Jon Lester was dominating in Game 1 of the World Series, but Cardinals' minor-league pitcher Tyler Melling is wondering if that occurred because the left-hander doctored the baseball. To be fair to the accusation, there does appear to be something in Lester's glove that he puts his fingers on, as shown in this image...*
Jon Lester using a little Vaseline inside the glove tonight? pic.twitter.com/IyQn2iqg5f— Tyler Melling (@TylerMelling) October 24, 2013
...and this Vine:
*The image -- and Mellings' tweets -- were deleted from his account after the Cardinals spoke with their minor-league pitcher. See for yourself!
Here's the thing, though: it's very likely something used for grip, not to actually doctor the baseball and make it do loopy, unnatural things -- which,thanks to PITCHf/x, we can confirm or deny with our own eyes. It's no secret that pitchers league-wide will use various substances for the purposes of grip -- remember Jeff Passan's opus on this topic back in May, following the "scandal" with Clay Buchholz? -- and the Cardinals, Lester's opponent, are no stranger to this phenomenon, either. Back in June of 2012, Adam Wainwright, who conveniently enough took the mound for the Cardinals opposite Lester on Wednesday, was asked his thoughts on sunscreen, resin, pine tar, and the like:
Wainwright acknowledges at times using a mix of resin and sunscreen to enhance his grip. Just as significant, the combo applied to his pitching arm helps prevent sweat rolling onto his hand.
"There's a difference in pine tar from oil and grease, things that make the ball sink, cut or do different stuff," he said. "That's different than doctoring a ball. If one of our pitchers gets a scuff on the side of a ball he can do all kinds of things with it. An emery board or something like that is totally different.''
Manager Mike Matheny declined comment on the matter but the team is among those believing the use of substance mixed with resin to better grip the ball is widespread if not universal.
Lester wasn't scuffing the ball, and he wasn't getting ridiculous movement on his pitches that was any different from normal. The Cardinals aren't blind, and it's not as if they lack access to video until the next morning, so it's unlikely that Lester was using any of the items Wainwright (and other Cardinals, such as Chris Carpenter) would be opposed to -- remember, too, that hitters have come out in the past to say they prefer a pitcher use something for grip than get beaned. Former pitcher and avid Twitter use CJ Nitkowski offered his own insight into the matter on Thursday morning, saying that it was a "legitimate accusation" but that Lester was not using Vaseline.
@TBrownYahoo It's likely firm grip. All these darn cameras, it used to be easier to get away with these things.— CJ Nitkowski (@CJNitkowski) October 24, 2013
Nitkowski also stated that, in cold weather, "you're not trying to make the ball more slippery, it's the opposite." Considering it was a late-October night in Boston, you don't even have to ask if it was a little chilly for baseball or not.
So, Cardinals players don't appear to have an issue with whatever Lester was using, and a former major-league arm is being forthright about the kind of substance it could be. I wonder what Cardinals fans think of the issue?
This rumor that Jon Lester hid vaseline on Pete Kozma’s glove is really troubling.— viva el birdos (@vivaelbirdos) October 24, 2013
Sorry, Tyler Melling, but this might be a non-story. When a big-league coach hands you a bottle of sunscreen down the road, you'll understand exactly why.
Update 11:35 am: Major League Baseball has spoken up about the alleged incident (via Yahoo!'s Tim Brown), saying that, "We cannot draw any conclusions from this video. There were no complaints from the Cardinals and the umpires never detected anything indicating a foreign substance throughout the game."
In addition, Cardinals' general manager John Mozeliak chimed in to say the whole thing is a "non-issue" and that he will not be pursuing action from MLB.
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