Now and then, I actually stray back to the core subject matter of this column, which is about rules. This is one of those times – sort of.
As many saw on Tuesday night, Tampa Bay’s Joel Peralta was ejected from the Rays’ game against the Washington Nationals. The reason was a rules violation due to him being caught having concealed pine tar in his glove.
Adding fuel to the flames was the fact that the umpire search of Peralta was requested by Nats skipper Davey Johnson. The pitcher had been employed by Washington two seasons ago, fueling speculation inside information was involved.
In a silly tit-for-tat move later in the game, Rays manager Joe Maddon requested and was granted a similar, but fruitless search of Washington’s pitcher. Tampa’s leader was still angry about the incident after the game, calling his counterpart Johnson “cowardly.”
Maddon did not and could not deny that Peralta had pine tar in his glove. After all, home plate umpire and crew chief Tim Tschida noted that he found "a significant amount of pine tar" tucked inside Peralta's leather.
Defending his guy and his view of game sportsmanship, Maddon implied that using pine tar is a common practice among pitchers. Therefore, the rule against it apparently should be universally ignored.
That is where I have a major problem.
My take is very simple – black and white. Either the rules should be followed or they should be eliminated. Simple as that. You stray into the gray area or choose selective enforcement and you bring the integrity of the game into question.
Major League Rule 8.02 (b):
“The pitcher shall not have on his person or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b), the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game.”
Later that evening, I listened to the always-excellent analysis on MLB Network. Ex-players turned television commentators Al Leiter and Mitch Williams delivered passionate arguments in defense of pine tar use by pitchers. Further, Williams went on and on about how the substance does not affect anything other than a hurler’s grip.
It should be noted both Leiter and Williams were pitchers. Not a word was mentioned about why the rule isn’t changed if it is so unfair.
While there have been many pine-tar related incidents over the years involving pitchers, one of the most famous occurred on MLB’s biggest stage - the World Series. During the 2006 Fall Classic, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa became suspicious, perhaps tipped off by television monitors, that Detroit pitcher Kenny Rogers had pine tar smeared on his glove hand. Cameras clearly indicated that was the case.
Interestingly, while La Russa approached the umpires, he did it between innings. His only request was that Rogers wash his hand before taking the mound again. Rather than search Rogers and eject him, interestingly, the arbiters complied with La Russa’s request. The game continued – with the cleaner-handed Tigers left-hander proceeding as if nothing happened.
Why was Rogers not ejected?
Some suspected La Russa was going easy on his long-time friend, Tigers skipper Jim Leyland. Others subscribe to the view that La Russa didn’t want to appear to disrespect the game by drawing more attention to a negative situation. Why did the umpires comply?
There is another theory as evidenced by recent comments from Chris Perez. The current Indians and former Cardinals closer alleges St. Louis’ pitchers regularly used pine tar themselves. If that is the case, it could help explain why La Russa went after Rogers very quietly.
Whatever was behind it, Major League Baseball probably appreciated the lower-key approach to a potentially-embarrassing situation. When all is said and done, one has to assume MLB is ok with the rule as it is today. Otherwise, the focus caused by the Rogers incident would surely have led to a change.
Along the lines of gamesmanship, would Maddon have been less angry had Johnson simply requested Peralta change gloves?
Anyway, you may be asking what this has to do with fantasy. After all, the eight-game suspension levied on Peralta (currently being appealed) hopefully wouldn’t affect any league races.
Here’s the deal. We’ve all been in leagues in which the documented rules were not followed or done selectively.
“Well, we’ve never followed that rule” or “It doesn’t really mean that.” “Instead, we do it this way…,” some commissioners say.
Sure, rules interpretations are often needed and sometimes, not everyone will agree.
But, there is no excuse for not removing rules from the constitution that are out of date or are not being followed as written. If “the way it is done” isn’t clearly documented, make sure it is changed.
Doing anything else is just plain “cowardly”. Instead, respect the game while protecting your fantasy team’s interests at the same time.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.