Michael Pineda is the 2014 poster boy for pitchers who put a little something extra on the ball — and by that we mean a little something illegal. Junk ballers have been around as long as the game has, but baseball's unwritten code permits pitchers using things like pine tar and sunscreen to get a better grip, even though it's a clear and direct rule violation.
Ignore the mixed message in that, and just know that most players and managers look the other way, so as long as pitcher isn't too egregious. That was Pineda's downfall, slathering pine tar all over his neck for everyone to see.
The opposing Boston Red Sox probably wouldn't have said anything — they didn't earlier this month — if Pineda hadn't made it so darn obvious. Consequently, Pineda was suspended 10 games by MLB on Thursday. He won't be fined, according to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan and will continue to get paid. He'll most likely miss just one start. The punishment is pretty much a slap on the neck err, wrist.
Pineda and his neck and the pine tar is a sexy story in 2014 because it's relatively rare that pitchers get zinged for using foreign substances anymore. The last was Joel Peralta in 2012. He was suspended eight games for using pine tar. Here's a look at five other pitchers who have been caught doctoring the ball — including two of the most famous to do it.
1. JOE NIEKRO
Niekro, a knuckleballer who played 22 seasons, has the most classic case of getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. In 1987, an umpire confronted him and it was discovered Niekro had both a nail file in his pocket, and a small piece of sandpaper that fit his finger. The nail file comically fell out of Niekro's pocket during his encounter with the umps. He was ejected from that game and suspended for 10 more.
Umpire Steve Palermo compared Niekro on that day to someone carrying a bottle of booze on the street during prohibition — it was that obvious.
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2. GAYLORD PERRY
Gaylord Perry is the most famous "spitballer" of all time, and the league knew it by the time he was suspended for 10 games in 1982. Perry was pitching for the Seattle Mariners, in the twilight of his career. The best part of his suspension? He was fined $250 and he called the AL president at the time a "weak human."
From the 1982 Associated Press story:
A statement yesterday from Lee MacPhail, the American League president, said: ''Gaylord Perry has been suspended for 10 days, effective immediately, and fined $250 for violation of official playing rules 3.02 and 8.02. Mr. Perry was warned by umpire Dave Phillips ... for the first violation. When there was a second violation, he was ejected from the game. The suspension is an automatic penalty required by the playing rules. Mr. Perry has the right to appeal, in which event the suspension would not be invoked until after the matter was resolved at a hearing, and found to be in order.''
Perry said he spoke with MacPhail by telephone this morning and called him a ''weak human'' for imposing the suspension. The pitcher said he thought Phillips was ''out to get me'' as the result of an argument he had with the umpire over calls in the first inning.
A weak human! Classic.
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3. KEVIN GROSS
In 1987, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Kevin Gross was caught with sandpaper in his glove and suspended 10 days. Gross admitted to having the sandpaper, but insisted he didn't use it. From the AP:
''I was caught with sandpaper in my glove,'' Gross said. ''They thought I was supposedly scuffing the ball and I was ejected. I was not scuffing any ball in the game last night.''
He said he was just ''fooling with'' the sandpaper. ''I didn't use it,'' he said.
Just fooling with it. That's a wonderful defense.
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4. BRIAN MOEHLER
Detroit Tigers pitcher Brian Moehler was caught with — you guessed it, sandpaper — taped to his thumb in 1999. The opposing manager, Larry Rothschild of the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays, pointed it out and Moehler was ejected and suspended for 10 games.
Larry Parrish, the manager of the Tigers at the time, fired back at Rothschild:
"There's not a pitching staff in baseball that doesn't have a guy who defaces the ball ... If the umpires want to check things like that, I think half to three-quarters of the league would be suspended, including some Tampa Bay Devil Rays," Parrish said.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
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5. KENNY ROGERS
In Game 2 of the 2006 World Series, Kenny Rogers pitched eight scoreless innings and helped the Detroit Tigers even the series with the St. Louis Cardinals. However, Rogers hit a controversy speed bump along the way.
Umpires investigated Rogers for having a suspiciously dirty hand in the second inning — he said it was dirt, but the opposing team thought it was pine tar. Rogers wasn't ejected or suspended, rather he was told to wash his hands. He obliged and pitched the rest of the game, still having good stuff.
After the controversy, however, ESPN looked back at Rogers' previous starts that postseason and found similar "dirt" on his hand.
See that old dirt defense has worked before.
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