The Great Pine Tar Incident of 2012 is over as far as Davey Johnson and Joe Maddon are concerned. The war of words between the two big-league managers, on the other hand, is just heating up.
One day after Rays reliever Joel Peralta was ejected before throwing a pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning for having an excessive amount of pine tar in his glove, the attention shifted to the two veteran managers, who traded verbal insults via the media and turned this already spicy story even hotter.
Following Tuesday night's game, Maddon directed his anger at Johnson, saying his counterpart's decision to have umpires check Peralta's glove based on information he got from the pitcher's ex-teammates with the Nationals was "real cowardly" and "kind of a wuss move."
Asked for his response on Wednesday, Johnson started off in a cordial manner, keeping his focus on the actual incident.
"My only comment to him is: 'Read the rule book,'" Johnson said. "It's simple. I've been involved in every conceivable kind of thing you can think of about players trying to get an edge mentally or physically, and that's part of the game. When somebody goes a little overboard, you call it out. It's that simple."
Except it wasn't nearly that simple, and Johnson didn't stop there. He turned the conversation into a back-and-forth with his fellow manager.
Asked if he might try to talk to Maddon about the whole matter, Johnson said: "No, I didn't know him that well, but I thought he was a weird wuss anyway. I understand where he's coming from. His job as a manager is to protect the players. Striking out at whoever he thinks is causing your players any grievance. So I understand where he's coming from. But he doesn't know me from a hole in the hill. Or I him, for that matter. But I do know the rule book, and I do try to follow it."
Johnson also took shots at Maddon's presence on Twitter and made a crack about his perceived intellectual superiority. (Maddon received an honorary doctorate from Lafayette University in 2010, decades after he dropped out of school to pursue his baseball career.)
"I looked him up on the internet and found out he has a tweeter, so he can get to more people than me," Johnson said. "And so I don't want to get in a shouting match with him. He's got a bigger following. But it was interesting reading. You can tell him I have a doctorate of letters, too. Mine's from Loyola, in humanities, and I'm proud of that, too."
Told that Johnson mentioned his "tweeter," Maddon paused and then shot back.
"Um, most men have tweeters," he said. "And I would never use my tweeter for an advantage."
Maddon's biggest beef appears not to be the fact Peralta was caught and ejected but that the whole thing happened only because someone in the Nationals clubhouse who was teammates with the right-hander in 2010 tipped off Johnson about his pine tar use, and that Johnson then used that background information in the game.
Maddon felt that was a major violation of baseball etiquette and suggested the rest of the sport would take notice and develop a negative opinion of the Nationals organization because of it.
"This is one of their former children here that had really performed well, and all the sudden ... he's going to come back to this town and they're going to rat on him based on some insider information, insider trading, whatever," Maddon said. "So if I'm a major-league player, in the very near future to want to come to play for the Nationals, I'd have to think twice about it."
Major League Baseball rules mandate that any pitcher found with a foreign substance is subject to a mandatory suspension, but the league hasn't ruled yet on this case, so Peralta remains active and available to pitch tonight.
Maddon added he wouldn't hesitate to use Peralta in this game if the right situation arose.
Despite the back and forth between managers, it's not all bad blood between the two sides. Maddon spent several minutes during batting practice chatting with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, a conversation that ended with smiles and a pat on the back.
Maddon was Rizzo's manager when the latter played in the Angels' farm system three decades ago.