Opinions are pouring in from across the baseball world about events last night in Washington when Manager Davey Johson, acting on inside information about a former player, asked that umpires check the glove of Tampa Bay Rays’ reliever Joel Peralta, which had an illegal substance, pine tar, inside it.
Count former Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles coach Leo Mazzone, considered one of game’s best pitching coaches, among those sharing his thoughts.
“I just thought it was a weak move by the Nationals,” he said in a phone interview Wedesday. “I agree with (Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe) Maddon on this one. All you did was light the fire for Tampa to want to beat you even more than normal. And all you did was alert everybody to the fact that they’re going to check your guys all the time.”
Mazzone guided the standout Braves pitching staffs from 1990-2005 before spending two seasons with the Orioles. He coached Braves all-stars Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, all of whom won Cy Young awards under his tenure.
Pine tar is commonly used by batters to get a better grip on wooden bats. Mazzone said some pitchers use it to get a better grip on the ball.
“For 100 years, some guys have used pine tar,” he said. “I think it’s a known fact all over the baseball world for years, going back to the ‘50s, the ‘40s, whatever. Not everybody uses it. Not everybody wants to use it. Not everybody likes it. It all depends on the individual.”
Mazzone said its use among pitchers isn’t “very pervasive at all. But there are some instances where some guys have used it. It doesn’t make the ball do anything different.” In instances where the ball may be slick or in ballparks where conditions are windy, such as San Francisco, he said some pitchers may use pine tar.
Based on the unwritten “code” of baseball or “baseball etiquette,” as he put it, Mazzone said wouldn’t have turned in an opposing pitcher if he knew the hurler was using pine tar. The reason: he wouldn’t want to draw the ire of opponents. “If I had a pitcher that we traded and I knew he used pine tar periodically or whatever and he was on the other side, I would never turn him in,” Mazzone said.
Mazzone said he knows both Johnson and Maddon but doesn’t agree with what Johnson did.
“Very professional, top-shelf guys,” he said. “. . . I could see a young manager trying to make a name for himself, doing something like that, more so than a veteran guy that knows it’s been going on forever. And plus, he had the guy.”
Now, Mazzone said, the Nationals will be the target of opponents.
“Washington is in a spot right now where they have the opportunity to develop some kind of great pitching staff and everything that goes with it. So you quietly go about your business. Don’t draw any unnecessary attention to yourself. Because now the eyeballs are going to be reversed and see what Washington is doing. That’s how the game of baseball is.”