This isn’t really about Grant Balfour. Of course he cheats, who doesn’t? It’s about the fact that nobody seems to care one bit.
For those of you who may not even be aware, doctoring the ball with any of a variety of substances or scuffing it up with any of a variety of implements is against the rules of baseball and has been for years and years and years. It unarguably improves the bite on a pitch and – if carried to an extreme – can make it harder to see as well. If you see a big, black spot on the yellow bill of a pitchers cap and you watch him repeatedly touch that spot with two fingers then rub the ball then touch it again and then rub the ball again you should be highly suspicious that something untoward is going on. He is not adjusting the bill of his cap. Adjusting the bill of his cap would not turn it black, the dust on the mound is not black and resin is not black. Adjust, rub, adjust, rub, adjust, rub would be a bizarre pre-pitch ritual for any pitcher if it were only that. Grant Balfour is doctoring the ball – probably with pine tar or something analogous. You may feel inclined to make excuses for Grant Balfour, I don’t. Grant Balfour is cheating at baseball.
Is Grant Balfour the only pitcher routinely cheating in this or similar ways? Good Lord, of course he isn’t. Are Tigers pitchers doing the same thing? Of course they are (keep a close eye on Joaquin Benoit), though their dark bills make it a little less obvious. Sources informed Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports that 90% of pitchers do the same thing – but they typically use a combination of sunscreen and resin to achieve the same effect. The question is why nobody cares? Many fans refuse to believe that any cheating his going on (har, har), for managers it mainly seems like bad form – given that everybody is doing it – to call out somebody else. Sportswriters are aware of how prevalent the practice is and has been (Gaylord Perry, anyone?) but for some reason don’t start cranking up the outrage generator like they do over Alex Rodriguez and his fishy substances. Tampering with the ball is clearly considered to be a less egregious violation of the spirit of the game than injecting yourself with some testosterone analog to beef up or to recover from a shoulder injury in 3 weeks instead of 6. Why? If you think you know, please tell me.