The pine tar on Tampa Bay Rays reliever Joel Peralta’s glove Tuesday night grew into an even hotter mess Wednesday afternoon. The rhetoric surrounding Peralta’s ejection Tuesday night ratcheted as managers Davey Johnson and Joe Maddon exchanged verbal barbs, Peralta awaited his fate and the baseball world took sides between an unwritten code and the actual rulebook.
Johnson defended his decision to order an inspection of Peralta’s glove — a move Maddon described Wednesday as “cowardly” — and called Maddon a “weird wuss.” Maddon later responded by saying Johnson’s actions would prevent the Nationals from from attracting free agents, and Peralta insisted Nationals players were upset with Johnson.
“Anytime there’s a rule violation, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a rule violation,” Johnson said. “My only comments to [Maddon] is, read the rulebook. It’s simple. I’ve been involved in every conceivable kind of thing you can think of about players trying to get an edge mentally or physically, and that’s part of the game. When somebody goes a little overboard, you call it out. It’s that simple. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over and done with.”
Only Johnson said more.
“I didn’t know him that well, but I thought he was a weird wuss, anyway,” Johnson said. “I understand where he’s coming from. His job as a manager is to protect the players. . . . But he doesn’t know me from a hole in the hill. Or I him, for that matter. But I do know the rulebook, and I do try to follow it.”
Said Maddon: “Davey is right. I’m incapable of reading the rulebook. And there’s also reading between the lines in some situations that needs to be looked at, too. He’s been around long enough. He knows. He knows better than that.”
Maddon was enraged because Johnson had used “inside information” to catch Peralta, who pitched for the Nationals in 2010. Johnson said that “doesn’t matter.” Johnson also said he had no problem with pitchers using a small amount of pine tar — on the strings of their glove, for example — but that Peralta’s use of the sticky substance to improve his grip was “excessive.”
Maddon insinuated Nationals players would be upset with Johnson. “I talked to some of the guys,” Peralta said in Spanish before Wednesday’s game. “They feel bad about what happened to me. They’re angry on that side, too. They know who I am and they’re angry, too.”
Maddon said pine tar use is so widespread it should be legal.
As the debate raged, Peralta waited for his punishment. The umpires shipped his confiscated glove to New York for a review by Major League Baseball. The ruling is expected to come Thursday, and Peralta retired the two batters he faced in Wednesday’s game. Johnson said an ejection was punishment enough. In the past, pitchers caught with a foreign substance on their glove have served 10 days.
Maddon again blasted Johnson for, in his mind, vilifying Peralta for doing something countless pitchers do.
“Just looking down the road, if I’m a major league player that may happen to want to come to play for the Nationals in the future, I might think twice about it, under the circumstances,” Maddon said. “Because this is a guy, this is one of their former children here that had really performed well and all of sudden he’s going to come back to this town and they’re going to rat on him based on some insider information.”
Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, who coincidentally played under Maddon for Class A Salem in 1982, shot that notion down.
“I don’t agree with it,” Rizzo said. “Players love playing for Davey Johnson and they will continue to love to play for Davey Johnson, and Davey’s one of the reasons that we attract players to the Nationals.”
Johnson worried the sideshow would provide a distraction to the game itself. But he also chided Maddon’s reputation as a brainy manager.
“I don’t want to get in a shouting match with Joe,” Johnson said. “I looked him up on the Internet and found out he has a Tweeter, so he can get to more people than me. And so I don’t want to get in a shouting match with him. He’s got a bigger following. But it was interesting reading. But you can tell him I have a doctorate of letters, too. Mine’s from Loyola, in humanities. And I’m proud of that, too.”
Johnson said he did not expect the issue to carry over into Wednesday’s game, but “I’m not speaking for the guru over there.”