WASHINGTON — Davey Johnson says Joe Maddon should “read the rulebook.” Maddon says the rulebook shouldn’t always rule in the “self-policing” world of major league baseball — and that if anyone was cheating, it was Johnson.
The managers of the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays weren’t exactly playing kiss-and-make-up Wednesday in baseball’s latest spat: Johnson’s decision to challenge Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta’s glove in Washington’s 5-4 loss the night before.
The umpires found pine tar on Peralta’s glove. He was ejected from the game and expects a suspension of up to 10 days from Major League Baseball. The league office said it was investigating the incident and that no decision would be announced Wednesday.
Maddon was furious after the game, calling Johnson’s actions “cowardly,” ”bush” and “bogus.” Johnson knew about the pine tar because had inside information on Peralta, who pitched for the Nationals in 2010.
Johnson responded to Maddon before Wednesday’s game, and Maddon then responded to Johnson. Some of the words used would not appear on most Christmas cards.
Johnson: “Any time there’s a rule violation, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a rule violation. My only comment to him is read the rulebook. It’s simple.”
Maddon: “I totally understand that. Davey’s right. I’m incapable of reading the rulebook, and there’s also reading between the lines in some situations that needs to be looked at, too. He’s been around long enough; he knows better than that.”
Johnson, on whether he has any intention of meeting with Maddon: “No, I don’t know him that well, but I thought he was a weird wuss anyway, so no. I understand where he’s coming from. His job as a manager is to protect the players, striking out at whoever is causing your players any grievance.”
Johnson also called Maddon a “guru” and needled the Rays manager for being active on Twitter and for having a reputation as a genius manager: “I don’t want to get into a shouting match with Joe. I looked him up on the Internet and found out he has a tweeter, so he can get to more people than me. But it was interesting reading. But you can tell him I have a doctorate of letters, too. Mine’s from Loyola in Humanities, and I’m proud of that too.”
Maddon was equally dripping in sarcasm, calling Johnson’s glove-search move “an attempt to indicate a higher form of baseball intellect.”
It was pointed out to Maddon that his player broke a rule and got caught, yet he chose to deflect responsibility toward Johnson.
“To utilize information based on the fact that the guy played here?” Maddon said. “If you want to talk about — I don’t know if that’s a form of cheating or what — but that’s really kind of underhanded, I believe, to use that kind of information.”
Maddon said pine tar use is “common knowledge in the industry” by “every major league baseball team.” He said glove manufacturers “were probably inundated with new orders last night and this morning by various agents throughout baseball.”
If it’s that widespread, he was asked, shouldn’t something be done about it?
“It is done about it,” Maddon said. “In baseball, players throughout history have always had this amazing ability and way to police themselves. There’s a policing themselves component of this game that we should stay away from — let the players take care of things. It’s happened for a long time.”
And what have the players concluded about pine tar?
“Everybody’s OK with it,” Maddon said.
It was suggested to Maddon that his line of reasoning was hard to swallow, given that it comes on the heels of the Roger Clemens trial — which reflected an era in which the players did not police themselves well at all.
“That’s fine,” he answered. “And we’re talking about two different things.”
Maddon went on to say that pine tar doesn’t help a pitcher that much anyway.
“It shouldn’t be illegal from a throwing perspective,” he said. “It’s just about grip. It doesn’t really influence movement of the ball as much as it influences the fact that you have a better grip or understanding where the ball is going — which actually probably works to the hitter’s advantage, also.”
Maddon said that the incident should deter free agents from signing with the Nationals.
“If I’m a major league player that may happen to want to play for the Nationals in the future, I might think twice about it,” Maddon said. “Because this is one of their former children here that had really performed well and all of a sudden he’s going to come back to this town and they’re going to rat on him based on some insider information, insider trading, whatever.”
After Peralta was ejected, Maddon had umpires check on Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus’ cap and glove in the ninth inning. Maddon wasn’t certain if he would have more pitchers checked in the final two games of the series.
Tampa Bay general manager Andrew Friedman threw his support behind Maddon.
“Even though it’s within the scope of the rules, I highly doubt that it’s something that we would ever initiate,” Friedman said. “So everyone makes their own choices and decisions and proceeds accordingly.”
After Tuesday’s game, Peralta did not directly answer when asked if he intentionally added pine tar to the glove, saying only it was a glove he uses “for batting practice every day.” Peralta declined further comment through a Rays spokesman on Wednesday.
Maddon and Johnson did find one piece of common ground: They agreed Peralta shouldn’t be suspended for getting caught.
“I think that’s way too severe,” Johnson said. “I think just getting thrown out of the game should be enough. Repeat violators, then it could be more severe.”