Pine tar use should be allowed, controlled

By Peter Bailey-Wells

Editor’s note: This column is written as part of a point-counterpoint. The other column, argues that pitchers should not be allowed to use pine tar, can be found here.

The best pitchers in baseball throw some serious heat.

Balls flying in excess of 90 miles an hour leave the hands of almost every pitcher in Major League Baseball. Some can throw at speeds more than 100 miles per hour.

That’s dangerous.

In light of the recent suspension of Michael Pineda, it’s entirely necessary for Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball to change baseball’s rules to allow pitchers to use pine tar to help their grip on the ball.

Sure, baseball traditionalists kick and scream when this comes up, but it’s a simple case of safety. A poor grip on the ball can spell danger for an unsuspecting hitter. On a cold night a baseball can fly out of a pitcher’s hand and no one can know where it might land — or who it might hit.

Tony Conigliaro, a promising young player with the 1967 Boston Red Sox, got beaned in the face on an unseasonably cool August night. His cheekbone was crushed and he sustained permanent damage to his vision. He was never the same player again.

For all you non-Bostonians out there, the sad tale of Tony C is one every Red Sox fan knows. Conigliaro is the fastest player in American League history to reach 100 home runs, and became the youngest ever AL home run champion in 1965 at the age of 20. He was also from Revere, Mass., a gritty city just north of Boston and was beloved by his hometown fans. Tony C was Mike Trout before Mike Trout.

Tony C hit 104 home runs in three-and-a-half seasons prior to his injury. In the four seasons he played after getting hurt, he totaled just 62. A dab of pine tar on pitcher Jack Hamilton’s hand and Tony C might be in the Hall of Fame.

Now, I am a big Red Sox fan and I definitely won’t complain about Pineda’s suspension. He’s dumb for the blatant way he used the substance. He’s dumb for repeating his obvious use of it (against the same team) and not expecting to get caught. He is however, not dumb for using it to help get a grip on the ball.

In his postgame news conference, Red Sox manager John Farrell admitted that if Pineda had been subtler in his use of pine tar, there wouldn’t have been a problem. Farrell is a former pitching coach and understands the use of a little something to keep control of the ball.

Part of the reason pine tar should be legally accepted in the game of baseball is because of the widespread illicit use of it among players. Make it legal and the use of it can be closer controlled than it is now, when a glob of green appears on Jon Lester’s glove and suspicion abounds about Lester’s cheating nature.

Reach a high enough level of baseball and I guarantee there will be pitchers using some substance to help them grip the baseball. The MLB should give control of the pine tar to the umpires, and if the umps feel a pitcher uses it excessively, they can exercise their authority.

Let’s not put tradition before safety. Doing so is ignorant of the facts; pitchers throw hard, and batters need to be protected.

Peter is a freshman in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @pbaileywells22.