Baltimore Orioles: Moral nebulosity


Nobody likes the kid in the schoolyard who groans loudly and threatens to tell the teacher. We deem them tattletales and even teacher’s pets at a young age. This generally continues into high school and even college, when we often see peers doing not-so-great things, but we generally leave well enough alone. Needless to say, the idea of not telling on people generally continues into one’s professional life. And that’s where the Baltimore Orioles’ situation this past weekend comes in.

Unfortunately there’s always the one person who claims the moral high road and decides to defy this unwritten code – of life, not baseball per se. Now I will grant you that we always have to be careful in toing this line, because there’s a fine line between not wanting to play the part of rat, and literally harboring evil. Yet that line gets more and more nebulous as time goes on it seems.

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As you may have figured by now, this is all in reference to the Brian Matusz situation from over the weekend in Miami. So to relate this to the schoolyard, Matusz is the kid who’s maybe puffing his chest out a bit too much, Dan Jennings is the guy I warned of above (who’s seemingly policing everyone), and the umpire is the teacher. (Throw Buck Showalter in there as Matusz’s father who gets a call from the principal after Jennings snitches if you will.)

Let me be very clear; Matusz broke the rules as they’re written. Without actually having been out on the mound and seen or felt was was on his arm, we can say that without any reasonable doubt. And for that he should and most definitely will pay the price. For what it’s worth, he’ll probably also appeal the suspension and be able to play during the appeal.

If you watched last night’s Sunday Night game, you might have heard ESPN’s John

Courtesy of Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Kruk say that a relief pitcher told him that approximately five out of seven relievers on each staff are using something to get a better grip on the ball. While this is different than loading up the ball, it’s still illegal by the letter of the law. And there’s no disputing that. Most players and managers seem to have a wink and nod agreement that unless it’s blatantly obvious, nobody’s going to say anything about it – because it’s understood that your guys are doing the same thing.

In the case of Milwaukee’s Will Smith last week, I would argue that it was blatant what was going on. TV camera’s clearly showed globs of sun screen on his forearm (and it was a night game). However my point would be that the umpire should step in and handle the situation if it’s that obvious – which it was. Instead, Atlanta manager Freddi Gonzalez decided to ask the umpire to check Smith, an act for which he later said I don’t apologize.

So Dan Jennings now joins a group that includes Gonzalez, Boston manager John Farrell, and even former Washington (and Orioles’) manager Davey Johnson. In short, they snitched. The case involving Johnson and Tampa reliever Joel Peralta a few years ago was especially interesting. Peralta, a former Washington National, had the habbit of always putting pine tar in his glove. So in effect, a former teammate told Johnson of this practice, who decided to go out and have the umpires check the glove – in which they found pine tar. So…teammates are now snitching on each other?

Again, I’ll grant you that there’s a very fine line between not talking to the Feds, and harboring evil. I would remind folks that we’re not talking about capital murder charges here. But those are all examples of cases where guys broke this code of silence. So can we say for sure that the actual practice is to not say anything?

In the 2006 World Series, FOX cameras clearly showed a residue on Detroit pitcher Kenny Rogers’ arm – which he later described as dirt and rosin. MLB later substantiated this claim, however St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa opted not to ask for a check during the game. Call it a gentleman’s code if you will. Furthermore if Kruk’s comment is true and five out of seven relievers (and probably many starters) are using foreign substances, could it not be said that guys stay silent everyday?

The point here is not to allow someone to get away with stuff. The point is that nobody’s perfect. If things aren’t okay in your own house, you should probably avoid criticising someone else’s. I noticed two things during yesterday’s game. First off, Brian Matusz (who pitched two innings of relief) seemed to go to his right forearm just as often as he’s done in the past. So either it’s a force of habbit, or he wasn’t phased and decided to keep doing what he had been doing.

The second thing I noticed was that Miami starter Tom Koehler had some sort of residue on the brim of his cap. As we know, the Orioles didn’t protest this. One might suggest that they didn’t know. However trust me if a writer that’s observing the game is noticing it, someone on the field or in the dugout (probably Showalter himself) is as well.

In many cases I would submit that this is gamesmanship, and that was the Orioles’ takeaway from the weekend. And quite frankly I feel that’s a shame. The rules should never be used as a form of gamesmanship as such. Now granted if it was gamesmanship, it probably worked.

For the record, I wouldn’t want the league to start allowing any substances. That could allow for spitballs in the name of grip. However what needs to happen is that umpires need to start policing this better. If something’s evident to the opposing bench, it’s probably evident to ol’ blue as well. If the proper parties enforce the rules, it eliminates the need for people to tattle.