A Sticky Situation

Nicholas Burgos

It was an unusually cold and windy April night at Fenway Park in Boston as the Red Sox took on the Yankees in the second game of a three game series.

The Red Sox won 5-1 and John Lackey becomes the fourth player in Red Sox history to throw for 11 strikeouts and allowed no walks. Koji Uehara came on in a non-save situation in the 9th. After giving up a single to Alfonso Soriano, Uehara struck out the side per usual.

Uehara’s domination of hitters in the 9th is baffling. Through 8.0 innings of work in 8 games he has 4 saves, allowed only 1 walk, struck out 14, and has an ERA of 0.00. These outstanding numbers are due in part to his deadly splitter. Out of his hand it looks like a normal fastball but as it reaches the plate it drops fooling hitters causing them to swing through it.

In the first inning of the game the Red Sox jumped out to an early 2-0 lead off pitcher Michael Pineda who seemed to not have any control over any of his pitches. Then during the second inning he came back out with pine tar on his neck.

Pine tar is a sticky substance that players put on wood bats to get a better grip. However, when a pitcher uses pine tar, they use it to get a better grip on the baseball allowing for more movement. Many pitchers use pine tar to get a better grip but hide it discreetly, like inside their shirt or under the brim of their hat. Pineda had the pine tar on his neck for the whole world to see causing John Farrell to bring it to the umpire’s attention which lead to Pineda’s ejection from the game.

Doctoring the baseball has always been a hot issue in the MLB. Back in 1920, the Spitball was declared illegal but grandfathered, meaning that the pitch could only be used by two pitchers on each team who threw it before the rule came out.

The Spitball would be lathered up with a combination of mud or dirt and tobacco spit giving the ball a look similar to the dirt making it difficult for hitters to pick up. Because of this, in August 1920, Ray Chapman was killed after a Spitball hit him in the head.

During game 1 of the 2013 World Series Jon Lester was accused of doctoring the baseball with petroleum jelly. That game he struck out 8 batters through 7 2/3 innings.

Many pitchers doctor the baseball (thats no secret) and are very discreet about it. In Pineda’s case, he had it so visible that Helen Keller could see it. Pineda should get suspended and miss only one start but anything more than that in my mind is outrageous.