A tweet from a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor-league system touched off a social-media firestorm Thursday night. Watching Boston Red Sox starter Jon Lester face the Cardinals in Game 1 of the World Series, Tyler Melling wondered if Lester wasn’t getting a little extra edge.
The 25-year-old Class A pitcher tweeted about it, including a photo of the TV screen, and asked: “Jon Lester using a little Vaseline inside the glove tonight?” Melling has since deleted the tweet, but that started the ball rolling on social media and on the internet. Suddenly, everyone was analyzing video.
— Tim McKernan (@tmckernan) October 24, 2013
There was no protest from the Cardinals during or after the game (perhaps because pitchers always look for an edge or perhaps their own pitchers are seeking an edge as well. Major League Baseball addressed the issue today:
“We cannot draw any conclusions from this video,” spokesman Pat Courtney said. “There were no complaints from the Cardinals and the umpires never detected anything indicating a foreign substance throughout the game.”
Lester gave up five hits over 7 2/3 innings in the 8-1 victory for Boston.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a non-issue,” Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said (via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). “It’s something that arose in social media and not from our players or manager or our coaching staff. To me it does not represent a concern.”
The color of whatever was in Lester’s glove looked more like pine tar or rosin, both of which pitchers use in order to grip the ball better in cold weather. Still, Rule 8.02(3) in the MLB Rule book is pretty explicit: “The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.” That doesn’t prevent accusations from cropping up on baseball’s biggest stage and involving big stars.
In the 2006 World Series, the Cardinals accused Kenny Rogers of the Detroit Tigers of using pine tar and scuffing the baseball and in 2009 Major League Baseball took a look at the New York Yankees’ closer, Mariano Rivera, after accusations in blogs that he was doctoring the ball.