Joe Nathan’s pine tar

When I wrote the K-Rod post (and follow-ups), many people wrote in to offer other pitchers I should look at, and Joe Nathan came up a lot. So skip ahead a few weeks, and right now I’m watching him pitch against the Mariners — and there’s pine tar on his cap. I saw it a lot heavier in some of the evidence readers sent in, but there’s a light-brown patch on his brim that’s almost the exact same size of the four fingers of his hand.

It’s not resin. Even if you want to argue that whatever was under K-Rod’s cap was a wacky localized migration from the rosin bag, here’s a pitcher with something that couldn’t possibly get there without his knowledge (unless you want to argue that someone else regularly puts pine tar on his hat and he doesn’t notice).

Interestingly, though, while I’ve seen the pine tar much heavier and I’ve seen him directly rub pine tar spots while getting ready, tonight I didn’t see him touch that pine-tar smear at all — but he went to the back of the cap with his hand repeatedly, including a couple rubs. Unfortunately, watching on TV you don’t get good close-ups of the back of his cap, but it didn’t look like there was something there.

All of which raises a different set of questions for me —
If Nathan didn’t go to the pine tar to get a better grip, why risk going out there like that, unless (as we saw with K-Rod) pitchers having illegal personal stashes of sticky substances on their uniform goes unenforced?

If he’s not using it to get a better grip on a cold, damp night – when he went out there, it was about 44 degrees, 82% humidity, raining very lightly – when would he use it? Or is it not about grip at all?

8 comments ↓

#1 Orlandu on 04.19.07 at 7:12 am

Good stuff. Do you have any pictures of it?

By the way, what do you think of the guy I mentioned to you a while ago?

#2 tfyrtyrty on 04.19.07 at 12:17 pm

Cool stuff. What was the interesting stuff you found on Barry Bonds gamelogs though, as I’ve been meaning to ask you this question.

#3 NatsFan on 04.20.07 at 8:59 am

I’m not arguing that you’re right or wrong on the Nathan thing, and I mean this as an honest question and not a critizism-
have you ever investigated a cheating incident and decided that the player was not cheating??

#4 DMZ on 04.20.07 at 10:40 am

So right there, I noted there’s something on his hat and he’s not using it.

Or the Jenks thing.

#5 Mat on 04.20.07 at 2:57 pm

You’re right about Nathan’s hat being fishy, but I can’t say I’ve really ever noticed him going to it. I’ll definitely keep a closer eye on it now.

On a somewhat similar note, if you look at video of Brad Radke the last couple of years, his hair seems to be mighty greasy on game days. Here and there, I’d see mention of that as something Radke could use to help himself out, but I’m not really sure if there’s anything behind those claims.

#6 sbmke on 04.24.07 at 12:37 pm

Old news I know, but on the subject of pine tar – I was at the West Michigan Whitecaps winter dinner a few months back and Leyland freely admitted in his talk to 500 or 600 fans that Kenny Rogers was using pine tar in the playoffs. Played it off like it was obvious that pitchers used it, and often. Personally I don’t see any difference btw pine tar for batters and pitchers. As long as the equipment isn’t modified I couldn’t care less about grips.

#7 Josh on 04.24.07 at 2:19 pm

Any reason to think Brad Penny has a bunch of grease in his hair, or just that he likes to run his hands through it every other pitch?

#8 Frank on 05.30.07 at 10:49 am

I know that pine tar is illegal for pitchers, but if a NL pitcher came to bat and still had pine tar on his hands when he went to the mound the next inning, would that be illegal? Can they really force a pitcher to wash his hands between innings? It seems to me that any NL pitcher could have pine tar on his hands legally.