The Rays reliever broke a rule in having pine tar on his glove. He got caught. He was ejected. He might get suspended.
But it's Nationals manager Davey Johnson's decision to call for the inspection of Peralta's glove that will be discussed more thoroughly in baseball circles than any foreign substance placed on one's rawhide. That's what happens when baseball's oh-so-sacred unwritten rules are seemingly disregarded.
This incident begs the question, though: Is it worse to disregard those unwritten rules, or to disobey ones specifically outlined in the MLB rulebook?
Stealing signs, bunting to break up a no-hitter or taking an extra base while holding a big lead are frowned upon, but there's no statute against them. Instead, those transgressions fall on the list of things "you just don't do" according to many baseball minds — the same list that Johnson now finds himself on.
Joe Maddon is a clear advocate of baseball's understood traditions. He was upset with the Red Sox coaching staff earlier this season for their involvement in a late-game altercation, and he's now upset with Johnson's decision to check Peralta's glove. The Rays skipper called Johnson's move "cowardly," "bogus," and "bush," among other things.
You see, according to Maddon, the problem is that Johnson was apparently tipped off about the substance on Peralta's glove from someone on the Nationals bench, and it's knowledge that likely came to light because Peralta pitched for the Nats in 2010. It was an instance of "insider trading," according to Maddon.
At first glance, yes, it seems Johnson used some additional information he had at his disposal. And yes, he may have disregarded an "unwritten rule" in calling for a review of Peralta's glove. But let's be real, there exists — or at least there should exist — a line in the whole unwritten rule concept.
Major League Baseball appears to be straying a bit from the concept that unwritten rules are never to be broken, but there's still the Joe Maddons of the world. While Maddon is a terrific manager, and someone who clearly respects the history of the game, he's also a bit off in this instance.
Certain unwritten rules are understandable, but managers and players often get so caught up in such that we lose track of the ultimate objective: Win ballgames.
We saw that last season when Justin Verlander was upset about Erik Aybar dropping down a bunt in the eighth inning while the Tigers hurler had a no-hitter going. The problem with Verlander's frustration was that the Angels trailed just 3-0 at the time — hardly an insurmountable deficit. The Rays' one-run lead on Tuesday was even less insurmountable.
Johnson may have been seeking a competitive advantage in calling for an inspection of Peralta's glove, but wasn't Peralta seeking a competitive advantage of his own in using the substance? Why should Peralta be let off the hook, whereas Johnson is viewed as some jerk who uses forbidden insider knowledge to give his team the upper hand?
Peralta's transgression was actually worse, because there's no ifs, ands or buts about his wrongdoing. He broke a rule that's clearly stated, whereas Johnson's move — while unpopular — is one that's just kind of been avoided over the years. (Perhaps because of its unpopularity.)
Unwritten rules will be debated until the end of time. Think what you think, and feel what you feel, but let's not start putting those rules above those that are clearly stated.
Once that happens, there's no turning back.
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