When the Kansas City Royals entered the 2015 World Series following what could be called, at best, a series of umpiring mistakes in game six of the ALCS you couldn’t really blame them. After all, KC weren’t the ones that called a ground-rule double a homerun, the Royals weren’t the ones that missed a clear balk that would have tied the game, and the Royals weren’t the ones that decided that the strike zone for their pitchers should be a lot bigger than standard during key at bats. The Royals just benefited from those decisions, and they reflected more on Major League Baseball as a whole.
However, the Royals’ reputation does stand to take a hit if baseball fans jump to conclusions about what Salvador Perez was doing behind the plate of game one of the 2015 World Series. Footage from Fox appears to show the catcher rubbing some kind of “mystery substance,” as it was called in a Sportsnet.ca article by Mike Johnston, on his hand. Former Major League pitcher Curt Schilling was a bit more assertive in a tweet from his verified account:
“Salvadore Perez has pine tar on right shin guard! Ha, hilarious! That way your pitcher doesn’t have to wear it! #sneaky”
Pine tar is a substance that has both legal and illegal purposes in Major League Baseball that has to do with gripping. For pitchers, it is not allowed, and it can get you tossed from a game, as it did for Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees in 2014. However a lot of Major League Baseball players, including many hitters, are fairly passive about it’s usage.
David Ortiz, for example, is on the record stating “Everybody uses pine tar in the league…It’s not a big deal.”
The issue with Perez appears to be a bit overblown. If he’s using pine tar in cooperation with the pitcher, then there may be an issue, and that may be what Schilling is implying in his tweet. However, the reason why Perez has a substance on his shin guard is a matter that only he can explain, and I am not a fan of jumping to conclusions on such matters.
Ned Yost, manager of the Royals, offered this commentary:
“It’s not illegal,” Yost said. “I don’t know what it was. It was brown. It’s not illegal for a catcher to have it on his shinguard. It’s illegal for a pitcher.”
The comment from Yost, it should be pointed out, contains a bit of a contradiction. He says he doesn’t “know what it was” and then claims it’s “not illegal for a catcher” but only “for a pitcher.” The latter declarations appears to suggest that he does know what it is – after all how can he comment on its legality without that knowledge?
Currently, there is a lot of tweeting and debating going on that the Royals’ reputation isn’t benefiting from. There are things to be mad at in the 2015 playoffs, and I think part of the reaction to the Perez footage is derived from that. In regard to the use of pine tar, I wish that Major League Baseball would either legalize it for everyone or ban it and crack down on enforcement.
Rules in limbo only cause disdain from those who want to know how the game should be played.