Baseball scandals tend to follow a similar arc.
The whispers turn into rumors, gathering momentum until they form a narrative. Major League Baseball exhibits little knowledge, while a small handful of whistleblowers passively or aggressively lament a loss of competitive integrity.
Eventually the game is warped to the point that jobs are at stake or the product deteriorates, in which case the game owners and the governing body are motivated to act.
And it’s at this point that MLB finds itself in the case of foreign substances making fastballs almost untouchable: snoop and find out.
As the MLB prepares to speed up its inspection of doctored baseballs as well as pitchers’ uniforms, gloves and people catching them with a bat, the process reminds some observers of other sordid findings from the recent past.
“I remember the era of steroids,” says Marlins manager Don Mattingly, a Yankee from 1982 to 1995, “and I don’t know if I’m naive, but I was like, ‘Ah, not many guys do. it.’ And obviously the tests came out (in 2003) and they showed a lot of guys were doing that.
« It looks like it could be the same type of scenario – we don’t know exactly what the scope is and how far it is (part) – but I do know there are steps to fix it and bring it down to a level. » a level playing field for all.
“For pitchers who don’t and for the hitters themselves. «
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For all the whispers, anecdotes and real incidents that accompanied a dizzying spike in pitchers’ turnover – the greatest benefit, when married with modern data analysis, of the use of foreign substances – perhaps being none resonates as much as a quartet of minor league players suspended after getting caught with sticky stuff on them.
In this case, as in the so-called steroid days, the perception exists that loading resin, pine tar, or various sunscreen products will take you to the majors and help you stay there – although the reality may be. a little more nuanced.
Certainly, the surge in turnover rates among individual pitchers and, in some cases, the entire staff is not helping baseball’s worst offensive era in half a century. It exacerbates an issue for which there are many symptoms, many of which are data-related, such as hyper-precise defensive positioning.
« I think the bigger problem is the change that takes away the punches more than having the stick on the ball, » Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds said on Friday when asked if he was eagerly anticipating the crackdown. expected from the MLB.
“It seems that there are significantly fewer offenses than in the past. I don’t know if (foreign substances) are to blame or not, but yeah, I don’t know, ”Angels infielder David Fletcher said.
Reynolds and Fletcher’s innocuous responses aren’t too surprising considering they’re among the hundreds of hitters who, uh, are in a sticky position.
My friend, my enemy
The era of steroids was marked by a collective shift in mindset among gamers who saw DEPs enrich dozens of their colleagues, not without significant health risks, both physically and mentally. Juice hitters. The pitchers too. In the end, it just seemed easier, safer, to put everyone on the same level. Easier to lead the league with 40 homers than 50 if the latter involved sticking a needle in the posterior.
In the sticky stuff strand, of course, the batters want to eat. Yet while they surely wouldn’t mind if rule-breaking opponents get arrested for tampering with balls, they also know that many of their teammates are doing the same.
Better not to pick on cheaters when the worst offenders may be right in front of you on the team bus.
« I guess you see it across the league where some guys are blatantly using it, but that doesn’t really affect me as a hitter, » Dodgers wide receiver Will Smith said on Friday when asked. the impact of a crackdown on foreign substances. “It will be interesting to see what they do with it. I don’t know what’s going to happen with this.
The Dodgers pitching staff that Smith manages, according to a Sports Illustrated analysis, has seen the biggest collective jump in turnover this season. That might not be too surprising considering the signing of Trevor Bauer, the game’s original and revolutionary data whistleblower.
It was Bauer who strongly insinuated, in 2018, that Astros pitchers were blatantly cheating, with spikes in rotational speed once the newly acquired pitchers arrived in Houston. He went on to estimate that three-quarters of the major league pitchers were using substances beyond the realm of acceptable practice, and then, as if to prove his point, boosted his own spin rate in the stratosphere by winning the 2020 NL. Cy Young Award.
Like the foot Piedpiper, the Bauer Reds in 2020 also created huge spikes in spin speed and now his Dodgers are seeing a similar bump, not all due to his mere presence.
Yet, as in the early days of calculating steroids, a lot of it is about seeing no evil, not hearing evil.
« I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t really thought about it, » said Braves manager Brian Snitker, whose club will face Bauer on Sunday. “I didn’t see any evidence of the bullets I got. The other night the guys even thought the balls were a little slippery.
“The only thing I saw was that they took this kid’s hat off. «
That « kid » is said to be St. Louis Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos, whose cap was confiscated by Joe West when the venerable referee spotted a dark spot on the brim of the cap. Just more proof, with the dozens of balls the MLB has racked up with fun spots and marks.
In the coming weeks, West could look like a trailblazer, with umpires to be at the forefront of compliance. Managers, usually furious that a ump or opponent “strip” their own pitcher on the mound, may just have to come to terms with this.
Gloves, caps, balls, pants – they could all be thrown in plastic bags and shipped to New York City, with that Wild West era of the game suddenly taking a turn into an episode of CSI.
“I didn’t pay that much attention,” said Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff, whose 1.27 ERA is second in the National League. “I don’t really watch what’s going on in the league. If there’s anything being said internally I’ll listen, but I think I’m so worried about how I’m going to get the hitters out as opposed to what else is going on.
No, nothing to see here. At least not yet.