Pine Tar Incident adds spice to Rays, Nats series

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Joel Peralta was embarrassed, but kept his composure long enough to tip his hat to his former teammates. Joel Maddon was furious, firing off terms like “bush league” before devolving into language completely unsuitable for young children and the elderly. Davey Johnson was just taking advantage of certain “information” given to him before the game. Ryan Mattheus was like an innocent man swept up in a police raid before being let go. He’d done nothing wrong and faced the men in blue – the umpires in this case – without fear.

Just another night at the ballpark as the Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays turned a quiet interleague series contentious when Johnson asked umpires to check the glove of Peralta. Crew chief Tim Tschida indeed found pine tar all over the inside of the glove, confiscated the offending leather and ejected Peralta, who was an interesting combination of salty and sad afterwards

Remember, he played with Washington is 2010. His manager at Triple-A Syracuse was current first-base coach Trent Jewett. Guys like Drew Storen, Ryan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, Michael Morse, Stephen Strasburg, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen, Ian Desmond, Sean Burnett, Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina all would have crossed paths with him. Mattheus was even a teammate of Peralta’s in Colorado in 2009.

“I didn’t just make it up or dream it up. But there was conversations before the game,” Johnson said. “[Peralta] was out there and I was talking to some of the guys and I said ‘How did we let this guy get away.’ I thought he pitched pretty good for us. And he’s been kind of an invaluable set-up man for Tampa Bay. I think I got probably more information than I really needed. I don’t know – the left-hander put us down 1-2-3 so it was probably a bad move.”

Yes, lefty Jake McGee retired the side in order in the eighth after Peralta hit the showers. The Nats went down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning, too, to fall short in a 5-4 loss.

“Good for them. They still lose the game and the other pitcher did even better than me,” Peralta said afterwards. “We bring McGee in and he shut the door down.”

Maddon, the Rays manager, said the use of pine tar has been going on for years in baseball. He called it a “[expletive] move” multiple times. Seems kind of strong for someone whose own pitcher was just busted for cheating. Then again “cheating” in baseball has always been an accepted practice if you can get away with it. This time the Rays didn’t, though Peralta insisted that he was using his batting practice glove and had no idea how the pine tar got in there in such quantities.

“Well, he pitched here. I don’t think it’s a secret,” Johnson said about how he knew.

Peralta was all over the map afterwards. He at one point said he held no ill will towards Jewett if he was indeed the man who turned him in. The Nats weren’t getting into specifics so that’s unverified. Peralta said Jewett was “like my dad” when managed by him at Triple-A Syracuse in 2010. But later he admitted that he was upset just moments after claiming several times that he didn’t care. God was invoked as well. But the excuses were pretty weak, to be honest. Peralta claimed it was actually his batting practice glove and that it was hot out, but why would that mean it was more likely to have pine tar all over it? Asked directly how it got there, Peralta took a long pause and then uttered a sentence that made no sense.

“Guys, I just did find pine tar in there so let’s see what happen.”

Okay. The funny part of all this is several Nats relievers said they liked Peralta when he was here. And he certainly performed well for Washington with a 2.02 ERA in 39 games in 2010. He was part of a strong bullpen that season. There didn’t seem to be any malice on Washington’s part. It’s just business, Joel. But Maddon’s issue is that the Nats knew Peralta worked this way, benefited from it for several months in 2010 and to turn him in now smacks of hypocrisy. He even used the word “cowardly” referencing Johnson.

“Absolutely. Because they know what’s going on,” Maddon said. “And like I’m saying – before you start throwing rocks understand where you live. And everybody knows this. He knows. He’s very much aware of how this thing works.”

Buy or sell? I say sell. Mattheus pointed out that most relievers engaging in this type of gamesmanship are unlikely to just broadcast that news throughout the clubhouse – though it was suspicious that Washington’s relievers weren’t exactly eager to tackle the subject afterwards. Mattheus had some fun with it, but even he had his limits.

“I don’t know exactly what [Peralta] puts in his glove or what they found or what he uses,” Mattheus said. “As far as I know Joel, I played with Joel in 2009 with the Rockies and he’s a great guy, a stand-up guy. So I don’t think he’s out there cheating and trying to get over on us or anything like that. It’s unfortunate.”

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