- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
The current absurdity of MLB's foreign-substance rule, detailed here earlier this week, was borne out by the on-the-record and off-the-record conversation after Milwaukee's Will Smith was suspended for eight games Friday.
Smith, of course, was ejected Thursday after Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez asked the umpires to check on the swath of stuff on his right forearm.
Some of the Braves, including Jonny Gomes and Nick Markakis, acknowledged to Mark Bowman that pitchers -- including some of their own teammates, in the past -- use some sort of foreign substance to improve their grip, but that Smith was just blatant in his use.
From the piece:
"I've played with guys who used substance and I've played against guys [who used substance], but you can't have it on your arm," Gomes said. "Head back to the drawing board and figure a different way out if you need that to perform."
Gomes and Markakis and others were in a tough spot, because they need to support their manager and at the same time, they tried to be real. But think about what's being said, in effect: It's OK to use a foreign substance, but not so everyone can see it. If Smith or any other pitcher puts the stuff on near their wrist, that's OK. But not five inches higher.
Michael Pineda got suspended for putting pine tar on his neck, but if you put it on your glove, that's OK, even if everybody knows you're using it. Dozens and dozens and dozens of pitchers are using something, and the vast majority of hitters are fine with that because they know the pitcher has a better chance of controlling baseballs that feel like pool balls right out of the box, but Pineda and now Smith are like the guys who are pulled over for going 56 mph in a 55 mph zone and have their licenses suspended.
What a ridiculous situation,
How can Major League Baseball fix its foreign-substance rule? Buster Olney has a few ideas.