David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City
BOSTON - So of all the millions of Twitter users worldwide, it seems like an amazing coincidence that Tyler Melling, a Class A pitcher in the Cardinals' organization, just happened to be the one to accuse Jon Lester of resorting to an illegal substance during Wednesday night's Game 1.
Somehow, no Yankees farmhands or Rays staffers tweeted a screen grab featuring the greenish goo -- Mr. Melling guessed Vaseline -- but a young disciple of the Cardinal Way sure as heck did. And boy oh boy, was Mike Matheny surprised yesterday when the manager heard about the accusations.
For the record, Lester insisted that the offending slime was nothing more than the very legal rosin -- straight from the bag -- but he had no explanation for the odd color Melling highlighted. Matheny? He didn't say Lester was guilty. But we don't remember him saying he was innocent, either.
"This was not instigated by us," Matheny said before Thursday night's Game 2. "We don't deny that some things have been acknowledged. And if that's what he claims, then that's what it is. That's all there is to it. And right now it's pretty much a dead issue. We move on with the fact that the league now has to take notice.''
If the Cardinals hoped to plant a seed for Lester's next start, scheduled for Game 5 at Busch Stadium, you can bet that night's umpiring crew will be checking a few gloves.
Lester didn't sound worried. According to him, marinating his glove with the rosin bag is something he does all season long, and it's within the rules.
"I know what I do day in and day out to prepare to pitch in big-league games," Lester said, "and I know not once have I cheated.
" . . . The picture does look bad. But it's rosin. My next start, I'll go out there and do the same exact thing, and hopefully have the same outcome in the game."
Lester baffled the Cardinals with 72/3 scoreless innings, and there's no way to determine precisely how much the rosin slick played a role in it. According to Rule 8.02.4, "the pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball," and the penalty is immediate ejection.
MLB found no evidence of wrongdoing.
"We cannot draw any conclusions from this video," an MLB spokesman said in a statement.
Not long after Melling's tweet went viral, it vanished from his account. Deleting it, however, does little to contain the fallout. That was left to everyone back at Fenway, where we got to learn more than we needed to about Lester's perspiration.
"If you know Jon Lester," Red Sox manager John Farrell said, "he sweats like a pig and needs rosin."
Fair enough. But Farrell and Lester did bring up a solid point in discussing the merits of tacky substances. It's probably beneficial -- even for the guys with bats in their hands -- for a pitcher to be able to control where a 97-mph projectile is heading.
"I sweat like you wouldn't believe, so I need to keep water off of my hands and try to keep a hold of the ball," Lester said. "I think hitters would like that more than anything."
Regardless of what showed up on that Melling tweet -- "It looks like a giant booger almost," Lester said -- the Cardinals had bigger issues to deal with after the Game 1 rout.
"It's not about what he had in his glove, it's about how bad St. Louis came out to play," said Pedro Martinez, who threw out Thursday night's first pitch. "They did not do anything right. Lester had his good stuff and he beat them. That's it. Clean and simple.''
Simple, maybe. Clean? Not so much.