As you might know, Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda got booted from a game last night for rocking a swatch of pine tar on the back of his neck, in full view of everyone. The weird thing is that it wasn't the fact that Pineda used pine tar that got everyone pissy, but the fact that he did it so blatantly, at least according to any number of HOT TAKE-dishing strangers over on Twitter. "Can't allow that flagrant disrespect by Pineda." "I'm flabbergasted by Michael Pineda's disrespect for the game." "Ban Pineda now! Disrespect the game!" Disrespect Disrespect Disrespect. No one gives a shit about the pine tar; they just care about a player having the gall to use it openly. I assume all baseball fans are mob wives in their spare time.
Pineda has already apologized and explained that he used the pine tar because it was cold and he needed a better grip on the ball. Now, athletes lie all the time about everything, but using pine tar to make sure the ball doesn't go sailing out of your hand and break a ballboy's jaw (as well as to get more rotation on it, etc.) is standard operating procedure for many pitchers, even the chaw-spitting Jesus cherubs who have played for the Cardinals. Here's noted leader of men Chris Carpenter, for instance:
"Pine tar, sunscreen, whatever… it's not there to help the ball sink, cut or do funny things. It's a tool to keep it from flying out of your hands."
And here's Adam Wainwright, another custodian of The Cardinal Way, explaining why Kenny Rogers deserved to get in trouble for using pine tar in a World Series game a few years back:
"The reason we didn't like it was because it was so 'in your face.' If he had been a little more discreet with it nothing would have ever been said."
So here is the basic unofficial stance on pitchers using pine tar in baseball:
- Lots of guys use it.
- It helps to prevent you from killing people.
- It's not legal.
- But we won't point that out unless you're being indiscreet about it.
Do you understand how fucking insane this is? If Pineda had lodged that pine tar in his asscrack, no one would have cared. His actual (nominal) cheating, then, wasn't the issue; the problem was that by being so IN YOUR FACE about it, he breached some nebulous form of baseball etiquette and thus deserved to be punished. Pine tar is apparently just a red button you push when you feel the need to call out a player who isn't following proper cheating decorum.
I have an idea: Why not just make this shit LEGAL? Let guys put it on their neck and face and balls and anywhere they need to conveniently stash it. It's legal for players to use pine tar to grip the bat. The Red Sox's batting helmets have been SLATHERED with pine tar for over a decade. They all look like they wiped their asses with their helmets. That's respectful? And what's the goddamn difference between using it to grip a ball and using it to grip a bat anyway?
I'll tell you: There is no difference. This is baseball twisting itself into knots to enforce a strange BRO CODE that makes sense to Chad Curtis types and no one else. In the real world, it's more disrespectful to hide an illegal substance than to be open and honest about it. But baseball would prefer you lie in its ongoing, inexplicable war with IN YOUR FACENESS. Pine tar on the neck? DISRESPECT! Slightly puffed chest? DISRESPECT. Ate a peanut wrong? CHIN MUSIC. I find it amusing that baseball players are some of the biggest meatheads on Earth, yet police each other's manners like Emily Post at a fingerbowl party. If you want something to be a rule, make it an actual rule. And if you want to look the other way, then at least be consistent about it. That's how sane people go about things.
Everyone likes to poke fun at baseball's endless unwritten rulebook, but here at last, we have a full-on view of the irrationality of baseball culture. I can see it more clearly than the shit on Pineda's neck.