Michael Pineda's pine tar cheating exposed a dumb unwritten rule of baseball

Michael Pineda's pine tar cheating exposed a dumb unwritten rule of baseball

Michael Pineda cheated again, and this time he got caught. In a start two weeks ago against the Red Sox, when the Yankees hurler was spotted sporting a dark substance on his palm, a substance he later claimed was dirt. No one believed him, and it was assumed he wouldn't pull the same trick again.

Yet in Pineda's very next start against Boston on Wednesday, he either tried to cheat again, or was bleeding sap:

This time, the Red Sox complained, and Pineda, naturally, got tossed.

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I'm fine with Pineda getting thrown out. He was blatantly breaking the rules even after getting caught doing the same thing, and escaping punishment, once before. My issue, though, is with the response from around baseball.

The general consensus has been that it's acceptable for pitchers to use pine tar or other substances to better grip the ball in cold weather, but that they're supposed to be "discreet" about it. (Boston pitchers have been spotted with fishy smears on their gloves and arms before, too.) In other words: "Cheating is fine, just don't rub your opponent's nose in it."

The dinger-happy steroid era stigmatized baseball as a game full of cheaters. Conceding that rule-breaking is okay as long as you aren't too obvious about it undercuts the credibility MLB has since restored. If using pine tar is cheating, it's cheating no matter how secretive you are about it. And if players don't think it should be considered cheating, then get the dang rule off the books before goo-gate becomes the new PED moralizing.

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