Brewers' pitcher Will Smith and Orioles' pitcher Brian Matusz were both ejected this past week for having a foreign substance on their arms. Smith was suspended--and has since appealed--eight games, while Matusz is still waiting on a verdict.
Major League Baseball rule 8.01(a)(4) states that, "The pitcher shall not...apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball...PENALTY: For violation...the pitcher shall be ejected immediately from the game and shall be suspended automatically. In National Association Leagues, the automatic suspension shall be for 10 games."
Foreign substances include mixes of sunscreen and rosin, pine tar, and anything else for pitchers to get a tacky ball, something that will allow them to grip it better.
The worst part of all these suspensions and ejections is that hitters tend to not care if pitchers are using these substances. If a pitcher can grip a ball better, they are able to throw it more accurately, meaning less hit batsmen and overall a safer game.
Orioles' manager Buck Showalter understands the rule, but is also a main proponent in instituting tackier balls for a safer overall game.
"Why is the rosin on the field? Why is it there," asked Orioles manager Buck Showalter, via The Baltimore Sun. "It's a deeper issue than that. You've all heard me talk about the crux of the problem. Same reason hitters have pine tar. We all understand the crux of the problem is gripping the ball; it's not trying to [doctor the ball]."
The "foreign substance rule" was implemented to outlaw certain advantages pitchers were gaining through throwing spitballs or, as Showalter mentioned, doctoring the baseball.
But when a pitcher's intent is to just grip the ball a little easier, don't you think that they should be allowed to use these substances?
Absolutely. But to keep pitchers from doctoring the baseball or using spitballs, MLB cannot get rid of the rule altogether. They would need to tweak it.
"I would like to see an approved substance pitchers can use," Red Sox manager John Farrell was quoted as saying via ESPN. "I think anytime a game loses players for eight to 10 games, I think it makes us as an industry look within."
ESPN's Baseball Tonight had an interesting segment regarding foreign substances, including an appearance from ex-Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden.
Braden said that, during Spring Training, the Athletics would have an "application" station, where pitchers would learn to use these substances, including a mixture of rosin and BullFrog sunscreen. Braden said that he would reapply the mixture after every inning.
Braden suggested that they should put a pine tar rag behind the mound, similar to how there is a rosin bag behind the mound. He argues that hitters have weighted donuts, batting gloves, pine tar, and other things to give them an advantage, so why are pitchers limited so much?
Even though they may be at a disadvantage, pitchers are still technically cheating. Now, isn't cheating wrong? Is there a little bit of guilt involved?
"No. Absolutely not," Braden said. "I've got outs to get."