Michael Pineda was tossed from a major league baseball game last night for reasons of tactlessness. He is also likely going to be given a suspension commensurate with the offense of blatantly cheating in a baseball game (typically a missed start). The debate that has followed has not so much centered around the fact that what Pineda did was, in fact, in violation of the written rules of baseball, but has centered more around the soft sticky underbelly of baseball etiquette.
The debate goes as such:
Pine tar is an illegal substance, but everyone uses it
On a cold night in Boston, one could see the need for getting a better grip on the ball. To be able to feel the seams and make semi-accurate tosses towards home plate is to the betterment of the game; otherwise we'd end up with a Rick Vaughn routine of pitchers desperately trying to throw a small, mostly white spheroid over a plate a third the size of your average womp rat. It's bad business to see a pitcher failing horribly.
And then there is the communal issue. The fact that this is a well-known infraction that presumably every major league team employs makes it a pot/kettle situation. On the scale of overly-scrutinized professional sports, it is generally considered to simply be bad form to point out the infractions of others when you, as a club, are fairly aware of the fact that some of your employees are doing the same thing.
It's okay if Pineda cheats, he just needs to be less blatant
Well, that's not exactly a counter-point, but okay. If Pineda is going to cheat, he should do it in a fashion that makes it less likely for him to be discovered. The fact that this was the second time this season that Pineda had been so egregious in breaking a rule, and even further still that he was breaking the unwritten rule of not letting everyone know that he was breaking a rule, was the final straw. It's not so much that he was cheating, it's that he was, in the figurative sense, teabagging everybody's lifeless corpse a la Halo 3 in the process.
Putting it in the palm of your glove hand seems to be the most acceptable placement, although Joel Peralta knows what happens when your former franchise knows your habits. Eddie Harris has some interesting alternatives that I'm sure have been utilized by more than one player.
So, cheat better, Pineda.
I wonder where I've heard all of these arguments before? Oh right, it was ten years ago, as the so-called Steroid Era was being drawn to a close. Everyone got in a tizzy about the well-worn practice of steroid use which, if we're being honest, extends as far back as the early 80s at least, when it battled cocaine and amphetamines as the drug of choice for major league players.
And then Barry Bonds came along and started destroying records. And because he was just so blatant about it, and also happened to have the personality of a wet shoe that's two sizes too small, everyone was upset. The fact of the matter is that people would have cared less that he was juicing if he didn't have such a prickly personality. But, he was both a user and an asshole, so now no one gets to have fun.
And maybe you're thinking that this is absurd, and that steroids and pine tar really don't have all that much in common. You can't really compare a body-morphing wonder drug like steroids with a foreign substance that helps a player perform at a level higher than what the environment allows...hmm...