Peralta’s pine tar problem

MLB.com’s headline story on Wednesday morning was Rays reliever Joel Peralta’s ejection – without throwing a single pitch – for having pine tar in his glove in Tuesday’s game against the Nationals.

The Rays’ manager Joe Maddon was not happy with opposing manager Davey Johnson and made the claim that it is “kind of a common practice” for pitchers to do it, which of itself doesn’t count for a lot. Baseball is well versed in the fact that “everyone’s doing it” isn’t an excuse that goes too far. The rules currently say you cannot do it; therefore if you get caught you can have no complaints.

However, if we take Maddon at his word then it does raise a query in relation to the Nationals’ players.

If adding a bit of pine tar to the glove and other such acts is relatively common, would a Nationals player be sitting uncomfortably right now?

In the first instance, opposing managers might feel it’s fair game to call them out on any rumours of them doing something, as opposed to letting it slide, therefore making them a target. 

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, if you were in that Nationals clubhouse you might think twice about who you can trust.

The Nationals called for the glove to be checked presumably because they knew it was something Peralta did when he was with their team. We don’t know how the Nationals viewed that practice, but we could make a guess that they turned a blind eye or accepted it as something that might help their pitcher, and their team.

The ‘unwritten rules’ of baseball are a contentious topic and some of them can seem completely barmy to fans – not least the idea that if you get a big lead early then continuing to try and score runs amounts to ‘showing up’ the opposition – but their presence is no different to the common rights and beliefs that any community creates and lives by.

Davey Johnson had every right to ask for the glove to be checked. He wants to help his team win and if Peralta was going to gain an unfair advantage by using pine tar then you could argue he was doing his duty by helping hs current players.

But does using such ‘insider information’ on a former player contravene an ‘unwritten rule’? Does it matter to the current Nationals players that if they did something similar to help Washington win now, it could be used against them by the club if they were traded to another team?

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