New York: I watched the best pitcher in baseball under examination Monday. Jacob deGrom finished his inning of work and Ben May, the home plate umpire briefly checked his glove, belt, and uniform off the mound at Citi Field.
It was a violation of privacy and similar to those security procedures at airport checkpoints, like the one I experienced again before boarding a plane Sunday at Miami International.
I can understand airport checkpoints of touch and examine the passenger. I can’t comprehend the new “Sticky” substance of the baseball MLB rule that witnessed the best pitcher in the game as the first patient that has little or no logic.
There is a difference with the steroid era that dominated MLB as compared to the now “sticky” issue and widespread use of pitchers using foreign substances. Steroids were in denial at the height of a controversy that portrayed a dark cloud for the game.
And while ballplayers accused of using illegal body enhancement to increase their production always denied their involvement, that alone made the situation worse and open to more controversy.
But now, as MLB cracks down on pitchers using this sticky formula for success, there is evidence of a difference in spin rates. Two weeks have passed and the Dodgers’ Trevor Bauer,the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole were not dominant and their spin rates were obviously not the same.
And the vast difference is how pitchers are responding to the controversy of using a sticky substance that has seen MLB production and batting averages at that all-time low.
Have to give credit to Cole. He did not avoid the question. Cole was upfront, deliberated a bit, however he got around the question and it was enough to admit that foreign substances on a baseball is nothing new.
Said Cole, after a long pause about using “Spider Tack” , a thick paste to increase movement on pitches “ I don’t….I don’t quite know how to answer that to be honest.”
Yes, quite different from the steroid issue where a majority of players were culprits and denied any involvement with the biggest scam that baseball has confronted next to the Black Sox game fixing scandal of 1919.
And different from a sign cheating scandal of the Houston Astros that placed another dark cloud at the hands of MLB, one that caused cleaning the house of managers and front office personnel that were responsible for their actions.
Now it’s in the hands of umpires to conduct the inspections of a baseball. The game will be under further scrutiny and time will tell if pitchers will continue this dominance.
I have noticed social media accusing deGrom, and with video evidence as one of the culprits of using a substance that has contributed to his success. Though a longtime NL insider I spoke with said that deGrom is a natural and goes with his ability.
That dominance of deGrom continued Monday and running his scoreless streak to 30 IP, a 12th straight start with one or zero earned runs, and ERA at 0.50
But for years pitchers have been getting away with use of pine tar or other substances to enhance their ability. Remember Gaylord Perry and the glove? The Yankees Luis Severino and Aroldis Chapman tine par?
I can recall former Mets pitcher Turk Wendell, the necklace and chain of bones around the neck, placing a finger there to get a better grip. And a former relief pitcher informed me that there was always a bag in the bullpen. So make the assumption.
Regardless, the issue is here. It is out in the open. MLB is obviously under pressure because the game has seen more strikeouts, walks, and more dominance on the mound.
“It’s a big issue for MLB,” said another veteran insider. ”It helps the pitcher grip the ball and affects spin rate and command. Been going on a lot, The Dodgers, almost everyone of their guys it shows with their spin rate, velocity.”
He did mention Trevor Bauer and Clayton Kershaw. And If pitchers have better command that works significantly with movement and velocity. Another insider the past few days informed me that 75 percent of pitchers are using a sticky substance and attributed that to a new baseball and makeup of the seams.
I questioned Gio Gonzalez. The recently retired pitcher of four teams and a Latino Sports NL Pitcher MVP, said to me that the baseball over the years causes pitchers to use rosin for a better grip.
“It has nothing to do with having an advantage or making your numbers better,” he said.
And of course, offensive numbers are enough evidence to say that something must be done to create more of a buzz at the plate with a .240 overall average as of last week. Overall team ERA’s has dwindled a bit to .380 as compared to the 4.44 of a truncated 60-game season of last year.
“It’s something of a major concern,” said another insider.” A reason they want to upgrade the offense.”
So there is no ignoring here that MLB has a “Sticky” issue. And time will tell where this goes and how the enforcement will be handled with umpires, managers, and most of all the pitchers.
No denying also that the game has changed. And as more and different rules are incorporated this is bound to be an issue that will be addressed when the players and owners attempt to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement in December.
Because this is about numbers, a “sticky” issue and use of a foreign substance that has been used for years is the latest controversy and cloud hovering around the game.
But as mentioned, I have to credit Gerrit Cole with his response. Better than the denials and lies the obvious steroid users provided during another dark and contentious time for MLB.
Comment: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
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