“Baseball–The Dirty Little Secret”
You will have to tell me.
Which is worse for baseball’s well being?
Steroids or Pine Tar?
So here we are in 2021, with baseball declaring war on pitchers who might be doctoring the baseball, giving them an advantage on the mound.
Another brewing scandal they fear will tarnish or stain the record book.
Alarmed now, they should have acted that way 20-years ago when steroid juice was spilling onto the same record book.
Not sure why Rob Manfred is so upset now about pine tar, spin rates, velocity etc. Bud Selig should have been so concerned years ago when we saw, knew, guessed what was going on in the batters box.
Everyone wants to look at Trevor Bauer or Gerrit Cole, the top big money free agent arms, who dominate on the mound right now, capitalizing on their velo and spin rates.
The game was forever damaged by the Barry Bonds-Mark McGuire-Sammy Sosa era. The outrage came way too late.
But that was then, this is now, and umpires this week are being told to inspect any or all balls they think have been tampered with or pitchers who seem to do strange things on the mound.
There is one difference right now to back then. Players in the Bonds era stayed silent. No one pointed fingers in public. They got caught or were outed by the Mitchell Report and the Balco testimony.
Now players have told MLB of their concerns, and even pointed out pitchers they believe are cheating.
By next week, there may be discipline measures in place. Someone will get ejected. The Union may fight MLB and the umpires on this.
It is chapter one of baseball’s latest controversy.
Meanwhile, flamboyant Umpire Joe West, and his fellow men in blue will be challenged to enforce the search and seize mission against pitchers.
The story has yet to unfold, but it is coming.
The Athletic interviewed West about what he sees calling balls and strikes behind the plate, and what happens next:
For years, according to Joe West, baseball’s senior umpire, umps were instructed to inspect pitchers for illegal foreign substances only if the opposing manager complained. But under Major League Baseball’s accelerating plan to enforce rules prohibiting the use of those substances, the umpires will be empowered to exert greater control.
West, who recently broke Hall of Famer Bill Klem’s record for most regular-season games umpired, said Monday that while the new procedures are not yet finalized, MLB wants umpires to treat all pitchers equally and not single out any one player or team.
“They want to make it so whatever we do, we do it consistently, so it doesn’t look we’re targeting any one pitcher, which I think is very important,” said West, who participated Friday in a call with MLB umpiring officials and Michael Hill, the league’s senior vice president of on-field operations. “Baseball wants everything to be above board.”
In addition to meeting with umpires, the league has been in contact with the Major League Baseball Players Association, sources said. Any discipline imposed by the commissioner’s office would be subject to challenge from the union, so the league has a vested interest in keeping the union abreast of its plans. Officials from the league and the union declined comment.
Details of MLB’s enforcement plans first were reported Saturday by ESPN.com, which said the league might begin enforcement in the next 10 days to two weeks. West confirmed players have alerted the league to pitchers they believe are using illegal foreign substances to improve their spin rates and the quality of their pitches.
Last November, Eno Sarris began a story in The Athletic by saying, “Your favorite pitcher is probably cheating,” quoting a coach with experience in several major-league organizations as saying, “Almost everyone is using something.” In April, umpires collected multiple marked balls thrown by the Dodgers’ Trevor Bauer as part of the new league-wide inspection process. In May, several players told The Athletic the problem remains rampant even after MLB’s steps to enforce the rules prohibiting such conduct this season. And on Saturday, Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson spoke out, urging MLB to check pitchers for illegal substances every half-inning.
“What has happened here is that the players who are playing honestly are reporting on the players who are not,” West said. “It’s much like the players did in the steroid situation, where they got upset that this guy was taking steroids and getting an advantage and it’s not fair. The players are telling on themselves. They’re the ones who are most upset that we haven’t (had) carte blanche to go search people, that we’ve been told before you don’t check someone’s glove or hat unless another club complains.”
West brought attention to the issue on May 26, confiscating the cap of Cardinals reliever Geovany Gallegos in a game against the White Sox because he believed it might contain a foreign substance. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt took exception, saying it was “the wrong time and the wrong arena to expose that.” West, who ejected Shildt for arguing, described the incident as instructive for the league.
“There is concern: What’s the right thing to do? Do you let him pitch and throw him out of the game? Or do you take the hat and start over?” West said. “There are good points on both sides. But I had had that same situation with Tony La Russa before. And La Russa was in the other dugout (West ejected the Cardinals’ Julián Tavárez for applying a foreign substance to balls when La Russa was managing St. Louis in 2004; MLB suspended Tavárez for 10 days).
“So I’m thinking, ‘I’m not going to let it go to this point. I’m going to avoid a situation that can be avoided. Take the hat off and you can pitch.’ The manager from the Cardinals, Shildt, got upset. He thought we were picking on him. And that’s what we’re going to run into. That’s what everyone has to realize. The first time you check somebody, they’re going to feel like you’re targeting them.”
Other issues also might arise. Repeated checks of pitchers for substances could slow the pace of play, putting the league in a position where it might be addressing one problem but exacerbating another. Whatever procedures the league decides upon, West does not necessarily expect the implementation to go smoothly.
“Believe me, whenever you do something like this, there’s going to be pushback. There are going to be complaints. And there will be mistakes made,” West said. “Don’t think everything is going to be perfect. It doesn’t happen that way.”