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Insider

By not rewriting foreign-substance rule, MLB could find itself in sticky scenario

Michael Pineda was suspended 10 games by MLB for his (obvious) use of pine tar in an April 2014 start in Boston. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Michael Pineda became the "king of foreign substances" on a cold night in Boston in 2014 when he went to the mound with a gob of pine tar on his neck. After that game, he admitted his crime when speaking with reporters, and subsequently received a 10-game suspension. Now anytime the topic of pitchers using something to help their grip comes up, Pineda is inevitably mentioned.

But the reality is that the concern over the rule in the Pineda case was completely overstated, because in just about any game you watch in 2016, you can see pitchers using foreign substances constantly. It's like parking next to a 55 mph speed limit sign on the highway and watching cars zoom by at 65.

And it's really not that subtle. A lot of pitchers have taken to shaving the hair off their arms and apparently applying substance to the forearm of their glove hand. When a new ball is thrown into play, you'll often see a pitcher use his pitching hand to quickly grip a shiny part of his forearm -- covering their hand with the sunscreen or whatever substance is on their arm -- before they rub up the baseball. Nobody says anything because the practice is so commonplace.

The only difference in this and what Pineda did is that placement of the substance, and its color, and the unintended brazenness. That night, Pineda could not get moisture on his cold hands to grip the ball and slapped on the pine tar, and in doing this, Pineda was like a driver of a red Ferrari going 88 mph past a state trooper with high beams flashing and horn honking while screaming "Arrest me!" out the window.

But the apparent prevalence of the use of foreign substances by pitchers prompts the question again: Why not try to find some way to adjust this rule?