The one about the gunk

There’s really no getting around the Kenny Rogers and the yellow thumb of crud. I was hoping this would go away as a non-story, especially with all of the principles involved saying it is a non-story. Despite that, everybody and their brother has become an expert on pine tar and it’s physical properties and they can spot it instantly. We’ve also all become very well versed on section 8.02 of the rule book.

Here’s what I think and don’t think about the situation:

  • Yes, the media is making a big deal out of this. This is what the media does. I don’t think there is any sort of McCarver-pro-Cardinals conspiracy going on. It was actually one of the more astute observations made by McCarver. It was definitely something worth noting and pointing out. McCarver also mentioned it was common for pitchers to do this in cold weather.
  • I think the sequence of events is critical to understanding the situation – or for at least assigning blame. Fox did their best to make this confusing and I haven’t really seen it clarified. If in fact Kenny Rogers finished the first inning, and then somebody told each bench what was happening, Rogers could very well have gone down and washed off the stuff all on his own. This is probably the same time that Steve Palermo notified the umpiring crew of what was going on. If Rogers comes out for the 2nd with a clean hand, what could La Russa or the umpires do at that point? There was nothing to find.

    It doesn’t change the fact that Rogers pitched with stuff on his hand in the 1st inning, but if he was in fact cheating he’d gotten away with it – at least in baseball terms.

  • If in fact La Russa could have made something about it but didn’t, I’m willing to bet it has nothing to do with his relationship with Leyland. That doesn’t even seem like a realistic possibility. I’d be more inclined to believe it had to do with La Russa understanding the context, and that this appears to be a pretty common practice.
  • If you’re in the camp of “how do you explain how a guy who was awful in the postseason can suddenly be dominating?” I’d just respond with sample size. Rogers was bad in the playoffs – 7 & 10 years ago – in a small sample size. Maybe he’s learned a thing or two, or maybe he’s cheating. I just don’t think that argument is very damning.
  • Don’t look for any suspensions. It has passed. If they had caught Rogers, and by “they” I mean the umpires, he should have been ejected and suspended. That window closed when Rogers washed his hand.
  • This is really a different subject but Fox is impacting on field game play. It happened when the start time of Game 3 of the ALCS was moved up to accomodate the New York Mets game. It happened again last night when it prompted Steve Palermo to talk to the umpires during a game. Where should the line be drawn.
  • Finally, I understand being pissed off if your a Cardinals fan. But I’m not sure what emailing me will hope to accomplish. I don’t want to paint Cardinals fans with a broad brush, and I know this isn’t indicative of the majority. But if you are a Cardinals fan, and you’re thinking of sending me something like:

    Hey Pine Tar, or I mean Detroit,
    Did you ever try cheat yourself to a world series victory. Your baseball team
    sucks and so does your filthy city. I guess you need to do whatever it takes
    to try and make the big time. Fat chance that will ever happen. Do the good
    guys a favor, quit wasting our time trying to cheat and get the f&%# out of

    you can probably just keep it to yourself. I’ve gotten several of this ilk today. My only question for these people is, “is this just your internet personality or are you actually an idiot?” And in a similar vein, please no more butt-wiping jokes.

Finally, there were some actual articles of interest related to this saga. Via Baseball Musings, Uniwatch details that Kenny Rogers wears the batting practice hat instead of the standard issue 5950 during games. It’s a different material and the underside of the brim is black as opposed to gray.

Also, Nate Silver took a look at Rogers home and road splits to see if Rogers is cheating at home and not ont he road. The stats don’t clear him, nor do they convict him.

Finally, someone having some fun with the situation.

19 thoughts on “The one about the gunk”

  1. I think this is more a matter of Fox sensationalizing something than reporting actual news, something that is their calling card. Lets face it, nationally the series is not very appealing, there are two teams from smallish markets that people probably don’t perceive as being very good. They’re just trying to trump something up to get ratings, and other media outlets are happy to follow.

    Seriously, who in their right mind would leave that stuff on their hand if they were cheating? And if it was that big of a deal why did the cards and the umps not look into it further? Give me a break.

