Pine tar chronicles: give them the gunk


Apr 4, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of a pile of baseballs before the opening day baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Following Yankees’ pitcher Michael Pineda‘s ejection from Wednesday’s game at Fenway and subsequent 10-game suspension, BoSox Injection sets out to cover all sides of the issue: from those in favor of better enforcement to those in favor of letting them play, with views on doctoring the ball from someone who’s pitched at the professional level. This is BSI’s Pine Tar Chronicles.

Before I get my argument for allowing pitchers to use pine tar, Bullfrog, and other substances, let us take a look at the actual rule. I was looking through the 2013 MLB Official Rule Book, I was unable to find the 2014 version during my brief search, and here is what it says in regards to rosin and other substances:

"No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery-paper or other foreign substance."

It later goes on to say:

"The pitcher shall not—apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball"

Yet, baseball supplies the pitchers with the rosin bag behind the mound during every game, which, when added to a warmth and moisture (aka sweat), becomes a sticky substance. But don’t worry, it only violates one rule as it is white and won’t discolor the ball any.

Umpires, players, and coaches all try to look the other way when it comes to the typical foreign substances, unless it is painfully obvious to the rest of the world that those actually playing the game have no choice but to enforce the rule. If rosin, pine tar, and certain sun screens properly give the pitcher grip on a ball that batters don’t seem to have a problem with, then just make it legal.

Adding the substances directly to the ball could have an impact on the trajectory of the ball; a properly placed clump of pine tar could result in extra movement on a slider, so don’t make it legal to add substances directly to the ball, but make it legal to add substances to a pitchers forearm and fingers. Choose a handful of substances that batters are not opposed to pitchers using, make those legal, and put them back behind the mound next to the rosin bag. Make the pitchers apply the substances to their arm and then dab their fingers in it right out there on the mound.

We would no longer need to raise a fuss about Clay Buchholz wearing sunscreen indoors, Michael Pineda looking like he just got a massive hickey on prom night, or a television broadcast trying to cut away as they accidentally show Daisuke Matsuzaka spraying one spot of a single arm with an unknown substance.

Make this all above board and out in the middle of the action. Allow the substance chosen by the pitcher to become a part of their game. Heck, it might be fun to hear an announcer describe a starting pitcher as a guy with “a four-pitch mix, four-seam fastball, change, curve, and slider with a pine tar” or a traditional “fastball-change guy who sticks to rosin”.