Peralta, Johnson, Maddon & Unwritten Code

When Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta was ejected from Tuesday night’s game before even throwing a pitch there’s no way anyone involved could have known the continued fallout that has occurred since. Davey Johnson and Joe Maddon certainly couldn’t have known a “war of words” was set to begin between the two managers.

Peralta was found to have a “significant amount of pine tar”, according to umpire Tim Tschida, after he was asked to examine it by Johnson prior to the 8th inning Tuesday. Johnson apparently had learned prior to the game that Peralta had a history of using pine tar on his glove, something that stemmed back at least to the 2010 season during which Peralta pitched for Washington. It is possible this behavior contributed to the team’s decision to non-tender Peralta after that season, despite the fact that he posted solid numbers out of the bullpen (1-0, 2.02 ERA, 1.7 BB/9, 9.0 K/9, in 49.0 innings) for the team.

June 19, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; Tampa Bay Rays reliever Joel Peralta (62) has his glove checked and removed by home plate umpire Tim Tschida in the eighth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Peralta did not remain in the game and never threw a pitch. The Rays defeated the Nationals 5 - 4. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

The simple fact of the matter is Peralta was guilty of cheating, per the MLB rule book (specifically Rule 8.02(a) for those curious). Pitchers are not allowed to apply a foreign substance to the baseball under any circumstances. The ejection was 100% warranted, as is the suspension Peralta will likely face from the Commissioner’s Office in the coming days.

But many have questioned whether Johnson and the Nationals were in the wrong by “ratting out” their former teammate and bringing the issue to the attention of Tschida and the umpiring staff.

Domenic Vadala, our Senior Editor at our Baltimore Orioles site, Birds Watcher, chimed in on the subject Wednesday afternoon. While Vadala recognizes that Peralta cheated, he points to the bigger picture being the alleged unwritten code that was broken when the Nationals used “insider information” to get Peralta ejected from the game. He writes:

Peralta played for the Nationals in 2010, so all of this means that a Nationals player ratted him out. Let me be frank here: I have no respect for a weasel. I suppose what I’m saying is that this applies to the Jose Canseco rule in that there are certain things that go on in a locker room that should stay there. Davey Johnson all but confirmed this fact in his press conference …

… However, I don’t blame Johnson for asking the umpire to check. While he has a weasel in his clubhouse, he heard about something that was happening on the part of the other side. At that point he owed it to his team and to the Nationals’ fans to say something.

While giving some credence to Maddon’s arguments after the game, Vadala ultimately sides more in favor of Johnson on this one, reiterating the fact that Peralta cheated and deserved to be caught for his actions. However, he still sternly holds onto the idea that someone within the Nationals’ clubhouse broke an unwritten code by speaking up.

Maddon even took the idea one step further with his comments before the start of Wednesday afternoon’s game. He feels the entire incident is a violation of “baseball etiquette” and the other teams around the league “would take notice”. He also added:

So if I’m a Major League player, in the very near future to want to come play for the Nationals, I’d have to think twice about it.

The thought that players shouldn’t want to play for the Nationals because of something like this is merely ludicrous and hopefully just something Maddon proclaimed out of the emotion of the situation, however it shouldn’t just simply be ignored.

Maddon is right to be upset over the situation. One of his players was caught cheating – which, oh by the way, reflects poorly on him as the team’s manager and on the organization as a whole (a point that nobody has yet to bring up). But it’s worth giving Maddon credit, he has not defended Peralta at any point in time. He knows his pitcher was wrong and that he will be suspended. His issue has been solely with how the information came to light in the first place.

Baseball has long had a set of unwritten rules. We don’t know most of them, since they’re unwritten, but there has been plenty of reasonable speculation in years past. Never, at any point in time, have I ever heard of an unwritten rule stipulating that if a player knows that an opponent is cheating, said player is forbidden from reporting it.

It just doesn’t make sense. It’s counterproductive. It defies logic.

To suggest that players shouldn’t want to come play for the Nationals – a young, upstart team with a growing fanbase and bright future that is proving more playoff-ready than anyone could have imagined – because they “violated baseball etiquette” is just plain inexplicable. No player wants to win by cheating, just as no player wants to be beaten by a cheater. It has no place in baseball. In fact, an argument could be made that this whole incident makes Washington a more attractive destination for prospective free agents in the future. They play the game the right way there.

Topics: Nationals, Pine Tar Incident, Washington Nationals

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  • http://www.facebook.com/bradleyeherring Bradley Herring

    This kinda junk is what makes it obvious why the steroid era was allowed to go on for as long as it is. Maddon made the case that baseball players and thus baseball polices itself; in fact it’s just the opposite. Baseball can’t effectively police itself as this idiocy makes clear.

  • Brian McKeever

    I thought it was kind of curious that the Nats chose not to bring Peralta back after he was so good for them in 2010. That leads me to believe that it was more than just the players who knew or suspected that he was cheating. On the flip side, it’s interesting that neither the Angels or Royals, who Peralta played with before Washington, ever challenged him even though they play the Rays every year.

    Of course, he stunk back then, so maybe cheating is how he managed to find his mojo.

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