Pine tar incident reveals baseball’s sticky ethics

The DVR is a wonderful thing. With modern athletes continually evolving into stronger, more explosive specimens, the blistering pace of sports threatens our appreciation of the many marvels within the game.

Fortunately, DVR reclaims these moments for the audience, enhancing our viewing experience and providing us with the opportunity to suspend (and gawk at) LeBron’s grace mid-flight or Tiger’s arresting swing mid-torque.

Or, DVR gives us the time to pause and inspect a shamelessly applied foreign substance on a pitcher’s hand. Those who use pine tar are cheating the game and should be held accountable.

Surely, then, when Alex Rodriguez noticed the molasses-colored goop on New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda’s throwing hand during a recent game against the Boston Red Sox, he paused his TV and smirked.

No one likes being the sole New York outcast caught for wrongdoing; the interrogating glare of the spotlight is much less discomforting when the burden is shared by two.

I imagine A-Rod bouncing around his home in search of his MLB Enforcement Bible, turning to Rule 8.02 (a) and caroling the incriminating passage: “The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball; [or] deface the ball in any manner…”

“Just wait until this goes viral,” he must have thought. “The moralizing baseball writers are going to eat this up.”

And opposing players must have felt cheated too. Especially hitters. It’s against the rules – an unfair advantage. Right?

Not according to Red Sox player David Ortiz. “Everybody uses pine tar in the league. It’s not a big deal,” he said.

And not according to Red Sox manager John Farrell, either. “Guys [just] look to create a grip,” the nonchalant Boston manager said.

The media was similarly tepid, as was baseball’s head office. Pineda escaped even a slap on the wrist for visibly breaking the rules and cheating the game.

Somehow, this is the same league that called upon the United States Congress to carry out a performance-enhancing drug (PED) witch-hunt in order to preserve the integrity of professional baseball. The transgressions were so widespread that veritably everyone was guilty, and the MLB needed help — cheaters were not going to deface the name of America’s most cherished pastime.

But, in this instance, the cheater has been abided.

Rules are rules, and Pineda should have been ejected from the game and suspended for a time thereafter. In fact, MLB’s almost universal acceptance is indicative of the hypocritical winds that swirl throughout the game.

Players who use PEDs are downright immoral, but pitchers who use pine tar are just like everybody else?

In both cases, a player is using a foreign substance to achieve an unfair advantage over other players. Both are explicitly breaking a rule in the sport’s hallowed rulebook. And both make an attempt to hide what they’re doing to ensure they don’t get caught.

So, why should scantily (and unethically) obtained evidence be used to suspend Alex Rodriguez from baseball for an entire season, if clearly incriminating evidence gleaned from just pausing your DVR is overlooked?

If for nothing else than to keep A-Rod sane, clean it up MLB. Either enforce the rules, or don’t.


Corey Janson is a senior majoring in psychology and political science.

April 23, 2014


Corey Janson

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