MLB dropped the hammer this past week, enacting protocols designed to crack down on pitchers using foreign substances on the mound. Hitters have looked helpless at times this season, in part because pitchers are artificially boosting their spin rates by putting tacky stuff on their fingers and the ball. This is against the rules. It’s been against the rules for a very long time. But until this past week, it has only been enforced on MLB pitchers if it’s blatant, i.e. Michael Pineda with a streak of pine tar on his neck. Otherwise, umpires have turned a blind eye.
Many pitchers have been throwing hissy fits over not being able to cheat anymore. A shock to no one.
Tyler Glasnow recently injured his elbow and might be out for the season. That sucks. The Rays ace was having an excellent season and was a big reason his team is in first place in the AL East. But blaming his injury on the fact that he can’t use foreign substances anymore? Weak sauce.
Glasnow said he couldn’t control his pitches in the start he got injured in, causing him to squeeze the ball tighter, which contributed to his injury. This man is 6’8” with NBA-sized hands. He can’t control the ball unless there’s gunk on it? Spare me. He can absolutely control where it’s going, he just might not be as nasty without the boosted RPMs. If he was choking the ball to try to make up for the lost effectiveness he gained by cheating, that’s on him.
Where to begin with this guy? Gerrit Cole has become the face of the foreign substance issue. Why? Well, he benefited greatly from it when he joined the Astros, a fact that his old nemesis, Trevor Bauer, pointed out. He also gave one of the cringiest answers in interview history when asked if he used anything sticky. But the cherry on top to this whole fiasco was his most recent soundbite related to foreign substances, in which the man was nearly in tears (IN TEARS!) over not being able to use anything extra anymore. Here are a few quotes from the interview:
“Please, just talk to us. Please, just work with us.”
“It’s so hard to grip the ball.”
“I would hate to see balls start flying at people’s heads.”
Buddy. This is a you problem. You want the people enforcing the rule to consult with the rule breakers beforehand? What kind of logic is that? You’ve played baseball your whole life, most of it without using Spider Tack (I assume). You’re not throwing a bar of soap. You can use the rosin bag. You can always keep your hands and the ball dry. If you’re honestly saying, as a professional athlete paid to throw a baseball, that the baseball is “so hard” to grip and that you worry you might hit a guy in the head without cheating, you might have to look in the mirror. This is not MLB’s problem. It’s yours.
This is partly Rob Manfred’s fault. Ever since he screwed up the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, eeeeeveryone who ever gets in trouble likes to say something to the effect of “well the Astros didn’t get suspended and they cheated to win a World Series!” It’s getting old, but it’s not going away.
Carlos Rodón is the latest to bring up the Astros to justify his own form of cheating. The Astros didn’t get suspended one game, yet pitchers get suspended for ten games if they use anything sticky? He’s right, the punishments aren’t consistent. But the reality is that it’s nearly impossible for a commissioner to be consistent with his regulations and punishments throughout his tenure. Things change. People make mistakes. They try to learn from them. I’m not defending Manfred’s handling of the Astros situation, in which he granted all of the players immunity in exchange for their full cooperation, but we can’t keep using this example. That was a mistake. It doesn’t mean he has to keep making mistakes. Two wrong don’t make a right, as they say. 10 games seems like an appropriate suspension for a pitcher caught cheating.
Figure It Out
I have no sympathy for pitchers here. Sorry. They act as if this came out of nowhere, like they woke up one morning and everyone started making a huge deal over foreign substances. This storm has been brewing for a long time. They didn’t know the exact date MLB was going to create these guidelines to crack down on cheating, but they absolutely knew it was coming sooner rather than later. So save your tears. MLB pitchers are among the best athletes in the world. They need to figure out how to throw strikes and be effective without cheating.