Editor's note: In the wake of the Jose Valverde spitball controversy, we asked our old pitching pal Dirk Hayhurst what he thought of the whole story. Read what he has to say and then go buy both of his books, which are full of stories that are just as good.
Oh lawd! Jose Valverde may have done spit into his mitt! Surely it's a sign of the apocalypse! Quick, send the owners to shelter. Light the Selig Signal. Make the game adopt gloves and balls that change colors when a foreign substance is absorbed. And for God's sake, someone find the asterisk and tell him the record books have a spot for him.
Come on, folks, let's have a little perspective here. A pitcher spitting into his mitt is nothing new, scandalous, or even the best way to doctor a baseball. Why, with all the advances in ball doctoring technology available to today's modern player, hocking a loog on a baseball is like trying to kill an antelope with a sharp stick. I know we love to blow the Internet up with a good cheater story, especially one broadcasted by a hyper-attention craved player's wife, but this is hardly cause to unleash the fail whale.
Every bullpen bag — the kind you see rookie relievers carting out to the pen pregame — is stocked with goodies that help ensure the Eddie Harris' of the world still have a fighting chance when they take the bump. I'm talking creams that make the ball spin, drop, stick, roll over and play dead.
What's in that bag? Sunscreen combined with rosin, a mixture that produces on-the-fly finger Fixodent. Firm Grip, found in every training room, makes the ball hang from your finger tips. Well rubbed in shaving gel gives a little extra tack, but no so much that your hands suck up dirt and dust like chicken getting battered for deep-fry.
Vaseline does the opposite. The ball slides out of your hand like a splitter and drops significantly more. If vaseline is too advanced for you, try Skin Lube, it's the gunk trainers stick under tape wraps so players don't chafe while playing. It doesn't gleam like vaseline so you can smear it under your cap brim without worry.
Umps really watching you? Try Cramergesic or Red Hot. Burns a little, but it also leaves a nice slime in its wake. If you get asked about it, you can say it's medicinal. Plus, a mixture of lube and sweat works far better than spit or snot … unless you prefer snot, in which case, rub a little Red Hot in your nose and get it running good. Just don't get it in your eyes or you'll leave the game in tears regardless of your performance.
Finally, there is always AstroGlide, or good old KY ... trust me, someone in the locker room has it in their locker.
Did Valverde use the spitball technique? Maybe he did. But maybe he didn't. But who cares? I might have a bias for the boys on the mound since my own short career was one of doing everything I could to survive out there, but it's not like "putting a little something extra" on a pitch is a new thing. It's not even something to get upset about, even if we knew for absolute certain it was a cheating tactic.
Most of the time, pitchers try to keep the ball clean so we can control what it's doing better from a default setting. That's the thing about throwing doctored pitches: They're advanced forms of the art. I respect a guy who can make a ball dance when it's got a foreign element on it. Goodness knows it's hard enough to make it do what you want when all conditions are perfect, but it's flat out masterful when you can make it dance covered in Vagisil or Crisco.
If you insist it's cheating, that's fine, I can take it. But just so you know, some of the greatest pitchers of our time were excellent cheaters. Not every pitch, mind you. Maybe one pitch here, one pitch there; just enough to make sure it was in the mind of the hitter. After all, sometimes the best pitch in your repertoire is the one you never throw.
If I were Valverde, I'd take this little Internet meme he's got going on and play it all the way up because distraction, doubt and suspicion are really the best doctoring agents of them all.
Dirk Hayhurst pitched for the Padres and Blue Jays and can be found at DirkHayhurst.com or on Twitter (@TheGarfoose). He is the author of the best-selling books, "The Bullpen Gospels" and "Out of My League."