In the seventh inning of Thursday's opener against the Braves, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher was ejected for having a substance on his arm that would allow him to have a better grip on the ball, something that is expressly forbade by MLB.
According to Smith, the substance was a combination of sun screen and rosin, which he had put on his arm while warming up in the bullpen but forgot to remove before the game.
Smith said he merely forgot to wipe it off after coming in from bullpen. He acknowledged that was a mistake.— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 22, 2015
Will Smith: "I had to kind of get ready in a hurry and I forgot (to remove the substance)."— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 22, 2015
More Smith: "I'm a competitor. You want to stay in the game and pitch. It was a big situation. I was pissed I got thrown out."— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 22, 2015
Smith: "You want to be able to feel the ball. It's just for grip."— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 22, 2015
Smith was visibly angry after being ejected, but not at umpire crew chief Jim Joyce. Rather, he was upset that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez pointed out the substance. For the most part, it's accepted in baseball that most pitchers use foreign substances. Issues come, however, when it's as evident they are using it as Smith was. That's Gonzalez's argument, anyway.
#Braves Fredi G said of substance on Will Smith's arm: "it was pretty blatant, You could see it glistening through the lights."— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) May 22, 2015
More #Braves Fredi G on #Brewers Will Smith: ."When you try to be that blatant, sometimes you’ve just got to do what you have to do."— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) May 22, 2015
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman pointed out just how little most players care about pitchers using substances.
#Braves Freeman: "Every pitcher does it. As a hitter you want them to do it so they have a better grip, so we don’t get hit in the head.."— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) May 22, 2015
More #Braves Freeman on Will Smith: "... But just hide it better next time." 2/2— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) May 22, 2015
Brewers manager Craig Counsell seems frustrated that Gonzalez would point out Smith's error when his own team likely does the same thing.
#Brewers manager Craig Counsell on Braves' tactic: "It goes on, on the other side, I guarantee you."— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 22, 2015
Counsell noted that his hitters have been beaned three times this year and they wished pitchers had better grips on ball.— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 22, 2015
However, Counsell won't go so far as to say the Brewers will do anything to retaliate, instead keeping his answer to that question very reserved. Of course, if he were planning anything, it would be very stupid of him to actually announce it.
Asked about possible retaliation against Braves over next three games, Counsell merely said, "We're going to try to beat them."— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 22, 2015
In the end, this whole thing shows just how stupid baseball rules -- written and unwritten -- can be. Yes, having any substance like sunscreen or pine tar is not allowed. But pitchers want to use it, and batters want pitchers to use it. And nobody cares if they do, unless they telegraph that they are? The issue with using isn't using themselves, but being seen? It all seems very dumb to me. And to a lot of other people, as well, as there have been rumblings that the rule Smith was busted for is outdated and unwelcome.
Still, Smith did break a rule and for that the likely punishment will be an automatic 10-game suspension that comes with the foreign substances rule. Apparently next time, he just shouldn't leave it on his forearm.