A pine mess

It didn’t look like dirt. It didn’t have the consistency of dirt.

Nor did it have the color or texture of dirt.

But Kenny Rogers said it was dirt. I guess that’s good enough then.

Just when you think Major League Baseball couldn’t imagine its fan base any more stupid in an era of ignoring a steroid saga, we have the Detroit starter waxing his pitching hand with pine tar (allegedly?), and trying to play it off as a common misconception, which, let’s face it, it obviously wasn’t.

Kenny Rogers cheated. And, for some unknown reason, he got away with it.
After the first inning, the blotch was gone, and all was well because Rogers pitched, “without cheating,” or so we’d be led to believe. So, Rogers washed his hand. Great. I did a little hardwood housework last week, and even though I washed the majority of polyurethane off my hands upon finishing, there remained a sticky film that would have allowed me to palm a basketball with ease. Just because the brown glow was gone from Rogers’ hand doesn’t mean in any way that the pine tar still didn’t have any effect on the way he pitched.
But the thing is, he should have been ejected, right then and there, for the illegal substance. That’s the rule. So, why were the Cardinals so quick to protect him, particularly when it might have been the difference between a series tied, and going up 2-0?
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is taking a lot of deserved heat this week. There is the theory that he didn’t push the issue because of his good buddy Jim Leyland sitting in the other dugout, which might even make laid-back Cardinal fans angry. But he’s also getting a lot of praise too for not making it into too big of an issue, for displaying sportsmanship during the game’s marquee event.
USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt called La Russa’s action, “an unconventional, refreshing and standup move.” I’d prefer to call it, “protective, defensive, and self-interested.”
“I bet Tony La Russa’s pitchers are mad at him for saying anything, because a lot of guys do it, and I’d be surprise if there’s a whole staff of guys who don’t do it,” a scout tells CNNSI.com’s Jon Heyman. “In fact, I’d say a majority of guys use one of the three — shaving cream, suntan lotion or pine tar. They can’t like him ratting out the other team when everyone does it. Maybe he had to say something because it’s the World Series, it’s on TV and he probably has to answer to his owner. But you’ll notice he didn’t continue to talk about it, and he instructed his guys not to talk about it. They probably have no interest in catching Rogers because if they do then the umpire is looking at everyone.”
Sportsmanship? Please. La Russa was doing nothing more than protecting his own backside.
The excuse makers, the baseball apologists too caught up in their own romanticizing of the game to see anything clearly, will tell you that baseball is a game built on cheating, that players like Gaylord Perry, Barry Bonds, Joe Niekro, and Eddie Harris go hand-in-hand with the sport’s history. Tigers closer Todd Jones will take it a step further in insulting your intelligence by theorizing that maybe the smudge on Rogers’ hand was chocolate cake from the pregame meal. There wasn’t even any cake at the pregame meal, reports Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel.
Wonder why ratings for this World Series are down dramatically? Let’s please cease with the reactionary excuse that Detroit and St. Louis are secondarily sized markets and look at the realities:
1. Folks can no longer stand to watch Fox destroy coverage of what used to be considered the Fall Classic.
2. Fans can’t simply be expected to stay up past midnight on the East Coast every night of the month.
3. People are simply becoming tired of baseball ignoring its problems in order to further celebrate itself.
By sweeping yet another controversy under the carpet, baseball has once again created one even larger than what it would have been if they had simply addressed the issue, a process Bud Selig and company are inherent failures at doing. Where is George Mitchell these days, anyway?
Yesterday, La Russa came out and said that what was on Rogers’ hand wasn’t dirt. St. Louis hitting coach Hal McCrae told USA Today, “He wasn’t just cheating by using pine tar; he was scuffing balls, too. We collected about five or six balls that are scuffed. He had to be using his fingernails or something.”
ESPN went back and saw similar discoloration on Rogers’ hand during his previous postseason starts against New York and Oakland, which suggests a reason for his 23-inning scoreless streak this month.
After La Russa asked the umps to take care of it (and not kick Rogers out), Rogers was asked to wash his hands, which he did. Rogers said after the game that the umpires never addressed the issue. Detroit manager Jim Leyland had about 14 different version of the story to tell after the game. Selig … wait, where in the heck is the commissioner anyway?
Oh, baseball is finished addressing the issue? Of course.
This is how Major League Baseball addresses all issues. Selig will stammer in front of the cameras for a few minutes, playing his grandfatherly Alfred E. Neumann, “What Me Worry?” act that has enough of us fooled, and we go on celebrating “Hometown Heroes,” or some other lame reincarnation of the same promotion we’ve seen time and time again.
Leave it to Rogers to muck up Detroit’s magical ride. Last year pushing the cameraman wasn’t his fault. This time, he wants you to believe it was dirt on his hand. Keep an eye out for Rogers’ autobiography entitled, “Kenny Rogers things you’re an imbecile”
Of course, it wasn’t the first time either La Russa or Rogers have been associated with cheating. In fact, four years earlier, Rogers was accused scuffing baseballs by the Cleveland Indians during a perfect game bid. After the game, Rogers expressed his dissatisfaction with the Indians’ accusations.
“I think a lot less of the Indians today than I did yesterday,” he said. “They can say anything they want. I don’t care. . . . I’m more embarrassed for the Indians.”
As for La Russa, well, does not discussing the past ring any bells? How about the steroid king, Jose Canseco, himself? La Russa has managed some of the most dubious cheaters in the game’s recent history, so perhaps the question is whether calling out another one is a little ingenuous. Maybe what he says about someone else’s player could come back to haunt him.
And let’s not forget, as shocking as Rogers’ resurgence has been, La Russa also has a couple of guys named Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver who have come out of nowhere this October to dominate.
Everybody cheats in baseball. Apparently, the managers don’t care, the players don’t care, the umpires don’t care, and the powers that be don’t care.
So then, should we? I guess it depends on how much you’re willing to have MLB step all over you. If that’s the case, then it was an honest mistake. It was just dirt.
And if you believe that, then you’re perfect to join the Mitchell steroid probe. Congratulations. You’re Major League Baseball material.