Major League Baseball proved on Friday that it can turn on a dime when it recognizes that a rule needs to changed. After much national gnashing of teeth over the revised "transfer rule," MLB announced that it is going back to the old definition of what constitutes a legal catch.
That might be small consolation to any team that lost a game because of the ill-advised rule change, but it's the right thing to do to take that issue off the table -- and the highlight shows. Now, the rules committee should set to work partially lifting the ban on pitchers using pine tar to improve their grip on the baseball.
The Michael Pineda situation has made for some great theater, but he may end up being the pied piper of pine tar if his blatant use of it in his last two starts leads to a revision of the rules that improves player safety without seriously impacting the competitive balance between pitcher and hitter.
There's a reason why baseball doesn't allow pitchers to use more than rosin to improve their grip, but there appears to be developing school of thought that allowing the use of pine tar in frigid weather -- when the surface of the baseball is particularly slick -- might reduce the possibility of injury from errant pitches.
The dirty little secret is that it's already happening, but most pitchers know better than to put a big glob of it on an area of their body that is visible to opponents and television cameras. Pineda got away with it when he had it on the heel of his hand, but basically dared Red Sox manager John Farrell to sick the umpires on him when he put it on his neck.
He deserves that 10-day suspension more for stupidity than cheating.
My solution: In particularly inclement situations, baseball should allow a pine tar rag to be placed behind the pitchers mound along with the rosin bag and the cleat mat by mutual consent of the opposing managers. That wouldn't give the pitcher a big advantage, since it would simply offset the weather-related grip problem and even the playing field with hitters who are allowed to use pine tar to get a better grip on their bats.