Varitek pine tarring his fingers

Astute reader Lance Elroy wrote to point me to a bit of footage where, in the sixth inning, you can – maybe – see Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek putting pine tar on his fingers. It’s during Manny’s at-bat, the 2nd 3-2 pitch: (“good rip by Manny Ramirez…”) there’s a shot of Varitek in the dugout, and it looks like watching the dugout camera to make sure it’s not on, rubbing his hands…? He certainly looks fishy, but I’m not convinced he was up to anything nefarious: he might be getting ready to be put in with Wakefield out (which he was) — you can see during Drew’s at-bat Varitek’s putting his batting gear on, and he’s on-deck with Crisp up. It seems unlikely that Varitek was tarring his hands that early in the inning, and any advantage is deadened by his at-bat preparations.

It wouldn’t be a new trick, though. Catchers assisting their pitchers in ball-doctoring is a long and time-honored tradition. The pitcher’s under a lot of scrutiny, while their catchers are far freer to scuff or put something on a ball for the pitcher to make use of.

But was he trying to get pine tar onto the ball for Lester’s sake? Even if he was intending to go out on the field with tarred hands, there’s another, more prosaic explanation: Varitek’s not particularly good at throwing out runners (this year, he threw out 24% of opposing runners, putting him in the lower half of AL catchers). Pine tar on the fingers would give him a better grip on the ball making the difficult transfer to through, and help him get the throw off faster.

You’re not supposed to do it. But if you can get away with it and gain an advantage, why not?


#1 Lance Elroy on 10.18.07 at 6:55 am

I did notice that Varitek wears nice white batting gloves when he was hitting, so no use for pine tar on his bare hands for hitting. I used to be a catcher in college, but never pulled the pine tar trick for the Pitcher. I just wanted you to be aware of it because Varitek looked real spooked when the camera turned on. He shut the pine tar rag immediately when the camera turned on, it was clear he was rubbing pine tar on his throwing hand. I’m with you though, not sure it was for the advantage of the pitcher, maybe it was just to assist Jason for throwing, but it caught my eye and looked strange.

#2 DMZ on 10.22.07 at 8:18 pm

Oh, the footage is great – Varitek looks like he’s been caught shoplifting or something. It’s hilarious to watch.