Pineda’s Mystery Substance Creates Sticky Situation

There’s been a lot of talk over the last 24 hours about Yankees’ starter Michael Pineda. In his Thursday night start against the Red Sox in the Bronx, Pineda clearly had a brown, shiny substance on the heel of his pitching hand.

There was uproar online from Red Sox fans, Yankee haters, and baseball purists about Pineda trying to cheat. It became a big storyline on both the Yankees’ and Red Sox’ broadcasts. And the outcry only continued when the spot magically disappeared midway through the game.

To all those people who are upset about what Pineda did: Get over it.

Did you not notice that not a single member of the Red Sox brought it up with the umpires for the four innings the substance was there? Do you just choose to believe that the entire team was totally oblivious to it as thousands saw it on live television for more than an hour?

Of course the Red Sox knew. After the game, manager John Farrell admitted as much. He said, “I think in conditions like last night, particularly this time of the year when it’s so cold, it’s not uncommon for pitchers to try to get a grip in some way.”

Farrell absolutely knew. But speaking up about it would have done more harm than good.

It was just last year, of course, that Clay Buchholz was criticized for using a sticky sun block on his arm. Then, later in the season, Jon Lester was spotted with a green gob inside his glove. Nothing ever became of those, outside of the chirping from anyone who doesn’t like the Red Sox.

Nothing will come of this either. MLB has already issued a statement saying, “The umpires did not observe an application of a foreign substance during the game and the issue was not raised by the Red Sox. Given those circumstances, there are no plans to issue a suspension, but we intend to talk to the Yankees regarding what occurred.”

That conversation should go something like this:

“Mr. Cashman, keep your players from being morons.”

That’s all that needs to be said. Because that’s really the crime here. It’s not that Pineda was using a foreign substance to give himself a better grip. It’s that he was dumb enough to do it in a way that was so blatant, even to the most oblivious of fans.

Part 1a. of the real infraction is his ridiculous explanation as to what the truth to the matter was. His response, when told people thought he was using pine tar, was, “I don’t use pine tar. It’s dirt. I’m sweating on my hand too much in between innings.”

pineda pine tar
Detail view of the throwing hand of New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda 35 during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium William PerlmanTHE STAR LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

You show me the combination of “sweat and dirt” that made his hand look like that, and I’ll show you the pine tar he actually used.

The best thing Pineda could have done was to come as clean as his hand did in the fifth inning. No one believes that dirt and sweat caused his mystery sheen to appear. By coming out with the truth that he was just trying to get a better grip on the ball, this all could have been put to bed. People would have accepted it and moved on.

There still would have been those who thought he was cheating, but there are still those, anyway. Now, those people still think he’s a cheater, but also that he’s a liar.

It could be that he didn’t want to admit to breaking rule 8.02, which states “The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.” The penalty for such an infraction would be ejection and suspension. But the game was over, and the league does not want to go down the suspension path with these situations.

Applying pine tar to a ball does nothing more than provide for extra grip. It is not a spit ball. It wasn’t scuffed up by sandpaper. It doesn’t not add any extra movement at all or give the pitcher a decided advantage. MLB would much rather have pitchers maintain better control of their pitches than seeing serious injuries caused by a misplaced 95 mph fastball. Besides, if MLB truly wanted to take a stand against this, they would have sent a message to Buchholz or Lester.

Really, this is a non-issue. A pitcher was doing his job the way many others in baseball do. He just happened to do it in a more obvious way than we are used to. So don’t expect to see a pool of pine tar on Pineda’s hand during his next start. A more veteran pitcher will show him how to do it more discreetly. And no one should bat an eye.

Scroll to Top