BOSTON -- Just in case Michael Pineda never makes it as a New York Yankee, he decided to prep himself for a second career as a stand-up comic. How else can anyone explain a "Saturday Night Live" skit disguised as a Fenway Park start against the defending World Series champs?
Funny? This was Kevin Hart times Steve Carell funny. The same pitcher who used pine tar on his throwing hand in his last start against the Boston Red Sox, only to get away with it, decided to apply the same PED (performance-enhancing dirt) to the right side of his neck Wednesday night, in full view of millions of viewers and, ultimately, the umpire who tossed him from the game.
Gerry Davis marched to the mound in the middle of Grady Sizemore's second-inning at-bat, on John Farrell's request. Nobody on the visiting side of this hostile rivalry blamed Farrell in the least. In fact, the Yankees all but nominated him for Manager of the Year.
"I would want my manager to do what John Farrell did," GM Brian Cashman said after this 5-1 defeat.
The Red Sox had scored two runs on four hits in the first inning, sending Pineda scrambling for his illegal helper. Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild had warned Pineda against trying this stunt again, but he must've figured his bosses didn't know what they were talking about. Either way, Farrell yielded to his (ahem) moral obligation to protect the game's integrity, and asked Davis to conduct an investigation that had an Inspector Clouseau feel to it.
The charge? Pineda was using pine tar to manage the chilly conditions (50 degrees at game time) and a Red Sox lineup angry about the way it was treated by Masahiro Tanaka the night before. It was a Class C misdemeanor.
"I [didn't] feel the ball," Pineda would say, "and I don't want to hit anybody."
With the brown sludge in a most conspicuous spot, Davis first checked Pineda's glove, then his arms, and then his back as he turned the pitcher around. The ump did everything but insert a tongue depressor in Pineda's mouth and tell him to go ahh. When Davis finally spotted the evidence, he pulled his own glove off his right hand with his teeth, dabbed his index finger three times against the sludge on Pineda's neck, rubbed his finger against his thumb, and immediately signaled for the starter to head for the showers.
Pineda got a tap on the rump from Derek Jeter on the way there. Soon enough, with an ESPN dugout camera showing the distraught pitcher sitting in the tunnel as he was counseled by Rothschild and trainer Steve Donohue, Girardi slapped it in a way that would've made Alec Baldwin proud.
"If I was really going to tear up the camera," he said, "I would've tore it up."
How much pine tar is too much? George Brett wasn't around to ask. The last time Pineda was caught using a foreign substance against the Red Sox, he insisted it was dirt. By the time Farrell was informed on that April 10 night that cameras had picked up the substance, Pineda had already cleaned it from his palm.
In the end, Davis ruled that it wasn't dirt under Pineda's ear Wednesday night, leaving past and present big leaguers to ask themselves the same question:
How dumb can you possibly be?