BOSTON — The first game was a rout. The television ratings, not so great. The World Series could use a little controversy, and now we have one.
At issue: Is Jon Lester a cheater?
As Lester pitched the Boston Red Sox to an 8-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 on Wednesday night, Tyler Melling, a 39th-round draft choice who pitched in the Class-A Florida State League this year, took to Twitter with a screen grab that purported to be incriminating evidence.
This was the text of the tweet: "Jon Lester using a little Vaseline inside the glove tonight?"
On Thursday, the Cardinals directed Melling to delete the tweet, and he did. But by that time investigations had been launched, conspiracy theories floated and official statements issued.
The commissioner's office said there was nothing incriminating in the video, the Cardinals had not complained and the umpires had not noticed anything improper. The Cardinals called it a "nonissue."
That would have been that, except for some curious photographs that had surfaced by then, including one that clearly showed Lester's glove with a greenish substance on it.
Rule 8.02 forbids a pitcher from applying any "foreign substance" to the ball. In reality, umpires allow discretion in the use of rosin, which helps pitchers get a better grip, especially in cold weather.
"If you know Jon Lester, he sweats like a pig and he needs rosin," said Boston Manager John Farrell.
So was Farrell categorically saying that rosin was the only substance on Lester's glove? "Categorically, yes," Farrell said.
That would not explain the greenish tint on Lester's glove. "I saw the picture and I don't know why that is," Lester said. "It looks like a giant booger, almost."
It is not uncommon for pitchers to mix rosin with sunscreen for a better grip. Lester said he uses nothing but rosin, but the sunscreen might show up as green where the rosin would not. The Red Sox reportedly had sunscreen in their dugout this month for a playoff game against the Tampa Bay Rays — at night, in a domed stadium.
Lester will no doubt hear about the issue in St. Louis. He is scheduled to start Game 5 there.
Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny had a measured response when asked whether he were 100% convinced that Lester was telling the truth when he said that rosin was the only substance on his glove.
"If that's what he claims," Matheny said, "then that's what it is."