Rule 8.02b).

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

In fact, several current and former players have come forward since Pineda’s suspension to say that pine tar is frequently and secretly used by pitchers, but unlike Pineda, they tend to keep it out of view.

Veteran Red Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski said “I don’t have a problem with guys that do it… I know as a hitter, I want to get in there and know the guy has a grip.”  He also said, “No one has an issue with [Pineda] doing it… Put it on your hat, put it on your pants, your belt, put it on your glove, whatever you have to do.  You just can’t do it blatantly.”

Even David Ortiz said, “Everybody uses pine tar. It’s no big deal.”

Former pitchers Al Leiter, David Cone, and Mike Krakow admitted recently that they used the sticky stuff to help them get a better grip during their careers too.

So, why won’t MLB allow pitchers to use pine tar as a safety mechanism like they do with hitters via Rule 1.10c?

Previously, MLB executive vice president Joe Torre told ESPN.com that there is an unknown factor if pine tar was legalized.  Namely, if it was used by those pitchers who don’t know “what they’re doing with it” or if it was used “excessively”, it could actually be more dangerous, because the ball could get stuck on a pitcher’s fingers longer and “sink or cut more” than expected.

While I understand that Joe Torre is basing his opinion about pine tar on his vast experience in the sport  as a former player and coach, does he or MLB know exactly how pine tar or any other sticky foreign substance actually affects a baseball?

Also, if Torre is saying that pine tar can have the ability to affect the movement of a ball being pitched to a hitter, would that same ball move differently in the air after being struck by a bat?  Specifically, does pine tar give a baseball a different spin in the air than if it doesn’t contain it? Would that help or hurt a batter?

To be sure, it’s time that MLB officially tested the affects of pine tar on a baseball in a controlled, laboratory type of setting and then base its approach to Rule 8.02b on those findings.

Rather than making assumptions and letting the fear of the “unknown” keep all similar substances banned, let’s actually see with our own eyes if a variety of sticky stuff on a pitcher’s hands actually does cause movement of a pitch and to what degree.

And, let’s finally understand if a sticky foreign substance on a baseball would be an advantage or disadvantage to a pitcher and hitter alike.

It only makes sense that since we now live in a modern era in which cutting-edge technology is available and MLB is starting to remove the uncertainty in other aspects of its historical game, this issue should be addressed similarly.

Besides, the stakes are higher than ever before.  Just ask the Yankees if they wish to miss Pineda for 10 days in the tightest division in baseball?

If then, if it is uncovered that pine tar or any other common sticky “foreign substance” has only a minimal effect on the baseball through an official experiment, it seems logical that it should be let in for all pitchers to use without delay.

 


Sources :

Newsday Article - (04/24/14): http://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/pineda-banned-10-games-for-pine-tar-won-t-appeal-1.7815828
Official MLB Rules: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2014/official_baseball_rules.pdf

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