One game into the World Series and instead of the national media latching on to the total domination that came from an 8-1 final score, they are talking about this:
Now, the question is: what was that on Jon Lester‘s glove on Wednesday night in Boston? He seemed to be going to the substance during the game, but due to the conditions (very cold), it would seem unreasonable to think that it was Vaseline, as St. Louis Cardinals‘ minor league pitcher Tyler Melling tweeted during the game, because that would make the ball even harder to control; however, could it have been some other substance to assist with Lester’s grip?
How much does doctoring a ball really assist in a pitcher’s skills? Would the Cardinals have allowed the Red Sox to score eight runs over eight innings if Lester hadn’t been pitching so effectively?
The bottom line for the Red Sox win wasn’t about Lester at all.
What Adam Wainwright was doing last night wasn’t working. His ineffectiveness had very little to do with Jon Lester’s dominance, and Wainwright’s ineffectiveness had a lot to do with his inability to miss the Red Sox bats when they had runners on base. His way of doing things wasn’t working and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn’t take him out when he didn’t have “it”.
During the game, the apparent love for the Cardinals from the national media was highlighted by this tweet from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and the MLB Network:
this, clearly, is not the cardinal way. #WorldSeries
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) October 24, 2013
“The Cardinal way” likely refers to the club’s annual success, building from within, and solid performance on the field. However, while the Cardinals were sluggish defensively on Wednesday night, primarily shortstop Pete Kozma, this wasn’t a defensively gifted club in 2013. Sure, the fielding percentage was fifth in MLB, but the club lacked range, which was pointed out by MLB Network’s Brian Kenny, who used the team’s UZR Rating to say this:
Only phillies, mariners and white sox are worse defensively than St. Louis. — Brian Kenny (@MrBrianKenny) October 24, 2013
It is easy to jump on the St. Louis Cardinals bandwagon and their internal baseball expertise, but the team was outplayed Wednesday night, regardless of what was on Lester’s glove and the apparent advantage that he may have gained from “cheating.”
If Lester had given up three runs in the second inning instead of having the umpires get together and make the correct call, would the bias towards Lester and what he did or didn’t have on or with his glove still be such a major topic today? Would the world have been okay with things going against the Boston Red Sox instead of the Cardinals fighting an uphill battle?
Smart people in baseball will use information like this:
No idea if Lester used Bullfrog, wore phiten necklace, or snorted pixie dust. All I know is: Trajectory of ball didn’t appreciably change.
— Dan Brooks (@brooksbaseball) October 24, 2013
Dan Brooks is a pitching genius over at Baseball Prospectus, and if you need further proof that doctoring a ball isn’t a big deal, notice that Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame and the Steroid Era players are left outside of Cooperstown on the curb waiting for a shot.
It’s hard for me to not dislike the Cardinals being a Cincinnati homer and a Reds fan at heart, and the whining from fans and the questioning of Lester that is being published from major outlets today (ESPN, NBC, and Yahoo to name a few) is just the norm that I typically observe; However, more shocking is the fact that the original tweet from Melling (which started the whole conversation) was “mysteriously” deleted.
Jon Lester was better than Adam Wainwright and there wasn’t anything that was going to help that, even if Pete Kozma was turned into Andrelton Simmons, Ozzie Smith, or Omar Vizquel defensively in Game One. While calling a player out for cheating can be a slippery slope (get it…because of the Vaseline), baseball observers should look at the bigger picture from last night – the Red Sox looked like the better team.
As the World Series moves to Game Two on Thursday, we should all be hopeful that the focus turns to a new game and a fresh start for St. Louis, where the Cardinals will ride the coat tails of postseason domination specialist Michael Wacha. It isn’t good for the game for all of the rumors to be more important than the game, and Major League Baseball brushing aside the possibility of Lester cheating quickly was the right thing to do. See the ball, hit the ball, shut up and play baseball. If you’re the better team, you’ll win.