SPORTS
09/21/2011 08:23 pm ET Updated Nov 21, 2011

John Smoltz Cheated? Leo Mazzone, Former Braves Pitching Coach, Claims Smoltz Used Pine Tar [UPDATED]

"If you're not cheating, you're not trying hard enough."

For several years now, "cheating" in sports has become synonymous with performance-enhancing drugs. But Major League Baseball has gone to lengths to eradicate steroid use, notably suspending a player for 100 games for a second positive steroid test. HGH testing has also been introduced into the Minor Leagues. Even the NFL came close to adopting an HGH blood test before the season.

With those universally reviled means of cheating possibly on the way out, the New York Giants were kind enough to turn our attention back to some more traditional forms of rule bending that have been a part of sport forever -- and are arguably even encouraged under the guise of gamesmanship. During a win over the St. Louis Rams on Monday, two Giants defenders appeared to simulate injuries in order to slow down their opponent's relentless no-huddle offense.

While such a tactic is certainly against NFL rules, it's also something that has been a part of the game for generations. Anyone who has watched the University of Oregon's football team during the last few seasons has seen countless players grab for ankles or hamstrings only to be good as new just a few snaps later in an attempt to slow down their high-octane attack.

After discussing the Giants faking of injuries on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio with Evan Cohen and Steve Phillips, former Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone revealed that even former pitching star John Smoltz was not above using pine tar to gain an illicit advantage during his career.

"One time Smoltzy had it on his shoes and I said, 'John, you can't keep bending over and touching your shoes all the time. Let's put it someplace else!'" he said. "I know that in my little ball bag I had firm grip and all kinds of goodies to take care of a baseball to get a little more movement on it."

The only pitcher in Major League history with at least 200 career wins and 150 saves, Smoltz was a member of one of the greatest pitching staffs of all time -- Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux -- and helped lead the Atlanta Braves to 14 consecutive playoff appearances.

Although he probably didn't think he was telling any particularly sordid tales out of school, Mazzone will probably end up regretting his statement on the radio as it's been picked up by numerous news outlets. It's even possible that this charge could hamper Smoltz' Hall of Fame candidacy.

UPDATE: Leo Mazzone backtracked his comments on Thursday to WNNX-FM in Atlanta. The former pitching coach said his comments were taken out of context and that he was just "trying to have some fun on the air."

"I am so angry about it because somebody took it and ran with it and said 'the Braves pitchers were cheating,'" he said. "That's a bunch of bologna."

Mazzone also did not deny that pine tar was used, saying that using it "is not doctoring a baseball."

"That's trying to get a grip when it's cold," he said. "What's wrong with that?"

EARLIER: While some forms of cheating have always been a part of baseball culture, years of PED controversy have created a knee-jerk reaction of outrage when anyone is accused of doing anything to gain an unfair advantage. Of course, the public reaction to having stars like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and A-Rod implicated in PED scandals has not halted the more time-tested -- and never blood tested -- methods of getting an edge like faking cramps to slow down an opposing offense in football or using some substance to doctor a baseball.

Just this summer, the Toronto Blue Jays were accused of stealing signs, another age-old baseball tactic. A few White Sox players claimed that a man in white sat in the center-field seats at Rogers Centre and signaled the pitches to the Blue Jays hitters.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos denied the claims and catcher J.P. Arencibia brought up the fact that Tigers ace Justin Verlander threw a no-hitter in that stadium earlier in the season.

Would it be so bad if Smoltz had been taking the mound with some pine tar on his cleats? Or if the Blue Jays were doing their best to steal signs? After all, Gaylord Perry titled his 1974 autobiography Me And the Spitter and was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1991.

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