Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cheaters never win, unless they don't get caught.

                                      Last night, Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected from a game with the Red Sox for having pine tar on his neck. The substance, which is legal when used on part of a bat, is considered illegal when used by a pitcher.  This comes two weeks after Pineda apparently had a similar looking substance on his hand against the same Red Sox team, but Boston manager John Farrell chose not to investigate then (Probably because his own picthers, Lester and Buccholz have been accused in the past as well).  New York won that game 4-1.  This time, however, Farrell asked umpires to check it out, and they found it in an even more obvious place on his body.  Yankee T.V. broadcaster Michael Kay said it was like "robbing a liquor store, getting away with it, and then going back to rob the same liquor store two weeks later."

                          Of course, this isn't the first time a pitcher was caught trying to "cheat."  For decades, the spitball was a legal pitch, and- especially during the dead ball era- pitchers would do whatever they could to scuff up the ball to get the advantage over the hitter.  The most famous pitcher to use a modern day version of the spitter (or just outright use various substances to doctor the ball), was Hall of famer, Gaylord Perry, who spent a lot of his career under scrutiny, but always seemed to avoid getting caught.  I remember a time late in his career, where he threw a suspicious pitch to Reggie Jackson, who swung and he headed to the dugout, an incensed Reggie went over to a bucket of Gatorade, and dipped his hands in it, trying to show the umpired that Perry was putting something on the ball.

                Then there was Mike Scott.  Early in his career, he was a mediocre pitcher for the Mets, but  seemingly reinvented himself in 1986, winning the Cy Young Award while pitching for the Astros.  During the NLCS, Scott beat his former team twice, and would have probably beat them again, if the series had gone to a seventh game.  Players on the Mets accused Scott of using illegal substances during the series, but nothing was ever found.  For his part, Scott has either denied cheating, or has avoided the question.

           The funniest example of a pitcher getting caught was Joe Neikro in 1987.  Joe, the younger brother of Hall of famer Phil Neikro, was a knuckleballer in his final year in the Majors.  He spent his career with seven teams, and now was with the Twins.  He would help Minnesota win it's first ever World Series that year, but his most famous moment happened early in the '87 campaign.  While pitching against the California Angels, umpires asked to see what he had in his pockets.  When Neikro reached in, he grabbed two items and proceeded to throw his hands up, and, sure enough, both an emery board and a piece of sandpaper came flying out.  Umpire Tim Tschida found it and ejected Neikro.  He served a ten game suspension for his actions.

                 Don't know how long Pineda will be suspended, but no matter what, he'll be watched carefully from here on in, as will pitchers all over the league. Great. Like games aren't long enough...

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