Was Red Sox Pitcher Jon Lester Using Vaseline On His Baseball in World Series Game 1?

St. Louis Cardinals fans and a minor leaguer are claiming Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester used Vaseline on his baseball in Game 1 of the World Series.

Jon Lester Red Sox Vaseline

Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, shown here, may have been doing more than looking tough in Game 1 of the 2013 World Series: He may have also been cheating.

In sports, cheating is not something to be taken lightly.  Neither is the ability of a team to suffer a massive beating in a championship competition.  Still, fans seem to like to connect the two more often than they should.  In the case of Game 1 of the 2013 World Series, we see this as another example of fans trying to find a reason other than poor performance for their team:  After a minor leaguer for the St. Louis Cardinals noticed something odd about Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester's baseball glove, fans are claiming that the pitcher used Vaseline on his baseball to cheat batters as the Red Sox pummeled the Cardinals 8-1.

Jon Lester Vaseline

The supposed Vaseline can be seen on the right side of the glove.

The first signs of trouble began after the victory, in which Jon Lester shut out the Cardinals for nearly 8 innings.  Tyler Melling, minor league pitcher for the St. Louis affiliate Palm Beach Cardinals in the Florida State League, posted a picture on his Twitter account, since removed, showing an odd golden shape on Lester's glove.  Melling thought the object was vaseline, and accused Lester of using Vaseline on the baseball, which is cheating.  Following this, a Cardinals fan posted a Vine video (seen below) showing Lester moving his pitching hand purposefully during the 7th inning.

Placing vaseline on a ball constitutes a "spitball:"  The ball is given new features when Vaseline or any other substance is placed on the ball.  In the case of vaseline, it provides less wind resistance, which affects the direction of the ball.  Sometimes, the ball will be thrown like a fastball, but it slips from the pitcher's hand before applying spin, causing the ball to move erratically.  Spitballs, if found out by the umpire, immediately results in not only the pitcher being thrown out of the game, but given an automatic 10-game suspension, which in this case would mean that Jon Lester would be out of the World Series.

However, despite the outcry from fans, Major League Baseball simply shrugged at the accusations, pointing out that neither the St. Louis Cardinals nor the umpires in the game noticed anything odd in a statement.  The Cardinals themselves, through GM John Mozeliak, have equally shrugged, and will not pursue the matter with MLB officials.  In a way, that makes some sense: Given that Cardinals pitchers gave up 8 runs in Game 1, even if Jon Lester were caught and thrown out early on, that probably would not have made a difference.

Still, I would not put it past the Boston Red Sox to pull such a stunt.  Given where they come from and who their fans are, they are a bit of a nasty bunch.

(Media Sources:  Reuters, Twitter, Vine)

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