Although the legalization of pine tar for pitchers seems like a no-brainer for many in the baseball fraternity, MLB executive vice president Joe Torre believes we may want to think twice before letting players doctor baseballs, according to a report by ESPN.
Torre acknowledges the benefit of players having a better grip on the baseball while hurling it 100 mph. But it's the potential for abuse by those unfamiliar with the substance and the risk that presents to their fellow players that has him concerned.
"I can understand the fact you don't want the ball slipping out of a pitcher's hand because someone can get hurt," Torre told ESPN.com Saturday. "But there's also the aspect that the ball may stick on your fingers longer and you may be able to make it sink or cut more or whatever. And it may act in a dangerous way with guys who don't know what they're doing with it."
Pine tar has been in the news since an issue with Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda's blatant use a few weeks ago at Yankee Stadium reached a (pardon the pun) fever pitch when he was thrown out of a game in Fenway Park on Wednesday. While Red Sox manager John Farrell was reluctant -- especially as a former pitcher himself -- to call out the hurler for his indiscretion, the gobs of pine tar on Pineda's neck were too blatant for him to continue to ignore.
But, the idea of using pine tar in a game has long been routine for pitchers and batters alike, even though only the latter are allowed to use the substance as a way to increase their grip. Due to their worries about the dangers of pitchers being able to openly doctor the ball with foreign substances, Torre and other baseball officials may look into using balls similar to those found in Japan.
Described in the ESPN report, the balls are tackier than their American counterparts and would presumably minimize the need for an extra grip-enhancing substance. This seems like a far more appealing path for Torre, who reiterated that while he appreciates the concern over players being able to properly grip a ball, the larger concern of allowing pitchers to apply foreign substances into the game may outweigh the potential good.
"As far as legalizing a foreign substance, my only concern is the probability that if you use it excessively, you'll have the ball act in a way that could be dangerous," Torre told ESPN. "If you just open it up and say, 'Yeah, you can go ahead and use this,' it's tough to be responsible for the outcome because you don't know what that's going to be."
Regardless of what happens with pine tar -- and according to statements by departing commissioner Bud Selig, that won't be settled until the offseason -- Torre doesn't believe it will be a lingering issue between the Red Sox and Yankees. In what may have been a subtle warning and/or plea to both teams, Torre told ESPN, "Having something like this happen early in the season, I hate to even believe this will be a tit-for-tat thing. I hope it's not going to be that."
Though, after almost a century of bad blood between the two teams, it's likely they'll use any excuse to go tit-for-tat.