  2. Well a couple of things. Bilfer, I’m guessing that the dope who sent you that email cheered wildly for McGwire throughout his stellar steroid seasons. The selective application of morality is one of the least attractive things about this country..

    That being said, what Rogers did is cheating. The questions raised need a Ph.d ethicist to answer. Is it a felony or misdemeanor? Is it ok because Gaylord Perry, Whitey Ford, and Don Drysdale, all much more popular players, made it to the hall of fame throwing spitters? Is it like using a radar detector in states where they’re illegal? Taking a little extra on your home office deduction on your taxes? Or something worse? LaRussa clearly doesn’t feel like this is a crime on the level of the Armenian genocide.

    All the same, I wish it hadn’t happened. It has take a little luster off the series. Whatever happens the rest of the way, Kenny Rogers won’t be remembered for 200 wins and 23 innings of playoff shut out ball, but for pine tar and shoving a cameraman. That may be punishment enough.

  3. “Yes, the media is making a big deal out of this. This is what the media does. I don’t think there is any sort of McCarver-pro-Cardinals conspiracy going on. It was actually one of the more astute observations made by McCarver. It was definitely something worth noting and pointing out. McCarver also mentioned it was common for pitchers to do this in cold weather.”

    Honestly, that doesn’t say much about McCarver because it wasn’t at all difficult to spot. You don’t need an HD TV much less one bigger than, say, 14 inches.

    I don’t think it’s a McCarver-conspiracy issue, but his “discovery” of the substance in question doesn’t eliminate his status as a complete douchebag. In fact, nothing can.

  4. Are we giving McCarver too much credit? Isn’t it as possible a producer noticed something and tipped him off to talk about it? It seems to me the analysts are just the end of the production line that includes many people doing varied jobs.

  5. Billfer, good analysis on the alreayd beat to death “pine Tar issue”. If Tony Larussa did not make a big deal about it why should the rest of the nation.

    Second to the Cardinal Fan who was “good” enough to send his thoughts to the site owner, we have no say on staying in baseball, so I guess we are staying. Detroit has come along way in the last few years. I am sure you could find an area or two in good ole St. Louie that has seen hard times. I hope you will forgive us for not sending you an email many years ago when Mark McGuire was thought to have used questionable methods crying foul. What is done is done, let it go my man, you will find like more enjoyable. Besides if you take a look at facts, Roger pitched better after he washed the dirt off his hands, note: Fact.

    Billfer thanks again for taking the high road on the issue at hand. People like that have no business on sites like this where we talk about issues in a civil manor, no matter the injustice that might be felt.


  6. St. Louis ain’t exactly Park Avenue. But alot of people got no class, regardless of their baseball allegiances.

    Question Kenny all you might, but nobody can say he’s guilty for sure. And if you are so darn certain, I sure hope you don’t get selected for jury duty.

  7. To me, there are two logical explanations that could account for why LaRussa did not make a large deal of the “goop.”

    1. LaRussa did not want to risk a friendship over a possibility of Rogers using a foreign substance.

    2. LaRussa knew that the moment he made a large deal of the “goop” issue that Leyland would do the same in the bottom of the inning with Weaver. Maybe LaRussa knew his man was depending on pine tar for his grip in the cold weather as well. Maybe he decided as manager of his team, they had a better chance at winning with both pitchers using pine tar, than both pitchers being gone.

    I don’t know the Cardinals bullpen very well, but I feel comfortable in knowing we have Ledezma and Miner able to provide long relief (basically a start) in a pinch. Maybe LaRussa wasn’t confident enough in his bullpen or Weaver’s ability to pitch in the cold without pine tar.

  8.’s Jon Heyman has the scoop from an anonymous bullpen coach:


    “He definitely was using pine tar. It can cake with pine tar and rosin. Maybe after the second inning, he went back to the shaving cream and added moisture. I’d say he was either hiding it better or he went back to the shaving cream or suntan lotion.

