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The sticky state of baseball: what to know about MLB’s “crisis” with pitchers and foreign substances

Chances are, you’ve heard a lot lately about the sticky problem of baseball. Rumors of “repression” and references to “foreign substances” and “fraud” have been common on social media.

But what is it really about? Let’s see.

What about pitchers and foreign substances?

It has always been illegal for a pitcher to apply anything to basketball in an effort to get more movement on the ball, but for the most part it is a rule without big teeth, an intermittent break here or there a pitcher significantly violates the rules and an opposing manager asks the referee to check.

That will end soon (ish).

Baseball announced last season that it was looking closely at the problem, and in the first few months of the season it was collecting basketball from pitchers all over the sport – not just Trevor Bauer – to find out how far the problem had spread. it really is. ESPN reported on June 5th a plan that is “rapidly advancing” to begin the real repression process is likely to be implemented as soon as “two to 10 days” that would begin on June 15th.

MORE: Gerrit Cole stumbles upon the answer to a question about sticky substances

Exactly how it will work has not been revealed. Josh Donaldson, a former MVP, has an idea, however.

“If you want to clear the game – for me this will be the next steroid in the baseball test, because it cheats and improves performance – it’s the only way to get that out and out. It’s a game if they check every half session.” Donaldson told The Athletic. “If the new pitcher comes out, the referee will check immediately. When they start doing that, it will disappear, and you will see that the offense will start to come into play.”

Checking each half-entry won’t help with the pace of the game in the short term, but if the goal is to get rid of the sticky stuff, that’s the short-term price that MLB is willing to pay.

“They want to do what we want to do, we do it consistently, so it doesn’t seem like we’re targeting a pitcher. I think it’s very important.” Chief referee Joe West told Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal this week. “Baseball wants everything to be on the board.”

Why are sticky substances illegal for pitchers?

The principle of fair play states that all players operate with the same equipment, with the same set of rules. So when it comes to pitchers, only a short list of supported items can be used or added to baseball. All MLB basketballs have been rubbed with mud from a secret place on the Delaware River tributary, so they’re not very slippery. Pitchers are allowed to use a bag with rosin – a sticky substance made from the sweat of fir trees – to get a little grip. The bags are behind the mound at all times.

Here it is: pitchers have always tried to cheat. Not all pitchers, of course, but it’s not a stretch to say that MLB has tried at least a few pitchers each season to avoid the rules to give baseball a bit of a move. In some cases, especially in the first century of the sport, the idea was to step on the surface of the basketball or add something to the surface of the ball to add movement. Basketball with uniform leather / seams will move as it is known to pitchers and players. But rubbing, cutting, or otherwise changing will move unexpectedly, and that surprise is a big advantage for the pitcher.

But that is not the case with this current “crisis”. This is about the flu, especially in fast-moving four-seam balls. The added handle means added rotation, which means extra movement. The attached grip allows them to throw pitchers harder, as they have more control of baseball as they let go of their hand. This extra speed means extra rotation and movement, and extra movement means lost bats and excited hitters, which means more attacks for pitchers.

Think of it this way: To hold on to the mud and cobblestones of the Delaware River is like driving a cart. They do the work, somehow. But are they using new pitchers, the reason for this conversation today? They are like driving the damn IndyCar vehicle.

Why are substances foreign to MLB today?

This, folks, is a loaded question. Let’s start with this: MLB has a long history of ignoring a problem until it becomes too much to ignore. It’s not just this current administration. The time for steroids is the final parallel. Steroids had been in play for years, and MLB did nothing to try to discontinue use, despite known health risks. Until the records began to fall – big and important records – MLB finally began to take steps to solve the problem. You can bet that if Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had stayed at home in the summer of 1998 and never reached the Maris / Ruth levels, things would have been different. The same thing would have happened if Barry Bonds had never approached Hank Aaron’s entire career. But they did and then baseball played.

