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Jon Lester a cheater? Get a grip

A Cardinals minor league pitcher accused Jon Lester of cheating during Game 1 on Wednesday.

Jim Davis/Globe staff/file

A Cardinals minor league pitcher accused Jon Lester of cheating during Game 1 on Wednesday.

Let’s stop this suspicious nonsense, please.

Pitchers need to grip the ball, so they use rosin and sunscreen or pine tar or whatever. The days of “doctoring” the ball are over. Pitchers don’t know how to do it. The stuff pitchers now possess is filthy. They don’t need a spitter or a grease ball for movement. They have movement.

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So, why can’t we just get past this stuff?

A Cardinals minor league pitcher tweets a picture of Jon Lester going to some substance in his glove in Game 1 of the World Series and suddenly Lester is a cheater.

Tyler Melling, a former 39th-round pick of the Cardinals, posted the tweet, which has since been removed (@TylerMelling), “Jon Lester using a little Vaseline inside the glove tonight?” The message was accompanied by a picture of the Fox broadcast in which what appears to be a greenish substance is visible near the webbing of Lester’s black glove.

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Major League Baseball issued a statement in response: “We cannot draw any conclusions from this video. There were no complaints from the Cardinals and the umpires never detected anything indicating a foreign substance throughout the game.”

My goodness, just stop.

It was like the Clay Buchholz fiasco in Toronto earlier this season. Buchholz has five excellent pitches. Yes, he goes to the back of his hair. Yes, he goes to his forearm. Yes, he uses sunscreen.

Standing with 13-time Gold Glove-winning catcher Pudge Rodriguez, who was on the field before Thursday night’s Game 2, I asked him, don’t pitchers use stuff to get a grip?

He pointed to a bat in the on-deck circle.

“Look at how much pine tar is on that bat,” he said. “The hitter uses it to get a good grip so the bat won’t go flying somewhere. The pitcher needs to do the same thing. On a cold night like this the ball is slippery, so you need something so the ball doesn’t slip out. On a hot night where there’s a lot of sweat, the rosin helps dry up the moisture.”

Did Rodriguez see Lester do anything unusual or illegal?

“I didn’t see anything,” he said. “I just saw a guy pitching a great game out there. Nobody objected to anything except for the fact that he pitched really well.”

Hall of Famer Jim Rice said, “Everyone’s trying to get a good grip. Look at the infielders and how they put a little pine tar on the end of their gloves. They’re trying to get the best grip possible when they’re making a throw.”

So, why don’t we just have a list of what you can and what you can’t use? We do it with performance-enhancing drugs, why not with substances?

It’s silly to think that rosin is the only thing. Obviously, players have sunscreen not only to protect their skin, but a little dab on their fingers accompanied by rosin provides a good grip. There’s isn’t anyone who will tell you that the combination alters the flight of the ball, so really, let’s stop these accusations and needless attacks.

Nobody, including Lester and Red Sox manager John Farrell, understood how the rosin appeared to be green. Farrell suggested there may have been some doctoring of the video.

Section 8.02 of the rulebook says a pitcher “shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.” But that section has become archaic.

“How it’s updated, I don’t know,” Farrell said. “Do you start to list individual products? At the same time, I know talking to our hitters, they want to be sure the pitcher has got a complete grip of the baseball,”

There are pitchers on both World Series teams with mid-to-upper-90s velocity. If a hitter is a little more comfortable knowing the pitcher has a good grip, then maybe they’re OK with it.

“So, to adjust the rule? Where does it end? I don’t know,” said Farrell. “You’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and the way it is right now seems to fit.”

Dustin Pedroia, who usually makes light of these so-called controversies, said, “[Lester] kind of sweats a lot, man. I know he loads up on rosin all over the place. I don’t even like going out there and telling him ‘good job’ and patting him on the back because you get all that wet stuff.”

Pedroia didn’t think there was any validity to charges Lester was doctoring the ball, but then again, he’s not about to throw his teammate under the bus.

“It was not like he was up there throwing balls that were moving 20 feet. He’s on his game and that’s the way I saw it from second base,” Pedroia said.

Back in 2006, Tony La Russa, then managing the Cardinals, appealed to umpires during Game 2 of the World Series to have Tigers starter Kenny Rogers’s glove and hat be inspected for illegal substances. The Cardinals alleged that Rogers was using pine tar. And he was.

But these Cardinals, with the exception of one of their minor league pitchers, did not object about Lester. There are six umpires on the field, and none of them objected, either.

You know why?

Because everyone needs a grip, and everyone needs to get a grip on this nonsense.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.
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