A day later, the gloves were presumably clean but the war of words was dirtier than ever.
Less than 24 hours after Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson got Tampa Bay reliever and former National Joel Peralta ejected for what umpire Tim Tschida called “a significant amount” of pine tar on his glove - and Rays manager Joe Maddon called that “a real cowardly move” on the part of Johnson - the two managers continued to fire at one another.
Johnson called Maddon’s comments after Tuesday’s game “interesting reading” and took a presumed dig at Maddon’s reputation as something of a genius manager. “You can tell him I have a doctorate of letters, too,” Johnson said. “Mine’s from Loyola, in humanities, and I’m proud of that, too.”
Peralta has not yet been suspended, though by rule he will be at some point for an undetermined length. His glove was on its way to Major League Baseball’s offices in New York on Wednesday morning, and Maddon said he wouldn’t hesitate to use Peralta in Wednesday night’s game. Johnson made clear he felt a suspension wasn’t warranted, that being ejected was enough.
“I didn’t know him that well, but I thought he was a weird wuss anyway,” Johnson said. “I understand where he’s coming from. His job as a manager is to protect the players. Striking out at whoever he thinks is causing your players any grievance.
“But he doesn’t know me from a hole in the hill. Or I him, for that matter. But I do know the rule book, and I do try to follow it. If one of my players is breaking, got caught, turn the page, try not to get caught. My only comments to him is ‘read the rulebook.’ It’s simple.”
Maddon, who managed Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo in the minor leagues in the early 1980s, was asked about his final thoughts on the issue as he opened his pregame press conference. He used the opportunity to fire another salvo.
“Just looking down the road, if I’m a major league player that may happen to want to come and play for the Nationals in the future, I might think twice about it under the circumstances,” Maddon said - a remark that was met with shock and “no comment” by several Nationals coaches and officials.
“This is one of their former children here that had really performed well and all the 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,” Maddon said.
“I don’t agree with [that],” Rizzo said after having a brief chat with Maddon behind the batting cage. “I don’t think that’s going to faze potential players to come here because we’ve got a great thing going here and it’s a place that players are going to want to come to. Players love playing for Davey Johnson and they will continue to love to play for Davey Johnson. Davey’s one of the reasons that we attract players to the Nationals.”
Pine tar as a means for pitchers to gain an advantage has been debated, though it depended on who you asked Wednesday how widespread the use of it was. Johnson said he has no problem with a little pine tar “on the string of a glove. That’s kind of undetectable,” but it’s when it crossed the line into an excessive amount that he felt it needed to be policed. The Nationals‘ knowledge of Peralta was that he used enough to cross that line.
“If Davey were to know about something, an unfair advantage against us, and not say anything about it, I’d be upset at Davey for not saying anything,” Rizzo said. “Because [Peralta] played for us, if the players saw him doing it while he was playing for us, that gave them the evidence they were looking for to make the call. If you go out there, you better be pretty sure he’s doing what he’s doing, because that’s a pretty big assertion. If he’s clean, you look pretty foolish.”
Both managers agreed on one thing: the issue should be finished before Wednesday’s game began.
“I’m not speaking for the guru over there,” Johnson said. “But as far as the league and as far as I’m concerned with, it’s just one little issue.”