Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Thoughts about the Peralta Pine Tar incident


Joel Peralta tips his cap in mock respect after getting tossed for having "an excess of pine tar" in his glove. Photo Patrick McDermott/Getty Images via bleacherreport

While watching the Nats game tonight, the broadcast team of Bob Carpenter and JP Santangelo posted the following quote (as referenced in several of the beat reporters columns earlier today):

“Just looking down the road, if I’m a major league player that may happen to want to come to play for the Nationals in the future, I might think twice about it, under the circumstances,” Maddon said before Wednesday’s game. “Because this is a guy, this is one of their former children here that had really performed well and all of sudden he’s going to come back to this town and they’re going to rat on him based on some insider information.”

The MASN broadcast team also relayed a follow-up to this quote, mentioning that a beat reporter that they had not “seen before” asked Joe Maddon a very probing, intelligent question.  As transcribed from the MASN broadcast:

“Well, your guy was the one who was caught.  A lot of people are talking about the fact that you’re trying to deflect the blame to the to the other team across the diamond.”

Maddon apparently blew off the question, didn’t ask it and challenged the questioner whether or not he covered baseball on a regular basis.  These quotes somewhat disappointed me; I have a lot of respect for Maddon by virtue of stories about him in Jonah Keri‘s excellent book “The Extra 2%,” about the rise of Tampa Bay.  Perhaps he’s indeed trying to deflect blame and control the story.  But I think Maddon does the exact same thing, if he’s in the same situation.

Last night’s gamesmanship was probably unnecessary, but a move that you have to make in the right situation.  Yes the Nats probably were aware of the fact that Peralta had a tendency to overdo the pine tar, by virtue of his playing for our team a couple years ago.  Was last night an odd time to cash in that particular chip?  The team was losing, but the game was close, and Peralta is clearly a great asset out of the Rays bullpen.  In fact, it surprised me to see the team not pursue signing Peralta after his excellent 2010 season for us.

Perhaps the message was meant more for Peralta; who knows what type of departure he had from the team.  But you would have to think that if the team still respected him as a player, instead of trying to get him ejected perhaps Davey Johnson would have taken the same route that Tony LaRussa did in the 2006 world series, when hurler Kenny Rogers clearly had pine tar all over his throwing hand, a fact that became clear when the high definition cameras caught him throwing in the first inning.

The fact is, when its hot out and you’re sweating, getting a grip on the baseball can be very difficult.  I certainly use pine tar heavily when I play to get an extra grip on the bat.  I have certainly played with pitchers who had a secret stash of pine tar “hidden” within their glove in order to get an extra snap on the curve.  Is this a violation of baseball’s rules?  Of course it’s against the stated rules.  The question is whether it is as egregious a transgression as (say) stealing signs or sneaking a peak at the catcher’s signs.

Much like a football player moving teams and taking along insider information on formations and trade secrets, inside information either brought to or left with teams can put managers in a tough situation.  Billy Martin was well aware of George Brett‘s proclivity to over-tar his bat, and he waited until a key game situation (i.e., a go-ahead homer) to cash in that particular chip.  Clearly Johnson made the decision to use the information he had on hand, last night in a key late-inning situation.

What do you guys think?  Bush league move?  Good use of information?

6 Responses to 'Thoughts about the Peralta Pine Tar incident'

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  1. Can I say neither? I think it was fine by Davey to do this. But I don’t think it was a smart move by Davey because McGee is pitching better than Peralta, and I would rather have faced Peralta.

    As for the war of words, I think Maddon is going to far and is the only reason it is lingering.


    20 Jun 12 at 9:14 pm

  2. Probably a result of the slow news day. I wasn’t going to comment at all til seeing Maddon’s overreaction.

    Todd Boss

    21 Jun 12 at 8:28 am

  3. I’m surprised Davey did this, but he’s looking for any edge, and that’s ok. Maddon surprised me by dwelling on the issue, thus ensuring it made ESPN’s highlights, always a good thing. By the way, as a long time high school, college, semi pro and adult league pitcher, I avoided pine tar on the mound because it was too sticky, giving me the sense that the ball left my hand differently.


    21 Jun 12 at 10:56 am

  4. Back in the Credit Union days, our big hurler from Yale (whose name is escaping me) had a lace that he had liberally coated with Tar. It enabled a better snap on his curveball. I’m sure that’s what these guys are looking for, especially on a wet/sticky night (like now) or a cold blustery night (like in the WS incident). As an infielder any tar on my hands is going to foul up my throws to first.

    Todd Boss

    21 Jun 12 at 11:29 am

  5. Remember the story that when a reporter asked Hall of Famer Don Sutton if he used a foreign substance on the ball, he replied “Not true at all, Vaseline is manufactured right here in the United States.”

    Maybe we should move on.


    21 Jun 12 at 6:26 pm

  6. Isn’t it odd that certain forms of “cheating” are villified in the baseball community (Steroids, PED usage), but others are not only eschewed but in some cases embraced? (doctoring the ball). I mean, what’s the essential difference between the career actions of Mark McGwire and Gaylord Perry? You can argue simply that both players a) were excellent young stars who excelled without “additional cheating.” and b) both players gained performance advantages by virtue of “cheating.”

    Oh, except that McGwire’s supplement usage wasn’t actually cheating! There was no rules banning it and he kept his supplements out in the open. Perry broke rules that had been put in place against doctoring baseballs in the 1920s.

    One’s in the hall of fame, celebrated for his “craftiness.” The other, despite a celebrated career and 583 career homers, got 19.5% of the HoF vote last year.

    Todd Boss

    22 Jun 12 at 9:45 am

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