Yankees ‘holding each other to account’ with sticky-stuff

The Yankees were an umpire’s discretion away from having a starting pitcher ejected Friday for the second time in four days. 

Clarke Schmidt avoided the same fate that Domingo German experienced last Tuesday against the Blue Jays, when he was tossed and subsequently suspended 10 games for a failed foreign-substance check.

On Friday, Schmidt was allowed by the umpires to go wash his left wrist, which had a combination of what he said was black fur from the inside of his glove, sweat and rosin, which is legal — to an extent. 

Part of the issue is a larger one: that the inspections are subjective, because there are 60-plus different umpires feeling hands for stickiness across the league. 

But the Yankees also know they need to hold each other accountable, within their own dugout, before it even gets to the level of an umpire. 

“Trying to stay vigilant on it as much as we can,” pitching coach Matt Blake said over the weekend in Cincinnati. “And, ‘Hey, we have no margin for error here, guys. Zero margin. So whatever we think the line is, you need to be 10 steps further from it.’” 

Umpires check Clarke Schmidt’s glove during the Yankees’ win over the Reds on May 19.
Getty Images

After Schmidt escaped what would have been a disastrous ejection and suspension on Friday night — likely forcing the team to play two men down for seven straight games — manager Aaron Boone said the Yankees had been addressing the issue with their pitchers. 

But he indicated that there also needed to be a level of self-policing from fellow pitchers and coaches — including doing some of their own checks in the dugout before pitchers take the mound. 

“There’s that, there’s pitchers holding each other to account and obviously the coaching staff being involved in that,” Boone said. 

Blake said there have been times where he will check his pitchers’ hands in the dugout in between innings. 

“Especially when we have instances with German, trying to stay on top of him, like, ‘That’s too much, you gotta take something off,’ ” Blake said of the right-hander who was allowed to wash off excess rosin during a start against the Twins in April. “Just being aware that the rosin builds up as the game goes on, so you need to take something off.” 

Still, there is also some frustration in not knowing for sure exactly where the line is between acceptably sticky and too sticky.

A March 16 memo from MLB said that rosin could be deemed as a “prohibited foreign substance … when used excessively or otherwise misapplied (i.e., to gloves or other parts of the uniform).” 

In German’s case last Tuesday, crew chief James Hoye insisted that it was the “stickiest hand I’ve ever felt.” 

Meanwhile, the crew chief for Schmidt’s snafu Friday, Brian O’Nora, said that his hand “wasn’t sticky” but they flagged the back of his wrist for being “just a little tacky.” 

“That’s the hard part — there’s really no line in the sand, it’s just kind of subjective, like, ‘I think this is tacky,’ ” Blake said. “When German gets thrown out, I get it, they said, ‘That’s the stickiest hand’ they’ve ever felt. Well, what’s the second-stickiest or the third-stickiest? It’s like, where does the line start coming down? 

“That’s why it’s so dangerous when [Schmidt] goes out there and it’s like it’s a little bit tacky on his glove hand. OK, but what is that? How do we know when enough is enough?” 

Domingo German
Domingo German is serving a 10-game suspension for violating MLB’s sticky-stuff rules.

Hoye also said that the substance on German’s hand was “definitely not rosin,” which German denied.

Blake was one of the Yankees personnel who went over to feel German’s hand shortly after he was ejected. 

“It just felt sticky,” Blake said. “They weren’t wrong — that was too much. I don’t know what he was doing to apply it, but you cross the line on their end and I couldn’t argue with it.” 

Asked if Hoye was wrong and it was just rosin, Blake said it was “hard to say.” 

“I try not to venture into the speculation of it or where it came from,” Blake said. “They said it was too sticky and it was.”