    “Some guys use a combination of all three — pine tar, shaving cream and suntan lotion — or you could use one or two. They use the sports suntan lotion so they don’t accidentally irritate their eyes.

    “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. 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.”

    [Click on the article for a full technical description of how pine tar gets used by pitchers.]

  9. If “Cardinal Fan” thinks the Tigers need pine tar to stay with the Buschies, he-she needs to come up for air. Desperately.

    On the other hand, if you’ve spent your summer nearly drowning in the NL swamps, with 83 wins to show for it (that would be 5 games over .500, and in the National League, you know, the league that finished 56 games below .500 against the “Jr Circuit”?), you can be excused for a malaria-like delirium.

    I suppose the reason the Cards couldn’t do 100 wins this year was that it’s a pine-tar world and the Cardinals didn’t get the memo.

  10. OK, just in the last hour or so I have completely changed my mind about this issue. I had been thinking Rogers had pine tar or something on his hand, but it was not a huge deal because everyone does it (not that that makes it OK, but at least both sides benefit equally) and it doesn’t affect the flight of the ball that much. However, I just spent a few minutes mentally picturing myself rubbing a baseball with a bit of damp dirt and guess what? I ended up with a dirty patch on the heel of my hand, at the base of my thumb, just like Rogers. If, as he claims, he rubs up a new baseball with dirt before pitching it, it makes sense he would have this dirty patch in that place a lot. I may be the only one who thinks so, but it could really be just dirt.

  11. I am a lifelong Cardinals fan and a lifelong baseball fan. I love old school teams like the Tigers. I love that this World Series has two teams that played each other in a World Series before my parents were born! It is a shame that two classic baseball cities have fans that make such childish comments like some of the ones I have read above. Both cities are classy. Both teams are classy. The fans of both teams know baseball and love their teams. Did Rogers cheat – clearly. Did McGwire show bad morality (not agianst baseball rules at the time) – most likely! The reality is if I have a child who plays baseball and they come to me and tell me that they were using steroids while they put pine tar on a baseball when they were pitching, I would not even notice the pine tar crap!
    St. Louis and Detroit, stop embarassing yourselves! GO CARDS!

  12. I knew when they started showing that dirt clump it would become a circus. If you compare all the runs the Cardinals scored the other innings when he didn’t have anything on his hand… or wait they didn’t score any runs. To me it seems they are looking for something or someone to blame.

    My wife said this morning that they are going to have shirts for sale in St. Louis that “Detroit couldn’t stand the heat, they had to cheat”. Maybe I should do a shirt showing dirt with a slogan, it wasn’t our fault we lost, it was the dirt! with a red bird.

    I am also from St. Louis, but now a Detroiter. Maybe the only way for St. Louis and the media to be quiet about the entire thing, is for Rogers to continuing his excellent pitching against the Cardinals the next time he is on the mound.

  13. If this series gets to a game 6 back in Detroit with Rogers on the mound I say that everyone in attendance to the following –

    No matter how cold it is (most likely it will be freezing) you need to color the palms of both hands with brown or black paint (or markers – whatever you have that’s handy). Then, instead of waving your rally towels you just wave your brown-stained hands in the air while the unblemished Rogers closes out the series in continued dominating fashion.

    Anyone else ever hear the saying “God made dirt, so dirt don’t hurt” when you were growing up?

    Note: The above comment about coloring your hands was only meant in good fun. I don’t want Billfer to receive more nasty emails over this overblown situation.

    Lets, “Play Ball!”

  14. Re: Nate Silver’s article:

    You wanna talk splits, Carpenter allows “good contact” 14% of the time on the road, and 6% of the time at home!

    Now, I’m not accusing Carpenter of anything, but I think this does demonstrate the flaw in Silver’s logic.

  15. I’d like to say I’ve moved on from the pine tar thing, but it has me wondering. In the NL, if a pitcher bats without batting gloves with pine tar on his bat, is pine tar no longer a foriegn substance when he pitches? Or does he have to wash his hands after every at bat?

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