You are seeing the same thing now. Strikeout numbers have gone up in the last decade, but now they’re getting amazing levels, levels that can’t be explained with references to starting angles and playing perspectives. Think about it: In his famous career, striker Nolan Ryan surpassed the 11.0 K / 9 mark twice in 27 seasons. In 2020, there were at least 17 starting pitchers with 11.0 or better K / 9. And here’s the thing: last season the percentage of MLB-wide attacks was 23.4%; In 2021, up 24.1 percent. Read it again. Basically, one of the four plate appearances ends with a finish. That’s not good for the game. People won’t even point out hitters in the first two months of the six-season. That’s a good discussion, but it’s true that these new repressions came before any coup took place.

Baseball wasn’t so much concerned with the scams themselves; baseball was really concerned when the scammer committed too many scams.

Too much blame will be placed on jugs caught with substances, or when you notice that the rate of rotation drops dramatically. That fucks up, actually. MLB has turned a blind eye to the situation for so long that it has been an accepted part of the sport. We did a parallel to PED, but clearly: this has no moral elements like steroids. There are no additional ingredients. Something was allowed to happen over the decades, and now all of a sudden it’s not like that. That’s in MLB.

And this is it too: The Collective Agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association ends on December 1st and the negotiations will not be nice. You will certainly hear a debate about work stoppages, and to think that this can happen is not at all real. And one tactic focused on conflicting negotiation is to try to erode unity on the other side. In this case, the theory goes, MLB is trying to pit pitchers and coups against each other In the hope that it will affect MLBPA’s solidarity. The MLB powers will deny it to the last breaths, of course.

What exactly is a “sticky” foreign substance?

The rosin bag, as you know, is legal. Encouraged, even more so. Pitchers with no handles throw basketballs that they inadvertently hit. But when the rosin is mixed with a little extra sunscreen, things start to get tough. Again, however, if he had stayed there – he would have lived there for a long time, we would not have had those conversations. Same thing, actually, with pine tar. It’s long been a “bonus” to the sticky trick bag. Don’t use it in a clear way (as Yankees ’Michael Pineda did in 2014).

A lot of things stick together quickly. Any parent can say that. And I feel safe in saying that we were all surprised and quite amused by some of the things that pitchers have used to achieve extra movement over the decades. Did you put the beak on the ball?

Could it have been pushing things along the line? That’s things like Spider Tack, a substance developed to help power lifters hold on to lifting stupid amounts of weight and a Pelican Grip Dip. None of these things were designed for pitchers, but they do create tremendous friction, which results in tremendous rotation. And, again, the awesome twist causes tremendous movement and tremendous swings.

This budget, Rockies outside player Charlie Blackmon Sports Illustrated, opens his eyes.

“There are some [pitchers] where, if you swing where your eyes tell you, you won’t play ball, even if you’re on time, “says Blackmon.” I have to get out there and if they tell me my eyes are in one place, I have to go somewhere else. It’s hard to do that. It’s hard. to make the ball and try to lose the ball.But there are some guys when you have to do it because his ball and his rotation rate or whatever defies all the pitches you’ve seen throughout your career …. Basically, I don’t trust my eyes to finish where the pitch ends. because I think it’s going to rock somewhere else, because the ball is doing something that has no business. ”

How will the guilty pitchers of MLB be punished?

Nothing has been reported yet, but we can look back at the past. Last week, the league’s four pitchers were suspended for 10 days each when they were caught using illegal substances in baseballs. Small league players suffer from very different standards, of course, because they partially lack unity – that’s a completely different pillar – but their length is in line with past MLB interruptions. In 2014, Pineda was suspended for 10 days when he was found to have a dirty carpet on his neck. In 2004, Julian Tavarez Cardinals pitchers were suspended for 10 days for applying a foreign substance to baseball.

“Believe me, every time you do something like that, it will go back. There will be complaints. And there will be mistakes ” West told The Athletic. “Don’t think everything will be perfect. That’s not the case. “

So 10 games make sense for a first break. But what happens to break again and again? Let’s not pretend that PED offenses (which pose a health risk) and sticky substance problems are the same, but it’s a guideline set for use as a guide. The first suspension of the PED is 80 games, the second is for the entire season (Robinson Cano is currently serving a 162-game penalty), and the third is the elimination from baseball.

It’s hard to imagine sticking out a pitcher for sticky toes, right? Doubling the interruption each time would make sense. First 10 days, then 20 (add seasonal ban), then 40 season entries, then 80 season entries and so on. But, again, it’s just an elaborate invention.

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