The scene takes place in Major League Baseball stadiums, but is more like an airport security check: it’s mandatory, it’s a little awkward, and please prepare to hand in your belt.
Since Monday when baseball began enforcing stricter ball doctoring policies, pitchers have been intercepted by umpires on their way back to the dugout. As part of MLB’s crackdown on sticky stuff At the balls the throwers throw, they were asked to show their hats, gloves, fingers and, if desired, more for inspection. (At least one has dropped his pants in frustration.) If illegal substances are found, the new policy calls for immediate expulsion and a 10-game ban.
Of course, any means of grasping beyond rosin has long been a violation of the baseball rules. But MLB had largely turned a blind eye Addressing the problem and allowing concoctions of things like pine tar or rosin with sunscreen, which, according to Piters, made it easier for them to better grip a ball that was particularly good inconsistent in recent seasons. However, in the past few seasons, this practice had evolved into a power booster thanks to super pastes, according to MLB other substances used to not only improve grip but also increase spin and therefore movement of pitches.
“We were as dumb as thugs and said, ‘Oh yeah, it’s for control. We just don’t want them to beat us, ”” Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant told reporters this week. “That was such a cop-out.”
Knowing how much of pitchers’ effectiveness is due to rubber grips will take some time, but a prolonged period of offensive impotence left the league and its hits looking for solutions. As of Friday, the overall baseball hit average (0.238) was the second lowest in history and the strikeout rate (8.93 per team per game) was the highest.
After MLB said for the past year and a half that warnings of banned substances would not change pitchers’ behavior, and in hopes of leveling the playing field, it empowered its TSA agents on the field – the umpires – to enforce the existing ones Rules and randomly inspect all pitchers in each game. And just like before – although it rarely happened – opposing managers can require referees to review a pitcher if something appears suspicious.
The blunt deterrent seems to be working: in the past week, spin rates have decreased and the offensive has increased.
“The data seems to suggest that we are moving the game in the right direction, that we have found an issue that needed to be addressed and is being addressed,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told the New York Times in this week.
But even if many pitchers rolled their eyes in public during the inspections and most of the controls went smoothly, there were several tense – or surreal moments on the field. A star jug stared angrily at an opposing manager who demanded an additional check that smelled of game spirit. A helper tore off his belt and dropped his pants as the referees approached him. And in a moment of comical relief, Joe Musgrove of the San Diego Padres lost control of a bat and Trevor Bauer of the Los Angeles Dodgers offered him some rosin to tighten his grip.
For fans of entertainment, this first week was great theater. But for some players it was embarrassing not just for them, but for the whole sport.
“When I’m a little kid at play and I ask my dad” “Well, hey, what’s wrong? Why are they being checked? ‘”Yankees rescuer Zack Britton told reporters. “What is he going to say? “Well they think everyone is cheating.” Is that what the game is about as we assume you are cheating? I just think it looks bad. “
In Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and a representative of the top players’ union, was declared flawless after being checked by umpires after the first and third innings .
But during the end of the fourth inning, with a runner on base, the referees headed for the hill again at the request of Phillies manager Joe Girardi. Standing in front of the hill, a chafed joker tossed his hat and glove on the ground, undid his belt, and threw up his hands in frustration before knocking down a third time.
Girardi claimed he had never seen Scherzer take off his hat and touch his head so many times, which led to his request. According to MLB guidelines, a manager can be punished for maliciously submitting a request, for example to disturb a pitcher at a critical moment in the game.
Scherzer later stated that he usually licks his fingers while playing and is fed up with tasting rosin, the only substance pitchers are allowed to use. So he reached for the only moisture he could find on a not-so-warm night – the sweat under his hat – to mix it with the rosin to improve his hold on the ball. He said grabbing the ball was a challenge and noted that before being prompted for the third check, he pitched a pitch near the head of a batter in the at-bat.
When Scherzer left the game an inning later, he stared into the Phillies’ dugout. Girardi appeared, screamed, and motioned for the Nationals to come at him – and was immediately thrown out. From his dugout, Scherzer held up his glove and hat while his teammates and coaches taunted Girardi.
“I’d have to be an absolute idiot to use something tonight when all antennas are up,” said Scherzer.
In a radio interview the morning after the game, Mike Rizzo, general manager of the Nationals, called Girardi “a cheat”. Rizzo, known for his fiery personality, later told reporters that he respected Girardi and the Phillies and just defended his player.
“I didn’t mean to offend anyone,” added Girardi. “I just have to do the right thing for our club.”
After Scherzer’s public exam, Romo, a replacement for the Oakland Athletics, went one step further that evening in Texas. As a referee approached Romo after finishing an inning against the Rangers, the pitcher tossed his hat and glove at the referee, tore off his belt and pulled down his pants.
“He’s a playful guy,” athletics manager Bob Melvin told reporters of Romo’s performance. “I don’t think he meant anything by that.”
So far there has been at least one inspection-related ejection: a discolored hat. When Castillo, a replacement for the Tampa Bay Rays, entered Wednesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning, the umpires examined Castillo’s equipment and asked him to change his hat.
After the game, Ray’s manager Kevin Cash and Red Sox manager Alex Cora said it was simply because the hat was discolored rather than sticky. Still, Cora was confused why a hat could be questionable enough to be changed without ejecting the jar. Regardless, Cash had to bring a new hat to Castillo on the hill.
“The only thing I really don’t like is that every pitcher that comes on the hill looks like a guilty man until proven innocent,” Treinen, a Dodgers aide, told reporters this week.
Treinen wondered if the whole effort was a facade or a straightforward crackdown, suggested that the referees inspect the pitchers in the dugout instead of in front of everyone else, and asked if the thugs with the same severity as to which one applied to them Rules would be obeyed. “Nobody checks every single bat or every pine tar placement on the bat,” said Treinen.
Strong reprimands like the Yankees Gerrit Cole and the Nationals jokers have angrily urged the MLB to review the policies by talking to players or arguing that there are better ways to stamp out foreign substances. But Kelly, a relief to the Dodgers, was among the pitchers to applaud the new practice.
When the referees stopped him in the game against the Padres on Tuesday, the rescuer not only handed over his hat and gloves, but also his goggles.
“They didn’t want to check them out, but I said, ‘You should check them out anyway because they’re sick,'” said Kelly. “And they laughed. It’s not in the rulebook, but I just wanted to make sure you check it out so you can see what I’m wearing. “
Imagine you were a referee and had to run your fingers through someone’s damp hat, head, hands, or glove. Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner, was checked twice during its launch on Tuesday and said he had no problem with it. After all, he was on the receiving end.
“They won’t find any sticky things on me,” he said. “You will only find sweat. If you want to touch that, you are very welcome. “
Shohei Ohtani and Jacob deGrom
The checks weren’t a big deal for two players in the middle of a dream season.
Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels two-way star, laughed and smiled as the umpires checked his hat, glove and belt as he left the hill after the second inning on Wednesday.