A pitch is thrown. The baseball ends up stuck on the catcher’s chest protector. It won’t come loose and fall to the dirt, staying glued to Yadier Molina until he finally yanks it away. You never know what you’ll see when you walk into a ballpark … and it’s true. The was the latest example. No one had ever seen this before.
The odd, crazy, stuck-baseball incident wasn’t a baseball crime in downtown St. Louis. Well, we don’t think so, anyway. Catchers are allowed to use pine tar or another adhesive on their equipment. They tap their fingers onto the stuff to get a better grip for throwing, especially on chilly or windy days. It’s an acceptable practice, which is why you didn’t see objections from the Cubs or the umpires.
In fact the Cubs went the other way, laughing it off and offering reasonable explanations for Molina and the Cardinals at a time when the rival Cardinals were behaving as if they had something to hide. That’s why the Cardinals’ post-game handling of Sticky Gate was so unnecessary, baffling and foolish.
Instead of simply explaining what happened there, the Cards went into the defensive mode, got secretive, all but pleaded the fifth amendment, and had neutral observers wondering about the team’s paranoia.
So, what happened in that gooey seventh inning, with a Brett Cecil pitch affixed to Molina’s after the strikeout of Cubs hitter Matt Szczur? Because Molina couldn’t find the ball to tag Szczur, the Cub scampered away and reached first. And just like that, the Cubs were on their way to a four-run rally that won the game, 6-4.
The Cardinals blew a three-run lead and dropped the series to the Cubs.
The Cardinals also blew it during the postgame session.
When asked for a simple explanation of the curious seventh-inning event, manager Mike Matheny said he had no idea.
The Beloved Leader of Men had a chance to show his leadership by giving a straight answer to deflect attention from his players. Instead, Matheny put up his usual media block. The strategy didn’t help his team.
Matheny had no idea? Yeah, sure Mike. A manager of an MLB team wouldn’t want to ask around to find the cause of a strange play that cost his team an out, the game, and a series triumph over their arch rival?
When asked about it, Molina went with a “that’s a dumb question” dismissal, but never answered the question.
Cecil fled Busch Stadium to avoid the media — and that was weak, weak stuff by Cecil right there.
Instead of clarifying why the baseball clung to Molina, the Cardinals clung to nonsense and hoped no one would notice.
Except that everyone noticed.
If Molina was trying to suggest that his equipment was free of an adhesive substance, fine.
But if Molina’s hands and equipment were clean, then where did gluey stuff come from?
It’s either the pitcher or the catcher. There are no other choices.
The easiest way to make this go away was for the catcher to take responsibility. I say this for three reasons:
(1) As we said earlier, it isn’t against the rules for a catcher to have grip-enhancing substance on his equipment. They all do it.
(2) If the catcher doesn’t take responsibility, then the focus shifts to his teammate, Cecil. And this could lead to controversy. It could lead to a minor story, a nothing story, creating something larger. That’s never smart.
(3) If the catcher claims responsibility, then the story dies. And teammates won’t be peppered with questions.
The Cardinals unnecessarily raised suspicion by acting so uptight and playing the denial game.
If they did nothing wrong, and there was nothing to hide — then what the hell were they trying to hide?
If Cecil was dabbing a foreign substance for a better grip, he could be flagged by MLB.
The rush of Cecil’s postgame evacuation was interesting. And his hasty exit was very timely, no?
Again: this tacky business wasn’t a baseball crime.
So why be so tacky, and act like guilty men?
Thanks for reading …