How did Yankees let Pineda make same mistake twice?

Home plate umpire Gerry Davis throws out Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda after finding a substance on his neck.

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Michael Pineda is the guy who drove 80 mph in a 65-mph zone, got pulled over for speeding and then proceeded to drive 100.

He will be a national punch line, fodder for everyone from Twitter smart alecks to late-night talk-show hosts. But, I’m sorry, if Pineda failed the Yankees, then the Yankees failed him, too.

Every new Yankee says that the franchise coddles its players like none other, caters to their every whim and need. But clearly, a breakdown in communication occurred with Pineda — an inexcusable breakdown, considering that Pineda is not some newcomer, but a pitcher who has been in the organization for more than two years.

Yet Pineda, 25, was ejected from Wednesday night’s game against the Red Sox for violating Rule 8.02(b), which states, "The pitcher shall not … have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance."

Pine tar is a foreign substance, but most pitchers use it to maintain a grip on the ball in cold weather. Teams generally let the infraction pass without alerting the umpires, as long as the pitcher’s use is not absurdly obvious.

Pineda’s use was absurdly obvious, not once but twice — and against the Red Sox no less, the Yankees’ biggest rival.

Sox manager John Farrell declined to press the issue when Pineda had pine tar on his hand in an April 10 game at Yankee Stadium. But Wednesday night at Fenway Park, with the substance gleaming on Pineda’s neck in the second inning, Farrell asked plate umpire Gerry Davis to check Pineda. Davis used his finger to wipe the pine tar off Pineda’s neck and ejected him. A suspension is certain to follow.


Maybe it’s all Pineda’s fault, and he simply did not heed the Yankees’ warnings to be more discreet. Maybe he applied the pine tar so quickly and inconspicuously that no one in the Yankees’ dugout noticed. In any case, as general manager Brian Cashman told reporters afterward, "We as an organization are responsible."

That means Cashman, manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild — and even the veteran players who are supposed to instruct younger players such as Pineda on how to conduct themselves, both on and off the field.

Cashman said that there had been "enough conversations" between Pineda’s first start against the Red Sox and his second for him to understand that what he did was wrong.

If that was the case, why did Pineda again resort to a blatant use of pine tar? Did he panic after struggling to grip the ball in the first inning? Did he somehow not grasp what the Yankees had told him, given that he is a native of the Dominican Republic whose first language is Spanish?

The latter explanation would be difficult to fathom; the Yankees have Spanish-speaking coaches and Spanish-speaking players. The initial incident received widespread attention, prompting Joe Torre, MLB’s executive VP of baseball operations, to speak with Cashman. It’s almost impossible to imagine that Pineda was oblivious to all this, or left to handle the matter alone.

Still, he made the same dumb mistake again, made it on national television while wearing the uniform of one of the world’s most famous franchises. The temperature in Boston was unseasonably cool; everyone in the Yankees’ dugout had to know that the Sox would watch Pineda with what Farrell called a "heightened awareness."

If Pineda needed a babysitter, the Yankees should have babysat him. If Pineda needed a substance to improve his grip, the Yankees should have made sure that he employed the substance properly.

It’s a team failure, not just the failure of one man.