As you may have heard, MLB has recently determined that they need to crack down on foreign substances used by pitchers. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred was recently quoted as saying:
“After an extensive process of repeated warnings without effect, gathering information from current and former players and others across the sport, two months of comprehensive data collection, listening to our fans and thoughtful deliberation, I have determined that new enforcement of foreign substances is needed to level the playing field…I understand there’s a history of foreign substances being used on the ball, but what we are seeing today is objectively far different, with much tackier substances being used more frequently than ever before. It has become clear that the use of foreign substance has generally morphed from trying to get a better grip on the ball into something else -- an unfair competitive advantage that is creating a lack of action and an uneven playing field.”
It has been universally known that pitchers will use nearly anything to gain extra grip or apply additional spin to their pitches. However, it’s become apparent that Commissioner Manfred has decided to draw a line in the sand. He, along with a strong contingent of fans, wants more action in the game. To do so, Manfred has elected to mitigate the perceived advantages pitchers are receiving from unregulated substances. The first round of changes have been announced, so let’s take a look at them and the impact they may have.
What are the changes MLB has implemented regarding foreign substances used by pitchers?
As of Monday, June 21st, MLB has called upon their umpires to police pitcher-usage of foreign substances. Every pitcher will have their baseball glove, hat, and waistline checked by the umpires to determine if any foul play has occurred. Starters will be checked more than once per start, while relief pitchers will be reviewed following their half-inning or when they are removed from the game.
What happens to a pitcher if they are caught using a foreign substance?
If it is determined that a pitcher has used a foreign substance, they will be immediately ejected and suspended (with pay) for 10 games. Repeat offenders will be subject to progressive discipline, including longer suspensions and likely fines associated with the offense. Teams will not be allowed to replace the pitcher with a minor leaguer and instead must play the 10 games at a disadvantage with only a 25-man roster.
What is Spider Tack?
Spider tack is one of the stickiest substances on the planet. It is commonly used by World Strongmen to lift stones that weigh hundreds of pounds. Pitchers have recently (at least to public knowledge) began using spider tack to increase the spin rates on their pitches. The more the ball spins, the more the ball moves, and the harder it is to hit.
With any hotbed issue like this, it’s only natural for there to be pushback to the implementation of a change. Beyond a few outspoken players, not many are upset about the idea of minimizing the impact of foreign substances. Josh Donaldson of the Minnesota Twins has gone as far as saying that without regulation, the use of foreign substances could rival “the steroid era” in terms of the impact it would have on baseball.
However, the main pushback has been from players, coaches, and fans rightfully questioning whether the timing makes sense. It’s certainly a fair critique considering that we are well over two months into the 2021 MLB season. But that is merely a conversation piece as the determination has already been made. Players must react.
All we can do now is sit back, hope for an increase in game action, and enjoy the circus-level charade that is mandatory uniform checks like the scene in Philadelphia involving Max Scherzer or the one in Arlington involving Sergio Romo. It’s wild, but yet it’s somehow still beautifully baseball! Enjoy the chaos, everyone.