Thursday, April 24, 2014

What happens when an unwritten rule is....written?

Today I'm perplexed.  I heard someone say, "even though it's against the rules, in the unwritten rules of baseball all players are ok when a pitcher puts sticky stuff on the ball to help his control."

What?? Help me here please!

First let's get the notion out of the way that what Michael Pineda did was some how allowable by the definition of the rule.  Below I've posted rule 8.02 (b).  It's pretty clear that not only was he in the wrong but Pineda has a ten game suspension coming.

(b) Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game. In addition, the pitcher shall be suspended automatically. In National Association Leagues, the automatic suspension shall be for 10 games.

Second, let's quickly hit on the often mentioned, "Unwritten Rules of Baseball."  These rules are part of the beautiful fabric of our game.  There's no rule saying that when you ground out that you should run all the way to first base, but there is an unwritten rule that you should, and if you don't out of respect for the game your manager is in the right to bench you.  You should never, EVER, talk about a no-hitter while it's in progress.  You should stick up for your teammates on and off the field.  All players should be in the dugout for the national anthem, and on and on.  (yes, I've broken some "unwritten rules" and payed for it:)  The point is this, the "Unwritten Rules" by nature are not in contrition to written rules, and are for the overall good of the game.

It'd be hard to find a player today to publicly say that those people using steroids should not be punished.  Yet when you have a P.E.S. (performance enhancing substance) illegally used, somehow now it's for the "safety" of other players.  Yes that is a strong stance to compare illegally used pine tar to PED.s but the longer I think about it, the more logical the comparison makes sense.

I coached a travel ball team made up of 13 year-olds this fall.  Many times, the pitchers would get wild.  My pitching coach would jog out to the mound, come back, and the kid would then throw a strike.  I would ask him what he told the kid, and his response was, "I told him to try throwing slower to be more accurate."  Yes, the kid would usually give a hit or two or three, but he was now throwing strikes.  If a high school control pitcher cannot throw hard enough to get drafted, would you recommend him to cheat with PEDs  to throw harder?  I'd really hope not, and in the same way, I'd pray that you wouldn't tell your hard throwers to break a rule to throw strikes. 

Michel Pineda has had his velocity scrutinized by so many since his arm problems last year, and I'm sure he wants to quiet the critics.  But cheating is not the answer.  For former colleagues of mine to come out and insinuate that all baseball players are ok with a pitcher doing this is flat wrong.  That pitcher is trying to get a hitter out.  If a hitter get's out enough, he loses his job.  If any person loses their job because of a blatant disobedience of a rule by a majority of workers in an industry, a serious injustice has been done.  It may be time to tell pitchers what you'd tell a 13 year-old.  If you are so concerned with the other players "safety," learn to throw strikes legally!  At whatever velocity that may be!  It may be time that pitchers velocities come down, and control goes up.  

If MLB doesn't rewrite this rule, it is now it's duty to in force it similarly as they did when they decided to try to restore the games reputation with the cheating of 90's and early 2000's.  The game we all love doesn't have the black eye steroids caused, but it does have some sticky stuff about 2 inches wide and 1 inch high on it's neck, and a clear tacky substance on it's glove hand wrist, and the whole sports world is watching to see if it cleans itself up.

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